Monday, November 07, 2005

Boot Camps: Vancouver's Dirty Little Secret

You've heard the stories about the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Grabe Prison, and now reports that the CIA is maintaining secret prisons in eastern Europe and Asia to interrogate al-Qaida suspects. Then, there are the allegations that the Canadian government occasionally ships its citizens off to Syrian prisons for a little tenderizing. Judging from the latest media reports, the art of torture seems to be enjoying a revival.

You have always thought, however, that you were safe from systematic physical brutality in our quiet little city of Vancouver, right? Nothing really bad ever happens in Vancouver, right? Wrong, my friend; dead wrong.

Recently, I have uncovered a nest of "boot camps" operating overtly in the Vancouver area. These boot camps are managed by people who appear to be youthful, healthy and energetic. They attract new recruits by promising improved physical fitness. This promise seems so appealing that recruits actually pay money to join.

Then, reality hits them. They soon realize that nothing short of torture is used to achieve results. Don't believe it? Let me explain, gentle but naive reader.

Without my prior knowledge, Yvonne registered us in one of these boot camps five weeks ago. Three times a week, we are now at the physical and psychological whims of our trainers.

One of the more dastardly techniques they use is the "crunch." This actually seems like a versatile term that refers to anything that makes us feel that our inner organs are being crunched by a large vise. Their favorite approach is to put us on our backs and demand that we repeatedly raise our shoulders, legs and hips simultaneously.


They also enjoy forcing us to run for unbelievably long periods of time. As we run past them, gasping like dogs, they heckle at us with remarks like "Tight abs" or "Just one more." Tight abs? Hell, we are lucky if our abs will just stay under the Spandex!

Boot camps apparently avoid detection by continually changing locations. Every day, we are instructed to meet at a new rendezvous point. One day, it’s Kits Beach. The next, Spanish Banks, or Vanier Park, or Queen Elizabeth School.

Even worse, we are forced to participate rain or shine. Recently, we were lying on our backs in the rain. We were in the middle of the usual crunches when a seagull flying overhead "made a deposit" on one of my comrades. Instead of shooing the bird away, our trainer just laughed. Is this humane treatment? Let’s just say that I haven’t heard anything about seagulls at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Grabe. Our boot camp seems to have a monopoly on that little trick.

The trainers make light of our predicament by continually offering glib comments, usually under the guise of humor. This appears to have a motivating factor on the "campers." After all, when your shoes are full of water and you are doing push-ups in the wind and rain, with your nose stopping an inch from a visibly injured earthworm you recently did sit-ups on, you will seize on any shred of support you can find.

Strangely, people seem to find themselves enjoying these boot camps. It might be a cult sort of thing. It could be due to the fact that we feel more fit after every workout. Some people might even have a dream of getting back to their ideal weight. Whatever the reason, some campers voluntarily return after completing their first term.

Personally, I have seen my blood pressure improve since becoming a camper. Inwardly, I remain smug with the knowledge that this is actually improving my health. It might even help me avoid a stroke or heart attack in the future. Those trainers can do what they want to me. I’ll be laughing last, at a ripe old age.

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