Azul Fit- lovely little fitness holiday (Part 1)

Friday, October 2, 2015

As I mentioned in a previous post, last week I travelled to the Spanish island of Fuerteventura to Azul Fit, a yoga and pilates retreat.  Overall, the villa and staff were warm and welcoming during my stay. I instantly felt at ease. The food was fresh, vegetarian, delicious and filling (more info on the in-house nutritionist and menu-designer, Jo, in my Part 2 post).  We had sun in the mornings, with clouds in the afternoon, but what can you do?  It was refreshing to meet people from all over the world (Ireland, Belgium, Russia, Germany, Norway, Sweden) who had a common interest.  We laughed, ate, explored, ran, and ohmmmed together.

Azul Fit was founded by Jamie Issac and his wife Karissa. The philosophy of the retreat is 'Seva' (selfless service)- doing things with love and finding peace through yoga and Pilates practice.  It is a place to rest and recharge, which is exactly what I needed. You can 'do whatever you like' while you are there- attend all the classes, add one-to-one tuition with their amazing instructors, attend workshops on nutrition and/or chakras, schedule treatments with an osteopath, book a facial or manicure and don't forget a one hour massage is included with your stay. It is set far from the hustle and bustle of city living, putting you in a location that looks and sounds very different from home. 

With a staff to guest ratio of nearly one-to-one, the Azul Fit team is extremely accommodating (and obviously love what they do with ) as they strive to provide everything you might need during your stay.  Their focus is on their guest's health and well-being with fresh nutritious vegetarian food, excellent instruction for all levels, and plenty of downtime to recharge in the sun and by the sea. While What'sApp'ing with my husband, I told him my plans for the day and he called it a 'personal trainer's paradise' and it was for me.  But I think those new to yoga and pilates would enjoy their stay as much as I did.  The instructors take time to explain the philosophies behind the instruction, which you don't get in a busy London studio.  At Azul Fit, there is time for a conversation between students and teacher as there isn't another class waiting outside the studio door.  

Azul Fit usually runs their program from Saturday afternoon to Saturday morning.  I was lucky enough to be accommodated on Friday night and but had to leave on Tuesday due to work commitments.  It was cool to meet two groups of guests and see how the week finished for everyone.  I highly recommend staying for the Saturday to Saturday program to get the full benefits of the program.  Here is a daily recap of my stay:

Day 1 (Friday)
My tent the first night. The rest of the time, I was in the other
tent but with a single bed. Looked the same otherwise.
Gillian, a friend of Azul Fit, picked me up at airport.  To get to the villa by public transport, it takes 3 different buses, so I opted for a lift.  The landscape is brown and rocky, which seems fitting for a desert but wasn't what I had expected.  It made for terrific sunrises and sunsets, however.  When I arrived, Lisa and Frauke welcomed me to the villa and went through the paperwork, offered me chocolate brought by a guest, and then showed me to my tent, which was kind of Moroccan in it's style. My toilet is up a flight of stairs in the main house and I share it with 2 other guests.  There are many styles of accommodation to suite a variety of needs and budgets.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to see any of the other bedrooms but you can have a look on their site.  A few guests are headed out on an island tour but I declined so I could relax before our evening class. I put on my swimsuit and read by the pool in the sun (glorious sunshine!). I flipped over and took a nap. 

Sunbathing by the pool.
A wee bit later, I woke up and washed my face. The wifi is only available in the villa to allow for a digital detox should you wish. I know I should, but I log on to quickly check email and then head to Pilates. Nicola is the instructor and used Swiss balls to make the class more challenging as it is the last class for the current guests.  Nicola is lovely and warm, with amazing verbal descriptions of the exercises, making the class easy to follow.  She has a sense of humor about it all too.

I head back to my tent and read after class, something I don't have much time for at home. Dinner smells amazing as soon as I step into the villa.  Turns out it was the dessert tempting me- simple apple crisp (almond flour, ghee, apples, cinnamon) after our filling veggie dinner.  I chatted with the current guests but head to bed at 9.45pm since the taxi picked me up at 3:30am.  Plus, I really need 9 hours of sleep a night but usually get 6-7 so I planned on taking advantage of early nights as much as possible.

Day 2 (Saturday)
I had set my alarm for 7am but dozed until 8.15am because I can.  Being on holiday is great! I set out for run at 8.35am and say I will be back in 30 min. Running off-road on  the cyclocross tracks was very hard for me, making my pace much slower than usual. I had hoped to do 5K but it was getting close to breakfast time so I thought 2.6 miles would be enough. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the way back, so I turned on the internet on my phone and ended up clocking a very slow 3.8 miles in total (Remind me to tell you about the time I got lost in New Zealand while on a run and had to call 999 for help).

1st run, before I got lost. Note volcano in the background.
It was a lovely and delicious breakfast with homemade granola, marmalade, and sourdough bread. I showered and read a bit more before hopping on the bus at 11.15am (had to run to bus stop as it was a bit farther than I thought) to El Cortillo. It is a sleepy fishing town with lots of oceanfront but not much to do from what I saw, aside from visit cafes. Perhaps if I had been other other people, it would have been the perfect setting for deep conversation by the sea.  On the recommendation of Lisa, I had lunch at the Vaca Azul (Blue Cow) (a deal at £15, including 2 glasses of wine and terrific view of the sea) and then read/napped on white sandy beach. Of course, I got a wee bit of a sunburn as I didn't bring my sunscreen with me.  To cool off, I took a quick dip in the sea before heading back to the bus stop. The bus ride back was on-time and comfortable as the bus is a 'coach' rather than city-style bus. It is super-affordable, costing only only €1.75 each way.

View from Vaca Azul.  You can walk on this platform if you want.

Sabine is the fellow blogger who introduced me to Azul Fit.  She had arrived while I was gone so we talked a bit before the first Pilates class of the new week with Nicola. It was a similar format to yesterday's class but no props this time (just as challenging however!).  She spent lots of time walking around the studio assessing everyone's ability and form. Over dinner, the new group got to know each other better, discussing why they came to Azul Fit and what they did for a living. There were a few people from Ireland and also a few men, which surprised me as most group exercise classes in London are attended by only women.  Turns out one man was sent by his wife as a way to relax, while another was a journalist who was writing a story about the resort.  There was also a lecturer in dance, a banker and another gentleman who was travelling with his partner.

Although it was meant to be a relaxing week, my head was buzzing on how to fit in a run, yoga, massage and a bus trip to Correlajo the next day(#firstworldproblems).  Since I wasn't staying the whole week, I didn't want to miss anything.  The buses only run once per hour, which meant my timing was very important.  I fell asleep by 10:30pm after reading a bit more of my book.

Day 3 (Sunday)
Sabine and I
I skipped the run and instead attended Pilates with Nicola which also included some goal-setting for the week.  The group had brunch and were able to ask Nicola more about the theory of Pilates.  I went to the bus stop with Sabine, Dirk (husband meant to relax) and Duncan (lecturer). We explored the streets as I was told by another guest there was a market on Sundays. Turns out, she was mistaken (the market is on Mondays and Thursdays) but it was an interesting town to explore once you passed the touristy bit near the bus stop.  We walked to the harbor and admired the view of the sea and watched people building sandcastles. Lunch was tapas and wine, and I took the bus back for my massage, which was included in the week's program.  The massage was in a small building near the bus stop on the main road. It was a little difficult to find as all the buildings looked like private residences, but I made it in the end after I bumped into fellow guests who were able to reassure me I was in the right place.  I had fun chatting with my masseuse  (Adele) about marathons and life on the island. As she was also a runner, she understood my painful piriformis and worked on that a bit. 
Correlajo harbour

Because my massage went to 5pm, I was 15 minutes late to meditation and yoga with Frauke. The meditation involved chanting and it was interesting to learn the mantras and philosophy about the 'inner eye'.  The yoga was Kundalini, based on the 'Breathe of Fire', and was new to me.  It was tough to get the breathing right. I definitely need more practice! Dinner was right after class and finished with a well-deserved chocolate cake. Some people stayed up for lunar eclipse, which I was told peaked at 3am.  I chose sleep, of course (funny how the only time I find to exercise and sleep is while on holiday). There were dogs barking off in the distance, so next time I will bring ear plugs as I am a very light sleeper (you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now).  About 6am, the local roosters start (again, a bit in the distance), which is another good reason to bring ear plugs if you stay in the tent.  No one in the villa noticed these sounds during the night as I asked at breakfast.  If the location was in a city, I am sure the traffic would have woke me up too.  My husband and I usually take urban holidays, so this was my first rural retreat, making some of the experiences new.

You will notice I don't have any photos of the classes.  I wanted to respect all the guests who were on a relaxing holiday.  I do have a few photos of the studio that I will share next week in Part 2 of my stay at Azul Fit.

Thank you to Azul Fit for hosting me.  All opinions are honest and my own.

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