Peak Performance

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Here's the thing: as a Spa Spy, I like looking and feeling good, but only to a point. Hitting the gym at 5am or doing a juice cleanse is so not me. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball: I'd had a stressful couple of months and needed to take time out.

When invited to try The Peak Health Retreat, I think I just heard the word 'Switzerland' (it's beautiful there, right?). Then I read the itinerary. Yoga, yes; massages, perfect; alkaline diet, okaayy; mountain hiking, glacier walking, wait, what...?

On the day of departure, I felt a little anxious as I headed to the airport, brand new waterproofs stuffed into my case. A swift one-and-a-half hour flight from London, and we landed in beautiful Geneva. Bathed in the blissful September sunshine, the natural landscape instantly calmed me.

What's on offer?

Saas-fee is a ski resort with a five-star boutique hotel, The Capra, a restaurant and shops. The hotel is a typical mountain lodge: cosy and natural, with lots of wood fires and comfy sofas. Quirky artwork adorns the walls. With just 24 rooms, all of the guests were on the same retreat as me which felt comforting.

My room was on the third floor and had a lovely lounge with a Nespresso machine (which would become my best friend), and a huge comfy bed facing a balcony with jaw-dropping views of the Alps.

You'll find the resort's spa on the lower ground level. This has a massage therapy room and, behind a hidden door, the thermal facilities. The hydrotherapy pool was perfectly warm with three types of power jets; I relished having it all to myself, particularly after a calf-tightening hike. There's also a classic wooden sauna and an aromatic steam room. 
Head down one further floor for the lap pool, gym with cardio equipment and weights, and yoga studio. Despite being underground, plenty of high windows let the light in. 
So far, so pleasant. If I could just avoid eye contact with cheese and ham baguettes for a week, I'd be OK...

Day's One & Two

Each day begins at 7.30am with a fitness session followed by a buffet breakfast, then a morning hike in the mountains. I discovered that getting to know the person next to me was a great way to distract from the stitch soaring in my side. By the time we hit the 2,500 metre summit, I was so out of breath I could barely speak, and my face was as purple as my top.

I was delighted to take the cable car back down and find the local Kneippe, a man-made foot ritual to soothe and restore your feet. Take a few steps down into the freezing water, walk round in a square, then walk over pebbles and chipped bark. It sounds a little hippy, but my feet definitely felt revitalised.

Two massages are included in the week's stay and I couldn't have been more ready for a classic remedial Swedish massage to ease the tension in my back and shoulders, and release the heat
from my legs. Would I like arnica mixed with the oil? Absolutely. It was a no frills treatment but the aches and pains were worked out beautifully.

We ended our first day with a Strala yoga session which focuses on an overall concept of moving with ease, finding a pose and working around it. I found this style of yoga easier on my tired joints. 

Day Three

If I felt day one had been a challenge, by day three I was struggling to walk downstairs thanks to a constant pinching in my glutes. It didn't take long to warm my body up though and, with the sun streaming through the windows, I was dying to get outside.

Today's test was mental as well as physical. Glacier walking at the top of the mountains started at 4,000 metres up. With crampons attached to my boots and a rope tied around my waist, six of us headed off to walk around a world of ice. When we were expected to climb up and over large boulders, my nerves were well and truly tested. The beauty of the glacier was well worth it though; I awarded myself a mental glass of fizz to celebrate.

Days Four, Five & Six

Now well and truly in my stride, I spent the next three days taking part in a variety of yoga classes, circuit training and one of the best personal training sessions I have ever had led by expert trainer and mountaineer, Lindsay. Lifting weights far heavier than I thought I could manage was a real achievement.

Food facts

Peak Performance nutrition is based on a high alkaline diet which was a complete change for me. There's no carbs, acidic foods or alcohol but plenty of protein, fish, vegetables and fruit, so I never went hungry. I loved the colourful presentation and creative dishes created by resident chef, Eric. Highlights included a spicy carrot, orange and ginger soup, and a dish of halibut with cabbage, apple and nuts. Salmon, scallops, chicken and prawns also featured heavily on the menu.

The Verdict

Making time out of my busy life for seven days felt rather indulgent, but if you truly want to change the way you exercise, eat, drink and think about food, then a week is what you need. 

The alkaline diet was a revelation; fuelling my body with the right foods meant I never went hungry, and getting my five-a-day was a walk in the park. Yes I ached in places I didn't know I could, but, I felt more energised and alert.

In seven days I lost seven pounds which was amazing. The next challenge: to keep up the good work back at home.

 

By The Spa Spy

Ashley Knight