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Is a Fitness Retreat Right for You?

What you need to know before you commit to a week of sit-ups in the sand.

Healthy mind body and spirit. Wellness and health concept. Double exposure.; Shutterstock ID 1134937067 Photo: Shutterstock / KieferPix

A wellness retreat can be a great way to kick-start your fitness resolutions, but for some, it’s far from an ideal “vacation.” At least, it used to be, before properties started lightening up on the strict protocol of conventional retreats by replacing caloric deficits with gourmet meals and swapping intense full-day workout schedules with a healthy mix of spa and downtime. These days, wellness-centric properties are modernizing the concept of a traditional fitness retreat to make the concept much more appealing. But before you invest the time and money in trying one, how do you know if a fitness retreat is for you?

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego.  Photo: Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

First off, it’s important to know what you enjoy and what you would be willing to try. For example, do you prefer group classes or private instruction? Do you perform best when solo and “in the zone” or on a competitive streak with a group? Does the destination offer some unique activity you have not tried before, and does that interest you or terrify you? According to Kristi Dickinson, director of spa and wellness at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, variety in the destination’s offerings is key when you’re choosing where to visit, as is the training and education of the fitness professionals. It is also important to think about what exactly it is that you want to get out of the experience. At Rancho Valencia, for example, the goal is to inspire and transform guests during their stay, leading to lifelong changes after departure. “Our format works well for our guests because we do not deprive them,” says Dickinson. “They tap into intrinsic motivation and the result is more sustainable step into action.” Clients who choose this particular resort, she says, enjoy exercise and come to maintain and expand on their workout routine while on vacation. “Our guests are not over scheduled,” she says. “They can be as interactive or independent as they like.” After a day of yoga on the pool deck and as many or few fitness classes as they like, guests can savor a delicate rosé from Valle de Guadalupe in front of the fire pits at sunset while watching hot air balloons overhead or enjoy an intimate alfresco meal. “There is ample time to slow yourself and reflect. Our guests can just ‘be,’ which is such a luxury these days. There is magic in stillness.”

Spa resort Miraval Austin Texas

Miraval Austin.  Photo: Courtesy Miraval Austin

Acclaimed wellness destination Miraval is appealing to that whole “work hard, play hard” mentality as well with the launch of their first wellness spa outside of its flagship in Arizona. Miraval Austin is planted on 220 acres of picturesque land overlooking Lake Travis. You can detox as much as you like here, but you don’t have to; the resort boasts plenty of exercise options and classes to rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul, but they also appreciate the importance of kicking back at the end of a long day with a cocktail and some Southern-inspired gourmet fare.

Mii amo spa pool

Mii Amo’s spa pool.  Photo: Courtesy of Mii Amo

Over to the west, Sedona’s Mii Amo continues to win awards year after year for its customizable wellness journeys that last anywhere from three to seven nights. You must arrive on a specific day of the week depending on which program you choose, but at Mii Amo it’s all about finding (or regaining) peace, with offerings including reiki and sound healing.

Although each resort differs in its specialties, one thing is common in nearly all wellness retreats: the quest for achieving optimum health in a world saturated with too much technology and a plethora of outside stressors.

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