Aiming for buns of steel and a six-pack? Get along to a local green space and take part in a bootcamp run by Park Lives.
The very phrase “bootcamp” is enough to instill fear in the fittest of folk.
So the only reason I signed up for one in Dundee was because it was free, and the sun was shining.
I guess a small part of me wanted to challenge my fitness levels, too.
I haven’t lifted a weight or done a burpee for yonks although I “enjoy” a regime that involves running, using a cross-trainer, walking and riding horses.
However, none of this could prepare me for the muscle-burning sweat-fest that lay ahead.
Turning up at South Road Park, I meet Chris Kelly, my instructor for the 45-minute session run by Park Lives, an initiative which offers free activities in local parks.
Sporting an impressive six-pack, biceps of steel and a perfect white smile, he’s a force to be reckoned with – and a massive source of inspiration!
There are four others in the class and after a brief chat, we deduce we’ve all got “reasonable” levels of fitness.
Chris, 40, has brought along a massive speaker and he switches on a pumping soundtrack of uplifting and energetic dance tracks to get us in the mood.
“Okay folks, let’s go,” he shouts over the booming techno, and we warm up with a few stretches.
Although it’s called “bootcamp”, the class includes cardio, resistance training and core work, done in a circuit training mode.
“Sprint to the fence and back again,” instructs Chris, 40, and we race off at a cracking pace, desperate not to be last.
Next up, we do a set of exercises for 30 seconds each, with squat jumps, squat thrusts, sit-ups, jumping jacks, lunges, press-ups, and the dreaded burpee among them.
When it comes to doing a plank – great for the abs and core – it’s almost a relief and a chance to catch breath until Chris tells us to add in some punches while holding the pose.
After a minute’s rest, we’re back at it, and each time we repeat the circuit, it gets harder and harder.
The sun is beating down so sweat is breaking on foreheads and sprints become slower – and, as Chris reminds us, we have to do this six times.
When we reach the fourth set, I struggle to manage a single burpee and cry for help.
Chris is only too glad to help, and within a couple of seconds, I’ve mastered my very own version of the evil movement.
No doubt it looks utterly shambolic but it’s definitely working muscles that haven’t been used in a very long time.
Throughout the gruelling session, Chris is full of encouragement and promises that if we push ourselves hard enough, we’ll be rewarded with fab abs.
“Think of those six packs!” he beams. “You’ll be able to show them off on holiday! Imagine yourselves on the beach with those amazing abs.” I can only dream…
While challenging us to push ourselves to the max, when he sees some of us struggling, he tells us we’re free to take it easy, or sit out an exercise if we need to.
The relief when we reach the end of the final set is overwhelming, and we all flop down on the grass.
We finish up with a lovely stretching session and with Chris encouraging us to come back for more.
“Do this two or three times a week and you’ll see an amazing change in your body shape,” he says.
“You can be any fitness level to take part. You can adapt the class to suit you and make it as easy – or as hard – as you like. There’s progression so we accommodate you whether you’re quite weak or really strong.”
Three days after the session, my legs are still sore, although Chris informs me that’s a good thing.
Will I return for another session? Hell yeah! Anything for a washboard belly!
Bootcamp is one of the activities on offer as part of the Park Lives initiative, a free, fun and family-friendly way of getting outdoors and enjoying the city’s green spaces.
Whether you try powerhoop, yoga, family tennis, Insanity, couch to 5K, body attack, messy play (for under 5s), Nordic walking, athletics or ten pin bowling, activities appeal to people of all ages and abilities.
Park Lives is a national programme from Coca Cola Great Britain. Launched in Dundee last summer, it’s being delivered in partnership with Leisure and Culture Dundee and the city council.
Activities run in 20 locations across the city until the end of the summer holidays, including Slessor Gardens, Camperdown Park, Stobsmuir Park, Magdalen Green and more. www.parklives.com