Destination fitness camps can reboot a healthy lifestyle.
As the sun slowly peeks over the high-rises and onto the white sands of St. Pete Beach, a throng of spandex and tank top-clad crazies drop to the ground for their fourth set of push-ups since 7:30 a.m. After 90 minutes of burpees, lunges, squats and other forms of boot camp-like torture, the pack will jog two to three miles up the beach, stretch, then fuel up for four more hours of activity before they call it quits for the day.
This sweaty pack of exercisers doesn’t just enjoy this sort of activity—they’ve made a vacation out of it.
“Destination fitness camps have become increasingly popular as our culture becomes more focused on wellness,” says Maria Walker, owner of Getaway Fitness. “Being able to get away from your everyday life to reboot and revive your body has proven to be a valuable and memorable experience for people interested in living a healthier lifestyle.”
Walker runs destination fitness camps, varying from two to 30 days, in San Diego, as well as in St. Petersburg Beach. She sees hundreds of people come through her 7-hour-a-day fitness and nutrition program and leave smiling.
It’s not because the program attracts fanatical iron man types; in fact, most of Walker’s participants are of a moderate fitness level. What makes Getaway Fitness and other such fitness camps so appealing is that while trainers give the body a whooping, they also make sure everyone is having loads of fun. Getting to sightsee in a beautiful destination makes the experience all the richer.
The whole idea behind destination fitness camps is to immerse guests in wellness from sunup to sundown. Most days start with boot camp on the beach, followed by a beach run and walk, then a healthy breakfast at a local diner. After participants have licked their egg-white omelet plates clean, it’s off to any number of activities including kayaking with manatees at Fort De Soto Park, biking along the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg’s North Shore Park, or hot yoga classes at a local studio.
Because of the constant change of activity and scenery, exercisers almost forget that they are exercising.
By 2:30 p.m., weary participants are free for the day, restricted only by dietary guidelines and the recommendation to get some rest. Getaway Fitness hosts its guests at TradeWinds Island Grand, a 20-acre beachfront resort with a Caribbean vibe. While most fitness guests don’t partake in the nightly pub crawl among the resort’s six bars, use of the onsite spa, five swimming pools, and cushioned beach cabanas are a welcome respite after a day of pulverizing muscles. Healthy meal options are available at most of the resort's 11 restaurants.
Like a lot of destination fitness camps, Getaway Fitness charges an all-inclusive fee, which starts at $1,095 for two nights. For that expense, participants receive overnight accommodations, all meals and snacks, and five hours of fitness a day.
But the real benefit comes from having continuous access to a personal trainer. Walker’s trainers are experts on fitness and nutrition, and have the buff bodies to prove it. “Great bodies are 70 percent what we eat,” says Walker, who has her trainers provide guidelines for healthy eating during and after the getaway program.
On average, participants spend four to seven days with Walker and her band of fitness trainers, embracing the chance to fully step back from their typical diet and activity. The result can be the kick-start to a healthier lifestyle, which could include newly discovered exercises.
Without a doubt, the program is challenging, but not in a screaming drill sergeant sort of way. At the end of the day, muscles are sore. They’re barely moveable the next morning. But there’s something that draws people back to the beach, even with the aches and pains, and that’s the joy of feeling really healthy, even youthful, for the first time in a long time.