By: Diane Vadino
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Forget the typical travel binge—these fitness spas will ensure you come home from your trip in better shape than you left.
We've blamed countless vacations for unexpected weight gain: too many plates of pasta in Rome, too many nights of tapas in Madrid. Our dream scenario would be to return from a fabulous trip without having gained a dress size—or even better, having lost one. Fitness vacations provide that chance, a rare opportunity both to experience a new place ... and to come back with a markedly improved outlook on life and, hopefully, some fabulously fitting jeans.
Today’s full-service fitness retreats aren’t like the fat camps of old: These spas offer deluxe accommodations, some in a spiritual atmosphere. And while they’re great places to take a vacation, they’re also the perfect environments to spark a top-to-bottom extreme makeover.
The Ashram (http://www.theashram.com), in Southern California's Santa Monica Mountains, promises "a commitment of a week ... a change of a lifetime.” With Oprah Winfrey, Ashley Judd and Cindy Crawford all touted as past participants, it has the celebrity clientele to suggest that there's truth behind the marketing.
Despite the $4,000 price tag for a weeklong stay, the Ashram is no cushy, ultra-luxe spa. Full days begin at 6 a.m. and include three hours of yoga and self-improvement seminars in the evening—as well as long hikes, weight training and meditation sessions during the day. The Ashram suggests setting your weight-loss goals at around 10 pounds; carefully monitored diets featuring the locally produced, all-vegetarian organic food created by the Ashram’s kitchen make this target much easier to achieve.
The Maya Tulum resort (http://www.maya-tulum.com) is perfectly situated on Mexico's gorgeous, low-key Riviera Maya, about an hour south—and light-years away, atmospherically—from the nightlife hubbub of Cancun. Maya Tulum runs wellness programs throughout the year with faculty imported from around the U.S. With the Six Perfections Retreat in March, which focuses on the titular ideas of generosity, kindness, patience, joy, stillness and wisdom, you’ll spend three hours doing yoga in the morning. Then, you’ll have your afternoons free to explore the wildlife of the nearby Sian Ka'an reserve, swim in the Caribbean, snorkel in nearby coral reefs or even seek out the famous Mayan ruins in Tulum.
The Hilton Head Health Institute (http://www.hhhealth.com) wants to be clear: It's not a weight-loss boot camp. Unlike the institute, boot camps do not typically combine weight-loss programs with equally intensive spa amenities, such as deep tissue or hot stone massages. The institute’s allegiance to comfort also extends to its menus. Don't expect daily portions of organic gruel; the meals emphasize gourmet preparations of low-carb, low-fat and lean-protein dishes that include plenty of vegetables and fruit.
This is a good place to focus on combating serious medical issues, as various programs concentrate on efforts to quit smoking, manage stress or prevent diabetes. Educational sessions are also a key feature, with a wide range of classes, including those discussing nutrition, cancer prevention and controlling cravings.
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