Writer ∙ Editor ∙ Author

What Celeb Boot Camps are Really Like

Glow / April 2017

What goes on behind the scenes at these star-studded retreats, and the lessons you can steal from them

On the very first day, though I wasn’t technically allowed to use a cellphone, I called home from my (sparse, tv-free) room with my escape plan. “Call me back in 20 minutes,” I pleaded, “and say there’s been a family emergency.” (Too honest, my accomplice refused.) That’s when I broke into tears. Boot camp was too hard, and I was too tired, and so very hungry for carbs. Which is, of course, the whole point: if boot camp were easy, it would be Club Med (and no way would you return either fitter or healthier). But what are those celeb-worthy, thousand-dollar-plus-a-day betterment programs really like? And can you borrow their lessons to better yourself at home? Here’s the real deal on some of the swankiest detox centres and boot camps—from spies on the inside.

Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa, Nelson, B.C.

Tucked into the mountains—and be damn sure you’ll climb those peaks—is Mountain Trek, the hippie dream of a Bay Street financier who traded the fast life for ashrams and vegan food. In later years, the fitness retreat added lessons in sleep, metabolism, stress and detoxing. In lieu of the term “boot camp,” they prefer “holistic health reclamation.”

The Real Deal: Don’t be fooled by the above. Whatever you call it, Mountain trek will kick your butt. After an initial weigh-in and body assessment, a dozen participants—all grumpy, as they’re newly sugar-, booze- and carb-free on pre-planned, portion-controlled meals—warm up with yoga at the crack of dawn, hike along steep mountain paths all afternoon and hit the gym hard at night (technically, you could sit out any of these activities, but side-eye from the teeny group will pressure you properly). The good news is, after that much exercise (more than an Olympic athlete, fyi), your sore bod gets lots of luxurious recoup time in the form of Jacuzzi soaks and deep-muscle massages.

Take-home Lesson: It’s shocking how much your body, no matter how out of shape or practice it might be, can accomplish if you treat it right. From now on, reward it after workouts with much-deserved perks: a long bath, a rub from your sweetie or, best of all, a sweet hit of carbs.

The BodyHoliday Resort, Saint Lucia

“Give us your body for a week, and we will give you back your mind,” claims the BodyHoliday resort. The all-inclusive, customized program steps from the Caribbean sea promises yoga on pink sand and massages by the pool. It can’t be that easy, can it?

The Real Deal: Rumour has it amy Winehouse stayed here, so take note that BodyHoliday is only as body-conscious as you make it. Pull yourself out of bed—or pay extra for staff to drag you out—for a 7 a.m. beach boot camp. Expect barefoot running in the sand, handstands and race drills as the instructor—all staff are affectionately called “bodyguards”—yells encouragement (pretty nicely, comparatively). Afterwards, since the sweltering sun makes it far too hot to train without being in or on the water, all-day activities include tennis and water volleyball, as well as yoga, stretching, pole fitness and spin classes. But with an all-you-can-eat dinner and an open bar of fun cocktails, moderation is up to you.

Take-home Lesson: Two weeks can take you many pounds in either direction, so choose wisely. That said, getting your work done first thing in the morning lets you relax guilt-free for the rest of the day.

The Ranch Malibu, Malibu, Calif.

This celebrity-favourite wellness program actually has two parts: a seven-day internet detox in the hollywood hills with a “strict, no- options philosophy” and a four-day crash course at the four seasons hotel Westlake village (cells welcome). Mandy Moore, Rebel Wilson and Selma Blair have all power-shed pounds here.

The Real Deal: Your $7,000-a-week getaway actually starts a month earlier, when caffeine, alcohol, sugar, meat and even gum are phased out. Phased in are daily workouts to prepare for your arrival. After a full assessment—blood draw, lab analysis, diagnostic testing, body-fat analysis and thorough medical interview—you’ll do up to eight hours of hiking daily, plus strength training and restorative yoga. If you’re lucky, panoramic views of hollywood mansions will distract you from the “results-oriented” (read: seriously intense) program that burns calories while serving up “snacks” (like three almonds with two cashews) to get patrons red carpet-ready as fast as humanly possible.

Take-home Lesson: Stars work harder on their bods than you’ll ever have to—have you ever been so relieved you’re not famous? Relish your regular-person option of slow and steady—because you can!

Camp Biche, Lauzerte, France

If it seems L.A. has a fitness monopoly, know that Camp Biche is the “original luxury tness vegan boot camp.” It’s located in an 800-year-old mansion in southwestern France.

The Real Deal: Despite rich cheese and pastries, visitors to the City of Light often notice that they shed pounds. Camp Biche tries to sell the French-Women-Don’t-Get-Fat phenomenon—for a très chic 5,900 euros (approximately $8,000 Canadian) per week. Your morning wake-up call (thankfully) comes with strong coffee to power through toning class, working up to a thousand daily crunches, done alongside feel-good mantras (“I appreciate my body for everything it does”). With the hardest part of your day done, the rest is mostly gentle, self-paced walks—with an adorable français pooch!—and massages and facials. There are no snacks between meals, which are glam gourmet feasts worth waiting for, enjoyed with fine wine by candlelight.

Take-home Lesson: All of the toughest workouts in the world aren’t worth it if you can’t enjoy the benefits they buy, so if you can survive a thousand crunches and haven’t succumbed to snacking all day, by all means enjoy a glass of champagne. And if you can swing sipping your bubbly at a five-star fitness boot camp retreat, even better.