……..and relax! After a gruelling 3 and bit weeks, I’ve finally finished the BMF challenge, which can only be described as a killer!
For those that don’t know, BMF (British Military Fitness) is outdoors exercise instructed & completed under the watchful eyes of instructors – all of which are either current or ex-serving military personnel. Who better to put you through your paces than those who have been beasted by the military’s finest PTIs. Each session is about 60 minutes of constant movement, using circuits, relays, sprints & military activities. If you think you’ve had a tough session in the gym, you don’t know tough until you’ve been to a BMF session! But don’t think this is US Marine Corps camp, where instructors scream & shout 3 inches from your face – quite the opposite. The guys that take BMF are massively motivating & encouraging. It’s no walk in the park, but they definitely know how to get the best out of you. And to make sure you get the most out of each session, they split you into 3 groups: blue for beginners, red for intermediate & green for the elite!
Given the military association with the challenge project, I thought that I had to get BMF involved in one of the challenges in some way. I used to go pretty regularly when I first joined in 2011, but challenge training commitments had gotten in the way over the last year. So there was no way round it, 21 BMF sessions in March was going to be tough – especially considering I had the upper body strength of a 7 year old girl!
The original plan was to complete one session a night Monday to Thursday, have Friday off, then a session on Saturday & Sunday. As I have become accustomed to with the project, plans don’t always go to plan. At the start of March I also began my training to become an instructor in the Army Cadet Force, meaning that Monday & Thursday were out of bounds, as I was either training or at my detachment. Obviously I still needed to go to work during the day, so the challenge schedule became double sessions on Tuesday & Sunday, single sessions on Wednesday & Saturday, ACF Monday & Thursday, while coming up for air on a Friday. As you can probably tell, March was a month filled with lots of yawns, aching body parts and minimal to no social interaction with the outside world.
I can’t continue with this tale without mentioning one of the best mates a guy could ask for, Nathanael Dannenberg, who agreed to take part in this challenge, and join me in completing 21 BMF sessions. No stranger to [21:21] Nat had already felt the pain of getting involved, completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks with us last summer – I think he’s still to forgive me for the blistered wounds his feet displayed after that fateful day. By the looks of it, he was in pre-BMF training up the hills in Yorkshire!
Nat’s always been a massive support to me during the project, backing the project 110%, but this month he put his muscles where his mouth is, and undertook 21 BMF sessions with me.
Each session brought its own difficulties: press ups, sit ups, burpees, star jump, jumping jacks, commando crawling, hill sprints, squats and planks to name but a few. One particular session decided to concentrate on press ups, during which we managed variations of press ups that I’d never even heard of, let alone knew that I could do. And after a while away from them, the plyometrics reared their ugly head – oh how I loved the plyometric jumping!Using 3 local parks in South Manchester, we had our bodies pushed day after day. Outside BMF we were used to a tough workout, followed by a few days of recovery, whereas in March we were beasted, and then beasted some more, and just as we were about to stand still to 2 seconds, beasted some more! The great thing was, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also saw improvements in my running & general fitness given the endurance & sprint training that we’d been doing – not to mention my core strength.
I’m still quite a way from a washboard stomach, but have a lot less podge, a lot more muscle & I’ve even seen improvement in my upper body – I think I’ve finally managed to reach the chest of an average 28 year old man. And whilst I still need to work on the arms (I did only have a month remember), I don’t think I’ve ever been this fit in my entire life.
The warmth of Dubai and the speedy 4.5 hour challenge of the marathon, seemed a LONG way away during these 21 sessions. As with any of the prolonged challenges, you don’t get the immediate satisfaction of finishing a race, nor do you get the boost of a cheering crowd. After the sessions I’d head home cold & muddy, have a shower, and by the time I’d got some dinner, it was time to go to bed. My mental perseverance has improved massively over the last year, and it was this that made the month go by more easily – not mention knowing that Nat was going through the same arduous torture that I was going through too!
However, it was the instructors that really helped get me not only get through the sessions, but helped to change my fitness levels & overall ability. Firstly, I have to say thank you to Taz, who from the start has backed my BMF challenge, and also put me in touch with the powers that be, meaning that, and I’m VERY excited to say, BMF have now become official sponsors of the [21:21] challenge project.
Aaron, Charlie, Luke, Jon & Jackie all equally deserve a big shout out, for some damn hardcore sessions, which pushed me further than I thought possible. While I wasn’t overly happy at the time, more often than not Aaron would pull me into a green session as a fast red – damn those speedy legs! My aim is to get into the green elites before I head off to Ecuador last this year. (Jon, Taz & Luke below)
And Charlie. What can I say about Charlie? This Irn-bru drinking machine is a trooper. Each session would start with a reminder of how Charlie runs his sessions:
There are a few rules I have in my sessions. Firstly, no hands in pockets, cos that’s just rude. No hands on hips, cos we’re not on Naval shore leave. No arms folded, cos we’re not in the RAF awaiting promotion. And no hands on heads, unless I’m feeling generous. And I never feel generous. If I see any of these, then oooooush 5 press ups. And if I see anyone standing still, you’ll all get a special prize, and we all love prizes don’t we. YES! Good.
Whilst I was lucky enough to never get the 5 press up punishment, I woke up many a night in a cold sweat hearing the immortal sounds of “OOOOOOUSH, down you go”.
In all seriousness though, March’s challenge was without a doubt a tough one, battering every part of the body. But it was a great one, having such a motivating & fun team to push us forward. Given its military background, I also enjoyed getting even a millionth of a glimpse to what Nick would have gone through on a daily basis (although he would have had 5 hours plus a day, every day for 32 weeks). It’s also given me some great ideas for when I’m let loose on the cadet PT sessions.
So a big thank you to BMF, the Manchester instructors & the South Manchester parks for making this a top challenge, and a MASSIVE thank you to Nat, who endured the cold, the rain, the mud and the pain to support Help for Heroes and raise more money for such a worthwhile cause.
Finally, before I depart, let me ask you this: if you’re reading this from the comfort of your arm chair, and the thought of one BMF session fills you with fear, then I urge you to think again. Go on. Give it a try. It could be the change you need in your life. It’s definitely made me fitter, leaner & faster – and that’s just in one month. They even give you the first session free, and you can’t say fairer than that.
But if I can’t inspire you to give it a go, then maybe I can inspire you to give a few quid to help support our lads on the front line. They’ve been through the military fitness training, and have been sent to war. They’ve given their all, and sadly some have paid gravely. They need our support.
Support from the country they are serving.
So go on, click on the link below and give what you can. £1, £10, £100 – whatever you can give will go a long way to help us reach our £10,000 target, which will be used to help support our wounded servicemen & women when they come back home. Whatever your amount, it will go towards helping them put their lives back together after the horrors of war.
Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge