A Body MOT Weekend at Cheltenham Spa
Two weeks into the New Year and my resolution to get fit and healthy was already waning. Why do we set ourselves resolutions at the hardest time of the year?
Throughout December my body had been holding on to all those Christmas puds as though we were going into hibernation, so it was more than a little shocked when I joined a gym instead.
This was not what my body had in mind for January.
I’d all but given up on my healthy resolution just a few weeks into the New Year so my Body MOT weekend came at the perfect time.
I was invited along to stay at the Cheltenham Park Hotel in the pretty little town of Cheltenham Spa.
I decided to go to the Body MOT weekend based on the promise that there wouldn’t be a military bootcamp session in sight. This was a health, fitness and well-being weekend so I knew it would be the ideal place to get the motivation I needed to crack that healthy resolution.
The MOT in the name stands for Motivate, Optimise, Train. This isn’t intended to be a quick fix weekend away, it’s a learning weekend where you’re taught how to eat healthily and change your habits for the long term. There are plenty of bootcamps out there that promise you’ll drop 5lb in a weekend but we all know we’ll put it straight back on once we’re home so I really like the idea of learning about long-term health.
Cheltenham Park Hotel is a gorgeous Georgian country house just on the edge of the Cotswolds. As we entered the hotel we were greeted by the smell of lilies (my favourites) and the sight of women shuffling past in fluffy gowns and slippers.
They were heading down to the pool and with their make-up free faces, glowing skin and relaxed laughter it was obvious they were here for an indulgent spa weekend. I immediately knew I was in the right place. Any hotel where you can waddle around in your dressing gown gets the thumbs up from me.
From my room I could hear the gentle shush of flowing water and my windows looked out into the gardens where a stream ran through. I felt relaxed already as I changed into my gym kit to get my healthy weekend started.
This wasn’t the kind of health weekend where you’re ever going to go hungry and lunch was served almost immediately after we arrived.
Our fitness instructors, Matt and Jamie from MK LifeFit, joined us for lunch and told us a little more about the work they do. I already knew that they’d worked with celebs like JLS, One Direction, Sugababes, the Royal Ballet and (my personal fave) McFly who they said were ‘lovely boys’. But they’ve also worked with people with serious health conditions and they’ve really helped them to improve their lives through diet and exercise.
It amazes me that people put themselves in such danger by eating the wrong foods and not exercising. Health should be our number one priority in life because without our health, what have we got?
We began with a ‘body composition test’ where we had to do a few seemingly straightforward tasks while Matt watched us with a critical eye. I have never felt more self-conscious holding a bar above my head or standing on my tip toes as I did then. Matt could tell where our strengths and weaknesses were just by looking at our posture (and probably how many minced pies you scoffed over Christmas).
From looking at me he could tell that I’d done yoga and Pilates before but could also tell that I sit at a desk all day while hunched over a computer. My glutes and thighs are apparently inflexible and weak so I’ve been given some specific exercises to sort them out. I hoping these are going to sort out my posture and give me a perky bum at the same time!
Next up was a nutrition and lifestyle talk where Matt pretty much terrified us with all the foods we shouldn’t be eating. My mum studied Food Science and Nutrition at uni so I like to think that I’ve been brought up with a healthy understanding of what’s good and what’s bad. Apparently not.
Both our understanding of food and the quality of our food has changed so much in the past 10 years alone so I learnt a lot during this talk. Here are some really interesting things that I think it’s worth knowing.
Our genes only affect our health by 2%. That means that we have 98% control over our health, weight and our bodies both now and in the future. So you know all those excuses about family genes leading to being overweight? Yes, they’re exactly that, just excuses.
What we eat really can cause cancer. I’ve done some research into this since I got home and found that dietary factors account for at least 30 percent of all cancers in Western countries. I told you it was terrifying. (Read more here)
Is that really food?
Food can be put into one of three categories; protein, carbohydrates and fat. If it doesn’t fall into one of these categories, it isn’t food. It’s just a bunch of processed chemicals filling a space in your belly and doing your body more harm than good. Cheesestrings, I’m talking to you.
Pump some iron, ladies
Muscle is the only thing in your body that burns fat so if you want to loose that jelly belly, you need to start building muscle. Yes girls, even us.
Meat & fish
Meat doesn’t have the health benefits it used to due to the hormones, medicines and steroids that animals are injected with and also the low quality food they eat. If you do eat meat, make sure it comes from the butcher, is organic, farm grown and freerange.
If you’re thinking about going veggie or just cutting down on your meat, check out Oh My Veggies for some tasty meat-free recipes.
Many studies have found that pork has a direct link with cancer so it’s time to say goodbye to (or at least cut down on) those sausage and bacon butties.
When buying salmon, make sure it’s wild salmon. Matt actually said he’d rather eat wild salmon from a tin than fresh farmed salmon. Wild salmon is filled with Omega 3 (good) whereas farmed salmon is filled with Omega 6 (bad).
Now here’s another controversial one. According to the guys at MK LifeFit, we should avoid cow’s milk altogether. So this includes a lot of cheeses and yogurts too. We’re the only animal on the planet that drinks the milk from another animal (although if my dog could milk a cow I think he probably would) and a lot of humans can’t process dairy. We’re told we should drink milk for the calcium but milk actually depletes the bones of calcium and we’re better off getting our calcium from green veg. Our problem in the UK is that we don’t get enough vitamin D and it’s this vitamin that helps us to absorb calcium. Which leads me on to my next point.
The guys said that if you only take one vitamin supplement, make sure it’s vitamin D. A good quality multivitamin is also a good idea.
I asked them about all the studies that have proven vitamins are a waste of money. Their response was that with enough money you can create a study that proves anything you like. Confused yet? I know I am.
During our cookery school session we were introduced to a lot of new juices and shown how quick and easy it is to juice. The guys from MK LifeFit recommend juicing as a great way to quickly get lots of essential nutrients into your body. They don’t recommend fruit juice because there is so much sugar in it.
A lot of the exercise we did was basically circuit training. There were six ‘stations’ where you had to do a different exercise at each for one minute. You then have about 30 seconds to move on to the next exercise. I’ve always been a bit scared of circuits thinking that it’s too hard but I’m completely converted.
Just as you start to feel exhausted or bored you move on to the next exercise. You even have 30 seconds to catch your breath so you’re not puffing and panting through the circuit. I even felt like I was cheating and thought it wasn’t ‘proper exercise’ because this was actually enjoyable. I know, crazy right! Well I felt like that until the next morning when I could barely lift my arms to brush my hair and then I realised what a great workout it really was!
We also did some Pilates which I really enjoyed and was surprised to find at a fitness weekend. The guys at MK LifeFit highlighted how important core strength, balance and flexibility are to our overall health and particularly for our bodies in the future.
After all that exercise and hard work we obviously needed a well deserved sports massage which was swiftly followed by a long soak in the jacuzzi and time to sweat out any remaining toxins in the sauna and steam room. Feeling strong, healthy and relaxed it was now time for dinner where we even had a ‘healthy carrot cake’. Seriously, this weekend kept getting better and better.
Things I liked about my Body MOT Weekend
- The focus on long term health rather than short term weight loss results.
- Jamie and Matt who were amazingly knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition but, unlike some fitness guys, they weren’t intimidating or scary. I sensed that they would shout and yell if they had to but on the whole they were really friendly and approachable.
- The lovely hotel made it a combination of luxury and fitness so even if you don’t like exercising you have something nice to look forward to.
- The food was amazing, especially that carrot cake so I thought I’d leave you with a picture to drool over…
Tell me, have you ever been on a healthy weekend break or bootcamp trip? If so, how did you find it?
The Body MOT package costs £269 per person for the weekend, which takes place from 2pm on a Friday until 5pm on Sunday. For more information on availability and hotels, please visit: Pumahotels.co.uk/bodymot or call 0800 014 2630. This price includes all meals, accommodation and activities.
If you’d like to read more about my healthy travels, check out my Yoga and Detox Retreat at Azul Fit in the Canary Islands.