Civvy Life: Harry Sowerby – British Military Fitness

Harry Sowerby is a Serving Colour sergeant in the Reserves with F Company 7 Rifles. Having joined in 1994, he Served in Iraq and Afghanistan before deciding to set up the well-known British Military Fitness company.

harry-sowerby-civvy-lifeHow did you come to set up British Military Fitness (BMF)?

Three of us were on the film set of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ using our Military backgrounds – being Germans. We spent a lot of time sitting around saying ‘there must be something better to do than this’. A friend of mine was training his girlfriend and she said that he should be a personal trainer. My friend knew that I’d just come back from my Army Physical Training Instructor (PTI) course and he sort of put two and two together and asked if I’d like to help set up an outdoor fitness company. I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ That was in 1999.

How do civvies get on?

It’s all about encouragement – for you to do your best. That may be jogging between one tree and the next or it might be running a marathon.

When we started out, we didn’t copy anybody, it was a totally new idea. We had bibs with numbers on them – because we couldn’t always remember people’s names – so we could encourage from a distance – ‘Come on 10, come on two!’ that sort of thing. Then it became apparent that there are differing degrees of fitness and that’s why we decided to split the groups into different bib colours. 

If you turn up to BMF we will train you. We’re for all abilities. We’re not ‘boot camp’. The name we chose was ‘British Military Fitness’ and we chose that on purpose because the British Military encourage you and help you grow. Boot camp is about breaking you down into jelly and then rebuilding you – that is exactly what we aren’t. 

It’s all about empowering and encouraging people – ‘Come on, you can do it – don’t stop!’ – all of that kind of thing. 

We’ve all been there: ‘half way up a mountain’ and felt we can’t go any further – well you can. That is what British Military Fitness brings to it. No matter how fit a soldier you were there has been a point where you’re carrying so much stuff that you feel that you can’t go any further – but you can.

What qualities do Service-leavers bring with them?

We have around 140 locations across the UK and over 400 instructors, all with Military backgrounds. Ultimately, what you get is honesty, integrity, loyalty – that’s what soldiers bring to the company. They also bring pride and professionalism because that’s what the British Army’s built on. 

They (Service-leavers) may use it to help them transition from the Regular Army, when they close the gates behind you, you’re still able to put on a set of kit. Some of them need that because it’s very hard to leave such a closed environment and go out into the Civvy world. That is the transition. I came back from Afghanistan after having had a year away with the Army full time because I got mobilised. It took me a year and half to sort myself out. BMF gives them that moment when they can put their kit on again and talk with other soldiers.

How do Service-leavers get involved?

We provide opportunities for soldiers to set up their own companies and we also have our BMF Academy training camp and we are recognised by the Ministry of Defence. Those people who are transitioning from Regular Army to civvy street are able to do fitness qualifications that will allow them to become a personal trainer or go and work in a gym – and ultimately, if we think they’re good enough, to come and work for British Military Fitness.

If Military leavers want to come and get involved, tell them to come and get involved!

To find out more about the BMF Academy, go to:

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