Mountain Trek Recap

Last week, I was fortunate to attend a press trip to Mountain Trek outside of Nelson in British Columbia, Canada. My accommodations and travel were provided, and I was not compensated for writing this post. It was such an incredible experience, and I’m excited to share my recap, what I learned, and pros + cons below.

From my transition from the mountain bubble and back into the “real world,” I’ve taken a lot of helpful techniques with me. I learned some news cooking skills (hello, crispy ginger chicken!), strategies to help me fall back asleep if I wake up during the night, and got a lot of recipe inspiration, but the biggest benefit of the trip was something that can’t really be described. I feel tranquil and calm, and even if little stressors pop up, I can almost see the Alpine trees gently swaying, feel my body gently collapsing onto a large stone to rest after a long hike, and see the open serene lake.

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Mountain Trek is an incredible place. Nestled in the heart of West of Kootenay Lake, a cozy lodge gently sparkles. The lodge seems to radiate with healing energy, which may be due to the fact that it’s a stone’s throw from the local hot springs, a local destination for healing. The Ktunaxa and Sinixt Nations, who first inhibited the land, built a large healing wheel, which is located on the outskirts of the property. Photos are displayed in the lodge dining room to honor and recognize those who established the land, and even though it was thousands of years ago, the connection is eerily similar. 

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Guests from around the world visit Mountain Trek for a variety of reasons: weight loss, stress management, fitness improvement, or even a luxurious getaway. The group is small (with a maximum of 16 people), and they promote a family-style environment: a cohesive schedule, and all meals are consumed seated around a large dinner table. (Unless you’re on a hike, then it’s a la Thermos.)

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When I first mentioned that I would be visiting Mountain Trek, a few people were wondering why I would visit a weight loss retreat. It’s about so much more than weight loss, and can have nothing to do with weight loss if that isn’t one of your goals. The purpose of Mountain Trek is ignite a lifestyle change or reset. It removes many of the distractions from the outside world (technology overuse, loud noise/traffic, stress over meals) and enables guests to become centered and focused on their unique goals. During the 7-day adventure, there is a wide array of actives and lectures; you can check out what a sample day looks like in this post.

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One of the things I love the most about Mountain Trek is that they emphasize a holistic view of health, focusing on fitness, nutrition, detox and stress management. I feel like they set guests up for success before they leave, whether it’s through crafting a unique plan for when they arrive home, or arming them with an entire book of Mountain Trek lecture notes and recipes. I can already tell that my MT book will soon be tattered and smudged as it’s used in the kitchen. Mountain Trek provides tools for others to find workouts they love, enjoy delicious healthy food, and live longer, healthier lives, which is exactly what I hope to do. I learned a lot of valuable information while I was there, and put some key points into a list to share.

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10 tips for wellness from Mountain Trek:

-You aren’t what you eat; you’re what you absorb. We can fill our bodies with the best quality organic and whole foods, but if we’re not absorbing them, our body has no idea that we’re making the effort to nourish it. So many things can affect nutrient absorption, particularly chewing food thoroughly, dietary sensitivities and gut bacteria. If possible, have hormone levels and sensitives tested by a doctor if you think anything is awry, and include a mixture of probiotic-dense foods (like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, raw apple cider vinegar, etc) and healthy fats to aid in nutrient absorption. 

-It’s not about workouts, it’s about movement. Our sedentary culture has created inflammation within our bodies, and inflammation leads to various health concerns and diseases. Even if you go to an hour workout class, if you spend the rest of the day as a so-called “office athlete,” seated and typing, it is encouraging muscle atrophy and a catabolic metabolism. Add in little bursts of energy throughout the day, even if it’s not an official “workout.” Take a short walk after dinner, enjoy a nice stretch during your workday, or alternate periods of sitting with periods of standing. 

-Let go of worry. Worrying about the future has no gain. Switch your focus to the present moment. Worry can also raise our body’s level of cortisol (the stress hormone), which encourages us to hold onto fat and also can create inflammatory responses in the body.

-Lift heavy things. Emphasize strength training in addition to cardio to promote lean muscle growth and bone health. Bones become stronger and more dense when we make them work to lift either our own body weight, or additional resistance (through resistance tubes or weights).

-Make sleep a priority. Power down two hours before bed. If you find that you have organizational anxiety (regarding the future and planning out the day) that affects sleep, take an hour before bed to plan out the next day. If you have emotional anxiety (concerns or worries), keep a journal by your bed and write down the problem plus one possible solution. It doesn’t have to be the perfect solution, but one option that could potentially solve this problem. 

-Keep a fitness, food and self care log. Write down your fitness for the day, your food, and your self care. What did you do to de-stress? How were your energy levels? How much did you sleep? You can use this to assess and determine patterns in your lifestyle. 

-Healthy living should enrich your life, not dictate your life. I really appreciated the fact that they encouraged moderation upon returning home. “We know you’re going to drink alcohol and eat dessert, and you should.” They remove those from the retreat atmosphere to reduce cravings, but encourage moderate amounts of alcohol and dessert when back at home. I felt like the program was very reasonable, and focused on creating healthy habits that could easily be maintained over the long term: a lifestyle.

Fill your plate with vegetables. Not only are they extremely filling, as they’re high in fiber and nutrients, but low in calories. Vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that nourish the body. We all know veggies are good for you, and I thought I ate plenty of vegetables before attending this trip, but if you fill half your plate with veggies for lunch AND dinner, it promotes a noticeable increase in satiety, vitality and energy. 

Get outside. I noticed a heightened sense of peace and calm from the hours we spent outside hiking, and as much as I’d like to do that if the “real world,” I know it’s not realistic. Instead, I’m going to focus on walking the dogs or playing with Liv outside, at least once, every day. We already do this most days, but I’ve noticed firsthand what an impact it has on my mental health. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and soak up some Vitamin D. 

Small steps lead to huge progress. Don’t feel like you need to overhaul everything at once. Pick an attainable goal for each week, make it happen and build on from there. If you try to do too much at once, it’s an easy way to stress yourself out (high cortisol!) and become overwhelmed or burned out. Move slowly, yet consistently, towards your goals. 

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Pros:

Emphasize a holistic approach of health, focus on four distinct pillars: nutrition, fitness, stress management and detox. There is so much more to health than making it to your daily workout. Stress, sleep and nutrition can have significant impact on goals.

Set up for a lifestyle change when you leave. By following the schedule, it’s easy to develop habits: choosing veggie-filled plates, eating breakfast (as many people skip breakfast entirely), enjoin movement and activity throughout the day. I feel more inspired to have my snacks prepped and packed for the day instead of scrambling around, and enjoying as much time outdoors as possible, especially in this beautiful weather.

Adaptable for all fitness levels. I was worried about how I’d hang in there with the hikes, as my cardiovascular fitness is fine, but hiking is not my specialty. It was really challenging, but I was able to do it. They have three guides for each hike, and you’re hiking according to your personal level. I had the ability to hike in all three groups while I was there. Group 1 killed me, and group 2 or 3 was right up my alley. The hikes were challenging yet enjoyable; the scenery really couldn’t be beat.

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The scenery and staff. This is by far one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever seen. I’ve posted quite a few pics, but they don’t seem to be able to do it justice! The staff here is beyond lovely, too. From the guides, to the nutritionist, to the cooks, to the managers: everyone was so kind, welcoming and knowledgeable. They made everyone feel like they were truly at home, and I’m very thankful to have met them all over the past week. 

The people. I loved hanging out with the amazing people in my group, and am thankful to have some new friends after the trip! Whether we were chatting in the lodge, enjoying the hot springs, or silently trekking through a tough hill, I was fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

Laundry service. Hallelujah! Aaaaaand, it was included. You put your clothes in a bin, and they washed them for you, air-drying any lululemon or delicates. I think it’s the first time ever that I’ve traveled home with a suitcase of clean clothes. It’s a beautiful thing. 

Cons:

Found the fitness classes to be high in duration, but lower in intensity; I prefer the opposite for everyday life. On the other hand, it’s a great starting point for beginners: start with duration and increase the intensity after your fitness base is there. If I were to do Mountain Trek on my own, it wouldn’t be for the fitness classes: it would be for the Zen time, hiking experiences and spa treatments. 

Working out on a full stomach. I like to sit with my food baby on the couch after dinner, but I can see how this would set up a habit to get in a short walk around the neighborhood after eating.

Shuttle. The shuttle between Spokane and the lodge only runs on Saturdays. I feel like a half week trip would be a great option -you don’t get the whole experience, but would make more sense for those who aren’t able to travel away from home for an entire week- but the shuttle doesn’t run. I have to admit that I was also worried about getting home if an emergency occurred. I’m sure they would have figured it out, but it was something I thought about. 

Expensive. But, in this case, I think you get what you pay for. If you consider the cost of travel, accommodations, spa services, all meals + snacks, hiking guides, hiking supplies, etc., while still a splurge, I think it makes it more reasonable. 

Something else I noticed:

The schedule is limited because of the small group. Nice to have options, but also nice to not feel like you’re missing anything. I feel like in the past, I’ve noticed that too many options (for classes/lectures) makes me feel like I’m missing out if I have to choose between two options.

All in all, it was an incredible adventure. Thank you again to Mountain Trek for having me!

Have you ever taken a fitness-related vacation before? If you could combine your favorite relaxation + workout, what would you choose? I would choose reading poolside + Zumba. Sounds like a good combo, right? 🙂

Hope you have a lovely morning <3

xoxo

Gina

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Comments

  1. Looks gorg! Every time I do a hike or spend a day in nature, it’s a really humbling experience. Nature is a constant reminder that those petty things we worry about really don’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

    Fave combo would be a beautiful trail run and a glass of red wine =).

  2. this looks like something I’d love to go on!

  3. Oh wow, this looks fantastic! Going on a fitness vacation is my dream and I had no idea we had something like this in Canada because I always hear about the US-based ones. Thanks for the intro to Mountain Trek – I will definitely be considering them for future holidays! As I’ve said before, being out on the BC coast makes me feel like a completely different person. Yes, I eat clean and move regularly here in Ontario in my every day life, but the difference out there is that all of my stress seems to disappear and everything from digestion to sleep to psychological well being just works better. Thanks for the great recap, Gina!

  4. As Tina Fey would say, “I want to go to there”. LOL! What an amazing experience! I truly would love to go on one of their excursions! Their emphasis on holistic living is right up my alley and all the meals you discussed sound AMAZING!

  5. Oh man I would love a fitness vacation. The vacations I go on usually involve lots of adventures but also lotsss of food. It would be awesome to get to go on a vacation where I don’t come home with guilt and a stretched waist band!

  6. Sounds like a great trip! I recently went to on a 4-day rafting/camping trip through Oregon (with OARS) and it was awesome. Perfect mix of exercise and zen time.

  7. That sounds like such a great place to wind down and really start over and reset yourself!

  8. I would love to go on a fitness trip like this! I love that you said that even when you are stressed now you can go back to your experience and feel calmer.

  9. I’ve never experienced a trip like this, but it looks like an amazing learning experience, both for experienced fitness individuals and those already living healthy lifestyles as well as those who are looking to start taking steps in that direction. I loved the 10 tips you shared and practice a lot of those. Gotta work on that ever evasive sleep though! Thanks for providing a realistic review and I like that MT provides individuals with a book with they leave to help support their journey rather than leaving them to fend for themselves so to speak after a week.

  10. how do fermented foods help with absorption?

  11. Wow! Your photos look gorgeous! This place just seems so amazing and peaceful! I would love to take a fitness-related vacation. I’m hoping to do a cycling tour next year with my husband but if I could choose something just for myself, I would take a barre and yoga vacation in the Caribbean! Or maybe one of those vacations were you do a ton of active sports like kayaking, snorkeling, SUP, trekking, etc. I’ve seen some around and they just look amazing!

  12. Amazing experience! I’ve never done anything like this and would love the change to reset and recharge somewhere in nature. I love being outside and focusing on feeling good, so this trip would be right up my alley. The best tip you learned is definitely — making small steps leads to huge progress. Amen. I would love to visit this place one day!

  13. This sounds wonderful! I love that is more than a fitness trip- its really for the mind. Something we dont tend to focus on enough.

  14. 1. Those pictures look gorgeous–I want to go to there! 2. “Healthy living should enrich your life, not dictate your life”–> that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard. 3. Regarding sleep–I’ve been trying to make this a priority in my life since reading Arianna Huffington’s new book. I know it’s a challenge for everyone but as a student it’s especially difficult because there’s such a culture around getting as little sleep as possible. I’m still training myself to remember that sleep improves memory consolidation so it’s really better to get more sleep than stay up and cram (because you likely won’t remember what you just studied). So far the results have been pretty amazing 🙂

  15. This vacation sounds glorious!! And wow – from your photos, it looks absolutely gorgeous. So cool you got to take part in this!!

  16. What fabulous wellness tips!

  17. I’m trying to be 100% happy for you but I think I’m about 80% happy for you and 20% jealous….I need to work on that! 🙂

  18. I always forget how inspiring/relaxing/NICE it is to spend time outdoors until I do it. A few months ago a friend and I drove up to NC and spent a cool, drizzly day hiking Table Rock Mountain and I felt so revitalized after we finished! Sometimes your soul just needs to get out from under the fluorescent lights.

  19. This sounds awesome. I can see how it wouldn’t just be for weight loss, but a great way to sort of reset your health priorities for your life!

  20. I’m dying to hear more about the food you had! Types of food as well as frequency. Curious about the night time detox/protein smoothie in particular. I usually get hungry after dinner/before bed so I’m curious what they suggested.

    Looks like you had a great time!

  21. What an amazing experience – thanks for sharing. That would be like a dream getaway in my book! I love your first point about eating and absorbing…it is SO true. I tell my nutrition clients that all the time – you can eat perfectly, but if you aren’t absorbing, that is the real problem. Beautifully written post, Gina!

  22. “The lodge seems to radiate with healing energy”

    ….wow. This is how I know I NEED to go to a place like this! Oh my mama, am I ever so intrigued. I love everything you wrote about in this post, and I can imagine that their workouts are very light as they put an emphasis on zen and such.

    Wow wow wow! How many people do they accommodate at a time?

  23. I’ve had a lot of issues recently with waking up in the night and not being able to fall back asleep. You mentioned that you learned some strategies on how to fall back asleep when you wake up in the night – are you able to share any of those?

  24. Katherine K says:

    Love love love your site, and I always get excited to see one of your posts pop up in Feedly! 🙂 Started reading because I was a pregnant Zumba instructor, and I love your commonsense, creative, and safe approach to fitness (and childrearing)!

    While I realize you’re summarizing what the Mountain Trek folks were preaching, the discussion of “reducing inflammation” and “nutrient absorption” is a little disturbing … would like to see the focus on research based nutrition and medicine. Just my $.02!

    • Fitnessista says:

      thank you so much! and thank you for reading, too – love having you here 🙂
      totally get what you’re saying. all of the nutrition info was presented from a certified clinical nutritionist. she gave a lot of amazing tips, and did include info from peer-reviewed studies. it was entirely different than the nutrition lectures i’ve attended in the past -and get that you have to take everything with a grain of salt- but i learned a lot from her

      • Katherine K says:

        Sounds like a great trip! It would never occur to me to get out and hike, so this may have inspired me to get a little more adventurous next summer (live in Wisconsin, where it was 80 degrees yesterday and 40 degrees this morning … sigh …) FYI, the process for obtaining a “certified clinical nutrition” “certification” is a much, much lower bar than for registered dieticians or American Board of Nutrition certification (for MDs and PhDs), and their educational and eligibility requirements are full of all sorts of insane, non-research-based practices. (Their promotion of “alternative cancer therapies” is the one that really makes my blood boil, but I digress …) Anyhoo, glad it was a fun trip, and I love the “it’s about the movement, not the workout” idea! (And thanks for responding, I feel like I’m talking with a celebrity, haha!) 🙂

        • Fitnessista says:

          haha not at all!
          yeah there are certain things about it that made me raise my eyebrows, too. this is also a huge reason why i’ve never pursued nutrition education, because i feel like unless you’re an RD, it’s not worth it. (and all the science pre-reqs scared me away from going back to school to be an RD)

  25. This sounds amazing. Bit far from the UK though!
    Not in the same genre but I am going on a fitness weekend called fitness fiesta which is full on crazy classes back to back for a weekend. I’ve been before and I love getting to try new to me classes. I’m going to take Insanity, Armageddon and Zoo!

  26. Hi Gina, I second what Jess said above 🙂 Can you share your strategies to help you fall back asleep if you wake up during the night? Thanks!

  27. One of my favorite workouts/relaxation would be going for a hike and then sitting by a campfire ☺

  28. Last year we went to Maui, and while it wasn’t officially a fitness vacation, we got tons of exercise! Of my favorite experiences was taking a yoga class on the beach, they played Hawaiian music during savasana and I totally cried. Yep, definitely my ideal vacay 😀

  29. Okay, this just makes me want to go there even more! 🙂

  30. Looks like an amazing experience!

  31. Sounds like such an amazing experience!

    It really would be a great reset, which I could definitely use. I’m still trying to set up and follow through with changes I would like to make.

  32. Nelson is the most amazing place to visit. I’ve gone there several times, winter and summer for either biking or skiing. The scenery is even more amazing when the mountains are covered with snow and the sun is shining. The kootenays are a magical place, and the town site is quite quirky too. We’ve flown into Spokane and then just rented a car to cross the border, so quite doable for a shorter trip. It is possible to fly into Castlegar, but it is notorious for being fogged in….probably more of a ski vacation issue than a summer one.

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