My weekend with a former wakeboard pro turned Strength & Conditioning Coach and the world’s most bendy chef/fitness retreat owner/marketer.
I live a unique lifestyle - my life involves a lot of being hunched over a desk working on my laptop and when I do realize that it’s time to eat, I’ll usually go for whatever’s easiest or most appealing from the local restaurants on my food delivery app.
I try to stay active, and I don’t think I’m an unhealthy person, but I do find myself craving the feeling of being outdoors, and more often than not I feel that I need to be treating my body and mind better.
Sound like anybody you know?
One night, while out for dinner with my partner and some friends from the gym – I found out that that Nefeli Nine (a fitness retreat company based out of Athens) was going to be hosting mini retreats where participants could come for 1, 2 or 3 days of activities, healthy food and well-earned chill-out time by the pool in a beautiful seaside villa.
Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity and asked Emilio and Stephanie to book me a spot for the weekend.
One of the things that made this a pretty quick decision for me was how conveniently close this was to the center of Athens.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to, and the area is accessible by car/bus.
Once you get there, the lush pine forests and the beautiful rocky shores of the Aegean - freckled with tastefully built Mediterranean villas gives you the sense that you’re nowhere near the bustling Athenian metropolis which beckons your return just a stone’s throw away.
You’ve entered an idyllic island-like escape where time can slow down and you can start to relax, breathe and focus your attention on treating yourself well.
The stone villa that houses the retreat’s classes, meals, chill-out time and which provides accommodation for those participants that are spending multiple days at the retreat is simply beautiful. The terrace overlooks a breathtaking and unrestricted eastward view of the Aegean, where you can take in the glimmering shoreline and gaze at the island of Evia off in the distance.
The villa’s expansive interior is beautifully decorated in a clean, comfortable and traditionally Mediterranean fashion.
The sweet smells of stone, wood and sea reinforce the sense that you’re on a distant escape, far from the taxing stresses of your daily routine. The multiple verandas offer ample opportunities to enjoy a morning coffee while looking out onto the sea.
In a nutshell, the place is stunning.
To be frank, I’m not an agile person.
Coming from a rugby and powerlifting background, the image of me trying to do mobility workouts and yoga-esque poses more closely resembles a hippopotamus trying to balance on a bosu ball while riding a skateboard.
We did a morning mobility workout by the pool, in preparation for the day’s activities which lay ahead.
Emilio’s instruction was simple and very easy to follow. More importantly, he paid such close attention to the minutiae of each exercise and he was very willing to explain the purpose and benefits of each exercise and how (if repeated) it can impact other parts of your lifestyle.
(In my case, we were working on stopping my knees collapsing at the bottom of a squat, which is important because it’s a big part of my training regimen.)
He gave so much focus to making seemingly miniscule adjustments to each exercise/pose which impacted the effectiveness of each posture dramatically. I’ve rarely ever seen this kind of attentiveness from a trainer in a group environment.
Beyond the close attention to detail, you can really tell that both Stephanie and Emilio are passionate about the service they’re providing – their sense of humor shines through and the mood throughout the workout is jovial, unpretentious, and relaxed.
While Emilio coaches and explains the movements, Stephanie demonstrates the exercises which really helps make the whole session easy to follow – even if you’re not familiar with the types of workouts they have planned.
Ah yes, and Stephanie is extremely flexible, so don’t benchmark yourself against her – there’s no expectation that you have to perform the exercises with total proficiency, and that’s something that I really appreciated – being the clumsy ogre that I am.
When the 45 minute session was over, I truly felt more limber, energized and ready to take on the day.
I think the hikes are my favorite part of the whole experience.
The surrounding area is so beautiful and it’s also so diverse. You go from walking by the shore, a couple of meters away from crystal clear turquoise water, to walking through a pine forest and even farmland and olive orchards.
At the time we were in the zenith of spring and you could smell it in the air as you walked on the trail. From sweet flowers, to the wild aromatic herbs to the sharp smell of fresh pine, it was literally like being infused with fresh air – exactly what I had hoped for.
Stephanie and Emilio are of course both very familiar with the trails and they’re always pointing out interesting things to look out for, like the remnants of a fortress or an old port which history had forgotten.
Combined with the iced coffee by the beach, and time to relax and take a swim in the afternoon heat, it was just what I needed to shake off the work week.
In the mornings we started with coffee and fruit. Also, Stephanie had prepared little goodies to keep us powered through the day. Raw peanut butter, date, and coconut protein “balls” which absolutely rock and a home-made granola with tahini and honey which was totally delicious and nutritious.
The main meals were also prepared by Stephanie, all using local ingredients and cheeses. The stand-out for me was a refreshing and filling afternoon Buddha-bowl with pumpkin seeds, greens, sweet potato, chickpeas, peppers, quinoa and fresh feta cheese – topped with an awesome lemon and tahini dressing.
If there’s one meal that can leave you both satisfied and also feeling like you’ve just given your body EVERYTHING it needs – that was it.
Finally, what’s a day of fitness and healthy eating without a couple glasses of aromatic Greek wine by the pool hanging out and exchanging stories with the group?
Long story short – you should do this
I’m not going to beat around the bush.
The retreat is exactly what I was looking for. The night after a day of treating your body this well is both welcome and also completely unhindered by stress or concern.
I slept like a baby, and I was told that on the longer retreats they even bring in a masseuse in the evenings to help wrap the whole experience in a nice little therapeutic bow.
I know I’m coming back – hopefully for the full 7 day retreat at some point, and I hope to see you there.