Advice provided by the guides at Mountain Trek on a variety of health, nutrition, fitness and hiking topics.

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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!

Dr. Josh on How To Eat Smarter & Lose Weight

how-to-eat-smarter-1

Mountain Trek recently started offering Lifestyle Performance Coaching via clinical physcologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, who's also an alumni of the program. It seems the good doctor is also adept at explaining matters of nutrition as well given an article that has appeared on beachbody.com. In it, Dr. Josh is asked to explain how to eat smarter through "mindful eating" (also known as "intuitive eating") and how it can influence your body shape.

In the article called "9 Mindfulness Tips For Losing Weight," Dr. Josh compares mindful eating to mindful existence: “It’s not unlike taking a minute to look at a flower or experience being in nature,” he says. “We can either rush through it with a passing appreciation, or we can spend several minutes and take the entire environment into our senses. Mindful eating is the exact same thing.” He goes on to explain that "By itself, mindful eating is not a weight-loss cure, but as part of an approach or tool it can catapult healthy eating and weight loss.

By being conscientious when you consume foods, you limit distractions, choose healthier options and become more in tune with your body. Here are the nine mindfulness tricks to help you eat smarter, be conscious of what you eat and, ultimately, make better decisions that will help you lose weight. 

  1. Pause before you eat to ask yourself why you're eating
  2. Chew each bite thoroughly and savour it
  3. Drink water before meals
  4. Eat vibrant, flavourful foods
  5. Eat without distractions
  6. Wait before getting seconds
  7. When you feel the urge to snack, make a cup of tea first
  8. Take note of your cravings
  9. Eat with joy, not judgement

All of these tips will help you take more pleasure in your food and to read more about Dr. Josh's take on "mindful eating," log on to beachbody.com.

For an even more well-rounded culinary experience, book a stay at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa to enjoy the delicious spa cuisine prepared by our master chef Bonnie VanTassel. She's renowned for creating healthy, farm-fresh food that you can't help but savour. Book your stay at Mountain Trek now.

Bedtime Yoga

Bedtime Yoga

One of the reasons we have difficulty sleeping at night is because we are over stimulated. Our brains are wired to process all incoming information from our five senses to predict the appropriate state for our body’s systems. "Should I be ready? Or should I rest?" These two autonomic nervous system states are called the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest).

Staring at screens and/or hearing loud noises automatically puts us into a state of readiness. This is why it's so important to shut off our digital devices at least 30 minutes before bed and to follow the other "insomnia busters" we've detailed in previous posts. Another way to calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep is to use such tools as relaxation breathing or restorative yoga to promote our parasympathetic system, the state we need to obtain in order to sleep deeply.

For this instructive video, we enlisted the help of Mountain Trek's yoga teacher and fitness instructor Katya Hayes, who's been teaching yoga for 15 years. When not at Mountain Trek, Katya practices at her own studio and she studies yoga, Buddhism, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa.

 

Here are the four poses Katya recommends to do in order to prepare your body and mind for a perfect night's sleep.

Legs up the wall

Legs up the wall pose

Begin by sitting on the floor or the bed with one hip against the wall. Swing both of your legs up the wall as you lay down on your back; your body should form a 90-degree angle with the wall. For increased benefits, slide a firm pillow or yoga bolster beneath your hips. Relax and belly breathe for several minutes.

Supported forward twist

Supported Forward Twist

Sit on the floor and have a firm pillow or bolster nearby. Bend both knees and swing your feet to the left side of your body. Place the bolster to the outside of your right hip extending away from you. Lengthen your spine and twist to the right. Lay your torso along the bolster, resting on one cheek. Breath into the sides of your body for 10 deep breaths. Repeat rotating the opposite way.

Supported child's pose

Supported Child's Pose

Get onto all fours. Sit back on your heels, separating your knees so that they're about shoulder width apart. Place a firm pillow or bolster between your legs extending away from you. Fold forward from the hips, lengthening the belly along the bolster. Rest deeply as you breath into the back of your bbody for one minute.

Reclined butterfly pose

Supported-Forward-Twist

Sit on the ground or the bed with several firm pillows or a bolster propped up behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the knees to fall outwards. Support the knees if you like with pillows. Lay back on the pillows so that you are at a 45-degree angle. Place a folded towel beneath your neck for support. Place an eye bag over your eyes if you'd like and belly breath for several minutes.

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Easy Ways to Digital Detox

Easy Tips for Digital Detox

"Digital detox" is a buzz phrase we're hearing more of lately but what exactly is it and why should we do it? After all, isn't technology meant to improve our lives, helping us keep more connected and freeing up time so we can concentrate on other things?

It's true technology has vastly improved certain aspects or our day-to-day but our relationship to digital devices is changing at a rapid pace and it's important to notice the specific impacts on your life. And to do this, we need to take a step back and discuss toxins, detoxifying and the role of digital media and devices in all of this.

What is Toxic Load? 

A toxin isn't just a form of poison that enters your body. Toxic load can also be mental or emotional. It is the result of stagnation through repetition. When there is a build-up of patterns that block energy, we become inflamed and constricted – we lose the natural flow state of expansion and contraction. This could be the increasing pattern of attention span interruption or multi-tasking at work, due to the constant repetitive information signals to our brain from our digital devices. It could be the build up of bio-waste and chemical compounds in our body due to the repetitive sitting we do, which limits circulation and elimination. Even our social world can become stagnant if we are not going deeper than social media for our heartfelt interactions.

Why is Detoxifying Important?

Detoxifying is the process of supporting a flow state in our whole being. When we take a break from ongoing patterns and habits, we recalibrate and become "lighter of being." Our mind, body and emotional states are interconnected. By taking a break from incessant incoming info bites, not only does our mind get a break from vigilance, but our stress hormone Cortisol gets a chance to lower, which in turn supports sleep, appetite and energy levels. When we move our body (ideally 10,000 steps a day), our circulation, lymph drainage and elimination organs (liver, kidney's, intestines, lungs and sweat glands) release waste and unhealthy chemicals. And on an emotional level, having an intimate conversation with someone we trust allows the weight of our concerns to be released.

What's the Best Way to Digital Detox?

Digital detox goes beyond just spending less time in front of your iPad, phone or computer. There are other aspects that can be incorporated to ensure a full detox experience. Here are three easy ways to do it: 

  1. Electronic Devices: Shut all electronics down one hour before bed. This will allow your Cortisol to drop and will support better sleep. Take that hour to do some restorative yoga, have an Epsom salt bath, or give and receive a massage, all of which aid in toxin release and deep regenerative sleep.
  2. Move More: It's not enough to be away from your devices for awhile and then just sit there waiting for the chance to check them again. Get up! Dance, walk, skate, swim. Keep the blood pumping, Breath deep. All of this will help your elimination system, decrease inflammation and increase a flow state.
  3. Eat Veggies: It may seem odd to mention food when discussing digital detox but the fact is by eating more vegetables, which contain more fiber and antioxidants, you're helping your elimination system and supporting a lean and clean body. In other words, the more veggies you eat, the more you'll want to move around, meet friends in person, get outside, and generally enjoy a fuller life.

Of course, the best way to digital detox is to take a break from your day-to-day life and immerse yourself in nature. Click here to learn more about how Mountain Trek supports digital detox through its program. 

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10 Tricks to Stick To Your New Year’s Resolutions

Tips for Goal Setting

Half way through January is when most people start falling off the wagon and foregoing all the resolutions they made on New Year's Eve. But with these 10 easy-to-follow guidelines, you can have a better chance of sticking with your resolutions and watching them become healthy habits you'll enjoy for a lifetime.

1. Be Specific

Don’t be vague. If you resolve to lose weight, write down your fitness goals. How many pounds do you want to lose? How many steps will you take in a day? How much more flexible do you want to be? Exactly what do you wish to achieve out of your yoga practice?

2. Be Positive

Not just optimistic. It's easier to eliminate a bad habit when you replace it with a better one. So, if your resolution involves "no more chocolate bars at work," make "pack a healthy snack to take to work every day" part of the resolution.

3. Write Down Your Goals

There's an air of permanence when you write something done. Plus you can review them whenever you want to help stay on track.

4. Hold Yourself Accountable

Tell your friends about your resolution, join or form a like-minded group, score yourself on a chart– whatever works for you to make yourself feel accountable for success and failure.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

This can be tough for many of us, but when we do ask for help, help comes. Our tasks become easier. What a relief!

6. Allow Yourself a Trial Run and be Flexible

Not every resolution is perfect right out of the gate. Give yourself a two-week or one month trial run to work out the kinks. This allows you to stumble a bit and tweak your goals to something better suited for success.

7. Visualize The End Result

Focus on the carrot, not the stick. If you're having trouble staying motivated, focus on what you'll get from your end goal—whether that's feeling better at a lower weight, being able to impress your friends with your new drumming skills, or just being able to take a deep breath now that you've quit smoking. Staying positive seems like common sense, but it can be hard when you're in the middle of a big plateau.

8. Choose Goals That Are In Line With What YOU Want

Your resolutions should be deeply valuable to you, first and foremost. When we set resolutions that are driven by our desire to please others, we are doomed to fail.

Bad resolution: “My wife thinks I’m lazy, so I resolve to wake up earlier and exercise before work.” Good resolution: “I’ll wake up earlier and exercise before work because it makes me feel great throughout the day.”

9. Learn Something New

Step out of your comfort zone. If your goal is to exercise three or four times a week, take a risk and enroll in a fitness class you’ve never taken before. Or if you want to improve your marriage or partnership, consult with a relationship therapist or life coach.

10. Use the Mountain Trek App

Resolutions take time to solidify into habits, which is why Mountain Trek created the free Health Guide In Your Pocket app, which can be downloaded here. It'll help you create and monitor your health goals while offering healthy recipes, how-to videos and more. To learn more info about Mountain Trek's free app, click here.

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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.

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How to Reduce Stress With Meditation

Managing Stress over the Holidays

Mountain Trek's program director Kirkland Shave says more often he's meeting guests at the lodge who are struggling with stress. Whether it's their work, family life or personal troubles, he says that many people come to the lodge to escape their daily stresses, immerse themselves in nature, get a good night's sleep and, ultimately relax. However, when their stay at the lodge nears its end, their stress levels begin amping up again as they consider returning to their regular day-to-day.

As part of the educational component of the program, Kirkland spends time sharing various tips for how to reduce stress. For example, in this video below, he discusses the causes of stressors and what you can do to alleviate them and relax, and, ultimately enjoy a more fulfilling life free of chronic worry.

Kirkland also recommends meditation as a great form of relaxation. It used to be that meditation was viewed as something only “old hippies” did. But now its benefits are being touted by the likes of Oprah, Hugh Jackman, and Arianna Huffington. 

There is so much new research available since brain imaging equipment came into existence 20 years ago that its benefits are proving it can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and slow Alzheimer’s. Also, in a recent study by John Hopkins University, it was proven that mindfulness meditation can be just as effective as antidepressants for treating anxiety symptoms. It also boosts our feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine), lowers our stress hormone (cortisol), lowers our blood pressure, alleviates pain and inflammation and it invokes our parasympathetic nervous system to help balance our digestive and elimination systems.

If you're considering trying meditation for the first time, my recommendation would be to start simple. Here are the steps to take:

  • Find a quiet space and remove all devices such as your smart phone
  • Sit comfortably with a straight spine
  • Breathe slowly and fully while concentrating on a candle flame, or the sound of ocean waves, or the sensations of your breath as it passes through your nostrils
  • Notice how your concentration gets interrupted by your thoughts. Don’t worry though as this is the normal function of our mind to generate thoughts.
  • Gently (and without judgement of the content) come back to concentrating on your focus of attention.
  • Practice increases the power of concentration so start with just 5 minutes a day and then build from there.

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Why You Need To Stop Calorie Counting Right Now

Calorie Counting

Recently Mountain Trek's nutrition expert Jennifer Keirstead was asked whether calorie counting is beneficial for those who are looking to lose weight and improve their fitness. Below is her response but before we jump into it, let's first define the subject at hand. 

What Is Calorie Counting?

Calorie counting is the act of adding together the caloric value of food(s) that one eats. The history of this practice dates back to 1900 when Wilbur Olin Atwater and his associates at the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station determined the caloric values of a number of food components (i.e., the protein, fat, and carbohydrate isolated from various foods) by multiplying the heat of combustion of the food with correction factors that take into consideration incomplete digestion or oxidation of the food in the body. The conversion factors determined by Atwater and his associates remain in use today.

Why The Calorie Calculation Formula Is Skewed

Despite the fact Atwater built in various correction factors for caloric values, they do not account for:

  • variation of individual absorption
  • the influences of an individual's intestinal bacteria and that's affect on absorption (these change depending on history of travel, antibiotics and present diet)
  • variation in nutrient density of today’s foods compared to foods from those used in the Atwater research of 1900, which were less processed, more organic and more local
  • and they exclude many nutrients that were unknown in 1900 (the number of known nutrients to science in 1900 was fewer than 16 whereas now it's exponentially higher than that. 

Moreover, both meal timings and meal composition also have an impact on how calories are absorbed by the body.

Why A Calorie Isn't Just A Calorie

Now that we've looked at the history of calorie counting and why it can be considered inaccurate, here is Jennifer's further response to why calorie counting isn't worth it:

"Not all calories are created equal. Take the example of an ice cream cone versus an avocado: both are calorie-rich foods but the calories in the ice cream cone are considered "empty" because they don't offer the body any nutritional value. They simply spike our blood sugar and leave us feeling lower in energy after we eat them. However, the calories from real foods, like the avocado, offer the body nutrient-dense calories that are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Your body gains energy, antioxidants, and digestive support from the calories in real foods. But it's important to remember you can still overeat the good calories too. It's great to be mindful of how much we're eating, regardless of where the calories are coming from!"

It can be argued that Mountain Trek stresses specific (and different) caloric intake for women and men but this is a rough guideline and it's important to remember the entire nutrition tenant of the program includes many proven elements such as only eating real foods, abstaining from cortisol-raising foods such as sugar and caffeine and stressing the importance of meal timings and composition.

To fully appreciate the Mountain Trek nutrition program we suggest you book a stay with us. Contact Michelle or Mia by phone or email to learn more. Alternatively, book online now.

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Better Homes & Gardens Features Mountain Trek

Better Homes & Gardens Features Mountain Trek

One of the most popular magazines in North America has just featured Mountain Trek in its most recent issue. The August 2016 edition of Better Homes & Gardens has a story called "Gear Up" in which Mountain Trek's head guide Cathy Grierson is asked to provide her choices for what will help keep you comfortable and safe on the hiking trail. 

In the article, which appears in the "Better Family Travel" section of the magazine, Cathy (who used to be a park ranger before becoming a fitness guide at Mountain Trek) offers six tips for both those interested in getting into hiking and established trekkers.

#1. Dress in Layers

"The termparature can change drastically depedning on elevation and time of day, so check the weather and be ready with three layers," Cathy offers in the piece. She then goes on to describe the three different layers every hiker needs. 

#2. Travel Light

Aside from explaining the difference between a daypack and a full-on backpack, Cathy explains how to put one on: "Put the pack on so the weight is distributed evenly, loosen all straps, the tighten the waist belt and shoulder straps." 

#3. Wear the Right Shoes and Socks

"For day hikes, lightweight and flexible 'light hiker' shoes are best," Cathy says. She then goes on to describe what type of shoes to look for. To learn about how to properly fit a pair of hiking shoes, read here.

#4. Carry Enough Water

In the story Cathy explains the best way to carry H20: "A water bladder holds more than a bottle (up to 3 litres) and it nestles in your pack so you can hydrate hands-free."

#5. Buy Poles if Hiking Regularly

"The give you better balance and footing, reduce stress on your joints, and can help you feel like you're not working so hard," Cathy says. The article then goes on to describe some more benefits of poles including the fact you burn more calories when using them.

#6. Carry a First Aid Kit

Cathy finishes her recommendations with some items to include in your first aid kit on every hike such as moleskin, cloth tape, Band-aids and antibiotic ointment.

To read the Better Homes & Gardens article in its entirety, download the PDF of it here: August 2016_Better Homes & Gardens

Whether you're new to hiking, or have been doing it for years, we recommend you book Mountain Trek and enjoy world-class trails, supportive guides and 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
  • 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!

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