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Target Human Performance review | Fitness holidays, Somerset

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Stylish & effective fitness holidays in Somerset

The Quick Read: Target Human Performance fitness holidays in Somerset are lean, lithe and panther-tough. Expect to work hard, to the edge (but not beyond) your capabilities. The approach is bespoke and their breaks can be tailored to challenge all levels of fitness, from couch potato to triathlete – plus they can work round injuries (and also teach you how to avoid them). However it’s not all hard work. Come the end of your five hours’ of solid exercise a day, you can nurse your sore muscles in gracious surroundings, relax in hugely comfortable bedrooms, eat totally delicious (and abundant) food and – the real treat – pamper yourself at the bijoux spa.

Budget: £££-££££

Target Jane with fellow boxers

Our reviewer Jane (far left): Fitness floundering ends here

Who it’s best for: If you’re floundering with your fitness, this is the place to come. Target’s trainers cut through all excuses and teach you how to work out really effectively. You do need to be game for a challenge and, if you want rapid weight loss, look elsewhere – these guys are rabidly anti-diet.  Guests tend to be split equally men to women and it’s popular with couples too.

What you can do: Train. Train. Train some more. Train a bit more still. There’s about five hours of exercise a day, all carefully planned to work you consistently but safely. It’s not endless cardio here – but rather a range of highly focused workouts that work every muscle in your body (and a few you didn’t even realise you had). Short sharp Tabata, HIIT and metafit workouts provide bursts of high intensity interval training. There’s a nod to old school bootcamp with a bit of tyre dragging and running up hills with weighted balls malarkey but the trainers are encouraging, not heckling. Boxing sessions each day pummel the body but also help develop coordination and test the brain as much as the body. Monster abs sessions perk up afternoons and you will plank like a pro by the time you’re done.

Target cardio equipment

Want more? There’s a gym too!

If you want extra sessions (some people just can’t get enough!) there’s a well-equipped gym in the spa complex, or you can stretch out those sore muscles in the sauna or hot-tub. Or just swim a few lengths of the pool. You can walk or run around the lanes but there are no off-road tracks around the farmhouse.

The Sedum Spa offers a good menu with a range of facials (using Neal’s Yard products); bodywork (Swedish, deep tissue, aromatherapy, reflexology); scrubs and the usual manis/pedis, waxing and tinting. Loungers inside and out have fabulous views.

Target loungers

Perhaps you’ll find time to lounge

Where you stay: Target’s UK holiday base is Woodlands, a traditional Somerset farmhouse, within sight of Glastonbury Tor. It’s one of a recently converted series of buildings forged from an old dairy farm and, although you share the spa with guests from other holiday lets, it never feels crowded.
The farmhouse dates back to 1631 and is Grade II listed. It’s been lovingly renovated, retaining character (massive inglenooks, beams and slanting floorboards) yet blissfully comfortable. It’s classy, very classy. Décor is pared back English country style – cool neutral backdrops with serene florals on the whole. Downstairs there’s an open-plan kitchen (with Aga of course) and dining room with French windows opening out onto a sun-drenched terrace. Want to curl up with a book? Take your pick between the airy sitting room and the book-lined cosy library. The ‘cinema room’ boasts a massive flatscreen TV (with Sky) and low-level leather sofas and bean bags.

Target bedroom

Bedrooms at Woodlands are light and pretty

The bedrooms vary in style and feel – we loved our airy room with its pretty painted furniture and gorgeous bathroom (deep freestanding tub and massive shower) but even the budget rooms are nice. There are plenty of places outside to sit and muse – including the hot-tub right on the patio. The Sedum Spa is sleek and well-equipped with a good-sized (and warm!) pool, sauna, another hot tub, gym, and treatment rooms. But you’ll need to bring your own toiletries as the shower gel provided isn’t great.

Target planking

One of our many ‘planking’ moments

How it was for us: I’d really lost my fitness mojo. My favourite trainer had moved and so I’d slumped from around ten intense workouts a week to one half-hearted session at the gym. The very first session at Target (45 minutes of Tabata, pre-breakfast) had me puffing and panting. I was seriously unfit. Over the next four days I was pushed (and pushed myself) harder than I thought possible. The trainers, Nadine and Troy, somehow got me doing things I thought impossible. Running up a hill? No way! Running up a hill carrying a weighed ball? In my dreams! Yet I did it. Admittedly slowly, but I managed. All my old excuses – bad knees, rotten shoulder, inability to run, poor balance – were swept away on a tide of good technique and great motivation.

Target firmly believe that the best workouts involve minimum equipment and they were determined we would all go home with a series of circuits and workouts we could do outside the gym. Cue tons of squats, push-ups and planks. Hell, how we planked! My heart pounded, my muscles burned and there were times when I really didn’t think I could do any more. But somehow I did – and the sense of achievement was huge.

Target group held squat

Small groups mean you get close quickly

Groups are kept small – there were seven of us, a near-equal mix of men and women – and we swiftly bonded over mutual aches and pains. Team circuit training pitted men against women and became hilarious as a husband-wife pair became uber-competitive. The spa was a surprise – a pleasant one – and my deep tissue massage with Gemma was just what the doctor ordered – she delved deep into all my aches and left me feeling blissfully relaxed. Mealtimes were gregarious affairs and several people stayed up late playing cards after the evening meal. I, however, had fallen in love with my super-comfortable bed and fell asleep each night to the sound of laughter downstairs.

What we took home: My workouts now take half the time and are about four times as effective. I’m also upping my protein intake and cutting out carbs in the evening.

Would we go back: Like a shot. These guys really know their stuff and are hugely motivational. I’d love to try one of their Spanish holidays.

Target snacks

Yummy food was in abundance

People watch: Trainers Troy and Nadine were superb – they challenge you, yet in a deeply supportive way. Also, they really walk their talk (getting up at 5am to do their own workouts). If you like your massage deep, ask for Gemma.

Food watch: Everything is super-fresh, beyond delicious and wildly abundant, cooked by local chef Michel to Target’s guidelines.  Menus are carefully planned to provide enough energy and nutrients for the level of exercise you’re doing. There’s no deprivation here – we ate like kings and queens.

Breakfast is touted as the most important meal of the day so we tucked into, variously, poached eggs with smoked haddock (or on spinach and home-made spelt toast for the veggies); protein pancakes; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs; omelette with mushrooms and home-cooked baked beans. Still hungry? Muesli, granola, yoghurt, fruit and toast with preserves added further fuel, alongside freshly brewed tea, coffee and herbal teas.

Target falafel

Falafel from the imaginative Target banquet

Lunch is a help-yourself cornucopia of healthy deliciousness. One day, for example, we had Thai fishcakes, Pad Thai, vegetarian sushi, mushroom salad, edamame salad, stir-fried tofu and mugs of miso. Yes, all of that.

Dinner is light and revolves around good protein (with low carbs). So bijoux (yet not meagre) portions of beef stifado, lamb tagine, baked salmon, chicken stir-fry. Vegetarian options were imaginative and nourishing and, given notice, the kitchen can handle most dietary requirements. Hungry in between meals? You just whizz yourself up a protein shake or snaffle a protein bar (or delve in the fridge for leftovers). Tea, coffee, herbal teas, fruit juice and coconut water are freely available.

Queen of Retreats crownWhat’s queenly: The personal attention is full-on (so you really do work hard). The food is blissfully regal – a banquet every day.

Target pool

The perfect place for a cool down

What’s lowly: Not much. If we’re being picky, we would have added in some yoga or Pilates to the mix.  And the venue could provide nicer toiletries.

Insider tip: Wifi and phone coverage are pretty patchy. Ideally use it as a digital detox. If you need wifi in your room, pick a room over the library.

Price with a companion: From £795 per person, based on two sharing a twin or double room for 4 nights, including everything except travel and spa treatments. A full deep tissue massage costs £65 for 55 minutes. A full facial costs £60. Mini facials and massage available for £35.

Target instructors walking

Trainers challenge you in a supportive way

Price going solo: From £1,095 per person in a twin or double room (solo occupancy) for 4 nights, including everything except travel and spa treatments. See above for spa prices.

Value for money: Given the mega high standard of the accommodation, food and training, it’s very good value indeed.

Sister retreats: Target also run fitness holidays in Andalucía, Spain and are planning other destinations.  Other fitness retreats

Reviewed by: Jane Alexander

© Queen of Retreats

Target  Sedum Spa

The rather wonderful spa at the Target Human Performance retreat

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