For James and Heather, British Military Fitness (BMF) is a massive part of their lives – not least because it sparked the start of a very happy relationship. Now married, the pair had different reasons for signing up to BMF… but both consider the social element to be crucial.
Despite attending the gym and doing a bit of running, James felt that the gym was a bit boring and antisocial. A friend recommended he join BMF in Southampton – and he says he hasn’t looked back since.
“I wasn’t convinced – outdoors isn’t really my thing. But I went to the free session, back in November 2007, to shut him up. I was hooked straight away. Everyone was so friendly, there were so many different types of people, and the instructors were really enthusiastic. The content was much more varied than the gym, so it was easy to stay keen.”
As for Heather, she was finishing up a thesis for her doctorate in Southampton in 2008, and needed a good way to alleviate the stress. A good friend told her that she’d love BMF, but Heather thought it might be another one of her failed attempts at a fitness regime. It soon became clear that BMF was different.
“I felt so much better in myself for being outside and being taken out of my comfort zone. It was clearly sociable – there was a social event really soon after I joined, actually – and people were so encouraging at the beginning when I was struggling. There was an immediate reduction in stress levels, and I felt so motivated. I’d never stuck to ANY exercise before… and now I’ve been a loyal BMF member for 8 years.”
With James and Heather both loving their classes (and the social aspect) at Southampton Park, a romance was soon on the cards. But was it love at first sight? Instructor Andy says, “James and his cocky but friendly demeanor and Heather all quiet and shy… it was a wonder how they made a match!”
James says he was “taken aback” when he first saw Heather in class, and Heather says she “noticed James and thought he was nice!” After staying behind to chat to her after BMF sessions, James volunteered to help her out on a research project. Perfectly fitting the criteria (a male between 20 and 30), James was supposed to do one or two hours of testing as part of Heather’s research – but ended up staying for six!
When he eventually plucked up the courage to ask her out on a date, James took Heather for a ride on his motorbike. He earned a lot of brownie points then, says Heather, because he didn’t try to show off by going fast – he was very responsible, and considerate of the fact that Heather had never been on a motorbike before. “That swung it for me!” she claims.
The pair then moved to Tunbridge Wells (for Heather’s job) for three and a half years, but didn’t need to worry about knowing nobody there. They found a local BMF class and formed lifelong friendships there too, before moving back to Southampton and rejoining their former classmates.
In July 2015, James and Heather got married – and two tables full of BMF friends were there to see them tie the knot. They say they know several people from their various BMF groups who have got married, and indeed had children, as a result of meeting at the sessions.
Today, James goes along whenever his shift work will allow – usually around three times a week. He’s also the unofficial “social secretary” for Southampton Park BMF, arranging Christmas parties and awards ceremonies in his spare time.
Heather says she’s gone from a blue bib (beginner level) who struggles with running to someone who does half marathons and is considering marathons. Now with a Green bib (advanced level), she says BMF has really changed her views on fitness.
The pair compete in many events together and tradition takes them back to Tunbridge every year for the half marathon. They also take part in the Major Series, Southampton Half Marathon and Bristol Half Marathon.
So what advice would they have for would-be BMF attendees?
“Just do it! Don’t overthink it. You will never get the same type of workout in a gym or anywhere else as you will at BMF. It’s a brilliant combination – you are taken out of your comfort zone, but in a really supportive and friendly environment. Basically, everyone is just trying to get the best from each other.”
Click here for a FREE BMF trial session.