Friday - - Leisure -

Who needs a sweaty gym when you can get in shape at a lux­u­ri­ous bou­tique boot camp on the hol­i­day is­land of Ibiza? Oliver Roberts swaps brunches for burpees

One hun­dred and three, one hun­dred and four,” I counted the num­ber of steps in my head; I was too out of breath to say them out loud. My legs were wob­bly, my thigh mus­cles pump­ing as I forced my­self up the steep hill. To dis­tract from the burn I be­gan hum­ming the theme tune to Rocky, imag­in­ing my­self com­pet­ing against the grey track­suit­clad boxer Bal­boa as he sprinted up the steps of the East en­trance of the Philadel­phia Mu­seum of Art in the hit movie.

Only I wasn’t get­ting ready to com­pete in the ring by pound­ing the streets of a cold, in­ner city. The only thing I was fight­ing right now was the flab as I tack­led my first day at the lux­ury No1 Boot Camp in the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings of Ibiza.

Nor­mally known for its celebrity tourists – Mick Jag­ger, Rob­bie Wil­liams, P Diddy and Kate Moss are all reg­u­lars – or as the club­bing cap­i­tal of the world, I was here to see a dif­fer­ent side of the Balearic is­land. Based in the quiet, ru­ral idyll of the north east, a mere 30-minute drive from Ibiza Town, the fit­ness re­treat might as well have been a mil­lion kilo­me­tres away. In­stead of a huge con­glom­er­ate ho­tel I was stay­ing in a lux­u­ri­ous villa with jacuzzi, out­side swim­ming pool and res­i­dent per­sonal

trainer Ricky Par­cell and nu­tri­tion­ist KateWhale; there were no clubs around, only the nearby Atzara bou­tique ho­tel and spa, and the other guests weren’t here to party. They had come to lose weight and get fit. Like me.

A year in Dubai and my week­ends of brunch, beach and the beau­ti­ful life had seen me gain 18kg. My hard-earned ripped torso had dis­ap­peared un­der a paunch and my once-chis­elled jaw­line now boasted an ex­tra chin. I’d tried hit­ting the tread­mill and the cross-trainer but temp­ta­tion was al­ways only a fives­tar ho­tel and restau­rant away, so I de­cided to use my an­nual hol­i­day to ship out and get my­self in shape.

So here I was on my first morn­ing, af­ter be­ing wo­ken by blar­ing mu­sic at 6.15am, with sweat run­ning in rivers down my back, stick­ing my hair to my head in the 36C heat, while march­ing mil­i­tary-style af­ter Ricky and the 12 other boot camp guests (11 women, and an ul­tra­fit ac­tion-man type). We’d al­ready done a 20-minute ‘box-a-run’ through the coun­try­side, stop­ping along the way for mil­i­tary-style ex­er­cises on the spot: boxing, lunges, jumps, sprints, with only a quick stop for break­fast – four ta­ble­spoons of muesli with milk – be­fore head­ing to the hills.

Now, reach­ing the top, pant­ing and grate­ful the climb was fi­nally over, I was ready for the de­scent. But the only way from here was up – Ricky led us up a moun­tain, where the path be­came so nar­row we could only put one foot in front of the other, and I daren’t stum­ble be­cause of the sheer drop down to the sea 200 me­tres be­low.

Up, up and up we went, clam­ber­ing over rocks, through pine trees, past an­cient stone ovens in the mid­dle of nowhere, and past Can Vali, where French foot­baller Zine­dine Zi­dane was hol­i­day­ing. Luck­ily, I’d been told to bring hik­ing boots as this was no morn­ing stroll, but a climb to­wards the sap­phire-blue sky, end­ing with us perched on top of the rocks above the azure sea.

To pile on the pres­sure, when there was space for it, those at the front were told to loop back round and en­cour­age the strag­glers – me in­cluded – to move it even faster.

Three hours later, scratched by the trees and ev­ery mus­cle aching from the ar­du­ous climb, we ar­rived back at the foot of the moun­tain. “Take a dip in the surf,” Ricky, an ex-marine, or­dered and I ran into

I ran into the Mediter­ranean Sea, the cold salty waves sooth­ing my bat­tered body

the Mediter­ranean Sea, the cold salty waves sooth­ing my bat­tered body.

It was mid-morn­ing and I was ready to go to bed, I didn’t have any en­ergy left. Luck­ily af­ter a lunch of tomato soup, which was absolutely de­li­cious but sadly a tiny por­tion, we were al­lowed a two-hour break.

Some of the guests went to read books and sun­bathe by the pool. I hit the sack and went straight to sleep un­til 2.30pm, when it was time to start ex­er­cis­ing all over again.

“I know why they call it a boot camp,” I thought, hold­ing on to mine to do 50 sit-ups. We were out­side the villa, where the train­ers had set up a cir­cuit for us to pound a boxing bag, do bleep tests, where we had to race against the clock and do pull-ups, push-ups – ev­ery kind of ups – and the real army move: burpees.

Burpees are, for the unini­ti­ated as I was, the hard­est ex­er­cise ever, even by soldiers’ stan­dards, con­sist­ing of squat­ting down, do­ing a push-up and then jumping up as high as pos­si­ble. It hurts, and we had to do 45 min­utes of them per day.

By the end of the af­ter­noon, I was in agony. My leg mus­cles were like lead and I feared I was go­ing to col­lapse. “Next year I’m go­ing to Las Vegas,” I promised my­self, hob­bling in­doors, ev­ery mus­cle and sinew on fire. Luck­ily, I’d booked a mas­sage for ev­ery night. I’d imag­ined this boot camp would hurt and I was right.

Af­ter a shower, I gin­gerly climbed a few more steps to the rooftop ter­race and lay, watch­ing the sun turn or­ange then pink as it sank over the hills, soothed by a cool breeze as one half of the Dutch cou­ple, Abi and Bunky, of­fer­ing fa­cials and mas­sages, kneaded my ten­der mus­cles. To say it was the best hour of my life right then was an un­der­state­ment.

I had never worked so hard, or been so ex­hausted, and this was the

only way I was go­ing to be able to get up the next morn­ing and move with­out winc­ing.

Mas­sage over and it was time for din­ner. We ate to­gether, de­vour­ing our noo­dles with veg­eta­bles washed down with glasses of wa­ter. We weren’t al­lowed salt, sugar, sweet­ener or dessert, but no one com­plained. But that was be­cause we were all too tired to talk.

That was why we were here though – to im­prove our fit­ness and our bod­ies, so no one sneaked out to ex­plore the is­land or the near­est restau­rant. I can’t say it was all be­cause we were so highly mo­ti­vated. We didn’t have the en­ergy to go any­where ex­cept to bed early as we’d be up early again the next morn­ing for an­other packed day of ex­er­cises.

My first day, I soon learnt, was pretty in­dica­tive of the rest: hikes, some­times with a guide – is­lander Toby Clarke – to point out the plants, wildlife and pic­turesque coves, nooks and cran­nies (ev­ery view was breath­tak­ing but then again a large amount of theWhite Isle is Unesco World her­itage sites) and mil­i­tarystyle ex­er­cises. It could have been a blur of classes but the other guests on the course – who were all much fit­ter than me and very friendly – and the beau­ti­ful scenery made it en­joy­able.

And it wasn’t all about fartlek train­ing – it means ‘speed play’ in Swedish and mixes con­tin­u­ous train­ing with in­ter­val train­ing – and Tabata train­ing – high in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing – both of which hurt and re­duce girls (and some­times boys) to tears. We had fun too. One day we had re­lay races in the pool,

along with vol­ley­ball, where we laughed and could have all been old friends at a villa splashing about.

We had to com­pete with each other but the real com­pe­ti­tion was with our­selves – push­ing our bod­ies to be faster, walk or run fur­ther, and per­form each ex­er­cise bet­ter. It was a men­tal as well as a phys­i­cal bat­tle and I kept my­self go­ing with one thought: paella.

Over­look­ing the sea, just a short stroll away from the villa, was a restau­rant with smells of Span­ish fare that tempted us most nights as it wafted up on the breeze. “Let’s eat there on our last night,” I told the oth­ers. They all agreed – af­ter all, what bet­ter way to cel­e­brate los­ing lots of weight than with a slap-up meal? So when I was do­ing planks, squats and boxing moves I imag­ined tak­ing my first spoon­ful of paella – it in­spired me to work harder so I could have sec­onds.

As the days rolled on, we bonded over talk about rep­e­ti­tions, ripped abs (some of them now had them, I could only dream) and restau­rants. But the pain sub­sided, and I dis­cov­ered that I quite liked work­ing out. Even the fartlek train­ing. And all of us were look­ing bet­ter, feel­ing fit­ter and los­ing inches as well as ki­los. I only lost 1kg*, but Ricky told me I’d lost eight inches all over, and had ac­tu­ally in­creased my bi­ceps and thighs.

“Mus­cle weighs more than fat, you’ll shed lots more weight next week,” he said. I went to change – and grinned. The jeans I’d worn on the way over had been tight with my stom­ach bulging over the waist­band. Now they were loose.

De­lighted, we all went to change for our last sup­per. We all looked so dif­fer­ent dressed up for a night out and hit the road to the beach­side restau­rant with a spring in our su­per­fit steps. “De­li­cious,” I said, min­utes later tuck­ing into a plate of paella. “Even more de­li­cious,” I said af­ter that, de­vour­ing an­other por­tion. Right then I didn’t care how many

calo­ries or fat my din­ner con­tained, I just wanted to en­joy my evening with my new boot camp bud­dies.

Climb­ing the steps to the plane back to the UAE, I felt so elated by the past week’s achieve­ments I was tempted to sprint up them Rock­ystyle, and raise my hands over my head at the top in tri­umph. It had been a hard week’s ‘hol­i­day’, but it was def­i­nitely worth it. *Oliver lost 1kg at the boot camp and has lost a fur­ther 13kg since.

Rocky ran up steps in Philadel­phia, but we’d take the far more scenic op­tion and go up a hill in Ibiza – just look at that view

Whether you work up a sweat on a bike or with burpees, when you have crys­tal clear wa­ters to cool off in it all seems well worth the ef­fort

When it all gets a bit much and one more push-up would push you over the edge, there’s a beau­ti­ful pool or seashore to re­lax by – and of course a plate of fan­tas­tic lo­cal food

With a beau­ti­ful har­bour, cob­bled streets made for me­an­der­ing and gor­geous beaches, it’s no hard­ship to be on boot camp in Ibiza

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