I must admit that my invite to experience one of the UK’s top weight loss boot camps, GI Jane, was received with bittersweet excitement. As my wedding day loomed, I was conscious that my so-called ‘diet’ was not going to cut it if I wanted to look like Elle Macpherson in a wedding dress. Bootcamp sounded positively terrifying but I realised this might just be what I needed to kick-start me into a healthy lifestyle.
The website’s ‘typical day’ left me feeling exhausted in itself! Up at dawn, all-day exercise and a low-calorie diet…can one really survive this? No wonder my usual walk downstairs to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner followed by a climb upstairs to bed in the evening was not shedding the pounds… clearly this is what I needed for a bikini beautiful body and slim bare legs, something I had been striving for months to get in time our honeymoon. As this was the first time I had ever done anything like this, I thought it was only fair to share some of my thoughts and experiences with fellow brides who might consider a similar challenge.
Day 1 – Meet and Greet at GI Jane
1pm – I arrived at Sittingbourne Manor feeling scared but excited. The Manor, a lovely, homely abode in the beautiful Kent countryside created the perfect backdrop to outdoor exercise. Warm greetings were made all round including introductions to the military fitness instructors who were, by the way, in full army gear and almost had me saluting!
3pm – Nine nervous girls lined up ‘on parade’ to begin the first day of our gruelling programme. Circuit courses and egg and spoon races sound like fun but they were just the warm up for an intensive week. After our afternoon snack of seeds and a tangerine, it was back outside for a few more hours team games and exercises.
6pm – Dinner (yay!) delicious steamed fish and roasted vegetables was followed by an early night to bed at 7pm. I had done more exercise in one day than I have ever done before, but it had been surprisingly good fun. The great thing about the boot camp was that everyone had different reasons for coming – some were brides-to-be, while others were just looking to improve their fitness but we all agreed it had been a good start and less intimidating than expected.
Day 2 – Iron Soldier and Salsa Dancing
5:20am – Am I really awake at this time? Up and out for our 6am line up on parade. A lovely fresh morning and spectacular views made me feel positively inspired to get going and so we were off on our first 2 mile scenic run in the Kent countryside. Back to base for a weigh-in and our measurements taken… amazing what you can fit in all before breakfast!
8am – Our challenges today were circuit training and something called ‘Iron Soldier’ – a race against the clock to run up and down the grass collecting heavy army kit. As you can imagine, my relief at finishing this was overwhelming, so when they asked us to try to beat our time and do it again, I didn’t think it possible…but I did! I was amazed, as the GI’s and my team mates cheered me on, that I managed to conjure the energy to not only complete a second round but beat my first time! My confidence levels were really pumping now!
7pm – Salsa! This evening salsa class was amazing! I had never done salsa before but managed to get the moves which were a great workout in itself. Fun fun fun, even in a class of girls! As we finished I realised the days activities were starting to take their toll and so bedtime at 8pm was welcome. My body is now starting to really throb…. 1pm – Lunch was a lovely roasted pepper with beans and rice – very tasty and the best bit – low-calorie! I was starting to realise that although all the meals here looked sparse, they really do fill you up.
Day 3 – A Day at The Seaside
5.30am – Up for our 1 hour workout session of body conditioning on a stability ball, followed by a delicious bowl of porridge with fresh fruit – this low-calorie lark is better than I thought! Fuelled and ready to go, the GI’s take us out into the beautiful sunshine for a long but enjoyable 4 mile walk along the beautiful country lanes. Walking and talking with my fellow GI’s meant I barely noticed we were exercising. Now that’s my kind of workout!
2pm – Following circuits, boxing and a lunch of lovely chicken salad, we were taken on a surprise drive to a nearby beach. I was starting to learn that adding variety and new locations to an exercise regime definitely keeps you more interested. Unfortunately we weren’t there to relax and sunbathe but to, in fact, take part in what, I think, was one of the most amazing sessions of the week. Training on the beach was swiftly followed by a run, fully clothed, out to the sea – I felt truly exhilarated. Unfortunately, nature got the better of me and much to all my GI’s amusement, I found myself literally stuck in the mud, knee-deep, boots and all! Lucky for me, staff trainer Steph gave me a piggy back to the sand amongst much laughter. The afternoon was so much fun and our friendly, encouraging trainers, really did make it for us all.
Day 4 – The real boot camp…
2am – Pain! I wake up with throbbing arms – must have been that 90 second plank that our lovely trainers had made us do earlier in the day. As we had been advised that ice packs relieved aching muscles, I found myself sneaking like a teenager, down to the kitchen to get my supplies from the freezer. The ice worked and I managed to get back to sleep resting my arms on two very cold but comforting packs.
5am – Hmmm…still not quite used to this! Woke up very sore, stiff and tired albeit ready for another tough session before breakfast. My energy levels had dipped a bit today but I still managed to keep up with the other runners in the group which gave me a little boost. This was our last full day so I was determined to make the most of it and work hard. We had two choices to go swimming or swinging in the forests of Go Ape. As I opted for a trip to the pool I knew that any ideas of a nice leisurely swim would be dashed by staff Harry who once again worked us to our limits with pool exercises interspersed with swimming…thankfully a stint in the jacuzzi was allowed and greatly appreciated!
3pm – The afternoon was a salute to being a true army officer. Dressed in camouflage and our faces painted in mud, we were led to a replica army assault course. The course featured a variety of tough obstacles including rope pulling, crawling under camouflage netting, balancing on wooden planks and lifting heavy loads back and forth. As we all tackled the course in teams of three, the heavens opened and I suddenly realized, this was REAL boot camp! Twice round (of course!) we all finished physically tired and challenged yet full of natural energy highs.
6pm – The last supper! At the end of our agonizing training, we were rewarded with a delicious dinner, certificates and a special treat of champagne and strawberries. At last, a touch of 5 star luxury!
Day 5 – We Won!
6am – Our last day was a repeat of the two-mile run from day one. I had managed to knock a few seconds off my time so was very happy! Our final weigh in was taken with bated breath, I had done more exercise and eaten more healthily than I had ever done before, so I was thrilled to hear I had lost 5 and half inches and 2 pounds. Our breakfast treat was scrambled egg with smoked salmon, followed by emotional goodbyes around all the GI Jane’s.
I must admit a boot camp like GI Jane had not been something that I had really considered before. The huge variety of sports, challenges and activities as well as the controlled food portions were the most physically and mentally challenging things I have ever had to face, but I would certainly go back and I would definitely encourage anyone to give it a go.
This is just the start for me, as I’m keen to continue with all that I have picked up from GI Jane and as for brides who want to get fit quick…I would definitely recommend this as the perfect beginning to a new and healthy lifestyle.