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A Healthy Curiosity: The rise of the hardcore holiday

July 14th 2015 / Peta Bee


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Peta Bee finds out why more and more people are swapping tanning for training when they take a break and rounds up her top 5 hardcore holidays

Holidays were once about getting away from it all to relax. If you were lucky, you might summon the energy for a dip in the pool or a walk along the beach. Otherwise it was feet up on the sun-lounger, cocktail to hand. For a new breed of body-conscious travellers, however, unwinding no longer enters the equation. Industry insiders report a sharp rise in the number of people booking 5-star ‘hardcore holidays’, luxurious vacations that leave them with more of a hard-worked body than a tan.

Unwilling to relinquish the fitness levels attained from year-long spinning and yoga dedication, the hardcore holiday maker gears their annual break towards serious training, both for themselves and their kids. We are not Mark Warner activity holidays here, but programmes that require full immersion into elite-style training.

A week spent working out with an Olympian or professional sportsperson has become the status symbol for this fitness jet-set.

Trading in your summer holiday for a triathlon or an intense bootcamp programme is the goal and what to drop into the conversation is not so much where you are heading on holiday, but with whom. A week spent working out with an Olympian or professional sportsperson has become the status symbol for this fitness jet-set. From premiership footballers to former winners of the London marathon, you can cherry-pick your experts according to your fitness needs.

Statistics show a 35 per cent increase in demand for holidays that offer everything from football coaching to serious cycling, with many companies reporting that the rise began after the London 2012 Olympics. Training Escapes, a company that offers triathlon breaks, has seen bookings surge by one third in the last couple of years.

Likewise, companies such as the Italian Hospitality Collection (IHC) which owns resorts such as the chic Chia Laguna in Sardinia have vastly expanded the sports and training programmes on offer due to customer demand. “There’s been a distinct shift in what holiday makers want over the last year and there’s a greater desire for seriously active breaks than ever,” says Marcello Cicalò, a spokesperson for IHC. “Last year 59 per cent of our bookings were from families who wanted to be doing sports, not lying sunbathing.”

Surveys by British triathlon show that stressed-out, high earners are attracted to the sport and for the cash-rich, time-poor a training holiday offers the chance to catch up on training missed through being desk bound. But the hardcore holiday trend is more widespread, also drawing in single-minded twenty-somethings focused on attaining this year’s sought-after ripped abs along with yummy mummies at the school gate who compete for one-upmanship in the hardcore holiday league along.

One mother I know has enrolled the entire family at a tennis academy run by (and for) professionals in Florida, another has entered a triathlon with her husband, booking the kids into a swim, bike, run camp at an exclusive resort in Spain. “We’d rather the kids were doing something sporty than getting bored,” says Sara Banton, 46, from Ascot who has booked a family sports holiday in Italy. “They get intense swimming training with top coaches and we get to hone our tennis and water sports skills. My hope is we’ll return looking fantastic.”

So where should you head to get Olympian advice about fitness? Here's Peta Bee's top five hardcore holidays:

Swimming and triathlon

Who: British Olympians James Parrack and Matthew O’Connor

Where: Colonia Sant Jordi, Mallorca

What: An intense swimming and triathlon camp for the seriously fit who want to improve. Countless European and World champions use this centre as their base before major competitions. If you prefer the kids to make the effort, there’s a programme for 6-18 year olds and you can busy yourself in the gym.

Find out more here.

Bootcamp training

Who: Former international sprinter turned celebrity trainer, Matt Roberts

Where: Yoo Lakes, the Cotswolds

What: This week-long training programme promises to transform your body and your attitude. You don’t get an A-lister body without working for it – Roberts puts you through five hours of training including HIIT, kettlebell training, strength and conditioning, boxing, andagility sets each day while you relax.

Find out more here.

Football and half marathon

Who: Bobby Zamora, who plays for QPR, and England international Andrew Johnson.

Where: Sardinia

What: A newly launched soccer academy on the pitches of the chic Chia Laguna resport will occupy your 6-16 year olds while you can busy yourself by entering a local half marathon or doing watersports. Failing that, the white sand beaches are a draw in themselves.

Find out more here.

Cycling Retreat

Who: Olympic gold medallist, Victoria Pendleton

Where: North Devon

What: During a four-day course at the sumptuous Yeotown Retreat in September, Pendleton will be coaching budding two-wheelers over invigorating coastal hikes, inspiring cycling sessions, nutrition and core workouts. Find out what it takes to get an Olympic cycling bod.

Find out more here.


Who: Former London Marathon winner, Mike Gratton and a crack team of experts

Where: Algarve, Portugal

What: Be prepared to train like an elite athlete as you are out through your paces with beach running, speed sessions on an adjacent 400m all weather track, yoga and core training as well as pool workouts. Post-run massages included.

Find out more here.

MORE GLOSS: Peta Bee on how to eat your way to better abs


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