Archives for February 2016

Tips for making the most of your health and fitness spa vacation

Recently, I had the incredible good fortune to have been invited by a friend to spend a week with her at Rancho la Puerto, a destination health and fitness spa.

health and fitness spa

Coming back from an early morning meadow hike

Surprisingly, it was my first time taking a vacation whose sole focus was on exercise, healthy eating and self-care.

Given that the demographic of guests was primarily women in the 45-65 age range (the very same demographic as readers of Fitknitchick…), I’m guessing that more than a few of you have experienced a health and fitness spa vacation.

Perhaps you’ve even been to the Ranch yourself.

While many guests visit the Ranch to kick-start healthy habits and indulge in spa treatments, it’s also the perfect place for the already-fit to visit and be reminded of why they’ve chosen the lifestyle they lead. (Hint: the first day’s hike won’t leave you sore and too tired to participate the following morning).

With a range of fitness class styles, lengths and intensities (Bosu Fit, Circuit Training, Dance:Striptease, Pilates Mat, Tennis Clinic, TRX Basics and Yoga Fundamentals were all on offer during Tuesday’s 10 am time slot), there’s truly something for everybody.

And when you’re tired of formal exercise, there’s always the option of taking a swim, wandering through the miles of meandering trails on the property or retiring to your casita for a nap.

I found it easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and activities. Not only were there hundreds of fitness classes to choose from, there were hikes and lectures and art classes too.

After a day of trying to do too much, I realized that the key to a successful (and restful) week was to pick and choose from the many experiences the Ranch had to offer, savour them fully and let go of the feeling that I needed to ‘do it all’ (a classic mindset-myth of the midlife woman).

Below are my best tips for making the most of a health and fitness spa vacation. I’ll definitely be implementing them the next time I go; fingers crossed it’s as either a guest instructor or presenter!

Making the most of a health and fitness spa vacation:

  • Try new things, but not too many; I quickly learned that the key to truly enjoying the Ranch is to spend a few minutes each evening looking over the following day’s agenda and highlighting three or four activities to participate in. I tried to include both classes that were new to me (Meditation, Ranch Ropes) and those I was already familiar with (Bosu Fit, TRX Combo), in the hopes that I might learn a few new moves to take back to my classes and clients. I made sure not to load my schedule up with all high intensity classes, leaving room for Restorative Yoga and Balance & Coordination (taught by the lovely and entertaining Kymberly) later in the day.
  • Schedule time for relaxation and rest; progress towards your health and fitness goals doesn’t happen without adequate rest and recovery. I made a point of scheduling in time for sun-bathing (SPF 30 of course), lounging in one of the many hammocks scattered around the property, relaxing in the hot tub and walking the meditative labyrinth. I was in bed before 10 pm each night in order to be able to get up early and participate fully in the daily sunrise hikes.
  • Get out in nature; hotels and resorts and spas all look rather similar on the inside. Spending time out of doors lets you experience the locale more fully. Not only does walking from place to place get you moving more (my FitBit tells me I walked, on average, 20K steps per day at the Ranch), it lowers your blood pressure and slows your racing thoughts. One of my favourite parts of Ranch life was the morning hikes; a great way to work up an appetite for a nourishing breakfast!
  • Make new friends; At the Ranch, classes and hikes and meals are all opportunities to meet new people. People just like you. People very different from you. Sharing your story with others is a powerful way to get to know yourself better. To learn by listening to others. To feel validated and part of something bigger. To know that your struggles are shared by many. To challenge your self-confidence and truly grow as a person. Stopping to rub bellies is optional 😉
  • Explore your creative side; think of creative pursuits as the ‘yin’ to your exercise ‘yang’. Using your brain rather than your body. One of the things I loved the most about the Ranch was the abundance of public art; yarn paintings in every building (created by one of the Ranch’s ‘artists in residence’), sculptures scattered around the grounds, traditional folk art carvings in the lounge and the dining hall. And the opportunity to take classes in water colour painting and jewellery design.
  • Fuel your body well; It’s easy to eat well when somebody else shops for, plans and prepares your meals. Just as it excels with its diverse menu of fitness choices, the Ranch never fails to delight at mealtime. Meals were primarily plant-based, created from a wide assortment of fruits, vegetables and greens grown at its own organic garden (if you go, don’t miss the Organic Garden hike; a lovely 2.2 mile hike up to the gardens with an exquisite breakfast as the reward). Desserts were only offered at dinner time, and even then, were perfectly portioned and none-too-sweet. (And because I know somebody will ask, wine was only served with dinner on the last night 🙂 ).
  • Bring a little bit of the spa home; For most of us, seven days isn’t quite enough to cultivate new habits. Indeed, many of the guests remain for a second week or plan on returning later in the year for another ‘kick start’. Rather than treating your fitness and health spa vacation as a simple week’s holiday, why not plan on bringing a little bit of the spa home with you.

While away, I began a daily meditation practice. That’s something I intend to build on now that I’m home (when I close my eyes I visualize one of my favourite paths at the Ranch; it helps me to slow my breathing, quiet my mind and think of my daughter with a smile).

health and fitness spa

I’m also committed to continuing including more plant-based meals in my diet. While we did enjoy seafood on three occasions, the focus on beans, vegetables, grains and spices made me feel lighter and more well-nourished than I have in a long time.

Have you ever taken a health and fitness spa vacation?

What new habits did you return home with?


Feeling Uninspired? The Truth About Motivation At Midlife {Guest Post}

This week I’m doubly fortunate. Grateful for (1) the invitation of a friend to join her at an all-inclusive fitness and wellness resort and (2) the offer of another to cover for me here, while I’m away. Pamela Hernandez is a personal trainer, online fitness coach and motivator extraordinaire. She’s sharing some truths about keeping motivated at midlife (and beyond).

You will never be 24 again.

Neither will I. I will never be the same as I was the year I started my fitness journey. I can never go back to the amazing beginner potential and relatively stress-free life I had then. If only we had known how golden those days were when we had them, right?

I can only speak for myself when I say I might have been too busy being self-conscious and critical of myself to listen even if someone had told me how special that time was. However, I do not miss it. The awkwardness and insecurity of my 20s is something I do not wish to go back to. I love how 40 feels. I know myself so much better than I did then.

Midlife brings wisdom and a new awareness of what our bodies need. I certainly feel stronger than I did at 24 but I am also very aware of how different my body is. I don’t know about you but I make sure to go to the bathroom before too many burpees or jump squats. Anyone else proud to be asleep by 10 pm?

So if we know our bodies aren’t the same why do we keep expecting our motivation to work the same way? We’ve changed our workout routine (maybe?) but we haven’t taken a good hard look at our goals, our motivation and why we need to commit to a healthy and fit life in perhaps a very long time. Life has changed and probably so has our WHY.

Get Inspired

This is why you can’t stay motivated like you used to. You didn’t lose your motivation. You forgot to create it.

I wrestled with a motivational funk myself last summer, just as I was turning 40. As a personal trainer and health coach, I am 100% committed to a healthy lifestyle. Yet I found myself unfocused during my own workouts, uninspired with my clients and overwhelmed by the challenges of mid-life and owning my own business. What turned me around came some from a process of self-examination so I could get acquainted with my motivation again.

It started with a 100 Dreams List.

A friend recommended a book to me called 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam. Early in the book she asks you to make a list of 100 Dreams. It’s a purposefully big number so you have room for all things, not matter how far-fetched or mundane. (I wanted to just once make my own nut butter.) Once you have your list, you can look for underlying themes and the places were your passion truly lies. It helps find a compass for life when things may have gotten off track. My list was both enlightening and energizing. I was in a rut and it gave me things to STRETCH for again. Plus now I get a little jolt of satisfaction every time I cross something off the list.

Pamela Hernandez

The AFTER photo!

I found myself a coach.

I normally stay away from online challenges but the Ultimate Oxygen Challenge appeared at just the right time. I tried to hide behind the idea that it was “research”. Inside I knew to get out of this rut I needed to turn myself over to someone else’s way of doing things. I also made a deal with myself that no matter what happened I had to take AFTER pictures to send in to Oxygen Magazine’s Future of Fitness section. (#38 on my 100 Dreams List.) It was amazingly freeing to have someone else laying out the plan, teaching me new things and pushing me out of my comfort zone. I joined the private Facebook group as just another women trying to win a cover spot, not as the expert giving the advice. I needed to feel like a beginner again and it worked. Hiring a personal trainer or health coach can give you some needed accountability and challenge old ways of thinking.

Are your “good” habits holding your back?

When good habits go bad it’s called tightening. When habits get so constricting that they keep you from enjoying life or moving forward they become a big problem. Check yourself for habits that are outdated, no longer make sense and stand in the way of joy instead of bringing it. A great example for me was multi-tasking during my workouts by listening to podcasts. When I started going to the gym many years ago I would crank up my favorite tunes and lose myself. I don’t know how I got away from music but now I save Serial for coloring and groove to Elle King and Robyn in the gym. I found a lot of habits that I thought were healthy for me but needed to go: how much and what I was eating for breakfast, my sleep schedule and my cardio choices to name a few.

I felt like a beginner again and it made all the difference. It’s not that I went back to 24 because we know that can’t happen. I just found a map to a new destination that made sense for my life as it is TODAY.

If you need a new map to motivation at midlife, let me help you create it.


I invite you to read my NEW book, Motivation Is Made Not Found. It’s a collection of lessons I’ve learned on motivation and commitment with action steps for you to use to help you be your own motivation coach. Use them as a way to look at your journey anew (or perhaps really look at it for the first time). It’s on sale for a special price until February 29, so don’t wait too long.

Check it out and me know what you think. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let me know what’s your biggest motivation challenge.