Alumni Spotlight: Simone McKinney

Woman at top of mountain stopping to enjoy the views and rest

Laying on her sofa reading a travel magazine article and recovering after wisdom teeth surgery, Simone McKinney discovered Mountain Trek. It turns out that Canada, beautiful lakes, and hiking are three of her favorite things in life so just one month later, Simone arrived in beautiful British Columbia for the last week of our 2017 season. We owe a big “thank you” to Simone’s oral surgeon, as she has quickly become a beloved alum, frequently attending our Health Talk Happy Hours and joining our second ever Basecamp RetreatWe caught up with Simone to learn why she chose to come to Mountain Trek, how the program impacted her, and why, if she could have one person, living or deceased, over for dinner, it would be Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

Who is Simone?

Simone is a global nomad who loves being active in nature, especially when she’s traveling which is often, except now during the pandemic not so much… Current travel (business) aside, she’s finding many silver linings.

What was your thought process when signing up for the health retreat? Why Mountain Trek?

Actually, I stumbled upon Mountain Trek when I was reading a travel magazine article about it on my couch while recovering from wisdom teeth surgery. I thought how cool is this – it’s in Canada, on a lake, and required hiking (for 6-7 hours daily for a week) – 3 of my favorite things in life. 🙂 Plus, a tough-love boot camp – what could be better?

Which of Mountain Trek’s pillars of holistic health (sleep, detox, nutrition, fitness, stress management) did you gain the most from?

Honestly, all of them with detox being the most – I learned new ways to detox (steam room, more massages, and lots more water) and actually implement them into my life.

What’s your favorite memory of Mountain Trek?

So many! Tough to choose just one so will give my top 3: staff, food, natural surroundings, not least of which Kootenay Lake – will forever remember morning yoga watching the sunrise on the lake – magical.

Has Mountain Trek changed the trajectory of your life?

Absolutely! Transformational. I practiced many of the activities that I had learned and experienced at MT when I returned home. I was never into yoga prior to MT, but MT inspired me, so my takeaway was to gradually increase the times I practiced yoga at home, going from once a week to twice, and now I enjoy morning and evening restorative yoga almost daily. Bedtime yoga helps me sleep better, as, in Kirk’s wise words, I use the hour to shut off all ‘blue’ light. I had such amazing experiences in Ainsworth that I eagerly signed up when the program was being offered in a condensed version at home virtually during the pandemic quarantining. I knew it couldn’t possibly replicate being immersed in the natural beauty of BC, but I was amazed and impressed by how so much came back to me. Last, but not least, my biggest aha moment was the cooking that we had to do given the virtual program aspect. I went from zero cooking to a mini Julia Child in the making (sort of) thanks to the virtual MT weekend, using MT recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My friends are still in shock, as am I. 🙂 I can’t wait to be back on Kootenay Lake at the MT home and learn more to fold into my MT practices. Meanwhile, I enjoy the alumni Zoom talks and receiving the wonderful newsletters that Alex arranges so well and Kirk’s enlightening guidance on a variety of self-care topics as well as hearing the guest staff speakers and chatting with alumni. Suffice to say, I’m drinking the healthy MT Kool-aid. ;).

If you had one extra hour each day, what would you spend that hour doing?

Meditation and journaling.

Who inspires you and why?

Mountain Trek – see above. 🙂

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow.” -Albert Einstein

If you could invite one person, living or deceased, over for a dinner party, who would that be and why?

Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. I have so much respect and admiration for Malala – just a young girl simply going to school, who was killed by the Taliban for wanting an education, only because she was female. I’m in awe of how she survived with a bullet through her head, living to tell the horrific tale, going on to study at Oxford and earning the Nobel Peace Prize, now helping girls all over the world become educated. Karma… I’d like to ask Malala what it felt like to endure such a horrible experience and how she made it through so bravely. I’d want to learn what if anything has changed as a result of her actions in countries like Pakistan and others where females are deemed inferior. Lastly, I’d want to thank her as a woman for all that she’s doing to try to put a stop to such needless suffering and help foster a better global understanding.

Where is your favorite hike in the world? What makes it so special?

Macchu Pichu, Sacred Valley, Inca Trail—fascinating history and breathtaking scenery.

Simone, hiking through Peru

Thanks, Simone! We really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us and share your story. You are a true inspiration!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Join Simone and the rest of the Mountain Trek Alumni at our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, where you will unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Alumni Spotlight: Adele Morrissette

Mountain Trek Alumna, Adele, showing off her moves

After the passing of her husband, Adele Morrissette joined Mountain Trek in Mexico. There, another guest introduced her to ballroom dancing. Adele quickly fell in love with the partner dance, decided to semi-retire, and began competing. Fast forward four and a half years, she’s dancing almost daily, has competed in nearly 40 competitions, and has lost 25 pounds! We caught up with Adele to learn why she chose to come to Mountain Trek, how the program impacted her beyond she could have ever anticipated, and why she thinks Mountain Trek is the best face cream out there:

Who is Adele Morrissette?

I am a semi-retired technology investment banker living in NYC who was suddenly widowed at age 57. I have always exercised, and I have always followed a relatively healthy diet, but a high-stress job requiring frequent travel resulted in a weight gain of about 25 pounds over the course of a decade. When my husband died suddenly at age 61, it caused me to rethink what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. We were a two-career couple without children.

What was your thought process when signing up for the health retreat? Why Mountain Trek?

About a year after my husband’s death, I decided to take a two-week vacation to focus on reclaiming a healthier and more physical life. I spent the first week at a yoga retreat in Southern California, then spent the second week at Mountain Trek’s program in Mexico. I chose Mountain Trek because I love hiking and the location (Tecate, Mexico, in February) worked well for the time of year. Additionally, the logistics worked.

What’s your favorite memory of Mountain Trek?

I loved that the program was highly structured, both in terms of the physical activity schedule and the food, which was delicious. I am a morning person and enjoyed the morning yoga followed by an intense hike, with downtime in the afternoon to read and to think. I also liked the small group aspect of the program. 

In one of the afternoon workshops, we were asked to journal about things we have wanted to do but have not yet gotten around to, and then share these thoughts with the group. I have always wanted to take formal dance lessons– jazz, ballroom, tango, ballet. A woman in my group piped up and said, “Well, you must come to the Fred Astaire dance studio where I dance–I will make an introduction for you when we return to NYC.” So, I took her up on it.

My one lesson a week then became four lessons a week, then six lessons a week, and then I entered my first competition. That was it. Six months later, I quit my job, began dancing six days a week, and now I compete eight to ten times a year. As a result of the exercise and a new focus, I lost the 25 pounds I gained, and a few more, and I feel so lucky to be able to do this.

Now you’ve found your groove with dance, do you think you’ll return to Mountain Trek?

I do want to return to Mountain Trek soon, mostly to hike in the Appalachians again. Because of Board obligations, family obligations and the dance calendar, I need to plan a year in advance. I really love the hiking/yoga emphasis, and, most importantly, the absolutely beautiful natural environment of the programs. Nothing heals like nature.

As an experienced Mountain Trekker, do you have any words of wisdom for those interested in joining the Mountain Trek program?

Mountain Trek is not a program for those looking for a spa experience. I have done many of those and enjoyed them. But the Mountain Trek experience is closer to a “boot camp” that can accommodate guests of all ages with a reasonable degree of militancy. You will never catch me at The Ashram–that is way too intense. The Mountain Trek experience is a good compromise. It’s highly structured, and you will work your body, but there is sufficient downtime, a great appreciation of the healing property of the great outdoors, and you will go home with the best complexion you have had since you were 16 years old.

Thanks Adele! We really appreciate you taking the time to sit down with us and share your story. You are a true inspiration!

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Join Adele and the rest of the Mountain Trek Alumni at our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, where you will unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Alumni Spotlight: Alison Simpson

Alison Simpson, Mountain Trek Alum, at the peak of Kilimanjaro

Alison Simpson, Mountain Trek Alumna, at the peak of Kilimanjaro

Alison Simpson has completed 57 marathons and ultras, including winning her age group in a 250km Race Across the Sahara Desert, and has climbed Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. When she’s not ticking off her bucket list via traveling and running, Alison works as an award-winning marketer, and seasoned brand and business-builder. We caught up with this dog-loving powerhouse to learn how the Mountain Trek program in British Columbia affected her physically, mentally and emotionally.      


Who is Alison? 

I’m a passionate brand and business builder who’s had the privilege of building world class brands like Apple, Holt Renfrew, Tim Hortons, Rogers and Ford. I’m equally passionate about testing my physical boundaries, and exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world with my amazing husband.

 

What was your thought process when signing up for the health retreat? Why Mountain Trek? 

I learned of Mountain Trek from friends who raved about the experience, which is why it was top-of-mind when I needed a physical reset. While it certainly wasn’t planned this way, my first visit to Mountain Trek started two days after I gave the eulogy at my mom’s funeral when she unexpectedly passed away. Trekking through the mountains, and immersing myself in the stunning views, while I grieved my mom proved to be a powerful combination.

 

Which of Mountain Trek’s pillars of holistic health (sleep, detox, nutrition, fitness, stress management) did you gain the most from? 

For someone who loves sugar, the detox and nutrition were powerful. The fitness was my favorite part, and the combination of all 3 made stepping on the scale at the end of the week a surprisingly happy experience.

 

A woman crosses the finish line after 250km across the Sahara desert

Alison crosses the finish line after running 250km across the Sahara desert

What’s your favorite memory of Mountain Trek? 

The people. My fellow trekkers and the incredible Mountain trek team made for a highly rewarding and rejuvenating week.

 

Has Mountain Trek changed the trajectory of your life? 

Mountain Trek helped me recommit to healthier habits, such as making more time for my physical and mental health. I was guilty of de-prioritizing myself, and my experience at Mountain Trek reminded me that ultimately that’s not good for myself or the people around me.

 

If you had one extra hour each day, what would you spend that hour doing? 

Laughing with the people I love.

 

Who inspires you and why? 

It’s a long list. The common themes are people who overcame odds to create a great life and remained humble and curious in success.

 

Do you have a favorite quote? 

“Happiness is an inside job.”

 

Alison finishing one of her 57 Marathons

If you could invite one person, living or dead, over for a dinner party, who would that be and why? 

Indra Nooyi. She was the first female CEO of Pepsi, and one of the first female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. Learning about her journey and experiences would be inspiring.

 

Where is your favorite hike in the world? What makes it so special? 

Summiting Kilimanjaro with my sister and brother-in-law ranks high. The week my husband and I spent hiking through Bhutan tops my list, so far. My personal favorite trek in Bhutan was Tiger’s Nest. 


We are looking forward to experiencing Alison’s favorite hike, Tiger’s Nest, this Spring when Mountain Trek and 12 alumni join us for an experience of a lifetime in Bhutan!

Join Alison and the rest of the Mountain Trek Alumni in achieving the health reset you’ve been looking for. Get your questions answered or Reserve your stay to experience an award-winning fitness retreat & health spa in the lush mountains of British Columbia. There is no time like now.

Alumni Spotlight: Katie Arnoldi

Katie Arnoldi, a critically-acclaimed American author based in Southern California, experienced a week at Mountain Trek last July. She and I did the program together, and I was able to witness, first-hand, how much the program changed her. Almost a year later, I sat down with Katie to learn more about Mountain Trek’s effect on her daily outlook.

Mountain Trek attracts all sorts for all sorts of reason. I, for one, chose to do the program for hormonal imbalance reasons. What was your thought process in signing up for the retreat?

I signed up for Mountain Trek on a whim.  I’d been in France for three weeks, eating and drinking everything in sight, and I came home feeling fat, unmotivated and unhealthy.  Years ago, I’d been to the Ashram in California and I enjoyed my experience there.  I found Mountain Trek on the internet and saw that they ran a similar program, and so I decided to head up to Canada to lose five pounds.  That was my conscious motive for going.  In retrospect, there was a much deeper reason for my need to take a week off and just focus on myself.  2017-18 was a very tough year, both professionally and personally, and I had kind of lost the beat.  I was 59 and I really needed to get back in touch with my priorities and set some new goals. 

From the airplane to arriving at the lodge, what was the story going through your head when you started your journey to the lodge?  

It’s an easy flight from LA up to Spokane. The shuttle driver came and found me in the baggage claim area before I even had time to look for him. It was 100% stress-free. I expected a wide range of age and fitness levels, and that’s pretty much what I saw as I walked down the isle of the shuttle bus, sizing up my fellow campers.  No problem, I thought.  Piece of cake, I told myself. I was feeling pretty confident as I worked my way back, and maybe even smug, until I passed this glowing, uber-athletic, ultra-buff, couple in their 20s.  What the heck were they doing here?  They were perfectly fit and way, way too young.  I looked at them and my heart sank. How on earth could I keep up with a couple of specimens like that?  I found my seat at the back of the bus, looked out the window and tortured myself with worry on the entire beautiful drive to Mountain Trek.  What had I gotten myself into?  I was going to slow everybody down.  I didn’t belong here.  Maybe I should just head home now and save everyone a lot of trouble.  Silly, silly me. 

That “glowing” couple was my husband and me, which is ironic because I was a mess, hormonally, and my husband had recently come out of a 10-day stay in hospital after having surgery on his collapsed lung. I suppose this is a good reminder we all enter the Mountain Trek program for different reasons, and in different physical states. What was your experience during the program?

Mountain Trek is not a competitive program, and the instructors/guides are fabulous.  They split everyone into four groups for the hikes, so you can choose how hard you want to work on any given day, and you can change your mind, mid hike! You can start out in a fast group and drop back to a slow group and no one cares. If you need to take a break or skip a class, go for it.  You decide your own pace. It’s fantastic.  Of course they push you, but only within your personal limitations.  I never felt like I had to prove anything, and I was really grateful for that.  My experience was based on my needs.  The rooms are comfortable.  The food was fantastic, and I didn’t feel deprived.  I did get caffeine withdrawal headaches, so I plan to knock off the coffee a couple weeks prior to my next visit this summer, but that was my only negative. 

I thought I entered the program for nutrition, but sleep ended up being the biggest game-changer for me. Which of Mountain Trek’s pillars of balanced living–sleep, detox, nutrition, fitness, destress–did you gain the most from?

I was the 1992 Southern California Bodybuilding Champion, and I thought I knew everything about nutrition, detox and fitness, but I went into the program with an open mind and was surprised by how much I didn’t know.  I learned something important at every lecture.  Mountain Trek teaches a very commonsense approach to living with practical tools that are easy to incorporate into everyday life.  I came home with a new set of priorities about my sleep habits, and I started meditating as a way to destress.  It’s subtle, but I made some significant changes to the way I approach my overall health, and I feel a lot better as a result of my time at the retreat.  I’m happier.  And those five pounds are still gone. 

I still think about the fabulous post-hike foot soaks we all did while sitting in the living room. What’s your favorite memory of Mountain Trek?

I’m not going to lie: the massages are excellent and I loved the sauna, hot tub and cold plunge.  It felt great to relax after working hard all day.  The setting is beautiful and so peaceful.  The staff is incredible—smart, funny, and inspirational.  It’s all wonderful.

Has Mountain Trek changed the trajectory of your life?

I think that taking a week off to just focus on oneself—physical health, feelings, goals, relationships, expectations—is a great luxury.  For me, that week was hugely productive and therapeutic.  I plan to do an annual visit to Mountain Trek, and I’ve recommended the program to most of my friends. 

Katie will be returning to Mountain Trek this summer to continue on her path to optimal health. If you see her around the lodge, say hi, and ask her about living in Malibu with a famous painter of a husband, Charles Arnoldi.

Feel like your health is out of control? Try a morning routine

Call it a belligerent zeitgeist or pressure cooker–the bottom line is we’re living in a pretty testing time for mental and physical health. We’re raising kids of the “I want” generation, trying to navigate their begs for the latest consoles and phones; we’re swimming upstream in alienating workforces; we’re trying to be successful entrepreneurs, and also comparing ourselves to Olympic athletes and TV stars, wondering why we’re not it all. We’re hamsters on a wheel of doom.

Go take a minute to cry in the corner. I understand. But then I want you to come back, sit down, and finish reading these words. Because what you’re about to learn will stop that wheel. You’ll become you again. In just 5 minutes, I’ll show you how to change out of your hamster costume, rid yourself of the ‘sh*t-life syndrome,’ and regain the health you’ve lost.

The trick: try a morning routine.

Health experts and entrepreneurs from your smallest village in Brazil to your New York City metropolis can’t emphasize enough the importance of a structured start to your day. Barack Obama always wakes at 6:45AM. to exercise, read several newspapers, and eat breakfast with his family; Steve Jobs, late Apple CEO, would stand in front of the mirror every morning asking himself, “‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’

Morning routines don’t have to be long. They just have to be there. Here’s what you will benefit from by introducing one to your day:

 

Productivity:

Accomplishing your routine  every morning sets the foundation of productivity, and can be seen as an investment in the rest of your day. You’ll feel more confident, peaceful and positive, traits that’ll steer the direction of the rest of your day and result in getting more done.

 

Mental Strength:

Waking up early is no fun, but by gradually training yourself to do so, you’re inadvertently strengthening your mental fortitude, and if you’ve set a health goal for yourself, having accomplished your morning routine will help you stay on track. Book suggestion: Eat that Frog.

 

Stress Management:

Funny but when we don’t start our day feeling unprepared and haggard, our stress levels remain even keel. Without spiking our Cortisol levels right off the bat, we gain less weight, feel less anxious, and tend to respond vs. react to stressors.

 

You learned your ABCs, so it’s a no-brainer you can make, and stick to, a health-balancing morning routine. It doesn’t have to be 3300 steps long–it can be as simple as, “I’m going to wake at 7AM and make a healthy smoothie, like the ones served at Mountain Trek.” Pick the routine you want, try it out, and rinse and repeat until you’re happy with how it’s working. You’ve got this.


Unsure where to start with your morning routine? Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in British Columbia, Canada, employs world class Nutritionists, Kinesiologists, Naturopathic doctors, Yoga Instructors, as well as experts on sleep, stress management, and detoxification (meet the team). Send us an email at info@mountaintrek.com with your questions, or visit our facebook page to join the conversation.

Mountain Trek Alumni Story: Sid from D.C.

IMG_5819 

Welcome to Mountain Trek Alumni Stories, our newest blog feature! Each month, we’ll sit down with a Mountain Trek Alumni to find out what they love about the program, what it’s done for their lives, and what keeps them coming back.

Mountain Trek is a truly special place — but don’t take it from us alone. We’re humbled to have developed many “Mountain Trek Alumni” — people who come on the trip once a year to every couple of years. In order to hear from the people who’ve found the most value in our program, we interviewed a couple of regular alumni to understand their personal experience and just what makes Mountain Trek so special for them.

SID, WASHINGTON, D.C.

What made you come to Mountain Trek, and what was your initial goal?

I was there to support my partner — he did some Googling about weight loss vacations and I came along to be there for him. And if I could drop some weight while there, great! I quickly realized it was much more than a place for weight loss — from the moment I got there, I really subscribed to the entire program, from soup to nuts. I loved the bootcamp philosophy, where I didn’t have to personally make any big decisions — just had to follow the path.

What did you get out of the program?

I think of my body as a gas tank: at Mountain Trek, every day you fill it all the way up and completely drain it — and do it all again the next day. The staff’s talks helped me understand my body better and how it works. Lastly — the quality of sleep I get there, digital detox, and forest bathing make me feel amazing.

What made you decide to return to Mountain Trek, and what keeps you coming back?

I left feeling so great — higher energy, my skin looked better, and I felt more rested. People noticed! Whenever I return from Mountain Trek, I always hear people say, “Wow, you look great! Where have you been?”

While I was at Mountain Trek, I fully came to realize the impact of stress on my total wellbeing. Now when I go, I know I’m going to lose weight — that’s the easy part! The deep detox and de-stressing aspects center me. Now I go about once per year as a reboot.

If you could share one thing about Mountain Trek with someone, what would you say?

The Mountain Method is evidence- and science-based — the Mountain Trek team knows what they’re doing, have data to back their recommendations up, and the result is everyone has great outcomes.

Want to hear from more alumni? Read our blog post full of quick tidbits about why people love Mountain Trek, and check out our TripAdvisor page for more than 140 real-life alumni reviews! Ready to experience the life-changing program first-hand? Click here for this year’s rate and dates, and book today.