Nine Lessons Learned from My Week at Mountain Trek Retreat

Carpe diem! Seizing the day at Boomers Beach, Mountain Trek Retreat.

So I hiked for miles in the Kootenay Mountains, and lost 4.5 pounds and 6 inches. But what did I gain at Mountain Trek Retreat? As it turns out, a heck of a lot. Here are nine lessons learned from being brave and finding vitality during my week at Mountain Trek.

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 spirit 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 one of the many health lectures on diet, fitness, sleep, stress, and life balance, Mountain Trek 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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29 Comments

  • Elena says:

    I still use Kirkland’s recipe for gratitude and sleep each and every night!! And oh my goodness – what a good reminder about water. I have been way off and need to do better. (ooh–and if you loved Katja’s yoga…I bought her DVD and love using it at home. I love starting the day with her even if I am far away.)

    • Claudia says:

      Thanks Elena! Katja has a DVD?! That is wonderful news. Her yoga class was incredible, and set up each day in the most wonderful way. Cheers!

  • Sarah says:

    Wow this looks like an amazing escape. This exhausted mother would definitely enjoy it!

  • Excellent post. Don’t you love that place? I was there several years ago and loved every minute.
    Amen to the hiking poles. They also use 25% more energy and helps give the upper body a work-out too. I use them in the city and in the mountains. Love, love, love my hiking poles.
    I’m adding a link here to an old post (2011) where you can see my hiking poles in action. Hope you enjoy it.
    http://www.colleenfriesen.com/2011/09/12/hurricane-leftovers-on-offas-dyke-path/

    • Claudia says:

      Thanks so much Colleen. Those hiking poles really do make a difference in good, bad, or windy weather, non? Loved your post – thanks for sharing!

  • Leigh says:

    Great lessons learned and what an idyllic looking place. Needless to say I’d love the hiking here.

  • Vanessa says:

    Wow – I would love to check out that cookbook. I can’t get over how delicious all the food looks -and the fact that it’s healthy is even better.

    • Claudia says:

      Thanks for your comment, Vanessa. Mountain Trek posts some recipes on their site from time to time. It’s worth checking out!

  • So many great lessons here that transfer from the mountain to every day life. You’re making me feel very guilty about my daily wine habit 🙂

  • Oh so amazing to do a retreat like this, especially in gorgeous Canada. Hiking and absorbing the natural world around you is such a great reset. I’m a big proponent of morning yoga and morning water. Two seemingly simple things, but both with big impacts on how I feel throughout the day.

  • Megan Indoe says:

    Wow this retreat sounds like something right up my alley. Where is Kootenay Mountains? I have never heard of them but am intrigued! Also, I can’t believe how much weight you lost! I need to go do this after the holidays damage!

    • Claudia says:

      Thanks for your comments Megan. The Kootenay Mountain range is in the eastern part of British Columbia, Canada. It’s about an 8-hour drive from Vancouver.

  • Annemarie says:

    Sometimes slowing down and remembering the essentials of life, like kindness (also to oneself) is so important. That mountain retreat sounds like a treat. I could use something like this. I had no idea you could do retreats like that in Canada.

  • Medha Verma says:

    Some very good lessons, about life! And I absolutely love the one about ‘You are what you eat’. There is effort required in cooking, especially healthy foods, but that’s one place we cannot shy away from putting in efforts. How do you expect t be healthy if you can’t make an effort towards cooking healthy foods for ourselves?

  • Tracie Howe says:

    I have not done a wellness retreat, but after your experience, I am more inclined to. I like that this one involves hiking, which is more up my alley. I think I’ll have to use the breathing tip before sleep in my every day life too! Thanks for sharing!

    • Claudia says:

      The hiking is one of the best aspects of the retreat for sure. It’s so motivating to be out and about in nature. And the food of course. Totally delicious!

  • Wow, it sounds like this was a really amazing experience. Congrats on the weight loss and all the lessons gained. So many great tips here, and I’m going to drink a glass of water right now!

  • Awesome post! I’ve been being mindful of the lessons I learn from travel recently and this really spoke to me. Love the 5 Days On, 2 Days Off, I need to practice that in all aspects of my life!

  • Paige W says:

    This sounds like a really great retreat. It’s totally my style of retreat since I’m an outdoor/hiking enthusiast. I think you are what you eat is something that everyone needs to remind themselves of. Also, those trekking poles are imperative on uphill hikes, I think! I’d love to give this a try and I’m about to give that drinking a glass of hot water a try!

  • Suruchi says:

    I too believe Trek teaches us so much. First and the foremost lesson is to be kind and be grateful for whatever we have. If you fall you have to get and keep on moving. Apart this right trekking shoes is a must. Great post and pictures.

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