Daily exercise at the Ranch at Live Oak Malibu (Photo: Bobbi Brown)
I believe in the power of food and exercise as the “magic bullet” of beauty. I also believe in order to be your best, it has to be combined with balance, a healthy lifestyle, and some sort of challenge. As someone that often gets over-scheduled and overwhelmed, I read a lot of health and wellness blogs fantasizing about spas and retreats that I wish I could go on.
I have been reading about the Ranch at Live Oak Malibu since they opened. I even tore out a magazine article and pinned it on my bulletin board. Twice, I blocked out possible weeks I could go, but some work trip always got in the way. Finally, after a weeklong work trip that left me exhausted and drained, I booked it. Luckily I was told that there is a no cancellation policy. I never thought in a million years that my husband would want to come with me to cleanse and detox, but he did. We were locked in.
I knew that the week was going to be a challenge. For me, no coffee or alcohol was a scary thought. I was okay with giving the rest a break—yes, even my cell and Wi-Fi. I thought I was ready. Boy, was I wrong.
Pre-game health plan: I wish I did it. A few weeks before the trip, I got a pre-retreat plan that included swearing off certain foods, and increasing exercise. Kind of like a training camp that pro athletes follow. I was in the middle of year-end work, and holiday parties. I thought I was in good enough shape with my usual cardio habits and weights. Not true.
Setting off for one of many hikes (Photo: Bobbi Brown)
An Instant Start: We arrived on January 3rd and soon after, we got settled in our rooms—we were headed off to the first of six daily hikes. The one and a half hour hike should have been no big deal. Was it my short legs that left me at the back of the bunch? Or was it not listening to the pre cleanse instructions? We later sat down to an amazing vegan dinner. We all commented on how full and satisfied we were on so little food. That night, I read for longer than lights out in anticipation of tomorrow.
Morning routine: 5:30am—we heard a very sweet gently chime like a soft voice calling out our name. We roll out of bed and prepare our backpacks for the day and roll up the hill to morning stretch. This without my beloved daily espresso was a true challenge. I won’t rat out the source—but I did get offered on the black market an instant Starbucks—but I reluctantly passed.
Hiking, Hiking, and More Hiking: After breakfast, we filled our packs of water and met up with the team leader so they could treat our feet concerns so that would become a big deal by the end of the week . We drove to the first day’s location and 17 of us piled out. I find my pack, a few amazing women, all of whom have been here before. Up, up, up we go—and go—I really couldn’t believe how exhausted I was already. My pack was uncomfortable and sticking me in my neck. I started to think I was channeling Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin. Every day my husband and his pack (2-3 bionic women) were reaching the top and then running down. You really get to know your own pack life story pretty quickly. But when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, I turned on Adele and she pushed me up the hill.
Not My Idea of a Snack: Midway in the hike, we stopped for a snack. Six almonds and sea salt. One day an apple and black salt. I ate the almonds like they were to be savored bite-by-bite.
The Agony of The Feet: Hiking can lead to serious feet problems.. I won’t go into vivid detail—but you can imagine. My shoes worked and the amazing team leaders spent quality time with each and every one of us—wrapping our feet with bandages, tape, and more. I discovered 2nd Skin—a cushiony bandage that actually left my feet softer than when I arrived.
Technology Blackout: In my daily life when I I check email, Instagram, Twitter, and of course Yahoo Beauty, just about every other second. At the retreat, I checked email once a day, but it wasn’t easy weaning myself off. I like to be tuned into what’s going on and it felt strange not being connected to the outside world. I have to admit, I did try and sneak a call on a quiet part of a hike, as did the rest of us. Of course, if you’re on your phone all the time, the way we all are, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on around you. It was a good reminder, and still is, about how important it is to be unplugged.
Naps: After the daily hike, there was a mandatory nap. I never nap. I’m always on, ready to do the next thing. But I would lie down and within seconds I was out.
Relaxation at the pool at the Ranch at Live Oak Malibu (Photo: Bobbi Brown)
Mandatory massage: After hiking for hours, my body hurt so much I couldn’t even imagine walking a few more steps to get to the massage tent. It was amazing how powerful massage is. Afterwards, I always felt completely restored.
The food: The vegan food is incredible, but you’re restricted to 1200 calories a day, which is nothing with the amount of exercise you are doing. Breakfast is a smoothie with granola on top, or oatmeal. Lunch or dinner was one bowl of a very small salad or a vegan dish. No dessert, no crackers, no bread. The chef Alexx Guevara and owner, Alex Glasscock and his wife Sue are proof that what you eat affects how you look. They all have bright eyes, glowing skin, and look years younger than they are. If you want to try the recipes yourself, The Ranch at Live Oak Cookbook: Delicious Dishes from California’s Legendary Wellness Spa.
What I learned: The whole experience was humbling and invigorating. I didn’t like always being the last person on the hikes, but it was a reminder that so many things are about your perspective. Instead of beating myself up about my place on the hikes, I focused on the fact that I was completing these grueling, demanding treks—and finishing them. I need that inspiration to push myself more. At home, I’ve gotten comfortable in my routines. So pushing the incline higher on the treadmill, taking that harder class is something I have to keep doing. I lost 11 inches overall and five pounds, and most importantly, I learned that only thing that really works for me is eating less and exercising more, something I’m trying to do back at home. Also, while I love vegan food, I really need protein. The last day I asked for an egg (and they gave it to me!). You would think I was eating a steak—it was amazing. Ultimately, wellness is about finding what works for you and fitting it in your lifestyle and daily routine, and in just a week, I really did.