So usually around here we only write about far flung, beautiful destinations with amazing food, historic sights and thumping nightlife. When I was asked to try an Easter weekend bootcamp in North Yorkshire I thought “alright then, I’ll show you how it’s done”. Next thing I know, I’m on a train to York to undertake what was one of the most physically challenging experiences of my life. The bootcamp run by Lifestyle 247 took place just outside of York in an extensive private school estate. Now, I considered myself a decently fit bloke. I go to the gym 2-3 times a week, lift weights and can run alright so I thought “pfft no worries, I’ll smash this”. How bloody wrong I was. Shortly after we arrived and checked into our rooms, we were marched over to the gym and were introduced to the two US drill instructors that would become the bringers of pain for four days.
And then it began.
Straight away we were into doing abs work – situps, planks and leg lifts – and running around the basketball court shooting for the net from all angles. Next up was our assessment, designed to work out how fit you are when you begin. This involved doing as many burpees, sit-ups and push-ups you can in 2 minutes each followed by a 2 mile run around a track (oh how I’d become familiar with that running track..). First day we were woken at 5:30am by blaring pop music through the dorms and ushered out onto that running track. First order of the day – a 4 mile run. I don’t think I’ve ever run so far in my life, let alone before sunrise.
Dave and Z, the two US military instructors kept us on our toes. Threats of pushups if we were late to get together and singing cadences as we ran definitely instilled the military feel. They made sure we were always pushing ourselves and that we got the best results. But in the downtime, they were two really down to earth, cool people that completely dispel the stereotypes of military drill instructors. Their knowledge of nutrition, physical and training and the science behind it totally blew me away. You can tell they’ve spent ages studying how our bodies work and how to get the most out of them.
The bungee cords and weighted vests – just a selection of the gear I had a go with during the weekend bootcamp.
The training was so varied. Everything from using the everyday equipment around us like park benches for dips, bench presses and squats to doing lunges whilst carrying heavy 15 kg powerbags above our heads across the football pitch. There was also loads of pushups, sit ups and star jumps. And did I mention burpees? They’re tough man..
On the last day, we completed an 8 mile hike around the estate of nearby Harewood House. It took ages (almost 5 hours), was physically hard (I was wearing one of the weighted vests from the photo above) and involved dodging cows, but we did get to see a lot of the picturesque Yorkshire countryside.
The team together about half way through the hike around Harewood House.
I had to ditch the weighted vest about three-quarters of the way through, but it was a great feeling knowing we’d hiked so far together and all completed it.
Duking it out with the drill instructors
Let me tell you a bit more about the bungee cords in that photo above. Basically it’s a long stretchy cord that one person straps to their waist while another person loops the other end around them. You place some obstacles and finally a medicine ball 10-20 metres away and one person has to run and get the ball while the other makes it as hard as possible for them by leaning their weight on the bungee cord.
How did I fair? Well I managed to drag Z all the way down the football pitch because she didn’t have the strength to hold me back, haha. I got to the medicine ball, turned around and smiled victoriously. She had a laugh about it and we exchanged places, this time it was my turn to keep her from reaching the end. How did I do? Well let’s say she only managed to dig a big hole in the grass.
I also got a chance to do some boxing with Dave a few times. He’s a martial arts champ and knows how to fight, showing me the right form for jabs and hooks. Because we didn’t have any heavy bags, I basically got to beat the crap out of Dave. After I told the rest of the group that I got the chance to wail into him, they were well jealous.
The food was tightly controlled by the organisers to ensure our diets were completely devoid of caffeine, salt and sugar. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds – we were served really nice curries with brown rice one night for dinner and salmon with quinoa on another. Breakfast was at 7am each morning and was protein heavy. I piled on the scrambled eggs, poached eggs and tuna to make sure I got the amount your muscles need to grow. You get snacks throughout the day also to keep you going, like sunflower seeds, flapjacks and fruit. Let me tell you, a flapjack is a welcome treat after you’ve done 23409 squats and run 20 laps around a basketball court.
What did I take away from bootcamp?
I’ve definitely learnt that I need to be eating more protein based foods e.g. eggs, meat, fish, etc with every meal. So now I’ve upped my protein intake considerably and am already starting to see good results in the form of muscle mass gains. I learned how damaging alcohol is to our bodies and have since cut it out where I can.
I’ll also be training harder at the gym. Dave’s continuing chants of “go deep!” during squats and lunges resonate with me back in London in the gym, reminding me that you can’t expect results if you don’t push yourself till it hurts.
It was without a doubt a huge challenge both mentally and physically. Motivating yourself to get up at such an ungodly hour is tough, and the constant training takes it out of you, but I really enjoyed pushing myself and seeing what my fitness level was like. I learned tons about nutrition from the trainers. I got to meet some cool new people and we shared our pain. It was full on, but I’d definitely give it another go.
I went on the 4 day weekend bootcamp as a guest of Lifestyle 247, but all sweaty, muscle aching opinions are my own.