Me, do a triathlon on holiday? Oh go on, then...
Our brilliant writer demonstrates the concept behind her new column ‘Bryony Gordon is unwell’ with some active inactivity in Sardinia
At what point did I become the kind of person who goes on holiday to do a triathlon? It t must have happened ened within the past three years: between ween desperately shipping myself f off to a boot camp just before my first rst marathon and coming to the e astonishing realisation that not everyone who does these things ings is completely hateful and that, in fact, some of them are really y rather nice; and giving up booze 15 months ago, my sober state forcing me to redefine my relationship hip with holidays.
Before, the only criteria for r going away was a) will I get a nice all-over tan and b) is there a good babysitting service so that the he husband and I can prop ourselves elves up at the bar after dinner every ery night? If a friend told me about out a great place that had a brilliant nt array of watersports and daily group exercise classes, my eyes would begin to glaze over. I have never really understood people who go on holiday to be active, and not for the buffet. I did once go stand-up paddleboarding while in Lanzarote, but I ended up falling on some rocks and gashing open my right thigh. I thought it was probably the universe’s way of telling me to lie down on a sunlounger with a good book, so that’s exactly what I did.
I was scarred, perhaps, by the “activity” holidays I had been sent on as a child: freezing in a damp tent in Staffordshire, being made to abseil down a rock as if this might somehow constitute fun; being taken skiing by my best friend’s family, who seemed intent on convincing me that hurling yourself down an icy mountain while strapped to two planks was a constructive use of downtime. But as I have got older, and perhaps even a tiny bit wiser, my idea of downtime has changed; I have discovered a sense of joy in pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and the rewards that come from that. Sun is still appealing, but a tan, less so; I am increasingly nervous about skin health and cancer and mortality. I have also realised that my inability to switch off means that I tend to come back from holiday feeling as if I need another holiday.
I was vaguely aware that the wellness industry was becoming a big thing, not just in clean eating cookbooks and foul-tasting kefir and barmy exercise fads, but in the travel sector, too. Each week, my in-box seemed to be filled with more and more emails from PRs trying to hawk “experiences” (not holidays) that promised to revitalise your body and nourish your mind and soul: goat yoga teamed with vegan cuisine and “cleansing” colonics. I wasn’t sure that having a tube of water stuck up my bum sounded like my kind of weekend away. Furthermore, these “experiences” seemed to be aimed at people who were already very, very healthy, or else at people who wanted to completely transform their lives in a week. But I just wanted to travel, have fun, and feel good. Was it too much to ask that there might be realness in wellness?
Like most people, I am a seething mass of contradictions. I do not drink alcohol, but do still like the odd fag. I like to eat healthily, but love a takeaway burger once a week. I love exercising and running, but I also really love sitting on the sofa watching Netflix. And I wondered if there was some sort of happy medium for people like me. You know, normal people. People who wanted to be well while also sometimes enjoying being a bit unwell. For it is one thing reading a review of a fabulous medical spa that
I love exercising and running, but I also really love sitting on the sofa watching Netflix
offers state-of-the-art treatments that will apparently banish cellulite, but quite another when you realise that the reviewer has never actually had any cellulite, and furthermore that they actively enjoy waking at 5am every morning to gulp back a green juice and do an hour of yoga before the kids wake up and start begging for quinoa porridge.
And so we came up with this column. An unwellness column, if you like. A column that aims to deliver realness: “experiences” that nourish your soul but also your stomach’s desire for a buffet; trips where you can work out your body but not feel judged when you decide to lie it down on the beach with the latest must-read potboiler. Which brings me to going on holiday to do a triathlon. I had discovered a family resort in Sardinia with a stellar reputation, which happened to put on a swimming, cycling and running race at the same time as October half term, and it seemed to tick all the boxes for a holiday that both took me out of my comfort zone and then transported me safely back into it. Forte Village is situated in the south of the island, 55 acres on a stretch of beach that is only a half-hour drive from Cagliari airport. There’s a Thalasso spa, a water park, 21 restaurants, approximately one trillion tennis courts and, crucially, the kind of kids’ club that your children refuse to leave at the end of the day.
The triathlon, now in its sixth year, fits the resort’s ethos of healthy holidaying; Forte Village is a hotbed of