Sandy • Willowcreek Park is still dark, the sun barely on its morning journey up out of the Wasatch Range, but the women are already at work.
Women pulling against resistance cords strapped to the fence surrounding the tennis court. Women crunching their stomachs on mats laid against the pavilion concrete. Women lifting dumbbells in synchronized rhythm.
This is the Salt Lake Adventure Boot Camp, an all-women, hourlong workout session that starts every weekday morning at 5:30. At the center is Sonia Maxfield, a 48-year-old woman whose small, lithe frame struggles to contain her bursts of energy. The Holladay resident moves quickly between her students whom she refers to as "ladies" or "gals" shouting out instructions and encouragement in equal measure. With dozens of women to tend to, she never stays still for long.
All this, despite hand surgery for a torn tendon, heart surgery for a premature ventricular contraction, and cryotherapy for cervical cancer within a three-week span this spring.
"They say scars are just tattoos with better stories," says Maxfield, a twice-divorced, single mother of four. "That's my body."
She's lost track of just how many scars she has, but the first was etched on her knee when she was a high-school freshman in Missoula, Mont. One of 10 children, she was always active growing up; her mother didn't have time to provide shuttle service, so the transportation choices were foot or bike. Shortly after graduating, Maxfield followed one of her sisters to the Salt Lake City area.
She first worked stints in banking, mortgage and accounting, but eventually opted to become a personal trainer. She couldn't resist the autonomy of being her own boss, and her own active youth made her a natural for the job. Five years ago, she took another step forward, opening up her own branch of Adventure Boot Camp a California-based organization with footholds all over the country. She had worked as a personal trainer out of Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center before that, but when the center closed its weight room to renovate the ice rink, she seized the opportunity to start her own business.
What makes the program so successful, her clients say, is how it constantly keeps their bodies guessing. Elements of everything from yoga to resistance training are incorporated, ensuring that workouts never get boring. There's also the sense of camaraderie that exists among all the women; many spend time together outside class as well, whether it be at races or birthday parties. At the Big Sur Marathon in April, the class rented a house together, with one woman taking charge of cooking meals for everyone.
"Her motivational style is pretty much what tips the balance here," says Murray resident Jen Cockle, who has been taking the class for nearly a year. "She can keep such a wide range of people going, all different skill levels. Everybody has had a growth process."
Meanwhile, Maxfield keeps much of her own struggle to herself. Those who do know are eager to offer their support, but Maxfield hasn't allowed any of her procedures to interfere with her schedule. Even with all her recent operations, she rarely misses a class.
"When they come to camp, it's not about me," she says. "It's about them and whatever journey they're on. â¦ They know the bare minimum, but they don't know the specifics."
Maxfield put off heart surgery for 10 years before finally going under the knife in February, shortly after repairing a torn tendon in her right hand. The premature ventricular contraction, which meant that her heart pumped harder than usual, didn't interfere with her exercise routine, when her heart rate was already up. That and her reluctance to undergo a bubble echocardiogram, in which a bubble of saline is pumped into the organ, made it easier for her to delay surgery. She finally opted for the operation after doctors said she was risking a stroke or heart attack.
The first heart surgery wasn't completely successful, so she underwent a second one around Memorial Day. Seven days later, she ran the Dirty Dash, a roughly 10-kilometer, mud-filled obstacle course in Midway.
She says her heart condition is under control now. Her cervical cancer was caught early, too, so it likely won't be a problem. Besides, what comes first for her is the group of women she teaches, one that is now inextricable from her own life.
"I just can't spend 27, 30 hours on a bike anymore like I was training before," Maxfield says. "My life has evolved to incorporate these women, whatever their lifestyle is."
Sonia Maxfield owns Salt Lake Adventure Boot Camp, a fitness class for women.
The Holladay resident underwent hand surgery, heart surgery and cryotherapy for cervical cancer in a three-week span.
Her operations haven't interfered with her routine, which helps women of all ages get fit.