Surviving boot camp – Part 2: the never-ending exercise

9 Nov

As I attempted feebly to gather my breath at the top of a rather unfriendly sand dune, I looked down at the surrounding Woolacombe beach and took it in, in all its splendor.

“Well, at least if I collapse here, I will have a nice last view of things and an easy roll down this hill,” I thought feebly.

And then I contemplated simply rolling down the sand dune instead of lugging my tired calves through it squishy wake. A quick sight of Shane – one of the personal trainers – changed that for me; I knew he’d just make me do the climb a few extra times if I took any shortcuts.

It was day three of my trip to NuBeginnings, a boot camp in North Devon. We’d gotten up at the crack of dawn (okay – it was 7am but that’s still pretty early) to lug our exhausted limbs over to Woolacombe beach for a morning of circuit training in the sand. The previous day, Sunday, I had hiked for 10 miles, while on the Saturday, I’d climbed the seemingly never-ending, steep Torrs, a killer on the thighs, calves and butt. Even two deep tissue massages hadn’t cured the pain, so by the time I found myself perched at the top of a cresting sand dune, I was nearly ready to collapse in a pile of aching grumpiness.

However, I’m rarely one to give up on a challenge so, instead, I lifted up the heavy exercise ball I’d climbed the hill to collect, and shifted my way down the sand dune. Once at the bottom, I gathered up all my will power and started up again – there were two more balls to collect.

While this might all sound like torture, it was actually rather satisfying – once all the activity had been completed for the day, of course. That day we were put through our paces, doing push ups on logs on the beach and playing quasi rugby while throwing heavy medicine balls to each other. Later, we’d head back to Westwell Hall – our place of residence for the week – and partake in a boxercise class, and after lunch go on an hour long jog with Kieran. On other days, long hikes took us winding over valleys and up to steep cliffs for miles on end, while sessions of pilates and circuits kept our muscles in check.

A sight from a hike, at Woolacombe.

Luckily, while both the personal trainers – Kieran and Shane – kept each of us moving as much as our individual fitness levels could handle, they also got to know us, joked, chatted and kept us motivated. There was no screaming, just banter – all of which I found much more inviting than a screaming army instructor.

As I’d not done much exercise for a long while (other than walking, which I do constantly in London) I was surprised at how quickly my body rebounded into enjoying the workouts. I may have been aching and ever so slightly whiny from time to time, but I also felt hungry for more.

We also learned a lot about exercise in general – Kieran and Shane are the perfect double act and made lectures on the topic interesting and the information easy to absorb. From teaching us the ‘four pillars’ of healthy living (nutrition, activity, sleep and hydration, all of which need to be balanced out to keep a healthy foundation) to getting us to better understand each of our body’s limitations, the guys know their stuff and workouts with them were some of the most engaging I’ve had ever.

Hiking guide Cap talks about the countryside to NuBeginnings guests.

Outside of the workouts on the beach and in the gym, we also spent much time hiking. My guide – Cap – was a former fireman who, while retired, looks much younger than his age. Years of hiking the local area has made him incredibly knowledgeable about the local area, so hikes were filled with facts about everything from the coastline, to the birds and local history.

And while there were many times in the evening after a day’s exercise when I’d ring the boy to tell him I didn’t think I could possibly do any more, I still found myself getting up every morning, stretching my aching limbs and craving more.

By the end of the trip – six days of exercise – I’d lost four pounds and two inches off my waist. But more than that, I felt fresh and buzzing with energy, something I’d not experienced in a long time. And my shoes were looking considerably more scuffed than they were upon arrival. I can only say I was left surprised by how pleasurable I found this whole exercise malarkey – who knew it could be so much fun?

In my final NuBeginnings post, I battle cravings for caffeine, find myself sneakily eating mints and avoiding a secret bag of crisps, and meet Gary, the chef behind the pleasurable food at the retreat.

I was a guest of NuBeginnings. For more information on the boot camp, visit:

2 Responses to “Surviving boot camp – Part 2: the never-ending exercise”

  1. Alistair Siddons November 9, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Sound like a really energising experience! Enjoyed your account, thanks

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