Exhausting. That’s the first word that pops into my head when I think of the Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu’s boot camp cum luxury wellness resort: Exhausting and exhilarating, all rolled into one.
Yes, The Ranch is one of the most physically and psychically challenging places I’ve ever visited, replete with hikes, yoga, and strength-training exercises, and only about 1,200 calories worth of food daily. And no caffeine, no alcohol, no refined carbs or sugar. Sounds like a lot of work and little nourishment, but you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish. That’s kind of the point of the Ranch, which offers Sunday to Saturday long vacations at the flagship property, and a new four-day “mini-immersion” called R4.0 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, in the Conejo Valley. Talk about Sophie’s choice.
Clearly, the Ranch is not for everyone. Days begin at 5:30 in the morning, when a gentle chime awakens you for the 6:00 yoga/morning stretch. Then a tiny breakfast, during which time you will also adhere to any blisters you have accumulated (which you most likely will have). And then you’re off to the mountains, which range from mildly steep to 90-degree angles.
Seven to 10 miles, eight almonds (or one apple) later, you return for lunch, which typically involves various shades of green vegetables. Afternoons are full of core and abdominal work, weights, body toning and sculpting, nutrition classes, cooking demonstrations, and group yoga. And somewhere in there you’ll get a massage, administered by a muscled angel in white. Dinner is something delicious from the Ranch’s organic garden, and surprisingly filling. It sounds hokey, I know, but each mouthful tastes like good health.
It’s no wonder that celebrities, CEO’s, and even teens go to the Ranch. There were two 19-year-old guests there the last time I visited, one of whom was staying for three weeks. By the time he left he’d lost about 20 pounds. He was, quite literally, a new person.
While weight loss is a decided perk of the Ranch, it’s not really the goal. Rather, the Ranch staff wants you to know just how good healthy can feel. And taste. They want you to understand, firsthand, how bad our bad habits are. How the aches and pains we all wrestle with can go away through clean eating and exercise. You’d be amazed at how fast cravings disappear. How a longing for M&M’s can be overshadowed by a desire for…kale.
Neither place is cheap—the weeklong stay is $6,200 per person, while the Ranch 4.0, as the shorter version is called, is $3,800. But I have never felt so good, so clear, so focused as when I left the Ranch, and my good cheer lasted for months after. In an ideal world, I’d go for a tune-up every six months, just to check in with myself, get my eating on track, and log in some much-needed me time in the great outdoors.
It’s a dream to strive for.
Diana Anderson is a New York City-based writer.