DAN ROBERTS FITNESS RETREATS, CORNWALL

Here’s a shorter version of an article of mine, which appeared in The Sunday Times last weekend

Even the best bootcamps come with a serious flaw – you’re with strangers, several of whom are usually on the verge of a nervous or physical breakdown. I’m interested in getting fit, not discovering what it feels like to be on The Jeremy Kyle Show so a small, bespoke bootcamp at Tregulland in Cornwall, with friends was instantly appealing.

Furthermore, Dan Roberts, below, is one of the UK’s leading personal trainers, a man who has made royalty, Oscar winners and A-list executives sweat and is currently being paid £1,500 a day to keep the world’s top supermodels perfectly pert. At Tregulland, you get the same expertise for four days for a mere £1,189pp (including fabulous accommodation and the services of two great chefs).  It wasn’t difficult to find four (relatively) sane girlfriends to sign up with me.

Being bespoke neatly circumvented my other serious complaint about the average bootcamp: regimentation. Why does the schedule have to start with the dawn chorus? Over a glass of Bollinger (another advantage of bespoke, you call the shots on food and beverage), Roberts, who is delightfully modest and boyishly enthusiastic despite his starry connections, sweetly agreed that nine-ish was more than early enough for us to start squawking. Unlike rival operations, he could be totally flexible so although he had devised a programme based on our pre-holiday questionnaires, he was happy to adapt the timetable to take advantage of a break in the weather (it’s England, it’s going to rain at some point), or over-run if we were particularly enjoying a session.

Guess what? You don’t get to charge circa £200 an hour unless you bulge in all the right places – your CV. Roberts has 29 qualifications in everything from yoga to self defence (the latter established it’s unlikely I could ever break an assailant’s arm but my squeals could probably burst an eardrum). He studied thai boxing in Thailand, winning several professional bouts there, and it proved an unexpected hit with my group, though we genuinely loved every session, from core conditioning in the studio to kettlebells on the lawn. Pre-break, we had wondered how he could possibly get away with charging so much, after a few sessions the reason became evident. His forensic knowledge of all things fitness is jaw-dropping but it’s his communication skills that set him apart. Roberts has a rare gift for explaining concepts simply. Who understands the pilates instruction to engage your core? I’ve been going to pilates classes for years. Engaged? Turns out me and my core haven’t even been going steady but Roberts gave us a practical exercise that illustrates the difference between pulling in your stomach and precisely controlling those key muscles. It was a light bulb moment for us all.

Recover in Tregulland’s gorgeous freshwater swimming pool

His aim is not just to get guests fitter though but to educate them in the science behind the methodology. We learned the importance of compound exercises, how specific training methods achieve different results andhow to tailormake our own programmes – effectively how to become our own personal trainers. As Roberts is also a qualified nutritionist, he gave us individual diet advice and, best of all, introduced us to the “magic window”. This is the 90-minute opportunity, post exercise, to eat pretty much anything you fancy because during this period your body does not convert food into fat. Window? More like French doors I’d say.

Four nights cost from £1,189pp, based on a group of 10, including accommodation, a fitness programme through Dan Roberts Training (danrobertstraining.com), two hours surfing or coasteering and the services of chefs from Cornish Delicacies (cornishdelicacies.co.uk), food extra. Book through Tregulland on 01566 770880, tregulland.co.uk.

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