“But did you die, though?” – The rather apt Shimmering Sands x Beyond Human motto

“DON’T OVERDO IT,” my dad tells me, more than a hint of concern in his voice. Aside from actual DNA, my family is essentially just a group of hypochondriacs held together by a WhatsApp thread constantly reminding each other not to overdo it. We’re not sporty, you see. We’re eaters. Sitters. Good telly-ers. For us, a brisk walk is something to be entered into with trepidation, usually after a large pie and only in cases where you can still see the car from however far you waddle off.

A bootcamp, then – to what my dad, furrowed brow and all – is referring, is a fairly alien concept to us all, as bizarre as if I’d announced that I was henceforth only going to answer to ‘Martin,’ or was taking up cheese-rolling. All things I have literally never expressed any interest in, ever.

My brother, overhearing this unorthodox exchange, scoffed loudly at my mention of protein shakes. And in all fairness, prior to the last few weeks, I genuinely thought they were meant only for people who took their muscles far too seriously. “Chill out,” I thought. “Have a Nando’s and a big kip. You’ll come to your senses in the morning.”

Until now, that is. Fine, it might be a bit too premature to announce myself publicly as a completely changed woman (I still crumple into a sobbing pile of pathetic when tasked with more than one burpee at a time. Tip: sometimes, if you make yourself really small, the personal trainers can’t see you), but I’m a few weeks into what I can modestly refer to as The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done, and I’m actually, erm… enjoying it? Well, that weird kind of enjoyment that comes from when your entire body screams at you to stop immediately, anyway.

Let me enlighten you, should you also wish to change your life by dying a million tiny deaths, three-to-four times a week, for 12 weeks. Dubai-based blog Shimmering Sands (AKA the equally shimmering Frankie Hales) has teamed up with the considerably less twinkly and fun-sounding Beyond Human, to facilitate these deaths by way of curating an all-female training and nutrition programme. It involves weights (gulp), posting every meal/snack/innermost thought to a group (double gulp – although there’s a clever psychology of encouragement to this) and, perhaps most importantly, is a thorough debunking of every ridiculous myth we as womankind have ever blithely swallowed without thinking on our collective fitness journey. Yes, you can have carbs. No, deadlifts won’t turn you into The Incredible Hulk. Food is your friend. Strong is the new skinny. Fit girls really do lift.

Yes, I know. I’ve turned into a meme. But I can explain. I had two significant meltdowns – yes, I needed two to get me off my bum and push me into the impossibly hench embrace of SSxBH. Firstly, when I realised the Dubai stone had come, not to claim its pound of flesh, but rather to bestow me with an additional 14; and secondly, that next to my friends, I was now the biggest. Irrelevant? Vain? Eschewing the #bodypositivity movement that I champion on an almost weekly basis? Well, yes and no. I don’t subscribe to the idea of the perfect body, but I do believe that, for me, I was out of shape. ‘Skinny-fat’ is the unflattering term I’ve heard being bandied about. I prefer to think of myself as small but soft. Either way, something needed to change.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” the boys told me on our first meeting. James, an ex-rugby pro with the patience of Mother Teresa but with more tattoos and a West Yorkshire accent, and Michael, a cheeky, nutritional boy-wonder of sorts, are not your average Dubai-based duo. They’re kind of a 360˚ dream team who, refreshingly, actually know what they’re doing. And even though the first three sessions made me feel like I was six again, getting dropped off for ballet, they actually made it fun. OK, maybe the first one wasn’t fun. That one had me lowering myself onto the toilet for a week afterwards like a doddery old geriatric who’d done themselves a mischief.

I still can’t keep up. I’m still the worst in the class. But let me tell you: it doesn’t matter one bit. What matters is that I’m there, sweating face-down into a mat, pulling hideous squat faces that the boys – and the awesome group of girls – are too kind to make fun of. If you want to see them for yourself, email the guys to see if there are spaces on the next course. You can thank me later. Buy me a protein shake or something. 

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Photo: REX