Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Do You Fit in Fitness? Health & Fitness: One Writer Goes on the Most 'Sadistic' Training Day in London - and Loves Every Minute of It

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How Do You Fit in Fitness? Health & Fitness: One Writer Goes on the Most 'Sadistic' Training Day in London - and Loves Every Minute of It

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK PALMER

REMEMBER the torrential downpours last week? Well spare a thought for a group of sodden Londoners, enthusiastically taking the Government's advice to put a little exercise back into our lives.

I recall the bad weather with such clarity. The session started timidly under a blanket of light cloud, then suddenly it turned cold and the rain was sheeting into our faces at 45 degrees. But that doesn't stop a young man in battle fatigues and army boots barking: "Get those knees up higher!"

I fully expect him to conclude his instructions with "... you 'orrible little man" but, instead, he orders us to do three more sets of abdominal crunches and 20 press-ups before we trudge off on another half-circuit of Battersea Park.

"Good running, but is it hurting?" screams our battle-hardy instructor.

Breathless and exhausted, I can't reply. No one is more surprised than me, however, that this is the most feelgood experience I've had in ages.

There are a dozen of us in the group this evening and the mix between men and women is fairly equal, the average age around 30.

The common ground is that all of us have signed up with British Military Fitness (BMF), launched by retired army major Robin Cope, who believes gyms are for slackers: the more expensive the fees, the more useless the product.

What's more, last week's advice from the Government to change our daily habits by putting a bit of oomph into our DIY, vacuuming and ironing is scornfully dismissed as "pathetic". Pain, clearly, is where it's at.

This is exercise as it was meant to be: sweaty and designed to build up muscle and crunch fat in a concentrated period of time. The high after you've completed a session in the great outdoors is more satisfying than anything a [pounds sterling]100a-month gym can provide. At least when you get your breath back.

"All the Jacuzzis and treatment rooms in the world won't get you fit," says Cope, who spent 16 years in the army.

"Gyms are facility providers. We have no facilities, but we'll get you fit. We'll take you out of your comfort zone. It's not a question of shouting and making you miserable, but we expect you to do as you're told. …

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