THE BASICS: Army Boot Camp Fitness offers 1hr group PT fitness sessions in Highbury Fields with some ex-soldiers who work you hard but treat you fairly. They also run sessions in London Fields and Wanstead Park. First taster class is free before deciding on membership options. I attended the Monday night Highbury session. It was cold.
THE BITCHES: Carly
THE CLASS: I was a bit nervous about this running-around-the-park-being-shouted-at-by-the-army-thing after a less than enjoyable session with British Military Fitness a few weeks ago. However, after my grumblings on twitter, Army Boot Camp Fitness came highly recommended, and I decided to give them a go. My colleague had also mentioned that she’d noticed groups of good looking men running around Highbury on Monday nights; I deduced this must be them, and thought I best check her claims out. For the good of the people, obviously. I take my role as information gatherer very seriously.
The van was parked just along from Highbury corner and people were having a chat and putting on layers beside it. I was welcomed with gusto, and was quickly drawn into the good-humoured and lively banter between the trainers, (Mo and James) and the group waiting to be put through their paces. This put me at ease and I joined in. By the time we started our walk with all of the equipment up to the fields, I felt very welcome and in high spirits.
Is it just me or am I writing in the style of a Famous Five novel today?! Just bear with me whilst I right this most irritating of writing styles.
Right now, where was I? Ah yes, Highbury Fields…. we went on a lap of a section of the park, and were split into two groups depending on how long it took us to complete the warm up lap. I was in Mo’s group- the slower group of the two. James and his group jogged off and I later learned (whilst making RAAAAHHHHH noises at the pain of a 90 second plank) that our trainer Mo is considered the more lenient of the two. God only knows what poor James’s group were subjected to if this was true!
Mo had us jogging, sprinting, and doing a lot of floor work- sit ups with our legs held at 90 degrees in the air, tricep dips, and squats to name but a few. We had some relay races, and paired up for a while too, encouraging our partner to complete sit ups and to sprint whilst we completed reps with the equipment. The group was small enough (8 in both Mo’s and James’s groups) to be cosy and as a result it was supportive and relaxed, despite the fact that we were expected to follow clear instructions and work hard.
This made me so happy- you could make the odd quip (90 seconds into a low squat-hold) asking Mo why he was being such a cruel and sadistic human being, and he would laugh and come back with a cheeky comment- the atmosphere was friendly and inclusive. In fact, it felt like good natured banter was encouraged, as long as you were getting on with the class and not slacking! It added to the fun and kept everyone bounding through the exercises. This was certainly an improvement on my previous experience on an army run fitness camp. Hurrah- friendly, firm but fair human beings (and not SoldierBots) were running the class!
Some of you may remember my biggest bugbear from the British Military Fitness session- LACK OF WATER. Not with these guys. We were based around one area of the park and were allowed to keep our water bottles close to the equipment- you could go and have a glug after exercises. Sounds like a small thing but it felt like the Army Boot Camp Fitness guys had understood the difference between civilians taking part in an army fitness camp in central London and new recruits actually signing up to join the army. Much appreciated!
I’d say that the level of what was expected of you at the class was challenging but realistic. We held squats and planks for up to 90 seconds at one point (THEY. HURT. MY. BODY) and anyone who flumped over or tried to cheat was berated in a good-hearted manner and sent off to do the forfeit run. At one point, too many of us gave up during a long plank-hold, we were all made to get up and do a forfeit run, with Mo’s cheeky laughter behind us as we moaned and jogged off into the chilly night.
At the end of the class, both groups came back together and we had a warm down- again, lots of banter and jokes, and I felt like the class had been a real success for me. Mo took the time to learn names, and interacted with us all in a positive way but without being a pushover. He set up Army Boot Camp Fitness and runs it with the right level of humility to gain the respect of everyone training with the group. Good work guys- you’ve got a great thing going on!
THE VERDICT: I was so happy that I’d decided to try this group out- I really had a laugh. The workout was challenging and left me exhilarated, and I’d been wholeheartedly welcomed by everyone. Both trainers and attendees were lovely, normal and down to earth. (probably about 60/40 girls too). I shall be returning!
THE EXTRAS: The social side of things makes up an important part of Army Boot Camp Fitness- these guys are holding TWO Christmas parties on 7th and 14th December. Excuse me while I go and wash the mud off my hands and find some mistletoe….