Lindsay Vastola of Body Project leads one of her boot camp classes. (Photo by Jessica Mickley.)
Lindsay Vastola created Body Project two and a half years ago. Along with her boot camps, which began in 2008, Vastola offers personal training. (Photo by Jessica Mickley.)

By Jessica Mickley

Tatum Park is pitch black except for one brightly lit building. The sun is still below the horizon on a sleepy Wednesday morning, but Lindsay Vastola and her boot campers are wide awake. They are clad in blue camouflage t-shirts emblazoned with the words “I fight. I sweat. I conquer.”

This is like a military training camp, but with a better soundtrack and a peppier drill sergeant. Contemporary pop music blares from the speakers. High fives and applause erupt throughout the room. And, there is clapping between sets.

But it’s not all fun and games. These women work hard.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” Vastola said to her clients while they were doing leg throw downs. Someone answered with a scream. “Or scream,” Vastola responded.

“The first two days, you can’t walk. Every muscle in your body hurts,” Stephanie Crea, a boot camper, said.

Crea could never do a pushup before. Now she can do quite a few.

Body Project was started two and a half years ago as a personal training program. Boot camp became a part of Body Project in June of 2008, and has grown since. Participants lost an average number of five inches during the four-week boot camp, Vastola said.

“[Boot camp] gives you more energy during the day; you sleep better, even though you’re getting up early,” Sue Midura, a dedicated boot camper, said.

Boot camp includes a combination of weight training and cardio, with some yoga. They are held at 6 a.m. in Bordentown/Crosswicks and at 5:10 a.m., 6 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in Robbinsville at Tatum Park. All sessions are 45 minutes long.

Body Project’s boot camps offer a large variety of activities. At least once a session Vastola brings in a yoga, pilates, or zooma instructor to “introduce them to something they wouldn’t ordinarily try.”

“You’re never bored. Every time you come it’s different,” Stephanie Crea said. She has been attending boot camp for four weeks and has lost approximately four inches.

Vastola took an unconventional path towards a fitness career. She studied international politics and Japanese language and culture at American University. In college, Vastola worked for HealthSouth, a nationwide health-care company that focuses on rehabilitation. After graduation, Vastola worked in Manhattan as a translator. But she knew that she hadn’t yet found her calling. She didn’t wake up loving what she did.

“Deep down, I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit,” Vastola said.

Vastola became certified as a personal trainer, later developing the boot camp program.

“What I hear from women: They feel like a number, cattle coming through the door at [a typical] gym,” Vastola said. She wanted to change the workout experience. She wanted to make it more personal.

After a participant’s first boot camp, Vastola follows up with a phone call to see how she’s doing. Many people are surprised, though pleasantly, by the friendly gesture. But this is what sets Vastola apart: her relationship with her clients.

“I know more about most of my clients that their husbands do,” Vastola said.

Participants have responded to Vastola’s personal touch: More than 100 women have participated in boot camps thus far, and half of those women have repeated the program.

In the near future, Vastola plans to create a fitness initiative for the township of Robbinsville. She is also working on developing more “onsite fitness and wellness” programs at businesses, schools and hospitals.

Body Project is a gold sponsor for “All Roads Lead to Robbinsville,” which will be held on May 16.

For more information, call (609) 336-0108 or e-mail lindsay@mybodyproject.com.