Finding our tribe on a Wildfitness fitness retreat on Menorca

Emma Douglas reviews this fabulous fitness retreat on a UNESCO-protected reserve on Menorca and finds her tribe

The new tribe launches itself across Binigaus Beach in a medley of leapfrog and tag. If it is true that an hour of play reveals more about a person than a year of conversation, this is an ideal start to our ‘re-wilding’ on Menorca’s rugged coastline.

Of course, one can re-wild in a bit of luxury. Set within a UNESCO-protected reserve, our boutique villa provides comfortable sofas for an induction to the three Wildfitness pillars of movement, nutrition and reconnection with nature.

We discuss how our primal bodies have failed to keep pace with modern living, to the point where we are wrecking our circadian rhythms, over-stimulating our levels of ‘fight-or-flight’ cortisol, and failing to satisfy our hunter-gatherer instincts to seek reward through physical challenge. The sofas feel less comfortable as we learn that our balance of activity, nutrition and recovery dictates the health of our digestion, sexual and immune systems, body composition and biological age.

The following daybreak the retreat begins in earnest as we embark on a meditative hike. We move softly, in silence, tuning our senses to the surrounding forest. On our return, we refuel on a plentiful breakfast and rest, as the day’s sessions will grow more intense until we sink into pre-dinner stretching and breathing. We practise this ‘underestimated life skill’ of breathing each evening through exercises that reduce our body’s physiological stress levels. They work almost as well as the excellent massage and reiki therapist who joins us for the week, and prove infinitely easier to take home.

The re-wilding continues with Wildfitness’s signature animal crawls, as we breathe life into forgotten joints, muscles and some interesting species of bear and monkey not previously seen on Menorca. The point is to ‘move in nature with efficiency and grace’ but even bears and monkeys must start somewhere. We re-learn the fundamentals of running on forest paths, climb and hang from trees, and lift and carry boulders in a magnificent cave where the temptation to throw in Neanderthal grunting and sing the Flintstones theme tune proves too much. My personal highlight is a breathtaking coastal hike that incorporates endurance, moments of meditation and even spontaneous crab walking along the shore.

‘The hastier eaters amongst us benefit particularly from a blindfolded game where we savour flavours, textures and make wildly inaccurate guesses – deprived of sight and smell – on what we are tasting’

Private chef Jaume Pons ensures that we have freshly prepared local produce each day, with breakfasts that feature tasty frittata, scrambled egg, juicy wild mushrooms and colourful breakfast salads; lunches of grilled meat accompanied by roast artichokes and aubergines; and suppers of wholesome stews and even paella made with cauliflower rice. I am seized with worry that such a dish is sacrilege for a Spanish chef, but resolve to keep my cortisol in check for a more crucial fight-or-flight moment.

The tribe occasionally yearns for a café cortado or cheese croqueta, but remains stoic and is ultimately surprised at the energising effect of wild eating. The hastier eaters amongst us benefit particularly from a blindfolded game where we savour flavours, textures and make wildly inaccurate guesses – deprived of sight and smell – on what we are tasting.

Our tribal bonding throughout the week is core to the experience. We include a former international banker and yogi in her fifties seeking an immersive health boost; a litigation lawyer in his thirties who embraces his caveman scrapes and celebrates his first (ever) tree climb; an adventure-travel addict and businesswomen whose fireman lift outclasses everyone else’s, and a competitive trail-runner whose apparently boundless energy is finally zapped after a session of wild combat. All are here for different reasons but each of us rediscovers something valuable, be it running comfortably for the first time, or extracting ourselves to sit alone with our thoughts and nothing else but the noise of nature.

The last morning brings a ‘lactic lift off’ hill-running session. We are assured that when we feel the burn, this is the release of our ‘elixir of beauty’ hormone. Judging by the state of our sweaty tribe, beauty must indeed be in the eye of the beholder.

I take a final stroll on Binigaus Beach and enjoy, through heightened senses, the heat of the sun and chill of the offshore breeze. This week I’ve experienced moments of physical exhaustion as well as emotional release. I feel energised, even empowered. I also feel knackered after this morning’s exertion and ready to claim my credit at the ‘elixir of beauty’ bank.