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Canyon Ranch Revisited

When Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires opened about a decade ago, Abe and Miriam Friend of Staten Island, New York signed up for a charter membership. Since that time they have traveled to the Massachusetts fitness retreat at least twice yearly for a four night stay. Although they are getting on in years, you won’t find them stretching with "Active Seniors." This writer thought that the exercises for strengthening and flexibility taught in the class were appropriate even for sedentary people and that the movements could easily be repeated without an instructor.

The Weisses might instead attend a spinning class, a cardiovascular workout using stationary bikes, which are more complicated than the ones usually found in homes. First time participants receive detailed directions on their use. Abe and Miriam fill every hour with classes—nearly 50 are offered—lifting weights, hiking, canoeing in summer and getting treatments. They also attend evening lectures, such as guided imagery and tools for living well.

Miriam said, "Our schedule is flexible because we have our own business. We never go anyplace else and prefer to come here rather than owning a vacation house. The staff is great and they make it effortless for you to do everything. If we forget to bring boots and heavy socks for outdoor activities, they lend them to us."

Vincent Clements of Pittsburgh is so enthusiastic about Canyon Ranch that he has memberships in Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona and in the Berkshires.

Clements, a widower and private investor, said, "Many men are initially apprehensive about spas, but their interest grows after the first stay." Clements used the spa as a place to heal following his wife’s death and as a refuge. He feels that he can choose to be alone or with people, whatever particular mood suits him. He likes the fact that upon registration everyone is scheduled to see a program coordinator and a nurse. He sometimes consults with the nutritionist, too.

The comments of Jim Davis, a single attorney, during his first visit were equally favorable. His experience, he said, was better than expected. "I had a sense of ease and wellness. It got to be fun, and it took my mind off work." Although Davis belongs to a gym in New York City where he exercises about once a week, he had never worked out in the water." I found hydrofit rewarding," he noted. "It made me feel I was doing something good for my body." Davis came alone and enjoyed eating and talking with other guests at the Captain’s Table.

Canyon Ranch recently opened a third facility, SpaClub, for day services at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. For a $25 fee visitors can stay the day to use the equipment and to take classes including instruction in scaling a 40-foot indoor rock-climbing wall. SpaClub also features two private spa suites designed for couples. For $1000 for four hours, you get four treatments, breakfast or lunch and your own lounge with steam, bathroom and soaking tub. Unlike other destination spas that concentrate mostly on exercise, diet and beauty, Canyon Ranch offers a complete program for health and healing. Trained medical professionals provide consultations and testing in many aspects of well being. Staff specialists also work one-on-one with guests in areas relating to behavioral health, exercise physiology, movement therapy and food and nutrition.

Exercise in the Park

At Canyon Ranch there are no Draconian regimens, dizzying diets or overly chirpy instructors. The food is low calorie, low fat and prepared without salt. No one limits your food intake or forces activities on you. The emphasis is on self-motivation and "taking the spa home with you."

No wonder the guests all look so content.

Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, 165 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA 01240. Tel. 800-742-6494, 800-326-7080. Three day minimum packages begin at $1,290 double occupancy. www.canyonranch.com/lenox/index.asp

Winter 2000-01