Healthy Start Holidays Review – ‘Somewhere between kale and cake’

I tried and tested a Healthy Start Holiday for a week. Here is what I thought!

The villa

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The Villa is a six bedroom house in a lovely country location in Cardedeu and is perfect for groups. It is large enough to house groups of 11 people but also has a homely feel with a log fire and big comfy sofas. Laura and Rik who run Healthy Start Holidays rent the villa for holidays and live in Barcelona which is about an hour away. Holiday makers can book holidays at specific times during the spring/autumn either as a set holiday or a bespoke holiday tailored to specific groups.

The villa has a good spacious area outside with a sun terrace (two of the bedrooms have sliding doors onto this). The outside area also has an eating area, barbecue and pizza oven for summer evenings. Plants, trees and grassy areas make for a really pleasant setting for relaxing. There is also a basketball area, volleyball and pool (open from May).

The villa is located about 2 miles from the small town of Cardedeu where there is a railway station where it is easy to catch the train into Barcelona. The organic eco Farm and the dairy are within walking distances from the villa and much of the produce the holiday guests eat during their stay comes from these places.

The Team

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Laura and Rik run Healthy Start Holidays and live in nearby Barcelona. Laura is from Brighton and Rik is Dutch. The idea for the Healthy Start Holidays developed over some time. They met Ian at a triathlon training camp and became aware that some people throw themselves into hard training when their body is not ready and they really need to work on their health in all areas to achieve their goals. Rik and Laura both compete in triathlons and recently took up running. Laura is a trained Pilates instructor.

Ros, nutrition planner and (kitchen queen) from UK and a keen triathlete.

Ian, coach and triathlete from UK.

The review

Even though the communication pre-holiday had been great and informative, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Barcelona. My slight anxiety was soon put at ease once I arrived and met the group and the Healthy Start team. It must have been really hard to plan activities that suited all our needs in a mixed group that wasn’t tailored to a specific sport or level. The team did really well to give us a flavour of how the holidays would run and the different activities that could be incorporated. The team run bespoke holidays to suit all levels so it is my intention to get a group together from LWRG and go over for a week or long weekend. The holidays can be tailored to the group needs whether that be running, cycling, swimming, triathlons or more of a food based holiday.

In the Autumn there are three holidays on offer (in addition to the bespoke holidays). These include Gluten free, Big Kid summer camp (for adults, based on playing games) and Foodie Fun (food/cooking based). Information on these holidays can be found here.

These holidays would be great for people at any level but especially people starting out in running, cycling, swimming and people who need a lot of guidance with health and food. Healthy eating/cooking and activity will be part of all their holidays to encourage people to live a holistically healthy lifestyle, after all, healthy living incorporates all those things. I loved the ethos of this as it fits with my own view that health needs to be holistic and includes activity, nutrition as well as mental health and happiness. They follow their Three Pillars which are Nutrition, Movement, Lifestyle and these are all really important for holistic health and well being.

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I have never been one for diets, force feeding myself disgusting green shakes, or counting calories so I was really pleased when I discovered that the Healthy Starts team don’t do this either. See my Healthy Starts Holiday food’ page for more information about this. Another thing I was happy about was that I did not feel hungry or have any sugar cravings or energy dips mid afternoon, because my blood sugar was stable through eating nutritious food with natural sugars and fats.

One thing I loved about the holiday and the team was their attitude to exercise for everyone. Very much like LWRG they encouraged everyone to have a go. People can feel very nervous or reluctant to try new things and during this week everyone achieved something. For me, it was that healthy food can be made quickly, easily and without the need to spend hours in the kitchen. For others it was swimming with their head in the water or clipping into cleats on the bike for the first time. It felt a very safe, nurturing environment just like I aim for in my group. To read my diary of the holiday click here.

There were many activities planned for us but none were forced on us. Various members of the group opted out of certain activities and that was fine. The activities were a range of physical exercise, visits to different locations providing fresh food, and also visits to places in Barcelona. We also had a visit to an organic vineyard and tasted wine that had no sulphites in it. It was really flavoursome. Unfortunately I had not left enough room in my case to bring any home! I liked the fact that the Healthy Starts team see the whole picture, that life should be for living and that includes a bit of wine sometimes.

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As well as our own health, the team also reminded us of the importance of the health of our planet by adopting a green way of living, turning lights off, recycling, minimal waste, and through eating/buying food with minimal or no processing methods. The Eco farm visit illustrated the importance of this by speaking to us about their way of farming.

I had a great week, with a great group of people and came home feeling relaxed and nurtured.  After living with people so genuinely enthusiastic about health, good real food and activity for a week I came home inspired to eat better and try new food combinations. And actually, to use some of my free time, instead of getting another run or bike ride in, to prepare food! I do tend to get into the habit of eating cheese and oatcakes for a meal. I have now been home for a week, and have continued to eat properly!

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(Some photos were taken by Laura and Rik)