The Body Retreat’s Stress Re-Set retreat is a four-night retreat that aims to balance body, mind and emotions through an immaculately thought-out programme of diet, exercise, mindfulness and behaviour modification. Plus oodles of fun and tons of big warm-hearted bonding.
It’s such a smart concept. You’re kept pleasantly busy all through the day (so you don’t have the chance to start worrying about anything) and, come night, you’re so blissfully tired, you can’t help but fall into a good sleep pattern. Days start early: there’s a gentle knock on your bedroom door at 7am, accompanied by a cheery ‘Good Morning’ (no need for stressy alarm clocks) and you toddle out in your bath-robe to pick up a glass of hot lemon. Our bedrooms are grouped around a central sitting area so it has the feel of a grown-up boarding school (of the nicest kind) as we all emerge, tousle-headed, mutter greetings and then retreat back to our rooms to sip our juice and do some skin brushing. Then it’s downstairs for a quick burst of circuits (exercise here is generally low intensity or short sharp blasts as apparently more than 45 minutes of intense exercise can boost cortisol levels and stress the body, twenty minutes in the sauna and a quick splash in the pool before breakfast.
Food is delicious here and surprisingly plentiful. It’s all about balancing hormones and blood sugar levels, so there are three main meals a day and three small snacks in between. Admittedly some are very small and portions are never exactly huge, but you don’t really feel hungry.
The days pass in a blur of activity – there’s usually a hike around the local countryside (sometimes with Nordic walking poles, sometimes without) and there are plenty of classes (yoga, fitness Pilates, fitball, kettlebells, bands). In between there are talks on nutrition, mindfulness and stress in general, including a visit from nutritional therapist Kate Delmar-Morgan. When we do have the odd hour or two free, we all (without exception) fell asleep. The idea is that you never have to worry about what you’re doing or where you’re supposed to be. There’s no frantic checking of schedules. If you’re not there, someone will come and find you.
The retreat is purposefully kept small (never more than six) which gives a very safe, intimate feel to the retreat. My fellow retreaters were all absolutely lovely – professional women with stressful lives who needed to step off the gas and regroup. Come day three we all had a touch of the ‘mehs’ – lacking in energy, barely able to summon up the energy to move. ‘It’s the hump,’ said Juls, clinical hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner who runs the retreats with Julie Brealy, fitness trainer and weight management specialist. ‘Everyone gets the hump on day three. You’re nearly over it, and then you’ll feel good.’ And she was right. I felt better as the day went on and, come the next morning I felt bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, powering off up the hills with my Nordic poles.
The Body Retreat uses several venues but our base was set down miles of winding tracks in the middle of the Somerset countryside. It was ridiculously quiet and, come nightfall, the sky was completely black. We toyed with the idea of opening up the outdoor Jacuzzi to watch the stars but wimped out and hung out in the sauna instead. The house itself is immaculate, maybe a little bland in décor but, in its way, that helped the feeling of serenity. My bedroom was lovely, fine cotton sheets on a vast bed with a view of fields. I arrived to find a goodie bag of t-shirt, natural bristle brush (for body brushing) and notebook – a really nice touch. The bathroom was total heaven with a walk-in shower with piping hot water and a huge free-standing bath with a TV screen at the end. Ideally you’re supposed to try a digital detox here but it was just too tempting to watch television with my nose just floating over the bubbles.
Local massage therapist Pippa comes in on a couple of evenings for treatments (the first is included in the price and you pay for any subsequent sessions). Her aromatherapy and remedial massage was excellent.
What’s not to love here? Well, the Vini yoga wasn’t really my bag – the idea is that it’s kept very simple so you can concentrate on being mindful throughout, but it felt a little wishy-washy and half-hearted somehow and I craved a deeper practice. But really, that was my only quibble. The rest of the classes were great – simple, straightforward, effective. If you’re an exercise novice, this is a great way to ease yourself into movement. If you’ve ever felt too shy about trying out a class or joining a gym, this really could get you over your reticence – you’ll try out circuits, kettlebells, fitballs, gymsticks, bands and rebounding. Most of the workouts use minimal equipment and you will go home with plenty of ideas of how to incorporate mini workouts into everyday life. The team also pack you off with a booklet of recipes for the meals you ate – and a ‘homeward bound’ snack box so you aren’t tempted by sandwiches or pies en route home.
Best of all was at the end when I had my parting consultation with Julie. She takes measurements at the start of the retreat and re-weighs and measures you at the end. I’d lost an incredible eight pounds in weight; six inches in total from hips, waist and chest and two percent body fat. And I’d only been there for three full days (as I had to leave early). No doubt about it – I’ll be back!
The Body Retreat also runs dedicated weight loss, detox and fitness retreats, in various venues around southern England and also in southern Spain.
If you fancy a DIY home detox, I give full details of both a month-long programme and a weekend cleanse in my book The Detox Plan, now available to download RIGHT NOW to your Kindle.