The Tuesday morning following Labor Day weekend I woke up around my usual time (6:25am) to get ready before leaving for work. But, it didn’t feel like any other Tuesday where I drag myself out of bed and then continue to drag myself to work. I felt refreshed, rested, and really really sore. Like, what was happening to my arms?? You’d think I was doing 100 pushups and endless dips for the past 72 hours. Oh right, I totally WAS doing that. But, let me explain, this was no regular fitness retreat I was on this past weekend. I was getting my ass kicked and absolutely loving it because every minute was pure f-u-n. The Hunter Labor Day weekender started Friday afternoon when the group of about 15 took off from NYC to Upstate. I unfortunately missed the group ride up to Hunter, but myself and workout bestie/partner in crime Didi, drove up separately in our luxury ride (IE. my Rav4). When we arrived to the massive log cabin where we’d be spending the next 3 nights, I was already feeling the good ju-ju. The group of lovely ladies that arrived with Mantas, Kingsley, and Marcos was doing yoga in the huge living room of the house. I have to say, I was a little nervous about meeting the other people in the group, but was immediately put at ease once I realized they were all very chill, cool people. At dinner, Jani (our chef for the weekend) had set out a very healthy, very delicious meal. Jani prepared healthy, fulfilling meals that had lots of flavor. I was quite pleased to find plenty of vegetarian options at every meal, without feeling like I was surviving on baby carrots all weekend.
After dinner, the whole group played charades. I can’t even remember the last time I played charades, never mind with a group of girls I had just met less than 6 hours ago. I’m also pretty sure I never laughed so hard in a very long time. The antics that ensued cannot be documented here, so I’ll take you onto details of the following day.
Saturday started like no other Saturday you’ve experienced. I must say, there was a very brief, vague disclaimer from Mantas the night before, where he said there would be wakeup calls on Saturday morning. But, this was a wakeup call unlike any other. I did know SYB uses some unusual wake up tactics used on all their trips. So I wasn’t completely taken by surprise when Marcos, carrying a speaker with disco ball attached (R2-D2), Mantas, Kingsley, and Kristin (yoga guru) busted in with music playing and Mantas dancing all over Didi who was laughing hysterically. What better way to start a Saturday? Once everyone in the house got their specialty wake-up call, it was onto the first workout of the day, BootYCamp. There were drills, sprints, sit ups, push-ups, and more running. What did I get myself into? This was unlike any girls weekend I had ever taken before. But, when you’ve done BootYCamp, and you’re ready to start a hike up Hunter Mountain all before lunch, you feel pretty damn accomplished. REAL TALK: Hunter Mountain. Hiking, to the top of a ski slope, if you will. When we arrived at the base of Hunter mountain and Mantas announced he and Marcos would be running up the mountain, I thought to myself, well it can’t be that hard. Well, that damn mountain almost got the best of me. This was no stroll in the park, it was a really challenging hike. In fact, Mantas came back down the trail from the top (after running all the way up) to retrieve us stragglers and encourage everyone to make it to the top. Close to an hour after we started, I finally made my way to the top. Of Hunter Mountain. Where people usually ride a ski lift UP, and then make their way DOWN. Everyone that started this hike finished too. After taking lots of pics, and one epic group shot, we all rode the ski lift down. And at the bottom we all drank well deserved BEERS.
I don’t even know what time we got back to the house, but lunch was pretty much a blur to me, followed by naps. Yes, everyone napped, and it was amazing. Before dinner that night, Kristin Calabria led the group through an amazing, relaxing vinyasa. This was a much needed stretch after morning BootyCamp, and afternoon hiking. Feeling so chill, I really felt like I was connecting with all the other people on this trip, and it had only been 24 hours. Everyone headed outside after dinner to gather round the fire pit Marcos had started up. Oh, did I mention there were S’mores? Of course there were, I’m pretty sure that’s why fire pits exist.
The following morning was sleepy, rainy, foggy, cozy. The weather didn’t allow us to do morning boot camp, but it was absolutely perfect for indoor yoga. Kristin’s teaching style is right up my alley, just the right pace, not too fast, not too slow. I think everyone was feeling tired, sore, and maybe a little lazy after the previous day’s events. So, after yoga, there were chia pancakes for breakfast. It was Sunday after all. Jani actually made pancakes healthy, they were gluten-free and yet, still so comforting. I didn’t miss the sluggish feeling you usually have after eating box mix pancakes.
Since it was still rainy outside, the next activity of the day was a goal-setting workshop led by Kingsley. Feeling like I would not enjoy sharing my goals or dreams with a group of people I still (technically) don’t know very well made me a little uncomfortable. I am a very private person and typically would not open up about goals and dreams to a group of people I’ve only known for two days. However, the way Kingsley presented this workshop was much more approachable than I had anticipated. My biggest take away from the goal-setting workshop was that you shouldn’t feel afraid or ashamed of any goal you have, big or small, for 1 year from now or 10 years from now. Those goals speak a lot about who you are, where you came from and where you’ll ultimately end up in life. So, don’t hide them, it’s ok to share those goals with someone else, it’s not as scary as you might think.
After the goal-setting workshop we all piled into the SYB van and headed to…a waterfall, yeah you read that correctly. Since the weather was still rainy/foggy, walking down the tree lined path to Kaaterskill Falls was almost surreal. Naturally this backdrop led to prime IG moments, and everyone was suddenly a model on location shoot. Kristin does take some amazing pics, the girls got talent (even outside of the yoga studio). After the impromptu photo shoot we followed the path to the waterfall, and of course were not disappointed. It’s so funny how just 2 hours outside of Manhattan there’s mountains, waterfalls, sooo much fresh air, and cute little towns. After a quick stop in town for a drink or two, we headed back to the house. Piling back into the van, and chatting with everyone a long the way made this feel like a family trip. And we didn’t leave Kevin behind. (you’ll giggle at that reference only if you were born in the 80’s)
Sad to say, the last supper had arrived. What happened to the time? It was only a couple days ago that I was stressing about emails and now I’m trying to hold onto the last minutes of my amazingly perfect weekend. After dinner that night there was an SYB talent show. I’m sorry, actually Kristin insists it be called a “Passion show”, because you may be passionate about something, but not necessarily talented at it. Fair enough. So, there were a variation of “passions” from singing, to baton twirling, to rapping, performed throughout the night. Oh, and Kingsley choreographed a dance that you may have seen on IG, NBD. The weekend belonged to Taylor Swift and the dance us girls performed in her honor. But, I must say, nothing finished off the last night better than a silly dance party. You had to be there to fully know just how silly and fun it really was. Remember when you were 7 years old, and had sleep overs with your best girlfriends? The dancing was that level of silly fun, except now you’re old enough to drink and your parents weren’t in the next room yelling at you to keep it down.
Ok, every story must come to an end..But, first, it’s time for another SYB wake up call (and it’s Monday)! Ah, sad to say this was the last one of the weekend. Now, it’s BootYCamp time again. Mantas was well rested since he didn’t get to run drills the day before, and the weather was perfect for being outside. I liked this BootyCamp more than the previous one since all the exercises were done with a partner. Push ups, sit ups, relays, and sprints seem easier to do when you and your partner can high five between stations. Onto breakfast before packing up to leave this amazing house on the lake. Since I didn’t mention it before, each meal feels like a family gathering. I come from a small family, and every night we would eat dinner together, before anyone had cell phones. Now, having a meal with humans who would rather have a conversation than scroll through their phone is so rare. I think we’re all guilty of having a meal with someone and being completely distracted by their phone instead of paying attention to the living breathing person across front of you. Every meal on this trip was like with family, everyone sitting down and discussing their day. There’s a rose, and thorn to everyone’s day, and it’s so interesting to realize how one person’s rose of the day could have been another’s thorn (Ahem, Hunter Mountain hike).
Finally, before everyone departed the house to head back to NYC, we were invited to sign the SYB banner. Hello yearbook flashbacks! As I went to sign the banner and leave a note of thanks, I realized, it’s highly likely I’ll go on another SYB adventure. I know this won’t be the last time I have dinner with this adopted family..or run relays..or hike mountains. Wait, I take back that last part. JK But I whole heartedly can’t wait for the next silly dance party!! #lookwhatyoumademedo
Jessica Johnson is a fitness enthusiast and works in NYC.