Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ibiza: Fighting fit at Balearic boot camp


That sense of accomplishment when you reach the peak of the hike and look out at the wide-blue Balearic sky stretched above you is hard to beat
That sense of accomplishment when you reach the peak of the hike and look out at the wide-blue Balearic sky stretched above you is hard to beat
Holly takes a breather at boot camp

Holly Carpenter

If you asked me what I would pack in my suitcase for a trip to Ibiza, it's safe to say the words 'hiking boots' would not get a mention.

In fact, those words had hardly been in my vocabulary until I was about to head off to No1 Boot Camp Ibiza and I realised I should buy a few things on its website's 'kit list'.

My summer had been full of nights out so a part of me felt happy to leave my heels and fake tan behind without a second glance. The thought of a make up-free week seemed quite alien yet appealing.

As I zipped up my case, full to the brim with Lycra and not a single sequin in sight, I felt enthusiastic about the journey I was about to take.

I was told when I landed in sunny Ibiza, I should head to Cappuccino Grand Cafe before being collected. As I sat by the marina, people-watching behind my sunglasses while sipping a coffee (one of my favourite pastimes anywhere in the world - but the people-watching in Ibiza is particularly enjoyable and fascinating), I felt tempted to order from their dessert menu as a last hurrah before my boot camp experience kicked off.

However, I chose to ignore my inner temptress and I went for a fresh Greek salad. The saying 'start as you mean to go on' came to mind and I decided against the cheesecake I had been eyeing up. That 'treat yourself' mentality was half the reason I found myself carrying a few extra pounds and in dire need of a health reboot.

Holly takes a breather at boot camp
Holly takes a breather at boot camp

I was collected by Nanny, the camp's go-to driver, in a mini bus and I was told there had been a power cut in the villa due to a storm the previous night so we were all to spend our first night in temporary accommodation.

The control freak in me was slightly anxious at this last-minute change of plan. However, when we pulled up outside a large white modern villa with a pool, I was pleasantly relieved.

Once my fellow recruits arrived, we spent our first evening dining al fresco and getting to know each other. There were 14 of us, all women bar one man who joined us the next day.

Everyone had their own reasons for coming to the camp. There was a woman in the group who had given birth six months earlier and wanted to lose her baby weight, young fit women who just wanted to tone up, and mostly people who had fallen off the wagon and needed a kick start. No one there was massively overweight but there was certainly a varying degree of fitness levels among the recruits.

After dinner (a small chicken and quinoa salad bulked with cucumber and lettuce) we were introduced to Kerrie, our personal trainer for the week. With nine years' experience behind her of training marines in the Royal Navy, something told me Kerrie was going to push us to our limits and take no excuses.

Although she was warm and funny, I was a little scared of her, a good thing, I suppose.

Kerrie informed us that the more we put in, the more we would get out of the experience, and told us that when it got tough, to keep in mind our reasons for taking the leap and coming to the camp.

She told us we would face physical and emotional challenges during the next few days but also assured us we could go to the trainers with any worries or injury problems.

Sunday was our first full day at the camp and it kicked off with a snack (three cashews and one dried apricot... seriously) followed by a run at 6.30am. Each evening we would tentatively peek at the plan for the following day. A whiteboard with the words 'boxing', 'high intensity interval training' and 'hike' would stare back at us. By night time, I found myself twitching with exhaustion and heading for sleep at 9pm.

The days were pretty jam-packed from 6.30am right through to dinner at 7pm. If you're looking for a relaxing retreat where you have time to sunbathe, then this may not be the trip for you. Having said that, we were given breaks of up to an hour between each training session so I took those opportunities to throw on a swimsuit and float in the villa's beautiful infinity pool with its views of the mountainside. One of the perks of the outdoor activities was getting a deeper tan than I usually get.

Running on just 1,200 calories a day was tough, especially when you were relying on it to get you through five intense workout sessions in the sun. Once I got past how small the portions were, I began to really enjoy the delicious fresh food at the camp. There was one day where we returned from a two-hour hike in 28 degree heat only to be presented with a bowl of cold green soup. At that point, I thought I was going to cry.

Tuesday was certainly the low point of the week (labelled Toxic Tuesday by the trainers) as all the excess sugar and processed nasties leave your body - but by this point most of us were acclimatised to the routines and portion size.

There is something strangely therapeutic in relinquishing all free will, having the day controlled down to the last minute, not even having to decide what to wear.

I found moments of true peace while hiking through the beautiful, unspoilt areas of Ibiza, through vineyards and olive groves. There was no better feeling than that sense of accomplishment I felt when I reached the peak of the hike and looked out at the wide-blue Balearic sky stretched above me.

When it came to our final weigh-in, it turned out I had lost 8lb and more than 10cm all over.

I think No1 Boot Camp is perfect for anyone with a target in mind, like a wedding or birthday. It's also great if you just need that initial push towards exercising and healthy eating.

However, eating smaller portions and training for five hours a day is not sustainable and I struggled with keeping the momentum going when I got home. I found the best way to do so was to use the information I had gleaned from the trainers and chefs and to pre-book some gym classes with a friend for the week I got back.

Surprisingly, it's not so easy when you don't have your own personal chef and an ex-marine standing over you.

Getting there

* No1 Boot Camp runs luxury weight loss retreats with camps in Ibiza (March-October), Marrakesh (January-February) and Norfolk (all-year).

* Participants can expect to lose at least 3kg a week completing enjoyable but vigorous exercise regimes developed by former special forces physical training instructors, supported by delicious low-fat meals cooked by experienced chefs.

* The Norfolk camp is an hour’s rail journey from Stansted Airport — which has regular Ryanair flights from Dublin.

* Prices start at €1,000 a week. For bookings, go to www.no1bootcamp.com or ring 0044 1485 570635 or 0044 7976220346.

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