Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats review | fitness holidays, Switzerland
Intensive fitness & good company in the Swiss Alps
In a nutshell: Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats are energising fitness holidays in Europe created by personal trainers Emma Bodkin and Lottie Pridham who want to share their passion for outdoor exercise in beautiful natural settings. We went on the inaugural retreat – a week in the picturesque Ski Resort of Verbier in the magnificent Swiss Valleys – where city life seems a million miles away as you hike for miles and miles across the mountain ranges, picnic by alpine lakes and work out in meadows looking over snow covered peaks. Try paddle boarding and a variety of exercise classes as well as daily yoga, eat nutritious beautifully prepared food and in the evenings collapse and soothe aching muscles in cozy chalet accommodation.
Who it is best for: Those who love group exercise, being pushed to achieve their maximum and the exhilaration that comes with hours of outdoor activity in the mountains or by a glacial lake. Come alone or with a friend.
Who it is not for: Those looking for lots of quiet time to themselves unless you choose to skip certain items on the agenda (nothing is compulsory).
What you can do: Every day brought a different, thoroughly action packed timetable with 4-5 activities a day led by the ever energetic Emma and Lottie, both qualified personal trainers who alternated the classes they took in accordance with their areas of expertise.
Activities ranged from HIIT circuits and TRX in the meadows or chalet garden, spin classes in the studio, paddle boarding on the lake, Pars Cours Vita in the forest (an obstacle course with 14 stations at each of which you practice a different exercise) and animal flow (ground based training which stretches and awakens muscles you never knew you had).
Each day there was an excursion of some sort – usually a hike from one to six hours in length, or on one day we visited nearby Champex Lac, a little village coiled around a crystal clear alpine lake where we ran, did circuits, tried paddle boarding and for the more hardy or perhaps foolish of us, jumped in for an icy dip! One day is given to a long hike.
Some mornings we practiced yoga first thing in a nearby studio, and others we ate breakfast before heading out on excursions. Yoga took place every day except one, either a morning of Vinyassa flow or a deeply restorative Hatha class in the evening. These classes provided a golden hour to relax and stretch exhausted muscles and after felt hugely rewarding and thoroughly well deserved. The teacher, Rachel, was highly professional with the most soothing and meditative of voices.
There was also the option to arrange a massage or session with a qualified physio who comes to the chalet offering a range of services. Paragliding can also be organised on request.
Where you stay: Accommodation for the guests (staff live off site) was in one typically Swiss chalet, all wooden panelled and floored with four double bedrooms, two on the lower ground floor (just below ground level) and two on the second. Outside we were surrounded by charming flower strewn chalets and on all sides the snow covered peaks of the Mountains in the distance. It really was beautiful ‘Heidi’ territory.
All rooms were cosy with underfloor heating, their own bathrooms, minimal wooden furniture and simple but comfortable beds, two twins and two doubles. Ours room was on the lower level but still had a great view of the mountains from the little window. The first floor was one large central room with a small open kitchen in the corner, an area for slumping down into soft sofas covered with thick furs and armchairs. To the side was a large dining table where we ate most of our meals, and just outside was an outdoor seating area which soaked up the sun on hotter days and where we sometimes ate.
Every day the delightful Emily came to clean, making the beds and cleaning the bathrooms – a lovely spoiling touch – as was the miniature selection of organic Ila toiletries (shampoo, conditioner bath and shower gel) we found on our beds on arrival.
How was it for us: I was quite nervous about the idea of so much organized activity – I love my exercise but the prospect of endless group classes worried me. In reality it was not only bearable but huge fun – largely thanks to the boundless energy and cheerful infectious enthusiasm of Lottie and Emma. They made us push ourselves hard but always kept morale and spirits high. We were joined each day by three or four Verbier residents which also boosted the energy – the vibe being very much ‘the more the merrier’.
I loved the variety of activity and surprised myself by how much I enjoyed everything – even the core workouts and circuits. Being surrounded by such breathtaking beauty made me feel stronger, and at the end of every day as I flopped down at long last, cheeks flushed with colour from a combination of exertion, wind and sun, I always had a strong feeling of achievement.
The ‘Lac Louvie’ hike was a real highlight for me; arriving after four and a half hours, whipping off our clothes and plunging into the icy blue green waters of the glacial lake, so clear the reflection of the few clouds was perfectly mirrored in the water. Then, munching our picnic beside the mountain cabin, filling bottles from the spring, sun shining, legs aching, skin glowing from the wind – lunch has barely ever felt so well deserved.
Food view: The wonderful, ever so slightly eccentric and humble chef Katie made delicious creations to nourish us throughout, including endless warm loaves of freshly baked spelt or seedy soda bread and energy balls that tasted like the finest chocolate truffles. Breakfast and dinner were always in the chalet or on the veranda but on excursion days we piled our tupperware high with a selection of salads and took that with us.
At breakfast we had scrumptious healthy home made granola with fresh fruit and natural yoghurt, as well as wonderful home made cashew butter and a fruity smoothie shot containing protein powder. Eggs were served a different way each day with nutritious freshly baked bread/toast.
Lunch was a buffet selection of fabulous healthy vegetarian salads with frittatas, soup or baked polenta, while dinner (which we ate at 7pm) consisted of wonderfully flavoured and beautifully presented starters and mains – often with a Middle Eastern or Moroccan twist – such as chicken with saffron honey and a hazelnut crust served with marinated mushrooms, gingery carrot salad and courgetti with sundried tomatoes and feta. Fish, meat or a vegetable curry were plated up and guests then helped themselves from a selection of deliciously seasoned vegetables.
On one of the evenings Katie gave us a cookery lesson in the chalet, teaching us how to make nutritious seedy soda bread as well as some sweeter treats. She also served up a wonderful chocolate beetroot cake and cookies on occasion, and we’d occasionally round off a meal with one of her exquisite cacao energy balls.
What we took home: Some sore body parts, a feeling of total rejuvenation and a lingering sense of self-satisfaction.
Would we go back? Absolutely – I missed the crisp clean mountain air as soon as I touched down in Heathrow (though give me a little while to recover my muscles and get my breath back!).
What’s lowly: The weather is not entirely predictable and you can’t bank on sunny days – when you have them they are glorious, but one or two days were cold and rainy. Sometimes it was easier to exercise in fresher temperatures though, and Emma and Lottie meticulously checked the forecast and adapted the schedule accordingly.
Insider Tip: Take your most comfy clothes and cosy socks – its beautifully warm in the chalet but after the long exercise filled days it’s lovely to snuggle into your favourite hoodie. Tiger balm is also not a bad plan to warm your muscles at the end of each day.
Price: From 2200chf (£1770.76) per person based on sharing a double room to 2850chf (£2294) per person alone in a double room. This price includes all the activities, food and accommodation. Transfer from Geneva airport is extra and the easiest way to do this is by train at a cost of around £45.00 each way. It takes just over two and a half hours. Massages and treatments are also extra and cost from £80 an hour. Paragliding is £130.00.
Nearest airport: Fly to Geneva, from where its a 2.5 hour transfer.
Value for Money: Pretty good, especially considering how expensive everything in Switzerland is. Everything is included including four or five activities a day and a generous breakfast, lunch and dinner. Massage, transfers and the paragliding are extra.
Sister Retreats: Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats plan to run retreats from May to October in a variety of European locations including Tuscany, Portugal, Switzerland and at the Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall.
Reviewed by Hannah Macinnes
© Queen of Retreats