Fitness Medical Style & Beauty

Diary of a bootcamp virgin

By: Claire Locking

Regular readers will be aware from previous confessions that this editor is not exactly what you could call a “gym bunny”. I’ve dabbled with various fat-burning miracles all in the name of research, but the stats on my scales remain pretty horrible reading. The last 40 days, however, have seen me undergo something of a transformation, both in body and mind.

When I came back from my summer holidays, as usual about 3kg heavier, a fit friend tactfully suggested we sign up to the 40 Day Challenge. Not being a member of Hong Kong’s ever-growing group of fit fillies, this term meant nothing to me so, in blissful ignorance, I agreed to give it a go.

I soon discovered that the 40 Day Challenge is a major life-changing moment for anyone who signs up. Now a tri-annual event, the brainchild of Nathan Solia and his team of uber-fit trainers at Elite Personal Fitness in Wong Chuk Hang, the 40 Day Challenge aims to get you to change shape and lifestyle and, most importantly, mindset in a full-immersion, dedicate-your-life-to-fitness kind of way.

Nathan is the perfect man for the job; he introduced Hong Kong to the concept of bootcamp back in 2005. Previously, he worked as a personal trainer with Les Mills (creator of Body Balance and Body Combat) back in his native New Zealand. His first role in Hong Kong was as the national personal training (PT) manager at Fitness First and he then ran the PT scheme at the Hong Kong Cricket Club where at one time he had over 400 people on the bootcamp programme and 75 classes every week.

The 40 Day Challenge I took part in is run through Nathan’s own company, Elite Personal Training, in Wong Chuk Hang. It holds over five bootcamp sessions daily across the island as well as strength training classes in the studio. Those up for the challenge have to agree to exercise six days a week and change their diet to one based on Metabolic typing.


Week 1

Getting hassle (and encouragement) from all fronts. Ex-army husband thinks his prayers have been answered and even my father-in-law is sending messages of encouragement. Day 1 sees me with the lovely Nathalie at Scenic Villas putting my body through interval training, skipping, arm work and crunches. Not too bad.

On Day 2, I bounce along to Repulse Bay for my first encounter with Sampson, reputedly Hong Kong’s best bootcamp instructor. OMG!!! It was 32 degrees Celsius and he had us sprinting along the beach, running up steps, doing sit-ups and pull-ups. Surely, one of the most torturous hours of my adult life but the short, sharp shock was the wake-up call I needed. It made me realise that staring at a computer all day at work is adding kilos and taking years off my life. Time to get really serious.

By the end of week one, I was very proud of myself. I had stuck to my end of the bargain and been to bootcamp every day with one day of hiking, which I saw as a sort of treat. Even the diet was proving to be remarkably manageable; chocolate was replaced with low-sugar fruit options like pureed berries and green apples.


Week 2

Nathan is a huge advocate of strength training, especially for those of us nearing middle age when our muscles and bone density aren’t as they used to be. He calls it the “elixir”, claiming that it makes your body hungrier to burn fat. Feeling a little fitter, I decide to set my alarm for 6am and head to the Monday morning weights session. My trainer, Alex, a former member of the Hong Kong Rugby 7s and XVs teams, is not one for slacking. The hour flies by with a combination of exercises using free weights and kettle bells. The following day, I can hardly get out of bed having rediscovered dormant muscles, but as they say, no pain, no gain!


Week 3

Exercise has now become a welcome part of my daily routine; two mornings in the gym, two hikes and two days with the lovely Nathalie at bootcamp. I must admit that bootcamp isn’t getting any easier. I find it slightly demotivating that my fitness levels don’t seem to be getting any better. Nathalie is encouraging and claims she can see a difference.

I’ve been trying to stay off the carbs even though the diet allows them back in at this stage but Nathan advises me that my weight loss and performance could be hampered if I don’t reintroduce them. He also says the one rest day, when you can revert to being a chocolate-munching couch potato if you wish, is a must as it kick-starts your metabolism. I’m sleeping like a baby and finding my head less foggy and more focussed.


Week 4

I’m in the home stretch and the lethargy of last week seems to have lifted. I’ve upped my magnesium intake, which is an essential nutrient for energy production, and my body seems to have got used to the new demands.

Nathalie also seems to have doubled the pace at bootcamp but I find myself surprisingly up for the challenge. Sprints up four flights of stairs? Bring it on! Anything’s easy when Nathalie is screaming “Allez Claire” for encouragement.

Strength training is also producing results; I can see more definition in my arms and the cellulite in my legs is disappearing.

The scales, however, are only showing a 1.3kg weight loss, which I just don’t understand. I tackle Nathan and tell him that I think this one-size-fits-all diet that allows you to eat fat isn’t working for someone like me with a lot of fat to lose. According to Nathan, fats are seriously underrated. Like many of the health and fitness myths that have been abolished during this 40-day journey, the myth that all fats are bad isn’t one that is believed at Elite. Good fats such as coconut oil make us feel satisfied and are needed for our hair, skin and brain development.


Week 5

The day of reckoning and all thirty participants head to Elite to be weighed, measured and photographed. I am pretty pleased – a 2.3-percent drop in body fat, nearly 5kg lost and 10cm off my waist and hips. The “after” photos make for much better viewing!


The next 40 Day Challenge will begin after Chinese New Year in February. Contact Nathan for details:


20/F, Regency Centre Phase 2

41-43 Wong Chuk Hang Road

Wong Chuk Hang

Island South

2552 9925 |