How Joelene Ranby transformed her hobby into an award-winning health retreat in the Waikato


Resolution Retreats bordering Lake Karapiro.

An award-winning wellness retreat in the Waikato encourages slow-and-steady progress. It’s the very mantra that the founder used to transform herself.

Words: Cari Johnson

No amount of yoga could have soothed Joelene Ranby for what lay ahead. “It was nerve-wracking,” she says of the moment she walked away from a six-figure salary to run health and wellness retreats full time. The former financial accountant had spent years juggling her job and part-time work at the retreats, crunching numbers by day and inspiring small groups of women at the weekends.

“Taking a leap of faith went against everything I knew. Quitting my job was based on emotion, not financial security,” she says.

Resolution Retreats founder Joelene Ranby. Photo: Claire House.

Five years later, Joelene is quite thankful for that act of trust. Her wellness programme, Resolution Retreats, has transformed considerably over the past eight years. The health-focused retreats were previously hosted at Pāpāmoa Hills near her hometown of Tauranga; in 2019, she made the heart-fluttering decision to move Resolution Retreats into a purpose-built resort bordering Lake Karapiro.

Such decisions paid off. This year Resolution Retreats was named the best wellness retreat in New Zealand at the World Spa Awards, a prestigious accolade in the health and wellness industry. For Joelene, success means helping others as she once helped herself. “Our success comes from genuinely filling a need to help women with their health. We do it our way by inspiring them to take care of themselves,” she says.

The multi-day programmes are designed to inspire healthy habits, not preach to them. Every package — from the four-day-stay to the 21-day journey — guides women through intimate workshops on meal-planning, cooking, yoga, and mindfulness, nutrition and exercise. The retreats also address how to apply such tools in real life.

Photo: Claire House.

“It’s all well and good to say you should eat 20g of protein. But what does that look like? Few people have that calculator in their head,” says Joelene.

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Take it from a woman who once had little interest in exercise or healthy eating. It took a hurtful comment from a relative to prompt Joelene, then in her 20s, to reassess her health. She learned to cook by studying cookbooks and watching the Food Network. She discovered that yoga wasn’t so bad — actually she enjoyed it — so she went on to teach group fitness classes after work. “I’m not naturally a healthy person. I started this journey from scratch and had to work really hard.”

The transformation inspired Joelene to help other women form healthy habits. After all, she’d already done the hard yards by educating herself on nutrition and exercise. “New Zealand had plenty of yoga and meditation retreats, but there wasn’t a programme completely focused on health,” she says.

In the early years, this meant being very hands-on; Joelene ran just about everything from yoga to cooking lessons on her own. Today, Resolution Retreats is run by a team of industry experts and caring staff, including personal trainers, nutritionists, life coaches, and beauty therapists. That’s not to say that Joelene is any less hands-on. On the contrary, she finds that sharing her ups and downs with guests helps keep the programme real.

“Everyone on our team has a personal health challenge — none of us is perfect. I think it’s refreshing for our guests to see that. It’s something every woman can relate to.”

JOELENE’S TIPS FOR THE NEW YEAR

Photo: Claire House.

Start with one change. “It’s not realistic to change your habits all at once. I made small changes over an extended period that helped embed those habits.”

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Get active your own way. “I’m still not a massive fan of exercise but I found that I really enjoyed yoga. Don’t force yourself to do something you know you don’t enjoy.”

Focus on progress, not perfection. “When we set our expectations too high, it feels like failure if we don’t meet them. There’s nothing more motivating than success and nothing more demotivating than failure. I’m all about realistic health changes.”

RETREAT YOURSELF

As if Joelene doesn’t have enough on her plate, the health guru is set to launch an recipe book in early 2021. Retreat Yourself includes 58 healthy and delicious recipes created on and for Resolution Retreats. The cookbook also serves as a guide to healthy living, with tips and tricks for readers to stay organised and on top of their nutrition needs. Find an exclusive extract below:

Guilt-Free Pancakes

INGREDIENTS

Pancakes:
½ cup quick cook oats (or rolled oats, processed into a coarse flour)
1 whole egg or 2 egg whites
½ tsp vanilla paste (or 1 tsp maple syrup or ½ ripe banana, mashed)
½ tsp cinnamon or nutmeg (or both)
Pink Himalayan salt
Spray oil for cooking

Toppings:
¼ cup natural probiotic yoghurt (or coconut yoghurt and 1 tsp chia seeds for a dairy-free alternative)
½ cup berries or other chopped fruit
1 tsp toasted seeds

METHOD

Combine pancake ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Heat a non-stick frying pan and spray with a little spray oil. Pour desired amount of mixture in the hot pan (recipe makes 1 large or 2 small pancakes). Flip when slightly browned or small bubbles form on the top of the pancake.

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Serve pancakes hot and finish with toppings.

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