News / Toronto

Metro reporter reboots her life with bootcamp for women

I never liked Oprah’s show. I can’t stand doctors Phil and Oz. I don’t read self-help books or women’s magazines.

I’m hostile to unsolicited advice.

So, when my editor-in-chief asked me to attend a “Head-to-Toe Bootcamp” that promises more than just workout, but an entire “lifestyle change,” and write about my personal experience, I was hesitant and skeptical.

The bootcamp also offered an “aesthetic makeover with lots of perfume, lip-gloss and more” and I don’t wear a lot of make-up and never wear perfume. I don’t think either of these things would make me a better woman.

But last year, market research firm Marketdata Enterprises estimated the U.S. market for “motivational ‘self-improvement’ programs and products is worth $10.4 billion. That includes books, videos, audiobooks, motivational speakers, public seminars, workshops, retreats, webinars, holistic institutes, personal coaching and more.

So, I decided to try to understand it and headed to bootcamp.

Day 1

On Saturday morning, I showed up at the Extension Room, a fitness and dance studio on Eastern Avenue, and met the other five participants as well as the bootcamp’s creator, Adriana Ermter.

She had told us to wear clothes we like, such as “yoga pants, a t-shirt, a cashmere sweater, ballet flats and a pashmina wrap.” But lacking cashmere, I wore a neon yellow sweatshirt and hoped for the best.

The day began with a workout led by Andi Gladwin, owner of Results Oriented fitness. Here I was in my comfort zone. I enjoyed the running, jumping jacks, push-ups, burpees and squats. She was enthusiastic and encouraging, pushing us without the drill-sergeant-style yelling or belittling you, like with other bootcamps.

We were all asked to bring a life goal to work on at bootcamp, so after the workout I asked Gladwin what hers would be. She said there had been a death in her family.

“Being in the fitness industry, I’m not immune to the way people deal with grief. I, ironically, turn to food and I’ve gained 30 pounds,” she said. Her goal is to bring her body “back in line” and be in a magazine as a fitness expert or model by the end of the year.

I saw her as a beautiful, strong woman, so I was surprised she was concerned about her weight. But as fitness is her passion, I hope she achieves her goal.

Next, we had a get-to-know-you session where we learned about the other participants’ aspirations. Sitting around a table in a room off the main gym we each filled in the sentence, “If I could be …”

One woman wants to write a children’s book, another wants to be able to afford to adopt kids, and another dreams of being a ski-bum for awhile.

I wasn’t prepared to share my goal with the group, but it was to be a wonderful mother to kids one day while continuing to devote myself to the career I love — and I worry that kind of work-life balance just doesn’t exist.

It turns out creating this first-ever head-to-toe bootcamp was Adriana Ermter’s goal for seven years. Blue-eyed with blonde hair and a movie-star-like face, she’s a writer in the women’s magazine and beauty industry and is constantly exposed to the luxuries that are inaccessible to most women.

So, she drew on her connections to bring some of the best perks of the industry to regular women for a weekend. She believes that if we take time for ourselves, we’ll be ready to achieve amazing things.

Next was a lunchtime talk with Jane Francisco, editor-in-chief of Chatelaine. She’s tall, thin, poised and, for all I can tell, flawless. She chronicled her career from dropping out of university following a divorce, to waitressing, to launching an upstart arts magazine, to eventually being asked to head up Rogers’ flagship magazine.

Francisco talked about how she manages family and career: with a nanny and a husband who takes on more than his fair share. She’s an inspiring woman, but I was left feeling less confident about my own goal.

After lunch we turned our attention to Hina Khan, a therapist in a private practice and relationship expert on CBC’s Steven and Chris show. She talked to us about the “three F’s” that stop us from reaching our goal — Fear, the inability to Forgive others, and a lack of Faith.

She led us in exercises in which we explored the three F’s in our journals and talked with each other about what we learned. Some of the women opened up about their families and about needing to forgive themselves after going through rough periods in their lives.

Thoughts about my goal, the other women and their goals, and their compassion for each other filled my head through the Pilates session that followed. By at the end of the day, I didn’t have any answers.

When I went home that night, it was all on mind and I talked, or rather ranted, to my fiancé about my frustrations regarding the modern career woman/mother dilemma. I found he was supportive and understanding.

Day 2

On the second morning, I met the women at TAZ Hair Co. in Yorkville. We mingled, got our hair cut and coloured and received a make-up lesson from Vanessa Jarman, the Canadian spokesperson for Rimmel London Cosmetics, who sports ashy-blonde semi-shorn hair and thick-framed glasses.

She’s passionate about her job and uses her natural creativity and eye for colour in make-up. Her attitude toward make-up and beauty was refreshing. “It’s important to figure out what makes you as a person feel good,” she said. “If you feel confident walking out of the house with a bright lip on, and that makes you feel really good, then do a bright lip more often than you regularly would. But I think laughing and feeling good in general is the best beauty tip I can give.”

During a pause in the beautification, we all sat in the salon chairs and chatted. I finally told them what my goal was and why I was worried a woman can never be both a perfect mother and a perfect career woman at the same time.

One of the women, a social worker and mother who wants to adopt two more kids, talked about how much it helps to lean on others for help. Khan told me it was healthy I’d finally had the conversation with my partner.

Neither offered an easy solution, but hearing their advice made me hopeful about it for the first time and I wondered if this was what Ermter was hoping for with her bootcamp. After I left that day, I realized that, though I won’t be going through any old episodes of Oprah, sharing time and experiences with these women helped me find a clearer idea of the future I want to achieve.

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