Thursday 26 April 2018

Karl Henry: Can a bootcamp reboot your health?

Is seven days intense training enough to overhaul your lifestyle? Not really, says our fitness expert, but it can give you the chance to stand back and take stock

Tools: Whether it's a group effort or an individual goal, your heart has to be in it, says Karl.
Tools: Whether it's a group effort or an individual goal, your heart has to be in it, says Karl.

Karl Henry

Seven days of hard work, eating healthy and leaving lighter, fitter, healthier and happier. Sounds great, doesn't it? But can seven days really make that much of a difference to your health?

Bootcamps and retreats have never been more popular, but they are not new - I myself have been doing them for the last 10 years, both in groups and with individuals.

They can take you away from the stresses of life, the distractions and environment that have all contributed to you being unhealthy, by placing you in a cocoon of health, working out several times each day, eating regularly or even fasting in some way.

The first few days are hard - very hard. Sugar, caffeine, processed foods, chocolate, soft drinks and alcohol are all removed from the body. This usually results in you feeling quite unwell: headaches, spots, paleness and sleep irregularities are all common, along with lots of tears and a low mood.

But once you get through this uncomfortable chapter, the body begins to revitalise and renew itself. All of a sudden, you'll find you feel amazing.

One of the biggest benefits people enjoy is a newfound sense of serenity. This is because for once, you've taken the timeout to put yourself first and finally addressed all the issues that caused you to be unhealthy in the first place.

We live in such a hectic world, where we are eager to put everyone and everything else first, that taking time to step back from everything is incredibly rare.

It is hard to address any wellness or weight issue properly without taking a deep reflective look at what caused the problem in the first place, stripping the layers back and finding these reasons are the building blocks on which you build the foundation of your healthy life going forward.

But can something as simple as a bootcamp really solve your health issues in just one week?

Let's be honest about it, no it can't. No matter what the promotion says, you won't lose everything or solve everything in just seven days.

A lot of the weight you've lost will actually be fluid or waste. But what you will do is gain the tools to make long-term change; the tools to eat healthier and cook better.

You will come back with new exercises that you find you actually like, with clear and concise goals that give you direction where you didn't have any before. You will have stepped back and analysed what you need to change in your life and have those stepping stones to build on.

Personally, my camps are mainly one-on-one. I find it better as I can get the very best results for that client over the seven days, as the programme is personally built for them. That's not to say that group camps don't work, but I prefer doing them with just one client.

So how about setting up your own bootcamp-style methods at home for seven days? Here is what I came up with:

Sit back and analyse

What is stopping you from making the required changes to get healthier, what's getting in your way? Who is getting in your way? What can you do to change it? What are you going to do to change it? Write down exactly what you will do for the next seven days that will be different.

Clean up your diet

Eliminate all caffeine, added sugar, soft drinks, alcohol and white refined carbs for the next seven days. Increase your water intake to around three litres and aim to eat five times a day, your usual three meals and two snacks such as fruit or nuts in-between.

Exercise more

Sounds obvious, doesn't it? But the reality is that most of us don't exercise enough. Ideally exercise for the seven days should be a mixture of cardiovascular and resistance workouts. The intensity will vary with how you feel and what stage of the week you are at, remember the start of the week will be tough.

Cook more

One of the key elements of retreats is the fact that your food is home-cooked, so if you want to try your own version you need to cook every evening or batch cook at the weekend.


You must believe that you can get through the week, especially the first few days when the going is tough. Yes, it's going to be hard, but you will and can get through it. Now there you have it, I've given you the tools, the key lessons that most bootcamps will give, try it at home for yourself and see how you get on. And remember, it's not an instant solution but a kick-start.

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life