Feeling the burn in Florida: Toning up at Miami Canyon Ranch – the keep-fit hotspot that will make you look as good as the city
In a parallel universe, there is a version of me who is toned, tanned and good at juicing.
A me who wears rollerblades (and doesn’t fall over); a me who watches her carbs; a me who springs out of bed, rather than emerging from it like a Kraken roused from under the duvet.
In that parallel universe, it is a fair bet that I live at Miami’s Canyon Ranch Resort.
Let me let you in on a secret: If you want to get fit then you need to go where the fit people are. It is a whole lot easier to go with the tide.
And that is precisely the reason I am at Canyon Ranch – a high temple of American vitality that is windswept and glossy. And has really good teeth. Naturally.
I am not sure that I know what I have let myself in for as I pack my tracksuit bottoms and greying trainers, and head off across the Atlantic.
Health is serious stuff, Stateside. In Miami, the question is not so much ‘when should you go to the gym?’ as ‘why aren’t you there already?’.
I am, however, in luck. My first requirement of any ‘break’ that involves running around a lot is a splendid setting in which to do it. Ideally involving a stretch of sand sweeping away outside my window, its edges tickled by surf rolling under big blue skies.
So far, so good. I breathe deeply on the balcony of my immense and rather fabulous corner suite. Miami Beach is the quieter, less iconic neighbour to bustling Art Deco South Beach – which sits a 10-minute taxi ride away through this palm-fringed city.
But its Cuban-American cool and margarita nightlife can wait. I am here to be perky, not plastered.
As Miami’s prodigal daughter Gloria Estefan once said, the rhythm is gonna get ya.
And by that, I’m sure she was referring to the fact you can’t spend a day in the city without ending up doing some kind of cardio workout. Pretty sure, anyway.
Settling in nicely: Left – the view from the hotel terrace; right – Anna takes a quick break with a walk on the sand
My husband – a man who is never normally seen trying to combine a knee lift and a disco beat – proves this neatly. We have only just checked in when he decides to try ‘cardio kickboxing’. With eight nut-brown septuagenarians and a model.
He lasts 45 minutes, blaming his lack of endurance on jet-lag.
I opt for a ‘Ballet Barre Workout’ amid a room full of steel-thighed women for whom the instructor’s exhortation to ‘activate the pain’ is greeted with beatific smiles. Albeit not by me.
You do not have to be a lithe lycra babe to come here, though. The vibe is inclusive – as are the facilities. A vast range of daily classes is included in your room price – from ‘gentle’ options like Zumba and Qi Gong to things with scary names like ‘TRX III’ and ‘Muscle Max’.
There is also a full programme of free health workshops to choose from. Plus a gym, a spa and two pools. Personal training, spa treatments and all manner of mind/body/spirit consultations can also be paid for separately, or included in a package.
It is all so positive. As is the American way, health is made convenient. The cola is organic, the coffee Fairtrade, and the hotel bar’s mojitos are made with antioxidant acai berries.
You even have to ask for the salt (should you want it). But no-one feels deprived – for every banana smoothie breakfast, there is a healthy fry up or pancakes. Whole wheat, of course.
Needing a change of pace, I book one of the health packages.
My ‘Energizer’ course kicks off with an Abhyanga massage. And the healing energy session that follows is quite the experience. Tornado-like Michelle Alva had me singing and breathing while she runs around the room ringing Tibetan bowls.
‘I am going to put it on your PHONE!’ she enthuses at the end of the session, grabbing my iPhone and singing an affirmation into it. I am not entirely sure what had gone on – it is a bit like being put in a blender with a guru and an aerobics instructor.
But I do feel energised. Some things are best not deconstructed.
I also try an hour’s meditation with Giancarlo, who teaches me to drown out the gym music and empty my mind. If you can go to your happy place with Justin Bieber in the background, finding it sitting up a mountain is going to be a cinch.
My final session is with nutritionist Staci.
I am not looking forward to being told not to eat carbs. Fortunately, although she keeps trying to persuade me to do things with flax, Staci proves open and really helpful.
‘Eat carbs, eat wheat – but as a weekly treat,’ she encourages, while giving tips on spaghetti squash and vegan truffles. She does not even blanch when I tell her I am doing the 5:2 diet – and gives me ways to maximise it.
This is the key to Canyon Ranch – you are allowed to pursue what works for you.
Staci and I finish with a chat about lifestyle.
‘You’re 40?’ she exclaims. ‘I thought you were in your late 20s!’
This is what a week at Canyon Ranch will do for you. Better than a facelift any day.
Travel Facts: Plan your own fitness break in Miami
A four-night stay at Canyon Ranch Miami Hotel & Spa (www.canyonranch.com), including return flights from London and a mini ‘Energiser’ retreat, costs from £1385 per person.
Price is based travel after 26 May 2014 (two people travelling together).
The two-night ‘mini energiser retreat’ includes a guided meditation, acupuncture or ‘healing energy’ session – plus a consultation with a nutritionist and an Abhyanga massage.
Book through The Healthy Holiday Company (020 8968 0501; www.thehealthyholidaycompany.com).