Fitness Retreats: The Lowdown
I recently went away to France with the lovely Carly Rowena and Cat Meffan on a yoga and fitness retreat 'Sweat, Stretch, Smile', and it was totally divine. Someone on my return to work commented that it wasn’t their idea of a holiday and I do totally get that. But if, like me, the opportunity to work out twice a day (without work getting in the way) with other like-minded people is your idea of a dream, then maybe a fitness retreat is for you! Read on for some things to think about before booking yourself onto a retreat.
1. Food/Drink: retreats are likely to be reasonably healthy affairs. I’ve also been away (a few years back) for a week on a yoga/surfing retreat to Agadir (Morocco) and on both retreats, food has been based on vegetarian/vegan diets (there was extra meat available most nights in France) with only one night where anybody drank. Largely it’s the nature of the week’s activity (getting up at 7.30 to do a hiit session on a hangover, no thanks) and the mindset of everyone you are with, but something to think about if you are planning on going Larry Largenuts – might be best to save that for the Beefa trip.
2. Instructors: think about whether the quality of the instructors, their backgrounds and personal preferences/style are important to you. I have followed and admired Cat and Carly for some time via their blogs and Instagram, and getting the opportunity to learn from them specifically, plus have one on one time with them (and getting to know them on a personal level to an extent) was a real selling point for me. Many PTs are running their own retreats now, as are certain studios if that’s something which does matter to you.
3. Location: consider whether you are happy to be quite secluded with the retreat itself, or whether you want the freedom to roam around in between classes. I had some sort of romantic idea about taking myself off to swim in lakes and read books in French cafes whilst on Sweat, Stretch, Smile, but unfortunately there really wasn’t the opportunity as the nearest towns were a bit of a schlep (and an expensive taxi journey) away. Equally in Agadir, the surrounding town and basic market didn’t offer anything worth wandering around. Access to a town also means access to other food/drink as well (see point 1).
4. Attendees: I wanted a friend to join me in France but it didn’t work out, and I was anxious about going alone. Unlike my Agadir retreat, it actually turned out that everyone had rocked up in France alone apart from a mother and daughter couple. If making friends is important to you, as backwards as it seems, you are far more likely to do so if you brave it alone as you naturally won’t spend time sat just with your buddy as you’ll be eager to socialise. In Agadir, Dan and I attended together and had a great holiday (and made two great friends in Mike and Vicky) but we really didn’t even speak to more than half of the group as it very much seemed like a group of people doing their own thing on their own holiday whilst there was a definite bond between the group in France.
5. Fitness level: personally I think you are likely to get more out of a fitness retreat if you have a basic level of fitness, even if you are not a particular yoga/pilates/surfing/mountain-biking [etc.] pro - just my opinion. If it’s not a bootcamp or detox/weight loss week then people who go are likely to be those who just love working out. I don’t think that should put you off going though and having said that, whatever your fitness level or personal circumstances, you shouldn’t be worried about having a day or class off here and there if your body is knackered and you think the rest would benefit you more than the workout. If in doubt, email the organisers beforehand and check your fitness level/injury/whatever issue with them to ensure you know what the retreat entails and they are happy to make modifications etc. for you.
6. Downtime: it’s definitely worth thinking about whether you want downtime between classes and how you will fill your time. In France, the large amount of downtime was spent reading, playing games, meditating, watching films and taking pictures for blogs (for those with an interest in blogging) with one day out in between. Read: it was pretty chilled. In Agadir, there was no opportunity for downtime as we went to the beach to surf between classes which consequently was exhausting although there was no chance of boredom. On the one day I took off from classes, I was able to sunbathe to while away the time all day whereas the climate (not unexpectedly at that time of year) in France in October wasn’t exactly boiling.
7. Length of time: admittedly, a week is a long time to spend with a group of strangers, even if it passes quickly. I really loved my time in France and savoured every minute, but if you fancy dipping your toe in the retreat pool without going whole hog, there are plenty of weekend and long weekend retreats out there.
So go forth and retreat! I would love to hear from you if you have been away on a retreat before and your experiences.
If you wanna see more about our time in France, check out Cat and Carly's beautiful videos.