A Little Challenge Blended with Luxury at Blackberry Farm

A shot of me and Thomas (the rocking Blackberry Farm team member who helped me make it to the top of the mountain) after the ride.

A 15-mile bike ride followed by a nine-mile hike. I might be fit and well, but even this cardio combo kicked my mental and physical ass. But challenging myself was the name of the game at the Balanced Life and Body retreat I recently attended at Blackberry Farm.

I'd wanted to visit this unique upscale East Tennessee resort for years. So, when I was offered the opportunity to visit AND attend this retreat (all expenses paid) for an American Fitness Magazine article, I jumped at the chance.

Minutes after arriving on a Sunday afternoon, we set off on a hike across the property with Sam, one of the owners. (Actually that was one of the many treats I enjoyed — along with the challenges — Sam and his wife, Mary Celeste, ended up spending much of the retreat with us.

From that point on, I earned the "fit" portion of my nickname. Mornings kicked off with an hour or more workout with Tammy Stokes of West Coast Workout (based in Atlanta) and Laura Bailey of The Studio in Seaside, FL. (If you are ever in Atlanta or Seaside, go see them for a class!) Even for me, doing yoga for an hour in the morning, the bike and hike through the Smoky Mountains I mentioned, followed by and hour of afternoon yoga is a challenge. (And you'll have to stay tuned for the American Fitness article to get the full story on the bike and hike...)

But my retreat family, which included Hope, Amanda, Thomas, Melinda and all of the other Blackberry staff and my retreat mates (Emily and John Michael, Kathy, Kelly, Katherine, Pace, John, and everyone else) helped me rise at 7 a.m. daily and meet these challenges. Hopefully, I motivated them just as much as they helped cheer me on.

Of course, I did get to enjoy my fair share of luxury, too. The food and wine at the farm is beyond amazing. They are known for growing/raising everything from beets to eggs and locally sourcing most anything else used in their dishes. Dinners were generally multicourse and included wine pairings. Since we were focused on wellness, all of our dishes were gluten-free and avoided unnatural sugars. Buy everything I enjoyed from sun up to sun down was delicious!

I stayed in a cozy room in the Guesthouse, which had a huge window overlooking the mountains. Oh, and even though it's not so fit and well, in the guesthouse there is a butler's pantry stocked with yummies like chips and Haagen Daz ice cream bars and drinks, which was a nice amenity. (And yes, I did eat a nice cream bar — and it was fabulous!)          

And then there was the spa. I experienced the Tata facial (which left my skin glowing) in the farmhouse space. But as of late May, Blackberry has opened the Well House, it's new spa/fitness/wellness destination. (I took a tour and was blown away.) You'll find an outdoor pool with mountain views, a juice bar, fitness classes, a relaxation room with those same amazing mountain views and the best snuggly blankets, and so much more. My new friends Amanda and Hope have done an amazing job with this space — and I can't wait to go back and experience it!

I was reluctant to reclaim my car on Wednesday afternoon and leave behind the renewing world of Blackberry. Yes, folks, going to this destination is not cheap and neither is the retreat tuition. But it should be on everyone's bucket list. You won't regret making this "fit" of mine a "fit" of your own.

Until next Tuesday — stay FWABulous! And keep up with my FWABulous adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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