Sunday Telegraph - Fall in for fun and fitness at The Camp

Forget the gym and embrace military-style training to boost body and soul, advises Sarah Edworthy

sunday-telegraph.jpgMembers of select groups tend to recognise each other by a visual sign, a club colour or discreet emblem. But a happy collective of women - 3,200 and counting - emerge in waves each year from baronial-style properties in Scotland and Andalucia united by something less tangible: an aura of energy radiated by a newfound love of the dreaded burpee and a feeling of invincibility. 

They share an addiction to cinnamon, herbal teas and clean eating. They see logs as tools for toning muscles and mountain streams as Andy-Murray-style ice baths. They can change in a matter of seconds at the tap of a military boot from indoor gym kit to outdoor physical training gear to a full hiking ensemble - several times  a day. They live forever more with the mantra “maximum effort” ringing in their ears.

It is 10 years since The Camp was founded by Special Forces officer Sebastian Morley and established itself as one of Europe’s premier weight loss and fitness programmes. The philosophy behind the women-only, week-long, residential course is an achievable hybrid of military and civvie elements: to raise the metabolism and achieve fat-burning through constant activity in a challenging outdoor environment.

“We have burnt 13,500lbs off ladies, and trimmed 20,800cm from waists over 10 years”, Morley says. “We knew that with a course based on military principles we could safely take a dress size off a client in one week. But from the beginning, we noticed in our feedback that ladies were returning home with a new mindset. They felt they had achieved things and met challenges they never dreamt they could do. They felt energised mentally as well as physically. The biggest surprise for us was that so many clients said The Camp had changed their lives.”

I can vouch that The Camp does this on many levels. Seven years ago Telegraph Weekend sent me to investigate how fitness can be achieved through mud, combat training and dawn starts. I arrived in mild panic and left euphoric.

Not only had the silted-up pounds of sedentary and overindulged lifestyle been whittled away, I learnt I could run again, abseil, endure rounds of boxercise and exalt in circuit training on frosty lawns. My then 11-year-old son sent a text inquiring “Dead yet?” to which the reply was “No way! I’m loving it.” The Camp’s commitment to long-term health means that what you learn in a week stays ingrained.

Initially, your metabolism continues to race. Instead of jumping in the car to nip to Sainsbury’s, I’d put on my trainers, a backpack and jog there. That impulse did wear off… but not the realisation that exercise - a dog walk, an errand run, a strength and conditioning class - coupled with the glorious Great Outdoors need never be a chore.

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Isla Craig, 45, signed up in July 2015 seeking a turnaround in her mindset. “I arrived incredibly overweight. I hadn’t exercised in years. Even the kit list looked daunting; I had no gear whatsoever”, she said. “I returned for my second Camp in July 2016 six stone lighter. I have gone from zero fitness to running my first 10k this year.”

Isla’s size 22 clothes have been replaced by size 10, but it’s not just the slim silhouette she enjoys. “People tell me I look happier, I’m more confident, more relaxed. I’m told my skin looks better. My week at The Camp completely changed my life. I know I did it, but the boys there started the change, and I will be forever grateful.”

The “boys” are former Special Forces soldiers, Royal Marine commandos and Paratroopers. “Some look at so-called ‘boot camps’ - a label we don’t like - and are put off by the idea alone”, says Morley. “But The Camp is not a militaristic course, it is merely based on principals and the instructors are unique. They bring expertise, maturity, humour and the will to help each client reach their goal. Some ladies are wary of a zip-wire, a river crossing or hill hike, but they find they embrace every challenge with ease.”

Goals vary - from the clinically obese client whose mission was to become strong enough to get up from the floor by herself, to someone wanting to trim down and tone up for a milestone birthday - but all are boosted by an intense camaraderie, followed by support groups sharing hints, tips, recipes and achievements.

Three days after leaving her first Camp, Isla fell and tore a cartilage which required surgery and months on crutches. “I posted from A&E and this incredible group of women responded with immediate support - how can we help? I wouldn’t have got through everything if it hadn’t been for that group created by The Camp.”

Ana Marie Calllangan, a City banker in her 40s, lost nearly two stone after her visit to The Camp. “I wanted to lose weight but I was also enticed by the outdoor activities and the long walks when you can reflect and meditate”, she says. “For me it was a character-building process. Back in my room I cried through exhaustion, but I embraced it all. I de-stressed. I learnt that 80 per cent of weight maintenance is about attitude to diet and portion size, and about 20 per cent is about exercise."

“I used to snack, but I’m more resilient and I have applied the principles to all aspects of my life.”

Carry on Camping

Maximum effort at home

Exercise

  • Move as much as you can in a day. Walk more, choose stairs over lifts, use your bike and treat the dog to longer walks. It is all valid.
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym. The Army, taking troops from A to B, can’t take a gym with them. You can do functional body weight exercises wherever you are - burpees, squats, lunges, sit-ups, press-ups. You can use the edge of a bath or bed for tricep dips.
  • Download a fitness app.
  • Boost the social aspect of exercise: attend a regular class, find a gym buddy or running companion and train together.

Diet

  • Stick to one cup of coffee a day.
  • Drink lots of water and herbal tea.
  • Practice clean eating with more natural, whole foods, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  • Keep stocked up with “good” food at home and snacks in your desk or handbag so you’re not caught out having to eat food you don’t want to.
  • Use thermogenic spices such as cinnamon and turmeric.

Mantras

  • Maximum effort!
  • Remember the 80:20 rule applies, ie adhere to principles 80 per cent of the time, but have fun. Do enjoy a night out with friends and a glass of wine.

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