Confessions of a Reformed Gym-a-phobe

Can I let you in on a little secret? I’ve never been much of a gym person. My boyfriend has tried to drag me along to various gyms over the years, and in that time I have come to the conclusion that gyms are not my favorite places to hang out. I’m more of a yoga, dance-class or swim-in-the-sea sort of person when it comes to doing exercise, not a ‘run on a treadmill’ sort of gal.

Gym machines in Playa del Carmen

I don’t want to feel like I’m exercising when I’m exercising, you know what I mean?

I’ve held on to my opinion that gyms are sterilized, soulless places, and therefore thought it highly unlikely I was ever going to step foot inside one again.

That was until we stayed at the El Taj in Playa del Carmen and were given free passes to The Gym for the entire length of our stay.

But to tell you the truth, even then, I was just being polite when I accompanied my boyfriend to check it out.

“Just come and see what they have on offer,” he suggested to me, “who knows, you might enjoy this one.”

I just about choked on my breakfast at the thought that I would actually enjoy a gym, but decided to go along and prove my point that gyms are boring, lifeless places I have no intention of spending time in, in the hope of silencing him forever.

Upon entering the shiny glass doors of the entrance, I have to say I was quite impressed by the stylish design and pleasant color scheme. To the right of the reception area was a juice bar and cafe, selling delicious looking healthy snacks and smoothies.

“Hmm, maybe there is hope I’ll enjoy it here,” I said to my boyfriend, picturing myself passing the time over a chaya smoothie and a tuna wrap whilst flicking through a glossy magazine.

“That’s for afterwards,” he said, knowing me too well. “Just have a look at the timetable to see if there are any classes you’d like to do.”

I sighed, and took the paper timetable from him begrudgingly, not expecting to find anything I liked.

My eyes widened as I looked over the class schedule packed with options; some pretty unique and interesting ones at that.

the gym playa timetable

“Woah, look how many yoga classes they have!” I said, surprised that a gym would have so many, at different times of the day. Gyms I had visited previously only ever had a few yoga classes at times which didn’t suit me. I like to do yoga in the morning, with a few different time options in case I feel like sleeping in. This gym, however, had numerous classes from 7am to 10am almost every single day, as well as evening classes just in case the mood struck.

Not only that, but along with the usual suspects of Spin, Fat Burner and Step, there were some classes that seemed like they might actually be fun!

“Where is the Aquatone class held?” I asked the fit looking girl behind the counter, looking around for the pool inside the building.

“Oh that is held in the pool at the El Taj hotel,” she informed me matter-of-factly, referring to the beautiful oceanfront Balinese style pool we’d just swum in that morning.

El Taj Pool small

I couldn’t believe my luck that three times per week, a water exercise class was going to be brought to me! I wouldn’t even have to leave the hotel!

It didn’t stop there. Afro-jazz dance classes, Ballet Fit classes and Cuban Salsa would cater to my love of dance, while Yoga and Tai Chi classes on the beach every weekend would allow me to exercise in the great outdoors just as I enjoyed.

A smile crept across my boyfriend’s face as he saw my look of shock and surprise.

“We might make a gym junkie out of you yet!” he teased as he threw me a clean white towel from the orderly pile. We entered the stylish premises lined with flat screens as the state of the art sound system pumped out upbeat tunes.

He headed for the cross trainer as I headed for the yoga studio, which was filled with the aroma of burning incense as the calming sound of yogic chanting emanated from the speakers.

‘Yes,’ I thought to myself as I positioned myself on the mat to begin the class, ‘maybe we will.’

yoga studio in Playa del Carmen

yoga at the beach

Access to The Gym including all of the classes is free for all Condo Hotel guests.

Aquatone at El Taj: Working Out in Style

There’s nothing like a little glamour to encourage me to exercise, which is exactly why I attended my first Aquatone class at the luxurious El Taj Condo Hotel on Friday morning. Surrounded by tropical gardens and presided over by two standing Buddha statues, the gorgeous beach-front pool seemed like the perfect place to work out in style.

playa del carmen hotel

I have to admit, before starting the class I thought it would be a breeze. I mean, how much of a workout can you really have in a gorgeous Balinese-style pool? For me, the word ‘workout’ conjures images of sweaty repetitions and bulky gym equipment, not floating around in a tropical paradise.

playa del carmen hotels

I joined several other ladies and a couple of men in the crystal clear waters to begin the class which began at 10 AM. Our instructor Melissa started with some slow shoulder rolls to get us loosened up.

Then as the sound of the waves faded against the uplifting soundtrack, we started picking up the pace.

“Hey, this is pretty tough!” I thought to myself as I moved my arms and legs through the water, trying to keep up with Melissa’s coordinated moves.

I found it hard to keep my feet on the floor – I kept floating up as my arms moved through the water – and had to work on stabilizing my core to stop myself from floating away!

Melissa demonstrated every move from outside the pool, encouraging us to “be aggressive” and push ourselves harder. I felt my muscles burn as we lifted our knees, ran on the spot as fast as we could, and ‘frog jumped’ up and down the pool.

gym in playa del carmen

It was quite a tough workout after all!

As I looked around at the faces of my class-mates through the splashes made by our moving limbs, they were all smiling and laughing, which encouraged me to loosen up and enjoy the watery workout. So I kept moving, and kept smiling.

I felt rather uncoordinated under the water as though I was moving through jello or walking on the moon, but I knew it was just the water providing my muscles with the resistance necessary to build strength and stamina.

And I could certainly do with some of that!

Melissa encouraged us to use the water to our advantage and move against it deliberately and powerfully. I felt my heart rate increase and was very grateful to be surrounded by the pool’s cooling embrace, unlike poor Melissa who was having a much warmer workout on the pool’s edge.

We began some slower stretching as the class started to wind down. Waves crashed onto the nearby shore and water trickled down from the ‘infinity Jacuzzi’ perched above a tiled feature wall at the end of the pool. It was definitely the most beautiful setting for a workout I had ever experienced, and I was actually a little sad when the class came to an end.

After a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit salad I secured my sunbed for the morning at Indigo Beach Club. A light breeze flowed in from the turquoise Caribbean Sea as birds glided across the clear-blue sky above me. Just in front, fishing boats bobbed around gently on their moorings, having recently returned with the morning’s catch.

I thought to myself, “Yes, Aquatone at El Taj is definitely the kind of workout I could get used to.”

*Aquatone classes are at 10 am Monday, Wednesday and Friday and are complimentary for all Condo Hotel guests, as are all the classes and facilities of The Gym fitness center nearby*