The Canyon Ranch Wellness Experience
Everyone is obsessed with wellness these days. As a society, are we all REALLY unwell? Given what I am seeing on the internet lately – probably. We’re overworked, underwhelmed and suffering from stage-5 FOMO thanks to social media. What better way to solve this first world problem than throwing some money at it?
Behold: Canyon Ranch
At ~$1K a day – what a better way to dry out from all my summer sins than Labor Day Weekend at a luxury (pseudo rehab) spa in the Berkshires!?!
The following is my documented inner-monologue as I questioned my sanity during my 4-day stay in Lenox, MA.
Day 1: Friday
I miraculously beat holiday weekend traffic and arrived in Lenox, MA by 11:30am.
I left my keys with the valet (who not so subtly shamed my enormous suitcase), checked in (bonus: my room was ready!) and dove right into the scheduled programming.
12pm: Lunch & Learn: Vegetarian / Caramelized Vegetables & Tofu Stir Fry
Whenever I attend cooking demos/classes, I am instantly reminded of how much I prefer to eat versus cook/watch. Anyway, I really wanted to get the full Canyon Ranch experience, so I figured I would approach this with an open mind (and stomach). Best part: being introduced to the beauty of the husk cherry (basically a tangy cherry tomato – also known as a gooseberry – absolutely delicious). This was also my first introduction to the odd subset of humans that come here – e.g. people that get up and stand by the demonstration table to watch the chef boil water for noodles.
The type-A scheduler in me couldn’t chill out and potentially miss an activity that requires advanced sign-up, so I immediately hustled over to the Outdoor Sports Board to sign up for all the free outdoor bike rides I could fit in.
1:30pm: Bike Ride: Level 2
Truthfully, I wanted to listen to the Soul Card Demonstration at this time, but I had a very last minute inspiration to sign up for an outdoor bike ride – so last minute that I was the only person on this ride (#private), and foiled what was about to be a free afternoon for the two guides that accompanied me (already making so many friends!). “Have you ridden a real bike before?” “Yes…?” (thinking: I have a Peloton…and the last times I rode outside I was wine tasting in Argentina/hungover in Mykonos…). How hard can sober road biking be? If it’s all uphill – pretty hard… Luckily, since I was the only person on this ride (and clearly suffering), I was given an option to take a shortcut back to ‘the Ranch’ that cut down on the hills.
3pm: Intermediate Yoga
I haven’t done yoga in over a year, but felt super #blessed for muscle memory! I impressed myself on this one.
4pm: Restorative Yoga
This wasn’t on the printed program, so I was one of two people in what was essentially a coordinated public nap. We laid on the ground, covered in blankets, with our eyes closed – shifting into “poses” to hold for 8-10 minutes.
Shower. Saturday schedule plotting.
7pm: The Transformative Power of Daily Reminders
Again, open-mind and heart! Did I really want to sit in an hour lecture with someone confirming the value of doing things daily? No. But I figured I would give it a whirl. There were a lot of handouts and a charming story about how the lecturer’s father steals napkins from Panera (an example of a nonsensical habit that makes him feel safe because he grew up in the Great Depression that I highly related to despite not growing up in the Great Depression….); but this was my first and last lecture.
8:15pm: Dinner at the Canyon Ranch Grill
While I knew there wouldn’t be any alcohol at this place, I didn’t realize that the absence of salt would make such an impact. Trust me – the umami seasoning substitute doesn’t cut it. Favorite people watching moment: A couple held hands walking to and from the salad bar.
Day 2: Saturday
Rise and grind!
7:30am: Breakfast Bike Ride
Waking up at 7am on a Saturday? Not ideal. But, I really wanted to spend as much time outdoors enjoying the last days of summer.
9am: Chair Yoga
I was really inspired by my re-entry into yoga yesterday, so I decided to keep it going. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the class description, and this was actually geriatric/nursing home yoga. “Let’s begin this practice by sharing the reason we are all here!” Of course, the instructor was confused by my presence (being significantly less than 75 years old), so I was elected as the first person to answer. Shit. “Well, it was on the schedule for 9am and I was free?” Better luck next time…
10am: TNT: Tabata N TRX
This was apparently the “hardest” class at Canyon Ranch. Did I break a sweat? Yes (thankfully). Was this class impossible? No. At least the instructor was somewhat attractive.
11am: Pilates on the Beam/Abs on the Ball
Some uneventful fitness classes…
12:30pm: Tarot Card Demonstration
With the $1K/day price tag is included $160 credit to use toward various body and soul treatments. I prioritized those funds on facials and massages, so a $210 Tarot reading wasn’t in the cards for me – but this free demonstration was! The lady doing the demonstration claimed to be of fairy descent, and truthfully seemed like one of the more normal people there. If I wasn’t so desperate for a few massages, I would’ve also sprung for the $210 clairvoyant reading, too!
Three cheers for veggie burgers. The chocolate-covered banana for dessert was a true win, though.
2pm: Long & Lean Barre
Apparently considered “level 2”… But for what age bracket?
3pm: West African Drumming
This class is EVERYTHING. My original intent was to go and witness the absurdity of a bunch of upper middle class white ladies pound drums – entertainment value alone predicted to be worth it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how freeing and truly uplifting it is to beat drums and play music in a circle. No joke – I might buy a drum for my own use. 10/10 – would revisit.
4pm: Restorative Yoga and Sound Healing
Daily public nap. If you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em. I didn’t think this would be that popular so I arrived at 3:55pm to find the room basically full. Luckily I was able to fit up front – but no blanket for me…
Overall, I am not convinced on the level of difficulty of the fitness classes. With an obsession with wellness comes a strong fitness culture. When I workout, I am looking to fully expend all my energy and REALLY work. Call me a masochist, but these classes are too gentle…
6pm: Feeding Your Athletic Body
I should’ve learned from my Day 1 “Lunch and Learn”…but I signed up for this “special event”. Nothing was learned. I essentially waited 1.5 hours for overcooked salmon. Waiting wouldn’t be so bad if I had a glass of wine…
I was excited to join the nightly robe parade to the spa – as everything is connected/indoors, guests just wander around in robes and/or spandex which is ideal for the post-treatment return to bed! Goodnight!
Spa pro tip: All the skin care product samples/testers are available to guests to use while at Canyon Ranch – so definitely live it up and liberally apply those $200+ serums while you can!
Day 3: Sunday
I am starting to realize that 4 days is a long time…
8:15am: Rail Trail Bike Ride
22 miles on a flat trail through the woods – what a beautiful way to start the day! The outdoor activities here are actually great – it’s a shame that more aren’t offered for free (e.g. paddle boarding is an extra $110…).
The food here honestly is pretty good. Portions are obviously controlled – not to say that you can’t order 2 or 3 entrees if you’re really starving. The Canyon Ranch mimosa was on the menu…which is a hell of a rebranding for orange juice if I ever saw one…
1pm: Spirit Walk
“Meander through the contemplative walk designed to open or deepen spiritual contemplation with a spiritual wellness practitioner, who guides you through an experimental practice along the path.” Minus the collection of odd humans who joined this, this was actually a lovely stroll around the property to see things I probably wouldn’t have seen on my bike rides or trapped inside the property.
2pm: TRX Basic Strength / Glute Camp
I was really determined to get my fitness on this weekend. TRX was pretty decent – taught by the only other attractive trainer at ‘the Ranch’. Glute Camp, however, was taught by what seemed like an overweight, retired gym teacher. The class was fine, but with all the money coming through this place – is this really the best talent?
4pm: Restorative Yoga
Daily public nap! This is really growing on me…
6pm: Dinner at the Community Table
Dinner with strangers. I travel a lot by myself and eating solo is really growing on me, but every once in a while I appreciate a certain level of social interaction. Every night, the main restaurant reserves a table for those who want to meet other people, etc. This group of diners wasn’t really my crowd – one couple was “mourning the loss” of their son who just left to go to college (a bit dramatic if you ask me), and this other lady insisted on ordering all of her food “well done” which makes me cry on the inside… My favorite moment, though, was someone speaking about the “soul rejuvenation” as just a fancy foot massage. This person clearly misread the guide…and needs to check the dictionary for the difference between “sole” and soul”.
80 minute rub down + nightly robe parade!
Day 4: Monday
Is it weird that I am jealous most people are leaving today? This place starts to feel a bit clinical and like a prison after 3 full days of being here (even though I can easily access my car and escape…).
I decided to sleep this morning and have an uneventful breakfast followed by a bit of pseudo-boxing.
11am: Power Row
This class was rowing but had the feel of a spin class, which was pretty cool. You could see your stats projected in the front of the class. I would actually do this more if studios offered it. Only downside: serious blisters (which is particularly bad timing for the hand and foot massage I am getting later in the day…).
12pm: Abs on the Ball
Sadly, rain ruined my chances of taking Camp Archery this afternoon. I was really looking forward to channeling my inner Katniss Everdeen… Instead, I ate some fish tacos which were desperately missing a margarita.
3pm: Intermediate Yoga
4pm: JAIL BREAK!
It stopped raining – and, frankly, I was over this whole situation. I needed to get out. I walked the 1 mile to town. Found a bar – had a glass of wine. And then walked the 1 mile back to ‘the Ranch’. Judge me if you will, but this whole experience was supposed to be rewarding – not a punishment. Jesus drank wine – and so do I! So, in the words of Taylor Swift – You Need to Calm Down.
So what’s the verdict?
Would I personally return? No – I can think of many things I’d rather do with $4K – like spend 2 weeks in Bali (for a start). But, people need different things at different stages in their lives. Maybe you want to disconnect and go curl up in the woods with a good book and eat bland salmon. Who am I to judge? This girl still wants to jump out of planes and dive to the depths of the seas. I need a little more spice in my life – and a lot more wine.