County Times reporter Harley Tamplin works up a sweat at Outdoor Military Fitness in Horsham Park.
Due to the bitter cold evening and my exercise plan of watching football on TV, it’s fair to say I had my doubts about my first military fitness class.
But the country’s favourite New Year’s resolution is to exercise more or lose weight, and with that in mind - and the memory of the Christmas turkey acting as further motivation - I readied myself for boot camp in Horsham Park.
As it happens, I needn’t have had any worries. There is no drill sergeant and my arrival at the class could hardly be less intimidating.
Instructor Liam Murphy has an impressive CV. A reserve Royal Marine for seven years, Liam made the bold move of setting up Outdoor Military Fitness (OMF) on his own in 2013.
“I started OMF 18 months ago for my mates,” Liam said. “We met outside a pub in Crawley and all the locals thought ‘who is this?!’”
They know now. OMF’s meteoric rise in such a short time owes much to his charisma and warmth. He is in top shape and appears more youthful than his 36 years suggest.
On the frosty night six of us take part in the session, though Liam explains he had around 20 participants in the evening’s earlier workout.
The class is unique in a number of ways. Equally kind to beginners as it is to hardcore fitness fanatics, progression is an important theme, with beginners starting with yellow bibs before moving on to orange, with green reserved for the super-fit.
Liam said: “We use the bib system so anyone can come down.
“When you move to a different coloured bib you get an increase in reps, harder exercises, less rest and more running - it is noticeable.
“The way we work is we don’t use equipment so the flow of the class is not hindered and you get a good workout.”
It’s an incredibly thorough workout. An hour of jogging is interrupted by strength exercises that switch the focus from tiring legs to the upper body.
It is relentless at times but Liam is encouraging, enthusiastic and, importantly, patient with relative beginners.
He is quick to crack a joke but retains an air of professionalism throughout the class, taking the fitness seriously - if not himself.
He is full of buzz words - his favourites are ‘don’t hate the instructor, hate the phys’, and ‘pain is weakness leaving the body’.
But with ‘OMFers’ achieving success in different ways, he has reason to feel confident about his growing brand.
He said: “Every class you just give 100 per cent and you don’t really stop, and it is a matter of time before the weight starts flying off you. We have had one girl lose four stone.”
Social as well as physical, Liam has made strong friendships through the class and even spoke of a potential budding romance among OMFers.
OMF has been so popular that he regularly leads groups of 40 in Horsham and as many as 60 in Crawley, and Liam offers a range of theories for the success - including why the drill sergeant persona is not his style of training.
“I don’t take myself too seriously and I like to throw in some conversation,” he said. “They say it is a good laugh and that is half the reason they come.
“It is a fine line between getting the message across and offending someone.
“We have got some high flying guys come down and, say they had a bad day at work, we can take their mind off it.”
During a paired exercise I speak to a police officer from Surrey, who tells me the workout has had a substantial effect on his fitness - he has become stronger while losing weight, helping him at work.
Liam monitors OMFers closely, with the option of monthly fitness tests and a timed run taking their improved fitness to task.
Newcomers should not be put off, he said, as he welcomes all levels of fitness, and he added that he expects OMF to ‘go bonkers this year’.
After one class, I can’t help but agree. My legs ached the next morning, but I was left feeling healthy and with the belief that OMF makes the perfect New Year’s resolution.
Liam is hoping to expand the business in 2015 and is looking for a part-manager to help him do so.
Anyone interested in the class can contact him on info@outdoormilitary fitness.co.uk or 07974 801611.