Barcelona Bootcamp, Spain
Mindful fitness retreat on the borders of a charming Catalan village
Don’t let the comfy sun loungers, infinity pool and hot tub at Villa Miret fool you: there is nothing languorous about this Mediterranean bolt-hole, set in the village of Sant Pere de Ribes near the coastal town of Sitges and 30 minutes from the Spanish capital from where it gets its name. An intensive programme put together by trainers of military discipline, Barcelona Bootcamp provides guests with high-impact exercises with phenomenal results. Offering a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, it allows you to take part in yoga, mountain walks, kickboxing, circuits, TRX classes, beach drills, and much more.
Trainers who somehow succeed in making military-style workouts both fun and accessible for all ages and fitness levels. The Catalonian backdrop that rues you into a false sense of relaxation. The hike up Montserrat on the final day.
This is a jam-packed boot camp, with days beginning at 7 am and ending at 7 pm with little ‘leisure’ time between. Superb if you’re after newsworthy weight loss goals. If you’re looking for a slow-tempo Spanish retreat: look elsewhere! The owners aren’t based on site, so any communication is done through your trainers – this can turn into a game of Chinese whispers, so be very clear as to your needs.
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One thing is certain at Barcelona Bootcamp: you will not have time to get bored. Always on your feet and never repetitive, classes include everything from kickboxing, to yoga, and aqua aerobics, as well as CBT sessions and nutrition seminars.
Fitness activities range from guerrilla circuit classes along Sitges promenade to down and dirty assault courses along the beach – you might end up fantasising about the things you’d do to Alex, your otherwise delightful trainer, given half the chance – but you’ll never, ever get bored. Kick-boxing, TRX, HIIT, aqua-aerobics and Tabata are just some of the disciplines you’ll have a chance to try out during your stay.
‘Food is fuel’ is the mantra here, and Barcelona Bootcamp nutritionist Ian, a former SAS soldier, hasn’t eaten carbohydrates in over four years. As well his carefully tailor-made menu, his weekly nutrition seminar debunks some common misconceptions about dieting and highlights the foods we should all be eating for greater wellness and longevity. He teaches guests that health isn’t about ‘restricting’ and ‘abstaining from’, it’s about making smart choices. That if you want to eat an entire chocolate bar one day, you can; you just have to make up for it, or work for it, the following.
There are three evenings a week when guests are treated a relaxing ‘Yin’ yoga session, designed to relax and unwind the body. Candle-lit in the winters, outdoors in the summer, it is a divine experience for stiff, weary muscles.
Andy, a former RAF officer with two tours of Afghanistan and Iraq under his belt, became a certified CBT therapist following a hip accident resulting in rapid weight gain and deteriorating health. Through group workshops, and optional private sessions, he explores the psychological reasons behind why we eat and works with guests to unearth any pitfalls that might be tripping them up on their road to a healthier life.
Each day starts with a 7 am jaunt through village and vineyards, up a vertiginous path, for sunrise views across the seaside town of Sitges. Beach walks and workouts along the promenade are also part of the fun, topped off on the final day by a half-day hike up Montserrat, which, standing tall at 1236 metres high, feels like a true accomplishment, and is the perfect adrenaline fuelled end to a gruelling week.
Included in your retreat package is one 60-minute massage, but also, there is a comprehensive wellness menu to choose from. You’ll be kept busy enough with classes, seminars and one-to-one sessions, so be warned there won’t be huge amounts of time for beauty treatments.
The base for the bootcamps is Villa Miret, where the standard rooms are perfect for solo travellers – if travelling as a couple you’ll need to book a superior suite. Both include ensuite baths, decorated in natural tones and materials. The very best rooms boast exposed wooden beams and Juliette balconies, with muted hues and fluffy throws in the winter. Rooms are not as characterful and cosy as the rest of the hotel, but you’ll be spending very little time in them – and you’ll be straight to sleep the moment your head hits the pillow.
Pack lots of workout gear as you’ll sweat a lot – although laundry is included in the rate, leisure time is limited and you’re unlikely to feel like sorting through your washing. A couple of pairs of trainers (as well as some walking boots) wouldn’t go a-miss, plus a rucksack for those coastal and vineyard strolls. If you own a Fitbit or any kind of tracking app, be sure to use it! You’ll be amazed at the mileage and calories you’ll clock over the course of your stay.
When to Go
Year-round, though winter can be chilly in the evenings, and when we visited in January it was unusually wet. Spring and Autumn provide the best weather for working out on the beach, as July and August can very hot, even though you’ll leave with a tan.
In the summer months, dine on an enormous wooden table beneath filament lights and the scent of orange blossom. On cooler evenings, there’s a large dining room, complete with candelabras and an open fire.
The diet-plan is designed for weight-loss, but if this is not your intention, your menu will be amended. Calories and portion sizes are restricted, so you’ll have two proper meals a day, with breakfast being substituted by a protein shake. All meals are free from salt, added sugar and refined carbohydrates, whilst the largely plant-based menu includes reduced dairy intake.
Food is tasty. For lunch, a light goats’ cheese salad with berries was a particular crowd favourite, as was the tuna tartare. Dinner was often preceded by delicious creamy soups (the cauliflower with truffle oil a real hit) followed by crunchy vegetable stacks, sea bass fillet, and on the final evening your choice of duck or lobster and… a glass of wine!
A daily rotation of mint, orange, and cucumber flavoured waters are provided for guests to fill up their water bottles as well as a selection of herbal teas, coffee (including decaf) as well as lacto and dairy-free milks. You might be surrounded by vineyards, but you won’t find a drop on the table until the last night.
Almost all of the food is either locally sourced and seasonal or grown in their very own vegetable garden using recycles rainwater. In-room, eco-key cards, LED bulbs, and thermal insulation are all used to ensure that energy waste is kept to a minimum, as is plastic waste.
Large water bottles are provided but these are made of plastic, even though they have filtered water and provide flavoured water in large glass kegs.
Avinguda Emerencia Roig y, Carrer de Salvador Robert Raventós, 32, 08870 Sitges, Barcelona, Spain
Transfer time: 5 mins from train station, 30 mins from airport