Fight depression in a variety of ways with the best way being daily fitness and outdoor activities.

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Q&A with client Markeeta Brown

The Mountain Trek crew from this past May. Markeeta is front and centre in the black jacket

The Mountain Trek crew from this past May. Markeeta is front and centre in the black jacket

Welcome to the fourth installment of our Q&A series, which features guests who have visited Mountain Trek. Each person came to our fitness retreat and health spa for their own reasons and they all had different experiences. In this piece we speak with Markeeta Brown, a resident of Dallas, Texas, who works in real estate. She’s visited Mountain Trek’s BC lodge every year since 2010 as well as joined us for our programs at Rancho La Puerta in California. Markeeta says she’s been making the journey to Mountain Trek the past three years because it’s helped her work around a number of life changes she’s been going through recently. Here is Markeeta’s story.

Hi Markeeta. Thank you so much for speaking with us today. Firstly, how did you find out about Mountain Trek?

I’ve been going to Rancho La Puerta (RLP) off and on for about 30 years. It was kind of my summer camp but after I made the decision to separate from my husband I knew I had to go to the ranch and do some extended hiking. I went for two weeks in November 2010 and did the Mountain Trek program. I loved its structure and since then I’ve returned three times to the BC lodge and three times to Rancho.

Tell us about your expectations?

BC is a different type of hiking than the milder terrain at RLP but Mountain Trek’s overall program at both places is the same. I know I’ll always go home with much more energy and focus. The thing that keeps drawing me back is it’s a challenge but it’s not overwhelming or stressful. The after-effects are much more lasting that anything I can do on my own. I also like that (head guide) Kirkland emphasizes to try and take on only two new habits when we return home to keep things manageable, rather than try and alter everything about our lives. It’s a challenge but it’s doable.

What are some of the highlights of your time at Mountain Trek?

Anybody who attends Mountain Trek will take home about 18 things you can do to supercharge your energy. But the program emphasizes that you only concentrate on two things and overlay those good habits over your bad ones. For me it was about only eating three meals and two snacks max a day and doing cardio a minimum of four times a week.

RLP Group, Nov. 10-17

The Mountain Trek program at Rancho La Puerta last November. Markeeta is on the far right.

What’s a lowlight from your experiences at Mountain Trek?

They seem to be putting a lot more emphasis on using foam rollers in the stretch class and that’s challenging for me. (laughs) But between the yoga and stretching in the morning and the massages in the evening I don’t experience a lot of physical discomfort.

What’s it like every time you return home after visiting Mountain Trek?

People notice. They say, “Wow you look great and you must feel great.” And I do. I think it’s important though to clear the deck a week or two after you return. You need to come home with a plan and have a bit of time when your life isn’t totally crazy so you can incorporate some of the things you’ve learned.

So what draws you back to Mountain Trek every year?

Lately I’ve had one major life challenge after another and Mountain Trek allows me to focus – it gives me a better chance to continue with my momentum. Plus I like being active and I like the feeling I get when my metabolism is running at the rate of someone who is much younger.

What would be your advice to someone who is thinking about coming to Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek plays a really key role in getting through your life challenges: whether it’s dying parents, caring for elderly relatives, divorce…all that together can be so stressful and Mountain Trek gives you a way to fight some of the physical and emotional damage and helps you keep your head straight. Because, ultimately, it doesn’t matter how well you do when your life is going swimmingly; it’s how you do when challenges are thrown at you. You have to have a plan to go through those periods of your life and Kirkland and Cathy and the Mountain Trek program definitely helps with that.

Anything else you want to tell our readers about the Mountain Trek experience?

To me there’s no better self-intervention than taking yourself to Mountain Trek. It’s absolutely worth the money, especially when you take to heart what Kirkland says and when you land on the tarmac at home you can incorporate a simple plan to make it all work out.

Battling the Winter Blues with Exercise

Fight off the winter blues with exercise

Maybe the ground squirrels and the bears and other hibernating animals have the right idea!

When the cold, dark days of winter come upon us they crawl into their dens, their body temperature, heart rate and metabolic rate lower and they wait for spring. Like these animals, some people feel like burrowing, too, and react with the “winter blues” as it is commonly known or professionally as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The winter blues, or SAD, is a disorder that causes people who normally have good mental outlooks to experience some depression symptoms or lethargy among other symptoms come winter time.

Since burrowing in isn’t realistic, and as Mountain Trek advocates…we want to RAISE our metabolism, not lower it to keep our weight and Vitality in check.  One way to help battle this seasonal mood change, whether SAD is confirmed or not, is to EXERCISE.

When you exercise, a number of positive things happen, including the release of chemicals called endorphins.  These chemicals are manufactured in the pituitary gland of your brain, in the spinal cord, and many other parts of your body, and they do a variety of things, from helping reduce pain to inducing a feeling of calm and well-being.

It also triggers a euphoric feeling, which in runners has been known as the “runner’s high”.  This euphoria is thought to help balance the tendency of seasonal low mood states and even depression.

When people are in low mood states, they sometimes use food to try to boost their mood, which can lead to overeating and weight gain, further exacerbating the situation.  This is another reason why exercise is a better strategy to not just boost mood, but to be tangibly pro-active.

Another spin-off effect that exercise has is that it increases the ability of your muscles to store carbohydrate energy in the form of glycogen.  You have no doubt noticed that athletes seem to have boundless energy, and that is in part, due to the reserves of stored energy in their bodies.

Those who exercise more will tend to not be as lethargic, especially in the winter months.

So GO FOR IT, commit to some form of exercise 5 days of the week.  Some suggestions: 

  • Go outside for a brisk walk, rollerblade, snowshoe, or ski (seek the sunlight’).
  • Practice Yoga; this will help move stagnant energy, stimulate the endocrine system and help combat the winter blues.
  • Go for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts that will energize you by releasing the endorphins.

The way to keep yourself coming back for more is to realize that exercise makes you feel good!

Happy trails.

Cathy Grierson, Fitness Director, Mountain Trek 

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Nutrition Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Part 1 of Blog Series, “Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder” 

By Jennifer Keirstead, Holistic Nutritionist 

Do you get the winter blues, and eat more sugar and junk food than you care to admit?

The weather and season affects our mood and health in profound ways. The lack of sunlight affects our serotonin and melatonin levels, and disrupts our circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock for sleeping based on exposure to light.

Seasonal Affective Disorder “SAD” is characterized by the onset of depression at certain times of year. Even if you don’t develop all the clinical symptoms of SAD, the most cheerful among us can still feel these seasonal effects.  From low energy, irritability, depression, and cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, the symptoms of SAD can be difficult to manage.

From a Nutritional standpoint, there’s a lot you can incorporate in your diet alone to help your body adapt to the darker days and combat SAD: winter vegetables

  • Omega 3 fatty acids from food and/or supplement capsules. Dietary sources include hemp seeds and oil, flax meal and oil, wild fish, sesame seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. These fats have a powerful role in helping cells take up essential hormones, including those involved in mood regulation. Having enough Omega 3 in your diet helps prevent depression, heart disease, inflammation, and strengthens the immune system.
  • Eggs from free-range chickens are packed full of choline, which has been shown to regulate mood and energy levels.
  • Sprouted, whole grain breads are easier on the digestive tract than regular wheat bread, and is lower in sugar. This helps prevent your levels of blood sugar from crashing, and will helps maintain our energy and ultimately our mood.
  • Protein is essential for energy and stamina, and helps your brain produce dopamine, norepinephrine, and other neurochemicals that keep you calm yet alert.
  • Fresh, raw vegetables, ideally organic, which are packed full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
  • Nutritional supplements such as super greens, Vitamin D and all the B’s are essential to keep your immune system revved up, and have more energy and vitality.

What should you skip in your diet to prevent the winter blues?

Sugar. We know, this isn’t as easy as it sounds but give it a try.  Next time you are feeling particularly low, pass on the cookies and indulge in a serving of sashimi instead. 

Eat well this winter to improve your mood and well being!