Insider's Guide to Spas

4 Spa Fitness Trends That are Hot. And One That’s Not

Fitness, just like fashion, has its hot-and-not lists. Although the trends that drive exercise programming may not be as mercurial... Read the full article »

Anne M. Russell


Fitness, just like fashion, has its hot-and-not lists. Although the trends that drive exercise programming may not be as mercurial as haute couture’s, they do determine spas’ ever-evolving fitness philosophies, vocabularies, and menus.

As a former editor in chief of Shape, I’ve watched the fitness industry shift from barefoot, body-pounding Jane Fonda aerobics toward a more mindful approach that incorporates Eastern practices like yoga and tai chi and then back to high-intensity disciplines like boot camp and CrossFit. Some activities, like step and indoor cycling, have shown remarkable durability, while others, like strippercize and slideboard workouts, proved short-lived fads.

Where are we now? Here are the five fitness-industry trends that I see shaping cutting-edge spas’ lineups:

1. Aerial everything. I’m including both hammock-based classes and suspension training on systems like TRX as an aspect of this trend. Fitness is just more fun when you’re in the air, but at the same time, being off the ground gives your core muscles a serious challenge. (Core workouts themselves are a sustained trend.)

Where The boldest aerial challenges are Miraval’s Desert Tightrope and Desert Zipline, which combine adventure experiences with being airborne. Miraval also offers aerial yoga, while Canyon Ranch has both aerial yoga and aerial Pilates. Other spas that feature multiple TRX options include Cal-A-Vie and Lake Austin Spa Resort.

2. Simple fun. There’s a growing awareness among fitness professionals that getting people to stick with exercise means making it seem more like play than work. So in that vein, savvy spas are adding classes and activities that make guests laugh with delight. You may not want to don a mermaid’s tail for every workout, but it’s a crazy fun water-based core workout when you do!

Where Mermaid Fitness in the pool and Beach Spin on the lawn (with Beats by Dre headphones) at the Hotel Del Coronado’s spa. Hoop It Up dance at Cal-a-Vie, Fitness Hoop Dance at Lake Austin Spa Resort, and drumming classes at the Golden Door, Lake Austin and Miraval are also joyful experiences. Probably the newest, albeit slow-moving, delight-inducing offering is Japanese shinrin-yoku—healing forest bathing—and “star bathing” (nighttime forest bathing) at the L’Auberge de Sedonas L’Apothecary spa.

Some activities, like step and indoor cycling, have shown remarkable durability, while others, like strippercize and slideboard workouts, proved short-lived fads.

3. HIIT. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been on the scene for a while, but the trick is adapting the practice to suit every exerciser’s level. CrossFit’s influence is seen here with the use of kettlebells and battle ropes. Other high-intensity methods are old-school boot camps and Japanese tabata, where you go all-out in 20-second intervals. Keywords: “extreme,” “high intensity,” and “blast.”

Where Tabata, Thai boxing, and Metafit are all HIITs at Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand. Cal-a-Vie, which includes a fitness evaluation for all of its seven-day guests, offers aqua boot camp, boxing, CrossFit, HIIT, and Insanity classes.

4. Prehab Instead of rehabbing after injury, wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t hurt yourself in the first place? That’s the concept underlying “prehab” conditioning, where you stretch and strengthen vulnerable parts of the body and improve your functional fitness­­­­—your ability to manage everyday tasks like gardening or carrying heavy groceries.

By recognizing where you’re prone to pain and injury and using tools like foam rollers, you can make routine activity easier and stave off fitness downtime otherwise lost to recuperation. Rest, relaxation, and restorative classes are also integral to this philosophy.

Where Classes like Postural Therapy, Release & Mobilize, restorative yoga, and foam roller at Rancho La Puerta epitomize prehab conditioning. Likewise, Miraval offers prevention-oriented classes with Roll with It (foam roller), Happy Hips, and Shoulders Set Free at its Tucson location. Chiva-Som’s unique Foot Exercise class addresses a critical, injury-prone body part. The Oaks at Ojai’s Here & Home talk focuses on learning to incorporate functional fitness into your life. Miraval’s and the Golden Door’s Yoga Nidra (aka Sleep Yoga) address another important aspect of recovery.

Virtual groupX. This is one burgeoning health-club trend I predict that you will not be seeing in spas! In fact, wise spa fitness directors are counter programming against this digital menace with unique fitness packages tailored individually for each guest. The hands-on, personalized approach is what spa goers expect and value, no cyber instructors welcome.

Where (not) The real-life Fitness Concierge at Rancho La Puerta advises guests on how to tailor their stay to their exact fitness level and goals. Canyon Ranch’s “Fitness Buff” package at the Tucson location is infinitely customizable with one-on-one a la carte add-ons.

Anne M. Russell

Anne M. Russell

Anne M. Russell has an extensive background in health and fitness journalism. Most recently, she was editor in chief of VIVmag, after previously serving as editor in chief of Shape. Prior to that, she was the editorial director of Fox Television's Health Network, where she oversaw the Network's website as well as on-air content. Anne joined Fox after serving as interim editor in chief of Vegetarian Times. She has also been the editor in chief of Living Fit. Early in her career, she was the founding editor of two trade magazines. Photo District News and, later, Digital Creativity. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale University.