Meredith: After deplaning, we wait for the shuttle to El Dorado. We breathe in the warm air. We marvel at the palm trees. Then we stab reflexively at our phones. I can't believe I let Katie talk me into missing a day of work, but I also can't deny that this fitness vacation has come at a fortuitous time. I've recently assessed the last five months' damage, and it isn't pretty: cellulite, cravings, lethargy. "But I'm an athlete!" I want to protest. "A vegetarian!" How can a few months of stress-driven neglect cancel out years of diligent work? "Wait, is that a martini glass full of salted cashews?" As a concierge at the resort shows me around my gorgeous casita, all I hear is "swim-up bar." I want to be pumped for three days of vegetable juice and cardio in paradise. But instead I'm mindlessly chomping cashews, cursing the hotel's anemic Wi-Fi, contemplating a nap.
Day TwoKatie: Confession: I'm a yoga virgin. At least until 7:30 A.M. on the first day of the program, when Meredith and I head to the sunrise class. The toned instructor's name tag says MAURICIO. "Breathe in at max," he says about ten times in his thick accent, urging us to fill our lungs to capacity, "and exhale to make with your mouth the sound of the ocean." But I'm busy thinking, I'm going to fall over. We'll be seeing a lot of Mauricio—he and an equally fit guy named Jorge will be our trainers. After yoga, they give us questionnaires about our health. Under concerns, I write, "History of anxiety." Under goals I write, "Lose 20 pounds." Under "How often do you work out?" I write, after considering a harebrained lie, "Never."
Meredith: Depressingly, I can no longer hold the weight of my body in upward-facing dog. After completing our questionnaires (never mind that my weekly mileage has dwindled to zero; I scribble, "Run the 2012 New York marathon" as my goal), we are off to the gym for an eight-minute diagnostic workout that leaves me humiliated. I make only perfunctory attempts at a thigh-decimating frog leap I would've owned in my 20s. My to-do list rattles in my head; I feel slow, spent. I hope Katie's not watching.
Katie: Don't listen to her. Meredith whips through that eight-minute brush with hell like a pro. I, on the other hand, get through one frog leap before my quadriceps mutiny and topple me onto my butt. I sit there, tearing up. My brain screams, "You're failing! Everyone is judging you!" Except that Mauricio is holding out his hand and saying, "Don't quit, Kah-tee." I shamble through the jumps, then press an inflated ball against the mirror with my chest and, while holding five-pound weights, lift my heels. Evidently, my calves are the one area of my body in working condition. When I reach ten Mauricio asks, "Can you do 15?" He sounds giddy; I've proven not to be hopeless. I do 20.
Meredith: At lunch we're reminded that we're at a high-end all-inclusive resort (and not some ascetic weight loss spa), when we pass the all-you-can-eat guacamole bar. Somehow we abstain, ordering greenhouse salads from the Wellness menu. Soon we're bobbing in the ocean with our trainers. Although aqua aerobics seems laughably low-impact, it's at least something we can master. We do biceps curls and sprint across the seaweed-carpeted bottom, and soon we're all laughing—which inspires a strangely poignant speech from Jorge about how everything one needs to survive is free. "Water, the sun, your body," he says, explaining that food nourishes us, but the sun nourishes our food. "You have it all. Be thankful." It's 3 P.M. on a Friday, and we're splashing around in the Caribbean. Thankful indeed.
Next: "I'd spent the past decade struggling to pay rent, get promoted, fit into my college jeans. But at what cost?"
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