Having good health is important for living a good life full of happiness. Let Mountain Trek help you improve your health and wellbeing.

Posts

Sleep Hygiene Checklist

a woman wakes up and stretches her arms

Our sleep hygiene checklist will ensure you get a great night’s sleep

Without having to commute to the office and run from the dentist to the bank to the hairdresser to the dry cleaner, you may find you have more time to sleep. But is that sleep actually sleep? Or, are you tossing and turning for hours, waking up feeling foggy, irritable, and just as tired as when you went to bed? If so, you’re not alone, but don’t worry, you can use our sleep hygiene checklist to ensure you get a great night’s sleep!

Between COVID-19’s sneakiness and scariness, and having had a wrench thrown into your routine, it’s no wonder your anxiety levels have skyrocketed, while your sleep quality has done the polar opposite. You’re worrying not just about work, your kids, their school, their happiness, your happiness, but about how much (or little) toilet paper to use. Times are changing.

Pandemic or not, sleep is critical for our health. A bad night’s rest lands you in a fiery place, where a not-hot-enough coffee equates to THE END OF THE WORLD, but what we’ve really got to pay attention to is what happens to our bodies when we’re chronically sleep-deprived. In come heart disease, weight gain and diabetes, a weakened immune system, low sex drive, and mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behavior, and paranoia (this is why sleep deprivation is a highly-effective method of torture). Sleep deprivation is not something to sweep under the rug with a tall cup of frothy caffeine–it’s something to take seriously. Otherwise, your life’s at risk.

It’s now clear that it’s not just during developmental years that you need to clock the correct amount of sleep; for the sake of living longer, you need to make sure you get a good night’s rest at every age. But how do you do this? How, with all of today’s stressors, do you get that kind of sleep where you wake up feeling genuinely refreshed?

Just like anything worth pursuing, you need both hard work and a good strategy to see results. Sleep is an essential component of our health, and something we need to put just as much effort into as our diet and exercise. Follow our sleep hygiene checklist below to give yourself a framework that will help you sleep better tonight, and for the rest of your (now longer) life.

Checklist Item 1: Turn your room into a sleep sanctuary

Just like you’d struggle to read a book at a construction site, how can you expect to sleep well in a space filled with disturbances? Here are the basics for setting up your sleep sanctuary:

Never let your phone cross the threshold

Your phone is quickly becoming one of the main causes of your poor sleep. The entrancing blue light your screen emits has a similar wavelength to sunlight, a natural stimulant, they ping and ding throughout the night, and whether they wake you or not, they disturb your sleep. Curtail your spinning brain and fall off into a dream-world by not scrolling through social, news, or email feeds right before, during, or after placing head to pillow.

Read Related Article: 9 Ways To Digital Detox

Your best bet is to make a hard and fast rule: never let your phone enter your room. Charge your phone on a table outside of your room, and make sure it is set to “silent” and/or “do not disturb” mode.

Install blackout shades

Humans are hardwired to get up when the sun rises, but that’s not always necessary, like in the summer months. This is where blackout shades, or curtains lined with blackout fabric, come in handy; as the name implies, they create a blackout effect, blocking light from streaming through your windows, and thus letting you clock in all the hours of sleep you need before waking. The summer’s sunlight aside, we also need to block light from street lights and cars; thanks to our semi-transparent eyelids, we register light from all sources even when our eyes are closed. If blackout shades are not an option, or if you are traveling, you can use an eye mask, but beware: eye masks are often uncomfortable.

Keep your room between 64-66°F/18-19°C

Your core temperature naturally decreases during sleep, so matching this cooler temperature with a cooler room promotes not only falling asleep faster, but staying asleep throughout the night. Don’t go wild and turn your room into a refrigerating chamber–your body will react to being cold by raising stress hormones (it thinks it’s in danger)–but strike a sleep-promoting balance by keeping it between 64-66°F/18-19°C paired with a warm and cozy bed.

Control room noise

The really loud noises that wake you up aren’t the only sounds that disrupt your sleep. Every random car driving by, ring, ping, hum, bang, and buzz—no matter how subtle—is processed by your brain and disrupts your sleep cycle. If you live in an area where there are a lot of disruptive sounds throughout the night, try a white noise machine or earplugs. Yes, white noise machines are sounds themselves, but they produce an even and consistent sound that your brain doesn’t react to, making them great options for drowning out the jarring, inconsistent sounds that do disturb your sleep. Earplugs are another option but tend to be uncomfortable if sleeping on your side. If you’d like to try earplugs, try silicone earplugs—they mold to your ear shape for maximum comfort.

Restrict your bed to only sleep and sex

Stop eating, watching, scrolling, and even reading in bed. These actions just train our brain that when we climb into bed, we’re not there for sleep. If you must read before bed, cozy up in your favorite chair, and use a dim, but not eye-straining, light.

Remove all other distractions

Take the TV out of your room—that’s the biggest distraction culprit–but we’re also calling out anything else you might spend time on that’s not to do with sleeping or having sex.

Invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets, and duvet

The final piece of the sleep sanctuary puzzle is to invest in quality. Every person is different, so it’s hard for us to tell you exactly which mattress, pillow, sheets, and duvet to buy, but what we can tell you is this: you spend 1/3 of your life in your bed, so you might as well be as comfortable as possible. If you’re a side-sleeper, purchase an extra pillow so you can put it between your legs to improve spinal alignment and comfort.

Checklist Item 2: Start preparing for great sleep the moment you wake up

From the moment you wake up, everything you do affects how well you will sleep that night. And how well you sleep that night will affect how well you do the next day. It’s a cycle, and these days, it feels like more often than not, a negative one. Take the following steps during your day to right the ship and turn your cycle positive:

Soak in some sunshine immediately upon waking

A blast of sunlight first thing in the morning will stimulate your endocrine and central nervous system, reducing grogginess (and, consequently, our dependence on caffeine) and kick-starting your circadian rhythm, making it more likely that your body will cycle into sleep-mode earlier in the night when it’s best to fall asleep (~10 pm).

Exercise, and do it at the right time

Exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get, which is when both our brain and our body repair themselves. Movement is also positive for our mental health, reducing anxiety, and slowing down our thoughts; two cognitive processes that help sleep quality.

While it’s best to be active and move throughout the entire day, if your routine allows for only one dedicated daily exercise session, exercise after work, well before bedtime. Exercising immediately after work will help you decompress and will allow enough time for your body to return to a calmer state, where you don’t have endorphins and other hormones coursing through your body, making it harder to settle down into sleep.

Eat the right food, in the right portions, at the right time

Going to bed full is a recipe for bad sleep. Your body innately tries to metabolize whatever food is in your stomach, requiring energy and the attention of your autonomous nervous system in the process. This effectively keeps the “engine” running while you’re trying to do the exact opposite—power down and put things to sleep. Make dinner your lightest meal and finish it a few hours before bedtime to give yourself enough time to digest. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion, and eat magnesium-rich foods, like fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Magnesium is a vital mineral that regulates melatonin and the neurotransmitter GABA, which reduces activity in the central nervous system, calming us down and reducing stress.

Going to bed starving is no recipe for success, however. If your body is entering a state of starvation, it will release stress hormones that will prevent you from falling asleep (again, your body thinks it’s in danger). Eat a small calcium and magnesium-rich snack, like a bit of milk and some Seedy Trail Crackers with cheese, before bed.

Avoid caffeine 8 hours prior to sleep

Coffee is the obvious perpetrator, but tea, soft drinks, and chocolate all have high levels of caffeine as well. A cup of black tea has about half the caffeine as a cup of coffee, while a cup of green tea, a can of coke, and a serving of 70% dark chocolate all have about one third as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Checklist Item 3: Power down your brain, and body, properly

Get off all electronics at least 1 hour prior to sleep

Watching anything good on Netflix usually means there’s drama, emotion, action, or violence involved—all of which leave us in a heightened state. And, as mentioned before, the light emitted by the screens of your TV, tablet, laptop, or smartphone is in the blue spectrum, making it very stimulating. Pry yourself off of your devices at least one hour before sleep to give your body enough time to calm down. At the very minimum, reduce screen brightness and ensure you have night mode enabled on your devices so that you reduce the amount of blue light you’re taking in.

Take a warm bath 90 minutes before bed

In line with lowering your room’s temperature to mimic the process of your body cooling heading into sleep, a hot bath, while initially counterintuitive, has the same effect. Taking a 104-109°F/40-43°C bath will cause blood to go to your extremities (why we are red when we get out), and when blood is in your extremities, vs your core, you lose heat easily and your body temperature decreases. This cooling triggers your circadian rhythm, and your pineal gland kicks in, releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Add Epsom salts to your bath to promote natural detoxification and healing.

Add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath to increase relaxation and calm. Similar to magnesium, lavender regulates the neurotransmitter GABA, calming the central nervous system and reducing anxiety.

Restorative yoga

Supporting your body weight with props and bolsters and holding poses for 5 minutes or more, restorative yoga calms the parasympathetic nervous system and allows you to fully relax and rest.  It’s a great practice for your pre-bed routine. Learn four poses you should try from Mountain Trek’s yoga instructor, Katya Campbell.

Physical stress release

Target acute areas of stress with spiky stress balls. Place these balls directly under knots and other tight and painful locations and just rest, allowing the ball to massage your myofascial tissues to reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow, similar to how a deep massage works. Or actively roll out. Watch this video to see how to properly use the spiky ball.

Checklist Item 4: Employ techniques to fall asleep

The inability to fall asleep is usually caused by a spinning mind, which, in turn, is usually caused by anxiety, stress, and depression. Anxiety is regretting the future; depression, regretting the past; stress, regretting the present. Regret is just a feeling elicited by thought. If we can teach ourselves to shift our thinking away from regret, we will be able to fall asleep faster. The techniques below are also great if you wake up during the night and find your mind spinning.

“Download” your thoughts into a journal

By the end of a long day, you’ve got a lot on your mind. Instead of climbing into bed and letting these thoughts bounce around inside your head, write them down first. The act of writing down what’s on your mind sends a signal to yourself that you won’t forget anything, allowing you to move on.

Meditate

Meditation, by definition, is the practice of intently focusing your attention on one single thing. Whether that be a candle, your breath, or feelings of gratitude, when you focus your attention, work, your anxiety, depression, and your stress are unable to possess your thoughts. There are thousands of guided meditations available that are specifically designed for sleep. Insight Timer is a great, free resource for meditations. You can easily filter by sleep. And practices such as Tong-Lin are excellent for ensuring your mind is focused on something positive.

Breathe

Often the most simple act holds the most power. Just drawing your attention to your breath and witnessing your inhales and exhales as closely as you can is often the best way to put yourself to sleep. Be specific in noticing where you feel your breath—is it the rising and falling of your chest, or at the tip of your nose—and follow your inhales and exhales in their entirety. Some people benefit from adding a layer and counting the seconds of their breath. This simple exercise is a great way to practice mindfulness and drift off into a great night’s sleep.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Similar in purpose, progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique where you systematically tense, and then release your muscles. For instance, you might start with your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle as you go during a long, slow inhale, and releasing on the exhale. This is a good exercise for those who prefer more physical vs mental practices.

Checklist Item 5: Develop a routine

Your body craves routine. Routines reduce your cognitive load and energy requirements, which consequently reduces your stress levels, the linchpin to great sleep. It may take you a few weeks to find a routine that works, but when you do find that magic combination, stick to it. Your sleep will continue to improve as your routine becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s a lifestyle. Congratulations, you have just significantly decreased your risk of mortality.

Now that you have this sleep hygiene checklist, you can make sure that you’re doing everything possible to get a great night’s sleep. If you’re still curious about how to improve your sleep, contact us below, or come visit us for a week of unplugging, resetting, and sleeping deeply.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you 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:

Recover From New Years’ Resolution Setbacks

image of dice spelling old habits

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Still on track, or are you mired in self-defeat? If it’s the latter then we’re here to help. Setbacks are just part of the process when we make big changes. Perhaps you vowed you’d eat breakfast every morning and then fell back into the routine of consuming only three coffees before lunch. Or maybe you said you’d exercise three days a week and have only managed to go once or twice. Not to worry–you are not failing! You’re doing everything right by just deciding to make a positive change in the first place.

Here are six tips to encourage you and help keep your goals on track:

Remember, it can take upwards of three months to create a healthy habit. Continue to stick with your goals and you’ll be increasing your overall vitality in no time!

  1. Firstly, if you’ve suffered a setback the key is don’t beat yourself up over it. Just acknowledge it, try to discern why you slipped, and then immediately get back on track again.
  2. If you find yourself continually encountering setbacks, maybe the change you’re trying to implement is too big? Is it possible to make a smaller change that will lead to a healthier path? For example, if you wanted to hit the gym three times a week but are struggling to make it there even once, then edit your goal. Resolve to go to the gym once a week to start, and work your way up from there. 
  3. If you keep lapsing into a bad habit, such as snacking on potato chips throughout your workday, then swap out the context of the bad habit. Instead of potato chips, snack on baked kale chips instead. 
  4. Get outside! There’s no better tonic than a walk through nature in the fresh air. If you find yourself lapsing into self-judgment and despair, just take a step outside and breath deeply. It seems like such a simple solution but you’ll be shocked at how it clears your mind and puts you in a better mood.
  5. Phone a friend! You are not in this alone. Engage a family member or friend and tell them about where you’re having difficulty. You’ll be amazed at how just talking about it to a good listener will help put you back on track.
  6. Travel! Nothing helps you break a bad habit faster than completely changing your environment. It’s so much easier to reinvent yourself when you’re not surrounded by the same-old, same-old. The trip doesn’t have to be an epic cross-country adventure – you could simply book a room at a local hotel, take a good book, and relax away from the stresses of your regular life. 

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you 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:

How To Balance Work And Play

woman in a business suit without shoes playing in a fountain

About 50 years ago, many of us moved from work that involved standing and moving to desk jobs that require more sitting. Not only that, but work hours have increased since then. For some, two-thirds of our day is spent connected to our job in some capacity. This can make for an incredibly stressful lifestyle.

By spending all of our time either working or sleeping poorly, it damages our mental and physical health. After all, our system is designed to run after gazelles on the African savannah. It doesn’t feel good when we sit in front of a computer for 14 hours a day. 

The good news is there are some easy things that you can do in order to better balance your work and play. In our opinion, the latter doesn’t get emphasized enough in our current work-obsessed society. Having fun is just as important, if not more so, for personal health and happiness.

Inch by inch is a cinch, but yard by yard is hard.

The key to a good balance is not biting off more than you can chew at first. The first thing you want to do is make a list of things that you consider fun and make you happy – even if the list is only one activity long. 

Perhaps you haven’t found the time to get outside as much as you’d like. The key is to start small and set a SMART goal. Don’t expect yourself to go for an hour-long walk every afternoon right off the bat. But you can get outside, even if it’s just walking from your car to your office. For the first few days, park farther away than you normally would, and as you’re striding along, take deep breaths and remember what it was like to run freely through nature. Before entering your office, look up at the sky for 30 seconds and just enjoy the view. 

When you’re at your desk, follow these five steps:

  1. Take 10 minutes out of your workday and relax and just clear your mind. 
  2. Drink lots of water. Not only will it cleanse your system but it will force you to get up and move when you need bathroom breaks. It will also allow you to step out of your work mode for a few moments to give you time to think of other activities.
  3. Occasionally get up from your desk and stretch in a doorway or stare out the window at the sky. While you’re doing that, think about what makes you happy.
  4. The next time you’re perusing Facebook or on some other social media site, stop what you’re doing and instead Google classes, courses, groups, or apps that are related to the activity you love. Bookmark relevant sites. Even if you don’t sign up right then and there, it will be beneficial to have your mind dwell on it.
  5. Mention to a friend or co-worker about your desire for better work/play balance and the activity you would like to get involved in. By putting it out there, you’ll enlist the help of acquaintances and it will become “real” as opposed to a “wish” that only exists in your mind.

Try and do the above things every day and eventually you’ll find yourself setting aside more and more time for the activity you love. Learn more ways you can pamper yourself.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you 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:

Q&A: What is OMAD and is it healthy?

Plate with cooked salmon and veggies on blank table

Q: What is OMAD and is it healthy?

A: OMAD means One Meal A Day. The “One Meal a Day” diet is gaining popularity for its simplicity and supposed benefits. The premise behind this eating plan is that you eat one meal a day—ONE meal, that’s it! You have a 1-hour eating window, where you consume your single meal, but the other 23 hours are spent in a fasted state. This means no calories whatsoever, including beverages!

During this 1-hour eating window, you can eat and drink whatever and as much as you want. This includes ice cream, french fries, and wine. Yes, that right, any food, and any amount—as long as you do so during your scheduled mealtime. Some modifications include only eating as much as you can fit on one dinner plate, or only piling your plate up to 3″ high. Regardless of the specifics, the underlying belief is that you can only consume so many calories in one hour. That amount of calories will always be less than you burn for the other 23, therefore having a calorie deficit for the day and leading to weight loss.

An Expert’s Opinion

We took this question straight to our nutritionist, Jenn. Here is what she had to say:

This 23:1 fasting:eating plan screams extreme to me! Here are some reasons why:

  • In terms of blood sugar management, this eating style could be very damaging. During the one hour window in which any food—in any amount—is consumed, your blood sugar levels would spike substantially.
  • When I try and imagine someone spending nearly the entire day avoiding food and beverages altogether, I see a trend that’s entirely unsustainable in the long term.
  • Eating in this way could be very isolating; resulting in missed social engagements, due to food avoidance.
  • Such dietary restriction could encourage an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • A diet such as this could lead to binge eating, a preoccupation with food in general, extreme hunger, and low energy during the 23 hour fasting period.
  • If someone was to choose highly processed foods (high in refined sugar and salt) for their one-meal, it could easily lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Here is our favorite quote from Jenn: it all just seems so ridiculous! As I’m researching this, I feel like I’m being punked!

Healthy and Sustainable Choices for Results

We agree with you, Jenn. This diet seems about as far from balanced as you can get. At Mountain Trek, we believe and have proven, that eating a balanced diet is not only the most effective for increasing energy levels, balancing hormones, and weight loss, it is sustainable. Our plan incorporates intermittent fasting, but we follow a “12 on, 12 off” schedule, eating for the first 12 hours of our day (ideally from 6 am to 6 pm) and then fasting for the next 12 hours. This promotes better sleep, reduces calorie storage, lowers LDL cholesterol levels, and reduces the potential for insulin resistance (precursor to type 2 diabetes).

Eating during the day is important. Your body and brain are most active for the first 12 hours of your day, and they both need fuel to operate. We break our calorie intake during those 12 hours into 6 meals, starting with a smoothie immediately upon waking (ideally within 30 minutes). Continuing to eat every 2-3 hours allows us to stay ahead of hunger (when we make poor decisions) and ultimately, balance both our energy levels (no highs and crashes) and hormones. The end result is a sustainable balanced, nutritious plan that feeds our bodies the calories we need when we need them.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

The Truth About Superfoods

The term “superfood” has taken on a life of its own.

Superfoods are commonly defined as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” They consist primarily of dark green leafy vegetables, berries, fish, nuts, healthy oils (e.g. olive oil or avocado oil), and a few other nutrient power-houses.

What is a Superfood?

There is an alternate definition, however, that you should be aware of. “Superfood is a marketing term for food assumed to confer health benefits resulting from an exceptional nutrient density.” There are a couple of critical words in that definition; “marketing term” and “assumed”.

Harvard Medical school points out, in the first line of their article on superfoods, “No single food — not even a superfood — can offer all the nutrition, health benefits, and energy we need to nourish ourselves”. The idea that the term superfood is being used as a trendy marketing tool gives us cause for concern—not with the superfoods themselves, but with our understanding and knowledge of how to include superfoods into our diet. We want to avoid the belief that one food provides a healthy diet, prevents illness, and elongates your life.

For example, take the company Laird Superfood. The company was founded by surf legend Laird Hamilton on the principle that if he added some superfood nutrients to his coffee, his day would be off to an optimal start. Although this may increase the nutritional value of your coffee, it by no means replaces a proper, wholesome breakfast, as it’s advertised. It’s this type of thinking we want to prevent. In reality, breakfast is the most critical meal of the day. Eating a balanced, whole-food breakfast will help balance your hormones and has been proven to increase anabolic metabolism by 15%. It should be so much more than just a cup of coffee supplemented with a few nutrients.

Superfoods can certainly be nutritious, but the term can often be more useful for driving sales than providing optimal nutrition recommendations

When food is given superfood status, it causes people to fixate on a few specific foods. Thus limiting them from eating other equally nutritious options that aren’t as hyped. Variety in your diet is important not only to gain the benefit of eating a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals but also to prevent one from eating too much (or too little) of a particular nutrient. It also keeps your meals interesting and flavorful!

Eat Super-plates, not just Superfoods

All whole, unprocessed foods are super in different ways! The more diversity of whole foods you consume, the more varied your nutrient profile will be. Increased varieties of nutrients in your diet offers more protection against disease and illness. Instead of focusing on just one superfood, we suggest thinking about creating Superplates by incorporating a wide variety of whole foods.

The healthiest diets of the world are all different and include a wide variety of foods that offer diverse nutrient profiles. When studying cultural diets across the globe, you’ll see that there’s no one perfect diet. Each diet offers different food grown in those specific regions. In other words, you don’t need the Himalayan goji berry in your diet to achieve your best health. Goji berries are called a superfood because they contain chemical compounds called phytochemicals that are produced by plants. You can find similar health benefits in everyday fruits and veggies, like organic rainbow carrots, fresh leafy green vegetables, and even cauliflower and broccoli.

A delicious blueberry is another great example of a holy grail superfood that ranks high on superfood lists. For good reason, yes! Purple and dark red colored foods are the signatures of a special class of natural antioxidants called anthocyanins. Antioxidants are extremely important, as they reduce inflammation, and help to remove harmful substances from the body. However, blueberries aren’t the only food with this color. You’ll also find anthocyanins in red cabbage, red onion, purple carrots, and beautiful beets.

Balanced plates lead to balanced health

Over two decades of helping people reset their health and find a sustainable lifestyle, we have found that in order to reach our most optimal health it’s best to have a balance of fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress management, and detoxification. Someone who is fit and able to run a marathon, but only sleeps 4 hours a night, is not healthy. Someone who eats properly, but sits all day, is not healthy. So too goes this principle of balance for nutrition and superfoods—we cannot just eat one superfood and be healthy. We must eat a balanced super-plate, with a variety of whole foods for a sustainable diet that provides tons of energy, nutrients, and antioxidants. A diet that will leave YOU feeling SUPER.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

Q&A: How do I stay safe and cool when hiking in the summer heat?

Q: I am aching to go hiking and get out of the house, but it’s hot out. How do I stay safe and cool when hiking in the summer heat?

A: Exercising outdoors has multiple health benefits including a 30% increase in calorie burn (compared to the same exercise and exertion indoors), a lowering of the stress hormone cortisol, and brain bathing of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. However, if we are used to a temperature and humidity controlled environment (gym or home), we need to incorporate some care before launching ourselves into mother nature’s arms as heat exhaustion or worse, heatstroke, can be dangerous and debilitating. Consider these tips:

Pre-hike:

  • Check the forecast and choose your days and activities when there is cloud cover and the UV index is lower. Be especially careful if going out on days when the UV index is 7 or higher.
  • Avoid mid-day sun, when UV rays are the strongest. Plan your hike for earlier in the day (early bird gets the worm!) or later to catch a sunset (bring a headlamp in this case).
  • If the humidity is high, lower your workout intensity to avoid overheating. Sweating, our body’s cooling mechanism, is more difficult when it is humid.
  • Make sure to hydrate and eat before heading out. Beyond energy requirements, proper nutrition will help with hydration.
  • Take a high-quality electrolyte 1-2 hours before going out on the trail (we use Vega products, which don’t have added sugar, making them much healthier than an alternative electrolyte drink like Gatorade). Electrolytes help your body retain moisture.
  • Wear the proper clothing for hot weather hiking. A wide-brimmed hat will keep the sun off of your face and neck. Light colors will reflect the sun. Loose, breathable clothing will allow ventilation. And a neck cover, such as a bandana, will come in handy. We typically recommend wool, but it’s a hot fabric, so for really hot weather, opt for thin cotton or a synthetic fabric. However, always wear a high-quality pair of wool socks, no matter what the temperature. Proper foot care is critical!

During-hike:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated on the trail. At Mountain Trek, we have a few sayings to help guests remember to drink water while hiking. “See water, hear water, drink water” is a favorite if you’re hiking along a creek or in the alpine amongst lakes. Another tip is to use a water bladder (one that holds at least 3 liters). If positioned correctly, the hose can be a constant reminder to hydrate, and to do so without stopping! You should aim to drink half of a liter per hour, but when it’s hot, you may need to increase that amount.
  • Look for shade to protect your skin. Stop in the shade for your longer water and snack breaks.
  • Wet your hat or bandanna in a cool stream or with your water bottle to keep your head and neck cool, two areas that significantly dictate our overall body temperature.
  • Acclimatize to the heat by incrementally increasing your exercise intensity over a few days. This will get your body used to the experience of exercising in the heat and will help you practice for longer days out on the trail.
  • Go with a friend for support and safety. It’s always a good idea to hike with a buddy.
  • Be aware of early warning signs of heat exhaustion: muscle cramping, lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, excessive sweating, confusion or irritability, increased heart rate, vision problems. If sensing any of these, stop in a shaded area, hydrate, and cool off.

Post-hike:

  • Continue to hydrate for the remainder of the day.
  • Keep a cooler in your car with icepacks, cold drinks and a cold washcloth. When you return, place the cool washcloth on your head or neck and enjoy your cold beverage, allowing your core temperature to lower again before driving home.

We hope these tips and tricks help you enjoy the summer heat safely. Enjoy your time on the trail.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

Cedar Plank Salmon with Grilled Asparagus

Cedar Planked Salmon with Grilled Asparagus

Something special happens when you cook with wood. A rich, smokey flavor gets infused into your fish and vegetables and takes your grilling to the next level. When you don’t have a wood smoker, cooking on top of a cedar plank is the next best option. Soaked for hours before placed on the grill, the plank will first steam and then begin to emit a rich smoke. Salmon is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, making it the perfect fish for this cooking method, as it invites the smoke right in. This Cedar Plank Salmon and Grilled Asparagus recipe is a wonderful, healthy, summer grilling option—simple, easy to prep and clean, yet packed full of nutrients and vitamins. We love the deep red meat of Sockeye salmon, but any other salmon can be used on the plank. Make sure to keep the barbecue closed while cooking so the cedar smoke can work its magic on the fish. Serve with a healthy, light salad to round out your meal.  Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)

  • 1 Cedar Plank (6″ x 12″, ~1/2″ thick)
  • 4 oz fillets of sockeye salmon
  • 16 asparagus spears medium
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Oil spray (Avocado oil if possible)
  • 1 pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1 garlic (dried)
  • 1 garlic (fresh)
  • 1 pinch ground chilies

Marinade:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Braggs aminos or tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tbsp cracked chilies
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

PREPARATION

  1. Soak the cedar plank (use something to weight it so it stays submerged) 2 hours before cooking.
  2. Rinse salmon, pat dry, and place in a shallow baking dish or bowl.
  3. Puree marinade ingredients in a blender until smooth and pour over salmon, reserving some marinade to drizzle over the finished fish or for the accompanying asparagus.
  4. Let sit, refrigerated, for up to an hour.
  5. Wash and dry asparagus and toss in a little oil spray with a pinch of sea salt and dried ground garlic or fresh minced garlic, plus a pinch of ground chilies.
  6. Dry the plank and lightly oil it (avocado oil or other high smoke point oil)
  7. Preheat barbecue, place the plank on the grill, and cook on medium temperature for about 10 min, or until the center is almost done. It’s normal for the cedar to smoke a little in the barbecue, this will add flavor to the fish.
  8. Set the plank aside with the salmon on it (you can keep it in a barely warm oven, wrapped) and put the asparagus on the grill. Grill for a few minutes until spears are just done (still bright green, but with grill marks and a bit crunchy).
  9. Serve with lemon slices and a drizzle of marinade on both the fish and asparagus.

Q&A: What is inflammation, and how do I reduce it?

Exhausted businesswoman having a headache in modern office. Mature creative woman working at office desk with spectacles on head feeling tired. Stressed casual business woman feeling eye pain while overworking on desktop computer.

Q: What is inflammation, and how do I reduce it?

A: Acute inflammation is a natural healing and protection response from our immune system. Think of your ankle swelling from an accidental roll on the tennis court. The body floods the joint with plasma and immune repair cells to inhibit movement so the soft tissue can mend. Or, perhaps you get a seasonal runny nose when pollens enter your sinus and the mucous membranes swell and release antibodies to remove the unwanted threat that your body deems dangerous. In both these instances, the immune system creates inflammation in a response to danger or injury. This is healthy.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not healthy

Chronic Inflammation is the root cause of 75-90% of today’s illnesses (according to the Cleveland Clinic). If our immune system is continuously taxed as it fights to remove incoming viruses, bacteria, antigens, chemicals or plastics, we can trigger stress on our organs and endocrine (hormone) system.

Research is now seeing Chronic Inflammation as the underlying stress leading to heart disease, metabolic disease, cancers, and even depression and anxiety. The same triggers that lead to ongoing inflammation are also seen as potential contributors to autoimmune illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism), and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBS). And, autoimmune diseases also create more inflammation as the body’s immune cells get confused and start attacking the body instead of the intruders.

Unmanaged stress from trauma, whether psycho-emotional or physical is a key factor in inflammation. Research is showing an extremely strong connection between the nervous system, hormonal system, and immune systems. Chronic stressors that come into the body through the digestive, and respiratory systems, or absorbed through the skin like toxic chemicals, food allergens, or bacteria have an easier time defeating a suppressed immune system when cortisol is continuously elevated.

It all may sound a bit of doom and gloom, but fear not! Here are a few strategies to support your immune system and lower inflammation. Some of these strategies are also beneficial to those suffering from autoimmune illnesses to support a state of remission.

How to Reduce Inflammation

  • Support the eliminatory system with a fiber and probiotic-rich plant-based diet, and lots of fresh water
  • Minimize the ‘sour 8’ foods (gluten, lactose, casein, soy, corn syrup, alcohol, sugar, nightshade vegetables) and other unique dietary antigens, after having a food sensitivity test by a certified Naturopathic ND
  • Consider mineral supplements like vitamin D and C to support immune cells and the B’s to lower stress
  • Add anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, for example, turmeric, omega 3 oil, brassica vegetables, and sauerkraut
  • Get regular exercise and target 10,000 steps a day to keep the circulatory system moving toxins out of the body
  • Sleep deeply and regularly 7-9 hrs, as deep non-REM sleep is when the immune system goes to work
  • Intermittent fast for 12 hrs between dinner and breakfast allowing cells to ‘clean-up and recycle’ via autophagy
  • Manage mental and psycho-emotional stress with meditation, nature immersion, massage, and somatic therapy
  • Avoid petrochemicals, pesticides, and plastics as much as possible, as most are considered hormone disruptors
  • Support your eliminatory system to release toxic chemistry with infrared saunas or steams, massage and chelation foods like cilantro and spirulina

We hope that this gives you a good understanding of what causes inflammation in the body and how to reduce it.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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:

How To Reset Your Health In 48 Hours

a woman sitting on a hiking trail meditating

It’s perfectly understandable that spending an entire week eating healthfully, hiking through lush nature, sleeping well, exercising, and detoxifying will do wonders for your mind and body. But you might be shocked to hear that with the right strategy and a little bit of motivation, you can make a profound impact on your health in just 48 hours. That means that in just one weekend, you can right the ship, take the reins, and restore the balance of your health. It’s not a walk in the park (well, you actually might take a walk in the park) but your body will thank you for dedicating just one single weekend to yourself.

We’ve been running our Basecamp weekend retreats in response to the COVID crisis. Guests spend one weekend (Friday 3 pm – Sunday evening) following our program and working virtually alongside our expert team. And we have to say—the results have been absolutely amazing. Participants are feeling significantly lighter, recharged, and reset. We’ve distilled this amazing weekend into an easy to follow 4-step guide so you can reset your health in the span of 48 hours, and emerge from a healthy weekend feeling like the best version of yourself.

Step 1) Make a bulletproof schedule

The last thing you want to be doing all weekend is constantly trying to decide “what’s next”. This will prevent you from fully sinking into the weekend. Sit down and write your 48-hour schedule on a piece of paper. Make sure to include the following critical elements:

Nutrition

Eat 6 times per day, starting immediately upon waking, and consume your calories within a 12-hour window. Give your metabolism a break for the other 12 hours (Intermittent Fasting). Eat most of your calories early in the day and then taper off moving towards night-time. Eat organic, plant-based food when available, and avoid processed food, added sugar, and alcohol.

Fitness

Move your body as much as possible throughout the day. We weren’t designed to sit, so let’s try to do as little of that as possible this weekend. Time your exercise for after your meals to begin understanding the value of food as fuel, not a coping mechanism. Begin your day with yoga (after a smoothie), then after breakfast do a HIIT or other functional fitness class. After lunch, spend a long time outside in nature, walking for either 40 minutes at a vigorous pace, or 90 minutes at a leisurely rate. Then, following dinner, tackle one more functional fitness class and end your night with restorative yoga.

Sleep

After a full day of exercise and eating properly, you have some building blocks for great sleep. Ensure you not only get enough hours of sleep, but also a deep sleep. Take a warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil 90 minutes prior to bed, don’t let your phone cross the threshold of your room, ensure your room is the right temperature and is dark, and do a relaxation technique while laying down. Read our full guide to great sleep for more tips.

Stress relief/management

Make sure to include relaxation time. Mindfulness is a highly potent tool for stress relief. If you already have a practice, carve out a large chunk of time of your weekend to dive deeper than you have in the past. If mindfulness is new to you, take this weekend as an opportunity to dip your toes in. Schedule a couple of 5-10 minute guided meditations sessions, ideally early in the morning and then again before bed.

Creating a schedule can be difficult, so we’re happy to share ours. If you actually want to follow along, all of the recipes and exercises are linked (click the image first), and you can find a shopping list below

Step 2) Prepare for success

Once your schedule is in place, it’s time to commit and get ready to immerse in the weekend. There are three critical components to preparing:

Ensure you have the right equipment—for our schedule, you need the following:

  • Kitchen with basic cooking tools
  • Blender
  • Yoga mat
  • Yoga strap (could be a belt or tie, etc.)
  • Firm blanket or pillow (for morning yoga)
  • 3 large firm pillows (e.g. couch cushions—for restorative yoga)
  • Light weights (2-5lbs) or substitute (soup cans or water bottles)
  • Running shoes
  • A chair (used for stability during exercise classes)
  • Water bottle

Shop for your ingredients 2-3 days prior to the weekend

View a shopping list for our schedule

Remove as many distractions as possible

Carve out this time for you. It’s only 48 hours, so almost everything can wait. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues that you are going to immerse yourself in this experience and request they only call, text, or email if it’s an emergency. This will reduce your stress and anxiety. Get baby sitters for the kids if you have them, or make a plan with your partner to watch them for the weekend. Be selfish for just this one weekend.

Step 3) Instill accountability

We’ve talked the talk. It’s time to walk the walk. While investing in an experience like Mountain Trek and spending time with our expert staff, whether that be a full week at the lodge to really dive deep into your health transformation or just a weekend for a quick tune-up, will provide you the accountability you need to succeed, it isn’t always an option. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and tricks to instill accountability on your own:

Form a “tribe”

The best thing you could possibly do is gather a small group of your closest allies and do the healthy weekend reset together. Sharing your experience with others has been proven to dramatically increase your chances of success and will make the experience more memorable and enriching. Create a group text thread dedicated to the weekend and have nightly Zoom calls to touch base and discuss your experience and progress.

Share your intentions

If no one is able to join you, share what you are attempting to accomplish with a close friend, family member, or colleague. Detail to them what you are doing the healthy weekend and what you are hoping to accomplish. Ask them to check in with you on Sunday about how it went. Just knowing that someone else is aware of your goals will hold you accountable.

Set a reward

Completing your healthy weekend reset is a big deal and a positive experience. These accomplishments deserve rewards, not only to keep you working towards the goal but to create a positive association with accomplishing such endeavors. Write your reward down prior to beginning your weekend and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.

Step 4) Turn healthy actions into habits

Once your 48-hours are up, you need to capture the momentum you worked so hard to create to ensure your health stays pointed in the right direction. A 48-hour reset is not a justification to go binge on bad habits—it is a leveling-up, a beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start. To keep your compass pointed towards your “true north”, we need to cement your new habits so they become part of your lifestyle.

Building habits is a skill and can be tricky at times. At Mountain Trek, we follow a six-step process to build healthy habits—ones that are truly sustainable:

1. Identify your health and wellness goals

This one is easy. Just write down all of your goals. Try to be as specific as possible, however.

2. Redesign your goals to optimize for success

Make sure your goal is SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-anchored. Setting a SMART goal immediately doubles your chance of success.

3. Simplify

Pick a maximum of two goals from step 1.

4. Set a weekly target

Start small. Aim for doing your healthy action two, maybe three times each week, then grow from there.

5. Monitor your progress and adjust if needed

Write your goal down in a journal, keep a piece of paper handy with a tally, track it using your online calendar, or, you can use either Mountain Trek’s Health & Habit Building App, which will keep track of your progress for you, or our simple goal tracker. Whatever tool you decide to use, it’s important to monitor your activity, notice when you’re falling behind and congratulate yourself when you are achieving your goals.

6. Reward your intention

Whether you are successful or not, you need to reward yourself for your intention to do your best. Rewards can be small or big, simple, or complex.

You now have a proven strategy to reset your health in the course of just one weekend. We hope you take the time to invest in your health, you need and deserve it now more than ever. Be compassionate to yourself throughout the process and don’t worry if it doesn’t all go to plan. There will most likely be hiccups along the way. The important part is that you committed to a healthy weekend—to yourself—and you made your best effort.

If the above is daunting to tackle on your own, we would be more than honored to have you join us for one of our upcoming Basecamp weekend retreats, where our expert team will do all of the work listed above for you, so all you need to do is show up and give it your best.

Good luck, stay healthy, and keep moving!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, 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: