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Spa vacations for active executives: need a jump-start to get into shape? try a fitness getaway.

What's the cure for a bad case of the "I'm feeling stressed and have the out-of-shape blues?" You could just take a few days off from work. Or, like increasing numbers of African-Americans, you might check into a health spa for some real "R & R." No longer the domain of the rich and elderly, these sybaritic oases now cater to everyone. in fact at today's spas you're more likely to find Black Upwardly Mobile Professionals holding rowing machine oars, not trays of glasses.

Often, African-Americans first visit a spa on business. But many soon go back on their own, according to Brock Harris, vice president of Cleveland-based World Tours Inc. His clients include 32- to 45-year-old black professionals who "like spas and see they are within their price range," Harris says.

But how do African-Americans - even those who have the time and wherewithal to visit these mind and body rejuvenation centers - find one to suit their needs? There is a tremendous variety of spas, ranging from classic, self-contained retreats to those at hotels or resorts. Some specialize in weight-loss programs; others are known for their mineral springs. Some cater to wealthy, health-conscious women expecting lots of pampering with their workouts. Larger, multi-use spas provide mental and physical sanctuaries for stressedout executives sampling the latest aerobic exercise and low-fat nouvelle cuisine. Others specialize in fortifying the inner self by combining New Age philosophy with austere surroundings and modern weight-training routines.

The price range of these spas is as broad as their styles. Simpler establishments charge as little as $300 per week, double occupancy. Amenities-heavy spas, on the other hand, can cost ten times as much. And because they are so popular, reservations need to be made nine months in advance. To get an idea of the variety of spas available, here are brief descriptions of four resorts. Prices quoted are per person for double occupancy. Unless noted, charges include meals, classes and a number of professional services.

Fitness and beauty spas are familiar to most people. Seven nights at the ultra-luxurious Doral Saturnia International Spa Resort (800-331-7768) in Miami runs between $2,165 and $3,615. You'll receive personalized service (there's a maximum of 90 guests) and one-on-one instruction under sunny Florida skies, while being catered to in grand European style.

If sumptuousness is not your cup of herbal tea, you might visit a New Age retreat. The Coolfont Resort, a mountain spa in Berkeley Springs, W. Va. (800-888-8768), offers a six-night package for $870. The price includes three meals, fitness classes and wellness seminars, plus four spa services and accommodations.

Ironically, one charm touted by New Age retreats is old-fashioned simplicity. If you seek to escape from phones and faxes, Cottonwood Spa in Cottonwood, Ala. (800-526-7727; 205-691-4101), may be the spot. The main attractions of this 91-room, 820-acre holistic retreat (owned by Nathaniel Bronner Sr., CEO of Bronner Brothers, a BE loos company) are its two hot salt mineral pools and eight indoor hot mineral baths. The weekend special - three days/two nights including family-style meals - is a bargain at $89.

If there is a golf heaven, it may be in Florida. While the West Palm Beach-based PGA National Resort & Spa (800-633-9150; 407-627-2000) doesn't offer 24-hour play, the opportunity to play golf at night will bring you close to nirvana. The spa has 335 guest rooms and 85 cottages, all equipped with the usual amenities. But the resorts raison d'etre is to make you a happier and, if possible, better golfer. Tune up your game with private lessons, then practice on one of five practice ranges, followed by a round of play on one of the five 18-hole championship courses. The spa has 19 tennis courts as well as the largest croquet complex in the western hemisphere. A seven-night package during the offseason, May to September 25, costs $1,258; it's $2,292 during peak season, October to January.

Making It A Personal Experience

What happens when a pair of stressed-out, hyper New Yorkers put spa life to the acid test? My wife and I recently spent a weekend at the renowned Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, located 150 miles north of New York City and 120 miles west of Boston. The 3-year-old resort and its sister facility, Canyon Ranch Health and Fitness Resort in Tucson, Ariz., are awardwinning multi-use, coed health centers with a holistic credo - that is, you can achieve both inner and outer body well-being. Admittedly, I was skeptical.

We drove up late Friday night and were immediately taken in by its deceptively quiet location. Our room was attractively furnished in colonial New England-style, and had a color TV with cable and a VCR. Great, I thought. Little did I know that we would hardly spend any time there, except to sleep.

The next morning on our way to breakfast we strolled along the glass-enclosed walkways connecting all the buildings in the 120-guest room facility. Our meals were served in a chateau reminiscent of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The low-sugar, low-fat and low-cholesterol meals were delicious. We both ordered whole wheat granola waffles with fruit preserves - 270 calories for my wife's single portion and 500 calories for my double portion.

Canyon Ranch's heart is its 100,000-square-foot spa containing three indoor tennis, racquetball and squash courts, a 75-foot enclosed swimming pool, indoor track, exercise and weight training rooms, massage rooms and skin care and beauty salons. Outside there are two platform tennis courts, three additional tennis courts and a 50-foot swimming pool.

Our first stop was to get a medical clearance and meet with a program coordinator, who prepped us on the more than 30 physical and spiritual fitness classes offered between dawn and dusk. Every hour brings a brace of strength/fitness, aerobic and flexibility classes, with difficulty levels from beginner to advanced. The coordinator also sets up professional services, such as biofeedback and nutritional consultations, and personal services, including massages and beauty treatments. My wife and I then went off to exercise.

We split up. My wife went to the weight room to pump iron, while I took a men's stretch class. An hour later I was ready to conquer step aerobics - or so I thought. The women had obviously done this before. We males were helpless, and our dreadlocked instructor, Wuane Johnstone, showed no mercy.

After lunch, the pace slowed. My wife and I both took a Tai Chi class. Feeling refreshed, I then checked out the boxercise class, where eight women and three men skipped rope, practiced punching, ran laps and attacked heavy bags in seemingly endless three-minute drills with 60-second breaks. By the end of the afternoon, I was ready to unwind. So, while my wife took a wood block printmaking class, I did yoga and an hour of meditation. After dinner, my wife took advantage of one of her personal services, an aroma wrap of "aromatic essences" followed by a salttreatment.

On Sunday, while I jogged, my wife took women's stretch and strength training. At day's end, we met in the weight room and tried out the treadmills. Later, I received a bracing full-body Shiatsu massage and soaked in a Jacuzzi. The next morning, with our out-of-shape blues long gone and our batteries recharged, we were ready to face New York City and our regular routine.

During peak season, which runs from July to November, a seven-day visit to Canyon Ranch, including five personal or sport services, two professional consultation services and one personal service, costs $3,663; off-season, $2,640. For more information, call 800-726-9900.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Author:McCoy, Frank
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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