More than a few of us have emerged from lockdown with a tighter waistband after working from home snacking and comfort eating while waiting for normal life to resume.
So if you’re looking for a way to undo some of the damage, could a £1,770-a-week bootcamp be the answer.
No 1 Bootcamp in Norfolk promsises to whip you into shape with a gruelling military-style fitness regime and a mostly carbohydrate-free menu, that should result in a significant reduction in body fat percentage after a week.
Some campers have been known to stay for months on end to completely transform their bodies through its fat-burning programme, and with villas in Ibiza, Marrakesh and Portugal, boot campers can enjoy white beaches and mountain hikes too.
The camp has reopened with new safety measures and all classes held outside, but Femail’s Emer Scully went along for a taster weekend in Norfolk before lockdown to try out the facilities and find out if she was up to the challenge of seven hours of training a day.
Here she reveals if it’s possible to get through two days of intense training, before committing to a fat-shredding week.
Hidden behind a cluster of old red brick homes, nestled in a village by the sea just outside Kings Lynn, is a gorgeous old farmhouse.
Nothing sets the building apart from its peaceful neighbourhood except the garden, which features ‘Start’ and ‘Finish’ lines either end of a dirt running track.
When I arrived at 9pm on Friday evening it was at the tail end of six days of packed exercise sessions, broken up only by food breaks.
A week at No 1 Bootcamp in Norfolk starts on a Saturday – registration day.
It is the only day of the week those already all checked in and well underway with their training can escape to the outside world for shopping or lunch.
The house was silent. Resident campers had already tucked themselves into bed after days of 6am starts, ahead of their long-awaited Saturday morning lie-in.
I was treated to a hearty reheated Peri Peri chicken breast with rice and vegetables before it was my turn to walk up an ambient, candle-lined, wooden staircase and head into a delightfully comfortable sleep.
The next morning I was allowed a slow start.
Where normal campers would be up and rearing to go by 7am on a training day, I wandered downstairs at 8.30am to be greeted by coffee – a usually banned substance – and the head trainer at the camp, Marines-trained Gee Leary.
At the beginning of each week the campers stand on a specialised weighing ‘in body machine’ that uses electrodes to measure fat percentage instead of just displaying an ambiguous number on a scale.
One blogger, who I met during my two days at the camp, couldn’t believe it when she found out she had lost 7.9lbs in her first week alone.
The first activity of the day was a spin class – a high intensity cycling workout – and I was handed a MyZone tracker that tied around the chest to monitor heart rate.
After this was breakfast. We were treated to oat and banana pancakes with peanut brittle, more banana and blueberries on top – made by the camp’s head chef Michael.
After a short break we were back to it with a body weight circuit. The session was pretty relaxed and we were paired meaning longer rest breaks while we waited for our partners to finish their 40 seconds of exercise.
But this all quickly changed when, after a sweet potato-topped shepherd pie with green beans and cabbage for lunch, we were introduced to MeTCon With Step.
My naive brain did not initially pair the words MeTCon With Step with fear.
It was a circuit workout featuring a rowing machine, kettle bells, bag lifts, ball slams and any amount of other strenuous exercises.
We did a minute on each with a short rest in between, finishing with a run around the aforementioned dirt track. By this time I was exhausted.
After giving it my absolute all and refusing to quit, you can only imagine how delightful it was to hear we were doing it all over again – this time without the one-minute rests.
Every exercise pushes you to the absolute brink – into what they call the ‘fat-burning zone’ – and the workouts can be intense.
But lots of clients go back time and again after accidentally relapsing into bad habits or to get a break from normal life.
Everyone is incredibly upbeat – the positive atmosphere is electric and sometimes a little overwhelming – and the trainers echo the sentiment that everything is doable if you have the right mentality and really try.
We stop for a snack, a chocolate brownie that gives just the right kick of energy, ahead of yet another workout.
We were back on the spinning bikes for a more intense round. It was 5pm and I was ready to put my everything into it.
My legs burned like they never have before and I’d live to regret it the next day.
For dinner we were given an incredible satay chicken curry. It was warming and fresh at the same time, completely filling without being too heavy.
This was also a chance to meet the bootcampers who had just arrived ahead of their first week of training.
At the table some greeted each other like old friends, because they were. Those who repeatedly come back have formed strong bonds and keep in touch over WhatsApp – where they plan their next visits together.
Conversation flowed smoothly over dinner as everyone got to know each other and spoke about their jobs – many owned businesses while others had quit their jobs or flown from other countries to be there.
Time after dinner is usually kept free for campmates to mingle and chill out, but some nights feature fitness and nutrition talks.
After another night’s sleep my confidence was blown the moment I felt a distinctive aching through my entire body. I could barely move.
It was Day One of camp for everyone else.
The dozen-or-so other campers were rearing to go, while I moped down the stairs and joined them in the living room, feeling more than a little sorry for myself and my aching joints.
There was a quick welcome brief where everyone was introduced to each other and the trainers told their new charges a little about their backgrounds.
Tom Brown is one of the camp’s longest-serving trainers.
He is 21, has been working in gyms since he was 14, and lets everyone know he was one of the youngest instructors to qualify to teach Les Mills Body Pump classes at 16, before being scouted to be the face of the international company.
He’s full of energy – a trait that keeps the workouts upbeat even through pounding rain. There didn’t seem to be an inside exercise area aside from the spin room – which will be ideal in this new world as we emerge from lockdown.
The camp has reopened after coronavirus lockdown with new safety measures in place and all classes are now held outside.
The second trainer was Danny Corban. He and Gee are both ex-marines and Danny repeats ‘I love the job I do’ during his introduction. But it is clear he actually genuinely does love it.
He drives for three hours, 142 miles, to and from the gym he owns in Leeds to train people at the camp for seven days out of every month. He’d have to love it.
After the welcome talk it was straight outside, where there was an ever so slightly more harsh chill in the air, for dynamic stretching before a fasted HIIT workout.
My arms gave way when I tried to do push ups and Tom running beside me as encouragement during a run on the spot, something he aptly called R.I.Ps (Run in Place), was not as helpful as I’m sure he wanted it to be.
After what seemed like an eternity – around an hour and a half – we headed inside for chocolate porridge that didn’t taste much like chocolate. It did look delightful though and was covered in refreshing chopped fruit.
Next was free weights but, despite usually enjoying weightlifting, there was something about the pain I was already in that was putting me off.
We went in for a banana protein shake which I guzzled down in my already famished state.
By the time we were heading back out for a boxing session I had to pull myself, and my foul attitude, together.
We learnt three different combinations of punches and took it in turns with a partner. The rest of the group would move on to more complicated combinations later in the week.
It seemed to be everyone’s favourite session and was a bit more relaxed than the earlier, more intense workouts.
By lunchtime, at around 1pm, I was starving and ready to refuel. Now this is my fault, I’ll admit, for not speaking up, but the rush of emotion I felt when I saw my tiny plate of food was a surprise even to me.
While men in the group were handed a large, I was given a small. And it was small.
A little more than a spoonful of quinoa, Mediterranean vegetables and a skewer of turkey breast. The meal was lovely, but so inadequate to properly energise me after how much exercise I’d just done.
I needed more to properly function. I was craving carbohydrates – something I normally consume far too much of – and felt light-headed.
But there is sense behind the madness.
The menu severely limits carbohydrates because if the body uses carbohydrates (the sugars, starches and fibres that become the energy source glycogen during digestion) to fuel workouts, it won’t burn as much fat.
Most people at the camp want to burn fat during their workouts.
It was perhaps because of the absence of glycogen in my body that I had no energy for the rest of the day.
Maybe that – and the intense downpour outside – was why an hour later, when it was time to head back outside for a second round of MetCon, I couldn’t bring myself to put on my trainers.
Despite planning to stay until the end of the day to experience a full 48 hours, I headed home early, enjoyed a scotch egg on the train and feasted on the best pizza I’ve ever had that night.
I loved the challenge and the first day was more relaxed, and so way more enjoyable. They also fed me more the first day which improved my mood.
But as soon as I was put with the other campers there was an overall lack of sustenance. The low-carb food programme is what I struggled with the most, and the exercises were too intense for me.
It was just constant pushing yourself which personally I don’t think equals a healthy lifestyle.
I don’t know how the campers manage six days but they were all so upbeat and positive and just loved it, so good for them, and the trainers were lovely.
But I couldn’t help feeling it promoted an ‘eat what you want outside of the camp and then spend a week burning it all off every year’ type mentality, even if that’s not meant to be the ethos of the camp.
Satay Curry (serves 2)
(contains: sesame, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, mustard)
Brown Rice/Rice Noodles and Stir Fried Vegetables to Serve
1. Roughly chop the white onion and add the coconut oil to a large saucepan. Add the onion to the saucepan and sweat off on a medium heat.
2. Peel and chop the sweet potato. Cut it into roughly the same size pieces (about 1cm x 1cm).
3. Finely chop the chilli (remove the seeds if you don’t like it too spicy) and add to the pan. Peel the garlic and ginger and finely chop. Add to the saucepan and continue to sweat off the mixture gently.
4. Pour in the peanut butter and tamari and mix thoroughly. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add the madras powder.
5. Add the cashew nuts to the pan and mix around gently. Don’t mix too vigorously as you’ll break the cashews into tiny pieces.
6. Cover the mixture with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for approximately 30-45 minutes until the curry has thickened up and the sweet potato has started to break down a bit.
7. Add the coconut milk and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Check the seasoning and add a little salt or pepper if needs be.
8. This satay curry is best served with some freshly stir fried greens and some brown rice or rice noodles. You can garnish with a few sprigs of coriander, a sprinkle of sesame seeds or some chopped red chillies!