Brand new from the USA, the Vi Challenge is the latest weight loss programme to try. I did and lost 9lb in 4 weeks!
What I really liked about taking part in the Vi Challenge was that the shakes tasted great and were filling, but you could also add fruit to them to make them more interesting. You were also allowed one calorie controlled meal a day as well, so this always gave me something to look forward to at the end of the day.
It's definitely not a requirement to have a pre-wedding diet or fitness regime, but if you're taking the opportunity to get a little more healthy ahead of your big day, then we have some handy tips for you to stick to...
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.
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.