What better way to start a blog about making fitness more fun than with Army Bootcamp Training in a sodden Victoria Park? Here goes…
I meet the instructor at the park gates. He certainly looks the part – all upside-down triangle physique and immaculate khakis. He is exactly the sort of young man I shall be bothering if I’m single in my late 30s. I resist the urge to squeeze his arm.
Despite the deluge, a handful of others arrive, giggling at our collective insanity. There’s a feeling of camaraderie, perhaps because of the weather or perhaps just because they’re the hardcore regulars.
We’re a mixed bunch. Some want an exercise regime more motivating than the gym. Some want something challenging and outdoorsy. Inevitably, there is one wannabe squaddie; the guy who sits behind a desk all day but is Rocky by night.
We set off at a run. I realise too late that this may not be the best way to recover from shin splints, and limp along at the back like a geek in PE.
We warm up by running in circles; but soon we’re jumping, lunging, doing press ups on the saturated turf, and dropping to a crawl whenever our instructor shouts ‘grenade!’
It feels like hard work but not like punishment. Our instructor doesn’t yell at us when he spots us dawdling. He is very nice about my shin splints and gives me some alternative things to do. Admittedly those alternatives are sit-ups in the mud (he’s an army man after all) but I appreciate the consideration.
My bootcamp debut is pretty feeble. My father was a Paratrooper and, as I tremble my way through sit-up number 12, I am sure I can hear him chuckling. At one point I get a fit of giggles and it spreads through the group. Rocky isn’t amused.
The whole class is an eye opener. I thought I was reasonably fit – I cycle, I run, I swim, I do yoga when I remember. But this is different: it’s a general, whole body workout and it’s like nothing else I do at the moment. As it turns out, I can only do one press up and my sit ups are so slow the instructor gets bored waiting and lets me off at 15.
Nevertheless, the hour passes quickly. We’re not made to sing “I don’t know but I’ve been told” but we do have to scrabble around in the mud. On balance, it feels like a friendly, urban version of army training, and it’s definitely closer to fun than torture.
So, I’d recommend it. The first session is free and if you decide to join after that there are some very reasonable payment options.
I may well do it again. Once every single muscle in my body stops aching and I’ve emptied the mud out of my washing machine.