5 hotels with challenging fitness programs for travellers

So much more than treadmills and elliptical machines


Maintaining a fitness regime while travelling can be tricky. Even when we’re not on the road, we are a nation of bad eaters, living in a chemical wonderland. Add processed foods, all-you-can-eat buffets and pre-ordered conference food and you can return from a three-day boondoggle carrying toxins around like excess baggage. While the following programs are by no means an exhaustive list, an increasing number of hotels are expanding their menu of fitness options to lure health-conscious business travellers beyond a small room with free weights and StairMasters.

Belly Up to this Barre


While the rest of your tribe may want to barrel down the six-storey Abyss waterslide at Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas, or whoosh through the shark-infested tanks at the base of the Leap of Faith, one of you may crave another sort of white-knuckle experience—a barre class. This latest fitness rage has exploded in the States, but has been slow to gain traction in Canada—another reason to take advantage of the offerings in the resort’s little Pilates studio. Trained in the “BarreAmped” method by guru Suzanne Bowen, the two certified instructors at Atlantis prompt guests to channel their inner Black Swan desires through a 60-minute interval training regime of weights, planks, deep lunges and wickedly long holds and alignment postures. Set to music, it’s a great non-impact mash-up that combines modern and classic dance moves with yoga, Pilates and deep stretches—most of which revolve around the ballet barre. Ever wonder how Hollywood A-listers get those rock-hard abs? Drew Barrymore, Olivia Wilde and Eliza Dushku will tell you it’s the barre workout.

Yoga Goes Public in Winnipeg

In Winnipeg, Man., they enjoy rock-star status. Ida Albo and Rick Bel are the power couple behind the Fort Garry Hotel, Ten Spa and now Yoga Public—Canada’s largest yoga studio. Check into the Fort Garry and you’ll be given an invite to sample any of Yoga Public’s classes at a discounted rate. Located four blocks away, this 20,000-sq.-ft., two-storey base of bliss was formerly the Carleton Club. Having sunk $2.5 million into the downtown space, this is the sort of facility that makes you marvel at entrepreneurs who don’t scrimp on design and details (just as the duo didn’t when opening Ten Spa in 2006). Not only is the roster of more than 100 classes a week—from hot yoga and the out there yoga-on-the-wall to ashtanga, classic vinyasa and restorative—staggeringly diverse, but the design details are mind-blowers. Picture this: No need to bring your own mat or towel. Both are free at check-in.

If you get a whoosh of fresh air in the hot yoga studio, you’re not delusional; it’s likely the filtration system that sucks in fresh air from outside and blasts the studio several times during a class.

Want to hang in a comfy lounge (or two) over a mug of free herbal tea or infused water? Feel free. You’ll grin over the life-sized sheep, cows and quirky green patches of “grass” that dapple the communal spaces. Are you perpetually trying to remember your locker-basket number? No need here as the digitally locked compartments are made of clear Plexiglass so you can spot all your contents in a flash.

Can’t afford to waste time queuing up for a shower in an under-serviced locker room? It’s less of a problem when there are 10 womens’ shower stalls. The hold-up is more likely the desire to loiter under the massive rain showerheads. And don’t you hate it when your towel slides off a puny hook into a puddle? That’s why there are nifty mammoth slings in the middle of the shower corridor that you slip your towel into. Flatirons, hair dryers, body lotion, hair elastics, shampoo, conditioner and so forth make Yoga Public feel like a spa.

You’ll also find Canada’s first TRX suspension room. What’s often plunked in a corner of a gym has a devoted space here, full of the slings and devices used in TRX as well as classes designed to let you train on the same equipment used by US Navy SEALs to develop strength, core and flexibility. Check out the spa and yoga weekend packages offered at the Fort Garry. Some can be as low as $139, including an overnight stay, two yoga classes and a self-administered hamam treatment at Ten Spa. Or, if you’re staying elsewhere, just buy a $35 introductory pass—good for two weeks of unlimited yoga and TRX classes at Yoga Public. Sigh.

Stay Centred While on the Road

A tote bag full of yoga props, a mat, straps and exercise bands means you don’t have to miss a sun salutation when you stay at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco. Long noted for its women-friendly details—from complimentary makeup mirrors and straightening irons to heating pads, a recipe blog and all-girls’ getaways—this boutique property lends out yoga gear at no extra cost. Tune into the 24-hour, on-demand yoga channel for instruction from notable yogis like Rodney Yee and Eoin Flynn. Other complimentary programs include a People in Motion running group and Dutch Bicycle Company city bikes.

Four Seasons Fitness Perks

Many a Four Seasons property offer customized workout programs. Some, like the Scottsdale resort in Arizona, optimize location with a tailored activity such as the 3.5-mile guided hike to Pinnacle Peak Park. Forgot your shoes, shorts, T-shirt and socks? No worries—you can borrow the goods for free.

Here’s Looking at You, Kit

527 Photo by Jared Sych.

Certain Affinia hotels in New York City and D.C. offer “experience kits.” Delivered in a basket, you can opt for the Walking Tour Kit (an iPod loaded with a walking route and playlist, a deck of cards with more than 50 routes, a map or pedometer and a towel). Rather stay in your room? Then the StayFit Kit (yoga mat, workout DVDs and ankle weights) is likely more your thing. These little touches are what happens when a hotel chain employs a CCO (Chief Comfort Officer). Cloud pillows, golf putters, a BYOB picnic kit—they’ll even deliver an Ibanez guitar to your room should you ask. Now, that’s good room service.

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