Exercise classes – bootcamp-style – have come to Croydon

By - Thursday 17th July, 2014

Anna Arthur goes for the burn as she investigates Croydon’s Great Outdoors exercise campaign – the hard way

Woman of steel – Anna Arthur in action.
Photo author’s own.

Getting up at 6am and running round a park has never been in my top ten list of things to do. Yet I find myself doing exactly that at an early morning boot camp with instructor Paul Cisceros from South Norwood Leisure Centre. He’s been running the boot camp for just over a month and has a small but regular group of fitness disciples. He admits that it’s an early start and when it rains the group gets smaller, but hopes that it’ll grow to around ten strong.

It’s all part of The Great Outdoors, a campaign being run in Croydon this summer to encourage us to exercise outside. The idea is that this is both more beneficial and more enjoyable than an indoor workout, getting us in touch with nature and providing a greater variety and challenge.

Paul is a personal trainer who spent eight months with the Royal Marine Reservists but unfortunately never completed the course due to a back injury, something he very much regrets. However, he is clearly still in very good shape. We meet at 6:30am in the reception and take a gentle jog to South Norwood Country Park. I never cease to be amazed by how many green spaces we have in South London and this one, which can best be described as heathland, is particularly endearing. It’s the first time I’ve seen a pheasant inside the M25.

Star jumps aren’t pretty at my age

Once at the park, I catch my breath and wonder how long I’m going to last! However, Paul does his job well and a series of warm-up exercises prepare me for some uphill lunges and squats, followed by sprinting up a steep incline. The sprint comes with a threat – Paul gives me five seconds start before chasing me and if he beats me then I have to do thirty star jumps. This is enough to get my legs working. Star jumps at my age are not pretty.

At this point we are on top of a hill and the view is panoramic, taking in the Crystal Palace transmitters and Addington Hills. We re-locate to a playing field and Paul removes a rope ladder and some small plastic cones from his backpack. This looks serious and memories of circuit training at secondary school come flooding back to me.

Paul Cisceros gives his bootcampers constant encouragement.
Photo author’s own.

The next series of exercises involve jumping side to side with feet together, press-ups, sit-ups, more squats and quite a bit of sprinting and jogging. Paul gives constant encouragement and I find I’m able to do much more than I originally thought. (I am secretly pleased with my performance.)

After the circuit training we jog back to the leisure centre and I manage most of the way before slowing to a walk. We complete a few stretches on the front verge and we’re done. I am very red in the face but feeling incredibly virtuous. Paul hopes that I don’t ache too much later and of course I do, but I have to admit I wouldn’t be adverse to going back for more. It’s all about general fitness, as he says, and I can’t deny we could all do with some more of that.

To find out more about bootcamp, call South Norwood Leisure Centre on 020 8662 9464 or Waddon Leisure Centre on 020 8760 0657.

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur is a mum of three, dog owner and director of Croydonites Festival of New Theatre. Born in the north-east, she grew up just outside of Portsmouth but London and Croydon have been her home for over 20 years. She also works in contemporary dance, but don’t hold that against her.

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