17 November 2009

Boot camp: the truth

Five mornings a week, 6am, four weeks: is Adventure Boot Camp really worth it?

Five mornings a week, 6am, four weeks: is Adventure Boot Camp really worth it?

This morning I had an amazing moment. Bear with me, all you running bunnies: this is a breakthrough moment for the rest of us.

For four weeks, I diligently did the Boot Camp thing: every morning, at 6am, there I was, with my exercise mat and weights, water bottle and gung-ho attitude. Hell, if you're going to do something to assess whether it works, you might as well do it properly.

The step-ups and squats, the crunches and triceps dips, the skipping and star jumps… I was there. And over the four weeks, something happened: difficult to define, but nonetheless delicious. It culminated on the last day of what they call "camp", when you have to repeat a fitness assessment you'd first done in the first week of the programme. How many sit-ups in a minute? Loads more. How many push-ups in a minute? Ditto. How long to run/walk around the field five times? Less time. Little triumphs that represent such a buzz.

What's changed for me
Basically, what I'm saying is, I got fitter and stronger. I also lost weight and gained energy. My social life went to hell in a handbasket (you can't be razzling at midnight and still spring out of bed in the pre-dawn black), and my ability to down my fair share of wine and feel no ill-effects diminished. So I definitely got more boring too.

I haven't got to the amazing moment yet, by the way.

Then the four weeks ended, and – so sad, I know – I missed it so much, I went to gym almost every day. I missed the endorphin rush and the worked-out feeling that leaves your muscles relaxed. I missed the ache of muscles that have done something new, and are giving you attitude about it. My body shape has changed, and I like what it's changed to, and I missed the feeling that I was building on that. I walked up Lion's Head one morning at dawn, and it was pure beauty and pleasure the whole way – it wasn't so long ago the experience felt like a slog to me. I missed the morning freshness.

The most amazing moment
So I signed up again, and this is the amazing moment. This morning, we ran around the field again, and I didn't run/walk. I ran all the way, and I wasn't wheezing and wobbling and worrying about my heart bursting out of my chest. I wasn't admiring the scenery and planning my day either, by the way, but I wasn't in the sort of pain that blocks out everything else. And by the time I'd walked back to pick up my stuff, I wasn't panting any more.

So is it worth it?

I'm a convert. I think there are a few secrets to the success of this particular regime, and here are some of them (in case you think you can do it by yourself):

ONE: It's in your diary, so it's not discretionary (one of the secrets to sustaining any regime, is to move it from the "optional" category in your mind to the "non-negotiable" category).

TWO: All you have to do is pitch up for Adventure Boot Camp. That's not an easy thing to do when bed is delicious and the sky is still black outside, but it's easier than you might think, once you're in the habit. Once you're pitched up, the momentum comes from the trainer: you run when she says so; lunge off into the middle distance when she says so; stretch when she says so.

THREE: All around you, others are doing the same, so you don't feel alone in your pain. If you're a competitive soul, you'll keep going because you can't believe others are doing better than you; but even if you're not, it's somehow easier to keep going long after you might have stopped, were you left to your own devices.

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(Heather Parker, Health24, updated November 2009)


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