These activity-based spa resorts give you a leg up on fitness
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Check into a retreat to jump-start a wellness program or elevate your fitness level to a new degree on a specialized exercise circuit. After the sweat-induced euphoria, let your body rest with a swoon-worthy spa treatment. When you’ve settled down and unpacked that suitcase full of guilt, treat yourself to one of these rewards. After working and playing hard, you’ll return home feeling better overall, and healthier too.
The spectacular grotto pool at the Grove Park Inn entices you with massaging waterfalls and mineral baths. In the evenings, a drink on the terrace delivers the best sunset view in town. And the biggest bonus of a fall spa trip to Asheville is the view of the mountains’ autumnal coat of golds, oranges and reds. The Inn makes a fine home base to explore this gateway to the Appalachians.
The Circuit: Go for a long mountain run on the property’s hiking trails. If you’ve got game, play some tennis on the indoor or outdoor courts. Or flex your muscles with a session of myofascial release (to ease muscle tightness) and yoga. Schedule whitewater rafting with the Nantahala Outdoor Center, which maintains an outfitter on-site.
The Spa: Detox with a salt-stone massage, then spend an afternoon in one of 20 pools around the Grove Park’s grotto. You can also head into town to Wake Foot Sanctuary, which invites you to an invigorating foot soak and massage, as does Still Point Wellness, which also lets you float in a saltwater sensory-deprivation tank.
The Reward: Asheville Wellness Tours will guide you to a local honey bar and other health-minded shops via foot. At the Asheville Salt Cave, you can sink into a “zero-gravity” chair and rebalance your body’s chemicals. Alchemy is an alternative tearoom that includes acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine on its menu. Or head to one of the galleries in the River Arts District, the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Blue Spiral 1 gallery and fill your luggage with one-of-a-kind art.
This little spit of land halfway between Miami and Key West delivers fall color the Florida way — with tropical blue waters teeming with neon-colored fish. The spa entices you indoors, but the opportunity to spend a day riding a WaveRunner, fishing for trophies or snorkeling in the aquamarine sea just might win out.
The Circuit: Before you head out each day, take in a 7:30 a.m. boot camp class to pump up your muscles for a day on the water. This is the ideal place to work on your stand-up paddleboard chops. For a challenge, sign up for kitesurfing lessons; the flat water is ideal to learn to zip and jump through waves.
The Spa: After those workouts, schedule a Calm Waters Custom Massage that blends Swedish and deep tissue techniques with a hot stone massage. If you get a sunburn having all that fun, the spa’s skin rescue treatment uses chilled stones to apply a cooling gel concocted from coconut oil, passionflower extract and cold-pressed dilo nut oil.
The Reward: Keep it simple. Order a Skinny Cucumber Lemonade shaker at the Beach Grill and hang out in the Tranquility Pool. When hunger strikes, head to the Angler and Ale and dive into the Island Tuna Crudo, the ceviche of the day or the Treasure Coast Salad. If you’ve just got to see more of the Keys, tootle down the Overseas Highway in a convertible to feel the ocean breezes in your hair.
This spa believes water is healing and restorative, so most of your time will be spent on and in the water. The moment you arrive in the Texas capital, Lake Austin Spa picks you up and takes you on a 30-minute cruise to the resort in its water taxi. The lushly landscaped property houses guests in low-slung casitas (little cottages) with lake views; you eat all your meals onsite and choose from more than 100 classes and treatments catered to your specific goals.
The Circuit: Warm fall days mean you can get on the lake and not bake. Choose from water-based boot camp sessions with kayaks, pedalboards or hydrobikes, as well as aqua-fit classes, where balance and strength come into play while you exercise on a sturdy floating mat aboard a paddleboard.
The Spa: Your therapist will meet you in the shallow waters of the Pool Barn for an AquaStretch massage-assisted stretching session. Or simply add assisted stretching to any deep, full-body table massage. Not only will it enhance athletic performance, but stretching, combined with massage, can help lengthen and heal muscles.
The Reward: Start with a cooking class — learn to make ravioli or paella from scratch — and then book a private wine cruise for sundown. Another option: Skip back into town for indie music shows and Tex-Mex flavors along South Congress Avenue.
Set into the red rock wilderness of southern Utah, Red Mountain fills your days with fitness classes and challenges, spa treatments and explorations to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, as well as nearby Snow Canyon State Park. During the early fall months, daily temperatures can heat up into the low 80s or 90s, with cool refreshing nights. Bring your swimsuit and a jacket, and be prepared for a nighttime star show.
The Circuit: Pedal a bike through the desert at Kayenta on a gentle 6-mile uphill journey, with a stop at a pottery-filled coffeehouse en route to the Desert Rose Labyrinth and Sculpture Garden. The next day, join a wet hike into Zion National Park. You’ll wade through the Virgin River as 1,000-foot walls, with fluted landforms that look like zebra stripes, narrow into a spectacular canyon.
The Spa: Because you’re in the desert, seek treatments that make use of its indigenous elements. The Adobe Lavender Hydrating Cocoon begins with a gentle exfoliation; your skin is then swathed with local red clay, full of healing minerals that energize tired joints and muscles. The clay is said to speed the healing of bruises while the lavender hydrates.
The Reward: Bring along a camera as you kayak at sunset on a local lake for Instagram-worthy shots. Or sign up for an intuitive energy reading to create mental and emotional balance. You can even indulge in hypnotic imagery sessions to help change lifestyle behaviors.
Annette Thompson, USA TODAY