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Rural Tennessee offers a fitness vacation

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Exercising and eating well eludes so many of us. What is even harder is finding time for self-reflection, solitude and self-care with the pressures of work and family. It took a girlfriend and me almost a year to find a week where we could spend time working out, eating a healthy menu and focusing on ourselves.

If time was a challenge, the cost was another. At the high end, you can spend a week for a mere $10,000, including meals, exercise and spa treatments. The more average cost was around $3,000 a week.

A friend recommended the Tennessee Fitness Spa near Waynesboro, Tenn. They’ve been offering fitness vacations for the past 20 years. It had the benefits of being within driving range of Battle Creek and a weekly rate of $1,000 per person for meals, lodging and all the exercise classes you can stand. Another advantage was the small size of the resort, only 58 guests when filled to capacity. I admit I was nervous about just how rustic it might be.

It was after 10 p.m. when I picked up my friend at the Nashville airport for our 95-mile drive to Natural Bridge, Tenn. It took close to two and half hours, as we wound through small towns on two-lane rural routes with lots of construction, before arriving at the resort. Luckily the security guard, Teresa, had stuck around waiting for us. That was our first sign of the friendly, personal care that was the hallmark of our week.

Our room was extremely clean and decorated in taupe and beige. It had the look of a Holiday Inn, not much wow factor but everything we needed. Breakfast was served starting at 6:45 a.m. followed by a group walk. Getting up at dawn didn’t sound all that appealing but we were gung ho and set our alarm.

Breakfast turned out to be my favorite meal of the three offered. I could choose from eggs, oatmeal or cereal, toast or English muffin with fresh fruit. We had French toast and pancakes on different days plus frittatas.

Lunch was the largest meal of every day with dessert. Dinner was the lightest meal.

The menu was 1,200 calories a day. Snacks were available all day, the usual rabbit food of celery and carrots and hard-boiled eggs. But you could get a slice of cheese or a serving of peanut butter anytime you wanted. Having chef Belinda Jones and her staff plan, cook and clean up, all meals made for a wonderful week.

The exercise classes were split between water and land. I choose water aerobics for most of my classes, led mostly by Kimi Sue Kelly, a perky, pint-sized drill sergeant.

The land classes were spin class, high and low aerobics and Pilates. Yoga and mediation classes were also offered along with stretch classes.

The daily recommended plan included two sessions of aerobic exercises, one stretch, one resistance (weight) training activity, and at least four abs classes per week. With the variety of classes offered I was easily able to fit in all of that plus yoga or meditation every day with lots of times for reading and relaxing.

The resort was located in a beautiful part of Tennessee with a rare double-

span natural bridge formation right behind our building. The impressive, vaulted stone cavern was formed over millions of years of erosion by a fresh water spring.

At the end of the week, my thighs and my psyche thanked me. I felt refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to face the world again.

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