Encouraging the burn

(First published in the January 9, 2020 issue of City Pages)

Sonya Pennel opened a new boot camp-style workout franchise, aimed primarily at women, in Rib Mountain


Operations Manager Jana Wimmer, from left, Head Trainer Renee Giese and co-owner Sonya Pennel at Burn Boot Camp Wausau in Rib Mountain.

Sonya Pennel attended a Burn Boot Camp facility while on vacation in North Carolina and was immediately hooked. She and her husband Dean decided to buy into the franchise right after their trip, and opened the first Wisconsin Burn Boot Camp in LaCrosse.

There are currently over 240 Burn Boot Camps in the United States (the company was franchised in 2015 by owners Devon and Morgan Kline in North Carolina), eight of them are owned by the Pennels. They will soon be opening two more, including another location in the central Wisconsin area. “What I absolutely love about Burn Boot Camp is it’s way more than the physical piece, it’s also the mental piece… I know I can do anything because of the stuff that they put us through here.”

The Burn Boot Camp classes or “camps” are all trainer lead. Members can check the Burn Boot Camp Facebook page every Sunday morning to know what muscle groups will be worked on during which day of the upcoming week; one camp might be more cardio-focused, another might focus on the upper body.

For the camp’s daily music-filled, 45-minute workout (done in a short-timed interval with active rest between each move), a lead trainer will go over with the entire class what they will be doing at each work station, show proper form and demonstrate modifications.

Pennel understands getting into a new gym or new routine can be daunting for some. The entire Burn Bootcamp philosophy is built around getting women to work out and empowering women (most camps are for women only, however, some are designated as co-ed). “I’ve heard people say, ‘I came and sat in your parking lot for three different times and I couldn’t walk through the door’,” she says. “We want people to feel welcome when they come here.”

When someone first walks into Burn Boot Camp, staff will talk to a client about their fitness level, what they have been doing or what injuries they may have to ensure they get the right workout.

Encouragement and positivity are the main focus of Burn Boot Camp. “High fives, they’re like our thing here; high fives and smiles,” she says. “And when you think about how many people can go throughout their day and not be told they’re doing a great job, we want that to be a part of their experience here to know you are doing a great job… it just matters you did what you can do right now.”

Burn Boot Camp Wausau is open six days a week and camps begin at 4:45 am and run throughout the day. Co-ed camps are available at varied times. Child Watch child care is at 8:30 am, 9:30 am, 4:30 pm, 5:30 pm, and 6:30 pm. For more information contact Burn Boot Camp: 715-660-6302. They are located at 151411 Robin Lane in Rib Mountain. Website: burnbootcamp.com/wausau-wi, or on their Facebook page