Miami-Dade County

April 2, 2013

In shape: Mechanic runs free workout boot camp outside Miami Marlins stadium

Auto mechanic Carlos Carazo got himself in shape; now he’s helping others at a boot camp in East Little Havana

Summoning his troops with a whistle blast, boot-camp coach Carlos Carazo trots onto a lawn outside Marlins Stadium and bursts into a high-energy round of calisthenics.

It’s an unusually chilly evening in early March, and though many of the “campers’’ are bundled up in sweats, Carazo is in shorts.

While pop music blares from radio-station trucks outside the stadium, the 27-year-old auto mechanic barks instructions in Spanish.

For the next hour, between 20 and 40 men, women, children — some come late, others leave early — jog in place, jump, shadowbox and drop into pushups. From time to time, they dodge a large dog that darts playfully through their ranks.

The cost for this? Nothing but sweat.

“This neighborhood is very poor,’’ says Carazo, who came to Miami from Nicaragua at age 12, then graduated from Booker T. Washington Senior High in Overtown. “They can’t afford a gym. They need motivation.’’

Which is exactly what Carazo needed last fall after packing an unwanted 30 pounds onto his 5-foot-10 inch frame. Since then, with diet modifications and exercise, he’s dropped from 210 to 175 pounds.

With a friend, he began working out at the stadium. Gradually other friends joined in, then friends of friends and curious passersby.

When the class starts about 7 p.m., Carazo has already put in a full day at the shop, and after 45 minutes of high-energy, short-burst exercises and stretching, he’ll go home and work out for another hour.

The title on his Facebook page — Carlos Workout Buddies — reads: “It’s a Lifestyle. Train Like There’s No Finish Line.’’

Campers go to the page for their leader’s confidence-building messages, like, “Don’t strive for perfection. It doesn’t exist. Strive for a better you. That’s always in reach,’’ and “You don’t get it by wishing, staring or hoping. You don’t get it easy. You get it by working your ass off every single day.’’

Camper Luz Rivera has taken it all to heart; her body is catching up. The 52-year-old grandmother of six, who works with needy families at the Miami Behavioral Health Center near the stadium, says she gradually gained weight as she aged and had kids.

“I was 95 pounds,’’ says Rivera. “Then I had my daughter and went to 120. When I had my son seven years later, I went to 160 and kept gaining. I won’t lie; I was a heavy eater and a ‘couch potato.’ After work, I would eat and watch telenovelas.’’

But last November, she began working out three evenings a week and joining Carlos Workout Buddies events on Sundays, such as brisk walks across the Rickenbacker Causeway.

She wears a plastic weight-loss sweatshirt, and has dropped 25 pounds. She replaced lunch with Herbalife shakes and snacks with energy bars and started eating breakfast.

Instead of zoning out in front of the television, she exercises.

Her knees don’t hurt anymore, she says, and she can hug herself. Used to be, she couldn’t wrap her arms around her own fat.

“He’ll make us sweat,’’ says Rivera. “Motivated? That’s me!’’

Deimy Alvarado, 23, is a new camper. She’s in sales and in nursing school.

Although not in bad shape, she says she “almost passed out’’ during her first class.

At the end of a recent class, which includes about 200 yards of sprint and relays, she’s grinning, and says she feels “awesome!’’

This is just the reaction that Carazo wants.

“This is not easy,’’ he acknowledges. “I tell them, ‘Try your best. You’ll be sore tomorrow but I want you to come back.’’’

And most do, with some classes reaching 75 participants.

Carazo, who’s had no formal training, offers a varied routine: cardio, muscle building, agility. Sometimes he brings hand weights or tires, for resistance.

It’s exhausting, and from time to time, campers give up although he urges them to hang in there.

“If you’re committed, you’ll succeed,’’ Carazo says.

That’s the same outlook that helped him support his mother, aunt and younger brother after his father died when Carazo was 19.

He began working at the iconic Art Deco service station at 1240 W. Flagler St., then called Jasah Tire. He bought it in 2008, renaming it Oster Tire in honor of an uncle who helped him finance the deal.

He knows he could generate a nice second income if he charged for the class, but that, says Carazo, is not the point.

“People always ask me that — why I don’t charge — but in this life, not everything is about money,’’ he says. “Some people cannot pay for a gym or personal trainer, so if you can do something for other people, it makes you feel good, and you make new friends.’’

His goal: 100 boot campers.

“That would make me happy,’’ he says, “and that’s me: Happy.’’

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