Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Some like it hot (and sweaty) on vacation – and that’s before hitting the spa

Fit holidays are the focus of The Body Holiday resort in St. Lucia.

Mikael Lamber

While a climate-controlled gym is reliable – especially in wacky weather – the benefits of exercising outdoors can't be replicated with machines, no matter how sophisticated. Shake up your fitness routine with one of these upbeat, destination workouts.

The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana

Montana's most sought after luxury homestead experience spreads out over 2,750 hectares and encompasses four private miles of Rock Creek, a blue ribbon trout stream. Jet setting general managers Maya and Thomas Kilgore have turned the ranch into one of the most elite hotel riding programs in the world.

Story continues below advertisement

I've come to rediscover my core, now hidden under a layer of soft tacos. Core strength is essential for competent riding, and for me, a two-hour ride does the job of five Pilates classes. No gym machine can simulate riding, which isolates muscles that are completely unique to straddling (and staying on) a horse.

In a rather delightful challenge, my steed rocks from walk to canter with no in-between. Cantering downhill sparks a thrilling adductor-centred workout, promoting robust muscle tone that makes a mockery of the troubling thigh-gap trend.

At the end of the day, I limp off as if I've been bouncing on a sack of staple guns. I've taken neglected muscles to the brink.

Good thing the Granite Spa menu is loaded with relevant treatments like the Saddle Sore Soak. But I choose the Rock Creek Ritual – a spine-tingling full-body scrub and masque followed by a restorative massage. The service in the spa, and across all departments is immaculate – the kind you always hope for, but never quite receive.

Each log cabin and canvas tent is meticulously appointed by designer Jet Zarkadas, favouring rawhide, vintage fox furs, ranch inspired furnishings and Native American artifacts.

Endless calorie-burning adventures are included in your rate, such as hiking, archery, paintball and mountain biking.

The Ranch at Rock Creek, 79 Carriage House Lane, Philipsburg, Mont.;; rates start at $995 (U.S.) a night.

Story continues below advertisement

Four Seasons Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, New Mexico

Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo foothills, this is easily one of the best new destination spas in the American Southwest. Recently the resort launched a new hearty excursions collection with top tier Adventure Partners.

At sunrise I'm off on a hike through Bandelier National Monument, or as my guide calls it "a living, outdoor museum." I find it heart-pumping and spiritually grounding as I learn we are tracing footpaths of ancient native tribes. Working my calves over six-metre timber ladders, I ascend to the north side of the mesa to discover dozens of small caves where nomads took shelter.

Next stop Ghost Ranch, a 8,500 hectare desert haven of coral mesas in the Chama River valley, immortalized by Georgia O'Keeffe, who lived here for 50 years. We head through the red rock canyons near her Abiquiu home and I have a go at bouldering (think parkour with lava mounds instead of stairwells). It's an absolute rush.

Back at the resort, I chase the havoc on the hamstrings with a Mountain Spirit Purification ritual. It begins with a smudging of Native American sage, followed by an adobe clay body envelopment. After a cleansing shower, a juniper-sage hot-stone massage dissipates any remaining stress. The spa's 15 treatment rooms take design cues from the sacred Kiva rooms of indigenous tribes. Authentic motifs continue in the adjoining outdoor pool terrace, fitness centre and yoga studio.

The dining is top notch under chef Andrew Cooper, replenishing active guests with recovery proteins and altitude-countering greens (not to mention chili-infused margaritas).

Story continues below advertisement

Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, 198 State Road 592, Santa Fe, N.M.;; rates start at $379 (U.S.).

Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri, Rome

Who knew running around in a traditional Roman tunic and wielding a wooden training sword would work up a sweat like no other? In the Rome Cavalieri private park overlooking the Vatican, instructors from the Roman Gladiator School guide you in ancient combat techniques.

The Cavalieri looms large atop Monte Mario, the highest hill in the Eternal City. A magnificent backdrop for learning to swing traditional weapons such as a gladius, the sword of the empire. And nothing works the obliques like protecting your torso from blows with a semi-cylindrical body shield. Take your last lesson at the Colosseum for the ultimate photo op. (There was a time when sweat from Rome's gladiator gods was collected and sold as a potent aphrodisiac – you, however, will want to take a shower.)

After getting hands-on with imperial history, spoil yourself with a Caviar Body Treatment at the Cavalieri's Grand Spa. My therapist paid close attention to my ravaged shoulders, unaccustomed to brandishing shields and spears, and the massage left my skin shimmering, more goddess than gladiator.

Boasting a private art collection (there's an Old Master Giovanni Tiepolo in the lounge; early Empire bronzes in the foyer; and Andy Warhol's dollar-sign series hung cheekily in the penthouse), a 53,000-bottle wine cellar and the city's only three-Michelin-star restaurant – La Pergola – the iconic Rome Cavalieri is a haven for hedonists.

Rome Cavalieri , Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101, Rome;; rates start at $250 a night.

The writer travelled courtesy of the hotels and resorts. They did not review or approve this article.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨