Attending a fitness boot camp with arthritis

Amongst the ladies who attend our September boot camp, a few had conditions that limited their physical abilities. These conditions ranged from arthritis and scoliosis to a double shoulder replacement! So we’ve had to answer some of the following questions:

  • What’s the best way to exercise after a shoulder replacement? 

  • Can I workout if I have scoliosis?

  • Can you accommodate my arthritis at your boot camps?

  • Can I come on the boot camp even although I have a predisposed medical condition like diabetes?

We know some of you have similar concerns - so instead of us telling you all about it, we thought you’d prefer to hear from one of the ladies herself. 

I met with boot camp client - Mandy Parker - to ask her a few questions about keeping fit and living with arthritis.

Fitness boot camps for people with predisposed medical conditions - Who Dares Slims

Hi Mandy, so good to see you again! For our readers - can you give us the background to your condition, how long have you been living with it?

I originally weakened my knee falling off a horse at 16 and when I was 30 I snapped my ACL. Ligaments never regrow and it stopped me doing so many things because of the pain and instability.  At first I kept thinking I’d be back to normal soon, but I gradually realised it was never going to get completely better. Now after years of being overweight I have arthritis, in both knees but much worse in the one with no ACL.

I've had minor surgery but it didn't help much but I'm determined to put off a knee replacement as long as possible. Nobody said to ‘keep moving’ but that's what I do. One doctor has recently complimented  me on the muscle I've built around my bad knee. He said I'm doing the right thing by keeping active and the reason women generally go for knee replacement earlier is because we don't tend to have as much muscle as men. 

Cycling is a great way to stay active if you have arthritis - Who Dares Slims boot camp customer Mandy tells all

So, do you normally keep fit?

Over the last 25 years walking has got harder and harder so cycling has become a way of getting around. I’ve realised It can replace walking almost entirely as it is a pain free way of keeping active. I cycle to get places, and go spinning for my fitness. 

Cycling is one of the few exercises I can do. The reason for this is cycling keeps your knees in a stable position, and relies on your leg muscles doing the work - which is what works for my arthritis. Cycling limits the ‘stabilising’ movements I’d need if I was walking, but keeps me fit.

I keep a folding bike in the car, so if I go into the city I can always get around. As you can imagine, you walk a lot in cities - in the countryside if you have a car and don’t really need to walk anywhere. I believe that my bike has replaced a wheelchair. In my case, if I wasn’t using a bicycle to keep active I would be using a mobility scooter / wheelchair. 

Cycling is also my social activity - I go on holiday on my bicycle and I have complete freedom to go anywhere. I’ve always loved travelling - but most adventurous travelling involves walking; Even coach-tour type holidays you end up walking a lot! 

When I get old hoist me onto a spinning bike and play music once a day and I’ll stay happy; I cycle for my mental wellbeing as much as my physical wellbeing. I’ve found something I love doing. Which means I exercise a lot, but I still struggle to manage my weight.

Is that why you wanted to come on a weight loss boot camp?

On average, over the last 15 years, I have put on a kilo a year - which seems like nothing at the time, but it mounts up! 

Even with the huge amount of exercise I do, my weight had been stable, but also higher than where I wanted it to be. I needed something to break the plateau I was on and I needed to re-educate my body on portion control. I used to think because I was eating healthy and exercising I could eat as much as I like - which clearly wasn’t the case. 

I’ve done weight watchers before but I didn’t want to be counting points. Going to a boot camp was a nice release of control, I could relax because it was all done for me.  You hand over your trust and commit to their programme and their meal plans for a week - which takes a couple of days to get used to - but it just works.

It was interesting to see how much I could do on how little food. I was in true calorie deficit for the first time - and it was liberating to think that I can go on a bike ride even when I’m hungry. It's amazing how much your body can give. 

You lost 4kg on our 7 day boot camp - are you happy with that?

Yes, I’m very happy. It’s opened my eyes to habits I didn’t realised I had formed and really, if I went to a boot camp twice a year and lost 3-4 kilos each time, then I would never have to diet again! 

Boot camp for customers with medical conditions - arthritis, scoliosis, asthma

Were there any particular activities on the boot camp that you could not participate in?

I’ve been limited for so long on that what I *think* I can do - but when I saw I could *actually* do most of the activities it made me feel so much better.  I’d not tried boxercise before and it was so much fun! I’m going to try and do more of it now that I know it’s within my reach. 

I know lots of people who have knee trouble who have just taken the view that ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m disabled’ instead using a positive mental attitude and thinking there are just a few things I can’t do - but why not try.

I’m amazed that there is not advice from medics about cycling if you have arthritis. They recommend crutches and painkillers, when I believe that you should be getting on a bicycle! If you catch it early enough and keep moving you might be able to delay the stage of not being able to do stuff. The minute you stop moving you seize up and that's the worst. 

 What did you learn at Who Dares Slims?

Aside from re-learning the art of portion control, one mistake I had been making was that I was only weighing myself when I knew I had something positive to report…. If I’d had a bad week and put some weight on, I didn’t put it in my tracker. I thought that if I ‘fought back’ before I logged it, it had somehow not happened! I’ve realised that I need to always write both the good and the bad weight days down. Without fail. That way you can see a proper trend-line and feel proud of the positive diary logs when they happen.

What advice would you give other people with arthritis or physical conditions about coming on a fitness holiday?

I did a lot more that I thought I was capable of doing. There were some shuttle runs I couldn’t manage but I could still do the majority of the main activity. I ended up partnering with a lady who’d had a shoulder replacement as she  could do the bits I couldn’t and vice versa. So it was great for team bonding!

But if I had to summarise my advice:

  1. Do it - It’s a fun week where you make friends and more than likely come away with a result you’re really pleased with. (See other client testimonials)

  2. Go slow - It’s not a race, it’s about how much individual effort you put in. 

  3. Know your limits - Only you can know what your body can do, challenge it, but if something doesn’t feel right, stop.

  4. Speak up - The team at the boot camp have experience with all sorts of ailments so you’re in good hands. They can adapt to anybody who can’t do a particular activity and they keep an eye on you at all times.

  5. Do NOT stop moving - If you do, you might struggle to get the mobility back and that is what we’re trying to delay at all costs. Try cycling, it has really changed my life. 

Thanks Mandy - really helpful! We hope to have you back on one of our retreats in 2019! 

If you, or someone you know, is keen on coming on a fitness or weight loss boot camp and has arthritis, or any other medical condition - please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to speak to them about your/their particular requirements.

Call us on 07824862342 or email