I’m discovering that the trick in this journey is not to take yourself too seriously – and to surround yourself with others who certainly won’t let you.
One constant over the last 6 years has been morning boot camp madness. You have to be a certain sort of mad to set the alarm for 5.10 AM (!) and join a band of fellow nutters twice a week, come rain or shine, to be blasted by someone much fitter, much angrier about the early start than you, and much more accustomed to military ways.
I laugh when I hear about people meeting their new partner at their local gym for I can’t imagine this happening at my boot camp – even though all the members are legitimately ‘fit’ – they are also all officially taken. This provides a safe puddle for me to splash about in for my current season.
In winter you arrive looking three times larger because you’re wearing three pairs of leggings, waterproof socks and a fetching bandana to cover your ears and your skanky hair. Luckily it’s so dark, that no-one can tell what you look like anyway – this is fortunate because there’s unlikely to be any mascara on at silly o’clock.
And if it’s wet and muddy (which in the Winter it usually is)? Naturally, the warm up involves rolling around on the ground so that you can, ‘get over yourself,’ immediately and warm up in the mire.
There’s nothing more levelling than being told, ‘your arse is sticking out’ when in fact you know that’s just the position your arse is used to taking and that it’s unlikely to learn any new tricks at this ‘midster’ age. I’m a personal believer that women can’t do press ups, but I’ve never met an instructor who believes this, or any male boot campers who won’t ridicule your pathetic attempts to build upper body strength so that everyone else zones in on the fact that you’re really just holding a plank position and that the only up and down movement is in your head.
There has been progress over 6 years though. I can now partner up for a wheelbarrow race without face-planting on my first attempt. I’m also so ‘over myself’ that I’ve stopped apologising to any partner unlucky enough to have to piggy back me around a football pitch – it’s their own stupid fault for picking me in the first place. I’m helping their overall fitness with my extra baggage, surely? Perhaps I’m not just larger because of the three pairs of leggings, after all, perhaps I’ve learning gravit-arse…
Abuse? Plenty. Male farting and belching? Affirmative. The best way to start a day? Definitely.
Over my 6+ years of boot camping I have grown to love these other mud-smothered early birds. There’s no frippery or flattery but my goodness the banter is quick fire (if totally un-PC). Everyone needs to roll in the mud and belly laugh as well as belly crawl once in a while, and it’s all over by 7 am so you can bask in smugness for the rest of the day.
Although I’d never tell them while we’re ‘falling’ into some rank or some file (I still get confused about which is which) I’ve genuinely appreciated that this gang have held back the banter about the carelessness of a second break up of the same marriage, and ignored the odd leaky eye when it strikes without warning. They’ve seemed genuinely pleased (in an understated way) that I’ve kept attending throughout a particularly muddy time in my life. Pain is just weakness leaving the body, according to the instructor.
In fact, when I performed the most perfect prat fall during an uphill walk with Favourite Son over Easter, as I lay face down in a muddy path, I think he was surprised that I was too busy laughing to get myself back up on my feet. I’m used to the mud and I’m learning to not take myself too seriously – although I was grateful for his helping hand to get me upright again once I’d stopped sliding around.
The mornings are getting lighter again and there will surely soon be less mud to slide around in. I’ll miss it in a way, but it will give me a chance to work on my upper body strength, brutally encouraged by the same constant band of companions ready to, ‘whip my arse into shape,’ and to ensure that I don’t take life too seriously. I might not even dig out the waterproof mascara this summer season ; they’ll be able to see my face again, but then I think they know me anyway, so won’t be fooled by any facial ‘gym kit’. I’m ready for the summer games to commence and I’m secretly hoping for an early game of Stuck in the Mud.