Call an ambulance, it’s time to get fit to ski

Why a week at a health retreat may be the best thing for you before you ski or snowboard.

Getting motivated to get fit to ski may be as simple as booking your next ski holiday but if you’re a stressed out urbanite stuck in bad habits and long working hours you may need some serious down time to kick start your way back to health.

Enter the destination spa otherwise known as a health retreat where guests can choose between a three, five or seven day program to get the heart started, the legs warmed up and the motivation factor from zero to hero.

I am a health spa addict. Once you’ve gone through the full week of detox and emerged the other end glowing, vibrant and filled with energy you seriously want to go back again and again. I realise the irony in this. If I honestly implemented everything I learned on my health retreat journey I wouldn’t need it again, right?

But we’re all human and health retreats provide a much needed bubble in which to concentrate purely on you, away from the family, away from your partner, away from your kids, your boss and your Facebook news feed. All those little stressors that creep up and creep up like your caffeine intake, your alcohol tolerance and the inability to shut the computer down after work.

The Golden Door Elysia knows all about detoxing and urban dwellers. Australia’s only purpose built health retreat, the 74 villa property sits deep in the heart of the Hunter Valley wine country (I know, I know) two and a half hours drive north of Sydney.

Guests bed down in one, two, three or four bedroom villas with spacious bathrooms and deep tubs to soothe weary muscles and balconies that embrace the rolling hills filled with wildlife including kangaroos that dot the lawns of the adjacent golf course.

If, like me, you’re a tad addicted to your online world then I would suggest handing over the keys to your laptop at reception. I chose not to pack mine at all and left it at home, eek! When I arrived I handed over my iPhone and told them not to give it to me under any circumstance. They didn’t and surprisingly I never asked for it.

Switching the brain off from the outside world of news, disaster and daily drama is vital to reducing the stress created hormone, cortisol, that is responsible for the stubborn rolls of tummy fat that are so hard to budge. Less stress equals less body fat. You learn about this in one of the morning discussions held each day after an early morning walk, breakfast and then stretch class.

Speaking of food. We were, weren’t we? You will not starve. You think you will but you won’t. You will also think you will crave flavour and salt and sugar. You won’t.  Preservatives and additives are from your old life and not welcome on the table here. Why? Because they simply are not needed.

The food here is filled with rich organic flavours with a menu designed by Executive Chef David Hunter who will also show you how to cook anything on the menu if you ask from the muffins to the bliss balls, the crusted fish and pasta sauces.  Yes, you heard right.

You may even think for a moment that you will gain weight. Trust me, you will not.

Each day starts with a metabolic wake up otherwise known as Tai Chi, designed to drop the breathe down into the body and slow the mind. This is followed by an undulating walk. But the activity doesn’t stop there.

Volleyball, hockey, soccer, tennis, yoga, spin class, more yoga, more spin class, swiss balls, interval training, take your pick but be warned competitive games only ever end in a draw (it’s deliberate). Beware of Matt the director of all things physical, he may look sweet and gentle but he’ll flog you into oblivion if you let him though he’ll have you laughing out loud while you do.

Did I mention the spa? Daily pampering is a must, it’s part of the self nurturing encouraged by the team here who know we are often the first to put ourselves last.  A massage helps the detox process as the body eliminates caffeine, alcohol, processed sugars and other toxins and acupuncture can open blocked energy meridians and wake up sluggish livers.

Whatever you do make sure you book in for Sonja Bollnow. Do it before you even arrive as she is very popular for a reason and may book out. They call her a hypnotherapist but that doesn’t do her justice. She is intuitive, perceptive, connected and extremely kind, warm and caring. You could do worse things in your life than to hand over two hours of your time to her.

There’s a process that happens on a week long retreat. I have experienced it at almost every retreat I have been on.

People arrive on the Sunday with dull eyes that look straight through others or just stare at the floor. Headaches and weariness hit by Monday or Tuesday and tears may come to the surface at any given time. Wednesday the muscles are starting to recover and there’s more of a spring in the step. Come Thursday the once quiet dining room is filled with raucous laughter as eyes now connect and by Friday people are jumping out of their own skin in a good way.

Program director, Jaye, sees this week after week. Jaye has your week long journey in her hands and guides guests through their detox process with a smile, a kind look and a supportive shoulder if needed.

For many the week can be life changing. Some may change jobs, others may leave relationships, others may return to renew their vows while some will take up a new sport, start eating breakfast daily, find a yoga studio or just vow to spend less time online. Or you may simply leave ready to implement that fit to ski program you didn’t have the motivation for before.

If you do the seven day program the Saturday involves a long hike outside the property up a very steep hill to the top of a lookout. It is challenging and rewarding and something you would never have had the energy to do at the start of the week. To me this just shows what you can achieve in such a short amount of time.

Change whether physical, mental or emotional always starts with one step. Repeat it enough and you’ll make it to the top of the hill. Then you can ski down!

For more information on The Golden Door Elysia visit their website. 

Read more: Three week program to get fit to ski

Read more: To all the ski pants I’ve loved before

Read more: For three weeks I slept in a tent, in my room

Rachael Oakes-Ash was a guest of The Golden Door

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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