FITNESS fans are queuing up to put themselves through the “torture” that is boot camp.
It’s almost as if they get a strange pleasure out of being growled into submission by a relentless fitness instructor eager to get the best out of his charges.
The Mail’s TRACY WALKER was put through her paces at the new Fit4less fitness club in Hartlepool.
MEET Mr Nasty.
Baby-faced Stephen Hannah may look like a pussy-cat.
But the personal trainer turns into a ferocious hound when he runs his boot camp sessions at the new Fit4less gym in Hartlepool.
The 20-year-old could give Simon Cowell a run for his money when dishing out his scathing comments to people who take up the sessions.
Cries of “if any one person stops, the whole team starts again” and “you have got until 7.30pm to call me all the names under the sun” come from Stephen as he orders participants through the tough hour-long class.
There are also expletives coming from his charges, in a bit of friendly banter.
He even repeatedly, and quite worryingly, yells “suicide” as he orders people on a “suicide run” – which sees participants running backwards and forwards between various markers on a field.
But Stephen’s a softie really and he can also be heard offering encouragement, saying “good job” and “nice work” when people put the effort in.
I went along to a boot camp at Fit4less, which opened a branch last month next to Hartlepool Rugby Club, in Easington Road, to see what the fuss was all about.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect and anticipated being ordered about by an Army-type drill instructor.
And I was right.
The session was held on the field outside the club and we started with a warm-up, which included lunges across the length of the pitch. There were seven other people in the group and we had to form a circle before doing squats, sit-ups and press-ups.
Each person had to count out loud 10 of each and there was no let-up as everyone did 90 repetitions.
We also completed endurance work including leg raises and stomach crunches during the rigorous full-body workout.
Stephen, who only allowed us 15-second breaks during activities, warned that we would have to re-start an exercise if any of us slacked off.
But that didn’t stop me having a few quick rests while his back was turned.
At the end of the session, there were huge sighs of relief, as well as a huge sense of achievement.
Stephen, who is originally from Newcastle but moved to Hartlepool to be with his student girlfriend, Lucy Chapman, 20, said: “I’ve just returned from a few months training at a gym in America called Athletic Performance Inc.
“I suppose I model my motivation technique on the guy who runs API, Scott Ramsdell.
“There’s also a bit of the squadron leader from Full Metal Jacket in there.
“But it’s all just a bit of banter and people who come along enjoy boot camp.
“It gets more and more popular every week.
“Their fitness levels go up and they say they feel more energised.”
Boot camp runs every Monday and Wednesday from 6.30pm with plans to start Tuesday and Thursday sessions from May, as well as a beginners’ boot camp.