Performance Team

For $12,500, You Can Train With Olympic Medalists in France

Start your day with chestnut-flour-and-banana pancakes before cycling through the French countryside

When the treadmill simply won’t do, there’s always another option — fly to France to be coached by Olympians.

A new, five-day boot camp aimed at amateur — and well-heeled —  triathletes, cyclists and runners offers the chance to fine-tune your physique and boost your endurance, all under the watchful eye of athletes more accustomed to winning medals for themselves. The starting price: £10,000 ($12,500).

An Olympic athlete-turned-trainer is one of the latest must-haves in an increasingly lucrative elite fitness market, now that personal trainers have become part of mainstream fitness routines, said Meredith Poppler of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, an industry trade group. Similar services are offered at resorts from St. Lucia to Spain.

Maree Jesson, on the bike, and Andy Baddeley are two of the athlete/coaches involved in the program.

Performance Team

The athletes involved with the fledgling company, Performance Team, might not have found global fame. But they’re still Olympians. Middle-distance runner Andy Baddeley, a co-founder of the company, competed in the London and Beijing Olympics for Great Britain and in 2008 briefly held the title of world No. 1 for the mile-long run.

Performance Team hasn’t yet sold any slots for the three sessions they have available in May, but they say there’s interest from people looking to break personal records while keeping their joints healthy. 

The target market is executives, such as those working in London’s financial district, known as the City. “Within the City, the idea of looking after your best executives is growing,” said Mark Buckingham, an Olympic physiotherapist and co-founder of Performance Team. “There’s a growing pressure on them to be as fit as they can, to have the latest £20,000 push bike, to do the latest marathon, and this is just the next step.”

Participants will undergo a raft of pre-camp tests, including blood work and electrocardiograms, from Dr. John Rogers, a sports scientist who works with Britain’s Olympic team. Anyone needing further scans for creaky knees and aching backs can book an extra MRI, starting at £500.

The program, set on a 7-acre campus in Salies-de-Béarn near the French Pyrenees, runs from Thursday to Tuesday. The day starts at 7:30 a.m. with a breakfast (options include chestnut-flour-and-banana pancakes or shakshuka with rye toast) followed by a couple of hours of training. This could be a long run on courses that combine flat, fast running with rolling hills and country tracks; or a bike ride (two stages of the Tour de France have previously departed from nearby).

Mark Buckingham, a physiotherapist, works with athlete Louise Damen in the pool on the grounds.

Performance Team

Then comes a session with the physiotherapist, who will look at every joint and nerve, and even how internal organs move, in order to plan out a set of exercises. That would be followed by time with the camp doctor and soft-tissue specialist, and a one-on-one session with the athlete-coach, who’ll advise on the best techniques, philosophies and training strategies, including how to keep motivated.

“We can make much more impact with the amateur athletic population because there’s much more that you can change,” Rogers said. “At the elite end of the spectrum it’s very small margins, whereas amateurs can see vast developments from a small amount of sports science.”

Lunch, prepared on-site, could look like this: fire-roasted whole salmon, rock samphire, saffron and fennel aioli, baked sweet potato is one course, providing vital vitamins, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. A specially-tailored macronutrient eating plan is available for an extra £1,000 session with the nutritionist, using the data collated at the start of the course.

Henry Brown, 42, who recently left a consumer finance lender he founded five years ago, is considering the camp. He used to compete in Ironman World Championships and had a personal best marathon time of two hours 32 minutes (the world record is 2:02:57). Now he wants to keep fit while tending to a nagging Achilles tendon injury. Other fitness camps he attended were lower-key, less luxurious affairs. “You’d bunk up in whatever accommodation you can find and go out training,” he said. This one he hopes would be different.

“It’s not cheap, but at the same time you’re getting all those benefits,” he said. “I’ve chatted to other friends who go off on yoga retreats and they spend a similar amount.”

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