Posted by: graemeharwood | April 1, 2010

The First National Boot Camp Survey


1.How did they get here?

 They arrived here from America, where boot camps were first used to reform prisoners, soldiers and defiant teens before reaching the general public in the form of holiday breaks. Camps in the US, though, are different from ours. They’ll take a single issue such as detox, weight loss or hiking and stick excusively to that – setting you back in the process over £3000 for one week. That’s twice the price of a typical week at one of England’s luxury boot camps!

Bringing the idea across the Atlantic, and focusing it on female weight loss through the use of British Military Training techniques, The Camp in Scotland was the very first boot camp in the United Kingdom. It opened its doors in January, 2007. Their PR girl ripped off the idea, spotting her way – through cost cutting, hefty pricing and a media blitzkrieg – to a shedload of money. Sunny Moran set up New You Boot Camp in 2007. Just over two years later, we now have 15 main boot camps. They are, in roughly chronological order: Nubeginnings, FitFarms, Back2Basics, Apples & Pears, No1 Boot Camp, Tesco’s Boot Camp, Prestige Boot Camp, GI Jane, Bootylicious , Bootcamp Beach, Base Camp, Trimmeryou Bootcamp, Reboot & Phoenix Bootcamp.

In this economic climate, a boom industry certainly; but as every camp at full capacity would still only be treating fewer than 300 people at a time out of a population of 61 million( in less than award-winning health, by and large), this could well be a new industry with a lot further still to go. The arrival of predatory supermarket chain Tesco on the scene would seem to suggest this.

2. Why this site exists

Without any regulatory body to control them, or trade association to promote best practice in them, boot camps can be a bit of a minefield. Nor does it help that almost every single boot camp on its website claims to be ” the best”, ” the only”, and ” No.1″ . Well, they can’t all be ” the best “. And, in reality, too many are very far from it. Someone, therefore, needs to explain this new industry to the outside world and provide thorough, independent, fair and factual reviews of our nation’s boot camps, comparing them across the board, with a guiding principle that the primary duty of care is always to the consumer. Newspapers and magazines haven’t been much use either, being generally content to trot out the same old ‘ journalist goes to boot camp’ diary piece , which usually ends up just being a puff for whatever camp dished out the freebie So, in essence,  that is why I feel that a site like this is much needed. My qualifications for being able to write it, as a published author and experienced editor, can be seen on ‘ About The Boot Camp Guru ‘.

3.Why is their popularity growing?

 Boot camps exist to answer a call from people (85%F;15%M) who need outside help. Things have gone way beyond fat-busting knickers and air-brushing holiday photos. Yet, although the UK has more obese people than any other country in Western Europe – twice that of neighbouring France for example – only around 5% actually attend a boot camp. To its increasing cost, the NHS has seen the consequences: high blood pressure, diabetes, back, hip and knee operations, stomach-stapling and gastric by-passes.

Other camp-goers are often not drastically over-weight, just stuck in a ruinously unhealthy rut and needing a kick up the backside to snap out of it. Perhaps, locked into a stressful, sedentary job, they’re never exercising – but they are forever eating fatty, fast foods in a hurry. Probably a bit of binge drinking in there too. Or, maybe, it’s just The Bridget Jones Syndrome: a blanket, a sofa, a chick-flick, a bottle of Chardonnay and something sweetly filling within a pluck.

Frankly, your issue can be with anything from cocaine to cream cakes, whisky to pizza, down through Coco Pops, Kit Kats, Subway Sandwiches, chocolates, chips and red wine – to whatever; it’s just got to be sorted out, and preferably long-term. Some camp-goers, though, are already in pretty good shape when they arrive but, as rally drivers or social marathon runners, they’ve just come in for a tune-up. Others aren’t too fussed about keeping the weight off, even if they’d never deny they’d like to, because their primary motive in going to a boot camp is fast weight loss in the sort term: it’s bikini-time again, a new boy-friend, a wedding day – perhaps all three.

And here we bump into the grandest, illogical irony of the boot camp industry. They offer to change your life for good, whilst simultaneously longing for your repeat business! The trick here, if you really want to turn your life around, is to go for camps with a strong holistic side. All boot camp-goers do, however, have one thing in common: they’ve just spent over £1000  and surrendered a week of their holiday time for a suspected kicking, largely in the company of total strangers. In other words, your fellow campers are more likely to be seriously committed than just vaguely involved.

Another reason for the boom in boot camps is that it’s not difficult to open one. In fact, it’s a simple procedure. Typically, it goes: rent premises in countryside near Exmoor/Dartmoor; hire in ex-military trainers, cook, nutritionist, camp manager and guest speakers; post up website, slicker the better; charge 1000+ for the week; invite celebs and journos for free publicity; add more dates; proceed to bank.

Accordingly, boot camp owners are a very mixed bunch with differing reasons for founding their camps. Some, like me, passionately believe in boot camps; others I’m not so sure about. Is it just co-incidence that the boot camps I rate the lowestNew You, No.1 Boot Camp, GI Jane & Fitfarms – are run by people from PR, Beauty, Cleaning & Business respectively, directors without qualifications in the health industry that I’m aware of , and who are rarely sighted in the midst of the physical action?  By contrast, director Iain Reitze of Prestige is a national authority on the subject and as head trainer too, he’s always in the thick of things. Katie Duncan of Apples & Pears has loads of sports science notches on her belt, and you just try holding her back from joining in!  And so I could go on, but you get the picture. As a consequence, boot camp owners are going to behave very differently. Some, unfortunately, are only too happy to kick off with some imaginatively inflated publicity about themselves.

4. Inflated Publicity

One of the main reasons for the very existence of  The First National Boot Camp Survey is to correct what some boot camps say about themselves – and put  consumers straight before parting with their cash.

Some examples of inflated publicity:

(i)  New You Boot Camp  is ” the best boot camp in the world” – according to Flavia Bertolini from ‘ Celebs on Sunday’. It’s hard to keep a straight face writing that sentence – but then I expect Flavia has visited all the other boot camps in the world and probably knows exactly what she’s talking about. I would usually turn at once to ‘Celebs on Sunday’ if I wanted an authoritative verdict on a matter of international health. Wouldn’t anyone? An opinion barely worth the paper it’s written on, in my view.  But it sounds great, and I shudder to think how many people may have fallen for it!  And especially since New You’s ‘ Back to Basics ‘ boot camp is rated here as the worst boot camp in England.

Similarly, when OK! Magazine presents six flippertygibbet sound-bite pieces on six best bikini boot camps dotted around the world, and the text for New You Boot Camp just happens to be the third to appear – most likely for reasons of page lay-out only – this is inflated ludicrously into the momentous awarding of a world title! OK! Magazine would, I’m sure – as a celeb gossip mag – be the first to admit that it’s neither a weighty authority on boot camps nor, in that little lightweight piece, was it even trying to be one. This was no serious and defintive survey of the subject, quite obviously. But that didn’t stop the New You PR Machine going dementedly over-the-top and trumpeting loudly that ‘ It’s official! The votes are in! We are now No.3 Boot Camp in The World ‘. Clutching at straws, or what?

Likewise, when Closer Magazine merely included New You in a mini flip-list of seven boot camps, the PR Machine went utterly bonkers again: ‘ We are Europe’s No.1’  it trilled. Yes,  of course you are.  And I’ve just seen a squadron of low-flying pigs outdoing the Red Arrows!

(ii) The self-crowning No.1 Boot Camp is nothing of the sort. It calls itself,  ‘ the choice of celebs’, ‘ the nation’s favourite boot camp’ etc. etc. when, in reality, it’s near to the bottom of the pile.

(iii) Nubeginnings, whilst good but hideously expensive, is not ” Britain’s best boot camp” – just because some staffer at ‘ The Tatler’ wanted to sex up her copy.  Try going to  every boot camp in England first, then your judgement would have some weight; otherwise it’s pure fly-by-night froth.

(iv) Ultimate Boot Camp(suspended, possibly deceased) said it was ‘ Voted No1 by More magazine’, from which you’re meant to understand it’s the best boot camp in England. Total tosh! A reporter on the magazine tried out four different methods to lose weight, concluding that the boot camp way was the best of the four approaches. So, boiled down to reality, Ultimate Boot Camp was actually ‘ Voted No1 Slimming Method Out of the Four We Tried’. Such deceitful hoodwinking of the public is difficult to admire.

(v) The website at FitFarms almost bursts with bragging about how it was voted ‘ The UK’s No.1 Weight Loss Camp’ by no lesser an authority than The Sunday Times. The pages are almost radioactive in their reflected glory. But, in reality, Fitfarms has  just erected an oak-tree out of an acorn. The paper ran a short feature – little more than a flip filler piece – on eight healthy holidays to be had in eight different destinations, anywhere from Mexico to Morocco. As no more than an example of the type, they chose a boot camp in England. It just happened to be FitFarms. No way does that make it ‘ The UK’s No.1’. This was no comparative survey of all the boot camps in England, as Fitfarms is inviting you to believe. If so, where are all the others? But The Trading Standards people aren’t going to do anything about it, because the article is ‘open to interpretation’. Yes, but, er, maybe not that one?!



Posted by: graemeharwood | March 30, 2010

Which type of Boot Camp is best for you?


(Note 1: The First National Boot Camp Survey is covering , with one exception, one-week residential boot camps only. The term ‘Boot Camp’ is also used to describe people meeting to train during the week in a municipal park. Run by British Military Fitness instructors though they may be, and good development though they are – they are nothing like real, residential boot camps, and little more than PT in the open-air).

(Note 2: There is a serial fraudster in our midst. Her real name is Catherine Jane Pennington(of what was ‘Total Boot Camp’), but she is now using aliases such as Jayne Shaw of Spa Boot Camp & Jane Walker of Bootcamp Inc. She is to be avoided at all costs. Read the Comments section at the end of this article for any updates on her antics.)

1.Holistic Camp?

If your weight has become a major concern to you and you want far more than just weight loss in the short term – which any boot camp is going to give you anyway – then this is the type of camp for you- because they do aim to fix you for good. And the way they do that is to dissect and explain your emotions about food and exercise to you, design a practical plan for you to you re-structure your bad habits – and follow up to make sure you’re sticking to it. Not invariably, but holistic camps do tend to attract the heavier, less fit type of camper. Phoenix Boot Camp is the best holistic camp in the country. Nubeginnings is the other one, if you have cash as well as weight to burn.

The most holistic of the standard weight-loss boot camps is-  by a very long way –Joe Ayo’s Back2Basics  Boot Camp. Whether staged in the Yorkshire wilds or the Lake District, Joe Ayo’s camp has one great financial advantage for you, too. In 2011, Back2Basics won the national title for ‘ Best Budget Boot Camp (North)’.


 2.Mixed Camp?

Eight out of  our  fifteen camps are always open to men.  The first two on the list are both national award-winners : Apples & Pears  (Awarded ‘Best Mixed Boot Camp’, 2009/10/11) and  Bootcamp Beach  (Awarded ‘ Best Budget Boot Camp South’  2009/10/11). The remaining six  are Tesco, Bootylicious, Nubeginnings, No.1 Boot Camp, Reboot & Base Camp.

Nowadays, there is a growing trend among camps that started out as women-only to be offering dates for mixed and men-only camps too: Prestige springs to mind here. Although my personal preference is for camps with both men and women, it’s your call alone on this one. If it helps, I’ve always found that the genders mix together extremely well at camp. There’s less likelihood of closed-shop cliques developing and whilst the guys and gals do tend to hang around with their own, it’s refreshing to be able to talk to someone of the opposite sex when you’re in the mood to. Obviously, a women-only camp is going to take away that option. And rule out your chances, completely, of accidentally bumping into a guy you may actually like.

Which brings me to a final rallying cry : Men of England, Wake up to Boot Camps! The women have got the point; and you, too, should be making up far more than just 15% of the market. In fact you would, guys –  if you only but tried it once.  My mind never thinks clearer, or for longer, than when I am away from the world at boot camp. And, as the body doesn’t know what’s hit it either –  with every muscle and joint historically hard at work yet fuelled by only a comparatively empty, alcohol-free stomach – the combined physical and psychological benefits to be derived in such a short time, are quite mind-blowing. I hope that doesn’t sound too much like a young vicar in his first parish. In case it does, boot camps are part of my life now – and I fall into the arms of  The Good Parent, whenever I need a kick up the arse and wire-wool between my ears.

3.Women Only?

Unsurprisingly, as women make up 85% of the market, seven out of  our fifteeen boot camps are for women only. It’s common to see women who’ve roped in a friend for mutual support, sometimes so in a gang of four. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie at women-only boot camps, plenty of emotions on display and significant new friendships are often forged in the heat of it all. Female trainers are a rarity, so you will generally be put through your stuff by men from the military. Read on, to find out their different styles.

4.Military Style?

Military-style means that formal, services conduct is expected of you:lining up on parade, addressing combat-geared trainers as “Staff” at all times, doing whatever you’re told to do whenever and however you’re told to do it, individual and group forfeits for infringing any rules – of which they’re plenty – with no sin more dire than pitching up late (1 minute will qualify here). You’ll be worked pretty hard, have your self-confidence boosted by your fear-conquering exploits on adventure training outings and – truth be told – you will be shouted at on occasion.  New You Boot Camp has the worst record in this last respect, with a reputation for ‘beasting’ its clients you ought to be aware of. See just what I’m talking about at 7B. below, under the section  ‘ BOOT CAMPS NOT RECOMMENDED ‘.

It’s also true to say that, for some women, there is a certain appeal in doing things military-style, being dominated by very fit young men, in skin-tight fatigues, their bodies apparently stuffed with walnuts. And, hey you know, they’ve had years of experience at what they’re doing to you, and you’re going to get down and dirty together. Yet, be simperingly nice or crack a joke, and he’s also your toy soldier to flirt with too. He will, anyway. I don’t think it’s pure paranoia on my part in thinking that cries of ” Suck it in, girls” and “See it all the way home, girls”, might just conceivably be pandering to another agenda. However, you might  well not grow to share Staff’s enthusiasm for teaching you services slang, and the continous deal-striking of “Is that fair?” and “Is everybody happy with that?” does begin to grate.

For other women, who take the more uncharitable view of ‘Sod that for a game of soldiers’, opting instead for civilian life and being on christian name terms with everyone, there are Non-Military Style Camps.

Military Style: Prestige, No1 Boot Camp, GI Jane, New You.

5. Non-Military Style Boot Camps:  Apples&Pears, Bootcamp Beach, Phoenix Boot Camp, Nubeginnings, FitFarms/Tesco, Reboot, Trimmeryou & Base Camp








MIXED CAMPS                                   E/S SGLE        E/S TWIN

*1. APPLES & PEARS, Devon           £ 1595         £ 1195

 2. BASECAMP, Exmoor                     £ 1495         £ 995

*3. BOOTCAMP BEACH, Bmth      £ 575          £ 495

 4. BOOTYLICIOUS, Cornwall        £ 1650         £ 1450

 5. No.1 BOOT CAMP, Norfolk         £ 1395         £ 1045(no e/s)

 6. NU-BEGINNINGS, Devon           £ 2754       £ 2514

 7. REBOOT, Dorset (4 days)             £ 795       £695

 8. TESCO’S B/C, Somerset               £1249?        £874? (e/s at manager’s discretion!)



*9.  BACK2BASICS BOOT CAMP    £699        £599

10. FITFARMS, Somerset                  £ 1495           £ 1095

11.  GI JANE, Kent                                £ 1650(only 1)£ 1150

12. NEW YOU BOOT CAMP, Devon   £ 1475   £ 1225

*13.PHOENIX BOOT CAMP, Herefordshire  £ 1450  £ 900

*14. PRESTIGE BOOT CAMP, Devon     £ 1550   £ 1250

 15. TRIMMERYOU BOOT CAMP, Notts   £1250   £825


Strangely enough, the two boot camps in the country which open their mouths widest about how great they are – see sections (i) & (iv), of  ‘Inflated Publicity’ in The First National Boot Camp Survey – and reel in wonder at what New You & FitFarms have to say about themselves – were the same two boot camps who chickened out of this whole project. No courtesy visit was allowed, no review required; they wanted to play no part at all in The First National Boot Camp Survey. An objective and comparative look across the board, at all of England’s boot camps together, from the pen of an experienced, independent male editor/reviewer, in hock to no-one except the customer, somehow just didn’t appeal to them. See the section ‘ Why this site exists’ in The First National Boot Camp Survey). Unfortunately, as A&B below now portray, the alarms bells were not wrong to go off.


(N.B. ” Weight Loss Holiday Boot Camp”, ” Fat Farm ” & ” Fitness Holidays UK ” are some of the other guises that FitFarms uses for itself these days)

The big problem with camps at FitFarms(women only) and Tesco(mixed) is that they are both run by FitFarms Managing Director, Mr. Stephen Cole, a man from Planet Strange if ever there was one. His stated main reason for not taking part in our survey was that Fitfarms is not a boot camp – and perish the thought  that he should be associated at all with any of that crowd. Of course Fitfarms is a boot camp. You can google it as such; and once on site, you’ll find FitFarms calling itself a ‘ Fitness Boot Camp’ on almost every single page. And, boy, is he ever insulting about all the other boot camps in England!  Mr. Cole rubbishes every single one of them for “unqualified staff and unhealthy training programmes”, before climaxing his disapproval with the truly unhinged :There are some good boot camps but you have to be willing to travel overseas”. So there we have it, then. Go abroad for a good boot camp because there are none in England, except of course for Mr.Cole’s – once he’s worked out whether he’s running one or not! This is the most surreal drivel I’ve ever read about boot camps. The man clearly has no idea what goes on at, say, Nubeginnings. (Since reading the above, Mr.Cole has removed his words and taken out references to his camp being a ‘boot camp’, even though it is one).

Unable to decide whether FitFarms/Tesco is a holiday retreat, a holistic mission or a boot camp after all, Mr. Cole manages to end up spreadeagled across all three. Notwithstanding pretty countryside outings and an assortment of non-taxing activities strung together in an easy-paced way, this is definitely not a holiday. What holiday blasts you out of bed at dawn every day, starves you of food and keeps you on the go all day long? A boot camp actually – but one with such dainty disdain for the ethic of  hard, physical work that it doesn’t succeed, like other camps do, on that level either. FitFarms is a doddle; the Ultimate Burn Work-out is, for example, merely optional. Do not come here if you want to be propelled, in a short time into losing as much weight as possible. It’s far too leisurely for that. Finally, FitFarms, closest in theory at least to an holistic camp, just doesn’t cut it as one of those either. Two Nutrition Workshops and one Life Coaching Session is, did he but know it, standard holistic fare at just about every boot camp in the country! But I doubt that Mr.Cole is going to improve his holism by learning from Nubeginnings, the top holistic camp in the country, because I think he has an altogether different agenda in mind for FitFarms. And it is not one that puts you, the client, first.

Our first look at the FitFarms product was in 2008, when our man reported back that although the female trainers were excellent, and the French chef also providing commendable variety, the greatest disappointment was the over-crowding of clients into 2-star barn accommodation, where he was charged £1200 for a basic and tiny single room, having to queue twice a day with eight other people to use the bathroom and squeeze up for dinner every night. There were moans, too, about  Mr. Cole’s pre-camp admin being chaotic. A researcher recently enquired about booking a single room and was told that ” Single rooms are at the discretion of the manager”. Make sense of that if you can! People were similarly cross about the 50% mark-up on any toiletries they needed. Whilst not exactly at Tesco’s prices, then, Mr. Cole has clearly understood the meaning of’ Every Little Helps’. FitFarms 2009 has moved to Knowle Riding Centre in Somerset, a manor house actually abandonned by No1.Boot Camp because training is done in a neon-lit sand-pit full of horse-hair; the ‘pool’ is no more than a small pond in a shed; the red clay outside will stain your clothes for ever and, worst of all, the water supply to the house is so chronically inadequate it’s impossible to have a proper shower.  But it is big; and Mr.Cole has seen that it will hold an awful lot of  an people at one time. Bad value prices have been hiked yet again, so that a single is now an uncompetitive  £1495  for the week. And notice that no capacity figure is given, as all other camps do, because now we are getting to the whole crux of the matter. When our man finally discovered Mr.Cole in a back office, and challenged him on the fairness, let alone the safety, of providing only two trainers for 38 people, he got the aloof and arrogant reply: ” This is a numbers game, you know”. Numbers which probably add up to Tesco realising that Mr. Cole has built up a brand – through FitFarms to FitParks, FitJuniors, and FitPooch too – with sufficient volume and profit for the supermarket to buy him out. So, if you want to be part of a numbers game you know where to go.


Since first opening New You Boot Camp way back in 2007, founding director, Sunny Moran, has always had a greedy eye for how losing lbs. off you can be turned into making lots of £s for her. The fact that she stole the idea from The Camp in Scotland whilst at the same time apparently being employed to do their PR work for them, suggests that her business morality might not be out of the top drawer either. Examples of that run, like a tapeworm, throughout this piece. Let’s deal, for the moment, with the money.

New You runs three ‘Boutique’ Camps a year. Priced right at the top end, they do not tell you what number the course is limited to, which is the whole point of a boutique camp. As there are 12 e/s bedrooms, I suppose there could well be as many as 24 people, and definitely c.20. What on earth is ’boutique’ about that? Nubeginnings is the only camp that can genuinely lay claim to that title: maximum of 10! There are six ‘Coastal’ Camps a year, which are reasonably priced and held at their only property to have a pool, but then there’s the unacceptable problem of the trainers(see below).

But, New You also runs eighteen ‘Back to Basics’ Camps a year, which form the core of their business, and these boot camps are a total rip-off. This is why.

At ‘Back to Basics’ you will be herded into a barn, which doubles as a youth hostel, and required to sleep in bunk beds, in a dormitory with at least five other people, all of you sharing one communal shower. Outrageously, this ‘accommodation’ is referred to as ‘five star’ – when, in fact, no other boot camp in England treats its customers in such a degrading and disgraceful way. Worse then the army or boarding school, we’re looking at prison camp conditions here. How would you rate your chances of a good night’s sleep when people packed in around you are gossiping, snoring and getting up to go to the loo throughout the night? And you can forget all about a swimming pool, sauna, hot tub, jacuzzi or TV in the bedroom. Your bill, however, is six star: £985 +credit card fee+holiday insurance(which means they will never refund you if you drop out early, through injury or disgust)+ encouragement to buy their recommended kit-list from their over-priced on-line shop, where a badged-up T shirt comes in at £14.99 ( they advise 10 of them! ) and a Hi-Vis Vest at £6.99 ( when every other boot camp in England provides them free of charge! ) taking the total to well north of £1000. To be treated like that?!

The best tip I can give you on this whole website is: on no account  waste your money here.

Just look around you at the far cheaper prices available at much better boot camps, all of which are reviewed on this site:

1. Bootcamp Beach (Bournemouth) has swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, all bedrooms en-suit, with TV, rooms serviced daily, and a superb menu of organic food. Price: £575/sgle en-suite, £495/twin en-suite.

2. Back2Basics Boot Camp (Lake District) has pool, sauna, hot tub and very spacious Scandinavian pine lodges, all with TV, DVD, Sound System. Price: £699/sgle en-suite, £599/twin en-suite.

3. Trimmeryou Boot Camp (Nottinghamshire) is a luxury boot camp with swimming pool, LED TVs everywhere and a fantastic chef from London’s Dorchester Hotel, whose dishes for the week rate the full 5 Stars. ‘ Value for Money ‘ here gets 5 Stars, too. Price: £825 /twin en-suite.

4.Phoenix Boot Camp (Herefordshire) is another luxury boot camp with pool, sauna, TVs in all bedrooms etc. and winner of  the national award for ‘ Best Holistic Boot Camp in England ‘. Price: £900 twin/en-suite.

I rest my case. There’s absolutely no defence to this.

But, you may say, aren’t you ‘guaranteed to lose more weight here than at any other boot camp’, because the trainers are ‘ world class’? No, I would not endorse either of those inflated, website boasts. With regard to the question of losing more weight, I would make four counter-points.

1. If you survive the course – and it’s a big if, because I am convinced from all the testimonies I hold from ex-staff, ex-clients and all the press articles I’ve read that more people drop out of this camp, from injury or disgust, than any other boot camp in England  – you might well appear to lose more weight than anywhere else.

2. But not as much weight as you think you’ve lost – because, with high cunning, weigh-ins are after lunch ; and weighing-out is before breakfast, yet after a work-out, where you’re even warned about your water-intake. As one far more professional boot camp writes on its website, obviously with New You in mind: ” Our weight-loss figures are genuine. We weigh you first thing in the morning following your arrival and first thing in the morning on the day of your departure. Any diversion from this procedure is a little trick that would give an additional over-reading of false weight-loss between 2 & 10lbs “.

3. You might end up losing no weight at all – because so extreme is the differential between the low amount of calories you’re fed and the high number of calories you expend, that some women’s bodies actually close down in shock – and start storing fat instead.

4. You’ll be very lucky if you keep that weight off – because any psychological work, worthy of the name, simply does not exist here. Ms. Moran also knows that successful and sustainable weight-loss battles are always won and lost in the mind, but apart from exercise recommendations and dietary tips, nothing at all is done about that side of things at this boot camp. But, hey, that way there’s a better chance she’ll see you again in six months time.

So, why on earth should you put yourself through a week of miserable, high-risk hell – just so that New You Boot Camp can parade your remains on the dodgy high-altar of their weight-loss stats? And, believe me, Sunny Moran is obsessive about maximising those weight-loss stats, however obtained, and airing them in the public domain. She is only too keenly aware of that female foible to fall for every single – and she plays on it remorselessly.

Incidentally, there are people out there who do keep going back and back to boot camps, in a sort of  yo-yo-boot-camp habit. Should you happen to be one of those – and still serious about losing weight – let me suggest, for a moment, one way in which you can break the mould for good and save yourself a lot of money in the future too. Take yourself off to Susie Sore & Rob Kelly’s Phoenix Boot Camp or Joe Ayo’s Back2Basics Boot Camptwo elite, national award-winning boot camps – dedicated to fixing your mind over your body, once and for all.

Do they have ‘ world class’ trainers? Well, they used to have one – and so popular was he with their clients that people would come back just to see him. But Iain Reitze, although they begged him to stay, left New You Boot Camp over three years ago, to found his award-winning Prestige Boot Camp in Devon. Yet, deceitfully, his image is still used by Ms. Moran all over her website, as if to suggest to former clients that he is still there. He’s even featured, peering out from under a net,on their ‘ Courses & Dates’ page! In case you didn’t know, you now know that he left New You Boot Camp a long time ago. And one of the main reasons he gave up with Ms.Moran, and her co-director Ms.Cleaver, was, as he wrote to me: ” The directors did not appear to understand the full implicationsof physical training, nutrition, rest and safety”. But then, as both Sunny and Jacqui were bright, young sparks in the world of PR before setting up New You Boot Camp, why should they know any better? And who are they to disagree with Mr. Iain Reitze’s highly professional judgement, a man to whom they still pay dishonest homage all over their website today? Iain Reitze’s point, though, is one which it is very important for you to understand – even if they don’t.

What Iain is saying is that the whole concept of the New You Boot Camp regime is so over-the-top (for the sake of obtaining weight-loss statistics the directors can then boast about) as to be worryingly over-brutal. For this reason, New You Boot Camp has the worst reputation in the country for what is known in the military as ‘beasting’ people. And it does not help at all to learn that the trainers are positively encouraged by the directors to do just that: they are paid less than the industry’s going rate for a trainer, but they can make up the difference by the commission paid to them for every 1lb, over 8 lbs, they manage to get off you in a week. No wonder New You’s trainers are at Force Ten on The Richter Scale of Menace! I’m relieved, and glad to say, that no other boot camp in England operates in this appalling way. Neither will any other boot camp wake you up with such unnecessarily nasty methods each morning: foghorn or fire alarm. None of our country’s top boot camps will start you working before 7am, or expect anything strenuous of you after dinner. Here it’s off at 6am, with plenty of work after dinner – so you go to bed every day utterly exhausted, with insufficient time given over for safe recovery. Hunger, too, is a frequent sensation here – because, considering the amount of work you’re forced into, they don’t feed you enough calories. However, if you’re a valued journalist and feeling painfully peckish, just ask Sunny – and she’ll slip you an oat-cake!

And, here, at this point, I’m just going to let people who’ve undergone the regime at New You Boot Camp tell you – in their own words – what it’s really like:

1. Check out Jana Sanchez’s harrowing experiences at, where she refers to ‘ New You Death Camp’ and includes the telling sentence: ” I spent the worst week of my life at what was supposed to be a weight-loss boot camp, but what in reality, was a badly-run and completely amateur week of physical, emotional and verbal abuse”.

2. Check out Daily Mail journalist, Lorraine Fisher’s article, entitled ‘ My Boot Camp Hell’ – found at – from which I now quote. She went there in August 2010 and wrote the article in January 2011, where it appeared in The Daily Mail’s ‘ Life & Style’ section:

” I have never been shouted at so brutally. Tears of rage and distress poured down my cheeks”.

( I expected to be shouted at, but…) ” I discovered that I was really paying to be insulted and degraded – even outside of exercise periods”.

” Say something they didn’t like and they’d threaten to send you home. After a few days of this, I was living in fear”.

(Following yet another episode of physical and psychological bullying…) ” I was so shocked and confused, I had only the second panic attack of my life”.

” A major problem is that the trainers were all ex-Army. They seemed not to realise that helping paying women to lose weight and getting fitter is different from training men to fight for their country. Soldiers are ‘broken down’ and always do what they’re told because if they don’t, someone could die. You can’t really apply that logic to a load of women exercising in Wales. Yet they did “.

” After the first full day, three of the bigger boot campers had dropped out”.

” I decided to quit just 36 hours before the end. I wasn’t the only one – at least five of us had developed injuries”.

3. Check out what Marie Claire’s Nicola Larder has to say:

” I’m exhausted and broken, and it’s only day two. After dinner there’s a two-hour hike in the dark”.

” I can’t believe how tough it is. Some recruits actually vomit due to the intensity”. ( Iain Reitze has verified to me that vomiting was a common occurrence, with sometimes as many as eight women doing so in any one day).

( By the end…) ” I feel wrung-out, ego-bashed and really, really low”.

” I don’t feel I’ve learned anything about how to keep the weight off or change my eating patterns, though, and I can already see myself starting to slip back into old, bad habits”.

4. Check out any one of the following journalists – or, with a drink within easy reach, all of them:

” Bad behaviour, which includes not doing all the exercises, will be punished by more exercise”.

” One of the miltary instructors told us that even the SAS don’t do as much during their training”.

” A brutal boot camp…by the fourth day I have pulled a muscle in my left thigh. By the fifth day, I have done the same on the right”.

” The group is already falling apart – some have been vomiting, several have cried and one refuses to get out of bed”. (Avril Mair)

” I’m ushered to the bunk-bed in the dorm I’m sharing with 17 other overweight women. A plastic container on the floor is my wardrobe!”.

” A third of us have injuries, nearly all of us are nauseous. One girl has left early”. (Sharon Marshall)

” The camp is divided: some feel revitalised; others broken. I’m in the latter group”. ( Anna-Lou Weatherley )

” As soon as we arrived at the camp the trainer told me: ‘ From now on, don’t use my name and don’t speak to me”. ( Abi Titmuss)

” Day 4. The instructors are still yet to crack a smile.” ( Charmaine Yabsley)

5. Check out these extracts – from just some of the many distressing statements about New You Boot Camp, held by me on file:

” I left with a fractured elbow after two nights at camp. No follow up from any of the team to see how I was or if my injury had healed ok. I was left feeling that once they’d had my money, they just didn’t want to know me any more”.

” I was suffering from a knee injury so was limited in the amount of running I could do. I was told on the first morning by one of the trainers that I should just go home as there was no point in being there if I couldn’t run properly”.

” There was no holiday environment, wasn’t an option to miss a session. If you were absent, boot camp manager came to find you. Trainers told us they received a bonus for the weight we lost and it seemed the boot camp manager had targets she had to keep. Got the distinct impression this is why guests were ‘bullied’ into taking part in each session and encouraged to leave if they were injured or weren’t putting their ‘all’ into the work”.

” Trainers were regularly rude/swore/demotivated/belittled us”.

” Trainers made it very clear they disliked certain guests and were vocal about that”.

” I was not known by my name but by my number: 25″.

” You just can’t take people who haven’t worked out for ages and then suddenly start to train them like Olympic athletes”.

” Trainers ate in the same room but at a separate table and chef cooked them alternate meals – burgers, steaks etc.”.

” Food was very poor, on average between approx. 800-1200 calories a day. Typical meal was small portion of protein and two small pieces of vegetables”.

” Trainers read our feedback forms(which were mandatory, Boot Camp Manager came to find us and stand over us until we completed them) ans ‘sounded off’  if anyone had not rated them as excellent”.

” No level of service. No-one seemed interested in our experiences or if we were enjoying ourselves. If anyone said anything negative/ complained it was ignored. The general consensus was it was akin to a prison camp”.

Two final comments about the regime at New You Boot Camp – which is unlike any other boot camp nor how boot camps were ever intended to be – and which you might find rather shocking to learn. Let me quote to you from their website.

Firstly, and absolutely the last thing anyone wants to hear: ” The intensity of training is the same at all our boot camps “. Oh dear. This one sentence, I would say, fatally condemns all their other boot camps. And secondly, it might utterly amaze you to know – especially after reading all of the above – that New You (courtesy of a chum in the media) badges itself up as  – wait for it – ” The Best Boot Camp in The World “!!! Now that the scales have been removed from your eyes, you can see how misleading, offensive, hollow and ridiculous are the fantasies of world domination peddled by New You Boot Camp.

For a long time now, someone has needed to flag up the short-comings of New You Boot Camp to the general public – because Ms.Moran is a professional in the PR industry and, as such, a consummate mistress of spin. Fronting up with a name that is both slick and catchy, she has gone on to create a website that, on first view, is very impressive. Take the voluminous 116 Press Reviews for example. Being three times more than second-placed Nu-Beginnings, with a mere 40 Press Articles, the undoubted intention of this barrage is to wow you into more or less immediately writing out a cheque. But just dig a little deeper and – as not infrequently with Ms.Moran – all is not what it seems to be. She’s put everything but the kitchen sink in there: alongside the usual and perfectly valid if naive diary pieces, are articles repeated two or three times over, articles where New You isn’t even mentioned, articles where dietary and exercise tips earn the company a name-check and a shedload of competitons, giveaways and PR adverts. On the other hand – and even more interestingly– is what Ms.Moran chooses to omit.

Take, for example, an article by Sharon Marshall which gets spiked just at this point:” My doctor from Celebrity Fit Club, Dr. Adam Carey, has a few concerns….”. Well, I tracked down the article – and this is what you missed: ” There is significant risk on a low-calorie diet and heavy exercise regime like this that, as well as burning off fat, you lose muscle mass. As you go back to a normal calorie consumption the weight will go back on and more quickly than before because your body’s engine is now smaller”. Nor does Ms.Moran want you to read the best press article I’ ve ever read on the subject of boot camps, published in ‘ Marie Claire’ Magazine and called ‘ The Battle of the Boot Camps’. In it, twin sisters attend two very different boot camps ( holistic Nubeginnings vs. extreme cardiovascular New You) and have their results assessed by an expert – whose verdict Ms.Moran would rather you did not see: ” The extreme bootcamp succeeded in burning five pounds off Nicola’s body, but such plans are less successful long term. If either sister is more likely to keep going with an exercise regime, I predict it will be Victoria, because her experience, where she also lost five pounds, has been challenging yet pleasurable”.

The list of Client Testimonials is positively huge – partly because New You has been going longer than anyone else, partly because people going to boot camp for the first time tend to gush on ( I did!) and partly because Ms.Moran is not above faking them. I caught her red-handed lifting ‘ Samantha Williams’ word-for-word from the female section over into the male section as ‘ Sam Williams ‘. Similarly, ‘ Katie Leadbetter ‘ ( a boot camp manageress at New You, anyway!) conveniently morphs into a ‘ Mr. Leadbetter of Devon ‘ and, telepathically, uses exactly the same words. If only they could meet, they’d get along so well together! Makes you wonder, though, just how many more  ‘ Testimonials’ are false, in-house fabrications too? I mean, theoretically, trainers’ wives, friends, family and God knows who else could be in there – a suspicion hardly allayed by Ms.Moran’s immediate removal of the evidence, when rumbled by me, and adamant denial, to this day, that such a thing ever happened at all. Amazing brass neck, eh? I have, of course, got copies of the original offence safely filed away in my dossier, as indeed I have firm evidence for everything else I say on this website. At this address, at least, integrity is all.

Finally, let me share with you a small sample of the large number of distressing statements via email which I hold on file about this boot camp. Hand on heart, I have heard and read – during my three-year stint going round the boot-camp circuit – more complaints and horror stories about New You Boot Camp than all the other boot camps in England put together. There are things which defy belief: clients filling out their medical history forms, only after they’ve arrived at camp; being reported, by a client, to the Trading Standards Authority for telling lies about their product; the group that split acrimoniously in two, because the journalists were being treated so much better than the clients who’d paid; the poor lady who only found out on arrival that the single room she’d booked long ago had been given away, at the last minute, to some celeb – and that she’d now have to share instead. Eventually, after a fuss, she got a substandard single in the staff’s quarters, complete with all their cooking smells and noise wafting up night after night. When afterwards, and quite rightly, she broached the subject of some sort of refund, she never even had the courtesy of any reply. And so it goes on. You get the picture. What’s more, by constantly advertising work vacancies – and by failing to name one single member of staff on their website where other boot camps are only too happy to post up ‘ Our Team ‘ – you’d be right to suspect that staff-turnover at New You Boot Camp is high. And that is never a good sign, for any business.

The Nutritionist’s Tale, for example, will give you some further insights into the barely-credible behaviour of the directors. They loftily informed one Nutritionist that her wages were being cut, her hours increased and that she could not work for anyone else! She left. They’re on at least their fourth Nutritionist, by now. Yet Ms.Moran – unbelievably, and in a legal document too – tells the outrageous lie that New You Boot Camp has had, from its inception until today, the same Nutritionist all along!

What do you do with people like that?

Other than to expose them as the dodgy duo of directors they really are – and for running, at their ‘ Back to Basics’ camp, the worst boot camp in the country. Ooops, of course, I mean the best boot camp in the world “.

If, after reading down to this point, you still choose to believe all their glittering, shop-window PR fiction rather than the careful truth I have been at great pains to lay out before you, then be it on your own head entirely. Reader, there could not be a louder Non-Recommend. And remember that wise people learn from other people’s mistakes. They don’t just, bilthely and blindly, go straight out and repeat them.




















Posted by: graemeharwood | March 4, 2012

Trimmeryou Boot Camp

Opened only in May 2010, ex-Army man Ryan Lord’s Trimmeryou Boot Camp has come a long way in a short time – and it is now a boot camp I’m happy to recommend highly.

So swept up has it become though with its swift progress that, at times, the Trimmeryou website does get a bit over-excited with itself. Perfectly understandable, I suppose – but none the less in need of some of that trimming it’s going to carry out on you. Take, for example, these three puffed-up claims: ” Enthusiasm and support you simply won’t find anywhere else”, ” The most unique boot camp experience in the UK today” , “You won’t find this level of expertise anywhere else in the UK”. This is both over-the-top and, actually, unfair to its competitors. Prestige, Phoenix, Apples&Pears and Back2Basics – to take four likely candidates – must have wrinkled up their out-of-joint noses when they read that!

Generally, the website is a bit hit and miss. Unoriginal, in that it seems largely a composite of what similar camps say about themselves and, in places, a touch amateur e.g.providing no link to their quoted press articles. Which brings me, appropriately enough, to my next gripe. The much-trumpeted national awards, which decorate Trimmeryou’s homepage, come from pretty lightweight journalism and don’t really mean a lot. It is, for example, totally impossible to nominate any one camp as ‘ Best Overall Boot Camp’ – as if one camp would suit everyone, when everyone’s needs are different. And precisely why, of course, this site employs four separate categories – ‘ Best Holistic Boot Camp’, ‘ Best Budget Boot Camp’, ‘ Best Mixed Boot Camp’ and ‘ Best Women Only Boot Camp’ – to reflect that diversity of requirements. So, for the purposes of this review at least, Trimmeryou is competing in the category of ‘ Best Women Only Boot Camp’. And were it not for the existence of Prestige Boot Camp, it would be.

It was a very difficult call to make between these two boot camps – and one which I agonised over for ages, trying to be fair and right. Consider, for a moment, their respective HQs. Technically speaking, Ryan’s Horspool Farm is a superior venue to Frankie & Iain’s Higher Wiscombe. But, that doesn’t make it better – because in contrast to the delightfully warm vibe and gorgeous settting of Higher Wiscombe Farm, Horspool is chilly-all-white minimalism, somewhat impersonal, short on seductive character, and in a mildly grim setting at the end of a cul-de-sac, looking onto bleak, flat fields with no animal or crop in sight. What’s more, I’m not entirely persuaded that a top luxury boot camp should be putting 33% of its guests(7 out of 20) into triple & quad rooms. All Prestige’s rooms are en-suite singles or twins, offering the sort of privacy luxury expects. Fantastically high-tech though it is, I still see Horspool Farm as, for those reasons, one of Trimmeryou’s not so strong points.

Now for all the good news and why, although not quite up with Prestige yet, Trimmeryou is none the less a top boot camp. Just look, for a moment, at its very attractive prices. Whether in Spain or England, Trimmeryou is coming in at hundreds of pounds less. In England, for example, their en-suite twin share is only £825 for the week, a whopping £425 less Prestige’s £1250! Same story in Spain, too, with even £300 difference between their official price of £995 and Prestige’s special offer price of £1295! At the luxury level, these are some of the best value-for-money deals in the country – and that’s why Trimmeryou Boot Camp deserves the full five stars in that category. But just remember that in England you have to book early to enjoy those price breaks, because rooms are allocated strictly on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Miss those twins, and its a triple or quad for you – which is not so posh at all. Although the huge triple jacuzzi room would be a lot of fun for a girl gang of three, and brilliant value for money too.

The food, I’m happy to report, is superb – and worthy of its full five stars in that category. Copying Prestige again, they have introduced a fine dining chef, Freddy Mostyn from London’s Dorchester Hotel. With the undoubted benefit of a £100,000 kitchen to work in, he’s going to serve you amazing breakfasts for a boot camp. How about Smoked Haddock & Mushrooms with Spinach? Or snacks, constantly changing and eternally interesting, like Miso Soup with Oat Cakes. Rare to see imagination like that at a boot camp, Dinner, too, might well be Grilled Cajun Fish with Butter Bean Mash & Vegetables – but, like every meal, it will be accompanied by a jug of ice-cold sparkling mineral water, with a twist of lemon. Apples & Pears, Prestige and Phoenix Boot Camp all do the same thing – or, at least, I hope they’ve kept their word to me and are continuing to do so still – because it’s one of my biggest bugbears that being obliged to drink only plain tap water with every single meal is depressingly boring, utterly joyless and quite unnecessary. We suffer enough at boot camp already, don’t we? Finally, on the subject of food, Trimmeryou has actually come up with an idea which, as far as I know, is all its own: the concept of two menus. If you’re there for weight loss, you get 1250 calories a day; if you’re there for fitness boosting, you get 1800 calories a day.And, yes, there are people who head off to boot camp with every intention of enjoying it.

The activities programme at Trimmeryou is fine, too. Led by the regular, settled duo of handsome, young ex-Marine, Alex, (idle question: why are ex-Marines always the best-looking trainers?) and very experienced RAF PTI, Stu Burns, you’ll be put through your paces alright – ex-Marines are always the toughest on you, too. But, as in all our best boot camps, everything is doone in a friendly, civilised way: you don’t start before 7am in the morning, and nothing strenuous is ever expected of you after dinner. The heated indoor pool and the hot tub are a great bonus for all those people needing to unwind tight muscles and soothe sore joints during the week – and, if I had my way, they’d be compulsory features at every boot camp. Surprisingly, our two Best Budget Boot Camps (Back2Basics & Bootcamp Beach) both offer pool/sauna/jacuzzi complexes, whilst too many of our more expensive boot camps do not. I can’t say anything about the lady who is to be the new bootcamp manager; she doesn’t arrive till 2012. But I can say that I have one reservation about Trimmeryou’s course: there doesn’t seem to me to be enough emphasis on the psychological side. Because, as we all know, decisive boot camp battles are only ever won and lost in the mind. Yet the website text is almost exclusively physical: there’s virtually no mention made of any intention to put your head straight for you, and keep it straight. Exercising and dieting – on their own – are not always going to do the trick for everyone. More Neuro-Linguistic Programming is what I’m saying, in a nutshell.

That said, with Trimmeryou, Ryan Lord has already created a very good boot camp indeed. And you’ll leave it with the best take-home Health Magazine in the country.


Accommodation: Set in the Trent River Valley countryside, a touch north east of Nottingham, Horspool Farm – rated 5 Star Gold by The British Tourist Board – is one huge, rambling, hi-tech, ultra-modern, all-designer-white make-over, complete with just about every facility you could wish for.

Capacity: 20. F only.

Duration: 7 nts. (4pm Friday – Friday 10am). 5nts also available.

Cost: Sgle £1200(en-suite), £1100(shared bathroom). All other rooms at £825 – whether Twin en-suite/shared bathroom or Quad en-suite or Triple jacuzzi room, allocated on the basis of ‘ first come, first served’. 5nt stays can be had for£649.

Price includes: All food, lodging and activities which typically include gym-style work-outs plus acqua aerobics, boxing, team games, military tasking, fat-burning interval training, hikes through Sherwood Forest & Clumber National Park, mountain biking through Sherwood Pines, first day Motivational Talk, 3 Nutrition Workshops, picture CD of your week, T shirt, certificate of achievement inc.15% lifetime discount & aftercare programme, including a splendid Trimmeryou Health Magazine which pretty much covers everything for you, and is elegant enough to grace even the finest coffee table.

Evening Events: Yoga, indoor pool/hot tub/jacuzzi, Tvs in all but the Quad Room, DVDs in lounge & Champagne Gala Dinner on final night.

Optional Extras: Variety of massages (Thai, Swedish, Indian, Reflexology etc.)Sports Massage £25(30 mins)/£45(1hr.).





FOOD: * * * * *


VALUE FOR MONEY: * * * * *
































































































































































Posted by: graemeharwood | January 23, 2012


As this site is devoted to one week residential boot camps, I wouldn’t normally bother with a camp that worked on you for only 4 days and lodged you for just 4 nights – even if, technically speaking and with its feathers at full fluff, it can bill itself as a ‘ 5 Day Boot Camp’. But then, out of the blue, I got an unsolicited invite from founder/owner, ex-Para and practising PTI – Mark Hooks Bsc. – to come down and review his proud achievement with Reboot, ” a product that has been perfected “. Although a little alarm bell did go off at this point, I still thought why not? Reboot, after all, has been around since 2009 and Mark seemed to be a man with a very passionate conviction for his cause. Furthermore, no journalist to date has reviewed Reboot, so it was nice to be asked – with the flattering suggestion that my opinion might be of some value. Turned out it was, as Reboot since my visit in January 2012, has altered its product considerably.

The first thing that hits you about Reboot is that the website is awash with inflated claims about the product. All of these Mark has just gone off, sat down and made up himself. Not one of them is attributed to a third party. So, perhaps, a good place to start would be to take a closer look at some of these boasts on behalf of Reboot. Ignoring minor irritations – like loudly straplining itself as ” the ultimate boot camp ” – I’ll stick to dealing with the important stuff.

It is simply not true to say that Reboot is ” a totally unique weight loss experience “. Virtually everything that happened at Reboot, I’ve done at other boot camps – and sometimes better, too. Reboot, apparently, is also ” a holistic camp ” – which is not a category I would put it in, alongside genuinely holistic camps like Phoenix and Nubeginnings. Three Relaxation Sessions after dinner – however New Age in style and effective though they may be – plus three seminars with the dreariest Mind Coach I’ve ever heard (so dull, in fact, that Mark intervened after fifteen minutes and took over the second seminar himself!) just is not enough fire-power to label Reboot as properly ” holistic “, even if it does nod in that direction. To be fair to Reboot, I should add that their principal Mind Coach was away when I was there and would, no doubt, have done a better job. But not enough still, in my view, for Reboot to qualify genuinely as a ” holistic camp “.

Next up, is Reboot really – as it says it is – ” the best value for money boot camp in the UK “?  Well, I let Mark know when I was there, that I certainly didn’t think so. He was using The Old Rectory in Symondsbury, a vintage Grade 11 listed building – but it was woefully short of bedrooms with private facilities, a touch over-delapidated in places, and an en-suite single was coming in at the colossal price of £1495 for 4 nights! That home truth – whether grateful for it or not – was something Mark chose to act on immediately. He moved Reboot at once to a new West Dorset village venue, which is more modernised, has plenty more en-suites and costs a lot less. Instead of £1495, an en-suite single now costs £795! So, is the revamped Reboot now right to call itself  ” the best value for money boot camp in the UK “?  Er, no. That title belongs to Joe Ayo’s splendid Back2Basics Boot Camp – where for £699(e/s sgle) and £599(e/s sharing) you get superior accommodation, complete with sauna and swimming pool, for the whole 7 nights, with a wider range of activities and far more psychological work on you than Reboot offers. Consider also the very upmarket Trimmeryou Boot Camp, where an en-suite twin for the whole 7 nights is only £825(just £130 more), scoring this camp the full 5 stars for ‘ Value for Money ‘. Similarly luxurious is England’s national award-winner for ‘ Best Holistic Boot Camp ‘, Phoenix Boot Camp, where an en-suite twin for the whole 7 nights comes in at £900, only £200 more. All this is not to say that Reboot isn’t decent value for money; it’s just to correct the hyperbole that it’s the best value in the land, because the owner says so.

Whilst the above three paragraphs would have been totally unnecessary if Mark Hooks had shown more awareness of what other boot camps were up to, I am now about to shock you – and possibly him, too – by agreeing with one of his biggest boasts and being happy for him to quote me as endorsing it. I think Reboot really is, as Mark says, ” The Best 5 Day Fitness & Weight Loss Boot Camp in the UK “with two crucial provisos, which he’ll be less likely to take on board and probably won’t mention at all, namely: as far as 5 day boot camps go and considering the lack of competition in that category.

Make no mistake, Reboot succeeds in getting plenty right. Mark himself is a truly inspirational trainer, one of the best I’ve come across. His female side-kick, Helen, is unfailingly funny, a right bundle of energy – but with a softly sympathetic gear, too. And ” H “, as she prefers to be known, actually is the best female bootcamp trainer I’ve ever met. Likewise, I would rate Naomi Devlin as the top bootcamp Nutritionist on the circuit. The food, too, was above the bootcamp average and scored a welcome four stars.

There are, however, areas where I feel that Reboot is missing some tricks: no cycling(on grounds of Health & Safety, which don’t impede almost every other boot camp in England), no pool sessions, no sauna or hot tub, and no hikes on that glorious Unesco World Heritage Site nearby, The Jurassic Coastline( no time for that, it seems). Well, I would much rather have started earlier than 7.30am, had dinner one hour later at 7.15pm, skipped the whole javelin, discus, shot put and relay racing bit, which was distinctly underwhelming – even the TRX resistance bands, too – and made sure to include the joyous off-site variety of some cycling, coastal hiking and acqua aerobics. Especially, moreover, since all these events are available on Reboot’s doorstep anyway. When Apples & Pears is in Dorset, it does all three.

My final point would be this: what is Mark’s rationale for preferring a 4 night boot camp, when virtually everyone else runs theirs over 7 nights? Well, he claims that after exercising over five days, the body must have two days of rest. This, of course, is generally not happening anywhere else. So does this consequently mean that the rest of England’s equally highly-qualified bootcamp trainers are, to a man, all getting their training wrong? Rather unlikely, wouldn’t you say? In actual fact, at the top camps – and I’ve experienced it many times over – modified ‘ Periodised Training Programmes ‘ are created to allow your body that vital downtime to  rest, heal and grow , precisely so that you can exercise over seven days in perfect safety. So I don’t buy at all Mark’s line that anything more than a 5 day Monday to Friday is all wrong for your body. However, I do notice that Monday-Friday venue rental costs, known as midweek rates, are considerably cheaper than full-week rates, which involve an expensive weekend premium. I  really do hope that sort of monetary calculation has nothing to do with Reboot’s opting for only the 5 days – but it is quite hard to avoid the lingering suspicion that it might do.

How to sum up Reboot? Well, I would not say it ‘s ” perfected ” just yet – more a work in progress still. But if Reboot does go on to make further changes for the better – beyond promptly changing its venue and pricing structure – I will happily re-write sections of this review. Should you go there? Well, if it’s your very first boot camp, and you really want to be sure to lose half a stone and drop that dress size, I would opt for a full one week camp. If, however, time is very tight or you feel the need for a top-up, then Reboot is ideal for you.

Accommodation: Set in the West Dorset village of Charmouth, Stonebarrow Manor is a functional, modernised venue with a three-star feel to it, but not without some charm – like an open fire – and wi-fi throughout.

Capacity:  24. Mixed M/F.

Duration: 4nts. (1pm Monday – Friday 1pm).

Cost: Single e/s £795 & basic £695. Sharing e/s £695 & basic £595. Discounts Jan-March.

Price includes: All food, lodging & activities which typically include gym-style work-outs plus high intensity interval training, strength training, boxing, military tasking, javelin, discus, shot put, relay racing, 3 Nutrition Workshops, 3 Mind Coaching Seminars, 3 Relaxation Sessions, Gala Dinner on final night, email link to camp photos & 3 months of after-care.

Evening Events:  3 Relaxation Sessions.Otherwise, it’s pay for a massage or TV in the lounge.

Optional Extras: Massage £50/1hr. Nutritionist/Mind Coach 1:1 £60/1hr. Reboot Hoody(£35), T Shirt(£18), Beeny Hat(£10), DVD of the camp £10. But if you buy a hoody or a T shirt, the DVD is free.





FOOD: ****




Posted by: graemeharwood | January 2, 2012

Apples and Pears Retreat

 It’s only human, I suppose, for everyone to have a favourite boot camp – and mine is, by a comfortable distance from all the others, Apples & Pears. It easily romped away, yet again, with our National Award for ‘ The Best Mixed Boot Camp in England , so perhaps it’s time to analyse exactly why Apples & Pears is so good.

Firstly, Katie Duncan is the best boot camp manager in the country. More than anyone else I’ve ever met, Katie is out there in the thick of it with you nearly all the time. Consequently, she knows the mood of the group. No chance here of that alienation which can occur when trainers and guests feel that the people issuing orders from the office are completely out of touch – or, in the case of some owners, rarely seen on site at all. It’s much to her credit that, although Katie Duncan owns Apples & Pears and has five sports science qualifications to her name, she’s not afraid to sweep floors, run errands and generally do whatever it takes to make sure that each retreat is a resounding success. People quickly warm to Katie – with the result that she has a large and loyal fanbase of customers who keep on returning – not necessarily because they need to, but because they want to.

Secondly, Apples & Pears is, whilst being a well-oiled machine, also a boot camp with a distinct personality and a great warmth of character to it. Right from its quirky and original name, this camp has a winningly individual way of doing things. Each morning, for example, a different national flag goes up in the porch and festoons the dining tables – meaning that all the dishes served that day will be from that country. Not only a fun idea, but marvellously executed too. Look forward to China day for the Hoi Sin Salmon and Pak Choi, with Baked Plums to follow; or Mexico day, for a rousing breakfast of Mexican Eggs; or Thailand day, for a classic Green Curry, with a soothing watermelon to begin with. Unique in the world of boot camps, A&P’s lunches and dinners, whilst staying inside calorie limits, always contain two courses; and rare in the boot camp world, sparkling mineral water and coffee are also on offer. Hurrah, and thank God for that – it’s just so boring having to drink plain water with every single meal. With delightfully inventive snacks – like an Italian tricolore of avocado, mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil – serving to complete an all-round picture of excellence, Apples & Pears is one of the very exceptional boot camps in England to be awarded the full five stars for its food.

Thirdly, the staff are superb. Clearly hand-picked by Katie to match the same levels of enthusiasm, flexibility and friendliness that she exudes, they all radiate both an affection for one another and a total commitment to Apples & Pears. The pleasing result of coming into one-big-happy-family like this is that campers bond with each other much more quickly. On site, Amelia & Sally will cook for you; Lizzie & Steph will co-ordinate you; and Will will do pretty much anything you ask him to. This, by the way, includes carrying all your luggage in, from car-boot to bed-room, when you arrive. A host of outside specialist staff – like Polly the excellent Nutritionist – come and go throughout, spicing up the programme for the week with extra interest and variety. However, the staff do all have one thing in common. They’re all going to be at The Apples & Pears Christmas Party, when Katie traditionally turns her house over to that year’s campers. Just the sort of personal touch Apples & Pears does so well.

As for the trainers, you won’t anywhere in England meet a more laid-back and softly-focused duo than Woody and Gary. Oh, you’ll do the work alright and they will get that weight off you – but it’s all done with such impish humour, and in such-a-soft-Welsh burr, you’ll hardly notice until it’s too late. Different gig, though, if any of the marines are there. But, yet again, Katie’s gone out and found for Apples & Pears a trio of the calmest, least-up-themselves commandos you could ever hope to meet. Although I have nothing but praise for Hammy and Pete, should Duncan Godfrey be on the rota for the camp, it’s your lucky day. An alpha-male trainer, with a gentle manner and looks the ladies like, he’s right up there with the very best, somehow able to get that extra yard out of you, because you don’t want to let him down. The one-to-one Personal Training Sessions with him are memorable. Just look at what he did to me: took 11lbs off me in 6 days and turned me into The Boot Camp Guru – a guy who, formerly, would be quite happy to take a taxi to the bathroom.

Fourthly, the Devon setting is lovely – allowing wonderful all-day hikes along the coast to Dawlish Beach, overlooking the mouth of the River Exe. Days at camp are structured sensibly, with built-in time to recuperate your energy, and you’re not complelled to do anything after dinner, if you don’t want to. A few eyebrows might have been raised by the high maximum capacity of each camp, so I’d better explain how it all works out perfectly well in practice. Basically, at Devon, you’d be divided into colour-coded teams of, say 12-18, always have two trainers with you, criss-cross inquisitively and sympathetically with one another all day long around the village, with matters only intensifying all of a sudden if you find yourself up against another team. After all of which, the hot-tub and the indoor heated swimming pool are welcome blessings indeed.

Perhaps what I like most about Apples & Pears, though, is the way Katie Duncan has built up her business. Shunning the tacky path of roping in minor celebs for publicity, hardly ever in the media or bothering to advertise much, she has managed to create an award-winning camp, primarily through sheer word of mouth alone. In quick time, the acorn became the oak-tree. And I’m not often this happy at someone’s success.

Accommodation: Smartly renovated cottages form their own private village in blissfully rural South Devon setting. Gartmore House in Scotland is an outstanding C18th Mansion, in 75 acres of its  own grounds.

Capacity: 36 (South Devon) & 54 (Scotland). Mixed M/F (Av: 85%F;15%M)

Duration: 7 nts. ( 5pm Friday – Friday 9am). 6 nt, weekend & 4 day options also available.

Cost: All bedrooms en-suite. £1595 (sgle) & £1195( room sharing). Discount deals frequently on offer.

Price includes: All food, lodging & activities which typically include: gym-style work-outs plus hiking , boxing, cycling, yoga, pilates, aerobics & hypoxic training in the pool, 1:1 Personal Training, team games, orienteering, an assault course, 5 Seminars on Nutrition & Life-Coaching & photos plus i-movie of your week at camp.

Evening EventsNightly options, from Salsa/Zumba, Film Night, Quiz Night,  Healthy Cooking Workshop and so on, till Final Night Champagne & Awards. Heated indoor pool & hot tub always there too, if you prefer. Plus free, in-house computer – the only boot camp to provide this service.

Optional extra: Massage/ £25 half, £45 full.


  • LOCATION: * * * *
  • ACCOMMODATION: * * * *
  • STAFF & ACTIVITIES: * * * *
  • FOOD: * * * * *
  • VALUE FOR MONEY: * * * *
Posted by: graemeharwood | November 2, 2011

Phoenix Boot Camp

It is an amazing tribute to all the precise work and background thinking which Susie Sore & Rob Kelly have put into Phoenix Boot Camp that, only nine months after opening in February 2011, it’s already won the National Award for ‘ Best Holistic Boot Camp’. That title, for the last three years, has been held by Victoria Wills at Nubeginnings – yet, it has to be said, more by default than anything else – because hers was the only holistic camp in the country. But there’s another one now. And it’s significantly better, too. So, why is this the case?

Firstly, there’s a warm sense at Phoenix Boot Camp of everyone being together in this project, with and for each other, in one big happy family – an atmosphere every bit as winning as that created by Katie Duncan at Apples & Pears, which is a compliment indeed. All the staff, for example, always eat with you, eating the same meal that you’re having, and they’re out there exercising with you almost constantly, putting themselves through exactly what you’re going through. That’s why Phoenix Boot Camp – mirabile dictu – hasn’t had, to date at least, one single difficult customer. It helps enormously that head female counsellor, Jo Dening, is always there at hand to pick up on any negative vibes and gently dispel them. It helps, too, that she is wise, down-to-earth and gifted with a naturally humorous, outgoing personality. She could talk you down from a cliff ledge! Like all the best boot camps- whether we’re talking about camp manager, Kirsten, nutritionist Julia or trainers Dave and Mark – Phoenix has hand-picked a settled and well-integrated team to deliver its product consistently. And I think I’m right in saying that Phoenix Boot Camp is the only camp in the country that doesn’t just email you beforehand. Susie insists on a phone-call to you, to calm any fears you may have.

Secondly – and arguably even more important than the above – is the unique holistic approach taken by Phoenix Boot Camp. Based on over twenty years of clinical practice and academic research, Cambridge psychologist Rob Kelly has devised his very own ‘ Thrive Programme for Weight Loss’, which draws principally on the precepts of CLB(Changing Limiting Beliefs). Although, like his disciple Jo Dening, he is also a fully-qualified and functioning hypnotherapist, Rob has found that such suggestion therapy is only helpful for weight loss in the short term – but, crucially, not in the long term. Radical and lasting change only happens once you’ve learnt to rely on yourself, rendering any outside help no longer necessary. He did, in fact, cure Susie herself of yo-yo boot camping, which is as bad as yo-yo dieting – and the whole reason why Susie then went on to found Phoenix Boot Camp. So don’t come to this camp if you’re already fit and merely looking for a top-up, nor if you just vaguely think you’ll give it a whirl. You have to be seriously committed to change, to realise that only you caused the problems for yourself – and only you can fix them. The programme starts by teaching you self-knowledge, moving on through mind exercises, to a practical plan for your future. In addition, you get to take away your own personal Bible – Rob Kelly’s book of 118 A4 pages – which is always there for you, if you need it, and to which you are made to put your signature as a sign of bona fide intent. I’m delighted to see such an exciting new development on the boot camp scene and look forward to hearing, through the years, what they achieve with it.

Thirdly, the accommodation is great. Just google ‘ The Colloquy’ and see what you get, if you don’t believe me. Apart from its all luxurious pocket-spring beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, designer taps, sauna and so on, this venue really does have a very happy vibe to it – the sort of intangible extra you can’t actually buy. Although there’s plenty of room indoors for activities, you’ll probably have your most fun in the surrounding woodlands, orchards, pastures and streams – and the best fun of all, on the spectacular all-day hike with two local guides up and over the Brecon Beacons. Charming local man, Roger the cyclist, also knows nice country lanes for you – the ones with gentle gradients that don’t have you thinking you’re going to land your lungs over the handlebars into the road at any moment, even if he does spice up the ride with some interval training.  By the way, in case all this is beginning to sound like too much fun I must point out to you that your trainer, Dave Gothard, is an ex-Royal Marine Commando and, however genial and good-looking he may be, he is going to take you considerably outside of your comfort zone – because in all my boot camp experience, no-one kicks ass like the marines do (pace paratroopers!). But don’t worry, Phoenix Boot Camp is not shouty and hardcore military, where trainers have to be addressed as ‘ Staff ‘ at all times; more just a group of friends working together and supporting each other, with everyone on Christian name terms. What’s more, as is the case in all our top boot camps, they don’t put you to work before 7am in the morning, and nothing strenuous is ever expected of you after dinner.

Fourthly, after camp, be sure to make the most of Phoenix’s wonderful Herefordshire location. I’ve never said this about a boot camp before, but I can’t recommend strongly enough that when you leave camp around 9.30am on the Friday morning, it’s in a car (your own, your friend’s or your spouse’s) and you don’t just rush off home like a thoroughbred with a pot of wasabe up its backside. Rather check into a room at The Stagg Inn, Titley, a mere 3 miles away, with the first pub restaurant in England to win a Michelin star, which it still retains. From your base there, or somewhere else in the area, you can then go out exploring. Don’t miss Hereford (30 mins.away), with its glut of timberframe houses, Central Market Hall and its magnificent Cathedral on the River Wye, home to the world’s oldest map, the Mappa Mundi, and to the world’s largest Chained Library. Never enjoyed a cathedral so much in my life before! Then, of course, there’s Hay-on-Wye, the C14th New Inn at Pembridge etc.etc. before your celebratory dinner on Friday night, perfectly allowable under the 80/20 rule of eating. Maybe check out Ludlow in the morning (30 mins.away) for its open-air market and ancient Castle, before a farewell lunch in town at La Becasse. What an uplifting reward to yourself that would be after boot camp. And then the new version of you can kick back in – and it’s back down to the 80% part again.

Fifthly, forget about paying a frankly ludicrous £2500 for some hypnotherapy and a twin-share at Nubeginnings. Holism has moved on, I’m happy to say, in the form of Phoenix Boot Camp offering a pioneering new approach, clinically tested over 20 years, at one third of the price. Great news for you, the consumer, by any reckoning.


Accommodation:  Chic, up-market cottage complex,deep in rural Herefordshire, with a mix of ample space, state-of-the-art facilities and Victorian history, which has seen this venue win loads of awards

Capacity: 16. F only.

Duration:  7 nts.(Friday 1.30pm – 9am Friday).

Cost:  £1450 (sgle, en-suite); £900 twin share.

Price includes:  All food, lodging & activities which typically include gym-style work-outs plus canoeing, cycling, gorge walking, boxing, team games, battle PT, military tasking, high-intensity interval training, all-day hike in the Brecon Beacons, acqua aerobics in the pool(summer only), 7 Psychology Workshops, one 1:1Counselling Session, 1 Nutrition Seminar with a personalised nutrition plan, Champagne Gala Dinner with certificate of achievement, free gift, souvenir photos of your week & The Phoenix Takeaway Pack full of aftercare benefits, which are on-going as well.

Evening Events: Yoga & Relaxation sessions. Sauna & jacuzzi. TVs(land & Sky) in all bedrooms, DVD library & free WIFI useable everywhere on site. Complimentary house computer also available.

Optional Extras: Massage £38/45mins.




LOCATION: * * * *


FOOD: * * *




Posted by: graemeharwood | October 27, 2011

Back2Basics Boot Camp

Reader, I owe you an apology. I should have visited and reviewed this camp long before now – because Back2Basics Boot Camp, founded way back in 2008 by Joe Ayo & Wayne Butterfield, is the undisputed star of the North. In fact, Joe’s first words to me were: ” What took you so long?” All I can offer by way of defence is that New You Boot Camp also runs a camp called ‘ Back to Basics’ – which is an appalling camp – and I lazily assumed that it was just them again. I could not have been more wrong, because this is a boot camp I can whole-heartedly recommend to anyone – especially to those of you who live in the North.

To start with, Back2Basics is one of the few boot camps in England to get the full 5 stars for ‘ Value for Money’.  I ‘m all in favour of boot camps costing less money, so that more people can afford to use them and get their profound benefits at an affordable price – which £1000- £1500 might not be, even if it’s a fantastic boot camp. Furthermore, I have to tell you that only in the matter of its appealing price bracket is Back2Basics a budget boot camp. In many important respects it actually out-performs its more expensive rivals. Let’s see how.

Firstly, co-owner and Course Director Joe Ayo, happily combines a background in Naval PTI – to sort you out physically – with qualifications in hypnotherapy & neuro-linguistics to sort you out mentally too. Consequently, Back2Basics puts more psychological assistance into its programme than any other boot camp in the country – (apart, that is, from our two dedicated holistic camps, Nubeginnings & Phoenix) – which is why it scores an astonishing 4 stars for ‘ Life Changing Potential’. Having said that, Joe is sensitive enough not to go further into your mind than you really want him to; and he makes it clear that you can bale out of the process at any time you want to. But then, you would be wiser just to let him fix you properly and for good – because no long-lasting weight loss is ever going to happen in your life until those underlying patterns of mental and emotional behaviour, which are holding you back from being the person you want to be, are identified and dealt with. Only at that point do you move onwards and upwards into the sunlight of success.

Secondly, the Lake District location of Back2Basics is ideal for a boot camp. That spectacular scenery in the finest,freshest country air can’t help but lift your spirits up – making those walks and workouts not seem so bad after all. In fact, one of my fondest memories of any boot camp activity I’ve ever done was at Back2Basics:rowing across Lake Windermere on an autumn morning when the sky was so improbably blue and the leaves in such glorious mutiny that Van Gogh really should have been in the boat with me, provided he was prepared to do his fair share of the rowing that is. It won’t take you long to realise why all those hills, forests and beaches are a Unesco World Heritage site.

Thirdly, the facilities on offer at the camp’s venue, imposing C19th Brockwood Hall, are better than those on offer at many far pricier boot camps. Yes, admittedly, the pine lodges are not what you’d call luxuriously upholstered and Brockwood Hall’s chef is no Heston Blumenthal eitherbut those Scandinavian lodges are large and very well-equipped, plus – and this is an enormous plus – there’s a sauna and swimming pool complex on site.Every morning starts off at a civilised hour in the therapy of a warm swimming pool to get those aching joints and muscles gently working again. Back2 Basics is the only boot camp in England to begin its days in such a sensible and winning way, (apart from Apples & Pears, when it uses Crepe Farm). Certainly beats racing out the back door at 6am into freezing-cold darkness to join in with a military line-up! Nothing better than a sauna at the end of a long day either.

Fourthly, Joe Ayo has thought through every aspect of his boot camp product with great professionalism – and kept the same team around him to deliver it down through the years. In Dr. Lisa Gatenby, they have an excellent Nutritionist. In The Man From The Military, they have a bit of fun. In Joe(known as ‘Coach’) & Tony(known as ‘Staff T’), they have the ultimate good cop/bad cop training routine. ‘Staff T’ is so kind as to be almost too nice to be at boot camp, ‘Coach’ is something else. You’ll hear Joe’s challenging, evangelising baritone echoing in your head long after you’ve left camp – and he, in case you hadn’t guessed it, is the one you don’t mess with.Despite the time given over to sorting out your mindset, Back2Basics will still get that weight off you, just as the others do. They monitor your weight daily, go for fat-burning interval training and adhere strictly to a differential of 3500 calories a day, generally losing you at least 1lb each day. In line with the practice in all our top boot camps, nothing strenuous is expected of you after dinner; and the 1:6 ratio of trainers to clients is pretty much the best in the country.

Fifthly, just go there. In contrast with too many of our other boot camps, Back2Basics is half the price and twice as good.



Accommodation: Spacious Scandinavian pine lodges, complete with balconies, lounge & kitchen area, set in 26 acres of protected woodland looking out over the Irish Sea. Brockwood Hall, a grand C19th country mansion, is the site’s impressive focal point and used for most indoor events.

Capacity: 12. F only.

Duration: 7 nts. (2pm Friday- Friday 9am).

Cost:  £699(sgles e/suite), £599 (twin share).

Price includes:  All food, lodging & activities which typically include gym-style work-outs plus lake rowing, forest & beach hiking, acqua aerobics in the pool, kettle bells, high intensity interval training, structured walks, tabata & resistance training, military tasking, team games &1:1 Personal Training Session. In addition – and this is what sets Back2Basics apart – 8 NLP Workshops, 2 Nutrition Sessions, 1 Alcohol Workshop, 1:1 Emotional Resolve Session, certificate of achievement, souvenir photos of your week & 4 months aftercare.

Evening Events:  Body Core, Flexibility & Relaxation sessions – or enjoy yourself in the sauna & swimming pool complex. TV/ DVD/ Sound System too, in all lodges. Free WIFI.

Optional Extras:  Massage at £35/1hr. Facials, manicures & pedicures also available. 



LOCATION: * * * *


FOOD: * *


VALUE FOR MONEY: * * * * *














Posted by: graemeharwood | March 26, 2010

No 1 Boot Camp


Let’s get one thing clear from the start. However crafty and seductively catchy the choice of No.1 as a name may be, in the cold light of day, No.1 it ain’t!  I would, in fact, put it right down at No.6 – out of our 7 mixed boot camps – with probably only Tesco’s running a worse one. And no higher than at No.13 – out of our 15 boot camps overall – just ahead of GI Jane, Fitfarms/Tesco’s & New You Boot Camp.

Quite why it is that No.1 Boot Camp has ended up in such a lowly position today needs some explanation – and especially so since directors, Deena Reynolds & Karen Mackenzie, ran their first camp way back in July of 2008 and, frankly speaking, should have had enough time  by now to get their product right.

 Deena & Karen, to be fair, have made some progress since handing me, in 2008, the daftest set of bootcamp rules ever composed – and running a camp at which they only appeared in the evenings, thus being totally oblivious to the unacceptable, force ten swearing and abuse their  trainers had been dishing out all day long. Ironically, when I did need D&K – to tell me from the village where the camp was, as agreed – both D&K had their phones off and I had to throw myself on the mercy of the locals in a pub to get there at all. Easily my most chaotic arrival at a boot camp but – as I soon came to realise – unfortunately very Deena & Karen, too.

 But then, they were a jolly couple of ladies, seemingly always up for a drink and a laugh – even if they were convinced, quite wrongly, that ‘having a laugh’ was the most important thing about running a boot camp. So, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I decided to help them – and, instead of slating them in a review, I went out of my way and gave them loads of free advice on how to put their camp right. I’d come back when they’d done so. And then I’d write their review. Nice, or what?

I went back in 2010, gave a load more helpful advice on improving and focusing the product, which Deena & Karen showed every sign of appreciating. On the strength of their apparent resolve to make certain changes for the better, I gave them an indulgently up-beat review. But it now transpires – through too many spoken and written complaints I’ve had about No.1 Boot Camp(second only to New You Boot Camp in quantity) – that nothing has changed at all. If anything, it’s got worse. What two unhappy clients write in their comments at the end of this review is all too typical of what I’ve been hearing on the circuit. The same old problems continue at No.1 Boot Camp.

 Firstly, pre-camp administration is still very poor. Bookings forgotten about, calls not returned, appointments broken and timings wrong – all go with the territory chez Deena & Karen. ‘Embarrassing’ was how one client described their performance to me! Preparing the venues properly in advance is also a weak point. At my last camp, the trainers weren’t best pleased to discover that no-one had bothered, ahead of time, to check out the equipment: all the Swiss balls were useless, not one of them had a valve in. And don’t expect miracles from the  after-care service either. Both directors have admitted to me that they’re not good at organisation. And they’ve done nothing about it, as far as I can see.

 Secondly, the activities remain limited and monotonous. Far too much circuiting & hiking, hiking & circuiting, circuiting & hiking. It’s the same old walk to the same old beach every morning. No.1 Boot Camp just hasn’t, in fact, chosen a very inspiring location – the acquatically challenged Norfolk Wash is reedy, watery and flat, a desolate area bereft of topography. Nor is a day out cycling going to happen – when just about everyone else does offer  this – no canoeing, no adventure parks and no military tasking. It’s a joyless way to lose weight when the trainers have to run endless PT sessions, for want of anything else to do.  The trainers chop and change too – depending on which Services guy is available that week – so there is no fixed Head Trainer in charge of a tailored programme, as there is at all the best boot camps. Even vetting their trainers in advance can’t be too strenuous at No.1. At a recent camp, a new trainer was sacked for ‘inappropriate conduct’ on his very first day – but Deena & Karen still thought it was alright to leave only one trainer to deal with the whole group for the rest of the week

Thirdly, there’s minimal life-changing potential at No.1 Boot Camp. With no professional life coaching, counselling or psychotherapy sessions on offer, it’s going to be very difficult for your brain to turn that all-important corner. Weight loss – particularly sustainable weight loss – is a battle won and lost in the mind.  Alas, one solitary session with Drew the nutritionist is unlikely on its own to do the trick for you – unless, that is, you’re very highly impressionable. As a consequence, with no proper attention being paid to Neuro-Lingusitic Programming, No.1 Boot Camp is little more than an exercise club with dietary tips. And that is not what our best boot camps are about!

Fourthly, although Pete the chef can certainly cook, the menu is something of a let-down. There really doesn’t need top be so much chicken; lunch can be about more than just spiced-up soup; snacks, particularly woeful, were just a few seeds, a slice of apple & half a banana – every single day.

Fifthly, hardly any thought has been given to the evenings. Basically, if you don’t want massage or a beauty treatment, it’s the telly.

But the good news is that twins(with shared facilities only) are inexpensive – and you might meet a minor celeb, or, at the very least, a WAG. No.1 crows: “ You only have to look at the number of celebrities making us their first choice to know that we are the best UK Boot Camp”. And that their percentage of repeat clients is, er, 90%! Both these marketing statements should be taken with nothing less than a salt-mine. England’s top boot camps work on an average of 20%-30% repeat clients, so 90% is away with the fairies. Yes, Chantelle did go to No.1 Boot Camp, and she did go on to bring out her own Boot Camp Workout DVD – because the same PR company handles both the celeb and the boot camp, and such visits are simultaneously handy promotion for both of them. Celebs don’t choose to go to any particular boot camp, they just go there to do a job. Kerry Katona only went to GI Jane Boot Camp because they shared the same PR company. Celebs, eh? What a way to evaluate a boot camp!





FOOD: **




* Accommodation: Georgian Country House, set in over 3 acres of private woods & lawns, close to Heacham Beaches on The Norfolk Wash. Whilst ‘Summerhill’ has public parts that are suitably smart, the size and quality of the bedrooms can vary enormously.

 * Capacity: 22. Mixed M/F.

* Duration: 7 nts. (3pm Saturday – Saturday 10am).

* Cost: £1395(Large Sgle,en-suite); £1095(Small Sgle,not en-suite); £1045(Twin, shared facilities) plus 3&4 bed shares too.

* Price includes: All food, lodging & activities which typically include: gym-style work-outs in the garden or on the beach, plus hiking, boxing, yoga, team games, 2 pool sessions,1 Motivational Talk, 1 Nutrition Seminar & a gym visit to illustrate optimum use of the equipment.

* Evening Events: Optional beauty treatments, DVDs in the lounge or TV in the bedroom.

* Optional Extras: Massage £40/1hr. Beauty treatments also usually available.

Posted by: graemeharwood | October 17, 2009

Bootcamp Beach

Since first opening up in 2009, little under two years ago, Bootcamp Beach has absolutely taken off. In fact, so popular has it become that even after doubling the number of camps it offers, it’s still the hardest bootcamp to get into. So, book up early is the best advice I can give you about Bootcamp Beach!

There are four major reasons why this boot camp in Bournemouth is such a phenomenal success – easily transcending its national award as ‘Best Budget Boot Camp’ (South) to have become, actually, one of the top boot camps in the whole of England. In addition, I can say in all honesty, that discovering what Nick & Susan have achieved at Bootcamp Beach has been the highlight of my years to date researching the whole boot camp industry. They’ve worked hard and richly deserve whatever comes their way. But, what’s it all down to?
Firstly, their prices are by a long way the best boot camp deal in the country – making Bootcamp Beach, at the time of writing, the only camp to score the full 5 stars for ‘Value for Money’. Bringing boot camp health to the general public as cheaply as possible is a trend I have always done my very best to encourage because, frankly, it’s for everyones’ benefit,  isn’t it? Other camps, I’m pleased to say, are now starting to follow along down Bootcamp Beach’s pioneering trail by drastically reducing their prices too. And what a great breath of pure, fresh sea-air Bootcamp Beach is! Suddenly, at long last, someone isn’t charging four figures, and all points north, for a week at camp. Only £575 for a single( in reality, a double), £495 for a twin & £455 for a triple room. All rooms are en-suite, serviced daily, equipped with TV & free WIFI – plus, and this is an enormous plus, the complimentary use of The Marriott Hotel’s very up-market pool, sauna & jacuzzi complex just across the road, for when you want to soothe away your pains in the evening. Just do the maths for yourself. You could do three boot camps here for the price of just one at most others! 

Secondly, Bootcamp Beach has in Principal Trainer, Peps Peploe, one of the top trainers in the land – the sort of guy who, by rights, should be at one of our elite, award-winning boot camps which cost a heck of a sight more money to attend – so you can see what an outrageous bargain you’re getting at Bootcamp Beach. Actually, Peps was at one of our top luxury camps before he arrived here  to be closer to his family – and turbo-charge Bootcamp Beach. His way of starting off each day with a slowly liberating routine of dynamic stretches, with Peps himself, positioned in the middle of us all, revelling in his own gyrations,  gleefully conducting a constant interactive chorus of unstoppable enthusiasm and non-stop witty banter with everyone present is, quite simply, a masterclass in human motivation – which, truth be told, I found an absolute pleasure to watch. Peps, I should also say ladies, is a very handsome, blue-eyed,  ex-marine-commando and blessed with a charm that is soft and easy – if , that is, you haven’t already fainted by now. His favourite phrase is definitely “Treat yourself!” – as he puts you through an exercise, just that one more time. What is equally definite is that Peps is going to get inside your head too, as he knows about the techniques of  psychology and uses them well. The fact is he gets his greatest satisfaction if he never sees you again – precisely because he’s made that vital difference to you – so that you can now go away, and do it all on your own. But, none the less, people do still keep coming back. Just for the fun of it all, really – and usually dragging two bewildered mates in their wake.

Activity highlights would be the uniquely-offered chance to go paddleboarding. And the cycle ride which takes you through Sandbanks and over, on a ten-minute ferry, into the beautiful Dorset countryside around Studland Dene and the hill-top ruins of Corfe Castle. What’s more, Peps has assembled together a highly united and most congenial team of trainers around him, all pretty much moulded in his own image. Should you by any chance ever get Pepped-out, then sympathetic and entertaining boot camp manager, Lee, will listen to it all – as he’s commendably in the thick of it with you, on around 70% of the physical programme.

Thirdly, the food is seriously good. Mainly because Nick’s wife, Susan, has a veritable bee in her bonnet about everything being fresh, organic and only made on the premises. Well okay, I’m up for that – especially as it leads to breakfasts where eggs appear, and dinners like Honey & Lime Grilled Salmon, served on a bed of quinoa and vegetables so fresh they hardly had a chance to grow up.

Fourthly, and finally, the location of the training. With more sunshine hours and less rainfall than any town in the country, training outside in the sea air and coastal panoramas along Bournemouth Beach is superbly energising, right from the time you’re woken up by sea-gulls every morning. The sand is cleaned each night, all the many toilets are impeccably maintained, and there are contingency plans for when it rains – that rarest of occurrences, according to our National Office of Statistics. This, I think, makes up for the location of the hotel – which, unlike any other boot camp, is set in a town centre admittedly, but only two minutes away from that wonderful beach. Just go with the flow – and don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy one of England’s best boot camps.


Accommodation: Comfortable, modern & better than basic Bonnington Beach Hotel’s bedrooms are all en-suite, with TVs, free WIFI & serviced daily. Hannah, Nick & Susan are delightful on the front desk and the hotel is only minutes from the beach

Capacity: Max.26. Mixed M/F.

Duration: 5 nts. (3pm Sunday – Friday 4pm). Closed July & August, because B’mth Beach is too crowded

Cost : £575(sgles), £495(twin share), £455(triple share). All en-suite

Price includes: All food, lodging & activities which typically include: gym-style work-outs, principally in the open air on Bournemouth Beach, plus boxing, surfing, cycling, games, battle PT, comprehensive fitness tests, flexibility sessions, military tasking, paddle boarding & Yoga with outside expert, Frank. Also a First Night Motivational Talk from Peps, a Nutrition Seminar with Liz Atherton, tailored action plans with open access to staff for future support, a farewell champagne toast, certificate of achievement &  photos galore of your week. 

Evening Events:  Every night after dinner Head Trainer Peps reflects  – with your input – on the day just gone by and gently strolls with you  for 30 minutes to wind your bodies down for sleep.  Tempting nightly access to The Marriott Hotel’s up-market pool, sauna & jacuzzi complex just around the corner always proves popular. Otherwise it’s TVs in all bedrooms.

Optional extras: Specialist sports masseur at £30/45 mins.


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Bootcamp Beach Website.

Posted by: graemeharwood | October 16, 2009

Prestige Boot Camp

In March 2009, Prestige’s very first camp won it the national award for ‘Best Women’s Boot Camp’. By March 2011, Prestige Boot Camp is now handling more female clients than any other boot camp in the country! Needless to say, its national award is still rock-solid and Prestige remains – if it’s a women-only boot camp you’re looking for – the top venue in England.
How, you may ask, in only two years did Prestige achieve such a phenomenon? Well, firstly, the founding directors do make rather a formidable combination. Entrepreneurial ex-broker, Ms. Frankie Christian, has not only had all the funding she’s ever needed to do the best for Prestige right from the outset, but also a compelling, personal reason for setting it up at all: the memory of her own battle to lose 4 stone, eventually discovering for herself what really worked, and what flattered to deceive. Frankie’s a hands-on type of owner, always around, and she knows from her own biography exactly what you’re going through. Her co-director – something of a national treasure in the world of training – is Mr. Iain Reitze, who gets his own paragraph.
Iain is at the very centre of all activities on camp. He runs most things, he keeps a watchful eye on everything.  But with 30 years’ experience and a host of qualifications behind him( including Nutritionist) – and able, as co-owner, to buy for himself all the best equipment and work with exactly the fellow trainers he wants to – he is almost uniquely advantaged and duly delivers a top-quality programme, full of variety and symapthetic changes of pace, all to an accompaniment of beat-box music and his ever-present Scouse banter, laced with a ready wit. He’s going to push you to your limits at times, but never beyond them. Iain also has a sensitive empathty for what you’re going through, as befits someone who gave over seven years of his life to the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen. He is, however, military old school – which means you’ll have to line up, number off and call him ‘ Staff R.’ at all times. Even if this does strike you as all a bit odd and unnecessary, it’s important to him. So just put on a smile, play the game and go along with it.
Iain is going to look after your psychological side, too. During the week he’s forever adding in things to think about, which all seem to come together in his one-off evening seminar. This is uncluttered commonsense for the layman, full of usefully portable insights. Here, for example, are just two of them. Attach to your weekly training sessions the same importance that you would give to a business meeting and eat following the 90/10 Principle, rather than the 80/20 Principle you hear everywhere else. One final bonus of having one man do everything for you is that, rather like that inspirational teacher at school who got through to you, Iain Reitze’s presence sticks in your mind, hopefully haunting it into better ways.
Secondly, the location of Prestige’s HQ at Higher Wiscombe is nigh on perfect. Perched with wonderful views over lovely, unspoilt Southleigh Valley, the camp is set in 52 acres of woodlands, orchards, pastures and streams, on the doorstep of the Unesco World Heritage Jurassic Coast-Line, the beeches of Branscombe and Beer, and the banks of the River Exe. The site’s only omission – a sauna/hot-tub – is soon to join the summertime swimming pool, although their other locations in The Cotswolds and in Spain are fully kitted out for any acquatica. Rain, however, is all that’s available to you at the company’s Two-Day Weekends in Hyde Park, Prestige’s newest departure and useful for anyone near London.
Although Europe is outside my brief here, I must say that I would also be very tempted to check out Prestige’s villa in southern Spain’s hot, sunny Andalucia. It’s on the sea; gourmet dining means you don’t have to miss out on enjoying the local food; and it’s got to be a whole lot nicer environment for your boot camp(all the staff decamp to Spain) than November-March in England! And, apparently, I’m not alone in being tempted. These camps sell out fast each year.
Thirdly, Prestige has always gone way beyond providing the perfectly competent boot-camp-cook by employing a real, fine-dining chef. When every morsel of sustenance at boot camp is looked forward to and cherished, why not let master chef, Sean Edwards do it all for you? Forget bunched-up lettuce and dried-out chicken here. Sean uses all his 25 years round top City Boardrooms and Michelin starred restaurants to produce dishes for you like Blackened Cajun Salmon, on a bed of green bean and tomato salad, drizzled with fresh pineapple salsa. Moreover, at lunchtime, his crunchy and divinely succulent Vegetable Frittata was the best I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve reviewed restaurants aplenty. Happily for us all, Sean is committed to staying with Prestige and has ambitions to take boot camp food onto a new level. For me, such healthily balanced, calorie-controlled gourmet food just has to be the perfect way to eat at a boot camp.
Fourthly, and finally, you, the public, keep coming back. And for a host of differing reasons: your booster to a new level of weightloss/fitness; you went off  mesage and put the weight back on again; you want a holiday from which you’re guaranteed to return feeling fantastic, and loaded up with a new set of girfriends as well. That’s why ‘ boot camp junkies ‘ exist; that’s why boot camps have their ‘teams’ who swear by them and none other, loyal still to where those first friendships were forged. Prestige has a ‘team’, too. And the fact that it’s an already huge and ever-growing one is, above all, down to one thing: that founding directors Frankie Christian & Iain Reitze have, over the last two years, been prepared to work all of God’s hours in pursuit of their shared vision for Prestige Boot Camp. Their success is well-deserved, and long may they enjoy it.  
Accommodation: Award-winning Holiday Barns, spacious & beautifully crafted with up-market furnishings & panoramic views over the East Devon countryside. Outdoor swimming pool/ summer only. Camps also in Spain & The Cotswolds.
Capacity: 24. F Only(Devon); 16. F Only(Cotswolds); 20. Mixed(Spain). Occasional Mixed & Male Only  Weekend Camps, too
Duration: 7 nts. ( 3pm Friday – Friday 10am). 14 nts. available on occasion
Cost: £1550( private doubles,all en-suite) & £1250(twin,en-suite)/£1100(twin,shared bathroom). Discount deals also available.
Price includes: All food, lodging & activities which typically include: gym-style work-outs plus summer sessions in the swimming pool, hill &  coastal hiking, canoeing,  cycling,  coasteering, abseiling, boxing, white water rafting, team games, zip wire & asault course, Nutritional & Life Style Seminar, Healthy Cooking Workshop, First Night Motivational Talk, 120 picture CD of your week & a farewell goodie bag with certificate, T-shirt & Prestige’s own Life Coaching Manual to keep you true to your new faith.
Evening Events e.g  Quiz Night, Winter Camp Fire Night, Comedy Cabaret, Yoga & Relaxation, DVD Library in lounge & Final Gala Night Dinner with champagne.
Optional extras: Massage/£30,30mins;£40,40mins. Available every evening.




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