My Week: Charlie Wall of Cambridge Bootcamps

Single mum Charlie Wall set up Cambridge Bootcamps to help women just like her make time for themselves and get fit. It turned out to be the most rewarding decision of her life. Here's why.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

I’m usually up at 5.45am so that I can be at the park 15 minutes before my bootcamp class starts. No matter how quickly I get there, some of the other ladies are often already waiting. I’m often really humbled by how committed the ladies are. They can be a bit grumpy first thing in the morning, but we have a laugh; there’s a lot of banter, they take the mick out of me a bit and it cheers everyone up, even if they start the day looking a bit slumped and knackered. By the end of the session, everyone's buzzing.

I prepare the programme for the sessions four weeks in advance so that it gets progressively more difficult. That way, as everyone in the group gets fitter, they are still pushing themselves every class. In total I have three trainers and two admin staff, and I split my time between the actual sessions, responding to emails and updating the social media.

I set it up because as a single mum I found that I didn’t have time to go and do exercise, what with taking my son to school and my day job as an addiction nurse. I realised that I couldn’t be the only woman who had difficulty finding time for myself, so I started by doing a bit of one-to-one training with women I knew – I thought it would be an easy way to just get something going. I knew nothing about business when I first got started – that’s probably something I would change if I did it again. I would have taken proper business advice to make sure I had contracts and decent protection for myself as I ran the company.

The best thing about the job is that the sessions really change people’s lives. The women in the bootcamps lose weight – but it’s not just about that. It’s about people getting their health back and gaining confidence. I regularly get emails from the ladies saying that it has changed their life: they’ve gone and found a new job, they’re having more fulfilling relationships, they’re better with their children. It’s incredibly rewarding. These are the things that make me really proud. There’s not really any jealousy between the ladies in the groups: the type of people that come along are not about getting jealous, they’re about getting down and dirty, doing exercise in the mud and the rain (if the weather’s bad) and having a sense of working together.

The fact that it’s a huge group of women is probably the most challenging thing about the job though! There are around a hundred women who take part now and we have several bootcamps around the Cambridge area. Everyone has their own story, their own issues, their own insecurities. Having been in a sort of counsellor role in the past, I give a lot of my time to talk to them and support them as much as they can and I guess sometimes I don’t leave much time for myself.

Almost every day I get calls from women thinking of joining, who are absolutely petrified that they won’t be fit enough, that the other women will be too far ahead of them, or that it is an intimidating place to get fit. It’s not like going to a gym where there are lots of very fit people and mirrors everywhere to make you feel insecure. Everyone is supportive of each other and we make sure no-one feels like they’re on their own.

The most exciting thing that’s happened since I started it four years ago was probably being interviewed by Radio 4. They heard about the bootcamp when it had only been going seven or eight months, and they got me in to talk about it. I was ridiculously nervous, but it was a real experience and afterwards we got so much interest in the classes, which helped us to be able to start more bootcamps in the area.

I absolutely love it. I’m lucky to have had two careers in fields that I love, and now I am working for myself it is fantastic. I can’t say I would do anything differently, because the way I got started was through fluke and circumstance. And even though I work harder now than I have ever done before, it’s the amazing group of women that make me carry on. It gives us all a sense of self-belief, and people are making friends, doing things they never thought were possible.

Find out more about Cambridge Bootcamps

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