Life Goals in Lanzarote: Inside the 'world's No.1 sports resort'
Can holidays and fitness really go hand in hand? Karen Birney reviews Club La Santa in the Canary Islands
I'm hanging upside down from a silk hammock, sun beating onto my reddening face. I calm my breath, trying to recall the techniques I've learned in terra firma yoga classes back home, when a new holiday fitness pal pulls me back to reality.
"I've never done THIS before," he shouts, his inverted face screwed up in a mix of agony and pride. I'm fairly certain none of the rest of us has either.
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Aerial yoga is something I'd never considered before my trip to Lanzarote's Club La Santa, but that's the funny thing about this place: you find yourself enticed by all sorts once you're through its doors.
I'm here for three nights in early spring (weather log: sunny, some clouds, light drizzle at times, perfect for outdoor sports). During those 72 hours, I'll try everything from Reformer Pilates to Crossfit. I'll even discover a fondness for badminton on one particularly quiet evening.
But back to the hammock. Just how did I find myself wrapped up like a sweaty Christmas present, hanging from a roof on a small island 125km off the coast of Africa?
Well, like most, I love a holiday. Like most, I also hate coming home feeling like I need another one to recover. Which is why, in recent years, I've been opting to work out while I'm away. Nothing major, mind - a light jog in the morning, a half hour of yoga or maybe a strength session in the gym on a day I'm feeling particularly perky.
The holiday/health combo is a tricky one, however. I want to keep my fitness and running up, maybe try something new - but I don't want to feel as though I'm being bullied into it, or that I have to make it a focal point of what would otherwise be a relaxing week of sun, sea and crisp sandwiches. Holiday health sometimes feels like a choice between a week of vegan meals and shared bedrooms (or, more worryingly, tipis) on mountainside mindfulness retreats, or long-haul flights to Indonesia where acai bowls and ab-seeking Instagrammers are the order of the day.
As a regular gym-goer, and a bit of a runner, the idea of somewhere I could do both, while also eating what I want, sleeping when I want, and casually trying out a few new activities, really appealed to me.
I'd read that Club La Santa is beloved of Olympic athletes, triathletes, elite sportspeople and teams training in the sun. I'm no yogi, Crossfitter or swimmer, so I worried where I'd fit in. A friendly welcome at its simple reception immediately calms me, however. We're advised to download the Club La Santa app, handed a map and are soon off to discover our room.
Like most resorts, it's a bit of a shady maze at first and we get lost more than once, but the cordial 'hellos' and knowing glances from our fellow travellers help us settle. Guests are of all ages - young kids to seniors, teenagers to 30-somethings. There are families and couples, solo travellers, teams and friends. Holidaymakers and athletes mix. We hear lots of accents and languages.
I arrive sporting a mild hip injury, which means I need to take things easy. That's a blessing in disguise, as I'd hate to see the damage I'd do giving every session a shot. The app makes booking classes so easy, I'm tempted to try them all - the early morning run, the HIIT cycling, body balance, TRX and yoga flow. I'm even thinking of hula-hooping with the kids and stretching for seniors, just to keep busy.
That evening, we treat ourselves to dinner in the fancy El Lago restaurant and I'm impressed by the tasty range of food and craft beers on offer. No calorie counting here, ladies and gents - you've done your workout for the day (we hadn't), and this isn't the time to scrimp on sauces.
First up, fitness-wise? I'm up to support himself on the morning run. The positive, healthy vibes are infectious, and just being here makes me feel more energetic. My hip means I can't join in myself, but I am eager to compensate with a class that's been on my radar for months - one that, for a variety of reasons (not least the cost), I've not quite been able to try out: Reformer Pilates.
With that ticked off the list (I'm a convert), it's a breakfast buffet offering everything a growing athlete could need, and onwards to outdoor Body Balance, an all-ages, yoga-based class that provides the most relaxing (yet challenging) way to spend mid-afternoon in the sun. The remainder of the day is whiled away on crazy golf, dinner, visits to the on-site supermarket and that impromptu game of badminton (I won!). Nights are quiet, which suits us, and the obligatory eight hours' sleep is maintained.
Crossfit is a new addition to Club La Santa's schedule, and I decide this is finally the time to dip my toes into the world of snatches and WODs (workouts of the day). At 9am on Sunday, I join seven others, male and female, ranging in age from mid-20s to late 60s, for a 90-minute crash course. Scottish instructor Aurora tells us that we'll learn more in one intro session than most do in a week. When I spot the workout she has planned on a whiteboard, I break into a sweat before we even start.
Luckily, it's all about form at first, and we each take turns perfecting our movements with a plastic bar in lieu of the 15 or 20lb steel version. Unfortunately for me, the first 'snatch' movement awakens my hip injury and I'm soon forced to call it a day. When I walk by an hour later, I see my classmates struggling through God-knows-what-number round of overhead presses. The shame!
Aerial Strength is the highlight of my weekend. Hanging from those silk 'hammocks' gives me a zen-like feeling I carry through the day and, afterwards, we rent bikes and spend an idyllic late afternoon exploring the surroundings. Back at headquarters, feeling the epitome of health and wellbeing, I inhale one of the freshest, most delicious salads I've ever had in a poolside restaurant (I later read that the ingredients come from the resort's own organic farm).
As fitness becomes more of a lifestyle than a hobby, resorts like this will only increase in popularity. And swinging from my pretty red ribbon to the soothing voice of an instructor, I can't see that being a bad thing.
Take three: travel tips
No need to bring snacks, the on-site supermarket does delicious fresh pastries in the morning and stocks everything you need to rustle up meals from your compact kitchen.
Get to grips with the app as early as you can - if you're curious about classes, it will be your best friend throughout the stay. Pace yourself - don't use all your points at once!
On yer bike
Hire a bike and discover the rugged surroundings, pulling up on the promenade for sunset. Cycling in Lanzarote is a pleasure - just don't forget the helmet and sunscreen!
What to pack
Club La Santa is all about casual comfort. Pack your bikini, sundress and kimono by all means, but you'll feel equally at home in your gym gear and hoodie. A smarter outfit for the more upmarket El Lago restaurant makes a welcome break from the Lycra.
Karen travelled as a guest of Ryanair (ryanair.com), which flies direct to Lanzarote, and Club La Santa (+44 161 790 9890; clublasanta.ie), which has seven nights in a 'Comfort' one-bedroom apartment sleeping three adults and one child from €885 per week approx.
Club La Santa also offers 80 free sports and activities, as well as a range of watersports in the nearby lagoon. For a little bit of luxury, consider upgrading to the newly built suites-with-a-view. Weekly rates from €1,560 approx.
Read more:Top 10 things to do in Lanzarote: How well do you really know this Canary Island?