Origins of the Ranch, Part XL - Rancho La Puerta
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Origins of the Ranch, Part XL

What goes ‘round, comes ‘round: a look at the Ranch’s “fitness day” in the 1960s and early ‘70s

By Peter Jensen

Fitness classes and other activities at The Ranch fill the day, every day, sunrise to sundown, usually starting on the hour every hour, with a panoply of options that would take months or longer to experience on your own. Sounds daunting? Not really: everyone is (and always has been) free to choose their own schedule, which might mean “scheduling” an afternoon in a hammock or on your patio’s chaise lounge with a good book and some serious nap time.

Ah, but when and if you want to be active, a fitness smorgasbord awaits. Never tried Pilates? Here’s your chance. Never tried Gyrokinesis? Go for it. How about Hydro-Fit? Dive in.

The Ranch’s expert staff stays up on the trends, the new styles, the latest research…and it has always been so, except at the very beginning, when the first guests came mostly to hear professor Edmond Szekely’s lectures, live in nature, eat fresh-from-the-organic-garden food, and hike the mountain.

“What was your fitness program like in the early days?” is a question Deborah Szekely often hears, and it leads to one of the best memories of all: she once paid a young staff member to hand crank a Victrola in the days before electrical power came to the property, and the idea of exercising to music was born.

But really, what WAS the early program? Remarkably, it was filled with some of the same “trendy” classes that are so popular today, including yoga—which was a rarity “back home” for almost every guest—and “ballet barre.” You might call the enduring classes our “timeless truths:” they produced great results back then, and they do so today.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s we printed a worksheet for every guest called “My Rancho La Puerta Diary.” You wrote your name at the top, and carried it like an indispensable passport for the rest of the week. Each day had the option of recording “My Daily Weight Before Breakfast Is…” and from there the day’s options unfolded, some of them overlapping and/or repeating in case you wanted to prioritize different classes at different times.

Here’s a look at how to plan your day in 1974, for example:

6:30 AM:
Mountain Hike (weather permitting)..
Moderate Hike (weather permitting) or Yoga Breathing (only when weather stormy)
Advanced Circuit Training
Daily Weigh-In
Wake-Up Exercises
Welcome Hour—Ranch Tour for arriving guests
Golden Door Exercises
Body Awareness Class
Individual Body Conditioning Program
Golden Door Exercises
Beginner’s Circuit Training
Spot Reducing Class (Special for New Arrivals)
Pool Class Followed By Aztec Vapor Bath
Happy Feet
Individual Fitness Profile
Welcome Hour—Ranch Tour
Body Contouring Class
Individual Body Conditioning Program
Ballet Barre Class
Scientific Stretch & Posture
Evening Stroll

If you completed at least 10 classes (and checked the appropriate box on your schedule) you were a “superb will-power guest.” Eight classes: “happy guest.” Six classes: “satisfactory guest.” Four classes: “disappointed guest.”

And we advised (as we do today) To increase your endurance and vitality and to enable you to derive maximum enjoyment and benefit from your stay, we recommend you alternate a facial, or an herbal wrap and massage. First morning: a facial; first afternoon, herbal wrap followed by massage. Second morning, herbal wrap and massage; second afternoon, facial. And so on.