If you’ve ever been to the Ranch at Malibu, the luxury boot camp based in California, you know all about the highly-effective but gruelling program. The daily ten-mile hikes, the succession of fitness classes and the strictly calibrated meal plan are all legendary. The punishing pace, possibly used as penance for their ridiculously lavish lifestyles, is a favourite of A-listers and Fortune 500 CEOs looking to get whipped into shape (albeit in stylish surroundings).
And so, when I recently discovered that the Ranch’s former Program Manager, Kate Hamm, moved back to her hometown of Boston and founded her own wellness retreat company, AnamBliss, I was curious to see how her previous experience from the Ranch would translate onto the East Coast. The fact that it would take place in the glorious green mountains of Vermont was indeed enticing. (AnamBliss is a roving retreat company, meaning the retreats will be based at other locations as well). But I was a bit apprehensive at the prospect of submitting myself to such a strenuous program (six years after my visit to the Ranch, the memories are still vivid).
As it turns out, AnamBliss offers a kinder and somewhat gentler excursion (fun fact: Anam means “gift” in Arabic and “soul” in Scottish Gaelic). The hiking- and yoga-based retreat was set at the friendly Wilburton Inn Bed and Breakfast in the town of Manchester, Vermont (a three and a half-hour drive from either Boston or New York). With its stately mansions, expansive lawn, and New England foliage, the charming setting would be the perfect location for a Kennedy biopic: For our purposes, it was also an ideal spot to host a small group retreat. Our private mansion at the Wilburton was equipped with an industrial-sized kitchen and massive dining room, several bedrooms, and a large games room which was converted into our fitness studio during our stay.
For now, at least, AnamBliss is a one-woman show. But despite the demands involved in running a retreat like this seamlessly, Hamm executed a well-thought-out program, that included a good mix of activities. Two of the four daily hikes, namely, the nine-mile trek on Stratton Mountain on the Appalachian Trail, and the three-mile vertical hike on Equinox Mountain, were highly challenging. But aside from the rigorous trekking, the overall vibe was pretty calm. AnamBliss provides an intimate setting for people who are at varying levels of fitness (Hamm told me one of her goals is to make the retreats accessible to a wide range of people). The exercise classes were comprised of yoga with massage balls (which we were able to take home to practice our self-massage) as well as stretching and strengthening with exercise bands. The healthy, plant-based meals were made from ingredients sourced from local farms (including the lovely Earth Sky Time farm), and were so delicious, we almost didn’t miss our morning coffee or evening dessert (almost).
In addition to the beautiful scenery and terrific program, the camaraderie and support among the guests is what makes AnamBliss special. Remarkably, not once did I hear any talk relating to weight loss, “beach-ready” bikini bodies or the like – this kind of white noise is such a popular refrain at so many fitness resorts. No, the focus at AnamBliss is to explore nature, nourish the body and find bliss through movement. All of this leads me to believe that Hamm is in the business of wellness for the right reasons.
A regular contributor to Travel to Wellness, Lynn Burshtein was a guest at AnamBliss in July 2017. Photos were provided by AnamBliss and the Wilburton Inn.