Important things that you didn’t know you needed to know!
So you’ve decided to do a weight loss camp in Canada. Great! Now what? There are many options out there, and new wellness retreats opening all the time.
Most weight loss camp programs are operated as a pop-up business model. This works where the fitness instructor collaborates with a hotel resort. They run fitness classes through the day, and coordinate healthy dining with the restaurant hotel. There’s usually workshops and yoga included. Fun! But things can go horribly wrong, if you don’t ask the right questions. Take, for example, this story below.
Recently I met two women who had flown out from the East Coast to attend a yoga retreat in Malibu. You know . . . the beautiful beachside oasis just a few miles west of Los Angeles. These were intelligent, successful people who loved yoga but who had never been on a retreat before. The ‘villa’ turned out to be, as one of the women put it, “just some house the teacher found on AirBnB.” They discovered that the practice space was the living room – they had to move all the furniture around before and after every practice. Needless to say, the women decided this wasn’t the wellness retreat for them.
Canadians are traveling to local wellness retreats in B.C. such as West Coast Fitness Vacations. This wellness retreat company is based in Whistler and Vancouver Island. As the owner, I thought it might be helpful to write out the top questions to ask (or look for) before making your decision.
1 – Find out where exactly you’re staying
TIP: You’ll pay more for a premium location.
Whistler Fitness Vacations is situated in one of the most expensive towns in the country. The cost of living in Whistler is pretty similar to downtown Toronto – we joke about ‘air tax’ here. That’s when you go outside for 5 minutes, breathe the beautiful mountain air and somehow, you’ve just spent $20.
Simply put, there’s no comparison between joining our program… and joining a similar program in Nowhereville, USA.
Whistler is a happening place… a world class mountain town with everything going on: festivals, events and sports. But there’s also the quietness of the wilderness, and for guests in our premium program, a gorgeous luxury hotel to call home. Our partnership lodging is at the Westin Resort and Spa, right in the heart of town.
2 – What else do you do besides fitness?
If you’re craving a deeper connection with nature – we’re your place! With giant mountain ranges, gorgeous forests, divine lakes – everywhere you look is inspiring.
Yet although our fitness vacations offer an incredible lineup of hiking, biking, kayaking and outdoor fitness classes, deeper connection to the big picture goals is just as important. We offer a range of classes, activities and workshops in a natural environment, that allow guests to unwind and reboot.
We also prioritize emotional healing with issues such as sleep, stress, lifestyle patterns and more. Each customer makes our program unique…it’s a pleasure to be invited into the exciting challenge that lies ahead for every new guest. West Coast Fitness Vacations is an outdoor program for those who want to start a more meaningful lifestyle.
Guests can tailor their precious time towards what best aligns with needs and goals.
3 – What do you eat there?
About ten years ago, I was invited to a rafting resort to host one of my boot camp weight loss retreat programs. It was ‘glamping’, catered with delicious food with their resort chef. Most of the participants lost weight and felt great, but as the food was catered, nobody really knew how to eat this way at home.
I kept in touch with several customers, as I do with all retreat guests, and the success rate of keeping the weight off was significantly lower than at Whistler Fitness Vacations. Here, guests cook their own meals, shop their groceries, and choose healthy meals at the many restaurants in town. The learning is integrative, wholesome and real – with nutrition education a key part of the program.
All participants in the Whistler Fitness Vacations program receive a copy of The Planet Friendly Diet (nutrition course and meal plan) paperback book. You learn to become an expert on healthy eating, exercise science, practical ways to transform your thoughts and become a leader.
4 – Will you be tempted to overeat?
Our weight loss camp is all about zero-waste cooking – get into the pattern of using everything you buy, and controlling your eating patterns. Also included is the meticulously calculated and portioned ingredients with no leftovers or opportunity to binge, derail and stray from your 1200 calorie daily quota.
The more clear you can be with yourself about what it is you want, the better your chances to find it. – YogiApproved.com
You’ll enjoy structured eating, with three delicious and nutritious meals per day, that you cook/assemble yourself with step-by-step recipes in your private kitchen. You’re in full control! You have your own dining area where you can eat alone, or invite other guests to join you. It’s a valuable life skill to learn how to cook one-portion meals with food that is gluten, wheat, dairy and meat free.
5 – Is it owner operated – or at least, are they around?
If you dig deeper into competing wellness retreats in Canada and United States, you may find that many are investor owned. But I think we can all agree, the owner of the company is often more committed to ensuring above-and-beyond customer experiences, as compared to an employee.
As I get ready for my 12th year of running weekly outdoor weight loss retreats for women, I’m filled with gratitude. So many wonderful people have taken action on new adventures, joining us for a fitness retreat in the mountains. Customers become friends and I couldn’t imagine doing my job any other way.
Cat Smiley takes care of every step of the way, from the initial phone call right through to the final high five not because she has to, but because you really feel like she wants to. There is no rock unturned – it’s not outsourced to a team of fitness trainers with her being some face on the website.– Jordie Thorneycroft, Manitoba.
I’ve always believed that you coach the person before the athlete, and athletes have to have safe places. I care about you first as a person. I’m also hands-on in the day motivating my team (fitness guides and support staff). Say hello to ah-may-zing results and awesome days getting into the best shape of your life!
6 – Are the reviews verifiable?
- Pick a few names, and search them. Are they real people? Now in saying this, most people want to keep their time at weight loss retreats private. It’s not okay to outreach people who’ve left reviews, but you can ask the health retreat company which clients gave their real names. They might also let you know if they’ve got presence online.
- When you see that the person who reviewed is a real estate agent, doctor, lawyer, or person in the public eye then its reassuring the review is (very likely) legit. Video reviews are great for those who want to share their positive experience at a weight loss camp yet perhaps don’t want to be ‘google-able.’
- Look for generic names like Jane Smith who gave a raving review without a profile picture. Has Jane reviewed anywhere else? Or just that company? If she has reviewed elsewhere, are all the reviews related to that wellness retreat company, and all five-star?
- Lastly, what’s the timing of the reviews like – are they all being posted within a few weeks? Batch posting this way might mean that the reviews were purchased at the same time – unless there was a product launch. They might also be written in pretty poor english – another giveaway.
7 – Does it meet you at your fitness level?
Another story – or should I say, “learning experience.” While in Costa Rica on an extended stay, I joined a local boot camp program. I’d been out of the workout groove for a while, maintaining fitness but not really building it. The instructor eyed up my athletic frame and figured I must be fit enough to go hard core, despite my insistence that I was needing modification. Long story short, sprinting in the sand while working partner splits with the other participants had me injured for several weeks.
There’s nothing worse than not being listened to. In my mid-forties, sprinting in the sand is literally the worst thing I could do for my tight hamstrings.
At the Whistler weight loss camp and fitness retreat sessions, we work almost exclusively with beginners. These beginners progress into intermediates, but pretty much everyone starts at ground level. The range of physical restrictions, levels of motivations, different personalities and of course, comfort levels are all different. This is one of the things that I love about my job – knowing that each workout will meet you at your level.
8 – Phone before you go. Any love? Or ickky, robotic service?
In the tourism and hospitality industry, the success or failure of the business is directly dependant on service. Weight loss resorts and health vacations especially depend on excellent service.
Quality customer service is an experience of feeling valued or heard. Sometimes it’s an intangible component of why a guest may prefer one tourism or hospitality provider over another. There is something about quality customer service that you often can’t put your finger on — but you know it’s there. – Canadian Tourism Commission.
It’s taken time to establish West Coast Fitness Vacations as a luxury wellness retreat that provides outstanding service, consistently. We want every customer to also feel like we’ve given authentic, loving support. We treat our customers how we’d like to be treated, if we were in their position – a customer on an epic, bucket list weight loss camp. After all, we’re passionate travellers too!
What to expect from any weight loss camp in Canada
In addition to the below base standard from the staff, it also helps to know who else is coming to the wellness retreat. Will it be a rowdy bunch of athletic folks who like to dance into the wee hours of the morning? Or a quieter, more chill crew of introverts who do their own thing in the evening. Knowing what kind of vibe you connect the best with will help you figure out your perfect health spa experience.
- Reliability: every day, you should be able to count on consistent service level and positive interaction between staff. No bad days!
- Assurance: each point-of-contact with staff should be knowledgeable and assuring. You need to be able to trust their expertise.
- Tangibles: the wellness retreat physical facilities, equipment, and staff appearance – professional at all times.
- Empathy: not just sympathy. Do you feel listened to? Cared for? Wellness retreats simply much provide genuine and authentic care to their customers.
- Responsiveness: heck, I’ve driven to Vancouver at 1am on Sunday morning to help a customer in need. And would do it again in a heartbeat.
Side note on #5, West Coast Fitness Vacations uses the support of our partnership hotel outside of program hours.
Lost Lake in Whistler, where we hike often!
9 – Ask what communications to expect
There are a number of points in time where we connect with our weight loss camp and fitness retreat guests. These might include:
- The first time potential guests give us their email or phone number
- When a reservation for a health retreat or weight loss camp is made, or a question is left – speedy replies!
- Meeting the customer for the first time, from the initial phone call through to arrival at the wellness retreats in B.C.
- Welcome cards, personalized menus, friendly hellos, and other touches throughout their health retreat.
- Follow-up communications after their weight loss boot camp. All guests have lifelong access to me, the fitness director. We usually keep in touch by text message, and phone calls, depending on the customers preference.
Normally I hire up to 8 fitness guides each April in Whistler. The selection process is highly competitive, with great conversational skills top of the requirements. We’re frequently told by guests that the ‘high quality of smart, capable and fun fitness guides’ were a highlight of their stay!
10 – Question if they’re (at minimum) insured, certified & licensed
We’ve always backed West Coast Fitness Vacations with the best cancellation policy that we could possibly squeeze out of both our lodging partners and our own business needs. Almost 20 years of trust means you can guarantee that your investment is safe with us.
There are several ways you can research us:
- Accredited membership with the Better Business Bureau, A+ Rating since 2001 to be in compliance with BBB Code of Business Practices.
- Whistler Chamber of Commerce active membership since 2001.
- Verify our Business Number with the BC Registry: #862083896RT0001
- Online payment is secured with SSL Security Solutions in partnership with Payment Gateway (Bambora). No Paypal or e-payments like many pop-up wellness retreats offer!
- We comply with strict data security standards to process, store and transmit credit card information. Look for the closed padlock symbol in your browser when you complete the transaction and the ‘https’ in our website address.
- Credentials – no excuses – professional certification must be verifiable, complete with insurance and registration.
FINAL FACTORS TO CONSIDER
There’s a lot of fluff online these days. Pre-teen kids can whip up a gorgeous website in a weekend for their 20 year old sister, who is hosting her first wellness retreat in Bali. Perhaps she’s got a social following from being a body positive fitness influencer, or maybe she got certified a few months ago as a fitness professional.
Bottom line, you’re not paying for the expertise of an established weight loss camp for when things go well – you’re paying for their ability to manage it when it doesn’t.
- How do they evacuate a broken ankle on a hike, two hours from the nearest road?
- What happens if there’s a mental health emergency from one of the guests on a bike ride?
- Does the fitness coach have the life experience to professionally manage your medical, or fitness backstory? Example, if you gained weight because you’re hitting menopause, maybe a 30-year old influencer isn’t the best weight loss retreat coach for you.
Truth bomb: I cringe, remembering how we handled some situations back in 2008 – 2011 in our first few years of running weight loss retreats.
Yet over 400 weeks of health retreats later, the kinks are ironed out. Customers can count on us to provide a logistically smooth wellness retreat not just when things go right. West Coast Fitness Vacations has mature business operations to manage any – and every – situation. We do this in a way that start-up retreats simply don’t have the experience to do (from evacuation on alpine hiking trials, through to major logistical curveballs).
I’m not sure that we’ve seen everything, but it’s probably pretty close at this point.
Will we see you soon?