You love travel. You love fitness. Why not jump on the hottest trend right now as travel turns healthy with wellness retreats. Tech-detox, weight loss, yoga and meditation, fitness cruises, race-travel or workout camps top the fitness traveler’s wishlist. I’m really into this type of travel right now so I’m talking today about how to plan a fitness retreat so you’re prepared and inspired!
The worldwide wellness was a $4.2 trillion industry in 2017, with $639 billion coming from wellness retreats. That means everyone is jumping on board, and for good reason: studies have shown that “nature immersion getaways” reduce cortisol levels, your main stress hormone, and depression (I’m in, anyone else?). A recent Wellness Vacation survey done by the Wellness Tourism Association also reported that 42% of travelers seeking wellness retreats preferred “solo travel,” or “solo to meet up with like-minded” to traveling with others. With the constant stimulus we receive every day, it is no wonder! There is a caveat to all of this hype, though. I recommend researching the companies hosting the retreats and paying close attention to whether the company you are booking through is benefiting the local community, or if they are exploiting it or damaging it in any way.
After doing some research of my own, I definitely jumped on board the wellness retreat trend and have had amazing experiences. Read further to get a sneak peek into only a few of the trips that are out there and learn how to plan a fitness retreat of your own.
Last January, I traveled to Nicaragua for a fitness vacation. Yoga in an open-air studio, healthy meals, surf lessons and early morning workouts on the beach dominated our time. These types of activities are usually augmented by lots of time to chat with fellow attendees (if you want) and also enjoy some downtime relaxing, reading or checking out the local area.
This past year, I went to Iceland for another active getaway. We spent all day every day hiking waterfalls, cooking healthy meals at a home in the wilderness and long walks to check out geysers. I’ve also done a trip to Finland to go cross-country skiing through the woods for miles and miles. What an incredible way to see a country! Don’t hesitate to do a fitness retreat in the winter – they can be just as fun as hot weather trips.
Being someone who loves food, experiencing cultural dishes and being a part of making them was a huge bonus for me on these retreats. During my Iceland retreat, we went on a greenhouse tour on a working tomato farm and was able to enjoy tomato soup from the greenhouse tomatoes afterward. It was incredible to see how they adapted their farming methods to use steam from the earth to grow food in a place that is not very farm-friendly most of the year. I encourage experiences like this and to learn more about the local culture through cooking classes or opportunities hosted on your trip. It is all part of the experience, and you get to bring skills and recipes back home with you!
These experiences also provide a much needed break from your everyday life, especially your everyday gym life. Unless you choose a fitness bootcamp retreat, many of the fitness retreats allow you to escape the high expectations that may occur when you attend a gym or fitness class (especially fitness classes and specialized gyms where high intensity is the norm). The expectation is to just get outside, move and have a great time. By ditching your normal fitness routine for a couple weeks, you might even walk away with more tools for your fitness toolbox – things you’ve never considered or perhaps things you never thought would be fun, but ended up being a blast. These are the things you take home with you that enrich your life and exercise routine!
From how to pack, picking your company and making your workout work for you on your next tips, here are my top 6 trips to wellness travel success!
How to Plan a Fitness Retreat in 6 Simple Steps
- Go with your flow. Love R&R? Be sure to pick a trip with an itinerary that gives you plenty of downtime. Adrenaline junky? Check that you’re not signing up for 10 days sitting on a secluded beach. Pick a trip that matches your personality and the activities you enjoy so you get the most out of your fitness vacation.
- Choose your company carefully. Need to get away from it all? Definitely fly solo if you are comfortable with it. At a retreat, you can make friends and socialize if you want to, or use the time to recharge on your own. This could also be a perfect time to reconnect over an activity filled vacation with a spouse, family member or friend. Before you plan your trip, be sure that you consider what you want to get out of the trip and what would make it most enjoyable.
- Read the fine print. Avoid trips focused on week-long or 2-week-long juice cleanses and fasting (they aren’t fun anyway). Instead, enjoy wholesome food that tastes way better! Not only will your taste buds thank you, but you will be much more relaxed when eating real food. Reading the fine print also helps to avoid any surprises before or during your trip.
- Pack wisely. Before I left for Nicaragua I had the realization, “I have no workout shorts!” Living in cold weather, I bundle up for the gym every day with a hat, scarf, leg warmers, and a down jacket, even for warming up in the cold CrossFit box. Workout shorts aren’t easy to come by in January in northern territories, but luckily I found a couple pairs before I left. Keep in mind that your tennis shoes may get destroyed (mine via volcanic ash and salty sand on this trip). Bring non-greasy bug spray and sunblock if your destination is tropical. In general, do your research before you go, especially if the climate is vastly different than what you’re used to.
- Keep an open mind. This is not your everyday gym, but that’s okay. In the fitness classes I attended on my trip there were people of many levels adapting exercises to fit their specific needs. No worries! If it’s too hard, change the workout so it will be easier. If you need more, push yourself harder. Fitness is what you make it – don’t be afraid to take what you need from the experience but be sure to keep an open mind to new types of activities.
- Don’t break the bank. You can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a fitness retreat week…or you can spend less. The latter category being more my speed (I want more than one vacation this year!) and I found Nicaragua a very affordable option. Plus we signed up for and paid for this vacation over the past year so it didn’t hit us all at once right after the holidays. Planning makes perfect! Be sure that your fitness or wellness retreat fits into your budget so your post-vacation letdown is less difficult.
Wherever your wellness vacation takes you or whichever fitness retreat you choose, there are many ways to enjoy this health trend. Get creative, take an adventure and have a blast. This is such a beautiful way to try out a new country, explore, and also keep your health goals top of mind. Let me know if you think of any other tips on how to plan a fitness retreat!
And if you like other tips for how to make fitness more fun in your life, aside from how to plan a fitness retreat, I’ve got articles up on the blog about how to get into OrangeTheory, SoulCycle and Crossfit. Let me know what you think!
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
Thanks for visiting! If you’re like me: obsessed with eating, wine, going out and traveling, you’re in the right place. Champagne Nutrition® LLC is a Registered Dietitian-run concierge virtual practice helping clients look and feel better. On this blog, you’ll ﬁnd cocktails, mocktails, and plant-based recipes that are easy to make quickly at home and pack for leftovers on your adventures.