It was 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday at the Avalon Hotel & Bungalows Palm Springs, and a sea of yoga mats, each accompanied by an eco-friendly bottle of Flow water and a folded white hand towel, were neatly lined up on a pristinely manicured lawn. As is typical of a late March morning in the Coachella Valley, the sky was a bright, solid blue; it was 75 degrees; and a jasmine-scented breeze blew lightly.
About 30 women in workout wear chatted affably as they took their places for the Le Sweat class led by fitness master Charlee Atkins. The women, ages 21 through mid-50s, were on day three of a four-day wellness retreat hosted by New York–based lifestyle brand Well+Good.
Atkins — a certified strength and conditioning specialist and SoulCycle instructor who created Le Sweat and its complement class, Le Stretch —powered the women through a series of stretching, strength, and aerobic exercises that included jumping jacks, planks, and squats. It was high-intensity, and Atkins kept the effort-level strong throughout the 90-minute class.
Each attendee received a BKR glass water bottle.
Next up: a 3.5-mile hike on the South Lykken Trail.
The retreat’s itinerary couldn’t have been more perfect. A typical day began with a juice bar and light breakfast (antioxidants, low-carb), followed by Le Sweat-ing with Atkins, a hike, family-style lunch, afternoon chill time poolside or in the spa, a cooking workshop, a restorative Le Stretch session, dinner, and an evening group event.
This was the launch of Well+Good Retreats, the first of four events scheduled for 2018 and the latest venture for founders Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula. After launching Well+Good in 2010 with a focus on the NYC wellness scene, the former journalists expanded into a thriving national brand (with 1.2 million social media followers and 800,000 email subscribers) covering fitness, beauty, food, travel, and home. Now, they are bringing their online content to life with retreats.
Candice Kumai leads an afternoon workshop on healthy cooking.
“Travel is the fastest growing category within wellness, and it was where Melisse and I met and started on this whole journey to create Well+Good,” says Brue. “So last summer, we launched travel as its own vertical. With so much consumer interest and appetite for travel, we felt like we were in a uniquely good position to launch retreats because we have that background, and we know all these great instructors and can pair them up and bring them to amazing locations like the Avalon in Palm Springs.”
Each retreat, like this one, will feature wellness gurus who will lead attendees through classes, demonstrations, and workshops. And each will focus around specific passions, such as fitness, yoga, or meditation.
After the morning Le Sweat workout, an afternoon Le Stretch session softens tight, hard-worked muscles.
Co-hosting with Atkins at the Avalon was Candice Kumai, a chef and author of six books. A copy of her newest, Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit, was gifted to each participant. Each day, Kumai demonstrated to the group a new recipe, such as anti-inflammatory carrot miso “Beauty Noodles,” miso kale Caesar salad, and creamy coconut matcha latte.
Guests are also treated to swag — lots of it. At the Avalon, in addition to Kumai’s book, they received a Well+Good tote bag, a BKR glass water bottle, and an eight-piece skincare kit from Drunk Elephant.
In addition, throughout the retreat attendees sipped on creative concoctions like wheatgrass pear and cucumber mint juice in the mornings, mocktails in the evenings, and popsicles poolside, all courtesy of Hurom juicers.
Of all the places they could have gone for their first retreat, why did Brue and Gelula choose Palm Springs? “The location needed to feel like an escape yet be convenient to get to,” Gelula says. “In Palm Springs, you’re in a vacation frame of mind, and the setting is magical, with the mountains and majestic palm trees.”
Attendees head off for a morning hike on the South Lykken Trail.
As for the hotel, it was Avalon’s aesthetic, boutique size, luxury accommodations, and outdoor meeting spaces that drew them. “We wanted to hold our workouts outside and fell in love with the Avalon, with its jasmine-scented outdoor lawn framed with a canopy of trees,” says Gelula. “The Avalon also has a great team, and their chef, Jason Moffitt, has been an amazing partner and collaborator. He understands functional eating and was excited to come up with special Well+Good menus with us and partner with Candice on her demos.”
Well+Good’s second wellness retreat is scheduled for Aug. 5–9 at Cedar Lakes Estate, located about 90 minutes north of New York City in the Hudson Valley. It’s an area filled with farms and artisanal food makers, and where city dwellers have long gone to decompress.
At the Avalon retreat, almost half of the attendees came alone — from as far as London, Abu Dhabi, and Mexico, as well as Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern California. “They knew they would meet other like-minded women,” says Brue. “We’re satisfying that need for people to have a wellness community.
For more information, visit wellandgood.com/retreats.
There was plenty of downtime allowing for a chill by the pool or a spa treatment.