The day starts with a hike over the red stone hills that surround the resort, the sky above an endless blue. In the afternoon there is yoga, overlooking nothing less than the jaw-dropping depths of the Grand Canyon. Then there is a high-intensity workout in the resort's shimmering swimming pool or mountain biking the Bear Claw Poppy Trail complex, an off-road, single-track path through scenery that has been the backdrop of classic cowboy films since the genre first took form.
In the evening, relax over a plate of gluten-free habanero and mango-glazed shrimp with coconut-kaffir lime infused black rice, or try the molasses-seared venison with sun-dried tomato and blueberry compote. Then head back to your villa with its infinity pool and airy, desert-inspired interiors for a long and restorative sleep. This is how the average day unfolds on a fitness boot camp at the Red Mountain Resort in Utah in southeastern United States. The resort offers a number of fitness programmes, outdoor adventures and retreat packages for guests wanting to avoid holidays that leave them five kilograms heavier and having to play catch-up on their fitness levels when back home.
While to many a fitness boot camp conjures images of buff men in camo fatigues barking orders at blubbery city folk leopard-crawling under barbed wire, there is a growing number of luxury boot camps around the world catering to upmarket guests not wanting to rough it army style. These resorts offer guests the chance to experience a new destination, while losing weight, improving their fitness levels, and eating healthily, without having to forego the pleasure of living in style.
As Stefanie Krish at Gstaad Palace in Switzerland says: "Simply put, our clients do not want
to refrain from luxury, no matter what they are doing." Gstaad Palace has a long tradition of wellness, with the resort's health centre with its indoor swimming pool, saunas and treatment rooms having opened in 1969. The resort has also run tennis clinics with veteran tennis star and former world number one Roy Emerson for years. But they are launching boot camps now to appeal to active guests not wanting to focus on one particular sport.
"Outdoor enthusiasts and sports aficionados choose nature and mountain destinations over a lazy week at the beach and have been coming to this region for a long time already," Krish says. "We decided to establish the boot camp because we wanted to address people that like to do sports, independently from a specific form of sport."
The Gstaad Palace boot camps involve a variety of activities, including hiking and mountaineering, mountain biking, canyoning, kayaking, white water rafting and obstacle courses. The camps, the first of which took place last month, are set up by Martin Horn, brother of legendary extreme athlete and adventurer Mike Horn.
Krish says it is the increasing awareness of healthy living that is behind the expanding market for exercise-focused holidays.
"People are more concerned with living healthily these days. Healthy living includes better and healthier food, as well as more exercising, and this lifestyle holds true during holidays, too," she says. "With the rising awareness of first-world diseases, magazines and television shows are promoting more than ever new training methods and diets as well as a more balanced living.
"Another aspect most of our clients are especially concerned with is that exercise and wellness don't only keep people healthy, they also make them look younger."
Some boot camps are turning to cutting-edge techniques to benefit health. Champneys, the grande dame of British spas, has integrated kriotherapy sessions into its boot camps. At the new Extreme Boot Camp Weekends at Champneys Tring, a stately home in Hertfordshire once owned by the Rothschild family and set in 69 hectares of rolling parkland, guests are treated to two chilly sessions in the minus 135 degrees Celsius chamber that is believed to awaken the body's healing process, stimulating circulation and the immune system.
The boot camp also includes muddy assault courses and intensive indoor exercises, including circuits, boxing and battle ropes. Aimed at fitness fanatics, the boot camp also offers sports massage to relieve aching muscles and nutritionists to develop an eating plan. Tring was developed by Stanley Lief, who pioneered the neuromuscular techniques in the 1930s that are still taught widely in osteopathic and sports massage settings in Britain.
Champneys now offers a variety of boot camps at its impressive four venues across Britain, ranging from two to seven nights long, including a five-night boot camp called [email protected] designed for tackling midlife crises through the inclusion of a series of lectures and workshops on such topics as positivity and relationship management.
That wellness is a state of mind and body which is very much a part of today's boot camp ethics. Ananda in the Himalayas spa and resort in northern India runs the Ananda Active programme which features a packed schedule of physical activity, including trekking, rafting, yoga, and fitness training, followed by evening treatments to soothe tired muscles. After trekking, for example, guests enjoy deep-tissue massage or reflexology.
Guests can also sign up for the hotel's daily scheduled activities, such as lectures on Vedanta, a system of philosophy based on the idea that all reality is a single principle and that the goal is to transcend the limitations of self-identity.
"Holistic wellness that addresses the mind, body and soul is becoming more popular globally," says Aashica Khanna of Ananda in the Himalayas. "In today's world, with rising stress levels, there is a growing need for taking time out. A holistic approach teaches people to look within and determine the changes that need to be made in order to live a healthy life; it puts you on a path to sustained good health, it is a way of life, a prevention rather than a quick-fix cure. The old-fashioned boot camp approach is a short-term fix but is not sustainable in the long run."
Nature is also a big part of the ethics at Ananda, as with many contemporary luxury boot camps. Guests at Ananda are encouraged to enjoy being outdoors, be it trekking in the mountains or white water rafting on the Ganges, and to soak in the stunning scenery.
"Holistic health and nature go hand in hand," Khanna says. "Nature is so important but as cities expand and grow, it's nature that's sacrificed first. The first step to effective rejuvenation is to be able to breathe fresh air and be amidst natural surroundings, as this brings mental peace and clarity. We all need to live a healthy life and a wellness holiday is a great way to start."
Khanna says that as the Active programme is weighted more on physical exercise than its other wellness packages, the programme attracts a slightly younger audience of the 30- to 40-year age group. But as today's boot camps usually begin with a fitness test and health questionnaire, and the luxury level resorts provide a high level of personal attention, most camp organisers can tailor their activities to suit participants of any age, gender and ability.
But what these camps do require from all participants is a willingness to take wellness seriously. For those who would choose swaying in a hammock with a bestseller over five hours of exercise a day, or living it up in the clubs of Ibiza over an early night, a boot camp - no matter how luxurious - might not be the holiday for you.