Day six is D-Day, and we present ourselves at 7.30am sharp for the fitness test with some degree of trepidation. We already know from Stuart's extensive experience of other boot camps that we are likely to significantly beat our gym results from the first day, and we don't disappoint him. We lower our expectations for the run - after such an intense week it is normal for run speeds to decrease - but he hadn't factored on the fact he has a bunch of competitive high achievers in the camp this week and we all come in with smiles on our faces.
Weigh-in time comes next, which is the high or the low for many in the group. Fraser confesses that he escaped for a meal in a local Italian restaurant part way through the week, yet has still managed to shed 12lbs. Without exception everyone in the group has lost between 6lbs and 12lbs and several inches, generally from the waist. This is perhaps the point to admit that I had not intended to lose weight, just to increase fitness, and was being fed man-sized portions and additional early-morning and late-night rations as well as all the lovely healthy meals. At no point was I really hungry. We pass around some bags of oats and realise what a huge amount 12lbs is, and what a huge accomplishment for the group as a whole.
As snow starts to fall and we contemplate being snowed in for the weekend we decide we have done all we set out to do, and that the camp should finish a day early. Bags are packed, tearful farewells said and promises to keep in touch are made. Those who have been on a Boot Camp generally keep in touch with the rest of the group after going through so much together during the week.
Six days ago I arrived at Shooka ready to tolerate it for a few days for review purposes and then make my escape. Today I am leaving lighter, fitter, healthier, with new healthy habits, new friends, a renewed confidence and without the need of alcohol or caffeine - although I can't promise that one will be forever.
I can't recommend it highly enough.
Our thanks to Shooka Bootcamps for hosting us for the week.
It seems it is my turn; I wake with a painful chest, banging headache and a fever. Training today is not an option and I am gutted. A week ago I would have thought of any excuse to get out of a work out. Now I am trying to think of ways to drag myself into the gym but can barely drag myself downstairs to let the instructors know I am heading back to bed.
I wake up mid afternoon to find a glass of freshly juiced fruits and vegetables by my bed, and head downstairs to find the group have finished early after a gruelling morning of Krav Maga, dumbbell overload circuits and boxing, lunch of broth and an afternoon walk. I am craving exercise and fresh air so head off for a short walk.
The forecast is warning of snow on Friday and I can't risk being stranded here for the weekend so make arrangements to leave a day early. Others are getting twitchy but the general consensus is to carry on as planned tomorrow but perhaps leave at the end of the day rather than early on Friday. Everyone is keen to get in that one last day of training.
After a huge supper of salmon and pak choy we say goodbye to owner, John, who is heading home to Switzerland early before the snow comes in. He is planning a luxury boot camp in the ski resort of Klosters, Switzerland, due to open later this Spring. We toast the successful week with half a glass of champagne and a delicious chocolate mousse. Not sure which I have missed the most.
For this evening's activity Victoria from Fake Bake sets up her tent and treats us all to a spray tan. Great debates on Original, Golden or 1 Hour, but they all look a fantastic and very natural, even for mid January.
The look is completed with a manicure using goodies sent to blogger ReallyRee to review - a lovely MaxFactor Glossfinity in cerise red.
Only one more day. I am going to miss this place.
The Ultimate Diet
Thanks to Sandra and Victoria of Fake Bake, who brought some lovely home tanning products for us to try, I wake up looking so much healthier, and with bags of energy.
That is more than could be said for the Shooka team. While we are all basking in our renewed energy, the PR, Hayley, is in bed for a second day, instructor Will is ill, Stuart is coughing and Bear has sprained his ankle. The owner, John, has been to an emergency doctor and been prescribed enough drugs to get a giraffe back on it's feet. It seems that the chef is the only one still properly fit to work, but with their military backgrounds the others soldier on regardless.
The boxing class proved so popular earlier in the week that we are treated to a similar but more complex session before a breakfast of quinoa, cinnamon, blueberries and pumpkin seeds. If I tried to feed this to my family they would throw back it at me, but we dutifully tuck in, and it is surprisingly edible.
One of the main aims of the team at Shooka (second only to health and safety) is to aid weight loss and they are very, very good at that. Women are restricted to 1200 calories, with an extra 300 for men, all from natural whole foods. Meanwhile we are burning 4000-5000 calories a day with up to six exercise sessions. The maths is simple, you are guaranteed to lose weight, but more importantly boot camp also teaches healthy eating habits and portion control.
Following an after-breakfast kick boxing class we are presented with a large box. According to Twitter someone has a secret stash of digestive biscuits. An amnesty is declared and contraband is relinquished, including half a packet of Rowntrees Randoms that I have been keeping close all week.
A killer session next, alternating hill sprints with outdoor circuits involving heavy metal bars. We are all absolutely shattered by the end.
Sandra, CEO of Fake Bake for the UK, had to return to her business this afternoon, leaving 6lbs lighter and several inches smaller after just three and a half days. After a hard morning it gives everyone the encouragement they need right now.
A fun, but tough, workout after lunch involving a pack of cards and some serious abdominal crunching followed, then a short walk at Halden Woods - the guys know when we have genuinely worked hard and when they need to ease off and we are all relieved to have an early finish and a chance to try a Lava Shell massage.
The owner of Shared Beauty Secrets, who introduced lava stones to the UK, is here for the week and had arranged for a couple of therapists to come in so we could all see why this treatment is predicted to make hot stone massage a thing of the past. One by one we came out of the treatment rooms in various degrees of rapture. Unlike stones, the shells have a heated insert and stay hot for the entire treatment, and their smooth surface feels just like the therapists' hands. Definitely a treatment I would recommend.
We end the day with a supper of pearl barley risotto (another dish my family would have thrown at me, but actually very tasty) we settled down to a Q & A session on nutrition with chef Sarah Louise. She lost 4.5 stone at a boot camp and is an absolute convert. She is totally passionate about what she does and there is very little she doesn't know about food, nutrition and dieting. I am looking forward to trying some of her recipes at home - just not the quinoa.
Sunday morning papers and a roast dinner to look forward to?
I would be lying if I said that I hadn't started day 2 at Shooka Boot Camp with pain in almost every muscle in my body. I would also be lying if I said that I was pleased to start the day with hill sprints in the semi darkness as a punishment for someone leaving mugs out last night. The day could only improve, and it did, with with a fast and furious boxing workout; something I had never tried before. Needing incentive to punch harder I pictured the film crew behind the targets I was hitting; my left hand punching the cameraman, and the right, the videographer. I never feel too photogenic at 7.30am, before my first cup of coffee.
Breakfast was porridge with pomegranate and pomegranate molasses - highly recommended - with unlimited coffee - which I seriously considered pouring into my hot water bottle to keep warm for later. A quick walk took us to the neighbouring Activity Centre, a Mecca for anyone who enjoys being outdoors; high ropes, zip wires, quad bikes, mountain bikes, assault course, driving range, and our morning's activity; clay pigeon shooting. Most of us hadn't shot before and really enjoyed the new experience. We quickly established that wielding a gun up is easier when you haven't just thrashed your arms in a boxing class, that vegetarians can't shoot straight and that men get very very competitive when it comes to guns.
A quick walk back for lunch of fish chowder and then off to the beach in nearby Dawlish. The locals seemed surprisingly unperturbed by the presence of 20 people on the beach in Shooka hoodies doing press-ups, sit ups, crocodile walks, seal walks, monkey walks - indeed anything Will could think of that would get us covered in wet sand. Only Delphine remained clean and dry, was it her French upbringing or Cosmo magazine's standards of appearance that led her two double the intensity of the workout just to keep her clothes clean?
A quick game of bucket ball followed - it is surprising how hard you work out while playing sport on the beach - then back for yet more hill sprints.
With arms and legs now barely functioning we headed to the gym for a punishing Abs session. No chance of being able to sneeze, cough or even laugh for the foreseeable future. Krav Maga self defence followed; any class with a warning of "try this at home and you will end up in jail" is worth a go. Just time before dinner for a half hearted ice plunge - on my own and only in waist deep tonight, with everyone else sticking to the more sensible option of a jacuzzi.
Steak for supper, a pleasant surprise for all, but still no sign of sticky toffee pudding. Will rounded the evening off with a great talk on looking after personal safety drawing on years of army training. Wondering if the people of Dawlish will be more inclined to react tomorrow if they see us taping each others hands together and locking each other in car boots?
Friday 11th January; Shooka Boot Camp, near Exeter, opens its doors for the first time, with a motley selection of movers and shakers in the health and beauty industry, fitness fanatics, a model, an actress, celebrities .... and three journalists. Welcomed by co-owners John and Stuart, who have visions of affordable boot camps in the UK and a uber-luxury option in Klosters, we settle in for the evening. The Wedding Ideas Awards ceremony was on live stream and I enviously peered at the screen for clues of the sumptuous meal the Guides for Brides team had enjoyed while I had tucked into a tiny, but delicious, piece of nut crusted cod.
7am on a Saturday is not a time I often witness. Today it is followed by a 7.30am fitness test and my first experience of going for a run since my son banned me from running in public several years ago. The juice-only breakfast followed by a second far more punishing workout proved too much for my level of (un)fitness and I was removed from the gym while it spun around me. "Do I need a doctor?" No, but a stretcher would be handy. Banished for a rest I contemplated my frustration at failing on the first morning. Just not an option. A strong mug of coffee was smuggled to the room by Bear - an RAF parachute instructor who's mission is to cajole and cuddle us through the week, and I was instantly revived. Sometimes these things are best taken slowly.
After a lunch of spicy roast sweet potatoes, rocket and cream cheese we are off for a walk.
9 miles of lanes and tracks in this beautiful, but incredibly hilly, part of Exeter, arriving back in the dark.
Throughout the day our instructor, Stuart Saxby - personal trainer to the stars - had been very honest with all he had planned for us, so when he told us that we would all be suffering the next day, but 40% less if we had a ice plunge, we didn't hesitate in grabbing swimwear and heading to the unheated outdoor pool. Immersing yourself in icy water for 2 minutes before leaping into a jacuzzi would be easier without a film crew trying to capture the experience - complete with a sound track of screaming.
Supper followed - a delicious concoction of chicken, beansprouts, mange tout and peppers in an Asian style dressing, then at last a couple of hours to relax, chat and contemplate the day.