It was absolutely the wrong day to start working out. My accountant had called the previous day with news that I had to pay back a lot more money for 2017 than I had anticipated. The week before that, someone had unintentionally taken my suitcase instead of theirs from the bus (although I didn’t know it was unintentional at the time and it would take over three months to get the suitcase back, but that’s a whole other story). The reason we had to take the bus at all to go on Christmas vacation was that I had totaled our car in December. No money, my favourite clothes gone, zero chance of a new car and an exhausting year behind me – all I wanted to do was stay in bed until the end of 2019.
Then a friend texted James: today, 11am, free session in the park. James had mentioned before Christmas that his friend was doing a bootcamp-style workout and really enjoyed it, and hadn’t I been looking for a new sport for a while? Maybe give this a try?
I stayed in bed and thought: I don’t even have proper workout clothes. What I do have is a backache. And what if all the other people there are total pros and I will be the loser lying face down in the mud? Plus, the drizzle out there is turning into proper rain. Besides, who starts working out in January anyway? Total cliché. Maybe I’ll think about it in March. Or May. Or never.
I pulled the duvet over my head and thought of Matt Damon.
We had rewatched the The Martian over Christmas, a movie that I love. Damon plays an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars and comes up with ever more ingenious ways to survive. There’s a scene near the end – no spoiler! – in which he describes why he didn’t lose hope in an apparently hopeless situation: „At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you… everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.“
Really? It had come to that? I was so emotionally fragile that I was looking for higher meaning in a Matt Damon film? On the other hand: While I wasn’t fighting for survival on a distant planet, I did have shit to deal with on Earth and felt the overwhelming need to be physically stronger to do that. Or at least to not feel helpless for that one hour while I focused on doing the „up“ part of a press-up instead.
I had waited to for the right moment to start working out that the seemingly wrong moment might just be perfect timing.
So I just began that day. And I haven’t stopped since. The training I do every Tuesday and Thursday has given me a lot over the last six months. Maybe it can do that for you, too? I get asked about it quite a bit, so here are my answers to the most frequent questions.
What kind of training is it?
It’s called Original Bootcamp – a functional strength and endurance training with a personal trainer. Each session lasts one hour and takes place outside in small, mixed groups (there are Women Only Bootcamps as well). The session starts with a warm-up, followed by three circuits of seven different exercises – although my trainers like changing things up and we did stair training last week. And then… you’re done.
What kind of exercises?
A mix of cardio and weights, for example sprints, high knees, mountain climbers, push ups, kettle bell swings, plank, burpees…
But I am asking!
OK. This is a burpee.
Are they as punishing as the look?
Even more punishing. The program on the whole is challenging. It’s supposed to be. But as one of the other guys said: You might curse before a session, but you’re never going to regret it afterwards. I would add: You will get better. One press-up become five, no butterfly crunches become ten and before you know it a burpee doesn’t make you want to burst into tears anymore.
Wait a minute, you do this in the morning?
Is that really necessary?
No. You can also do it at 6:30am.
Or in the evening.
So you’re one of these people I see jumping around portable speakers in parks?
I guess. This type of outdoor training has become more and more popular and there are various companies that offer it. What convinced me about Original Bootcamp is that the groups are small, which means that the trainer can pay attention to you individually, for instance by correcting posture, giving tips or offering varying degrees of difficulty for each exercise, depending on your fitness level.
How fit do I have to be to be able to do this?
Let me put it this way: On the day of the first free training session my only sport for four and a half years had been climbing four flights of stairs a couple of times a day. However, I also ride my bike everywhere, don’t have any health issues and used to be pretty fit. That was a looong time ago, but perhaps my muscles remembered, because the training quickly showed effects. There’s a questionnaire on the Bootcamp website that you can (should) take before starting, where you can put down your fitness level and your goals.
How do you find the motivation to do this?
I was never motivated to go to the gym and while I like doing videos at home (Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson are two favourites), I always stopped again when I had a busy work week/wasn’t feeling it/had to wash my hair. One of the reasons I haven’t stopped with this is that I train with other people. I personally don’t have the drive to run up and down 118 steps in the park all by myself, as we did together last week. It’s worth mentioning that I have ended up in completely poser free, super nice goup of people and with two great personal trainers.
They power me on, but I don’t compete against them, I compete against myself. At the end of the hour, I am physically spent, but mentally recharged (I know! Sport really does what everybody says it does! Crazy!). Others might find that equilibrium in yoga, by doing barre, or just going for a walk. I need something where I can wear myself out – and I have more energy to do that in the morning than in the evening. That’s purely down to personal preference and ability. Because whatever else might happen that day, and a shit ton happens every day: I have already survived my Burpees and can take on the rest of that day feeling more balanced and less stressed. That feeling is so addictive to me now that I actually go through workout withdrawal in the weeks between camps. I even did a session on holiday – voluntarily. I almost didn’t recognise myself.
What I do recognise again is my body. For the first time since Arlo was born I have gotten back a sense of where my power lies, I feel more awake, am fitter, more toned and slimmer. One of my goals going into this was to lose weight. Five kilos. Why five? That would put me back to what I weighed before the pregnancy. I have thought a lot about why I didn’t write down four kilos, or six, or two, and why a certain number on the scale held such totemic power for me. Weight is an incredibly complex subject, both personally and socially, and my feelings on self-image, body neutrality, optimisation, perception, perfectionism, control, vanity and age are too complicated for a single paragraph. I want write more in-depth about it soon. But what I will say for now is this: Before I started working out, I could see the toll the last few years had taken on my body. I hadn’t put on weight because I felt content, but because I felt lost. Pregnancy, parenting, two books and all the Haribo I ate to get through them, an unbalanced diet, emotional eating, lack of sleep, lack of time to take care of myself, stress – it all added up, figuratively and literally.
The incredible Jen Gotch recently wrote on her Instagram: „I look different because I feel different – not the other way around.“ I don’t like myself more or less because I lost the weight. „When I lose five kilos/publish a book/earn more money/buy that dress…“ I will still always, inescapably be myself. The same self that eats and sleeps better now. The same self that still owes tax money and can’t afford a grand summer vacation, struggles with workload, finds parenting so very challenging and has her confidence knocked again and again. I have the same anxieties. But still: I look at my cellulite and upper arm fat with mildness, because goddammit, I am 40 and those arms can now punch out an elephant. That makes me proud. Proud of my mind for pushing me onwards. Proud of this accomplishment. And I also just get a kick out of my jeans fitting again they way they’re supposed to fit.
What kind of equipment do you need?
Running shoes and workout clothes.
Is Bootcamp available in other cities besides Berlin?
Yes, all over Germany.
How much does it cost?
175 Euro for an eight week course with two sessions per week. You can also book half camps. FYI: a lot of health insurers will cover at least some of the money a few times a year. Details are on the Bootcamp website.
More questions? Ask me. There’s also an in-depth FAQ on the website.
This editorial content was personally and independently written by me. I receive no monetary compensation or a discount from Original Bootcamp, and have not been otherwise influenced by the brand. However, because this article contains the name of that brand, it has to be lawfully labeled as ADVERTISEMENT.