Health & Fitness

Military-like exercises at Arboretum


Patricia Kamau, 33, an accountant during the training exercise at Arboretum on Saturday, July 14, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

We are a stone’s throw away from the city at the Nairobi Arboretum— an urban botanical garden known for its over century-old trees.

It’s cold and for many people, this means no exercising but not for 33-year-old Patricia Kamau. For her, this weather is perfect for a four-hour fitness bootcamp.

For the past 15 months, Ms Kamau, has been a faithful member of Penthouse Gymnasium, attending every week to get her body back in shape after giving birth to her second child.

“But gyms become boring. I’ve been telling the trainer my desire to broaden my exercise experiences,” Ms Kamau says.

When she heard about a fitness bootcamp at Arboretum, a serene environment away from the stuffy gyms, she quickly jumped at the opportunity.

Dressed in grey and pink gear, together with other eager participants, she is ready to challenge her body and mind, and burn stubborn calories.

Outdoor fitness bootcamps are becoming popular and rightly so. Their allure lies in their capacity to build fitness fast through military-like training that involves intense workouts with little rest, the lead trainer and fitness drill sergeant, Peter Ngala of Penthouse Gymnasium says.

“They also break the monotony of the gym and allow us to do exercises that wouldn’t be done in an indoor gym,” he explains, adding that because they are done in an environment with abundant oxygen (he takes a deep, appreciative breath of the fresh, crisp air), there is improved oxygen uptake thus better workout results for participants.

Though military in nature, the training does not start with its accompanying intensity. Rather, participants are eased into it with a run along the park’s cabro paved paths.

This is Ms Kamau’s first time at the Arboretum. Not a bad way to tour the park and get her heart rate up, the accountant notes.

After the run, it’s show-time. Bootcamp workouts boost cardio and strength training at the same time. To help achieve that, Mr Ngala has prepared a sequence of eight high-intensity workouts stations where participants move through the exercises for two minutes and rest for one minute.

They are tyre-flip burpees, sprints, farmer’s walk, alternating kettle-bell swings, squat presses, wood chops, push-up walks and a 20-kilo sandbag jog. Such exercises keep the heart rate sky-high and calories on fire. You can be sure that it’s no walk in the park.

“The exercises are designed to exercise the entire body,” Mr Ngala says. “The arms, legs, back, and the mind because you have to push yourself to finish the sets at a time when the body might not be willing.”

Another first-timer

This is Denseley Twumasi’s first time participating in a fitness boot camp. The switch engineer walked into the boot camp blind, not knowing what to expect.

“I quickly scanned through YouTube to prepare myself,” he says as he huffs and puffs through the sandbag jog. “I expected it to be fun, which it is, because of the group but my highlight is the open space and the fresh air,” the 25-year-old says.

According to him, the pandemic has made outdoor workouts more attractive and he was glad to have participated in one held in a natural environment.


Densely Twumasi 25, Ghanaian, Switch engineer during the training exercise at Arboretum on Saturday, July 14, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Advantages of a boot camp over other types of workouts include building body endurance through the short-burst of intense exercises. This leads to a faster torching of more calories within a short period.

Because the boot camps are interactive, the level of motivation is high, can be competitive, and require little to no equipment.

Although they are primarily for those who are already higher up on their fitness levels with a robust foundation of aerobic and strength training, there is high adaptability to the workout exercises.

Hence, they can be modified for newbies, as was the case for some of the participants.

Trainer Ngala explains that a good coach must assess his trainees’ fitness level so that he can modify for some but still deliver results. Form maintenance is important to minimise injury from bad posture.


Boot camps are also affordable, going for Sh200 to Sh400.

“They are exciting, like the tyre lifts,” Ms Kamau, the mother-of-two shares.

Over time, she has noted an increase in her arm strength evidenced by the way she does the lifts and can steadily run around with her children.

After four sets of workouts, it’s time for a longer break before the final sport of the day: Tug of war. Peanuts and water are the breakout snacks. A participant has suffered a muscle pull and will have to sit out.

“In case of an injury, rest for continuous straining will worsen it,” says the trainer, who was able to massage it out.

With the break over, it’s time to see which team is both strong in words and action, through a tug of war. What participants do not know is who is going to be in their team. Ms Kamau and Mr Twumasi are in opposite teams. How does one feel once it’s done and dusted?

“So, so good. I’m energetic, refreshed, and pumped,” Ms Kamau says.

Her sentiment mirrors that of Mr Twumasi who in addition to being energised and proud to have made it as a first-timer, is also feeling like a champion since his team won twice in the tug-of-war.