Tag Archives: exercise

Surviving boot camp – Part 3: Talking crisps and the GL diet

16 Nov

A word to the wise: arriving at boot camp with a bag of crisps in your luggage is a bad idea.

At first, I forgot they were even stowed away in my rucksack. But then three nights in, I found myself sat in my room at 8pm – absolutely starving! And the crisps suddenly started speaking to me – trying to lure me into eating them.

I called the boy. He counseled me to find anything possible to distract me since I would only feel guilty the next day. And he was right, but it wasn’t easy. The fruit tea just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

When I arrived at NuBeginnings I was quite worried about the food situation – mainly because I’ve cooked for myself for years now and the idea of having someone else cater to me on strict regulations with no control on my end was slightly off-putting.

The boot camp ascribes to the GL (Glycemic Load) diet. To give a quick rundown, this basically focuses on glucose and how it affects the body.

Unlike the GI (Glycemic Index) diet – which became very popular a few years ago – the GL diet doesn’t only focus on the sugars in foods and how our body absorbs them, but also at how much glucose is in each portion size.

A nut burger with beetroot salad.

The reason glucose is the focused on is because it is the key thing that gives our body energy – but ‘good’ carbs on this diet are ones that release slowly so our body’s insulin levels don’t jump up and down as the body tries to adjust to that incoming energy.

The idea is to eat smaller amounts, more frequently so our body doesn’t ever ‘crash’ and we don’t lose energy. As Jennie said: “We make poor food choices (ie: junk food) because our blood sugar levels are low.” We just want to eat something quickly to give our body’s blood sugar a boost.

The theory with GL is if you keep your blood sugars in check, you’ll feel less hungry, get fewer cravings and the body won’t store the excess sugars as fats. There is also a big focus on eating meals slowly to allow time for digestion, staying hydrated and being ‘mindful’ of what you’re putting in your body.

Thai curry for lunch.

What I enjoyed most about this diet (and that’s a big statement for me since I don’t like ‘diets’) is that almost nothing is restricted. Okay, you can’t sit around eating chocolate bars, but you can eat loads of good things like almonds, olive oil, coconut milk, goat’s cheese, fish and avocados. Yum! It’s also about getting the most out of those carbs you are eating. So, if you eat a piece of fruit, for instance, you’re always meant to eat it with some raw nuts (like almonds or Brazils) because the protein helps slow down the release of sugar to the bloodstream.

At NuBeginnings, however, the focus is on weight loss so the portion sizes are even smaller than a person would normally eat. When you combine that with four or five hours of exercise a day, it means things like the crisp incident start occurring. And no one wants to face talking potatoes when they’re at boot camp.

My only other major difficulty with it was the lack of caffeine. Getting off of it was tricky – there was no tea or coffee, only fruit tea, which after a while does get rather repetitive.

Luckily, while there were restrictions, there was also Gary, the retreat’s chef. He’s been at NuBeginnings for two and a half years, having previously opened his own restaurant in Dorchester and spent time traveling the world to learn about varied cuisines. He is highly influenced by Mexican and North African flavours, both of which featured highly in his meals. According to Gary, guests “are not there to suffer by my hands.”

Chef Gary whips up a crisp sea bass with couscous and asparagus.

But he wasn’t always so convinced. When a recruitment firm told him of the job, he says he could only think: “You’re having a laugh.” He has since come around to it fully, finding interesting recipes that work within the restricted ingredient space. “I’m developing recipes all the time. But they change, depending on who walks through the door so I don’t work to set recipes,” he told me.

While I was there, food ranged from Thai coconut chicken with crispy vegetables, to baked figs with goat’s cheese and Asian sesame noodles with prawns and salad. There were delicious, there was no doubting that.

Gary admitted he’s not entirely a convert when he’s cooking for himself, but added he loves cooking to this diet because it not only challenges himself as a chef, but also because he sees real changes amongst many guests.

A pepper roasts for use in couscous.

“The satisfaction is something else, it is something I was never expecting. I see people who really need to change their lives around and I feel I’m in a very privileged position to help them. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe in it. I just couldn’t,” he explained.

And I did feel satisfied for most of the trip. While the portion sizes were small, they were filling – the only time I found difficult was in the evening when we were eating at 6pm and then not again until the next morning. I also didn’t stick to one of the ‘mindful’ eating tactics of leaving a bit of food behind on the plate – I was a clean plate gal myself. But, otherwise, I liked the GL diet because it seemed quite logical really – don’t overeat, don’t eat processed foods, don’t let yourself go long between meals and listen to your body.

In the end, the bag of crisps stayed unopened until I arrived back home. But I did, admittedly, have a few secretive mints when I was starving! But, I also survived…boot camp, exercise, food plans, the whole kit and caboodle. And knowing that was ever so pleasurable!

I was a guest of NuBeginnings. For more information on the boot camp, visit: http://www.nubeginnings.co.uk

Advertisements

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: http://www.nubeginnings.co.uk

Surviving boot camp: Part 1 – the arrival

2 Nov

When I was 18, I bought myself a shiny new pair of Canadian made Saucony running shoes. I had dreams of going off to uni, clad with these shoes, with the full intention of becoming ridiculously fit and healthy.

Nine years later, they’re still in rather good shape. I’ve not, actually, worn them much. Oh, there was a brief period in uni when I joined the gym, played a couple of rounds of squash and did some work on the cross trainer. And another few months when Fitness First roped me into its web when I first moved to England. My shoes got a good workout then.

It’s not, I should mention, that I intend to be lazy. It’s more that I find myself getting too caught up in work or distractions like refiling my paperwork or drinking whisky to actually get around to going to the gym.

So when I was recently invited to attend the UK’s only ’boutique boot camp’ it was with slight concern – mostly over whether my body would cope with repeated bouts of exercise. It also didn’t sound terribly ‘pleasurable’, which tends to be the focus of my posts on here.

But, I decided I couldn’t be seen to be a wimp – and I had, after all, been attempting to ‘get fit’ for nearly a decade (ugh, I hate when things can be calculated in near double-digit terms).

After reassuring my friends I would likely survive, packing my rucksack with lots of ‘sporty clothes’ and waving goodbye to the boy (who, I should mention, is much better at the ‘attending the gym’ thing than I am), I hopped on a train westwards – I was Devon bound.

The ‘bootcamp’ destination is a place called NuBeginnings, which finds itself tucked away in a small village called Ilfracombe in North Devon. It’s an hour away from the nearest train station, so I was picked up by Dave, one of the managers. During our trip, he told me about what I was likely to experience during the week long retreat, from the hikes and personal training, through to the psychological side of things, which is looked at through hypnotherapy and acupuncture sessions, among other things.

As background, NuBeginnings was set up by a woman named Victoria Wills in 2008. Wills had experienced issues with her weight for many years, bouncing from one crazy diet to the next. After quitting her job, she spent time traveling to different ‘boot camps’ around the world, finding interesting angles in places as diverse as Canada and Hawaii. Through those, she learned that a combination of sensible exercise routines, streamlined nutrition plans and psychological treatments (to get to the root cause of any potential food dilemmas) worked a treat. When she returned to the UK, she realised there were no ’boutique’ boot camps over here – unlike the US, where there are many more. So, she worked to find a space (Westwell Hall in Ilfracombe) and set up the business with partner Frank. It focuses on teaching guests about all three arenas (exercise, nutrition and mental health) to help them get into a healthier frame of mind and lose up to one stone in a week.

Now, I have to admit – I was a bit skeptical. I was expecting for this to be, either, a bit of an ‘alternative lifestyle’ place with crystals and hypnotism tapes to set you to sleep to, or a crazy, military style boot camp where you find yourself squirming through the mud at some ungodly hour. Luckily, I soon learned, NuBeginnings was neither.

Upon arrival at the listed mansion, I was greeted by Dave’s partner Jennie who manages the retreat with him. Both are former teachers who have a wealth of experience dealing with a range of attitudes and life backgrounds, and both were unendingly friendly in helping each guest pursuit his or her ambitions.

I was shown up to my room – an oasis of welcoming calm, and asked to get changed and be downstairs as quickly as possible for my weigh-ins and personal training assessment. I was loath to leave, however, as the plump feather bed, and large cushioned window seat both looked terribly welcoming after my long journey.

However, in keeping with the plans, I headed down to meet Kieran, one of the personal trainers who would be working with me throughout the week. He tested my blood pressure, asked me about my goals for the week (at that point: not collapsing from the strain of exercise) and weighed me (something I’d not done in a rather long while, since I tend to eschew caring about all things weight loss in favour of eating whatever the hell I want, when I want). It was clear from the start that he was not there to kill me, nor to make me do push-ups in the mud – a fact I was grateful of. He very clearly accentuated the fact I would be working just above my skill level to maximise my heart rate and get the most out of the workouts.

After our chat, and my ‘measurements’ with Jennie, I met the other guests (who ranged from a 64-year old with a recent hip replacement, to a younger City worker keen to get fit again after a bad ankle injury, and a photographer who was focused on getting back into the fitness swing of things) ate a very small dinner ascribing to the GL diet (something I’ll come onto in a later post), partook in some meditation and finally fell down into the soothing comfort of a feather bed.

But the relaxation was not to last long…by 6:30am, I would need to be getting dressed to face the first day of workouts…would I survive?

In my next post, I find myself lugging heavy exercise balls up and down sand dunes, going hiking at 8am on a Sunday morning, and seeing if all the exercise made any difference at all.

I was a guest of NuBeginnings. For more information on the boot camp, visit: http://www.nubeginnings.co.uk

%d bloggers like this: