Margaret Street Motivation

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, August 1, 2010

The setting sun has cast a long shadow on the razor-shaven lawnof the Baker house on Margaret Street. The workout group lies ontheir faces in the shade’s respite, sweat already beginning toshine on their necks.

At the end of the line, Brookhaven’s Montoyae Leavy presses herbody into the fine grass, waiting for the instructor’s deep voiceto bark out the command to exercise.

The order is given, and her arms tremble as she pushes againstthe warm earth to elevate her body. She stands slowly, chasingafter her breath, once the 10th repetition is complete.

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The 10th one always hurts, but before Leavy began communityexercises she couldn’t do a single pushup. Now, after working outwith a group of her peers four times a week since January, she’spushing up and pushing herself.

“I feel more energized. I’ve lost weight and inches,” saidLeavy, a 35-year-old registered nurse. “Before, I was just kind ofdoing stuff on my own – Weight Watchers, going to the gym – but itreally wasn’t consistent. I need to lose weight and get healthy. Ihave a 2-year-old son and I need to be able to keep up withhim.”

Leavy admits there’s times when she wants to quit, times whenthe pain and soreness come close to keeping her home, but the powerof the collective brings her back. On Margaret Street, club memberslean on each other to endure the pain of a hard journey intohealth.

“Sometimes I feel like I want to quit, but when I look ateverybody else, there’s drive,” Leavy said.

The Margaret Street group was founded by Amy Baker, who decidedto drop the gym in favor of club Phyziques – know locally as BootCamp – a group exercise program run by Tra Collins, a 28-year-oldMcComb firefighter and workout coach certified by the Aerobics andFitness Association of America.

Baker was attending Collins’ weight loss-focused City Parksession, but the petite 42-year-old wanted more than basic cardio.She pulled her friends and neighbors together to form the MargaretStreet group, and they hired Collins to whip them into shape.

“Going to the gym and running is good for the legs, but not forthe whole body,” Baker said. “We wanted to see how good a shape wecould get in. We wanted to get flat abs and cut arms.”

They’re on their way. Collins is tough on the MargaretStreeters, tougher than he is on the park’s cardio ladies or hisgroup of staff members at Mississippi School of the Arts.

The Margaret Streeters endure locked-arm sit-ups and painful legstretches, over and over. They run down the neighborhood streets onparade while the trainer drives alongside in a car, prodding themto pick up the pace from the comfort of a reclined leatherseat.

Then, Collins stops the car, gets out and makes the MargaretStreeters push the vehicle back home while he marches along behindthem, bellowing motivation.

He’s loud and relentless, but not hateful. He’s consistent anddirect, but not unmerciful. He chisels away at their weaknesseswith constancy, but encourages them every step of the way.

Collins feeds stays on the group all day, sending out streams oftext messages reminding them of their goals, encouraging them topush themselves, letting them know he just can’t wait for 6a.m.

“We focus on the finish line and keep going,” he said.”Competition is a big part of Boot Camp. I just ask them, ‘Whowants to win? Who wants to be the champ?’ Then we go see.”

Collins has his clients wear matching black Boot Camp T-shirtsthat display Phyziques’s motto – “I Want It.”

“I push them, motivate them, push them for every inch they wantto lose. If you slack off, they’re going to quit. You got to stayon them,” Collins said. “It’s hard for people to work out bythemselves, so we wear all black, like a team uniform. Thatsignifies unity.”

The long road to healthier living was born of unity forBrookhaven’s Anna Smith, 25.

“One of my neighbors made me do it,” she said, as her bodycooled down and the redness ran from her face after a Boot Campworkout Thursday. “It makes you want to come to workouts. You haveto do a little extra to stay healthy.”

Dianne Leggett, 30, wanted to quit as soon as she joined up. Butthe group called her back, and now she’s seeing progress.

“After the first two days, I was crying it hurt so bad,” shesaid. “But I started seeing results after one week. I’ve lost 10pounds in a month, I’ve lost some inches and I can see musclescoming out.”

The Margaret Street group will need each other more and more asthe days go on. Now that they’re all broken in and improving,Collins is planning to up the ante. Before long, he’s going to havethe group working out with tractor tires – carrying and flippingthem, jogging through them and pulling them with ropes.

Soon, the Margaret Streeters will be tested. And so will theirunity.

“We could never do this on our own. We’d have quit a long timeago,” said Dr. Mac Baker, 50. “When you get friends together, itmotivates you.”