Gran discovers you don't have to be a lycra-clad 20-something for Ibiza Body Camp
The White Isle isn't just for clubbers. Gabrielle Fagan discovers a world of wellbeing and working out
I'M IN Ibiza – an island renowned for round-the-clock partying – but as a grandmother in my late 60s, I'm not trying to recapture the clubbing days of my youth. Instead, I'm on a more serious (and desperate) mission – to transform my body.
After having three children, I've only flirted with sport and exercise over the years and have developed a weakness for biscuits and wine. I need help to defy gravity, find my 'lost' core, and improve my stamina.
My home for a week is The Body Camp, based in a large, luxury villa with panoramic sea views, near the town of San Josep and a stone's throw from Las Salinas, one of the most spectacular beaches in the south of the island. It's become a 'go-to' retreat for the celebrity fitness crowd.
I'm wooed by its Instagram feed, packed with photos of glamorous fans, including TV's Loose Women Nadia Sawalha and Linda Robson, as well as former Made In Chelsea's Millie Mackintosh, Melanie C, and Lisa Snowdon.
I'd be far too scared to go to a punishing 'boot camp' but staying here promises a gentler way to get fit, have fun and enjoy a chance to develop general wellbeing, by focusing on mind, body and soul.
This is my fitness journey...
DAY 1: SATURDAY
On arrival, I meet my fellow recruits by the pool. The reasons for signing up are varied. Some want to lose weight or kick off a healthier lifestyle, others to recover from work stress; one's struggling with a broken romance, while a couple of mums are simply seeking a recharging 'child-free' break.
Realising I'm the oldest in the group, as I stare back at three men and six women in their 20s and 30s, who look impressively Lycra-clad and toned, I'm tempted to scream, 'I'm a granny... get me out of here!' I fear I'll embarrassingly be the 'weakest link' in any fitness challenge, but it's too late now.
Warm, endlessly positive Kate Whale, who managed punishing fitness 'boot camps' before founding The Body Camp two years ago, reassures me.
"We're here to help people of all ages – we've had clients in their 20s up to people in their 70s. Our aim is to help you learn about yourself and your body and improve your fitness by pushing you safely out of your comfort zone – if you want to. We also want you to enjoy pampering and having lots of laughs."
DAY 2: SUNDAY
I'm not laughing at 7am as I drag myself out of bed for my first training session – running circuits around the tennis court followed by skipping and weight training.
I'm breathless and ashamed by my lack of fitness, but my fellow recruits are sweetly encouraging and supportive.
Breakfast, despite being free of everything from carbs and gluten to refined sugar – we're on an 80 per cent plant-based diet and alcohol is banned – is surprisingly delicious.
An outing to the local village is followed by an hour's walk and a pool workout. There are generous breaks between activities and the programme finishes at 5.30pm each day, with dinner at 6.30pm. I'm so exhausted I'm asleep by 9pm.
DAY 3: MONDAY
I'm stiff and grumpy when woken at sunrise by blaring 80s music. This is how our fitness trainer and wellness coach, Rick Parcell – a former physical training instructor in the Royal Navy – gets us moving every day.
I grimly wish I'd opted to sample the more traditional pleasures of the island – chilling out and a cocktail or two. (The only shots here are made of apple, ginger and spinach.)
It helps that each day's activities are different, and this morning's surprise is donning wigs and mini-skirts to rehearse for a pop video. Soon, we're all in fits of laughter about our performances – singing and dancing to The Spice Girls hit, Wannabe.
I'm realising the 'high' from endorphins, the feel-good hormones triggered by the exercise and activity, can be just as effective as a glass of wine for raising my mood.
DAY 4: TUESDAY
A timed 'bleep test' (used by the military) to check aerobic capacity and fitness levels with sprints over a set distance is hardcore. I manage seven laps before I flop out, exhausted, leaving the others to impressively pound away for at least 30 more.
It's a relief to spend a fascinating afternoon at a cookery lesson with nutritional chef, Ben Whale, Kate's younger brother, whose enthusiasm for the incredible plant-based food – which he supplements with small amounts of fresh fish, organic meat and dairy – is infectious.
He enthuses: "I love teaching people about the joys of cooking delicious food that actually makes you look and feel great. This is about giving people knowledge about what they're fuelling their body with, so they can make healthier choices without ever feeling deprived."
DAY 5: WEDNESDAY
Down to the beach for a Baywatch workout – High Intensity Training in pairs. My body sadly doesn't match Pamela Anderson's afterwards, but I'm elated to complete the circuits and not let my partner down.
There's a real team spirit now and we all 'high five' each other after finishing, then sunbathe or swim in the harbour.
Our daily snack, an energy ball made of oats, dates and nuts, feels like a feast, and I realise, despite eating only around 1,000 calories a day (you can have larger portions if your goal isn't weight loss), I haven't felt food-deprived at all.
Later, I surprise myself by managing 60 laps of the pool, an optional 'extra daily goal' which can be anything from 60 push-ups to a 'miracle mile' run in the surrounding countryside.
I'm adjusting to the pace and take part in each evening's downtime sessions – quizzes, watching films on nutrition and fitness, or just a chance to chat.
DAY 6: THURSDAY
The mantra of the camp is to be positive at all times. So muscles aren't 'sore', they're 'sexy'; you aren't 'starving', you're 'looking forward to refuelling'. It sounds silly, but a shift in language does have an impact.
Rick adapts exercise sessions to suit individuals. "Comparison is the enemy of joy. If you can't do burpees, let's find something you can do," he says, patiently guiding me through squats and lunges. I wobble but persevere.
Regular mindfulness sessions, under his guidance, where we learn how to change unhealthy habits and work on our confidence and attitude, as well as sharing life experiences, are really enlightening.
Specialists in yoga and alternative therapies visit, and during a reiki (healing) session, I literally feel transported to another zone.
DAY 7: FRIDAY
Our final full day involves an outing to Ibiza Town for sightseeing and to clock up six miles on our wrist lap monitors as we explore. We feel smug as we briskly stride past hung-over clubbers, and I notice my sugar craving has dramatically dropped, as I refuse a creamy coffee and cake.
A celebration supper, before our departure on Saturday morning, is truly emotional. Several people shed tears as we talk about what we've gained individually and from each other.
We've found so much in common despite our differences in age, shape, size and fitness levels, and vow to stay in touch. I can't believe I not only loved the experience but lasted the whole week.
Boxing for the first time, 'crunching and pumping' with weights and pushing myself further physically than I ever thought possible has been life-changing. Taking a break from make-up and mobiles (not compulsory but encouraged) and focusing from sunrise to sunset on being active, makes me feel as though I've been away for a month, not just a week.
I've lost three pounds in weight, an inch off my bust, waist and hips, and feel mentally lighter and stronger. Ibiza may have a reputation for many things, some of them unhealthy, but my visit has left me with an addiction to keeping fit.
Prices start from £1,500 a week at The Body Camp (thebodycamp.com) with programmes running until November 2018. It includes the programme, accommodation, all food and drink and an hour-long massage, but excludes flights.