“This is not a bootcamp,” says Matt Roberts. You could have fooled me. It is 6.30am and not yet light. We are running through freezing morning mists, splashing through puddles, along mud-clogged tracks that round the very smart Lakes by Yoo Cotswolds estate. It is freezing. It is damp. Even the ducks are huddled against the cold, in sleepy, feathery clumps. Whole sections of our run are underwater and we have to scramble around, hopping from bank to bank, our trainers clodded with mud.
Matt Roberts – a fat-free fitness legend who, while charming and friendly most of the time, is a complete machine when it comes to exercise - does not stop. And then, just at the end of our forty minute run, he picks up the speed for a sprint finish. I’m not sure how a fitness retreat differs from a bootcamp, but this certainly feels more like the latter than the former.
But the retreat aspect truly comes into play in the setup here. With my fellow bootcampers (no scary sharing of rooms, and ensuite bathrooms a go-go), I am staying in a very comfortable, huge lake-side house, interior designed to the last inch – my room is a penthouse with a wood-burning stove, a freestanding bathtub and a wrap-around balcony. There’s also, shining like a beacon on my printed itinerary for the next three days, beauty treatments. Namely, nightly massages in the spa, where a lovely, jewel-hued swimming pool, sauna, and Jacuzzi also beckon tired muscles.
Then there’s the food: feasts of salads for lunch, healthy dinners of beef fillet, dal curry, chicken and fish, no stinting on good carbs, no portion control or calorie counting and even a vegan brownie for pudding. This is clever, since there’s nothing that makes me want to sneak out to the nearest petrol station for a bag of Maltesers than being told that certain foodstuffs are categorically verboten. Plus, it’s served by a private chef next to a fireplace and with a view of the lake. Transport around the estate is in a Porsche 4x4.
But I’m here for the exercise. It totals a staggering five hours a day. But before you choke, this time is broken down into high intensity training (involving lung-busting circuits and Matt Roberts, the prime minister’s PT, holding me around the middle with an elastic band while I try and run away from him as fast as I can), plus TRX, kettlebells, Pilates, one-on-one training, and a yoga session that’s so intensely relaxing that I doze off during shavasana.
Matt is a mine of brilliant health and fitness information, and truly inspirational. He lives and breathes his job, he doesn’t drink, his diet is inviolable, yet he also manages to be extremely likable and sympathetic to those of us whose eating and exercise regimes sometimes fall off a cliff. He even enlists a DNA specialist to come and talk to us about how our genetic makeup influences what type of exercise we’re most suited to (endurance versus power, marathons versus sprints) and what we should eat. This is the future of fitness, and a facet that Matt Roberts now incorporates into his clients’ training. We do a swab test to send back with the professor to his lab in Switzerland.
It’s time to leave. I’m dreading the 6am wake-up call. The run on the second morning involved exhausting interval sprints that left me feeling empty of energy. This morning, however, the pace is steady and my mood is buoyant. I’ve figured out what makes a fitness retreat different from a bootcamp – a re-balancing of your exercise and eating and access to the best professionals in the business, all without sacrificing style or comfort or a decent meal. (I lost four pounds over three days, and, most importantly, rebooted my training regime, without even once wanting to cry.
Abruptly we come to a stream that’s broken its banks, flooding the road ahead. The only way is to retreat. Unless. Matt looks down into the stream. “It’s not that deep. We can cross it. Who’s with me?” Without thinking, I’m in and up to my chest in brackish water. I scream – it’s freezing - and scramble out the other side, muddy and dripping wet and actually grinning.
Prices start from £1,000 for three nights accommodation, all food and training.
1st June – 4th June
14th September – 17th September
19th October – 22nd October