Base camp was a spacious wooden chalet just outside Chamonix town, complete with outside hot-tub — the perfect spot for soaking our aching muscles and comparing notes. Ben Arogundade
From £1,145 for seven nights;tracks-and-trails.com.
Biontology in Italy
I share my cab from Verona airport to the opulent Espace Henri Chenot detoxification spa in the foothills of theDolomites with another guest, who is visiting the spa for the second time this year. It’s the kind of place you get addicted to, she warns. Other devotees of Henri Chenot’s detox method, which he calls Biontology (a combination of Chinese and traditional Western medicine) have included Princess Caroline of Monaco and Luciano Pavarotti, as well as the Fendi’s and the Missoni’s and various sheikhs and Russian oligarchs.
My six-dayEnergise Detox programme begins with medical tests that analyse everything from food intolerances to bone density. I have my results explained to me by my own personal doctor, who I see three times during the week. The focus then turns to daily hour-long acupressure massages with essential oils to help kick-start struggling digestive organs flagged in the medical tests.
There is a strict detoxification diet to follow. The food is delicious, but the no meat and few carbohydrates rule, plus a 30-hour fast, left me feeling like a zombie with nausea and a cracking headache. I practically licked the plate clean every single meal.
To aid the detoxification process the package includes six hydro-aromatherapy sessions (sitting in a jet bath soaked in essential oils) and six phyto-mud sessions, in which you are painted with warm algae and wrapped in plastic and a duvet on a hot water-bed and left to sweat for twenty minutes.
Despite the initial withdrawal shock, I left the spa feeling fresh, 5lbs down with clear skin and a stock of specific herbal pills and a diet plan to see my digestive system through the next couple of months. Rachael Dove
From £5,249 for seven nights;palace.it
Tennis in Cyprus
“Better! That’s it!” shouts Scott, my tennis coach. I smile wearily – pouring with sweat – having completed the “XFactor”, one of several high-tempo drills designed to improve your movement around court. We’re at the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy, within the immaculately maintained Aphrodite Hills resort near Paphos in Cyprus. Accommodation (an InterContinental) is a short walk away.
Lessons are targeted at all ability levels and, after a brief assessment, you are seeded into groups of up to four. Fortunately, this being the low season, I have the coach to myself. There’s much to learn. The focus on day one is on the cross-court forehand, with Scott hitting balls at me by the trolley load. Corrections are made immediately: “Hit the ball higher with top spin”; “Step through the ball.” During the week I learn how to “hold the cornetto” before serving and “touch the coffee table” with my racquet.
As well as the tennis, I spend an hour each day at a nearby fitness centre in a Pilates or weight-training class. It all keeps you on your toes, but rewards are just around the corner. The spa, with its secluded infinity pool and its diverse treatments, is at your disposal. The peaceful location and all the facilities make this a stress-free retreat for anyone looking to up their game in their downtime. Jason Morris
From £945 for seven nights (includes breakfast, complimentary group classes and return flights)healthandfitnesstravel.com.
Yoga in Puglia
What do I want from a yoga retreat? A gorgeous setting helps. Kaliyoga is based at Masseria Pavone, a 16th-centuryPuglian estate, with the pretty conical trulli buildings typical of the area, olive trees, prickly pears, lavender and figs in abundance.
I also want healthy, delicious food. No worries here: fresh, seasonal and interesting vegetarian tucker, huge buffet brunches and lunches, smoothies, plus three-course lip-smacking suppers. There’s no booze, but it is a restorative retreat.
Beyond all else, the key to a successful yoga holiday is an engaging, empathetic and inspiring teacher who will get you out of bed in the morning, even if you’re aching from twice-daily practice. Tashi, Kaliyoga’s teacher, will make you laugh, forget your ineptitude (I’m very much a beginner) and have you trying things you never thought you’d do, or thought you wanted to do. Balancing on a near-stranger? Chanting? My bêtes noires, I thought, until this immersive experience. She has charisma in spades, and an infectious joy.
She gently guides daily meditation and skilfully tailors classes to mixed abilities, increasing self-awareness through yoga, “less for improving anything and more as an experience of mindful movement”. With this philosophy I seem to get better without really noticing: subtle movements build, and suddenly a handstand feels not only possible, but likely.
After a week I’m relaxed, glowing and more limber. I sob as I leave. Vicki Reeve
From £795 for seven nights; kaliyoga.com;
The juice fast in West Sussex
If there is one thing everybody knows about a juice fast it’s that you feel ravenous. So why, on day two of a five-day juice fast atSimply Healing, was I feeling, well, rather full? Because Vivien Kay has been running juice fasts for 25 years – she started out in California but is now based in a country house in West Sussex that manages to be both luxurious and cosy – and has the process down to a fine art. Which means alongside your five daily juices you receive three doses of psyllium husk (to provide filling bulk as well as to help ‘scour’ the gut clean), and one portion of vegetable-only soup.
You may forget what it is like to chew, but you never go longer than three hours without consuming something (the most hardcore juice is apple, cucumber, rocket, watercress and spinach, but are plenty of more enjoyably lightweight ones, pineapple, lime and sweet potato – I know! – being my favourite).
Add in the excellent treatments (I loved the abdominal sacral massage) and there just isn’t time to feel hungry. And there’s more: the detoxification process is speeded up with doses of bentonite clay (which binds with toxins), plus a herbal ‘colon cleanser’ and ‘whole body cleanser’, and at least one session of colonic hydrotherapy (a minimum of three are recommended).
Guests typically lose around 10 pounds on the five-day fast, their complexion, eye-brightness and energy transforming, too. And, in contrast to many short-sharp-shocks, this is just the beginning. The body stores toxins in the fat cells; so effective is this detox (expect an initial headache and tiredness at the very least, but some guests are so toxic that they have been known to vomit) that your newly clean body keeps on losing fat once you get home (provided you stay clear of cake).
I left 9 pounds down, looking 5 years younger. Anna Murphy
From £1455 for four nights, including 5 treatments; simplyhealingcentre.com.
The boot camp in Cornwall
Set within the Cornish countryside,Revitalise Fitness Retreat is an enjoyably challenging way to boost fitness levels whilst making the most of fresh air and idyllic scenery. Think boot camp on the beach, with woodland assault courses and coastal runs.
My fat burning weekend kicked off with easy-to-follow fitness and nutrition tips, then straight down to business with an intense hour of BeatBounce; a combination of aerobic routines on a trampoline and muscle toning squats, press- ups and crunches set to an upbeat soundtrack.
Day two began with a rise and shine jog along Widemouth beach followed by a breakfast smoothie. Whilst the focus of the weekend wasn’t on diet, the menu was simple, healthy and delicious.
A woodland workout was next on the agenda, comprising of an energetic circuit of lunges, squats, weights and shuttles runs through the local woodland. The day’s activities were rounded off with a legs, bums and tums class in the garden.
On average I was doing 4-5 hours of exercise a day so 30-minute neck and shoulder massage came as a welcome treat (and is included in the weekend package although extra treatments can be added).
It was back to the beach on the final morning for a bike ride along the coast, followed by the TyreTastic workout; a sweaty hour of flipping, dragging, carrying and running with a car tyre. This class uses everyday movements such a twisting and reaching to strengthen the body.
Fun, effective and motivating this weekend is perfect for groups. Frankie Graddon
Prices start at £350 per person; revitalisefitnessretreat.co.uk
Ayurveda in India
Lying around being basted in oil for a couple of weeks may not be your most obvious idea of fun. But, well, firstly it is. Imagine your only deadline being getting to a massage three or four times a day. And then those massages being interestingly outré (in one oil is poured on to your forehead to calm the mind; in another, two therapists work in miraculous synchronicity). And secondly, people don’t tend to sign up for a full-on ayurvedic retreat in India if they are just looking to kick-back.
I was recommended a visit by a British-Asian doctor who has been sending her patients, and going herself, for years, and describes it as a “complete MOT for the body”. Many of the regulars I met there, from all over the world, claimed they hadn’t had a day’s illness since their annual visits began, and that assorted longstanding medical issues had been alleviated.
Ayurveda, which has been practised in India for 2,000 years, is based on a system of “doshas” or bodily types. Once it is determined which of your doshas is out of balance, a diet and programme of treatments is set in place. (Alas, there is no escaping the early-morning glass of medicated ghee whoever you are.)
This is a no-frills place – there isn’t even a pool as it interferes with the detox and healing process – but it takes what it does very seriously. And so will you once you feel your transformation begin. Anna Murphy
From £1,090 for 14 nights full board, including all treatments but excluding flights; shinshivaresort.com
Sea swimming in the Med
Forget what you learnt in school – sea swimming is unlike anything you’ve ever done. I’m naturally a sprint swimmer and, after years of training in a pool, I will admit I was nervous about the prospect. But when the offer came to swim in the warm, crystal-clear waters of Formentera, staying in a beachside villa and training with the best instructors, I didn’t really have an excuse.
The course aims to improve your stroke and technique for long-distance swimming in open water and is suitable for all levels – our group consisted of channel swimmers and beginners. Days started early with a cool 200m morning swim, followed by a longer afternoon swim to improve confidence. These were monitored and filmed, and the film was reviewed in the evening.
My technique changed completely – long-distance training meant I needed more length and rotation, so I could go further for longer, and I was using muscles I hadn’t used in a long time. It was certainly gruelling, but the hearty meals helped to keep us going.
By the end of the week I managed to swim 4km in open water (I’d only ever swam a mile before) and felt energised –and excited for my next open-water adventure. Who knows, it might be the Channel… Ruth Lewis
£815 for seven nights; swimquest.uk.com
Telegraph readers can claim 10 per cent off all SwimQuest 2015 holidays booked before 31 January. Seetelegraph.co.uk/promotions
Thalassotherapy in Tenerife
I arrived at the Océano medical spa and hotel in Tenerife on-my-knees exhausted. Matthias Rolle, Océano’s medical director and German owner, confirmed as much after he wired me up to a device to measure my nervous system for 24 hours. “The good news,” he informed me drily as he surveyed the results, “is that you are alive.” The bad news was that I had a biological age of 68 (I am 44) and was, indeed, teetering worryingly close to burnout.
Seven days later I would feel rested yet energised, my stomach flat, my digestion functioning miraculously smoothly, my skin clear, mood lifted and chronic headaches banished.
The magic here lay in a packed (but not punishingly so) programme taking in seawater jet baths, flotation tanks, a comically messy treatment involving mud and the most amazing massages. And then there was the special thalasso-friendly food – calorie-controlled (not that you’d know it), low-carb, cooked in such a way as to preserve nutrients, and eaten slowly and without distraction, so that mealtimes had an eerily quiet quality. A typical (delicious) supper might consist of sea bass with spider crab, broccoli and baked new potatoes.
Océano is popular with Germans, who are enlightened enough about preventative healthcare to go every year. If I could, I would honestly do so too. Gareth Wyn Davies
Detox in Spain
Nestled in the mountains near Alicante, Sha is less spa and more glamorous clinic, with staff in white coats who look like disguised Charlie’s Angels and who take a rigorous approach to the business of detoxification.
They start with a health assessment, including blood tests to detect any imbalances, and then tweak the programme for optimum results, so that it feels more bespoke than your average juice cleanse. The Sha diet is macrobiotic and consists of wholegrains and vegetables, with no processed food or meat. Iron-rich seaweeds or cleansing Japanese teas supplement the prescribed meals. The idea is that it’s easily digestible and restores the PH balance of the body. The programme includes treatments such as lymphatic drainage, acupuncture and shiatsu massages.
The spa area itself is slick but calm, and so well equipped you wonder how you’ll ever find the time to use all the facilities. Once the detox begins to take effect, life seems to slow down a little. And as for sleep, that was blissful. Charlie Harrington
From £1,791 for seven nights; shawellnessclinic.com