Thursday 21 June 2018

County Kerry: Reporting for booty duty in Parknasilla

Short breaks in Ireland

Kathryn Thomas
Kathryn Thomas
Parknasilla's grand 18th-century manor house and its ultra-modern annexe sits on 500 acres along Kenmare Bay
Running up that hill... Sophie, right, and her pal make it to the top
Pool and spa at Parknasilla, Sneem, Co Kerry
Parknasilla Resort and Spa

Sophie White

As a boot camp novice, the lead up to my trip to Kathryn Thomas's Pure Results boot camp was marred by the gleefully-told horror stories of boot camp survivors of my acquaintance.

None of them had attended Pure Results however - this was the mantra I hugged close as another friend told me about vomiting during a session while a trainer screamed at her.

My mother told me of fleeing a boot camp ("not Pure Results!" screamed my inner mantra voice) in the dead of night with an accomplice. They had lasted just one day.

The week before my three-day stay at Kerry's Parknasilla Resort & Spa was drenched in anxiety, mainly about the strict no caffeine rule.

Running up that hill... Sophie, right, and her pal make it to the top
Running up that hill... Sophie, right, and her pal make it to the top

In the past, I've tried to curb my coffee habit but I usually feel like tearing my own face off within a couple of caffeine-free hours.

When we had to outline our daily habits in a questionnaire, I was reasonably honest about the food but when it came to committing my daily caffeine intake of 4-6 coffees and a Diet Coke to writing, I couldn't do it.

Embarrassed, I wrote three coffees and as a compromise left in the Diet Coke, steeling myself for the inevitable lecture.

On the train down, my co-camper and I panic-ate everything in sight; we needn't have worried - the food at Pure Results is delicious, though portions were, understandably, a little on the petite side.

On the first night, the boot campers gathered for a light supper (very light, it was an adorable little bowl of soup).

Our lead trainer, Niall and his partner, Jen, who is a nutritional therapist, walked us through an average day at boot camp. We also met our chefs who were friendly but seemed unlikely to bend to bribes of any kind.

We retired to our rooms - boot campers stay in the Parknasilla lodges with full access to the hotel spa - and talked first impressions.

I was extremely anxious that the bowl of soup was considered a meal, meanwhile co-camper was unsure about the pre-breakfast run we were doing.

Parknasilla Resort and Spa

We briefly debated breaking into the emergency chocolate I'd brought, but finally agreed that for the sake of journalistic integrity we should not mess with the boot camp regime and potentially compromise the results.

Running through the secluded Parknasilla trails was a stunning start to the next day and I was feeling confident that with my base level of fitness, boot camp would be a breeze.

Cut to our second class, Warrior and I was fighting the urge to spew up the green smoothie we'd had for breakfast.

The run had been a red herring, luring us into a false sense of security before hitting us with this hell class.

The class was circuits, meaning we had to move from activity to activity on a timer. Think jumping jacks, planks, kettlebells and squats. The major difference? It was at the bottom of a hill, a hill we had to run up between each exercise. It was on the third trip up that hill and no more than five minutes into class that I thought "oh god, I'm going to vomit, day one and I'm the vommer".

This is the point that I would usually flake out of any training. However, Pure Results trainers were on hand to encourage us. The Pure Results approach is not 'screamy', instead they work hard to foster a supportive atmosphere among the group.

It means no one feels persecuted and resentful but instead supported and motivated. Fifty-five more minutes and we were done, and more importantly, I had done it. And without vomiting or crying, though I definitely said "f*ck" a lot towards the end. It was the hardest I've ever pushed myself and it felt amazing.

After a snack (nut butter and two oatcakes) we reported for our weigh in. Having spent a lot of time trying to foster a good relationship with food and my body, I was feeling somewhat ambivalent towards the weight loss aspect of boot camp. I was concerned that there would be a lot of emphasis on 'good' food versus 'bad' food, but to my relief, Pure Results has a sensible approach to food. The butter is real butter, good seasonal ingredients supply the flavour and the view on diet is that it is just one part of a whole wellness picture, much talk was given over to reducing stress and trying meditation.

The day carried on with Boxercise and lunch. Later there was yoga followed by the spa, dinner was a delicious chicken curry with rice which we fell upon, and at bedtime, usually my time for fretting about work or family, sleep overcame me.

By morning two due to the ab workouts, I had to forge a new approach to the whole 'getting out of bed' thing, the manoeuvre involved heavy sighing and kind of slithering to the floor. Despite the pain, the mere fact that I was still hanging in there screaming my way through squats and light suppers was quite incredible to me.

The days at boot camp had a rhythm of high-intensity classes interspersed with slightly more chill ones, with one-off activities like kayaking and an assault course, added throughout the week.

We spent our third and final day on an invigorating hike through the Kerry mountains. I felt strong, refreshed and ready to bring a little bit of boot camp home with me. Pure Results supply an aftercare programme of meal plans, great recipes (the mango hake curry is becoming a go-to) and workout videos.

You probably want to know how much weight I lost so it may be a little infuriating when I tell you, I honestly don't know. I didn't weigh myself at the end because the thing numbers on the scales doesn't reveal is how you're feeling.

And that's the biggest thing I got from boot camp - an incredible sense of achievement, a glimpse at what I'm capable of and a new found understanding of what treating your body well can do. So my clothes are fitting better and I've kept up the daily run, though the coffee's back with a vengeance because as they say, balance is key.

Getting  there

Kathryn Thomas

Pure Results is an all-inclusive retreat that incorporates high and low-intensity classes including yoga, boxercise, kayaking, cooking demos and goal-setting workshops.

It is suitable for all levels of fitness in a supportive and motivational environment. Its location in Parkn asilla on the Wild Atlantic Way, with ocean views is stunning.

Prices start at €1,199 for a week.

For assistance with travel, contact head office on 087 4417090 or email

Exclusive Sunday Independent readers' offer: You can get a 10pc discount with the code PURESINDO10 for April 13-20 (last week-long camp in Parknasilla). Limited places. Visit

Sunday Indo Living

Travel Insider Newsletter

Get the best travel tips, deals and insights straight to your inbox.

Editors Choice

Also in Life