I wrongly presumed the name ‘bootcamp’ was just a fun branding gimmick

Aisling Marron: I signed up for an exercise class and wondered if I was in the right place

The 45-minute bootcamp class I booked turned out to be an hour long and it was the worst news I got all week.

I signed up for an exercise class and even though it was called “bootcamp” and was literally taking place on Military Road, I was still somehow very much taken aback when the trainer introduced himself as being in the Army.

I was starting to feel nervous and looked around, trying to gauge if the other people seemed 'sporty'. I haven't exercised in ages

I had – very wrongly – presumed that the name “bootcamp” was just a fun branding gimmick. So when an actual real-life soldier walked out, I wondered if I was in the right place. The closest I want to an Army experience is wearing a pair of camouflage-patterned Lululemons while drinking coffee and sitting down.

I once expressed surprise to one of my brothers that our other brother was apparently the fastest in his team’s pre-season training. And my brother, with pride in his eyes, said: “The thing about Seán is, he’s the only one who’s able to run and get sick at the same time.” I’ve never related to someone less in my life. I would have stopped running so far before the point of ever getting sick it was hard to believe we were related. He’s all “mind over matter” and I’m more “if you don’t mind, does this really matter?”


I was starting to feel nervous and looked around, trying to gauge if the other people seemed “sporty”. I haven’t exercised in ages. I had romantic notions of having a “fit pregnancy” but I didn’t exercise then, I haven’t exercised since and I didn’t exercise before it if I’m honest. I reckoned that as the class was specifically catering for new mothers that it would have to be somewhat manageable – even for me.

Trying to focus on the positive, I congratulated myself on even getting out to a class. And so soon! But then the woman next to me introduced herself and her eight-week-old baby. I looked down at my five-month-old who, by comparison, looked like she could give the class – if she could just tear herself away from chomping on the strap of her buggy that is. Anyway, with comparison being the thief of joy and all that, I snapped out of it and soldiered on.

The class was on a pitch in the Phoenix Park and we lined the buggies up on one side of the field – each with a baby (and their standard issue, multi-coloured, firefly toy) looking out. On the other side were 100 deer, raising their heads on occasion to watch. Together, they made up a fine audience and I was officially now partaking in a spectator sport.

This picturesque scene was only enhanced by the smell of the Guinness hops wafting over from St James’s Gate. Though my mind quickly jumped from: “I love the smell of the Guinness hops” to “I’d love a Guinness” to “I’d love to be in a pub right now having a Guinness”. All this and it only half 10 in the morning and the class not even begun.

The introduction by the instructor included the happy news that we could tend to or feed our baby any time we wanted. Oh yes, I knew as soon as he said it that I would be cashing that one in, thank you.

The class began and it was, I have to say, challenging but doable. I was out of breath and absolutely wrecked, but ultimately feeling confident and proud of how I had kept up. Then the instructor said the dreaded words: “That’s the end of the warm-up.”

Seventeen minutes passed before I looked at my watch – an achievement in itself. Seventeen minutes down, 28 to go (I was still in that innocent state of thinking the class was only 45 minutes long. And looking back, I’m glad I had that time when I didn’t know.)

But when it finally ended and I went to say 'see you next week' to my new friends, I remembered it's a twice weekly class. Mother of God, I'll see them on Wednesday

About halfway through the class, I did actually wish I was in the Army. You’re goddamn right I did! But only so the instructor could order a code red and put me out of my misery. I’m terrible at exercise and I can handle that truth.

I was, by now, willing for the baby to cry just so I could get a break. But every time I turned round to her, she was sitting up, happily taking in her mother’s misery. And then it happened: she let out a little whimper. Almost imperceptible but perceptible to me. I ran to her – the fastest I’d moved all morning. It was the most attentive I’ve been to her her whole life.

“Oh are you hungry? It’s okay. I’m coming. I’m coming honey! Mammy’s here. Let me take you out and I’ll feed you. Oh you’re still hungry? Okay, have some more. Do you have any burps? Take your time sweetheart, you take your time.”

On the upside, there’s great bonding in shared trauma and wisecracks whispered to my fellow grunts – generally along the lines of “this is awful isn’t it?” – were good for an easy laugh. But when it finally ended and I went to say “see you next week” to my new friends, I remembered it’s a twice weekly class.

Mother of God, I’ll see them on Wednesday.