My Health Retreat, Day 1

We spend so much time indoors, at our desk, behind computer screens or on planes. Even when away from the computer, we are checking our phones. A standing desk cannot save us either. When we can’t see the forest through the trees, I figured it is time to reconnect with nature and go take a hike.Hiking in the Pocono mountains

I took more than just one hike, and recently I wrote about how I selected the health retreat I visited in June. Deerfield Spa was perfect for my needs: close enough to New York and Philadelphia, and not taking me too far out of the route, in terms my onwards travel to Ontario. However, having been there now this health retreat is worth travelling across the ocean for! Next year, I may very well have to make a dedicated trip.

While I was away I steered clear from my computer, internet, and my phone as much as I could. This is why I am now finally sitting down to write my report for the days I spent at Deerfield. The plan is to cover each day in a separate blog post, and without further delay,…

Health Retreat day one

I arrived late at night on a Thursday, the idea behind which was so start my Friday off right and jump into the Deerfield Spa schedule with full force. The spa is made up of several buildings, and my room was in the main house, on the first floor. The night before I dragged my suitcases out of the car and up the stairs, and was I ever happy I did that once the alarm went off at 6:50am. I was determined to make it to the 7am yoga class, about 5 steps out the door and in one of the two fully stocked gyms. It is not my usual thing to work out without breakfast, but with breakfast scheduled for 8am my only option was to eat the apples I still had in my bag. Given I wasn’t so enticed by the thought I decided it was habit, not hunger, fuelling my desire to eat. Getting more in tune with my body started right then and there. When I was researching health retreats I noticed Deerfield self proclaims to “favor health over hype and laughs over luxe”, but frankly I think that underplays the comfort you are met with during your stay. Sure, the place does not have the pretence of the Ritz, but who wants that when you are there to sweat/detox/relax/hike/fill-in-the-blank? I was thrilled not to have to worry about coordinating my running shoes with my workout top and headband. That can be fun at times, mostly when shopping for a new outfit, but it wasn’t the point of my week there.

Back to yoga…

While yoga started at 7am, the sunrise hike was even earlier and I allowed myself to miss it. Note to self, go tomorrow!

The yoga instructor guides me and one other lady through some poses. It feels luxurious to have an almost private session all to ourselves. There are enough options on the exercise menu at Deerfield that I figured others were swapping yoga for sleep and would join some of the later classes.

“Deep breath in….. and let it out with a sigh”, she said in a calm, low, yoga-esque-voice. I feel a knot of tension starting to release and I cannot remember the last time I sighed like that. It felt almost embarrassing, intimate, to sigh that loudly in public. She then asks me to take note of what I am feeling right now. I feel my stomach swollen with a few days of “on the road diet”, stress and my left shoulder hurts. I can’t stop thinking about work. I haven’t set my auto responder yet. And then I think about some of the changes happening in my personal life. People coming and going. I am here to release all of that, and I know it will not happen in my first 30 minutes. I breathe deeply a few more times and start to feel a little less tense. Until we are in downward dog and I am reminded of how tight my hamstrings are. Another lofty goal for the week: do more stretching!

Before I knew it, it is time for breakfast, and I shuffle back to the main house. I’m met with a cheerful choir of “Good morning” from the women in the dining room. I’ll admit, traveling alone I wasn’t sure if I would connect with anyone at Deerfield or have much social interaction beyond the shared experience of sweating through classes and hikes, but it was established right away that everyone was happy to chat with everyone else. Before breakfast was done I had made exercise partners and new friends.

my breakfast of poached eggs at deerfield spa

Poached eggs with breakfast, lovingly decorated with fresh flowers.

And what are new friends for if not to let me know (three of them did, separately) that the only time there is coffee, is at breakfast. Their golden tip: take some with you to your room and the kitchen is happy to heat it up later. I am surprised by everyone’s devotion to coffee, I am frankly fine with not having any. What am I, at the office? No… I was there to sleep if needed, but preferably hike, swim, and perhaps detox a little as well.

My first second fitness class

Yoga technically counts as a fitness class? If so, I was off to my second class of the day after breakfast and feeling like I was getting on a roll. I had not looked at my phone since turning off the alarm, and I was pumped for my cardio blast class. Half an hour in I was praying for the end, and ladies twenty years my senior were holding their own a lot better than me. After cardio blast, I rewarded myself with the more relaxed pool class before lunch.

 My first hike!

The schedule had a hike on tap for the afternoon. I was so excited and no gym class could tempt me to miss it. The group heading out for the hike congregated in front of the house, and I was prepared with my bag of water, bug spray, and hiking boots. Turns out, water, fresh fruit and bug spray were all provided as well by our lovely hiking guide Lars. He took us to George Childs Park (locally known as just “Child’s Park”), and mentioned he doesn’t often do this particular hike. We were in for a real treat. An easy beginners hike for most, we walked along well-defined paths and wooden board walks. The only potential challenge is the number of stairs littered around the park. I was the youngest person on the hike, and even the most senior people and those with knee problems managed. Yet, it felt like a decent workout. The best part were the gorgeous waterfalls along the way. Crossing over rocks in George Childs ParkTo get closer, I crossed over a bit of water, hopping from rock to rock and supported by the walking stick Lars offered at the beginning of the trail (these people are really prepared!).

There were a few kids on the rocky beach by the falls, enjoying the water. I was jealous of them and had I not been with a group of hikers waiting for me to finish taking pictures to continue on, I would have jumped into the water and started swimming around. Who knows, perhaps I do miss my days of working with fish, and a lot of water, during my graduate school days. I promised myself at some point during my trip I would return to George Childs Park for the sole purpose of a solo hike and a swim under the falls afterwards. It isn’t entirely clear to me if it was technically allowed, but one of the falls had such a calm and large body of water under it, that it seemed quite safe when applying common sense.

george childs park waterfall for swimming

I promised myself that before the end of my health retreat, I would come back and swim. Spoiler alert: I managed… very last-minute but I managed!

I only wished the hike could have lasted forever, but we had to make the drive back to the retreat, where we were met with our afternoon snack and some downtime before dinner. This week is all about pushing boundaries, and I pushed another tiny one by eating my portion of frozen grapes that constituted my snack. I do not like grapes (except once they become wine. Red to be exact.), but I’ll admit that I loved the frozen grapes. Somehow it made them less sweet, and it was fun to try some new things I wouldn’t have thought to do with regards to food. Once dinner came along I was treated to a gorgeous fillet of salmon. My dinner of Salmon at Deerfield spaAt Deerfield they really believe in good food. Not just feeding the body, but they make the food look gorgeous too. Flowers are a real decorative staple, and it just makes you feel like your food was prepared with love. I know, that sounds sappy, but that is really how it feels. It set me up for a nice quiet night and dropping into my comfy bed before midnight, earlier than I am used to on most days. It was a great start to the week, and I couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for me.

my bed at my health and fitness retreat

My comfy bed! The end of a great first day.


Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".


  1. Dan

    2 August

    Were the flowers edible? 🙂

    • I don’t think so :), but they were great for decoration. Although the food without it was beautiful too.

  2. pblondon07

    3 August

    Great write-up. I’ve never considered a health retreat but I could see myself bathing in that waterfall and letting my thoughts get lost in nature.

  3. Margo

    3 August

    Can’t believe I live in PA and didn’t know about this place. I knew we had some lovely nature, but your first picture inspired me. I’ll have to get out there more and actually enjoy it, it is so close by.

    • If I lived nearby I would be going on a weekend retreat every month or two! It’s great to reboot.

  4. Dan

    11 January

    I need this so bad….. nice post. Thanks for sharing!

    • Florence

      21 July

      What a creative approach to advice! I love the perspective

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