Sun, Sand, Sweat & Sky
Beach Boot Camp in the Kennebunks with Leslie Carroll-Fleming
The sky is pale lavender, and the morning has not yet lost its chill. A layer of thin clouds sifts across the horizon, reflected in the crescent of ocean that curves along the shore. Across the jetty, the first rays of sun emerge, illuminating the faces of 20 individuals who have just completed a half-mile warm-up run and are lowering themselves, smiling, onto the sand of Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk where they’ll spend the next hour in an intense, fast- paced workout.
Leslie Carroll-Fleming, owner of Get Out There Fitness, runs the Beach Boot Camp, which meets three mornings a week at one of four different oceanfront locations along Beach and Ocean Avenues in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. In the summer, Carroll-Fleming might have as many as 70 participants engaging in the strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility exercises she leads twice each morning. The group gathers year-round, rain or shine. “We have a place that we rent in the winter, just in case,” says Carroll-Fleming. This year they went inside only three times. “From January to March, we might have only 10 to 15 people, but we are out there in the ice and snow.”
Carroll-Fleming acquired Get Out There Fitness six years ago from Caroline Fitzgerald, who founded the company in 2006. At the time, Carroll-Fleming was pregnant with her second child, Lola. Her older daughter, Sienna, was two. Carroll- Fleming taught the outdoor boot camp throughout her pregnancy that winter. She never cancelled a class. Nor did she cancel class on Friday, July 15—the day she gave birth to Lola. “I taught two morning classes, doing partner pushups, burpees…then went in for my regular check-up and had her that afternoon,” she says. By the following Wednesday, Carroll-Fleming was back on the beach. Her husband, Jack Fleming, had planned to teach in her place, but when he became temporarily ill, Carroll-Fleming jumped back in.
Originally from New Jersey, Carroll- Fleming was the middle child of three and active from an early age. She particularly enjoyed outdoor sports, such as running and snowboarding. “I loved fitness, but it was fitness outside that really got to me,” says Carroll-Fleming. “It fueled my creativity.” She attended Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she majored in art. Although she had chosen to focus on painting, even this couldn’t keep her inside. “By my junior year I must have painted every landscape in New Hampshire,” she laughs. While at Plymouth State, Carroll-Fleming taught conditioning and kickboxing classes. She also worked as a personal trainer. After graduation, she took a brief detour as an art teacher before returning to her first love. “I was into being in shape. I knew I wanted to have a job in fitness,” she says.
Nine years ago, Carroll-Fleming moved to Maine to take a job as the fitness director at Quest Fitness in Kennebunk. When Get Out There Fitness needed a new leader, Carroll-Fleming was ready. “Although I love being in the gym, it puts you in a box,” says Carroll-Fleming, who still teaches spin classes at Quest. “When you are doing a workout outside, things are always shifting, and you’re not in anybody’s way.”
Carroll-Fleming plans her classes with an eye on the tides. A low-tide workout might involve running on the broad, flat part of Gooch’s Beach known as Seaside; when the tide is high, the class may focus on flexibility on Mother’s Beach. Carroll- Fleming likes to incorporate found objects, like stones from Narragansett Point or driftwood logs from Colony Beach, in strengthening exercises. “People who like being outside have an open mind,” she explains. “I’ve never had the same workout twice in all of six years.” Carroll-Fleming incorporates yoga, Pilates, and drills she learned from her years coaching and playing sports.
Beach Boot Camp attracts men and women of all ages from 20 to 70. They come from a broad range of fitness backgrounds. Some are just beginning to get into shape, while others compete regularly in triathlons. “I know all of them and I know what they need,” says Fleming. “I have a hard-core edge, but people come to class and have fun.” That hard-core edge keeps her competing in events around New England. An avid road-racer, she is also a trail runner and ambassador for Beach and Urban RAID races, a series of events that alternates obstacles and boot camp stations with running. Although Carroll-Fleming claims that she hasn’t mastered the marathon, she has already run five. “I’m always wanting to beat the last one,” she says.
Artist and boot-camper Ingunn Milla Joergensen says she has never seen anything like Carroll-Fleming’s energy level. “You think you’re going to pass out and she pushes you further,” says Joergensen. “She’s pretty amazing at giving you what you need.” Joergensen moved to Maine from Notteroy, Norway, in 2007. “Being new to town I didn’t know anyone,” says Joergensen. “I didn’t know the simplest of things, like who I should choose for my dentist or my doctor.” Soon after she arrived, a friend suggested that Joergensen join the Beach Boot Camp class. “Before we moved I had a full-time job as an art teacher. I used to go skiing with the kids, run, take indoor classes, but I wasn’t extremely athletic,” says Joergensen, who is married and the mother of two grown children. Soon Joergensen was fully immersed in Beach Boot Camp. “You are out three days a week, right in the elements, rain or shine. You never know what the workout is going to be and you never get bored, ever,” says Joergensen. “There is nothing like doing sit-ups while watching the sunrise.”
Joergensen found that the benefits of Beach Boot Camp went beyond physical fitness. “When I joined eight years ago, I started with the 8:30 class. After class we would gather in the coffee shop and these women answered all of my questions,” says Joergenson. “We are best friends now. Leslie’s class is such a great asset to the community.”
Tina Hewett-Gordon, the general manager of the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, has lived in the Kennebunk area for 25 years and she attends the boot camp on a regular basis. She says that one of her favorite class locations is the east side of Gooch’s Beach, which looks across the Kennebunk River to the Nonantum. “It gives me a fresh perspective on where I work,” says Hewett-Gordon. “It’s a way to clear out the cobwebs.”
When Hewett-Gordon joined Get Out There Fitness four years ago, she says she could barely run a quarter of a mile. Now she regularly enters 5K races and has participated in Maine’s Tri for a Cure for the past four years. She plans to do the next one on July 17. She has also competed in the Beach RAID series. “I would never have been able to do this without her support and gentle persuasion,” says Hewett-Gordon. “Leslie makes the impossible seem possible. When she teaches, it’s not just about the mechanics of the exercises,” she continues. “She is so real. She makes a personal connection. Leslie walks the walk and talks the talk.”
The Get Out There Fitness Beach Boot Camp provides not only an inspiring instructor and a sense of community, but also the chance to connect with something bigger. “I never take for granted the waves crashing against the shore, or the view from Ocean Avenue. You can see clear to York and Mount Agamenticus,” says Hewett-Gordon. “Whenever you can combine health, fitness, and nature, it’s a pretty priceless time you can spend on yourself.”