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Sunday Telegraph Swiss ball
Swiss ball workouts, yoga and Pilates have replaced traditional nature hikes.

Yoga, facials and hypnobirthing class - it must be summer camp

American teenagers want 'spiritual' exercise, not log cabins and mosquitos

By Philip Sherwell in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Julie Washabaugh, 14, is a fan of Pilates, kickboxing and belly dancing. Thirteen-year-old Peter Pensuwan likes the Budokon class with its mix of karate, yoga and meditation. And Ellie Barton, also 13, is having a shiatsu massage after a morning workout.

Welcome to American summer camp, class of 2005. This rite of passage for teenagers used to entail several weeks communing with nature, hiking through woods and swimming in ponds. Accommodation was a bunk-bed in log cabins - with complimentary mosquitos and bugs.

These institutions, where generations of British students worked during their summers, are dotted across rural America. But the lure of the wild is waning for a generation brought up on computers and mobile phones.

The new face of summer camps is on display at Bryn Mawr, a college near Philadelphia whose alumni include the actress Katharine Hepburn. The Julian Krinsky/Canyon Ranch Young Adult Summer Programme "for your high-energy vacation of sports and lifestyle experiences" started here last week.

The programme offers "body sculpting" and tai chi as well as options such as tennis and golf aimed at five categories of teenager: athlete, fitness buff, curious mind, serenity seeker and foodie. For aspiring entrepreneurs, there is also a business camp. When The Sunday Telegraph visited, Amanda Scarlato, the camp aesthetician, had a waiting list for her citrus facials; 15 teenage girls gathered to listen to a hypnotist explain the pain-relieving benefits of hypnobirthing (self-hypnosis for childbirth, taught on the basis that it is never too young to learn); and a nutritionist gave a PowerPoint presentation on the health risks of eating too few carbohydrates.

For Torie Zalben, the world of yogic meditation is nothing new. The 17-year-old from Beverly Hills was taught its principles by her father, who once lived on an ashram in India. "I was attracted by the spiritual aspect of the camp," she said. Miss Washabaugh, from Michigan, went to traditional summer camps when she was younger. "We did all the usual stuff like hiking and swimming, but it got boring. Here I'm learning stuff about healthy eating and exercise that will be useful for my whole life. This camp is definitely better suited to kids today."

None of the children seemed to be missing life under the stars. Nor were the British counsellors. "I taught arts and crafts at a camp in Vermont last year and I put on a lot of weight eating the stodgy food," said Krista Kokezky, 20, from London. "But this is much more realistic. It's not trying to pluck kids out of their suburban existences and put them somewhere artificial."

The food is a far cry from canteen fare. The lunch menu - options were buttermilk-battered chicken and black bean cake - would not have been out of place in Manhattan.

Despite the lean cuisine, facials and massages, Tina Krinsky, who runs the business with her husband Julian, a former South African tennis professional, insisted they were not offering a spa camp. "We are catering to today's kids and the fact is they aren't interested in the same things they used to be. The iPod generation doesn't want to spend several weeks in a log cabin."

The Krinskys allow youngsters to use their mobiles and computers, while most groups registered with the National Camp Association ban them. Across America, more of the estimated 10,000 summer camps are offering similar programmes.

The camp does not come cheap: Bryn Mawr costs $1,400 (789) a week, about twice the average. At those prices, such camps draw mostly from affluent families on the East and West coasts, who believe, said Mr Krinsky, that teens "are all becoming metrosexuals".

Some traditionalists, however, feel that the new style of camp offers too much emphasis on pampering and not enough on the great outdoors. Michael Humes, whose family have run Camp Regis-Applejack in New York State's Adirondack Mountains for the past 60 years, said: "It's important that people learn about nature and the environment and the importance of having respect for them. It's hard to do that when you're getting a facial done."

Source: London Telegraph - July 3, 2005

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