Tucson's Canyon Ranch: A Healthy Retreat
By Rebecca Antioco
New Year’s resolutions. Fewer and fewer Americans are making them, and it’s no
wonder. The success rate is dismal; by June, more than half of resolvers will
have given up on their goals. Depending on which research you believe, statistics
show that by the time December rolls around again, somewhere between 80 and 95
percent of those resolutions are as dead as last year’s Christmas tree.
So what’s a well-meaning resolution maker to do? You could say, “What’s the point,”
grab the TV remote, put on your bathrobe and curl up on the sofa with your best
friends Ben and Jerry. Or, you could ditch the Chunky Monkey and find some new
friends who will help get you started on the right foot. I found mine at Canyon
Ranch in Tucson.
With few exceptions, those of us who make resolutions are a predictable lot.
We want to get healthy, relax, and maybe broaden our horizons a little. I’ve
listed five common resolutions below (they’re the ones that keep showing up on
my list anyway) and how a three-night stay at Canyon Ranch can help prevent your
resolution from becoming another statistic.
Resolution 1 (& 2): Lose Weight (a.k.a., Get Healthy)
It’s the biggie, the goal that tops everyone’s list. And we know your aforementioned
confectionary friends aren’t going to do anything to accomplish it. Instead,
you’ll have to rely on those more practical, less enticing buddies, diet and
exercise (thus, two resolutions in one).
Part 1- Diet
Admittedly, I am neither an extremely healthful nor adventurous eater. Despite
that fact, I enjoyed the Canyon Ranch dining selections, which prove that healthy
and delicious are not mutually exclusive. The menu emphasizes organic, local
and wholesome ingredients, and because Canyon Ranch is all-inclusive, where you’d
normally find a price tag, you’ll see calories, fat grams and fiber grams for
At breakfast, whole grain pancakes, steel-cut oats and fresh fruit are staples,
along with an omelet bar and, if you wish, a hot cup of coffee to get you fueled
up for a long day of physical activity. Lunch and dinner menus change daily,
with a sandwich bar always available in the afternoon and a pasta bar at night.
On any given day, the dinner menu might feature turkey meatloaf, Cornish game
hens, sautéed fish or scallops, or even a flatbread pizza or burger. What you
won’t find are soft drinks and alcohol.
Even dessert has its place; each is a small portion and most have three teaspoons
or less of added sugar. No artificial sweeteners are used, just honey, fruit
juice, brown sugar, molasses and, occasionally, white sugar.
So, by now you may be thinking, “That’s all fine and good while I’m there, but
what about when I get home?” Because the goal of Canyon Ranch is lifetime wellness,
there are several programs available that can help you continue your newfound
healthy lifestyle at home. You can meet with a nutritionist who will assess your
lifestyle, medical needs and goals to come up with a menu and recipes for a week,
two or more. Or, receive a personal nutrition consultation on topics that range
from Eating for Energy and Fastest Meals Imaginable, to Dining on the Go and
Clean Eating in Today’s World, among others.
Part 2- Exercise
Another confession: I hate the gym. Call it a short
attention span, but I get sick of doing the same
thing over and over again, running on a treadmill
like a hamster in an exercise ball. I like variety,
preferring sports like tennis to a straight-up
workout. My husband, in contrast, goes to the gym
three times a week, faithfully following a routine
of cardio and weight lifting. His sister prefers
yoga; her boyfriend likes outdoor ventures like
hiking and biking. We all found something to enjoy
at Canyon Ranch, even overlapping in some cases.
With my lax diet and exercise routine, I wasn’t exactly
a prime physical specimen heading into this adventure.
I was a bit worried that, at the least, I wouldn’t
be able to keep up, at worst, that I would stick
out like Jabba the Hut in a crowd of Barbie dolls.
Turns out, I (thankfully) had nothing to worry about.
Old, young, thin, not-so-thin, athletic, couch potato
— you name it, I saw it in the locker room and in
Each day, there are about 45 different fitness classes
available, beginning on the hour. “This Week at Canyon
Ranch” lists daily schedules, descriptions and fitness
level required for each course. Basically, classes
are broken down into six categories: aquatic, cardio,
flexibility, mind-body (yoga, meditation, breathing,
etc.), strength and specialty (we were there during
Gotta Dance! theme week, which included some unique
classes that fell into this category).
It’s a good idea to choose from each area when planning.
For example, taking five cardio classes is generally
a bit much, unless you’re a professional athlete;
likewise for strength classes. On any given day,
each member of my family chose four to five activities.
One day, I had a private tennis lesson in the morning,
followed by a muscle conditioning class. After lunch,
I switched gears to cardio with Boxer’s Workout and
a spirited game of Wallyball. I ended each day with
Stretch & Relaxation in an attempt to head off
the impending muscle pain.
Resolution 3: Try Something New
The sheer quantity of exercise was new in and of
itself to most of us, but we all challenged ourselves
to try something out of the ordinary.
For my husband, it was Yamuna Body Rolling, a massage/stretching
session involving inflatable fitness balls of varying
sizes. You lay flat on the table, and a therapist
positions the balls under your back, thighs and other
tension areas. After 50 minutes, two days worth of
muscle pain disappeared. A month later, he’s still
raving about the results.
His sister tried acupuncture, with a mixed reaction.
Ashiatsu, a form of massage where the therapist uses
his or her feet to sooth sore muscles, was a hit
with my husband’s dad, while his sister-in-law discovered
the joys of working out with a balance board.
As for me, peer pressure got me into a Fit Strip
class, way out of my comfort zone. And, while I have
no plans to quit my day job, I had fun and some good
laughs at my own expense, got a great workout and
developed a newfound respect for the fitness level
and coordination of those employed in the exotic
Resolution 4: Reduce Stress (a.k.a., Relax)
Others may choose to start their day in the Centering
Circle for guided meditation and reflection, but
just get me a good massage therapist. I started out
the weekend in the spa with an exquisite, tension-melting
100-minute hot stone massage. For me, this is the
ticket to relaxation.
A morning walk, yoga, tai chi — whatever gets your
mind clear and your body relaxed, it’s important
to find time for it when you can. While many classes
at Canyon Ranch are high intensity and fun, the late
afternoon session often includes Guided Relaxation,
Restorative Yoga, Stretch & Relaxation or similar
sessions that help you wind down after a long day.
Daily workshops and discussions center around how
you can bring these practices home.
The focus is on health, involving both the mind and
the body. There’s plenty of time and opportunity
to work on both at Canyon Ranch.
Resolution 5: Spend Time with Loved Ones
We made this visit to Canyon Ranch a family affair,
embarking on the healthful journey with my husband’s
father and siblings, along with their significant
others, leaving the kids at home. (Guests at Canyon
Ranch must be at least 14 years old. Also, see previous
As it is with many families, the majority of our
get-togethers revolve around food. We gather for
big Sunday dinners, celebrate birthdays and special
occasions by going out to eat — I won’t even get
started on the holidays. Getting everyone together
in a new setting was a welcome change.
And who better than family to laugh when someone
(who shall remain nameless) falls off the fitness
ball during Core Dynamics (twice), or to coerce you
into a Fit Strip class despite your lack of coordination
and “moves.” We bonded over new discoveries (Thai
massage, Yamuna) and fitness foibles, shared classes,
opinions, laughs and healthy meals. And now that
we’ve all set out down the road to establishing healthier
lifestyles, we’ll likely have many more years to
focus on this most important resolution.
If you go:
After booking your vacation, you will receive an
eight-page health and lifestyle evaluation questionnaire
to fill out and return. A nurse and a fitness program
advisor will review it and meet with you upon arrival.
They will discuss your goals with you and help
devise a plan of action toward achieving them,
suggesting seminars and fitness classes that coincide
with your health, lifestyle, fitness level and
Or, you can map out your own stay, using the detailed
“This Week at Canyon Ranch” as your guide. Specialty
health packages, including the Life Enhancement Program,
are available to address specific concerns. Four-night
packages include Sexual Health, Living with Diabetes,
Optimal Stress Management, Sports Peak Performance,
Optimal Weight Management and more.
8600 E. Rockcliff Rd., Tucson
Rates start at $3520 per person, double occupancy
for four nights. This rate includes meals, group
fitness classes and seminars, and a $600 allowance
for spa, sports and wellness services. A minimum
three-night stay is required. Call or visit the website
for specialty packages or custom vacations.