Sun, sea and sit-ups…beach bootcamp in Antigua
Chalkmarks Antigua

I CAN feel the sweat down my neck, my heart is racing and my thighs are burning.

I exhale a puff of air and wipe my face on my t-shirt. Sergeant Lewis says I’ll be ok but I don’t believe him.

I have made it to the end of a 12mile hike on the tropical island of Antigua.

I could do with a glass of champagne to celebrate but I down a bottle of water instead as it’s only 8.30am.

The last half-hour was a 150m uphill struggle to Shirley Heights where luckily the view turned out to be slimming too as it took my breath away.

Curry, cricket and tummy crunches!

I look down on the wide navy blue sea to the left and then across to the turquoise waters of English Harbour with its hundreds of yachts and sailboats bobbing up and down.

This is the reason why us Brits come to the Caribbean. It’s a sun-soaked paradise.

I had been on the march since 5am with an ex-army-led group of 40 walkers.

We’d left before dawn to avoid the searing daylight temperatures.

The trek was an exercise drill to an 18th century British military lookout named after the former colonial governor Sir Thomas Shirley.

It was organised by the Insane Boot Camp, which has teamed up with Jolly Beach Resort & Spa, to offer a five-day programme called Get Into the Beach of It.

These former servicemen promise to “push our mental and physical limits”.

The regime includes two hikes, poolside Socarobics, a Fitness Challenge on the sand and a Therapeutic Massage mid-week.

It seems to go against the instincts to spend my exotic holiday exercising before sunrise and doing jumping jacks by the pool.

There was a moment when I thought “what am I doing?” but that panorama from the southern tip of the island was worthwhile.

And using ex-squaddies is genius because these super fit hunks command a certain respect where I don’t dare answer back when they bellow “step it up”.

Leaving before dawn for the three-hour hike we looked like a glow in the dark regiment in our uniform of white Insane t-shirts.

Taking the main roads, we passed through quiet parishes where locals waved and drivers tooted hello.

We saw areas of thick green vegetation where I hoped to see a darting mongoose.

Then later we went by dry scrubland spotting lone cows munching away at tufts of grass.

We watched the sunrise and heard the early morning bird song.

Sgt Lewis kept us motivated with his smooth accent reminding us how triumphant we’d feel at the end. At one point he had us singing a military marching chant.

The hike was well organised with the Insane team in constant radio contact with other instructors who’d taken off with faster or slower groups.

They even had guys in 4X4s driving along the route to check our progress and to offer up water and even a sneaky lift if needed.

The one thing that kept me going was visions of eggs, bacon, sausages, beans and warm toast back at the resort.

After taking dozens of snaps of our momentous half-marathon achievement, the temperature starts turning up and our group is driven back to base-camp at Jolly Beach.

We leave behind our comrades tucking into a healthy breakfast which I declined as I wanted to carve up the menu at Hemispheres – one of five restaurants at the complex.

The resort is all-inclusive so there’s no issue with pigging out.

Once I’d chosen coffee over tea and an omelette over fried eggs, it was time to spend the rest of the day on the beach followed by a long soak in the sea.

They claim that there’s 365 beaches – one for everyday of the year – but really you only need one and the oceanfront at Jolly Beach is one of the best on the island with the soft white sand stretching for a mile.

During the afternoon there was beach cricket where anyone who wants to play can step forward.

The moment I picked up the bat and stood in front of the wicket I knew I wouldn’t hit the ball. But after a few swings I got my eye in and scored some runs.

I was bowled out too soon though so retired back to the sun lounger.

If I felt any more energetic during the week there was an on site gym with treadmills, bikes and free weights.

There was also a huge swimming pool as well as water sports such as windsurfing, kayaking and paddleboats on offer.

The Socarobics session involved some real grit with lots of air punching, high knees and squats for an hour to the sound of soca music.

Having worked out every muscle group, there were plenty of congratulatory backing slapping from the ex-soldiers.

With aching legs, I rested up that day with a rum punch and a plate of jerk chicken and chips from the Coconut Grill.

A great trip away from all the keep fit is the Xtreme Circumnavigation Tour, which circles the island taking in Stingray City for a chance to swim and have a photo taken with these huge creatures.

The full-day itinerary includes lunch on Green Island, a cruise around Nelson’s Dockyard, a chance to go snorkelling and a final stop at a secluded beach for rum.

As the week goes on my stomach starts to feel firmer but it’s tough not to over eat or drink too much in the evenings with so much on offer especially at Utsav that serves up some great Indian dishes.

But I can’t complain, where else would I get the chance to combine curry, cricket and crunches.

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