words by Harriet Chubb

As the self-confessed Boot Camp lover on the Hip and Healthy team, and after trialling many daily, weekly and monthly camps in London, I practically squat jumped at the chance to experience my first residential camp. This was no ordinary residential camp however, the brand new Boot Camp by SOS Fitness at Cameron House teams a luxury 5* resort with the best (currently serving) military and navy Physical Training Instructors to get both body and mind into shape – fast. Combining this military style fitness with the finest Scottish hospitality, including indulgent Spa treatments, they have created the ultimate pleasure & pain package, all set against the awe-inspiring back drop of the impressive Loch Lomond.

After a short flight into Glasgow airport, I was surprised at how quick the transfer was to the hotel, 25 minutes after weaving through various Glasgow suburbs we arrived at the resort, into a tranquil haven of nature, the sudden appearance of the baronial mansion of Cameron House looming over the brooding Loch was more than a pleasant surprise considering the short ride. You can almost hear your shoulders clunking into their natural position; the stresses and strains of London and travelling instantly forgotten. The hotel itself has subtly managed to capture the traditional essence of Scotland whilst remaining contemporary in style; an exposed modern ceiling in the Cameron Grill restaurant for instance contrasts perfectly with the traditional furniture and artwork, creating up-to-the-minute grill-style dining. The sumptuous bedrooms have a similar fusion, with thick, tartan rugs to wrap around you on chilly evenings while watching your plasma screen TV or listening to music on your ipod docking station; it was easy to forget that early next morning heralded the potentially painful aspect of my stay.

7am dawns and a pre-breakfast run around the loch starts the SOS Fitness regime for the day. Thinking that I could bury my headphones into my ears and shut out the early morning world to get through it, I was very much mistaken. It was not a straight-forward jog but a military style hour-long class blending running with exercising and finally bursts of sprinting creating an interval training based lesson. Although I was slightly taken back at first by the intensity of the session, it was an excellent way to wake up both body and mind, the two instructors were so engaging that by the end of the session they knew everybody’s names and even more remarkably, so did I. It was a perfect ice-breaker and far better than a simple trot around the loch.

After a healthy and nutritious breakfast, think protein packed poached eggs, (no bacon butties in sight) the day began in full force. Kicked off by a light-hearted but informative NLP session (Neuro Linguistic Programming) that aimed to inspire confidence in our training, we were then guided through an overall fitness test, measuring body fat percentage, visceral fat (fat around your organs), athletic age and hydration levels to name but a few! Although this is of course intimidating, it’s a necessary part of beginning and measuring a healthy exercise and eating plan. After completing as much of the bleep test as I could and consequently feeling like I was in Year 10, I had an excellent idea of my overall health and my realistic, achievable fitness goals. What I was not quite prepared for was the circuit training that followed. A gruelling, intense and painful hour ensued, with at least 10 different stations to go through, not once, but twice; including weights, core exercises and various military drills. It was difficult and it was supposed to be. However, the instructors were so good at motivating the group that we all got through it in one piece, notwithstanding the odd profanity murmured and occasional tear shed.

Lunch was as Hip and Healthy as it gets, steamed chicken and vegetables or baked organic salmon fuelled us for the afternoon activities. With great collective relief we realised that there were no more circuits or fitness classes arranged for the day. We were instead whisked off across Loch Lomond on an exhilarating rib ride to Inchmurrin island, small but ruggedly beautiful it was the perfect setting for our military style orienteering. From building a camp fire in two minutes flat to trekking through the undergrowth (and sometimes straight through the ice cold loch!) it was all expertly and lovingly organised and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. It is this part of the camp that sets SOS Fitness apart from other companies. I couldn’t quite believe that the people I had met at 7am in the morning had previously been strangers; the experience bought everybody together in a way I haven’t come across before at other day boot camps.

It was the promise of an evening spa treatment however, that was at times the incentive I needed to keeping putting one foot in front of the other during the day and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. After a relaxing massage and thermal experience at the award-winning Carrick Spa I felt entirely rejuvenated from the day’s strenuous activities. Taking a dip in the heated, rooftop infinity pool was a particular highlight, with breathtaking views over the world famous Carrick golf course. Continuing the pleasure theme is easy at Cameron House, with many restaurants to choose from in the resort, however after the rigorous boot camp I would highly recommend The Boathouse, casual dining at its best, featuring the finest local seafood from Scotland’s only salt water loch at the famous Loch Fyne. If you decide to prolong your stay (and we think you will want to) there are many other invigorating activities that the hotel offer, including a real once-in-a-lifetime experience; cruising in the UK’s only sea plane high above the loch, perfect for special occasions, and sometimes the odd romantic proposal!

The Boot Camp at Cameron House by SOS Fitness will run day camps on the 13th October and the 10th November 2012 at £149 per person which includes the full programme with healthy breakfast and lunch. Room rates at Cameron House are £169 per room per night. Look out for the 3 night and 6 night packages that are due to launch in 2013!