I don’t think my bridesmaid Sarah, herself a bride-to-be, will mind me saying that the pair of us are pretty unlikely candidates to ever sign up to three days of consecutive, non-stop exercise. Neither of us are exactly known for our athletic prowess – yet, a few months ago, with both our wedding dates looming on the horizon, we somewhat apprehensively signed up to an intensive FitFarms retreat.
“You’re off to fat camp!” laughed Sean, not so supportively, when I told him of our plans. He insisted I didn’t need to go – but then it’s not him who has to fit into a wedding dress this time in two months! Since my juice detox I’ve been doing twice-weekly bootcamp classes (which I love, actually – the first time in my life I’ve ever actually enjoyed exercise) but it was time to kick things up a notch.
I think Sarah and I were as surprised as anyone else when the date of our expedition finally came round and we found ourselves on a train whizzing up to the Peak District, munching on a last supper of jaffa cakes and mini cheddars with our backpacks full to the brim with newly-purchased and never-before-worn sports gear. (Fyi, prior to this I hadn’t worn a backpack since I went traveling round South East Asia in 2007.)
We were pretty nervous. And when we arrived at the station in Derby (after a quick trip to Costa for a latte and a banana loaf, ahem) we joined a group of equally as apprehensive looking ladies – we’d opted for a girls only retreat – waiting for a transfer to the FitFarms site.
Our bus journey did nothing to ease our worries. There were two people who had done the course before, who terrified us with promises that the weekend would be “hardcore” and that there was barely any food. Yikes.
They weren’t wrong, either. Upon arrival we were assigned our houses (the accommodation at the Derbyshire site is absolutely lovely, with big, comfy en suite bedrooms, lovely living areas and clean well-equipped kitchens. With empty fridges, obviously…) and then, after an emotional getting-to-know-you session with instructors Andy, Ian and Zu, and a light aerobics workout, our dinner was served. “Is this the starter…?” Sarah asked, incredulous, as we were handed a plate with what appeared to be three leaves on it. It wasn’t. (It was delicious though, Lynny in the kitchen serves up the most incredible food. There just isn’t much of it.)
As we retired back to our houses for bed (we’d decided to get an early night – after all, we had a pretty busy day to follow) there was a hen do setting up camp in a neighbouring cottage – pinning up bunting and laughing together as they sipped glasses of wine outside in the warm evening sun. I think we know who was in for the better weekend…
We were a little indignant about our 6am wake up call on the first morning. Particularly because we were only up that early to go and get weighed. After having our fat pinched, our lung capacity measured and our weight taken, it was time for our first work out of many – which was followed by a delicious (but small) breakfast of homemade muesli with chopped up dates, apricots and nuts, and almond milk. To my surprise we were allowed a cup of black coffee, too. Probably to help us deal with the shock of seeing the schedule of the day’s vast amount of exercise pinned on the board:
Gulp. It was a pretty punishing itinerary. By the time we were on our way to the seventh class of the day, the neighbouring hen do’s bulter in the buff had arrived and there were whoops and cheers coming from their cottage as we all grappled with a tough resistance training workout before bed.
We were more than ready for sleep that night – but what had struck me most throughout the day was that I hadn’t been hungry even once. The portions I was eating were at least one quarter of the size of what I’d eat at home, and we’d done more exercise in a day than I would usually do in the space of at least three months. Interesting.
We woke up full of energy and raring to go, even though we had a 6.45am aerobics class. I wasn’t as achy as I’d thought I would be and anyway, the entire group of us – there were 27 people, some of whom had travelled from as far away as Cyprus, Belgium and Bahrain to take part – were so good at motivating each other that even if you did feel the odd twinge, you just worked through it.
The day’s activities included a gorgeous three mile hike, a spot of aquaerobics (which I loved!) at the pool in nearby Bakewell, and an educational talk on exercise led by instructor Andy, which was brilliant.
But tiring. And thankfully, that night it was time for our sports massage. Just the thought of it had kept me going all day. Everyone at FitFarms gets at least one during their stay, and it’s done by the masseuse whose full time job is working for Stoke Football Club – so it’s pretty darned brilliant. Unsurprisingly I slept like a baby that night, too.
I couldn’t believe it was already our last morning – and time for our weigh in. I must admit despite working SO hard – by now I was absolutely knackered – I wasn’t expecting any results after two days. Perhaps a pound or two loss just because the portion sizes we were eating were so small.
So I was incredulous when I was told I’d lost 3.8 % body fat, an inch off my waist, half an inch off my hips and 1.2lbs. In two days! Sarah had done even better, shaving an incredible 3 inches off her waist. Wow. We were suddenly wishing we were staying for the whole week. Imagine the results at the end of that…
We were also pretty pleased we weren’t going home before the nutrition workshop. I was really eager to learn more about what we should be putting in our bodies after realizing how little food (well – how little of the right sort of food) we need to be able to do so much physical exercise. As predicted, it was brilliant. (And not just because we got to spend a rare hour sitting down.) Even now I’m home I keep referring to my notes and I’ve made small changes, like swapping my usual skimmed milk to full fat milk and making sure I eat protein with each meal.
I am so, so happy we decided to go to FitFarms. It was fab, and not only because of the results. Let’s face it, when else would I ever do a kettle bell class, or experiment with martial arts? It let us try out a whole array of different exercises and I now know I prefer hula hooping to boxing, interval training to zumba and yoga to tai chi. (I still hate running though. Hate it with a passion.) And each class has different versions of the exercises so every single person is pushing themselves to the best of their ability. It isn’t cheap – a three-night course in a shared room will cost £599, and a week-long course in a single room is £1599 – but you get what you pay for, and this is one hell of a life-changing experience.
Also – I know we’d worked hard, but the remote location, limited phone reception and gorgeous countryside surrounding us really did make me feel refreshed and like I’d been on holiday. (The site may be in the middle of nowhere, but the staff are brilliant at making sure you’re not running out of essentials. I’d had a bit of a contact-lens related emergency and neither of us had thought to bring a razor, but someone headed out to the shops for us and it was sorted).
As we headed home, wearily trudging towards the transfer minibus with our now-extremely muddy and well-worn equipment, the girls on the hen do were looking hungover and fragile as they piled phallic-shaped inflatables into their cars ready for departure. I was no longer sure who’d had a better time, us or them – I was feeling pretty amazing (though admittedly, I looked shocking. My hair has never been frizzier nor my face a more makeup free zone…) But we were certainly sad to be leaving.
I’d go again in a heartbeat.
If any of you brides-to-be out there fancy trying out FitFarms too – or if any of you who might just want to lose a few pounds, kickstart a health and fitness regime or take a few days away to look after yourself and find a new lease of life, check out FitFarms online at FitFarms.co.uk