Katherine was perfectly healthy and quite sporty until January 2010, when she suddenly lost her hearing in one ear. Two weeks’ later, she had a pain in her head… a pain that hasn’t gone away since. British Military Fitness (BMF) has been instrumental in helping her manage an undiagnosed chronic health condition, and has inspired her to help others in the same boat.
“Having been ill, and with sitting at a desk all day for work and trying to also study for a PHD, I wanted to get back into outdoors exercise. I found out about BMF through a friend who had gone and enjoyed it, and went along with her to see if it would help me manage my condition.
“I’ve always loved exercise and being outdoors – so BMF combines a lot of things I enjoy – but it was a new approach to me. I loved it. I’d done a lot of cycling and running but nothing like this. It’s a big group that goes to the sessions in Roundhay Park in Leeds, but over time I’ve got to know the instructors and made friends there.”
“The instructors are great. Dave is brilliant, he always makes you feel welcome when you arrive, gets to know you, offers encouragement, points out where you can improve your technique, and makes it fun and varied. We focus on different parts of the body all the time. It’s good to have a variety of instructors though… I joined a different Greens group today and did stuff I’d never done before!”
Katherine has constant chronic head pain, but doctors and specialists have not been able to figure out why, and can only offer pain relief via drugs. The only thing she has found that in any way helps is the combination of things that make up BMF: being outdoors, the distraction from the pain, the endorphins, and the sense of achievement.
“It’s amazing. It’s tough; it can be in painful in another way, but when I feel the pain in my head coming back at the end of the session, I think ‘Wow, I didn’t notice this flipping thing for an hour!’. Sometimes I’ll get home from work in so much pain, and I think if other people had this, the last thing they’d want to do is go out to BMF! But I just know I’ll feel so much better once I’m there and once I’ve done it. Even though sometimes it’s hard and I just want to sleep, I’ll always try to go, especially if I haven’t done any exercise yet that day.”
Katherine is also in a cycle club and runs, but has found that BMF gives her strength and resistance training that she couldn’t get elsewhere. “It makes you work every muscle. When I joined, I couldn’t do a press-up without being on my knees. Now I can do them properly for the whole session. The fitness I gained through BMF gave me the assurance I could have a go at Triathlon this year, and I did a super sprint and a sprint distance which was a great achievement.”
She’s been so inspired by how much BMF has helped her, she has started down the route to become a fitness professional and is currently just about to qualify as a Personal Trainer.
“The course has been made so much easier thanks to the coaching I’ve had from BMF over the years! In fact, if I wasn’t doing BMF I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to sign up for it.”
“Doing the course is great for understanding the BMF sessions better too. I’ve learnt about planes of movement, tri sets, matrix, all these things I didn’t know about before. I have never lifted weights before either, and on the course we all had to do one rep max of weightlifting. I managed to deadlift 80kg, which everyone including me was astounded at! It can only be BMF that has made me that strong. Nothing else could explain it!”
“I also think I’ve found a niche as a personal trainer, which is in exercise referral. It’s for people who have got a chronic health condition or are living with pain of some kind. Many people in pain are frightened to move, let alone do intense exercise… but we are designed to move, and exercise is good! BMF is a lifeline for me with my constant head pain. It has become core to managing my condition. It helps your mental wellbeing as much as your physical fitness. Even things like stress and anxiety; BMF is perfect. There are so many people living with high levels of stress, for example, and it definitely helps with that.”
Recommending it to everyone she meets, Katherine has already managed to get one friend to sign up to BMF during the autumn and several more lined up to give it a try this month.
“We all doubt ourselves in terms of what we think we can do. People worry about BMF thinking it’ll be too intense, but I started off in Blue (beginner) and never thought I’d be a Green (advanced), even up until a few weeks ago. After starting my PT course, I’ve moved up to the Greens… and I definitely don’t want to go back! Everyone can start at Blue, as long as you can walk you’ll be fine: The instructors will make the class work for you, and you’re guaranteed to feel better at the end of it, physically and mentally.”
“It’s just all-round, holistic fitness… cardio, strength and resistance, and loads of fun. Actually, I love when they do the crazy fun stuff!”
Sign up for a free BMF class at britishmilitaryfitness.com