Getting in Shape: Hard Exercise Works

Getting in Shape: HEW Review

A few weeks ago I started out on a journey. A challenge, you could say, to complete the 5 week boot camp at the Hard Exercise Works gym by UCF. I’m not overweight, or super skinny. I’m not terribly out of shape, but then again I do get winded carrying the laundry basket up the stairs to the second story of my home… so maybe I am. Let’s just say I’m a 20-something year old mom of 3 who can still rock skinny jeans if they’re mid rise but hasn’t really felt “strong” or “fit” in quite sometime.

I was in a pretty bad place as far as self-care and love when I started. I had just stopped nursing and nothing was fitting anymore. I was also battling the daily blues and low energy levels. I jumped in thinking, “If I just come out with a better mood than I’m good.”

I took notes along my journey so I could share them with other mamas because I wanted to be super honest and descriptive with my experience. As any mom knows, taking time away from our kiddos to work out is tough. We feel guilty and logistically it doesn’t always happen easily. For those reasons alone, I wanted to give you my review so you would know if it was worth the sacrifice to try it yourself.

The boot camp offers unlimited classes for 5 weeks. They offer SEVERAL classes a day and you can go as often as you’d like. Reality for me was going 3-4 times a week.


There isn’t any “childcare” per say, but there is a cute little nook that has a baby gate and some toys and a TV. I only brought the older kids once and they enjoyed this area. You’re still pretty close and can hear/access your kiddos if they need you. My youngest came with me most of the time and she is 20 months. She flipped when we put her in the kids space so instead I kept her strapped in her stroller with an iPad and a movie and snacks. I parked her by the front desk where I could see her at all times (unless we went out for a run) and the coaches did an awesome job helping me out in those times. I was nervous she wouldn’t be contained for that long but she did fine for the 45-50 minute classes and I could just run over when she fussed. MOM TIP: bring snacks in levels. I start out with a granola bar and work my way through fruit snacks and end with a lollipop. HA! Don’t give away the good stuff first! I was shocked to see each coach talk to her or interact with her while I was working out or if she tossed something on the floor. It was so very helpful to have that peace of mind that they were accommodating to a mama trying to make it work. At the very end of the class we do a cool down time and my toddler always joined us by my side for that. It was endearing and a relief to feel her embraced and I never felt like I or she was a burden. Anyways, let’s move on to the nitty gritty.

Here’s a play by play of my experience at HEW:

Day 1– Holy moly. Today we did a workout called the “deck of cards” workout. You pick a card from the deck and it tells you which exercise based on suite and how many reps based on number. That was fun. Although, I learned I cannot think and count at the same time. Coach asked me how I was doing. “Just above throwing up.” His response… “that’s where we like you.” Nervous about my toddler strapped in her stroller watching me. Staff did great with my kiddo picking up snacks she threw on on the floor and restarting the video on her iPad. After workout, walked outside and within steps I threw up. 

Day 2– Today I learned what a “clean and jerk” is. Later in the day my husband had to get coffee out of the microwave for me because my arms are SO SORE. Coach asked how I was doing mid workout. “My arms are so tired.” ..His response was, “tired, we can work with. Keep going, doing good.” I’ve noticed Coach always has an answer.

Day 3– I’m thinking I don’t want to do this anymore. Have you seen that shirt “Everything hurts and I’m dying”? Well, that is exactly the shirt you need when on day three of starting the HEW bootcamp. My thoughts driving to gym are, “I hate this. This is going to suck. How can I get out of going.”  BUT THEN, I finally feel human after working out. I’m walking less like a newborn baby giraffe. Soreness is subsiding….  A LITTLE. Thoughts leaving gym are, “I am a beast. I love this feeling. I’m going to do this everyday.” 

Day 4– Today I bring hubby to experience what the heck I’ve been going through… and of course, he smokes it. Yay him.😒 The workout involved several rounds of intervals that really works for cardio. Have a hard time breathing. Note to self- do more cardio.

Day 5– I actually missed working out this weekend. Starting to crave the soreness feeling. Workout was good but I’ve really been craving more ab workouts since stomach is my weakness after three pregnancies. 

Day 6– Be careful what you wish for. Knees to elbows has my little tiny baby abs shaking under all that cushion. Also, having a two story house after “push press day” sucks. Have to walk down the stairs sideways and slowly. Also, noticing a HUGE difference in my mood and self love. That is the best perk so far.

Day 7– Sprints. Practiced with tire pulls. Tire pulls suck the worst in the history of ever. Felt like vomiting again today and my heart was about to burst out of my chest. Felt like I was failing today because my body was pushed to the max. Also kinda felt like a bad mamma jamma pulling a tire. Mommy turned beast.”heeeeeeeyyyy!”

Day 8– Do you want to know what you shouldn’t do if you can barely do push ups? Hand stand push-ups! Modified to a pike push up. Still hurts like a mother. Also, 200m lunge walking… ain’t for the faint at heart. My butt feels slightly closer to Kardashian-like, so there’s that.

Day 9– Today we run. And run. And run. Got easier than last few weeks but we went further than ever before. Leg cramped, Coach gave me tips to help it. I’m finally feeling less awkward doing a clean and jerk. Still awkward, but smoother and quicker. 

Day 10– 100 push ups 100 sit ups 100 squats 100 pull ups. I got skin raw on my tailbone from sit ups. It hurt the whole time but I figured it was some thing that I had to just push through. Well I now know it’s a “cherry”. (Later edit: its developed into a nice mark at the top of my butt crack. Battle scar anyone?) Hands blistering. Didn’t think I could do 100 push ups. I had 20 left, Coach got down on the ground next to me and encouraged me. Pick a number. Push to it. Take a little break. Then keep going. I did 3 at a time. And I finished! So encouraging. Proof larger task can be completed when you focus on next small goal. Also, mind over matter for sure. It’s all mental. 

Day 11-There was so much sweat coming off of me. Tried not touching someone else’s sweat. Didn’t matter anyways because I couldn’t see with sweat in my own eyes. Definitely notice my butt has lifted and my pants fit better in the waste. Holler. Side note: working out on your period sucks. 

 Day 12– I am so proud of myself today!  I usually just immediately do the modification and go to the lowest weight bar or weight set. I assume I’m just weak and not like the other “fit people” there. Well, today the lightest felt “too light” for our deep heavy squats. So *gasp* I upped the weights across the board at each station. Pretty proud. I even think I could’ve gone heavier. Note to self: the last 4 weeks is working. Also, you are stronger than you think. 

Day 13– Falling just under aforementioned tire run is its evil stepsister – pistol squats (go ahead, try squatting on ONE FOOT all the way down and don’t get too cocky… back up). These things took me the whole work out time. I am so determined though I finished the entire rest of the workout while everyone did the cool down. Satisfaction comes by pushing through the entire WOD (workout of the day). Speaking of pushing through… NEVER underestimate the power of encouragement or a good job or a keep going! Without the coaches and the fellow classmates I would definitely stop 9 times out of 10. 👍🏼

Day 14– Dare I say it… today felt “easy”. I don’t know if they toss in these workouts every once in a while to make you feel accomplished or if I actually have baby muscles growing. Either way, perfect Friday workout. Hard enough to feel the burn, easy enough to actually complete it. 💪🏼 Did I mention if I lean back and have the perfect lighting, a tiny little ab pokes out?! That makes me want to cry a happy tear. 

Day 15– last day of 5 week boot camp. I’m beginning to feel comfortable pushing myself. My attitude is no longer to just complete the task but to do it even better than I think I can. Increased the height of my “box jump” and it felt so good to try something harder and succeed at it. Today’s workout was hard and took me a while. I hate not finishing the “list” before the timer goes off. I push myself to finish even after the buzzer. I am pushing myself because I can and I want to. That feels really good.


WEIGHT LOST: .8 lbs                INCHES LOST: about 2.5 (overall)

SUMMARY: To be honest, when I saw that I only lost .8 lbs I initially thought “Why on God’s green earth am I putting in all this work for that?!” As a woman, and definitely in our culture weight-loss is usually a major motivator for many. However, after a bit of thinking and some conversations with my husband I have realized that what I have gained is WAY MORE than what I have lost.

I signed up to keep coming to HEW, I’m now a member and come 3-4 times a week still. I’m on week 8 and so addicted. My husband cannot stop complementing me on how proud he is of me, and how “differently” I’m caring myself. I have gained a TON of muscle and my body shape looks very different. I have lost inches in my waist and gained them in my thighs (in the best way possible). I am craving the feeling of exercise and accomplishment more and more. My attitude has changed completely towards being active and I’m finding myself much happier and with more energy most days. The other day I began running (something I have hated in the past). I decided to test my endurance Forest Gump-style and just run until I couldn’t. Almost 3.5 miles later, I came home only because a stray dog began following me and I was returning it to its owners. I felt amazing and not out of breath. My endurance has improved ten fold thanks to my HEW workouts and being encouraged and pushed to challenge myself and my limits.

I am so glad I took that risk 8 weeks ago to begin the boot camp at HEW. Mamas, make the time for yourself at a place that embraces you where you are at and then pushes to where you can be. My gym has made me a believer that Hard Exercise Works. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you, get used to walking around like a cowboy after an exceptionally hard workout, it hurts so good. 

2 Responses to Getting in Shape: Hard Exercise Works

  1. Matt Hunt March 29, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    Candace, I just read your article. Congratulations!!!! As the co-founder of HEW®, it’s truly rewarding to see that you’re happy and progressing under our business model. And you can’t find better, more committed owners than Jason and Stephanie.

    • Candace
      Candace March 29, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

      Matt, as a less-than-mediocre/amateur fitness enthusiast, thank you! Sometimes, gym and motherhood aren’t always a possibility but HEW gym along with Jason & Stephanie have opened up that possibility for this mama. I’m so grateful.💪🏼

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