It was nine o’clock in the morning, the music was blaring, the room was dark and lit with a moody blue light. My body filled with adrenaline, my eyes focused as I pulled my elbow back and slammed my clenched fist into the darkness, making contact with the almighty punch that echoed inside me.
And yet this wasn’t a 24-hour rave that went south with drunken brawlers. Rather, I was reporting for duty at a boutique boxing studio in Jersey – a fitness trend currently in vogue among chic outfits on the island.
In the dim light I could see an exercise mat, dumbbells, a weighted ball, and a row of large, long leather punching bags like mine hanging next to a row of neat Lycra-clad classmates. With a loud “ding ding!” we sprang into action as the instructor shouted instructions; “50 Straight Punches! 50 punches to the body! 10 squats!”
I was there to try out a new type of box and detox wellness retreat pioneered by St Helier’s The Club Hotel & Spa, which has partnered with neighbor BoxinBusiness – owned by father and son Alan and Ben Murray – who is so far from a conventional boxing club where you can sweat and sawdust as much as you can imagine (plus, there is the expertise of the hotel’s masseur to soothe any stubborn pains).
Moreover, although the two-day detox retreat is billed as a wellness break, there is absolutely no fasting involved. On the contrary, because the hotel is home to Bohemia, Jersey’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, where local produce is paired with seasonal ingredients on a menu created by chef Callum Graham. .
Boxing as a form of exercise wasn’t entirely new to me: I first encountered it during a short spell with a personal trainer, and had taken a few classes in a South London park a few years earlier – finding it not only an excellent full-body workout, but also cardio, but an incredibly good outlet for tension, a literal punching bag for life’s anguish. This time I fought the suppressed annoyance caused by the two catastrophically unreliable builders in the house and felt better with each hit.
“Dinging!” The bell plunged us into another round, this time with a few planks thrown in for time. I threw myself on the mat and yanked back as fast as I could, and – though my classmates were catching up quickly – I found it a surprise that I wasn’t just having fun, but rather feeling proud. I was about twice as old as most others, and there’s something empowering about boxing – even in slow motion.
After class, we drank protein shakes – designed to ease any post-workout pain – in a bar, more like a Notting Hill Health Shelter than a boxing pond. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered from an hour-long one-on-one meeting with a BoxinBusiness personal trainer the previous day (also included in the package) and was so blown away by my newfound confidence that I decided to find a similar boutique-boxing setting as soon as I got home.
After each boxing session, it didn’t take long to convince me to take a bath in the hotel’s salt water pool, which will help regenerate my muscles – or an hour-long rejuvenating massage included in the package, strong but so calming, I fell asleep. With the entire pool to myself, I swam staring at the huge wall with a backlit painting of Les Minquiers – a gorgeous white sand reef that sits between the south coast of Jersey and French Brittany – thinking about my home for the weekend .
This was my first visit to Jersey, an island I’ve always found a bit of a mystery, and I admit I expected nothing more than a nice tax haven filled with the rich and retired. I was – as anyone who has ever visited the island knows – pleasantly surprised to find a fascinating idyll full of history, beaches (you are never more than 10 minutes from the sea), shopping (lower prices on many luxury brands, plus some great, one-off boutiques) and even a Victorian covered market.
On a cool, wonderfully sunny winter morning, I took a quick walk outside of St. The Jersey Museum (jerseyheritage.org) has a great video explaining the history of the island from the Ice Age to the present day, through the French invasion 600 years ago. As a Francophile throughout my stay, I was charmed by how French the island is, with many roads still bearing French and Jèrriais names, food inspired by Gallic food, and a landscape that could be reminiscent of Brittany.
And of course there are restaurants. Jersey is heaven for food (especially seafood) lovers like me, and it turns out the real genius of attending a no-fasting fitness retreat at a place like this is that it leaves you free to hang out – time to wade through island guilt free.
With that in mind, I decided that any time I didn’t spend pounding a punching bag would be spent pounding the sidewalks in search of good local food.
And my efforts were in vain – in Brasserie Colmar (colmar.je) I ate luxurious lobster soup and a decent crispy baguette; at the hipster Yard Cafe at the Jersey Museum (facebook.com/theyardjersey), on excellent cod flakes and seaweed stuffed Jersey Royals, at The Moorings (themooringshotel.com), a stylish hotel-restaurant owned by a couple from Jersey and Norwegians, on heavenly oysters Grouville with intense salty sweetness and succulent scallops, alongside fresh sea bass with samphire puree and peas. Suffice it to say that the appetite I developed in the boxing studio never remained insatiable.
By the time my three-day stay was coming to an end, I was feeling healthy, full of energy and totally zen – full of excitement of exploring a new place, physically and mentally strengthened, infused with fresh sea air and completely seduced by this tiny, wonderful island that, needless to say, hits way above its mark weight.
Sudi Pigott has been a guest at The Moorings Hotel (themooringshotel.com), BoxinBusiness (boxinbusiness.com) and The Club Hotel & Spa (01534 876500; theclubjersey.com), where a two-day Box & Detox package costs £679 in low season and £889 in high season , based on two adults. EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies to Jersey from £67 return.