I guess that you could say that Billy Joel and I have a little something in common. No, I’ve never married a supermodel even though my husband Justin is pretty hunky. All I can play on the piano is “I dropped my dolly in the dirt” so there’s no similarity there. But, just as the chorus in Billy’s hit song “I Go to Extremes” says, apparently Billy and I both go to extremes and neither of us knows why.
In the summer of 2009, I had an 8 month old baby boy and 17 pounds of baby weight that didn’t leave my body when the baby did. Instead of slowly starting a workout regimen to walk off the pounds or enrolling in a nice, leisurely yoga class a few times per week, I got an extreme idea. I guess it was the Piano Man part of my personality breaking through.
I had been driving around town and kept seeing these little signs stuck in the grass called Operation Bootcamp. I went to the website and watched all of the video testimonials. Operation Bootcamp is a 30 day outdoor workout routine held locally in parks. Did I mention that I signed up for the June/July session and that it is outdoors? Did I also mention that it involves running (which I hate), push ups face down in the grass, sit ups (which I could not even do at the time), bear crawls, and some monstrosity called a “mountain climber”? Looking back now, I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to take my out of shape, baby-flabulous bod and make it do hundreds of jumping jacks in the park in 100+ temperatures. But, not only did I enroll and plunk down a considerable sum of money, I also convinced my sweet, kind friend Cristy to do it with me. She is such a wonderfully trusting soul.
So, Cristy and I showed up to workout in the park, not knowing what to expect. We were greeted by Audrey, Guy, Megan, Kandice, and Jason who would be our instructors. They had smiles on their faces, except maybe Kandice who was in perfect shape and had a focused intensity that scared me a little. Over the next 30 days, I worked out harder than I had ever done in my entire life. I loved every minute of it. OK, to be honest, I loved it after it was over but not always during it. But, I pushed myself and accomplished things I did not know I was capable of. Near the end of our 30 days, we ran a 5k. This was made much more challenging by the fact that I had developed shin splints and it felt like my legs were breaking every time I took a step. But, I found some way to run most of the 5k. Kandice, who I was initially frightened by turned out to be the one I wanted to impress the most. When I’d see her around, I’d work a little harder just because I didn’t want her to think I was a total wuss. We were required to keep a chart of everything we ate or drank throughout Bootcamp. The instructors checked our chart every day to make sure were staying on task.
I started to see a lot of similarities between the concept of Operation Bootcamp and the work I do for a living, which is credit counseling and money management education. I realized that losing weight is a lot like staying on a budget. It takes commitment, perseverance, and learning new skills. It helps a lot when you have someone else to which you are held accountable. Knowing that the instructors would see everything I had eaten made me really watch it. I didn’t want to go to all of that effort and spend all of that money only to cheat my way through it.
After my Bootcamp workout experience, I decided to begin a financial bootcamp. I designed a six week bootcamp that puts recruits through the rigors of learning the main topics that every successful money manager should know: Your relationship with money, budgeting and saving, credit, borrowing money wisely, getting out of debt and future planning and investing. Thus, “Fiscally Fit Bootcamp” was born.
During Operation Bootcamp I enjoyed the fact that we had so many instructors keeping us in line and cheering us on. It seems that one of them were always available to answer a question. We incorporated this feature into our Fiscally Fit Bootcamp which has about 1 expert instructor (either a Certified Credit Counselor or certified Financial Educator) per 5 recruits. This allows easy access to financial experts throughout the course.
For me, the best part of Fiscally Fit Bootcamp is the reaction I get from the recruits. After six weeks of intense but fun instruction has gone by, the only complaint I have ever received is that the class isn’t long enough. Recruits show up week after week, excited about what they are learning. For many, it is the first time in their life that they actually feel in control of their money. They gain so much from the requirement to track their expenses and do homework. For six weeks, they know where they are spending every dime.
I know it’s helping, too. We pull their credit report upon beginning boot camp and 6 months after completion and 75% have had credit score increase of 45 points or more.
We have two more Fiscally Fit Bootcamp sessions left in 2011. One begins May 24 and the other begins September 20. For just $25, recruits get a notebook jam packed with information, dinner every Tuesday for six weeks, expert instruction, and a t-shirt upon graduation. Many recruits enroll with their friends, spouse, and/or teenage children.
When I think about the 100+ graduates we have had since Fiscally Fit Bootcamp kicked off in January 2010, I know that all of those sweaty push ups in the dead July grass were worth it because that incredible program gave me the idea to begin another. Thanks to all of my Operation Bootcamp instructors (especially you-Kandice!). Even though you thought you were just whipping me into shape, you ended up sparking an idea that will change the financial lives of many Oklahomans.
For more information about the non-profit Fiscally Fit Bootcamp please visit www.fiscallyfitbootcamp.net.