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pfit

In the summer of 2014, I started taking my health seriously. I went to a health Spa in the remote town of Piestany, in Slovakia. To get my eating habits sorted, treat my ever painful Achilles tendons, hip and lower back pain. After spending a month focusing on myself with no distractions, I came back rejuvenated, healthy, centered, positive and ready to take on my new administrative roll by the horns. For the first few months of the academic year, I was still on point, until the stress and negativity that surrounded me at work got the better of me and I let myself go. I reverted back to my old ways of numbing the pain to be able to cope. Comforting myself the only way I knew how to, by eating food, the more of it, the better. I put back on all the weight I had lost. By April, I had reached an all-time low. I was depressed and generally unhappy. I was desperate and in need of a dramatic change. I honestly didn’t believe I would make it to June. It became increasingly difficult every day to find a silver lining, to motivate me to get up and do my best. Unlike last year, I felt like I had fallen into a deep dark pit. I had lost hope of climbing back out. I honestly felt limp and defeated I had no fight left in me. This is something, I still find very difficult to admit and say out loud, because I have never been a quitter and have always gotten back up, but this time, I just wanted to stay down. I had, had the stuffing knocked out of me and my core was shaken, I didn’t have the will power or feisty fire to stand back up and dust myself off, again.

After teaching Summer School to third, fourth and fifth graders, I was ready to get on a plane and get as far away from my teaching life, my country, family and friends, (at least I thought I was). I needed to be on my own, to have an adventure and revive the fading inner warrior from within. Of all the countries I have visited and trips that I had been on, on my own, I was exceptionally nervous and terrified. It was as though my subconscious new, that this trip, was one that would be life changing. The feeling of fear stayed with me right until I landed in Thailand and was safely in my hotel room. The day I arrived in Bangkok, I had to kick myself out of my hotel room. Otherwise I would have just cocooned myself in the room until it was time to go to my next destination, Phuket. I was actually scared of leaving my room and had no desire to discover or explore, which was very out of character for me. On my first night, I took baby steps. I walked around the immediate neighborhood of where I was staying for just a couple of hours. The next morning I still felt uneasy about going on a guided tour that I had booked. A part of me wanted to just stay and watch the world go by from my hotel window. When I was on a tour of the Floating Market, sat in a boat in the murky water, watching the boats gently collide with one another and stall keepers literally reeling in passerby’s, I was beside myself with laughter, watching the disorganized chaos. In some bizarre way, it reminded me of Cairo traffic, but on water. When I got off the boat, I started to feel a bit more like me. I walked around the market on foot, taking pictures, haggling with sales people for good prices and just enjoying the chance to interact with people and their culture. I especially liked helping a group of students on a school trip, who were instructed to talk to tourists to practice their English whilst filling out a questionnaire.

By my third day, a chunk of my self-confidence had returned and I was enjoying walking the streets of Bangkok, taking in the sights, the markets, buying souvenirs and interacting with the people I could feel my old self slowly climbing back up and out of the dark Abbys.

On July 26th I landed on the island of Phuket, I had booked myself into a “spa” for a 21 day cleanse. I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to some pampering and relaxation. As the taxi began to slow down and I peered out of the window, I saw a luxurious hotel on my left hand side, a satisfied smile crept across my face, but the taxi didn’t turn in to the hotel drive way, it kept going further up the road and turned right up into another driveway. A place that looked like a sports center or a boot camp. My expression changed within a fraction of a second and the reality of the situation began to dawn on me. It wasn’t a spa, it was a fitness retreat! A fully equipped place with two boxing rings, punching bags, padded exercise floor, kettle bells, dumb bells, gym, TRX bands, various other equipment  and a multipurpose exercise room. The only phrase that kept playing on a loop in my head was “Oh Shit, What have I done!”  I reluctantly got out of the taxi and made my way to the office to check in.

The description I had read on one of the booking sites, fell short of describing PhuketFit as a fitness retreat. They described it as a spa, where pampering and relaxation was the main focus. So, instead of seeing people wrapped in towel robes and slippers, they were all in sports attire and dripping in sweat! (I was very grateful no one could hear the colorful language that was going on in my head)

The staff were very accommodating, friendly, polite, cheerful and calm. They explained that in the morning I would meet the detox consultant, get weighed in and would be given my daily routines. I was given the schedule of the workout classes, shown the facilities and once I checked in I was shown to my room. The room on the grounds was spacious and clean. The bed was large but the mattress was too hard to my liking. I, personally couldn’t get comfortable and got little to no sleep my first night there. Luckily there was retractable sofa in the room, I made that my bed for the remainder of the stay, it was the most comfortable, but it was much better than the bed.

On the morning of the first day I meet the head consultant, Oiy to learn more about my program. Oiy is a lovely woman, who is very welcoming and helpful. She explained that every morning, to start my day, I would mix myself a detox drink, composed of apple cider vinegar, psyillium powder, magnesium and water, along with 6 supplement pills.  At 9am, I would have a green smoothie for breakfast. 10:00am fresh coconut juice (I took great pleasure watching the ladies hack the tops off the baby coconuts), from 1-3pm lunch (salad, like non I had ever tried before) was served, 2-2:30pm coconut juice and a second dose of the detox drink. At 4pm was the liver flush drink, (which should be drank as quickly as possible, it’s very garlicy and it tastes like salad dressing), and from 6-9pm dinner (soup + salad)

All of my meals during my stay were prepared and served in the detox house. The food I ate for the entire duration of my stay was raw vegetables. I didn’t have any grain, dairy, oils/fats or animal protein in my 20 day stay, (Luckily, I love most vegetables). I was asked if there were some things I was allergic to or didn’t like, so they could accommodate me. Since I was, doing the 21 day cleanse, a scheduled daily massage was included in the package, as well as the choice of going to the sauna every day. (I didn’t know that the steam in the sauna not only cleared your pours, helped with respiratory the system, but it also helps boost metabolism).

The detox house is a cute little house on stilts, just up the hill from where the fitness facilities are. The house has a small pool, garden and veranda to sit out on. It’s also where the massages are given. There’s also an endless supply of fresh ginger cinnamon tea, (which I soon became very fond of and have learned to make at home). In this house, I met some of the most inspiring people, I have ever come across. They aren’t celebrities or billionaires they are just regular people like you or me, but with fascinating and humbling stories. Sitting on the sofa, listening to each person tell their tale of how they found their way to PhuketFit, I quickly learned that we should never be too quick to judge people. We are all fighting our inner demons to become better and healthier individuals. People’s appearances don’t always reflect what is going on, on the inside.

For the first two days I wasn’t very social, I was still disappointed that I hadn’t checked into a luxurious spa, so I kept to myself a bit. I also didn’t do any of the workouts, I needed to allow my body some time to adjust to the change in calorie intake and for the drained feeling to subside.

By day 3, I had given myself numerous pep talks and had finally made a conscious decision to stop behaving like the spoilt brats I despise, and suck it up and just make the best of the situation. As a true believer in fate, I had chosen to accept that I was meant to be there for a reason, and that no amount of beating myself up would change anything. I made more of an effort to socialize and initiate conversations. I attended Pilates and Yoga, to get some exercise and went to the sauna, to give my metabolism a boost.

One of the first people I met at PhuketFit was a very warm and friendly Australian woman of Greek origin, who made an effort to make me feel included. She introduced me to many if not all the people who were staying at the retreat. When she would see me passing by or sat alone, she always gave me a warm greeting or asked me to join. If it hadn’t been for her extending her hand of friendship, I don’t think I would have settled in as well as I did. People from all corners of the globe were there, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, Kuwait, Dubai, India, New York, England, Ireland, Venezuela, Switzerland, Sudan and South Africa we could have started up our own United Nations!

As the days went on the bond between the long term attendees grew stronger and so did my self-esteem. I could feel all the negativity that I had been harboring for the past few months shed with each passing day. I could feel my body rejuvenating with all the fresh vegetables I ate at meal times. My mind was clearing and my thoughts were not drowned by doubt and fear. With every yoga and Pilates class I could feel my strength returning my core becoming more engaged with the different forms of exercise. At the end of my second week I could feel the flexibility and elasticity returning to my joints and limbs.

The journey up until this point had not been easy at all. At times it was grueling with the muscle pain, the exhaustion and wanting to just quit because it was so damn hard pushing my limits and trying to let go of all the layers of protection that I had piled on for so many years to numb me from feeling hurt, feeling unworthy or rejected. Letting go and trusting the staff was the hardest thing of all. If it hadn’t been for the staff’s understanding and their encouragement “It is never too late, to get back in shape”, would be a phrase repeated by Kim, the TRX instructor, “take it one small step at a time, but the important thing is to take the first step and keep going.” as well as other participant’s motivation, I don’t think I would have survived those three weeks.

Another difficult experience was saying goodbye to the people you had seen day in and day out. When their time had come to an end, watching them leave was hard. Why, you might ask? Well, when you are in a small community, and you see the same people every day, eat with them, workout with them, share experiences, celebrate loss of kilos, encourage them to keep going even when they have not lost anything, they become your surrogate family away from home. You also know that there is a high possibility that your paths may never cross again, but they have taken a piece of you with them, wherever they go. I guess that is how a platoon of soldiers feel about one another. This rang true for me with a handful of people I met there. The handful of people that I am referring to, are spread across the world and although we keep in touch from time to time, I owe a lot of my success at PhuketFit to them.

By the third week, I decided to go full throttle I did as many workout classes as I could. I would push myself to do between two to five hours a day. I would force myself out of bed for the 7-8:30am Mai Thai class, after my green smoothie I would have a short rest before heading to Zumba or Pilates, Tabata and going for a walks and yoga.

On the morning of my final day at PhuketFit, I bade farewell to all the staff and left them with some parting gifts to thank them for helping me on my journey and to remember me by. I also met with Oiy, the detox supervisor again to see the progress I had made over the last few weeks. Her parting words to me were “Our Princess is no longer stressed, the light is back in your eyes and you are ready to go back.” (Princess was the name I earned, for being one of the very few (crazy) people to sign up for the 21 day cleans)

She had known from the moment I arrived…

Later that afternoon, I stood at the foot of the steep hill that had knocked the wind out of me the week before. It was a hot sunny day and the humidity was high, but I had made up my mind, “Go hard, before I go home”. With water in my backpack and the music from my ipod secured in my ears, I tackled the winding hill.  Cheeks crimson red, sweat dripping from my brow and staining my t-shirt, a passerby, took pity on me and offered me a ride to the top. I graciously declined putting my hands together and bowing my head, “Kap Kum Ka” (Thank you in Thai) and trudged my way upwards, one step at a time. Once I reached the top, I felt as though I had not only tackled, but defeated a giant. I bought last minute souvenirs for family and friends, took pictures of the beautiful view from the top and slowly made my way back down the hill, to spend some time with friends, before I had to pack 3 weeks of my life into one suite case.

The morning of my departure, I stood in the drive way of PhuketFit and the feeling I had when I had first driven up at the beginning of my stay, was not the same feeling I left with. I actually wished I could take the place and everyone who worked there back with me to ensure my transition back into my everyday life. I knew without them, there was no safety net and it would not be an easy. I had to rely on what I had seen and learned in my time there and keep pushing forward through the obstacles that life would continue to throw at me.

As I made my way to the airport driving past the sites that had grown so familiar to me, watching the people going about their business, it suddenly struck me, that  not only had
I found myself again at PhuketFit, but I had learned to like and care about myself too.

I don’t know when I will go back, but I do hope it is soon. I miss the staff, the food, the ambiance, the small Greek café around the corner, the kind lady and her family who do the laundry and ironing, nature, culture and the people.

It’s been two months since I’ve been back, it has been very hard, trying to keep and maintain a healthy diet. When you’re at PhketFit, you don’t need to worry about preparing meals, it’s done for you. When you’re working full time and have deadlines, meetings and paperwork to keep up with, it’s very easy to slip back into old habits. In Egypt, aside from soccer our second national sport is socializing while eating out. When I meet up with friends in a café or restaurant, I feel like I’ve walked into the lion’s den. I guess an alcoholic feels the same way if they set foot into a bar. I am very wary of what I choose on the menu, I usually stick to vegetarian dishes or salads. I was able to make it to 90 days without eating any desserts. When I did try a piece of a cup cake, I didn’t enjoy it and gave the rest away. I still have no desire for fried food; I prefer fresh fruit, vegetables and grilled chicken over most things on the menu. The area I am finding the most difficulty is setting aside time for me, to workout. I have recently found a yoga center not too far from my house, which I tried last week and I think I will join regularly, to help strengthen my core and keep my Zen state of mind.

So, as you can see the journey may have begun in PhuketFit, but it is continuing here, at home.