Military fitness - is it for you?

Caroline Cassidy
young couple exercising and...
young couple exercising and...

Fitness fads come and go, but military-style fitness has been growing in popularity for some years now and looks likely to stay the course. For those looking to lose weight, increase their fitness levels and enjoy a sociable training regime, military fitness could be for you.

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What does it involve?
Military fitness programmes are, well, exactly what they say they are. You won't be training for the SAS per se, but you will typically be outdoors, in a group, and you will be pushed, although never beyond your limits. What is involved in each session depends largely on the group, the weather and the venue, but expect a variety of exercises from running, sprints, resistance and strength, hill training, warm-ups and cool downs. As the name suggests, the instructors are typically tough and from military backgrounds, and while they will be firm, it's still supportive and encouraging atmosphere. Be aware too that sessions go ahead whatever the weather, and will involve lying down, so if you're precious about mud and mess, it's possibly not for you.

What are the benefits?
Military fitness sessions are basically like circuit training and can be pretty intense. But that also means you could burn between 400 and 800 calories per class, according to British Military Fitness. Because the sessions are varied and each one is different, it can also help to keep motivation up. Furthermore, if you lacking in that department, you need only get yourself to the class - the instructor will do the rest!

Aside from the obvious fitness benefits, what really keeps people going back to these classes is the group itself. Many find that they have more fun in a group, and enjoy the sense of camaraderie. And a little healthy competition does wonders for your motivation too. Classes also cater for a wide variety of abilities and fitness levels, so don't be put off if you're unfit or returning to exercise after a break. Although the instructors will push you to do your best, that is all that's required. Nobody is expected to do more than they are physically able.

What are the downsides?
As mentioned above, military fitness goes ahead whatever the weather and getting down and dirty is all part of the fun, so it's not for those who want to keep their fabulous fitness gear in pristine condition. Though it's outside, you'll warm up quickly and the right gear is essential, so expect to fork out for a couple of good quality, breathable layers that will wick away sweat, and trainers with excellent grip for those slippery winter conditions.

In most cases you'll be referred to by the number on your supplied bib too, and that army style of 'encouragement' isn't for everyone. If you suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma, outdoor winter workouts are not advisable, and for those who are seriously overweight, you could run the risk of injury with such a full-on and non-stop workout.

Lastly, don't expect miracle results. In order to benefit from any fitness regime, you need to keep at it. Though you'll be able to start with one session a week, three to four over a seven-day period will ensure you really start seeing results.

Where do I sign up?
British Military Fitness was the original 'military style' group set up in the UK and has been running since 1999. It now operates in 27 parks, in 13 cities across the country, and all instructors are current or former, qualified army training instructors. It allows you to try one class for free, or you can pay monthly, for unlimited classes, or by buying a block of sessions.
Others have since sprung up, of course, including Military Workout Ltd, Civilian Military Fitness, Military Fitness 4 U and Army Boot Camp Fitness. Some run classes throughout the week, but intense weekend or seven-day courses are also available, so check the various websites for locations and options. Word of mouth is often a good way to find a local class, and if you're unsure as to whether it's for you, go and watch a session before signing up.

Do you attend military fitness classes? What advice would you give to others considering joining a group? Leave your comments below...

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