By John Schaffner

Jan Studdard leads a long stretch walk exercise (left) during the Get a Grip on Fitness Tuesday morning boot camp with instructor Bryan Alper in Briarwood Park.

About 15 people show up at Briarwood Park about 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a free fitness “boot camp.”

“What we are really trying to do is get people moving in Brookhaven and get people aware of fitness and healthy habits,” said personal trainer Bryan Alper, who leads the exercise sessions.

“Boot camps” have become synonymous with military-style training and strenuous exercise drills, but Alper says his eight-week Brookhaven camp focuses on each participant’s personal fitness levels and goals. He works to set a pace for the group that benefits all involved.

Most of the participants live near the park and walk to the early morning sessions, he said May 15, during the inaugural Brookhaven Bazaar, held at Village Place. Alpers, who operates Get a Grip on Fitness and who has been a fitness instructor for about 10 years at places such as the YMCA and LA Fitness, lives across the street from the park himself.

“People don’t go in there because they get freaked out,” he said, so he’s trying to make people aware of what is available in the in hopes they will feel more comfortable in the park.

“One of my underlying themes when I started this was to bring awareness to this park,” Alpers said. “It is a beautiful park, but a lot of people are intimidated to go there. They see the graffiti on some of the signs. There is a little bit of garbage in the woods.

Alper (above right), a certified fitness instructor, also seeks to increase public use of the park.

“One of my intentions is to have a creek cleanup, which I have been trying to coordinate with the Brookhaven Community Connection build awareness and just get people moving. That is good exercise in itself. That would help get more people aware of what we are doing with our boot camp and get more people involved in the boot camp.”

The camp is not the only free fitness event Alpers is coordinating for Briarwood Park. He wants Brookhaven residents to come to the park on June 3, between 6 and 10 a.m., to “get tanked,” a process of submerging people in water for a few seconds to get a reading of their body fat.

The process takes about 12 minutes and will help determine how many calories the person burns during a normal day, he said, and how much fat, if any, a person needs to lose to reach their optimal weight.

Individuals wishing to take the test need to bring a bathing suit and towel. There is a private dressing room on board the mobile test lab, which is air-conditioned. The water in the tank is chemically treated and filtered for cleanliness to meet all local swimming pool and hot tub health department requirements, Alpers said.

A flyer on the procedure says eating within an hour of the test may affect results by up to 1 percent, but working out and drinking water will not affect the test results.After the test, individuals will receive a four-page printout of results, which provides a baseline for fitness goals.

“We are more than a fitness boot camp, we are building a social network,” Alpers said. “We are making friends out there and building community. That is the thing I am most proud of, being out there and building community — helping them to get fit and having fun.”

Fun at a 6 a.m. fitness boot camp?

“Getting it done early in the morning you feel better about the day” Alpers said. “You feel more confident about yourself and you probably work better and just feel better.”