Thanyapura Phuket sports resort scared me big time when I first heard about it. All those website photos of triathlon and marathon training, Olympic pools and running tracks filled with teams vying for Olympic medals terrified someone like me, whose favourite activities are yoga and reading books, preferably while lying down. I’d rather stand on my head under a coconut tree than swim twenty laps around an Olympic pool.
So why did I finally get myself over to Thanyapura after avoiding it for years? Though I was totally intimidated, I was still curious about the place. I’d gone through a difficult time and become run down and out of shape. I’d been stress-eating and gained so much weight, I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans and had to buy new fat jeans. I wanted to get back to my slim old self and needed a kick in the butt and some serious, professional help.
When I heard that a friend was going to spend a month at Thanyapura to lose weight, this gave me the incentive to go there too, since I wouldn’t have had the motivation to go there on my own. So off I went to spend a week at Thanyapura to get fit and lose weight. (Woo hoo!)
What’s so scary about Thanyapura? Actually it’s not scary if you’re really fit. The place is impressive. Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort is Asia’s first and only professional sports training resort that offers all sorts of sports training and wellness programs for both professional athletes and people who want an active holiday. But I was out of shape and didn’t think I could be one of those high-performance athlete people, running around the track in the boiling sun like the photos on the website, especially in my exhausted, burned-out state.
I arrived in the Thanyapura Sports Hotel on a hot afternoon to find children everywhere – in the hotel lobby, in the hotel swimming pool, in the Olympic training pools, and in the restaurant. They were all wearing team uniforms, trainers, carrying sports gear, and chattering away.
I found out that Thanyapura is connected to an international school, provides sports facilities for the school and offers international summer sports camp for kids. The summer sports camp was in full swing, with kids and their families from all around Asia. There was also a children’s swim team from China and the Chinese national swim team there for training. No doubt people with children are used to a schoolyard environment, but I’m not a parent and this was different from the adult-centric hip hideaways I normally went to, where hushed murmurs, ambient music and soft lighting were the norm.
Thanyapura’s friendly young marketing manager, Suparat, gave me the property tour. “Oh, this is not that many kids right now,” she said, while I nervously eyed the Indonesian children’s swim team who filled up the entire hotel lobby. She told me that Thanyapura is fully booked for three months of the year by an Asia-Pacific regional swim competition with three hundred kids from all different countries attending. “Um… how do you fit them all in the restaurant at meal times?” I asked. No problem. The meals are organized in shifts and includes outdoor seating on the enormous restaurant verandah.
The facilities include the sports hotel, two Olympic training pools (one for adults and a smaller one for kids training), tennis courts, a running track, Muay Thai boxing ring, football field, an obstacle course, fitness studios, a medical center, a spa wellness center, and three dining outlets. There wasn’t much shade around the sports center, so it was a long, hot walk in the bright sun to get from the hotel to the sports facilities.
I was very comfortable in my spacious room at Thanyapura Sports Hotel. It seemed larger thanks to its unusually high ceilings and enormous glass back doors that opened onto a small private patio and a big private lawn that looked like a perfect and safe place where kids could play. The TV offered nine channels of sports in different languages.
Along with the sports training and summer camps, Thanyapura offers various wellness and fitness programs including detox, fitness, weight loss, anti-ageing, tennis camp, swim camp, and more . When making my booking, I had stated my fitness goals as “lose weight, get fit, and replace fat with muscle”, and was put on their weight loss program.
Upon arrival my first appointment was a wellness consultation with Nikki the American wellness director and Morgane the French nutritionist, which consisted of an extensive interview about my eating and lifestyle routine. I was scanned on the bio impedance machine which measures body mass index. At the end of my 6-day stay I would be scanned again to compare the before and after results. I was given my personalized activity schedule of sports training, fitness classes and medical sessions, and a personal meal plan of mostly vegan low-fat cuisine with a bit of fish for protein.
My weight loss program covered an extensive range of activities and medical services. I had arrived in a state of exhaustion , and since the first two days of my stay fell on the weekend when most of the medical staff were off, my schedule had lots of free time at first. Aside from starting the day with yoga followed by abs classes (which meant two hours of nonstop exercise), I took the afternoons off to rest and catch up on sleep.
My program included a 90-mintue slimming massage, which is a far cry from a normal relaxing spa massages I was used to. The slimming treatment involved a lot of vigorous pummeling on the thighs with suction cups, along with a special lotion to break down cellulite. This was my first cellulite massage (or any kind of slimming treatment) and I discovered that breaking down cellulite with suction cups was quite painful. The suction cup action hurt like hell, but I tried to bear it and assumed that all the pain meant that it was delivering results.
On Monday my schedule was packed, mostly with medical appointments which were all part of my weight loss program. My package included a blood test, colonic, IV vitamin infusions, L-Carnitine injections to help burn fat, a chiropractor session, a doctor consultation to analyse the results of my blood test, a personal nutrition consultation, a private meditation class and a private session with a personal trainer.
In between these medical appointments I was also going to the free daily yoga and abs class every morning, plus trying out Muay Thai, zumba, stretch, and any other classes I could fit in from the various group fitness classes offered all day long. At the end of each day I relaxed my muscles in the calorie-burning Far infra-red sauna in the locker room. I loved the infra-red sauna, which penetrates deep into the body tissue and makes you sweat like crazy. Most other wellness resorts I’d been to offered Far infra-red sauna in 30 minute sessions which guests had to book and pay per session, but at Thanyapura it’s part of the locker room’s steam, sauna, hot and cold plunge pool room, which guests could use at any time, as much as they liked.
The medical consultation was a revelation. I met with Thai medical director Dr. Narinthorn, who asked me about my eating, sleeping, exercise, and lifestyle routine, and then explained the results of my blood test. I told him about the chronic stress I’d been under, the stress eating, weight gain, lack of energy, and overall total exhaustion.
He told me all these symptoms and my blood test results were very clear – I had adrenal fatigue which meant my adrenals were depleted due to constantly producing cortisol from chronic stress, and my hormones were all out of balance. Basically, my body wasn’t producing enough of the essential hormones and chemicals I needed. I was running on an empty gas tank and the gas wasn’t being refueled. Instead, it was just getting more and more depleted.
He showed me diagrams of how adrenal fatigue affects the body’s hormone production, and how my lack of sleep was depleting certain hormones which the body produces during sleep. Because I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t producing enough vital hormones. No wonder I felt so exhausted! Doctor Narinthorn prescribed supplements for me, which I could buy on the spot from the medical center, along with instructions to take another blood test in three months and then email him the results.
I was delighted that this weight loss program included all of these medical services. Of course I had access to these services in Bangkok, but getting around the city is such a hassle, plus I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to search for the right doctor and then drive for hours through the exhausting traffic to get to the hospital. I loved how at Thanyapura, it was so convenient to have the medical care packaged so efficiently in one place, where the necessary appointments were made for me in advance, and all I had to do was walk a few minutes from my room to the medical center.
Other great medical features of the weight loss program were the “recovery formula” IV vitamin infusions, and L-Carnitine fat burning injections. My program included two recovery formula vitamin IV infusions which pumped the body full of nutrients. This took place in a pleasant room furnished with puffy reclining armchairs where guests can relax while the IV drip is hooked into their arms. Apparently this was a popular treatment as the room could fit up to eight people at a time.
This was the first time I’d heard of L-Carnitine and I was amazed that there existed an injection that melted your fat. How fabulous! I’m a firm believer of holistic therapy, all things herbal, and alternative medicine, but I was loving all these medical services. It was so effective and the service was so professional.
The medical center also includes laser aesthetic treatments that are normally offered in a dermatology clinic, such as Botox, facial dermabrasion, laser dermatology, and cool sculpting, an effective but very pricey laser treatment that kills fat cells and reshapes the body.
I was impressed by my personal training session with coach Stefan. My friend Melanie and her husband Chris had arrived two weeks before I did, and had been training with Stefan, who they thought was absolutely amazing. They gushed about his knowledge of every muscle in the body and how he trains by looking at your body, sees what your problems are, and then tailors the training to target the parts where you need fixing. The most impressive thing about Stefan was that he was in a wheelchair and trained both fitness and aqua fit classes from his wheelchair. So I booked my private training session with him and then I started gushing about him too.
Stefan was incredibly fit, and looked fantastic for someone who’s been in a wheelchair for twenty years. He also radiated a powerful positive energy that you could feel as soon as he came near you. It radiated from him like a halo. He was always smiling and relaxed. Melanie said that whenever she felt grumpy and unmotivated, which was most of the time, Stefan could always cheer her up with his good energy and cheerful attitude.
Stefan looked at me while I stood still in front of him. He said my neck bones were out of alignment and I was compensating for the pain on one side by tensing one shoulder higher on the opposite side. He told me to look in the mirror but I couldn’t see any of it. It looked normal to me. He could see that? I was amazed. He said it was only a centimeter off balance, but he could see this simply by looking at the way I stood. I stared and stared, but still couldn’t see what he saw. “ You can’t see it because you’ve been clenched like that for so long that you are used to it,” he said. “Don’t worry. Even if you can’t see it, I can see it. I know it’s there. I will fix it.”
He put me through a series of test exercises to see how my body functioned, and then a series of training exercises to strengthen the areas where I was weak. He asked if I was seeing the chiropractor during my stay. I was, since it was included in my program, and he told me to tell the Dr. Thomas the chiropractor “number 1 on the left side and number 2 and 3 on the right side of my neck”. I didn’t know what that meant, but Stefan said, “Don’t worry, the chiropractor will know what this means.” All too soon, our personal training session was over and since it was my last day, I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to have another session with him. I felt uplifted and in a better mood after my session with Stefan, as if his positive vibes had somehow rubbed off on me.
Chiropractor Dr. Thomas was a gentle American who I found easy to chat with about travel and meditation while he worked on my shoulder and neck, eliciting some frightening loud cracking sounds. He finished the session by giving me a form of energy healing called Healing Touch, which was founded by an American nurse and is practiced mostly by nurses in US hospitals. Healing Touch is similar to Reiki. He started on my feet and immediately I felt a strong heat around my ankles which lasted even when he moved his hands away. I’d gotten plenty of Reiki healing before, so this wasn’t new to me though I was surprised at how strong the heat was and how long the warmth lasted even after he moved his hands away. It was very relaxing.
The restaurant served normal buffet meals for the regular guests, but weight loss program guests like me and Melanie were served a personalized low-fat meal plan. Lunches were usually a tasty salad and light soup, but breakfast and dinner were a different story.
Breakfast was simple, such as pieces of fruit and raw nuts. It was more like eating for fuel rather than eating a real meal. Dinner was usually an austere affair consisting of the most basic items – potein in the form of a very small piece of fish or a few slices of plain tofu, plain steamed vegetables, and plain black rice or dry quinoa, with no seasoning, sauce, dressing, or added flavor of any kind. it was shockingly boring. It was difficult to eat such plain meals. After a few of these bland dinners, I craved some flavour and bought a giant muffin in the deli and ate it in my room. I felt guilty and texted Melanie to tell her I’d eaten a muffin.
“Don’t worry. I’ve eaten every cake and muffin and cookie in the deli already” she texted back. “I can tell you which the good ones are.”
Melanie had found the dinners too hard, so sometimes she skipped dinner and bought cake in the deli and ate it in her room. Whenever she did this, her husband got angry at her and then she would threaten to divorce him. Apparently this happened a lot as they both seemed quite grumpy when I saw them. It seems like it’s hard to stay in a good mood and stay married when you’re hungry. She still managed to lose a lot of weight, despite eating every type of cake in the deli.
Thanyapura isn’t a typical holiday resort in the usual sense. It’s really a giant sports club with a hotel attached, geared towards sports training. The sports facilities, medical services and staff are excellent. I was pretty sure I was having a different experience from the summer camp families and sports teams though, who were having very social group bonding experiences while I ate my meals and did my activities alone in solitary silence. I didn’t have any interactions with other guests and didn’t know who else was doing the same program that I was. I never talked to another guest while I was there aside from my friend Melanie and her husband who I only saw at dinner time, and I was glad they were there.
Still, I enjoyed the quiet “me time” relaxing alone in my comfortable room away from my demanding home life. I found the anonymity liberating; since nobody knew me or looked at me, I felt free to go around completely without any make up (I didn’t even bother with moisturizer or lip gloss). I wore the same khaki shorts and comfy baggy T shirt to dinner every night and didn’t know or care what I looked like. When I felt social, I enjoyed conversations with the various international teachers, trainers and nurses who worked there. I was impressed by all the staff who were friendly, helpful, efficient, and professional. All the trainers were in optimum shape and had super fit, beautifully sculpted bodies.
At the end of the week , my final results were surprising. I had gained one kilo! However the bio impedance scan showed that I’d actually lost fat and gained muscle (which weighs more than fat). I was a bit slimmer and felt much better. I even missed my daily Thanyapura exercise routine (morning yoga with Pascha and abs class with Jay) when I left there.
My first and last activities every day were walking past the Olympic pool between the hotel and the restaurant to go to breakfast and return from dinner. It was my favourite activity every morning and evening. I loved watching the swimmers doing laps in the glittering morning sun or the shimmering night lights. Most of all, I admired the athletes’ stamina and dedication to keep doing endless laps around that gigantic pool. It was beautiful and inspiring.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Thanyapura and I was impressed by how well the weight-loss program integrated sports training, medical services, spa treatments and food in a science-based approach to healthy weight loss. I’d recommend it to anyone and I’d go back again. Thanyapura is a place that delivers real results.
Have you been to a sports resort before? Where and how was your experience?