BETHESDA – Head Sergeant Chuck Dyson runs the show at Sergeant’s Fitness Concept.
A military veteran, his boisterous songs, chants, and exercise have earned him quite a following with the boot camp programs located in the Metro area, including many parts of Montgomery County.
The camp meets mostly around 5:30 a.m. for a strenuous hour of push-ups, sprints, sit-ups and planks to name a few.
I had completed this program prior and had seen my body change.
Even though, today with my belly bulge, I can be considered a Jolly Fat Man doing the 26th annual Sergeant’s Fitness Concept Jolly Fat Man Walk/ Jog/ Run.
7:55 a.m. Arriving in front of Mon Ami Gabi, there is a group forming, participants decked out in the latest Adidas, Nike and New Balance jogging gear, some participants boldly wearing shorts and even T-shirts, others in spandex tights with sweat proof jackets, and fit-to-go watches, neon shirts, windbreakers, winter caps and gloves.
I am in sweat pants and a North Face jacket with a winter hat.
I know we will be warmed up momentarily. I know what to expect since this is not my first run. But currently, it is cold.
Chuck directs me to Operation 2nd Chance Founder Cindy McGrew. She informs me this is an organization that helps veterans and their families and that she loves the partnership with the Sergeant Fitness Concept and the Jolly Fat Man.
Most veterans organizations do very little for the families of veterans she informs me. Yet, Operation 2nd Chance helps veteran families with rent, utilities and other necessary expenditures.
Later in the day, I would interview Operation 2nd Chance volunteer Emily Selga.
“Well first, I was introduced to them when my husband was admitted at Walter Reed and he was recovering and his family did not have money for the flight so I contacted Operation 2nd Chance and they paid for their flights and their lodging,” she said. “It was amazing.”
8:02 a.m. A group of about 75 participants have arrived. Standing next to me is a family of four. It’s nice seeing kids involved in the event. The girls in this family are Holly, 11, and her older sister Lauren, 13.
Chuck takes center stage leading the group through calisthenics mixed with songs and playful banter.
“To the left, to the right, one, to the left, to the right, two,” he bellows.
By the sixth exercises, which included jumping jacks and head to toes, I feel warmed up.
8:15 a.m. We start the walk down the Capital Crescent trail. Somewhere down the trail, there awaits two stations with trainers.
I decided I’ll try to walk to both stations then turn around and head for breakfast.
I start walking down the CC trail and I am joined by Chuck. He explains the history of the event. Chuck had a Sergeant by the name of Lawrence who had a group of participants who were mostly men and mostly overweight and mostly walked the Capital Crescent Trail.
Lawrence started call his group “The Jolly Fat Man” and the Sarge program eventually adopted the name for their event.
8:30 a.m. I made it to the Sergeant Donovan and Mario. As for the event, Fitness Instructor Donovan Tyson said, “The Jollly Fat Man is kind of an annual event that brings together clients of ours.”
Mario Mejia added, “Jolly Fat Man is just an opportunity for people to connect environment to fitness.”
8:45 a.m. I am told there is no second station so I turn back toward Bethesda and American Tap Room for breakfast. I encounter the family of four again. The girls say in unison they’re doing “alright.”
“I’m kind of tired but the people are nice. I liked everybody,” said Lauren.
Holly added, “I’ve been having a great time out here. The weather’s beautiful.”
The hour-long program can be quite tough demanding eliciting every ounce of energy so today this 1.5 mile walk is a little less tedious but still a nice way to earn a breakfast.
9:10 a.m. Inside American Tap Room, participant Kathy Kemper-Dean said, “It’s an outdoor adventure every morning” of the Sarge program.
It seems everyone I speak to seems to use the word “fun” in describing the event.
That is, except for the “cold” described by participant Rose Terman. I said I thought it warmed up, she said.
“It did not warm up,” she said. “I’m here for the cause and I’m here for our Sarge.”