British Military Fitness
It took me about three months to pluck up the courage to try BMF because the name sounds serious and a bit scary. Would I be faced with an army sergeant yelling in my ear while I cried quietly into the mud?
I didn't want to take any chances - on the mud for one thing - which is why I waited for a sunny evening in April. I also took the boyfriend along for a bit of moral support. Wimp? Me? Never!
The meeting place on Clapham Common is thoughtfully positioned next to a pub, but the combat-clad instructors reminded us we weren't here to drink. About 70 people wearing different coloured bibs according to ability (blue=beginner, red=intermediate, green=fitness fanatic and body punisher) were being organised into groups under the tutelage of different instructors.
Wearing my blue bib, standing sheepishly in line and giggling nervously with the rest of my group, reminded me of gym class at school; cue scary flashbacks of me dangling from ropes I couldn't climb and somersaults that turned into sideways rolls. Thank goodness for our instructor Harry (tall, blonde, smiley) who made us all laugh and promised not to be too hard on us first-timers. Although he made it clear that he expected everyone to make an effort.
As we jogged off from the pub for the warm-up, there was a definite buzz amongst the get-fitters. People who'd never met before were actually laughing and joking together (a rarity in London). Could I sense camaraderie or was it just nervous tension?
This was further highlighted when we had to pair up to do the first exercise; push-ups. Taking it in turns, one from each pair got down on the ground and completed a set of 10 while their partner encouraged them. I struggle to do five push ups in the gym, but the 'all in it together' bug had obviously caught me and I completed them without too much trouble. I started to sense that maybe I don't push myself that hard when I'm left to my own devices.
The 50-minute class interspersed short jogs and sprints, with resistance exercises like the dreaded bridge, lunges, burpees, squats, squat thrusts, sit-ups and of course, more push-ups. Ouch! But the hardest exercise of all was holding our arms out straight to the sides (deltoid lateral raises to give them their proper name). I know it doesn't sound too difficult, but try it for any length of time and you'll see what I mean. It brings a whole new meaning to the word 'burn'.
Harry proved a very amiable instructor and bantered with those of us who had any breath left, providing a welcome distraction from some of the more trying exercises. Frequent yells to 'SPRINT!' also kept rather alarmed dog walkers on their toes.
I was pleased to see even the boyfriend was struggling by the end of the class. He usually sniffs at my latest fitness obsessions (he steadfastly refused to come to Bikram yoga), so it was nice for him to see that my workouts aren't as easy as they sound.
The class ended with a warm-down jog/military march. We went at the pace of the slowest person and although we probably made a rather ramshackle squad to passers-by we were certainly getting the hang of what is meant by team spirit. A few stretches later and we were all congratulating each other on finishing the class. In the face of adversity (push-ups, sit-ups and every other kind of 'up') everyone had pulled together, which sounds cheesy, but it wasn't, it was brilliant!
The boyfriend and I have now committed ourselves to attending one class a week with the aim to move up a level in a month or so. Red bib hear I come! If you're still debating whether to join, bear in mind that BMF is not only a great workout, it's also perfect for making new friends and dating (apparently there's already been nine marriages as a result). Forget singles nights, sign up to BMF!
For information on your nearest BMF class visit www.britmilfit.com. One class a week for month costs £35, while unlimited classes cost £46 a month. You can take one trial class for free.
Top tip: Prepare to throw yourself in whole-heartedly. There's no room for slackers.
Buffing potential: *****
Worth the money: *****