Fitness breaks are not just popular with millennials — now midlifers are getting in on the act, too. What’s more, there needn’t be any flying involved, if you follow our guide.
So-called ‘wellness tourism’ (holidays where health and wellbeing are the focus, as opposed to sun, sea and sangria) is the fastest-growing sector in travel.
The Global Wellness Institute, which publishes statistics on the industry, predicts that, by next year, the market will have risen to almost £620 billion.
Shape up: Fitness breaks are not just popular with millennials — now midlifers are getting in on the act, too
The best fitness boot camps and retreats have experts on hand 24/7 to encourage participants via a carefully curated schedule of workouts, guided hikes, expert yoga and nutritionally sound, tasty meals.
The idea is that you discover a better, leaner version of yourself in a matter of days and return home refreshed.
Popular with celebrities such as TV presenter Amanda Holden and numerous soap stars, Prestige Boot Camp is where world- class, military-level instructors increase your fitness, strength and endurance. Its latest location is at the foot of the Berwyn Mountains in Wales, allowing guests to hike around lakes or take a trail to the summit of a waterfall.
Both high and low-intensity activities will test your grit, from rock-climbing, strength circuits and cardio, to core fitness, zip wires, surfing, beach workouts and team games. Bring a notepad and pen, too — the educational workshops on nutrition, motivation and cookery will give you plenty of tips to take away with you.
Details: Wonders Of Wales, from £599 for five days (prestigebootcamp.com). Prestige also runs camps in Devon, Suffolk and London.
‘Weight loss camp without the boot camp regime’ is how award-winning FitFarms — the UK’s longest-running fitness retreat and weight loss camp — styles itself. Its holistic approach for long-term change is suitable for all ages, shapes and sizes — with specialist courses for high body mass index (BMI) guests, families, women only, and those with disabilities.
Stone cottages in the Peak District National Park are the setting for a challenging, personalised, residential programme of nutrition, exercise and education, devised by a GP referral fitness specialist (a personal trainer qualification recognised by GPs, who then refer patients to the trainer) as well as weight-loss experts. Daily activities include aerobics, boxercise, swimming, yoga, core workouts, woodland walks and massages.
Details: From £499 for two nights (fitfarms.co.uk). Other FitFarms locations include Scotland, London and Norfolk.
Every Wednesday, Yeotown founder and fitness enthusiast Simon Sieff takes up to 12 people of varying fitness levels to his eco-chic farmhouse in North Devon (if you’re lucky, his model yogi, vinyasa flow teacher, positive psychologist coach and wife, Mercedes Ngoh Sieff, will be there, too). The retreats mean round- the-clock fitness, from crack-of-dawn yoga to full-on workouts, 25-mile cycle expeditions and hill and coastal hikes, all led with utter kindness.
Each day increases stamina: sporty guests are soon running along stretches of the beach, with the less able going at their own pace. Meals are communal and delicious — all free from the usual suspects, with the occasional fish — and most guests leave 3 to 5lb lighter. There’s also tai chi, singing, sessions in the meadow hot tub, massage and meditation, to cover areas often neglected on the more image-focused bootcamps — such as emotional wellbeing, mental clarity, stress levels and technology overload (brace yourself: they turn off the wi-fi for a while every day!). Sign up for online health tips on departure to keep your ‘Yeotox’ going back at home.
Details: From £1,950 pp for an all-inclusive five-day programme, including transfers from Tiverton Parkway train station (yeotown.com).
Listen to your gut: Healthy food at Grayshott Spa
It may be traditional (some will say old-school), but the seven-day Grayshott Health Regime (it also does 14 or 21-dayers) centres around diligent digestion, which is back in fashion, big time. While the mainstream is only now cottoning on to the fact that a digestive system firing on all cylinders is central to wellbeing and weight loss, the Grayshott gut specialists have been advocating it for more than half a century.
Tasty meals avoid foods that require a lot of breaking down in the intestine, but also contain the optimal balance of healthy fats, proteins and fibres essential for healing tissue and the gut lining, manufacturing hormones and keeping cell walls healthy.
The programme is holistic and extensive, including nutritional and fitness consultations and body composition analysis. There are hydro baths, castor oil compresses and detoxifying abdominal massages that increase lymphatic circulation, stimulate the liver, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and, of course, improve digestion.
The exercise is gentle — yoga, Pilates, guided walks — and there are informative talks, such as Stress: What It Is And How It May Be Sabotaging Your Health And Your Waistline, and Fats: The Good, The Bad And The Very, Very Ugly.
Details: 7-Day Health Regime (Wednesday to Wednesday) from £1,950 (grayshottspa.com).
Set in 500 acres, the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire on the Dogmersfield estate may look more like a Downton Abbey set than the location of a holistic yet hardcore fitness retreat — but don’t be fooled.
Three days of extreme indoor and outdoor exercises (up to 12 hours of fitness training), educational and nutritional workshops and signature spa treatments will see guests ‘pushed way out of [their] comfort zone, both physically and mentally’, driving them to ‘achieve results they never thought possible’. Meditation, yoga, ice baths and nutrition masterclasses are included.
Details: The Escape costs £1,850 for a stay on June 14 to 16 (fourseasons.com/hampshire).
Bikini boot camp
Need a washboard stomach, pronto? This say-it-as-it-is boot camp is designed to be a quick fix for the bits that matter. Unlike some of Trimmer You Boot Camp’s other offerings, this one, located on the Welsh borders, focuses on core training, strength and conditioning and circuit training to get you beach-ready.
Military instructors motivate and guide up to 30 women every week, with a challenging and intensive exercise programme to burn fat and tone muscles. As if that’s not enough, the on-site nutrition squad will share recipes to help you eat sensibly and beat the bloat.
Details: A seven-night stay costs £1,149, trimmeryoubootcamp.co.uk/bikini-boot-camp
For women only
The Body Retreat in Dorset is exclusively for women. Its Weight Loss Retreat claims an impressive average of a 6in, and 9lb, reduction in just seven nights
A homely, private house 20 minutes’ drive from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, The Body Retreat is exclusively for women, offering ‘lifelong and, in some cases, life-saving changes’.
Its Weight Loss Retreat claims an impressive average of a 6in, and 9lb, reduction in just seven nights. It’s all down to the combination of Nordic walking, swimming, Zumba and boxfit, with all-important hypnotherapy, behavioural sessions and expert tips on how to keep the weight off in a sustainable way.
Details: From £1,950 for seven nights, thebodyretreat.co.uk
For the sporty type: At Northern Bootcamp there’s the option of kayaking around the Northumberland coast
The thrilling Northumberland coast is home to the Northern Bootcamp — weight-loss and fitness bootcamps that ‘push participants without being military-style’ (i.e. they are strict, but not bullying). The firm was established in 2010 by former Armed Forces personal trainer Dan Smith and his ex-international hockey player wife Caroline.
Activities such as cardio sessions, interval training, kettlebell classes and boxing combine with optional kayaking, abseiling and archery to make the most of the location. Programmes run from one to 14 days; after just seven days, the average weight loss is a pound per day (the record is 2st 7lb over 14 days).
Details: From £90 (one day) to £1,840 pp (14 days), northern bootcamp.co.uk
YOUR CHECK-LIST FOR GETTING INTO SHAPE
- Find out how long the fitness retreat company has been running and whether any deposits are refundable.
- Check the qualifications and experience of the trainers, life coaches and nutritionists. How long they have been working with paying clients?
- Discuss any health concerns you may have with your GP before you go.
- If you have an existing injury or ailment, inform the boot camp and ask if it can accommodate you.
- Check out the clientele and culture by calling them up and talking to them. Do you want young and trendy, or quiet and classic?
- Book ahead. Numbers and dates can be limited and boot camps get filled up fast.
- It’s important to enjoy exercise. So speak to trainers to gauge what will suit you best.
- Ask about the number of participants and how they split up the group. You don’t want to feel like you’re on a conveyor belt.
- Decide what are your expectations. If you want to lose a significant amount of weight in a short time, find a camp that emphasises this — and check how it aims to achieve it.