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Making Wellness Resolutions A Reality at Rancho Valencia

Rancho Valencia
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Making Wellness Resolutions A Reality at Rancho Valencia

Following a season dominated by parties and indulgence, the holiday hangover of January brings that time of year when so many of us take a good, long look at ourselves and pledge renewed commitment to our health. Of course, there are so many ways to go about improving our health, but most often, it really boils down to two things: diet and exercise. Also most often, it requires a little kick-start; that shot in the arm to get things rolling. Enter the “wellness retreat.” And if it’s accessibility to world-class resorts offering a breadth of wellness programs you’re searching for, San Diego is the perfect place to be when making all these healthy resolutions.

The concept of wellness retreats isn’t new, and the options for people seeking them are endless, from spartan detoxifying cleanses and bootcamps to luxurious spa escapes. Far from the health jail-style detox center end of that spectrum, Rancho Valencia delivers a retreat in the truest sense of the word, offering superior luxury and service with premium health programs designed to invigorate, challenge, and refresh, while its lush landscape and peaceful atmosphere shape the escape-like vibe of the resort that contradicts its accessibility. Lacking any kind of in-your-face opulence, Rancho Valencia caters to those who appreciate the complicated juxtaposition of understated perfection.

Rancho Valencia
Rancho Valencia

Enjoying renewed popularity following a $30 million renovation in 2012 — double what the current owners paid to purchase the resort just two years prior — Rancho Valencia has quietly but firmly established itself as a shining star of the North County dining scene among locals, both as the go-to place for a craft cocktail and farm-to-table small bites at hotspot The Pony Room, and for upscale, elegant “Coastal Ranch” dining at sumptuous Veladora. But for wellness seekers, there’s so much more within the green environs of the resort. Having sampled Rancho Valencia’s fitness offerings firsthand, I can attest that there’s nothing fluffy about the level of the fitness programs at the resort. Cyclists, yogis, and tennis players will all find sufficient challenge in the expert hands of the pros here.

Indeed, despite spin instructor and Fitness and Membership Director Sean Piazza being extremely encouraging (and incredibly gorgeous, even while sweating it out on the spin bike), I still did contemplate how I might slip off the cycle and sneak out unnoticed halfway through class for fear I might otherwise fall off my bike out of sheer exhaustion. The silver lining — besides, yes, that feeling of accomplishment when it’s over and burning 450 calories in 30 minutes — is that after class concludes, an attendant is dutifully waiting with an assortment of freshly made recovery beverages to revitalize weary cyclists. Feeling adventurous, I reached for the “Wellness Journey,” a bright green blend of cold-pressed green apple, kale, and celery juice.

Rancho Valencia
Spin Room
Rancho Valencia
FItness and Membership Director Sean Piazza

And of course, there’s yoga. Classes are scheduled nearly all day, beginning at 8am and concluding after 6pm most days, where instructors lead from a virtual “island” platform in the pavilion’s adjacent pool. It’s very zen, with a trickling fountain and reflecting pool at the entrance to the pavilion, but there’s serious yoga inside, as evidenced by the (more than occasional) outbursts emanating from the class pushing themselves to their sun salutation limits and beyond. With my yoga days (and flexibility) well behind me, I was relieved to learn my day would not include a session here, but instead enjoyed a less intense private yoga lesson with Stacie Rosati, one of the resort’s skilled staff under Yoga Director Anna Spalding, outside on the private lawn of the jewel of the resort, the 5,000-square-foot Hacienda. Spalding, you may have heard, was notably placed on-call in the event that President Barack Obama requested a private yoga session during the POTUS’s recent visit to San Diego, though according to her Instagram, she instead shared the gym with him as he took a spin on the treadmill.

Rancho Valencia
Yoga Director Anna Spalding

What Rancho Valencia may still be best known for is tennis. Originally built in 1989 as a tennis resort (its 18 courts make it one of the largest tennis facilities here in San Diego), even the entrance to the courts radiates greatness as visitors cross the “Bridge of Champions” descending to the tennis center. “John Gardiner helped build the tennis program at Rancho Valencia, explains Diana Robbins, Creative Director at the resort. “He is a legend in the tennis coaching world. The reason for the tennis legends’ names listed on the bridge, like Pancho Segura, is that they were champions of their day and regulars at the resort and on the courts.” The current tennis director, Robin White, is a champion in her own right; her 1989 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles winner’s trophy is displayed at the Pony Room. Resident pro Arturo Navarro, on the Rancho Valencia tennis staff for 13 years, treated us to an invigorating clinic on an impeccably-kept court, and Robbins, our hostess, revealed some chops of her own with an impressive slice backhand. At a resort with tennis as the dominant thread woven through the fabric of its history, it wouldn’t be surprising if some tennis skill were a staff prerequisite.

Rancho Valencia
Rancho Valencia’s Bridge of Champions

For some post-workout pampering, The Spa at Rancho Valencia boasts a multi-page menu with treatments including a 90-minute “Fountain of Youth” treatment (yes, please) and “Diamond Dust Ritual” body therapy. There’s even a “Midday Rendezvous” service where, for $1,200, couples receive a Champagne greeting in a private casita, followed by treatments, crudités and caviar for three and a half hours of pampered bliss.

Rancho Valencia
The Spa at Rancho Valencia features products from Natura Bisse

The service throughout the resort is truly over-the-top fabulous, while remaining refreshingly and genuinely friendly, never stuffy. An anecdote from a friend further exemplifies the “yes” culture for which Rancho Valencia is known: According to her daughter, who had a summer job attending poolside guests at the resort, she was told that if a guest ever asked her for something, she wasn’t doing her job, because she should anticipate the guest’s needs before they ever said a word. Adds Robbins, “It’s the attention to detail, warmth, and the level of care that our staff offers that inspire our guests to return to the resort time and time again.” Would you expect anything less from a resort with a 4 to 1 staff-to-guest ratio?

Rancho Valencia
Rancho Valencia

In another example of the Rancho Valencia’s service philosophy, Robbins offered this anecdote: “A VIP repeat guest of ours was renovating their house over six months or so, and they were expecting a child during this time. They moved into the resort, and we made many custom changes to their villa to make their environment as comfortable as possible. We customized the three-bedroom villa to their liking and individual needs, including their preferred paint colors for the walls, preferred furniture, and more. For the baby, we created a beautiful Venetian-inspired pink and white baby room.”

 

A wellness staycation at Rancho Valencia could be the perfect ticket to launching a healthy 2016. But, if you fall in love with the magic, history, and privacy, and don’t want to leave (and really, who would?), Rancho Valencia offers two membership options — tennis or spa — to keep you coming back long after your other resolutions have been forgotten. 858.756.1123, ranchovalencia.com    DEANNA MURPHY

 

Bridge of Champions & Product Shot: Photo by Vincent Knakal     All other photography courtesy of Rancho Valencia

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