Im in Ibiza, to get fit. I know, I can scarcely believe it myself. When I come to Ibiza its usually the opposite of health that I experience but I do know the island has a lot of other things to offer as well as dance music and danger. Step forward, 38 Degrees North, the masters of my universe, and deliverers of my pain (Etc), for three days in Paradise
THE RETREAT LOWDOWN: A luxury boot camp aimed at resetting your coordinates. The Optimal Fitness programme combines personal fitness activities, yoga and outdoor pursuits with a body and fitness assessment, a nutritionist-devised healthy eating plan, all in the eco-plush surroundings of the 5-star Aguas de Ibiza Hotel and Spa in Santa Eulalia, in the north of the island. Group retreats run most weeks but you can also book in for an individual/bespoke programme.
THE HOTEL: Theres something James Bond-ish about the hotel well, if 007 cared about the environment thanks to the circular façade and domed lobby, not to mention the jetset-style pool area and Scuba Chill-out Bar (groovy rooftop drinking spot with bijou pool and loungers). It feels very Sixties-cool, with a loungey sort of vibe. The décor is very natural - nodding to Phoenician architecture (crafting from local stone to be sensitive to environment) the textured design utilises local sand stone, pebbles and cooling marble in a chic but non-show-off-y way. My Feng-Shui-ed suite again boasts natural materials cork, light stone and oak furniture and, the most nifty part, partition blinds in the bathroom that give way to ocean view so you can soak up the ocean while you, erm, soak. Theres also low-slung leather couches, and all mod cons (Bang & Olufson kit, free Wifi).
So, hotel sorted. Its gorgeous. I feel immediately relaxed - theres something about the heavenly scent in reception, the coolness of the marble floor and that gobsmacking view of the sea that gets me immediately in the zone. Not necessarily an exercise zone but a zone nonetheless. Kelly Morgan and James Davis are the husband-and-wife team that head up the retreats. James is a super-fit personal trainer and Kelly loves outdoor pursuits and running. They are both brilliant fun and dead reassuring to somebody whose fitness modus operandi is haphazard at best.
Im here for a three-day bespoke taster package but usually, group exercise retreats are for six nights. They also offer detox, yoga and even sleep programmes. Im met at the airport and then head to hotel where we kick things off with a detox juice (delicious) and hour-long beach circuits with Faye Maloney, former UK Kickboxing Champion (no less) and absolutely lovely woman from Newcastle. I find that Im really good at boxing, whod have thought it? Apparently I have a strong punch (am thrilled at this), as well as good body awareness and movement flow.
I always thought circuits were a drag but put it on a beach, with some one-on-one tuition and a boxing glove and its very different. The rest of the first day involves a fitness consultation (including body fat analysis), Powerplate, a dance class, Lomi Lomi body massage, and a chilled dinner at Alabastro, the chic Mediterranean-fusion restaurant in the hotel (normally, a nutritionist-devised revitalising menu is planned out for the week. Think Rainbow salads with local cheeses, healthy tuna steaks, protein juices, raw chocolate moose, herbal waters).
The whole point is that Im introduced to a variety of activities to rediscover my fitness mojo and hopefully kickstart a new regime back home. Im on my own but usually there would be a small group of no more than ten. Day two Im kickboxing at sunrise with Faye again (and aching like mad, I wont lie), hiking to Es Vedra, this gorgeous rock formation said to be third most magnetic place on earth, subject to lymphatic massage where my legs are basically pummeled into submission by a machine, and then dinner out with Kelly and James at laidback local restaurant, Babylon Beach. This part feels very much in line with my usual Ibiza experiences delicious drinks and DJs. And yes, I am allowed a glass of wine. By day three Im feeling genuinely invigorated and ready to tackle the gorgeous morning coastal run with Kelly, where I pick up some excellent posture tips I need to run more upright and keep my elbows close to my body, and a 25k bike ride through pine scented rural roads, ending with a chic lunch at fashionable hotspot Atzaró Beach Restaurant (Jade Jagger hosts parties here) on the shores of beautiful Cala Nova. We also stop off to look at some cool artisan leather bags at a favourite local boutique of Kellys called World Family (worldfamilyibiza.com).
THE VERDICT: Im a convert! Love the fact that there is so much variety and the programme is bespoke. Its also a brilliant and alternative - way to experience the island. Rustic cycling, coastal running and breathtaking hiking (thats the view and me) were definitive highlights. Its also not army-like at all, which I would have hated. I need a bit of love with my lunges. Kelly and James are super cool too, which means you dont miss out on the new chic place to eat, a spot of shopping and a cheeky cocktail (if you want one that is). What did I learn fitness wise? I need to get into pain more. I realised I quit far too readily and never push myself with exercise but its actually good to do it. Fitness and weight loss is the prime motivation for these retreats (and there are measurable results from the before and after tests done on the six-day retreats) but Kelly and James have noticed people also take mental time out to revitalise their lives and, as they put it, re-set their coordinates. I definitely felt fitter, more toned and energized after three days and after six days people tend to lose on average 2-3kg per week and 1-2kg of fat.
38 Degrees North, enq +34 971 338093, , runs Optimal Fitness Retreats with six nights at Aguas de Ibiza () from around £1500, including full board and activities (excluding flights) (Non-residential options available). Dates still available: 25 - 31 Aug, 22 - 28 Sept, 6 - 12 Oct
Aguas de Ibiza, Salvador Camacho, 9?07840 Santa Eulalia del Rio, enq 00 34 971 31 99 91,aguasdeibiza.com Doubles from around £210, B&B