SEVEN YEARS AND RUNNING
These Lake Oswego fitness enthusiasts aren't your average gym rats
It's a cold Wednesday morning at Lake Oswego High School. At 6 a.m., it's still dark, and the 1,200-plus students have yet to descend on the campus. No birds are chirping, and the only sound is the wind rustling through the trees that hide the morning sun as it creeps up to greet the school.
All of the sudden, Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" blares out of a CD player, and nine fitness junkies begin a circuit of 60-second drills using a series of items that include a heavy rope, medicine balls, hoops, dumbbells and, oddly enough, pumpkins.
"The people who get up early, the roosters, are more likely to stick with it," says Teresa Wymetalek.
For the past several years, Wymetalek and a dedicated group of Lake Oswego residents have met three days a week at LOHS for "boot camp," an early-morning fitness class taught by Wymetalek and sponsored by the Lake Oswego Community School.
It's a high-energy, butt-kicking course that promotes strength, flexibility and stamina through a wide range of workouts that Wymetalek personally creates for her students. The class integrates strength training, cardio and flexibility exercises to hit a variety of different muscle groups within one session.
"In the seven years I've been doing this, we've never done the same routine twice," says Karen Thompson.
Thompson is one of a handful of original members of the group who have committed themselves to the course on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for the past seven years. It's said that it takes 66 days of continued repetition until a behavior becomes habit, so the approximately 1,092 sessions Thompson and her fellow classmates have completed over the past seven years definitely seems to qualify.
The class is defined as "small group training," which means Wymetalek, a professional fitness instructor and running coach, gets to closely watch each participant and encouragingly shout improvements on form and technique.
"Shoulders up," she yells as the group performs a plank. "Shift that weight. Squeeze those glutes."
Mike and Kathren Cavanaugh are the epitome of what you might call "morning people." The Lake Oswego couple actually met at a 6 a.m. Aikido class years ago. After Kathren saw a notice for Community School programming in The Review, she and Mike decided to give Wymetalek's class a try.
"The workout is cool because it's functional muscles that help with all kinds of sports," Mike says. "I love the exercise, but the group is such a solid tribe. It's a good core group who are friendly as heck."
Kathren explains that the wide variety of drills and workouts Wymetalek dreams up makes each session unique and interesting. On a recent Wednesday, the group used pumpkins during their workout for several different exercises — including one that involved carrying a large orange gourd up and down a set of stairs.
That extra level of planning and playfulness on Wymetalek's part makes the 6 a.m. class that much easier to bear, participants say. Mike Cavanaugh adds that quick results are also a huge plus — he's lost 50 pounds since he and Kathren started the class seven years ago.
"You don't have to think, you just have to do," Kathren says. "I like that it's not competitive but still challenging."
The only competition, Mike says, is between you and yourself, and the support from fellow classmates provides encouragement to push yourself beyond what you think you're capable of.
Over the years, the class has become a tight-knit group of friends who genuinely enjoy each others company, according to Wymetalek, and observing them during their training makes it easy to see she's correct. Mike serves as the de facto class clown, often breaking concentration to make the entire group laugh. Although the general tenor of the class is serious business, nobody takes themselves too seriously.
Outside of the class, the Cavanaughs host a soup night every few months where they all converge for a meal and to socialize in a more relaxed setting, one where Wymetalek isn't correcting technique and pushing her students to perform at their peak physical ability.
"I'm not allowed to bring dessert anymore," she says. "I've brought some dishes that were too healthy."
Over the past seven years, whether it's pitch black outside, raining or even dumping snow, the group continues to push the limits of their bodies and minds.
"I think it's the perfect way to start the day because it starts you out on a positive note," Wymetalek says. "The thing that's funny is I have other groups who always say my workouts are too hard, but this group I can't give them enough. They're hungry for it."