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Lucire: Volante

They know what’s good for you!

The women of the Pinnacle give the “fitness boot camp” concept a swift kick with a stylish and educational Palm Springs fitness weekend

by Elyse Glickman


AH , PALM SPRINGS … HOLLYWOODS DESERT OASIS “suburb”, known for high-end shopping, ritzy spas, golf and old school celebrities (Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin) with pricey tastes. However, southern Californians also know it to be a great sports town, particularly those who would rather participate than watch.
   While there are a plethora of sport-and-spa weekend offerings as well as “wellness destinations” in the area, the Pinnacle, conceived by founder Robin Sullivan, Meredith Miller and Lisa Austin is, perhaps, one of the most authentic Palm Springs fitness retreats you can check yourself into, especially when it comes to working in the area’s famous attributes—desert, mountains and even swimming pools—to full effect. While the ladies call the experience a retreat, do not expect to sit around the pool soaking in the sun. This is a serious fitness boot camp, and the trio is intent on kicking some serious butt—yours!
   Although these A-list trainers built their reputations and a combined 50 years of experience on improving a stellar array of heavenly bodies (Jennifer Capriati, Martina Navratilova, Eleni Daniliidou, Kevin Nealon and Steven Segal, as well as AVP players including Holly McPeak, Sean Rosenthal and Nicole Brana), they ultimately saw a need for taking their shared knowledge and wisdom beyond the Red Carpet and the confines of The Wide World of Sports. ‘We saw a need to reach out to the public because of the lack of awareness and education. I feel like that is my life purpose, to bring fitness education to people who want it,’ explains Meredith Miller. ‘It’s fabulous to be at a place where we can make this available to anyone and we hope to reach as many individuals as possible,’ adds Sullivan.
   Reality will definitely set in as the weekend progresses, and you will continue to feel that reality several days afterwards. However, as I learned—and felt for days afterwards—it’s not just about “no pain, no gain.” Rather, it is all about what you can take away from the experience and integrate into your daily life. Based on an assessment form you fill out beforehand, the coaches will adapt your activities to your fitness level, educate you on exercise and nutrition throughout the entire three days and administer all advice, constructive criticism and encouragement with a supportive and enthusiastic tone that really does motivate.
   ‘Since there are only twelve participants, and three to four trainers per trip, we are able to make it very personalized,’ points out Sullivan. ‘With the types of workouts we offer, you don’t need to have any experience or have to be at a top level or a specific level of fitness. The Pinnacle offers components that everyone has been in touch with in some way, shape or form, throughout their fitness regimes, or it gives them an excellent introduction to experiencing these modalities of exercise. Furthermore, is great to mix levels because it is very motivating to work out with others, and it provides a great sense of camaraderie. You get energy and inspiration from other people. Even if you thought that you couldn’t make it and you thought you were in the beginning group, challenging yourself along with others helps you strive to do your very best. It gives you something to aspire to and you are inspired to push yourself further than you ever have before Hiking is, ultimately, walking … and it’s doable for everyone.’
   When you arrive on a Thursday night, however, appearances are initially deceptive. The local farmers’ market may be in full swing, and you will find that your base-camp for the weekend (the Desert House Inn, owned by founder Sullivan’s family) is a delightful southwestern lodge just two blocks from the action. If you arrive early enough, you may even want to take advantage of the market and Palm Springs ambiance. When you settle into your room, you will find your schedule for your first day—the most aggressive and intense—neatly laid out for you along with information about where you will be hiking and a helpful tip sheet on a fitness or nutrition-based topic. With wake-up calls each day around 5.30 A.M., there will be little time or inclination to hit the bars or restaurants. Once you are into it, the only store you may want to hit is the Big 5 sporting goods’ store (three convenient and short blocks away) to pick up required supplies like a Camelbak pack (a backpack with a separate section for water) that will become more treasured than your Chloé bag as the weekend progresses.

   Like real boot camps, military and otherwise, you will be adhering to a strict schedule, pushed to your physical limits, scaling heights you never thought possible (including the interesting and rustic Indian Canyons and spectacular San Jacincto Peak, reachable by the Palm Springs Tram and lots of walking and climbing), completing very intense circuit training sessions and totally rethinking how you breathe and eat. While there are two yoga classes a day, flexing to some of Lisa’s superb electronica mixes, this is no yoga retreat (which actually can be a merciful thing for those who don’t care much for the New Agey aspects of yoga culture). To ensure all muscles—including your brain—get a workout, the day begins with warm-up yoga, then continues with the hike (the highlight, in my opinion, as my notion of fitness and Palm Springs, were expanded far beyond my expectations), pool aerobics, weight training, circuit training and more yoga. After dinner, group discussions are planned, covering topics such as nutrition, cardiovascular health and meditation.
   While the meals are vegetarian and organic, they indeed are hearty and surprisingly appetizing. Though raw food are the buzz words of the moment (at least at press time) among the fit and fabulous, thankfully, the caterers providing the food get that most normal people subjecting themselves to this intense immersion into whole fitness want to carb up and fuel themselves with things they want to eat. The vegetarian tacos, hummus, blueberry protein smoothies, quinoa salad and blueberry muffins were winners among our crew of brave soldiers, who delighted that they could enjoy such guilt-free variations on favourite foods. Another great discovery was that agave is not just for margaritas anymore. While agave makes tequila, it also makes for an appealing sweetener that’s far healthier than Aspartame (a real no according to our trainers) and lighter than honey. A touch of agave syrup on grapefruit? Perfection!


   Daily massages are also integral segments of the weekend, but as this (again) is no spa weekend, the healing touches are less about pampering and more about discovering muscles you never knew existed. In fact, the term deep tissue will probably take on a new meaning for most participants as it did for me.
   With all the lofty goals Lisa, Meredith and Robin put into place for every participant from novice to pro, their charisma and support genuinely make the experience fun, from Robin reminding you to ‘drink your water’ in a motherly tone, to Meredith pushing you along like the coach you wish you had in high school to Lisa’s easygoing way of coaxing you into trying new exercises (such as the correct use of a seemingly innocent Styrofoam roller that is anything but, putting you in touch with your inner athletic massage therapist). Although you won’t be lying around the Desert House Inn’s chlorine-free pool, you really will appreciate pushing yourself to extremes in an environment that includes blue skies, flowers, hummingbirds, palm trees and comfy beds (which you will really love after supper and day-closing educational discussions) instead of tents and sleeping bags.
   While most kinds of camping are not easy, the Pinnacle is certainly very balanced and civilized. It’s fitness without meanness, cleanse without depravation, knowledge without propaganda, spirituality minus shmaltz and coaching without cursing. Even if you may not be able to stand to attention after three days (temporarily), you will respect your body anew come Monday morning.
   ‘We truly get inspired from our participants,’ concludes Sullivan. ‘All levels can be pushed like crazy. A lot of people don’t have a vast range of tools available to them and don’t really know what they are capable of. It is so great to show them and it reminds us that you can take anyone to the next level. Plus, it is very fulfilling to hear how our participants maintain the routines and pick up a lot of healthy tips about nutrition, fitness and training.’ •

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Elyse Glickman is US west coast editor of Lucire.



While most kinds of camping are not easy, the Pinnacle is certainly very balanced and civilized. It’s fitness without meanness, cleanse without depravation, knowledge without propaganda, spirituality minus shmaltz and coaching without cursing.



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