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Pure Results: What to expect at bootcamp

Wednesday 15 July 2015

I'm a tricky person to motivate. Scream in my face, and I'll likely giggle (or scream back, depending on my mood). Encourage me gently and nicely, and there's a high chance I'll take advantage of your lack of authority and overthrow whatever organisation you belong to. Leave me to my own devices, and I'll get distracted by a weirdly shaped cloud or do a google image search on Jeff Goldblum. 

So, when it comes to exercise, and bootcamps, I may be a difficult customer. There are a few things that will get me going, though - jealousy and a fear of embarrassment. 

A well timed Abba song also has its place.

Back in April, I went down to Cork to take part in Pure Results Bootcamp, the newest venture from Kathryn Thomas. As a lively, bubbly woman with a seriously enviable figure, that was all the motivation (read - jealousy) I needed to keep me going. When you're struggling through a set of burpees next to Kathryn, you're far less likely to call it quits (see - fear of embarrassment). 

This is far from a celebrity endorsement - Kathryn is at the helm of the operation, helping to serve up meals, joining in the classes and leading early morning runs. She's selected an excellent team of trainers, who lead a variety of classes throughout the day. All of this takes place in a gorgeous location - I was on Inish Beg Island, in West Cork, complete with millponds, orchards and a swimming pool. As she put it on the first night - "It's like a summer camp for adults... but you get your ass kicked a few times a day"
I took this picture so I could stop doing squats for a few seconds
So, what does a boot camp actually entail? 
We were up early, and started each day with a run around the gorgeous grounds of Inish Beg. The group naturally split into two - I held back in the half walking/jogging gang, because I find it physically impossible to run for longer than two minutes. That was the good thing about the camp. While you were always encouraged to push yourself, nothing was never forced upon you. A trainer would never stand over you and yell, or make you do something that you weren't capable of. This is the best form of training, if you ask me - the energy needs to come from you, first. And if you're attending a boot camp, dedicating a week to it and investing a fair bit of money, then there's no point half-assing things. 

Generally, I would regard myself as a reasonably fit-ish person. When I'm doing well, I cycle fair distances, walk a fair bit and can usually run up the stairs without passing out. But I'm also a freelancer who works from home, who travels and enjoys long, piggy dinners. So I think I would be fairly average when it comes to fitness. I was anxious before I left - I thought that everyone would be super-fit, and I'd be left wheezing on the sidelines. But I needn't have worried. I found some things harder than others, but I never felt like I was pushed too far. I took things at my own pace when I needed to, which is actively encouraged.

The day was divided into classes of varying intensities. After breakfast, you might go to a boxercise class (high intensity) followed by team building games (low intensity). The timings are thought out well. You don't want to burn yourself out, but in order to get results, you have to keep moving. 

There were a few times, of course, when I would have preferred to have a quick lie down, or a slow stroll around. But I persevered each time, and found myself loving each and every class. I even requested an extra high intensity session on the beach, and took part in an additional boxercise class. Fit people aren't lying when they say that exercise is addictive. 

Other activities were thrown in as well - we took a boat trip to Sherkin Island and went night kayaking on Lough Hyne, where I saw Physoplankton dance around my paddle. 

What about the food?
You have two options at the boot camp - a weight loss programme, or a fitness one. The same food is eaten on both, but you get more of it on the fitness plan. I went for the weight loss option, which allowed me 1400 calories a day. The food is gorgeous, but 1400 calories is not as much as you might think. This likely won't come as a surprise, but if you're used to a fairly heavy diet then you will definitely feel the difference. I would consider myself fairly clued in about calories, but I soon realised I was pretty clueless about portion size.

We ate things like Thai style fishcakes, lentil dhal, scrambled eggs, pesto chicken and grilled fish. As well as breakfast, lunch and dinner, you get two snacks a day, which arrive just as the hunger pangs kick in. I'd never been as happy to see pineapple chunks and pumpkin seeds. 

I wrote about this in my piece in the Irish Independent, but the biggest surprise for me was the change in my mood. I'd never really believed that endorphins were a 'thing' - I thought that the 'buzz' was just one you got from knowing your workout was over. When I filled out the questionnaire prior to attending, I was asked about my energy levels, and I had to confront the fact that they were generally pretty low. I get the afternoon slump, I can find it hard to get moving - all things we can generally fall prey to. 

But when I got back, and kept up the regular exercise, I found I had much more energy. It was easier to get up in the morning, my mood had improved, and I was generally in better form. I was also that annoying person who was telling everyone how they had to incorporate cardio into their everyday lives. I was the worst. 

There were plenty of other highlights, but really the team of trainers/nutritionists/coaches were just perfect. Super friendly, knowledgeable, encouraging and just great craic. It was a pleasure to meet them all and I'm jealous of each and every one of them to this day.

I thought there would be more classes I wasn't into, but really the only one that pushed me to the limit was the obstacle course. We ran this in pairs, and it was hard. Tyre lifting, heavy-thing lifting, box lifting... actually, there was just an awful lot of lifting. What I didn't like about this is the fact that everyone else was watching you as you went - I don't thrive from cheers of encouragement, it seems. Others did. I think the fact that I'm too competitive (I did rugby tackle a huge trainer during a friendly "team building" exercise) made me feel like a bit of a lifting failure. 

What about weight loss?
Let's not beat around the bush. You can go to a boot camp to motivate yourself, kick start a new fitness regime, feel better about yourself, etc etc. But the (big) bottom line is that most people go to these things to lose weight. They want to get in shape for an event, or just kick their asses into gear. And it's just so easy to lose weight when someone else is preparing your meals, and someone is offering you opportunities to workout at every minute. There are no excuses. 

So what did I lose in total? 7lbs. That elusive half-stone that everyone seems to be carrying on their backs (not literally - ugh). The camps that followed after mine had similar and better results - one man lost 17lbs, with the biggest female weightloss clocking in at 11lbs. 

The big question - did you keep it off?
How dare you. I would never ask you about your weight, mystery question asking person who we all know is actually me. 

But I'll give you a hint - a month or so after bootcamp, I went to Amsterdam, Vegas, Italy and turned 30. So no, obviously, I didn't maintain a pristine lifestyle during those events. I did, however, manage to only gain a few pounds, and didn't return to my pre-bootcamp weight. 

When I got home, I started boxercise classes and also completed a 100km cycle. I'm now getting back into my training again, so I'm getting closer to my ultimate goal. And I'll tell you something else - when I stopped my regular exercise, I felt like shit. Mentally, I mean. My energy levels slumped again, as did my general mood. Now I'm back on the bike, and occasionally lifting those kettle bells (which live by the TV, for convenience like) I'm feeling the difference. 

A boot camp like this is an investment. Aside from the financial side of things, you're investing time and energy to the programme. If you're not going to give it your all, then it's probably not for you. But if you're serious about making a change in your life, if you want to open your eyes to all the different kinds of exercise types that are out there, and if you're ready for a feeling of pure physical achievement, then I can't think of a better place to spend a week.

There are two Pure Results Bootcamps running in July/August, this time at Sheen Falls in Kerry... 

July 24th – July 31st  prices start €1299. 
July 31st – August 7th  prices start €1299. 

The boot camps last for a week, and you get a personalised two week exercise/nutrition plan to keep things going after you leave. See more at

Have you been on a boot camp? Or do you have any questions about them? Let me know in the comments!

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