by Annette I.
Not long ago, a knee injury on top of a particularly challenging consulting assignment left me overwrought and stressed out! It was then that I found out spa vacations offered secret weapons against the pressures of home, office, and business travel routines, while providing a variety of ways to relax and to look and feel better. By taking a spa vacation, I discovered the beauty and health practices of one of the most renowned spas in the world and at the end of your trip, left with personalized exercise routines, recipes, world-class skin-care products, and step-by-step instructions for enjoying spa-inspired activities and treatments at home.
You’re probably wondering where the word spa came from in the first place, aren’t you? It’s an acronym from the Latin, meaning “Sanitas Per Aqua”, or “health through water”. The Romans used to use hot springs for healing purposes and they gave one city in their empire the name Spa because of its spring.
At destination spa-resorts every service and amenity – from early morning hiking in the mountains to hot stone massages – is designed to heighten the senses, to make you more aware of living in the moment. You can indulge yourself or a partner in sensuous and rejuvenating therapy pleasures that refresh the body and uplift the spirit as you rediscover personal balance and peace of mind.
Conde Nast Traveler consistently ranks Canyon Ranch Tucson and the Berkshires among the ten best spas in the world. As my personal experience proved, they’re right! Canyon Ranch Tuscon was my most comprehensive spa experience. The health and fitness resort is nestled in the desert at the base of Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains. Amenities of the 179-room, 50-acre ranch include a 62,000-square-foot spa complex; a lounge; art gallery; exercise and weight training rooms; one squash and three racquetball courts; a yoga/meditation dome; sauna and steam rooms; whirlpools; private sunbathing areas; massage, herbal and hydro-massage rooms; a life enhancement center; a health and healing center complete with staff physicians, dietitians, psychologists and therapists; eight tennis courts; four indoor/outdoor pools, and my favorite, an underwater treadmill.
Upon arriving at the ranch, I met one-on-one with a Program Coordinator to maximize my visit by designing a schedule of activities and experiences. Overall goals, such as healthier living, as well as specific focuses, such as weight management, stress management or life transitions, were addressed. Among all the spas I’ve visited, Canyon Ranch offered the most medically advanced lifestyle change advice and made sure the advice was put into practice via my Program Coordinator. Canyon Ranch offered me the opportunity to learn how to take charge of my life — inside and out — by balancing the body, mind, and spirit. The team of caring health, fitness, and lifestyle professionals focuses on participants’ goals and motivation levels to ensure that each person’s objectives are met successfully. The combination of a desert setting and ultramodern spa complex provides guests with an extremely well-rounded experience that is both relaxing and energizing, and can lead to significant improvement of medical conditions. Specialists offer acupuncture, movement therapy, exercise physiology, nutrition education, lectures and workshops on health and lifestyle issues. I’d nearly cancelled my visit because I injured my knee and was having trouble walking, much less exercising. My Program Coordinator suggested that I use my trip to try alternative therapies including acupuncture and workouts on an underwater treadmill. Immediately, the alternative therapies relieved the pain and swelling in my knee while virtually eliminating my need for ibuprofen. Gradually, and with guidance from the Canyon Ranch staff, I was able to work the knee without the stress of gravity by using the underwater treadmill. In addition, I took state-of-the-art diagnostic tests which ranch therapists used to create a take-home guide to improving my overall health and preventing further injuries. All this and excellent massages too!
I tried the NYC Ballet Workout, which gave me new respect for ballerinas as topnotch athletes who, unlike ball players, manage to look beautiful too! In a hands-on cooking class I learned how to quickly prep (the trick is in the chef’s knife-handling secrets!) and cook a few simple, healthy meals to continue my Canyon Ranch experience at home. I sweated to the beat in the Funk Aerobics class with a live DJ, and got in touch with my inner child while smushing clay to make pottery in the Clay Connection (my cactus candy dish proudly adorns my coffee table today!). A rare treat was just to sit swaddled in my robe, hidden in a bower of exotic southwestern plants and enjoy the surprise passage of a family of pheasants as they scampered off toward their home in the desert. The beauty and tranquility of the grounds truly contributes to the revival and renewal of each guest’s spirit.
The most significant part of my spa experience was directly due to traveling with the Women’s Travel Club and that was the camaraderie that developed among the group. We went from being strangers at our Group Orientation to getting to know each other at dinner, encouraging each other to push a little harder during fitness classes, to the group of friends that our WTC host snapped in the photo on the last day of the trip. In fact, I still stay in touch with my roommate from the trip.
As a bonus, Tucson is in breathtaking and unique terrain: the Sonora Desert, surrounded by mountain ranges. Spaniards settled the area in the 17th century and made it a town in 1775. During the trip, I tasted the old Southwest along with warm, dry, sunny weather. On the way home, I shared a limo and spent a day touring the Old Tucson Studios, the San Xavier Mission, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
A spa break will relax you, de-stress you, and make you feel more fully human. Don’t forget to pack your workout clothes, Walkman, weight lifting gloves, and a bathing suit. Living the spa life will change your life forever. After experiencing a spa’s revitalizing programs and environment, I took home more than just memories. I left with a genuine sense of well-being and new insights on how to cherish my life, rather than just live it.