Fitness Bootcamps Help Develop Strong Friendships

Chris Blum leads Outdoor Fitness Club participants in a boot camp style fitness class in Edina.

The words “boot camp” evoke images of military camouflage and a red-faced sergeant yelling at his soldiers. But Edina residents can participate in boot camps of another kind: outdoor fitness groups that encourage relationships. At a boot camp fitness class, clients can exercise together, encourage each other and socialize. Chris Blum’s Outdoor Fitness Clubs and Stephanie Seymour’s Seymour Results are just two of these type of fitness groups offered in Edina.

Blum is a strength and conditioning coach certified by the National Strength and Condition Association, as well as a former physical education teacher. He began Outdoor Fitness Clubs after an inspiring vacation in California 10 years earlier. “I was mesmerized by all the boot camps out on the beach. They looked like so much fun,” Blum says. He returned to Minnesota motivated to start something similar here. Without any beaches, Blum chose to teach his boot camps at local parks instead. Starting with only two women, Outdoor Fitness Clubs was born and quickly grew to 15 regular participants.

At each session, approximately eight to 10 participants from 30 to 50 years old rise before the sun and gather to use nature as their gym. Park benches serve as push-up stations, playground equipment is used for various forms of strength exercises and hills are climbed for cardio training. Blum doesn’t bark military-style at his students, but instead offers words of encouragement and motivation as they push through these intense workouts.

Barb Buenz, an Edina mother of three, says, “Boot camp attracts a group of women who are naturally tough and are really committed to working out. The atmosphere is not pretentious and all the women are encouraging and supportive of each other.”

While these women (and sometimes men) come for the camaraderie and to get in shape, they experience so much more. The support extends beyond the workout and into life. “When my mom died recently, I received flowers from the boot camp girls. I met my two running buddies here. We have happy hours (not nearly enough) with boot camp friends. It is a great community,” Buenz says.

Many say they like the no-frills atmosphere of boot camp workouts, where the goal isn’t to wear fancy workout clothes or look good, but simply to get in shape while being together. “It’s casual and fun,” Nancy Killilea says. “These women are like no other. They care about me–how I’m doing, feeling. We are aging together and learning together. Chris Blum, our trainer, has learned more about our lives than he bargained for!”

The early start makes this workout regimen an easy sell. Blum offers sessions at 6 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays. “The early mornings work well with my busy schedule,” Buenz says. “As a full-time working mom of three, this is the perfect time to exercise.”

Stephanie Seymour recently created her own version of boot camp. Seymour’s motivation was more personal to her life as a mom. “I wanted to do something for myself,” Seymour says. “Laundry piles, two kids in diapers... and a traveling husband was my reality and I got lost in it. Until one day I choose to make fitness a priority.”

Seymour received certification in personal training and an accreditation from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and started training with clients one-on-one. She says, “I started the boot camp for people who work the Monday-through-Friday office grind. I started with 14 people last fall and most are still with me. They love it!”

Edina mom Jen Dewing says, “Every session, we do something a little different–tire flipping, boxing, renegade rows, burpees, or running sprints. I feel a lot stronger lately, which is fun.”

While the goal of both boot camps is to offer nature-infused community workouts, the clients don’t like to stop being together when the weather turns cold. So Blum and Seymour also offer indoor workouts to accommodate Minnesota winters. Learn more at and