The bootcamp workout was a foreign concept to me until I moved to London. Before then, if someone had said ‘bootcamp’, my imagination would have immediately turned to Hollywood-style military scenes, an intimidating hulk of a drill sergeant barking commands at a fearful but obedient army. And I’m sure whoever invented the first fitness bootcamp had a similar idea in mind – imitating such a scene, familiar to at least the western world, would be more than enough motivation to challenge participants to push themselves hard and to rid their minds of simply the thought of quitting. From the fitness bootcamps I’ve witnessed around London, I’ve certainly seen some trainers who do indeed seem to look to movie-style drill sergeants for inspiration, kitted out in khaki uniforms, straining their vocal chords as they shout one command after another.
So it was with some trepidation that I joined my first fitness bootcamp this past weekend in Clapham Common. I kind of stumbled upon it – not in the literal sense but in the 21st century sense, i.e. virtually. I discovered the meetup.com website and began searching for groups I would be interested in joining. I can’t believe it took me three and a half years in London to discover the goldmine that is meetup. Meetup is a website for people who are keen to join some sort of social group based on their interests. Think of things you like or would like to do more often, whether it’s sport or a hobby or anything else, and chances are, that group will be on meetup, made up of people similar to you who share your interests. The number and diversity of meetup groups in London itself is overwhelming of course.
Since discovering the website, one of the groups I have joined is the fitness bootcamp, marking the beginning of my journey with the phenomenon. Scanning the introduction and details of the next “running bootcamp & breakfast” on Clapham Common, phrases such as “have fun”, “complete beginners” and “breakfast” stood out for me, inciting enthusiasm and encouraging confidence within. Quickly creating my profile, I clicked the “attending” button before changing my mind and put the bootcamp, just a few days away, firmly in my diary.
Following through with my plan, I arrived at the Common that weekend, the meeting point easy to spot after noticing a group of people gathered near a van for luggage storage. I’m not one of those naturally confident and sociable people, so it wasn’t only the thought of doing something new and perhaps slightly hardcore that had the potential to make me nervous, but also simply the fact that I would be throwing myself into a situation where I knew no-one. Thankfully, it had been a busy weekend and all I could focus on beforehand was pedalling to the meeting point in time.
I was relieved to notice that the trainer was not dressed in army uniform and seemed a normal sort of bloke, just the very fit kind. Following the group to a spot on the Common, the trainer gave the upcoming workout a bit of an introduction, stressing a few important rules. These rules included – no walking, no sitting down or bending over in exhaustion, positive attitudes no matter what, and the like. We then practised our positive responses and received a threat of 50 burpees should we break any of these rules.
Uh oh. Perhaps, when conducting my research into the group, I should have paid more attention to the phrases “full body workout with strong emphasis on running”, “hardcore athletes” and “one hour”. Was an escape possible? I had introduced myself to just one other person so the chances of sneaking away unnoticed didn’t seem too unlikely. After a few furtive glances at the rest of the group, wondering if I was in the midst of superhumans, and a direct look from the trainer (could he smell my fear?), I decided against it. It was too late, I don’t like quitting and I like a challenge. I was in this till the end now, I decided, reminding myself that in an hour’s time, it will all be over.
Thankfully, time is something you can count on and indeed, an hour later, it was all over. However, unfortunately, something you can’t count on is for your body to simply forget the torture you’ve put it through for days afterwards.
But in all honesty, it was a really good workout. I’m glad I went and I will definitely go again, if not regularly. I’m feeling it mostly in the places that I don’t exercise enough – my arms and upper body area. That’s because at bootcamp, where I’m told to do a seemingly ridiculous amount of push ups or whichever exercise, by someone standing right in front of me (as opposed to a virtual trainer who isn’t), and I’m surrounded by people who are trying to complete the workout even if it means taking a two second breather and then getting straight back into it, I felt more motivated and eager to complete the challenge.
I wasn’t able to join in on the lovely breakfast post-workout this time, but it did seem like a great environment for socialising and getting to know more like-minded people, and hopefully I can at the next. Something like this – various bootcamps around the city, a website like meetup that you discover on one day and see in action the next – is yet another reminder of the countless opportunities we have in London.
Now to find that dubstep group on meetup and introduce myself to another whole new world…