Efficient Fitness Retreats, Spain

Incase you hadn't realized from some of my previous reviews (Healthy Options, Ocean Soul )  - I love a retreat! I mean, multiple daily workouts; incredible, delicious and healthy food; sunbathing poolside in warmer climates - it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this is definitely Hannah's kinda holiday :-)

So, when I was told about Efficient Fitness Retreats - a four day all inclusive break held in Andalusia, Spain - it took me oh, all of about 3 seconds to sign on the dotted line! Here is how it went down....
Pre Retreat
Yep, you heard that right - Pre Retreat! One of the unique things that I absolutely loved about Efficient Fitness was that the fun didn't just start at the airport but, prior to holiday, all participants are given a pre retreat assessment, allowing Stevie (Personal Trainer and founder of Efficient Fitness) to fully assess your body - alignment, strengths, weaknesses - and tailor the retreat workouts to each participants needs.

Not only that, but with us all being sent a bag full of Efficient Fitness branded Reebok kit - including leggings, top, trainers, resistance bands, Better You Magnesium salts , spray and a massage ball - Stevie most certainly knows how to create favorable first impressions!

Day 1

After a super early start (arriving to Stanstead at 6am was a joy!), we flew into Malaga airport to be met by Stevie at the arrivals lounge. Whipping out freshly made smoothies from a cool bag, he ushered us over to the car and drove us 45 mins or so to the villa.

A beautiful, two story apartment set on top of a hill with incredible views over the sea, we were shown to our rooms, given a little time to settle in and unpack (me, of course, prioritising my activewear drawer - as per above!!), before our first meal of the trip - a delicious spread of freshly prepared salads, meats and breads. Is it just me or do vegetables always taste SO much better from foreign countries?! Maybe it was that, or maybe it's the fact we had our own private chef on board - regardless, I knew instantly that the food on this trip was gonna be pretty banging!

With the weather being unusually rainy (albeit it was March!), rather than spend the afternoon chilling by the pool we took a little trip into the nearby town Torre Del Mar, soaking up some Spanish culture... and discovering how inexpensive their coffee is! (Like seriously, two euro for a gigantic bowl of cappuccino). Walking a good few miles along the beach front - my retreat buddy Chlo LOVES a walk, as we discovered-  we headed back to the apartment for our first workout of the trip....

With over 8 years in the industry and over 10 fitness qualifications ranging from CrossFit, Functional Movement and Olympic Lifting, during the retreat Stevie's aim was to coach us through everything from speed, strength and stamina, to endurance and flexibility. Point - when I say coach - that's exactly what I mean. Rather than simply spend four days blasting our bodies (which, let's face it, he could have easily done), Stevie wanted to educate us - to give us an understanding of the good, solid foundations that will allow us to continue our fitness journeys long after the retreat ends.

With that in mind, workout no.1 was a basic bodyweight workout, assessing how we move .... yet also making sure we got a good sweat on! After a thorough mobility warm up (combining everything from jumping jacks, heel taps, high knees, lunges and planks), we moved on to the main component. Or should I say - componentS. With each workout lasting around 2 hours total, it was certainly longer than I would usually spend on a session, yet with the time spent to properly explain and educate us on the movements, it was worth it.

Finishing off a session combining movements such as squats, push ups, climbers, sprinters and shoulder taps with straight arm plank, Stevie took us into an EMOM. For those who aren't familiar with the term, EMOM stands for every minute on the minute. So, for 10 minutes, we had 10 rounds of 5 push ups, 5 burpees and 5 sit ups. It might not sound like much, but trust me, after 1.5 hours of working it, those burpees were a sick finisher!!

A quick shower and refresh, we all gathered round the table once again for dinner - a delicious Spanish paella with baked chicken, salad and vegetables. Finishing with a slice of ice cream cake (yes, on a fitness retreat!) we wandered down to bed excited to have an early night. It had been a long day, and we had an early start for day 2!

Day 2

A 6am wakeup call for workout no.2, we emerged from bed somewhat sleepy, but after a coffee and quick snack (fresh fruit salad), we were ready to go, With this mornings workout focusing on squats and lunge technique, we ran through a similar mobility warmup, some partner band work, then getting getting into the workout.

A focus on midline stabilisation, we used dowels (lightweight long poles) to mimic that of a squat bar, combined with banded partner work and tennis ball 'games' - i.e. throwing, bouncing and catching tennis balls but on a single leg, testing motor skills, concentration and stability - one of my biggest weaknesses, as I discovered! After practicing correct technique of all the different types of squats (I never knew there was so many), we went into the 'main component', split into three sections:

A. 5 rounds
25 Squats, 25 Sit-Up with twist (dowel), 10 Burpees, 5 Push-Ups, Agility Ladder  
B. 3 x 3 min rounds
10 Back squat, 10 Climbers, 5 Push-Ups
 5 lunges, 10 V sit holds with twist rotations using dowels, 5 burpees
 5 overhead lunges, 10 drop Squats, 5 push ups
 C. 12 minute round
 10 O/H Squats, 10 Burpees, 20 Sprinters, 20 Walking Lunges, 10 Sit-Ups with twist (dowel)
FINAL FINISHER = Hill sprints!!!!

With this format being the one we followed for each workout, I made no mistake when I told you they were long... but efficient! (See what I did there!)

Thankfully, post workout it was straight to breakfast - a delicious feast of smoked salmon, poached eggs, fruit, nuts, granola, and INCRDEDIBLE smoothie bowls.  

Following this, we took a trip into nearby town Nerje, soaking up some more Spanish culture (and finally some sun!), stopping off for a couple of drinks. One of the best things about this retreat, unlike many others, it is an actual holiday. Nothing is off limits - caffeine, meat, bread, even alcohol - but more on that later!

Back for a delicious lunch of pasta salad, grilled chicken, tofu, mango chutney and mozeralla cheese, it was time for workout no.3.....

With lower body already having been covered in the morning, tonight the focus was push and pull movements. So mainly upper body but, as we were beginning to discover, it's not a Stevie workout if it doesn't contain a burpee!!! Following a similar structure (and length!) to the one  above, with the weather being a little cooler we performed this one indoors.  Although it didn't have QUITE the same ambience as by the pool overlooking the ocean, as far as an indoor workout goes, it still beats the local gym!

A delicious dinner of grilled cod, sweet potato mash, orange and roast pepper salad, followed an unintentional  couple of hours spent chatting on the sofa (!) – we suddenly clocked the time. Off to bed - tomorrow was an early start!

Day 3

With it being 'excursion day', despite a 6AM start in order to squeeze in our workout before we headed out to Granada, with it being the only session of the day we were keen to give it our all. Another session focusing on primal movements, this time it was a Twist and Bend education set, performing exercises using the dowels, resistance bands and introducing the RIP machine.

What's a RIP machine, I hear you ask?? I did too! A similar suspension type trainer to that of the TRX, the RIP trainer combines a resistance cord and weight bar that allow you to give an extra focus on rotational power, engaging the core and oblique muscles like I never have before! 

For the 'bend' part, the main focus was on the deadlift - one of the most commonly incorrectly performed exercises known to man - which I admit to be 100% guilty of - to the point where I very rarely include it in my routine at the risk of injury. With Stevie assessing form and going through the correct movement patterns with us individually, I'm now confident to add it to my own routines at home.

And, of course, we finished with numerous hill sprints. Because they were absolutely necessary. Apparently.

A quick shower, change and breakfast, we piled into the car to head to the vineyards of MUÑANA , one of Spain's top producing wineries.

Sitting at over 1,200 ft altitude, we were taken a tour of the outdoor vineyards, being told the story of the careful process applied to the manufacture of the Munana wines…..much more complex than I had ever of thought!

After hearing all about the lengthy, carefully manipulated production process, it was time to put it to the test, with a full on wine tasting and tapas finish. With the wine coming out in full swing, it might have only been 12noon, but our 'fitness' retreat took on a slightly different direction.... work hard play hard, right?!

And since we were already pretty much gone, we figured the fun might as well continue into the evening, where we continued to soak up the Spanish day time drinking culture. When in Rome, right?

 My favourite thing about Spain? Measures don't exist.... meaning the rest of the evening became a little bit fuzzy. Memories mainly consist of  requesting Espresso Martinis. Like, a lot.

Day 4
AH! So you know that feeling when you wake up feeling just a little bit fragile? Well, imagine waking up with that feeling at 7am when you've to go and hit your final workout. For once in my life, putting on leggings did not put me into my happy place!

Luckily, Stevie had designed a relatively laid back workout to finish, wrapping up and putting into practice everything we'd learned on the days before. Well, when I say laid back, it also involved burpees, squat jumps, agility ladders and hill sprints...... were we still drunk?!

Potentially, yet after 4 solid days of technique focus, I can honestly say my technique and form improved like never before. What I came to realise is, back in London/the UK we lead such busy lives. I know I personally get so caught up in the ‘class culture’ – working out for the sake of working out, in dark, crowded studios - where the instructor has no way of correcting poor form – it’s so easy to see how we develop bad habits. And the more we do them, the more we reinforce them.  So to take that time out from the HIIT/slam your body mentality, to slow down just a little bit and learn how to do things correctly =  the key to making all your workouts so much more efficient.

Sitting down to one FINAL breakfast, it felt like the last supper, as we packed up our cases and headed back to Malaga airport to catch our flight home....

The Need to Know:

Highlights: The FOOD! I mean, it's the highlight of every holiday right?! And just because this was a fitness holiday doesn't mean it's any different! All the ingredients were freshly sourced, made in house by the private chef, healthy and nutritious without being at all bland, and there was always plenty of it. So many of the other retreats I've come across putting you on some sort of detox - no caffeine, sugar, fruit, meat, fish, fun - it's just not a holiday! Efficient fitness, however, had the perfect balance.

Lowlights: Whilst the workouts, food, villa etc couldn't be faulted, if you want a full on 'luxury' experience this probably isn't the retreat for you. You will be made to work hard! Whilst Stevie was great at the personal training side of things and delivering thorough coaching and tough workouts, he was also doing everything else, and being so eager to please everyone on the retreat meant sometimes things got a little chaotic. As the saying goes, sometimes you just need to do less, mean more.

Who's it for: Absolutely anyone of any age, gender or fitness ability, who wants a pleasant break away where they can workout, improve technique, rest, play, and catch some sun in a genuine, no pretences, down to earth environment.
Price: As I said before, this retreat isn't fully luxury, however this is absolutely reflected in the cost. With prices starting from £500 - including flights, accommodation, all your workouts, food, trips, excursions AND pre-retreat goody bag, you really cannot ask for better value!

Where can I find out more information: All retreat info, including next dates, prices, booking info and contacts are on the Efficient Fitness webpage - https://www.efficientfitness.co.uk/ .

Photo credit goes to James Purvis -  literally one the BEST photographers I've come across, particularly for fitness shots - he knows how to get the angles! Follow him on instagram @jamespurvis21 or visit his website www.jmpurvis.com.

Also, if you wanna check out more of the retreat, head over to Chlo's Youtube Channel where she documented the full thing.... (bar the final night!!). She's also got tons of other great content on there so go, like, subscribe <3


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