Destination: REI Adventures' Rock Climbing Camp in Joshua Tree, California
I arrived in the Saturday sun at Ryan Campground, part of Joshua Tree National Park in California, and met my REI Adventures group: a married couple from Los Angeles; my tentmate from Houston; our guide, Seth Pettit; and his girlfriend, a park ranger. These strangers would become instant friends over the next three days as we put our trust in one another to practice some outdoor rock climbing.
At Joshua Tree, you wake with the sun. The first morning, Seth brewed coffee, and after an oatmeal breakfast, we made our way to our climb. I'm not new to rock gyms, but this was only my second time climbing outside.
Following a quick belay and safety course, we were ready. Seth set up routes of varying levels, so we didn't have to wait our turn. When I first touched the hard rock face, my fear kicked in. "Trust yourself," Seth said, anchoring me on the other end of the climbing rope.
Within minutes, I was at the top. And then again. And again. When we'd had our fill, we walked to where we had pitched camp for our second night — the wilderness. "Want to see a rattlesnake?" Seth asked at coffee the next morning. It was coiled beneath a rock, its tan spots blending into the desert. Before, if I had known I was going to sleep mere feet from a rattler, I'm not sure I would have shut my eyes. But this snake seemed peaceful, like everything else. I had never felt so relaxed.
That day brought more climbing and less fear, along with encouraging cheers from the group. This time, we ascended a 75-foot slab that offered incredible views of the park. The Dr. Seuss-like Joshua trees were mere dots below.
— Lara Rosenbaum
Book it: Three- to six-day REI trips in rock climbing, kayaking, backpacking and rafting available year-round, $595 and up; rei.com/adventures
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Zozi Staycation: Take any long weekend up a notch with Zozi, which offers discount fitness getaways nationwide. Zozi.com hosts experiences like kayaking, urban zip-lining, oyster farming and shipwreck diving, often led by elite experts (catch waves with Maya Gabeira, a Big Wave surf champion, or take a climbing clinic with pro Steph Davis). (Available year-round, prices vary; zozi.com)
Adventure Cycling Association's Cycle Washington: This eight-day guided biking tour — with overnight campouts — of the Pacific Northwest spans from Washington's Cascade Range to the San Juan Islands with hikes and tasty meals along the way. (July 6 to 13, $1,199; adventurecycling.org)
Backroads' Texas Hill Country Bike Tour: Pedal your way through the Lone Star State; boot-tapping country music and legendary dance-hall visits are included in this five-day excursion. You'll stay in an elegant mansion, a historic cabin and a bed and breakfast. (October 5 to 9, 19 to 23, or 26 to 30, $2,398 and up; backroads.com)
Raise Your Game
Destination: Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port Saint Lucie, Florida
I'm the kind of girl who always packs sneakers in her suitcase — and usually returns home without having worn them. But this vacation, I had opted for a fitness "boost" package for my three-day trip to the all-inclusive Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, to ensure they would see some action. My mission: Take a crash course in triathlon.
My first morning started at the resort's 25-yard outdoor pool, where I met Tommy Allore, the main triathlon coach for the Club Med Academies, who had the Ironman tattoo to prove it. I admitted that I hadn't swum a lap since I was 10 years old. Tommy filmed my freestyle from poolside, gave me technique tips and then refilmed me to show me how much I had improved.
Next morning was a run around the sprawling palm-treed property with Tommy correcting my form. By the end of the 90-minute routine, I had run some intervals at a sub-seven-minute-mile pace, a personal best.
The final session, on my third day, was a brick workout (as in what your legs feel like while doing it), during which you ride a bike (in our case, a stationary one) and then immediately run. Transitioning between tri segments is part physical feat and part mental game, Tommy explained as I went over and over the biking-to-running portion.
I always thought vacations were meant for relaxing, but a few days at Club Med showed me how great it can be to push yourself. On my last day, I even simulated a sprint triathlon (400-meter swim, 10-mile bike ride, 5K run). Am I hooked? Let's just say that on the flight home I texted a pal, "Want to do a tri with me?"
— Alice Oglethorpe
Book it: Active Wellness Boost package available year-round, $200 and up per day for hotel, boosts from $365 per day to $1,520 for one week; sandpiperbay.clubmed.us
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Omni Resorts' Ladies' Tennis Retreat: Grab your doubles partner. This five-day women-only retreat (with, hello, oceanfront accommodations!) offers fun drill and play sessions with on-court coaching at Florida's Omni Amelia Island Plantation. (October 15 to 19, $1,775 and up; omnihotels.com)
Canyon Ranch's Boost Your Athletic Performance: Join marathoner, Ironman and sports-medicine doc Jordan D. Metzl, MD, for challenging workouts — long runs and an extended bike ride in the Berkshires, plus his Ironstrength workout — and endurance-training secrets at this all-inclusive resort in Lenox, Massachusetts. (August 30 to September 1, $2,610 and up, including an allowance toward resort services; canyonranch.com)
Hyatt Regency's Surf, Spa and Shop Girlfriends Getaway: This California trip includes two nights at the Hyatt Regency in Orange County's Huntington Beach with a semiprivate surf lesson for you and your BFF, as well as a 60-minute massage and a four-hour bike rental. (Available through September 7, $558 per night; huntingtonbeach.hyatt.com)
It had been a month of unfinished sentences. With my husband's job hogging 60 hours a week and deadlines that had me burning the midnight oil, neither of us was making what I would call scintillating conversation at the dinner table — assuming we sat down together at all along with our 3-year-old daughter, Simone. So I turned our next unscheduled weekend into a reservation at C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado. I figured that horseback riding and fly-fishing in 8,500 acres of mountain scenery would give us time to talk.
After sneaking in our morning workouts, we convened at the ranch's weathered barn. Head wrangler Bill Fisher paired us greenhorns with easygoing horses that inspired our confidence, then we paraded into the open valley, where we chatted while basking in views of knifelike summits piercing the turquoise sky.
Fly-fishing at meandering Willow Creek filled our afternoon. Strapped into our waders, Ben and I occasionally exchanged smirks at how ridiculous we looked. As we waited for fish to bite, we passed the time with actual conversation. When a footlong fish gulped the grasshopper Ben had floated along the grassy bank, my hoots of glee matched his own. As we squeezed our faces together for a celebratory selfie, I felt a rush of our former selves, young and falling in love.
After dinner at the ranch house, with the sagebrush glowing in the setting sun, we sat on our cabin porch. With no phones or Internet readily available, we had each other's undivided attention, and we talked about our hankerings, made plans for upcoming holidays and laughed. Looking back on it now, I call it our family reunion.
— Kelly Bastone
Book it: Available year-round, $249 per night and up; clazyu.com
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Safari Surf School's Backpackers Special: Hang 10 with your honey and let sparks fly with an adventurous five-night stay in Nosara, Costa Rica, including one surf lesson daily, complimentary breakfast, use of a beach cruiser and your choice of local activities. (Available year-round, $1,350 and up; safarisurfschool.com)
Lake Placid Lodge: Go big with a romantically rustic getaway in Lake Placid, New York. Thrilling rock climbing, white-water rafting and Olympic bobsledding provide you and your companion with a challenging and unforgettable outdoor journey. (Available year-round, activities vary based on season, $766 per night, some activities included; lakeplacidlodge.com)
Royal Caribbean's Vitality Program: Set sail together on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship to enjoy a ton of activities — like zip-lining, snorkeling and jungle-river tubing — as you island-hop for a week in the Caribbean. (Available year-round with all cruise packages, $1,219 and up per week; royalcaribbean.com)
Destination: International Yoga Retreat at Lumeria in Maui, Hawaii
It's 9 a.m. and I'm lying in shavasana after a flow yoga class, trying to focus on my breathing, when I'm startled by a "cock-a-doodle-doo!" It's a wild rooster passing through the property of Lumeria, a yoga resort on Maui's north shore, and really the only reminder that I'm not actually in heaven. I've picked this beachy paradise from a host of far-flung six-day retreats run by International Yoga to help my type-A personality turn type-Bliss.
Each day, our group of a dozen women meets for a light breakfast (house-baked muffins, slices of local pineapple and papaya), a quick Tabata workout, and then an hour of flow yoga. Maybe I am relaxed, or maybe it's the 85-degree temps, but I swear I'm more flexible here. After class ends, we have the whole day to ourselves to hit the beach, try surfing or stand-up paddleboarding, get a massage, soak in the hot tub or saltwater pool, or take one of a half-dozen other daily classes in yoga, meditation and aromatherapy. I opt for long walks on the white beaches, where I spot sea turtles sunning themselves on the sand. Then the group reassembles at Lumeria for a predinner restorative yoga class, often held outdoors on the hotel's lush grounds, surrounded by guava and banana trees, scurrying geckos, and aloe plants. We even spot a rainbow behind the lei-laden stone Buddha on our last day! I'm not sure if it's from the three hours a day of yoga or just the magic of Maui, but I head home definitely as chill as the lolling sea turtles.
— Sarah Z. Wexler
Book it: November 2 to 8; $2,095 and up, FITNESS readers who register by September 1 with the discount code FITNESS receive 10 percent off; internationalyoga.com
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Yogascapes' Soak & Soar: Reach for the sky during this three- to seven-day acroyoga retreat in northern California's Avalon Springs. Also enjoy a dip in the hot springs, healthy meals and massages. (August 1 to 7, starting at $499; yogascapes.com)
Wanderlust festival: When you're not doing down dog with hundreds of other yogis or listening to musical acts like DJ Chakra Khan, try meditative hikes or runs in this scenic Squaw Valley slice of Lake Tahoe, California. (July 17 to 20, $200 for up to four nights of camping, ticket packages and hotel accommodations vary; wanderlust.com)
Big Sky Yoga Retreats: Find your Zen in Montana with an all-level luxe yoga and hiking vacation. Start your day with a mat session, learn new meditation techniques and go on breathtaking hikes; then nestle down in your cabin. (August 29 to September 1, $1,595 and up; bigskyyogaretreats.com)
Destination: Hilton Head Health Wellness Retreat and Weight-Loss Spa, South Carolina
I never thought I'd be checking into a weight-loss resort. But after yo-yoing between rabbit food and oversize takeout containers, I was carrying 20 pounds of excess baggage, and a weeklong stay at Hilton Head Health (H3) resort on South Carolina's Hilton Head Island seemed like the ideal kick-starter.
It wasn't until I was at H3 attending a seminar entitled "Stress and Emotional Eating" that I realized the absurdity of my inhaling an airport bacon, egg and cheese biscuit on my way to fat camp. And the results from my earlier body-fat analysis and cholesterol tests proved I wasn't getting away with any of this secret snacking.
Luckily, my week's schedule was chock-full of healthy cooking classes, powwows with my personal health coach, and eat-right seminars. After just about every meal, I went online to pull the recipes. I was shocked that the 1,200 to 1,400 calories I ate each day were actually tastier than my airport splurge, and definitely more filling.
Meanwhile, I squeezed in daily exercise, ranging from TRX class to tennis to walking along the resort's 60-plus miles of trails and beachfront. Hitting 10,000 steps a day on the Fitbit I had received at check-in was a piece...well, you know.
At week's end, I had dropped five pounds and a couple of body-fat percentage points, and had made some progress on my cholesterol levels. But I was the proudest of myself the day I got home. Before I even had a chance for temptation to strike, I spent three hours cooking a week's worth of my new fave healthy meals. I snapped a pic of my fully rehabbed fridge and sent it to my H3 health coach. "Textbook. Beautiful," he said.
— K. Aleisha Fetters
Book it: Available year-round, $3,260 and up per week, including up to $400 in resort money to spend; use the discount code FITNESS to receive an additional $200; hhhealth.com
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Holly Rilinger Destination Training Camp: Jump-start your hot-body plans with Holly Rilinger, a Nike and Flywheel master trainer, for a five-night journey of transforming workouts in dreamy Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (November 11 to 16, $1,700 and up; hollyrilinger.com)
Austin Adventures' Reebok Bryce and Zion Fitness Package: Mix outdoor nature hikes with Reebok-inspired functional fitness workouts on this six-day escape in Utah's Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. (August 31 to September 5, $2,498; austinadventures.com)
Total Transformation Vacation With Brett Hoebel: This all-inclusive retreat at Amansala Eco-Chic Resort in Tulum, Mexico, features signature cardio-sculpt and capoeira classes from former Biggest Loser trainer Brett Hoebel, yoga (on stand-up paddle-boards and on land) with pro Dashama Gordon, healthy meals and more. Bonus: Check the site for details on how to win a freebie trip. (November 29 to December 6, $1,499 and up; totaltransformationvacation.com)