It’s 6 A.M. I hear Music. Shaggy to be specific. The lyrics of “It Wasn’t Me” start getting louder and louder as I pull the sheets up over my head in protest. The next thing I know two half naked, super athletic, men are standing in my bedroom with a boom box singing” Picture this we were both butt naked..” s Through my sleep deprived half open eyelids I am able to take in their physique. They proceed to dance on my bed until I acknowledge I am indeed awake. Are those disco lights? Yes. My room has been turned into a discotheque. Good morning, Nicaragua! Somehow I am able to feed off of their ridiculous energy and bounce out of bed to pull on workout gear and remember right, yes I signed up for a week long fitness retreat with Surf Yoga Beer.
Megan, one of my best friends, and I exchange looks across the room. We got this. As we walk out of our Villa, onto our deck overlooking Playa Madera, a smile begins to creep across my face. I’m in paradise. Our villa is located on a cliff, part of the Madera’s Villa’s complex which is comprised of multiple villas all with ocean views. Only a few minutes from the beach, I can literally sit in my hammock and watch the surf break. It was going to be a good week.
I had never done a fitness retreat. For that matter I had never travelled in a large group before, so the entire experience to me was new one to me. Surf Yoga Beer (SYB) is exactly what it sounds like, a fitness adventure that still likes to have fun at the end of the day. Life is all about balance after all. Almost everyone has heard of at least one fitness retreat, they seem to be multiplying like bunnies these days. However most of them are purists, in that you go away for a week or more to cleanse, detox and come back a new, refreshed, shinier version of yourself. While I am all about a good cleanse, I was looking for more of a vacation this time around. Our schedule went something like this;
6 AM : Wake up every, yes EVERY morning for 6:30 AM boot camp on the beach.
7 AM: Home cooked breakfast is served in one of the main Villas by Eddie, owner of Salud (one of my favorite healthy cafes in NYC) – focused on healthy, local cuisine of Nicaragua.
9:30 AM: Head back down to the beach for Surf session. Lessons by Mantas are provided or you can opt to do your own thing.
1-3PM: Keep surfing, grab tacos on the beach, take a nap in your hammock, explore the forest hiking paths, this is you time. Afternoon activities such as zip lining are also offered throughout the week.
4:30 PM: When you think your body might not have any energy left in it you manage to do some sunset yoga with the incredible super model turned yoga instructor Rianne Ten haken. She is a magical, unicorn of a creature who succeeded in melting us all into peaceful meditation every evening.
7PM ISH: Dinner, drinks and dance parties commence. Dinner for the most part were home cooked meals served at the main villa with a few exceptions of dinner in town. Somehow when your body has reached maximum level of exhaustion you fumble your way back through the dark jungle, minding the scorpions and spiders to your villa and pass out.
It’s funny because this is how a lot of people live their lives every day, my cousins in Kauai for example wake up every day, for the most part at sunrise and either go surf or workout. Usually followed by a day of heavy activity. However, we city people takes a few days for our bodies to adjust to becoming Mowgli. I’ve always felt very torn by two identities. There is the side of me that loves the city, getting dressed up, doing my hair and makeup, the scene, all of it. Then there is the other side of me. The wild child. The Mowgli. It’s easy for me to glide between the two and transform, adjusting between city and jungle as if both were my natural habitat. I love that I can become a beach bum, let go and run around with crazy beach hair and no makeup – a simpler me. My week in Nicaragua was just that. A week of a simpler me, back to the basics, back to nature, back to the things that really matter. It just so happened that this SYB trip happened over Thanksgiving, so naturally thoughts of family and thankfulness were abundant. It was refreshing not dealing with the usual airport craziness traveling from coast to coast, the juggling of multiple households, the overeating and overdrinking. Instead I was spending each day with a new family, a fitness family, in nature. I need this. I crave it – being in water, being in nature. It’s what allows me to be successful and balanced in such a large, and sometimes suffocating city as NYC. Being able to escape and become Mowgli for a bit.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Nicaragua, and like most of the group, didn’t know many people. There were introverts, extroverts, couples, people from LA, NYC and Australia. Being that the trip was largely focused on health, it was also great to see the group was comprised people of all fitness levels. I consider myself an athlete, I work out about 3-5 times a week. I’m no Mantas, one of the SYB leaders. He works out 7 days a week (multiple times a day), has 2% or less body fat and is one of the most sought out SoulCycle Instructors in the NYC. So it was reassuring and inspiring to see that all athletic levels had signed up for a week of fitness adventures.
That first morning boot camp set the pace and attitude for the entire trip – Mantas had us running around playing capture the flag, team building exercises, mid work out ocean rinse offs, partner workouts, relays – it was the most fun I had ever had during a boot camp. It was so much more than burning calories. You could see everyone become a kid again as if we were all at summer camp, but this summer camp happened to be on a stunning beach in Nicaragua. It was sweaty and messy and 100% exhilarating. Everyone had a smile on their face, even me after getting taken out HARD during an aggressive game of capture the flag (I’m rather competitive). I began to notice something, an energy amongst the group, through these activities people were starting to open up. They were getting outside of their comfort zone and sharing themselves fully without boundaries or walls. I’ve seen this before, in acting classes when walls are torn down and the inner child is allowed to surface and play, smile and laugh without judgment in a safe environment. It is an amazing thing to witness.
Somewhere between my reflections in yoga, the water on my surfboard, or sitting fireside on the beach with 22 SYB people, the feeling hit me. This was an extraordinary group, how safe and open everyone felt with one another. To share their true selves with essentially strangers. No one was trying to impress anyone else. It’s funny how nature can do that, how extreme circumstances can release you of societal pressures.
The last night was pretty magical. We went into town for dinner but before sitting down for our last meal of the trip we were asked to gather on the beach. Mantas and Eddie our SYB leaders were holding a closing ceremony by handing out awards from the week accompanied by SYB swag. I received an award that had more or less to do with my teeny tiny surf bottoms – tan lines…what can I say. We finished dinner and ended the night on the town with a hot sweaty dance party, the only acceptable way to finish out the week. It was hard to accept the week was already over.