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Fitness

Car Free LA Beverly Hills

Of the six reasons we recently gave for Melbourne being voted the “most livable city in the world,” public transportation ranked number four. Meanwhile, eight thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, sprawling Los Angeles isn’t about to win any awards for its still-in-progress Metro system and tangled network of unreliable bus routes.

No surprise, then, that LA has become known as a “car city” — almost every destination on your itinerary is usually best reached by car.

But there is a movement, albeit a small one, to change all that: Car Free LA is a day-long event taking place this Sunday, as part of a worldwide initiative celebrating alternative transportation modes. And for anyone who happens to be visiting the city this weekend, the centerpiece of LA’s campaign will be a public walking (and Metro) tour from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, and back (for those not in town, you can follow all the fun on Instagram and Twitter by using the hashtag “carfreeLA”). Read more

Flower Route South Africa NamaqualandThroughout Africa, the Big 5 will always have undisputed cache among travelers. But come spring, certain regions of South Africa’s Northern Cape province, including Namaqualand, which is within about six hours’ drive of Cape Town, bloom with wildflowers. Among the standout: brilliant orange Namaqualand daisies, indigenous succulents known locally as vygies, and the impressive king protea, the country’s national plant.

Starting around August and running through September, the landscapes in this part of the continent transform into a Technicolor explosion of orange, yellow, red, and purple, as millions of wildflowers herald the end of the winter rains. Tourists flock to see the spectacular show, snapping photos, meeting fellow floraphiles, and trading stories of their excursions in restaurants and B&Bs along the way.

Here, tips on how to stop and smell the daisies. Read more

Traveling Without Weight GainMy two absolute favorite pastimes when I travel are eating well and not working out. Historically I’ve been able to indulge in both pastimes, as my metabolism has always been quick and I’ve never traveled with the expectation that I ought to return home in better shape than when I left.

In recent years, however, my metabolism has slowed, which means that if I want to eat my destination’s rich treats and return home in the same shape as when I left, something has to change. And since I don’t want that something to be that I need to hit the gym during or after my trip, I sought out some expert tips for maintaining my weight on the road.

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Brooklyn Boulders Climbing WallAccording to the thermometer, it’s pretty cold out there in most the country right now. As in single digit cold. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the fact that you’re the kind of person who likes to burn calories outdoors. Hiking boots, bike shorts, a life vest, climbing shoes—these are your preferred gym clothes. So what are you supposed to do when winter temperatures dip low enough to make a snowman shiver?

The answer is simple, and fortunately for the fair-weather adventurer, heated: find an indoor climbing wall. As the sport of climbing has grown in popularity, rock gyms have sprung up everywhere, especially in eastern cities where busy professionals don’t necessarily have easy access to cliffs, crags, towers, and other large rock formations. And just about every spot offers day passes, equipment rental, lessons, and the occasional discount, so you can show up for a test climb without committing to membership. Plus, they’re good places to meet other outdoor enthusiasts and a fun alternative to yet another predictable workout on the elliptical. Read more

healthy holiday getaway tipsWe typically associate vacations with indulgence. While most of us maintain some form of dietary restraint at home, sitting on a beach or skiing on a slope is another story altogether, starring extra drinks, Parisian pastries, and sugary snacks. Factor in a vacation during the holidays– fraught with even more treats at every turn – and suddenly our calorie count is stuck circling the Bermuda Triangle (with no end in sight!). To make sure you start 2013 off on the right foot, we’ve assembled five tips for keeping your body shipshape during your holiday vacation, channeling Elle Macpherson’s restraint with a side of Gordon Ramsay’s zest.

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hotel gym treadmillsThere are plenty of things to complain about when it comes to hotels. Uncomfortable beds, the lack of convenient outlets, and dirty sheets are just some of the gripes shared by travelers. But nothing angers hotel guests more than fees, especially for services that they feel should be included in the room rates. Fees for Internet access and use of fitness centers consistently anger travelers, and a new survey shows that the problem is only getting worse. More hotels in the United States are charging for Wi-Fi and gym access, leaving guests to wonder why their calls for change are going unanswered.

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Rosewood Little Dix BayAs the sun was beginning to slip behind the bay, I wasn’t anywhere near Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s crescent-shaped beach. Nor was I clad in some breezy sundress, sipping a rum punch by the bar.

While other guests at the resort were doing what most people like to do in the Caribbean – that would be relax – I was dressed in workout gear, prepped to spend the next 90 minutes hoisting a 25-pound kettlebell over my head. Although I was no sight to behold during the balmy outdoor class, the scenery was beautiful: sea, sand and that setting sun.

I had flown to the Virgin Gorda getaway in the British Virgin Islands to dedicate several hours a day to contorting, lifting, calorie melting, and sweating as part of the resort’s new series of yoga and fitness retreats run respectively by yogi Johnny Anzalone and Frankly Fitness founder, Frank Baptiste.

Little Dix’s program is part of a growing trend happening at warm weather hideaways around the globe: One-of-a-kind fitness retreats taught by coveted instructors in locales that also allow vacationers to get their much-needed chill on.

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Start the New Year off right on a spa retreat in Southern California – with mom by your side. The Oaks at Ojai, a health and wellness spa in the colorful Ojai Valley outside of Los Angeles, is offering a special package for every guest traveling with his or her mother from January 1 through 13. Each son or daughter sharing a room with mom will pay only $119 per night – a savings of 40% on current resort rates. In addition, both guests will receive three meals a day, a choice of 15 fitness classes per day, and evening entertainment and seminars.

The Oaks at Ojai is a relaxing and rejuvenating escape from the stresses of everyday life. With a focus on healthy weight loss and overall wellness, the resort offers a wide range of fitness classes, including hiking, yoga, Pilates, and strength training. It also features a delicious low-calorie menu made with local ingredients and fresh herbs from the resort’s garden. For an extra cost, indulge in one of the many luxurious treatments at the on-site spa. Plus, this is Southern California, so you’ll find no shortage of opportunities for lounging in the sun or exploring the local artistic community of Ojai.

THE VALUE: Bring your mom with you on a healthy spa retreat, and you’ll save 40% on current resort rates.

THE CATCH: Only the daughter or son gets the discount; mom has to pay full price. (But, if you split it, you’ll still each receive a 20% discount.)

THE DETAILS: Visit The Oaks at Ojai and choose the Mother Daughter Discount, or call 800-753-6257 and mention the same discount.

WE’VE GOT MORE: See our California Travel Guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, packages, and more travel deals.

It’s your lucky day! On 11/11/11 only, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., you can book the 4-star Affinia Dumont in New York City for only $111.11 a savings of up to 45% on the hotel’s current rates! Located in the upscale neighborhood of Murray Hill and just three blocks from the Empire State Building, the fitness-centric Dumont boasts a 24-hour fitness center, a yoga studio, and a luxurious day spa. From the top of the Dumont, catch inspiring views of Manhattan rooftops, the Chrysler Building, and the East River.

This deal is valid for travel on Sundays nights only from January 2 through March 31, 2012.

THE VALUE: Save up to 45% at this 4-star, fitness-oriented New York City hotel.

THE CATCH: Mark your calendars – you can only book this deal from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on this Friday, November 11, 2011.

THE DETAILS: Visit www.affinia.com on 11/11/11 and use the promo code ELEVEN.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights to New York City.

For general trip-planning information, see our New York City Travel Guide.

The Chedi MuscatNews of the just-opened spa at The Chedi Muscat tempts me to spend a winter’s week spa-ing amidst sea and sand in Oman, a 105,000-square-mile country located on the Arabian Peninsula. Oman may be known for its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, markets, museums, and wadis (dry riverbeds), as well as a 1,000-mile long coastline and dramatic desert dunes that lead to rugged mountains. But this seasoned spa-goer predicts that this newly built facility establishes Oman’s credentials as a spa destination.

More than one million people – about one third of the population – live in Muscat, the capital city, where the English language is second to Arabic. About 20 minutes from the city’s historic heart, The Chedi Muscat sits on a 21-acre private beach-front estate facing the Gulf of Oman and backed by the Hajar Mountains. The 158-room resort provides sumptuous, contemporary accommodations in two story villas, six restaurants, floodlit tennis courts, and three pools including the stunning 300-foot-plus, palm-lined Long Pool. Its dazzling Arabian Nights design features stark white buildings punctuated by columns, pointed arches and vaulted ceilings with minaret-style chandeliers.

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The Biggest LoserIf you’re motivated by the Biggest Loser series but would prefer to shed your extra lbs off camera, you can actually check in to a Biggest Loser Resort. There are two existing locations, in Invin, Utah, and Malibu, and a third on the map for the Eastern Seaboard in 2012. These resorts are directly inspired – guess you could call them spin offs – of the NBC show and are no-joke fitness camps where guests can work their butts off to achieve serious weight-loss results. Expect the kind of drill sergeant-led training programs you’d see Jillian Michaels belting out on the show. Go ahead and check out what a day entails at the Malibu property here. The resorts themselves don’t look particularly luxe. They’re really all about education, nutrition, and maintaining the “loser lifestyle.” (One can only hope the future franchise does some rebranding and loses the loser name. Does anyone really want to be called a big loser? How has that stuck?) We wouldn’t call a stay here a vacation, not even a fitness vacation. Pretty sure the only pleasurable part of your trip will be checking out a good 10 pounds lighter. But, the promise of weight loss is a powerful thing. Or so it seems. The Invin resort is booked solid through October. Rates start from $1,995/week for double occupancy or a shared room in Invin; $2,295 in Malibu. Prices include all meals and classes. www.biggestloserresort.com

Caesars Palace Las VegasIf Mom can spend her special day ax throwing or white-water rafting, why not send Dad to the spa? These brand-new packages and treatments for Father’s Day will leave your dad relaxed, refreshed – and in a much better mood to hear about how you’ll be taking summer classes this year to make up for your party-heavy spring semester.

Ciel Spa at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills

This L.A. hotspot has put together a Dad’s Day of Relaxation package, redeemable on any day Dad chooses. Along with a 60-minute massage and a 30-minute facial, the package includes a beer and steak salad served at the spa. Deal Alert: Booked a la carte these services would cost over $250, but you can score them for your dad for just $175. cielatsls.com/specials

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Como Hotels & ResortsForget ashram-style deprivation: Nirvana and high thread counts go hand in hand at these well-appointed retreats that welcome the bendy yogi and the curious novice alike. Flowing classes, indulgent spa therapies, and dazzling surroundings? Just say om.

LESS THAN $1,500

A mountainside hideaway enables guests to explore Costa Rica as well as the inner self.
RETREAT In airy pavilions at Pura Vida Retreat and Spa overlooking the capital San José, instructors teach a variety of yoga styles, from slower, less flowing Iyengar to the more dynamic vinyasa and power flow varieties.
RELAX Guests with sore muscles can find relief at the spa, where therapists offer treatments such as Cloud Forest Magic, a holistic, deep-tissue massage that incorporates aromatherapy and a detoxifying steam for the body.
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Forty: That’s the number of fitness class options I had on a recent Sunday at Miami’s Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa. And that’s the light day. On Wednesday, there were 59 offerings, ranging from an early morning beach walk to rock wall climbing, three kinds of yoga, and something called stick fusion that combines kickboxing with a padded foam stick to work the entire body. There were also workshops on healthy eating, inner beauty, self-awareness, and understanding Chinese herbs. But here’s the biggest surprise: The classes were included in the price of the room.

Until Canyon Ranch opened its Miami location in 2008, the only way to truly experience the legendary wellness center was to participate in an immersive program of planned meals and activities at the center’s locations in Arizona or Massachusetts. At the Miami property, the company took a more freewheeling approach: Although fitness is included, spa treatments and meals are all à la carte. The resort even serves alcohol, a first for Canyon Ranch. What it didn’t change was the staff’s scope of knowledge. Not only do the fitness instructors know their stuff, but waiters can rattle off every ingredient in your lunch entrée without batting an eye.

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Whether you knew or not, National Yoga Month (September) has come and gone. But fortunately Kimpton is offering a program for downward-doggers all year long.

As we all know, it’s too easy to use travel as an excuse to put off exercise – new place, no gear, fresh distractions, no routine. Yet after spending hours folded into an airplane seat or hunched over a steering wheel, a yoga session offers the perfect chance to stretch out bag-weary shoulders and shake off travel-fatigue mind fog.

Kimpton properties across the country – generally cool, boutique-feeling hotels with artsy interiors and pet-friendly perks – offer the gear, in-room instruction, and even at some locations, free on-site classes. Read more

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