Feeling sásta Down By The Lake…

photo 1The alarm sounds at 0600 and I’m fresh out of my bed and off to make my porridge. It’s day one of my sásta bootcamp and I’m holding the tiniest paper sachet of oatmeal I’ve ever seen, but I’m determined to follow the rules. I’m here for a week and I want to see how my fitness levels improve and whether I lose weight when someone else is calling the shots. We’re training at 0800 and I need to have breakfast finished an hour before, to get the best value from all that carbohydrate.  Looking around the kitchen I can’t see a microwave so I drag out a saucepan, and turn on the electric hob. I am used to gas, and the dull grey rings look uninspiring. Bored already, I add some water to the pot and leave the porridge to get on with it while I head for the shower.  Twenty photo 11minutes later, I’m dressed for the gym and heading for the door – picking flakes of burned porridge from between my teeth as I gallop to the lift. Well, I never pretended I could cook….

I’m absolutely thrilled with the sásta pods and my first session set me on fire.  It’s a 30 minute programme and within the first few minutes I’m sweating and breathing heavily. I’m also in competition with myself and with the pod, right from the start.  I know I can move the intensity down at any stage but I’m determined to finish the programme without ‘cheating’.  But who called this programme a ‘saunter’? I’m running like a mad thing!

Anyone who uses the sásta pod to train will understand what I mean when I say the ‘saunter’ is a trot, the ‘walk’ is a jog, and the ‘jog’ is a sprint! You’ll find more about the science on the website www.sastafitness.ie – but my understanding is that you’re basically walking and running on a treadmill with an adjustable vaccum, and adjustable inclines. You are sealed into the pod with a ‘skirt’ a bit like the splash-deck on a kayak. That allows for the creation of a vaccum that is controlled by the programme and the manual override. There are currently four programmes, saunter, walk, jog and athlete – each with 6 levels.  You work your way up through a total of 24 levels as your fitness improves and as yet, I believe only one person has completed the full ‘athlete programme’.  I think that’s the beauty of sásta – for me at least. It’s clearly good for weight-loss,photo 8 offering training, support, and a low GL eating plan with good menus and recipes.  But I think it also offers a great opportunity for football clubs or runners to exercise at a high intensity; in addition to, or in conjunction with, their regular training programmes.  You simply work harder on the pod; it’s a training tool that offers resistance, and makes your workout more effective. The pod-session is followed by a ‘body-sculpting’ session with light weights, exercising all muscle groups in a 15/30 min lifting and stretching session, based on a DVD tutorial. Again there are different levels on the video and different sets and reps.

I felt the bootcamp was exactly what I needed.  I had first come across the sásta fitness pods when I was filming for the ‘Get Off The Couch’ TV programme last year, and I was impressed with their potential for beefing up a workout.  I was dying to see how far I could push myself and how my body would react.  I had also put on a couple of stone in a hurry after picking up an injury earlier this year.  My knee was now sound, and I felt I was ready to push it.

There is no sásta fitness centre in Dublin yet, so the bootcamp in Carrick-on-Shannon gave me a brilliant opportunity to break away from bad habits and kick-start a new plan for healthy living. There was also some healthy rivalry, as I had discovered that the entrepreneur behind sásta, Fiona Egan, was my old school buddy from national school.  So we agreed to a bit of a challenge that we would both complete ‘Walk Level 4’ by the end of the week. The stage was set.  I had a residential bootcamp, where my food would be controlled, my activity would be controlled, and any bad habits that I’d picked up would be firmly broken. In addition, the bootcamp allowed me to continue with my swimming training in the evenings, there was a chance for a sauna, some badly needed sports massage tophoto 3 ease out sore muscles, reflexology, which was new to me, some trips to enjoy the beautiful countryside and facilities around Carrick, such as a Shannon boat trip on the Moon River Cruise Ship, and ‘electric bike’ trail rides at Lough Key Forest Park.

Another huge benefit with the bootcamp, was a couple of sessions with ‘Mind Medic’ Daniel Hillman; to help motivate us and help us to keep that motivation when we leave and go back home. This was especially useful for me, as I think I will always have a ‘complicated’ relationship with food. Daniel had a calm ‘no-nonsense’ approach that I found really helpful.  It felt like I was at a management meeting, brain-storming how to get the best from my team; but in this case, my team was me. I believe in setting goals and Daniel gave me a framework to help me remember those goals whenever I’m hovering in front of the fridge.  One thing I’m taking back to Dublin with me, is a ‘Treat List’ of alternative nice things to do for myself, whenever I’m seeking a food based reward.  You never know ladies, from now on, you may occasionally see me with a good haircut and pretty nails!photo 4

After the first day, I collapsed back into the gorgeous ‘Courtyard Apartments’ where I was staying.  The rooms and living area are bright and spacious and I really felt happy to have a comfortable and pretty space to relax in after a very physical day.  I enjoyed a power shower, and an early ‘lights out’ at 2130 before rolling into my big, fluffy double bed and sleeping soundly until the alarm struck again at 0600.  This time I was spared my porridge-burning antics as breakfast was served in an apartment down the hall.  I much preferred that.  Most of our snacks and meals were prepared and served to us and I think it was a valuable intervention. When you’re pushing hard physically, packing in lots of activities, and returning home to an unfamiliar kitchen, it’s nice to have your eating plan pre-arranged and delivered. It was also nice to have a chance to be sociable, to eat with the other members of the group and exchange war-stories after the day.

We had all laughed initially when we were told that we would be having a ‘sásta siesta’ but by day two, we were all looking forward to our snooze between 2 and 3pm.  We even took our siesta by the lake one afternoon, when we were having a healthy picnic at Lough Key Forest Park.  Ok, fair enough, I’m not going to be able to have a siesta when I’m working back at home.  But this was a bootcamp; we were working-out unusually hard, at least twice a day and following a new eating plan –  so the ‘siesta’ was really useful for recharging our batteries and allowing us to work-out more effectively in the evening session.photo 6

Water also featured largely. We were constantly encouraged to sip 2/3 litres of water each day – especially important when we were sweating so much. The sásta Tanita body composition analyser was a brilliant piece of equipment which measured our BMI, fat mass, muscle mass, water, bone mass and biological age.  I was concerned at first to see I was losing as much muscle as fat, but towards the end of the week, I was gaining muscle again and losing fat. I think that was a result of my body adjusting to the food, and my own conscious effort to eat more protein and increase the weights I was lifting. I also found my energy levels were actually increasing towards the end of the week and I was less tired each evening, even though the level of intensity of the exercise was constantly being stepped up. Overall, I found the sásta bootcamp was a super experience that lived up to my best expectations; and something that I would definitely repeat, and recommend.

  • What I liked: the sásta pod, Lough Key Forest Park, the Moon River Shannon cruise, working hard
  • What I didn’t like: cutting the honey out of my porridge, and easing back on the amount of fruit I eat
  • Did it work? Fiona and I both achieved ‘Walk Level 4’ by the end of the week – and I lost 8lb in 4 days
  • Will I be back? Absolutely

photo 10



sásta fitness: sastafitness.ie

Courtyard Apartments Carrick-on-Shannon: http://www.carrickaccommodation.ie/self-catering-accommodation-in-carrick-on-shannon

Moon River Shannon cruise: www.moonriver.ie

Mind Medic:  www.mindmedic.ie/

Massage & Reflexology – Michael McLoughlin: Tel: 00353-87-12277053

Swimming & Sauna: www.auraleisure.ie/leitrim

Seamus Gibbons Electric Bike Trails: www.electricbiketrails.com/








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