By Jerry Shriver, USA Today
Hiking 8 miles before breakfast is not a skill I shall summon often, as I plan to structure my life to avoid such things. But thanks to my recent week-long stay at the Tennessee Fitness Spa, I now know that I possess the will and the power to stride smartly at dawn should the need arise.
Little acts of self-discovery are precious, and at this retreat 95 miles southwest of Nashville, they come easily and cheaply. Places where slugs like me can get in shape without dropping a bundle are a thriving subgroup within the usually posh spa world. And the Tennessee Fitness Spa has emerged as a leader.
Teachers, sales reps, homemakers, and creaky-kneed journalists from throughout the country have flocked to this 99 acre campus since 1991, seeking relief from middle-class malaise amid majestic sycamores, butterfly colonies, and Nautilus machines. The key attraction: prices that are among the lowest in the country.
“The spa industry for a long time had the reputation of being something very expensive,” Frank van Putten of the independent booking service SpaFinders had told me as I started my search. “But I believe it is undeserved when you look at the prices and when you look at the things you receive.”
I settled on Tennessee Fitness Spa because of the price but wondered if low cost would mean low-rent. Bunk beds in barracks? Bean sprouts on a bed of iceberg lettuce?
Try pork tenderloin in wine sauce, a 30-by-60-foot exercise pool with a hot tub on the side and a modest but comfy room overlooking a babbling brook.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m more than happy,” says guest Billie Delaney of Mobile, Ala., who booked a two-week stay. “It’s not regimented, and I like the casualness of not having to dress up for dinner.”
She and I are among 26 guests (capacity is 58) who check in to tone up, but I am the only guy. This creates a not-unpleasant sensation of my having crashed a slumber party…..