Wanting to tone up and get fit for race-for-life this summer, I jumped at the chance of reviewing Sussex Bootcamps for Wahanda.com! So I downloaded the friendly introduction of what was in store for me over the next month, the Bootcamp Success Guide- which included a couple of tasks such as recording my body measurements to monitor inch/weight loss, writing down the goals that I wanted to achieve from Bootcamp, as well as information such as nutritional advice, and how to sign up to the members site where I could chat to the Bootcamp trainers and fellow 'Bootcampers' as well as get regular updates on Bootcamp happenings.
I agreed to the four-week plan of three 45 minute sessions a week, opting for the women-only sessions, commencing at 9.30am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (for people who have commitments during the day, there is also the choice of an early morning session at 6.15am or evening sessions starting at 6.15pm or 7.15pm). Come Monday 9th March, off I trotted on a lovely sunny morning to Beech Hurst gardens, Haywards Heath, for my first Bootcamp session! Here’s how it went…
Monday DAY 1 - 9.30am Beech Hurst Gardens.
After a bowl of porridge with nuts, dried dates and honey, I was eager to start because after a few weeks of working from home, I felt like a rabbit trapped in a cage! I arrived a few minutes early with my bottle of water and towel that we are advised to bring to every session. Once everyone had arrived, our trainer for the next four weeks, Ben Davis, introduced himself to the new 'Bootcampers' and gave us a brief overview of what the next few weeks would entail. We began with a quick ice-breaker to learn each others names (there are 20 places available on each Bootcamp, many of the women are regular Bootcampers- some coming back every month), before starting the warm up routine.
Feeling loose and flexible, we then moved on to the core sequence which consisted of the plank, back bridge, side bridge and one I hadn't heard of before - the grasshopper (these are all quite difficult positions to explain, so I recommend you search for images if you don’t know what they are!). Ben gave very thorough instructions and demonstrated different versions of each for those at different levels of fitness - which I appreciated because I need to build up my upper body strength, and find the straight leg version of the side plank quite tough, so I opted for legs tucked in – and aimed to do the proper version by the end of the four weeks!
The grasshopper was a slight killer, but I did my best, and to be honest was quite pleased when the 30seconds were up! After a quick water break, 40 seconds of squats with a two second pause at the bottom of each were up next- which were rapidly becoming my favourite- especially whilst being able to look at the lovely view of the downs! Then onto thigh crunching lunges for 40 seconds. At this point I was beginning to feel the burn, but it felt good to work through it with some star jumps (which I discovered get me really out of breath and are not as easy as I remember them being when I was a 10 year old!), high knee run-on-the-spots and the back bridge, all for 30 seconds.
I liked the short spurts of different exercises as it stops me from getting bored, which is where I think I went wrong in the past - doing the same thing for too long meant I wouldn’t put as much effort in. I also found Ben very encouraging, and it’s nice to be in a group of motivated ladies rather than on your own in a stuffy gym where everyone keeps themselves to themselves! We then did press ups with 2 seconds pause when down, standing row, and skipping for one minute- which I struggle with as I cant seem to co-ordinate my legs! Then side bridge for 20secs each side, and then repeat from squats and finally a warm down. Ben advised us to keep moving throughout the day and not to take a hot bath as this prolongs the muscle ache.
The first session went really fast – I really enjoyed it and was feeling motivated for the rest of the day!
Wednesday DAY 2 - A nutritional bowl of muesli and I was ready for my second session, but ouch, did my thighs really ache from Monday. I spent most of Tuesday complaining and struggling on the stairs! I wondered if it was because I hadn’t warmed-down enough, but it was more likely that I just wasn't used to all that exercise.
Ben asked everyone how they were feeling, a few other ladies were also aching, so it was on with a good warm up. We did the same core sequence as Monday, as well as static side lunges (moving side to side), press ups, half sit ups with a hold, jumping punches and regular stepping lunges for 40s.
Then, we paired up and got the punch pads out. I hadn’t done any boxing before so it was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it - another Bootcamper suggested that it’s a good way of releasing any hidden anger- I agreed! Ben advised us the correct way to box, and to have one leg in front of the other. We swapped places with our partners encouraging them to do their best, and then we all warmed down.
Friday DAY 3 - My shoulders were aching after the boxing on Wednesday's session, but my thighs had stopped hurting and I was feeling like I had more energy. After a warm up, we had a test! Argh! It wasn't as bad as it sounded at the time- it was just so we could monitor our improvement over the month. So we took a pen and paper and recorded the amount of squats, press ups, walking lunges, dips, mountain climbers and skipping we could do in a minute. After our quick water break we did the core sequence and then repeated hook punches, kneeling row and side shuffle, keeping slow for new people.
Ben advised us to make sensible consumption decisions over the weekend, i.e, to watch what we eat and drink! (I knew I had a girly night in store, which normally consists of camembert and cocktails) and to keep the good work up over the weekend.
Monday DAY 4 - It was the beginning of week two, and after a relaxed weekend I was looking forward to 45 minutes of hard exercise. A good warm-up and we got on with the core sequence. Ben reinforced the concepts of keeping a neutral back position whilst doing 30 seconds of the plank, back bridge, grasshopper and side bridge for 20 seconds.
We then went on to do squats, static lunges, star jumps and high knee run-on-the-spots both for 30 seconds, and the back bridge. We then repeated that sequence once again, before doing press ups on the bench (pausing for 2 seconds when down), standing row with a partner, skipping and finally the side bridge before repeating and changing sides.
After a good warm down, we all stayed behind for a drink (I made a healthy choice and had a glass of fresh orange juice rich in vitamin C) and talk with Bootcamp’s life coach Will Perry, who gave us an insight into how he could help us on the motivation side of things. He explained that through one-to-one emails or the Sussex Bootcamps members site, he could offer us free help and advice on getting into the right mind set to achieve your goals from Bootcamp, such as making the right nutritional decisions to lose weight, and feeling more confident within yourself. I thought this was very helpful; although I am quite good at self motivation, people who just need that extra nudge of support could benefit greatly from it. I went home feeling good about myself and had lots of energy. I decided to go on a nice long walk in the afternoon to keep up the good work and burn a few more calories!
Wednesday DAY 5 - I was getting used to having a nice big bowl of porridge on the days of Bootcamp, as I found this the only thing to give me enough energy for each session. I would vary what I ate on my days in between Bootcamp, having either egg on toast, fruit or cereal.
A good warm up including a skip around the picturesque grounds, and we were ready to start the core sequence which was a repeat of Monday’s. We then did squats to calf raises - which meant on the way out of the squat we were to come up on to tip toes. Then triceps dips - I chose a spot on the wall as I found it more comfortable than the bench, and Ben told us to keep strong and use our legs if our arms got too tired. Foot kicks, which is where you sit on your mat and balance with your arms down by your side with your legs bent and raised from the ground whilst you kick them out (very good for the old stomach muscles!). Last but not least, a brisk jog/run 'at your own pace' for 40 seconds before repeating the sequence.
After some other sequences, we had regular stepping lunges to look forward to. My legs were feeling a bit wobbly and aching from all the lunging at this point! Regular lunges feel a lot more effective than the static ones. We paired up to do the standing row, then back to our mats for 40secs of the curl up/crunch before some boxing.
Friday DAY 6- We had a particularly tough work out in store today. After our usual warm up we did 1 and half mins of work, then rest – trying to move from one straight into next – e.g. 45s squat with 45s press up then fairly good amount of rest before next pair. After the press up's we moved on to walking lunges and the plank (different versions for different ability levels). The walking lunges are tough but as they say- no pain no gain!
We then got the punch pads ready for upper cut punches with our partners. We teamed up with a different person each session to give us the chance to meet everyone and experience different ability levels. Once again Ben encouraged us to keep the good work up over the weekend, if we had any queries or needed any help we could contact him through the members site where we could start a discussion or message him privately.
DAY 7 - Monday.
I cant believe how quickly the weeks are zooming by. We are half way through the four week course and I’m feeling good! I have a lot more energy throughout the day, I am feeling a lot healthier and I actually want to do exercise. Another thing I have noticed is that my appetite has grown! As I’m burning off more energy, I’m getting hungry quicker and eating bigger portions, but I’m sticking to healthy foods such as fish and vegetables, big salads with cheese or tuna, and healthy snacks like fruit and seeds. I’m also drinking a lot more water throughout the day and opting for jasmine tea rather than normal tea because I drink so much!
We start with the usual warm-up stretches around the grounds of Beech Hurst before beginning the core sequence. After a quick swig of water, de-layer of clothing and a few seconds to catch our breath, we had squats (with pause at bottom of each), static lunges (moving up and down), star jumps and burpees for 30s (on a bench/low wall hold your position like your about to do a press up, but instead you jump in and then up with your arms stretched above you, and then work back through it -with your hands flat on the bench you leap outwards, then to jump back in again and onto your tip-toes with your arms stretched to the sky - all very quickly). Burpees are not my favourite exercise as I found it churned my stomach from all the jumping, but I did my best albeit probably a bit slower than everyone else!
The last sequence of the session included press ups – wide and narrow for those who wanted, then repeated the whole sequence before a good warm down.
Wednesday DAY 8. A lovely fresh sunny morning, but quite chilly so I wear extra layers until we complete our warm-up. We continue with the same core sequence as Monday and then complete a sequence of squat to calf raises, tricep dips, foot kicks 40s and a run – twice! A water break and it's onto the next repeat sequence, followed by a good warm down and the 45 minute session has once again flown by.
Friday DAY 9 - After a few laps of the swimming pool in between Bootcamps, I felt extra energised and eager to start today’s session. We completed our warm-up before moving on to a sequence in which we did short sharp bursts of exercise to shock the system. This was very tiring but quite fun as we were changing positions quickly and concentrating on doing our best.
After we had caught our breath we paired up with someone different and got the punch pads out for boxing. Each partner did 40secs of upper cuts/ hook punches and kneeling row. We then repeated these three as many times as possible before having to end the session with the all important warm down.
The final week- Week 4.
DAY 10, Monday morning. I had to email Ben and let him know that frustratingly I could not attend today’s session as I had obtained a foot injury over the weekend. I was quite annoyed as it was the last week and I wanted to put as much effort in as I could, but before developing this injury I managed to make a quick trip to the gym on Saturday morning where I continued some of the exercises I had learnt at Bootcamp, mainly picking out my favourites and doing them for 30s each which were squats, grasshopper, lunges, plank, boxing, tricep dips, back bridge and foot kicks.
Wednesday DAY 11 - Every session Ben would check to see how we were feeling, and we could bring up any queries about aches and pains that we had. My left foot was still feeling a bit sore so I knew I had to be careful and take it easy- taking the session at my own pace.
After the warm up we claimed a mat each and started on a sequence inclusing sit up hold's – adding a slight turning through shoulders (not lower back) and the dreaded burpees. We then repeated this workout. Partnering-up (once we had caught out breath and had a swift water break) we began regular stepping lunges, standing row, and crunches before doing boxing and warming down.
At the end of the session Ben handed out information on the next Bootcamp- which included dates and times, as well as how to renew our membership if we wanted to. We were also handed flyers to give to any friends/family that might be interested in joining Sussex Bootcamps and invited to stay behind for a drink after Friday’s session. After helping Ben pack away equipment I went home in-the-know that there would be a test on Friday - our last session of the month.
Friday DAY 12 - final session. I woke up, weighed myself (to see if I had lost any pounds over the four weeks -YES, 5 pounds, rather pleased!) but also felt a bit sad that it was my last Bootcamp workout. However, when I arrived I was greeted by Ben’s big grin and reminded by our previous test score sheet, that we had a gruelling last session in store for us today.
So once we had completed our warm-up, we cracked on with the one minute tests. We started with squats- I think I managed about five more than I had done during our first test in week one. Press ups, a few more than before- this was definitely something I was pleased with, as it meant I had built up a bit more upper-body strength- which was one of my goals for Bootcamp. Walking lunges- 4 more, Tricep dips, an improvement! Mountain climbers - stayed the same, and finally skipping - I managed about three more. Overall I was very pleased with my results, I could definitely feel an improvement within myself, through toning and weight loss and just by feeling generally more energised and motivated in everyday life!
To finish, we did some boxing. We packed away the equipment and sat down for a drink (nice healthy orange for me!) to celebrate the end of a good month at Bootcamp. We reflected on our goals and achievements and overall everyone was very pleased and had had an enjoyable experience at Bootcamp be it their first time or the third month in a row.
I for one was most definitely impressed with with my achievements from Bootcamp. It is such a good experience, and I found it very friendly and motivating. The way Bootcamp is run and the service you get is really well thought out, it’s not only the very fun sessions you benefit from, but it is also the support of the trainers and other Bootcampers that is all a part of the Sussex Bootcamp ethos.
I would highly recommend Bootcamp for anyone of any age who is looking to improve their fitness and have a fun work out in a friendly environment. It is also a great way to meet people and make new friends, and the members site is also a good addition as you can chat to people and arrange group fitness events such as going for a run. I am most definitely going to return to Bootcamp in the future - voluntarily next time!
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