Active Traveller

How I joined Crete's fit club

Matt Carroll gets back to basics for the ultimate workout in the Greek sunshine

"If you're looking to get fitter, one of the most important things to do is rest," said our instructor, Kristie Ramsland, before sending us all off to bed for a nap. This was the first morning of a week-long training camp that was supposed to make me leaner and stronger than ever before, yet here we were, being told to take it easy. Surely I was hearing things?

Before coming to Crete, I'd been bracing myself for a punishing schedule of 6am starts, endless press-ups and a strict diet of lettuce leaves and lentils – as is the case with every exercise programme I've embarked on in the past. This, however, was Wild Fitness – a new approach to exercise where the emphasis is on sunshine, fresh air and relaxation.

A two-hour drive from Chania airport had taken us away from the usual package holiday hotspots and into the mountains on the west of the island. Our hideaway for the week was Milia agritourism village – a hotchpotch of cottages sprinkled around a natural amphitheatre, with a taverna that produces its own food. The only sound I could hear as we made our way down the track to check in was the crunch of gravel under foot. This place is so off-the-beaten-track that you don't know it's there until you arrive at the first house; in the Second World War, it was used as a hideout by resistance fighters on the run from German soldiers.

While we helped ourselves to cups of mountain tea, brewed from a combination of local herbs, Kristie and her fellow trainer, Matt Walker, gave us an insight into the Wild Fitness philosophy.

"Running on a treadmill for hours on end will make you good at one thing: running on a treadmill," said Kristie. "But humans are designed to do a range of activities including climbing, swimming, balancing, lifting, throwing and jumping. The problem with gyms and most personal trainers is that they ignore all that."

Kristie is an expert in her field, having competed in triathlons up to professional level. Now, with a degree in dietetics from Sydney University, she trains elite athletes as well as running courses for Wild Fitness. The company runs courses in Kenya as well as Crete.

Matt has competed in 100-mile ultra marathons, in between stints as a snowboarding instructor and a career as an Army commando. With a physique like a sack full of conkers, the man is a walking incitement to practise what he preaches.

The Wild Fitness camps were started in 2001 by a personal trainer, Tara Wood, as a way of making exercise more enjoyable.

Pop your head into any high-street gym and you might notice rows of complicated-looking machines, and miserable-looking people desperately trying to conform to unrealistic physical stereotypes. The philosophy behind Wild Fitness is to do away with this and get back to exercise basics. So one of the first things we were taught was to forget everything we've been taught; this meant no weights machines and no ridiculous balancing acts with Swiss balls. Just six days in the great Greek outdoors – running on the beach, swimming in the sea and taking regular snoozes.

Our first day involved an early-morning boxing lesson on the roof of the taverna. After waking up to the sound of cockcrow echoing across the valley, I plodded up the steps to find a cracking view of the surrounding mountains. Kristie and Matt led us through a series of stretches aimed at loosening up stressed limbs, before we padded-up to throw our first punches. After years of slogging away at the same old exercises in the gym, it felt wonderful to be learning a new skill from scratch. Boxing may look simple, but there's much more to it than meets the eye.

"It's all about using your body weight," said Matt, as he lunged at me with a huge paw. Luckily, he was only demonstrating, and stopped short of actually clocking me. "As you put your arm out to punch, step forward and lean into it; this will give you much more power."

It did. And after a few minutes, I was already getting the hang of it. With every clout of the pad, I could feel the stress of home being smashed to smithereens. After a relaxing, yogic warm-down, we were sent back to bed before regrouping for lunch on the restaurant terrace.

Forget miserly portions of brown rice, though. On the menu was an all-you-can-eat buffet of organic lamb and home-grown vegetables. Diet is one of the key components of the Wild Fitness regime. "For 200,000 years, human beings were hunter-gatherers – eating meat, nuts and whatever else we could find," said Kristie in a midweek lecture.

"It's only in the last 100 years that we've been eating mass-produced food; our digestive systems are simply not designed to process it. That's why so many of us suffer from bloating and other problems."

It certainly seemed to work for me. By the end of the week, I'd lost the last few annoying inches around my waist, despite shovelling in three huge meals a day.

The rest of the week was spent perfecting our boxing, lifting "kettle bells" (solid metal balls with handles) in a nearby meadow and strolling through Roman ruins in a neighbouring valley. There was plenty of down time, too, with afternoons spent reading and catching rays on the roof terrace.

There was also a great team spirit among the group, as we got to grips with various new skills – including learning how to run properly. For this, we headed to Elafonisi beach – a stretch of golden sand an hour's drive away, which we had all to ourselves.

Shoes and socks off, Matt showed us a technique known as the "pose method", where you land with the ball of your foot first instead of striking the ground with your heel – as I was doing. According to Matt, the impact from heel-striking goes straight to your knees, causing 85 per cent of people to quit running through injury. Within days, I felt lighter on my feet, easily completing a scenic five-mile run through the mountains later in the week. Others on the course had similar results – including Caroline from Dorset, who declared that she "hated running" at the beginning of the week, but by the end of it was making plans for a daily jog back home.

Months later, I'm still managing to stick to the diet (almost) and am enjoying my workouts instead of dreading them. The only thing I'm missing now are those afternoon naps...

Travel essentials

Getting there

*You can fly to Chania from Gatwick with easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyJet.com), with Monarch (08700 405 040; flymonarch.com) and with other charter airlines.

Staying there

*The Wild Fitness (020-7734 2526; wildfitness.com) Crete camp runs three week-long courses from 24 May-15 June. A week costs £1,850 each based on two people sharing, including food, accommodation and airport transfers, but excluding flights. It also includes fitness assessments, training sessions, three workshops covering movement, metabolism and nutrition, and a one-hour massage.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas