The army, Royal Air Force, marines, parachute regiment… they’re all super fit, right? Each of the forces has a fitness test that you have to pass before you can even sign up. In fact, some military divisions, such as the Navy SEALs, are notorious for recruiting only the fittest of the fittest. So it’s no surprise that British Military Fitness is jam-packed full of pretty intense training.
But don’t let that put you off; anyone can join in, and they promise to deliver life-changing results with serious fun guaranteed.
Katie, from PT Magazine, and I attended a press trial session at the original BMF training site, in Hyde Park. Our instructors, Tatiana, Mark, Mike and Steve (giving a full spread of experience from the army, navy and RAF) were just as motivating as you would imagine and I left feeling a little bit battered, but very psyched.
After a brief introduction and having told the instructors “CrossFit” when asked what I do for exercise, I was handed a red bib… the intermediate colour. I was a little nervous that this meant I was going to have a tough ride, but when I noticed that actually around half the group had red bibs I was a little safer in the knowledge that I may be able to hide in the crowd.
“Happy is a relative feeling”
We did a warm up of active stretches, using each other as resistance, interspersed with jogging, burpees and squats. Then it was time for the main portion of work. Making use of a big area of the park, we moved from section to section of green space running in-between and stopping to do a series of exercises. Tatiana, the instructor who took most of the session for the group I was in, was on the right side of firm with us in her instruction, and had us doing push ups, lunges and shoulder presses (again using eachother as resistance) with no time for complaint as we seemingly flew through the workout.
We stopped about halfway for a gulp of water (which the instructors carry while you’re running round the park) and then got straight back to work with a sit-up and plank-off. “Happy is a relative feeling” was all I heard while I was holding a plank with sweat dripping off my forehead. It certainly is…
A bit more running and we were into the final portion of the workout where we got to enemy territory and did some some military style leopard crawls and rolling/jumping to make our way across the grass without being spotted by enemies. This was really fun, but who knew crawling could be so hard!
Making our way back to the meeting area we finished off with a little sprint in pairs, and then some stretching.
After the session, Steve, who has been an instructor for BMF for 3 years, gave us a run-through of a three-move core strength workout you can do at home to really develop a strong mid-section for all those compound movements.
1. Plank – you may think you know the plank, but think again. Resting on your elbows, hold a normal plank position on your knees or toes. Now tilt your pelvis forwards, imagining you’re bringing the front of your ribs and pelvis closer together. Brace this tightly and take shallow breaths. You should have a straight line from your toes (or knees if you’re on your knees) all the way to your shoulders and then the tip of your head. If you’re holding it correctly you’ll probably be shaking. Repeat.
2. Crawl – this might seem basic, but it’s really not. Start on your hands and knees, then brace your core and lift your knees off the floor so you’re on your hands and toes. Now crawl forward four paces, moving your opposite hand and foot at the same time… but without letting your hips rock from side to side. To test this, put a cone or plastic cup on your tail bone, if it falls off you’re moving too much. Take four paces back again and repeat.
3. Hollow hold – we do this one in CrossFit, it’s the basis of gymnastics movements. Lie on your back with your arms stretched out above your head so you’re in a long straight line, that’s the easy part. Now tense your stomach muscles to lift your legs, arms and shoulders off the floor. You should be in a shallow half moon shape. Hold this until you can no longer hold with good form (if your back starts to come away from the floor then try holding the legs in a tuck position instead). If you’re holding it strongly enough then someone should be able to push down on your legs and you will rock instead of just collapsing in a heap!
5 Things You Get Out Of BMF
1. A feeling of camaraderie – even if you turn up alone you’re certain to make friends by taking part in BMF sessions. You’ll partner up with someone and before you know it you’re chatting to them and making escape plans to avoid the second round of shoulder presses. Instant comrades.
2. A challenging workout – there’s no doubt about it, BMF will push you… hard. But that’s hard for your level. You don’t have to be super fit to take part, you can be a beginner and get a hard workout, just as you can be advanced and get a hard workout. As the cheesy saying goes, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get better”.
3. A sense of pride – whether it’s knocking out a couple more push ups than you thought you could, or running up a hill faster than you have before, you’ll come away feeling like you’ve achieved something. There is so much of a variety in the sessions that you’re bound to find something you’re good at.
4. A new found love for bibs – they make you feel like part of a team and are your identification for the session. They’re your achievement as you work your way up from blue, to red, to green. They’re also your escape route – not feeling 100%? Wear a blue bib that day. Want to be pushed extra hard? Step up to green and challenge yourself.
5. A community feel – as soon as I’d joined in I felt part of a group, and as we were cooling down the instructors mentioned a spring social event that was booked for a couple of weeks’ time – bowling and drinks. There aren’t many gyms where members also get a real social element out of their membership.
More About BMF
Hyde Park is the original home of British Military Fitness, starting 16 years ago, but there are now 140 parks nationwide holding BMF classes. BMF are expanding their timetables at the existing parks, rather than adding new ones or now. Classes are predominantly before and after work, but are opening up to more groups, like mum’s for example, by starting up more day-time classes. Sign up for a free trial class here.
British Military Fitness have also teamed up with Ben Coomber, of Body Type Nutrition, to provide basic information and top nutritional tips for fat loss and strength building as well as example daily food guides. These are the foundations for those looking for optimum results in their fitness and nutrition regime. We received a free copy of an ebook that Ben has written for BMF, which I have already put to good use by introducing a recovery drink after my morning workouts. Thanks Ben and BMF!