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).
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?