British Military Fitness (BMF) – What’s it like?

Bushy Park BMF

I regularly mention my British Military Fitness (BMF) sessions in my posts. I’ve been going to BMF for over 5 years now and keep going back for more.

As I have admitted in the About me post, I used to be 12kgs heavier, and 4 inches larger in the waist.  I ran intermittently, but this wasn’t doing anything to control my weight and get me fit. My flatmate and my best friend used to go regularly to the gym together, but I never really got on with the gym. I always found myself watching the clock, or doing just enough exercise to feel like I’d justified the visit.

I’d heard about BMF a number of times from friends of friends and it sounded like hell. Some super fit crazy people doing press-ups in the mud! But my perception was wrong. Sort of!

At the time I lived opposite Bushy Park and had seen the BMF sessions taking place as I cycled home from work. I looked it up online and saw that the first session was free, so thought – What harm can it do. I can go once and if it is rubbish I will look for something else whilst chilling on the sofa.

One sunny evening in 2011 in nervously pottered down to the car park in Bushy Park, handed over my form, signed the disclaimer and lined up for my first session. That first session was hard but I loved it. It was enjoyable; I felt great afterwards and was incredibly stiff the next day.

What is BMF?

BMF is a probably what you think it is. It’s a bootcamp in regards of what you would think of when you think of army/navy training. It’s exercises; push-ups, sit-ups, squats and the dreaded burpees interspersed with running with the instructor (all ex-military) letting you know the next exercise is and motivating you.

The sessions are broken down into abilities with different bib colours for each. Blue – Beginner, Red – Intermediate and Green – Advanced. BMF really does cater for all finesses. There are people taking their first steps to a fitter lifestyle, people returning from pregnancy and OCR (Obstacle Course Race) winners that come along to maintain fitness and get an all body workout.

What motivates me at BMF?

BMF is hard. As Tom Hanks character said in A League of Their Own (a film I only caught recently)

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great”.

Due to that with regular attendance, the fitness gains are fast and noticeable. You start (like I did) at the back of the blues. Week by week you creep forward through the bunch and then one day you find yourself at the front and you are pulling on a red bib and you’re at the back again. Whilst BMF is not competitive, you can’t help but compare your progression to others around you. You don’t what to miss a week and lose the gains you have worked so hard to achieve.

Knowing others are going to be there, with me, keeps me going. There is a definite social element to BMF, seeing the same people every week. There’s no way I would be able to do anything like that amount of exercise if I was on my own. Especially on a cold, dark, wet winters night.

What do I like about BMF?

It’s really inclusive and friendly. You get introduced and welcomed at your first session. I really do admire first timers who have pushed the procrastination and nerves to the side to turn up. It is a daunting step, but well worth it.

People really do support and encourage each other. The group dynamic has a massive effect. If I was told to do the plank for 2 minutes on my own, I’d have no chance. As I have a person to my left and right are doing exactly the same thing and if I put my knee down the clock starts again. I’m going to suck it up, grit my teeth and get it done.

Being outdoors with no phone and no watch is freeing. It lets you get away from the grind of commuting and the 9 to 5. There’s something nice about not having to think for that hour and just follow the instructor. The time flies by and before you know it you are warming down and it is all done.

BMF Morning
BMF on a beautiful morning!

You can’t cut corners. If you’ve been going for some time, the instructors get to know where you’re at physically. If you’re taking it easy or have bad form on your exercises, they will let you know. I made a big leap with my fitness when I stopped coasting mid group and decided I was going to push myself every session.

No two sessions are the same. One it will focus on legs, one on arms and chests and sometimes on the core. There is now running club at some parks and the monthly fitness test. Being outdoors challenges the body. I used to only run on roads and slightly uneven surfaces would hurt my ankles. Now, the unevenness of the ground has strengthened my ankles and I prefer to run on grass and don’t notice any changes in the surface. The whole park is utilised and the natural features are put to good use.

There are plenty of BMF parks across London and the UK. Depending on where I am geographically, there is normally one nearby I can drop in on. Membership gets you access to all parks.

How could it improve?

This is my personal option, but when I started, the instructors were a bit more serious, drove you harder and use the group to make people stop cheating themselves by making the whole group suffer. This has reduced somewhat as I think the company tries to appeal to more people and the social side of fitness. I do not want the instructors to be my friend. I want them to put me through the ringer and give me a great workout. I’m now self-motivated so this change affects me less, but I think a part of BMF that appealed to me is now missing.

Even though there shouldn’t be, there is a slight competitive element to BMF. There’s a thing about being at the front of the group during the runs between exercises. This means that some rush their exercises, or to put it another way, do not do them correctly in a bid to be at the front of the pack. I am not whiter than white and will miss the odd rep here or there, but I do try to do my exercises properly and do take my time. But the “rushers” are getting called on less and less about their bad form! I know they are only cheating themselves, but it p*sses me off a little, as I want to be at the front too!

Whilst I was bent over, hands on knees recovering at the end of a session a few weeks ago, I said to a fellow attendee “It never gets any easier” to which they replied “No, you just get faster”

That is what I think is so successful about BMF. The gains and the progression never end.

So if you are thinking about getting fit or making some lifestyle changes and struggling with motivation go to the BMF website and sign up for your free session and go try it. There are plenty of like-minded, friendly people there who all decided the same thing and made that change.

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