Soldiers of fitness

Cpl. Klause would like to introduce you to Misery and Pain.

Jay Klause

Cpl. Klause would like to introduce you to Misery and Pain.

Cpl. Klause is actually Jay Klause, operator of the Red Deer chapter of Soldiers of Fitness.

Misery is a three-metre-long pole and Pain is a tree trunk, are they are two of the items he will use to whip recruits into shape at his fitness boot camp.

A former Canadian Forces reservist, Klause has been a Soldiers of Fitness instructor in Edmonton. That unit was started in 2004 by Colin Reid and Karth Sahadevan, who came up with the idea of a military-style training program while serving with the Canadian Forces in Bosnia.

Soldiers of Fitness has since spread to Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, with the concept now being franchised in Chilliwack, B.C., and Red Deer.

“We’re the only authentic military boot camp in Canada,” said Klause, describing how the program simulates basic training, with exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, long runs, obstacle courses and even basic self-defence.

Misery and Pain are used in group exercises, with equipment like tires and sandbags also incorporated into training.

Minor transgressions — or simply being in the instructor’s line of vision at the wrong moment — can result in an extra set of push-ups or sit-ups.

Soldiers of Fitness follows the military’s emphasis on teamwork, said Klause, with members penalized for the failings of their counterparts.

“If one man’s struggling, the team’s struggling,” said Klause. “People very quickly get that into their heads.”

Another military parallel is the social distance kept between trainees and instructors, all of whom have been or are professional soldiers. Only last names are used, with instructors also addressed by their military rank or the rank assigned to them by Soldiers of Fitness.

“We let (students) know that one of our rules is no fraternization,” said Klause. “We tell them, ‘We’re not going to come to your barbecue, we’re not going to be on your Facebook, we’re not your friends — we’re here to put you through and get you value for your dollars.’”

Participants can register for either three or five days a week, and choose between 1 1/2-hour training sessions at 5:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. Exercises are conducted outdoors, unless the temperature falls to -20 C, at which point members can vote to move indoors.

“It’s not for everyone,” said Klause of the tough, regimented training.

But those who like it usually stay. Some even gather with other members on weekends to supplement their Soldiers of Fitness training.

“A lot of people become addicted to it,” he said.

Originally from Lethbridge, Klause enlisted in the Canadian Forces following high school. He completed basic training and remained a reservist for about two years.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said, recalling 25-km runs with a rifle and 16-kg pack.

Klause, who is now 35, first attended a Soldiers of Fitness session in Edmonton at the urging of a friend. He liked the intensity and structure, and signed up.

Within two weeks, Klause was running a mile in under six minutes — two minutes faster than he could while still in the military.

He progressed from “Newbie” to regular, then made the jump to an advanced group. Ultimately, Klause completed the Soldiers of Fitness “Commando” program, which emphasizes extreme training.

“It’s the true test of who you are.”

He was offered an instructor’s position with the Edmonton group, and then last fall was asked by Reid if he wanted his own franchise.

Klause agreed, choosing Red Deer as his base of operations.

Klause plans to launch his first training program on June 1, with Sahadevan on hand to oversee initial operations.

Additional information about Soldiers of Fitness can be obtained online at or by calling Klause at 403-877-3295.

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