It's no secret that many of us RVers are, ah, shall I say, horizontally challenged?” With obesity already at epidemic levels and good, nutritious food hard enough to find, our laid back on-the-go nomadic travels can sure pack on the pounds. Sometimes, it's time to get re-programmed, to find a way to jump start a new and healthy living style.
That's what Jennifer and I found deep in the rolling hills of south central Tennessee, two hours south of Nashville at a place called the Tennessee Fitness Spa. For a week or as long as you want, you will be totally immersed in a health and fitness regimen than can produce some very dramatic results. You can watch the video to see what just six days did for Jennifer and me.
There is room for 60 guests in lodges and motel-style rooms n the 100 acre campus, plus two RV parks with full hookups. We chose to stay in the lower campground that is closest to the gym and central complex. We were neighbored by two Class C motorhomes. The RV spots there are right on the bans of the sparkling clear 48 Creek. The upper campground had a couple of Class A rigs and is located in a very quiet spot up a hill and surrounded by greenery.
The spa provides three meals a day. They are gourmet quality but the total caloric intake they provide is no more than 1,200 calories. You can add another 200 calories or so from the fresh salad bar or from special snacks like hard boiled eggs and sweet potato wedges. The food is low salt, low sugar, all natural, never processed, always fresh and prepared in ways that will amaze you. I was not hungry once, despite my spoofng in the video.
For the healthier guests, mornings start with a brisk walk. It's three miles the first day, then it builds until at the end of the week, you cover eight miles. This is up and down hills and it is a challenging aerobic workout. The spa breaks it down into different groups of walkers based on their fitness levels, with the fastest being those of are able to walk a 12 minute miles. The slowest group is for tose who are just starting out.
They expect that for maximum results, guests participate in two aerobic workous each day, as well as a stretching class, weight workouts and pool session.
There are multiple water aerobics classes. Jennifer was a guest instructor of the week we were there. Jennifer has taught water aerobics for more than 20 years and says the quality of the water aerobics instruction at the spa is the best she's ever seen. “Water exercise is great for everybody,” says Jennifer. “You lose the impact of your weight on your knees, hips and joints. Water offers resistance that lets you work out very hard without the stress. It really burns calories and helps in weight loss and body toning.”
You will see in the video the inches Jennifer lost which she attributes to the healthy food she ate that week and the water aerobic classes than did. “Believe me, water exercise works,” she says. “Besides teaching classes, I was able to participate in classes here like the other students Normally when I teach, I have to do it from the deck. I loved being able to get in the water and workout in the water with my students.”
The fun thing is getting to know the other participants. You can meet several in the video, including one guy who has been there two months and is down 60 pounds. Many of the guests were repeat visitors. who come year after year.
Belinda Jones is the spa's fitness and nutrition director and personally selects the menu. “The difference that most people notice immediately is that they are not hungry,” she says. “Their cravings disappear. That's because they are eating balanced, healthy food with the right amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates and fats.”
Health experts tell us that 20% of weight loss comes from exercise. But 80% is from making healthy food choices. Belinda holds a class on how the balanced meals served at the spa can be brought back home, or to the RV.
The grounds of the spa are stunningly beautiful. An ancient cave called the Natural Bridge is on the grounds. Dean Ware, who holds classes on the history of the area, says the Natural Bridge was the home of notorious outlaw gangs who preyed on travelers of the Natchez Trail, which is not far from the spa. In later years, locals would hold church services there and it's said that Davy Crockett delivered a speech from a protruding ledge of the bridge called the pulpit rock.
Ware also teaches a class on the benefits of herbal teas and class participants actually mix up a batch they drink themselves.
Nancy Shaw, with her late husband, Joe, founded the spa in 1991. “This is a very rejuvenating place,” she said. “It relaxes and refreshes and restores our guests,” she says. “The pace of life in today's society is very stressful. Eating and exercising right and decompressing here is what brings so many back so often.”
She said RVers love the fact that they can bring their pets with them as they vist the spa. “We were surprised by how many people travel in RVs,” she said. “So we built the parks for them. They like it because not only can they sleep in their own RV and bring their pets but they save money from the lodging costs our regular guests pay when staying in a room.”
Cellular phone service in the area is limited. When I had to make a phone call, I'd walk to the top of one of the nearby hills. But the spa has added high speed satellite Internet wi-fi that is available in the lounges and restaurant area. I picked it up right in the RV and was never out of touch.
Our week ended much too soon. We could not believe how good we felt as we set in our Roadtrek. We vowed to bring the healthy eating plan we learned to our everyday life.
That's when we encountered the reality of such a choice.
On the road, it's very hard to make healthy choices when eating out. A traffic accident and hour long delay on I-65 north of Nashville sent us off the interstate. We pulled off at an exit and decided to eat dinner as the traffic cleared. There was a Mexican restaurant (who could resist the chips and salsa?) a fast food place (there is nothing fresh and healthy about fast food) and a national pizza chain. We figured the pizza place would give us the healthiest choie because we knew it had a salad bar.
But the salad came in plastic bags. That's surely not fresh. There was only high fat, high calorie salad dressings. And the pizza we ordered – a thin crust with a pineapple topping – was so salty and sugary that our newly sensitized taste buds immediately noticed it. We both felt yucky and vowed that from now on, we are going to carry our own salad dressings and protein sources and learn to make better choices.
As to exercise, that, too, is more challenging in an RV. Walking, of course, is always a choice. We can also carry along bicycles. And we can seek our towns with gyms and YMCAs,
We absolutely loved the Tennessee Fitness Spa. Now, the challenge is to build on what we've learned.
After all, there are a lot of places out there we want to see as we Roadrek around North America. We want to be sure we are fit and healthy enough to take everything in for as long as possible.