(*Disclaimer see below)
My Week at GI Jane Bootcamp
Living in Hong Kong but needing to hide away somewhere in Europe to spring an 18th birthday surprise on my granddaughter led me to search the Internet for an interesting way for my daughter, Abi and I to spend the time. We could have explored an interesting city or gone to some sun-drenched place to lounge away the days, but when an ad popped up for the GI Jane Bootcamp, I knew instantly that was where I wanted to go!
My twenty-four year old daughter Abi was cool with the idea, so the next step was to call to see if this was a realistic choice for a somewhat overweight 60, almost 61 year old, grandmother with a weak knee and whose exercise routine amounted to only 30 minutes, five days a week for one month! Sharon, the owner, answered my call and assured me that I wouldn't be out of place and that the military trainers would be sensitive to my needs. I was hooked and booked that very day - just two weeks before the camp was to begin!
I think my family thought I was slightly mad; even my daughter who had agreed to go with me had reservations as the programme seemed so intense, but I was excited and raring to go and didn't have any reservations - I really couldn't wait.
Check in day arrived and so too did a moment of questioning my own sanity, but there was no way I was going to back out and the two of us set off for Scuttington Manor in good time, heeding the warning not to be late - a taste of the discipline to come for sure, but the thought of the discipline did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. I think that deep inside I had a sense that this was going to be just what I needed to get over years of yo-yo dieting and steadily increasing weight gain and declining fitness.
After being shown to our room, we unpacked and then got ready for the first event, being weighed and measured by Sharon. Next came an introduction to our trainers for the week, Glenn & Leona, both serving with the Royal Navy. They told us what we could expect from them and what they would expect from us. They were friendly but they made it clear this was not going to be a cakewalk! A thorough fitness test followed in which we were all timed doing a mile run/walk, squats, sit-ups, burpees and the plank. Two hours later, we'd all been put through our paces and assessed, and I was already feeling worn out!
Over a delicious calorie controlled dinner, the first of many prepared by super cook Cathy we, the participants, all began to get to know each other. In fact, over the course of the week, what struck me the most was how friendly, supportive and encouraging everyone was with each other. Without a doubt, friendships were made that will continue.
Each day began with a military fall in at 7 am and if anyone was late, running twice around the manor was the order of the day for all! Definitely, not something anyone wanted to do in addition to our pre-breakfast 4 mile walk!
Every day saw us completing five exercise sessions lasting from 1 - 2 hours each with a meal or snack between every session. We were put through our paces doing exercise after exercise including circuit-training sessions with up to fifteen exercises per session. There was so much variety and I loved the fact that every single session throughout the week was unique - even the four mile walks we did each morning took us on a different route. There were some particularly interesting challenges too, for example, the golden hour run in which we were split into two teams to carry weighted stretchers, wooden guns and water bottles. With only three one-minute stops permitted within the hour, it was a challenge and a half, but we did it! We also did uphill running and worked with every imaginable piece of equipment stretching and toning every single muscle in our bodies, and as if that wasn't enough, at the end of the fifth workout session of the day, we had ice baths! Yes, I find it hard to believe that I willingly allowed myself to drop into a barrel full of icy cold water at the end of each day, especially as this was an optional activity. You might ask why I would do that when it was optional, but I did it because the trainers explained that it would help the muscles to recover. I followed their instructions to the letter, which included purposeful warm up and cool down sessions, and can honestly say that, despite working physically harder than I have ever done in my life, exercising for up to 7 hours a day, I never suffered from a single strained muscle injury. That amazes me, for I've suffered many a strained muscle after single exercise sessions in the past. Glenn & Leona, the trainers were truly the best!
Here is a peek at of one of our sessions - yes we did all of these things in one single session!
Evenings were a varied pleasure too with organized events such as dance lessons, pilates, a massage and a quiz night. At the end of the day, every one of us would flop into our very comfortable beds to sleep soundly.
On the last day, we were weighed and measured again, and I was delighted to discover that I'd lost 9 lbs and 9.5 inches. I felt a hundred per cent better, both physically and psychologically, than when I'd arrived just one week earlier. I was truly high as I looked back on the week where most of the time I was at the back of the pack, yet a winner! I was thrilled with my achievement. I never felt in competition with the younger members of the group and was never made to feel so by the trainers or anyone else. In fact, I cheered with super satisfaction and others cheered with me when I came 11th out of 11 for one arduous activity. I was simply thrilled that I'd completed a task that I'd never have thought possible when I arrived. In fact, I'd been unable to do a single squat before arriving, and by the end of the week, I was doing 30+ without a break!
Best of all, I was leaving with a tremendously positive mindset. The camp had served to convince me that I wasn't past it, destined to be overweight and resigned to a future of declining energy and fitness. I was filled with optimism, hope and a belief that this time I will reach my goal. In fact, even before leaving, Sharon had emailed all of us with a plan to help us continue making the programme work, and I had made my mind up to attend the GI Jane Bootcamp in Thailand, which for me is much closer to home.
It's now one month since I said farewell to Sharon and the team, and I've not put any of the weight back on despite being on holiday since that time and having countless buffets put in front of me! I'm also really looking forward to going to camp in Thailand and sharing another week with some of the wonderful ladies I met and making new friends too!
Once again, a big THANK YOU Sharon, Glenn, Leona and Cathy and all in the team who came to bless us with lessons, treatments and advice throughout the week!
Participant 16th - 23rd June 2017