Source: Greenbrier Wellness
Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts.
Greenbrier Resort Women’s Wellness Weekend
I was thrilled to host a women’s wellness weekend at America’s Resort, the gorgeous and historic mineral springs resort, the Greenbrier. I cut my teeth as a spa enthusiast at this resort some two decades ago. Over time, my respect and admiration for a tradition of wellness dating back 236 years has continued to grow! While some may argue which spa is considered the beginning of destination spa travel in America, not many can argue that this resort not only was a part of the American spa tradition, but it basically invented many of the things we consider hospitality in this country.
Having been greeted by Mr. Frank Mosley so many times, his hospitality never gets old. Working at the resort for the past 58 years, he is 86 years young and the personification of West Virginia warmth and hospitality. Entering the lobby, the explosion of color matches the summer blooms outside. At check in I was greeted exactly the same way I have been so many visits before–iced tea, lemonade, or champagne.
This weekend was remarkably different from many past visits. This time I have a mission and a schedule. While some may eschew the idea of a scheduled vacation, perhaps they have never taken a wellness vacation. It is a beautiful combination when you can take a break from everyday life to learn new ways of living better. Since this resort has such a storied past of health care, hospitality, and wellness, I was excited to deepen my knowledge of living well thoughtfully presented by the Greenbrier.
Having been through many wellness programs over the decades, I’m a huge fan of spa vacationing. This resort has a unique twist from most destination spa resorts. Since the Greenbrier has had a serious concierge executive medical program since 1948, this wellness program has a medically-based foundation. I will be combining evidence-based medical services with state-of-the-art diagnostics, and weaving in my choices of subspecialty providers, seriously luxurious spa treatments, and an endless list of fitness activities and world-class cuisine. Oh yeah, did I mention that Greenbrier tennis pro emeritus Pete Sampras will be playing Andy Roddick Saturday night while I’m here? The amount of activities and services available at this resort is mind-boggling, so I am happy to keep their expertly prepared, individual schedule to glean as much goodness from one weekend as possible. It’s also fun to share this experience with a group of like-minded ladies with the same goals.
After checking in at the Greenbrier Clinic and receiving my printed schedule, I begin my day with a consultation with Dr. Michael S. Kluska. My first appointment has me both nervous and excited. I scheduled a specialist visit with Dr. Kluska, a world-renowned plastic surgeon with a passion for skin care. I had been considering getting my first Botox injection for years. I finally decided it was time, and took the opportunity to do it with an extremely well-trained board-certified plastic surgeon…(see results here). The Greenbrier Clinic offers a multi-specialty approach to treating the whole patient within a single resort visit. Patients can schedule in-depth visits with many specialties including internal medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedics, nutrition, as well as a multitude of other diagnostic and preventive health treatments and procedures. Nearly every specialty is housed within the clinic wing attached to the resort. The convenience of walking over to appointments all within the resort is amazing. It is entirely possible to see an internist, a cardiologist, get a colonoscopy, have a radiologist review images including imaging from their own CT- scanner and mammography, or even have surgery over a weekend. Thankfully, I am in good health and my wellness visits on this weekend include time with my internal medicine doctor, a nutritionist, some blood work, and a plasitic surgeon. I could not help but think about how easy it would be to bring my husband here for a year’s worth of medical visits and testing, and have him not miss a single day of work, which is always his excuse for not taking better care of himself. I will be bringing him back another time!
I also had some time to enjoy the resort on my own. I chose to have lunch courtside near the golf shop. This is a favorite tour stop for PGA players and fans of the the PGA tour. I also had time for a little retail therapy in the pro shop. Who am I kidding…I was stalking Lee Trevino. I just missed him by five minutes! Jack Nicklaus was also in town this weekend as they are designing a new golf course….(more on celebrity stalking later :))And, knowing I would be seeing the pro emeritus Pete Sampras play Andy Roddick Saturday night, I was very tuned in to people-watching at the tennis courts during my lunch. Guests can schedule private golf and tennis lessons with tour professionals.
During my clinic phone consultation prior to my visit, I scheduled my doctor’s appointments as well as one of my favorite spa treatments at the Greenbrier. It is really hard to pick just one, so I usually don’t, but I have new doors to open this weekend, including a vault door in the bunker, and I need to experience some other aspects of this massive 40,000 acre property. If you have never been, the Greenbrier signature treatment, featuring a Scotch spray, is a bucket list spa item for any true spa junkie. I also strongly recommend having a facial at the Greenbrier. The staffing in the spa is second to none. Many of the therapists and estheticians have been here over twenty years! Some have even worked here for 30. Talk about expertise–you would be hard-pressed to find a more tenured staff in the entire country.
Friday evening is here and it is time to meet my newest friends and fellow participants for an anti-aging reception. Staff from the Clinic, medical vendors, and participants gather to meet and share excitement for the weekend. Many ladies were traveling with their husbands, but broke away to have a little lady time and kick off the program. Two of my friends and blog followers took me up on the opportunity to revisit wellness for the weekend and we had dinner at Forum after our reception. We could also not help ourselves…we had healthy dinners on our own, but the lure of the casino was too strong for us to pass up. Dancing counts as cardio, right?
Saturday morning we were greeted with a beautiful and healthy buffet in the Clinic conference room. We were instructed to fast after 10pm Friday night. Prior to breakfast, we had our blood drawn and tested. Individually, our test results are reviewed with us during our complete medical history and physical with our internist. We each had hour-long appointments with our doctors to go over our medical history and come up with a treatment plan for the next twelve months. My internist was Dr. Kelly Redden. I was impressed with her thorough exam. A few things really stood out as different for me during this exam. First, I was meeting with an actual doctor and not a mid-level provider at the exact time of my appointment! Second, remember what it was like when you would get an exam, then meet with the doctor in their office afterwards, once you are dressed, to get the results? I vaguely do. Another eye opener was the ability of the Greenbrier Clinic to pull up all of my current medications from two different pharmacies. The accuracy of my prescriptions were not left to my sometimes short attention span. I actually brought mine in a ziplock bag, but they were able to retrieve all of my prescription data, even for a bottle of medicated shampoo I had filled and forgotten about. And finally, I was given a spa robe for medical appointment and assigned a locker. No giant paper napkin patient gowns here! It made me feel more human. I love this level of detail.
We enjoyed more fellowship while some awaited physician appointments, others, time at the spa or activities on property. Our schedules were set up with blocks of open time as well as scheduled group activities. We could use our open blocks for discovering any activities at the Greenbrier, or just spending some quiet downtime. It is up to the patient to decide.
Mid-morning, just outside the spa, the wellness ladies took a private fitness class designed specifically for us by a personal trainer. It was a different workout than what I generally do, but I love trying new activities, so I really enjoyed it and enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather and gardens of the resort.
At lunchtime, we convened in the bunker kitchen for a wellness cooking class. Here, we learned about a variety of superfoods, cooking techniques, and portions to enhance our healthy, active lifestyle. I am always inspired by eating really great, well-prepared whole foods, and the Greenbrier has been a culinary leader in the hospitality industry since the resort opened.
After lunch, we returned to our personal blocks. I went for my signature spa treatment, others saw various physicians and received personalized care or had activities scheduled. At 3:30, I went over my lab results from the morning with Dr. Redden and had my in-depth medical history and physical.
Sunday morning, we started the day with a wellness walk and meditation. It was beautiful to walk through the gardens, grounds, and golf course with our personal trainer. I took the opportunity to snap lots of pictures on this scenic stride. Joanna, another participant and I took this selfie with Andy Roddick having coffee in the background on our way to meet up with our trainer. You really never know who you will bump into around here. Once we met up with Josh, we walked at a brisk enough pace to burn calories and get the heart rate up, but we also made time to stop and smell the flowers. Josh Beverage, our trainer, made sure to point out interesting facts about the grounds and various events and activities available on the property. On completion, a couple of us did have breakfast together in the main dining room. I am a huge fan of room service at the resort, and generally opt for breakfast in bed, so it was nice to see the gorgeous main dining room in the daylight. We decided to stick to our healthy eating plan and ordered a spa breakfast from the menu instead of the decadent Sunday brunch. I was able to keep my convictions due to my wellness walk.
Our final group activity was a meeting with Connie Gottshall in the clinic. She is the nutritionist for the Greenbrier Clinic. She reinforced the information we received at our cooking class, and gave us helpful strategies to make better food choices. She actually had sample meal plans to follow as a guide and definitely inspired us all to take a closer look at food labels, not just for ingredients, and hidden sugars, but also portions. I think her talk just reinforced to me why I prefer to eat whole foods rather than prepared foods. I was definitely more motivated to cook at home more often after this class, and with the skills Iearned in the cooking class, I had everything I needed to prepare better food choices back home.
If I could stress anything to you about this wellness weekend, it would be that it was still a vacation. I just learned to live better, armed with new knowledge and motivation to continue to make these educated decisions about food choices, what my body needs. Dr. Redden suggested I add vitamin B-12 daily, Calcium 1200 mg daily, and vitamin D3 1000 mg. She also prescribed exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. In six months she will recheck my HDL cholesterol. This won’t be a problem for me, as I live 90 minutes away, and plan on visiting every three months to get my Botox injections. How cool is it that the doctor would come and give me my Botox injections in my room, if that is what I want? This is what concierge medicine is all about–old-fashioned service, like a housecall to my suite! I have an iPhone app to refill my prescriptions, and they will work with my local physician if needed for additional issues as they arise.
Private medical suites are available with competitive pricing. If you are planning medical testing or procedures, let the Clinic staff help you book your room. Medical suites have two refrigerators for ice packs and medical supplies. Ample space is available for your family to stay with you. The doctors make rounds in the hotel. Recovering from surgery here is best-in-class.
The Clinic executive medical program caters to people that keep tight schedules and they respect your privacy and time.
Book your spa appointments in advance to insure the optimum therapist and treatment time for your schedule. Add on a 25 -minute mineral soak to any spa service you book. It is a must!
Fitness classes are always new and exciting. Try a new class before your spa appointment. Guided meditation is available most mornings in the spa. Keep your eyes peeled in the gym, lots of celebrities visit and have homes in the area.
Get outside! The grounds at this resort are magnificent. Your normal walk, run, or bike ride will be inspiring. Comfortable walking shoes will take you far at this property.
Try a new sport. Equipment and staffing is always top notch. Falconry or whitewater rafting, anybody?
Book a tour at the beginning of your stay. Historical tours provide a wealth of information about the resort as well as American history.
EAT! This resort has a culinary apprentice program that takes classically-trained chefs three years to complete, much like a masters program. There is a specific farm-to-table restaurant, but much of the food is grown right on property and always has been.
If you are going to have a cheat day, this is the place to do it. They employ one person who just makes housemade ice cream for eight hours a day, every day. This is a serious foodie paradise. Check calendars for specialty chef’s tables and memorable holiday meals.
This resort is dieter-friendly, with spa menu choices on most dining menus. Staff are happy to cater to your special food preferences. Mom can have an egg white omelet while the kids get treated to chocolate chip pancakes, so everybody is happy.
The Greenbrier is set in the gorgeous mountains of West Virginia. It is easily accessible by half of the country for a family road trip. Air and train service will also take you door-to-door from New York City or Washington D.C.
One visit will not be enough to see and do everything–plan ahead to make the most of your vacation.
I was an invited guest of The Greenbrier Clinic. All opinions are my own. This is my life.
I can’t think of a better place to usher in spring than Primland. I booked my stay in a Fairway Cottage adjacent to another friend, John King, who is also a dedicated fan of this resort. John suggested we should celebrate the spring solstice, his new year, in style. Our shared passion for organic gourmet cuisine and love of nature is enough to bring together the most unlikely of friends. Originally, from California, We met John at Primland on New Year’s Eve. He is eccentric hippie with long gray hair, beard, and a very casual sense of style. While John, who could be mistaken for an Indian, was out exploring some of the 12,000 acres Primland has to offer and barefoot running on the golf course (not kidding), Mike and I took in a different aspect of the lodge, the kitchen. Mike and I have spent many evenings in the upper kitchen, just off Elements dining room, where the Chef’s Table is located. It is always an amazing spectacle and treat to enjoy the nine courses of food and wine that the chefs and sommelier thoughtfully prepare. I thought it would be great to try to reenergize our healthy eating and cooking habits on this “new year,” since according to my wise friend, it was such a powerful day to do so. Primland offers its cooking school on the third Saturday of every month.
Chef Gunnar Thompson has prepared many impressive multi-course meals for us in the three years he has lead the culinary team at Primland. I would describe his cooking style as classic French as France is where he trained, but with a nod to local recipes and ingredients. Interesting note about him personally, Gunnar is a vegetarian. As a former vegan (for a short time), I can really appreciate his cooking style. His dishes tend to have a vibrancy and texture that only comes from someone who can make vegetables stand on their own. With that said, he is also working at a world-class hunting lodge, and he has the ability to beautifully prep and prepare wild game from the resort such as venison, pheasant, turkey, and chukkar. Wild game cooking classes have also been offered in the past, but today’s class is on seafood preparation. Seafood can be a fairly tricky thing for many cooks to prepare. Gunnar told us in class that cooking fish perfectly is actually harder than cooking a steak properly. I believe it! I grew up in Florida and I love seafood, but I still have much to learn. I was also excited to learn how he sources some of the very best seafood in the world for such a remote inland property.
The class started promptly at 10am. First up, our game plan. We review our menu and recipes. Gunnar took us thru the menu that we would prepare with him, and then have the pleasure of eating at the end of class around 1pm. We will be making: Shrimp and Grits with low country sauce, Pan Seared Carolina Pink Snapper with Citrus and Sweet Pepper Relish, Boiled Lobster with Lemon-Herb Butter and Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Spinach and Horseradish Crust. Gunnar then shows us the proper technique and tricks to source, clean, and cook shrimp. Next on the list, we discuss and handle two types of fish, red snapper and wild caught salmon. Gunnar shows us how to clean the two fish, but also tells us how to clean different types of fish in general, side swimmers and flat fish. We each take turns handling the fish and making cuts. His tip for buying fish is to always buy whole fish with the head still on. Ask to press the fish and look to see if the scales stay on and the flesh is firm to the touch and that the flesh springs back. That would be a keeper. He said not to worry about the smell. It should smell like, well, a fish!
While some of us are filleting and boning the fish, and others are cleaning shrimp, we move on the some of the toppings, sauces and side dishes. We used the shells from the shrimp to make a stock that we will also use for our shrimp and grits. We rough cut some vegetables and added a few tomatoes. According to Gunnar, “Seafood stock should always look like shrimp colored stock and the tomatoes help give it that color.” He says he almost never makes fish stock and prefers a shrimp stock for seafood dishes. By using fresh, or at least whole frozen, shrimp at our homes with the shells still on, we will get a better tasting shrimp and be able to get a great stock from the shells. He cautioned us not to overcook the stock! Twenty to 25 minutes should extract the flavor, and any more than that would make it taste bitter. We will strain off the shells and veggies, that is why peeling the veggies in not important. His pro tip is to give the stock a whirl in a blender or food processor before straining to get even more flavor. This stock could also be frozen and used later as needed. Nice coarse-ground grits like he uses take about forty minutes to cook, and this stock can be added at the end for flavor so it will not add any more time in the kitchen.
No gourmet seafood class would be complete without a tutorial on lobsters. While we continue to chop veggies and section the oranges for our salmon, Gunnar takes us through the ins and outs of sourcing, cooking, cleaning and even sexing a lobster. Yeah, that’s right. If you get to pick one from the tank, one wants to pick the female lobster as they are sweeter (of course!). He showed us how to tell by way of the more delicate legs. We learned how to steam, boil or grill lobsters.
We begin to prep the herbed butter for our lobsters. Gunnar shows us how to pick the herbs, zest the limes, and blend with the butter, giving us tips along the way. We will use this butter in a couple of the dishes. It was easy and made a huge difference in the taste of the dish. Ok, you might be thinking BUTTER? I thought you said this was wellness cooking? Well, his take on wellness is pretty simple. Take the very best locally sourced organic ingredients available, and combine them with proteins that are high in omega fatty acids like salmon and other sustainable fish. He also only uses grass-fed beef. Use portion control, and a variety of cooking techniques to add flavor without adding tons of fat like making your own shrimp stock. What we ended up with was a very colorful, delicious lunch that was beautiful to look at, smelled incredible, and was delicious to taste. It left me thinking it was not diet food at all. I really enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with my husband. We had a lot of laughs. We got inspired, learned some cool tips and short cuts, but most of all it didn’t feel like a damn diet. This is living!