‘It’s a challenging workout with a support network’

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Take the word ‘military’ and team it up with ‘workout’.

They are two words that, taken alone, might not conjure up much reaction. But put them together and they have the power to scare off those wanting to exercise.

Justine Holland-Reynolds with her group

Justine Holland-Reynolds with her group

People often assume that military-style workouts will be too tough, too rough, and come complete with being shouted and screamed at.

That might be the case in some instances, but not the majority, says the ex-navy leader of Military Workout For Ladies.

Justine Holland-Reynolds has set out to soften the perception of military-style workouts with her new outdoor exercise sessions, designed especially for women.

She’s encouraging ladies of all ages in Portsmouth to participate, and get fit while making friends, making the most of outdoor furniture and feeling a sense of camaraderie and empowerment.

Forty-three-year-old Justine, who served for 15 years in the Royal Navy, says: ‘Tomorrow will see the fourth Military Workout for Ladies session out of six.

‘I started the 60-minute classes weekly on a trial-basis to see how popular they are, and so far I’ve had a good turnout.

‘Don’t get me wrong – the session is still challenging, but I want to take the stereotype away from a military-style workout as being too tough to handle.

‘In each class we work to the different fitness levels of each participant, who is divided into an ability group of either beginners, intermediate or advanced– with an incentive to make it to the next level.

‘I also consider the age range, injuries, and offer alternate exercises, so although the sessions are still challenging, they’re do-able and not scary.’

Justine’s workout is a full-body one that changes week-to-week, and is designed to improve stamina, speed, agility, and strength in a fun environment.

The personal trainer begins her Sunday morning classes at The People’s Memorial, Milton Common, with a warm-up.

This is followed by an individual circuit, partner drills and a team game, before a cool down with stretching exercises.

The class centres on cardio and bodyweight exercises and participants will use a range of locations, moving from one to the next, by doing squad runs. They will also use outdoor furniture such as benches, walls, steps and so on.

Justine, who lives in Copnor but is originally from Northern Ireland, explains: ‘I run the sessions under the name of my own business, Force Fit, which is group classes, personal training and military fitness.

‘My Military Workout for Ladies classes are developed from the Military Workout brand, which was co-founded by a lady called Gina Allsop, who served for 12 years in the Armed Forces.

‘Military Workout classes are held in various parks around the UK, but are new to Portsmouth with my sessions.’

She adds: ‘I knew I wanted to join the military from a young age, because I come from a military background. I used to think PE at school was too boring!

‘When I joined the Royal Navy at HMS Raleigh in Plymouth, I found myself loving all the circuits and fitness involved, that’s where my aspirations grew.

‘I was coached by Dame Mary Peters, the Olympic gold medal pentathlete – I was part of her athletics club growing up.

‘I also competed against Dame Kelly Holmes on the athletics track while she was in the army, and I worked at London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 on track cycling events.

‘It was in 2015 that I qualified as a personal trainer and a Military Workout trainer, and went on to set up Force Fit.

‘I had to conduct a case study, which highlighted that in Portsmouth there were high obesity rates, particularly in children.

‘It gave me food for thought and I decided one day I’d like to inspire children and their fitness in a school environment.

‘I’m considering offering my military fitness classes to a wider community, children included.

‘I want to healthily encourage them to lose weight, get fit, and have fun, with a view to entering military-style events such as Mini Mudders.’

Justine chose The People’s Memorial at Milton because the site was created as a tribute to serving men and women of the British forces.

As well as wanting to give women a fun workout with plenty of scenery changes, there’s another reason Justine set up her bootcamp – for the empowerment of women.

She says: ‘I’m all about supporting the motivation and inspiration of ladies.

‘I think women can sometimes feel intimidated by going to the gym and working out around men – this gives them a chance to relax a bit more, have a laugh and, more importantly, make friends.

‘You can use the classes as a workout challenge but also a support network – that’s what the partner drills are all about initiating.

‘There’s good competition, with the chance to beat your ‘oppo’, but overall a sense of camaraderie – which is another of the military elements to the workout.’

A mix of people, including those working for the police, serving in the navy and regular civilians, have attended the classes.

Forty-seven-year-old Rachel Williams, who works for the police, has attended two so far. She said: ‘A colleague told me about Military Workout for Ladies.

‘I usually go to the gym and do classes there, but I thought it would be good to try something new – the fact it’s ladies only appealed to me.

‘A lot of the time men can be fitter than women, so it takes the pressure off knowing it’s all females in it together.

‘In gym classes you usually work solo, this allows you to interact with other people.

‘We all had a laugh and got dirty, the exercises were suitable and are changed from class-to-class. It means you don’t know what’s coming and it doesn’t get boring!’

At 23, Sian Goddard from North End (bib number five, main picture) is one of the classes’ younger participants. She added: ‘When I heard the words military workout I immediately thought it would be tough, and it was, but it’s also fun.

‘I enjoyed the challenge and thought Justine was brilliant in the way she pushed us to keep going.

‘It was lovely working out with the other ladies and such a laugh getting muddy.’

Military Workout for Ladies began on January 15 and will finish its six-week trial on February 19. Justine is planning to re-start the bootcamp again from the end of April. The classes cost £4 each, and details about when exactly they will resume can be found by searching ForceFit on Facebook, where those interested can make contact.

Justine asks that anyone wanting to go along now, on Sundays from 10am-11am – or in April – makes her aware beforehand, so she can plan lessons and obtain basic medical information. Sessions take place in all weather and participants are advised to dress accordingly.


The Portsmouth area plays host to a number of different military-style workouts.

If the one featured doesn’t quite fit your bill, here are a few others to choose from...

British Military Fitness (BMF) runs outdoor exercise bootcamps at Southsea Common. A range of training options are available and the sessions are said to be different each and every time.

Classes currently run on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, at varying times.

Visit britmilfit.com/where-we-train/portsmouth/southsea-common for more information.

Southsea Fitness run outdoor classes at Southsea Common for £1, every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning.

The group is run by Kev Green and Sarah Green. Kev is a former Royal Marine and also has Class 1 Military Physical Training Instructor qualification, along with many others.

Visit southseafitness.com for more information.

Innovations Fitness is a training and bootcamp company that trains in Emsworth and Havant.

It’s led by fitness guru and ex-military Physical Training Instructor George ‘Topsy’ Turner.

Military-style bootcamps are led by Topsy and take place at the Emsworth Recreation Ground for £6 a session, on varying days and at different times.

Visit innovationsfitness.co.uk for more information.