Tennessee Fitness Spa Featured in Life On The Water Magazine
By Ann Rezabek, Life On The Water
Water spilled over the limestone ridge, turning a wooden water wheel carrying soothing dripdrops into a stream. A cool breeze snuck around the corner. My eyes closed as I breathed deeply. Being captivated by nature’s beauty is rare for me, and I wanted to relish the moment.
Quiet, curving roads had led me here…to the Tennessee Fitness Spa. People from all over the world come here
for any number of reasons -- to lose weight, get healthy, exercise, eat right, quit smoking, relax, rejuvenate or simply center themselves. Positive changes and new beginnings are perhaps easier here, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the world and busy lives.
Quiet, curving roads had led me here…to the Tennessee Fitness Spa. People from all over the world come here for any number of reasons -- to lose weight, get healthy, exercise, eat right, quit smoking, relax, rejuvenate or simply center themselves. Positive changes and new beginnings are perhaps easier here, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the world and busy lives.
Joe and his wife Nancy decided to buy the stunning 100-acre piece of land in Waynesboro, Tennessee and transform it into a fitness spa much like ones he enjoyed frequenting. Within a year, the property was cleared and cleaned, buildings were spruced up, and rustic chalets were built. What was once a recreational trout fishing camp, then a tourist resort, and then a country music concert venue,officially became the Tennessee Fitness Spa (TFS) in 1991.
Able to accommodate 58 guests today, the family owned and operated spa is welcoming. Rachel Miller, the general manager and daughter of Joe and Nancy, says the spa strives to be affordable and accessible. Rooms are basic, clean and comfortable…not luxurious. Wayne County’s lower cost ofliving helps keep spa costs down, while pampering services like massages and manicures are offered as extras rather than being included in standard rates. These factors combine to provide a good value for the investment in your health.
The spa is definitely fitness-oriented with plenty of exercise equipment, hiking trails and a racquetball court. Classes like free-weight aerobics, Tabata and aqua abs are offered in the aerobics gym and the enclosed, heated pool. Nutrition, self-defense and other educational and motivational classes, plus fun activities like bingo and occasional special events are also options for spa guests. The hot tub, sauna and sun deck are popular spots for relaxing during the typical week-long stay.
But the property’s natural beauty constantly yet quietly vies for my attention. The incredibly clean and clear Forty-Eight Creek gurgles and tumbles near the rustic chalets and cozy dining hall and porch. And the only known doublespan natural bridge formation in the world is found here. It’s magnificent! A nearby freshwater spring weathered the limestone for millions of years to give us this wonder.
While the spa offers much in the way of natural beauty, facilities, classes and activities, I found its greatest asset to be the gracious, caring staff. They provide a non-threatening, non-judgmental and safe environment where guests can feel comfortable and encouraged to take those first steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Each staff member was genuinely open, friendly and helpful…ready to meet guests on their current fitness level while providing them with the knowledge, tools and encouragement to move forward.
Many of the staff have been here a long time by today’s standards yet remain passionate about their work. For 13 years Head Chef Belinda Jones has joyfully served up her passion for good nutrition. Guests enjoy three tasty, limited-calorie meals daily, with vegan and vegetarian options available. The salad and fruit bar can supplement your meals and healthy snacks are yours for the taking in a small refrigerator found in the dining room’s comfortable lobby. Just for the record, my favorite dish was the Very Berry Raspberry Parfait; it was beautiful to look at and even better to eat!
Fitness Director Kimi Kelley, a bundle of energy at the spa for 11 years, constantly inspires guests to reach for better health whether you’re chatting with her in the dining room or working hard in a class. Even though I was nervous before the new-to-me aqua aerobics and Resist-A-Ball classes, I had fun and was challenged. Kimi and all the instructors offer suggestions during classes and morning walks to accommodate guests of all fitness levels.
My favorite walk, though, was Dean Ware’s historical tour of the Natural Bridge. Nobody here seems to know more about nature and local history than Dean, who graciously shares his knowledge. He’s also in charge of grounds beautification, a task he usually performs while whistling beautiful melodies. Friends come here together, as well as husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces. Plenty of individuals visit, too. All have a story to tell.
Rachel Cooke was serving in Afghanistan as a U.S. diplomat when she discovered TFS online. She was searching for a
place to decompress and lose weight once she’d completed her assignment overseas. TFS was ultimately a better value than a similar spa in Spain. She spent two weeks at TFS in 2011 and was back for a return visit when I met her.
Lucinda Gibson of Sandy Springs, Georgia first came to TFS in 1997. She has come back almost every year since
then. During the two years she missed her spa trip, cancer took away her appetite and contributed to her significant weight loss. Now cancer free, she continues to visit TFS for a yearly rejuvenation.
The catalyst for Katie Swift came during her 40th birthday party in Edinburgh, Scotland. A surprise photo album couldn’t lie. She said the hardest part was “seeing what you had done to yourself.” Deciding it was time to invest in her health, Katie found TFS online. Soon after, it became her home for 12 weeks. The beginning was the hardest; then physical and emotional successes started rolling in weekly. Now, 56 pounds lighter, Katie says she is ready to continue living a healthy life.
The stories continue..... Marianne Hutchison from Brevard, North Carolina has come here twice a year for five years; she calls the visits her “six-month tone-ups.” Linda Brunton has travelled here 10 times from Nashville, Tennessee since her first visit in 2008; each time, she takes a dip in Forty-Eight Creek with anyone who is game. (Most guests are more likely to fish than swim in the creek’s cool waters.)
Let’s get back to Katie. I was fortunate to be at TFS when she received her Block of Fame before heading back to Scotland. You earn a block by losing 50 pounds, 50 inches or 25% body fat. She epitomizes what this spa is all about – people making healthy, positive changes. Katie’s new block and 27 others along a pretty path testify to the power of the human will and the success to be embraced at the Tennessee Fitness Spa.
In opening myself to this new experience, I was apprehensive. Those uncertainties dissolved as I realized all the guests were on the same journey regardless of the unique lives and motivations that led us here. Ours was a strong common bond. The trip ultimately reaffirmed and strengthened my beliefs that the human spirit is a mighty force, extraordinary changes are quite possible, and it’s easier with a little help from friends. Feeling inspired and hopeful, I packed up the car. Quiet, curving roads led me home.