Exercise Vacation Tips for Visiting The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge

I recapped my late January visit to The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge in Ivins, Utah. Click on over to my first installments about my exercise vacation, if you haven’t read about my check-in and weigh-in, followed by Days 1 to 3 and Days 4 to 6 and final weigh in — it’ll make more sense if you read this series in order!

I read every single word of The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge website before I hopped in the car for my 8-hour drive from Colorado to Ivins, Utah for my week-long stay. I scoured the internet for firsthand accounts of other guests’ visits. I looked carefully at the photos posted online, wondering, “Will there be people there who look like me? (i.e. average sized, not obese). I wondered, “Will I be hungry?” and “Will the exercise be challenging enough — or will it be too challenging?” and “Did I pack the right types of clothes?”

The FAQs on the official website answered some of my questions… but you can’t always be fully prepared for any trip… and you can’t always predict 100% what will happen on any vacation, exercise vacation or not!

Still, I’m hoping some of my experiences, advice and insight will help you best prepare for your stay at Fitness Ridge. Here are some packing tips, and some Q&As based on some questions I received while I was at the resort (from the few friends I’d told I was there!) and questions readers have asked since I’ve posted my reviews and recaps of my stay.

First, the resort emails you a basic packing list before your stay (it’s online, too). I think it’s a great guide, but I would add that I wore two sets of exercise clothes daily. I had my hiking clothes (in January, that was running tights and track pants, moisture-wicking socks, long sleeve base layer, short sleeve shirt, light fleece and windbreaker, fleece headband and gloves).

I started this hike with a fleece, windbreaker, hat and mittens. You definitely want to plan on wearing layers. The temperature changes when the sun shines!

I started this hike with a fleece, windbreaker, hat and mittens. Plan on wearing layers. The temperature changes when the sun shines!

After sweating on my morning hikes, when I returned to the resort, all I wanted to do was peel off the wet clothes and take a hot shower — I usually had time to do that before the 11:15 lecture or stretch class. Obviously, I didn’t want to put my damp clothes back on, so I put on fresh clothes for the rest of the day, including a dry sports bra.

You do have access to coin-operated laundry machines, conveniently located next to the pool, and you can do laundry at any time, but I found that hand-washing some items in the sink and hanging them on the clothesline in my shower did the trick when I wanted to wash a couple of favorite shirts. (I’d brought enough to not have to hand-wash, but really wanted to wear my favorite quick-dry ones again!) I also hand-washed two bras, a pair of workout pants and underwear. Everything dried overnight.

Here are the articles of clothing I actually wore during my week at the resort:

  • 7 workout shirts (hand-washed 3)
  • 1 long-sleeve base layer for hiking (hand-washed it)
  • 9 pair underwear (hand-washed 5)
  • 6 stretchy capri or full-length workout pants (hand-washed 1)
  • 16 pairs of socks (roughly 6 hiking socks, 8 white gym socks, 2 casual socks)
  • 4 bras (hand-washed 2)
  • 1 down jacket (to wear in the evenings to dining hall, lectures)
  • 3 light fleece jackets/pullovers
  • 1 pair lounge pants (to wear in evenings to spa or communal lounge)
  • 2 long sleeve casual shirts (again, for “evening wear” when I was sick of workout clothes)
  • 1 pair gym sneakers (I did bring a back-up)
  • 2 pair hiking shoes (wasn’t sure which ones I’d want on the trail; did wear them both)
  • 1 pair flip flops
  • 1 pair clogs
  • 2 pair track pants
  • 1 windbreaker/rain jacket
  • 1 bathing suit (I did pack 3 total)
  • 2 nightshirts
  • 1 cotton sweatshirt for sleeping

I also overpacked my first aid kit. I did not want to have to buy items at the resort store (though it’s fully loaded with pain relievers, blister aids, etc.) I brought ThermaCare Heat Wraps, Nexcare Absolute Waterproof First Aid Tape, ban-daids, Pepto Bismol, epsom salts, Ben-Gay and lots of Advil.

I’d also pack ear plugs, in case a) your roommate snores or b) you have the loud heater on through the night. Truly, that forced-air heater was horrible. I’m guessing the cold air (it’s also the air-conditioner) makes the same loud noises.

Now, a few questions and answers…

Did you feel ostracized, being one of the thinner people there?

Not really. That is, I’m not usually the minority in any group. I blend in. But when I was at the resort, I’d say of the 30 people there, maybe five or six of us were not visibly overweight. (Of course, remember my first InBody measurements revealed I was actually a hair above “normal” on the body fat spectrum! So, one never knows what one’s body is comprised of… we all know “skinny fat” people.)

I think the only time I felt singled out was during a conversation at dinner when someone was talking about low-calorie diets. She claimed overweight people could subsist healthfully on 800 calories a day, because their bodies would just use their extra fat as fuel, as needed. She said to me, “Well, you couldn’t do that. You don’t have any fat.” I wanted to say, “Have you seen me naked?! I’ve got a belly! I’ve got thighs!”

Another average-sized woman, who gave me a big hug after the first Welcome Orientation, said she just wanted me to feel welcomed. She said few people really talked to her the first week she was there.

That said, I truly did see a variety of people at the resort for a variety of reasons. One average-sized guy had broken his ankle in the fall and hadn’t exercised for months; he needed to get back on track. Another average-sized woman was planning to stay at the resort for 8 weeks while her husband was out of the country for work. “My ass is going to be so firm, I’m going to be able to bounce a dime off it by the end of this!” (Loved that!)

There really were people of all shapes and sizes — very tall, big men in their 50s, a 22-year-old who accompanied her mother (but did not need to lose an ounce of weight), retired gray-haired women in their 60s.

I have to share the tale of one 50-something woman, who was always so wonderfully put together — hair always coiffed and makeup on. She worked really hard during our fitness classes, she was just one of those people who didn’t seem to sweat! She was at the resort wanting to lose a dress size or two, but she actually gained a lot more — so much confidence! It was wonderful to hear her testimonial: “My husband always tells me I’m beautiful, but for the first time ever, I believe him, too.” She said she “got me back” after just two weeks at the resort. I know she finished out her final two weeks (after I left) with enthusiasm and class. She’s one classy lady — beautiful inside and out.

Did you have any free time?

Not really. The days are packed. I could run to my room to eat my twice daily snacks and check email (wi-fi is included; signal is strong) between classes, but there was zero time to lie in the lounge chairs by the pool or watch even an episode of something on television during the day. Lectures end by 7 p.m., so there is free time in the evenings, but usually you’re so exhausted, you just want to take a bath (or have a spa treatment) and go to bed.

Wednesday night does bring a van trip to Target! That’s exciting for many folks, especially those who don’t have cars at the resort or who are there for several weeks. It’s a good time for purchasing any needed items (cheaper, usually, than the resort store). But be aware: eyes will be on you. No sneaking off to get a pretzel, popcorn or hot dog from the Target fast-food counter.

Did you get a break from daily exercise at all?

The only time people might just hang out in the pool for fun is Saturday afternoon or Sunday. Definitely not during the week! No free time!

The only time people might just hang out in the pool for fun is Saturday afternoon or Sunday. Definitely not during the week! No free time!

The only true rest day is Sunday. Stayover guests use Saturday afternoon/evening and all day Sunday to do laundry, get rides into town for some shopping, maybe take a day trip to Vegas (2 hours away) or Zion National Park, or see a movie. Frankly, if I were staying over another week, I don’t think I’d want to leave the resort! I’d watch mindless TV or take a walk or lie by the pool or get a massage at the on-site spa — I wouldn’t want to be tempted by the outside world.

Sunday is a bit of a rest day for kitchen staff, too. Breakfast is served, as usual, but then all guests (stayover and departing) get a healthy boxed lunch. I loved having that lunch to eat on my car ride home: hummus wrap, almonds, orange, bean dip and celery sticks. Perfect!

Oh, I will note that departing information for guests includes a fabulous guide to the healthy places to eat at the Salt Lake City airport and the Las Vegas airport — lists of restaurants and specific food items with calorie totals. I think this is brilliant. And if there isn’t a website that lists healthy airport food options worldwide, there should be. There’s a business opportunity for some enterprising web developer. You’re welcome.

Are there vegetarian or vegan meals?

Absolutely. Vegans and vegetarians would get a little card they put at top of their plate for every meal to make sure they get vegan/veggie options. After a couple days, waitstaff knows you, so they would bring out the veggie option without needing to look at the little card!

Guests with food allergies — or food aversions — can also get little cards made up. If you don’t eat shellfish (or nuts or eggplant), the cards will alert wait staff. There are always substitutions that can be made.

Did you take advantage of some of the extra services — spa, chiropractor, personal training, nutritionist, life coaching?

I indulged in three extra spa treatments (deep tissue massage, which was the best; lomi-lomi, which was great; and Hanakasumi leg treatment, which others had raved about, but I thought was just okay). But I didn’t pay any extra for other one-on-one sessions.

I was thankful I didn’t get injured or feel ridiculously sore during my week-long stay. But many other guests did. And those who sought treatment from the chiropractor/acupuncturist said he was awesome — really helped with their ailments.

The nutritionist does one-on-one coaching, and I believe the LCSW does, too. I know one afternoon she offered some “group counseling” for an additional fee, for a minimum of four people.

I’d think some personal training — to get some tips on a workout plan for returning home — would be helpful for those who don’t go to a gym at home. But I’d wait to book that session until you get to know all the trainers. They all have different personalities, and I’d think you’d want to work with the trainer you best mesh with!

Did you use a heart rate monitor?

The staff highly recommends using a heart rate monitor so you can make sure you’re working out in the right “zone” (i.e. best place for you to be working out efficiently – not too hard, not too light — for burning fat, or whatever.) And there is an entire lecture that discusses the benefits of heart-rate monitors.

I personally didn’t use a heart rate monitor, but I saw many other folks did. Some used bodybugg or Fitbit activity tracker devices.  I don’t think these monitors are necessary — but would be a fun piece of technology to play with.

Chocolate covered strawberries for dessert! That was a good day.

Chocolate covered strawberries for dessert! That was a good day.

Were you hungry?

Yes, at times. Never, ever starving. I found I’d get hungry right around meal time. Like at 12:30, sure enough, I’d be ready for lunch. Same for the early dinnertime at 5:20 p.m. The small snacks filled me up between meals. I really only felt hunger pains when I stayed up late-ish (i.e. 10 p.m.) a couple times. Then, I drank a lot of water and just tried to get to sleep fast.

At lunch and dinner we were able to help ourselves to a salad bar filled with greens, crisp vegetables, chopped hard boiled egg and garbanzo beans. Flavored vinegars were out on the bar, for us to use as needed. But if we wanted a vinaigrette — which had some oil in it — we had to ask waitstaff for it. The small containers of pre-measured dressing were kept hidden in the kitchen.

Would you go back?

Sure, I’d be delighted — truly — to spend another week at Fitness Ridge. But I hope I don’t have to go. That is, I’d like to think that I have all the tools I need to succeed at home — integrating regular vigorous exercise and healthy, non-emotional eating into my lifestyle.

My week-long stay was perfect. I was ready to go home after just one week. I missed my family. But I could have stayed. In fact so many people said that the first week basically sucks, because your body is adjusting to all the intense exercise and less food than you’re used to, and the second week is much easier.

It’s fascinating the number of repeat visitors I met. So many people had been at the resort before — or were already planning to return later in the year! Frankly, I don’t think I’d want to spend another couple thousand dollars there, and again, I hope I wouldn’t have to go. But if someone sent me there, heck yeah, I’d go back!

Got more questions? Ask away in the comments below!

Past coverage of my stay at The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge: check-in and weigh-in, followed by Days 1 to 3 and Days 4 to 6 and final weigh in — it’ll make more sense if you read this series in order!

14 Comments on "Exercise Vacation Tips for Visiting The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge"

  1. I so want to do this! But what an idiot that woman was that said people could subsist on 800 calories a day.

  2. I would love to go on a trip like this!!

  3. I’m quite interested in checking this fitness resort. Looks kind of fun? …. .

  4. I don’t often get to read much online, but I’m glad to have found this article. You are a unique writer with a special flair.

  5. I am scheduled to visit Niagara for 2 weeks in May / June of this year. Your blog was interesting and insightful. I’m so excited to go, but since I rarely do any exercise, I hope my body stays alive during week 1. Thank you for all of the tips.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this. I am headed to the BL Malibu resort on the 24th of March…7 days and counting. I can’t wait. I loved that you posted what you packed and what you wore. That will be so helpful.

    • You should just be getting back today, would love to hear about your visit as I am going in Dec.

  7. Thanks for this series. I am going to Malibu for two weeks starting 12/29. Reading what your workouts were gives me a great place to start with my home workout before I go to increase my stamina. I am excited and scared at the same time!

  8. Nice place. i really wish if i would be there..

  9. HI! I love this recap of your stay! I’m going in 2 1/2 weeks and this was soooo helpful. It’s way less scary now for me! And I hope I’m not in van #5 now!! LOL!

  10. Thanks for the info…very helpful. Question: Do they provide bottled water? If we take our own water container, I assume they have filtered water available? Thanks!

    • Kara Williams | April 25, 2014 at 6:24 pm |

      YES to filtered water; no to bottled water. They give you a reusable water bottle at checkin.

  11. Franchesca S. | May 1, 2014 at 9:44 am | Reply

    I just discovered this website. What is the name of that cookbook? I’d like to order it.
    Thanks.
    Franchesca

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