After four marathons, two ultramarathons and a resulting knee injury, CompareRetreats.com founder Dervla Louli decided to hang up her long-distance running shoes. Looking for her next fitness fix, she stumbled upon sprint triathlons: a combination of running, swimming and cycling. Already an avid runner and swimmer, cycling was the problem: the Hong Kong hills had provided a great excuse to never go near a racing bike. But, never one to shy away from a challenge, Dervla searched out triathlon retreat training camps that professional athletes like Maria Sharapova love and found one a short flight away in Phuket: Thanyapura. With the help of the Flight Centre Hong Kong team, she was booked up and flying out before she could change my mind – and on her way to a triathlon retreat.
Phuket International Airport can get quite busy during peak season, so have a pen at the ready and keep an eye out for the visa documents that you need to sign before going through passport control. Phuket is known for stunning beaches and sunsets, and it’s a very popular tourist destination. The weather is best from December to April, intermittent showers fall daily from May to September and the rainy season is October and November.
I visited at the end of January and except for one light shower the weather was warm in the morning and evening and hot during the day. Wear sunscreen at all times because the sun can be deceptively strong. Thanyapura Sports and Health Resort is located 20 minutes away from Phuket International Airport, Catch Beach Club and popular boutiques, cafes and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to get some sun, fun and fitness in thanks to its close and convenient proximity to Hong Kong.
Thanyapura is a state-of-the-art sport and health resort with a hotel, four swimming pools, tennis courts, track, soccer field, yoga studio, meditation centre, gym, spa, integrative wellness centre, restaurant and vegan café. It’s the most comprehensive fitness facility I’ve ever come across and caters to Olympians, professional athletes, fitness fanatics, families and complete beginners.
The hotel wing has a dedicated pool and bar for guests who want to sip on champagne or coconuts instead of working up a sweat. The fitness centre is a short stroll away and the 25-metre, 15-metre and children’s pool sit side-by-side and are surrounded by the restaurant, café and spa. The entire resort is covered in beautiful banana leaves, vibrant flowers, and lush greenery, so you always feel like you’re working out in the middle of paradise which is helpful when you’re running around a track for the tenth time or swimming your third kilometre of the day. There’s a daily shuttle bus that brings guests to and from the beach, lots of helpful staff and a medi-spa for when you want to enjoy a high-tech treatment or two that offer visible results. The lipo-freeze, botox and IV infusions are particularly popular with visitors and locals in the know. There are many retreat options to pick from and it’s a great spot for detox, weight-loss, and fitness retreats.
The rooms at Thanyapura are quite large, very clean and moderately luxurious. Amenities include bottled water and a kettle for tea and coffee but little else. The suites include separate bedroom and living areas, and the ground-floor rooms have outdoor areas with tables and chairs. Hair conditioner isn’t provided but all other toiletries are, and the bathrooms have stand-up showers but no baths. Washing machines are provided in each wing and coins can be found at reception to activate them. There is no room service and there are vending machines located around the resort in case you need some basic snacks or beverages.
Rooms by the pool are a little bit noisier during the day but closer to the fitness centre and the garden wing is better if you like something a little more serene. I was very impressed with how well the resort caters to people of all abilities. Everywhere is easily accessible for everyone and the staff goes out of their way to help make everyone’s stay as enjoyable as possible. Thanyapura made me believe that limits don’t exist and I was very motivated by people who had physical limitations that were way fitter and faster than me.
Read our full Resort Overview: Thanyapura Sports Hotel, Phuket
Triathlon Retreat Programme
Thanyapura is well known for being one of the top triathlete training camps in the world and guests come from everywhere to train. Many guests stay for months on end to get into the best shape of their lives and people living in Phuket also come to the classes. The three-day triathlon retreat programme I tried included three-nights accommodation in a suite, breakfast, triathlon training classes and access to group training and wellness classes.
The triathlete-training schedule is well planned and in one week you will cover open-water swimming sessions, biking, running, stretching and weight training. Most morning sessions started around 7am and went on for two or three hours while the afternoon classes began around 4pm and only lasted for one hour. The group-training calendar is action-packed and offers HIIT, Pilates, Muay Thai, Core, Boot Camp, Volleyball, XFit, Spinning, DanceFit and Aqua Core classes. Throughout the day from 8am to 7pm. The Olympic-sized pool, track and rental racing bikes are also open for solo workouts if you want to work out by yourself which I did one afternoon. If you need to get some headspace and prefer something more serene, the wellness class calendar offers meditation, yoga and informational lectures.
Here’s what a typical day on the retreat programme looked like for me:
07.30 40km Bike trail on 5km loop
11:00 30-minute run
13:00 Chill time by the pool or massage
14:00 2-3km swim
16:00 Stretching or yoga
18:00 Dinner at Thanyapura or nearby restaurant
I would advise having some experience in two out of the three-triathlon disciplines before arriving at Thanyapura because you do get thrown into the deep end when it comes to training. I prefer this ‘sink or swim’ method but it’s not for everyone.
For example, while I found the swimming and running sessions easy, going from a spinning studio bike to cycling for 40km around Phuket is something that I’ll never forget. If it wasn’t for the two excellent triathlon trainers who stayed in front and behind me for every second of the ride as the rest of the group sped away in the distance, I would have turned back after a few minutes. They taught me how to use my gears, made sure I was always safe crossing roads and enjoyed telling me to go, “faster, faster, faster”, when I took it a little too easy. After 20 minutes my fear disappeared, I relaxed my shoulders and fell in love with cycling the flat 5km loop that I completed six times before deciding to head back to the resort.
Everyone doing the triathlon-training programme was friendly, helpful and encouraging. Rental bikes and helmets are available for THB1,000 per day and you can book them in advance to ensure you’re set when you arrive. While the long-distance endurance training classes were easy to follow, some of the skills-based classes could have been more detailed. I was looking forward to improving my swimming skills which didn’t happen so next time I’ll book some private one-on-one sessions and ask for the best coach on site.
As you can see the emphasis is on exercise and not on diet for the triathlon retreat but it’s easy to make healthy choices while you’re on site. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at Thanyapura most days because the menu was so extensive and the food was delicious. The restaurant serves traditional Thai and Western dishes but specialises in plant-based and vegan cuisine.
There are buffet options for breakfast, lunch and dinner serving hot and cold options, but I preferred ordering from the menu. The dishes are packed with seasonal, local ingredients and there is always fresh fruit on offer. The smaller café offers more relaxed options like plant-based snacks, wraps, salads and vegan treats.
I was fit, healthy and tanned when I checked out of Thanyapura after three nights and four days. I was no longer scared of the racing bike, learned how to pace a 3km swim and discovered running techniques that I never knew before. The fresh coconuts, plant-based options and Thai specialities kept me fueled every day and the yoga, meditation and massages helped me to relax during the late afternoons and evening. I didn’t think it was possible to find a wellness resort that combines cutting-edge fitness facilities, holistic therapies, high-tech treatments, and plant-based cuisine with a high-end hotel that’s family friendly and caters to children and professional athletes, but Thanyapura has something for everyone and that’s the best thing about it.
Flight Centre Hong Kong offers triathlon packages to Thanyapura starting from US$660 | flightcentrehk.com
Thanyapura Sports and Health Resort, 120, 120/ 1, Moo 7, Thepkasattri Road, Thalang, Phuket 83110, Thailand | Phone: +66 76 336 000 | thanyapura.com