"You're doing awhat?" my friends exclaimed. "A Bootcamp" I sighed, bracing myself for the inevitable hilarity. You see I could never be described as a fan of military fitness regimes. I love exercising - when it consists of a long run, a spot of yoga or a mammoth country walk. All to be followed by a large slice of "you've earned it" cake or glass of "well done" red wine. The idea of a strict 1200 calorie-a-day food plan, with hours (and hours) of being shouted at by a man in camouflage has never, strangely, appealed to me.
Still, in the name of research and shedding some of the pounds I put on comfort eating my way through 2012's lack of a British summer, I signed up to Number 1 Bootcamp's Norfolk base for a long weekend of mud, sweat and tears. Well, hopefully without the tears….
The weekend started easily enough, I was met at King's Lynn station by Jez the camp's photographer, regaled with some tales from previous camps and delivered to my fate. At our farmhouse base Paula, camp manager and basically our "mum" for the duration of our stay, was on hand to greet me warmly, run me through the basics of my stay and show me to my small, quiet single room.
Nestled in the Norfolk countryside, No1 Bootcamp is housed in a pretty farm conversion close to stunning Heacham beach. Our accommodation is comfortable and cosy, but by no means luxe. Which is rather a blessing when you've been exercising for eight hours and just need a sit down. Also a bit of a blessing is Annette, our on hand therapist, who's great at massaging out the day's aches and pains. You pay extra for massages and treatments, but it's definitely worth it to keep the aches and pains at bay.
My fellow Bootcampers are a mix of all ages, shapes and sizes, with one common goal - to drop some pounds and some inches quickly and healthily. For quite a few of us it's our first Bootcamp experience - you can tell who we are by the slight "rabbit in the headlights" set to our eyes. But there are also some old timers, who've been there done that and speak enthusiastically of the torture that lies ahead.
We're each weighed and measured by our unnervingly chipper instructors, Al and Lee, who seem to be enjoying my general terrified state. When asked if I've ever done anything like this before, I manage to squeak "I've been on a yoga retreat, does that count?" Judging by their response, it doesn't. And after a quick tour of the grounds and a gentle stroll to the beach a mile away, there's just time for a light dinner and chat with some fellow Bootcampers before it's off to bed. Well, we are "on parade" at 7.00am the next day.
And right on cue at 7.00 am the next morning we're all outside (lateness results in the dreaded "burpies" for everyone, an awful exercise combining squats, press ups and jumps) and ready for our first session. The following days pass in a blur of runs, circuit training, hikes, boxercise and all manner of hellish fitness pranks thought up for us by Al and Lee. By the end of day two I'm really starting to go off those two. But then, part-way through day three, something strange happens. I find I'm starting to enjoy it. Whether it's the country air, the (frankly lovely) low calorie food, the sense of teamwork that exercising in a friendly group brings, or maybe just the massive endorphin rush, I don't know; but being sweaty, covered in mud and wet sand, and so exhausted I can be fast asleep within seconds of lying on a cold floor seems to agree with me. So when the end of my few days approaches, I really start to feel that I'm going to miss my daily slice of exercise and throw myself wholeheartedly into my last round of circuit training.
The oft-repeated phrase on the camp is that each day's exercise at Bootcamp equates to a week's worth of healthy-person exercise at home. And it certainly felt that way. It's definitely not the kind of exercise regime that would suit everyone. There's no time for being precious (or clean) and I exercised harder than I've ever done before, but at the end of my three days I amazed myself. I'm fitter and feel physically and mentally stronger. I slept better than I have in years and I got to swear profusely at ex-army men. That part was really fun
Oh, and I lost 6lbs and six inches. In three days.
Next time my friends are coming with me.
Camps open all year. Prices start from £995 for a week. No1bootcamp.com