3 Days at Canyon Ranch Lenox

By on August 1, 2013
Canyon Ranch Lenox gardens

By Michele McIntyre –

Day 1: For many guests a visit to a Canyon Ranch property is a budget-bending once-in-a-lifetime treat. For others, faithful pilgrimages are as much a part of them as they air they breathe. These repeat visitors would no sooner miss their regular visits to Canyon Ranch than they would miss their mammograms, physicals or dental visits. Their time at Canyon Ranch is essential to their health. For this lover of all things travel, Canyon Ranch Lenox has been on my bucket list of travel destinations for years. Had I known how close the Lenox property is – it takes me exactly three hours to drive from my home near Syracuse, NY – I would have gotten myself here much sooner.

Canyon Ranch Lenox double roomI arrive just before 11 am and within minutes my car is whisked away by the competent valet staff. I breeze through check-in and am in my room unpacking five minutes later. I’ve studied the guide “This Week at Canyon Ranch” before my arrival and make a beeline for the demonstration kitchen for the gluten-free lunch & learn where chef Dan begins the session by demonstrating the use of a mandolin. We munch on shaved broccoli salad with poppyseed dressing which we learn is made with a base of tofu rather than traditional less healthy creamy ingredients.Michele McIntyre- photo canyon ranch salmon-with-blueberr4e0a94

I’m in heaven! Our next course is a satisfying spicy carrot and ginger soup with a mere 60 calories per serving. Our main dish, a perfectly portioned salmon teriyaki, is flavorful and masterfully cooked. So this is what properly cooked salmon tastes like. Chef Dan explains why overcooked salmon oozes a white protein and I’m sold on his cooking and marinating techniques. The four-course meal finishes with strawberry rhubarb crisp at a respectable 115 calories. I’m satisfied but not stuffed. I know I’m eating the right amount because I’m hungry about 3 hours later.

I fantasize about being a fitness instructor in my next life so I can wear workout clothes to work every day. Canyon Ranch is my kind of place! There are few dress code requirements (no robes in the dining room at dinner) and guests are comfortable wearing active wear throughout the resort day or night. In fact, it’s encouraged.

Canyon Ranch Lenox dining patioAfter lunch, I have the privilege of a private hike (to my delight, I was the only guest who signed up) to nearby Basin Pond with seasoned guide Bob Wiley. Canyon Ranch offers 6 levels of hiking that are categorized by time, distance and difficultly. This three mile level two hike travels through a gently graded forest that crosses cascading streams for the perfect challenge. Not only is Bob a thoughtful hiking guide, but he shares my passion for the outdoors. I hope he didn’t mind that I picked his brain on everything from his mountaineering skills to wilderness first aid to his experiences hiking all the major peaks in the country and visiting nearly all of our nations National Parks. Bob pointed out flora and fauna along the way; the hike was the highlight of my day.

We return to the resort in time for me to retreat to my room for a bit of relaxation and a shower before dinner. The formal dining experience offered a salad bar with the freshest, crispest vegetables I’ve ever tasted, light salad dressing options and outstanding hummus. A trick I learned from a veteran “rancher” at the first-timers table at dinner: ask your server for some gluten-free cranberry oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a pre-bed snack.

For a nightcap, I enjoy a signature Canyon Ranch massage with Melva in the beautiful, well-equipped spa.

Looking forward to Day 2: A morning canoe/hike, an energetic fitness class and some more spectacularly delicious and healthy food.

Day 2:  Canyon Ranch always seems to make big lists. So why did it take me so long to go? I must be excited about the possibilities that my first full day here will bring because I wake up at first light. A glance at the bedside clock reveals it’s 4:52 am. For an hour, I try to fall back asleep but the drowsiness evades me. I consult my Canyon Ranch schedule and see that there is a morning walk at 7:00 am and that’s how I start my day.

After a brief outdoor stretch, three guides lead a group of 15 or so guests on an invigorating walk (and by invigorating I mean my short legs can barely keep up with the fastest walkers) through the nearby town of Lenox. But it’s all good because the guides offer plenty of options for all fitness levels. You can walk at your own pace for 30 or 45 minutes and one of the guides will always be nearby. When the brisk walk ends we stretch again in front of the mansion and finish just before 8am.

I’ve earned my breakfast and fuel up on Banana Bread French Toast and help myself to the breakfast bar where there are beautiful fruit salads, low fat/low sugar yogurts and whole grain cereals and muffins. I’m definitely not going to lose weight on this trip but I’m hoping the extensive activities will offset some of the caloric intake from this amazing food. Every dish is portion and calorie controlled but I can’t help try everything and I suspect it’s going to do a number on my waste line.

At 9:15, I meet up with a team of Outdoor Sports guides for a hike/canoe trip. We’ll be gone about three hours – back in time for lunch – and the guides give us a briefing about what we can expect as we head off to the van that will shuttle us to the boat launch and trail head. Our group of 8 is split in two and half of us hike while the other half paddles the canoes. We met in the middle and switched, but not before a bag of signature Canyon Ranch snacks is passed around. It is nearly impossible that the Black Forest Brownie is healthy, but a glance at the recipe on the Canyon Ranch website proves otherwise. With healthier substitutions like egg whites and applesauce subbing in for whole eggs and some of the fat, these portion controlled treats aren’t all that bad at a respectable 130 calories. Now if I could stop at one……. The Canyon Ranch Granola is pretty popular too and I couldn’t figure out how it was sweetened. It turns out they use fruit juice concentrate in place of some of the higher calorie sweeteners like maple syrup and honey. I love this place!

The excursion is fantastic, offering just the right level of challenge and elevation change on the two-mile hike and just enough beautiful scenery to keep paddling till the end of the two-mile canoe trek. Once again, I’m impressed with the skills and knowledge of our guides and I feel safe with them as we hike a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail.

Our group arrives back at The Ranch a little earlier than expected and I duck into the Lunch & Learn cooking demonstration just in time. Chef Dan leads us through the proper technique for cooking duck breast. We learn how using ingredients like tamari and fish sauce can add flavor and ethnicity to foods without adding fat and calories. The chef suggests filling a spray bottle with canola oil for a portion controlled (1/4 teaspoon) spritz when sautéing. Once again, the cooking demo is one of the highlights of the day. I’m walking away with simple and practical tips I can use to make healthier and more nutritious meals at home. I’m learning to use new and interesting ingredients to get me out of my rut of preparing the same foods in the same manner all the time.

After a brief rest and shower in my well-equipped and comfortable guest room, I emerge recharged and ready for the afternoon. I take a challenging TRX Strength class using the suspension trainers that will no doubt leave me sore tomorrow and begging for a deep tissue massage. Fortunately I’m in the right place. I swing by the salon on my way back from class and ask if they have any immediate openings for a Foot Rescue! Pedicure and they do. The staff at canyon Ranch are genius at indulging guests’ every request. Never once do I hear any guest told “no”.

At dinner I pile my plate high with more crisp, fresh veggies from the salad bar. My intake of dairy and animal proteins is way down for the past two days and I don’t even miss it. I love eating seeds, nuts and an abundance of fruits and veggies lightly dressed and minimally prepared. I could really get used to eating this way.

The breadth and depth of programming at Canyon ranch impresses me. Fencing? They’ve got it. Cooking lessons? That too. Lectures on skin care, healthy feet and weight loss? Yes. Every current trend in exercise and movement is represented in the offerings from Reebok Step to yoga and Pilates, from outdoor sports like biking and kayaking to water aerobics, Canyon Ranch has you covered.

Canyon Ranch LenoxAfter dinner I resist the urge to attend another class or lecture and I grab my favorite travel magazine and wander out to the picturesque courtyard to read and journal for a bit. The summer air is warm and breezy, the birds are chirping and there are chipmunks scurrying around me. As the sun sets, I cap off my day with a trip to the spa for a sauna, steam and dip in the whirlpool. It is quite possibly the perfect day.

Looking forward to Day 3: High intensity fitness classes, a lunch & learn cooking demonstration, an afternoon guided bike ride and some more spectacularly delicious and healthy food.

Day 3: At first I was disappointed that I woke up 5 minutes before the daily Morning Walk began at 7 am. I didn’t get out of bed and fell back to sleep and woke too late to join the A.B.S. on the Ball class at 8:30. I never have the luxury of sleeping in so I just let my body do its thing. I guess I was making up for the insomnia I experienced on the first night of my stay, where I woke up well before sunrise.

After a late power breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and yogurt I make the most of what’s left of the morning by joining two intense fitness classes. First the Tabata Workout, a series of exercises done in 20-second intervals followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes per exercise. 4 minutes of pushups, 4 minutes of burpees. You get the idea. 20 seconds may not sound like much, but you repeat the work/rest cycle 8 times in the 4 minutes. Believe me, that’s a lot of hard work.

I’m a bit hesitant about Stride, a group treadmill workout that incorporates interval training. I mean, how do you spend 45 minutes on the dreadmill (a common nickname for the dreaded treadmill) in a group setting and make it fun? Somehow the experienced and professional instructors at Canyon Ranch Lenox do exactly that. And the time flies by. Even when our treadmills are cranked up to 15, the highest incline level, the workout is really fun. You know that point in your workout where you start to have negative feelings about the instructor? It never happens in the Stride class. And this is a difficult class! Our instructor is sweet and ever-smiling, inspiring and just tough enough that our group wants to push themselves. The music is great. We finish sweaty and exhausted and yet somehow we are thankful for the experience. I’d do it again in a maximum heart rate heartbeat.

I’m back in the demonstration kitchen for my third and final lunch & learn. Today’s menu features blackened trout with Creole sauce. These lunch & learns are worth the price of admission alone and today is no exception. We learn how to create a blackening seasoning that is low in sodium and contains no sugar; qualities rarely found in commercial blends. Chef Dan prepares Waldorf Salad that challenges common thinking by featuring pears instead of apples and keeps within Canyon Ranch’s healthy eating guidelines by subbing in nonfat sour cream, yogurt and canola oil mayo in for the dishes less healthy traditional ingredients. We still end up with a creamy and tangy dressing that makes a sensational first course on a hot summer day.

My main afternoon activity is a 5-mile bike ride with the experienced guides of the Outdoor Sports Department. We are fitted with helmets and bikes and spend adequate time testing our equipment and getting a safety briefing before setting out for our ride past farms and homes, estates and gardens. The equipment and guides are top-notch as they’ve been with all the other outdoor experiences I’ve had at The Ranch. We’re back at Canyon Ranch much too soon and many of the riders in the group agreed we could have ridden longer since our ride was so enjoyable.

I’ve got enough energy in me for one final class and boy do I pick a good one. Versa Boot Camp uses a weighted VersaBar. As luck would have it, our boot camp instructor is ex-military and runs the class like a drill sergeant who, fortunately for us, also has a sense of humor. In the VersaBar circuit of exercises, he has us jumping rope, running up and down the stairs and doing more pushups and burpees. Great class. Three intense classes and a bike ride today; I’ve done a weeks worth of exercise in one day!

After an early dinner, my new friend and I hop in one of the Canyon Ranch vans for a quick trip to the nearby Lee outlets just 15 minutes away. We have a single destination in mind: Lululemon. We didn’t do our homework ahead of time though and are disappointed that the outlet store has closed a few years earlier. There is an Under Armor outlet store and that takes away some of the sting. We promise our driver we’ll be quick – and we are – so he waits for us and we are back in the van 45 minutes later. Outlet shopping is fun, but we both agree that we can shop anytime but we don’t want to waste any more our of our dwindling, precious time at Canyon Ranch.

Looking forward to Day 4: I’ll fit in one more fitness class or morning walk and breakfast before heading home.

Michele McIntyre

About Michele McIntyre

Michele McIntyre is a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness, beauty and healthy living/eating. She is happiest when lying face up on the treatment table, writing about her spa and travel experiences or testing new products to share with her readers. She lives near Syracuse, NY with her husband and son. Michele is a regular travel contributor to LivingBetterat50+ and has written for Today’s Central New York Woman Magazine and online at Tripology, TripAtlas, and Splash Magazines Worldwide. Michele blogs about the spa and travel industry, and anything else she can think of, at everythingspa.wordpress.com. When she isn't writing about or visiting spas, Michele loves traveling, hiking, skiing, camping, yoga and reading. If any of these pursuits can be combined with a visit to the spa, even better! Michele can be reached at [email protected]

One Comment

  1. Mary Anne Hahn

    August 15, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I will need to put this on my life to-do (aka “bucket”) list!

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3 Days at Canyon Ranch Lenox