Front Range

Renaissance Gym

The revamped Vail Vitality Center uses a holistic approach to help one former competitive athlete find her fitness.

March 2014

Last Spring, I trained for weeks to compete in the 123-mile Rapha Women’s Prestige, an unsanctioned cycling race up the hills of San Francisco. The following month, I spent a week on the coast of Spain, running eight miles a day because I enjoyed it (and because I could). When I returned home, work piled up, and you know the rest. I spent six months almost sedentary. I was in the worst shape of my life and had no clue—mentally or physically—how to begin again.   

Then I heard about the Vail Vitality Center at Vail Mountain Lodge. Spearheaded by director Jeff Morgan, the fitness center recently completed an overhaul, transitioning from a monthly membership gym to a pioneering whole-body program available to Vail locals, lodge guests, and even weekend visitors to the mountain town. Spend the morning working out with your trainer, and then catch up with members of your à la carte dream team: internal medicine and integrative medicine doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists, sport psychologists, and massage therapists. Even Vail’s renowned Terra Bistro customizes healthy meals for clients. But it’s not cheap 1. Still, I took one look at my atrophied legs and booked some appointments over a long weekend. 

vailvitalityUpon arriving at the mountain-meets-modern complex, I undergo an extensive blood panel and physiological performance evaluation, once offered only to professional athletes. The bad news: After so much time off, my usual get-back-in-shape strategy of running three easy miles, three times a week, would be too strenuous on my body. Testing coordinator Nick Edwards prescribes a pride-swallowing month of power walking. The good news: My particular body chemistry means once I get back in shape, I can train hard for a long time before I’m out of gas.

I barely earn a passing grade in the functional movement test 2. During deep squats, I don’t sit far back enough, a sign that my hips are tight. In the shoulder mobility test, my left shoulder is the clear loser. While holding the “bird dog” pose for the rotational stability test, my trunk isn’t quite strong enough to prevent me from rotating when I switch sides. In other words, my hips, glutes, and core need some work, so I attend a Pilates class 3 and a restorative yoga class to start strengthening and stretching my underused muscles. 

The next morning, I spend two hours with a functional medicine doc 4, kind of like your personal “Dr. House” for finding the root cause of chronic conditions. I discover that my last few years of sinus issues may be tied to a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. My first-ever acupuncture appointment relieves said sinus tension, and a much-appreciated sports massage works out my day-after Pilates tightness. 

On my final morning, I get outside for an uphill mountain interval walking session with Ellen Miller, a coach at the center and one of the most lauded female mountaineers in the country. Like every test I’ve had over the past three days, it leaves me exhausted, but I’m grateful for Miller’s company. Tomorrow, the only person coaching, motivating, and helping me regain my fitness will be me. vailvitalitycenter.com 

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1.  Three days packed with experts (sans food and lodging) cost upward of $2,500. 

2. Top personal trainers start with this series of 12 easy exercises to find muscle weaknesses and imbalances.

3. Because I’m a Pilates newbie, trainer Angela Muzic introduces me to the reformer—a moving resistance device—and walks me through an abbreviated 30-minute first session.

4. Dr. Jacqui Slavin consults my blood panels and a four-page questionnaire (which covers everything from family history to what I eat for breakfast to my perceived level of stress). I’ve suspected that I have a gluten sensitivity because two of my aunts have celiac disease. When Slavin links my annoying sinus issues to inflammation from that same sensitivity, I decide to cut out gluten for a month; it seems to be working. 


—Images Courtesy of Vail Vitality Center