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The Healthy Traveler

A Taste of Slim-Priced Spas

August 11, 1996|KATHLEEN DOHENY

Heading off to get fit on a spa vacation or as a break from a business trip may sound alluring, but such an experience can overpower many budgets. Nationwide, per person rates for complete spa programs can be as high as $840 per day, according to Kim Marshall, spokeswoman for the International Spa & Fitness Assn., an Alexandria, Va.-based spa promotion group. Costs of $450 a day, including lodging, meals and workout programs, aren't unusual. But getting fit on a budget of less than $130 a day is possible. There are several ways to go about it.

Instead of booking a spa for a few days or a week, opt for a one-day pass.

At the Palms in Palm Springs, for example, an $89 Spa Day includes three meals and 16 fitness activities, but no overnight lodging. Travelers can arrive for a 6:30 a.m. hike and stay until after the evening entertainment, about 8 p.m. The same package with overnight lodging ranges from $129 to $139. For information, call [800] 753-7256.

The luxurious Spa at Doral in Miami offers a day program for $118. It includes full use of the spa, fitness classes, a sauna, massage or facial and other services. For information: (800) 331-7768.

The Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma offers a one-day pass for $35 for nonregistered guests. For that fee, visitors can work out on stair-climbing machines, bikes and in the weight room or take classes in aerobics or aqua aerobics. Services such as massages are extra. (The day-pass option is not available weekends or holidays.) For information: (800) 862-4945.

A one-day package at the Oaks in Ojai is $84 and includes the same components with overnight lodging starting at $129. For information: (800) 753-6257.

Even the posh La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad offers a one-day package that includes unlimited fitness classes and use of the exercise facility for $116.50. Also included is either a one-hour massage or a one-hour facial, use of steam room, sauna, whirlpool, locker, robe and slippers. For information, call (800) 638-1089.

Or rather than visiting a posh spa and hotel, try a day spa, a facility that doesn't have overnight accommodations.

Traditionally they cater much more to beauty treatments than to fitness, but that is changing, said Marianne Dougherty, publisher of American Salon Magazine. "Day spas that offer fitness are still a rarity, but they are becoming more fitness-oriented," she said, with the addition of exercise programs such as yoga.

For example, the Spa at South Coast Plaza is a day spa that combines beauty and fitness services in a $130 a day package offering use of fitness facilities and the swimming pool, in addition to beauty services such as mineral baths and facials. For information: (714) 850-0050.

Another option for those seeking a fitness break on limited funds is fitness centers in large hotels, some of which are open to non-guests.

Locally, Jackson Sousa Fitness and Spa at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel is one such facility. For $15 a day, non-guests can work out on weight equipment, cardiovascular equipment and free weights. Also available is a swimming pool, treadmills, bikes and stair-climbing machines. Guests can hire a personal trainer for an additional $65 an hour. For information: (310) 917-1178.

At the Miramar Sheraton, also in Santa Monica, non-guests can use the new 4,000-square-foot health center, with a view of the ocean, for a $10 per day fee. Included is the use of weight machines and free weights, cardiovascular equipment, such as stair-climbing machines, treadmills and bicycles. The fee does not include parking, available by valet for $14 a day or, to save money, on the street. Guests may bring along a personal trainer without being charged an additional fee, she said. For information, call (310) 576-7777 and ask for the health center.

To maximize the benefits of a spa fitness program, before booking be sure that the program will offer opportunities to work on flexibility, strength and endurance activities, said Kris Alesna, a Playa del Rey exercise expert who works with elite athletes.

Those new to fitness should ask the instructor or personal trainer to teach them how to take their pulse rate, Alesna said. "It's important to be instructed in taking periodic pulse rates to be sure you are working at your target heart rate," he said, to avoid overexerting or not working hard enough.

It's also a good idea to take along a notebook in which to jot down specific instructions about exercise form. Especially when the experience is short-term, it will help to have a written record of suggestions to use as a guide at home.

The Healthy Traveler appears the second and fourth week of every month.

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