Naples Fitness Boot Camp
5625 Strand Blvd #508
Joy Brown beats up Twinkies and punches packs of Ramen Noodles.
It’s her way of saving lives.
Sometimes, reasons the North Naples woman, it takes extreme measures to make dramatic changes in the world. And the co-owner of Naples Fitness Boot Camp is extreme about what her campers are eating, but not as extreme as consuming poison for food, she says.
“It gets me mad, because if a person was hurting you like that, you’d get away from that person,” says Brown, a nutritionist and personal fitness trainer.
“It’s like if I saw a person abusing you, making people addicted, making them feel hopeless and helpless,” says the 36-year-old St. Louis native, explaining what sparks her outrage toward unhealthful foods.
Joy owns Naples Fitness Boot Camp with her husband, Demarcus, 41, whom everyone calls Sarge. The couple are a tidal wave of fitness, good nutrition and — albeit much more softly spoken — Christian spirituality.
Often seen leading exercises in the dark at 5:30 a.m. outfitted in camouflage pants, a tank top and manicured nails, Joy Brown is boisterous, outrageous.
When she’s not leading camp, she may be invading one of her boot campers’ kitchens in what she calls a kitchen or pantry raid. These are meant to help them to address “80 percent of the fitness equation,” which is eating, she says.
If there are whole grains, organic fresh fruits and vegetables, the owner of that kitchen will bask in Brown’s joy. If, on the other hand, the kitchen has a lot of prepackaged snacks and sodas and other caffeinated drinks — well, it will be a much different experience.
Um, come in, Joy
I’ve been going to boot camp about eight months. I quit smoking and cut back drastically on the after-work “happy hours,” but my already-poor diet was getting progressively worse with each vice I dropped. I didn’t say so, but my waistline was a snitch.
So I invited Joy Brown into my kitchen. I knew she would not like what she saw.
Most people hide things from her before letting her take a gander in their refrigerator. Not me. I let her see my kind of raw before she was to introduce me to her kind of raw — a diet she calls R3. It stands for reverse, rebuild, retrain and predominantly consists of uncooked fruits and vegetables.
Curly ramen noodles may still be clinging to several crevices of my cabinets. Her brightly painted finger tips curled into a fist, Joy flattened the package and sent the dried noodles flying across the kitchen tile.
It’s entertaining, humorous. And slightly traumatic.
Just as unique as Joy Brown’s apparent craziness when it comes to food is her compassion toward her customers.
“This isn’t just some come-here-workout-OK-we’ll-see-you-tomorrow fitness program,” says Clare Betzer, 44, who joined the boot camp about two years ago.
“You feel you’re part of something. They care about you,” Betzer says.
The cohesive team is created through the military style portion of the training, says Joy. “Everybody goes through the same training. We could have Michelle Obama at our boot camp. We have the mayor’s daughter at our boot camp. We don’t care.”
Results come from clients not setting the limits of their own workouts, says Sarge.
“Most trainers don’t do that. They let the clients dictate,” he says.
Riding herd on fitness
Betzer will get a call from Sarge or Joy every few weeks when she’s been missing from the camps. They call to see if she’s OK.
“There’s something about them, their spirit,” Betzer says. “Joy is more, I want to say…spirited,” she says and laughs.
Sarge, Betzer says, is one of those people who can get you to do a lot without having to say anything. Sarge, who usually leads the boot camp at 6:30 p.m., just before the sun sets, doesn’t raise his voice often. He’s subtle. As subtle as a drill sergeant who spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army can be, anyway.
With Joy, it’s a lot about what she says.
During camps, which Joy calls “Happy Hour,” she spouts comments such as, “I’m not here for your eye candy. If you see me doing something, you do it. Unless, I go like this,” she adds, with her arms akimbo and legs spastic. “Then I’m just playing.”
Joy has her own version of the “No Child Left Behind Act” and it is fully funded with her enthusiasm. Any given exercise will be repeated until everyone is able to get it right. If someone falls far behind, the whole group circles around to join up with them.
Joy may make adult women cry. She’s made boot campers throw up.
However, it’s more common to hear people laughing as her voice echoes through Vineyards Community Park in North Naples on most mornings before the sun has risen.
“Joy has this magical gift. She is waking people up to their true potential,” Betzer says.
Hiding in the grocery
Nicole Minick, 36, who joined boot camp in July 2009 to look her best for her wedding, echoes the sentiments of many boot campers: Joy and Sarge are the kind of people you can’t get out of your head.
“If I go to a restaurant, I’ll worry if they walk in and see me eating something I shouldn’t,” Minick says.
Joy and Sarge laugh about the way their clients react in restaurants and grocery stores.
“We’re not your parents. We’re your motivators. We won’t spank you. But you’re liable to get a tongue lashing,” Sarge says. He laughs again.
Joy laughs along with him. “I don’t know. You never know what I might do.”
Their approach to fitness is holistic. It’s a lifestyle. The workouts, the lifetime diet, the daily affirmations at the end of each workout, an invitation to join them in their Christian spirituality at the end of each four-week camp, Joy’s new self-published book R3 Diet: Reverse, Retrain, Rebuild Your Body and Mind, social media outlets like Facebook and their websites, including R3fitworld.com, provide networks for support, whether it be motivational techniques, health or beauty tips.
Whether you accept their brand of Christianity or not, says their campers, Joy and Sarge will accept you. They lead you; they inspire you.
“We know this isn’t popular. We know we’re going to have people giving us dirty looks,” says Sarge of the first day of camp, when boot campers are told of the option to go on a 30-day raw diet.
“It’s easier to change someone’s religion than their diet,” Joy says. “But if not us, then who? If we have information we know can change people’s lives…” she says.
The couple was featured on the reality TV show “Wife Swap.” “It only focused on us being total health nuts,” Joy recalls.
“We do normal stuff too,” she says looking at Sarge as they share the same side of a booth for lunch at Calistoga Bakery Cafe.
They have four children total between them, including two — a son, Sevin, 10, and a daughter, Laren, 8, — who live with them. They go to the movies. They even go to parties. Joy loves parties, she says.
The Browns are opening their first indoor/ outdoor gym with an obstacle course and urban style with graffiti of motivational sayings on the walls. The first of what they hope will be a series of worldwide gyms, R3 Fit World Gym, opens in Fort Myers with registration beginning March 7. “We found what we love and we do what we love,” Joy says.
That love is given to boot campers who call on the Browns in their most dire moments. It’s not often, Joy says, that a trainer is the first to be called when a client’s mother dies, but she takes those calls regularly.
“We have people’s lives in our hands, intricately woven into our lives,” she declares.