January 20

Mark’s Bootcamp Story


My bootcamp story

I’ve had a pretty hectic life for a 35 year old guy from Rotherhithe .  I was a father at the age of 17 to a gorgeous baby girl and married at 20.  I had had my world turned up when my second child  “died” five times shortly after birth but being the little fighter he was, he pulled through only for us to later find out he would have cerebral palsy for the rest of his life and then going on to have two more wonderful kids . My mum passed away and shortly afterwards (within the space of a year) my marriage broke down with my former wife heading off to Bournemouth to start a fresh new life and me moving back home to care for my aging father and fulfil my Child Support obligations. 

 My story is not uncommon and I am sure they have probably made films about it but at the time there was no happy ending for me in sight. There was no one to pull me out of this hole that was my life and instead it was easy just muddling through; comfort eating,, not exercising and just existing through each day as it came at me. A pizza here, a Chinese there (throw in some Greggs fresh cream doughnuts) and I was heading for disaster.

So there I was, another Friday night having just shovelled another slice of pizza into my mouth and looking forward to the big tub of Ben and Jerrys Caramel chew chew  for afters when I heard my phone ringing and ran upstairs to grab it.  After only 12 steps(!!) I was huffing and puffing like I had just run the London marathon. Me? Who used to run around a rugby field for 80 minutes no problems was out of breath after 12 measly little steps?

“Right onto the scales “ I told myself and as I stood on those ultimate truth tellers and watch that pesky dial spin and spin and crept up to 18 stone  (the heaviest I had ever been ) I decided to take action.

 The very next day I joined a gym and vowed to go every day after work until I was the picture of peak physical perfection that I knew I was inside me waiting to climb out behind the Greggs cream doughnuts which had lodged themselves stubbornly around my chin and midsection.

Day one at the gym and I felt a little awkward.  There I was Mr Fatty Mcfatterson on a treadmill next to Mo Farrah wannabes and a guy that could only be described as a quicker Usian bolt. I did an hour on the treadmill wanting desperately to look like either of the aforementioned gym goers , “WOW an hour” I hear you say! Yeah don’t get too excited.  It was 58 minutes of that was walking at a “steady” pace (when I say steady I mean slow) but then I was convincing (lying to ?) myself that if I kept this up at the gym the weight would drop off in no time.

Fast forward a month and I was still hitting the gym (although not every night) and was still 18 stone. I decided gym wasn’t going to cut it for me. I needed something extra something a little more structured as when I’m left to my own devices my mind and will power wanders. Basically I needed someone to tell me what to do  

My first thanks has to go to Google. It was a Friday night (my “rest” night) or pizza, film and ice cream night as it had become again and I thought I needed an instructor to whip me into shape so went onto google and searched “bootcamp SE16” coz you know being one of those lazy fat guys I didn’t want to travel too far!

The results came in and there it was, the webpage that I was looking for. It was a gumtree ad and so I whizzed off an email along the lines of “hello could you tell me if this bootcamp is still running” “yes alive and kicking” came the reply and what came after was the email conversation that changed my life

Monday Evening my first bootcamp session at Stave Hill (or the big hill as we called it back in the days of my childhood). Now, I had been around at the hill before and lost count of the amount of times I had been up and down it but this was when I was a kid and a lot lighter and fitter than the 18 stone I was now.

I’m not going to lie walking up Dock Hill Avenue and I was bricking it. I had no idea what to expect. What would the people be like? What would Steph the trainer be like? What would she expect me to do? And as I walked up to the bottom of the hill I spotted this firecracker of a woman and something told me this was Stephanie Henderson.

“Hi are you Steph? “ I managed to blurt out “yes I am and you are?” she replied with a grin on her face“

“I’m Mark “whilst thinking to myself actually I feel like the next sacrificial lamb  

“welcome to boot camp!”

Well what followed can only be described as pain and hurt and I to this day cannot remember what we did in my first session apart from dragging my blubber up and down and around that hill for an hour. There are three things I do actually remember; 1) forgetting to take water which isn’t a mistake I’ve repeated again that’s for sure 2) a feeling of… I just did that? Me? It didn’t kill me… I can do this and 3) running round the hill with Stephanie jogging behind me. There’s me huffing and puffing and red faced and there’s this woman talking, smiling not even breaking a sweat, she told me to walk if I needed to (I think she was worried I was going to pass out the state I was in) but that was my mistake in the gym giving up when it got tough that, and personal pride wouldn’t let me and I didn’t want to give up in front of anyone. I was there to work and work I did

Well, what about the next day? To say I was aching was a massive understatement. I was walking like I had been hit by a freight train that was disguised as a woman and went by the name Stephanie. This went on for a few days and to my shame I had to skip a session as I was thinking if can’t walk how am I going to do a burpee?  But there was no way I was quitting despite the aches there was something about this bootcamp that made me want to go back and try it again.

As I sit here and type these 6 months later and think where am I now? let me tell you I’m 3 stone lighter, the fittest I have ever been in my life my body shape has changed dramatically my confidence has skyrocketed, I have made some amazing friends from IT geeks to Lawyers to insurance actuators (I still have no idea what this is )  and every profession in between.. Hell I’ve even got a fake wife out of it, I could not have met a nicer group of people with so many nationalities (Americans,Irish,Aussies and one or two that are either alien/human DNA experiments or have they have been built in a lab we haven’t quite decided yet ) we are like the United Nations of keeping fit but that’s part of the boot camp charm. People from all walks of life getting together, laughing, joking, training and encouraging each other to do one more burpee or finish that last sprint

Earlier on I mentioned my first thanks goes to Google well my second (and biggest thanks) goes to Stephanie Henderson. I have told her many times she has changed my life and she hears it all the time (because she IS a life changer) but she has no idea what she has done for me. Without her and her bootcamp I’d probably be 20 stone and on my way to an early grave.. Not only has she got me loving exercise (despite my whinges and moans about burpees and actually running)  she has given me so much advice on food and diet that I actually know now what to eat (despite my addiction of snickers duo bars and Greggs fresh cream doughnuts) and what to avoid.This woman has such a passion for fitness ,healthy eating and most of all Bootcamp SE16, it’s hard not to get swept up in her whirlwind and develop a love for bootcamp.  I suppose this is why 6 months on from that first murderous, waterless session myself and couple of the other regulars (gluttons for punishment ? lunatics * delete as appropriate)  have done over 100 sessions and still keep going back for more.

This is meant to be my bootcamp story but it’s not my story. Not really, I Remember in English lessons in school I was told that a good story must have a beginning, a middle and an end, I’ve told you about the beginning and as of now I’m in the middle part but you know what? I don’t want it to end.

So this is my bootcamp journey, a journey that has many more footsteps,warmups.running up those steps, burpees, lunges tyre presses (and “social” events) and whatever else our super Steph can dream up and boy can she dream up some mental stuff (sideways plank walk up the hill anyone? )

No one can see into the future but there is one thing I do know. As long as Steph and Bootcamp SE16 are at stave hill that’s where I’ll be. 



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