Hannah Ebelthite rediscovers her fitness mojo with trainer Ruben Tabares on a luxe fitness break in Turkey
If you’d asked me 20 years ago what my perfect holiday would be, my answer would have been a fly-and-flop package trip. Sunbathing by day, cocktails and clubbing by night – all night. These days, if I took a break like that, I’d come home feeling worse than when I left. Rare as they are, I need my holidays now to be restorative and revitalising.
And it’s not just me. According to the Global Wellnesss Institute, ‘wellbeing tourism’ is the fastest-growing travel sector, having increased by 14% over the past two years. ‘As people become more aware of the importance of staying fit and healthy, their holidays reflect this need, with a big increase in bookings for wellness retreats and spa holidays,’ says Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health & Fitness Travel, whose research found 82% of people want to stay active on holiday. ‘A fitness-focused break can be a great way to reset the body, learn a new approach and develop good habits to bring home,’ he adds.
And that was exactly what I had in mind as I boarded the flight for Bodrum, Turkey. Having nursed a running injury for the past six months, I was feeling unfit, unmotivated and in a definite fitness rut. Time for some sun, scenery and the chance to remind my desk-bound and increasingly round body how good it feels to get active on a daily basis.
Now, many hotels have gyms, pools, spas and even classes. But what they don’t have – and Bodrum does – is Ruben Tabares. Ruben is a former pro athlete and now strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist to the stars (you might know him as trainer to boxer David Hayes and rapper Tinie Tempah). He’s the resident health guru at London’s Mandarin Oriental at Hyde Park. And this year, he’s taken his philosophy and expertise over to Turkey, launching Ruben Tabares Wellness at the utterly exquisite MoBod, aka the five-star Mandarin Oriental resort in Bodrum.
The resort itself surpasses all my expectations. It sits in the perfectly named Paradise Bay on the north coast of Bodrum. All the 129 guestrooms, apartments, suites and villas have their own outside space, most with panoramic views of the deep blue Aegean sea and mountain range opposite. The hotel sits among olive groves, pine trees and beautifully planted gardens and, despite its size, most of the time you feel like you have the place to yourself.
On the first morning, I wake naturally with the light and watch the sun rise over the mountains from my terrace, my tensions dissolving by the second. I go for an early morning stroll around the extensive grounds, where every corner reveals a secluded bed or lounger for quiet relaxation. I find a cabana on one of the private, white-sand beaches and sit and read my novel for half an hour, without seeing another soul. Heaven.
From there it’s on to the fitness studio for Ruben’s Box Pro class, a high-intensity sweat-fest that sets the energy levels for the day. I wouldn’t normally do a boxing class, preferring to get my cardio in by running, so this is exactly the sort of body shock I need to get me out of my rut. My arms ache (in a nice way) for the rest of the trip. And there’s no shortage of fitness options on offer. High-energy classes include HIIT circuits, Celebrity Bootcamp, Booty and the Beast and Abs Blast. Then there’s a decent range of yoga and Pilates classes, all styles and levels, mat-based or equipment. Most of these take place in the stylish studio and gym, some are in the beautiful fitness garden with views out to the sea, and in the case of the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga, they’re on the beach and in the sea. Sign up for one of various Wellness Packages and you’ll receive a personalised consultation, state-of-the-art body analysis and a tailored short and long-term programme, with one-to-one sessions. Ruben has also devised a series of wellness lectures, so if you can drag yourself away from sun lounger in your downtime, you can keep up the fitspo with talks on Brain Regeneration, Digital Detox, Juicing and more.
You can do as much or as little, fitness-wise, as you like here, although with the calibre of trainers and facilities you’d be a fool not to cram in as much as you can. There’s an indoor pool as well as the awesome infinity pool outside and, of course, the refreshing sea. I’ve been working on my swimming technique, so I take the opportunity to swim at least a couple of times a day. There is a jogging track around the resort but at 30 degrees plus outside, I decline to try that out. The gym is small but very well equipped and air-conditioned. We take advantage of two classes a day with Ruben or his other trainers (Cindi is a CrossFit queen and takes us through an amazing functional fitness workout).
There’s plenty of down time, too, to enjoy MoBod’s eight restaurants and bars (my favourite was the waterside Italian, Assaggio). A trip to the spa is a must. There’s the traditional hammam experience, and the Oriental Essence massage was, hands down, the best, most relaxing treatment I’ve ever had. Afterwards you can sit in the tranquil spa gardens with a herbal tea – and resolve to take this new feeling of bliss home.
One evening we took a wonderful sunset cruise on a (slightly choppy) Turkish Gulet and saw some more of the beautiful Bodrum coast, confirming that this is an area I’d definitely love to revisit. It’s on the western side of Turkey and the flight is under four hours (we flew EasyJet from Gatwick), making it doable for a long weekend if you can’t stay for longer.
Make no mistake, it’s an expensive hotel – but it’s also the epitome of style and luxury and you will want for nothing if you decide to treat yourself (if I could have my honeymoon over again, it would be here). My four-night stay reignited my passion for fitness and wellbeing and Ruben’s holistic and innovative outlook has given me loads of ideas for training back home. If the goal of a holiday is to leave you refreshed and renewed, a fitness retreat is the way to do it – and MoBod does it brilliantly. I’m a convert. And I’m off to the gym…
Rates for Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum start from €625 per room per night. Ruben Tabares Wellness Packages start from €550. For more information or to make a booking, call +90 252 311 1888 or visit mandarinoriental.com/bodrum
Ruben Tabares’ Celebrity Bootcamp Workout
This is a tough but effective session, guaranteed to have you dripping in sweat! Ruben kept the pace up and the pressure on throughout – don’t be tempted to recover too long between circuits.
Warm-up: 6 minutes on treadmill with 10% gradient, increase pace gradually from brisk walk to jog for final minute
Dynamic leg swings:
Swing your right leg forward to hip height, 15 times. Switch legs.
Holding a wall in front of you, swing your right leg from side to side, foot flexed, crossing in front of your body and back again. Repeat 15 times and switch legs.
Still holding the wall for balance, kick your right leg out behind you 15 times. Switch legs.
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, perform a clean and press, then squat, followed by an upright bent-over row. Repeat this sequence eight times. Put the dumbbells down.
Lunge forwards, place your hands on the floor either side of your front foot, step your front foot back to meet your rear foot. From this position, do 1 press up. Stand up. Turn to face the other way, repeat the lunge followed by two press ups. Repeat until you get to 5 press ups.
Repeat this whole circuit 3 times.
Holding your dumbbells, step up onto a box or bench and back down again 24 times as fast as you can, alternating legs each time.
Then do 12 weighted squats into a shoulder press.
Then do 45 seconds of jumping split squats.
Repeat this whole circuit 3 times.
30 seconds of mountain climbers
30 seconds of ab crunch toe touches (legs straight up above you, hands reaching for your toes)
Repeat whole circuit 3 times.
Cool down and stretch.