#9 Why it takes tough love to get in shape
All those earlysummer articles said it would take six weeks for me to get “beach body ready”, but it turns out Switzerland’s Waldhotel needed just three minutes to transform my physique. That’s how long I stayed in the last of the three progressively colder chambers that form the medispa’s Ice Lab. Observed through a window by an attendant, I skipped and shadowboxed at -166F (-110C) while dressed in gloves, headband, mask, Y-fronts, socks and – most humiliatingly – an obligatory pair of Crocs. Just 180 seconds is all it took to go from typically pale Irishman to puckered, blue-pink rack of pork rigid in an abattoir freezer. I was told it would work wonders for my nervous system and metabolism.
Opened in December, the Waldhotel is the last of four hotels to launch at the year-old Bürgenstock Resort, about an hour’s drive south of Zurich. At an altitude of 1,640ft, the estate is flanked by chocolate-box chalets, rolling meadows and the Swiss Alps on one side. On the other, a sheer drop leads to the calm expanse of Lake Lucerne. I pitied competing resorts as I drank in the views from the spa’s outdoor infinity pool and Spices restaurant, cantilevered over the cliff face.
But the real allure for me was the promise of some severe, Teutonicstyle tough love. Writing about luxury travel involves eating and drinking to excess, and I take my work seriously. I never turn down dessert – people want to know about the pastry chef ’s posset – and it’s important to give the sommelier time to shine, so I compensate by doing one health retreat a year.
I’ve been to an Ayurveda-focused retreat in the Indian Himalayas, and to Thai beach resorts offering chimes and spiritual sustenance – but they’re too airy-fairy for me. What I want is hi-tech gadgetry, medical experts with dour demeanours and results that can be measured, with stats and graphs and reams of printouts.
At Waldhotel, that meant cookery lessons with a dietitian (“I did my bachelor’s thesis on coconut oil; you shouldn’t use it every day”) and consultations with Bavaria’s Dr Petra (“Our tests show you’re low on Vitamin D, but you live in England so this is normal”). Blood was taken, urine sampled, a full body scan detailed my body composition, fat mass and bone density exactly.
I wanted help to remain in good shape rather than to lose weight – which was just as well. Weirdly, the library is crammed with temptationstirring titles such as
and Because some guests stay at Waldhotel simply to relax, the breakfast spread at the Verbena restaurant includes buttery pastries and cheeses. Over my millet porridge, oil and avocado, I was tempted by the brunch buffet’s saucy dessert table, winking from the corner. (I spurned it, and kept the chocolates left by my bed at turndown each evening for the flight home).
More aligned with my expectations were the advanced gym with its personal trainers, and the slew of specialists – a dentist, dermatologist, physiotherapist and others – on standby. It felt at times as if those
Teutonic without tears: the Waldhotel spa