The Tone It Up Retreat Experience {Guest Post}

 I was so excited when Suzi asked me to do a guest post about the Tone It Up Retreat. I have not been blogging lately, and I so miss it. This is a fabulous way to chronicle the amazing time I had at the Tone It Up Retreat. Firstly, a brief background of Tone It Up: Karena and Katrina started Tone It Up (TIU) with YouTube videos and a simple healthy living and fitness blog. It has grown into an ultra successful company and brand. TIU provides healthy recipes, nutrition plans, workouts and reinforces women’s empowerment. This empowerment piece is now my favorite thing about TIU, but more on that later. 

My retreat experience started the day I pressed “submit” on my application. This was one of those special days where you realize something about yourself. I realized (cue sappy, life realization-type music) how brave I actually could be, that I had no idea of my true potential AND that I may be a little “off my rocker.”

I knew that I was in for an experience like no other. I also knew that I was terrified! The trip to California would be both exhilarating and totally out of my comfort zone. The mental billboards read “TRAVEL BY YOURSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!”, “MEET PEOPLE WHOM YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE!”, “MEET K&K, AND TRY DESPARTELY NOT TO SAY SOMETHING AWKWARD!” I was a little nervous. Honestly though, I’m playing it up a bit. What hit me most about signing up was actually how I was not as scared as I thought I would be, and how it just felt right.

I signed up for the retreat in April. I had until September to get ready and to daydream –A LOT. I loved telling friends, family and coworkers about the adventure I would embark upon in September. I also secretly (cat’s out of the bag) liked how many of them said “Man, you’re brave!” or “I could never do something like that!” I thought “Heck yes, that’s right! I am brave!”

Retreat day arrived and I did not mind traveling alone at all. In fact, it was a breeze! Once I arrived in California I met up with 4 other fabulous TIU girls. In true TIU community style, we easily fell into conversation and had lots to chat and laugh about. I even borrowed deodorant from one gal within an hour of meeting her. Good times! We shuttled our way to the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. This resort was absolutely stunning and had recently been renovated. No lack of palm trees or class at the Hyatt! I would stay there again in a minute.

The whirlwind began when we arrived at the Hyatt. A room was set up specifically for retreat registration. We were swiftly checked in and got our TIU SWAG BAG.


In our swag bag (which was inscribed with the TIU logo itself) we received:

We filled out a questionnaire to help the TIU team in picking out our roommates, and they did such a good job. My roomie was Ahn Ei and we clicked instantly, and I mean literally! We both work in and around healthcare, both of our husbands are engineers and we simply got along so well. I have never felt completely myself around someone in only 4 days! She arrived before me, and when I got to our room we sat on our beds and chatted nonstop. Then we realized we should get ready for the first official event: Cocktails by The Pool.

welcomeThe cocktail night was probably the most overwhelming for me. It’s an eerie and exciting feeling to see people you follow through social media in the flesh and all in one place. It was easy to talk to anyone and everyone. I was feeling more relaxed by the minute (champagne didn’t hurt) and soon enough I was meeting Karena and Katrina!

Talk about star struck! When they came out it was surreal. We were essentially one big awesome group of fan girls. I’m sure it was equally as overwhelming for K&K to meet all of us. I hadn’t pre-planned what I was going to say to either of them so I just acted “natural.” When I talked to Karena I managed to mumble a little something along the lines of “my husband just looooooves the Sunset Stretch yoga routine that you do on the BeachBabe 2 DVD.” After I said it I realized that it could be misconstrued as kind of creepy. Ciara putting her foot in her mouth again. Karena didn’t seem to mind!

PastedGraphic 5Next I met Katrina. I mentioned to her that I have Type 1 Diabetes, and how I find that following the TIU Nutrition Plan really improves my blood glucose management. It was neat to have a regular, everyday conversation with someone who I absolutely look up to.

PastedGraphic 6Day 2 started with a beautiful, tasty breakfast. Next, we headed to the “Back Bay,” an area behind the resort where we did a waterfront bootycall. I never thought I’d get to do my bootycall with K&K and 300 other TIU girls! We finished the HIIT style workout with some yoga. K&K had us all lie down and join pinkie fingers with our neighbors. They then read us a special note they had written. It was very surreal, and a few tears may have been shed.

booty call

PastedGraphic 10After the bootycall we were off to our activities for the day. I got to go surfing and SUPing (stand up paddle boarding). Surfing was hands down my favorite activity. I was anxious about it because surfing has always looked so difficult. A group of nearly 50 of us met with Endless Sun Surf School instructors near Newport Beach Pier (see pic below). They gave us the lowdown, ensured us there were no sharks, and we were off. I stood up my first time; briefly mind you, but I did it and I instantly fell in love. Sign me up for the surfer girl lifestyle! After surfing we ditched our wetsuits for some yummy, yet healthy eats on the beach. I got to meet and chat with a lot of cool chicks while I gobbled down my food.

PastedGraphic 11Next up was stand up paddle boarding (SUPing)| on the Back Bay. We were instructed by a super cool chick name Noelle Kozak, who was so passionate about SUPing that I’m sure she could even convince cats to do it. My husband and I bought SUP boards this past summer and I learned from Noelle that my technique was off. I’m going to rock it next summer! Noelle is an Oakley Women Ambassador (so cool!). You can find her on IG @noellekozak3333. We paddled around the bay for a while and tried some fancy moves at the end like yoga poses and headstands.

PastedGraphic 12The last event on Friday was the Beach Party. Wow, I cannot say enough about how magical it was. It was at Crystal Cove State Park, at sunset. We literally had a party on the beach! The meal was buffet style with chicken, salmon or tofu, lots of veggies and delicious sides. There were also delectable desserts. We ate at tables below twinkly lights and the starry sky while music played in the background. At each table seating there was a little jar of sand for us to take home. So much thought went into this weekend!


dinnerAfter our meal it was time for live music. The musical guests for the weekend were all surprises. The first guest? Brian! He is Katrina’s (very attractive) husband. He played guitar and sang for us. He even sang the first song he ever played for Kat. He had never played for more than 2 or 3 people before and here he was playing for all of us. Next up was Kelley James. He is pretty popular in the TIU community and especially in the USA. He can easily make up lyrics on the spot. He sang a couple tunes about the weekend for us. It was so impressive!

brianDay 3 was the Asics 5k Run. On the final loop we were greeted with a glass of champagne and a super cute TIU style medal. Some girls were lucky enough to get a champagne shower courtesy of K&K. I also got to meet Skunk (Karena’s dog) after the run.
5kNext up for me was a 5k hike in the mountains nearby. The hike started with a steady incline and leveled off pretty quickly. The view was fabulous, with the ocean not too far in the distance.

PastedGraphic 25

Post-hike I headed back to my room for a shower. I figured it was necessary since I was covered in sweat and dust from the run/hike. I then made a trip to the TIU pop-up shop and bought some TIU goodies. The shop was run by TIU friends and family. Katrina’s Mom helped me find a size and Karena’s sister actually rang up my purchase (too cool!).

After my shopping spree, Ahn Ei and I started prepping for the final evening event: the gala. At the gala we watched a video that had been put together by the many videographers and photographers. We truly had our own version of paparazzi. They were everywhere! We ate our meal, which I think was the tastiest one we had all weekend. The soup was to die for. After supper, K&K gave out awards for a few funny things that happened over the weekend. One of the award winners was a girl who got her shorts ripped when she got stuck on a fence. She was trying to make a bus to the surfing event. I witnessed this, and it was quite hilarious. She was a trooper.

fairwellWe then danced the night away to music provided by a few more special guests. Bean is an up and coming singer who played a few of her tunes. You may have heard her song “Cops and Robbers” on the radio. My personal favorite of hers is called Rollercoaster (Jump Smokers Remix). It’s a good workout tune. Our DJ for a portion of the evening was none other than Nick Cannon (well known as Mariah Carey’s recent ex-husband, and the current host of America’s Got Talent). He played some great music and had us shaking our booties for sure.

One thing that has really stuck with me was the feeling of empowerment and acceptance felt that night as 300 women happily broke it down together without a care in the world. No judgment, no competition, no men (well I lie, there were a few lucky dudes like Katrina’s brother Steven). We were just a bunch of chicks that were completely happy to dance like fools together all night long. It was perfect really.

randomsWe were all pretty tired, but happily so, when we awoke on Sunday morning. We had a yoga class with Lacey Calvert, another amazing Oakley Women Ambassador (@laceycalvert on instagram). The down dogs and forward folds helped us to detoxify, and we were soon eating another great brunch and getting ready to say our goodbyes.

yogaI had a chance to talk to K&K one more time and was sure to tell them what an amazing adventure it had been. I got my DVD signed and gave them both a big hug. They were so down to earth. For some reason I felt it necessary to tell both of them that I had lost my big toenail while surfing. I had to have something unique to say right?! True Ciara style right there folks.


The retreat flipped a switch in me. I came home feeling refreshed and even more in love with my passion for health and fitness. I now know I am capable of taking scary steps like flying to another country to meet a bunch of semi-strangers. Nothing can hold me back!

If fear is holding you back from something you’ve always wanted to try, then my best advice is GO FOR IT! I think you will be surprised at how awesome you can be. At the very least you will come out the other side having learned some cool things about yourself.

My next adventure is Yoga Teacher Training. I can’t wait to see what other fears and goals I can kick in the butt as I finish out 2014. If you wish, feel free to follow me at @tiuciaralea on Instagram or @CiaraLea on twitter. You can follow Tone It Up on instagram at @karenakatrina and @toneitup, or on Twitter at @ToneItUp. Their website is

Lattes and Studies

Monday, why must you come so quickly? I’ve decided that Mondays will be the day where I do a little recap of my previous week here for y’all. I don’t like it when blogs become all business-business worth informative posts (which are great!) and sponsored posts (which pay the bills) so this way at least once/week I’ll drop in and ramble along for anyone who cares to read it. Interestingly, people say they like these types of posts the best (and I’m talking about a random group of people in a Facebook group I’m in) but when I look at the statistics, these types of posts get about 3-5% of the readers on the day they are published (on this site) versus a more informative post. Not that it matters, I like breaking things up now and again, and I certainly enjoy rambling, hahaha.

Last week wasn’t a very exciting week re-cap wise. A few of my regular classes were cancelled due to location unavailability so I spent a lot of extra hours doing this


Nothing makes an evening off more exciting than spending it reading about digestion and absorption!

Thursday night I did take a break from studying to make some oatmeal cookies. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough flour and I figured that wouldn’t matter as I threw in a little extra oatmeal. When I saw them in the oven I realized that maybe that flour was a bit more important that I thought….so instead I ended up with oatmeal cookie granola


It was pretty good actually so no harm, no foul.

Friday morning I got an email from the company who monitors my website security saying that Malware had been found. I spent hours trying to figure out where it was (normally it’s pretty straight forward but in this case it was anything but). In the end I had to contact them and by Saturday morning all was well. Thank goodness for SiteLock. They’ve saved my butt on more than one occasion.

Saturday I taught Zumba Toning and then came home and got ready to write my final Nutrition exam. It is an online at-home exam but I was still pretty nervous. It is a 3 hour exam and I told to expect to need the full 3 hours to complete it. I was flying through the questions (well maybe not flying, but moving along nicely) and at the 90 minute mark I was well past 50% finished. I had about 25 questions left at that point and was excited that I would finish early and have some time to go back and go over my answers. It didn’t take long before 90 minutes left turned into 45 minutes left, and then 30. When I was down to the last 26 minutes, I had a handful of questions to finish and I lost my internet connection. I won’t lie, I was freaking out. I tried contacted them via twitter (since I knew nobody was in the office on Saturday) but by the time they replied (which was within the hour, just not instantaneously like I had hoped Winking smile ) it was too late. I finally managed to get reconnected but I had lost all of the time I was disconnected on my time clock. I started scrambling and I just (and I mean JUST) barely got all the questions answered when the time was up and my exam auto-submitted. Of course I was super rattled when I got back online, and I remember one of the questions was about fibre and I yelled, “I don’t even know what fibre is right now!!!” who knows if I was even writing actual sentences or not, and what I did I write I’m sure made no sense. And now I wait. It can take up to 10 days to get my result so I’m going to try to put it out of my mind until that fateful day. If I passed I guess it won’t matter that I lost that time, but if I failed I will be really upset. Not only because it means I’ll have to pay $75 for a re-write, but the pass mark is 80% so while calm Suzi knows the material well enough to pass, frazzled Suzi might not have…

Updated to add: After writing this post I happened to check my email and I’ve already got my exam mark back….and I passed!!! Yay!!!!! Phew. What a relief that is!

And since problems come in threes is only makes sense that Saturday night I would discover that my professional site ( had disappeared. The domain and everything was still there, but the content and my WordPress theme were nowhere to be found. Ugh. About an hour later I managed to sort that out but I really hadn’t planned on spending my Saturday night fixing my website.

But that’s three things, so I should be safe for a while….right!?!? Please say yes!

Sunday was wonderfully uneventful. Pekoe and I changed the bed




It’s really his favourite household chore. He always runs in and jumps on the bed and gets all frisky. Silly old man.

Ollie had a little fun too while we moved everything so we could do a good vacuum (two cats = lots of fur)


So that was my week in a nutshell! Do me a favour and keep your fingers crossed that my exam situation has a happy ending? I’m so over studying!