Recently, Jason and I had the opportunity to visit Hilton Head Health (H3) on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for 4 active and healthy—and full!—days. Here’s a snapshot of one beautifully lived day at H3.
6:15 a.m. The morning alarm. Eyes wide open—no snooze today. I’m giddy with excitement about the activities ahead. I’ve already been at H3 for two days, so I’m definitely feeling my muscles but I also feel energized.
6:45 a.m. The H3 van picks up a group of 5 of us and together we gently shuttle through the local corridors of canopied Spanish moss that drapes down from 40 and 50 feet tall oak trees to the beach’s entrance about 5 minutes away.
7:00 a.m. We begin our morning beach walk beside a relatively calm Atlantic Ocean. The fresh beach air is almost sweet here, and this is a quiet way to warm up and stretch the legs. By the time the sun showed her warm face at 7:09 on that particular day, our walking group was already a few hundred yards down the beach from our sandy start.
8:00 a.m. We lay out our mats on the beach and get ready for morning Beach Yoga for 80 minutes of bliss, and deep breathing as we face the morning sky and the Atlantic as our backdrop. Our athletic teacher, a self-described ‘beach gal’, leads us through a yoga flow class and the daytime sun contributes to the warming of our muscles and our minds to the day. The class was enjoyable and appropriate for various levels as we ranged from beginners, a couple individuals with moderate experience, and one very experienced yoga practitioner besides our teacher. A quality that was evident during our 4 days at Hilton Head Health was the careful attention that was taken to ensure that the needs, experience, and participation of different guests with distinct though somewhat overlapping goals were being fulfilled.
9:30 a.m. Breakfast is truly a thing of culinary beauty and much anticipated—as is every meal—at H3! It’s also a time to get to know and share some stories, H3 experiences, and smiles with fellow guests, all of whom are on at least week-long health getaways, with many who are at Hilton Head Health for 2, 3 and even 4-week weight-loss or overall wellness-focused journeys. On this bright morning (usually served starting at 7:30 a.m.), I chose the fresh fruit crepe with whipped coconut cream and garnished with house-made coconut cashew butter and a mouth-watering berry coulis for a modest 210 calories. Not knowing what the day would have in store in terms of strenuous physical fitness and also out of culinary curiosity, I also ordered the Signature H3 Goji Berry & Almond Granola with a side of Greek yogurt with vanilla and local honey to taste and split with Jason. It was as expected: Delicious. I had gotten accustomed to the fact that the calorie-controlled, but moderate and generous portions of food were fresh and flavorful without exception. The day prior, I had ordered and enjoyed the smoked salmon and blini with sunny side up quail eggs, fresh dill, and served with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. A must try when visiting the property for a few days, as are any of the half-dozen or so daily primary choices when it comes to breakfast at Hilton Head Health. I also found the talented kitchen staff and servers are delighted to prepare any of these dishes ‘your way’ with seasonal fruit, or various sides like the H3 Cinnamon Banana Oatmeal with chia, thin avocado slices, an additional egg, steamed asparagus, or a housemade tempeh breakfast patty. The selections are carefully designed and offered to fit the caloric and health needs of guests…and to pique their taste buds, too.
11:00 a.m. We’re off to one of several fitness studios to give Body Sculpting a try. And wow, is that a challenging 50 minutes! Using hand weights and resistance bands, the instructor guided us through several whole body exercises intended to touch on and challenge all of the body’s major muscle groups with the sole purpose of totally toning our bodies. I don’t think I walked out having completely toned my whole body from the single class, but I certainly felt my whole body and found myself laughing my way through as I rediscovered and reawakened muscles I hadn’t communicated with in some time.
Every class I tried while at H3 was fun and geared to accommodate a range of fitness levels with the instructors’ guidance. I really loved the Low Country Treading (more below), Boxing Circuit with Camila, and 30-minute Aqua Tabata. Here are descriptions of the more than 65 different exercise and fitness classes offered at H3.
12:15 p.m Jason and I met for lunch to compare notes on our mornings. Mealtime is a welcomed time to sit from an active, fabulous morning. Chef Hicham Elmadi is a highly-praised and incredibly appreciated member of the H3 team and he shares his culinary enthusiasm with the guests at every meal. He’s very hands-on and has created a brilliant and very mindful rotating and seasonal menu at True, the property’s primary dining facility located at the heart of Hilton Head Health. We just love the tagline of the restaurant: True food is local, flavorful and wholesome. True to nature. True to you. What a simple yet elegant and tremendously flavorful guiding principle. Well, we decided on splitting a couple of dishes on this particular afternoon, the Mediterranean Plate and an H3 ‘go-to’, the Lobster Salad, which is served poached over radishes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, avocado and romaine and tossed in a mouth-watering citrus vinaigrette. Sound like diet food? Nope, it didn’t look like it either. Everything is mindfully plated with portions well-controlled, but beautifully presented so that it looks satisfying and plentiful. We also shared two of the house favorite salads, the Roasted Beet Salad and the French Lentil & Butternut Squash Salad with roasted butternut squash, lentils, sautéed celery and carrots tossed in extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and sage. The Mediterranean-inspired and ever-changing and evolving menus at True restaurant are truly special. They are indeed calorie-controlled, geared to support the health and weight goals of the guests, offering a daily range between 1200-1600 calories.
1:00 – 3:00 p.m. We had signed up for a special activity: a Hands-On Cooking Class with Chef Karla Williams and her assistant, Chef Carrie Adams. The class got under away with some basic knife skills techniques before jumping in to our ‘assignments’ from the H3 Healthy Kitchen. Two of our fave dishes that we created together (paired up in teams of 2) were the Chicken Stir Fry with yellow onion, red and green bell peppers, and broccoli florets, and also the Mediterranean Quinoa which is a cool-temperature summer salad chock full of vegetables in a simple and tasty EVOO and garlic, mint, and basil marinade. Simple, everyday recipes with exceptional amounts of. . .Yum! The small group class is structured, and the recipes have been developed, to accommodate beginners to more experienced cooks. Each recipe is versatile geared to help the home cook can quickly learn to add and subtract ingredients in order to customize it and start making more tasty (and healthy!) dishes in at home. This was key: the class was fun and practical. These were strategies and recipes we could actually put into circulation for eating in our real lives outside of H3.
3:30 p.m. I made it just in the nick of time to participate in the popular Low Country Treading class taught on the most high-tech and cushioned treadmills that I have ever experienced, Woodway treadmills. I later found out that many professional football teams and other pro athletes also turned specifically to these treadmills for the best and ultimate treadmill workout and experience. You might be thinking that a treadmill class might be a drag, but these classes are anything but! They are challenging—allowing you to individually push yourself at your own level—and the time flies by. The class warms you up, and increasingly challenges you with speed, intensity and elevation changes; the only thing missing is the actual outdoor scenery and occasional alligator. Each mini interval really pushed my cardio capabilities. I enjoyed this class so much, that I went back the next day for ‘seconds’.
4:30 p.m. brought with it tangible physical fatigue, and also a sense of real accomplishment after the nonstop smiling-while-sweating day that was at this point behind us. So, Jason and I met up to join a quiet class of only 6 of us for the final instructed class of the day, Stretch & Relaxation, before making our way over to the Indigo Spa to take advantage of their healing hands and serenity.
5:30 p.m. Jason decided to try the 50-minute Arnica Sore Muscle Deep Tissue Massage, which came highly recommended, and he reported blissful relief afterward. He looked so relaxed while waiting for me in the spa’s relaxation room, and it took a couple of gentle nudges to bring him back to alert reality for our walk over to dinner. And I pampered with the 80-minute Naturally Slimming Ritual, a signature treatment at the spa. It combines an exfoliation with coffee, olive stone and lemon with a lymphatic masque facial and a full-body massage. What a healing treat! And their use of only natural products like Red Flower, Eminence Organic Skin Care, and Jane Iredale products was a real draw and bonus for me.
The Indigo Spa only just opened its doors early in 2015, and it has already been recognized as one of the top spas in the nation, and the Favorite New U.S. Spa by American Spa in its July Professional’s Choice Awards. Overlooking Hilton Head Health’s natural neighboring lagoon, the Relaxation Room just seemed to keep calling to us. We ended up succumbing, and making that space our end-of-day meeting room just to go over our individual days and share a few minutes of time hand in hand…
7:00 p.m. A terrific reminder about an active day is that you’re never too long between meals. Even though the calories are controlled and guests regularly experience steady, consistent and impressive weight-loss at H3, it feels like you’re eating frequently and well. There are two Fit Bite snack breaks in the day, too, which we only missed because this particular day’s schedule had a later breakfast and a cooking class built in. We arrived a bit later than usual to dinner this night due to our spa treatments, but they were aware and accommodated us in full style. Dinner time is celebratory and festive starting at 5:30 p.m. Guests, us among the group, tend to be social at dinner reflecting on the day, sharing and laughing about the experiences, insights and also the challenges. It feels a bit like summer camp, but there’s also a serious and supportive side too. People interact to share and encourage each other. Some people choose to be a bit more solo on their journey I noticed, too. The other more social guests respect that while quietly making sure they feel welcomed if they choose. I selected the Grapefruit and Heirloom Tomato Salad and Jason chose the highly recommended White Bean Soup as starters. For my entrée, I had the Crab Cake that was served with pineapple and cashew ‘fried’ rice, an avocado aioli and a mix of sliced Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage and more. It was delicious! Jason was equally happy with his Grilled Pork Chop with local peach chutney, accompanied by mashed sweet potatoes and green beans. Seriously, though we were at a health and fitness resort program, these menu items could have been at any top restaurant. It was great proof that healthy and delicious with reasonable portions can happen in the real world.
Many nights H3 offers evening programs after dinner. Our evening program was rest. We opted to go back to our cottage and practice the other important health activity that we had learned about in a terrific class we took the day before by long-time resident director of education, Bob Wright: Sleep
Thus ended one very full and active day of fitness, nourishment, and enrichment for the body and mind. Each day at H3 provides the same type of consistent schedule while providing a variety of different types of classes to instruct and guide guests through the actual living and experiencing through their health-inspired day. With some new memories, new friends, new recipes and new muscles, we both left refreshed and refocused on our health goals and ready to get back to our life at home.
Hilton Head Health is a destination health and fitness resort with a spa that offers programs on wellness, weight-loss, and longevity. Offering one week and longer programs, H3 provides fitness training and coaching, nutrition workshops and counseling, numerous wellness and health behavior classes, gourmet spa cuisine, and a full range of spa services. The award-winning resort is located on beautiful Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.