Whether you’re busy with a career, raising a family, running a household or a conglomerate or just dealing with the constant demands of daily living, it’s easy to look back at school days as a simpler, more carefree time. Or not. Think about 16-year-old Russell Brown of Overland Park, Kansas, for example.
On a typical day, Russell wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school early for his eight classes. He’s home by 4, then back to school by 6 for a musical rehearsal or other extracurricular activity. He gets home again between 9 and 10 and does homework until well after midnight. A few hours later it starts all over again. Even during the summer, he has plenty to do. Russell has his eye on a six-year college/medical school program, so, in addition to having top grades, he pursues activities year-round that will help him reach that goal.
That’s a lot of stress for one student! When Russell’s mother offered to take him to Canyon Ranch in Tucson for his birthday, he was more than ready to get away, relax and have fun.
High School Stress & De-Stress
“I hadn’t actually heard of Canyon Ranch,” he says, “but I checked out the website and found so many cool things going on. I was awed when I actually got there. It hits you as soon as you walk in the door – that sense of relief.”
Within the first hour of arriving at the Ranch, Russell and his mom, Jennifer, were taking a cardio class together. He made the most of every minute after that.
“I tried lots of new things. I took indoor cycling and played wallyball every day. I went bird watching and made a painted ceramic tile that I still have in my room. I'm into photography, so I took a photography hike and learned so much. I put my desert pictures on Instagram and have 1,600 followers now.”
Russell says he was expecting a “normal vacation” when they came to Canyon Ranch, but it was something much more. “I felt like I could breathe again,” he says. “I loved leaving my cell phone in the room, not having to think about anything from the outside world. It was like being disconnected from society – in a good way.”
Maintaining the active, well-rounded lifestyle at home, Russell belongs to a gym, has worked with a trainer and enjoys creative arts. He says he and his mom are closer than ever since their Ranch experience. “It’s drawn us together, almost on a spiritual level,” he says. “My dad and brother need to come next.
“It puts life in perspective, and it lasts. The four days I was there felt like four years. I got a new, healthier outlook. As a doctor, I would carry Canyon Ranch into my practice.”
A College Student Gets on Track
Students who go away to college get more than an academic education. They must also learn about being independent and navigating an environment that’s not at all like home. Reasonable bedtimes and parents’ rules are strictly optional. Home cooking can take a backseat to fast food and cafeteria meals. The stress of long study hours combined with the fun of campus life can take a toll.
“College life is not always the healthiest,” says University of Michigan student Lauren Opatowski, 21. “I told my parents I was in a health rut, that I wasn’t at the fitness level I wanted to be at. After that, my mother took me on a summer road trip and surprised me with a stay at Canyon Ranch. I had never heard of the place. Once we got there, I did something every hour of every day!”
Being so active again felt great to Lauren, who grew up in Denver in a family that was always playing tennis or on the ski slopes. College life had gotten her out of her “ideal zone,” and she was eager to get back in shape. She set the goal of running a marathon this summer.
“I’d been doing some running, but couldn’t get more than 4 of 5 miles without falling apart,” Lauren explains. “I met with an exercise physiologist at the Ranch who talked with me about interval training, pacing myself and not thinking I had to run until I couldn’t breathe anymore. I got a heart monitor to help me stay in my range, and I met with the Healthy Feet expert to get the right shoes for running.”
During her Ranch stay, Lauren tried dance classes from Zumba® to Desert Drumming and attended to mind and body in yoga, tai chi and meditation classes. She took hikes that featured painting and photography, and every day she played wallyball with her mom.
“It was great to share Canyon Ranch with my mom,” Lauren says. “We could understand each other on a different level.”
Getting back to eating healthy and doing her interval training has made a big difference for Lauren. “I went from being on diets to healthy living. I learned you can splurge one night and get right back on track. You just can’t get into a rut.”
Lauren is back at college now, handling campus life with a healthier approach. She’s grateful to her parents for her Canyon Ranch experience and hopes to return soon. “I got my freebie – and I’ll come back when I make my own money!”
Every age and stage of life comes with its own form of stress and challenge. Russell and Lauren found what they needed to unwind, re-energize and get solidly planted on a healthy track.
“I talk to my friends about the Ranch,” Russell says. “It’s hard to really explain the whole experience, but anybody would love it there.”