Fitness boot camp opens in Thetford

THE sound of fake gunfire and punishing military exercises are a million miles away from a stereotypical relaxing holiday in Thetford Forest.

THE sound of fake gunfire and punishing military exercises are a million miles away from a stereotypical relaxing holiday in Thetford Forest.

But a new business venture on the Norfolk-Suffolk border is putting paying members of the public through similar drills being practiced by servicemen and women at the nearby Stanford Training Area.

It is certainly no health spa, but a group of trainers are hoping to whip overweight participants into shape and boost fitness levels following the launch of Norfolk's first residential boot camp.

The first paying guests of the Combat Boot Camp at Thorpe Woodlands, near Thetford, began a gruelling weekend break of punishing exercises, outdoor activities, and healthy meals last week , which aims to reduce guests' waist size and improve their quality of life.

A gentle stroll in the forest it is not. Attendees are subjected to long walks and runs, weight training, boxing, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, and war games with laser rifles during an intensive stay at the new destination.

And unlike an all inclusive holiday, there is no alcohol, chocolate or fatty takeaway foods for guests to tuck into following a physically draining 12 hour day.

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Officials behind the new boot camp experience said they hoped to motivate participants into lifelong exercise and healthy eating habits.

Lead trainer Ronnie Hughes, a former physical training instructor in the Royal Navy, said the seven and five day courses were a mix of tough military-style workouts and fun outdoor activities.

“We cannot expect people to be militarised in one week, but we are introducing the ethos and people take from it what they want. We want to empower people and we do not get physically hold of any one.”

“We are bamboozling them with everything to the point that they do not realise they are working out. There are no rules or regulations,” he said.

The opening of the boot camp at Shadwell, near Thetford, for 18 to 55-year-olds has resulted in the creation of five new jobs and will target guests from across the east of England and London.

A weeklong course costs �895, but Mr Hughes said he aimed to teach people that they can lose weight and be healthier without having to join a gym or start a fad diet.

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“Hands in pockets - that's 10 press ups,” orders physical trainer Ronnie Hughes at the beginning of a boot camp exercise at Thorpe Woodlands.

Several punishments and about 100 press ups later, the former Royal Navy instructor informs me that I'll have a “chest like Dolly Parton”, if I carry on with the same regime.

I would normally class myself as fairly healthy, but when I stand next to my physically ripped trainer, who is the same age as me, I suddenly feel like a 20st slob.

I joined half a dozen other brave members of the media on Friday to sample life in Norfolk's first boot camp. The exercise began with countless press ups, push ups, and squats using a piece of kit called a suspension trainer, which aims to “strengthen your core”, but leaves every muscle in your upper body shaking and aching.

The instructors are more motivating than militant and the second part of the afternoon was reserved for a more fun activity of running around the forest shooting another member of the Combat Boot Camp staff with a laser gun.

I leave the forest shattered, but better off for it. However, I do not envy those who sign up to a whole week of it.