Friday 14th June 2024

Fresh air, family spirit and scenes worthy of the Edinburgh Fringe: why I won’t be joining a gym this January

“Guys, I shall be holding a Christmas circuit training bootcamp every morning in the garden. It will take place in the small window of time between my lie-in and my midday drinking.”

This is the announcement I send to my siblings via the family “Christmassssss” WhatsApp group, before our descent to Kent for a week or so of gross over-indulgence at the booze cabinet of Mum and Dad.

My parents, who don’t do WhatsApp, are notified about the bootcamp via a telephone call. “Ah, I hope it’s not bad weather,” says my father, in a tone that suggests he’d rather eat lanced boils than put a pair of trainers on.

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This is to be expected, however, I have higher hopes for my mum, who spent decades doing Mr. Motivator to offset her pregnancies with the five of us. Aerobics was so entrenched in our childhoods that when I learnt to walk I followed every fourth step with a clap and a leg curl. (It’s a good job I don’t drive, as it’d be quick step to the clink if I were ever pulled over and asked to walk in a straight line).

I feel a bit sick as we squat-jump on the grass, but I don’t let on because my sister is filming from the kitchen window.

And so on Christmas Eve, at about 10am, I crash about the house bellowing: “BOOTCAMP! Mum are you ready? BOOTCAMP! Everyone in the garden!”

Despite the house bursting with eight adults and six children, just five of us traipse to the garden, past the fox poo on the patio, and the pond that dual-purposes as a skip. I feel a bit sick as we squat-jump on the grass, but I don’t let on because my sister Belles is filming from the kitchen window, and attempting to goad my brother. “Did you have to wear pink? Was this the dress code? Did Samantha tell you to wear that?”

My brother, who has a sensible job, tells Belles: “You’re not filming me.” But he is quite wrong about this. “What are we hoping to achieve today?” barks Belles, who fancies herself as Louis Theroux, her phone held high to capture our walking lunges. “Go away!” I shout in a fit of pique. “This is not a discussion just fucking fuck off!” And so she goes back into the house and sends the video to everyone on WhatsApp.

Bootcamp attendees drop by the day, and by New Year’s I am doing it by myself.

My other sister, Pen (a casualty of excess wine consumption and therefore unable to participate) declares that the footage is: “GOLD! This is fucking hilarious – it’s best thing I’ve ever seen!” This would be an excellent accolade if I were promoting a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, but it’s somewhat dispiriting that this is her reaction to the sight of me doing star jumps.

Bootcamp attendees drop by the day, and by New Year’s I am doing it by myself – although I make up the numbers with all the food babies I am harbouring in my gut. And while the exercises stay the same, the level of difficulty increases in correlation with my cumulative hangover and my daily stride towards obesity.

In addition to the padding I’ve cultivated from eating all the Snickers in the Celebrations, I am also carrying the load of a couple of lady beards I’ve grown under my armpits, due to inept packing leaving me stranded without a razor. I am sure my glossy manes are providing additional resistance against the December air as I do my burpees in the bog-like wasteland that is my parents’ garden.  

My Christmas bootcamp lasted for nine days solid and, despite getting my hands grubby with fox faeces, I jolly well enjoyed it! So I shan’t be forking out to join a gym this January – instead I’ll be outdoors, exercising for free in the fresh air. And now I’m back in London, I’ve got my sights on roping in my neighbours!


Samantha Rea

Samantha Rea is a freelance journalist living in London. She studied at the London School of Economics but has since annihilated a fair few brain cells by watching too many episodes of Love Island. She likes doing yoga videos on You Tube and eating ice-cream in bed. If there is an after life, she would like to come back as Jill in Nighty Night.

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