It’s 5pm on a Thursday evening and I’m sat on a plane that’s taxiing to the runway, surrounded by hen and stag parties heading off for a weekend of fun in the sun in Spain. My weekend plans, however, have a much calmer vibe; I’m spending two days on my first ever retreat in the hills above Granada.
It wasn’t until the drinks cart started making its way down the aisle that I pondered what the retreat would actually be like. I knew what was on the general itinerary, of course – I’d packed my running shoes, hiking boots, gym kit, yoga wear and swimming costume to cover all eventualities.
But up until that point, I’d just been thinking about it like any other holiday; booking transport to the airport, trying to fit all my liquids into one of those small plastic bags and tying up work emails.
My usual holiday activities involve moving between sun lounger and pool, sangria in one hand and a book in the other – with my out of office on, I fully embrace having the time to relax and my gym routine goes out of the window.
But while that feels amazing for the first few days, I always come home feeling a bit sad with post-holiday blues and quite sluggish. With that in mind, I was excited to try something a bit different and see how I felt when I got home – but also a bit nervous.
Of course, I needn’t have been. Just a few hours later I’d been picked up from the airport by Michael from Team Reset and whisked away to a gorgeous villa set against a backdrop of the Spanish mountains, complete with infinity pool, indoor and outdoor gyms, a cinema room and a plethora of rooftop terraces, perfect for yoga.
After a quick midnight snack and a chat with the guys, it was off to bed, setting our alarms for fasted cardio first thing the next morning.
Running up the hillside might not be everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday opener, but it’s really not so bad when you’re with a group of like-minded people, watching the sun rise over the rooftops. We were in the safe hands of Marian of Myofit Coaching (www.myofit.online) , who got us warmed up before we started and kept us going right to the end, all the way back to the villa where there were smoothies waiting for us.
Drinks in hand, we ascended to the roof to find our yoga teacher Sarah (www.sarahmalcolm.co.uk), ready to take us through a lovely flow that stretched out those travelling niggles and soothed our slightly shell-shocked hill sprint legs. As I lay on my mat in savasana, it occurred to me that I had done more before 9am than I’d even manage to do back at home, let alone on a summer holiday – and boy did it feel good.
While I’m all for having a well-deserved lie-in and brunch affair, exploring my new location by foot and giving my body and mind the opportunity to stretch and relax felt like a much better use of my time, and buoyed my sense of wellbeing. Just a few hours into the holiday, I was already feeling a million miles away from the stresses of home life, even though I’d barely been gone 12 hours.
It also meant that I felt truly ready to unwind. After breakfast – an incredible vegan pancake feast from Italian cooking duo Elena and Monica Moro (www.cookwithamore.com) – there was plenty of time scheduled for relaxing, napping or doing anything you fancied.
The beauty of the villa was that you could be as sociable or as dedicated to me-time as you wanted – there was space for everyone to feel comfortable.
I’m quite guilty of feeling as though I have to make conversation with people to be polite, but there was something about being on a retreat that took all that expectation away; we were all there for ourselves, so it was totally fine to just do what we needed at any given time, with or without others.
Life coach Tim Cooper (www.timcooperacademy.com) was also on-hand around the villa, ready to talk to us if we felt we needed him at any time to chat through things that came up as we let ourselves relax.
After lunch, it was time to train; almost every day on the schedule, you have one-on-one time with personal trainers Marian or Dean. Again, this was new territory to me – I have an active gym schedule at home, but hotel gyms aren’t usually the most desirable places to be, so I’d rarely make it in for a session during my holidays.
Squatting, lunging and learning fun new calisthenics exercises in an outdoor gym with a pro to guide me, however, was a whole other story. The incredible view, paired with the light mountain breeze that kept me cool felt so delicious, and unlike my quite functional workouts at home. Here, I had time to experiment and enjoy the movements, rather than rushing through them because I had somewhere else to be afterwards.
The only place I had to go after this was downstairs for dinner and then to sunset yoga to finish off the day – and even those would only start once we were all ready for them.
By the time it was time for tea and bed on that first night I was completely floored by retreat life; it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I felt a bit like I’d discovered a time machine; in the space of about 12 hours I’d managed to work out twice, do yoga twice, read, nap, chat, eat, relax and still go to bed early. Everything is set up to make your experience as enjoyable, fulfilling and easy as it can be, allowing you to actually listen to your body and mind and do what they need you to do to find that incredible sense of calm so quickly.
While I’m usually all about the sightseeing, it was so refreshing not to put that pressure on myself, and instead just make the most of everything available to me within the retreat space. Of course, you could head off to explore if you wanted, but by changing my perspective a little, I realised that I didn’t have to do that to enjoy my time there.
Reset Retreats usually run for six nights, but even after 2 I felt like a new person. I came away feeling relaxed, inspired and healthy, while also having that indulgent holiday vibe – it’s a feeling that I think everyone should experience! Whether you love the balance of yoga and training like me, or would be looking for a meditation or a bootcamp-style escape, there’s a retreat out there that will have the right vibe for you – I’m already eyeing up my next one.
The next Reset Retreat runs in Spain from 21-27 September 2018, from £1,750 full board, plus plenty more dates in 2019. Visit www.resetyourself.co.uk for more details.
Photography by Emma Pharoah.