Where? Loughton, Essex
To get into the grounds of Residential Retreat you must first traverse the enormous gates, which give an indication as to one of the primary appeals of this venue. A favourite amongst celebrity clients (not least of all, the TOWIE troupe) and embracing the true meaning of the word ‘retreat’ it is secluded and uncompromisingly private.
Although it’s described as a bootcamp, this is a really luxurious variation on the traditional model. It is a bit like staying at someone’s home; actually it’s like staying at proprietor Wendy’s home. Wendy is something of an elegant mother hen – ensuring the every comfort of her guests. The retreat matches her own pristine appearance – everything is cream and white, and clean and cosy and new all at once – it is the sort of house you wish you could run. Only allowing up to six guests at a time, with two people sharing a room – there is a kitchen, and lounge to collapse in at the end of the day, and it’s that communal atmosphere that adds a sense of camaraderie – even if you have come along knowing no one at all – after all, you are all here for the same reason, and getting to know one another really boosts your motivation!
Pretty as it is, this is not a holiday; it is a bootcamp – and don’t you just know it! A typical day involves a power walk before breakfast, then circuit training, a tug of war or bouncing around on space hoppers (do you remember those from your childhood? Turns out they are quite the aerobic exercise). Lunch is then followed by a bike ride through the forest and assault courses, Zumba, Pilates classes or spinning, then a low calorie dinner before settling down with a book for the evening or taking advantage of the beauty treatments which you can purchase as an added extra – well, if you are going for a new body you might as well add the bells and whistles to match right?
The whole point of Residential Retreat is not to provide a quick fix to your muffin top, but to create a lifestyle plan – and of course food is a key component. With mealtimes being just as much a part of the experience as the space hoppers, cookery demonstrations are on demand and tailored to individual needs, while nutritionists are on hand at mealtimes to explain what is in each meal and why. You keep a food diary while you are there and leave with a collection of recipes to get your new lifestyle plan underway. Contrary to what you may think, the food provided is realistic – light curries, meat, fish and steamed vegetables are just a couple of examples of what’s on offer, as well as healthy snacks in between – the point is to integrate it into daily life, not to starve within an inch of it – after all, what’s the point of looking great if you don’t feel it as well?!
The retreat has extensive grounds of its own – well you need it with all those exercises to be getting on with! But importantly it alsobacks onto Epping Forest – ancient woodland that just so happens to be perfect for cycling and hiking. As I mentioned before, one of the major draw cards of the location is how incredibly private it is – who wants to be on public display while they are sweating off half their body weight? Despite the rural surrounds, being in Essex, the retreat is also easily accessible within an hour of London, and reachable via the Central Line.
What’s the Verdict?
There is no quick fix when it comes to losing weight – regrettably – but there is no reason you can’t do it in style and have fun at the same time, and that is exactly what Wendy and her team of experts provide. Importantly however, the key attraction is the support and guidance they provide. Weight loss is something we hear an awful lot about but some solid, practical advice is infinitely more helpful than a couple of quick fixes in a glossy magazine, and whether you stay for one day or a full week this place will provide you with the tools to be happy and healthy … and if you happen to leave with a great manicure as well, so be it!
Sarah’s Top Tips
– Don’t be afraid to go along by yourself, everyone is in the same boat and the atmosphere is one of friendly camaraderie.
– If you have a favourite high-calorie treat that you just can’t bear to give up – tell them! They will be able to find an alternative or a way to incorporate it into your new diet!
– You can go along for a one day taster or for a weekend, but to really get the most out of the experience a six day course is the best way to kick start a lifestyle change … you can always top up with a weekend later on to get a few more tips!
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