Tuesday, 9 June 2009


I recently started going to "bootcamp". That is to say a high-energy fitness class held in the local park. Bootcamps have been enjoying an increase in popularity lately, whether that's because exercising outdoors appeals to those stuck in an air condition office for 45 hours a week, or perhaps because it's marginally cheaper than the gym (mine is £30 for six sessions), I'm not really sure. I have to say though that I am a convert.

I do enjoy exercising outdoors, even if other park users are scoffing barbecues under my nose as I dash past (I secretly hope they feel guilty for eating their gorgonzola stuffed beef burgers). It's nice to be out in the fresh air and the view is certainly better than that of the meat heads "spotting" each other in the gym. I also am in favour of the budget-friendly costs.

However, I think the real reason I enjoy the class is because I am inherently lazy when it comes to exercise. I'll mean well at the start of my health kicks and go to the gym twice a week for three weeks, and then I start missing sessions. My friend will only be able to meet up on an alloted gym day and instead of going to the gym a different day, I'll just not go. Then I'll start to feel guilty and have to avoid the gym because going back to the start - the muscle cramps, the feeling you're going to be sick and trying to remember how to programme the cross trainer again - it's all too much to bare. With bootcamp I seem to be able to commit - I go twice a week and the instructor, a lovely Austrian girl called Sybille will notice if I don't. She keeps saying impressive things like "this five minute sprint is as good as a 30 minute job" as I dash past her, sweating last night's wine from every pore. I believe everything she says and after four weeks of twice-weekly sessions, I am seeing results.

If all this has piqued your interest and you want to know more (don't worry, I won't mention sweating wine again - no one needs that), then I'll explain what a class is like. We warm up first - which includes stretches and balancing - I am told doing balancing exercises uses all your core muscles and tones you up without you even realising it. I am all in favour of that! Then we do a lot of lunges, squats, step ups and press ups in quick sucession. Sybille allows for beginners and is all in favour of going at your own pace, but she is encouraging enough to make everyone want to do their best for her. After doing all of the more static exercises, she has us doing a series of high-impact heart exercises - this is sprinting for your life to you and I. It is incredible how much faster you run when a super-fit, super-nice fitness instructor is cheering you on. At the end you cannot speak (and feel a bit like vomiting) because you've worked so hard. But it feels good. In the wind-down time, we do a lot of sit ups and then muscle stretches, which lengthen the muscles whilst they're still warmed up. Apparently lengthening muscles is good. Sybille said.

All this, for £6/70 mins is good value for me. I drag my housemates along with me and we have something vaguely resembling fun. I really can't recommend it enough.

For more info on bootcamps in your area, head to British Military Fitness or if you're based in North London, Sybille runs her Fit2Play classes on Highbury Fields.