Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2019 issue.
The sun reflected off of the Chalk Cliffs, casting a golden glow over the lawn. I shifted a bit on my blanket, my legs starting to tingle in their crossed position; I tried to acknowledge the feeling, then return to my breath. Inhale …. exhale. A herd of deer ambled across the lawn, stopping for a nibble of grass: “Guaranteed nature,” our instructor quipped. “Now back to your breath.”
Guided meditation is just one aspect of the Total Wellness Retreat at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. Set in an idyllic setting with the Chalk Creek river flowing through the grounds, this five-day, four-night and all-inclusive lifestyle-change program is led by medical providers and staff from Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center. While the program includes educational lectures with medical doctors and sessions with exercise physiologists and dieticians, this retreat is not about having someone tell you what to do and what to eat.
The Total Wellness Retreat focuses on the idea that physical, mental and emotional health are all tied together and, if one is out of whack, the others likely are, too. And the person that ties all those aspects together? You.
Regular folks are becoming more and more savvy because knowledge about health is more easily accessible to the general public, explained Jon Fritz, who manages the Wellness Department at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) and leads the retreat.
“But we as a culture, and as individuals, haven’t inserted ourselves into that knowledge,” Fritz said.
This retreat was designed to bring individuals (with 12 participants max) together to learn how to insert themselves into their own health — starting with a blood panel. On the first morning, everyone had blood drawn so that the team could not only get a baseline of health, but also to give participants concrete examples of where health could be improved (cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.). Individual results were not discussed until the third day, but the sessions covered hot topics like the differences between fats, foods that can help prevent cancer (and some that may lead to it), using energy to heal pain and the impact of sitting on your health.
There was plenty of movement, too. One afternoon included a strength training session, another featured a group hike on the historic Chalk Creek Grade, an old railroad grade used by the Denver South Park and Pacific Railroad, and another morning offered Tai Chi. Guided meditation helped participants move into healthier mental space to enact change and a group cooking class helped cement relationships. Of course, there was also ample time to simply soak in the hot springs or take a walk in the mountains.
“To get a human to change their life takes a big picture of a value-based model of care; an idea in which various doctors and health practitioners work together to address a patient’s care,” Fritz said. “Which means that you’re going to need the psychology of health coaching — they need the real nutrition education and motivation to exercise and to learn what’s safe and how to do it.”
It’s this multi-faceted approach, addressing mental, emotional and physical health — and the fact that hospital staff are leading the education — that really sets this wellness retreat apart. There’s really nothing else quite like it in the country.
“I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t about ‘shame on you,’” said Rose Seavey, who has been a nurse for more than 40 years. “I’ve gone to a lot of retreats that weren’t so accepting of who we are at this point. I love the fact that they are not judgmental at all. And they’re not setting goals for me, but instead are helping me set goals.”
Everyone’s goals are different, but this retreat is designed to help anyone who is not currently at their vision of health. This vision of health could be how you physically look, the activities you participate in or even the types of friends that you have. And the support doesn’t end when everyone is saying their goodbyes — leaders like Jon keep in contact and encourage accountability.
If you’re looking to make a change in your life, this might be an opportunity. Providing tools to improve physical, mental and emotional health, the Total Wellness Retreat is a push to get off the fence and achieve your goals.
Photo courtesy of Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.
Katie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Golden, Colorado who likes her yoga on a farm and her aioli from fancy chickens. You can see more of her work at www.katiecoakley.com.