Meet expat Mel Richards, a fitness fanatic who earns a living helping other Brits get fit and healthy in the Spanish sunshine. Have you stepped on the scales recently?
I run a weight-loss and fitness boot camp called RFH Fitness in Andalusia, southern Spain. The camp is based at a hotel called Finca Eslava, on the edge of a town called Antequera. We offer courses designed to achieve sustainable improvements in fitness, body weight and shape but with an alternative approach to the traditional boot camp. I've been running fitness holidays since 2004 and weight-loss holidays since 2005.
I am a former policeman and soldier, as well as a personal trainer, sports therapist, cycling coach and mountain biker, runner, mountaineer and cross-country skier… Oh, I'm also a qualified boxercise and kettle bell instructor! My accomplishments include successful participation in various ultra-marathons, including the Yukon Arctic Ultra and the Grand Union Canal Race, as well as in a whole host of running, hiking, mountain biking and road cycling events around the world.
I am single and live in a house in Antequera. I have three grown-up children – one lives in Germany, where he is serving with the Royal Engineers, one lives in England and the other in Northern Ireland. There isn't much of an expat community in Antequera – it's a busy, affluent town, where the house prices are considerably higher than typical in inland Andalusia. I am a member of a local bike club and of a hiking club based in Málaga – in both groups I am the only expat.
The process of setting up a business in Spain was fairly simple as I consulted very early with a local lawyer and accountant. The only problem was finding someone who spoke enough English to be able to explain everything clearly. This is no longer an issue but it would have been a definite advantage to have been able to speak Spanish on arrival.
My clients come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and many nationalities. The youngest client I've had was a 13-year-old girl, who came with her mother; the oldest was a 64 year-old man. The majority of clients come from the UK and Ireland, but we have many others from all over Europe and some from the Middle East and the US. We aim to be diverse, as well as fun, and can cater for virtually anybody.
Clients can stay for any length of time, from four nights to four weeks and more, though shorter stays are available as part of special packages, available to small groups. Each holiday, or course, consists of sessions in yoga, Pilates, hiking, cycling and gym training, which includes weight training, circuit training and boxercise. Our courses are about effective exercise and hard work, not discomfort and suffering. All guests stay in private en-suite rooms in the four-star Finca Eslava hotel [inset picture] with a gym, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a spa.
We use our own qualified dietician, Pilar Fernandez Miranda. We also offer cognitive training with specialist Dr Lissa Dells. This is a system of training designed to enhance clients' motivation to succeed in their weightloss and fitness goals. Our aim is to educate each client in different ways of exercising so that they can identify the things that they enjoy and develop the skills and confidence to be able to continue training on their return to their home environment.