So…you want to know what life is really like at a wellness retreat.
Whether you have dreamt of taking a wellness vacation or are looking to make specific lifestyle changes, I am a big believer in the power of investing in one’s own health for long term success. Picking the right program or wellness destination to kickstart your goals is only half the battle. The key to everyday wellness after a retreat lies in the ability to generalize what you learned during your experience once you get home, which is why I look for programs that offer a variety of classes and workshops where I am doing and learning. Knowing what to expect and what programming is offered can assist you in finding the best fit for your wellness goals.
Located on Hilton Head Island in the private Shipyard Plantation community, Hilton Head Health (also known as H3) – a wellness retreat and weight loss spa – provides two different programs. The Lose Well program is a highly structured month-long experience that is guided by a holistic approach to fitness, nutrition, lifestyle and mind/body classes. The Live Well program takes the same great approach but offers shorter stays (starting at a minimum of three days) offering a jump start where guests can customize their own stay.
I had the opportunity to participate in the Live Well program for a 3-night stay and can see why so many guests choose to return to Hilton Head Health for a yearly reset or health vacation.
A typical day at Hilton Head Health
With so many activities and classes to choose from each day, here an example of one day at Hilton Head Health. I had one main fitness goal to bring home a few new strength training routines to add to my workouts which is why on this particular day, you will see a lot of strength related classes as opposed to cardio.
6:30 am Walk, run, bike or ride to the main building
Accommodations for guests are spread across Shipyard Plantation (with the maximum distance being one mile) or at the Beach House Hilton Head Island. Complimentary shuttle transportation is available to go back and forth, or bikes can be rented for use throughout your stay. My well appointed condominium was just shy of one mile away so I took advantage of the distance by walking to and from the main campus building at the beginning and end of the day.
7:00 am Sun Salutations Yoga
(Another great way to start the day is a morning beach walk. The walk is often on the schedule, but a few veterans of Hilton Head Health told me that even if it isn’t – if you get a group of people that are interested in going, you can ask for group transportation to the beach to do the walk on your own. Of course, you can also use a bike to get there yourself.)
8:00 am Breakfast
Forget what you think you know about calorie-controlled eating. Chef Hicham Elmadi leads the culinary experience at True – Hilton Head Health’s main dining room – with food that is “true to nature, true to you.” Each meal has multiple options (that made me appreciate that I had multiple days to sample each thing) and the menus provide all the nutritional information to help you plan your meal according to your needs and goals.
9:30 am: Outdoor Circuit
The Outdoor Circuit class was one of my favorite workouts because it was so simple and served as such a great reminder that you don’t need much time to get in a great workout. For twenty minutes our small group of 7 completed a circuit as many times as we could (or after five rounds). The circuit consisted of: 10 pushups, 30 situps, 20 squats and a .25 mile run (or walk). Sounds easy right? Trust me, after round 2, I could already start to feel my entire body – but the fact that we were outside made it fun. I love the idea of being able to see progress through a workout like this – completing more rounds in the 20 minutes over time.
11:00 Resistance Band Training
Can we just say, ouch? I will be honest: the resistance bands in my home gym get very little use so my goal in taking this class was to be reminded of how easy they are to use for a whole body workout. It worked.
I highly suggest taking a meditation class with Lisette Cifaldi – Director of Behavioral Health – any time that it is on the schedule. I participated in both the afternoon meditation and a morning session and appreciated the different approaches she shared. The afternoon meditation was the perfect way to check in with myself after a morning of new experiences and to be grateful for all that my body was doing.
2:00 TRX Circuit
I have a TRX system at home, so whenever I can I take a TRX class to learn new exercises to incorporate at home. What I loved about this class was that Camila Pacheco – Fitness Specialist at Hilton Head Health’s – helped each of us modify the moves to make them easier or more difficult depending on our experience. Case in point, Camilia “suggested” that I try one-legged squats since I was comfortable using the TRX which is something that I probably would never have pushed myself to do by myself.
3:30 Wake up call on sleep health education session
Bob Wright – the Director of Education – is an institution at Hilton Head Health, offering his expertise through education sessions that range from sleep to what to do when you get home, to portion sizes and everything in between. Although I was already an advocate of better sleep as a key to the wellness equation, Bob reminded me of the “why” something that I needed as my sleep patterns had started to slide.
4:30 Meal planning educational session
It is not often that you have access both to a chef and a nutritionist for meal planning advice. During this session – held in the incredible Healthy Kitchen facility – nutritionist Lindsay Martin and Chef Karla – Executive Chef – provided tools for meal planning (aka, a spreadsheet), tips for food preparation and strategies for using ingredients in multiple ways.
7:00 Healing Ocean Escape at Indigo Spa
The Indigo Spa opened at Hilton Head Health in March 2015 and is definitely worth taking the time to visit. I like to schedule evening massage or body treatments during a wellness retreat as the perfect way to end the day. Quartz and crystals help foster the restorative zen ambiance that permeates the spa and after my Healing Ocean Escape – and 80 minute treatment to exfoliate, hydrate and release muscle tension – my mind and body were in a state of bliss. On my last day I experienced the Indigo Blue Eucalyptus ritual which is designed to relieve fatigue, low mood, stiff muscles and aches – the perfect antidote to several days of intense fitness activity. Several other guests raved about the facials and hot stone massage – returning evening after evening (or day after day) for multiple treatments during their stays.
A few notes and tips about the Live Well experience at Hilton Head Island:
Most guests will meet with a member of the H3 staff for an initial health screening (based on the length of your stay). This gives you a great time to set goals and make a personal connection with someone that can be a lifeline if you need it. One thing that was evident to me throughout the week was the personal attention and interest that ALL the staff members showed to individual guests which. I love the feeling of camaraderie and support that easily felt during classes and in the halls.
Although there are many classes offered at each session, some classes (like TRX, Treading, Cardio Boxing and Barre Fit) require sign-up since they utilize specific equipment or spaces. Sign-ups opens at 3:00 pm the day before.
Fit Bites are available throughout the morning and afternoon for nutritious snacks. Guests were even encouraged to take a Fit Bite home with them for the evening or to have early the next day before arriving for the first class.
Make sure that you allow yourself time for Healthy Kitchen events. Chef Karla is a pro and even though I love to cook and feel like I have a strong culinary foundation, I walked away with several tips and new recipes that I wanted to make right away once I got home.
Here are two of the recipes that I learned to make during my class:
There are so many fabulous fitness classes each day – choosing can be difficult. My suggestion is to think about what your long term goals are but also – consider trying things that you would never normally try. Some of my favorite fitness classes were cardio boxing and a Fitball Aerobics both of which were new to me. I wish that I had taken a yoga in the pool class (or any pool class since Hilton Head Health has the only geothermal pool on the island) and would definitely add this to my schedule the next time I go.
Don’t be afraid to take a break. Especially if you are staying for a week or longer, give yourself time to read, take a walk or enjoy (from afar) the gators that like to sunbathe on the golf course.
The extended fitness activities – like kayaking in Shelter Cove or going ziplining– are great ways to explore Hilton Head while still getting a workout in. While they are an additional charge, they are worth it as ways to remind yourself that fitness can happen anywhere.
*I was a guest of Hilton Head Health during my stay and received a credit that I used toward one of my spa treatments and cooking class. All opinions are my own – especially the one that would like to go back to spend more time on the H3 campus.