My fitness halo’s back

A weekend getaway with barefoot walks, hammocks and Abba to rest and repair. Which means I return energised and ready to hit the gym (well, almost)

It is a Fitness Retreat. I also hear the word ‘bootcamp’ being whispered, and that spooks me.

I call up Linga Bhaskar, the trainer, to find out about his three-day session up in the hills that promises to combine ‘unwinding’ with ‘fitness’. “There is nothing to be worried about. It is not a bootcamp and, before you ask me, we are notgoing to be living in tents either,” he says, adding, “You will not be served boiled food either.” Reassured, I head off to beautiful Ketti in the Nilgiris and my heart lifts higher with each hairpin bend.

Bhaskar organises weekend getaways on a regular basis (the next will be held on September 30) because he thinks that it is a good way to introspect and get in touch with one’s wellness. “It is a weekend. There is nothing to worry about. Food is taken care of and the surroundings are beautiful. What better way to rest and repair,” he asks, rhetorically. A brisk walk or an outdoor workout has various benefits that a gym cannot offer.

Treadmills do feel too much like work, I agree. So, we first set out of our home for the weekend, The Clive & Curzon. Bhaskar has planned the route after much deliberation to suit our mixed age group (9-56 years). It is intensely green as only the Nilgiris can be, quiet, and has no steep gradient at all. We sally forth after a gentle 10-minute stretching session. The idea is to cover a 6-km walk in an hour’s time. To my surprise, it is easy-peasy with nary a groan heard.

We see carrots, steal some zucchini and spot dark specks in the far distance that we like to think are wild bison, but could as easily be buffaloes, as someone points out dampeningly.

That evening, we are ‘home’ before we know it. We refuel on coconut water/tea/coffee and, while some of us rush off to shower and dress for the evening, others (read me) content ourselves with a change of footwear. It will be dark and surely Ivan who is coming all the way from Coonoor to sing for us will not be looking at my feet.

I snag the sofa closest to the fire and the evening begins. Ivan sings Kenny Rogers, Abba, Harry Belafonte and The Beatles and we join in lustily. And we then dance to Elvis Presley and ‘Jailhouse Rock’, before staggering to the dining room for food.

The next morning, we wake up to Bhaskar ringing a bell outside our rooms. “No shoes,” he instructs us, and points to the springy grass. We step onto the lawn and squawk.

It is freezing, but Bhaskar says this is for two minutes only and it is great physical and mental therapy. “It lifts your heart rate and your spirit, and what a good way to connect with the earth.”

Wide awake now, we pull on our socks and shoes in relief, and follow Bhaskar to the woods, where a strategically-fallen tree trunk will be our platform for the fitness routine, which will include bending, squatting, lunging, running, throwing, crawling, climbing, lifting, pulling, pushing, jumping and balancing. Like monkeys, explains Bhaskar, reading my mind.

The uneven surface improves balance and reflexes. And, the natural earth we are walking on is good for our feet, unlike the hard concrete of city roads, not to speak of the lungfuls of cool, fresh air we are taking in, as opposed to petrol fumes.

Warmed up, we look for a clearing and a lively Frisbee match ensues. I tell Bhaskar I can’t remember when I last played Frisbee. “That is exactly the point of this retreat. To let yourself go, have fun and let your hair down,” he smiles.

We head back to breakfast and, after a break, do yoga. In the evening, Bhaskar is happy to answer our doubts and queries on fitness. He says eating sensibly is key and not jumping onto the fad diet bandwagon. He explains the advantages of weight training, aerobics and yoga exercises. He speaks of endurance and stamina.

“The bottomline is to feel well. It is not about numbers and sizes and weight.”

He asks, “Did you know that while you were here you have walked for 15km and worked out for a total of more than two-and-a-half hours? You have conditioned your core and strengthened your muscles, and are going away from here a fitter you.” Now, to keep this up.