FLF in New Zealand: My Visit to Auckland Part 1

My husband and I booked a trip to Auckland, New Zealand, over a year ago when we decided that after 10 or so years working as Les Mills instructors and 5+ years as National Trainers, it was time we visited the Mothership: Les Mills Auckland City. We also know that New Zealand is a beautiful country and we love the people and culture there, so visiting was a no-brainer.

 

If you're not a LES MILLS® instructor, here's a little backstory: Auckland, NZ, is the birthplace and production hub of Les Mills group fitness programs like BODYPUMP®, GRIT, and BODYCOMBAT®. The workouts are created, tested, and filmed in Studio One at Les Mills Auckland City once a quarter, then edited, matched with choreography notes and sent out to hundreds of thousands of certified group fitness instructors all over the planet. After being an instructor and trainer for so long, it was very cool to finally have a behind-the-scenes look at that process!

The Flight

On Thursday, January 26, we flew from Charlotte to Houston for an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. It's a 13.5+ hour flight from Houston to Auckland, and this was by far the scariest part of the trip for me.

I consulted friends who'd made the trip before me, desperate for any tips to avoiding claustrophobia, anxiety, and any other issues one could have while being in a confined space in the middle of nowhere over the ocean for hours on end. 

As one friend put it:

"Once you're up there, you're up there. And there's nothing you can do about it."

Here are my top tips for acing the flight from the U.S. to New Zealand:

  • Take Supplements: I bought a bottle of Melatonin gummies at Vitamin Shoppe and they did the trick. I took 2 a few hours after dinner and it helped me sleep for about 3-4 hours uninterrupted. I dozed on and off after that, and it was enough sleep to get me through a full day in Auckland with only a 2ish hour nap before we hit the first filming classes. I also regularly take Magnesium and made sure to have that on hand as well. It helps calm and relax you, and it has dramatically improved my sleep since I started taking it this year. 
  • Extra Food: If you're used to eating at regular intervals (every 3-4 hours) or have special dietary needs, bring extra meals/snacks - especially if you have connecting flights and may be short on time. The meals on board were fine (for plane food) but the only other food available on board was a small bag of tortilla chips or cookies. Not happening. I wished I had bought some protein bars or protein powder with me. There was no time in Charlotte or Houston to grab anything, so I had to rely solely on plane food. Body. Not. Happy. I ended up eating the entire in-flight dinner and breakfast just because I needed the calories. Gluten be damned. My stomach was killing me
  • Compression socks: My friend and fellow trainer Susan recommend these and I should have heeded her warning and put them on immediately when we departed Houston. I didn't:( I waited until my legs were already swelling before I remembered to put them on and it took about 48 hours to find my ankles and wrists again. My shoes and clothes were tight and walking was really unpleasant that first day in New Zealand. For the next trip, I'll be looking at wearing a full-body compression suit. ;) 
  • Don't Depend on WiFi: I really thought I would get TONS of writing done on the long flight and was actually really excited to knock out some projects. But Air New Zealand had other plans. No WiFi. 
  • Watch Movies: Make good use of the in-flight entertainment system. I watched 3ish movies on the way over in between cat naps. The way back was shorter (11 hours) and I watched "Deadpool" and played the free games like Fruit Ninja and Blackjack. Mindless fun, and it passes the time:)
  • Get Cozy: My friend Hanna gave me the tip to change into sweats after the dinner service to be more comfortable for sleeping. There are blankets and pillows and I have to say, it was pretty (surprisingly) cozy. 
  • Bring Items to Freshen Up: After flying for that many hours, you will feel gross. I brought a few small TSA-approved items in my carry-on bag so I could freshen up on the plane and again as soon as I got off. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, my glasses and eye drops, and moisturizer.

Accommodations

The hotel rates in Auckland for the particular week we were visiting were outrageous. Several hundred dollars per night for basic hotel rooms. 

Instead of going the hotel route, we used Air B&B and ended up still staying at a really nice hotel in one of their serviced apartments. It cost far less than the hotel rooms. It had a kitchen and in-room washer and dryer, which I highly recommend if you're going to be working out at LES MILLS®. (More on that below in "What to Pack.")

We stayed at The Pullman, which is located across from the University and just a 15 minute walk from Les Mills Auckland City. There are several great coffee shops and restaurants nearby and everything is walkable. The restaurant in the hotel is great for breakfast. We ate there the first morning we arrived and they have tons of Paleo and gluten-free options. 

How to Get Around

Walking was our primary form of transportation, and the more I talked to friends who live there, the more I realized that unlike here in the U.S. they walk EVERYWHERE. Auckland is actually a really small city. 

But here's the fun(ny) part: Auckland is an extremely hilly city. No matter where we were going, regardless of whether we were coming or going, we were always walking uphill. My lower body was definitely looking and feeling tighter after our week in Auckland and I credit all the walking! 

This was one of my biggest take-aways from the trip: that walking to and from everywhere (especially meals) actually feels really good and I need to stick with it now that I'm back home. It was also a much-needed form of active recovery from the workouts and helped flush out some of the soreness.

For times when you don't want to walk, grabbing an Uber is super easy and inexpensive. 

What to Pack

Me after attending the filming of BODYPUMP® 101!

Me after attending the filming of BODYPUMP® 101!

Up until our arrival on January 28, the weather in Auckland had apparently been cold and gray and awful - even though it's late Spring/early Summer there. We brought the good weather with us. It was in the high 60s-mid 70s for our week there.

I packed expecting two things: hot weather and workouts. I brought WAY too much Reebok gear and next time, I'll bring fewer pieces and just wash and re-wear throughout the trip. I did workout a lot, but I didn't need 6 pairs of leggings, 5 pairs of shorts, 7 sports bras, endless tanks and tops, etc.

The weather in Auckland can change on a dime and even on warm, sunny days, it can become cloudy and cool very quickly. I only brought a light Reebok jacket and wished I'd had something a little warmer at times. 

The sun is extremely strong in New Zealand. Just sitting outside on a sunny day - for example, while we were touring vineyards on Waiheke Island - I got burnt up, and it was only 70-ish degrees. I wish I'd brought sunscreen! Rookie mistake.

Where to Eat

Brunch at Amano: poached eggs and chilies over fresh summer corn

Brunch at Amano: poached eggs and chilies over fresh summer corn

Ah now this is why you're REALLY reading this post! You know Fat Loss Foodies will always scout out the healthiest, freshest food and the best coffee no matter where we go! Auckland was no different.

It is REALLY easy to eat healthfully in Auckland. Like you almost have to try to find and eat crap (or "rubbish" as Kiwis would say?) There's no excuse, because every little shop or cafe you walk in to has things like frittatas, eggs with veggies, and salads for take-away.

Local Lingo: Taking your food or coffee to-go is called "take away" there, which I think I'm going to keep saying here at home in the U.S. because I like it better lol.

All the meat and seafood is local, organic, grass-fed, etc. etc. and really fresh. The eggs are incredible; bright orange yolks and everyone makes a mean poached egg. The restaurants use lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and good herbs and spices. I guess you could say:

New Zealand is my Foodie soulmate. 

Here are some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) Fat Loss Foodie spots that I would watch out for if you're visiting Auckland:

Amano - brunch, dinner. The decor was as good as the food. Exposed wooden beams, dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, and be sure to take a stroll by the open kitchen. You can see giant trays of fresh fish, handmade pasta, vegetables, and everything that's going to end up in your meal.

Best Ugly Bagels - Montreal-style bagels and great coffee. They had gluten-free bagels, which are freakin' impossible to find, and I haven't had a bagel in FOR.EVER. So on the last morning there, we decided to just go for it and carb up with the PB&J: a toasted sesame bagel (gluten-free) with homemade peanut butter and raspberry jam. Stop it. I get why this is my friend Nikki's post-filming treat of choice. It's right across the street and up the hill from LES MILLS® Auckland City, so if you need a good carb-up, I'm just sayin': I would go. Their bagels are slightly smaller and thinner than what we'd have here in say, New York City.

Burger Fuel - this is a chain restaurant serving grass-fed burgers in NZ and Australia. They're rumored to be making deals to come to the U.S. We grabbed protein burgers here after an afternoon at Mission Bay. My husband loved this place more than I did. It was fine but I wasn't blown away by it. 

Chuffed - Probably our favorite place. We had brunch here twice.  They have a great little patio where you can sit outside, great coffee, and a good (albeit small-ish) menu. I had the poached eggs over herbed kale with a side of their homemade gluten-free bread - BOTH TIMES. My husband had the omelet and it was killer. Met some really cool servers here who are fans of LES MILLS®. They told us how much they loved BODYPUMP® when we were in for brunch:) 

Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar - (Note: pronounced "Deh-poe" not "Dee-poe" lol) Great place to grab small plates if you're not feeling a big dinner. We had some amazing lamb ribs and smoked brisket lettuce-wraps (tacos actually, but they didn't have gluten-free tortillas so we went for lettuce cups.) 

Federal & Wolfe Organic Cafe - Brunch. Get the avocado toast. Enough said. Oh - and super-friendly and excellent service! Really funky vibe, as the whole place looks a bit like it's still under construction. 

Fokker Bros' - We had protein (lettuce-wrapped) burgers and sweet potato fries here. I was a little put off when the ketchup I dipped my sweet potato fry in was soured. It's located near the Viaduct, and this place is really low-key and casual. Good option for a quick bite if you're in the area, but nothing I'd really seek out. Watch out for the ketchup. Blergh.

An order of Kumara fries + homemade date ketchup for the table - Food Truck Garage, Auckland

An order of Kumara fries + homemade date ketchup for the table - Food Truck Garage, Auckland

Food Truck Garage - Good lunch spot. We had the chicken burrito bowls here and tried the famous kumara fries. Kumara is a starchy root vegetable similar to sweet potato. Foodie friends of mine have sworn by these things and told me they are a MUST try when in NZ, but I ate a few and was kind of "meh" about them. Not interested.

Scarecrow - I went here daily because it was down the hill from my hotel and about as far as I wanted to walk without coffee in the mornings. I popped in for Americanos and one morning, discovered something called a "Paleo Slice." I am going to try to recreate the recipe here, but it was like a barely sweet bar/bread with orange zest, almond flour, and dark chocolate. Perfect small bite if you want something to tide you over between meals. This place has great vegetable and chicken salads for take-away, too. 

 

How to Order Coffee

Auckland takes its coffee seriously. It's roughly on par with a city like DC or New York when it comes to number of coffee shops. You can't go a block without running across one, and every single one I tried had truly excellent coffee. (As in, we are already researching espresso machines so we can finally just have one here at home and stop wasting money on buying coffee elsewhere. Game. Changer.) 

Coffee Culture was my favorite, and they're everywhere! Unfortunately, so is Starbucks. Don't go to New Zealand and drink Starbucks. Please.

I typically just drink regular coffee with half & half here at home, but when I asked for coffee there I got very confused looks from our servers:

"What would you like then? A flat white? Or a latte?"

We finally broke down and tried a flat white and I get why they are so popular there. Holy cow. So good. The flat whites are small (only 6 ounces) and it's espresso + steamed milk. It's similar to a latte but with less milk. (I kinda like that. I like to taste the espresso more than the milk!) Also, many places we visited had almond milk and other alternative milk options.  

Local Lingo: If you want plain brewed coffee, it is called "batch brew" - because it's coffee brewed in a large batch, get it? That was an awkward conversation, trying to figure out how to order plain coffee. The least I can do is save you the mistake;) And some shops didn't have any batch brew, so go with an Americano there. That's the closest you'll find.

None of the shops had pitchers of cream or half & half out the way our coffee bars in the U.S. do, so if you want some in your coffee to-go, include it in the order.

See for Yourself

No travel post would be complete without some photos! 

Part 2 of my Auckland Trip Recap will include more info on things to do in Auckland, because EVEN if you're a Les Mills instructor and want to hit some classes, you should definitely get out of the gym and see the country. 

Have you ever been to New Zealand? Is it on your list? Leave me a comment below - I love hearing from you! If you found this review helpful, feel free to Pin It or share it with friends on social!

XO,

Leslie Ann