While we highly recommend a trip to the spa for replenishing massages and therapeutic facials, nothing rids the body of tension quite like a good exercise-induced sweat. But instructors at these world-class hotels go beyond the weights and treadmills; instead, they breathe new life into tired workout routines through unique specialty classes like KaYoga (kayaking plus yoga). We’ve found five one-of-a-kind courses that will rev up your metabolic engine and help you ditch any vacation food guilt.
KaYoga, Sea Island, Ga.
One day Bethany Reese, a certified yoga instructor and the fitness coordinator for Sea Island, had the idea to combine the benefits of kayaking with yoga. Thus, KaYoga was born. The two-hour experience, which is available to guests at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotels The Cloister and The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, starts with a relaxing paddle out to a picturesque beach, where guests are then led through a 60-minute Vinyasa yoga session before embarking on the short trip back to the starting point. KaYoga is offered each Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
“Kayaking immerses you into the surrounding salt marsh and lets you get up close with the surrounding. It is the ultimate solitude,” Reese says. “You may see egrets feeding along the banks, a mother bottlenose dolphin with her young or a river otter exploring the oyster beds. You have no choice but to keep your mind clear and absorb the natural beauty.”
Poolates, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami
Pilates enthusiasts are already familiar with the mat and apparatus moves that are typically used during classes. In 2004, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami introduced a third way to achieve the muscle lengthening and strengthening effects of this popular discipline: Poolates.
Rebecca Cardozo-Pfeiffer, the creator of the program and a fitness instructor at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, vividly recalls the series of events that led to the program’s development. “I had what I call ‘the cosmic week,’” Cardozo-Pfeiffer says. “In that week, I had a swimmer come late to mat class, complaining that she had to cut her swim short and asked why we couldn’t do Pilates in the pool. Then, a few days later, a guest with arthritis was having trouble getting on and off the [Pilates] apparatus, and asked about doing Pilates in the pool. The next day, an overweight guest said she wanted to try Pilates but was really uncomfortable exercising on land. My attitude went from ‘we can’t do it in the pool’ to ‘how can we do this in the pool?’”
Cardozo-Pfeiffer stresses that the class is harder than it looks, but its effects are worth it. Guests who book the 55-minute session (which must be scheduled through Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Key Biscayne) can expect to feel their oblique, inner thigh, stomach and lower back muscles working hard. But by the end of the session, almost all guests feel energized and refreshed. In as little as two classes, most guests notice an improvement in breathing and posture; with more practice, increased flexibility and strength follow suit.
Group Exercise Classes, The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa, Houston, Texas
It’s easy to work up a sweat in Houston; just step outside. For those who crave a more structured way to burn calories, though, the best place to go is The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa. This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel is known for its extensive fitness class schedule—more than 165 classes each week—and alongside traditional yoga, Pilates and cycling sessions, hotel guests can take their pick from more creative options such as Synergy, Cardioga and Step Box to maximize their calorie-burning potential.
Each one-hour class is designed to get the heart pumping by combining two or more disciplines. For example, the Synergy class (which was developed by longtime Pilates manager and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Kim Kilway) blends dance, yoga and meditation moves in a challenging, upbeat environment that’s complemented by Latin, African, jazz, Broadway and contemporary music. The Cardioga class capitalizes on the benefits of yoga while simultaneously pushing guests to maintain a high heart rate by switching between yoga poses and fat burning moves such as lunges, squats and push-ups. To really challenge yourself, sign up for the Step Box class. Legs work up a burn through step box moves as the arms get a serious workout of their own through martial arts movements from disciplines such as karate, tae kwon do and mixed martial arts.
Serenity & Sunshine Luxury Yoga Retreats, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa is already a secluded getaway; located 25 miles north of downtown San Diego, the hotel is close enough for guests who want to venture to the city for shopping and socializing, yet far enough away to allow for peaceful relaxation. For the ultimate break from the rest of the world (as well as a physical challenge), consider Rancho Valencia’s luxury yoga retreat program to experience three days and four nights of activities designed to stretch your body to its limit while also centering your mind.
Guests who embark on the retreat (the next one is scheduled for October 6-10, and the hotel hopes to schedule one per quarter in 2014) will set out on 3.5-mile ocean-side hikes; partake in daily morning yoga sessions; extend the burn in optional daily spin, yoga, Pilates and TRX bodyweight exercise classes; and unwind with a harmony massage at The Spa at Rancho Valencia. Other perks of the package include individual instruction in yoga, nutrition or fitness, daily meals and accommodation in one of the hotel’s 950-square-foot casitas.
“On a physical level, our ocean-side hikes stimulate the cardiovascular system and support a flushing of the entire system while building strength. The practice of yoga is complementary and offers an opportunity to stretch and unwind tightness in the body, and for the nervous system to reset and recalibrate,” Nicole Sharp, director of marketing for Rancho Valencia, says. “Deep breathing in both of these activities is a key component to stress relief and a heightened sense of well-being.”
Zennis, Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, Scottsdale, Ariz.
It’s difficult to watch a seasoned tennis player power a serve over the net and equate the sport with a sense of peace. At the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, though, a new fusion fitness program called “Zennis” is changing the way resort guests and local tennis players think about the game. The class, which is offered each Friday morning, begins with a 30-minute Zen session that leads students through relaxing poses and stretches that help warm up the body. Next , a 60-minute tennis clinic helps players improve their skills in an intimate setting—classes are capped at eight students, who warm up together and then split into groups of four for tennis instruction.
According to John Abelardo, the resort’s director of tennis, the calming instruction at the beginning of the class is invaluable. “The whole purpose of the Zen portion is to find a way to warm up our tennis students while emphasizing focus on body awareness, movement and mechanics, and to accentuate their sense of balance,” he says. “It also creates a sense of relaxation, alignment and fluidity that’s necessary for tennis.”
Geoff Stirling, a member of the resort’s fitness club who has regularly taken the class since it was first introduced in March 2013, has already seen an improvement in his game. In addition to feeling more relaxed and focused on the court, he’s pleased with the increase in flexibility that he’s noticed in his game. “Flexibility is key,” Stirling says. “I tend to have lower back problems, and the Zennis program has alleviated a lot of tension that I have in my lower back.”