Rebooting at Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa

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This year has already been intense, and it’s only been month one.

I am pretty happy, I have to say. New house, some really exciting trips coming up, preparing for a kid in college, and really wonderful and rewarding partnerships. But I started the year stressed over many of those thing as well and was hit hard by the flu (managed to close on a house and move into it with said flu), and was beginning to feel like maybe I had pushed myself a little too hard.

When Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa in Lenox, MA invited me to spend a weekend with them (full disclosure) and check our their resort and amenities, I wasn’t sure if I could. Physically, I felt exhausted and weak, and emotionally, I felt overwhelmed and vulnerable.

But, I decided to go through the motions, or at least that’s how I saw it, just getting through it. Like many guests who book a health package with their stay at the resort, I received a call beforehand from a program advisor who helped to coordinate appointments and explained the various specialized services that I could choose from. Because I wasn’t really feeling well, nor focused, I allowed her to set up services that she thought would be a best fit from what I had shared with her. Her insight led her to schedule a Rite of Passage therapy session, as well as a physical evaluation to assess my “health age”, appropriately named Discover Your Fitness Age.

I have never seen a therapist or spiritual advisor in my life, but thought it might an interesting experience. Though I wasn’t too concerned about my health age (I already knew it wasn’t going to be my real age), I did want to see where I stood as I have focused back on fitness recently.

Needless to say, I was curious and looked forward to the experience.

Getting there

From New York City’s Penn Station, I took an Amtrak direct train to Albany. The ride is a little under three hours. I enjoy taking the Amtrak train, especially to upstate New York. You ride along the Hudson River and the views are stunning for most of the ride. I also like to splurge a little on my ticket for business class, for the space and free (nonalcoholic drinks).

Once in Albany, you are transported to the resort via a pre-arranged pickup with the resort’s own transportation. The ride is about an hour, and it’s also pretty and comfortable. They also arrange to take you back to the train station on the day of your departure.

First impressions

I arrived on a cold, snowy day. Entering the Berkshires, where the resort is located, evokes an immediate sense of zen. The vibe is casual but elegant. Guests walked around in work out clothes, moving from one activity to another. Some were alone, other with friends. Some seemed to be lost in thought, while others happily conversed and laughed, or gave a warm hello and smile as they walked by.

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It was easy for me to get comfortable here, so much so that once I entered my beautiful room, laid in my bed and fell asleep.

Canyon Ranch_girlgonetravelAt one point, I just took a moment to stop and take in the peacefulness around me. 

Staying busy

I spent a lot of my time doing my own thing. There were so many activities to choose from that it was hard to not over plan. I started my first day with an early morning stretch, then a muscle toning class, then spin, then a West African drum class, then yoga…and the list goes on and on. I was exhausted, but also felt myself coming alive again. I will say, the West African drum class was my favorite as it was the one class where I engaged the most with the other guests.

I also really enjoyed my evenings in the pool. On winter weekends the resort isn’t very crowded and finding solitude in the pool was not a difficult task. I loved ending my days here with a long swim to reflect on my day and gather my thoughts.

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As for my health assessment class, well. I’m not my health age and that aspect of it didn’t really matter much to me. What I really valued were the discussions about how I can continue to incorporate favorite workout routines while traveling and keep up easy healthy practices even when my life gets hectic, which it always does. I enjoyed the session and getting a grasp of where I am fitness-wise.

What about that therapy session, anyway?

Well, like I said, I’ve never been to therapy in my life, nor have I ever sought out spiritual counseling, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can say that it was hard for me to get out of my head at first, but eventually the meditation steps the therapist had me practice with her did help to relax me and helped organized the very many things that are constantly floating around in my head. I do admire people who can relax this way on a regular basis, and though I might have a harder time at it myself, I liked the feeling of complete relaxation when I walked out of the session. I think this session would be especially great for someone trying to cope with a difficult time in their life, or looking for ways to move past it.

The food

One thing you won’t find on any of the tables in the restaurants here is salt. And if you want mayo on your veggie or turkey burger, you have to ask for it. I thought I might miss the salt, but I didn’t. Not that I eat with a lot of salt, but you always think that “healthy food” is going to taste like cardboard or nothing. The portions were smaller, or maybe they were the size they are supposed to be. They have calorie and fat counts for everything, but that doesn’t mean the food is nothing to look forward to. On the contrary. I was pleasantly surprised with how good the food was and how many different options that had, even for those with special dietary needs. They even have dessert! They don’t have alcohol, but they have some really great coffee and lots of tea.

The best dinner I had was prepared for us by farm-to-table chef Kyle Nottingham. He has a simplicity and yet creative style to his dishes that were not only wonderful to taste, but also beautiful to look at.

Canyon Ranch_girlgonetravelChef Kyle Nottingham at Cafe in Canyon Ranch

Canyon Ranch_girlgonetravelSeared scallops with grilled apple, meat market bresola, and fennel salad

Canyon Ranch_girlgonetravelApple parsnip bisque with crispy sage, crushed hazelnut, Tuscan olive oil, and an edible flower

Canyon Ranch_girlgonetravelPre-dinner scene at the Cafe in Canyon Ranch

Is it worth it?

During my stay, several readers commented on the cost of staying at Canyon Ranch. I agree that it is up there. But, this is also a full service, luxury resort and spa and the standards of such are felt and seen at every level of your stay, from pick up at the terminal to service in the restaurants, to classes, to counseling sessions and room service. I admit that for many of us a visit would consist of some planning and taking advantage of their specials.

What I can say about my experience, and why I would save the money to come back, is that the difference from the time I arrived and from when I left was like night and day.

I needed all of it.

Between the workouts and other activities, the peaceful beauty of the area, the food – which never left me feeling too full or a bit hungry, the people, and even the privates sessions, I felt like a new person by the time I was ready to go home.

A lot of it was new to me, but was also at times thought provoking. Like the night I listened to motivational speaker Jerry Posner who talked about pursuing the things that we want in life. “If we want some kind of outcome, we have to believe it is, at least, possible,” he told us.

Or the night that I sat by one of their beautiful fireplaces and listened to the live piano music being played as after dinner.

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Or the time when I left my schedule behind and just went for a walk in the snow by myself. It seemed so simple, but I honestly wouldn’t have taken the time at home because of all that I have going on.

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It was truly indulging in ways that I rarely allow myself to be indulged, but in a way I so desperately needed without even knowing it.

For those reasons, for how I was reminded to take care of myself and for the many opportunities I had to focus on just that, and especially for the way I returned home and have been able to manage the day to day less stressed, less tense, a bit more focused, and way more energized. So yes, in my opinion it is worth every penny. Even if you only have enough pennies for a weekend.

My hope is to go back with my husband. There is so much potential for this to become a romantic getaway too. I mean, who said healthy can’t be fun, right?

If you are looking for the right time to visit, consider checking out their Health Total Wellness Weekend, taking place May 1-3, 2015.

All photography is property of Girl Gone Travel and may not be used without direct consent of the publisher.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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