Fit Farm builds on concept of intensive focus for physical transformation

When she was a CEO, Kris Intress traveled all the time, rarely got home and saw her own self-care discipline falling away as life, family and work fell out of balance.

But when her mother became ill from cancer, Intress put a new priority on taking care of both her family and herself. She quit her job, sold the business and spent those all-important weeks at her mother’s bedside. When her mother passed, Intress asked herself: What’s next?

The result is Fit Farm. Yes, you read that right. Fit Farm is a play on the idea of “fat farms,” or summer camps where children who were overweight were sent to lose pounds in previous generations. That kind of farm had a negative attitude and worse results.

Intress’s Fit Farm focuses on health, wellness, eating right and taking time to really hear what your body has to say, she said. This all-inclusive boot camp and fitness retreat in Nashville serves as a place for transformation of body, mind and spirit, Intress says, giving fast yet focused results.

“You can’t take care of anyone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself,” Intress says.

Committing to take care of yourself — whether you are an employee, an entrepreneur or the boss of a large organization — is key to making health and wellness not only a part of your culture but a reason to work for that business, studies show. According to a report by the American Psychological Association, only 17 percent of employees recommend their workplace if they feel their company’s leadership is not committed to issues of heath and wellness.

Having strong health and wellness approach as well as taking time for exercise, stress relief and finding balance between work and everyday life is key, the report showed. That means CEOs and leaders need to show how they are taking care of themselves — reflecting the broader culture within their organization.

Intress calls the Fit Farm “a pure fitness playground” that has 12 workout and challenge zones where people can work out together or with a trainer. And those trainers? They are everyday people — with bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. They look, in other words, just like the people who prioritize their fitness and health through a trip to the Fit Farm.

It is exactly as Fit Farm describes on its website: For the past two years, people come here to disconnect from their old lives, and reconnect with the world around them in a beautiful, picturesque farm campus. Why a farm? Because Intress remembers how the kids she knew growing up — including her now husband — who lived on farms were naturally fit and healthy in a way that made sense to her.

Fit Farm also offers fresh, farm-raised food on a seasonal basis to its guests. People get to eat what they need and when they need it, often in several smaller meals rather than three larger or oversized, American-style portions. No one goes hungry, that’s for sure, Intress says.

You can tell from her background in medical and hospitality industries that Intress knows a thing or two about customer service. She grew up with parents who worked on their weight for the bad and for the good. Intress herself was an athlete, so she cared deeply about how her body worked. Until she didn’t — and that was because she was working so many hours and trying to take care of too many people other than herself.

“People looked at me like I was in good shape,” Intress recalls. “But no one can tell you you’re healthy. Only you can decide if you feel well. … Wellness is not determined by a number on a scale but whether you are in a good state of mind as well as body.”

Intress wasn’t ready to retire when she looked up from her caregiving duties, and she knew that the United States had an obesity epidemic. So she decided to be a part of the solution — “a part of the action,” she says.

“I didn’t want people to define themselves by a number on the scale – muscle is more important. But women tend to judge themselves on whether they’re skinny. And that is not a healthy way to monitor your fitness,” she says.

The goal at Fit Farm is to use the time people can allot to their vacation or time there to finding out what they need — what they truly need when they’re not at work, helping family or staring at night at their smartphones instead of going to bed on time.

“We help people reset their lives and challenge their limits. Those things go hand in hand — we take a very active approach. We’re here to do the work,” Intress said. “If you want to go on vacation and lay around the pool, this might not be the right place for you. We have a pool but we use it for working out.”

The bottom line for Intress is that Fit Farm is a no-judgment zone where people of all kinds can come together, experience something special and take it home to better themselves and the people around them. That includes executives, CEOs and manager of every kind and she hopes that more businesses would look at Fit Farm as a potential benefit to their employees and offer it as such.

“We’ve found that people who come here end up being lifelong friends,” Intress said. “Our alumni travel around the world together. You’re going through something together that other people may not understand. It really bonds them for life.”