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How a Fitness Retreat Helped Me Get Out of My Wellness Rut

If you're training for a marathon, week eight is typically when everything starts to fall apart. This is usually about the halfway point, and after two months of early morning runs, interval runs, tempo runs, and—of course—long runs, your body might want to wave the white flag, if only your arms weren't too sore to grab the flag in the first place.

This is where I found myself a few weeks ago, running four to five times a week and feeling, admittedly, a little burnt out. Thankfully, I'd taken up yoga this time around (and here are 9 reasons every runner needs to try yoga), but most of my time was spent, you know, running. So how did I finally get out of my running rut? I hopped on a plane to Hawaii, duh.

To be clear, I was invited to attend the fourth annual Wellness Weekend at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, in Maui. I know that booking a flight to relax in the islands is not exactly a spontaneous adventure everyone can take, so let's just say I was pretty excited. "Yay, beaches!" I thought, and more importantly, "Yay, something other than running!" (Sound awesome? Consider booking a trip yourself, and you totally don't need a travel partner, either. Check out these fitness retreats for women traveling solo.)

I approached the week wanting to feel reinvigorated for the weeks of training left ahead of me, but I ended up taking home much more than that.

Day One: New Scenery Is a Major Motivator 

After arriving late on a Wednesday (after an 11-hour flight), I slept really hard and woke up wanting to get moving. So after studying a jogging map from the hotel, I headed out for the nearby Kapalua Coastal trail, which hugs the northwest coast of Maui and promises views of tide pools. And yes, I know, I was already running, but hey, it's a nice way to explore the sights.

But without headphones and really no idea of where I was going, running felt effortless (yes, even with jet-lagged legs—those compression socks really do help during the flight). The trail is short, about 1.5 miles, and rocky, so I was half-walking most of the time, but everything was so bright and gorgeous and green.

Instead of sticking to my usual running routine, I decided to do my long run that day and found Pineapple Hill, which is a cute name for a devilish incline. (My activity tracker told me I climbed 94 floors that day, which sounds about right.)

I finished those 10 miles during 85-degree midday heat, and I was pretty convinced that would be the hardest thing I'd do all weekend. Back in my room, I start to realize why hotels are so appealing: You get to leave behind all the books you haven't read, dishes you haven't washed, and any baggage that doesn't matter. I ended my first day watching the incredible Maui sunset, which is in a class all its own.

Maui Sunset

Day Two: Take Time to Reflect

I woke up at 5:45 a.m. to head to Honokahua Beach for a sunrise ceremony that's said to rejuvenate your body and mind. The group walked to the ocean and were told to let the water wash away our stress. Clifford Naeole, the hotel's cultural advisor, told us to think of someone we'd lost. Immediately I thought of my grandmother, who had died three weeks before. I began to tear up and I have to say that I'm glad I had a good cry. My tendency is to always look forward—what's the next race, the next deadline, etc.—and it showed me that I can't forget to grieve. We all clapped and watched the sunrise together, and I felt my soul shift in a way I hadn't expected. (So this is why people come to Hawaii.)

After that, the real exercise began, and I was off to a Ritz Blitz HIIT class where I met the instructors, Philip Levi and David Clawson, two Bay Area trainers from the gym, B-Fit. The guys were high-energy, fun, and encouraging. I barely noticed how difficult the planks were—and snow angel Supermans, walking inchworms with mountain climbers, and a million other intense moves. After the workout we gathered in a circle, put our hands in the middle, and yelled together "DO WORK." Yep, that was my kind of crowd.

Do you know what's a good cross-training choice? Snorkeling. Okay, I don't know if that's vetted by any fitness professionals, but after spending over an hour wading in Kapalua Bay with the hotel's Ambassadors of the Environment program looking for (and finding!) spotted eels and giant sea turtles, I'm convinced that at the bare minimum it boosts your happiness levels by a hundred.

snorkling

Later, Naeole gave the group a tour of the hotel's massive property and explained the Hawaiian concept of mana, or the energy and spirit that is within and around everyone—and that idea really stuck with me.

Day Three: Wellness Is Spiritual (Abs Are Not)

The next day I was up and at 'em early again for a core class. Core work is the bane of many runners' existence, though it shouldn't be: Core strength is a key factor to becoming a faster, stronger runner.

Later, inspirational speaker Kumu Ramsay Taum gave a talk about accessing the power of mana for health, prosperity, and balance. He said that people come to Hawaii to connect to home and that it's a spiritual place. For so many years I just thought of Hawaii as that state west of California, but I was missing out on so much more.

Maui, Hawaii

Afterward, I got the best deep tissue massage of my life at the hotel spa. I'm convinced the true indicator of wellness might not be mental but instead feeling your tight, abused quads become blissfully knot-free. Day three was also when I realized how powerful fitness class can be. Before, I thought that I'd only make it out the door if I really pushed myself, but all of these classes and events made me see how easy it is to #justshowup. So that's how I found myself pulling on yoga clothes in the evening for full moon yoga on the lawn. There was an amazing breeze and a feeling of being far away from everyone and all of my responsibilities—and that's probably because I was.

Day Four: Achieve Balance 

What do you do the morning after full moon yoga? You get up for sunrise yoga, obviously. Juxtaposing the night and morning sessions was really interesting; the moon put me to sleep but the sun made me excited for the upcoming day. Downward dogging within feet of the ocean wasn't too bad, either. Following yoga, we had a dynamic stretching and body movement class. By this point, I learned that if it involved a towel and the possibility of hearing waves crashing, I was in. All of these routines back-to-back left me feeling (surprisingly) incredibly awake.

And that actually makes a lot of sense, according to Levi. As he spoke a lot about "movement as medicine," and I realized just how many times I'd sit on my couch or in a chair working and not move...for hours. Switching between dynamic, ballistic, and static stretching made me see there were more options that just slothing it up all week. I also had the pleasure of hearing registered dietitian (and avid runner) Anne Mauney speak about nutrition for runners. Beyond sharing her favorite long-run snack (dates stuffed with nut butter sprinkled with a little salt), Anne shared all the stats that runners need to know but sometimes avoid learning. Some takeaways: Aim for 30 grams of carbs per hour of running and refuel 30 to 45 minutes after a hard run with a mix of carbs and protein.

To close out my trip, I focused on that carb-to-protein-ratio thing at the hotel's Burger Shack restaurant, where I wolfed down a Bikini Burger made of black bean–beet root patty, smoked tofu, and jicama–sweet chili slaw. I also may or may not have enjoyed the Nutty Cocomel milkshake with peanut butter and salty caramel chocolate. So, it might not have been the best post-yoga and core class treat, but if there's one thing I learned in Maui, it's that balance is everything.

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