My Week at Fitness Camp

funny frog gymnasts

One recent Sunday morning, Mac and I boarded an airplane bound for Nashville and the Tennessee Fitness Spa. TFS had been on my radar for a couple of years, and after the election, we needed a change of locale and mindset. TFS was offering a two-for-one discount on the week’s stay, and who doesn’t love a BOGO?

Background: we are NOT exercise fanatics. I spend most of the day slumped in front of a monitor. Mac reads math books. We aren’t completely inert – I love step aerobics and long walks, and he bikes – but it’s minimal. Definitely room for improvement.

We arrived in Nashville around 11, and the TFS van picked us up for a two-hour ride. First impressions: rural, rustic but well-kept. Cold & rainy (well, what did I expect at the end of November…) Our bags were carried to our room (a nice touch!) and we settled in for a bit then went back to the office for our InBody assessment. It’s a machine that somehow magically & precisely measures body composition (water, fat, lean body mass) in your legs, arms, and trunk. You stand on a footplate in bare feet, clasp the handles, and wait a few seconds while different currents pass through your body. No worries: they can’t be felt. We would get our results later in the week.

Our second-floor room was a few-minutes walk from the dining room and the gym & pool. It was fine. Warm, comfortable bed, clean. We don’t need more than that.

There are essentially three components to the TFS experience: food, exercise, and education.

Food.   Breakfast offered choices from a regular menu (eggs, chicken bacon, English muffin, toast, oatmeal, fresh fruit bar) plus a daily special like waffles or omelet. You could also substitute a breakfast smoothie. They encouraged a big breakfast. I usually had a boiled egg, oatmeal, fruit, and 1/2 English muffin with peanut butter. Plenty of fuel for the day to come.

The options at lunch and dinner were standard menu or vegetarian menu. The meals were different every day; we were told there’s a three-week cycle. Lunch was the bigger meal, with protein, carbs and a dessert. Dinner was a protein and vegs. Both meals included a good salad bar; soup was offered twice a week. They’d written the calorie content of each item on a white board, for those who were counting.  We were told that the menu was designed for 1400 calories; fruit, soup and salad added extra. We didn’t count calories.

Snack fridges contained boiled eggs, carrots, celery & hummus, and apples & peanut butter.

The food was healthy and we were never hungry. There was no salt anywhere, and no alcohol. Cheaters that we were, we smuggled in two six-packs of beer and had one before dinner each night.

Exercise. The schedule is packed with offerings, all optional. The day starts with a 60-minute walk after breakfast, a different route each day. Five exercise areas: a nice pool, racquetball court, cycling area, and a huge gym divided into two areas — one for classes, and one containing an acre of weight & cardio equipment. The classes vary each day: Pilates, dance, toning, aerobics, yoga. My favorite was the guided meditation, where I lay on the floor covered by a blanket and listened to Bevin murmur about being a leaf in a stream.

We always participated in the walk, and then either cycling or the pool. Then I tended towards classes while Mac hit the weights room. The first day I did six hours of activity, about five more than I usually do, and I felt achy & tired the next day. After that, I cut back to four or five, of which one was more restful (like meditation).

The instructors are motivating, fun and energetic. They like to mix things up.

Education. In the afternoon there is usually a demonstration or lecture. Belinda,the nutritionist and meal planner, did a cooking demo and a talk on mindfulness. Barry talked about protein and building muscle. Kimmy helped us interpret our InBody results. Mine said I needed to convert fat to muscle. Not surprised . . .

Evening activities included bingo, music, crafts projects. Most evenings I curled into my comfy bed with a book (The House of Fog and Sand by Andre Dubus III. Gripping, highly recommend.)

The other participants were mostly women with a range of fitness levels; Mac was one of just four men. Some mother-daughter pairs, some friends. One man had been there since July and had lost 75 pounds, but most people were interested in kick-starting more healthy living. It’s a casual friendly atmosphere with family-style sitting at meals so you get to talk to everyone.

What did we take away, change, from the experience? A bigger breakfast (love that one!), a workout with weights when I go to step; drinking more water.

I’ll definitely go back next year, in the spring or fall when the rural landscape will be beautiful.

Leave a comment or contact me if you have a question!

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