Inventive holistic fitness holiday in the Cretan mountains
There are a few 7-night fitness holidays on Crete that run on set dates, usually in June and September. The 7-night retreats can be combined into a 14-night ‘Transformative’ retreat.
From £2,053 pp sharing or £2,200 pp for a solo room for 7 nights including accommodation, all meals, activities, workshops, 2 to 3 training sessions a day and one massage.
Best for: Shaping up in nature far away from the crowds
Not for: Those seeking a beach-side fitness holiday. There’s a day trip to the beach, but most activities are in the mountains
In a nutshell:
Wildfitness holistic fitness holiday in Crete is based at Milia, an ancient mountain settlement which has been converted into an eco-friendly organic farm with a restaurant and simple, attractive rooms built into the rock. Activities include barefoot running on the beach, sea swimming, rhythmic boxing and circuits, all in the great outdoors, to get you moving and feeling lean and energetic in a natural way. Your body is sure to change shape for the better.
You’ll feel as far away from a stuffy, noisy gym as you possibly can, with walks and runs through spectacular mountain scenery and clean fresh air.
There’s no swimming pool or spa facilities. Milia proactively uses very little electricity, so there aren’t plug sockets in all of the rooms and lighting in the evening isn’t great to read by. Treat it as a blessing – leave your devices at the main desk to charge and go to sleep when it’s dark.
Wildfitness will lead you in a range of daily activities in line with their wild ethos to get you moving, eating and living in a more wholesome way. You’ll be in a gorgeously raw natural setting with peaks, olive groves, goats grazing and aromatic wild rosemary and thyme growing nearby.
The hand-picked coaches are skilled at working with every individual's ability, no matter how fit they are, and there’s no sense of competition. There are individual movement assessments at the start and end of the course, and you’ll have a follow-up Skype call with a Wildfitness coach to help provide advice on how to keep ‘wild’ once back home.
Wildfitness coaches teach skills that we as a species we would have needed to survive and which consequently allowed us to evolve. It’s a true antidote to our anti-movement culture, where technology allows us to avoid movement on all levels and our psyche and physiology don't thrive, and though the movements may take a bit of getting used to, your sense of achievement after is likely to be sky high.
There are morning movement sessions that focus on whole body mobility, co-ordination, strength and awareness, and during the course of the week you’ll have sessions on jumping, balancing, vaulting and the art of falling (you’ll engage muscles you never knew you had!) and on climbing, hanging and arboreal locomotion (climbing on rock or in trees was common for our ancestors and our bodies have evolved to be skilled at it - apparently!).
Later, you’ll be taught how to lift, carry and throw safely and effectively, when you’ll find those gym sessions that focused on strengthening one set of muscles don’t help when it comes to non-linear movement (not to worry, help is always at hand!). Interaction with your fellow guests is key too, and through ‘roughhousing’ and striking/boxing sessions you’ll start to recognise your strengths and limitations whilst keeping it playful rather than competitive.
The week ends in a dodecathlon (12 movement) obstacle course that incorporates running, swimming, balancing, carrying, throwing, lifting, crawling patterns, brachiating, jumping, vaulting, climbing and a little bit of walking (albeit on a slackline!) when you’ll be astonished at what you can achieve.
Wildfitness sessions are totally immersive and the team stresses the need to be mindful (present and focused) when moving. It is this focus that in many ways differentiates them from a gym environment, where you can lift weights without paying attention to form or run on a treadmill without looking at where you are going. Moving in nature requires your full attention - and it’s a hugely liberating experience.
You’ll learn The Art of Running in a workshop that focuses on the biomechanics needed for efficient running, and later in the week take part in a wild run that takes advantage of Crete’s spectacular natural features in the form of rocks, bush and trees and man made in the form of walls, tracks and the like, jumping, vaulting, climbing and swinging your way along.
All the activities take place outdoors, and various sessions will have you tuning into the wild nature around you and helping you to reconnect to yourself, to one another and awakening senses that have been over-stimulated or worn out by artificial environments. You’ll have a session on the power of breath and an introduction to free diving when you can tap into your mammalian diving reflex. During the week you’ll also be swimming or kayaking.
There are various talks throughout the week to help you understand the wild way of living, moving and eating in a naturally balanced way, covering the need for movement, good nutrition and rest. You’ll also have a session on mindset, which encourages you to take the bubble wrap off yourself and introduce challenge back into your life to ensure you’re still adapting, evolving and resilient.
Milia rooms and terraces offer simple, serene spaces to relax after a hard day working and moving, and one deep tissue massage is included in everybody’s week.
Bedrooms: Built into the rock, the bedrooms here are cooling and minimalist spaces where it’s easy to relax. The rooms are designed as havens from the sun, so they lack natural light during the day. The bathrooms have tiled floors and the water is fresh from a spring and heated on site. Toiletries are sourced locally.
Other spaces to be: Some rooms have a roof terrace with hammocks or a table and chairs. Open to the skies, shaded by trees, they’re quiet little spaces for some me-time.
Don’t be alarmed if you’re not into running – the ‘pose’ technique they teach you is designed to make running safe for the body and turn it into an enjoyable activity. Bring books to help you relax during your free time.
Extend your stay and visit Chania Town, a lovely little port to explore with some fantastic restaurants (we highly recommend the quaint Courtyard Boheme).
When to Go
The Wildfitness holidays here take place during the early or late Summer months when weather is usually reliably warm and sunny but you’re outside the tourist main season.
Meals are cooked by Milia chefs after consultation with a Wildfitness nutritionist, and feature three nourishing, energy-giving, tasty meals a day with ingredients sourced as locally and organically as possible.
The Wildfitness diet draws on what our ancestors found and ate around them – eggs, seeds, nuts, fruit and non-starchy vegetables that can be eaten raw, supplemented by organic, wild meat and fish.
They cut out wheat altogether, and generally avoid all other grains and dairy – though the local Greek yoghurt is included (you won’t be tempted by supermarket ‘Greek-style’ yoghurt again). You’re encouraged to drink lots of fluids, and alcohol and caffeine is avoided throughout the holiday.
Binigaus Nou villa runs on solar-generated power. Recycling is yet to arrive. Towels are provided but changed only on request for environmental reasons. Drinking water is bottled since the tap water has high nitrate levels.
Milia Mountain Retreat, Crete, Greece
Airport: Chania, Crete
Transfer time: 1.5 hours