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The rise of the fitness hotel

Worth over 4 billion pounds in the UK and with more fitness club members in London than ever before, the fitness industry treadmill doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Let’s face it there was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when a commitment to health and vitality promptly dwindled in the departures lounge. Most people threw caution to the wind and accepted that they were about to have a ‘bad week’ and few actually made use of the poorly lit hotel gyms.

Since the advent of ‘Fitness Fridays’, the introduction of scantily clad ‘gods’ at Barry’s Bootcamp and trends such as the Cult of Soul Cycle across the pond, hotels have had to up their stakes and create something more inspiring than a pokey area containing a rickety elliptical trainer and a spattering of dumbbells – hence the inception of the fitness hotel. These days normality has been turned on its head, quite literally in some cases, with unconventional workouts to motivate you whilst you’re away from home…

Preparing for space

hoto courtesy of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Since the world has become inspired by space exploration, and latched on to the potential for interstellar travel, anti-gravity exercise classes have sprung up in hotels, as evidenced by the swathes of fabric dangling from the ceilings of many state of the art gyms. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona offers clients Aerial Yoga, helping guests kick start a healthy new routine by taking ‘weekend warrior’ to the next level. Marbella Corfu Hotel has also stretched itself this year by launching a combination class Cardio Aerial Yoga. This new fitness craze allows you to be suspended, weightless a few feet above the ground in a safe and comfortable yoga hammock whilst still achieving a cardio workout. This is much more than a traditional yoga class – expect laughter and an unbelievable workout.

Next generation cycling

(photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge)
Photo courtesy of Mashpi Lodge

Everyone is familiar with the gruelling addiction of spin classes, however most travellers tend to opt for fresh air and beautiful surroundings instead. In response to this hoteliers have gone the extra mile – in the sea and even in the sky (!) – to keep this two-wheel sport spinning. Partnering with luxury brands to provide guests with something new and next generation, hotels now offer everything from air-borne tandem bikes to part-bike-part-catamaran open water spin classes: opportunities to soak up spectacular views of your destination, whilst getting a strenuous workout. Two hotels leading the way are Sugar Beach in St Lucia and Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest.

On the stunning Eastern Caribbean island, Sugar Beach guests are able to cycle on water using a Schiller Bike – the part-bike-part-catamaran offers the opportunity to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pitons, or for those wanting to sweat in stunning surroundings, the resort offers on-the-water spin classes. If open water isn’t your thing, and you are prone to getting lost, Metropolitan Touring’s Mashpi Lodge offers daring adventurers a discovery workout. The tandem Sky Bike suspends couples 60 metres above the ground enabling them to pedal through the forest canopy along a 656-foot cable. This allows guests to see animals and birds in their natural habitat while enjoying the spectacular views that the wildlife are privy to, whilst getting a strenuous workout to boot.

Morphing into the mysterious open water wildlife

(courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado)
Photo courtesy of Hotel Del Coronado

Wild water swimming has also found its way into the spotlight this year. After all, what’s better than being at one with nature and discovering the splendours of your surroundings, whilst improving your health and fitness? For the brave traveller, luxury five star Relais & Chateaux Isle of Eriska, Hotel and Spa is located on a 300 acre private island off the west coast of Scotland: and there’s a wild water swimming record which needs to be beaten!

For something even more wacky and wonderful, ‘Mermaid Fitness’ is the latest craze on everyone’s minds. Hotel del Coronado in San Diego launched this fusion of synchronized and monofin swimming: participants are taught to swim like a mermaid, wearing a specially designed, colourful ‘tail’. A fairytale come true and great for adults wanting to tone with the kids.

Sport’s buddy service

(photo courtesy of The Wellesley)
Photo courtesy of The Wellesley

With the ever-demanding traveller wanting all types of fitness incorporated into their weekly routine, The Rubens at the Palace and Hotel 41 in London and the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town, South Africa, offer a ‘sports buddy’ service which involves hotel staff acting as sporting adversaries or partners. This could mean anything from tennis with the hotel’s general manager, to trampolining with the executive housekeeper. Or for those in search of cerebral stimulation, perhaps a spot of chess with the head of F&B? If running that 10km in 45 minutes is your goal, the indulgent Running Butler service may help pick up the pace and beat that PB. The Wellesley’s service aims to make exercising in the parks as luxe as possible, tending to the runner’s every need – from refreshing soft drinks to homemade protein snacks, or an aromatic bubble bath to soothe tired muscles. These hotels really do make you earn your supper!

Become a medieval fighter

(photo courtesy of Barcelo Montecastillo Golf)
Photo courtesy of Barcelo Montecastillo Golf

Today, being fit aesthetically is not enough, with the constant flurry of training shots for all types of fitness challenges, the rise of the ‘part-time athlete’ has opened the doors for skills to be taught by hoteliers. Learning to fight a Game of Thrones style battle is a new offering this month from the luxury Irish Yoga Retreat. Guests stay in two luxurious castles – Ashford and Dromoland – where they can try their hand at the medieval sports of archery and falconry. Barcelo Montecastillo Golf in Andalucia offer lessons in fencing in a fun and dynamic way, to improve flexibility, agility, posture and concentration.

Olympian in the making

(Keri-Anne Payne, photo courtesy of The Body Holiday)
Photo courtesy of The Body Holiday

Looking fit is not enough these days. Since this year’s Olympics there has been a huge surge in amateur athletics with people being inspired to run, cycle, jump and swim. In fact, Olympians are on speed dial at many top luxury hotels and regularly collaborate to entice guests to fall in love with a sport and to dedicate a little time to their physicality. The Body Holiday in St Lucia is hosting GB Olympic silver medallist swimmer Keri-Anne Payne this November to launch SwimFit, a swim-focused training camp.

Research suggests that this sector is going to grow 50% faster than regular tourism through 2017, so it has never been as important for hoteliers to skip, hop and jump onto the latest fitness trends, especially if they want to entice the sports-savvy traveller.