When a fitness fiend and a doughnut devotee go on an extreme exercise retreat, break out the kale shakes and Kleenex!
Text by Lara Ceroni and Laura DeCarufel
First confession My love of fitness—and, along with it, the pursuit of healthy living—goes beyond my jean size and chest-to-hip ratio. Whether I was 12 and attending step classes with my mom or entering my first Ironman 70.3 when I was 20, I’ve never worked out to lose weight. Working out is my addiction, which is why spending an intensive week at The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu (theranchmalibu.com) in southern California detoxing, doing yoga and hiking 16-plus kilometres a day is my idea of a dream vacation. Let the games begin!
DAY ONE A bell chimes at 5:30 a.m. outside my quaint cottage door. “Morning, Lara! Vinyasa yoga class in 30 minutes at the fitness pavilion.” (Cellphones, BlackBerries and watches are restricted on the grounds.) I’m psyched for the 16-kilometre hike ahead…until I see breakfast: a quarter of a cup (even that’s being generous) of homemade granola. Delicious but oh-so-small.
DAY ONE (AND A HALF) Nine kilo metres into the hike, I’m getting my walking legs and my competitive juices are flowing: I want to make it to the summit first. When I do, hallelujah: It’s snack time. I see our guide pull out a bag of almonds and apricots. “Take three almonds and one apricot,” he says. Are you kidding me?
DAY TWO Today is known as Toxic Tuesday—the day our caffeine- and- sugar-riddled bodies expel known toxins and are cleansed of impurities. I’m told that we’ll have migraines and stomach aches and generally feel ill. I feel fine, but I’m starting to obsess about the contraband I have back at my cottage: Starbucks VIA instant coffee. Can I hold out? I do...until 3 p.m. Three hours and three fitness classes later, I rush to The Ranch, grab a steaming cup of hot water (intended for watered-down herbal teas) and make a cup of joe. Guilty? Yes. Satisfied? Most definitely. I wonder if Laura is in need of a java fix.
DAY THREE Keri, our program guide, suggests that I force myself to stay at the back of the pack for the 18-kilometre hike today through the Ray Miller Trail because she feels that it would be good for me to curb my need to compete, so I try. Ahead of me is Sierra, a 17-year-old profession ally ranked downhill skier from the United States. She’s chatty, like most teens, and it’s getting on my nerves— or, at least, that’s the excuse I use to motor to the front of the line and break away from the pack to run up the rest of the mountain trail. Someone yells “You’re Superwoman!” as I disappear from sight. It makes me run faster. Later on, my masseuse lays on the deep-tissue massage thick. Him: “You like to be in control; you won’t let your muscles relax.” Me: “Don’t tell Keri.” At dinnertime, we’re served artichokes done three ways, which basically amounts to one artichoke, three preparations. I steal a caramelized onion off of Laura’s plate when Pixie, our yoga instructor, says to me coolly: “You’re in control of your own results.” I’ll show you results, I think. Tomorrow I’m doing 15-pound—not 12-pound—weights in exercise class.
DAY FOUR All right, today I’ve met my maker: I wake up starving. As I fill up my CamelBak with “water, water, water” (the daily mantra at The Ranch), I suddenly smell fresh sage growing in the overflowing vegetable gardens (60 percent of the food we eat is taken right from their backyard)—I instantly think of frying it with beef tenderloin. At this point, I know I’ve lost weight on the 1,500-calorie-a-day plan, but it doesn’t feel healthy and I’m not interested in losing any more. A few hours pass. It’s 8 a.m. and I’m standing before a one-kilometre mother of a mountain. My hunger takes a back seat to the thrill of my mission: I want to top it at 17 minutes but end up making it in just under 18.5 and feel that usual sense of guilt. Why do I always think I have to do better? I beat everyone else, so I’m rewarded with four walnuts instead of three. You have to love life’s small miracles.
DAY FIVE It’s the last day of our detox, and Laura and I start it off with a Starbucks coffee. (Sorry, Ranch!) Admittedly, I won’t miss the daily yoga, but I will miss the people: Linda from Orange County, who, after years of fighting alcoholism, is clean and determined to live a healthy life, and Chris, a corporate lawyer from Chicago who, inspired by turning 50 and tired of living in a concrete jungle, decided to take a six-month sabbatical to enjoy the outdoors. It makes me think: Why am I here? I find out soon enough when I’m given our plan for the day. We’re told that we’ll be embarking on a solo 45-minute meditation hike. It’s time to contemplate our achievements throughout this journey. As I walk through the Mishe Mokwa loop, I start to feel emotional. Through out my entire life, I’ve been my biggest competition. My twin runs a mile quicker than me? I aim to go faster. (I never do, by the way.) If I work out six days a week, shouldn’t I be doing seven? If anything, this retreat has made me take note of my fitness and respect my level of health. With each step toward the finish line (and an apple, hurrah!), I let go of my need to push harder, feel stronger and be better; I already am.