Thanks to a healthier economy business is booming a spas, especially destination facilities where you spend days whittling away the pounds and stress and succumbing to primal pampering. Shaped up and reinvented, health spas are no longer playgrounds for pudgy plutocrats,but rather finely-tuned operations that focus on mind, body and spirit.
With hundreds of choices in all sizes, prices and philosophies available, how do you pick the right one?
First ask yourself what you want out of a spa:
Pure, unadulterated pampering?
To be mercilessly whipped into shape?
All of the above.
Now what’s in a name? For purposes of this piece we are discussing destination spas: facilities offering room, board, pampering, fitness and nutritional guidance, as opposite to day spas where you plop for facial, massage or half or whole day of pampering.
You want glam, luxury all-inclusive then opt for spas like the Golden Door (www.goldendoor.com) and Cal-A-Vie www.calavie.com), two southern California sanctuaries that dole out a finely-honed combination of exercise, personal training, healthy eating and pampering for a pretty stiff price of roughly $7,000 a week (but you even get workout clothes to wear and your laundry done daily).
For the budget-seeker, there’s also oasis such as the Oaks at Ojai–a highly-tuned eco-spa with good honest, healthy meals and snacks top notch fitness options, comfy rooms, and a la carte pampering (www.theoaksatojai.com)
Then there’s there the Ojai Valley Inn, billed as a spa but more of a hotel with spa offerings. The Sonoma Mission Inn another hotel with a spa that plays a major role with lots of fitness options, hiking and fantastic spa cuisine (www.sonomamissioninn.com).
For serious fitness fanatics, the Ashram, hidden away in a little canyon above Malibu, in Calabassas, California, provides a week of boot camp-like activities concentrated on hiking and heavy duty aerobics fueled by modest, mostly vegan meals. Popular with celebs needing a quick fix prior to a movie or TV appearance and die-hard exercisers, this spa, according to the founder, Anne Marie Bennstrom, “Is mean and lean.”
Now to answer the most often asked questions:
Q: How long should I stay at a destination to get the best results?
A: At lest five days, but a week works best. Bad habits don’t dissolve over night. It takes time baby, it takes time.
Q: What results can I expect?
A: Be realistic. It depends on your goal. If weight loss is your aim, don’t expect to shed 50 pounds in 7 days. But if you follow the program it is possible to drop 2 to 5 pounds (for women) and up to 10 for men. It’s not fair, but I don’t make the rules, men often boast better metabolism.
If rest and rejuvenation are your targets, you’ll pretty much find that within 24 hours especially at the Golden Door or Cal-A-Vie.
Q: What happens when I get there?
A: They lock you up and throw away the key. Only kidding. But some folks feel that way when they arrive at the Golden Door where a huge gate locks behind them. The Door offers a Sunday to Sunday program of hiking, fitness classes (aerobics,Pilates, Yoga, weight training,spinning, and every new technique in the industry), plus pampering (facials, massages, body treatment, hair ,nails makeup), cooking classes, lectures, evening programs and much more.
At full-fledged spas you won’t find alcohol (there are bars at spots like Sonoma Mission Inn and hotels of course). So if drinking’s a problem you may want to select a spa sans bars or temptations. The true health and resort experience includes personalized programs geared to guests goals. While more laissez fair facilities such as Rancho La Puerta, in Tecate, California (www.rancholapuerta.com) offer everything you want during a mandatory Saturday to Saturday stay but let you decide.
Q: What will it cost me?
A: Plenty if you opt for the works or go to a “glamour” spa like the Golden Door or Cal-A-Vie where a week runs $7,000 and up depending on specials. Even the supposedly less-expensive, Canyon Ranch’s rate sky rocket when you add treatments and assorted extras.
Q: Is it worth it?
A: You bet your booty (which will greatly diminish and tone after a spa week). I get my yearly tune-ups at the Golden Door. In-between I check out other spas for research for my writing. And I maintain the program at home–which is the key to success.
Like everything, it doesn’t’ it just stay with you, you have to keep working for it.