It has only recently occurred to me, as I’ve become more interested in fitness, how weird it is that people who work at a desk tend to go on holidays that involve very little activity. We may stroll down the promenade or wander around the local sights, but for the most part our vacations are sun bathing focused and fairly sedentary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a criticism, we all lead busy lives and clearly need time to unwind, but what if there was the opportunity to get away from it all and give the mind a rest while the body got moving?
I’ve toyed with the idea of a yoga retreat in the past, as well as the possibility of adventure breaks, but with 38 Degrees North, the brainchild of husband and wife team Kelly Morgan and James Davis, you can experience the best of both worlds. Based in Ibiza, hence the name taken from the island’s shipping co-ordinates, the fitness tourism concept provides the means to ‘reset your co-ordinates’, whether that’s physically, mentally, emotionally or a combination of all of the above. While the White Isle may not immediately spring to mind as the first place to go to detox, 38 Degrees North offers a range of bespoke healthy holidays with the option of incorporating juice cleanse programs and nutritional guidance to provide you with the tools you need to maintain your balanced approach when your normal life resumes.
Here’s what happened when I got a taster of the 38 Degrees North philosophy...
We arrived at 5 star eco hotel Aguas de Ibiza at lunch time and were greeted by Kelly and personal trainer Faye Maloney, a former UK Kickboxing Champion. After checking into my room, which had a superb ocean view from the balcony, lunch was served outdoors. Kelly explained that at 38 Degrees North they like to capitalise on the location and most activity would take place in the open air. As a Londoner often confined to a fourth floor office, this was absolutely fine by me! I wasn’t doing the juice cleanse but started my meal with a ginger, apple and carrot juice before tucking into a red tuna, avocado and tomato salad followed by a platter of fresh fruit. Kelly and Faye also described the joy they experienced in their roles as they get the opportunity to see clients progress, often quite rapidly during 38 Degrees North breaks due to the personal approach of their method.
Before long I was experiencing that ‘method’ first hand as Faye led us up to a clifftop armed with skipping ropes, weights and gym balls ready for a ‘Bikini Beach Workout’. Thankfully this did not involve wearing a bikini. It did, however, involve circuits of burpees, squats and lunges, as well as running up steep inclines and skipping rope, focusing on each activity for one minute before switching over to the next exercise. The class was tough, but Faye is an excellent teacher. Softly spoken and super smiley, her firm yet fair attitude helps her get the best from the people she’s training and her alignment cues ensure safety is paramount.
After being thrown in the deep end we were treated to a spa session in the hotel’s outrageously beautiful facilities which span the width and length of the building. Kelly advised us to sit in the steam room before taking a dunk in the ice cold plunge pool to get the circulation flowing and appease tired muscles. There was also a circular pool with shoots of various shapes and sizes spraying water at great speed to tackle tight hamstrings, shoulders and quads. Then it was on to a massage, focusing on my back, which spends most of its time bent over a computer. It wasn’t total bliss, but there were genuine knots in need of release.
I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day than with a yoga class on the beach. I practice yoga regularly but this is the first time I’d done it in on the sand. Our teacher, Ayda, did her 18 month training at an ashram in India and she encouraged strengthening and opening, incorporating partner work to help us get to the core of the poses. Her welcoming attitude and easygoing grace won everybody over, even those of us who had had very little sleep ahead of the early morning flight to Ibiza. To top it off, as we performed our sun salutations, the sun went down over the ocean. Who needs a CD of wave sounds when you’ve got the real deal?
Barely able to keep my eyes open, we ate dinner at local Cafe Sydney in the marina - a salad starter bigger than my head, followed chicken, vegetables and rice wrapped in cucumber. I wasn’t back in my room long before...Zzz.
The day began with a run along the coast. We ran about 4k in 20 minutes, but it was a beautiful temperature and a great way to check out our immediate location. I also picked up some great running tips from Kelly, which I’ll share with you now:
1. Pin your elbows to the side of your body so that your arms slide back and forth.
2. Think shoulders down, melting your shoulder blades down your back.
3. Move from heel to toe landing on your heel and pushing off from the toes.
4. Keep your chin tucked and look forward so you’re not craning your neck.
5. When you sprint move onto your toes.
6. A run on a fast i.e. before breakfast is good for fat burning.
That final point was a great incentive to tuck into the breakfast buffet, including eggs, berries and nuts. I definitely needed the energy as it was time for my first SUP lesson. I tried surfing for the first time last year, and here I was again on a board, but this time there was no need for a wetsuit. James teaches SUP lessons at 38 Degrees North and he told us that there is a fast learning curve when it comes to paddle boarding, as you go from kneeling, to high kneeling to standing in pretty rapid succession. You use the paddle to steer the board and it's essential that you engage your core to keep your balance. As a result it is a great workout and you can really feel it in the shoulders and abs the next day. We stopped in the bay for a while and experimented with yoga poses on the board including downward facing dog and crow before ending with Savasana, which was basically sunbathing!
After the exhilaration of my first SUP lesson, I was in need of refreshment - and Beach Babylon Bar provided just that. It serves Jax Coconut Water, beloved of health ambassadors from Calgary Avansino to Abigail James, which is packed full of electrolytes and potassium.
It wasn’t long before we were back on dry land and warming up for a boxing masterclass. I’m not a natural fighter, and my first reaction when I'm upset or angry is to cry rather than hit a wall, but it did feel good wielding so much power, and it took a lot of strength defending punches too. We began with exercises in fighting stance followed by runs and sprints to keep the heart rate up. Abs were steadily becoming the theme of the day as we moved onto Swiss Ball Core including bridges and planks on the ball and lunges holding the ball in the air, much harder than Faye makes it look, but then she is a champion after all.
I was elated to guzzle down a protein shake and mosey on down to the spa for more hot and cold, as blasting the glutes and hamstrings with water feels much more effective than a foam roller. At dinner I ate salmon avocado and wasabi followed by sea bream and vegetables.
That smug, healthy glow was beginning to materialise.
Finally the chance to try aqua spinning, something we’ve featured in Grazia, but only just arrived in London last year. Vincent was a very enthusiastic teacher and although you don’t feel sweaty in the water we certainly worked hard. The idea is it puts less pressure on muscles and joints. After breakfast we had another yoga class with Ayda to get stretched and supple for more SUP. This included poses on the Swiss ball such as the wheel and a wide legged forward fold leaning onto the ball to take stretch out the spine.
Our second SUP lesson was a lot more challenging than the first, as the wind had really picked up overnight and the waves were blowing into the bay. As Kelly said it was like paddling through treacle. I knelt down almost the entire time and it felt like for every row forward you would be knocked back two. A great test for my already fatigued upper back and core muscles. It was all worth it though as we reached the destination there was the opportunity for more board bathing and a water from the beach bar before taking a taxi back to Babylon for sea bass, potatoes and salsa, along with more Jax coconut water of course!
After a quick trip to the spa we wound up the day with a meditation session. A chance to reflect on what had been a brilliant weekend. We started the meditation with some warm up stretches to get the body prepared for stillness. The meditation itself was done lying down with towels as blankets. Ayda used a music accompaniment as well as a drum and rattle to create atmosphere. She guided the meditation talking through each of the seven chakras, in an incredibly accessible way even for those not familiar. No one fell asleep but when we came out the other side there was a genuinely lifted energy throughout the room.
The last day was a short one, but we managed to pack a lot in. We had a Bikini Body circuit class, this time on the beach and I’ll tell you it’s much easier to do a squat when you're staring into the ocean. Faye also integrated kick boxing into the circuits, holding a pad and giving us one to one instruction on how to kick (using thigh, rather than knee) and when to breathe.
Then a yoga class with Ayda, on the roof of the hotel. Bliss!
The final activity was a 1.5 hour bike ride, heading out along a main road before taking in a pine forests and farm land where we saw fig trees and watermelon growing out of the ground. Clear blue skies combined with a deeply relaxed mindset made it the perfect end to the trip as we soaked up our surroundings and put pedal to the metal with our newly engaged muscles.
Rather than giving you a ridiculous eating plan and blasting you with a 10k every morning before drills and squats, which let's face it most of us just aren't going to have time for once we're back at the desk, 38 Degrees North offer a glimpse at what life could be like if we took care of ourselves. That includes moving, stretching, eating right, sleeping enough, and taking time out for ourselves. It may not seem like the easy option, but your body will thank you and ultimately your mind will feel better too.
Lux, SUP & Soul Week Residential staying at Aguas de Ibiza from €1999
Lux, SUP & Soul Week Non-residential option also available from €699
SUP Long Weekend Residential staying at Aguas de Ibiza from €1455
SUP Long Weekend Non-residential option also available from €490
Visit www.thirtyeightdegreesnorth.com for more information.