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Phoenix Bootcamp

Listed under Boot Camps in Wales, United Kingdom.

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It is an amazing tribute to all the precise work and background thinking which Susie Sore & Rob Kelly have put into Phoenix Boot Camp that, only nine months after opening in February 2011, it's already won the National Award for ' Best Holistic Boot Camp'. That title, for the last three years, has been held by Victoria Wills at Nubeginnings - yet, it has to be said, more by default than anything else - because hers was the only holistic camp in the country. But there's another one now. And it's significantly better, too. So, why is this the case?

Firstly, there's a warm sense at Phoenix Boot Camp of everyone being together in this project, with and for each other, in one big happy family - an atmosphere every bit as winning as that created by Katie Duncan at Apples & Pears, which is a compliment indeed. All the staff, for example, always eat with you, eating the same meal that you're having, and they're out there exercising with you almost constantly, putting themselves through exactly what you're going through. That's why Phoenix Boot Camp - mirabile dictu - hasn't had, to date at least, one single difficult customer. It helps enormously that head female counsellor, Jo Dening, is always there at hand to pick up on any negative vibes and gently dispel them. It helps, too, that she is wise, down-to-earth and gifted with a naturally humorous, outgoing personality. She could talk you down from a cliff ledge! Like all the best boot camps- whether we're talking about camp manager, Kirsten, nutritionist Julia or trainers Dave and Mark - Phoenix has hand-picked a settled and well-integrated team to deliver its product consistently. And I think I'm right in saying that Phoenix Boot Camp is the only camp in the country that doesn't just email you beforehand. Susie insists on a phone-call to you, to calm any fears you may have.

Secondly - and arguably even more important than the above - is the unique holistic approach taken by Phoenix Boot Camp. Based on over twenty years of clinical practice and academic research, Cambridge psychologist Rob Kelly has devised his very own ' Thrive Programme for Weight Loss', which draws principally on the precepts of CLB(Changing Limiting Beliefs). Although, like his disciple Jo Dening, he is also a fully-qualified and functioning hypnotherapist, Rob has found that such suggestion therapy is only helpful for weight loss in the short term - but, crucially, not in the long term. Radical and lasting change only happens once you've learnt to rely on yourself, rendering any outside help no longer necessary. He did, in fact, cure Susie herself of yo-yo boot camping, which is as bad as yo-yo dieting - and the whole reason why Susie then went on to found Phoenix Boot Camp. So don't come to this camp if you're already fit and merely looking for a top-up, nor if you just vaguely think you'll give it a whirl. You have to be seriously committed to change, to realise that only you caused the problems for yourself - and only you can fix them. The programme starts by teaching you self-knowledge, moving on through mind exercises, to a practical plan for your future. In addition, you get to take away your own personal Bible - Rob Kelly's book of 118 A4 pages - which is always there for you, if you need it, and to which you are made to put your signature as a sign of bona fide intent. I'm delighted to see such an exciting new development on the boot camp scene and look forward to hearing, through the years, what they achieve with it.

Thirdly, the accommodation is great. Just google ' The Colloquy' and see what you get, if you don't believe me. Apart from its all luxurious pocket-spring beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, designer taps, sauna and so on, this venue really does have a very happy vibe to it - the sort of intangible extra you can't actually buy. Although there's plenty of room indoors for activities, you'll probably have your most fun in the surrounding woodlands, orchards, pastures and streams - and the best fun of all, on the spectacular all-day hike with two local guides up and over the Brecon Beacons. Charming local man, Roger the cyclist, also knows nice country lanes for you - the ones with gentle gradients that don't have you thinking you're going to land your lungs over the handlebars into the road at any moment, even if he does spice up the ride with some interval training. By the way, in case all this is beginning to sound like too much fun I must point out to you that your trainer, Dave Gothard, is an ex-Royal Marine Commando and, however genial and good-looking he may be, he is going to take you considerably outside of your comfort zone - because in all my boot camp experience, no-one kicks ass like the marines do (pace paratroopers!). But don't worry, Phoenix Boot Camp is not shouty and hardcore military, where trainers have to be addressed as ' Staff ' at all times; more just a group of friends working together and supporting each other, with everyone on Christian name terms. What's more, as is the case in all our top boot camps, they don't put you to work before 7am in the morning, and nothing strenuous is ever expected of you after dinner.

Fourthly, after camp, be sure to make the most of Phoenix's wonderful Herefordshire location. I've never said this about a boot camp before, but I can't recommend strongly enough that when you leave camp around 9.30am on the Friday morning, it's in a car (your own, your friend's or your spouse's) and you don't just rush off home like a thoroughbred with a pot of wasabe up its backside. Rather check into a room at The Stagg Inn, Titley, a mere 3 miles away, with the first pub restaurant in England to win a Michelin star, which it still retains. From your base there, or somewhere else in the area, you can then go out exploring. Don't miss Hereford (30 mins.away), with its glut of timberframe houses, Central Market Hall and its magnificent Cathedral on the River Wye, home to the world's oldest map, the Mappa Mundi, and to the world's largest Chained Library. Never enjoyed a cathedral so much in my life before! Then, of course, there's Hay-on-Wye, the C14th New Inn at Pembridge etc.etc. before your celebratory dinner on Friday night, perfectly allowable under the 80/20 rule of eating. Maybe check out Ludlow in the morning (30 mins.away) for its open-air market and ancient Castle, before a farewell lunch in town at La Becasse. What an uplifting reward to yourself that would be after boot camp. And then the new version of you can kick back in - and it's back down to the 80% part again.

Fifthly, forget about paying a frankly ludicrous £2500 for some hypnotherapy and a twin-share at Nubeginnings. Holism has moved on, I'm happy to say, in the form of Phoenix Boot Camp offering a pioneering new approach, clinically tested over 20 years, at one third of the price. Great news for you, the consumer, by any reckoning.

Accommodation: Chic, up-market cottage complex,deep in rural Herefordshire, with a mix of ample space, state-of-the-art facilities and Victorian history, which has seen this venue win loads of awards

Capacity: 16. F only.

Duration: 7 nts.(Friday 1.30pm - 9am Friday).

Cost: £1450 (sgle, en-suite); £900 twin share. 

Price includes: All food, lodging & activities which typically include gym-style work-outs plus canoeing, cycling, gorge walking, boxing, team games, battle PT, military tasking, high-intensity interval training, all-day hike in the Brecon Beacons, acqua aerobics in the pool(summer only), 7 Psychology Workshops, one 1:1Counselling Session, 1 Nutrition Seminar with a personalised nutrition plan, Champagne Gala Dinner with certificate of achievement, free gift, souvenir photos of your week & The Phoenix Takeaway Pack full of aftercare benefits, which are on-going as well.

Evening Events: Yoga & Relaxation sessions. Sauna & jacuzzi. TVs(land & Sky) in all bedrooms, DVD library & free WIFI useable everywhere on site. Complimentary house computer also available.

Optional Extras: Massage £38/45mins. 


LOCATION: * * * *


FOOD: * * *




Written by  Graeme Harwood.

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