RUGGED & RE­LAX­ING

These ac­tiv­ity- based spa re­sorts give you a leg up on fit­ness

Chicago Sun-Times - - WELL - BY AN­NETTE THOMP­SON

Check into a re­treat to jump- start a wellness pro­gram or el­e­vate your fit­ness level to a new de­gree on a spe­cial­ized ex­er­cise cir­cuit. Af­ter the sweat- in­duced eu­pho­ria, let your body rest with a swoon- wor­thy spa treat­ment. When you’ve set­tled down and un­packed that suit­case full of guilt, treat your­self to one of these re­wards. Af­ter work­ing and play­ing hard, you’ll re­turn home feel­ing bet­ter over­all, and health­ier too.

The Omni, Grove Park Inn, Asheville, N. C., om­ni­ho­tels.com/ho­tels/asheville- grove- park/spa

The spec­tac­u­lar grotto pool at the Grove Park Inn en­tices you with mas­sag­ing wa­ter­falls and min­eral baths. In the even­ings, a drink on the ter­race de­liv­ers the best sun­set view in town. And the big­gest bonus of a fall spa trip to Asheville is the view of the moun­tains’ au­tum­nal coat of golds, or­anges and reds. The Inn makes a fine home base to ex­plore this gate­way to the Ap­palachi­ans.

The Cir­cuit: Go for a long moun­tain run on the prop­erty’s hik­ing trails. If you’ve got game, play some ten­nis on the in­door or out­door courts. Or flex your mus­cles with a ses­sion of my­ofas­cial re­lease ( to ease mus­cle tight­ness) and yoga. Sched­ule white­wa­ter raft­ing with the Nan­ta­hala Out­door Cen­ter, which main­tains an out­fit­ter on- site.

The Spa: Detox with a salt- stone mas­sage, then spend an af­ter­noon in one of 20 pools around the Grove Park’s grotto. You can also head into town to Wake Foot Sanc­tu­ary, which in­vites you to an in­vig­o­rat­ing foot soak and mas­sage, as does Still Point Wellness, which also lets you float in a salt­wa­ter sensory- de­pri­va­tion tank.

The Re­ward: Asheville Wellness Tours will guide you to a lo­cal honey bar and other health- minded shops via foot. At the Asheville Salt Cave, you can sink into a “ze­ro­grav­ity” chair and re­bal­ance your body’s chem­i­cals. Alchemy is an al­ter­na­tive tea­room that in­cludes acupunc­ture, mas­sage and Chi­nese medicine on its menu. Or head to one of the gal­leries in the River Arts District, the Folk Art Cen­ter on the Blue Ridge Park­way or the Blue Spi­ral 1 gallery and fill your lug­gage with one- of- a- kind art.

Hawks Cay Re­sort, Duck Key, Fla. hawkscay.com

This lit­tle spit of land halfway be­tween Mi­ami and Key West de­liv­ers fall color the Florida way — with trop­i­cal blue waters teem­ing with neon- col­ored fish. The spa en­tices you in­doors, but the op­por­tu­nity to spend a day rid­ing a Wave-Run­ner, fish­ing for tro­phies or snor­kel­ing in the aqua­ma­rine sea just might win out.

The Cir­cuit: Be­fore you head out each day, take in a 7: 30 a. m. boot camp class to pump up your mus­cles for a day on the wa­ter. This is the ideal place to work on your stand- up pad­dle­board chops. For a chal­lenge, sign up for kitesurf­ing lessons; the flat wa­ter is ideal to learn to zip and jump through waves.

The Spa: Af­ter those work­outs, sched­ule a Calm Waters Cus­tom Mas­sage that blends Swedish and deep tis­sue tech­niques with a hot stone mas­sage. If you get a sun­burn hav­ing all that fun, the spa’s skin res­cue treat­ment uses chilled stones to ap­ply a cool­ing gel con­cocted from co­conut oil, pas­sion­flower ex­tract and cold- pressed dilo nut oil.

The Re­ward: Keep it sim­ple. Order a Skinny Cu­cum­ber Lemon­ade shaker at the Beach Grill and hang out in the Tran­quil­ity Pool. When hunger strikes, head to the An­gler and Ale and dive into the Is­land Tuna Crudo, the ce­viche of the day or the Trea­sure Coast Salad. If you’ve just got to see more of the Keys, too­tle down the Over­seas High­way in a con­vert­ible to feel the ocean breezes in your hair.

Lake Austin, Spa Re­sort, Austin, Texas; lakeaustin.com

This spa be­lieves wa­ter is heal­ing and restora­tive, so most of your time will be spent on and in the wa­ter. The mo­ment you ar­rive in the Texas cap­i­tal, Lake Austin Spa picks you up and takes you on a 30- minute cruise to the re­sort in its wa­ter taxi. The lushly land­scaped prop­erty houses guests in lowslung ca­sitas ( lit­tle cot­tages) with lake views; you eat all your meals on­site and choose from more than 100 classes and treat­ments catered to your spe­cific goals.

The Cir­cuit: Warm fall days mean you can get on the lake and not bake. Choose from wa­ter- based boot camp ses­sions with kayaks, pedal boards or hy­dro bikes, as well as aqua- fit classes, where bal­ance and strength come into play while you ex­er­cise on a sturdy float­ing mat aboard a pad­dle­board.

The Spa: Your ther­a­pist will meet you in the shal­low waters of the Pool Barn for an Aqua Stretch mas­sage- as­sisted stretch­ing ses­sion. Or sim­ply add as­sisted stretch­ing to any deep, full- body ta­ble mas­sage. Not only will it en­hance ath­letic per­for­mance, but stretch­ing, com­bined with mas­sage, can help lengthen and heal mus­cles.

The Re­ward: Start with a cook­ing class— learn to make ravi­oli or paella from scratch — and then book a pri­vate wine cruise for sun­down. An­other op­tion: Skip back into town for in­die mu­sic shows and Tex- Mex fla­vors along South Congress Av­enue.

Red Moun­tain Re­sort, St. Ge­orge, Utah, red­moun­tain­re­sort.com

Set into the red rock wilder­ness of south­ern Utah, Red Moun­tain fills your days with fit­ness classes and chal­lenges, spa treat­ments and ex­plo­rations to Zion and Bryce Canyon na­tional parks, as well as nearby Snow Canyon State Park. Dur­ing the early fall months, daily tem­per­a­tures can heat up into the low 80s or 90s, with cool re­fresh­ing nights. Bring your swim­suit and a jacket, and be pre­pared for a night­time star show.

The Cir­cuit: Pedal a bike through the desert at Kayenta on a gen­tle 6- mile up­hill jour­ney, with a stop at a pottery filled cof­fee­house en route to the Desert Rose Labyrinth and Sculp­ture Gar­den. The next day, join a wet hike into Zion Na­tional Park. You’ll wade through the Vir­gin River as 1,000- foot walls, with fluted land­forms that look like zebra stripes, nar­row into a spec­tac­u­lar canyon.

The Spa: Be­cause you’re in the desert, seek treat­ments that make use of its in­dige­nous ele­ments. The Adobe Laven­der Hy­drat­ing Co­coon be­gins with a gen­tle ex­fo­li­a­tion; your skin is then swathed with lo­cal red clay, full of heal­ing min­er­als that en­er­gize tired joints and mus­cles. The clay is said to speed the heal­ing of bruises while the laven­der hy­drates.

The Re­ward: Bring along a cam­era as you kayak at sun­set on a lo­cal lake for In­sta­gram- wor­thy shots. Or sign up for an in­tu­itive en­ergy read­ing to cre­ate men­tal and emo­tional bal­ance. You can even in­dulge in hyp­notic im­agery ses­sions to help change life­style be­hav­iors.

| THE OMNI GROVE PARK INN

Au­tum­nal col­ors serve as the back­drop to The Omni, Grove Park Inn.

| DAVID PET­TIT, VIA US­ATO­DAY

Warm days and cool nights pro­vide a com­fort­able set­ting for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties at the Red Moun­tain Re­sort.

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