Restore and Reform at Anantara Vilamoura, Portugal
Reinventing rehab at a luxury spa hotel in the Algarve
Best for: Anyone whose body needs to recover following surgery, illness, birth or general life strain.
Not for: Anyone looking for a ‘mind’ element or a closed retreat environment.
This clever new company was founded by talented London-based physiotherapist Michelle Lewis and her patient Lucy Nifontova. It offers relaxing and effective programmes on set dates at Anantara Vilamoura luxury spa hotel on the Algarve to help anyone recover after surgery, after giving birth, after an illness including cancer, or from general life aches and pains such as an injury, back pain and computer-tightness. Mixing Pilates-based matwork, Reformer Pilates sessions, soft tissue therapy and physiotherapy with plenty of down time, the programmes are relaxing and effective all at once. There’s a spa, lovely pool and pampering treatments also available.
The programmes are created by a physiotherapist and her patient with advice and guidance from one of London’s leading orthopaedic surgeons, so you’re in safe hands. Hotel staff are exceptionally friendly and obliging too. There are apparently only four hotels in the world where you can experience a Reformer Pilates machine – Restore and Reform ship theirs over to Portugal, and the one-to-one sessions on these retreats can be transformational, so do embrace them.
Currently there is no nutritional element to the retreat – you simply eat from the buffet breakfast provided by the hotel and sort yourself out for lunch and dinner. There’s a large indoor hydrotherapy pool but on our visit, the water was too cold to use properly (we’re told it’s the maximum it can be according to Portuguese law).
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Choose from one of four health programmes after a consultation with the team to tackle post surgery, post natal, post illness or general aches and pains, and enjoy a mix of physio, soft tissue therapy, Pilates-based mat work, Reformer Pilates session, yoga and relaxation time. You can also book extra pampering treatments directly with the hotel spa, and relax on the lovely large rooftop spa deck after.
Restore & Reform’s Recovery Programme is for people who are preparing for, looking to prevent, or recovering from surgery and acute injury. It’s designed by Restore and Reform’s lead physiotherapist in conjunction with top orthopaedic surgeons and post-operative patients to ensure medical excellence and patient engagement. Come for an intensive week which allows you to focus on your rehabilitation and offers 18.5 hours of treatment tailored entirely to you and your recovery, including daily physiotherapy, three soft tissue therapy sessions, three reformer Pilates sessions as well as two daily therapist-led classes.
Restore & Reform’s Vitality Programme has been curated for those who are recovering from illness – including cancer – and looking to return to previous levels of fitness. The programme has been designed to help you address the physical and psychological symptoms that can arise from treatment including illness-related fatigue, loss of mobility, muscle weakness, loss of balance, joint pain and reduced confidence. You can expect 18.5 hours of treatment bespoke to your needs, including one physiotherapy assessment, three soft tissue therapy sessions, three reformer Pilates sessions, three personal training sessions, and two scar therapy sessions, as well as two daily therapist-led classes.
Restore & Reform’s Post-Natal Programme enables new mothers to recover from pregnancy and childbirth, whilst also providing an opportunity to relax with their young families. Under their expert guidance, you will safely repair your bodies and restore strength. The Post-Natal Programme starts with a full MOT to assess the impact pregnancy has had on your abdominals and your pelvic floor. You’ll then have18.5 hours of bespoke treatment, including five private reformer Pilates or personal training, two soft tissue therapy sessions, and daily therapist-led classes to help you recover safely and effectively.
Restore & Reform’s Back to Health Programme is designed for those who want to realign their body and to repair the problems that today’s sedentary lifestyle can cause. They can address back pain with a physiotherapist, relieve tension in the neck and shoulders with a soft tissue therapist, and strengthen the core and realign the posture with a reformer Pilates instructor. You can expect 18.5 hours of bespoke treatment, including a biomechanical and postural assessment, three physiotherapy sessions, five reformer Pilates sessions, two soft tissue therapy sessions, as well as daily therapist-led classes.
Between sessions you can do as much or as little as you like depending on what you need. Lounge by the swimming pools or use them to exercise, hang out on a daybed on your balcony, or relax on one of the terraces or lounges. If you’re active, you can book directly with the hotel to play golf or hire bikes, or you can take a free shuttle to one of the local beaches for a walk and a swim.
It’s definitely worth booking extra pampering treatments at the Asia-inspired roof-top spa – be sure to plan ahead so they don’t clash with your programme or schedule. Everything is available, from Elemis facials to signature scrubs and massages and Thai massage – on our visit, all of these were carried out expertly and contributed to our healing hugely. There’s also a large sauna and steam room, spacious outdoor decking to relax on, and a large indoor hydrotherapy pool.
If you fancy a beach walk without too many people, take a shuttle to the quieter Praia da Falésia beach to the west of Vilamoura marina. The marina itself is bubbly and busy with boutiques and bars, so if you need to deeply rest, you might be better off planning all your meals at the hotel, which feels like a calm cocoon.
For something different away from the tourist throng of the area, head to the Corte-Real Gallery, Estr.de Paderne, Albufeira, Portugal. Tel +351 912737762. Tucked away in the hills, a half hour taxi ride from the Anantara Vilamoura, is a charming old house, each small room filled with colourful, contemporary and affordable art and sculpture. Any purchase can be shipped to the UK. Each room is painted a different colour and the owner Pedro and his English partner Michael are extremely welcoming. There is a little shady garden where you can have a drink and admire all the objets d’art outside.
When to Go
Restore & Reform retreats usually run in May and October, when it’s less busy at the hotel and on the Algarve and the weather is usually reliable warm and temperate. The hotel will be busier and the weather hotter in July, when retreats also run.
Breakfast is included in the retreat – you eat from a general buffet at the hotel which includes everything from detox juices to champagne and fresh seasonal fruits and home made breads to full English breakfasts, Asian options and cake.
Lunches and dinners are up to you – Ria, the hotels’ fish restaurant, is only open at lunchtime and has a terrace overlooking the pool – food here is exceptionally good and recommended, especially the fresh red prawns, lobster and sea bass.
For the evenings, you can treat your palate to fine dining at Emo, which is named after the word ‘emotions’ and offers wine pairing meals designed to make your palate supremely happy, or you can also eat at an evening buffet or from an a la carte menu at Victoria. Some guests venture out to find a restaurant in the nearby marina, to which the hotel offers a free shuttle.
You can make teas and coffees in your room. There’s a bar near the pool for snacks and drinks throughout the day, and a bar inside for evening drinks and snacks too.
The hotel offers leftover food to the local community via a charity scheme, and its Dollars For Deeds programme encourages guests to donate a dollar a night (or more) to raise funds for a range of worthy causes, with Anantara matching each guest’s contribution. On our visit they filtered water for the rooms but still provided single use plastic bottles of water around the resort – we are told there’s a recycling programme in place, and that there is a drive towards changing the use of plastics ongoing.
Victoria Gardens, Av. dos Descobrimentos, nº 0, 8125-309 Vilamoura, Portugal
Transfer Time: 30 minutes