August 30, 2019
I have just spent the most incredible week at the most incredible place on earth in the shadows of mount Kuchumma in Mexico…but now back in London and facing the realities of my real life back home I’m struggling to get back into the swing of things.
So I am writing this review in an attempt to reconnect to that wonderful feeling, the feeling of peace, acceptance, love and beauty.
In May 2018 I went to San Diego to see transformational speaker Lisa Nichols at a conference called “Speak and Write” it was the most incredible 4 days…and after that trip I knew I wanted to work more with her as my coach.
In fact, I signed up to her annual retreat not even knowing how I would pay for it…I can remember standing on the stage shaking thinking I had made a terrible mistake.
But inspiration struck and when I got home I launched a new programme, and made £10K in 10 days and was able to pay for the retreat and cover my bills with ease.
Now I don’t say this to show off, but just to illustrate how important going to this retreat was to me…but also how working with Lisa has helped me to think bigger about my work.
This programme was one of my first large scale group programmes that was broader than running, and in fact this work helped inform my Tedx talk and my book Living a Bigger Life…so it wasn’t just about the money.
I booked the retreat and then kind of forgot about it until a few week ago when I started to look at flights and work out logistics.
Rancho La Puerto is a renowned health retreat just across the border from San Diego in Tecate Mexico, it has been going since 1940 and is described on its website as,
4,000 acres include 40 miles of hiking trails, 32 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, and an organic farm with a cooking school. We have eleven gyms, four pools, a running track, as well as tennis, Pickleball, basketball and volleyball courts. There are three full-service holistic spas. As you walk winding brick paths, you’ll happen upon a wine bar, juice bar or art studio. As you wander further, you’ll discover a labyrinth, reflexology path and three dozen hammocks slung between the oaks.
And it seriously was heaven on earth….paradise.
I arrived at around 9.30am last Saturday and as I got off the minibus that had collected us from the border I breathed a sigh of relief…in fact I could feel the stress of the past few months just seep out of me.
As we went on a tour of the grounds to familiarise ourselves with the various spaces, I was just completely in awe of the silence, the smells, the beautifully kept grounds.
Alongside the planned sessions with Lisa, we would also have quite a bit of downtime, and the fitness blogger in me was completely enthused by the range of sessions on offer. Everything from aerial yoga, to TRX, Gyrokinesis to Circuit Training.
In the days leading up to us arriving there had been a serious forest fire which at one point had surrounded the ranch, the guests had to be evacuated and the fire trained staff joined local firefighters and firefighters from the states to help control the flames.
The hikes were out of bounds for the first few days because of the extensive damage. It was quite humbling to realise what had gone on before our arrival and the lengths the staff had gone to clear up and get things back to some level of normality to ensure our stay was a good one.
Saturday morning I attended a sound healing class to help me get into the chilled vibe of the ranch. It was so quiet on-site as guests were still arriving. I then took some time to sit on a double sun lounger and journal about my trip so far.
Sunday morning I was awake at 3…and out the door by 5.30. I did a 3 mile run around the grounds, finding the running track which circled the vine yards, and then onto the labryth, oak grove and kuchumma passage. Seeing the fire damage up close and personal was so sad, and I felt incredibly grateful that the power of nature had not crept up any further to the ranch.
The ranch is family-owned and operated since 1940.
It’s founders Edmond and Deborah Szekely motto was Siempre Mejor! — “Always Better!” and guides the ethos of the ranch every day: Rancho La Puerta has been recognized around the world since the 1950s as the progenitor of the modern fitness resort and spa movement, and has been lauded by every major travel awards program.
At 1pm I went for a massage, probably one of the best I’ve ever had…getting rid of the last bits of stress and tension from my almost 11 hour flight. I then attended a talk by one of the pilate instructors about posture, focussing on the legs and feet. I will be sharing some of the exercises in the Too Fat to Run community next week.
Monday morning I was up early for a treadmill hike (I know I was sceptical too) but it was a great session led by resident fitness presenter Connie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen incline 15 until this day…the 45 minutes session was high intensity and fun, and at times it really did feel like I was climbing a mountain.
That evening we headed to La Cocina Que Canta “The Kitchen That Sings!” set in the heart of a six-acre farm, we had a delicious 4 course meal and wine (yay) and many of us finished the night off back at the ranch in the hot tub and pool of Villas Sol. (it’s amazing how fast you connect with people in a place like this)
I was awake early for sunrise yoga which was a real treat, and then I followed that with a meditation class and then Hip Hop with the rest of the Motivating the Masses session…this was soooooooo much fun and took me right back to my roots.
Tuesday night I had a Watsu treatment, I will be writing a separate blog post about this as seriously I had a massive breakthrough in this late evening session…and it deserves its own post for sure. But basically Watsu is a form of aquatic bodywork used for deep relaxation and passive aquatic therapy.
Wednesday was a free day and I was determined to pack in as many classes as I could.
I did 9am IronStrength with Dr Jordan Mtzle author of the book Running Strong, we had met each other in one of Lisas talks earlier in the week and realised we had a lot in common with our love of running.
His IronStrength class is based on 9 simple body weight exercises, but boy oh boy is it a good work out…not sure I’ve ever smashed a session so hard…my wonderful MTM partner Sabrina has a lot to be thanked for as she simply wouldn’t let me give up on myself.
Supportive workout partners are hard to come by.
I then managed 30 minutes of Zumba (I just love to dance) before heading off fo a shower and then taking some time by the pool…before lunch I made my way to the activity pool via the juice bar and took part in a 30 minute swim clinic…its amazing how much progress I made in such a short period of time.
In the afternoon I was back in the pool for BOSU (yoga on a stand up paddle board thingy) I was completely rubbish and fell in loads, but it was great fun.
I then did a Kundalini Meditation class before prepping for an evening session with Lisa.
Thursday morning we did a 3 mile hike back to La Cocina Que Canta for an organic breakfast and tour of the gardens, we got to learn so much about sustainable organic farming practices and we met two super cute baby goats.
Friday morning up early again for another hike, but this time we went up Mount Kuchumaa to Alex’s Oak Tree, named after the founders son who died.
It was a short but steep hike with a small group of us, but it was the most magical part of my trip.
We got to spend some time looking out at the landscape, with a birdseye view of the ranch. We even heard the dining halls bell which told us breakfast was being served.
As the week progressed I really learned to just be.
To find little nooks and crannies to just sit and think. The grounds were perfect for this, because although our schedule was packed, without the constant desire to be online…the days seemed twice as long as normal, and there was lovely pockets of time to swing on a hammock or sit on a bench with a new friend and talk about life.
I had another massage on Friday, and also tried out a deep water aerobics class which was great fun. It felt weird knowing the week was coming to an end.
I knew at this point though that I’d be coming back, as I had spoken to the events team about what I do back in the UK with Too Fat to Run and I will be heading back in 2020 as a presenter which is exciting.
I still didn’t want to leave though.
Saturday morning was tough, after a very emotional evening the night before with the closing ceremony of the Lisa Nichols retreat and a closing party at her villa with wine and more guacamole and chips than I’ve ever seen in my life.
My departure bus was not until the afternoon, so I got up early and went for a swim at 6.30am…I was the only person in the pool, and just soaked up the quietness and the beautiful views.
After breakfast I did a stretch class which was exactly what my body needed, and then one final meditation class. I have been wanting to get into a meditation practice for such a long time, and this week I really feel like I’ve cracked that nut…or at least made peace with being still.
I spent the afternoon on the roof terrace of the villa health spa, a secluded place where naked sunbathing is encouraged….and I can’t tell you how freeing that feels. When you spend your life hiding your body not only from the world but sometimes even from yourself something shifts…this whole week has allowed me to reconnect to who I really am.
I had some major revelations about my health, my business, my personal life while on this retreat. I have decided not to speak in any detail about the breakthroughs I had through Lisa’s work, as I am still making sense of them.
In one of the final sessions Lisa held me in her arms and whispered “Its you time now Julie just to be the person you were born to be, you have nothing more to prove, you just need to be.” and then I spent a few minutes having the kindest words I’ve ever heard in my life whispered to me by 50+ new friends.
I can’t tell you what a gift to the soul that is.
This retreat has been life-changing on so many levels, I truly wish everyone could find this level of peace.
OK so we can’t all jet off to a health spa every time things get tough, but we can light a candle, we can breathe, we can stretch our bodies, we can book a massage, we can surround ourselves with people who build us up instead of tearing us down.
We have to find our own retreat, we have to know that we are worthy of this level of healing every now and again.
Watch this space BIG changes are coming.
A massive thank you to Lisa Nichols and the Motivating the Masses Team, and to my fellow retreat participants, you are my earth angels, thank you for allowing me to take of my cape, leave my ego at the door and just be. You saw me at my worst (snot bubbles and everything) and still loved and accepted me.
To the staff at Rancho La Puerto thank you for the attention to detail and the efforts you go to to make our trip perfect, every single member of staff made me feel amazing. It truly is heaven on earth and long may it continue to serve as a healing and recovery spot in this crazy world we live in.
This is a freely given review, I have not been paid in anyway by MTM or Rancho La Puerto, this review simply serves as an expression of my gratitude and as a reminder of my magical week.
If you are interested in the process I followed to raise the income to go on this retreat, I have developed a FREE 10 day challenge which I will be running Live from the 13th September, sign up here.