Hippie haven, clubbing heaven and now wellbeing destination – Ibiza has been through many incarnations that make it a unique melding pot of styles and scenes. And it’s this latest trend that has brought me to the pretty port of Santa Eulalia for a fitness retreat as individual as the White Isle itself. British fitness holiday company 38º North offer bespoke retreats at the stunning five-star Aguas de Ibiza Hotel between April and October (as well as the über-cool Scarlett hotel in Cornwall during the winter months), with packages including weight loss, detox, de-stressing and optimizing fitness. However I’ve signed up for their new and most hi-tech option: DNA Fitness.
As the name suggests, this is a personalized programme created for each client after they’ve taken a home DNA test and posted it to a lab a few weeks before leaving. It is tested for 14 genetic markers such as sensitivity to caffeine, salt and carbs, how well your blood absorbs oxygen (which in turn indicates aerobic strength), how quickly your body can recover from exercise and which nutrients you aren’t absorbing enough of from your diet.
Our hosts, the aptly svelte and attractive husband and wife team Kelly Morgan and James Davis who will be leading us through most of our sessions, welcome us warmly before assigning a FitBit wristband that monitors sleep patterns, calorie intake and expenditure. First up is a wellness consultation to talk me through my DNA profile. Some results are surprising – I have a 1 in 35 chance of having Coeliac disease as opposed to the average 1 in 100 – while others are things I’ve suspected, for example a raised chance of developing diabetes, which my mother already has. I also need to up my intake of antioxidants, vitamins D and B and selenium.
Next comes a series of fitness tests that include point-to-point running, followed by one minute rounds of crunches, burpees and press-ups to gauge stamina and fitness levels. Combined with the part of the DNA analysis that works out your individual balance of power versus endurance, Kelly and James can set about creating a customized fitness plan for my retreat. They’ve also taken into account a pulled Achilles tendon as well as giving me some exercises to help strengthen it.
Daily activities are varied with group classes as well as individual sessions. Mornings can begin with an energy and mood-boosting 5km costal run. Weaving along the beach to a more precipitous cliff through aloe plants, yukka trees and ferns is the perfect start to the day. Again it can be customised to your plan: my fitness profile suggests that two minutes of jogging followed by 30 seconds of sprinting is best, not only for me and my Achilles, but for the rest of the group too as I’m not quite as speedy as the more experienced runners.
There’s an afternoon hiking trail over tough mountain terrain that takes in some of Ibiza’s most spectacular scenery and ends with a swim; stand up paddleboarding down on the gentle waves by the beach and TRX suspension training under the trees in a small park opposite the hotel. The Fitness Studio beside the Revival Wellness spa – the hub of 38º North – is where we meet for group classes including dance and kickboxing, while the gym is where personal training sessions are held by British kickboxing champion Faye Maloney. Expect a combination of cherry picked equipment from kettle balls and Power Plate to the cross trainer and Swiss ball core. Her relentless drive, combined with fantastic Northern sense of humour, ensure that the sessions are tough but motivating so the time flies by.
And if that sounds like a lot of exertion (and it is), some respite comes with the beachside yoga session at sunset. The sound of the sea lapping at the shore and our wonderful instructor Ayda’s voice is quite soporific, as is her flowing yoga style – enough in fact to make us almost oblivious to the passing onlookers. It’s the perfect conduit between a day of intense physical activity and evening downtime.
In between sessions, we’re encouraged to head back to Revival and make use of the thermal suite – a series of water and heat experiences that soothe muscle fatigue and flush out toxins. Alongside the Finnish sauna and hammam there are underwater massage beds, a jet pool, cold plunge pool and feng shui pool with changing light sequences, fresh fruit and juices on tap plus an extensive treatment menu including Essence of Ibiza which makes the most of the islands salts and herbs for exfoliation and massage.
In keeping with this holistic approach, the Hotel Aguas de Ibiza has been designed with eco chic in mind, making it the perfect fit. The 5-star, family run resort was renovated around 4 years ago and is a symphony in Iberian stone, glass and wood, with as much as possible of what the hotel uses – from the food down to the designer who created the staff uniforms – being local. The interior has been feng shui-d too, with a curved lobby and spiral designs everywhere including ceilings and doorhandles, to act as ‘dreamcatchers to take to you a fresh day’.
The luxury hotel’s rooms are spacious, sleek, modern, and filled with everything you need without feeling cluttered. The glass walls around each balcony are in fact solar panels, while an underground water source is filtered through the building to cool the air before being returned to its source. There’s an ample pool deck that gets busy so bag a sun lounger or canopied bed early in the day. The pool itself is inviting and encouraged by my new fitness perspective, I made as much use of it as possible. There may be 112 rooms, but the flawless design and peaceful atmosphere ensure the hotel’s overall vibe is boutique elegance.
While breakfast is buffet style, Alabastro, the poolside restaurant is our lunch and occasional dinner venue. There’s a special 38º North eating plan to ensure no cheating: read no bread, no oil and healthier eating options. After a few days this can get rather repetitive but my steak salad was so tasty I was happy to have it most lunchtimes, while the chef works with your DNA profile to tweak meals accordingly, such as adding extra nuts to salad for selenium or swapping yoghurt dressing for a soya dip to cut back on dairy.
If you want to extend your dining options – and have the willpower to avoid the breadbasket – head to Babylon, a small open air restaurant and boutique on the beach that has a small but perfectly formed menu focused on ingredients from local farms. On a clear night you’ll get a breathtaking view across the sea as often blood red moon appears too. Or walk along the marina into Santa Eulalia to find the rustically decorated Passion Café, with its ‘raw food’ cooking. Don’t be deceived though – amongst the raw nachos, lasagne and cake are healthily cooked chicken and fish dishes as well as plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. All are beautifully presented and just as delicious.
Most clients stay for a week but even after a few days I could see some more definition in my arms – motivation enough should you lack any. Having never tried kickboxing or TRX training before, it was intriguing and fun to roadtest new fitness techniques that took me out of my comfort zone and gave me inspiration for when I returned home. Although you might not want to think about it while you’re surrounded by Balearic bliss, those take home lessons are just as important: these are goals for the long haul, not just the length of your retreat. It’s an exhausting but exhilarating experience, made all the more easy by the care and encouragement given by the 38º North team, not to mention the heavenly surroundings. And with DNA analysis increasingly a part of reality rather than an Orwellian future, it seems apt that we start using it to get fit for life.
DNAFitness IBIZA costs from £1968 including 5* accommodation, all meals and activities (excludes flights) and runs between April – October. British Airways flights between London Gatwick and Ibiza cost from £xx. For bookings and further information visit www.thirtyeightdegreesnorth.com and www.aguasdeibiza.com