We have always wanted to go on a sporting holiday, as opposed to our standard expeditions, which involve a lot of self-indulgence and lying around, and then more lying around, preferably somewhere on the Miami/Las Vegas/Los Angeles axis, followed by a return home with what amounts to a costly hangover, to resume the long march to… wherever we’re going.
But what if, instead, we came back from a holiday feeling fighting fit? And instead of marching, we could sprint? Our friends Tom and Silas, a couple who do so much exercise that they look like big greyhounds, advised us to try Club La Santa on the island of Lanzarote.
They’d been twice already this year, which is quite a recommendation coming from such jaded men-of-the-world. The idea worked for us: the Canaries aren’t far away (a four-hour flight), they have reliable weather in the mid to high twenties all-year-round, and they’re in the same time zone as the UK. No jet lag and no expensive, long haul hassle.
Tom pointed out that world-class athletes often train at La Santa, in among the ordinary sports tourists and activity enthusiasts, and this made us a little apprehensive. Maybe T&S didn’t appreciate that we have the physiques of mere terriers. But a change is as good as a rest, and all that.
So we took a shot in the dark and booked. We needn’t have worried: it turned out to be one of the best weeks of our lives. As you approach Club La Santa, it looks like a whitewashed Mediterranean town sitting in the gloriously weird, black volcanic, landscape next to a lagoon. It turns out to be a sort of Shangri-la, a hidden city — of fitness and sport.
Deserts work for us, maybe because they provide plenty of room for the mind to expand. This is one of the reasons we like Vegas and Palm Springs, although it might be fair to say the former is more mind blowing than expanding. Lanzarote is dotted with the craters of extinct volcanoes, and a few that are still smouldering.
For otherworldly scenery, it’s hard to beat. In addition to two accommodation complexes and four restaurants, the CLS enclave includes a dizzying array of top-grade sports facilities: three Olympic-size swimming pools, a cycle centre (mountain, road, city, and sand bikes), a water-sport centre (canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, windsurfing), numerous courts for ball sports (handball, squash, tennis, badminton, basketball, volleyball), a running track and equipment for track-and-field events.
There’s also a golf driving range and putting area, mini-golf, boxing ring, and areas for fitness classes. Plus there is a fully equipped gym (although why would you want to be indoors?).
Just in case none of those tickle your fancy, there are pools for being selfindulgent and lying beside and you can always book a massage. While the club organises marathons, it also schedules morning walks of between two and five kilometres.
One day we did a TRX circuit training class outdoors, which involved working against your body weight on straps while around us members of the Czech national team practised their pole vaulting, high jumping and sprinting. Then we learned to windsurf.
On another day, we checked out bikes and rode 12km to the next town for lunch and watched the surfers. Later that afternoon we worked on our front crawl a bit and then did an outdoor core class. When you arrive at reception, a member of staff gives you a map of this mini-universe, asks you to download the CLS app, and then turns you loose.
The app gives you access to daily schedules covering all events and classes and allows you to book in to them. You can also book a court and equipment. The roster of classes is lengthy, running to about 60 a day. Instruction and general hand-holding is provided by the Green Team, a group of about 30 green-uniformed young people with technical expertise — and more energy than sense — who work around the club.
The cost of any instruction session is usually included in the initial accommodation charge. So is the cost of equipment, which can be booked at will, as long as you know what you’re doing or have had an introductory course. The accommodation falls into two classes: apartments and more luxurious suites.
The former are in a concrete structure that looks like a giant moon base, the latter are in a series of newer buildings that look like condos. We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with a terrace overlooking the track, and loved it: the interiors are simple and beautiful, and it was a wonderful place to chill out after a day of mountain biking, working on your backstroke, killing yourself in a Body Attack class, or whatever.
There are terraces everywhere to bask in the sun. The suites provide extra space, larger terraces and — if it’s possible — better views. All come with basic kitchens, including fridges, hobs and microwaves so you can cook your own food if you want. There is a supermarket in the complex. The four restaurants on-site range from an all-you-can eat buffet, where the menu is large and the food of a very high standard, through brasseries with global menus, to a more gourmet style restaurant.
The full and halfboard deals, which are great value, turn you loose on the buffet to varying extents. This is where you’ll find the serious athletes loading up. And of course if you want something different, there are excellent restaurants in the towns nearby. Because of the healthy atmosphere of the place, we found ourselves getting to bed at a reasonable hour — and sober, so that we could be up early to enjoy the next day.
Although in some regards it is a specialist resort, Club La Santa pulls off the trick of being all things to all people. The week after we were there the resort hosted the Iron Man triathlon. Then again, we met a lady in her sixties who had been there with her husband 10 times because they loved going for gentle bike rides and long walks around the island.
The resort is also fully geared up for families: the cycle centre, for example, has sleek, high-tech racing bikes, but it also has cute little ones with training wheels for kids. If you have children, or nieces and nephews, we suggest you take them to CLS and exhaust them. They will never be happier. There is a club for toddlers but also a full agenda of events for older kids.
For instance, during our stay there was a kids’ Olympic track and-field day, where instructors took a group of young people out to try events such as shot put and long jump. (We wanted to go along!) If you go on the half-board deal, your children can eat until they burst.
There is a lot of talk these days about the spiritual dimensions of vacations. In our experience this generally consists of over-priced, over-designed pomposity and/or empty New Age marketing clichés.
There is a lot to be said for going away and simply getting physically healthier. The week in CLS was transcendent for us, in the sense that it left our bodies and souls sparking. We’ve seldom done anything that left us feeling so wonderful and at the same time was so unquestionably good.
Feel free to raise a cynical right eyebrow, but when we discovered this place it felt as if an important door had been opened for us. We can’t wait to go back. So thank you, Tom and Silas. We owe you a large plate of ribs for changing our lives. We still think we’re a better couple than you are. Oh, and soon we’ll be fitter.
Prices start from £644 for a “comfort” one-bedroom apartment for seven nights, which sleeps up to three adults and a child under 15. clublasanta.co.uk