Can a trip to Club La Santa improve your running? Esther thinks so…
Over the summer I was invited along with Holly to Club La Santa so I could tell you guys all about it. We couldn’t believe our luck. I already knew a number of runners who love it, so couldn’t wait to go. Excitement was building, and building… and then disaster struck the weekend before the trip: Holly began to feel poorly, and phoned the docs, who told her to take a PCR test. This was the day before the flight. So poor Hol got stuck at home, feeling dreadful, waiting for her results, while I pulled on my Big Girl Boots and headed to Lanzarote on my own. Eek. This is how it all panned out…
My cab picks me up from my front door at 3.15am to take me to the airport. It’s a strange and befuddling few hours, exacerbated by almost constant mask-wearing, until I find myself standing by my suitcase, wearing far too many clothes, at the entrance to Club La Santa in Lanzarote at 10.45am.
I’m shown round the site by a lovely woman who explains where everything is and what I need to do to access it all. Over there is the running track, over here are the restaurants, this section here is called The Volcano (but happily isn’t actually a volcano), this is where the running groups start from, here is where I can book activities, and there is where I can buy swimming goggles. She also tells me all about the Club La Santa Green Team: these are the people that lead all the fitness activities – around here, they’re a bit like gods. They certainly look like them. A little shell shocked, and still overdressed, I take in about 10% of the information.
After my tour, I settle in to my apartment, which is a lovely, simply furnished flat, with everything you could possibly need including a well-equipped kitchenette. I pack away my clothes, as my mother taught me to do, download the Club La Santa app, book myself into a billion classes before I’ve even thought about it, and then – after wondering what to do with myself – chuck on my leggings and have a recce around the 5K running route I’ve downloaded from the app. I stop at every corner to take photos of the moon-like landscape while enjoying the sunshine on my face.
I have dinner at La Piscine – commonly known as the Pool Bar – of some gorgeous fish and some Lanzarote speciality salt-encrusted potatoes with a red sauce, which has basically changed my whole concept of potatoes. I came home for some dark chocolate that I cunningly bought in the CLS supermarket beforehand, and the first episode of Bake Off. Then it’s time for bed. I am shatterooned.
Esther on her first morning run
I get up for the 8am ‘gymnastics’ – my tour guide explains they’ve had the same music for 40 years, which I think she’s exaggerating but then the Chariots of Fire theme came on. I’d almost not gone, thinking I didn’t want to do gymnastics, but it’s a gentle stretch and mobilisation start to the day, and it’s also a CLS institution! Everyone does it! It feels a bit strange to do it to begin with, but actually it’s a lovely feeling of community while we star jump and stretch our calves. And then it was straight on to….
You can join a 2K walk/run, 3K, 4K and 5K. I was hovering between the last two, but then saw all the big blokes join 5, and a handful of very fit women join the 4. So before I could skip into the 3, I was off with the 4. They run at a consistent 5.5K pace, which – cos I’m very Imperial – I didn’t really understand until they set off. I have to admit it was a bit uncomfortably fast for this plodder, but I did it! And I wasn’t last! And everyone in front of me could easily be my daughter! So I’m taking that as a win. Then it’s breakfast.
Oh my god, when did swimming get so hard? I have booked in for a half hour swim at the 50-metre pool. This is lovely, cos it means you’re never sharing a lane with more than 2 or 3 other people. Off I go, thinking ah, swimming, I was such a good swimmer as a girl, this will be nice. I start off with front crawl, almost die at 25 metres, and switch to old-lady breast stroke. Half an hour feels like a very long time.
They don’t call this ‘ultimate’ for nothing. This is my first proper class at La Santa, and I’m not quite sure what to expect. But, as I’ve discovered with all fitness classes everywhere, my fellow ab-crunchers are made up of a lovely cross section of body and age types, and the instructor is taking no prisoners. There are lots of crunches, and lots of pain, with lots of grunting from my fellow ultimate abs-people. But the half hour passes swiftly. And before I know it, we’re stretching out and it’s time to move on to…
Now, I’ve not done this for about 20 years, and I wondered if anything had changed – it hasn’t, but it is a whole lot more fun with a cheerful Danish woman with the best thighs I think I’ve ever seen constantly ribbing us for our miss-steps. Sweaty, brilliant fun that has changed my mind about this sort of fitness forever. I want to do it again! But I don’t – I run back to the apartment, have a much-needed shower (note to self: next time, pack twice as many tops), and then run out for supper. I’m in bed, exhausted, at 9.30pm.
Gymnastics and running again – I’ve got the hang of both, and neither seem quite so painful emotionally or physically, even while the Green Team leader is ripping the Michael out of the UK runners for sticking to mileage rather than KM. I feel not quite so battered on the return, but the UK chap next to me mutters, “well I’m not doing THAT again”, which is how I felt yesterday. Hopefully, like all runners, he’ll change his mind by lunchtime! So I feel like I’ve crossed that one off – tomorrow I’m going to do something different. But for now, it’s time to try something new.
Cor, that was a tough one! I completely loved this one – a mix of various martial arts, using just bodyweight and nothing else. Two enthusiastic lovely women shout various instructions at us – one of them is the Thigh Lady from the Step class, alongside a new person who asks us to imagine punching our fists through someone’s head. Through. Someone’s. Head. “So you can see their brains come out the other side!” She laughs. Wowsers. Very sweaty, lots of fun. Then I have time for lunch, before facing my nemesis.
I’ve never been paddleboarding before, and you can tell. I decide to join a beginners’ class, which is all part of the CLS service. Another beautifully thighed Danish chap talks us through the principles although I am concerned that none of the principles include getting on or off the thing. We are instructed to pick up our paddleboards and take them to the edge of the lagoon – and at this first instruction, I fail spectacularly as I’m unable to lift my paddleboard up. I’m helped by a lovely chap who laughs at me all the way to the water’s edge, which is kind.
I tentatively kneel on the board, heart pumping fast, and slowly paddle as instructed. I’m just getting the hang of it, when the instructor walks over and says: “you know it helps if the fin is out of the sand; you might find that you move then.” Hmm. I get off, push the board out a bit, wobble back on to it, paddle a little bit, and notice that all of the rest of the beginner group are now standing. I don’t like being left out. Oh god. Here we go. I wobble myself to standing. I did it! Then I paddle furiously in the direction the instructor told us to go. Twice on the right. Twice on the left. Again and again. I’m doing it! “You know,” says the instructor, who has appeared at my right elbow, “If you’d like to move, you need to put a bit of effort in. You know that paddle is actually waterproof!” A glance to my right confirms the comedian’s comments – I’ve not moved an inch from where I started. I give it some welly. I move, slowly, to where everyone else is – paddling against the current. Then glacially swing round, and paddle with the current in the opposite direction. Easy! The instructor calls us back in. It takes me a full 8 minutes of panic to swing the board round again, against the current and haul my cookies to shore. By which time he’s stopped talking to everyone else, who are all very coolly sitting astride their boards as if they’ve done this before several times (I bet they have.) I glide up to join them, as the instructor says, “…and that’s it! Any questions, let me know, you’re free to keep going for as long as you like!” Oh. I crouch down gingerly, and fall straight in. I decide to call it a day. Paddleboarding Medal: achieved. Now it’s time for…
Shouldn’t be so bad today, now I know what’s going on. But hang on a minute! Who’s *this* guy? Don’t remember him. He shouts instructions in a jolly way to around 80 athletic tanned people, and me. We do crunches, planks and various other painful things, and it’s actually very very hard, and then he finishes with one of the worst exercises of all time – he calls it “The Banana”. I call it torture. And then…
STRETCH & RELAX
…the same guy, the torture guy, goes suddenly all soft-voiced. The hardcore music goes off, the gentle lovely stuff comes on, and he talks us through one of the most glorious stretching sessions I’ve ever had. The sun is beating down on us all as we stretch everything from our necks to our toes, and then finish by lying on our mats in silence for five minutes. At least two people fall asleep. It’s AMAZING. I’ve signed up to do it again tomorrow.
Holly whatsapps to let me know her test has come back negative. We’re both elated that she doesn’t have Covid, and properly gutted she’s not here. I soothe myself with two trips to the buffet, and a family-sized bag of paprika flavoured crisps while watching Changing Rooms. My eyelids are drooping at 9.45.
Last day! I decide to eschew the morning gymnastics and 4K run, and take myself off for my own run, and this is a Good Decision. I actually leave the complex, which I’ve not done since I’ve been here, and have the most glorious ploddy run over the other side out to the coast, and then add on the circuit that I’m now used to. In all, it’s 4 miles, that’s all, but a very very lovely 4 miles, with a rising sun, stunning coastline, and rugged other-worldly volcanic rock. The place is littered with little paths, perfect for cyclists and runners, and you just can’t get lost as long as you don’t head out too far, as you can always see the complex of Club La Santa wherever you are.
After breakfast I head to the Sports Performance Studio to meet the lovely Ben, who’s going to take me through my paces – something that every runner can take advantage of. Turns out Ben is an old hand at this: he’s been coming to CLS since he was a kid, he turned his hand to triathlon in his youth – all the while supported by CLS – and now he’s back as their resident run coach. What’s great is that the analysis is completely holistic – he furtively checks the way I sit and stand, and analyses me without me even stepping on to the treadmill. But I have to do that too, and I run on that while he studies my form. Later, we head to the CLS track, which I run round, feeling a little bit self-conscious, but I know it’s all to the good. So the diagnosis is that my right shoulder is tight, I’m not placing my right leg correctly, I’m crossing my feet as I run (grrr!) and I lean too far back. All of this is news to me. He gives me a couple of simple running drills, tells to run hills more (ugh) and gives me a couple of little stretches to do to ease off my shoulder and my hamstrings. He also tells me to get myself ‘sorted’ with an osteo regularly, and I’m inclined to follow his advice…
Goodness. This is straight after the running analysis, and I almost don’t go cos I’m crackered, but I pull myself together. This is classic bodypump with a bar, bells and step to work with. Another jolly Dane takes the class – they are honestly all so good, so confident in front of a crowd, and brilliant at explaining the moves to lots of differently able people. To be fair, the crowd is brilliant too – they’re split pretty evenly between very athletic types who follow the instructions to the letter, and more normal types, who know how to regress the exercises if need be. It’s pretty sweaty, mind, and for the presses I choose the wrong weight and regret it after the second set. But I get through! Out the other side, and then it’s LUNCH.
I’m not sure what made me sign up for this again, but I have. What’s brilliant about this, is that each time I’ve been the class has been different – differently challenging, but it certainly keeps things interesting, lively, and makes the half hour zip by. After 30 minutes, stick a knife in me, I am DONE.
At this point, I was supposed to be going to another Stretch & Relax class, but I’ve signed up to something else following it, and I’m all a bit hot and bothered, so I cancel via the app, and instead grab my swimming costume, head to the leisure pool, and take a little dip in that. It is utterly bliss.
Then it’s a quick run back to the apartment for a change, so I’m all prepared to head out to…
This is my last class of the stay, so I thought I’d make it count. I’m currently typing this three days after the class, and my quads are still aching – it really, really counted. A happy chap leads the class, explaining that we’re going to be doing some classic HIIT, some Tabata, and an AMRAP block. I’m used to the terminology from my own Bootcamp classes, but am confused as we tend to concentrate on one style per bootcamp. But my confusion has about 7 seconds to settle in before we’re on our sweaty way. Before I can even think, we’re running on the spot, doing frantic burpees and mountain climbers, and god knows what else. Mixing up the different styles of HIIT is just a brilliant thing, it turns out – again, a half hour that totally zooms past, and before I know it, we’re done. One big, hot, sweaty mess, I head upstairs to have a chat with Holly on Instagram, before stuffing myself at the buffet and climbing into bed totally exhausted.
Club La Santa's suites
The following morning I just have time to film a little bit of Morning Gymnastics before I have to jump in a cab to the airport. I’ve gone from being bemused and – admittedly – amused at those gymnastics, to actually pretty tearful that I’m not going to see them again. I love them, and all they stand for.
Because you see the thing about Club La Santa is the community: this is one of very few places in the world where you are going to meet people just like you. And even if they’re not *just* like you, you will have something in common with them: the cycling pensioners, the tennis-playing families, the Zumba-dancing warriors, the beach dudes. All of them love movement, and that incredible feeling of discovering and enjoying what their bodies can achieve.
I spoke to Anna McNuff while I was out there – she was hanging out with her 9-month-old and her family. Anna has been coming to Club La Santa since she was 14, and finds new things to enjoy every time she comes. To begin with, she used to go to all the classes, as I’ve done, but now she’s happy to use it as a base, and go off with one of CLS’s fantastic bikes for a ride-and-run to explore the area, before returning to enjoy a dip in the 50ft pool. I am impressed at her loyalty, and she told me that just the previous day she’s met someone who’d been coming every year since he was 3!
There is no comparison: while we all love movement, we all love different things – even in the running tribe, some of us enjoyed using the track for speed sessions, others enjoyed running in the groups, while many of us loved exploring Lanzarote’s otherworldly landscape on our own. The same is true of all the other sporting tribes at Club La Santa: while there is one box that we all tick, the huge Venn diagram of interests and activities means that it is a space for all: for professional triathletes, for happy families, for running groups, for friendships groups, for those seeking spa days, or those never out of their swimming cossies; honestly there is nothing like Club La Santa.
I share my cab to the airport with a woman from Madrid, who explains that it is her 5th or 6th time – “I’ve lost count!” Do you always come on your own, I ask? “Mostly! I have come here with friends before, but I’m happiest on my own.” She then asks me if I’m an old-timer too, and I confess it’s my first time. She grins at me with wide eyes: “Would you come again?” Before I’ve even had time to think about it, about how much I’ve missed my kids, and the peculiarity of holidaying on my own, but also about the joy of being surrounded by people who like to move as much as me, people who exude the sort of happiness that only physical activity can give, my mouth and heart say as one: “In a heartbeat!”
Esther at the Club La Santa entrance
About Club La Santa
Club La Santa in Lanzarote is one of the world’s leading sports and active holiday resorts. It has world class facilities that are suitable for all ages and abilities. There are 80 sports and 500 weekly timetabled activities.
It has excellent facilities for runners of all abilities including running analysis, running school, hill climbs, morning runs and more, plus all the cross training you could want, as well as yoga, stretch and relax classes to support your training.
Running week at Club La Santa
21st – 27th January 2022
Join experienced coaches for a week filled with training, education and sore legs. They will challenge you to improve your fitness as you build your winter training towards your running goals of 2022, whether it’s a spring marathon or 5km fun run.