Preparing for a wedding is a stressful period for any bride, or groom for that matter. So when I was given the chance to attend a bridal bootcamp just one week before my big day, I jumped at the opportunity.
For me, I headed to the bootcamp, ready to celebrate the DVD and Blu-Ray release of hilarious comedy Bridesmaids, with the hope of losing a bit of weight, toning up and ultimately clearing my head before the wedding.
And as I pulled into the stunning location of Abergavenny, south Wales, it was clear I had made the right decision. The beautiful setting makes it a popular choice for hikers as well as the perfect place to set up the New You Bootcamp, which aims to help its participants lose up to a stone in just one week.
But there was no chance to take in the stunning scenery after travelling from London to Wales, with myself and my fellow 17 bootcampers told almost immediately to change into our fitness gear for an introductory session just hours after arriving.
From the fitness test on the very first afternoon, it was clear things were only going to get progressively harder and harder, with exercises undertaken ranging from circuits and boxercise to night hikes and early-morning runs.
Participants at my bootcamp ranged drastically in age from early 20s to mid 50s, with exercises tailored to meet everybody’s needs. While some people struggled with some of the tasks at hand, the camaraderie in the camp was clear to see from the very first hour – with people encouraging and pushing those who were finding it more difficult than others.
Motivation also came from Staff Rodda and Staff Capper, the military fitness trainers employed by the bootcamp to push participants beyond any limit they have. But as well as pushing, they knew when to offer some positive words of encouragement – when we were struggling to reach the top of a hill or finding it tough to find that last morsel of energy.
After the (relatively easy) first afternoon, the next day really saw us bootcampers pushed to our limits. The camp aims to make participants complete an astonishing 12 hours of exercise a day, and things kicked off with a full day of running, hiking, boxercise, a Body Pump style circuit class and lots and lots of stretching.
Given the beautiful location of the camp, most of the exercises were undertaken outside, with just a few taking place in The Hurt Locker – a type of marquee situated in the grounds of the camp.
It has to be said that the early starts are not the nicest part of bootcamp – waking up at 6am and going on a run before breakfast is not my usual start to the day but it soon became part of the routine at the camp.
By the third day, the aches and pains were starting to set in – a fact that was made even more obvious by the fact that I had foolishly chosen to sleep in the top bunk bed! But one thing that was used to get rid of muscular pain was a mandatory ice bath, which was the perfect, if painful, way to loosen up our aching bodies.
As well as doing the regular running and hiking, we also took part in various military-style exercises, which saw us setting up a “gun” made up of logs, jerry cans and barrels – taking it from one end of the field to the other and setting it up again while the other half of the bootcampers completed army-style circuit exercises in the field.
The other days saw us overcome any fears we may have had with a spot of abseiling, rock climbing and canoeing, with bootcampers undertaking a day-long hike to top things off on the final day of exercise.
Mention must also be made of the food we were given at the bootcamp. While the chef was undoubtedly talented at creating delicious, and nutritionally-balanced dishes, it was difficult at first getting used to the small portions.
However, after a couple of days of having three small meals a day, as well as two snacks, we soon got used to the menu on offer – with meals including smoked mackerel risotto and “spaghetti” bolognaise made with courgette instead of spaghetti.
Obviously nutrition is a huge part of the bootcamp, along with the exercise, so we were told we would not be having wheat, dairy, caffeine or alcohol for the duration of the camp. And while such a drastic change in diet can be hard to cope with at first, by the time I was on the train home I was reaching for a bottle of sparkling water and an oatcake rather than a cappuccino.
We were also given two highly interesting lectures from London-based nutritionist Michelle Kingston, who informed us about the best things to eat and not to eat to maintain any weight loss, as well as tips for fitting our new eating plan in around our daily lives.
At the end of the week, bootcampers are weighed and measured to see the difference on the scales and the measuring tape. With weight loss ranging from around 5lbs to 14lbs, it is truly amazing to see the difference participating in such a camp can have on your life.
In addition, as well as affecting the way I now think about food and exercise, the New You bootcamp was the perfect stress relief before I tied the knot.
So if any bride (or groom!) fancies losing weight, toning up and relieving some bridezilla stress for the big day, I would thoroughly recommend making the decision to hit bootcamp!*