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Dance off the weight at Canyon Ranch

Created date

June 30th, 2011
Treger ' Bye bye boot camp. ' Adios, no pain no gain. ' Fuhgeddabout feeling the burn. The latest fitness craze is all about ditching the workout and dancing into shape. ' The idea is to have fun while exercising. ' ' ' ' To kick-start some local classes, I sign up for a four-day dance-fitness program at Canyon Ranch, a sybaritic getaway in Lenox, Mass., in the heart of the Berkshires. The mantra of this health mecca is that exercise isn t drudgery or punishment for overindulging but something to look forward to, something pleasurable. ' ' ' ' Initially this senior found the idea of being surrounded by firm young bodies cavorting in clingy jersey to be a bit off-putting. Despite keeping an eye on my diet and walking enough miles on a treadmill to propel my fuselage to Miami, my jeans remain at half mast. I needed to throw my body a curve and vacate my exercise rut. I wanted a mental makeover too. While friends say I look good for my age, my youthful demeanor is locked in this foreign body. ' In my mind s eye I am ageless, like Betty Boop or Bugs Bunny. They look the same despite their years. But my reflection in department store mirrors say otherwise. Who is this person, anyway? ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Packed with workout gear and anxieties I hop on a train to Albany. A Canyon Ranch staffer greets me at the station, hands me a snack sack. and takes me to the front door. ' ' It s a knockout ' Situated on a snazzy 120-acre estate, the centerpiece of the complex is the historic Bellefontaine Mansion, a stone and marble structure that looks straight out of a fairy tale. The main building houses the original library jam-packed with books, a massive fireplace; main dining room; plus cozy caf for a quick breakfast, lunch, or cuppa Joe. A climate-controlled glass-enclosed walkway connects everything to a state-of-the-art spa and fitness center so I never worry about weather. Breathtaking vistas of rolling lawns and woods surround me. There are no ugly views. ' ' ' ' ' I love the rules: no cell phones, no tweeting, no texting. At least in public spaces. Such interruptions from the outside world are allowed only in guest rooms and in the lobby. No alcohol either. Mocktails creative concoctions of fruit juices and spices are served on the rocks or straight up in the library before dinner. ' ' ' Dieting is a no-no ' Pancakes or waffles with syrup for breakfast? You bet. Crab cakes, chicken and sausage gumbo or pizza are lip-smacking lunch choices. Dinners are gourmet experiences balsamic glazed chicken breasts draped over broccoli rabe and polenta, arctic char seriously slathered with shrimp cream sauce or a fancy version of a classic lobster macaroni and cheese. I never feel deprived. ' Calories, fat, and fiber grams are listed for each choice so I know when I m splurging. Dietary concerns gluten-free, low sodium, or vegan and food allergies, no matter how unusual, are not a problem. The chef has seen them all. ' ' I eat as much as I want including the occasional double dessert since portions for sweets are petite. (The 160-calorie chocolate zucchini cake is so teensy I devour it in three bites.) ' But I don t obsess about food. I m here to dance. ' ' ' ' ' ' Getting in motion ' Listen to the music. The music will tell you what to do, says Russell, the dance instructor with a smile that packs enough wattage to light up Times Square. I m feeling uneasy. I don t want to be the laughing stock of the class. Or get a blue ribbon for klutziness. With a few kind words, he calms my fears. ' There are no mistakes in this class. Just move and have fun. ' I scan the large mirrored room filled with gals and a few guys in an assortment of ages, shapes and sizes. I am not alone. Everyone here is coping with aging, just like me. ' As if reading my mind, Russell says, One more thing: this not a competition. If you only remember one step, that s one step more than when you walked in the door. ' ' The music begins: America, fromWest Side Story. Russell leads. We follow. We laugh. We stumble. We twirl and swirl and manage to avoid a few collisions. Days are filled learning more dances to big band, hip hop or jazz music, squeezing in an occasional yoga or tai chi class. I relax. I schmooze. I notice the sky, trees, and birds. ' For four days my conversation centers on dance instead of cellulite or doctors appointments. There are times when I think I can t take one more step, but I keep at it until I reach that glorious moment when I feel the music, just as Russell said I would. I feel proud. I did it. ' ' ' ' ' To soothe my aching muscles each night after dinner I divert to the spa where a fleet of therapies await. ' Sometimes I sit in the steam or inhalation room where an herb vapor permeates the air. Other nights I opt for more hedonistic pleasures such as the 110-minute detoxifying ritual. My masseuse whips up an aromatic concoction of coffee, olive stones, and fresh lemons to exfoliate my body. ' I m buffed, polished, and painted with a clay mask to draw out impurities, otherwise known as personal toxic waste. After lolling about in a fluffy white robe I walk to my room in silent bliss, exhausted but fulfilled. ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' Despite the challenge of learning several dance routines in four days, on our last night this woman of a certain age wraps a sarong over exercise gear, tucks flowers in my hair, and performs in a guest recital. The audience hoots and hollers with no less enthusiasm than if I opened on Broadway. Was I perfect? ' No way. Did I have a ball? ' You bet. ' ' In the afterglow of my show biz debut I join the rest of the cast around the piano in a romantic cocktail lounge setting, but the only flutes of fizz are those filled with sparkling cider. ' A 70-ish man sings The Nearness of You to his adoring wife. ' No one seems to miss martinis; we re all high on the magic of the moment. ' ' ' ' ' ' Back home ' Am I any healthier? Probably not. But I feel happier. My step, livelier. I am more mindful of portion size. I ve slashed my coffee intake. I m drinking more herbal tea. I dropped three pounds despite downing double desserts and nightly nibbles. I ve learned that it s okay to do nothing, a rare concept for this Type-A workaholic. But some things don t change. While I am trying to be more accepting of my body, as is, I continue to avoid department store mirrors. Mostly, I ve learned to embrace Nike s theme whenever I m challenged to try something new, regardless of my age.Just do it. ' For more information, visit '