I should start by saying I’ve never been overseas by myself before or, quite frankly, ever spent more than half a day alone, so I was genuinely terrified at the prospect of a solo four-day health and fitness getaway to Sydney.
In the name of research, I spend the night before my flight watching Eat Pray Love to prepare myself for being an independent woman travelling alone.
On arriving safe and sound (obviously) in beautiful, sunny Sydney, I head to my Bondi Beach accommodation.
The QT Bondi is the only designer boutique hotel in the area, and it’s so ridiculously chic that you’ll feel like you’re staying in Carrie Bradshaw’s beautiful spare apartment from the first Sex and the City movie – the one she had so her friends could go there sometimes for a little rest, because somehow she was rich enough to have spare houses just for resting.
After putting on the one nice silk dress I own and taking 10 reclining selfies on the couch just like Carrie would, I venture out to brunch at The Grounds of Alexandria, the first stop on my itinerary. Located in an old pie factory from the early 1900s, The Grounds is a picturesque, rustic space where you can eat, drink and relax in the middle of the bustling city.
The café opens up onto a big garden full of vegetables and herbs and, with a paddock-to-plate philosophy, the food is super-fresh. There are even farm animals living there, including the biggest pig you’ll ever see in your life, named Kevin Bacon.
It’s here, at this beautiful, romantic garden – which looks like somewhere Love Actually’s Colin Firth would come to type his book on a typewriter and subsequently have all the pages fly away into a lake – that I’m informed I won’t be alone on my trip after all.
This turns out to be a blessing and a curse, as I’m introduced to Sophie, a health/fitness/wellbeing blogger who looks exactly like Mila Kunis, but with a British accent, goddamnit, making her even more infuriatingly hot.
Under normal circumstances, I have nothing against women who are more attractive than me, when we have our clothes on and I have my good hair and jokes to rely on, but do remember I’m faced with a four-day fitness itinerary, which includes paddle boarding in togs.
After a few panicked messages to my friends about whether or not I can lie and say, “Oh, I just remembered I can’t swim” to get out of any togs-related activities, I realise I must soldier on and focus on my winning personality to see me through, because it’s what’s on the inside that counts, or whatever.
(Side note: Sophie the hot blogger is the loveliest girl in the world, and just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She’s even kind enough to take hundreds of photos of me for this story, and I have the best time ever hanging out with her on my trip.)
The next morning, after breakfast at Bondi’s Brown Sugar, a cute little brunch café with cool black and white chequered floor tiles, Sophie and I head to our first fitness activity, a Bondi By The Sea yoga class at the iconic Icebergs. I’m thinking I don’t know what Icebergs is until I realise it’s that seaside swimming pool (and adjoining restaurant) that I’ve seen on Instagram 50,000 times. Trust me, you’ll have seen it too.
I’m not usually a big yoga person as I find overly relaxing situations weirdly stressful. But getting to do yoga outdoors in the ocean breeze while listening to the waves crashing and looking out to sea, as cheesy as it sounds, is actually life-changing.
The weather is glorious and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a morning in the sun. I also thought it would be really expensive, but the classes cost less than $10, and you don’t even need to book – you can just turn up. It rocked my world; if I lived in Sydney I’d definitely sign up to do a couple of classes a week.
This afternoon is the dreaded togs-required activity: stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Sophie and I are collected from our hotel by the team from Let’s Go Surfing, a water sports company that does private and group lessons. They drive us to Maroubra and Malabar, where they give us very patient hands-on training before letting us SUP around the bay.
In what I understand to be some sort of gift from the gods, they also insist we wear full wetsuits on top of our togs as the water is on the chilly side. Cue hallelujah music.
Emotionally safe and sound in my figure-flattering wetsuit, I have the greatest day paddling around the bay. I feel like a very zen Matthew McConaughey.
In the evening, we have dinner at North Bondi Fish, where we tuck into delicious shared plates of freshly caught seafood and salads served with a view of the waves. My favourite is the raw kingfish with avocado, blood orange, radish and wood sorrel.
The following morning, Sophie and I eat breakfast at the hip beachside café Porch and Parlour, which is apparently the place to be on a Saturday morning – according to Sophie, who’s 100 times cooler than me; she has a French bulldog, she’s that trendy.
Together we feast on uber-healthy breakfast bowls and herb-rolled eggs, before setting off for our next activity – a guided tour of the Carriageworks Farmers Markets. Now, I love me some markets, and Carriageworks is on another level.
It sells the best of the bunch when it comes to produce, and with more than 70 farmers and artisan food producers offering their wares here, the stalls are incredible. They have everything from hand-picked, seasonal fruit and vegetables, to rainbow flowers, bread, omelette pancakes and freshly brewed coffee.
In the afternoon – get ready to be so impressed – we head to aerial yoga.
When you arrive at the Sky-Lab aerial yoga studio in Surry Hills, you’ll definitely get a fright when you discover it’s situated in an old, terrifying, graffiti-covered apartment building – much like somewhere the people from Trainspotting would live – but you must be brave and go inside. In fact, the studio is hidden at the top of the building behind breezy white curtains and inside it’s all white walls, ethereal hammocks and utter bliss.
Aerial yoga and aerial fitness classes are a unique fusion of techniques, revolutionary for relieving compressed joints, conditioning and aligning the body from head to toe. The hammock acts like a soft trapeze and supports your body while you master simple inversions and more advanced poses.
As I said, I’m no yoga pro, but you simply can’t not love aerial yoga. You feel virtually weightless and, at one point, the instructor even wraps you up in your little hammock and rocks you back and forth like a baby while spraying your head with stuff that smells absolutely lovely.
Right now you might be thinking, ‘Sinead, that sounds insane’ – but I promise you it’s the best thing that could ever happen.
After a delicious dinner at Nomad in Surry Hills, where we dine on pork-cheek croquettes, cured ocean trout and confit lamb neck, it’s time for an early night to emotionally prepare for the grand finale of my trip: the Blackmores Sydney Running festival.
About once a year, I decide I’m finally going to ‘get into’ running. I spend three hours curating the perfect angry-Beyoncé playlist, put on my shoes, then run down my street and back again. I then decide that while I’m ‘just not a runner right now’, I’ll definitely try again next year.
This is why I’ve concluded that the most sensible race choice for me is the shortest run possible – the 3.5km Family Fun Run.
Amazingly, I get to travel to the start line at Luna Park in my very own water taxi, and while it’s true that I run the course very, very slowly, jogging over the harbour bridge and watching hundreds of super-cute lycra-clad families running together holding hands is a lovely way to spend my last afternoon in stunning Sydney.
It’s been four days of what seems like 1300 activities, and I’ve never felt so #fitspo in my life. I don’t usually go in for words like nourished, but I am nourished. Nourished to bits!
Sun, sand, jogging across a bridge listening to Beyoncé surrounded by smiley families, yoga, healthy breakfast bowls and beautiful people. You can’t come out of that feeling anything but chirpy.
Words: Sinead Corcoran