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Why doing a fitness & spa retreat was the healthiest thing I've ever done

By Rebecca Moore | March 28, 2018
Why doing a fitness & spa retreat was the healthiest thing I've ever done

How I went from double digit cupcakes and tacos to fresh food, mindful workouts and a new outlook on wellness.

13 cupcakes and 15 tacos. I had been in San Diego for a mere seven days, and I had eaten a total of THIRTEEN cupcakes and FIFTEEN tacos. That's on top of the blur of other delicious meals I had taken down throughout the week in between happy hours and other social events; to say my body and mind needed a cleanse is a massive understatement. Luckily, it was Saturday, and it was time to head to the Ranch.

A week before I set off for San Diego, my boss suggested that I extend my trip an extra day to check out Rancho La Puerta Fitness and Spa Retreat in Tecate to partake in their Saturdays at the Ranch experience (needless to say, she didn't have to twist my arm). Founded in 1940, Rancho La Puerta advertises itself as an escape from the stresses of life and an opportunity to fine-tune your mental, physical and spiritual health. With the minor exception of my lack of self control when it comes to cupcakes and tacos, I consider myself a pretty healthy individual. However, I was eager to learn more about how I could continue to develop better habits in my everyday life - and honestly, the 60-minute massage that was included in the package sounded pretty good too.

My fellow Ranch-mates and I met at a park in San Diego at the crack of dawn to catch the charter that would transport us to and from the Ranch. The bus was full of couples, family members and lifelong friends, anxious to get on the road and start this day full of adventure, fun and food. After a peaceful, hour-long drive through the mountains of southern California, we arrived at the Ranch and were greeted with a breakfast spread fit for a king.

No phones allowed...wait what?

As we ate breakfast, the staff members gave us a lay of the land and explained how the day was going to work. There were a variety of activities throughout the day we could participate in like hikes and group exercise classes, or we could post up at one of the MANY pools and spas sprinkled throughout the facility if we felt like relaxing the day away. We had all pre-scheduled our spa treatments and were told where and when lunch and dinner were, but there were a few other regulations that we had to abide by during our time at the Ranch. The big one? NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED. If we wanted to use our phones, we could head to the *one* building that had Wi-Fi and do everything we needed to do there. Other than that, the grounds of Rancho La Puerta were tech-free to encourage a deep focus of our mind and energy on this wellness experience instead of our Instagram feeds.

Tour Time

Before I headed to my first exercise class of the day, fitness team manager Jose Luis Beltran gave me a tour of a few of the best sites Rancho La Puerta had to offer. There were so many absolutely stunning sights to see, but honestly, I couldn't get over how green the grass was. I had to have taken at least twenty pictures of JUST grass; if I wasn't allergic to it, I might have just laid down in a field somewhere and stayed there until dinner time.

Fitness Fiesta

My first class was focused on the core. While we were taken through an hour of ab-destroying circuits, our trainer painted a perfect picture of the importance of the core and why core strength is the foundation of strong movement patterns and healthy aging. However, his best anecdotes were in the conversation we had after the class was over. I learned that he started instructing fitness classes at Rancho La Puerta because he had come for vacation and loved it so much that he applied for a job on his third day there. Now, he gets to enjoy the beauty of the Ranch all year long; THAT'S #goals.

Magical Massage Therapy

Next was my full-body massage at the award-winning organic spa. And when they say full body, they mean FULL. BODY. My masseuse worked out all of my kinks from head to toe, and I couldn't help but pass out while she was massaging my face. At least I didn't drool on her... and if I did, she was nice enough to not tell me. After she finished, I threw on my swimming suit and spent some time in the pool, hot tub and sauna to work up an appetite.

Fueling Up

Then it was time for lunch. Guys... this lunch... there genuinely aren't words in the English dictionary that I can throw onto this page to describe how amazing this meal was. First off, all of the food is from their organic garden ON SITE. THIS STUFF IS LITERALLY GROWING OUT OF THE GROUND AT RANCHO LA PUERTA. Every single ingredient is hand-picked by their staff and prepared by their chefs. Every single meal is exclusively made up of organic vegetables, grains and juices. Every single meal is a labor of love. After all of the processed food I had shoveled into my face the week prior, this meal felt like I was eating pure, roasted gold.

With my stomach full of fuel (I wouldn't even disrespect that meal by calling it food... it was 100% fuel), I hit up the gym because you're actually insane if you thought I was going to miss back day. This massive weight room was full of all the equipment a gym rat like myself could have ever wanted, and as an added bonus, I had the whole place to myself. I cranked up the Spanish tunes and worked my lats until my torso could barely fit through the door frame when I walked out (possibly a slight exaggeration).

A mind-blowing, mind-centering experience

My last exercise class of the day was tai chi with Phyllis Pilgrim. Phyllis has been an instructor at Rancho La Puerta since 1981 and specializes in yoga, tai chi and meditation. This class was mind-blowing, or really, mind-centering. We practiced qigong, which is the 'parent' of tai chi. While tai chi is more focused on martial arts and self defense movements, qigong is purely aimed at healing. She ingrained in us that movement is a metaphor; that we can connect our bodies to our minds to cherish where we are and what we love, while getting rid of possessiveness and taking on challenges. I could have climbed a mountain backwards while writing everyone I know a love letter after leaving this class. My priorities in life seemed to be more clear, and my goals felt more obtainable.

(Fresh) Food For Thought

After our last class we all got back on the bus for a short ride across the property to La Cocina Que Canta, the epicenter of all the food that is farmed and prepared at Rancho La Puerta.

There, we met Denise Roa, the executive chef of Rancho La Puerta & La Cocina Que Canta. Denise is the mastermind behind all of the fresh, flavorful meals prepared every single day, and she puts a lot of thought and heart into each one. Along with the organic produce that is harvested from their garden on site, everything else is sourced locally from vendors that Denise knows and trusts. While she and her assistants prepared our dinner right in front of our eyes, she shared her beliefs about the power of REAL food. She believes that we must be mindful about everything we put in our bodies, because as the saying goes, you are what you eat. She made us think about the food we eat on a regular basis; does it actually have nutritional value? Or was it processed to have "flavor" and pumped full of preservatives to give it a longer shelf life? To properly nourish our bodies, we must eat real, fresh food that is sustainably sourced and carefully prepared. To show us where that process begins, she took us out to the gardens of Rancho La Puerta.

This massive garden is tended by only a handful of people who know and care about the produce that are being grown. Denise explained the methods behind the planting, how they organically farmed each and every row and the time it takes to harvest this bounty. Not only did we get to walk through and hear about the all of the plants, but we got to taste them right out of the ground. We even got to pull some out ourselves!

You know how I said that the meal I had for lunch was perfect? Multiply that times seven and THAT'S how good dinner was. Hands down the best meal I've ever eaten in my life. Shrimp, tortilla soup, kale chips, F-R-E-S-H guacamole and chips and zucchini lasagna. She even prepared me my own separate version of the lasagna because I'm lactose intolerant; they are incredibly accommodating to a wide variety of dietary needs and restrictions.

Denise sent us all home with a thoughtful gift package stuffed with our own La Cocina Que Canta apron and a handout of all of the recipes she used to prepare the dinner and dessert we ate that night. After one last walk through the gardens, we all hopped back on the bus with satisfied stomachs and souls and headed back to San Diego.

When can I go back?

The only negative about my Rancho La Puerta experience is that it only lasted one day. Completely disconnecting from my busy, technology-filled routine and focusing on the beauty of the world around me changed my perspective of life, even to this day. I have a new-found appreciation for the care I take of my body, the food that I fuel it with and the time I put into my mental health and stability. There's no doubt that I will return back to the Ranch to indulge in the full adventure, and I encourage anyone looking to recharge themselves to do the same. Learn more about the Ranch and everything it has to offer and book your stay today!

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