She's trained Halle Berry, Elle MacPherson and Jessica Alba. But last week, it was our turn to get whipped into shape by trainer to the stars Ramona Braganza as we headed for a fitness retreat in Soma Bay...
Halle Berry gave her a flower garden. Her pug of 12 years was a gift from Jessica Alba. She knows that Elle MacPherson did bunny hops to get that body back after giving birth. She’s also, on a side note, way fitter than we could ever hope to be – not ever could be, but flat out hope to be. And she’s 53-years old. Ramona Braganza is basically a legend of sorts in personal training circles, having whipped starlet after starlet into kickass shape. So when we were invited to Soma Bay to join their three-day fitness retreat, 8 Steps To Your Hollywood Body, lead by none other than the shaper of many a Hollywood bod, Braganza, obviously we were like “Hell yeah, where ma Jessica Alba bod at!?” and hopped on the first plane over to Cascades’ lavish resort. And let us tell you, that Hollywood body doesn’t come easy kids.
It may or may not be worth mentioning that we do not exactly boast Olympian levels of fitness. Also, that’s an understatement. So upon the first peek at our schedule, when we realised we had to start our day at 7AM, we nearly called our mummies and told them to come save us. “YA MAAMAAA EL SETT BETA3IT EL RIYADA DI HATBAHDELNA!” Mama was not impressed. She told us to suck it up and get with the workout weekend. And thus began day one.
We woke up at 6AM. 6. In. The. AM. We haven’t woken up that early since middle school and we looked like we’d just rolled out of our graves. Braganza (who looked all fresh and fit) kicked us off with brisk walk around the golf course, where we struggled to keep up with her pace. The trainer to the stars always knew she belonged in the fitness arena – and that she was Hollywood-bound. “I was four-years old and hanging off bars from my toes – I always knew I wanted to do something with fitness. You visualise your future; in your mind’s eye, you create pictures of what you dream about,” she tells us. After years of being a gymnast, she moved to LA with some of her girlfriends where she spent several years as a professional cheerleader for the Raiders, and then eventually landed her first major client in the form of Jessica Alba. “She wasn’t well know at all when I first met her,” Braganza explains, “I was still training her for her upcoming role in Dark Angel.” And we all know how that turned out. Braganza’s workout ethos is that you have to utilise what’s around you. She’d often accompany her actors on sets in far flung corners of the earth where equipment was limited like a random spot in Borneo. “You make do with what you have,” she says simply. When we reach a part of the green on the course cordoned off by low ropes, she launches into an improvised routine wherein we have to hop over them, and then crawl under, proving that you can find a way to weave a workout into your life anytime.
Braganza maintains that us regular humans are just like those shiny beautiful people we see in the movies; the only different being that they’re about to be half-naked on screen. “Celebrities are just like normal people,” Braganza says “They just have that extra motivation.” Our walk is followed by a dynamic stretch session – where we realise that no, our arms cannot hold up our body weight in a side plank. Our arms are only strong enough to hold up a Big Mac. After two hours of exercise, we head up to breakfast. Nifty tip; swap out a regular omelette for an egg white version – less cholesterol, less calories.
After breakfast we head up to a fitness room in the spa section of the sprawling hotel and start Braganza now’s famous 321 training method. The workout consists of three segments of Cardio, two segments of Circuit Strength training and one segment of Core for a fat burning, muscle toning workout. Sweat, tears and crying for a couch ensued. And we’re not even gonna lie; when Braganza was busy fixing someone’s form for a move, we totally just stopped moving altogether.
After a full day of taking a physical beating, we headed over to the giant Thalasso spa, which almost looks like a beautiful drowned palace. The warmed up sea water contains all sorts of therapeutic properties and jets under the surface target different spots on your body. It was lovely and soothing – until we got pummelled by the shower-like water jets at the very end. We were all like oooh how lovely a nice refreshing shower. No. No. It was like someone opened up a fire hose on us. We emerged looking like drowned cats.
After a long day, we enjoyed dinner, and headed to bed at 10PM like middle schoolers. We haven’t slept that deeply in years.
Waking up the next day was no easy feat. Needless to say, after years in what’s more or less a vegetative state (our biggest movement consists of getting off the couch to open the door for our best friend – our best friend is the delivery man) our muscles got a rude awakening. Aching arms and sore legs and lots of internal sobbing. Day two we headed over to a mythical golf course right by the sea to do our morning run and workout (oh yeah, this time around Braganza made us run. Okay jog. Whatever). Like, literally, bluffs overlooking the seashore. It was so gorgeous we tried to get out of working out because – duh, Instagram. There’s nothing quite like doing yoga atop a hilly cliff overlooking the Red Sea. We totally felt like we needed to be in the Soma Bay catalogue. Soma Bay, you hear that?
The rest of the day we continued with our floundering fitness efforts – Braganza has the uncanny ability to create an instant gym out of her surroundings. She effortlessly transformed a playground into circuit training. Who knew swings could double as equipment for push-ups? Though Braganza created her famous training programme with starlets, she recently ditched Hollywood – y’know to come train us lowly non-screen-famous humans. After years of being a staple in the movie industry, Braganza decided to step out and travel the word, spreading her fitness routine. “I’m a traveller at heart. And I guess after so many years as a personal trainer, I thought I could be that one trainer that left the comfort zone, that left Hollywood,” she explains of her shift. And thank YOU Ramona. Like, Kate Beckinsale doesn’t need you half as much as us average Moes do. She’s already got washboard abs and buns of steel. HELP THE NEEDY. That night we passed out at 7PM. Does that give you some indication of what level of sheer exhaustion we were on?
Day three kicked off the same. This time our arms were screaming and our legs were giving way, and yet, we managed to hold out longer in every move, in every circuit, in every routine. COULD IT BE? Braganza gave us tips on how to eat healthier. Apparently our daily packs of Oreos are not the way to go. “When Halle was trying to lose weight, after her baby, she would make big pots of soup, homemade, healthy. And whenever she got hungry and felt like a snack she’d have some,” Braganza tells us. Well Halle (may we call you Halle? Ramona does) we might just take a whack at this whole soup-as-a-snack challenge.
Three days on, we may not have looked like Jessica Alba just yet but we also didn’t feel like throwing up after every workout, we’d cut down our cigarette intake by a third, and we could actually hold plank position for a whole minute (shut up, this is an achievement for us). Braganza worked her fitness magic on us, and the ultra-healthy lady will be back in September again so if you wanna find out how to nab a Hollywood figure, we suggest you attend!