Wednesday 6 October 2021 4:50 pm

Sun, sea and a whole new me: A fitness retreat in St Lucia

London life is made up of extremes. Pricey gym classes, sobriety attempts and intermittent fasting experiments alternate with booze binges, tasting menus and frenzied socialising in a cycle of two steps forward three steps back. Even my holidays leave me feeling like I need time off to recover.

To tone up and tune in without skimping on the yummy stuff, I was told St Lucia has the answer. Famous for its towering Pitons and cocoa estates, the island is home to BodyHoliday, a resort that pioneered the concept of all-inclusive wellness breaks in the 80s, back when spin was still a program on your washing machine and vegans were a rarity.

Located on the northern tip of the island, BodyHoliday’s slice of paradise offers a mind-boggling program of activities run by peppy fitness pros known as ‘Bodyguards’, supported by elite international athletes throughout the year, plus a complimentary daily treatment at its giant spa. The flexible, bespoke approach is continued across the five restaurants that serve globe-trotting cuisine with both healthy and indulgent options. You really can have your cake and eat it – or not. “This is our fourteenth visit,” glow one tanned and toned couple with cultish devotion. They’re not alone. With guest retention rates at a remarkable 70 per cent, the concept clearly resonates.

It’s only 11am and I’ve already smashed a gruelling beachfit session and yoga class with former Olympian diver Leon Taylor and powered through a 45-minute open water swim. Next up is paddleboarding, followed by a facial and a BodyScience medical consultation. Unlike the lethargy of most beach resorts, this place is buzzing, with guests steaming to their next workout, refuelling on trendy chia pots and algae smoothies at The Deli or smashing out volleyball. Truly one-of-a-kind, BodyHoliday manages to combine organised fun with a high-end finish and a total lack of pretension: I’m sold.

New for this season are premium villas Aurora and Calypso that take luxury to the next level with plunge pools, a concierge service, and all-singing, all-dancing Japanese loos. We’re looked after by a butler called Chris, whose anticipatory skills are nothing short of clairvoyant; as if by magic he appears with aperitifs, cheese platters and all-round good vibes. He also books us in to meet Rastafarian husband-and-wife team Damian and Ratoya Adjodha, the force behind BodyHoliday’s new organic, sustainable farm and I-tal dining experience.

BodyHoliday in St Lucia
BodyHoliday offers fitness in luxury

One of the few additional-charge activities on the property and well worth the supplement of $50pp, it’s a fascinating opportunity to learn about I-tal, the vegan diet of the Rastafari movement, allowing you to get hands on in the garden and try the farm-to-table menu at BodyHoliday’s best-kept secret venue.
For a deeper appreciation of St Lucia’s natural beauty drive to Soufrière, a chilled out town on the southwest coast where lush rainforest meets the gateway to hiking the majestic Pitons.

A must-do for any visitor, $50 grants you access and a guide – in my case a serious minded creationist who spouts anti-evolution propaganda much of the way up. The loopy chat makes a welcome distraction from the relentless incline and after a respectable 1.5 hours of hard graft, the Caribbean Sea sprawls, tantalisingly, some 2,600 ft beneath us.

For a less exhausting view of the Pitons, check in to Jade Mountain, a resort so otherworldly that architect-owner Nick Troubetozky must have been tripping when he dreamt it up. A hymn to organic architecture, the resort is made up of a series of hanging levels that appear to spill out from the headland, with suspended bridges leading to each of the 24 ‘sanctuaries’, all crafted in great hunks of local stone. Inside, the 15m high suites are free from windows to maximise the panorama, with the Pitons reflected in the shimmering infinity pool that graces each suite.

The outrageously beautiful and imaginative space is echoed by Jade Mountain’s unique service style: stay here and you are part of a very happy family. Majordomos Vito and Teddy will arrange anything, from a loved up photoshoot (we pass) to dinner reservations at the swanky Jade Mountain Club (yes please).

Within an hour of arrival we’re feasting on an exotic fusion menu under the Caribbean stars that would rival the food at any London restaurant. An epic cocktail list provides the only dilemma, to which waiter Junior offers a suggestion: “Have one of each”. Late night pints of ginger margarita look like they might jeopardise my plans for an active day ahead but get me loose enough to have a go at the steel pans. I reckon I’m allowed a night off.

When sunrise greets me over the St Lucia Pitons I’m less than inspired to get moving and more interested in breakfast in bed. Why I thought it would be easier to exercise at a luxury all-inclusive resort in 30 degree heat I’ve no idea. But once I drag myself to the roofdeck for yoga I’m back on track and head to sister property Anse Chastanet for a run and a snorkel before a fantastic lunch and a beading Piton (even the local brew pays homage to the mountains) at plant-based restaurant Emerald’s.

Explore the Soufrière coast by speedboat and you can’t miss the Sugar Beach resort. An estate of dazzling whitewashed villas hidden in and around a 100 acre former plantation, this honeymooners hotspot offers poised, American-style service and decadence on tap. Active options include tennis courts, a well-equipped gym and a petite program of fitness classes, but the party really kicks off in the Rainforest Spa.

A labyrinth of lofty treehouse cabanas, the excellent signature treatments are all chemical-free and harness the nourishing properties of local volcanic mud and cacao. There’s also a ‘temascal’, which might sound like something you’d find in a shot glass  but is in fact an “earthen Amerindian steam dome” for cleansing chakras, whatever they are.

If in doubt, go for a massage: trust me when I say the Rainforest Spa does it best. I’m also fitter, fresher and happier than I can remember. St Lucia is magic. The plan was to return home rejuvenated, the problem is I don’t want to leave.

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