FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Four days a week, Korin Lopez drops off her three oldest children at school and leaves her two youngest in the free child care at Jensen Family Health and Fitness Center on Fort Lewis.

By 9 a.m., she's working out in a class at Jensen conducted by Ron Raymond, the Fort Lewis fitness coordinator.

"Nothing comes before his class," Lopez said. "Everything's after."

Lopez, whose husband is deployed to Iraq, has followed the same routine since October 2008. The 28-year-old mother of five is happy with the results.

"I lost like four inches on my waist," Lopez said. "Since I started this class, I've become more assertive. Instead of letting people take advantage of me, I can feel like I can so no."

Lopez is well on her way to an overall goal of losing 30 pounds.

"So I love his class," Lopez said.

As does her friend, Marie Zinkand, 22, who joined the class less than a month ago. Zinkand quickly learned Raymond's least favorite response from class members.

"He doesn't tolerate the 'I can't,'" Zinkand said. "I think I tend to do more when he's pushing me to do it. I do it."

The hour-long class, which fluctuates between three and 12 participants lately, has gathered on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings for the past year. Currently, it's an all-female group, but any Fort Lewis ID cardholder can join it.

"We see there's a lot of folks who can use our assistance, and we're here," Raymond said. "It doesn't cost them anything. The more, the merrier, is what I say."

In his Feb. 20 class, Raymond put five women through their paces. They moved efficiently from one station to the next in the Jensen weight area. Among them was Becky Reck, who has been part of the class for just over a month and could still recall her first few days here.

"Pain, extreme pain," Reck remembered. "But you know what' It was one of those things where you felt every muscle in your body, and you realized that you had muscles that you've never used. That was the enlightening thing."

Reck has already noticed the difference in her 49-year-old body.

"When you're older, everything aches," she said. "And I'm just starting to find (those aches) go away. It's great."

According to Raymond, the key is to work each muscle group a couple times each week and build in enough rest between workouts.

"I work upper and lower on different days, and then I let the body recuperate," said Raymond, "then upper and lower another couple of days, and then they have the whole weekend to recuperate.

"A lot of people think you need ... to bust your butt every day in order to get fit. That's not the case."

Raymond pointed out that fitness can be achieved through a series of 45-minute workouts.

"It depends on your intensity to make something worthwhile," Raymond said. "And we try to keep the intensity up so people get a worthwhile workout."

That intensity varies depending on individual fitness levels, Raymond said.

"It may be the same exercise, but we're doing different weight," Raymond said. "It may be the same exercise, but we're doing different reps. It may be the same exercise, but we're using a different height.

"There's a lot of different adjustments you can make for the individual, even though it's the same exercise."

Mothers in the class can focus on the class while their children are being taken care of on site.

"This is like the best thing ever," Lopez said. "All my other duty stations, they never had this. You have to take them to the day care, and it's $4 an hour."

Zinkand agreed. She brings her two small children to the Jensen day care each weekday.

"If I couldn't bring them, I wouldn't be able to come, really," Zinkand said. "It's a blessing having that here. It's a big deal to have day care ... not only that, but free day care."

With their children cared for, class members pursue fitness.

"Ever since I've gotten stronger, it's gotten less hard," Zinkand said. "I've noticed a big change just in the past couple of weeks since I've started."

Bob Reinert is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.