Fitness fanatic Lottie Pridham, co-founder of Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats, on the benefits of working out at high-altitude and loving life in Verbier
What first brought you to Verbier?
I’ve always been into fitness and did a couple of ski seasons here straight after uni. I went back to London afterwards, worked for a couple of years for an events company and decided I had to move out of the office and city environment and back to the mountains! That was seven years ago! I then set up set up Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats, along with co-founder Emma Bodkin, four years ago. We offer fitness retreats in incredible hand-picked locations, focused on fun outdoor fitness sessions. Verbier is our flagship location, we also run them in Sri Lanka, Sardinia, Iceland, Tuscany and Cornwall, plus a location of your choice for private groups. The whole ethos is about getting outside and immersed into nature. Verbier in the summer has so much more variety in terms of activities, so we really make use of the outdoor environment. I love showing people around here because they’re so appreciative of it and it is stunning. It’s a completely different lifestyle. That’s why I live here, I can’t seem to leave!
How do the retreats work?
We have mixed groups and private group retreat weeks. We normally run four weeks in Verbier during the summer and run five weekend ski touring retreats in the winter. Our mixed group retreats are for all – anyone can book on; we cap the size of the group so we have a small ratio or trainer to client to ensure everyone’s goals are met. We have a private chef with a delicious menu which is fresh, healthy and balanced. With regards the private retreats, these are for private groups of friends, couples or teammates. The programme and menu is tailor made to the groups specific goals, and the location is their choice too, they can choose from our existing locations or pick an entirely new place. Emma and I do all the fitness training; we’re both qualified personal trainers and Emma also teaches aerial yoga, which is great fun. We also have a range of amazing and experienced yoga teachers we use in each location, for the daily yoga sessions we offer.
Nutrition-wise, we create a balanced, healthy nutritional menu which is designed to fuel clients through the week as opposed to calorie restriction. It’s a mostly plant-based menu designed around aiding recovery, and we try to use local fresh produce as well. Together with the chef we aim to inspire clients with new and exciting recipes and give them an education into the long term health benefits of eating well and mindfully. It’s not about short term weight loss.
The fitness programmes include a wide range of activities, systematically structured with each day complimenting the next (some activities are location specific). What to expect; HIIT circuits (focusing on both cardio and strength), trail running, hiking, boxercise, Par Cours Vita forest circuits, SUP, surfing, TRX suspension training, swimming, assisted stretching, core conditioning, meditation and daily yoga. Not everyone practices yoga but we try to place importance on it and offer a range of sessions to complement the day’s activities from hatha and power vinyasa, to aerial and restorative.
What is the ethos of Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats?
We set up MBFR with our passion for exercising outdoors and wanting to share this incredible environment (Verbier) with urbanites. There’s a reason we both decided to create a life for ourselves in the mountains! The pace of the modern world and levels of stress and causing a shift of interest to wellness holidays. We wanted to bring people out to a destination like this where they can immerse themselves in nature and focus exclusively on their fitness and wellbeing. Our ethos is about natural movement in the natural environment and sharing this with like-minded people. Activities in Verbier are based between 1500m – 2600m altitude, which of course is hugely beneficial for anyone who is training for an event.
Can you expand a bit more on the benefits of high-altitude training?
Whatever you are training for the benefits of working at altitude are unequivocal it has been done for decades by professionals to give them the edge and now normal people are coming to the mountains to get a boost in their fitness levels. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned athlete, a weekend warrior or starting out your performance will be enhanced by an increase in red blood cell production. This means your aerobic efficiency is supercharged by the ability to transport more oxygen around the body. This means when you get back down to sea level you see the gains happening. So if you want any personal bests, get out as soon as you’re back down at sea level!
Is there something about being in nature that you think brings out the best in clients?
Yes, definitely. Psychologically the benefits of working out in nature are huge and there’s been lots of research into it over the last few years. It’s not like being in a gym where it’s stuffy and you have air conditioning, you have plenty of fresh air to oxygenate your body. It’s also the sense of space and freedom; personally it gives me a lot more energy and I feel happier and more motivated when out in nature. If you take trail running for example, you engage the mind a lot more by concentrating on each step due to the uneven ground that it almost becomes meditative and a distraction from any pain. Rather than the monotonous pounding of a gym treadmill. Being immersed in nature is how we evolved as humans and we are moving further away from this as technology takes over our lives. For this reason we try to encourage a digital-free week on the retreats and give each person a mindful journal to help them focus in on this. A lot of the time people just want to switch off and enjoy a week away meeting like-minded people and have fun interacting and sharing the journey together.