After ten years of living in London, and seven being pretty heavily involved in fitness, we have no idea how we’ve never actually tried a British Military Fitness class. It’s perhaps because they’re so embedded in the London park fitness scene that they’re often forgotten against the dozens of new fitness studios and fancy boutique spaces opening up every month. Well, at least for us anyway.
Fitness in London can often feel like a fog of marketing and novelty, and being engrained in it can make you forget about the things that are already there. For something to have existed in that space for seventeen years, and still be going from strength to strength, suggests that they’re doing something right. Especially considering the fact we can’t even remember the last time we saw a marketing campaign for it.
Basically we’re bigging BMF up, in a big way. Before heading to Clapham Common a few weeks ago to try out our free trial class (everyone gets one), we assumed that the session would be relatively easy. We’ve been to a fair few outdoor bootcamp style sessions in the past, and a lot of them were tailored towards more general exercise than a really tough, structured workout.
We couldn’t have been more wrong.
The group, of about 50 people, was split into three different colour grades: blue, red and green, with blue being the easiest and green the hardest. We decided to choose blue – it was a Tuesday night, we were tired. Starting at one side of the park, our BMF instructor took some of the group and began the warm-up; a series of cardio and mobility drills that took us about 300 metres across the grass. This alone was pretty tiring, the mix of jogs, sprints and static bodyweight exercises creating a sort of relentless effort that you don’t get when you’re doing a HIIT class in a studio.
For the next hour our instructor Tom, both friendly and fun, but not the type of guy you want to mess with, made us jog, sprint and jump across the park, stopping every 100 metres or so to perform a series of exercises ranging from press ups to sit ups and partner exercises. He even threw in a few interestingly devised group drills prompting everyone to run towards him until they were first in line and then had to stop to do a few burpees. There were a hell of a lot of burpees.
Considering we were in the middle group, it was a damn hard session. Fitness is all about conditioning the body to a certain type of exercise and movement, and no amount of indoor classes or outdoor running can prepare you for a one hour onslaught of sprints, bodyweight movements and steady cardio. By the end we were lying on the floor rasping for breath.
After seventeen years you’d hope that BMF had got to grips with the workout format, and they don’t disappoint. The session was perfectly planned out, with instructor Tom timing every sprint and exercise down to the second. He’d carefully spot the varying abilities in the group and modify the number of reps to ensure there were no stragglers, whilst still ensuring everyone was pushed to what they could do. The sign of an instructor that really understands how to control a class, and considering the number of people attending, that’s no easy feat.
If you’re looking to pack on muscle, then BMF isn’t for you. Instead it’s a perfect all-round training for people who want to get fitter and healthier. It ticks a lot of boxes, managing to pack in strength, cardio, mobility and speed all into one carefully planned session. Being outdoors is a massive bonus as well, not to mention the social aspect of the whole thing (everyone is friendly, they do social events, that sort of thing).
If you sign up, you’re looking at paying £38 per month for one class a week or £51 for unlimited classes (you definitely need to do more than one class a week if it’s your main fitness), with the cost increasing if you don’t want a contract. So in terms of comparison to gym memberships or HIIT studios in London, it’s a damn good deal. You can also pay per session, with 10 coming in at £145.
There are loads of sessions across London and the UK, so there’s probably one at a park near you. For more information, head on over to the website here. You can also sign up for your free trial class, which is well worth using just to see what it’s like (they don’t pressure you to join).
Picture Credits: British Military Fitness