Published on May 16, 2013 | by Alana Maytum and Emma Francis


Kick-start your summer with boot camp!

Participants at a boot camp on Clapham Common

Structured, strict yet enjoyable exercise [image: Will Thomas]

@AlanaCher & @Emmafrancis_

Summer is finally here, the holidays are coming and the gym is calling.

If running on a treadmill in a sweaty gym doesn’t appeal to you, do not fear! More and more people are discovering boot camps, which offer a sociable and motivating environment, and we decided to see what all the fuss was about and put it to the test. Or maybe it put us to the test!

We arrived at Clapham Common and sheepishly walked over to the biggest group in the park where we were greeted by Jamie and Chris: tatted-up, muscle-bound, no-nonsense kind of guys. The workout started promptly at 19.00. All of a sudden everyone was off and running in different directions looking as though they knew exactly what they were doing. We, on the other hand, ran around bearing a close resemblance to headless chickens. We later found out we were supposed to be touching 20 trees, although I think we did more people dodging than tree touching. The group reconvened and began running in a large circle on the common.

The classes have been running for a few years, and the trainers have successfully built up a regular clientele (we were among the five newbies in a class of about 30). It was mainly women all working hard on their bikini bodies, but there were four men and – most importantly – a great atmosphere among the group.

It was pretty worrying to know that was just the warm-up. Whilst running, Chris and Jamie were demanding burpees, lunges and various other life-threatening exercises, not forgetting the 20 push-ups (my current personal best before this was six). In an attempt to make this a little easier on ourselves we thought we could get away with the ‘girly’ push-ups, but Jamie quickly spotted us. Seconds later we had a huge former forces trainer shouting ‘KNEES ARE FOR LOSERS’ at us. We learned pretty quickly there would be no cutting corners with these guys.

We went to the ‘fight club’ boot camp, and had no idea what to expect. Sounds scary but it’s not… actually, we were terrified. The boxing gloves were on. Literally. You partner up and one has the pads and the other puts on the gloves. It was then an intense few minutes of punch punch punch – and change partner! We then swap roles. Sounds pretty straightforward? Not too tough? If feeling as though your arms could fall off at any point sounds like fun to you, then it was great. I must say though, the trainer shouting ‘come on Rocky, who do you hate!’ was really liberating.

The boxing exercises aren’t designed to improve fighting technique, but the movements are used to create an intense full body workout. For the legs, yep you guessed it…kick-boxing! Again, in your pairs you do various kick-boxing moves combined with sprints, squats and burpees.

If you think it ends there, you couldn’t be more wrong.

The sit-ups lasted for a good five minutes and if you stop it’s 50 burpees for the whole group. Jamie took part in the sit-ups, which made us feel a slightly better that he was sharing in our pain. But Chris played the role of invigilator with his beady eye looking out for any slackers.

Being run by ex army officers, the boot camp was well structured and their playful strictness made it enjoyable while ensuring we got the most from our work-out; you definitely feel like you are in safe hands. Fitness coach Chris says: “It pushes you to limits you didn’t think you could reach on your own.” There was real encouragement among the group, and it’s a sociable way to exercise. Going to the gym may be good for some, but if you are new to London and want to get fit and make some (fit) friends then a boot camp is the way to go!

SWfitness alone have boot camp classes seven days a week across London including Green Park, Fulham, Tooting, Regents Park, London Bridge and many more. Not only can you fit it in around your own schedule, but you get to spend time in the sun and enjoy the scenery as well. You only have to take a stroll down to your local park in the summer months to see the hundreds of boot camps on offer to you, and SWfitness definitely has our seal of approval.

Whilst the weather is warmer, and the nights are longer, why not try one out? Most offer a first free session too so you have nothing to lose! You could even catch a tan whilst working out! What’s stopping you?

[image: Will Thomas and Nicole Peters]

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