Daily fitness is important for enjoying a overall healthy lifestyle.

Struggling With Your Fitness + Nutrition Regimen? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions.

Oftentimes conversations about health focus solely on physical needs, but in order to achieve true vitality, we must look beyond the basics of water, food, shelter, and sleep. Humans have mental needs (creativity, learning, meditation), emotional needs (relationship, sharing of feelings, feelings of belonging), and spiritual needs (need for inspiration, contemplation, beauty, and context). Checking in with the self to gauge whether your emotional, mental and spiritual needs are being met is a crucial step in achieving total wellness.

Without a solid emotional, mental and spiritual foundation, even the best, most well-organized nutritional and fitness regimens can become totally ineffective. If emotional, mental and spiritual needs are not being met, you’ll feel stress and a lowering of willpower. Anyone that struggles with emotional eating can attest to that!

If you have a stressful job and like to unwind with a glass (or three) of wine each night, you might be negatively impacting healthy sleep and healthy weight. However, if the mental and emotional stress of your job doesn’t change, how can you expect this pattern to? Often, people are too hard on themselves, and understand their coping mechanisms as failures. All humans use coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Getting to the source of those stressors is the key to unlocking true vitality.

If you’ve been struggling with “staying on track,” ask yourself the following questions.

Mental Health
Do you have a creative outlet of focus that brings joy to your daily work?
Are your ideas and talents welcome in your line of work?

Emotional Needs
Do you have people in your life with whom you feel close enough to share your dearest hopes and fears?
Human contact is incredibly important to wellbeing — are you getting touched, whether through intimacy or massage?

Spiritual Wellbeing
Do you set aside time regularly for solitude and contemplation?
Does your daily life contribute to a larger vision you have for your life?

If you want true change and balanced health and the journey towards transformation, it starts with this self-reflection. If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, take 20 minutes to journal about what you could do to create more time for yourself. Could you benefit from going to a painting or dance class? Taking more time to connect with loved ones? Thinking carefully about whether your work aligns with your personal values? If you want true change and transformation, begin this journey of introspection and self-reflection.

Much of Western culture teaches us that tending to the self shouldn’t be our priority. However, when we honor our own mental, emotional and spiritual needs, we unlock access to our wisest, truest selves. This self-acceptance and self-love is the most solid foundation available to us for a lifetime of health and wellbeing.

Time for a more immersive return to the self? Join us in gorgeous, vibrant fall for some of the best foliage views in the world at our health, wellness and stress retreat. Click here for rates and dates and to plan your trip!

Our Favorite Bodyweight Exercises

As we all experience, it’s a difficult task to prioritize time for exercise and maintain fitness. Between work responsibilities, balancing home life, children and travel, it’s easy to de-prioritize exercise. And when people do think about exercise, it’s often cardio. To be sure, cardio is an efficient calorie burner. However, don’t forget stretching and support body strength. Many people are intimidated by free weights at the gym, but exercising needn’t always take place there! Here are some of our favorite exercises that you can complete almost anywhere — at home or on the road.

  1. Plank

This classic bodyweight exercise strengthens your abdominals and your pelvic floor. Your body’s core is the foundation of a person’s strength: your core muscles support your spine and pelvis and are crucial for balance.

Start on your hands and knees on the floor in a neutral spine position. Lower to your forearms, shoulder-width apart, and make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Step your feet back, one at a time, so that you’re on your toes and from heel to neck, you form a straight line. Make sure you keep your hips high. Squeeze your abs and hold the position for as long as you can before your form breaks.

Plank

  1. Traditional Squat

Strength training builds the muscles we need to burn calories and also helps counteract osteoporosis and the effects of a catabolic (or decay) metabolism. The glutes are the largest and most powerful muscle system in the body! The traditional, unweighted squat is an excellent strength challenge for the glutes, quads and hamstrings — it even strengthens your lower back and abdominals. As such, it’s an incredibly efficient body weight workout.

Stand with your feet a hip’s width apart, with your toes facing forward. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and hold your arms by your sides. Then, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor, almost like you’re sitting down into a chair. Keep your chest high and your weight in your heels (not your toes!). Slowly raise yourself to standing. Make sure your pelvis is tilted forward to keep any strain off your lower back.

Challenging yourself? Try jump squats — squat deep, and on your way back up thrust yourself into the air, pointing your toes.

  1. Standing Hip Stretch

Flexibility is so important, especially as one ages. If we don’t continue to lengthen our muscles, we’ll end up with less range of motion. Stretching should occur right when you wake up, intermittently throughout the day, before and after workouts, and just before bed — even if just for 5 minutes. When stretching, be mindful, focusing on the muscle you’re working. Relax with each exhalation, and don’t push too hard — this risks overextension. Ride the line of challenging yourself without putting yourself in pain.

One of our favorite stretches can be done anywhere, even at your desk! Find a desk or table that is hip height. With hands firmly placed on the desk and your feet a hip-width apart, walk your feet back, creating a 90-degree angle in the body. Extend your sitting bones back, opening the armpit area and lengthening the spine. Take three big, deep breaths, and slowly walk yourself back to standing position. This stretch counteracts the rounding of the back that occurs while sitting at a desk.

 

If you have any injuries, please consult with your physician before incorporating these bodyweight exercises into your fitness regimen! Download our app for more fitness videos and tips from our Fitness Director Cathy Grierson.

 

 

Jenn’s Favorite Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks

1970

We know how critical what we eat is in energy management: Making sure to plan snacks well will make sure you’re properly fueling your body and optimizing your nutrient intake! One of the questions we most often hear is when and how to snack, especially before and after workouts. Our head of nutrition, Jennifer Keirstead, offers some tips below for making the most of your workouts with strategically timed snacking.

Pre-Workout: Fruit + Protein Source

Says Jenn:Pairing a piece of fruit with a protein source is a fantastic pre-work snack. The sugars in the fruits act as a quick energy source, and since protein digests a little slower, combining these two helps stabilize blood sugar levels — this supports longing lasting energy (for example, an apple with almonds). Or try a homemade Coconut Apricot Bliss Ball — recipe below!

Do your best to consume a small snack within an hour pre-workout — this way you’ll be sure to have quick energy available to burn.”

Post-Workout: Fruit or Vegetable + Protein Source

Post-workout snack is similar to the pre-work snack. Either a fruit or veggie, paired with a source of protein. An excellent example would be a sugar snap peas with a hard-boiled egg. 

A smoothie is another great option for post-workout — try mixed berries with cashew butter. Eating every 3-4 hours will support energy not just for exercise, but for sustaining energy levels throughout the day.” Click here to learn more about our approach to nutrition

Coconut Apricot Bliss Balls

This protein-packed and calorie-conscious snack is great for pre- or post-workout fuel, and is the perfect replacement for highly processed, sugary “energy bars.”

Ingredients 

1/4 cup almond butter

2 tbsp hemp seed butter

1 cup chopped dried apricots

2 tbsp dried cranberries

½ tsp (scant) powdered ginger

1 pinch cardamon

1 pinch sea salt

1 zest small orange

Orange juice, to moisten

Directions

Using food processor, chop nuts and apricots finely. Add butters and remaining ingredients. Form into balls with small scoop and refrigerate or freeze.

Craving more nutrient-packed spa cuisine? Download the Mountain Trek Health Guide In Your Pocket App for a full library of amazing recipes — as well as help sustaining healthful habits and some of our favorite, high-impact workouts.

 

Engaging Your Core For Fitness

Engaging your Core

As the name suggests, our core is integral to every movement we make. It's a complex series of muscles that extend well beyond your abs and include everything except for your arms and legs.

In this article, and in the video below, Mountain Trek's fitness director Cathy Grierson talks about how to engage your core for whatever it is you're doing, whether you're walking, working out at the gym or even just sitting at your office desk. This information goes hand-in-hand with our other article called "Cathy's Core Workout," which describes how to strengthen your core muscles. (You can see all of Cathy's videos and more by downloading our Health Guide in Your Pocket app.)

Before we begin, however, let's look at what exactly the core muscles are. Most of us believe they're the six-pack abs you'll find on male underwear models but that's the the case at all. Your core extends far beyond your abdomen and include two types of muscles: stabilizers and movers. To give you a sense of just how important they are: our stablizer and mover core muscles are integral to almost every movement of the human body! Many of the muscles that make up our core are hidden beneath the exterior musculature of our bodies and include the multifidus, transverse abdominals, diaphragm and the pelvic floor among others.

In this video Cathy explains how to engage your core, our stabilizer muscles no matter what activity you're involved in by using a sequence called "The Wave." 

Whether you're an athlete or someone who's interested in getting back in shape and engaging those core muscles again, we recommend you book Mountain Trek and enjoy Cathy's fitness direction in person as well as all the amenities our all-inclusive resort offers: complimentary massages, delicious boutique spa cuisine, natural hot springs, infrared sauna, outdoor hot tub and cold plunge pool, plus a luxurious lodge in a natural setting far away from urban stressors.

You're also guaranteed to reach your fitness goals with our program that's tailored to each individual. You can keep to your own pace but we'll make sure you get results. We hope to see you soon!

Staff Picks – Best Workout Music

Mountain Trek's Staff Workout Songs

It's no secret that music has a massive effect on our mood. If you're feeling low, an upbeat song can lift you right up. Or if you're feeling stressed, a relaxing tune can help soothe the soul. By coordinating the music you’re listening to with the mood you’d like to be in, you can train your brain to engage in positive vibes.

To that end, we asked the staff at Mountain Trek what kind of music they like to listen to when exercising. We all know it can be challenging to get up off the couch sometimes and what can help the process is cranking some tunes to get you motivated.

Here are our staff's picks for best workout music:

Jennifer Keirstead – Nutritionist and Guide Jennifer Keirstead, Nutritionist at Mountain Trek

"These are the songs I like to play when I wanted to get pumped up! LOL. That said, I know everyone's taste in music is different but I think a lot of people will agree these songs definitely inspire you to move around."

  1. "Sinnerman" – Felix da Housecat Mix feat. Nina Simone
  2. "A Song for Our Grandfathers" – Future Islands
  3. "Every Other Freckle" – Alt-J
  4. "Is This It" – Asaf Avidan **Kulkid Remix
  5. "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" – Scissor Sisters

Cathy Grierson – Head Guide & Fitness Director Guides, Chefs & Staff

"I like listening to music when I work out in the gym but it's a good idea to remind everyone to take the headphones off when hiking in nature so as to enjoy the sounds around you. Here are the songs I love best to workout to when indoors:"

  1. "In2ition and misirlou" – 2 Cellos 
  2. "Jai ho" – Mumbai Dolls
  3. "Running down a dream" – Tom Petty
  4. "Runaway" – Ed Sheehan

Kirkland Shave – Program Director & Lead Guide Guides, Chefs & Staff

"These are the songs that pump me up!"

  1. "Pump It Up" – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  2. "Chuis Bo" – PZK (feat. Dogg Soso)
  3. "Jump In the Line" – Harry Belafonte
  4. "Pipeline" – The Piperiders
  5. "Eternal (Jusqu'au matin)" – Le Weekend
  6. "Gumboots" – Paul Simon (with The Boyoyo Boys)
  7. "Mr. Saxobeat" – Alexandra Stan
  8. "Whip It" – Devo
  9. "Mambo Con Dancehall" – Brooklyn Funk Essentials
  10. "Sweet and Dandy" – Toots & The Maytals

Krista Van Ee – Hiking Guide Guides, Chefs & Staff

"These are the songs I like to listen to when running or working out":

  1. "I've Got Your Fire" – Jenn Grant
  2. "Happy" – Pharrell Williams
  3. "Disperate Youth" – Santigold
  4. "Beings" – Madeon
  5. "Kamikaze" – MO
  6. "Famous" – Charli xcx

Simon Shave – Sleep Specialist & Hiking Guide Guides, Chefs & Staff

"There are so many songs out there that get me moving but these are definitely my top five favourites right now."

  1. "Move On Up" – Curtis Mayfield
  2. "Behind the Mask" – Micheal Jackson 
  3. "Lose Yourself to Dance" – Daft Punk
  4. "Runnin' (Bit Funk Remix)" – The Pharcyde 
  5. "Todd Terje" – Inspector Norse

And in case you want to have a listen for yourself. We put all these great songs into one easy playlist to help fuel your next workout.

[fbcomments]

Back pain? Read This Before Getting A Back Brace

Suffering from back pain?

Recently our fitness director Cathy Grierson was asked by a guest who suffers lower backpain whether he should get a back brace for his workouts. Cathy has been asked this question before and she's certain seen her share of people in the gym wearing them. However, a back brace may be doing them more harm than good. Here is her response to whether you should wear a back brace or not.

Nearly 80% of North Americans will suffer back pain at some point in their lives. For many, the injury is triggered by a strenuous activity, like gardening or weight lifting. Others simply bend down to pick up a pencil and their back gives out.

Although the pain may have started after gardening or a long workout at the gym, the strain that caused it has likely been building for years as most people have weak core stability muscles, leading to poor posture when going about their daily activities, putting unnecessary strain on their backs. You can increase the pressure on your back by 50% simply by leaning over the sink incorrectly to brush your teeth. Keeping the right amount of curvature in the back by having strong core muscles takes pressure off the nerves and will reduce back pain.

At Mountain Trek, the guides and fitness staff are constantly encouraging Trekkers to have good form and to “engage their core”; to protect their backs, maintain balance and increase power. Check out the guide section of this APP to view the video “engaged core” that explains how to engage and strengthen your core.

As to a brace, if you wear one the muscles which should be providing stability, weaken and you will have less core strength, so I don’t recommend them. Having said that if you have a back injury that your Doctor, Physical therapist or health care professional has recommend you wear while you heal then it’s best to follow their instructions which usually includes using sparingly and for only short periods so your muscles don’t weaken and you become dependent upon it.

[fbcomments]

Beginner Workout Mistakes to Avoid

As the Fitness Director at Mountain Trek, Cathy Grierson receives a lot of questions about exercise: when to do it and how often; what the best techniques are; and how to avoid injury. Recently she received a question that we thought warranted its own post follow-up as it’s important for most guests of Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa: “What are some common workout mistakes that all beginners should avoid?” Cathy believes this is a big and important subject and so wrote the following in the hopes we can all learn from it:

Only focused on Cardio

Mistake #1: Only Doing Cardio

Many people, particularly women, believe the antiquated idea that cardio will make them slim and strength training will make them bulky. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Building muscle helps to raise your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and create a favorable metabolic environment for fat loss. Plus strength training strengthens our bones, improves our posture and reduces the likelihood of injury.

Don't forget to stretch

Mistake #2: Neglecting the warm-up and cool down stretch

Jumping right into a vigorous workout without warming up puts you at risk of injury. Instead, take at least 5 minutes to warm up the body, using lower intensity movements that mimic the exercise you are about to perform. Avoid static stretching during the warm-up and instead use dynamic or moving stretches. Save the static stretches to restore worked muscles to their original length for about 5 minutes post exercise.

Don't forget to have fun!

Mistake #3: Forgetting About Fun

It’s really hard to stay dedicated to something that you don’t enjoy. Thankfully, there are endless modes of exercise and there’s certain to be something out there that you will enjoy. Keep your expectations realistic. You do not need to be an iron-pumping body builder or a marathon runner in order to reap the benefits of exercise. Think about the things you like and start with that. Is it music? Being outdoors? Spending time with friends? Build those things into your workouts to add some fun!

[fbcomments]

Cathy’s Core Muscles Workout Routine

Core Fitness

Many of you know that the fitness aspect of Mountain Trek’s program is broken down into five components: flexibility, cardio, strength, core stability and, of course, fun. In this article we’re going to talk about the fourth component, namely your core muscles, and why they’re so important. We’re also going to share some of the best exercises for strengthening them.

Strength training is all about building lean muscle mass to help raise your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and create a favorable metabolic environment for fat loss. As we age, we’re prone to muscle loss (a 50 year old person can lose 0.4 pounds of muscle every year). Compound that with muscle loss due to a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle and we start storing more calories than we’re burning. 
By strengthening our muscles we burn more calories (1 lb of muscle burns 6 cal/day just resting vs. 1 lb of adipose (fat) at 2 cal/day). 

In today’s modern world, many of us find ourselves sitting for prolonged amounts of time, whether at our office desks, in planes or during our daily commute. This sedentarism is not good for our core muscles, nor is it good for our bodies overall. (Read more about the dangers of sitting in our article “Why sitting is bad for you and 5 ways to fix it.”)

The good news is there are easy exercises we can do to curb this sedentarism and strengthen our core muscles, ensuring we maintain good posture and avoid injury.

WHAT ARE YOUR CORE MUSCLES?

When most people think “core muscles” they envision six-pack abs like the kind you’d find on a Calvin Klein model. But the fact is your core is a series of muscles that extend far beyond your abdominals and include most everything in your torso.

Your core has three-dimensional depth and functional movement in all three planes of motion and many of the muscles that make up our core are hidden beneath the exterior musculature of our bodies, which people typically train. (Because they want those Calvin Klein abs.) The deeper muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor among others.

WHAT DO YOUR CORE MUSCLES DO?

The core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. These muscles can act as an isometric or dynamic stabilizer for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another, or initiate movement itself.

By reclaiming the stabilizing muscles of posture, balance and power, we help prevent ourselves from falling and causing injury to other parts of our body, including our spine. In fact, many people in today’s society suffer from back pain, largely because their core muscles have atrophied and their spines and skeletons are forced to bear the brunt of their movement.

HOW DO YOU STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE MUSCLES?

At Mountain Trek, we offer fitness classes specific to strengthening the core group of muscles. Many of you might remember holding a plank pose while Cathy gleefully called out, “Only 10 more seconds!” In that class, having an exercise ball was mandatory but for this article we’re just going to concentrate on those poses that you can do anywhere there’s flat ground.

It’s important to remember to always warm up before engaging in these exercises by doing some light yoga poses and/or jumping jacks and shoulder rolls. It also helps to have a yoga mat underneath you for many of these. Oh, and always remember to breathe through these exercises!

#1. Horse Stance

Horse Stance Core Excerise

Kneel with your knees and hands on the ground. Your arms should be straight and under your shoulders and your back should be perfectly straight as well. Lift one hand and opposite knee and hold for 5 seconds. Switch to the other hand and knee. Repeat 5 times. (Advanced: extend your leg and arm at 45° with your thumb up.)

#2. Lower Back Press

Lower Back Press Core Exercise

Lie on the floor and place your hand between the small of your back and the floor and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Lift one leg ensuring you press the small of your back into your hand and then slowly lower the leg. Do the same for the other leg. Repeat 10 times. (Advanced: Lift both legs at the same time and rotate them as if you were riding a bicycle. Make sure to keep your movements slow.)

#3. Plank

Plank Core Exercise

Lie on the floor face down then rise up onto your elbows and your knees, ensuring your back is a straight line between your head and your knees. Hold this pose for 10 seconds then release and gently lower back down to the ground. Repeat 5 times. (Advanced: Rise up onto your hands and toes and hold for 10 seconds eventually building up to a minute or more.)

[fbcomments]

6 Types of Yoga – Which One’s Perfect for You?

Which type of yoga is right for you?

This November join Mountain Trek at Rancho la Puerta in Baja, Mexico and try different types of yoga every day. The resort boasts world-class teachers and each adobe studio is sun-filled and beautiful. To help you decide which type of yoga is perfect for you, we’ve put together this list of six different kinds along with insider tips that further explain each.

Hatha

Ideal for: Beginners

What it is: Hatha refers to any yoga practice that combines breathing techniques with poses. With each class your goal is to develop balance and flexibility and to continue breathing with every pose and movement, so it tends to be very relaxing and restorative. Many guests at Mountain Trek love the last few series of poses during the morning session, which involves lying on the floor in a relaxed position called “shavasana” for 5 minutes.

Insider Tip: At Mountain Trek we tend to concentrate on slower movements between poses. However, other instructors might move (or “flow”) at faster rates. Be sure to check with them in advance to ensure you’re comfortable with the speed.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar

Ideal for: Those suffering from neck or back problems

What it is: Iyengar is a style of yoga that emphasizes proper alignment and the strengthening of joints and muscles. Props are often used such as straps and blocks to help you get into poses. Participants will stand, sit, and twist and if the injury isn’t too limiting, poses might also include backbends.

Insider Tip: According to the Clinical Journal of Pain this style of yoga helps improve chronic neck pain.

Vinyasa yoga

Vinyasa

Ideal for: Weight loss

What it is: This style of yoga tends to be fairly fast-paced and is occasionally called “power yoga.” With each class you’re expected to move continuously throughout the class doing a series of lunging, bending, and stretching poses. (The most famous sequences of moves is called the sun salutation.) In more advanced classes you can expect to do headstands or shoulder stands, in which the feet are raised above the head. However, we typically avoid these positions at Mountain Trek, preferring instead the more gentle movements of Hatha.

Insider Tip: Of all the different types of yoga, Vinyasa is the best for weight loss as practitioners can burn up to seven calories a minute.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram

Ideal for: Building flexibility (and detoxing via sweat)

What it is: This style is often referred as “hot yoga” because studios are typically heated to 40°C (105°F) with a 40 percent humidity level. Each class includes various rapid breathing exercises as well as a series of 26 poses.

Insider Tip: Don’t forget your water bottle and towel! And it’s best not to eat 2 hours before a class so as to avoid nausea.

Khudalini Yoga

Kundalini

Ideal for: A more spiritual experience

What it is: The average session of this form of yoga is made up of exercise, breath work, meditation, and relaxation. The goal is to release the energy that devotees believe is stored at the base of the spine and by doing so, you calm the mind and energize the body.

Insider Tip: This style can be considered a bit out there so if you’re not keen chanting, perhaps try another discipline.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga

Ideal for: Seasoned yoga practitioners

What it is: This style of yoga is one of the most physically challenging. Practitioners can execute up to 70 poses in one session including upwards of 10 sun salutations, inversions and backbends.

Insider Tip: This style of yoga is excellent for developing strength and endurance but it’s also for veterans who are comfortable with many of the more difficult poses.

[fbcomments]