Rik and Laura founded Healthy Start Holidays in 2015. In this quick interview, they explain what’s on offer, and who would be interested in coming along.

What is Healthy Start Holidays all about?

We see people wanting to make steps towards being healthier, but not always finding themselves represented by the extreme approaches to sport or food portrayed in the media. Our idea is to bring those people to a peaceful villa near Barcelona for a week of healthy living, and send them home with practical solutions for making healthier decisions on a day-to-day basis.

We have designed a fun schedule of cooking classes, Pilates lessons, bike rides, swimming sessions, countryside and coastal walks, and a visit to an eco farm to cover the whole spectrum of healthy living. We also include time for one-to-one sessions with our guests to understand their needs, to build lifestyle changes that are appropriate to their lives at home. The full schedule is available here: http://www.healthystartholidays.com/blog/

We don’t forget that this is your holiday, though! Everything on our schedule is optional, and we have a day out in Barcelona, and a rest day so our guests can explore the area on their own.

What kind of people would be interested in coming along?

We can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t! There’s something for everyone.

The maximum group size is 11, and we have four staff with different expertise – plus there’s a huge range of activities on offer in the area, so if anyone doesn’t like what’s on the schedule for the morning, they can go to the golf course or one of the local horse-riding schools, and have fun there.

Because of the ratio of staff to guests, we can cater to the entire spectrum of abilities on a bike, in the pool, in the Pilates studio, or out on a walk or run. Our idea was to include everyone. So if you’re part of a couple where one is into biking, and another into cooking, you can learn a bit about the other’s passion, and explore yours more fully with us.

What is your lifestyle like?

We are both active and eat well, but it doesn’t take over our lives. The most important thing is that we have a long-term commitment to being healthy on a daily basis – that doesn’t mean we don’t eat cake, or veg out in front of a movie now and then, but it does mean that our default is an active lifestyle with healthy whole foods, rather than the exception.

What has been the best thing about setting up Healthy Start Holidays?

We ran a weekend in November, with six guests. It has been so great to hear people taking up cycling, or cooking a recipe we shared with them, or connecting to their communities through volunteering after their time with us.

In general, it’s so nice to hear positive feedback when we talk about the idea – lots of people seem to know someone who could do with a Healthy Start Holiday!

What’s your activity of choice?

Laura: We both love cycling, and we find it the easiest to do together. We are going to take up running in the New Year and see how that goes – we’ll let you know!

I’m a Pilates instructor, and I practise Pilates myself on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I had a quite stressful back injury a few years ago, and Pilates has really helped my recovery to full strength. I used to take triathlon more seriously – now I just enter races I like the look of, and I love swimming, so I have kept that up.

Rik: Other than that, we cycle around our hometown of Barcelona on a regular basis, and I am a bicycle tour guide – which helps get the KMs in! We do small things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator – save electricity, and give your legs a stretch… why not? You’ll also often find Laura dancing in our kitchen… does that count?!

What’s your favourite naughty food?

Both: cheese! And wine!

Laura: Rik is Dutch, so there’s a lot of cheese consumed in our house.

Rik: And the wine from the area near Barcelona is great – and very reasonably priced. We try to limit ourselves to a glass of wine a day, but it can often creep up on us. We’re going dry for January, and blogging it about it here: http://www.healthystartholidays.com/blog/

What advice would you give someone looking to make a healthier change to their lifestyle?

Laura: Take it slow, and take it steady. Don’t expect it to come without working for it – but like everything, it will get easier with practice. This is true for cooking as much as for running: practice is the key.

Rik: And if you fall off the wagon, just get back on again quickly. Your body doesn’t know what a training plan is – only if you’re moving enough and eating the foods it wants.

Find out more about Healthy Start Holidays at: www.healthystartholidays.com. Currently taking individual booking for March 2016, or group bookings throughout the year. Email rikandlaura@healthystartholidays.com with any questions or comment.