Embark on a healthy break at Champneys
I've been a bit lazy this year. Where I used to religiously go to the gym three times a week, 2014 got off to a bad start. I was injured, low on motivation and most weeks barely made it there once. The effects? I was feeling sluggish but worse starting to get podgy. OK not majorly - but noticable to me. I was desperate to get back in touch with my old gym bunny self yet none of the options were appealing. Turning up the gym after a few months off filled me with dread and the idea of 'trying something new' wasn't feasible - I was already paying for a monthly membership to my local gym, I couldn't possibly spend extra on going to a different class somewhere else.
Then I heard about the Champneys Boot Camps. An intensive, two night, four night or seven night exercise and nutrition retreat that takes place in the grounds of a five star spa. Suitable for all fitness levels the camps take place monthly at the spa's five resorts around the UK and involve a dedicated programme of exercises and activities with meals to compliment. A short break with a healthy theme - it seemed like the perfect compromise. So armed with a suitcase filled with sport bras and trainers I headed to the Forest Mere branch of Champneys in the hope of getting re-inspired about my fitness regime.
A pampering massage is included in the boot camp package
When they call it a boot camp they don't just mean being put in line by a fierce instructor (admittedly he was very sweet!) - they literally mean exercising from all day from 7am. 7am! I’m usually still in the land of nod then - what had I got myself in for?
We were given a programme of exercise classes each day with the option of joining onto any further we wished to out of these hours. Our boot camp activities took place indoors and outdoors (the weather was sublime so we took full advantage of the forest setting.
Team forest hike
Each day we embarked on a 1.5hr group hike and did a range of cardio, toning and conditioning including circuits (not as you know it, these sessions were much more fun and included the boot camp version of a team 'tag' game), pilates, spin, aerobics, dance and my absolute favourite on Sunday morning - water polo. It gave me flashbacks to being in my school netball team. It took a while to get used to being splashed by everyone but once I scored my first goal my competitive side kicked in and my focus moved to winning.
Hunger v Healthy
Our first lunch together was a chance to get to know the other boot campers enrolled on the course but rather then chatting to people, I spent most of lunch hour in shock. I don't think I had ever eaten such a small portion without going for seconds.
At Bootcamp every meal was carefully prepared with ingredients and by portion size. One thing that was missing from the menu was sugar. What we did have was a healthy greek mezze with a bowl of salad, two falafels and half a piece of pitta bread. This was where I got worried - I would normally eat two! As I finished my last mouthful I was concerned about how I would survive but the good news is I did and surprisingly it didn't take long to adjust to this new way of eating.
Healthy chocolate cake - with no sugar
It turns out that the meals over the three days were a highlight, challenging misconceptions about what you should and shouldn't eat. We ended up tucking into a full English breakfast, pizza and even a slice of chocolate cake - it's how they were made that was the difference. The chocolate cake in particular was a revelation - made from tofu and flavoured with chilli is tasted every bit as divine as a rich slice of sponge from a posh patisserie.
Tucking into a guilt-free snack
In between meals we were also delivered snacks. Our first was a Green goddess juice made from vegetables like spinach and kale but another was again, a complete surprise; a plate of nachos with dips, proving again it's possible to eat more healthily without having to compromise too much.
To make the transition easier we also attended a session with Champneys' Nutritional Therapist Jo-Ann Carey who answered all our personal questions about healthy eating as well as fuelling us with motivation to keep up the regime after boot camp was over.
Rest & Recovery
The bonus of doing a boot camp at Champneys is that you have a five star spa at your disposal. Included in the price is a pampering massage (I had mine during the middle of the course and it was the perfect pick me up) as well as a 25-minute thalassotherapy session where our muscles were soothed in the warm bubbly waters.
Relaxing by the river loungers at break time
Whilst on the boot camp you’ll also enjoy all the other facilities which at Forest Mere include an outdoor pool and loungers by the lake. In the evenings there are a variety of entertainment options such as quiz and film nights and talks by guest speakers or you can simply enjoy relaxing in your room or suite. Filled with luxury comforts the rooms make your stay feel like a proper vacation.
Home Suite Home - rooms are light and spacious
A month later, post-boot camp, I’m back at the gym feeling amazing and I’ve been inspired to be more aware of my sugar intake. I’ve realised I don’t need chocolate every day and I’ve swapped sugary cereals for porridge – a small start but a positive one. I certainly wasn’t expecting for Boot Camp to change my life but it has and I’m so glad about that!
Find out more about Champneys Boot Camps here and follow the Twitter hastag #InspireTHEnation to get fitness tips and to share your own healthy experiences