I didn’t really make any resolutions this year, but I did decide to prioritise health and fitness a little more than I did last year. I started off pretty badly (turns out I am NOT good at Dry January), but things picked up when I was invited out to Morocco to train with Wilko and Gee at No.1 Bootcamp.
I did a day at No. 1 Bootcamp’s UK home in Norfolk a couple of years ago with Thom Evans as part of a P.G. Tips campaign. It was all tyre flipping and running through mud. The mud part was mainly, I suspect, a coincidental side effect of it being in the UK, since the week I just did in Morocco was far less military.
Bootcamps attract all sorts of different people, for all sorts of different reasons – things like weight loss and improving fitness are the standard, but there was also a couple there who just wanted a more active holiday, and someone recovering from a break-up. This means the instructors have to tailor each session to accommodate individual abilities.
I wrote a mini-diary while I was away for my Huffington Post column. So here’s what bootcamp is really like..
We’ve arrived!!!! Landed at Marrakech airport around 4pm (via a nutritious lunch of porridge and red wine on the plane, oops. Did you know BA doesn’t do in-flight meals anymore? Porridge was the only healthy wheat-free (but not gluten-free, boo hiss) option they had) and cruised through about seven security checks to the luggage reclaim. Ash pottered off to the loos and I stood guard for her Aspinal luggage (easy to spot). Three cases to the good, a Moroccan man appeared by my side and began shoveling the cases onto a trolley. It seemed a little over-board since all our luggage has wheels and we could see the exit around 50m ahead. I tried to explain this. Cue much wild gesticulating and excessive smiling. We got nowhere. Ash emerges from the loos. I give her a guilty look. Ash begins explaining in French that we don’t need the trolleys and in fact have no money to pay for them (nothing is free here). Some other men nearby offer to pay for our trolleys. That’s not the point. I scurry off to the loo and leave Ash to fight our corner. When I return, she is surrounded by a triumphant pile of luggage, sans trolley, men, or any other lifting aides. I mean, #girlpower. Burn your bra, Ash.
The main part of bootcamp is getting active. It’s a huge misconception that bootcamp equals shouting, mud and brutal injury-inducing sessions. It is, in fact, none of those. On our first day, we do a fitness assessment. The training team (Gee & Wilko) check our form through basic moves, as well as our strength, endurance, any injuries etc etc. Essentially, this forms the basis of our individual training plans for the week. Because although you train as a group, there are also progressions and regressions that make a session bespoke to each person. These exercises (burpees, lunges, squats – and variations thereof – formed the core of our HIIT and Tabata sessions. At the end of the week we repeat a best-effort 900m dash. My initial time was 5mins43, and by the end has squished down to 5mins38. Wahoo.
On day two, we have our first boxing session. We learn three moves, and then put them together into combinations and ‘drills’. Boxing is my new favourite. It releases so much stress and tension, and is a fast way to reach your anabolic threshold.
For strength training, we use a combination of dumbbells, bars and plates. I don’t realise the different colour bars were sequentially heavier loads for a couple of days and can’t figure out why people are fatiguing so fast. Probably takes longer than strictly necessary to work that one out… ;).
Core and conditioning sessions tend to centre around the plank, which feels like home by day three. I could do this in my sleep. Not that I intend to verify that fact. Variations like knees to elbows, donkey kicks and supermans keeps things interesting.
The nights in Morocco are chilly, but the villas aren’t really equipped to insulate particularly effectively. By night two, we have nailed a particularly effective combo of electric heater, double blankets and roaring fire. Someone arrives at 8pm to launch the fire into action (we tried several times, until all the firelighters ran out and we admitted defeat), and muses that it is cold. My GCSE French kicks in, I sit up straight, and reply confidently that yes, it is “une petit pois”. Damn.
Comparatively, the daytime is pretty damn hot. I think temperatures reach mid-twenties-ish, which is more than enough. The villa we are staying in has a private outdoor area behind our room, complete with such accoutrements as cabana, orange tree (a real will-power test during my hungrier days) and an outdoor bath. We try running this on the first night, and are met with groans of despairs from the others. Apparently our frivolity has cost everybody else a hot shower. Our bad. We try this sporadically throughout the week but never actually achieve a full, hot bath. Presumably t
his is more useful in the summer months when the increased sunlight hours heat the water naturally.
Part of the point of No1 Bootcamp is re-educating you about what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Meals are carefully prepared by the chef with nutrition guidance from our trainers.
On our penultimate afternoon, we visit the main market square in Marrakech. Having spent a week on strictly small portions, the temptation was to eat everything in sight. We abstain (I was sorely tempted by the abundance of nougat and nut brittle), until we find a cute rooftop accessed via a rickety staircase in the middle of a market stall, with views over the square. I order a three-fruit smoothie (40d), Ash has mint tea (20d), and Zilla has cappuccino (35d). Turns out, cappuccino does not translate well. Zilla’s extravaganza of caffeine and cream arrives in a flurry of chocolate-coated coffee beans and other sugary treats – all piles of whipped cream and unidentifiable stuff. Not a drop of milk, it should be noted. We manage it then troop off to buy dates. Buying dates at the market really is an extraordinary experience. A man is sat amidst his dried fruit and nuts, all of which were sequentially elevated like raised seating at a rugby game. You are given samples (I pretended to be deliberating far longer than necessary so I could samples some of the figs), then cast your decision. The dates-for-money exchange is completed via a stick with a sort of bowl on the bottom, which is used to reach between the two of you.
I can hardly keep my eyes open to summarise all this, and have frankly no recollection of what I wrote at the beginning of the week. But I am otherwise feeling amazing. I’ve learnt a LOT about portion control, and how to listen to my body so that it gets what it needs when it needs, and nothing more. My muscles feel toned and pleasingly achey – I am fully motivated to continue my training at home. Bootcamp is a fun active holiday, which can be as results-driven as you want / need it to be. The end 😉