My week with Healthy Start Holidays

I was recently invited to stay with the Healthy Start Holiday team in Cardedeu in Spain. It was a fabulous experience. Here is a run down of my week.



Me (for Run and Relax and Lancaster Women’s Running Group)

Niki and Martin, journalists, writers and reporting for Cycling World

Pennie from Oh my Quad, fitness blogger

Beki fitness blogger

Kat fitness blogger

The week

Arrival day 8.3.16


The flight was fine and uneventful, although I was very nervous at airport (I don’t fly well so this was quite a big deal). We were picked up by Rik and Laura at 5pm, at the black horse statue in Barcelona airport. Communication prior to the holiday was really good so I knew exactly where to go and what time. The drive to the villa took about an hour. We had a look round, were shown our rooms and introduced to Ros (nutrition) and Ian (PT). The outdoor pool was closed until May which was a shame (although it would have been far too cold for it at this time of year and I hadn’t packed my wet suit!).

For dinner we ate baked eggs with tomato, olives, flat bread and garlic beans. Really nice and home made by Ros. Dark choc with orange and mint oil and nuts added and re-hardened. Great idea to have recipe info cards for each part of the meal from Ros showing what was in the food and what it did for your body. To read more about the nutrition for the week click here


The staff and other guests were really friendly and easy to get on with. Ian the PT talked about the body, muscles and different exercise and how they affect different muscles. He got to know about our exercise habits and level of cycling and swimming ready for our sessions during the week. There was a lovely sunset at the villa tonight!


Day 1 9.3.16

Woke with head ache (possibly from caffeine and sugar withdrawal!). Although I love healthy food, I do generally have quite a high sugar and caffeine intake. So, my body was being challenged. And although there was no let up with the headache it felt like it was doing me good to abstain. There was coffee available at times but I stuck at the ‘no coffee’ regime!

3.5 mile run to and from dairy to get breakfast. Breakfast was natural yoghurt and fruit, sugar/grain free banana bread (again home made and delicious). The run was flat and on stony tracks. Some of the group walked which was good to have that differentiation. I’ve never run for my breakfast before…I liked it!


Then followed a talk/discussion about Healthy Start Holidays illustrated with a power point to show their philosophy and aims for the holiday. To read my full review of the week click here

We had a workshop and talk from Roz about food groups, then cooked a lunch dish each from pre prepared recipe cards. I cooked chilled tomato soup. All tasted lovely. Still headachy. Ate lunch with other guests, HSH team ate in kitchen all today whilst we chatted and got to know each other a little more.


After lunch was the first bike ride. We rode 12.6 miles, some hills, slow pace with quite a bit of waiting (there was quite a wide range of levels) and I got pretty cold. Some of the guests had not been on a bike for years so two groups may have been better, which is what would be planned for specific groups when they book on the holiday, but as this was an introductory week it was fine. I warmed up when I got back by wearing all my jumpers and having a healthy snack. Tea and tasty oaty nutty bites provided and sat on sofas to relax and chat.


After a bit of relaxing and chat there was a stretching session with Ian (PT) which was pretty thorough but I was not keen stretching muscles that were so cold. I did the stretches but not to full stretch. Tea was lovely lentil burgers and roast veg.

We watched a documentary together in the evening (called Happy) which was interesting and discussed peoples attitude to happiness but we were all really tired and my head ache continued so I was ready for bed.

Day 2 10/3/16

3 mile run with Rik and Ian at 7am on a sunny, frosty morning. Pilates introduction at 8 with Laura in the upstairs studio which was a lovely calm room with views over the garden. I was interested in attending this as I had not tried Pilates before. There was a lot of focus on breathing, posture and alignment and slow movements. Not something I am used to as a runner but I enjoyed the calmness of it.


The posh Peanut butter and berry smoothie at breakfast was really tasty.  DSC_0387

We walked 2 miles to the pool for a swimming lesson. Ian led the lesson with good differentiation. We were all at different levels and he kept coming back to each person, setting them off with the next bit of the session so we all got some guidance in what we needed. I swam with paddles and pull buoy for some of the drills and worked on technique. 2 mile walk back along lovely quiet roads with mountain scenery all around.

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Lunch was delicious, leek and goat cheese quiche and different salads. My kind of salad has always been some lettuce, tomato and a bit of bendy cucumber. Not here. The food was amazing, different every day and so healthy it made you feel great after eating it. In fact, the food deserved a page on its own, so click here for more on that! I was realising I had not had any IBS symptoms at all since I got here! Staff ate with us all day and got to know each other a little more. Ate outside as the weather had warmed up.

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After lunch we had a wonderful 6 mile walk which was hilly and picturesque. Head ache started again. More water consumed!


Healthy food quiz with Ros. This was laid back and was a good way of learning things about food, vitamins and cooking that I thought I knew (but didn’t!)

Dinner was cauliflower and chick pea curry, brown rice, again really good food. All the meals are listed on the Healthy Start Holiday ‘food’ page.

Free evening (read, wrote my diary and chatted)

Day 3 11.3.16

Early morning outdoor training session for me on own as I wasn’t sure where I could run and find my way back to the villa. Also, I hadn’t arranged going in and out of the gates and was not sure which key fob to use.

Home made granola for breakfast. Made with egg whites mixed in which is new for me and provided added protein. I need to try this at home!

We jumped on a train to Barcelona for a tour of the city and a coffee stop where we talked about different types of coffee. I didn’t try any coffee as my head ache was just going and I didn’t want it to start again.

Walked around Barcelona and visited a huge food market which was amazing to see but really busy with people. We bought pizza toppings and salad ingredients for tonight’s dinner. Of course, I went straight for the goats cheese!


Lunch was eaten together at the vegetarian café Teresa Carles 10376181_1701023436840104_1005686856866926406_n



Next came the city bike tour of Barcelona which was really interesting and Rik was really knowledgeable about the city and its history. It was bit scary riding through pedestrians and cars with me being used to quiet country lanes but this was great for improving my bike handling skills! Cycling in trainers felt very odd after riding with cleats but once I got used to it we were away!


Beautiful scenery on the coast CdTNQTPW4AAlWrb

We caught the train back to Cardedeu, really tired and a felt like blood sugar was too low. Had snacks at villa when back and then made tea. Made pizza from flat bread and market bought fresh stuff.

Went to bed, tired out!

Day 4 12.3.16 (free day)

Porridge for breakfast after an early morning alarm to get to Barcelona on the train for the breakfast run on marathon weekend. This run incorporated the last 4km of 1992 Olympic marathon. The atmosphere was brilliant. Me, Beki, Kat, Pennie, Rik and Laura ran.


I waited for Zoe and the Bentham Beagle’s (who had come over to run the marathon the following day) but they were late, found them as race started, We ran together, lovely route finishing in stadium. It was great that lots of different people ran and stopped for photos etc. There was the usual pre marathon buz and the run was a great idea to burn off a few nerves for the runners the following day.

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Running for the finish in the Olympic Stadium  1506757_10156597800770654_5853979039769931072_n

We ate breakfast number 2 of pastries, coffee and fruit at race finish. Then headed into Barecelona for coffee and to view the city on foot (Me, Pennie, Kat and Ben)

We had met Ben (a young lone traveller) on the train that morning and he decided to spend the day with us. We walked up Tibidabo. The first part of which was on normal road but as the road was snaking round the hillside and it was taking a while we decided to try an off road path which shortly disappeared into a thorn bush strewn, dry mud area. We carried on clambering and trying not to fall down the drop. We came out onto a tram line which was slightly scary as there were trams moving up and down the very steep slope (it was after the event we found out that the slope was on 38% incline!). This was great fun but a little scary at times!

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We reached the top after 2 hours. Total 15.6 miles walking. There was a fun fair at the top and a lot of people which was not what I usually like at the top of a mountain but it had its own quirky appeal. Having decided not to retrace our steps back down the hill we got on the bus back down to Barcelona.

Feeling really tired from our adventure we relaxed, people watched and rested in the square, went for coffee then train back to Cardedeu. I had a huge pizza at Terre Rosso and got taxi home (and left my pizza left overs in the back seat by mistake!!). Long, tiring but great day.


Day 5 13.3.16

Up early for another 5K run with Ian. Another frosty morning but beautiful at that time of day.



Pilates session with Laura at 8am in the studio upstairs. Followed by breakfast of mushrooms, home made bread, avocado and tomatoes, juice and tea.

We walked to a nearby Eco Farm, La Tavella, and listened to the friendly Spanish owner who told us all about the farm, its ethos and philosophy of treating animals well so they are happy. 80% of the staff have some sort of disabilities so the farm really helps people as well as animals by helping them into work.


We were shown healthy looking cabbages and happy hens roaming around in an outdoor pen and doing the things hens like doing. I loved her anti bullying policy that if a hen gets picked on by the others it gets taken out and put in with some older hens. We had an interesting talk about battery farmed hens and the eggs they lay. It really made me think about the eggs I buy although I do buy organic eggs.


The farm had donkeys and a pig who lived in the woods and finally we were taken to the cat rescue area. These cats had been taken in off the streets and cared for by these lovely women. There was an area as a cat hospital where the cats that has tumours or other illnesses could live. They sat in the sun and walked around a big area and an indoor space full of cat beds. You could tell that they were so loved and looked after it actually made me cry and miss my own cats (and kids!)

A walk back to the villa in the sunshine was followed by another delicious lunch of mini tortillas and vegetable crisps. I decided to opt out of the second bike ride of the week for a few reasons. Instead I did some review writing and had some time to think about my week. I had a nice walk to the dairy with Ros and a good chat about triathlons and training among many other things. Although all the people in the group were lovely, sometimes its nice to have a bit of time to yourself. The week had been very full on with not much thinking time so it was nice to have the afternoon to do this.

We watched another documentary during the evening, this time about healthy eating and the importance of cooking/making your own food. The philosophy is to get what you can out of what you eat and have as few ingredients and as little processing as possible.

Day 6 14.3.16

Run at 8am (choice of run or Pilates), ran 5 miles, some of the walk we did earlier in week. Then breakfast of pre soaked muesli. These breakfasts were different every single day but so easy. I usually get very bored with my food but have been inspired to try these meals out myself.

Cooking lesson number 2 with Ros, who talked about combining flavours and what foods are good to go together to get the best out of them nutritionally. Also had really useful tips on how to use up left over bits of veg and things in the fridge instead of throwing them away. We paired up and cooked lunch, a salad, soup and pudding – designed by ourselves! Pennie and I made the salad. Lentil, avocado and beetroot salad and tomato, cucumber, goats cheese, nuts with lemon and garlic dressing. The team ate it too so it can’t have been too bad!

Ros’s book ‘A Manner of Eating’


After lunch we drove in cars to the organic vineyard in Barcelona. We had a tour of the vineyard and the owner talked to us In really good English) about how the wine was made and how long the fermenting process lasted for each wine. We then got to try some of the wines which went down very well…literally!

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It was a cloudy, fairly chilly day today so we drove back to the villa and relaxed for a while. We had a final workshop where we talked about the week and what we could take away from the holiday. It was interesting hearing about everyone’s view of the week. All positive and lots of ideas of how to improve our (already pretty healthy) lifestyles.

Dinner was tofu and green bean curry which was fabulous. Ros had made a gluten free cake as it was Niki’s birthday. A really nice touch. And a little Cava celebration (organic of course).

Leaving day 15.3.16

8am 4 mile run (with Ian and Pennie). Packed, breakfast and then group photos in garden.

We said our good byes and were driven to the airport after breakfast.

20160312_095945-1(Some photos taken by Rik)