The last exercise Susannah Taylor did in Ibiza was on a dancefloor. This time she swapped her party dress for her sports kit on the ultimate wellness retreat...
You may think that, as a beauty and health editor I spend my whole time being pummelled, preened and pampered top-to-toe, or that I jet off to sunnier climes and get baked in seaweed and mud wraps on a monthly basis. Okay, occasionally I sneak out from the office to get my hair done and I go fitness training twice a week in work time, granted (we can also paint our nails at our desk and call it ‘work’), but the reality is that I actually spend most of my time hunched over a computer into the wee hours, drinking endless cups of Earl Grey tea, fretting over the minutiae of copy from writers or planning impossible shoots. So when I was invited to 38 Degrees North, a wellness holiday company based in Ibiza, I slammed my laptop lid shut, donned my Asics trainers and leapt at the chance.
Based at Hotel Aguas de Ibiza, a 5 star hotel in Santa Eulalia on the east of the island, it is the opposite side of the island from the party mayhem of San Antonio but also far enough away from any clubs to see or hear any ravers. This makes for a peaceful and sophisticated hotel (I’m told one of the best on the island) that attracts people who actually want to relax rather than obliterate themselves all week (and means you can avoid any weirdness of bumping into any party people on their way back from a night out as you’re heading out on your morning jog). Hotel Aguas itself is a glass and limestone structure, and I had a wonderful corner room that overlooked the harbour with the ultimate extravagance: an egg-shaped bath on the balcony.
38 Degrees North is run by the outrageously healthy, fit, and very lovely couple Kelly Morgan and James Davis who have put together a crack team of mind and body professionals to ensure you leave Ibiza a new person. Whether you want to kick-start a healthier life, are super fit and want to get fitter, wish to detox, or do solid yoga, they have a retreat for you. There’s even a Sleep Retreat for anyone struggling to get some shut eye (I thought this might be a week of sleep for knackered people like myself, but actually it’s for anyone who can’t sleep well, and consists of educating you in treatments, nutrition and exercises conducive to better sleeping patterns). I was here for the SUP and Soul retreat (SUP stands for Stand Up Paddleboarding) and I was promised I would have the chance to reconnect with nature, keep fit, and explore the coastline. For someone who needs to spend more time with their eyes on the horizon, not on a rectangular screen (plus I have recently got fit) this sounded great to me. This is my diary…
Day 1: Friday 11th October
After being greeted by Kelly, the glowing, auburn haired, supremely toned owner of 38 Degrees North, we headed off for a ‘bikini circuit workout’ held by personal trainer Faye, an equally firm, petite, softly spoken Northerner. As we make our way to the outdoor gym area (a clearing on the hill side near the hotel that overlooks the sea, and a darn site better than my view at Banbury’s finest Bannatynes gym), Faye reveals that she was previously a championship kickboxer. She then proceeded to gently annihilate us all with circuits of press-ups, lunges, sprints, arms and core work for an hour. Thankfully, afterwards we were able to nurse our twitching limbs in the hotel spa with a deep tissue massage thanks to an awesome Spanish male masseur who I think undid about five years’ worth of knots in my back.
Pre-dinner we walked along the pretty coastline to a beach about twenty minutes away to meet 38 Degrees North’s amazing yoga teacher, Ayda. To say Ayda radiates beauty is an understatement – not only beautiful to look at with her waist-length long brown hair, she is immensely witty and friendly (she told us to visualise George Clooney to lift our spirits). Ayda left a stressful job in the city to learn to teach yoga in India, and we all fell in love with her during a very special session that she held on an empty beach by the sea at sunset. It was a special hour and will stay with me for a long time.
Day 2: Sat 12th October
It’s very hard when you find yourself somewhere like Ibiza for ‘work’ to wake up in a huge king sized bed on your own and not to want to lie there for a few hours whilst the sun comes up, but our itinerary said ‘Coastal run, 8.30am.’ Fortunately for me I couldn’t join in (damn shame) because of a knee injury, but the rest of my group filled me in on how great it was and they all looked sufficiently sweaty when they got back.
Next up was a healthy breakfast before our first SUP lesson with Kelly and James. Stand Up Paddle Boarding is a real growing trend in sunny climes, and not only is it a lot of fun, it is an intense workout. A huge surf board with an enormous paddle, the aim is to start off on your knees to get the feel for it before standing up. While the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Gisele might make it look easy, it’s actually pretty tough - if you imagine you’re trying to balance on a board that has a ball under it you get the idea. A few capsizes later we all ended up standing up, and I could feel what an amazing workout it was. We even got a bit carried away practising our yoga moves (see me here in downward dog pose!) which are doubly hard when you don’t have solid earth underneath to ground you.
After an al fresco lunch at the nearby Babylon beach (very cool, chilled vibe, great fresh food), we headed back out for another beating from the lovely Faye - this time an hour of boxing followed by an hour of core exercises, before heading back to the spa. The spa at Aguas is immense - reaching right underneath the hotel - all stone, billowing white curtains and white towelling-covered loungers where guests go to either read or snooze. There are also various hot and cold plunge pools and saunas to investigate. My favourite was the jet pool, with about 20 different jets so powerful they could lift you up out of the water. I felt so relaxed afterwards I went back to my room and slept for an hour.
Day 3: Sunday 13th October
Up and at ‘em! Today we were in the pool at 9am, pre-breakfast, not for swimming but for an Aqua Spin class taken by a very lively camp Spanish man who, from his moves, looked like he spends a lot of time dancing in Space nightclub. If you haven’t heard of aqua spinning, then it’s a bike-based spin class, but the bikes are submerged in water. I wasn’t sure I enjoyed it as much as regular spinning (think it takes a bit of getting used to) but it was a workout and a half. This was followed by a much needed breakfast before another quick yoga session with the lovely Ayda.
SUP today was an altogether different experience from the first time we went out - whilst the weather forecast was perfect, once out at sea we suddenly faced wind and choppy waters, and, heading round to another bay we had to work ridiculously hard to stop ourselves drifting into the shore. I found this good fun and a great challenge but the ever attentive Kelly and James were clearly worried about us especially when one of our team got seasick.
Thankfully any frazzled nerves were soothed in an hour long meditation class with Ayda at the end of the day, who took us on a magical journey of calming moves and jungle sounds. I left in such a dream state that I almost missed dinner afterwards.
Day 4: Monday 14th October
The day started with another amazing yoga session with Ayda, this time on the rooftop of the hotel - a beautiful decked area overlooking the harbour as the sun started to warm up for the day. I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to her and vowed I would go back to do yoga with her one day.
There were many, many highlights of this wonderful weekend, but one I will remember the most was a bike ride with James through the lanes and Ibizan countryside to the sea. Occasionally stopping to tell us local details and show us local produce (melons in a field, carob pods on the trees), we eventually found ourselves overlooking a beautiful expanse of beach. I have been to Ibiza many times and have rarely had the time to take in the scenery, so this was a joy.
All in all this was a magical time away, and Kelly and James were the ultimate hosts and are a fountain of health knowledge. 38 Degrees North provide holidays for everything from weight loss to detox, fitness to yoga, SUP-ing to sleeping and cater for all levels of fitness and ability. I did more exercise in four days than I would normally do in a month at home and got way more out of them than any beach break has ever given me. Would I go back? In a heartbeat.
How to get there
Flights London City - Ibiza from £59 one-way, which includes 2 x pieces of hand baggage, free seat selection and complimentary drinks and snacks onboard. Book at Ba.com
The Scarlet Hotel
38 Degrees North are also currently providing Optimal Fitness and Detox retreats at the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall up until April. Expect coastal hikes along the Atlantic coast, surfing on empty beaches and mountain biking through moorland. The Scarlet and 38N have designed a healthy menu with local Cornish produce including the freshest fish, home-grown vegetables plus more. There's a cosy yoga studio with plenty of natural light, log fires within a library, outdoor hot tubs and a spa light relaxation room with amazing views. This way you get a balance of outdoor activities like beach workouts, coastal runs, mountain biking, beach boxing plus the warmth and comfort of a luxury Eco hotel.
Choose from three, four, or five day Optimal Fitness Breaks taking place between January 31st and April 4th 2014
Please email email@example.com for more information
Find out more at: www.thirtyeightdegreesnorth.com