Can a wellness boot camp at a medical center feel like a luxury retreat?
Upon entering the center where the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program is headquartered, in Rochester, Minn., it is hard to remember that the building belongs to a medical center. Designed to maximize open space and sunlight, the architecture itself conveys a sense of health and well-being. Sun streams into stairwells, making them more appealing than the elevator. Seamless windows wrap around the fitness studios, so they have the feel of a luxury athletic club. The equipment in the strength-training area is top notch. This feels like the perfect place to hit reset.
I am here for the Executive Wellness Experience and the day is a full one, beginning with a personal introduction by the program’s medical director, Donald Hensrud, MD, over a healthy breakfast (breakfast and lunch are included). The good doctor gives me some pertinent facts: Strawberries and red bell peppers are actually better sources of vitamin C than citrus, and eating whole grains has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of both cancer and heart disease, which we may have forgotten in our sometimes gluten-averse culture. After the meal, sessions begin with stress management and resiliency, where I learn deep-breathing techniques. During a class on wellness on the road, I come away with options for healthy packable snacks as well as fitness tips for the plane and hotel room, including using a portable TRX suspension training system. The instructor also suggests checking walk times and mileage between terminals and gates at airports; some hubs have them tracked online. The privacy of each session allows for personal questions and concerns to be addressed. Already I feel more like a guest and less like a patient.
The fitness component includes an evaluation of my balance, flexibility, and strength. A trainer demonstrates new exercises to address the areas that need improvement, including—thinking ahead to future business trips—ones that incorporate TRX. Another kind of fitness we discuss is NEAT, nonexercise activity thermogenesis, which can be summed up as moving more and sitting less. When I walk the walk during the one-hour session at a treadmill desk set to 1 mph, I log more than 2,000 steps and I can type just fine. I could get used to this.
My two favorite components of the day are a cooking class and an hour at Rejuvenate, the on-site spa. I meet the executive wellness chef in her beautiful participation kitchen, where I make a quick, healthy vegetable stir-fry after a lesson in knife skills. She explains how to cut down on oil while sautéing—a weakness of mine—with a splash of water and mirin, a rice wine.
After an inspiring personal coaching session, I enjoy a massage at the center’s spa, another unexpected treat on hospital grounds. As beautiful and modern as any in an upscale resort, the spa offers facials, massages, and body wraps. My 60-minute massage is both relaxing and therapeutic: Therapists are trained not only in massage but also in physical therapy so they understand the mechanics of injury and muscle recovery.
My visit was just a taste of what the Healthy Living Program has to offer. Multiday visits help to instill new habits under the supervision of physicians, nurses, exercise physiologists, and nutritionists. Before arrival, plan to fill out paperwork about goals and current habits. Post-visit, your wellness coach follows up and helps you through particular challenges so the reboot continues long after leaving the center. (One-day Executive Wellness Experience, $400; two-day Mayo Clinic Diet Experience, $1,900; four-day Signature Experience, $2,900.) healthyliving.mayoclinic.org