After four days of intense mountain biking, coastal runs and sea swims, it is time to for Spa Junkie to step on the scales…
Day 5 I have a light breakfast and pay a visit to the nutritionist, who takes my measurements and gives me a health check. I am impressed, and more than just a little relieved, to discover from my pinch test that I’ve reduced my fat. Being constantly on the go has tightened me up around my torso and buttocks. I have the faint outline of abs and more definition in my arms.
The results spur me on and I follow the appointment with a swim, even though there are no supervised training sessions today, and a 6km run. If I had been told three days ago that I would be voluntarily exercising, I would have arched an eyebrow. Despite my body’s aches, my energy levels are buoyant and I haven’t felt this fit since I was a teen.
I have a cooking class and learn various steaming and braising techniques, plus I am shown a Thermomix, a high-tech food processor that prepares and cooks food. I vow to purchase one immediately on my return home, and hope that it won’t end up nestling in the graveyard of my other health-crazed white goods, gadgets and gizmos.
Dinner is a low-fat, high-protein menu of seared tuna, quinoa, vegetables and beetroot purée. I’m asleep before the moon has fully risen. Day 6 It’s back to business with a tough mountain bike expedition into the stunning Akamas National Park – a 230sq km reserve of wild landscapes, deep gorges and beautiful sandy bays. The shift from cycling on road to rough terrain is surprisingly challenging and I find myself struggling up rocky paths. There is no room for complacency on this programme as we are constantly being challenged. Back at the hotel, I briefly lounge by the pool to recover. While my body may now ache in new places, I like how toned it looks and feels. I take a gentle swim in the pool then set out on an 8km coastal run. I enjoy it so much that I overshoot the finish. I have dinner at the hotel’s Pelagos restaurant, where I watch my sea bass being cooked on the lava-stone grill. I look at the breathtaking view of the Med just as the sun is setting and try to picture myself running through Hyde Park on a bleak December morning. Tomorrow is my last day and I vow to make the most of it. Day 7 I’m determined to end on a high note, ringing with intense effort and enthusiasm.
I have an energy-packed breakfast and set out on a 24km bike ride through the Akamas forest, which includes a stop for a swim in the turquoise waters of Aphrodite’s Bath – the spot where Adonis is said to have caught Aphrodite unaware as she bathed naked. After a quick dip I’m back on the bike and climbing again until I reach a lovely picnic spot set up by the hotel, where I recharge my batteries with fruit and fresh muffins.
In the early afternoon, I relax by the infinity pool. I then throw myself into one last 8km coastal run followed by 90 minutes of various endurance, strength and stability exercises in the hotel’s gym, which is fully stocked with the latest equipment. Having spent every fitness-filled moment outdoors, I feel confined by the four walls – and while the exercises aren’t too challenging, I am longing to get back outside.
I head to Stella for my final assessment, before bidding farewell to the team. I leave for the airport feeling fitter, and with a sense of positivity and energy that I hope will endure. The bottom line: This was one of the very best fitness breaks I have done. Cyprus is the perfect destination for triathlon-based regimes; the hilly escarpments, the warm and gentle sea and the long stretches of flat road combine to make it a fitness fanatic’s dream.
Open-water swimming, and running and cycling in forests and along coastal paths are unquestionably more invigorating than indoor workouts. The environment actually encourages an active attitude. I feel like a new person. I have certainly improved my cycling and swimming technique, I have discovered muscle definition in entirely new places and I am filled with a renewed energy.
And not only this, I have also lost several inches of fat around my torso, lower back and buttocks, and shed 5lb. Not bad for a week’s work. Aside from a retreat in Bali where I suffered a nasty bout of food poisoning, it’s the first time a holiday (as opposed to a spa trip) has resulted in such a great weight loss.