It took me a year to book my trip to Bikini Bootcamp. While white, cool-sand beaches and crystal-blue warm water sounded like heaven, mandatory bikinis and a camp full of women obsessed with their bodies would surely be pure hell.
When I first read about the six-day Bikini Bootcamp at Amansala, a remote beach off Tulum, Mexico, all I could conjure up were images of toned swimsuit models gracefully sprinting over the white sand, with me lumbering behind them looking distinctly un-sylph like. The pictures on the Web site confirmed my suspicion: this was a camp for beach babes. My friends agreed; they weren't going either.
Instead, I logged on to the Web site every month to read and re-read the sample itinerary. An average day there starts with "a beach or jungle powerwalk followed by a combination of body sculpting, power ab sessions or Pilates, and ends with yoga and meditation. In between there are excursions to the nearby jungle for swimming and snorkeling in fresh water swimming holes (cenotes), visits to Mayan ruins and pampering with beachside massages, Mayan clay treatments, lots of agua de limon and plenty of sunshine."
Eventually, I noticed a session started on my birthday, which I took to be a sign. I took a deep breath and registered. I paid in full ($1,675 plus tax and service for a grand total of $1,954) and bought my $600 JetBlue ticket to Cancun.
I packed my recommended "must haves" – cardio shoes, workout clothes, bug spray, a flashlight, etc. – and ditched my hairdryer since the camp runs on solar power and it uses too much energy.
It's a two-hour drive to Tulum from the Cancun airport, and the camp had a driver waiting for me and few others. The taxi came to $40 each.
Finally we arrived at Amansala, which was pretty as the photos on the Web site with no models in sight. There seemed to be hammocks and hanging beds everywhere around the beach. I unpacked, wore a white bikini (when in Rome!) and white summer dress and headed to a late lunch of grilled fish and salad.
Afterward, the yoga instructor took us on a beach walk and then followed it with restorative yoga. I walked back in the room to change for dinner and finally met my roommate, Sydney, who had flown in from Seattle.
Dinner was delicious – pumpkin soup, grilled fish and grilled pineapple. At "opening circle" that night, we met Melissa Perlman, the co-founder of Amansala who actually lives there with her 2-year-old son Dylan in a small hut overlooking the dining area.
I found out later that night that we had missed the musician Duncan Sheik, who goes to Amansala every year, as well as one of President George W. Bush's daughters and Drew Barrymore.
The following morning started with no alarms – just a friendly wake up bell at 6:45 a.m. At 7 a.m. I joined the group on the beach walk, always completely silent for the first 15 minutes, followed by yoga and then circuit training.
In total, we were a group of 22 women (with some men sprinkled in) with a wide range of looks, shapes, sizes and personalities. On one morning walk, I ended up talking with Kerynne from London who has traveled extensively in Africa and gone to amazing adventure camps.
Midway into the conversation, Ian chimed in to remind us that it was time for "arm blast workout." Groan.