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As far as wellness retreats go, Mountain Trek retreat near Nelson, British Columbia, is one of the best in the world. Perennially voted number one by readers of luxury travel magazines, it’s on a mission to promote a life-changing health reset for clients. During my week at the retreat, I hiked for miles in the Kootenay Mountains, did daily workouts and yoga, and enjoyed delicious meals that were cooked for me. I ended up losing 4.5 pounds and 6 inches. But what did I gain? As it turns out, a heck of a lot. Here are nine lessons from Mountain Trek Retreat.

Lessons learned from Mountain Trek Retreat

1. Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

I remember the exact place and moment when the importance of enjoying the moment – seizing the day –  hit me. It was on the shore of Kootenay Lake, at Boomers Beach, and we were on a lunch break after a hot morning hike. It was a place of such peace and beauty, and I felt so empowered by my hiking experience in nature. I couldn’t help but be moved to promise myself that I would work very hard to live each day to the best of my ability. Back in the ‘real world’ of life’s busy routine, I set a powerful reminder to myself to ensure I remember the importance of that moment. I immortalized my lakeside epiphany on a pair of custom Converse All-Stars, courtesy of Vancouver Island-based Baggins Shoes.

2. Be Kind

We’re too hard on ourselves. Are we good enough? Thin or pretty enough? Are we good mothers or parents? Sometimes it’s hard to be kind to ourselves, much less to others.

My daily hikes reminded me of my own physical limitations, which I would have liked to ignore. “You’re not as fit as you used to be,” said that little voice in my head. It was important to accept that truth, then release the guilt and baggage. In doing so, I performed a kindness to myself that helped lift my spirits and motivate me to work hard towards my fitness goals.

Healthy food never looked or tasted so good! (via thetravellingmom.ca)

3. You Are What You Eat

If we want healthy bodies, we need to stop eating crap. It sounds simple, but that Gin & Tonic sure tastes yummy, and so do those chips.

Remember, be kind to yourself and save those temptations for your two days of grace. If you eliminate everything entirely, you’ll just cave more quickly, then feel guilty, and the vicious cycle begins anew.

The Mountain Trek cookbook offers loads of incredibly tasty recipes that you can (and should) make at home. I’ve made 10+ plus recipes, to the benefit of everyone in my family. Yes, cooking involves some work, and sure, we’re all busy. But make the effort to craft just one recipe a week, then two the next. Or choose healthier options when eating out. It’s a question of willpower to be sure, but you are worth it, remember?

4. Practice Gratitude

Do you give thanks on a daily basis? I never used to either, but thanks to Program Director Kirkland Shave (that’s him below), I practice gratitude on a daily basis. His method of deep belly breathing with mental (or verbal) expressions of thanks for what is important to you that day, or in your life in general, as you prepare to still the body for sleep has worked wonders for me.

It’s quite simple; as you lie down with your mind in a whirl from your busy day, focus on your breath. Deep breathes that make your belly rise, not shallow ones from your chest. As you get into a breathing rhythm, give thanks for someone or something in your life. While I was at Mountain Trek, I gave thanks for my hiking poles, seriously. As you practice breathing and gratitude at least five times in succession, your body and mind calm themselves to a point that sleep may just come a little easier. It has really worked for me, and it is so, so simple to do.

Mountain Trek's wise and inspirational Program Director, Kirkland Shave (via thetravellingmom.ca)

 5. Five Days On, Two Days Off

During our Mountain Trek Retreat, one of the many health lectures on diet, fitness, sleep, stress, and life balance, Mountain Trek Retreat staff spoke of the importance of taking home practical tips to ensure we continued on the right path towards wellness.

The 5 Days On, 2 Days Off weekly routine recognizes that in order to maintain health, fitness and discipline in ‘real life’, we need to Go For Progression Not Perfection.  For five days we strive for Lean, Mean and Clean, but then we give ourselves a break for two days to enjoy life’s other pleasures and treats – a G&T, ice cream, that bag of chips. Integrating this routine and practice in our daily lives reduces guilt, binging, and keeps us moving in the right direction towards a better, healthier self.

6. Use Hiking Poles

This was such a revelation for me. I’ve never used poles for hiking before my week at Mountain Trek, but now I don’t want to hike without them ever again. The reason? The help propel you up hills, steep inclines, stabilize your footing, and assist in taking the load off of your knees when you’re hiking downhill. Using them to speed you along flat sections also brings the heart rate up, and as such adds to your fitness level. How great is that?

Using poles for hiking was a revelation for me

7.  Start the Day with Morning Yoga

We began each day with a sunrise yoga session overlooking Kootenay Lake and mountains. While I can’t replicate this at home in quite the same way (I don’t have a lake or mountain view), the feeling of well-being and fitness post-yoga workout is something that I would dearly love to replicate. I’m still working on ways to fit this routine into my schedule, but even a five or ten-minute meditation and stretching session would help.

Welcome the day with sunrise yoga at Mountain Trek (via thetravellingmom.ca)

8. Hear Water, See Water, Drink Water

In packing our backpacks for a hiking day trip, filling a 3-litre Platypus water bladder was part of the prep routine. Drinking enough water is essential to keep hydrated while hiking, and our guides dutifully reminded us of the mantra “Hear Water, See Water, Drink Water” to ensure we remembered to keep up with water intake.

In the city, I need to use different cues to remember to drink enough, hence the little coloured sticky dot at my desk to remind me to sip while working. Adding lemons, limes or cucumbers to the water helps to keep things tasty and fresh.

A hiking stop at Fry Creek, a great place to drink some water! (via thetravelllingmom.ca)

9. Good Hiking Shoes Work Just Fine

Prepping for a hiking trip doesn’t mean that you need to run out and purchase heavy hiking boots. A good pair of low-rise hiking or walking shoes with a grippy sole is perfect for forest hikes. Just break them a bit beforehand during your daily routine, in order to avoid the inevitable blisters that would come from hiking for five hours in brand new shoes.

Photo Credits: C Laroye

Disclosure: The Travelling Mom thanks the staff of Mountain Trek Retreat for their hospitality. All opinions are honest and her own.

Have you ever done a fitness or wellness retreat? Share your experiences below.


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