Living the Pura Vida: Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort Phuket, Thailand

(Disclaimer: I know I’m mixing Costa Rican and Thai cultures with my title, but it really does capture the gist of this post as I hope you’ll see.)

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been on the move, touring around Thailand (Bangkok, Mae Wang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao, Thaton, Chiang Rai, Sukhothai, Aruythaya, Koh Samui, Nangyaun Island, Koh Pranang, and Railay, Krabi). I’ve journeyed by plane, bus, minivan, taxi, ferry, long tail boat, mountain bike and foot – sometimes nearly all modes in 1 day. I’ve roughed it trekking and biking in the mountains, and also luxuriated at some 5 star resorts along the way. Eating my way through Thailand as I have been, I’ve enjoyed: Karen Hill Tribe home cooked meals, the famous Chiang Mai night market street food, a bounty of breakfast buffets, and a sampling of resort food. After all my adventures and explorations, I decided to spend my final week here in one spot the active paradise of Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort in Phuket. While I won’t be on the move, I will be maximizing my body’s movement every day. As an endurance athlete and a personal trainer, I thrive on active vacations. While I’ve been relatively active over the past 21 days (3 day trek, 3 day mountain bike trip, ocean swims, snorkels, walkabouts and hotel gym workouts), I’ve missed my  focused training. 

 One of my greatest pleasures in life is relishing vigorous activity and the rewards that follow both psychological and physical. Balancing all the activity with some quality pampering is essential as well. Pampering may be as simple as a big nap, a hot shower, an ice bath, a massage, a great meal or any combination of them. It’s about revitalizing, nourishing and recuperating. Here at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort, they have it all covered and then some.

Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort is the place triathletes, national swim teams (German, French, Hungarian, British and Royal Dutch to name a few), tennis players and athletes of all types train.

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Team workout in the 50M pool. I had it to myself in the mornings.

Thanyapura Health &  Sports Resort

• 50m Olympic pool, 25m training pool & hotel pool  • 6 Tennis Courts (4 covered)

• Beach Volleyball Court • Beach Soccer Court  • 500m Track • Muay Thai Ring

•Two 900sqm Gyms (cardio & weights)  • Cannondale Road Bike Rentals

 

 

It’s where active people from all around the world come to optimize their potential and have fun while doing so. But you don’t have to be a rock star or elite athlete to be here, though you might run into one. There’s something for everyone as active or relaxed as you want to be. There’s tennis, swimming, cycling, running, group fitness, Muay Thai, yoga, meditation, cooking classes, a full service spa, and so much more. There’s a Center for Wellness and Mindfulness, onsite medical services, chiropractor and talks by experts. Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort is the place for anyone who wants to reset their bodies and minds with a detox, get inspired with 1:1 coaching on living a healthy lifestyle, train like a demon, transform their life, or just chill out, disconnect and enjoy the resort’s many amenities.  

Day 1

After a 6 hour travel day, I arrived at 2:30 PM to a friendly reception and a refreshing glass of some deep periwinkle blue elixir.  Once in my luxurious room, I quickly showered and changed for my first group fitness class.

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My lovely room. My sanctuary.

I wanted to make the most of my first afternoon so I took a 3 PM Pilates class, a 4 PM high intensity training class and a 5PM boot camp class. I might have overreached on the back-to-back classes, but I didn’t want to miss out. Eh, no more pushups, please.

Day 2

I jumped in the van with the triathlon training group for an early morning open water swim at lovely Laguna Beach. After a half dozen or so laps around the buoys with some drills mixed in, we returned appetites fueled in time to enjoy the sumptuous breakfast buffet. Lavish and predominantly healthy choices ranging from breakfast foods to abundant colorful salads and savory traditional meat dishes are available 6:30AM until mid morning.

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I made breakfast my primary meal while I was there. Not a bad habit to carry over. While the buffet did include waffles and a couple other sweet indulgences, I wasn’t really tempted. With so many wonderful tasting, healthy options, it was easy to steer clear. Plus the fruit is so sweet. (Ok, I admit I did have the mango and sticky coconut rice desert one night and it was as good as it looks.) Thai mangoes are AMAZING!

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Fresh mango and coconut sticky rice – so dreamy!

And I will also confess that one night I decided to indulge and selected an alluring chocolate cake that was topped with glistening pomegranate seeds from the display at the Booster Cafe. Well, the joke was on me. I took one big bite and discovered that it was zucchini cake cleverly disguised as chocolate cake. It wasn’t bad, but I did have to get the real thing the next day. Surprisingly, after a month in Thailand without eating much chocolate, this chocolate fiend didn’t even finish the piece of actual chocolate cake. Lost my taste for it? Let’s hope so.

Between 11 AM and 2 PM is relaxation time, private coaching or gym time. I used this time to catch up on my blog posts and recuperate from my morning workout(s).  In the afternoon, I attended Hip Opening Yoga, contorting my body and stretching my limits for greater fitness and flexibility. After that, I put gloves and shin guards on and mixed it up with the Muay Thai Boxing coachfirst time, fun time. Next, I enjoyed a peaceful, tropical sunset swim in the 50 meter pool. I dined at Booster Deli & Bar, relishing a beautifully composed grilled tuna salad.

 If I could eat this well every day, it would be an incredible boost to my quality of life and health.

Day 3

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Great carbon Cannondale rental. Unfortunately, I forgot my bike shoes.

Today, I rented a fine Cannondale carbon road bike and joined the triathlon training group for a mellow 50k ride through the gorgeous green countryside.

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You wouldn’t expect it, at least I didn’t, but the road conditions here are excellentsmooth and mostly empty back roads―lovely, but a bit steamy. (I chose the hottest month of the year to visit Thailand.) I’m accustomed to San Diego weather so it’s a bit of an adjustment, but I do feel I’m making some gains training here.

After a couple hours of downtime, I attended Guided Meditation and Yin Yoga in the afternoon. Pierre Gagnon, the Meditation and Mind Training Coach, has a way of explaining and teaching meditation that makes it accessible and practical for athletes. I gained insights about the mind-body connection and enjoyed applying his down-to-earth approach to meditation. (See my personal training blog for those insights and why I believe meditation is a must for all of us, especially athletes.)

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Mind Training & Meditation Coach Pierre

 I found out the hard way that Yin Yoga is the practice of holding the pose / stretch for long periods of time. This involves the collision of discomfort and stillness. (As athletes, we’re used to moving through pain, sometimes to our detriment.) This is something new – to endure discomfort in stillness and to use your breath and mind to dissipate and overcome it. I’ve got a long way to go on this one…

Enjoyed some Thanyapura style Pad Thai tonight.

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Day 4

Marking the midway of my active stay, I dialed it down today with a pool swim in the morning and a Guided Meditation class in the afternoon. Felt so mellow after meditation that I dined early and closed the day with a sunset stroll up the road to Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. A lovely citrus salad (mango, orange, avocado, walnuts, and sprinkling of pomegranate seeds) was the day’s flavor finale.

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Day 5

Started my morning with a swim, followed by a step toning class and a stretch class. In the afternoon, I attended Guided Meditation. I’m balancing my physical and mental fitness. Stopped in the gym very briefly before retiring for the evening.

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Day 6

Greeted another day with a short morning swim, followed by an easy scenic 40k bike with the Senior Cycling Coach Daniel Amby, a semi-pro who just returned from some crazy 5 stage bike race with 23% grade hills in triple digit heat! Even under those extreme conditions, he made it to the podium 3x out of 5! I’m clearly in the presence of immortals here. My afternoon was filled with meditation, yoga and a swim technique class. Enjoyed being lulled by the downpour during two thunder stormsthe green/ rainy season has officially arrived. Dined at Divine restaurant with my new friend Jade, a young triathlete I cycled with on Monday. Devoured many delectable items on the dinner buffet. Very hungry today!

 

Day 7

The day began on the bike with Coach Daniel and a dozen fellow cyclists / triathletes ranging in age from 10 to 50 plus. Interval training included four 5k intervals (80% effort, 100% effort, big gear push, mid gear accelerate 30 secs on / off). Humbled to say, I got my butt kicked by a ten year old. I have all sorts of excuses – rental bike, running shoes, not used to heat/humidity, she only did 2 intervals, let’s see else can I come up with? She kicks butt, mine included –no doubt one of Thanyapura’s many rising stars. 

This afternoon, more yoga. (I’m afraid sweet, angelic voiced  Yoga Coach Pascha  was up to her usual tricks and twists in the yoga studio.) Practicing with Pascha has helped me become more aware of my muscle imbalances, posture and breathing. It becomes very apparent how short, tight muscles sabotage performance and make you more susceptible to injury …

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Pascha, my yoga guru

 

I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of the soft, long exhale from both Coach Pascha and Coach Pierre 

Swim technique class with Triathlon Head Coach Ricky was also illuminating for me. Among other drills, we practiced 1 arm stroke, side kicking, catch-up and fist swimming–somehow the combination of them had me swimming freestyle with more awareness of gliding on my side.

Day 8
Winding down for tomorrow’s departure. A morning swim, followed by an energizing breakfast (raw carrot pasta, rocket salad and beet salad), fresh fruit and guava juice. (And yes, I had more than 1 helping.)

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As with my first afternoon, I packed everything I could into my last morning. Guided meditation with Coach Pierre, step toning with a dashing Thai gentleman who would kick butt on dancing with the stars, a final yoga session with Pascha and a quick farewell lunch with my new friend Jade. When I said my goodbyes to Pascha and Pierre, I felt like I was graduating from school, leaving my wise instructors behind and setting off into the world.

Immersing myself in meditation, yoga and healthy eating at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort was transformative for me. Despite being a personal trainer, I’m someone who has spent a lifetime relentlessly pursuing endurance sports and intense workouts without the balance of restorative yoga, stretching or optimal nutrition. Standing in the line at the Phuket airport, I had an epiphany. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a negative or judgmental thought—apparently another benefit of mind body balance and heightened awareness achieved through meditation and yoga and spending time in Thailand at Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort. When I return home, I will carry forward my practices, share the insights I gained and spread the word of Thanyapura. Thank you and Nameste.

 

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Oh, I’m already missing this magical place. Photo credit Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort.

 

Xmas 2016: Honoring the Gift of Health

The fortunate majority of us are born able-bodied and healthy. And then there are those who are not born able-bodied and / or those who must fight and overcome grave illnesses and disabilities every hour of every day.  There are also those who squander their health and quality of life on alcohol or drug abuse, sedentary lifestyles, and sheer gluttony. And those who abuse their bodies in other ways…

Me? I’m guilty of taking the gift of health for granted, for pushing my body beyond its physical limits, feeding it crap (ridiculous amounts of sugar, chocolate, and junk food), and exposing it deliberately and excessively to the elements (sun).

And I’ve suffered the consequences. People are surprised by how many operations I’ve had. My list is getting so long that I can barely keep track anymore. The irony of course, is that I believe I live a relatively healthy lifestyle. Yet, I know plenty of couch potatoes who have never had 1 physical affliction or surgery.

Here’s a glimpse at my surgery dance card:

  1.  Skin cancer surgeries (2) and ongoing freezing pre-cancerous spots (nearly monthly now). (I knew better – no excuses, except my stupidity. 100% Irish, I am the poster child for skin cancer. Ignored my mother and other’s warnings and enjoyed the sun too much without protection.)
  2.  Greater saphenous vein ablation surgery right leg, literally blew this vein out pushing too hard on the bike/racing triathlon.
  3. Kidney stones (6 in ea side): 2 lithotripsy procedures, 1 ureterscopic laser surgery (so much more painful than any stone I have passed) – all due to chronic dehydration,  my self-inflicted pattern of under-hydrating and over exercise. Oh, and I have gallstones too – no surgeries for that yet.
  4. Severe osteoarthrtitis and chrondomalacia in both knees – ongoing knee injections. This was brought on by flat feet and decades of running 5-7 days a week. I literally ran out of cartilage in my knees.
  5. c6 / c7 Neck Fusion (plates & screws) – no single catalyst, just a lifetime of living rough & tumble – probably a childhood pool slide incident combined with a more recent surfing injury.
  6. Cycling accident: Collarbone repair surgery(plate and 8 pins), 2x foot surgery – pins and plates, and a broken 5th metacarpal (pinkie).

EGAD, I know! Clearly I’m not honoring the gift I’ve been given by being a good care taker. I am a huge proponent of living vigorously, but many would argue that I take it to a frenetic level. Of course, it’s all relative. I pale in comparison to others who are far more extreme / intense about their physical activities than I am…Granted, just because there are plenty of people out there who abuse their bodies more than I do, it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s still abuse.

My x-mas holiday was consumed with getting through kidney stone surgery, which of all the surgeries I’ve had, was by far the most painful. It felt like a severe and brutal punishment. Ultimately, I have to face that nearly all my injuries are self-inflicted to some degree. (The picture above is from my first walk outside in 5 days – don’t worry, I didn’t overdo it this time.) So how do I reconcile my passion for activity with my tendency to go overboard and be neglectful? This has been a long, hard lesson and I’m finally getting the message loud and clear. It’s way past time for me to balance living vigorously with nurturing the amazing, strong and vital body that I’ve been given. The joy I get from my outdoor activities is one of my life’s greatest pleasures.Yet I’m driven to push my body to its limits and then neglect it – a mystery for another blog post. Perhaps for tonight,  it’s enough to recognize and begin to correct this tendency – to commit to being a better steward of my health – to balance my rigorous activities with the nurturing and nourishing my body needs – to be a kinder, gentler person to my body, myself and others.

Tell me, how do you honor and nurture your body?

My wish this holiday season is that we see each day as a gift to live our best life – one that honors our bodies, our spirits and those we share the journey with. I’m going to work on it and maybe you guys can help keep me on the path.

Perhaps one word sums it up? Nameste

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