x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Top 10 fitness holidays: fresh air, good food and exercise

A round-up of the best places in the world to reinvigorate and detox yourself with a busy schedule of fitness and healthy eating.

The New You Boot Camp, Portugal
The New You Boot Camp, Portugal

Wildfitness takes a rigorous but exotic approach to its retreats. Located on the Watamu coast, it uses the natural habitat to get you fit. A sample itinerary of the nine-day Kick Start programme includes barefoot boxing on the beach, sprinting up sand dunes and swimming across creeks. You're exercising by 6.15am most days but you'll have had a mental shift and be completing eight-mile jungle circuits by the end of it. Set up in 2000 by the athlete Tara Wood, who grew up in Kenya, the trips are run by hand-picked expert personal trainers. The diet here contains no sugar or caffeine. Everything is fresh but it's a delicious mix of tropical fruits, fresh fish and coconut truffles, depending on the menu you choose, (Primate or Hunter Gatherer). And the elegant Baraka house, with five villa-style rooms overlooking the Indian Ocean, makes it feel less gruelling than it is. A nine-day course at Wildfitness (www.wildfitness.com ; 0044 20 7259 1149) costs from US$2,862 (Dh10,512) per person in a private room including transfers, activities and taxes.

This was the first boot camp to introduce week-long, women-only courses in the UK. That was three years ago, and it is now frequently lauded as the best. Run by ex-Special Forces personal trainers who had the idea while serving in the Middle East, this military-style training promises "you'll safely drop a dress size and tone up in a week". You rise at 5.45am, stand down at 10pm, and in between is a constant assortment of adrenalin-fuelled activities: boxing, river crossings, hillwalking, biking, fell running, cardio workouts and yoga. The target is to burn 5,000 calories a day. The diet is rigid too, designed by the nutritionist on hand for personal advice on the way you eat. The location is a stunning country house set in a 1,300 hectare estate in south-west Scotland. A six-night stay at The Camp (www.thecamp.co.uk ; 00 44 7879 555 041) costs from $2,707 (Dh9,943) for a private room and $2,243 (Dh8,238) based on two people sharing, including meals, kit, transfers, insurance and taxes.

This up-at-dawn boot camp - "a body and mind overhaul" - takes no prisoners. It's been called torturous and is the hardest thing you'll do. Mixed groups of 10 to 12 come for a one-week course. Cue full-on days of lengthy hikes and mountain climbs combined with three-hour sessions of toning and stretching yoga. Hungry work. And the food - it's raw everything. Which means green veg and sprout drinks three times a day, litres of water, almond milk and baby-sized portions of salad, gazpacho, beans and seeds. The menu aims to strengthen your immune system and aid weight loss. There are occasional treats: massage and dips in the pool and the location, a whitewashed villa in the hills of Gaucin, is stunning. A six-night stay at The Complete Retreat (www.thecompleteretreat.com ; 0044 79 4121 4750) costs from $2,862 (Dh10,512) per person sharing a double room, including meals, activities, treatments (except massages) and taxes.

Run by Sue McCarthy, who has spent 30 years teaching health and well-being, this centre offers a detox designed to help combat the problems of stress, burnout, weight control and getting fit. The focus is on healthy diet, exercise and education. The days start at 7am with a skin brush, a litre of water and a 3km power walk. It goes on to sea dips, Pilates, swimming and more beach and bush walking (60-80km in the week on the Dynamic Detox package, 50km on the Moderate). Also included is yoga, meditation, chakra cleansing, massage and reflexology along with food classes and lectures on nutrition and anatomy. The fasting process starts with water on the first day, fruits and seeds the next, then grains, pulses, vegetables and salads, then finally eggs and cheese. The centre, with six simple rooms on the unspoilt island, is equally contemplative and motivating. A six-night stay at Kangaroo Island Health Retreat (www.kihealthretreat.com ; 00 61 8 8553 5374) costs from $2,336 (Dh8,580) for a private room, including taxes.

Spa, spurs and sweat. This Texan ranch offers a fitness programme in addition to the dude ranch experience. The routine includes a three-hour hike and all the exercise classes you can pack in, along with ranch activities and horse-riding. There is a state-of-the-art gym and indoor pool, but the beauty of Rancho Cortez is its outdoor gym - 2,000 hectares of hill country providing about 104km of hiking and riding trails. Teaching includes listening to your body, the correct way to train and trying new exercises (horseback yoga, for instance). It's all done on a low-fat, low-calorie but gourmet menu: wheat pancakes and fruit, grilled shrimps, bean soup, and rancho juice. You design your fitness package with the help of the personal trainers, who will push you to work out as much as you are able. Then slow it down a bit with a hot tub and hammock before enjoying a massage, sunsets and campfire marshmallows. A six-night stay at Rancho Cortez (www.ranchocortez.com; 00 1 830 796 9339) costs from $1,450 (Dh5,327) per person sharing a cabin, including meals, five-to-seven hours of workout opportunities, three horseback riding activities, classes, dinner demonstrations and taxes.

The foie gras and strawberry gateau is a clue - this is a luxury camp that will not make you feel guilty for having a glass of red or dessert. Based in the hills of south-west France, not far from Toulouse, the camp doesn't even have weighing scales. The objective? "To make sure everyone leaves appreciating their body as it is now," says Libby Pratt, who planned it all. "It's about fitness, not weight, and you don't need to suffer." Not that the Kick Start programme doesn't have a tough schedule: abs at 6.30am, yoga at 7am, followed by daily 16km hikes, ending with Pilates and more yoga. But there are five-course candlelit organic suppers to relish - with wine. The rules: smaller portions, no snacks, be more active, stay thin - it's the French way. No two hikes are the same, exploring the beautiful countryside of Tarn-et-Garonne. Other highlights: the 800-year-old mansion catering for just five guests at a time, swimming pool and water therapy spa. A seven-night stay at Camp Biche (www.campbiche.com ; 0044 7617 7253) costs from $3,738 (Dh13,730) for a private room, including transfers, meals, daily massages, activities and taxes.

The Body Holiday might sound a bit full-on, but the reality is different. At this luxury resort, located on the tip of St Lucia, pummelling, pampering and peace of mind is more important than weights and workouts. Think as much daily yoga as you could want or need, given by international masters, plus anything from Pilates, scuba diving and golf lessons to running, cycling and aerobic and relaxation classes. Instructors cater for everyone's needs, and you can always give yourself permission to do none of the above and have a lie in. But you're also here for The Oasis, the Caribbean's award-winning spa. Overlooking the sea, with a gym and pool, disappear for a treatment daily (included in the price). You can embark on a healthy-eating plan but there are no rules about what you should eat, with four restaurants to prove it.   A seven-night stay at The Body Holiday (www.thebodyholiday.com ; 0044 14 0388 8136) costs from $2,156 (Dh7,919) per person based on two people sharing a luxury garden room, including all land and sea activities, a daily 50-minute body treatment and taxes.

This British outfit started in 2007 offering a back-to-basics bunk-style military regime in the UK but added the luxury spa retreat in Portugal last year. As they say, "Why train in the rain?" A boutique resort near the fishing village of Carvoeiro is your stylish base, and it's a mixed group. Days are broken up into hourly lessons and include sunrise walks, bike riding, abseiling, water sports and relaxation sessions. Army-style activities still feature too: command tasks, logs runs, BodyPump, boxing and hiking along the Algarve coast. There's also a spa. The local chefs have worked with their "Nutrition squad", which sounds scary, but the food never leaves you bored or hungry. A six-night stay at New You Boot Camp (www.newyoubootcamp.com ; 0044 12 0255 9336) costs from $2,313 (Dh8,495) for a twin room, including accommodation, food and drink, activities, transfers and taxes.

Launched in 2009, Fitscape hosts week-long boot camps in exotic locations (the Moroccan coast, the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy and Ibiza) and take expert trainers, massage therapists, nutritionists and a yoga guru as a source of inspiration. The focus is on getting fit and "feeling energised, recharged and motivated". Hikes, circuit training, jogging and bike rides are optional - you customise your routine with the trainer's advice. Add swimming, massage and golf to the agenda, plus early nights, beautiful surroundings and a cleansing diet, and this camp delivers. A seven-night stay at Fitscape (www.fitscape.co.uk ; 0044 20 8968 0501) costs from $1,848 (Dh6,787) based on two people sharing, including taxes.

Body and Soul Adventures, a spin-off of the famous Ashram Spa in California, is a balance between exercise, relaxation and reflection. Located 150 miles from Rio de Janeiro, Mike Mitchell has run this retreat for nine years. A maximum of 10 guests split their time between a remote beach in chalets 50m from the water and Paraty, "The Venice of South America". Kayaking and rainforest hikes are the cornerstones of the programme, with swimming, surfing, tree-canopy walking and Capoeira as your "relaxation". Difficult trails are rewarded with sunbathing on beaches and twilight massages. But be warned: activities become progressively more challenging, ending in a 660m climb up Mamanguá Peak. Healthy meals include fresh veggies and fruit, optional seafood and a restricted calorie menu for those who want to lose weight. The six-night Paraty Adventure (www.bodysouladventures.com ; 0044 20 3002 0936) costs from $2,250 (Dh8,264) per person sharing a double eco room, including taxes. Water rappelling costs $150 (Dh918) extra.