If you had told me that I would willingly wake up at 5am to go exercise (outdoors! In the cold!) just a week ago, I wouldn’t have believed you – so strong is my dislike for any sort of physical activity that involves running, jumping, sitting up, or pushing up. It’s precisely for this reason that close friends and family questioned my sanity when I signed up for Adventure Boot Camp for Women’s 40 Day Challenge, which kicked off on 19 June.
I’ll admit that I was dreading it in the week leading up to the start of the challenge, but there was no way I was going to back out of it. I struggle with depression and I find that the looming dark cloud tends to hover a little moe frequently during the cold, winter months, so I decided that the endorphins were very necessary – as was the extra reason to drag myself out of the cosy comfort of my bed every morning (one of the perks of working from home? Working from bed, of course… unless you battle with depression – like me – and it ends up making you feel even worse!) So as Monday, 19 June rolled around, I found myself digging around the back of my wardrobe in search of my long-forgotten, barely-used sneakers and pulling on my yoga pants, mentally preparing myself for 40 days of torture.
Day One – 19 June 2017
Honestly? Day one was exactly that: pure torture. Forget friends and family, I questioned my own sanity as I forced myself out of bed at 5am on day one and drove to Rhenish Girls High School in Stellenbosch – in the pitch black night. Seriously. I think it was about six degrees out, I couldn’t feel my face, and I ended up arriving five minutes late because I got hopelessly lost and couldn’t find my group – it was that dark. We started with a warm up jog (not very far – probably about 50 metres or so), a few sit ups, some push ups, and a few other exercises – which I can’t recall, because I started feeling nauseous and dizzy just 15 minutes in. Way to go, Chereen – I know you’re no exercise buff, but I had no idea that you were this weak! I sat out a couple of sets and drank some water, and several of my group members encouraged me to keep going and assured me that it happens all the time. I’d had an apple before leaving for boot camp, and I think that was my mistake – not enough sustenance, along with a bit of a shock to my system, thanks to the sudden 5am wake up call, rather intense exercise (for this couch potato, at least), and the biting cold. I couldn’t wait to get home and crawl back into my warm bed, and that’s exactly what I did – and I stayed there all day, working from underneath my duvet and dreading day two.
Day Two – 20 June 2017
I really wasn’t keen to go to boot camp on day two, particularly since day one was so incredibly tough and left me feeling quite down. I felt as though my body was a bit useless, to be honest – wasn’t exercise supposed to release a whole bunch of feel-good hormones and boost your mood? So why did my first boot camp session leave me feeling so low? Thankfully, I managed to drag myself out of bed and made it to boot camp – dressed in significantly more layers, and having wolfed down a slice of wholewheat toast with peanut butter and my morning cup of coffee (I skipped coffee on day one because I didn’t think it was the right thing to drink before exercising – by day two, I couldn’t care less whether it was right or wrong, I just wanted something warm and delicious in my system!) I chatted to my trainer, Jameson, about how I’d felt the day before, and she assured me that it was normal – she mentioned that the exercises we’d done on day one focused on awakening the nervous system, so it was likely that my body was just in a bit of shock.
My experience of day two was the polar opposite of day one – sure, it was hard (Tuesdays focus on arms and abs, and as someone with pretty weak arms, I wasn’t expecting to do very well at all), but I left boot camp on a high. Finally! The endorphins I’d been longing for were starting to circulate, and even the cold wasn’t enough to put me off from coming to boot camp. I got home, took a quick (hot) shower, and immediately got stuck into work – and it was the most productive day I’d had in a good couple of weeks.
Day Three – 21 June 2017
My husband couldn’t hide the shock on his face when I explained just how excited I was for day three of boot camp. Just three days in, and I’m already hooked… I enjoy waking up before the rest of the world (well, it feels that way anyway), dressing up warm, grabbing my travel coffee mug, and listening to a podcast while driving to boot camp. It feels like some much-needed me-time, and I wouldn’t exchange this precious time for anything.
On Wednesdays, the focus is very much on legs, with a good dose of cardio. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this: on the one hand, I’m really rather looking forward to it because I know that my legs are pretty strong, but I’m also dreading it, because I hate cardio. I don’t jog. I don’t run. I don’t jump. It’s not in my nature. But boot camp has this wonderful way of teaching you all these new things about yourself – things you never really knew, like the fact that I totally have it within me to be a morning person, that I actually enjoy exercising, and that my arms are actually much stronger than my legs (bring on Tuesdays, down with Wednesdays!) As the husband pointed out, this probably has to do with the fact that I carry a 20-something kilogram pre-schooler around almost daily – thanks for that, Bean!
I won’t lie: cardio kinda killed me today, and I hated boot camp the entire time that I was there… I recall sneaking a peek at my phone at one point, convinced that there can surely only be about 10 minutes left, and it was only 6:28. Over half an hour left to go… kill me now! I managed to get through it though, and once it was over, I felt amazing. Boot camp was all I could talk about all day, and I happily went off to bed an hour earlier than usual.
Day Four – 22 June 2017
My alarm goes off at 5am and – oh joy – it’s raining. I momentarily think about turning over and going back to sleep, but then I think about all the other women in my group who will push through and make it to boot camp despite the rain. I will not be that person that flunks out on day four! I pull on my hoodie and slip into my sneakers, and off I go. Again, the quiet drive to Rhenish is something I absolutely revel in – I love having a few quiet moments to myself at the start of the day, and it’s becoming a little ritual that I look forward to at the end of each day. I love the opportunity to savour a cup of coffee while listening to a podcast, but occasionally, I drive in complete silence.
I arrive at boot camp at 6am and there’s literally no one around. Everyone’s cars are there, but they’re not in our usual spot, thanks to the rain. Thankfully one of my fellow boot campers spotted my headlights and came running along to direct me to our boot camp spot for the day – in the quad, under cover. I rather enjoy today’s session because there’s a whole lot less running around (the rain makes that a tad difficult), and we end up doing a circuit. I struggle through the circuit and am way last but I don’t feel too bad, because everyone else in my group has done boot camp at least once before, and everyone is so incredibly supportive – no judgement here! By the time 7am rolls around, I’m ready to go home – but no getting back into bed for me, because we need to start packing up our house for our impending move! My body is already pretty sore thanks to my new exercise routine, but hey… if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this past week, it’s that I’m a whole lot stronger – both mentally and physically – than I thought!
Day Five – 23 June 2017
Day five! I can hardly believe that I’ve made it to day five, and that I’ve managed to get up and out of the house to exercise by 5:30am every morning for a week. I’m also really, really looking forward to the prospect of a little lie in on Saturday morning! Thankfully, there’s no rain today, and I’m already feeling stronger and fitter just a few days in. (I swear my abs are feeling a little tighter, too…) Now that I’m one week in, I’m pretty adamant that I’ll make it to the full 40 days – even though the next two months are gearing up to be a bit frantic. We’ve just found out that our landlord has managed to find new tenants to move into our house on 1 July, which means we have exactly one week to pack up our entire house. Thankfully, we have family in Kalk Bay who have offered us their house for the month of July, so this is a very welcome development… except I’m really starting to enjoy my boot camp sessions with Jameson and the group of women at the Stellenbosch boot camp, and I’m not really looking forward to switching to another group! The amazing team at Adventure Boot Camp has been so helpful and supportive in terms of assisting me in finding a new group closer to Kalk Bay so that I can continue throughout the month of July. I’ll need to do another switcheroo at the end of July, once we’ve arrived in Johannesburg, but despite all this, I’m determined to make it work and to complete the full 40 days.
Five days in and I feel stronger, healthier, and more productive – I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me over the next few weeks! As I mentioned in this post, I wanted to start boot camp in order to get a little more fit and to keep my depression at bay, but now I’m pretty keen to tone up and strengthen my arms, legs and abs a bit. I’m looking forward to my clothes fitting better, feeling stronger, being able to go for a full-on run (I’ve registered for the Park Run – I might attempt my first 5kms in the next month or two!), making friends, and confidently wearing a bikini this summer. Bring. It. On!
Keen to sign up for Adventure Boot Camp (or simply want to find out more)? Click here to visit their website, and don’t forget to go show them some love over on Facebook and Instagram! (The annual 40 Day Challenge happens only once a year during the winter months, but you can sign up for their four week programme all-year round – click here to find your nearest location).
Images: Supplied by Adventure Boot Camp