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Get in shape with British Military Fitness

 - Get in shape with British Military Fitness
Teresa Donoghue has recently been converted to a new form of exercise class spreading across UK parks. Heer she argues the case for British Military Fitness.

In parks up and down the country, groups of people wearing colored vests are happily paying to be put through their paces by the army. This is British Military Fitness and I have recently been converted.

I was introduced to BMF by a friend whose first session was on the day that the whole of Britain shut down because of the snow (the classes take place in any weather). Despite being covered in mud, she raved about it.

British Military Fitness was founded in 1999 by Robin Cope, an ex- army major, who wanted to set-up a company which offered a motivation to get fit. “I just felt nothing was motivational. Nothing really encouraged you. Bearing in mind I was probably the fittest when I was in the army, I thought there was potential to get people to exercise outside with a military theme.” BMF classes are run by serving or former members of the armed forces (both male and female) who are qualified fitness instructors.

The benefits of exercise in the fresh air are well known, but BMF also offers the support and motivation of exercising in a group. The sessions, which last for an hour, take place in parks throughout London and selected places throughout Britain. BMF is incredibly flexible: you can sign up for one class a week, buy a block of sessions or set up a direct debit for unlimited membership to attend as many classes as you want in any of the parks. There are discounts for under 21s, over 60s, teachers and health workers. Members are all ages and sizes.

After my friend's conversion, when I heard that a new class was starting in my local park I thought I’d give it a try. Now believe me I’m no fitness freak, I am a forty something with three kids and a very stressful job so this was going to be a challenge! BMF sessions are carefully planned and structured to vary the exercises and offer a challenge to participants whatever their level. Just when you feel you can’t do any more, the instructors change the exercise/activity and your energy is renewed. It’s all about encouraging you to try harder and do the best you can. I have been attending for two months now and no two sessions have been the same.

There are three levels of fitness and you wear a vest to indicate your level: blue for unfit to moderately fit, red for the reasonably fit and green for the very fit. The exercises are planned to challenge you whatever level you are at. Individuals are referred to by the number on their vest, and in team activities we shout out encouragement to each other.

You are encouraged to try your best to do all of the exercises unless you have an injury, in which case a more suitable exercise is suggested. When you exercise in the gym you may think you are pushing yourself, but it’s nothing compared to the effort the BMF instructors get out of you. I have found that I have aches in places that I have never ached before. Instructors joke and banter with you, but are careful to build up your confidence.

Some sample exercises include the ‘beans’ - when the instructor shouts the name of a bean you jump to do the exercise. String beans are lying on the ground stretching your arms and legs, baked beans mean curling -up in a ball on the ground, runner beans mean running very fast on the spot - you get the idea!

I am wimp when it comes to cold, but nothing can beat the feeling of achievement after having done an hour of hard exercise in adverse weather. BMF might not be for everyone; if you prefer exercising on your own or don’t enjoy being told what to do (let alone getting covered in mud), then this isn’t for you. Having said that, I urge you to have a go as I challenge anyone not to feel great when it’s all over. The first class is a free taster so why not give it a try!

To find out more visit the BMF website, www.britmilfit.com

Teresa Donoghue


Health and Fitness Editor
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