There comes a time in every fit person’s life when they plateau.
It might be sheer mental and physical exhaustion that drives them to the pastry section, or it could simply be that the gains stop coming from their routine.
In my case, it’s been a bit of both. I’m fit but my motivation has crashed. I spend my lunchtimes working out at 60% of my maximum output and evenings eating coconut chocolate from Waitrose and watching boxsets…and that’s led to the reemergence of my gut.
So I decided to sign up to a three-day blitz boot camp to remotivate, reeducate and reassess my fitness goals and abilities. In Marbella.
After all, what better way to make you feel better than some sun?
The Beast from the East, however, had other plans.
34 Degrees North is run by husband and wife duo Claire and James, who operate their boot camps out of the most luxurious hotels in Marbella and Ibiza. What better way to whip your mind and body into shape than with gruelling workouts during the day and 5* suites to collapse in at night? And as a solo traveller, I thought that going on a fitness camp might be the perfect way to meet new people while concentrating on myself.
Usually they do their workouts on the beach, with bouts of early morning fasted cardio as the sun comes up and boxing sessions with waves lapping at their ankles.
This time, however, the rain came and came and came. Puente Romano is famed for its amazing tennis club – founded by Bjorn Borg. It’s clay courts have seen the likes of Serena Williams and the odd Davis Cup match being played on them. The clay currently resides under about 10 inches of water.
So, we were confined to the tennis club studio for much of our work.
Not that that mattered; there isn’t time to sulk on a 38’N retreat. In fact, glorious sun probably only acts as a potential distraction. When it’s Armegghdenon outside, you want to be indoors doing circuits or spin.
This retreat is not for the fainthearted. If you’re looking for a little weekend away where you can go and detox-retox, I’d probably recommend that you continue heading south towards Ibiza. I, for one, would be sick within in the first hour if there was any chance of being hungover.
The workload is intense. Day one saw us doing a 20-minute fasted cardio session before breakfast, a gruelling circuit before lunch, and 2.5 hours of boxing, spinning and core in the afternoon. I woke up the next day stiffer than the Tin Man.
5.30pm fitness testing and circuits
8am fasted cardio
8am fasted cardio
3pm gym induction and weights circuit
8.30am fasted cardio
10.30am weights circuit
Claire is possibly the most motivational person I’ve ever come across; in your darkest hour, she’s there pumping you up. I wish to God that she was available to train me in London…or had a podcast I could listen to because I’d be the most optimistic commuter if I had her voice in my ear during rush hour.
Our retreat was a mixed bag of abilities – from complete fitness novices to more advanced (with half of the attendees having come to previous 38’N camps – the perfect advert), and I was amazed at how effortless and tirelessly Claire and James managed to give newbies the attention, motivation and modifications they needed while remaining constantly available to the rest of the group.
That’s how you know you’re in good hands.
Of course, the pair both have cracking bods even though they’re currently in what they claim to be ‘pre-season’ mode.
But they aren’t your usual #fitspo freaks. In fact, nothing seems to irritate Claire more than the current trend for bikini fitness on Instagram. She’s gone through some of the competition prep herself and has friends who are knee-deep in bikini culture, which she says is the epitome of misery and obsession. 38’N is about health first and foremost – physical and mental.
And that brings us to the next part of the retreat – the mentoring.
Apart from all the motivation and encouragement that goes alongside the various classes, there are actual workshops interspersed throughout the weekend, which deal with more practical aspects of healthy living.
Day one saw us in a classroom for Nutrition 101. Now, I’m pretty clued up on macros and calories etc but listening to the no bullsh*t approach of these machines is incredibly refreshing. So many of us are trapped in a guilt cycle with food, and having someone remind you that food is both fuel and there to be enjoyed is way more useful than an in-depth analysis of probable quackery.
The pair is also keen to dispell what they deem the ‘myth of intolerance’. They don’t believe that many of us are gluten intolerant – it’s just that we either eat too much of what we think we’re allergic too, or we can’t handle little bits of it when we’ve gone without for a long time. Your usual wellness wackos, they aren’t.
OK, the important bit.
The food at Puente Romano is incredible. When you’re exercising from 8am-6pm, you need a lot of good food and this retreat includes breakfast and lunch at the Sea Grill in the price. Both of those include buffet options so I obviously had a three-course breakfast every morning.
While the seafood here looks amazing, as a vegan, I was worried that Marbs might not be a plant-based paradise – I was wrong. I’ve never eaten so well. For my evening dinners, having stuffed my gills at lunch, I walked to the local Aldi and picked up a tonne of fruit and nuts and kicked back Cleopatra-like in my jacuzzi bath after training, with Netflix on my laptop, surrounded by dates, figs and cashews.
For lunches, I had piles of grilled veg or vegan paella, bowls of spiced baked apple and heaps of houmous and baba ghanoush.
If, however, you happen to come when it isn’t pissing it down, Marbella old town is just a 10-minute cab ride away and it has any number of beautiful tapas places and bars worth visiting in the evening. Within Puente Romano, there are dozens of international restaurants too, including Nobu and a two Michelin starred gaff. So you need never be without good grub.
Also on the hotel grounds are umpteen heated pools, a world-class spa (€50 for a day pass), an underground nightclub (gets going at midnight and absolutely cannot be heard even if you’re next door), bars, a kids playground and, of course, easy access to a beautiful beach. Round the corner is a gluten-free bakery and other amenities.
I feel like every fitness and wellness retreat should be hosted in 5* luxury.
There really is nothing to make you appreciate a beautiful suite quite like working your arse off for hours on end, only to collapse into your massive king-size bed and walk around in fluffy bedgowns.
Bootcamps shouldn’t be miserable – they should be motivating and aspirational and this kind of setting is perfect for that.
You’re doing something amazing for your body (which, at times can feel like a punishment) but also treating yourself – and that can often be a motivator in itself. You’re here to do something incredible for your health and your body – your only real asset – will thank you eventually.
In the short term, you can thank yourself with room service and a massive private washroom.
So, was it worth it? Absolutely. In fact, my only criticism is that three days isn’t long enough. By the Sunday, I was just feeling in my stride and could have done with an extra few days of incredible food, luxury accommodation and brutal workout.
But if you feel like you’ve lost your way when it comes to your exercise regime, or simply don’t know where to start in your journey towards optimum wellbeing, then this kind of retreat is a must.
I feel leaner, stronger and most importantly, fired up to reach my goals. I’m less stressed and negative.
38’N not only put my body through the toughest boot camp but they completely, as they promised to do, reset my coordinates.
And I met people who I’d never normally come into contact with, and who helped me completely refresh my view of my body and personal successes.
If you’re lagging in your motivation or inspiration, or you’re generally not in the *best* mental place, then I couldn’t recommend a fitness camp like 38’N more.
The important stuff
38’N operate out of Ibiza, Marbella and Soho House.
Their next Marbella camp is 19-22 April; £1,849pp (sharing) or £2,249 (single), or £999 (non-residential).