Raelene Honeycutt, fitness manager and program coordinator at Heartland Spa in Gilman, practices yoga before a session at the spa. Heartland Spa opened 30 years ago in a former dairy and horse farm. The destination spa offers programs for relaxation, fitness, health and pampering year-round.
Raelene Honeycutt, fitness manager and program coordinator at Heartland Spa in Gilman, practices yoga before a session at the spa. Heartland Spa opened 30 years ago in a former dairy and horse farm. The destination spa offers programs for relaxation, fitness, health and pampering year-round.

GILMAN, Ill. — Driving up the two-lane county road that leads to Heartland Spa in rural Gilman, you realize this may not be a typical spa experience.

Farms, farmhouses and ranch-style houses are interspersed with harvested cornfields and plots of timber. Across the road from the spa, a farm tractor is partially pulled into a machine shed, a chisel plow still attached.

One might wonder what a spa in the middle of corn country — Iroquois County bills itself as “the buckle of the Corn Belt” — could possibly offer in the late fall and early winter.

An underground tunnel that insures guests can move to all the spa services without venturing outside plus an indoor, 84-degree heated pool for water classes are just two of those offerings.

And like the farmhouses that surround it, although the weather outside might be chilly, the inside is warm, welcoming and relaxing — and full of things that are good for the body and soul.

“You don’t have to dress up for dinner,” said Raelene Honeycutt, fitness manager and program coordinator at Heartland Spa.

The spa brings a Midwest sensibility to the spa experience while offering a full menu of fitness, health, wellness and pampering services.

“Some guests are coming in because they need a jumpstart into fitness and health routine, some because they’ve hit a plateau, and they need a restart, some don’t want to do a lot of the fitness and that’s absolutely fine because they can enjoy the salon and massage services or just relax and read,” Honeycutt said.

She said the spa has seen an increase in those who take advantage of Heartland’s “unBootcamp,” a seven-night visit that combines a fitness assessment, a personal nutrition assessment, fitness classes that may include anything from yoga to Pilates to Zumba and aqua aerobics, presentations on various health and wellness topics, pampering sessions and life coaching. The end of an unBootcamp day includes a movie with popcorn.

“There has been more of an emphasis on people taking a full week to jumpstart their fitness to where they can get a grasp on things, take time to focus on the fitness and health and wellness side of their lives, and we felt like the week was something people needed so they could take advantage of that whole time,” Honeycutt said.

The Midwest location of the spa appeals to individuals and groups from as close as Chicago and the suburbs, as well as Bloomington, Champaign and Peoria, to nearby Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“People don’t have to add on the trouble and the cost of plane travel,” Honeycutt said.

The setting is conducive to relaxation. The 32-acre property features trees and timber, a three-acre lake and spaces for outdoor fitness classes. Bicycles are available, and Honeycutt said the spa has classes outside as long as weather permits.

The manicure and pedicure room looks out over the lake, which has a walking path around it with four meditation stations. Walls of windows provide what Honeycutt calls “the best seat in the house” for guests during pampering sessions.

The unBootcamp may sound intimidating, but it’s not – hence, the name.

“We call it unBootcamp because we don’t twist your arm to do classes. Everything is voluntary,” Honeycutt said.

The unBootcamp is popular with those who want to get a start on their New Year’s fitness and health resolutions, but some want to gear up before then.

“The Sunday after Thanksgiving, we have four returnees from last year’s unBootcamp. They booked before they left last year. They wanted to get a head start before the hustle and bustle of Christmas,” Honeycutt said.

The staff of 70 is a big reason for return visits.

“Our staff is intuitive, and we work together. It’s a small facility, and we understand what someone is going through. We understand the reasons people choose a destination spa vacation, a healthy relaxed vacation versus something they have to get worked up about, whether it’s packing the right clothes for dinner or just how they’re going to look,” the fitness manager said.

Clothing is provided for the visits, and guests can take advantage of that, bring their own clothes or mix the two.

As far as nutrition goes, nobody needs to fear that their morning cup of coffee will be banned. In fact, water, coffee, herbal tea and hot chocolate is offered at a refreshment station all the time, along with fruits, vegetables and even dates, for a sweet treat.

“We serve about 1,500 calories, which includes breakfast, a healthy snack, lunch, another healthy snack and dinner,” Honeycutt said. “Nobody has to feel deprived, but what we serve is nutritious, low fat, low sodium.”

For those who can’t get away for a week, the spa offers single-day, two-night and three-night packages. The spa packages include presentations, as well as fitness and pampering.

Topics include everything from nutrition information, body composition and health, meditation to reading food labels.

In keeping with the Midwest tradition of hospitality, Honeycutt said the appeal of Heartland Spa is due to several factors.

“Our atmosphere is casual and unpretentious. It’s helpful for wherever anyone is at in life, whether they need to manage stress or they need to increase their fitness activity or learn more about nutrition or just rest, relax and be pampered,” she said. “This is for anyone and everyone.”

For more information on the spa, visit www.heartlandspa.com or call (815) 683-2182.