Boot Camp brutal and exhausting but exhilarating

"PAIN is weakness leaving the body." So said Staff Paddy (or was it Staff Pete?) during the gruelling six hours of the Scottish Boot Camp Taster Day I mysteriously found myself on last Sunday. If that is really true, then I am becoming stronger by the second. If the pain on the day was not real enough, 48 hours later I am struggling to negotiate stairs without biting down on a leather strap.

Just before 1000 hours you might have seen me picking my way nervously between puddles and ducks on my way to Charleston Academy. Soaking wet and worried about an old back injury was not the best way to start, but it was all in a good cause ahead of me were six hours of military-style training in aid of Help For Heroes.

We signed in, lied on the medical forms about alcohol intake and weight, then were marched through to line up in front of Staff Paddy for our warm up. We were allowed to stand at ease while he explained about the day ahead. That prompted a few titters of incredulity from the ranks, but Staff Paddy tolerated titters only once.

The next misdemeanour had the team on the floor in half press-up position, apologising for our collective lack of enthusiasm. By the fifth time kissing the gym floor we had got the message. We were there to work, to push our bodies beyond their limits, and to incinerate calories. All in true military fashion.

And incinerate calories we did. There were circuits, obstacle courses, team games, more circuits, obstacle courses carrying sandbags and boxing. At all times in the gym, we were on the move. The losing team in any task had to suffer an extra set of lunges, star jumps, or squat thrusts. The winning team would be allowed to drop to one knee, momentarily permitted to catch breath.

But as much as the day was exhausting, so it was exhilarating. As soon as one set of muscles began screaming for mercy, a whistle would blowand it was time to punish another set.

Just as the boxing gloves were getting too sweaty to tolerate, a football would be produced. And as the circuits became too punishing, we improvised a game of netball. And just as "Team Gorgeous" were becoming complacent about our winning streak, so we were mixed up, into groups of two, three, and then six again, forced to bond afresh, and work together to achieve another endorphin high.

We were a mixed bunch; business women, mothers of serving military personnel, health workers, adrenaline junkies, a personal trainer and me. I'm certain there were 14 of us at the start of the day by 1600 hours we had slimmed down to a core of eight still intact, with two deserters, two wrist injuries and two nasty groin strains. Oh, and a skinned nose the result of a sandbag related accident, which I have promised not to mention. And before we knew it, the final tug of war was over, the cool-down and de-brief were complete, and we were all proudly smiling for the team photo.

What I took part in was the taster day the real McCoy is an entire week of the same, from the comfort of Scottish Boot Camp's base in Portmahomack.

So am I man enough? Hell yes. But only if I can have a few days to recover first!

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