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Boot camp has helped my mental health

Getting outdoors for some exercise has endless benefits!

Written by Rebecca Dempsey and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

"I don’t have a main goal in my fitness journey. I don’t have a target weight or speed that I want to be able to run."

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In April I started outdoor boot camp in Phoenix Park in Dublin with my friend Joanne. She had found an offer for classes online and we said we’d give it a go. I used to be fit in my teens and I had been thinking about my fitness and well being a lot over the last year or so. What I didn’t realise was just how much this commitment would help me.

The classes were scheduled to take place every Monday and Wednesday at 7 pm for 4 weeks, sunshine or rain they would be going ahead. So we started. I’m not going to lie, after the first class I thought I was going to be sick (and this was after a night out). My body had been pushed; my arms were heavy from trying to hold my weight off the ground and my legs burned from running.

I love walking and I have tried over the last few years to go for walks after college or work but this was very different and the next day in work was difficult. I was so stiff. My body ached and it reminded me of when I used to Irish dance as a child. My legs and mind were physically tired, and this was just after one hour of exercise. Even though I was so sore and drained, I kept thinking that at 23 years old, I should be able to do this.

I had doubts about whether I could keep going to the classes, but I did and after three weeks I began to notice little improvements. I had started to control my breathing when running, I had learned a wide range of exercises, I was using muscles and building strength that I hadn’t known about and I was being pushed to do all of this but at my own pace too. I didn’t care if I was beetroot red after the hour. I was feeling good and it was fun too. The classes are open to anyone and the instructor is tough but fair. He pushes everyone to do what they can, at their own pace and he always encourages us never to stop, to keep going.

I am now into my third month of classes and since starting boot camp I have started running too. Even if it is before work or in the evening, I try my best to get out into the air as much as I can. My work means I am in front of a computer for a lot of my day so getting outside is proving to be good for me. My clothes fit me better now and I’ve even received a compliment or two from friends who have noticed a change.

Make goals and try to stick by them

I know I have listed a few positives above but the most surprising and best change I have noticed has been the improvement to my mental health. Life throws curve balls and challenges to everyone, some can be anticipated and others are complete surprises but since my body and mind have been active in a different way I have noticed that I can switch off from work easier, I am sleeping better, I am getting through my days and I am dealing with the challenges of life with a slightly different approach.

I signed up and completed the Darkness in to Light run with my friend, Dympna. Something I would never have thought of doing a year ago, and it was amazing. I completed the Women’s Mini Marathon with my cousins and some of my aunties too. This again is something I would never have thought of doing and it was such a fun and a challenging day. A better way of spending a Bank Holiday Monday, raising money for charity, being outside with family, instead of dying from a horrible hangover in bed!

I don’t have a main goal in my fitness journey. I don’t have a target weight or speed that I want to be able to run. I have an improved mind frame now and I am getting to an outlook on life that I have always wanted to have. I just have to maintain this. Signing up to boot camp has been the best decision and money that I have spent this year and I would encourage people to get up and get active if they are thinking about it.

If it is the gym, dance lessons or swimming, if you are thinking about it, do it! You could start a class or get a few friends together once a week for a game of football even. I was surprised at the large amount of people who turned up to my first boot camp class. I didn’t really think that there would be many people who wanted to get fit or who had been thinking of getting fit like me! How wrong was I!

I know that I have big decisions to make for my life in the coming years and sometimes I don’t want to think about those choices, but I know that if my mind is strong, happy and healthy I’ll be able to make them. Boot camp has helped my mental health and I really hope I can keep it up and keep these good vibes going! Life is for living after all and if I can have somewhat of a healthy mind then things will work out just fine. I know it.

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Published June 9th, 2015
Last updated March 28th, 2017
Tags fitness exercise
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