Susan heads to her first luxury fitness boot camp, ‘Who Dares Slims’, and lives to tell the tale.
“So you want me to go to a boot camp, why?” I ask the esteemed editor of this magazine, my very fit daughter. I reason that it would be more up her street, or more aptly mountain, than mine. Sophie has been invited to the inauguration of ‘Who Dares Slims’, a luxury fitness week in Spain, but is conveniently unable to go. She assures me the company caters for women of all ages and fitness levels. So feeling the fear and not sure if I want to do it anyway, I agree.
‘Who Dares Slims’ a clever play on the Special Forces motto ‘Who Dares Wins’ is run by Nicole Alcantara, Head of Operations and everything in between, and her partner Jamie. Jamie is a personal trainer and fitness instructor in the Army Reserves. He used to train Royal Marines and now puts Special Forces recruits through their paces. Now I’m really worried.
A quick call later and Nicole reassures me that it will be great fun. The Premier boot camp is heralded as a luxury residential week to boost fitness and kick-start weight loss. I am very happy to ‘do’ luxury, and could do with some toning up. Not so happy to learn that there will be no alcohol served. My lame plea that wine is made from grapes, so should technically form part of our five-a-day, falls on deaf ears.
My husband Andrew is very supportive and laughs heartily at the prospect of me running, jumping and climbing. However, his face falls when the realisation dawns that whilst I will be dined, if not wined, he will have to cater for himself for the entire week. “Blame our daughter,” I respond, hugely enjoying the moment.
The appointed day arrives and I set off to reach the boot camp destination at 17:00 as instructed. A mere 20 minutes after leaving Gibraltar and I am driving into The Larios (gin family) estate in Los Barrios. It is an imposing structure brimming with period features. Swimming pool, tennis courts and ballroom sized accommodation all form part of the package.
Nicole and military trainer Mike are on hand to welcome the first intake of boot campers. Partner Jamie is on the airport run to ferry back those guests who have flown in. The dynamic couple have a wealth of experience. Jamie has run very successful boot camps in Scotland, which is where he met Nicole, and they subsequently set up boot camps in Bristol. I am intrigued, nervous, and excited to meet the people I will be working out with, and living alongside, for the week.
Our eclectic group is comprised of seven women of different nationalities, ranging in age from early 30s to mid-60s. This is a special inaugural session so numbers are much lower than usual.
Scottish Kirsty in her 30s is a college lecturer. Nandita is an analyst with the OECD. Also in her 30s, she hails from India and has been living in Paris for 13 years. 40-year-old Laura is a Spanish businesswoman in the catering trade. Inge, in her 50s and from Holland, is a therapist and counsellor with a loud and contagious laugh. Then there is English Mandy in her 50s, a boat captain. Also forming part of the group is boat broker Lynda in her 60s who is English/Scottish. Finally, yours truly, a Gibraltarian in her ‘very early 60s’, completes the lineup.
There is tea and very worthy water on offer as we all introduce ourselves. Everyone looks happy and confident, so I adopt my best ‘happy and confident’ look. So far so good. The girls are a terrific bunch and I feel myself relaxing by degrees.
The real work starts tomorrow, so for now we are free to explore the house and grounds and help ourselves to books, have a swim, or play tennis and get to know each other.
We are weighed and measured prior to a very early supper, salmon with chilli flakes, a small portion of couscous, and a handful of tasty green beans. “Is that it?” pipes up Miss Holland. “I knew I should have smuggled some food in.” We nod sympathetically as someone suggests we fill up on herbal teas. I learn that there will be a knock on our doors at 6:30am. I go to bed already feeling much lighter. So this is boot camp!
I wake up with a cracking headache as I have not had any coffee since arriving, but am relieved to see there is coffee on offer at breakfast (our one and only for the day ). I tuck into scrambled egg, rye bread and a cherry tomato and Nicole hands out ‘Who Dares Slims’ water bottles. I am now ready for action.
“Right, give me 10 star jumps and 10 jumping jacks!” bellows Jamie, after the torturous moves are deftly demonstrated by Mike. I gasp in horror as he adds, “Then run to the yellow marker, return and run back to the red marker”. Both look miles away. “We need to get your heart rates up!” …I can honestly say I didn’t think it would be long before I might be in need of medical attention. Exercise after exercise, burpees, press ups, mountain climbers, squats and lunges, planks and sit-ups follow. Then it’s a cross country run, followed by a 4-hour hike, another snack break and full-on boxing. I really enjoy the boxing, although I am feeling very shaky and my heart rate is definitely up.
So day one is over. The food we’re served is excellent; nutritionally balanced, but measured. Scottish Kirsty tells me she wants to lose weight to find a nice man. Dutch Inge says she has enjoyed the day, but is against boxing. As you can imagine, there is a lot of shared laughter.
We are allowed a lie in this morning and don’t get our wake-up call until 7:00am! Breakfast is porridge with bananas, almonds, and cinnamon, after which it’s straight outside and for high-intensity training class. This is followed by military training. We are divided into two teams and given detailed instruction on how to ‘foil the enemy’. The exercise involves lots of running, memory retention and dragging objects across a field. Afterwards, I am almost too exhausted to lift my snack of 2 apple slices topped with crunchy peanut butter. Then it’s on to team races in the pool. It’s a hoot, even though I swallow a mouthful of chlorinated water. Naturally I blame the opposing team for putting me off my stroke. The afternoon comprises AMRAD, which I learn stands for as many repetitions as possible. I am beginning to feel as if my legs are going to buckle. We are also signed up for band resistance training. Just two classes to go now: pushing a wood-laden wheelbarrow across a field (brutal), and some mat work (a walk in the park by comparison).
The team is remarkably bright this morning as we are off on a hike, mainly on the flat. Anything has to be better than yesterday’s wheelbarrow challenge. Breakfast at 7:30am is chilli, lime and coriander-infused guacamole on rye – delicious! We hike for three and a half hours through the scenic Parque Arconocales. Following a light lunch of spicy Thai soup, we are in the pool for more aquatic training and team races. Then it’s military training: ‘approaching the enemy’, zigzag running, throwing ourselves down on the ground, and crawling on command. The lovely Mandy is worried that her new sports leggings will get ruined. All is repeated again and again. The programme includes strength training, pulling ourselves up on ropes, pulling a weighted rope and lifting heavy bars. A self-protection class concludes the day. This is definitely boot camp, not holiday camp.
I am feeling as if I belong here now. The others feel the same. Although the regime is challenging, it is amazing how quickly the body adapts and improves. At 8:30am am (yes, always an early start), we are en route to the beach for running and boot camp games. It’s all so much tougher on the sand. Weighted ropes and a 10kg ball are set out to challenge us. Lunch is on the beach today: 2 rice paper wraps stuffed with prawns, bean sprouts, nuts, herbs and spices, with an amazing chilli dip. In the afternoon we play an energetic game of rounders on the beach – fantastic exercise, but incredibly tiring. Then it’s back to camp, a short break, and self-defense training. They introduced a list of automatic knives which are great for self defense. Various moves are demonstrated which we practice repeatedly. Hopefully we will never have to use them. In complete contrast, the day ends with a gentle Pilates class and a comprehensive talk on nutrition.
Lynda is sitting beside me at breakfast today and is looking discernibly toned. All this exercise is definitely paying dividends. Nandita has been to boot camp in Scotland and tells me she lost 4kg in a week.
As the sun rises I am outdoors for a HIT class. 100 reps of 10 moves, running across a field between each set. It’s challenging, and I have learnt what ‘breaking through the wall of pain’ means. The rest of the morning is taken up with strengthening our biceps and triceps by pulling ourselves up on bands suspended from a tree. Lunch is delicious as usual and portions are more generous. Lots of vegetables, in a spicy tomato sauce.
In the afternoon it’s off on a gentle hike up to the tower on the Monte de la Torre estate where we are staying. Family retainer Sergio leads the way in his tractor. Soon after, we are on a treasure hunt, all on foot. One of the clues lies at the bottom of the pool. As we discuss how to retrieve it, Inge and I think we should look for the pool net, whilst Mandy jumps in fully clothed and does the deed to much applause. The last riddle/clue, leads us to the barbecue and two boxes of quails eggs. They are uncooked; we are instructed to build a fire from what’s lying around on the farm. Finally the day concludes with a HIT Tabata class. Massages are available from Fenton. Can’t help thinking about the dog in Richmond Park by the same name, that became an internet sensation.
DAY 6 (LAST DAY)
Into Gibraltar and a climb up Med Steps. I have done this before, so am on familiar territory. Some in the group have never visited the Rock and are impressed by the trail and the spectacular views. We move on to the super Skywalk, where an ape tries to pull Linda’s rucksack off her back. Finally we return to camp. The last challenge is a timed run – our trainers know we are very tired, yet we manage to beat our personal best. Result!
We are offered a G&T prior to supper and happily accept. Boot camp is now over and it would be rude to refuse!
Before leaving the following morning, we are weighed and measured. Everyone in the group has lost weight. Waists are slimmer, bottoms well-toned and our skin looks healthier. We have also grown in confidence and feel much stronger. It’s a bittersweet moment as we say goodbye. It has been an incredible week. Hard work, but also lots of laughter. The food throughout (breakfast, lunch and supper, plus two snacks a day) has been first-class and immaculately presented. Nicole is a great chef and is working on a cookery book, which I shall definitely buy. Jaime and Mike made all the workouts fun and varied, whilst pushing us to the limit. It has been an awesome week; a week that I will never, ever forget.
For more information visit whodaresslims.co.uk.
BY SUSAN CLIFTON-TUCKER