Remember those new year's 'get fit' resolutions? We know that instead of slogging it out on that demanding elliptical training session, you’re probably either a) still contemplating signing up for ‘that gym membership’, the one you told your friends you joined on 1 January, b) already researching how to break your contract, as weight training is just for gym junkies or, c) relaxing at home with a glass of wine, insisting you’ll start the exercise plan next month.
The good news is, you don't have to be an avid gym-goer to pulverise those extra inches. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), bootcamp workouts have been ranking upwards in popularity since 2010, finally nabbing a spot in the 2015 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends’ top five.
We know what you're saying — "bootcamps are for those hard-core types that like being shoved face-down in the mud." And there is a bit of truth there... but they're not all like that (some are even fun). So here's a few of our faves that might just pique your interest:
Set up as a local initiative in March 2014, Our Parks allows users to participate in group exercise classes across parks in eight boroughs (with a further five in negotiation). From the depths of Haringey to the confines of the Olympic Park, "parkers" can be seen performing squats against the side of buildings, pull-ups on playground equipment or sprints amongst the bucolic grandeur of London's inner city hideaways. Here's the clincher: it's free (!).
Thanks to council estate graduate Born Barikor and his desire to get Londoners of all ages and incomes fit and healthy, an array of bootcamp-style classes are being run at no charge to help inactive residents get moving. And it's working — the organisation boasts user numbers creeping past the 7000 mark. #TurnUpToneUp — Barikor insists it's as easy as that.
Fit For a Princess
This one is ladies only (sorry men) sweating it out on Wandsworth Common, with further franchises in Primrose Hill and Tunbridge Wells. Founder Janey Holliday, a former exercise-hater herself, now prides herself on turning “fitness rejects into fitness fanatics” by creating workouts for women. Her outdoor bootcamps vary from one-off classes to week-long intensive sessions, both combining cardio, conditioning and core exercises.
Just because the classes are for women "don't think they are easy," warns Holliday. The intensive streamline-the-waist, eliminate the "bingo wings" and lose the "muffin top" focus involves (brace yourself) roundhouse kicks, kick-boxing moves, squat jumps and sprint/plank challenges. Best of all, she encourages “strong and shapely over skinny and perfect”. See for yourself by trialling an initial free class.
Barry's Bootcamp is one of those classes you're not sure how you're going to finish, but once you do, you feel like an Olympic champion. Be prepared, it's a sweat-drencher, but its core sessions involving 25-30 minutes of running and 25-30 minutes of strength training guarantee at least 1000 calories burning right off your mid-riff.
To keep your attention diverted from the pain, pumping music is filtered through the stereo; free weights, resistance bands and medicine balls are thrown your way for extra muscle-building (as if you needed that) and its custom-designed treadmills are meant to take weight-bearing pressure off your joints. We can vouch that it's tough, especially as Barry is one of those fitness gurus from Los Angeles, but we can also attest to its "shock the body" workout. Locations are in Euston, and soon to be in Shoreditch as well.
Outdoor Bootcamps to Wireless Music
Outdoor Fitness Collective has already received attention from Londonist via their popular outdoor yoga classes across parks in South West London. The organisation now also has bootcamps to wireless music on its varied slate. Sounds strange? You certainly may look that way when running with large headphones clamped over your ears.
Looks aside, their partnership with Wireless Fitness ensures clear instruction without the distraction of fellow park-goers and comfort and durability, so full movement is possible. Like other high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions, their discipline is based around bursts of lighter and intense activities. Why not head to Richmond Green and Mortlake Green (or in the near future to Battersea Park and Wimbledon) to try a complimentary class, and see for yourself if it really is "the nicer version of British Military Fitness".
British Military Fitness
You've seen the 'go-racers' chugging around the parks at all hours in bright-coloured bibs. Initially you might think it's a nice bit of 'community' exercise — that is until you see a figure chasing after the group wearing combat apparel. Yeah-yeah, we know. This is what you're thinking bootcamps aspire to be — unnerving, intimidating and nauseating. But British Military Fitness argue their classes are for everyone, even if you find running to your bus stop comparable to a marathon.
Providing workouts in over 30 of London's parks, '#BMF' promises a challenging ('burpees' top their exercise chart) and motivational (coaches are armed forces physical training instructors) experience. Daunting as that may sound, it really does seem like participants are enjoying themselves — just look over their case studies for proof. From weight loss to the elimination of age barriers, "nothing is impossible" is clearly a recurring theme.
Another one for the ladies — only this one is packed with feminine sass and sexy know-how. Just like you're partying away at the Playboy mansion — expect an assortment of disco beats, along with hip-sway'n choreography and a dose of athleticism that enables those bunnies to look the way they do.
Designed to help women achieve their 'Bunny beautiful' body: key moves include the Bunny stance, the Bunny dip and the Bunny drop. While it sounds like more of a giggle than an actual conditioning opportunity, we beg to differ. The offerings — Sweat Drench or School of Dance — aid in burning calories and sculpting curves. Just sign up at GymBox (yes, we had to sneak one gym class in here).
A slight variation on your standard bootcamp regime, Bootcamp Pilates was evolved by a classically-trained pilates teacher based out of Los Angeles. But don't believe the hippy-dippy stereotype, this workout will grab you from the start and never let go. Incorporating a reformer machine's straps and pulleys, plus hand weights and the deceivingly difficult magic circle, this class set to music is an all-round core-buster.
Bootcamp Pilates can be found throughout London in Richmond, Fulham, Notting Hill and the City. Owner Dominique Day maintains no two classes are the same and that each class is supervised, with a skilled teacher who offers undivided attention to groups no bigger than ten people. Get ready for toning as well as postural alignment.