Steve Willis is best known as ‘The Commando’, the relentlessly stern coach on The Biggest Loser, but in his spare time the ex-military man can be found on the Gold Coast whipping a different group of people into shape at boot camp.

Since 2009 Willis has partnered with Binna Burra Mountain Lodge in the Lamington National Park to run Commandofit Training Camps, intensive three-day boot camp style training programs that push attendees to their fitness limits. Willis served with the Australian Special Forces as a counter terrorism team commander before taking up a fitness career and using his military background to form training programs.

“My background is my point of difference; I bring the skills I learnt in the military and apply them to the fitness methods I use. The programs start on a Sunday afternoon and go through to Wednesday morning. We get a variety of fitness levels; some people want to use it as a stepping stone to fitness and some people come in quite fit and are just looking for an edge or to learn a little more,” he says.

The high intensity workouts include weight training, endurance, CrossFit activities, running and repetitive exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups and squats. Willis tailors the activities to the fitness levels of people in each group, so no one is pushed too far or left behind.

Each day of boot camp includes 12 to 16 hours of exercise, starting at 5.30am and some sessions ending at midnight with breaks in between only for meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided with an emphasis on healthy food rather than weight loss and a nutritionist meets with the group for an information session to help them better understand how to have a balanced diet.

“I recommend the course to people who have some level of fitness; I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is like a contestant on The Biggest Loser or someone who is obese because they may not get much from it. But for someone who is 15 to 20 kilograms overweight and looking for a jump-off point then this is ideal,” he says.

“It’s not about weight loss, although some people may lose a small amount of weight from the amount of exercise we do. It’s about giving people a good grounding in fitness. I’ve had people go from doing no exercise to running marathons after doing this program.”

Heathwood mother-of-two Helen Reber is one such student. After doing Willis’ course last year she began an intensive fitness program. “It had been five years since I had done any exercise and I did no preparation beforehand but that didn’t matter,” she says.

“I’d been talking about trying to get back into exercise for a long time but it just wasn’t happening. I had to stand up in front of my colleagues at work and talk about goals and I said I wanted to exercise but I couldn’t find the time to do it. Then I came back from the camp, signed up for CrossFit and now I get up at 4am to exercise every morning. It’s completely changed my body and my life.”

Since completing the boot camp Reber also has taken part in the gruelling 5km Stampede and Kokoda Grunt obstacle course events in Brisbane. She’s already booked for boot camp again this year but she won’t be the one puffing at the back of the class on day one.

The next Commandofit Training Camps at Binna Burra Mountain Lodge, Binna Burra Road, Beechmont start are starting now – 27-30 October 2013. Cost $1500 per person includes accommodation, meals and training. Call 1300 246 622 to book.