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From high heels to combat boots

One woman's idea of getting New Yorkers into shape

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Brenner's "recruits" train at Pure Power Boot Camp.

(CNN) -- After spending almost six years as a Wall Street trader, Lauren Brenner decided to stop trading and start training for a new career.

"I spent several years on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, so I was [with] 5,000 guys screaming every single day, and that's kind of a bizarre way to live," the fitness buff and former Syracuse University tennis player said.

Now, Brenner and her staff of former Marines do the screaming at Pure Power Boot Camp, a military-style fitness facility she opened in 2003 in Manhattan. Boot camp "recruits" get physical and mental strength training.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Brenner felt that people, especially New Yorkers, wanted to be a part of something, she said.

"I wanted ... a place that when you walk in, there's accountability, there's respect," she said.

That place wasn't on the trading floor, Brenner said.

"I left and traded in my high heels for a pair of fatigues and combat boots."

Brenner leased a 6,500-square-foot building in Manhattan and gave herself a logistical and financial challenge: transform the empty space into an indoor obstacle course in six weeks, the same amount of time as one of her boot camp courses.

"If I was going to talk the talk, I better walk the walk," Brenner said.

To make the training experience feel authentic, she modeled the gym on the Army's confidence course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, making it New York City's only indoor obstacle-confidence course.

A one-woman army

When doors opened in January 2004, Brenner had her hands full.

"I taught every single class. I was my receptionist, my PR person, ... my cleaning lady," she said "I was definitely the one-woman show, because I was broke. I had absolutely no money. So, ...I knew that this had to make it."

Three months later, Brenner got help when she hired a former Marine as one of her instructors, the first of several she would hire.

Now, she and her staff of former leathernecks lead platoons of 16 people. And once you're part of a platoon, accountability to your fellow team members can become part of the workout.

"If you come in five minutes late, the platoon is running stairs waiting for you to show," Brenner said.

For the members, the tough-love approach works.

"It's actually really fun to have people yell at you and motivate you like that," said Amanda Rudey, a boot camp participant.

Boot camp and beyond

This year, Brenner has 715 recruits. She says her most popular program is called "tour of duty," in which participants work out an hour a day, four times a week for six weeks. And results are guaranteed.

"If you do not improve your fitness level, I train you free of charge indefinitely until you do," she said.

In addition to her boot camp, she is a fitness contributor on NBC's "Today" show. She'll also be the host of "Fit Family" this spring on FitTV.

Brenner hopes to offer her tough workouts to people beyond New York.

"When I opened this, it was not to have one, it was to franchise," she said. "I wanted to make an impact on people's lives, other than just New York City. But you know what they say, you make it [in] New York, you [can] make it anywhere."

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