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A holiday to change your life

By Mark Hodson, editor of 101 short breaks

A few years back, I wrote an article for a national newspaper about trips that can change your life. As part of the research I spent a week at a health retreat in Italy. Although I didn’t totally buy into the idea, I was slowly drawn in by the busy schedule of fitness training, walking, healthy eating and yoga – it actually changed my life.

I love going away but I always tend to return to work feeling drained. It may sound corny, but I need another holiday to recuperate from the first one.

This was a new experience. Although the workouts were tough, I returned to my desk feeling full of energy, with friends remarking that I looked healthy and well. After that, I gave up coffee, reduced my alcohol intake and took up yoga classes.

In the intervening years these retreats have become popular with time-poor, cash-rich 30somethings.

Meanwhile, over the intervening years, my grip on the healthy lifestyle had slowly loosened. Althouh my diet is fairly healthy, I drink too much wine and too many cups of tea. And I didn’t stick with the yoga.

I work too hard, always in front of a computer screen and I’d acquired a couple of niggles: a sore hip, a tight shoulder and dry eyes.

I had to return to boot camp.

The in:spa approach is to commandeer a small hotel in a spectacular location and parachute in their own coterie of staff: a cook, a masseur, a nutritionist, a yoga holiday teacher and a couple of personal trainers. This retreat was in Morocco, on the coast near Agadir. It was miles from the nearest tourist resort.

A typical day started just after dawn, often with a run on the beach followed by a huge buffet breakfast. There is no limit to the amount of food you can eat as it’s all healthy. There is no wheat, no dairy, no sugar and no salt.

You are never far from your next physical challenge. I often found myself doing press-ups and lunges under the midday sun. Some of the activities were optional – circuits were not.

At around 11am we were allowed to fuel up on seeds, nuts and fruit. Then we were straight into a 60-minute yoga.

Then a superb buffet lunch would be eaten on the sun deck. There was plenty to eat, with chicken, salads, couscous, fish and vegetables. Stuffed on seconds and with nothing in my diary until 4pm, I would grab a book and a sunhat and doze on a lounger beside the pool.

Meanwhile I was starting to feel a lot more healthy. With no screen to stare at and no mouse to click, my dry-eye condition and tight shoulder had sorted themselves out. Even the ache in my left hip – which had been a constant companion for a couple of years – had gone, apparently a direct correlation to the tension in my right shoulder.

By the end of seven days, I felt fantastic and was mentally charged. With no screens to watch, I had time to read and think about work, life, love and all that.

I don’t image the good effects will last for ever but up to now I am still feeling great. And if I was cured for good, I wouldn’t be able to go back in another 5 years, would I?

Mark Hodson is founder of 101 short breaks

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