My ‘recharge, rejuvenate, re-motivate’ retreat

Chatsworth House

When I took the plunge to launch Just For Tummies in 2015, I was excited to be following my dream and fulfilling a long-standing desire to raise greater awareness around digestive and gut health; I didn’t make the decision lightly, however, I knew it would be a lot of hard work – and those first two or three years certainly were. I was working 18-hour days, juggling more than I could handle if I am honest, running my clinic and going through the menopause.

In 2017, I could no longer ignore the toll this stressful period of my life had taken on my health. I had become so immersed in the business that exercise had fallen by the wayside and the weight had crept on. I gave myself a talking to and decided to take myself off to a fitness retreat. I did a bit of research online and came across Fit Farms, based in various locations around the UK, including Derbyshire – only 45 mins away from home, and my favourite county.

An outdoor stretch class at Fit Farms

I had a fantastic week and it gave me the kick I needed to get my exercise routine back on track. I did go back in 2019 after another lull and, once again, was able to reignite my love of keeping fit. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to making time for exercise; I would honestly rather work, but that’s not going to do my physical health very much good, especially now that I’m 62 and carrying an extra two stones. I need to find an exercise that I like doing, without getting bored, and will stick to!

The pandemic made my work at Just For Tummies busier again, and after the disruption that we’ve all been through these past couple of years, I found myself once more in need of getting back into the groove with exercise. This time, I felt as though I’d lost my confidence to exercise, and I needed pushing. I also needed to get away and relax, and although you may think an exercise retreat may not be the best way to relax, I can assure you it is. So, for the third time, I went back to Fit Farms in the beautiful Derbyshire Dales last month.

The view from my room at Fit Farms

The accommodation is in stone cottages located at Darwin Lakes, a stone’s throw from Darwin Forest. If you have never been, I highly recommend it – take a picnic. There are 3-, 5- or 7-day options at Fit Farms, and I decided to go for 7 days. Image of accommodation at Fit Farms, Derbyshire.

What I like about Fit Farms is that it’s not like a military style boot camp, where you are being shouted at, where the exercise is very intense and the food, from what I’ve been told, is not nutritionally balanced. At Fit Farms, it is a more relaxed affair.

Yes, they do expect you to throw yourself into the exercise programme, but it is tailored to suit a wide range of fitness levels and abilities, and a clientele of mixed ages, some like me in their 60s, some in their 70s, and a few younger folk. On our course, there was a lady who had very severe osteoarthritis in her hips so had to use a walking stick.

We had two personal trainers, Gosia, who was also a nutritional therapist, and Reace, who was also a sports psychologist.

A very good mix because as well as them taking most of the fitness classes and escorting us on the beautiful guided walks (we passed bubbling brooks, waterfalls, walked through wild flower meadows, down winding paths through forests where the smell of wild garlic lingered in the air), we also had talks on nutrition and mindset.

Stephen, the owner of Fit Farms, is also the chef, and a very good one at that. No processed food, everything cooked fresh, high-protein, high-fat, low-carb. A typical menu for the day looked like this:

• Breakfast: frozen blueberry, mixed berry and cherry with yoghurt smoothie, topped with flaxseeds and prunes
• Lunch: pea soup
• Dinner: chicken green Thai curry

One of my favourite meals was a poached egg on top of butter beans mashed with tomato. Delicious and just so simple and quick to make.

We also had a couple of dance classes with a girl called Kim who runs a dance school in Matlock. These classes were amongst my favourite exercises; I also liked Body Attack, a cross between aerobics, but using weights and stretch bands, and the yoga classes were great as well. There’s nothing like a good stretch when you’ve been working your muscles hard.

It’s so important to maintain muscle mass and muscle strength, especially as we age and go through the menopause. Frailty in older age can be caused by weak muscles (especially in the arms and legs), and lack of protein in the diet, so it’s important to do strength-bearing exercises and eat plenty of protein like meat, poultry, and fish, full-fat yoghurt, and cheeses like hummus and feta, made from sheep and goat milk.

Daily walks in the stunning Derbyshire countryside

The weather was very kind to us – sunny, not too warm. I don’t tolerate the heat too well and I didn’t fancy walking when it was hot, especially considering some of the hills we had to walk up – I’m talking 1 in 3 gradient! On the second day of Fit Farms, I surprised myself by walking 10 miles. I can’t remember the last time I walked that far in one day. It wasn’t all on the flat either, I can assure you. There were plenty of hills and valleys. Add images of the walks.

I think on any kind of retreat, it’s the people who are there with you who can make a real difference. There were 21 on our course, 18 women, many of us of similar ages. We were from all walks of life, and from all four corners of the UK. Meals were taken sitting at round tables in the dining room and there was always plenty of to be discussed, experiences and stories to be shared, and lots of encouragement given.

There was a massage therapist in attendance, Jane, and I booked a treatment with her as I always find my upper trapezius and rhomboid muscles (shoulders and upper back) tighten when using weights. The treatment worked as the following day I was able to lift heavier weights.

The wi-fi reception was not great at the location, but that was no big issue for me. When I’m at home, my iPhone is stuck to my hand, so it made a refreshing change to not need it! Just before I went to Fit Farms, we did turn off all Facebook Ads, I didn’t send out any newsletters and I didn’t post on social media, so this did dramatically reduce the number of enquiries I had to attend to.

I completed the course, lost 7lbs in weight, 8 inches off my upper arms, belly, bum and thighs. I felt fitter and stronger, not just physically, but mentally too.

I’ve now joined a lovely ladies-only gym in my local town, where they do lots of aerobics, including step aerobics, two of my favourites, and luckily my knees are still in pretty good shape for the step classes.

I’ve also unsubscribed to lots of newsletters, especially ones relating to current events. They were not serving me, stressed me out, and just took up too much time. I now have more time to fit exercise into my day.

Who was it who said, ‘Sometimes the only way to move forward is to retreat’? Never a truer word said.