High intensity training and a menu composed of skinless salmon fillets and broccoli might not sound like the thing to get the travel juices flowing, but if the brains behind Body MOT are to be believed, their retreats do that and more. And so with summer’s bikini booty in mind, I found myself perched in the carriage of a train heading to Cheltenham where over the next three days, the company promises to make me fitter, stronger and healthier.
Happily, the retreat’s no-pain, no-gain philosophy doesn’t extend to the hotel which in this case is the Cheltenham Park Hotel: a Cotswolds country pile set in gorgeous grounds. But lovely as they are, I’ll be seeing much more of the in-house yoga studio since high intensity yogalates is at the heart of the regime devised by Matt Kendrick, founder of MK LifeFit and trainer to the stars. But before the action begins, we sit down to a suitably healthy lunch of salmon fillets, spinach salad and green tea while the experts demystify the detox concept. Next, we have our measurements taken before jumping straight into our first training session – a metabolic Tabata workout. It’s tough but refusing to admit defeat, I finish the class before sneaking off for a crafty nap to recover.
Although the course is heavy on the workouts, a key component is healthy eating and in a bid to revolutionise my (less than wonderful) cooking skills, I sign up for a nutrition training class. Here, I’m told about micro and macro nutrients (yes, they do exist) and warned of the dangers of fad diets. Instead of succumbing to the Atkins, Dukan or Caveman, the key, apparently, is lean and healthy proteins, fibrous carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. Afterwards, I take a dip in the hotel’s 50ft pool before heading down to the airy restaurant for another dose of grilled fish – this time sea bass served with lime and ginger, chickpea and sweet potato stew with greens. We were even allowed pudding: a dairy-free and sugar-free version of the traditional carrot cake.
After a day on the caffeine, sugar and alcohol free regime, I’m starting to feel some of the benefits, tackling an 8am cardio session with aplomb. Buoyed by a good night’s sleep, even the prospect of a breakfast of alkalising oat smoothies and almond porridge with hemp seeds is enough to leave me feeling energised. Later, a fast uphill walk in the countryside gets my circulation pumping, helped by the gorgeous views over the Cotswolds.
Lunch comes courtesy of my favourite part of the weekend; a cookery class, where the tasting part is as important as the making. First, there’s a salad of apples, sunflower seeds, pomegranates, beetroot, avocado, bean sprouts, rocket and quinoa; a healthy source of protein given tasty new life by the veg. Next comes a bright green soup of peas, watercress, spinach, kale and mint, all thrown into the trusty Vitamix blender with some chopped onion and garlic for a creamy, texture. Everything tastes wonderful and I leave with some healthy new additions to my culinary repertoire.
All too soon, the final session arrived: more pilates designed to tone, while boosting strength and stamina. By now, I certainly had plenty of both. Body MOT is certainly no easy option and committed caffeine junkies will find giving up their poison tough. But my glowing skin and increasingly toned tummy were enough to make it worth it, while the vast squashy beds at Cheltenham Park are ample compensation. As I packed my things and prepared to go home, I had two new goals in mind: Buy a Vitamix Blender and try not to fall face first into the buffet carriage on the train back. Reader, I managed both of them.
NEED TO KNOW…
The Body MOT package starts at 2pm on Friday and ends at 5pm on Sunday, costing £269 per person. RIH stayed at the Cheltenham Park Hotel but similar programmes are available at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool, Redworth Hall Hotel in County Durham, Shrigley Hall Hotel in Cheshire, Billesley Manor Hotel near Stratford-upon-Avon, Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire and The Imperial Hotel in Torquay.