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Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

Keep Fit Gladiator Style


Personal trainers steer you to health

Derrick Smith is a 48-year-old financial analyst.

He also is a Type 1 diabetic. But he refuses to be defined by those labels.

Derrick Smith is a Gladiator. Smith did not find out he is a Type 1 diabetic until he was an adult.

“It took me by surprise,” he said. “At first, I did well with controlling my diet. But then life happened. The weight came back, and I got sloppy about taking care of myself.”

A chance meeting at the Red River Revel in 2015 helped turned things around for Smith.

“Camp Gladiator was there doing a promotion,” Smith said. “I had just been to the doctor that day. My lab results were crazy. My weight was up there, too. The guy caught me, and I knew I needed to do something.”

So Smith signed up for Camp Gladiator, a program of outdoor fitness classes led by certified personal trainers. Camp Gladiator classes are held at several locations across Shreveport and Bossier City, and every workout includes strength training and cardio, according to Amy Maranto, a trainer and one of the area directors for Camp Gladiator.

“Camp Gladiator is 60 minutes of amazing,” Maranto said. “It’s more than a workout. It’s people coming together to reach fitness goals.”

At first, Smith thought he would work out two or three days a week. He hurt every day for the first few months, he said. He started observing others at his sessions, and he realized “suffering with friends is better than suffering alone.”

That’s when he also figured out he was enjoying it. Before he knew it, a year had passed.

“Within that first year, my A1C went from 8.6 (diabetic) to 5.6 (pre-diabetic),” he said. “I lost 24 pounds in that first year. It was a good loss, and I have been able to keep it off.”

Five years into the program, Smith has increased to six workouts a week and recently celebrated his 1,400th workout. He is down a total of 30 pounds. He will always have to take insulin, he said, but he has gone from taking it twice a day to once daily and reduced the amount he takes by 55 percent.

“That’s been huge,” he said. “It’s one thing that’s kept me going. I go every day to keep my glucose levels down. I’m not great on my diet, but I feel better knowing that as long as I go to Camp Gladiator, I do not have to be as strict on my diet.”

Camp Gladiator is now part of Smith’s daily routine — a welcome change for someone who otherwise sits at a desk all day.

“Being outside for an hour a day is nice,” he said. “Even if it’s really hot or really cold. I didn’t think I’d enjoy. But I really have appreciated getting outside. Being indoors all the time, it really does something good for the mind.”

Besides the physical benefits of the exercise and the mental benefits of being outdoors, Smith has found something else through Camp Gladiator that keeps him motivated, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic — the camaraderie among the “campers.”

“I have a connection with so many people,” he said. “We celebrate birthdays and milestones. We support one another. We text and talk through the day. If someone’s going in for a medical treatment, we chip in and help out. We join together and are there for each other.”

Smith believes that holistic approach is the key to Camp Gladiator’s success and his own.

“It’s there for me to be the healthiest version of me I can be,” he said. “The variations in the exercises and the different trainers and locations keep it interesting and changing.

“Camp Gladiator has saved me some years. Otherwise, I don’t know where I’d be. Camp Gladiator is not for everybody. But everybody has to get up and do something. Keep doing something for the rest of your life. Something that’s not boring.”

All About Community

Brooke Sartin is a 42-year-old legal assistant. She recently celebrated 20 months alcohol free. But that’s not all.

Brooke Sartin is a Gladiator.

She discovered Camp Gladiator about a year after moving to Shreveport. She had recently quit drinking and had her brother and sister-in-law for support. Sartin was looking for a healthy environment for meeting people. That’s when her sister-in-law gave Sartin’s phone number to a Camp Gladiator trainer.

“I remember where I was the day (trainer) Amy (de los Reyes) called,” she said. “It was a life-changing call. She told me all about Gladiator. I signed up and went to my first call that night. I was super nervous. I was super out of shape.

It was awful.

“The strangers there were so nice. I thought about it over that weekend. I decided to quit a 20- year cigarette habit and went back the next week.”

She started seeing the same people at her classes. Their support and encouragement became her support system and kept her coming back, Sartin said.

“I would go to the classes to get out of my head,” she said. “I was an emotional, hot mess.”

Sartin slowly opened up to other campers and the trainers. She met her accountability buddy at the classes they attend regularly. She learned about a documentary on plantbased diets for athletes from other campers, and that accelerated her transformation.

That accountability is part of what makes the Camp Gladiator community thrive, Maranto said.

“Every time someone signs up for Camp Gladiator, they are assigned an accountability trainer,” Maranto said. “They have access to all the trainers, but at the end of the day, all the trainers care about all the campers. The one you sign up with is going to be really connected to you.

“It has family feel, which is so needed, now more than ever. We want campers to leave feeling like they have friends and support. That keeps people coming back.”

Sartin recalls one day early in the Camp Gladiator experience that became a significant tipping point for her.

“I was still fairly new, and I had had a really bad day,” she said. “I told my trainer what was going on. I opened up by saying I really wanted to drink. As long as I made it to the class, I knew I wasn’t going to drink. I made it through the class and feel so much better. Later that night, the trainer reached out to check on me. That was an amazing feeling.

“That’s when Camp Gladiator became my support system. It helped so much mentally. I noticed it mentally first. Then physically, It really helped me. I just celebrated 20 months alcohol free. I started when I was two months alcohol free. If it wasn’t for the Camp Gladiator community and trainers, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

Maranto said Camp Gladiator is encouraging people to start the new year with a month of free workouts in January. For more information, visit www. campgladiator.com.

“You can go a lot of places for a great workout,” Maranto said. “For me, one of the most satisfying parts is fostering those friendships and getting people connected.”


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