January 20

Marika’s Bootcamp Story


How Bootcamp did the impossible

By Marika Johnston


I won’t bore you with all the details, but I think my life is awesome all round.  I have always had a great family, nabbed the best husband, and have some very good friends.  I have travelled the world and have a great home in my favourite city. My mom says I was born under a lucky star. 

But just when I thought it couldn’t get better, along came Bootcamp SE16. Let me tell you why.

The early years

I have always had too much energy.  I was born into an active family, started running at 8 & ½ months and haven’t stopped!  My parents and two older brothers were always involved in numerous sports; add that to growing up in Canada & Switzerland where we would regularly ski on the winter weekends and white-water raft in summer made for an exciting upbringing.

I was a hyperactive tomboy from the start and wanted to do everything my big brothers did.  This included skiing at 1 + ½ years old; ice skating shortly after; and jumping off a 10 metre diving board (twice unaided) before the age of two.  I was fearless and would do anything – my parents continue to remind me of this and can’t recall how many times I skied too far past the last lift and they had to walk me back up the mountain!  However that didn’t mean I didn’t want to look good and would frequent the ‘everything pink’ fashion (especially frilly socks I’m told) which earned me the childhood nickname ‘pinky’. 

Growing up I tried pretty much every sport under the sun, and indoors.  Due to my hypermobility I was particularly good at trampolining & gymnastics.  I played tennis constantly; horse rode; and was on the rounders, hockey, athletics & netball teams at school.  I played volleyball for one of the local clubs with my brothers and occasionally tried out more random sports including kick boxing & synchronised swimming.  I recall one time Scott (my husband) and I were watching an Olympics and I started commenting on the technique needed for that particular event.  Scott said to me “are there any sports you haven’t tried?!”  I’m quite proud of the amount & diversity of sports I have been able to be involved in!

I’m a morning person.  I expect I drive Scott mad – his normal wake up alarm is me re-enacting my strange dream; asking one of my random (but normally insightful) questions; or explaining my thoughts on a movie I recently watched that is still haunting me; all before 7am!  I find the mornings are when I’m at my peak and my ideal routine is to cycle/run to the office and fit in a class (ideally spinning/pilates) before my work day starts.

The beginning

I ran the London Marathon in April 2014.  This is one of my proudest accomplishments, but anyone who has completed one will know the training is very tough.  It involves a lot of running, and I mean A LOT of running – long runs, short runs, fartlek runs, plus some strength training and rest days.  Fitting all this is in, along with a full time job and having a social life is near impossible.

After completing this I knew I was leaving my job, and therefore also my gym, and had to find something to fill the exercise gap.  I looked in to quite a lot of local options including sports centres/gyms/cross fit etc. and then I found ‘BOOTCAMP SE16’ by googling ‘bootcamps in SE16’!  Immediately this caught my attention, I proceeded to get very excited, and dragged my husband along that Saturday morning.

Those who know me know I am not the shy/retiring type, and it didn’t take me long to feel at home at bootcamp (maybe 5 minutes).  I was beaming after that first session and knew I had found something special. 

The workout was very tough and I remember the both of us feeling stiff for the following couple of days.  As someone who regularly works out, you don’t always get that feeling, so we knew we were on to something good.  Little did I know then quite how much Bootcamp SE16 would change my life both physically and socially.

If you’re in any doubt – just go once and see what the fuss is all about.


I have guns.  I have always had an athletic physique and been active, however now I am strong.  I can do push ups, I can do spiderman push ups, I can do one-legged push ups!  My guns have become more toned, but more importantly more useful.  Bootcamp is great all round and excellent for strength training. 

As you read this you will probably get a sense that I am quite a fit and active person – I am, and bootcamp has really helped me to maintain this lifestyle.  I still run and cycle regularly and enjoy a variety of activities.  Bootcamp is a regular challenge which works the whole body and you can make it as hard as you want – grab a heavier tyre, squat lower (ass to grass), lunge deeper or wear the weighted vest Jane!  It never gets boring and 9 months in will still give you that day-after achy feeling. 

I love having something to train towards and have competed in a few triathlons and done some cycling events.  As a bootcamp team we completed Mudderrella in August which was great fun and has spurred us on to do more events.   

Before bootcamp I would have never done more in the evenings than cycle/run/walk/tube home, and the most lifting I would have done would be a nice glass of wine.  Our evening routine at home used to involve sitting on the couch watching TV and eating a big dinner.

Now our evenings are much more fulfilling – even if you’re knackered from work, it’s too tempting not to put on the lycra (sometime this includes ‘crazy’ patterned leggings or dressing like Hulk Hogan!) and slam some tyres outside with great people.  I genuinely find each day is more fun as I know it will end on a high note seeing my friends and working up a good sweat.

As Scott also goes when he can get out of work, we have more quality time together and eat smaller & healthy meals in the evening (although I think he is fed up with soup and won’t learn to love crumpets/muffins despite my best efforts.  One crumpet-loading bootcamper swears Nutella on a crumpet is the best!)

It never gets boring and it never gets easy.  It’s the best all over body workout I have found and has had a hugely positive impact on my fitness and lifestyle.  Warning – it is highly addictive. 


I am actually finding it hard to put in to words what social affect this has had on my life.  Let’s try this – I have found some likeminded & crazy people who I adore.  To spend several evenings a week outside on Stave Hill or in the park surrounded by wonderful people who have shared interests is fantastic.  And then on top of this are the numerous and varied social events that happen.  It really is a case of ‘work hard, play hard’!!

I have made some very close friends at bootcamp and the group size just keeps growing!  I genuinely feel very lucky to know these amazing people and to get to spend time working out and hanging out with them.  It’s inspiring to see what a positive impact bootcamp has had on their lives, and to see people become fitter and stronger. 

They are all characters that bring something to the table – one can get your whole life story and tell you theirs just during stretching!

It’s therapeutic and we’re always laughing (and occasionally chatting too much which normally earns us extra burpees – couldn’t write this without mentioning burpees!).   

When you get told over drinks that a couple of bootcampers thought you were a hybrid German grown in a lab when you first joined (and has earned you the nickname M-Tek), you feel pretty special. 

I turned thirty last December.  Age has never worried me; I am probably the happiest & fittest I have ever been and have achieved more than I expected to at this age.

I started drafting this before my birthday and wasn’t going to say much else – then the boozecampers threw me an amazing minion-themed surprise party!  It was one of the nicest things friends have ever done for me and I was so touched by the effort everyone went to.  It was outstanding and this just shows you what type of friendships can be formed and how special the bootcampers are. 

It really has created a feeling of community around Canada Water and made me love where I live even more.  It’s great knowing so many locals and bumping into friends all the time (even in Tesco when hungover and looking crap!). There’s also a strong online community where many jokes, tips & photos are shared on a regular basis.   

We had x25 bootcampers over to celebrate New Year’s and had a wonderful time.  Having everyone stood together on the balcony watching the fireworks at midnight was a real highlight of the year for me.  I love Bootcamp SE16. 

The leader

Steph is the founder, heart & soul of Bootcamp SE16 and literally works her butt off for us.  As much as aviator Steph terrifies us, and she makes us work bloody hard, she is so generous & brilliant.  Every session is different, and just when you think it can’t get better/harder Steph finds a way.  Steph works tirelessly to make sure our workouts are effective and interesting, but does the same on the social side.  Steph created Bootcamp SE16 and everyone involved makes it what it is.  I am a proud member of #stephsarmy. 


Without a doubt joining Bootcamp SE16 is one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

Meeting for the first time when you’re all wearing lycra (yes, even the boys), with no make-up, covered in mud & sweat means there’s no superficial crap.  You see everyone at their truest, and everyone is there for the same reason – to work out and have fun.  Bootcampers become your family and share a special bond.  I thought my life couldn’t get any better, but Bootcamp SE16 has taken it up yet another level.



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