Feeling tired and sluggish, editor Helena Lang signed up for a health retreat in Spain.

As l boarded the Easy Jet flight to Malaga early one April morning, l knew there must be fellow retreat-ees on the flight. But where? The glamorous lady in oversized sunglasses and camel pashmina? The loved-up couple engrossed in self-help books? As the flight took off l happened to overhear a conversation mentioning in:spa – where l was heading. The group of chatterboxes were young, super-fit and gorgeous. Gulp.

Only after landing did l realise to my relief that this gaggle of winners in the gene pool were the team of trainers, nutritionists, yoga teachers and masseuses who were going to beat us into shape. On the coach from the airport l chatted with fellow guests. Like me, many had decided to travel solo; ‘This is my annual investment in myself.‘ said a successful lawyer from Dublin. Like many of the other clients – aged between 3O-65, and both male and female – she was a repeat customer and reassured me that my lack of fitness wouldn’t be a problem at the retreat.

At the hotel, a gorgeous former monastery, 20 minutes from the coast, we were each given our week’s schedule. The laid-back approach means that you can do as much or as little as you like; you won’t get ticked off or made to feel like a lazy lump, but I wanted to get my money’s worth and to do as much as possible. So mornings started with a run before breakfast. For this we were split into three groups – each accompanied by a personal trainer. One group was for the hardcore runners who sprinted off immediately, the second was for the joggers who would keep up a more achievable and steady pace. The last group, mine, was for the walkers and joggers who would jog for three minutes, walk for three minutes. l was ridiculously proud of being ‘promoted’ to the non-stop loggers group halfway through the week! If you didn’t fancy a run, you could of course stay in bed, or do a yoga class with Isaac, the sunniest, sweetest, bendiest man in the west.

On alternate mornings we went on epic hikes on reasonably tricky terrain escorted by the team and expert local guides. They were great bonding exercises where we all really got to know each other. The rest of each day was filled with individual personal training sessions, one-to-ones with Amelia the nutritionist, group talks and cookery demonstrations, indulgent massages, fitness classes and evening yoga. Relaxation time was built into each day and most of us chose to spend it by the pool or on bikes exploring the gorgeous countryside.

Those who fear ‘healthy food’, would be impressed. Chef Michael Arthur and his crew created amazing meals without using red meat, wheat, dairy, sugar or salt and there wasn’t any caffeine or alcohol available either. Who knew you could have so much fun without drinking? Breakfasts (freshly made smoothies, fruit salads, granolas, egg dishes and spelt toast) and lunches (super salad combinations alongside protein such as fish brochettes) were served buffet-style, with waiter service for the two-course dinner and a casual sit-where-you-like approach.

What stood out for me was the warmth and friendliness of the team and their obvious expertise. All the advice was practical, useful and in the main, new to me. They encouraged and motivated us without ever bullying and made every new experience fun as well as challenging, it was a week in which I made new friends – and became friends with my body again. From now on l would treat it with the love. respect and the time it needs.

Did it change my life?

It has to be yes! My family appeared to be genuinely gobsmacked at the leaner more laid back me that drifted into the arrivals lounge at Gatwick. l came back several pounds lighter and have kept that weight off ever since. Plus a couple of extra pounds too – and I love that feeling of a looser waistband on my jeans. The main changes have been to my diet; under Amelia’s direction I have cut my caffeine intake dramatically — one (or two in emergencies) cup of good coffee a day, then herbal or rooibos teas. I snack on raw nuts (just a few) rather than biscuits and always have a small supply in my handbag and I sprinkle seeds on virtually everything including salads and vegetable dishes. l now make the time to switch off, sleep better, generally feel calmer and am probably a nicer person to be around.

How to book: Helena enjoyed an in:spa retreat to southern Spain. Prices for a week start at £2,195 per person based on two people sharing, including meals and drinks, transfers, group activities, nutrition consultation, personal training session and two massages. Flights are not included but can be booked for you (0845 458 0723; inspa.co.uk)

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