This post was created in partnership with Rancho La Puerta and J Public Relations. Travel and accommodations were provided, however the opinions expressed here are my own.
“I don’t know, I’m not really a runner,” came her reply to my invitation to join the trail run I was leading at the end of the week.
“That’s OK! You should still join us. It will be really low key. I know it’ll be beautiful out there!” the enthusiasm in my reply bordered on dorky.
When you’re passionate about something and are asked to share that with others it is easy to get a little excited…or a lot excited. A few months ago I was contacted by Rancho La Puerta’s marketing team and invited to The Ranch to lead a few group trail runs and teach a running related fitness class.
When I mentioned to friends that my husband and I were headed to Mexico, I could see them conjure images of a stereotypical all-inclusive vacation with swim-up bars, too much tequila and worries of “not drinking the water.”
A Different Kind of Vacation
Topping the list as one of the World’s premier destination wellness resorts and spas, Rancho La Puerta’s quiet mindful approach to getting away is far more “retreat” than “vacation.” Located just 90 minutes south of San Diego, the expansive and lushly landscaped Ranch grounds ease you into a feeling of complete relaxation. You’re encouraged to completely unplug, turn off your phone and tap into a mental and physical state of well-being; a far cry from any stereotype associated with week-long getaways to Mexico.
When Mark and I arrived on Saturday afternoon we wandered the pathways through the gardens and between the adobe style buildings to acquaint ourselves with our home for the next week. Guests stay in private casitas and Mark and I found ours up the hill and down a shaded path, with views overlooking Mt. Kuchumaa.
So Much to Do
Armed with a small binder of information provided by Rancho La Puerta we quickly realized that there were more activities, classes and spa services at our disposal than we could ever possibly take advantage of in one visit. The Ranch offered fitness classes included TRX, Aerial Yoga, Pilates, Circuit Training, Spin Classes among others; lectures on nutrition, stress and communication, and world-class cooking classes. We started to map out what we might want to try over the course of our stay. Mark was keen on attending the lectures and so was I. As avid podcast junkies we love to listen together and then spend time discussing them, the lectures would be no different. Along with teaching my own Strength Training for Runner’s class and leading a group trail run, I was eager to try a TRX class, pilates, aerial yoga and the OCR course. We each scheduled a massage and signed up to take a cooking class together the evening of our anniversary.
Miles and Smiles
On Monday morning I was eager to get my first taste of the trails at Rancho La Puerta. From the multitude of returning guests, we heard that the highlight of everyone’s experience seemed to be the early morning mountain views glimpsed from the miles of groomed trails. Most visitors to Rancho La Puerta return year after year, and it is clear the Ranch cultivates this sense of family and community not just among the guests, but the staff as well.
Everywhere we turned there was a smiling face, eager to answer questions or help us out in any way possible. This included Martin, the Obstacle Course leader who met us at 6:30am with a smile. He led myself and a group of curious guests (and total OCR newbs) through the obstacle course and we each tried our hand pulling ropes, crawling under nets and scaling walls, cheering each other as we did. I walked away sore, a little bruised, but with my confidence built: I’d managed to tackle the hardest version of every obstacle proving that all the time I’ve spent on mastering a pull-up has paid off.
Later on in the week, I had the chance to get out on the trails on my own and was rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the canyon below. The groomed, well-marked trails made taking in the sights easy. The Coyote Trail wound it’s way up the into the mountains, before plateauing. From there I continued onto the Professor’s Loop and charged down the switchbacks back towards the ranch. Later trail runs took me through the shaded woodlands of the ranch, each time out on the trails something new caught my eye: a road runner, countless bunnies, soaring hawks.
I balanced my morning runs with cross training in the form of TRX, mat Pilates and aerial yoga. Suspended, weightless in the aerial silks I was able to let go and relax-a completely therapeutic experience.
Fueled on Fresh
We fueled our active week with the freshly picked, organic food for which Rancho La Puerta is known. Early on my husband, Mark was slightly concerned about the vegetarian offerings and “spa portions,” but quickly found he could stay satisfied by loading up on a big breakfast (hello, breakfast tacos!) and lunch, and by asking for avocado to accompany his meals.
The freshness of the fruits and vegetables made up for the meat-less meals and inspired creativity at the breakfast and lunch buffet: the morning’s omelet served over a plate of beans and topped with the Ranch’s “Hot Sauce.” Our cooking class at the Ranch’s La Cocina que Canta tested our creativity and teamwork, but satisfied us with the most delicious dinner of our stay.
Led by Joe Yonan, The Washington Post’s Food and Dining Editor and acclaimed cookbook author, our class walked through the six-acre organic farm where we picked ingredients for our meal.
In the kitchen, we followed recipes from Joe’s latest cookbook, “America the Great Cookbook,” to create a complete meal. That evening happened to also be Mark and my fourteenth wedding anniversary and the tranquil setting of the Cocina, coupled with making a dish together proved to be a perfect way to celebrate.
At Rancho La Puerta they have cultivated a mindful community, evident in the care the staff puts into everything from making the beds to leading the hikes. And the experience fosters connection between the guests as well-we met some amazing people during our stay.
The remainder of the week, we split our time between attending classes and lectures, and relaxing poolside. When our final day rolled around it was hard to believe our experience was coming to an end.
Retreat and Resolve
“You made it!” I said and raised my hand for a high-five, my reluctant runner had decided to join us-perhaps my dorky enthusiasm had won her over? Our little group gathered in the Main Lounge before heading out into the cool morning towards the trailhead. I led the group through a dynamic warm-up and then we were off, settling into a gentle pace down the dirt path and out into the chaparral.
Along the winding turns of the trail we ran, talking about family and career and sport and friends. Over dry creek beds and under ancient oaks, until four miles later we arrived back where we had started—newly minted “trail runners.”
The beauty of running-of any activity really, whether you’re on a trail or suspended from aerial silks is that you are forced out of your comfort zone and into that space where we find a strength that we didn’t know we had. I think that’s the beauty of Rancho La Puerta, it is equal parts retreat and resolve, comfort and discomfort: a place to simultaneously find yourself and create something knew.
Have you ever been to a wellness spa or resort? Have you been on retreat with your significant other?
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com