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Fit Farms

by Bent Editor Gordon Hopps

For most people, feeling comfortable in ‘their own skin’ is what makes them who they are. Sometimes, that comfort creeps up on them when they aren’t looking and suddenly they realise that, well, they no longer feel that comfortable anymore. Quite rightly, not everyone is body conscious, or cares that much about what others think as they are happy the way they are. They are not bothered about medical advice or government recommendations because it is nothing to do with anyone but themselves. However, at some point, some people take stock and feel the need for change. This can happen at any age and unfortunately I’d reached that age.

It was on my last holiday when it happened. The weather was hot and sunny and I was walking along wearing only a pair of shorts when I caught sight of my reflection as I passed a shop window. I wondered who that fat, old guy looking back at me was. The realisation shocked me as much as the image and I thought it was time to do something about it. I signed up to FitFarms who, after running ‘Women Only’ courses very successfully for over 4 years, were starting ‘Men Only’ courses at their weight loss and fitness camps.

Before I went I managed to lose 14 pounds in weight on a no-carb diet, which surprisingly was not a strain for me and vainly I wanted to look a bit better when I got to the FitFarms base in the Peak District. The plan was to spend a week following a nutritional and exercise programme that would re-boot my system, make me see the way I live my life in perhaps a different way and to try and achieve goals that I could set for myself.

Now let me make it perfectly clear that this is not a boot camp where ex-military men shout abuse or power obsessed fitness freaks try to belittle you in any way. For some, that would be heaven but that wouldn’t be for me. What FitFarms did do is point out the reason we fall so easily into eating too much and/or not exercising regularly, so for this one week, what you eat and how you exercise is all laid out for you.

I did find the exercise programme quite a shock. Hell, I hadn’t done any real exercise for a number of years and gearing up, at 6.45am, for the first session of the day, was quite scary. However, once that was over at 7.30 you could have breakfast, a calorie controlled start to the meals you’d be having throughout the day. From 8.30 through to12.30 there would be a couple more session of different forms of exercise. For instance, we might be doing resistance work, cardio work, strengthening this or that group of muscles. Whatever it was, lunch at 12.30 was always welcome – FitFarms in the Peak District has a fantastic chef called Anthea and her meals were a joy to eat. The afternoon is also then broken up into different sessions; a walk, a run, a swim, a bike ride, boxersize, Pilates, yoga, jogging, (see the chart for an example of a typical day) as well as all the usual step classes and general fitness circuits. It has to be said that he countryside in the Peak District is wonderful and our 8 mile walk around Carsington Water or the 6 mile hike around Chatsworth were hard but visually stunning. By the time dinner arrives around 5.30 you know you are ready to dig in but, you are on a calorie and nutritionally balanced diet and the portions are definitely smaller than you think your body needs. But on this you have to give way to the experts when they are trying to help you burn off the fat and facilitate a toning of that out-of-control body. Food is tasty but often feels minimal however, don’t make any rash decision about sneaking an apple or going off site to the pub. All meals are balanced for what you are trying to gain from the FitFarms experience. After all, you’ve paid a lot of money to be there but don’t expect that it is going to be canapés and champagne with a bit of toe-wiggling as exercise… it isn’t that type of establishment, you will be working very hard at getting into shape.

After the first couple of days I ached so much I really didn’t want to get out of bed. However, knowing that everyone else was in the same position a sort of ‘British Spirit’ soon emerged and I wanted to get through it, no matter how much ‘suffering’ I had to endure. The staff were motivational, without being ‘preachy’ and understood if you lagged a little behind others who were better at some things than you were. The group of fourteen guys I was with were a terrific cross-section of ages and abilities. We all had our own personal reasons for being there and each of us wanted the experience to kick-start a new direction for some kind of healthier lifestyle. To help with this they offer very interesting talks on the psychology of exercise, weight management, info on how to maintain your blood sugar levels and a particularly interesting class on nutrition. Most of us had never so much as looked at the info printed on the packaged food we buy to find out what was in the product, so a few pointers on this subject became a real eye-opener.

In my week away I lost a further four and a half pounds in weight, lost 2% of my body fat, lost an inch around my waist, was able to do more sit-ups, and felt really proud of my achievements. Thankfully, the course doesn’t end there. There have online follow-up help, encouragement, recipes and exercise programmes you can access, as well as a notice board to keep in touch with your trainers and fellow FitFarmers.

So, if your idea of a fit farm as all elegance, pampering and gentle exercise, then FitFarms isn’t for you. At FitFarms you are looked after but not pampered (although the accommodation is very nice), encouraged but not berated and offered goals that are both beneficial, achievable and sustainable. I found it a liberating experience and it definitely gave me more of an insight into the way I tick and a future were I control my body, not the other way round.

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