Down on the farm, a hospitality veteran promotes wellness

CASTALIAN SPRINGS, TN—For hospitality veteran Kris Intress, health and wellness is a lifelong passion. She founded Fit Farm, an adult fitness and wellness retreat set on an expansive 160 acres here in a bucolic setting. A short drive from the bustling city of Nashville, Intress designed Fit Farm to be a respite and a place to jump-start positive change in the lives of others.

Kris Intress and her husband, Pat Steffen

“I truly believe we all desire a healthy work/life balance, but we struggle with the word ‘tomorrow,’” said Intress. “Tomorrow, I will start the change. Tomorrow, I’ll eat right. Tomorrow never arrives because it is this illusive moment in time. At Fit Farm, we celebrate tomorrow with the power of today.”

While fitness and well-being have been an integral part of her life—she overcame obesity in her youth through sports, and later served in the U.S. Army Reserves—there was a period of time when it wasn’t her main focus. A hospitality leader in her own right, Intress previously served as the CEO of WorldHotels, a group of independent hotels and resorts. Prior to that, she held the roles of president and CEO at InnLink LLC, a hospitality technology provider based in Nashville, TN.

“My experiences have been varied and diverse. As a busy executive, life took over; work and other responsibilities filled my day, leaving no time for exercise or my health. Now, after having ‘been there and done that,’ I am helping others through these same life challenges,” said Intress. “Fit Farm truly and passionately represents my beliefs and values. Having watched my parents struggle with obesity and recently overcoming the loss of my mother, I’m poised to challenge the status quo and help others take control of their lives.”

Fit Farm is a tribute to her childhood growing up on the farm. Intress has incorporated the simplicity of that lifestyle into her wellness philosophy.

“Sometimes in life, we over complicate the basics; there’s fad diets, obsessive screen time, information overload and keeping up with the Joneses,” she said. “My husband’s family and my grandparents were farmers; we grew up seeing the strength and wisdom of our heritage. We wanted to create a playground where our guests could get back in touch with the power of the basics: playing outside, eating clean and enjoying the freedom of disconnecting from our obsession with technology. It’s about balance and honoring those who’ve fed our soul and emulating the truism of human strength. That’s what Fit Farm is all about.”

Fit Farm takes a three-pronged approach to wellness: fitness, nutrition and wellness. The daily training program is tailored to the client’s level of fitness and overall goals. It’s all about sweat equity, and Fit Farm proudly touts the success of clients via a ticker on the company’s website: 1,522 inches lost, 1,608 pounds down and more than 120 lives transformed, to date.

“As my true passion and ultimate quest, I want to help companies activate their goals of a healthy workforce,” she said. “What better way to accomplish the mission than to create a corporate destination for retreats with health and wellness weaved into the DNA? We require one hour of fitness per day and provide healthy food and beverage options throughout the retreat. We also provide an optional education session for the retreat, which covers topics like navigating the party, drinking your calories and road-warrior fitness, etc.”

Wellness opportunities abound. There are 12 exclusive training areas spanning 80,000 sq. ft. across Fit Farm’s 160 acres. There’s also team-building exercises, fishing, a leadership obstacle course, as well as frisbee golf, basketball and a movie theater. Guests who’ve worked up a hunger enjoy customized nutritional plans, with five meals each day, including healthy snacks and shakes. To relax and unwind from an active day outdoors, there’s a spa with a variety of treatments.

“We encourage our corporate retreats to move the meeting outside,” she said. “Getting outside of our sandbox is where the magic happens. Movement and adrenaline stimulate creativity and a dose of fresh air opens the mind.”

Fit Farm’s program runs weekly, from Sunday to Sunday, and there are weekend stays from Thursday to Sunday. According to Intress, the average stay is two to three weeks. Guests have a variety of accommodations in the form of 55 suites, single and double rooms.

“It takes a full 15-21 days to change or create a habit; three weeks is a great minimum for stays,” she said. “We have had 40% repeat guests. Our alumni tend to book a weekend-warrior or one-week stay to continue their fitness journey. They often rebook with other returning guests.”

Reflecting on her career and present life, Intress said, “The two most important days in a person’s life are the day they were born, and the day they find out why. I have chosen to pursue a dream that allows me to measure my success by how many lives are impacted. I’ve also chosen to surround myself with individuals passionately vested in something bigger than any of us can be on our own. I know now this is my heart, and the heart of everything we do at Fit Farm.”

Hospitality is at the heart of how she helps clients achieve their health goals. Intress’ expertise in this industry is seen throughout the guest experience at Fit Farm.

“Hospitality is about opening your doors, providing moments and memories of laughter and joy. It is about being authentic and warm, and reminding each other about the joys of sharing adventures together,” she said.

Intress also was inspired by the sheer enthusiasm and love for hospitality shown by her colleagues while working for WorldHotels.

“Each hotel had a story, and my job was to help tell the world about them. Therefore, I learned from the best when it became my turn to tell my story and mission,” she said. “Fit Farm is an authentic upscale fitness retreat. Yes, we have suites and amenities as expected, but we exchanged the white gloves for the down-and-dirty obstacle course, fishing pond, frisbee golf, gardening and other game-changing moments that will remind us what it feels like to be in the moment and alive. That is hospitality to me.”

Intress firmly believes Fit Farm is just the beginning of her new path as she strives to carry the farm’s principles to every corner of the world.

“Everyone needs a Fit Farm in their life,” she said. “Join us for a walk on the Appalachian Trail, white-water rafting, scuba diving or jumping out of a plane. We want you to live your bucket list, not just write it down and hang it on your wall as an idea you will get around to tomorrow. We’re in an era of authentic experiences and we choose to challenge the status quo. Luxury is now an experience, not just a five-star rating, and we intend to redefine how we create and share those micro-moments in our lives.” HB

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