Long suffering readers of my blog (all 16 of them) will know that I like to try to keep fit. I don’t say that I always succeed, but my situation is a bit like what Venerable Fulton Sheen said about Catholics – they get off the road like anybody else but they never throw away the map. Now, I know what I should be doing, it’s just that the pub beckons and one cider leads to another (as I’m sure you know). I see this as a good and a bad thing. It’s wonderful to be in the best shape of your life; there is nothing like trying on a pair of jeans and knowing that they fit like a glove. Then again, is it worth missing all that time with your friends? You’ve got your jeans but no good memories of talking with your friends over a bottle of wine and a nice meal. Nonetheless, in the 7 years since I took up exercise, I’ve never totally stopped and since my last posts on fitness, I’ve been doing quite well really. When a Groupon offer for 6 sessions with British Military Fitness (BMF) presented itself, I thought I’d give it a go.
I went to one BMF session at the end of my second year with my outrageously fit friend who beat everyone in our group (all BMF sessions are separated into groups with different coloured bibs: Blue for beginners, Red for intermediate and Green for advanced). I think I did pretty well but then I left to go on my year abroad to Corsica and when I came back, I got into running with my housemates and I was heavily involved with the uni pro-life society and all the trouble we had with the monkeys running the Student Union (when I say “running the Student Union”, what I actually mean is it was a complete farce) over their dictatorial pro-abortion stance, so I didn’t actually have that much time for anything else. Now, I’m working full-time, preparing for my impending driving test and preparing for 40 Days For Life (25th September – 3rd November). Nevertheless, not turning into a giant mound of lard is still quite high up on my list of priorities for some reason.
I’m sorry to say that my first BMF session last Saturday was a bit of a fail. I made it through the session, but it was the weekend after Walsingham and I just don’t seem to be able to sleep on pilgrimage (I suspect it might have something to do with the hard floors) so I got no sleep on pilgrimage and then for various reasons got very little sleep during the week. The long and short of it is I nearly passed out and could be seen bent double trying to catch my breath after every set, feeling like I’d been winded. Yes, not good. Rest up before intensive exercise is the lesson from that disaster! I felt quite embarrassed about it because I think the only person slower than me in the group was an elderly lady who really shouldn’t have been there anyway. Hmmm.
However, after a few days of good rest and early nights, I thought I’d give it a go and said a prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for good measure just beforehand (I keep this icon, in the form of a prayer card, on my desk at work. I actually found the prayer card at a church with a horrendous mass but a lovely selection of prayer cards on sale. Every cloud…).
I must tell you that BMF is quite tough, even with the groups. I feel I have to say that because I, for one, like to know these things. It’s good to mentally prepare yourself!
One of the first things we did, after the warm-up (which was the usual running back and forth, high knees, heel flicks, lunges etc etc), was to get into partners and give a piggy back to your partner across the field. Now, I am well experienced in the art of piggy backs but I’m usually carrying a 4 year old and I’ve never been carried by someone I met oh…10 seconds ago. Anyway, I did it and I survived (and she survived too, which was a relief). Every session is different (and we had a different instructor this time too) but this one involved the three groups (blue, red and green) being all together but with the blues doing the least number of reps of whatever exercise it was (press-ups, burpees, squats, lunges etc), reds do 2-4 more than blues and greens do 2-4 more again than the reds. I was in blues (you pick which group you go in, but be realistic!). It was tough because we’d do 8 burpees, for example, and then run to a tree the other side of the rugby pitch and come back again, do 8 star jumps and then 8 press-ups and run to the tree again and repeat this over and over. Even when you’re on a break, you’re jogging on the spot (I say jogging…the instructor actually called it ‘pitter-patter’ which is probably more accurate. Sometimes, I didn’t even bother doing that). Having said that, he does change it a lot. You never get bored and it is a full body work out, which is what you want (well, it’s what I want anyway!).
The BMF website says,
All our 500 plus instructors are serving or former members of the armed forces. Highly trained, experienced, and responsible in their approach to training.
…and they really are. They’re not too shouty either. I mean, they do shout, but that’s because you are somewhere over near the tree, the other side of the field. There was also a really good feeling in the group with everyone having a laugh. Even the super duper fit ones were feeling it and the instructor is good fun. If he shouts at you that you need to run all the way because if you don’t you’re only cheating yourself, he’s right. Nobody is forcing me to be here. I paid for this. I am not going to moan all the way through because this man would not be making me do the plank if I had not asked him to make me do it. It’s for my own good – no pain, no gain. There is no magic pill, no magic diet. If you want to look good, you have to work hard. There it is.
Anyway, unbeknownst to me, we were very nearly at the end of the one-hour session when he (I didn’t catch his name) told us to get in two lines, facing each other. He told us to get into the squat position (see below) and hold this position. If we saw anyone wavering, we were to shout “Cheat!” and that person would be out. Well, as someone in the group said, “No one likes a grass”, so in the end, the instructor had to do it. As with everything we did, I was just focused on getting through it.
So, I got into the squat position and a few people went out in the first 30 seconds or so. I was just looking at the ground, keeping myself to myself. He was calling out other people and they were going out too. I didn’t think anything of it; I kept my eyes down. Anyway, I suppose a minute (or maybe two minutes, I have no idea) had elapsed and I look up and there’s just little old me and some super fit man from the reds left! People are cheering me on and I’m just shocked. So, I keep at it, I feel ok…a little more time goes by and I keep looking at the ground. All of a sudden, this other man bows out and I’m the only one left and I have beaten them all! WHUT! I tell you what, the only other time I’ve been more shocked is when I got my first ‘first class’ essay in uni! I couldn’t believe it. It just proves that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and because you do such a range of exercises with the BMF, I suppose you’re bound to find something that you’re good at. Well, there you go. A lovely surprise which has spurred me on no end.
I don’t know if I’ve given the most encouraging account of the BMF, but if you want to get in shape, this is a pretty inexpensive and fun way of doing it. If I’m going to put myself through pain, I’d rather do it with a group of other people instead of being on my own. You also have all the knowledge and experience of the instructor, who is in the armed forces. You can’t really get better than that, if you think about it.