Sheila Cluff, a wellness visionary who created cardiovascular dance, now known as "aerobics," in the 1950s and pioneered the concept of the modern destination spa in the 1970s, tells her fascinating life story in "Living Your Dream" (Storyzon; 154 pp).
The autobiography is available for $16.95 on The Oaks at Ojai website and at The Oaks' retail outlet The Nest. It will also be available soon on Amazon.com and as an ebook. "Whether readers are 9 or 90, my hope is that this autobiography will enable them to channel the universal language of dreams, sacrifice and family," promises Cluff, 76, a mother of four and grandmother of seven.
Cluff's life and career have been marked by boundless creativity, passion and admirable perseverance, and throughout the book she candidly relates her experiences of triumph and tragedy.
In the '50s, long before the fitness industry came up with the term "aerobics," she drew from her choreography as a professional ice skater to create "cardiovascular dance," adding a spark of fun to exercise. In the '70s when those seeking to lose weight on vacation had little choice but to trudge off to the grim "fat farm," she conceived of a contemporary spa that combined luxurious European body treatments with exciting exercise and healthy delicious food. Thus was born The Oaks at Ojai, which would come to be declared the
best destination spa in the United States by Spa Magazine.
But "Living Your Dream" is also a story of endurance in the face of personal heartache and professional challenges. Cluff lost a son to emulous meningitis before his third birthday, and writes, "Even today, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, reliving [the tragedy]." Later in life, she nursed her husband through devastating injuries suffered in an auto accident. In the business world, she put all of the family's finances at risk to bring her spa concept to life in Ojai. "But we did it," she writes, "and became the first affordable destination spa in the United States to focus on healthy eating and exercise as a way for women to look and feel better, whatever their fitness level."