A shift in public perceptions about health is prompting many club and resort properties to adopt a more holistic perspective toward wellness.
For years, the perception of good health has been rooted in the shape of the physical body, encompassing wholesome nutrition, regular exercise, and positive medical screenings.
But with a new generation comes a new attitude toward health and wellness, and one that includes more than just the body.
“When I think of wellness, I think of the person as a whole, working from the inside out,” says Rebecca Dickerson, Associate Health and Healing Director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. “It’s like a puzzle: it’s not complete if you don’t have all the pieces. Someone can be physically healthy, but if they don’t have a sense of purpose or emotional peace, it doesn’t matter.”
The Club Spa and Fitness Association (CSFA) was formed in 2007 with a mission of setting best practices and maintaining standards and ethics for fitness, spa and wellness professionals in the private sector.
The textbook is now in print and represents the completion of phase one of CSFA’s two-phase process to create a Club Spa and Fitness Director management certification program for fitness and spa professionals in the private club industry. For full information on the program, visit www.csfassociation.com.
The shift toward a more comprehensive approach to health could be attributed to multiple societal factors, from increased public awareness of mental illness to media-based perceptions of success. And then there’s the ever-growing focus on the self (it’s no coincidence we are in the age of the selfie), which is facilitated through, and encouraged by, the prevalence of social media.
It comes as no surprise, then, that club and resort properties are leading the charge to create innovative programming that can help members and guests get in touch with their spiritual, emotional and creative sides, while still providing tried-and-true physical health offerings.
With their relaxed vacation vibes, resorts are well-versed in creating healthful environments that ease guests’ minds and bodies. At Canyon Ranch, guests (60% of whom are return visitors, Dickerson says) are given daily and weekly schedules chock-full of wellness-based programming. The resort’s educational lectures are complimentary and held daily for 50 minutes, covering a range of wellness topics, while group activities and individual services are fee-based.
“We use the free lectures for guests to kind of dip their toe in, and maybe they’ll connect with a staff member and try one of the workshops or group activities. Oftentimes, the lecture can sway them,” Dickerson explains. “Some want nothing to do with wellness, they just want to be pampered. But to me, even that is wellness.”
Canyon Ranch’s one-size-does-not-fit-all approach is facilitated through program directors, who give each guest guidance on how to spend their time on the property. “We try to come at it from different angles, because our guests have different financial and time constraints,” Dickerson notes. “But most guests are type-A personalities who want to ‘go go go,’ with a list of activities they want to do by the hour. We have to pare down their schedule, to ensure they have time to breathe and read a book in one of our lounges.”
While the resort offers programming that runs the gamut of wellness, the core areas of focus, Dickerson says, are physical health through nutrition and exercise, and spiritual wellness—the latter of which can make some guests uncomfortable. A quick 25-minute lecture discusses the difference between spirituality and religion.
“People have these preconceived notions that we’re talking about religion, but we’re not,” Dickerson says. “Spirituality is about getting in touch with yourself and finding a higher purpose. It can be through a spiritual dialogue—just a conversation about what has meaning for you and finding it—or experiential services, like a soul journey, which is almost a guided meditation that brings you in deeper connection to the sub-conscious and what may be hidden [below the surface].
“We’re OK with being a little controversial,” Dickerson laughs. “Some guests are bothered by what they call the ‘woo woo’ services—the metaphysical, spiritual wellness. People don’t understand it or are turned off by it, but for every guest who asks why we do this, there are five more who are saying they love it.”
Monthly or even weekly featured events at Canyon Ranch focus on trendier topics, such as sleep (the resort has an in-house sleep lab where guests stay overnight while being monitored, and an on-site doctor discusses the result), emotional events such as the recent loss of a loved one, or “gut health” (the resort offers FODMAP, an elimination diet that controls gastrointestinal distress).
“A lot of guests are surprised by our nutritional offerings, because our menu is so flexible,” Dickerson says. “If someone comes here and is looking to lose weight, we’ll still give them options in the dining room, because that’s how the real world is—you have to learn to do it yourself. It’s all about moderation, and we won’t force our ideals on somebody. We put out the options, and they can do what they want.”
The all-inclusive Miraval Resort in Tucson, Ariz., promotes an “eat real food” philosophy, with an emphasis on adopting a plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet, along with the ongoing trend of “isolation” diets like Paleo and low-carb, says Sue Adkins, Director of Programs. “Our guests continue to seek programs such as nutrition consultations, our anti-inflammatory workshop, cooking classes with our Executive Chef, and Q&As with our local farmer,” Adkins adds.
Much like Canyon Ranch, Miraval offers a mix of programming—some free, some at an additional cost—that offers a balanced approach to wellness. When marketing programs, Miraval relies on the knowledge and expertise of its specialists to inspire guests to make a positive life change.
“Miraval strongly believes that wellness is not just about physical health, but a combination of physical, mental and spiritual well-being,” Adkins says. “Personally, I feel that improving one’s own wellness is the greatest gift you can give yourself, and Miraval is the perfect place to make wellness a priority in one’s life. Guests come to Miraval looking to achieve overall wellness, but we like to get them out of their comfort zone, so they have an opportunity to learn the most about themselves.”
Miraval’s newest and most innovative programs tend to garner the most response from guests, Adkins says. Horse painting (using a horse as a living canvas), simulated paddleboard yoga, a bee-keeping experience and floating meditation are proving to be the most popular these days. “Many of our more traditional programs, such as the equine program, yoga, Pilates and spinning, also have a loyal following,” she reports.
Yoga is also one of the most popular fitness offerings at Wycliffe Golf & Country Club in Wellington, Fla., says Lynn Mandigo, Director of Fitness, along with Pilates, spinning, and basic core classes. The fastest-growing class is Aqua-Size, a water-based exercise class.
The club’s fitness department partners with nutrition and dance instructors to offer a spectrum of activities and programs that contribute to members’ healthy lifestyles, Mandigo says. Just shy of 40% of the membership uses the fitness center (not including those on the golf course or playing tennis). The club’s meditation program is also seeing growth, with members gathering in the conference room for sessions led by a wellness coach.
Wycliffe’s shift toward wellness is actually part of its strategic plan, reports Cheryl Loder, Director of Membership & Marketing. “Overall, the club is full of physical and mental activity for members,” Loder says. “When they come here, they meet friends, and part of mental wellness is having a social life—it’s important to not be cooped up in a house all day after retiring. We have a variety of mental and social activities that keep members busy, plus shows, educational lectures, and seven or eight different clubs within the club.”
The club even offers stickball, a game that Loder says many members used to play as children. “Our members want to continue to golf, play tennis, and do social activities, and they know they need to stay healthy in order to do that,” she notes.
Wycliffe takes a multi-department approach to wellness, adds Director of Spa Donna Forte. For example, the massage therapist and Titleist Performance Institute trainer work together on a program for flexibility and conditioning for golfers and tennis players, focusing on range of motion and muscle function. “If a member gets injured, we take a collaborative approach to help them get back to having a functional life,” Forte says.
From a clinical perspective, the club’s physical therapy department allows members to be treated for injuries on-site, and offers guidance to help prevent injury in the first place. In fact, the club has a built-out dedicated space for physical therapy that is run by Dr. Richard Asaro, Director of Physical Therapy and Clinical Director of Physiotherapy Associates.
“Being on-site, we are able to easily access and funnel people to us with questions, and quick consultations like that are not typical in the outside world,” Asaro says. “If something requires medical attention, we can refer them to doctors and practitioners, so we can treat them, restore them, and return them to their activity.
“In the physical therapy world, the quintessential thing is education and home exercise, to be able to eliminate problems through communication on what to emphasize, what to de-emphasize and what to be aware of,” Asaro continues. “We bring in physicians to talk to members about various topics, like pain management.”
The physical therapy program is also made available to Wycliffe employees, and staff members are also welcome to use the fitness center during its first and last hours of operation. The club also offers a stretch and breathing class for staff at lunch time, holds an annual wellness fair, and employees can get approval to use the golf course and tennis courts.
At Canyon Ranch, employees are also encouraged to “walk the talk” of wellness. Staff are encouraged to attend lectures and offerings for guests, and can use the gym and services at a discount. The resort’s HR department also develops wellness programs for staff, including monthly family nights and an eat-fresh challenge.
“Everyone has a lot on their plate, and the people who work here tend to be givers, so they don’t often take time for themselves,” Dickerson notes.