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Stress-busting in a Cyprus spa

IT’S Monday morning and while the rest of the guests at Aphrodite Hills are catching the Cyprus sun and feasting on fry-ups in the breakfast buffet, I’m being lectured in the gym. Timi, my stocky Cypriot personal trainer for the week, has more or less just told me and my five foot two, eight stone frame that I’m fat. Great.

“Okay so you’re sleem, but you can be much sleemer,” he croons. “You pee a lot? You pee a lot, means you burn a lot of fat, you see?” he says, as he shrugs his shoulders and increases the incline. I just want to tone up, I say meekly. “Tone up, lose weight – everyone wants same thing, everyone wants be sleem; so it’s okay, we make you sleemer, lose fat,” he says. Okay then...

It’s not exactly the personal trainer spiel that you usually get from your after-work gym, where polite staff refrain from mentioning the F-word to anyone of any size. But then again, maybe Timi’s bemusing bluntness is precisely what I need to shake me out of my lazy London lull, kick me up the backside and get me motivated to start working out again.

After all, that’s why I’m here; burnt out and in need of direction, I signed up for a five-day bootcamp at Aphrodite Hills near Paphos. I’m not alone – the hotel spa manager, Anna, tells me that most people on the wellness fitness programmes are “stressed out professionals that need to get their energy levels up.”

The resort has a following of fitness fans – Timi namedrops the Abramovich family, and, er, Peter Andre and Katie Price (pre-split) as regulars, while Team GB famously took over the whole place in 2004 to use as their pre-Olympic training camp. For mere mortals who are neither Olympians nor Heat celebs, Aphrodite Hills offers you the chance to ease yourself into exercising at whatever pace you wish, with a choice of daily activity sessions (I chose one-on-one yoga alternated with personal training, but there’s also golf, tennis or mountain biking), spa treatments and a healthy eating plan.

Christina, my softly-spoken instructor, claims yoga is all I need to tone and tighten up, as well as to help learn how not to be overwhelmed by stress. It’s blissful to have an entire studio to ourselves and to start the days in a calm, measured way.

It’s completely different with Timi. He keeps talking about “fat people”, which distracts from the straight face required when trying to practice pilates breathing (which, as Timi explains, is when “you exhale until you feel like you need to pee”) while lunging on a vibrating power plate. It’s disappointing that the personal trainer sessions don’t make more of the location or good weather with outdoor sessions. Still, although I don’t feel exhausted, I do feel like I’ve worked hard.

Owing to some staff miscommunication, my healthy eating plan is overlooked for the first three nights. So, for those evenings, I dine in the resort’s “themed” buffet: big, brash and gluttonously bad. But then the hotel’s executive chef, Ermis, steps in to apologise for the mishap. Thanks to him, I then eat like a low-fat queen, offered platters of California sushi rolls one night and grilled pineapple salad the next. Memories of the disastrous buffet pale into insignificance when the mains arrive, be it a lime and ginger-soaked sea bass parcel or tender scallops poised on seared spinach, with tiny tablets of sweet grape seed and truffle oil butters for my bread. For dessert, there are little bowls of dainty Cypriot cold sweets drenched in iced rose water.

Ermis assures me that this fine dining is healthy; it is fresh, protein-heavy (it’s basically a variation of fish and salad every night) and the portions are sized just so. Besides, given that I am starving after a substituted lunch of fruit pilfered from the breakfast buffet, two work outs and a swim, I am more than ready to believe him. The award-winning spa tops the lot though – situated in the prettiest part of the whole resort, the treatments make the experience far more pampering than a fitness holiday should be.

EVERY WHIM
Anna and her attentive team cater to every whim, constantly offering me detox tea and fresh towels. When she spies me rubbing my neck, aching and sore from a funny turn in the pool, Anna schedules a therapeutic massage for it to be treated within minutes.

There’s nothing quite like ending a yoga session and heading straight to a candle-lit treatment room for a soothing massage or nurturing facial with delightful therapists who listen to your needs. If only the rest of Aphrodite Hills could be more like its spa, then it might be worth the minimum £1,115 required to book a basic room for five nights in peak season.

Some parts of the five star hotel are suggestive of a slowly-maturing European resort. The rooms are corporately bland, and the amenities ungenerous; I’m constantly asking for more teabags, while just watching a movie on the in-room television costs €13 (£11.60). A couple sitting nearby for dinner couldn’t believe they were charged €7 (£6) for a bottle of water and I grew increasingly annoyed by the €17 (£15) per day wireless connection which would habitually disconnect after minutes. Even more ridiculous is the price of a baked potato – €13.50 (£12). If carbs cost that much in the real world, I’d be off them forever.

By the end of my stay, my purse is definitely feeling lighter than it was a week ago. But a week ago I also had to talk myself into going for a run and literally drag my reluctant limbs to the gym because I felt I should; now, I’m actually looking forward to it, and can’t wait to wake up with a yoga class to go to. And that’s result enough for me.

Huma travelled to Aphrodite Hills with Wellbeing Escapes (www.wellbeingescapes.co.uk). The Flexible Fitness programme starts from £1,050 per person for a seven night stay halfboard and includes return flights and transfers to Paphos, four spa treatments and a five-day fitness programme, based on a choice of daily activities.