3 Canadian Wellness Retreats for When You Need Major R&R
Pack your bags, it’s time for a clean getaway!
Refresh on a Canadian Wellness Retreat
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: It’s a new year and you enter it full of optimism and energy, committing to healthy resolutions that will change the course of your life. But somewhere between January and February, your sizzle fizzles. Ugh, that feeling. We know it, too. That’s why we sent health writer Rosemary Counter across the country to find three unique health retreats that can motivate you today and keep you committed for the tomorrows to come. Whether you want to reboot, restore or simply refresh, we’ve got you covered. Now get ready to pack your bags.
Refresh in One Night
If you hear “retreat” and immediately think “work,” you’re wrong. A wine-happy, gym-free getaway with your best girlfriends at a swank chalet could be just what you need – even if you’re not a skier. At Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, BC, on the shores of a sparkling glacier-fed lake, hop on the gondola and catch the Peak 2 Peak. Gaze at spectacular views of forests, lakes and glaciers while traversing the tops of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Why You Should Go
Ample research links your mere presence in nature to mental and physical health benefits, including a 2015 study by Stanford University which showed that spending 90 minutes in nature led to reduced blood flow to parts of the brain associated with rumination – that’s negative thought patterns and a propensity to overthink and obsess over bad situations. Count on two hours to get 6,000 feet up Blackcomb Mountain, enjoy lunch at Christine’s and get back down again.
Klutzes on the slopes should strap on a pair of snowshoes instead – you’ll burn about 500 calories an hour, which will come in very handy come dinner. Back at the lodge, get your girls to the cozy Fix Fondue Hut to share a European-style, three-course fondue feast, followed by après-ski cocktails in the Cure Lounge. Don’t feel guilty if you go a bit overboard because you’ll start the next day with a clean-living shortcut, Hollywood-style: an IV wellness treatment at the spa. “We take a basic medical history of everything from energy levels and skin health, to digestion and mental health,” says Dr. Dawn Gareau, a naturopathic doctor at Nita Lake Lodge. She then creates a customized cocktail of nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants to be mainlined right into your bloodstream.
Your job? “Just relax, get comfortable and let the IV do its magic,” she says. It’s common to feel an immediate surge of energy and focus, which will be very helpful for your final girlie outing: a relaxing 1.5-hour yoga class overlooking the mountains. Hop on the shuttle home, feeling equal parts relaxed and totally rejuvenated.
Restore in One (Long) Weekend
Anyone who has kicked a habit probably knows that three days can be your first major detox hurdle, which isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds at Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, ON. In a renovated 1858 fieldstone castle atop 400 acres of rolling farmers’ fields (with sheep!), Ste. Anne’s offers three-day retreats of yoga, yoga and more yoga. “The poses and breath work in themselves bring about cleansing throughout the body and mind,” says Francesca Bonta, Ste. Anne’s yoga retreat coordinator. “Each pose has an effect on the chakras, which are the energy centres of the body, so we’re able to clear out blockages and promote cleansing.”
But nearly three hours of daily yoga requires lots of energy, so there’s good news on the food front: Your appetite will swell and you get to eat – a lot. There’s no mention of fat content or calories, and the always-changing menu offers many vegan and veggie options, all made with locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients. The abundance of options may encourage you toward clean eating and vegetarianism, which I sometimes embraced (try the Quinoa Bowl breakfast, with almond milk and hemp hearts) but often did not (I also enjoyed a burger with bacon and brie).
A Typical Day
When you’re not relaxing in downward dog, plenty of activities are offered to reinforce healthy new habits. In a raw cooking class offered during the retreat, we learned how to make a surprisingly tasty Creamy Curry Broccoli Soup.
Artists can try a painting lesson instead, and wannabe farmers can join the stable caretaker, herding horses and helping with barn chores. Or, if that feels like too much, know that doing almost nothing is highly recommended at Ste. Anne’s.
Explore the meditative lavender labyrinth aimlessly or visit the spa for a toxin-ridding eucalyptus body wrap. Then just lie still, breathe deeply and enjoy clean living at its best.
Restart in One Week
For a serious lifestyle makeover, hard-core resolution makers head to Kootenay Lake, near Nelson, BC, to Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat – a.k.a. boot camp, though nobody loves that term. “We’re an integrated health reset,” explains program director Kirkland Shave. Mountain Trek isn’t about weight loss, though after seven days of über-clean living (ladies get 1,200 daily calories with absolutely no coffee, booze, starch or sugar) and as much exercise as an Olympic athlete in training, most people shed a few pounds.
A Typical Day
A gentle knock at your lodge door wakes you up at 6 a.m. and the group – a dozen of us, including six repeat customers (a good sign!) and even a celebrity (I’ll never tell) – meets for pre-yoga smoothies. Enjoy an hour of sun salutations overlooking Kootenay Lake and the gorgeous Purcell Mountain range and a very healthy breakfast, which you’ll digest during daily lecture (topics include nutrition, sleep health and stress management).
Afternoons are spent hiking through the mountains, stopping for lunch and snacks, before returning to the lodge for dinner and, if you can believe it, one more evening gym class. Luckily, interspersed throughout are mineral soaks, infrared sauna stops and daily massages to rescue your body from aches and pains – they work so well that Mountain Trek was just named #1 International Destination Spa by Travel + Leisure.
Live this healthy for a whole week, says Shave, and you can shift from a catabolic metabolism (that’s the “sedentary, overcalorized, overstressed lifestyle” that leads to fat storage, muscle loss, fatigue and atrophy) to an anabolic one (the growth-based, calorie-burning, weight-that-falls-off metabolism of your youth). But detoxing isn’t easy: “Toxic Tuesday” and “Wacky Wednesday” are exactly as they sound – this journalist cried, just a bit, though headaches, nausea and even rashes are common, too. The good news? “By Thursday and Friday, it’s redemption,” says Shave. “And by Saturday, you’ll feel like a teenager again.”