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girl doing pilates next to ocean

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We've stumbled on a new trend we're kinda loving—fitness vacations that actually sound like a whole lot of fun. New York-based Pilates a la Playa is conducting a 6-day Pilates and yoga retreat to the Cayman Islands this fall, and the itinerary includes seaside classes, in-room massage, and planned outings for sunning, shopping, and dancing. Staying in paradise and returning with a toned tummy (not a little holiday jiggle) is almost too good to be true.

Trip masterminds (and buddies) Nicole Sweet and Marisa Thrasher began planning the trip in 2007 while working together at a marketing firm. "I've always been trying to figure out how to be in beachy environments, and retreats are good at incorporating my passion for Pilates," said Sweet, a certified Pilates teacher. "Marisa's a beach girl at heart and when she moved to Cayman, she just ran with it."

"Our goal was really to put a fun spin on the typical retreat. As much as we're dedicated to the practice, we're also into letting loose and enjoying all that life has to offer!" said Thrasher. Classes are held within eyesight of the ocean, and swimming with stingrays is on the itinerary. The final icing on the cake? The trip includes a beach photo shoot to show off hard work and your tan. If there's ever been a chance to indulge in any Sports Illustrated fantasies, this just might be it.

Can't stomach the $1,500 price tag? (The ladies are offering a special $75 discount to Real Beauty readers). We quizzed the girls on simple ways to recreate the feeling at your own home. Read up, call the ladies, and get prepared for a good time.

Chez Vous Buy (or check out you local library and rent) a Pilates or yoga DVD, clear out your living room, and hold a class en masse with a celeb teacher. Sweet likes the goods on BalancedBody.com and Ellie Herman Studios. If Pilates isn't your cup of tea, we love collections from The Bar Method.

Cheers! Pilates a la Playa serves signature "skinny" cocktails during their retreats, and the girls recommend doing the same at home. Find a snack that sounds delicious while being deceptively healthy. There's nothing wrong with ending your session with a nice glass of wine, but keep your between-class sips a little more professional. Sweet gave us the following recipe for a smoothie that "will have you feeling like you're sipping a cocktail in the islands, but is actually a healthy alternative!"

Half of a frozen banana

A half cup of chopped mango, frozen or fresh

A half cup of chopped pineapple

A cup of coconut milk

A serving of protein powder

Combine all in blender and mix, changing proportions per your taste (more liquid if you like your smoothie runnier, less if you prefer a thicker consistency).

Head to the gym. Call your gym to find out its rules about guests or investigate day pass options at area fitness clubs. Pick a class that's out of the ordinary for your exercise crew. "Taking a Zumba class will get you feeling like you left the country for an hour," said Sweet.

Hired Help. If you have a bigger budget to work with, consider calling in a pro. Many teachers have flexible options in terms of coming to your house for a private lesson and teaching a small group (or look into renting a larger room at a space like your local library and having them come there). Pilates a la Playa customizes their signature retreat for groups who'd rather stay and play (and stretch!) at home, bringing in the teacher, the snacks, and, heck, even the cocktails.

For more info on planning your own retreat with Pilates a la Playa (or heading to the Cayman Islands!) check out their website contact Marisa at pilatesalaplaya@gmail.com.

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