Becoming Thor

Ash Jurberg

Image Source: WikiCommons

Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor.

The epitome of perfect health, Chris has partnered with Nat Geo fitness to undergo “six extraordinary challenges” in order to test his body’s limits and showcase how we can all live healthier, smarter and longer lives.

Armed with a team of experts and a huge budget, it’s a lofty goal — but no doubt achievable with all the resources at his disposal.

But what if you don’t have a Hemsworth budget and a TV crew on hand? Is it possible to achieve similar goals when limited options are available? Can the Average Joe improve their own health without a HemsSquad? Well, thanks to the growing popularity of the Health and Wellness industry and in particular Health and Wellness Travel, the Average Joe can morph into the Above Average Chris.

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the wellness tourism category is set to reach $919 billion in value by 2022, with additional GWI data showing that wellness travel has been growing at twice the speed of general tourism. People are choosing to spend their vacation time on health and fitness retreats. Instead of sitting on a beach sipping cocktails, they rise at dawn for sunrise hikes. Rather than go shopping, they practice yoga. Physio. Pilates. Nutritionists. Mental relaxation. These are the new Vacation Check List items.

There seems to be a never-ending list of retreats and getaways targeting this booming market and providing consumers with their own tailored personal challenges. This opens the opportunity to step into a controlled environment, with experts on hand to see what results can be achieved — even if only for a short time. But do they work? Even on someone like me?

Phuket Cleanse, located in Phuket, Thailand, is one such Health & Wellness Retreat. With activities incorporating physical, mental, nutritional and even spiritual, Phuket Cleanse believes they can put together a short term plan that truly makes change. Or to use their Marketing spiel-“we have selected a team of Practitioners from around the globe that offer expert services, daily classes, and consultations on-site. Life Strategy Coaching, Blood Work Analysis, Physical Therapy, Nutritional Consultations, Performance Coaching, Personal Training, along with Yoga, Breath Work, and Mindfulness Coaching.” It all sounds great in theory and not unlike a Nat Geo Fitness episode, but how is it in practice?

Mel McVeigh is a typical guest. In her mid-forties, Mel, a single mother, leads a busy corporate life incorporating extensive travel and long hours. She had been exercising for six months with little result and was initially drawn to Phuket Cleanse as it offered boxing classes, something she was keen to try. Mel first visited the retreat in 2017 with little expectation. In her two weeks there, not only did Mel lose over six kilograms, but she “had a total transcendental experience -almost a weird psychic transformation.” She explains, “I learned to love yoga, I had a great physio and did every weird hippie treatment they offered. Not only did I get fitter and healthier, but it helped me cope with my marriage breakdown.”

To Mel it was such a life-changing experience she returned a year later with her 16-year-old son. This time “it was about helping my son eat healthy and believe in himself. My son struggled, but the support he got really changed his attitude to food and health and made him believe himself.”

Phil Anthony has a similar story, although he took it one step further. Having co-designed the 2012 London Olympic Stadium and won Consultant of the Year, his career trajectory was never better. Yet something deep down didn’t feel right, and he remained unfulfilled. He visited Phuket Cleanse, and after just two days there, the owners asked him to be a partner and director. Even though he had no background in health or fitness and no intention to move countries, Phil accepted without hesitation and six years later still lives in Phuket.

Having coached thousands of people over that period, Phil Anthony has seen a lot of transformation.

“Physical change (usually weight loss) is often the entry platform for most people’s change,” he says.

However, Phil believes it’s the other benefits that are driving the industry. “Mental, career, relationships- I’ve seen changes across the board.”

But do these changes actually last? We know the business model of gyms — signing up members and obtaining monthly fees whilst banking on them not turning up. What’s the drop off effect after a health retreat?

“The early stages of change are very rewarding, and the positive feedback loop keeps you motivated and keeps the momentum high,” Anthony says, acknowledging the issue,

“Unfortunately, most of us when we return to everyday stresses let things slide. The focus drops, and everything just becomes that little bit harder to restart. I think the trick is to commit to small changes, that when done over a long period can transform your life, rather than trying to make too made radical changes too quickly. The long game always wins.”

Mel agrees with her aim being to “apply the philosophy in day to day life.”

It does seem possible to be a non-Hemsworth and still undergo a transformation — even if small. The challenge is to keep it up post-holiday. Without the team of experts. This does require a long term commitment as there are no quick fixes.

Maybe there is hope for me. I can now plan my transition to Thor.

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San Antonio, TX

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