The body bootcamp for those who don't believe in bootcamps
Lisa Armstrong's verdict on Educogym's 12-day bootcamp for instant weight loss.
It is, rumour has it, summer. And with summer comes summer holidays and the concomitant pre-summer holiday work-load. I'm talking about the half-stone weight shedding, depilating, brow threading, buffing, exfoliating, tanning, manicuring, pedicuring, lash dying. And did I mention the half-stone weight shedding? Not that any of us actually believes in the instant half-stone weight loss, right?
So there I was, last autumn, an instant-weight-loss atheist, when an email arrived from something called Educogym, offering a 12-day boot camp that promised lots of muscle gain in less than 15 minutes a day. And instant weight loss.
I'd already read some US research claiming that the traditional 30-60 minutes, four-times-a-week approach to aerobics was not, wouldn't you know it, as effective as previous US research had sworn blind it was. I had even bought Pace: the 12 Minute Fitness Revolution, a book that explained, in 290 pages of soul-sapping, American head-banging, how a daily 12 minutes of intense interval training was all you needed. God forgive me, I was a teensy bit tempted. Quite a lot tempted, to be honest.
Anyway, the exercise: it's all weight-bearing. And intense isn't the half of it. I've worked out for years. Or I thought I had. Turns out I'd actually been reading the paper, watching MTV, listening to Start The Week podcasts or catching up on Spooks , seasons 1-10 while twiddling with some knobs on a running machine - for hours on end, with predictably lame results. Educogym has a specially designed work station conceived to cut out all the fiddling, twiddling and leisurely weaving between machines. There are only four of you training at a time, with an instructor constantly monitoring you. It is hideous. And it works. I'm not talking about the instant weight loss, although yes, the pounds drop off. On that diet, wouldn't you scarper if you could?
More important, your body shape changes. It's all to do with working out to your maximum capability (the point where you couldn't do another repetition and want to strangle your trainer, only you don't have the strength). The point is to build muscle, fast - hence all those slightly weird-sounding supplements, which I never remembered to take.
Muscle equals tone. It also burns calories. "What we're working on first is building firm tissue, the active tissue that burns fat," says Morris. "The study that the University of London did about 12 years ago showed the average fat loss on this plan was 7.5lbs in the 12 days, and the average amount of muscle gained was 3lbs. That's really the crux, because when you build the right kind of muscle, it increases metabolism. Depending on which research you go to, that means you could, at best, burn up to 300 extra calories a day, every day, even whilst watching TV."
I lost one and a half inches all over in the first 12 days, gained 3lbs of muscle and lost no weight (I didn't want to and I suppose if you factor in the muscles, there was a fat loss). I have witnessed far more dramatic re-contouring on numerous fellow Educogym victims - sorry, clients.
It's not cheap - from €170 a month for three, 15-minute weekly sessions. But it's undoubtedly effective, especially if you're looking for a kickstart. educogym.com