The winter health program is a great way to burn off the extra calories consumed over the holidays. Check out our Winter Health Program that includes snowshoeing.

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7 Winter Sports You Must do in Your Lifetime

Tobogganing for Fitness

This December you can join Mountain Trek for our Winter Program in British Columbia and enjoy having your meals cooked for you, your clothing laundered and. your aches massaged away with the help of our onsite therapists. You’ll also be able to lounge in our world-class spa facilities, visit the natural hot springs, read novels by the fireplace and, in a word, relax.

Of course, there are active parts of the Winter Program as well, namely snowshoeing everyday through the pristine wilderness enjoying the silence and beauty that only a perfectly white winter landscape can offer. For those who haven’t done it before, snowshoeing is the perfect way to float over the snow and enjoy a walk in the woods. But there are other fun winter sports out there that we think everyone should try at least once. Here is a list of seven winter sports you must do in your lifetime:

Tobogganing

Ideal for: Beginners

What it is: Whether you call it sledding, GT Snow Racing, or tobogganing, chances are you did this as a kid if you lived in a snowy place or ever visited one. It refers to the act of sitting or lying down on a device designed to slide over snow and then going downhill on it

Why it’s good for you: Firstly, it’s super fun! You’re serotonin levels are sure to rise with this activity because it’s so enjoyable racing downhill. It’ll make you feel like a kid again! Plus, the hike back up the hill again is a great way to increase your metabolism.

 

Snowshoeing for Fitness

Snowshoeing

Ideal for: Weight loss

What it is: Unlike the devices from years past, modern-day snowshoes are small, light and strong. They’re easy to attach to any winter boot and then you’re free to go wander wherever the snow takes you. And that’s the beauty of snowshoeing – you’re no longer beholden to hiking paths or trails. You can walk over frozen lakes and through forests that, in the summertime, are unaccessible because of the undergrowth.

Why it’s good for you: When combined with hiking poles, snowshoeing can be the perfect aerobic activity in the winter: the snow provides a bit of resistance as you walk and your arms get a workout as you swing your poles. And the best part is it doesn’t require a lot of skill – you’re just going for a walk. Which is exactly why we offer this activity during our Winter Program, December 27-January 3.

 

Cross-country skiing

Cross-Country Skiing

Ideal for: Full-body fitness

What it is: There are two types of cross-country skiing: classic and skate skiing. The latter requires groomed trails whereas classic can be done anywhere. It too is as good a workout as snowshoeing with hiking poles but requires more skill, equipment and know-how in terms of putting wax on the bases. Still, when you’re gliding along at a fast pace, this sport can be completely invigorating!

Why it’s good for you: This is an excellent aerobic activity in the winter time that strengthens your legs, core and arms.

 

Ice Skate for Fitness

Ice Skating

Ideal for: Leg strengthening

What it is: Simply put on a pair of skates (basically a supportive shoe with a steel blade attached to the sole) and launch yourself across the ice of a frozen pond, lake or indoor arena. If you’re a beginner, you might want to take it slow at first and hang out to a wall or a helpful friend. But whether you’re a pro or a first-timer, there’s no doubting that ice skating is super fun!

Why it’s good for you: This is an excellent way to strengthening both the major and minor muscles in your legs as you maintain balance while striding along the ice to push yourself forward. It’s also great for your core muscles.

 

Hiking in the snow

Winter Walking/Hiking

Ideal for: People pressed for time

What it is: Because of snowy and icy conditions in the wintertime, many of us forego walking outside but this is actually doing your body damage: it’s proven we need to breathe fresh air and get Vitamin D from the sun, even during the colder months. The best way to ensure you have a safe outdoor walk or hike during the winter is to invest in a pair of Yak Trax or a similar device that adheres to the bottom of your winter boots and basically acts like studded tires for your feet. They grip and cling to any surface and ensure you have an enjoyable and safe walk – especially when you use hiking poles as well.

Why it’s good for you: The World Health Organization recommends that we all walk at least 10,000 steps a day to maintain our health. That includes during the winter months. When combined with hiking poles, winter walking is a good way to get aerobic exercise.

 

Fat Tire Biking in the Winter

Fat Biking

Ideal for: Those who love biking

What it is: Fat biking is a relatively new sport that allows people to use specially designed bicycles with 4-inch-wide tires to ride over packed snow. Many ski resorts (both alpine and cross-country) offer fat bike rentals and you’ll quickly learn that it’s super-fun pedalling over snow!

Why it’s good for you: Just like regular bicycling, this is a great full-body workout but because you’re riding on snow, there’s a bit more resistance, meaning you don’t have to travel as far to get a great workout.

 

Winter Bobsleigh

 

Bobsledding

Ideal for: Thrill seekers

What it is: No doubt you’ve seen this event in the Winter Olympics but what you might not know is places like Whistler, Calgary and Salt Lake City offer bobsled rides down specially designed tracks (ie: ones that aren’t as steep or fast as those in the Olympics). No experience is required.

Why it’s good for you: This activity involves what we call “good stress” – you’re cortisol levels will go up during your ride down but then be washed away in a flood of euphoria. Plus there’s a bit of running at the start. But really, the reason this is good for you is to simply remind yourself you’re strong enough and brave enough to do anything!

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Mountain Trek Winter Gear Guide

The Mountain Trek Way Winter Gear Guide

Mountain Trek’s Winter Health Retreat is a unique experience offered just once a year when guests get to don snowshoes, mitts and toques (Canadian speak for winter hat) and hike through a pristine, white environment.

One thing that guests always ask us about, though, is what kind of winter gear they need for snowshoeing in British Columbia. The first thing we recommend is to dress in layers. In other words, have a base later next to the skin, a secondary layer for warmth if you tend to get cold easier and an outer layer that’s water resistant.

Here we discuss the key pieces of clothing and other winter gear you need for walking or snowshoeing (or any other type of winter activity from tobogganing to snowball fighting)

BASE LAYERS

Socks

Best: Thick merino wool socks are best for outdoor winter activities because merino doesn’t itch like other types of sheep wool, it breathes well, it stays warm even when wet and it tends not to smell.

Good: Polypropylene textiles or “polypro” are a man-made synthetic thermoplastic polymers. They may not sound comfortable but they’re constructed to be hydrophobic, which means they transport or “wick” moisture away from the skin. They are also very warm but a disadvantage is they tend to retain body odour.

Worst: Anything with cotton in it. Derived from a plant that’s sole purpose is to retain moisture, cotton is the worst fabric to wear in the winter because it keeps moisture close to the skin and leaves you clammy and cold.

Brands to consider: Darn Tough (which has a lifetime guarantee!), Bridgedale, Smartwool, Icebreaker

Long Underwear

As with socks, the best long underwear is made with merino wool. Polypro or silk is second best and the worst is cotton. Brands to consider include Smartwool, Icebreaker and Patagonia.

T-shirt and Long Sleeve

Again, the best fabric to have next to your skin is merino wool, followed by polypro and silk. As for the worst, there’s a reason behind the mountain culture adage, “Cotton Kills.” Brands to consider include Smartwool, Icebreaker and Patagonia.

SECONDARY LAYERS

Socks

Most people do not require two layers of thick socks but some like to wear thin “liners” made of polypro that are worn next to the skin and underneath a thicker wool sock. These keep feet even warmer and also reduce friction, which causes blisters.

Pants and Shirt

Wear a thicker version of a base layer that will keep you warm at the start of your activity but you can remove when you heat up.

Insulated Jacket

Best: Goose down jackets are the best because in most cases they’re warmer and lighter than polypro and they pack up to a smaller size when you want to stuff them away after you’ve warmed up. Ensure the jacket you purchase has a durable water repellent coating on it to ward off water. When down gets wet, it tends to clump and loses some of its insulation qualities.

Good: Polypro are the next best version of insulated jacket and they have the added bonus of not losing loft when they get wet.

Worst: As always – cotton.

Brands to consider: Patagonia and Outdoor Research tend to fit larger frames and have the added bonus of coming with lifetime guarantees. Arc’teryx and Prana are more form-fitted.

OUTER LAYERS

Jacket and Pants

Best: A water-repellent shell made of Gore-Tex or Event (or a similar technical fabric) with welded seams are the best winter garments for active people.

Good: There are different qualities of Gore-Tex (and related fabrics) and different kinds of seam sealing. Opt for the best if you want your garment to last a long time.

Worst: A heavy rubber like what you’d find in yellow rain slickers. These do not breathe and will trap all moisture and keep you feeling cold and clammy.

Brands to consider: Patagonia and Outdoor Research tend to fit larger frames and have the added bonus of coming with lifetime guarantees. Arc’teryx, North Face, Black Diamond, Prana and Westcomb are some other alternatives.

Gloves

Best: A glove with a wool/polypro liner and a Gore-Tex (or similar technical fabric) outer shell are the best. They keep your hands warm but repel water.

Good: Leather and fur. They’ll breathe but they’ll eventually get wet.

Worst: Wool as an outer layer. These will get wet and snow will eventually clump to them.

EQUIPMENT

For more about snowshoeing equipment, here’s a video of Kirkland discussing snowshoes, poles, gators and boots.

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10 “Non-Diet” Weight Loss Tips and Simple Holiday Detox Ideas

[wps_social_buttons] Non-diet Approach

The “Non-Diet” Approach to Weight Loss

Mountain Trek does not subscribe to any diet plan and in fact, we don’t believe in the concept of dieting at all, and yet we guarantee those who participate in our program will lose weight. And they always do. Why is that? Well among other things we make sure everyone who attends Mountain Trek, whether it’s at the British Columbia Lodge or our Rancho La Puerta programs workout their bodies for portions of the day but there’s more to it than that. Our guests always compliment us on the quality of the food (for proof look at our TripAdvisor comments) and very few have ever said they’ve gone hungry during the program. So what’s the secret?

Have you ever stopped to wonder why there are so many fad diets out there? The fact is, none of them work, certainly not for any length of time anyway. And don’t even get us started on trendy weight loss pills and claims of slimness in a bottle or with one type of exercise device sold on late-night TV. So many of us binge and then starve our bodies only to repeat the cycle that it’s no wonder we have trouble maintain a healthy consistent weight. Problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease are all a result of improper eating practices combined with lack of physical activity for which our bodies were designed for.

At Mountain Trek we’re not interested in short-term efforts for losing weight but rather we want to encourage a long-term lifestyle change for lasting health. A large part of it rests on the nutritional pillar of our program, which isn’t so much based on counting calories as it is about encouraging healthful eating patterns and nutrition. We focus on balancing blood sugars and the hormones Insulin, Glucagon, Leptin and Grehlin, in order to raise and maintain an Anabolic metabolism. Which is just one way of saying, we teach you about healthy eating habits that transform your health. Our guests learn how to “diet” without actually going on a diet and these are just a few of the tips they take home with them after a stay at Mountain Trek along with the support-structure and strategies for turning them into long-term habits.

#1. Eat Breakfast within 30 minutes of getting out of bed

Healthy Breakfast

#2. Eat two-thirds of your food in the first 9 hours of the day

Steaming Bowl of Soup

#3. Eat multiple food groups every 3 hours during the day

Fruit & Nuts

#4. Eat slower and chew more

Eat slower, chew more.

#5. Eat out at restaurants less

Eat out at restaurants less

#6. Lower your intake of alcohol

Drink less alchohol

#7. Eliminate or minimize artificial sweeteners

Try Natural Sweeteners

#8. Detoxify your body regularly (see below)

Detoxify

#9. Eat less processed food and more organic produce

Fresh, local and organic produce.

#10. Drink more water

Drink more water


Detox

Detox Your Body This Month

If you read our tips for relieving holiday stress in last-month’s newsletter and then attended Mountain Trek’s Winter Program, chances are you’re feeling fit, healthy and happy. However, if you’re like most of us, you indulged a bit during the holiday season and are now looking to get back on track. Well, aside from the weight loss pointers mentioned above, there’s one other key thing you can do in order to encourage wellness and lose a few of those extra pounds that might have crept on what with all the holiday chocolates lying around. And the good news is that one thing is relatively easy to do.

Detoxification has been a tradition among most cultures on earth for centuries: from Scandinavian saunas to American sweat lodges mankind has understood the value of purging toxins through the skin. Essentially, the term refers to the process of removing injurious substances from our bodies, which can be biological (such as bacteria and viruses) or harmful chemicals like heavy metals, food processing compounds and cosmetics. (Nowadays processed foods contain more than 3,000 chemicals whereas at the turn of the century, the only preservative found in food was salt.) These toxins are continuously being flushed from our body through breath, sweat, urine, etc but problems arise if we can’t detoxify fast enough. What happens when we don’t purge these toxins quickly, our fat cells will get larger so the body can store the excess toxins and keep them safely away from sensitive tissue.  When the toxins are more concentrated, our fat cells will also increase in size to keep them diluted.

In other words, detoxing is not only good for riding the body of bad biology and chemicals, it’s also a good way to ensure your body doesn’t start harbouring fat cells. Here are just a few easy actions you can take to support your body in detoxifying:

  • Drink enough water throughout the day so that your urine is almost clear. This will help support your kidney’s removal of water-soluble toxins.
  • Utilize exercise, saunas and steams to aid the release of stored toxins.
  • Dry brushing your skin is another good way to encourage blood circulation, cell regeneration and toxin removal.
  • Eat fibre-rich foods to aid your intestines in moving toxins out of the body.  Constipation leads to toxin re-absorption.
  • Eat organic, pesticide-free produce, and less processed food.

Bonus: Detoxification Talk By Kirkland!

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Salmon Fennel Leek Chowder Recipe

Salmon Fennel Chowder Recipe

This recipe will fill the emptiest of bellies and warm the coldest bodies. It’s intended to make a large portion so you can share it with friends or store it in the freezer for enjoying it later but if you’d prefer to make less, just halve the ingredient amounts.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 cup coconut oil
  • 4 cups finely diced onion
  • 4 cups finely diced carrots
  • 4 cups finely diced celery

Sauté above ingredients until they start to brown lightly then add:

  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 16 cups veggie stock
  • 2 cups finely diced parsnips
  • 4 cups sweet potato diced
  • 2 cups diced fennel
  • 2 cups leeks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • 3 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and add:

  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 – 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 3 salmon filets – deboned, cooked and flaked
  •  2 cans coconut milk
  • Almond/coconut flour to thicken as required

Cold Weather Must-Haves

Winter is fully upon us now and for most of us, we’re experiencing shorter days, colder temperatures and an aversion to going outside. It’s only natural to feel a bit more lethargic this time of year; in fact, our ancestors spent the winter months immersed in cultural activities rather than hunting and gathering. However, with the plethora of processed snacking foods within arm’s reach, it’s important to surround ourselves with “must-haves” that promote health and well-being. Here are just five things that we encourage to have near you at all times in order to weather the colder months and encourage wellness.

Ginger Lemon Tonic

#1. Ginger Lemon Tea

Enjoy a detoxifying and energizing ginger lemon tea every morning. There’s a reason ginger is called “the miracle root” – in fact, it’s one of nature’s best combinations of detoxifier, anti-inflammatory and digestive aid. You can read more about the tea and how to make it here. Plus it’s just nice to start your day with something warm.

Good Duvet

#2. A Good Duvet

Sleep is so important any time of year but in the winter months when the temperature drops at night it’s important we’re comfortable. That doesn’t mean cranking up the thermostat, however, as most of us are not attuned to sleeping well in the heat. Keep the inside temperature of your house cool at night but cozy up under a good duvet or thick blankets and you’ll sleep more soundly.

Warm & Hearty Recipes

#3. Warm, Hearty Recipes

There are many recipes on the Mountain Trek site for healthy and hearty soups and chili. They are made with vitality-nurturing nutritious ingredients and their warming qualities will dispel the day’s chill. A few we recommend are Bison Chipotle Chili and Squash & Turkey Soup.

A Hot Bath

#4. A Hot Bath

Lying in a warm bath filled with epsom salts is not only relaxing, it’s also a good way to detoxify. It’ll help remove any damp chill that has seeped into your bones and it will open up your pores and encourage toxins to exit your body. If you don’t have a bathtub, a hot shower is an OK replacement but a visit to the local gym for a soak in their hot tub is even better.

Layered Clothing

#5. Layered Clothing

A good quality pair of merino wool long underwear and a long-sleeved top is invaluable at warding off any winter chill when you’re out in the elements. Even if you’re just going for a walk to the corner store, remember to layer and dress appropriately as it doesn’t take long for the chill to sink in and when it does, it can take awhile to disperse it again.


Bonus: A Sun-Filled Getaway!

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What better way to beat the winter cold than by escaping entirely and heading to sunny Baja, Mexico for Mountain Trek’s Rancho La Puerta program. Watch the video below and Kirkland will explain the highlights of the program and why it’s an excellent mid-winter vacation option.

Kirkland’s Gift Guide + Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

[wps_social_buttons] Wellness Stocking Gifts Guide

Kirkland’s Stocking Stuffer Gift Guide for Wellness

There’s nothing more enjoyable than giving a gift to someone who absolutely loves it. However, this can be tough if we’re looking for smaller items for stocking stuffers or are limited to a “Secret Santa” budget at the office or have dozens of friends we want to surprise. Especially in this day and age when we’re surrounded by so many consumables that it’s difficult to get a gift that is not only thoughtful but also promotes vitality and wellness. (In other words, the opposite of a box of Turtles.) We sat down with Mountain Trek manager and head guide Kirkland Shave to ask him what stocking stuffers he plans on giving this holiday season and what he is hoping to receive.

#1. Homemade gift certificates

These are by far some of the most popular (and least expensive) gifts of all time. Present your friends with a coupon for a “free night of babysitting” so they can get away and enjoy each other’s company. Or offer your spouse a booklet filled with different certificates for such things as a foot massage, homemade dinner and back rub. Or your elderly neighbour a free driveway shovelling session. Anything is possible with some paper, pens and a lot of empathy and imagination.

#2. F.lux Software

Just download the free F.lux software to your partner’s phone, tablet and computer and it will make the colour of their screen adapt to the time of day – warm at night and like sunlight during the day. No more eerie, bright blue light stimulating cortisol levels at 9:30 pm! Their sleep patterns will improve and their eyes will thank them (and you) for it.

#3. Spa voucher

Everyone loves a trip to the local spa for a relaxing massage or detoxifying Infra red sauna. Even if the voucher isn’t for the entire cost of the treatment, it will still be greatly appreciated and will help go towards the receiver’s stress relief and well-being.

#4. Home-cooked food

And by food we don’t mean cookies filled with butter, sugar and chocolate. Instead we’re talking about items that a person can store away and then bring out when they’re strapped for time to make something of their own. (Or they could always eat them on the spot, too.) For example: frozen soups, dips and dressings (like our Afterglow Almond Butter Dressing), or beautiful tins filled with mixed nuts and fruit you dehydrated yourself. Remember to keep the food offerings healthy and convenient and the receiver will be grateful the next time they’re hungry and go to the cupboard and fridge and find your healthy food gift there for them.

#5. Aromatherapy and healing salts

One of the best ways to wind down after a hard day is an a bathtub full of relaxing lavender oil and Himalayan healing salts. Or sitting in a comfortable chair, eyes closed and breathing deeply the aroma of sandalwood or mandarin. By gifting these essential oils and salts, you help the receiver  de-stress from their day and get ready for a restful night’s sleep.

#6. Schedule a day outside just for them

This is similar to the homemade gift certificates idea but in this case you’re setting aside at least one full day during the holidays to spend with your loved ones doing something fun outside. Perhaps it will be going skiing with the kids or snowshoeing with friends or a sleigh ride with entire family. The best gift is the gift of our time and by spending it outdoors, everyone wins.

#7, A good book

There are so many fantastic novels out there that are both entertaining and inspirational. Take Paulo Cohelo’s “The Alchemist” for example or “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce. Or even “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr Seuss for the children in your life. So called “self-help books” don’t have to be boring dialogues about what to do when; they can be uplifting tales of characters who experience challenges and in so doing, change their lives for the better.

#8. Socks

This may seem an odd gift for this type of list but we’re not talking about black dress socks or bundles of cheap tube socks from a big box store. Rather, we’re suggesting you gift one pair (or a few pairs) of excellent quality athletic socks that breathe, support and just might encourage the receiver to go out for a walk with you. In our experience, Darn Tough in Vermont make some of the best socks on earth. (They’re guaranteed for life!)

#9. A One-Week Permission Slip

One of the things we hear most from our clients is that it’s so hard for them to take a week or two away from their busy lives in order to reboot their vitality. This is where you can come in: you can either hand-write a coupon or just tell your loved one that it’s okay for them to take time away in order to take care of their own health – you offer to look after things while they’re away and not to worry and they, in turn, can come and join us at Mountain Trek where they’ll reignite their vitality and return back to you a reenergized person. Really, it’s a gift for you both!

For more gift ideas, check our Mountain Trek’s holiday gift guide for yourself and six gifts to support a healthy lifestyle.

Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

Tips for Relieving Holiday Stress

This time of year can be difficult for people’s stress levels, given the number of potential stressors out there: planning family dinners, buying the right gifts and attending numerous parties all contribute to a busy and stressful time. However, there are easy ways to relieve that stress as outlined below.

#1. Digital Detox

Make a plan to detox from your digital devices for a set time each day. Even if it’s just a matter of turning off your TV, phone and computer at 9pm each night the result will be less distraction, better sleep and less stress.

#2. Massage

Enjoy an evening massage regularly. It will help relieve sore muscles, release toxins and, ultimately, relax you. Plus it’s something to look forward to after your busy days.

#3. Exercise

Even just a little. Follow these tips to help beat sedentarism and remember that in order to keep your metabolism up, your weight down, and your stress levels low, your body has to move for at least 40 minutes a day, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the block.

#4. Go for a soak

Whether it’s a hot spring, hot tub, or your tub at home, a good, long soak in warm water invigorates circulation and, ultimately relaxes you.

#5. Eat Well

We know this can be difficult around the holidays what with the plethora of sweets, alcohol and processed food available, but eating healthy foods puts your body in a better state of equilibrium. That’s not to say we don’t encourage the occasional treat, but remember to do so in moderation. At the very least remember to drink lots of water a day. That will help flush toxins from your body.

#6. Be With Friends

Spend time with friends and loved ones who are relaxing to be with. Often we hear from our clients that the holidays are stressful because they’re obligated to hang out with family members who cause them stress. If this sounds familiar, then be sure to book equal amounts of time with individuals who help you to feel the opposite of stressed. Have to do dinner with the in-laws who are regularly argumentative? Then book a breakfast date with a friend who will listen and laugh as you debrief about it all.

#7. Don’t be so hard on yourself

So what if the turkey burned or the place settings aren’t perfect or you didn’t have time to get all the gifts on your list? Your family and friends love you and the most important thing for them is to know that you’re happy. They do not want you to feel overwhelmed at their expense. Breathe deep. Think of the ones you love. Remember how lucky you are. Breathe some more. Relax.

#8. Book a stay with Mountain Trek

Our Winter Retreat program from Dec 27-Jan 3 exists to allow people a chance to escape their busy lives and stay in a beautiful mountain lodge with every amenity from hot tub to infrared sauna, and to enjoy having a professional chef do all the cooking. Imagine escaping everything this holiday and curling up beside a warm fire with a good book while the snow falls gently outside. Talk about stress relieving!

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Squash and Turkey Soup Recipe

Captain Ainsworth’s  Squash & Turkey Soup

This recipe will make between 7-8 cups of soup and will taste excellent after those fun, active days outdoors.

Ingredients:

16 oz turkey breast – cubed
1 1/2 tbs oil
1 cup onions – diced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper – seeded and minced
4 cups veggie or chicken stock
1/2 tsp allspice
2 cups butternut squash – cubed
1 cup yam – diced
2 1/2 cups kale or chard – finely chopped
1 cup coconut milk

Directions:

In a heavy pan brown turkey in 1 tbs of oil. Deglaze pan with a little stock or wine and set aside. (Keep this liquid for soup.) Put the remaining oil into pan and sauté onions, garlic, jalapeño pepper. Add stock, allspice, squash, and yam and cook until tender. Puree until smooth. Add kale or chard, coconut and turkey and season with salt to taste. Simmer lightly.

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Snow or Sand This Holiday Season?

Some of us look forward to the clean, crisp days of winter when we can play in the snow and then rest by a warm fire with our loved ones in the evenings. Others prefer to travel to warmer climes and soak in the daytime warmth while wearing shorts and T-shirts. There are benefits to each style of vacation that we’ll list here but keep in mind Mountain Trek offers both styles.

Our Winter Retreat from December 27-January 3 at the beautiful BC Lodge features fun snowshoe treks, delicious food cooked for you by our professional chefs, massages, sauna, steam room, and a hot tub in a winter wonderland. On the other hand, our Rancho La Puerta retreats from Feb 7-14 and 14-21, showcase the best of Baja, Mexico, with sandy trails winding through Eucalyptus and organic gardens in a warm, desert-like environment.

Join us for our Winter Program

The Benefits of Snow (Winter Retreat)

  1. There’s nothing more beautiful than a pristine, white landscape.
  2. It’s easier and faster to get a great workout in the snow because there’s natural resistance when snowshoeing through it.
  3. People tend to congregate more when the weather is cooler – it’s human nature to want to be with friends and family this time of year.
  4. It’s invigorating stepping out into a cooler environment – it makes you feel alive!
  5. On sunny days it’s awe-inspiring seeing the light glint off icicles and snowflakes.
  6. It’s easier to spot wildlife when the trees are bare of their leaves.
  7. It’s a wonderful thing to spend time outdoors and then come in to a warm fire and a hot drink.
  8. One of life’s greatest pleasures is sitting in a hot tub feeling snow flakes fall on your face.
  9. In the case of Mountain Trek’s Winter Program, our professional cooks will do all the cooking for you, leaving you more time to lounge by the fire or in the spa.
  10. A cool day outdoors followed by a massage in a warm room = heaven.

Join us in February in Rancho La Puerta

The Benefits of Sand (Rancho La Puerta)

  1. It’s warm!
  2. Warmer temperatures make it easier to get outside.
  3. In the case of Rancho La Puerta, you’re guaranteed sunshine (there’s over 325 days of it per year).
  4. It’s easy to relax outdoors.
  5. Your body is more limber in a warm environment so workouts don’t require as long a warm-up.
  6. Enjoy gardens, landscaped grounds, flowing streams and miles of meadows.
  7. Vitamin D is easy to come by.
  8. You don’t have to wear a lot of clothing.
  9. You can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities from dance to tai chi to tennis.
  10. You can go swimming.

Feeling Vitamin D-ficient? How to top up on the Sunshine Vitamin this Winter

Feeling Vitamin D-ficient?  Now that we are well and truly into the middle of winter, are you feeling a little low on energy? Could be that you’ve come to your ‘D-day’, a time in the year when your Vitamin D is at an all time low. But the good news is, this is easy to top up with a high quality multi-vitamin and some delicious nutrient rich foods!

Vitamin D, necessary for healthy bone density, calcium absorption, and even depression prevention, is provided naturally to us in two main ways: by the sun’s UV rays, and through our diet. Yet, in these winter months when the sun is low in the sky and usually cloud covered, most of us aren’t getting enough of the sunshine vitamin. By the time spring rolls around, many of us are Vitamin D deficient. To help us stay topped up on this important player in the body’s functioning health, we’ve taken a look at what foods we can incorporate into our diet to get this necessary nutrient. But first, why exactly is Vitamin D so essential?

Why is Vitamin D so important?

Often correctly associated with bone health, Vitamin D does a lot more for our overall health and body function than it’s usually given credit for. In addition to being absolutely necessary for bone growth and repair, Vitamin D also aids calcium absorption in the gut, is responsible for the modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune system function, and reduction of inflammation. No question that this Vitamin’s role is crucial to our body’s functioning health!

Where can I get my Vitamin D?

When UV rays from sunlight touch the skin, this triggers Vitamin D synthesis. But when sun exposure is at a minimum during the winter months, we can turn to diet to help with our vitamin D intake. Unfortunately, very few foods are high in Vitamin D naturally, and so it is not possible to get all the Vitamin D you need from diet alone. In conjunction with a high quality multi-vitamin and UV exposure (in moderate amounts, where possible), here are some of the best food sources of Vitamin D:

Fatty fish: So very nutritious for you for so many reasons, fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and even seafood such as oysters, contain some of the highest concentrations of Vitamin D in food.

Eggs: Not only high in protein and so many other nutrients (Vitamin B12), the sunshine yellow of egg yolks do contain a hearty helping of Vitamin D.

Beef liver: Not everyone’s favorite, but when mom said ‘eat up!’ to those liver and onions, she knew what she was talking about as far as Vitamin D’s concerned.

Mushrooms: Certain varieties of mushrooms, like white button, can provide Vitamin D among other nutrients (Vitamin B5) when lightly cooked.

Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D for the simple reason that we don’t get enough in our diet, or in general. Almost all milk (and baby formula) in the U.S. and Canada is fortified with Vitamin D. Please note that dairy products (cheese, yogurt, etc.) are not usually fortified with Vitamin D like milk. Some orange juices, soy products and cereals are often fortified with many supplements such as Vitamin D, but please use caution and check labels, as many of these products can contain refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, and other undesirables.

Although there is no substitute for sunshine, we can always help ourselves with high quality supplements, and the highest quality supplement of delicious, nutritious food! We wish you a wonderful, healthy rest of winter…and don’t forget, when the sun does comes out on those beautiful frosty days, don’t forget to go enjoy yourself outdoors for that dose of Vitamin D!

Holiday Health and Fitness Challenge: a wholesome head start for 2014

[portfolio_slideshow id=6078] A hearty congratulations are in order to us all. We made it through the toughest, most temptation-filled, overindulgent part of the holidays!

Sure, there’s still one more epic night of jubilation, but New Year’s Eve is less about stuffing ourselves with delicious food, and more about celebrating (with possibly one-too-many drinks) what was hopefully a healthy, happy and bountiful 2013, while wishing the best to each other for the year ahead.

As we start thinking about our resolutions for 2014–whether it’s quitting smoking, eating healthier, exercising more, or a host of other healthy lifestyle improvements–now is a good time to also start taking the initial steps towards achieving those resolutions. Why wait until January 2nd to reboot a healthy lifestyle?

Whether you’re still scuttling between the final few office parties and family gatherings, or you’re on a sun-filled vacation, Mountain Trek has come up with a manageable way to reset your perspective and kick start a fresh, healthier you.

Join us for our Holiday Health and Fitness Challenge– seven days of effective tasks to improve your overall health. Complete the challenge and we think you’ll find that sticking to your New Year’s resolutions will be that much easier.

We’d love to hear about your experience during the Holiday Health and Fitness Challenge. Keep us posted on your progress, the hurdles that you face and how you feel at the end. Good luck!

December 29, 2013: 
Day One: CORE

Challenge: We start our challenge by focusing on our core. Functional movements are highly dependent on the core, and lack of core development can result in a predisposition to injury. The major muscles of the core reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back, and peripherally include the hips, the shoulders and the neck.

Task: There are many core-strengthening exercises you can do, from knee fold tucks, to ball routines, to plank exercises. Find a few that you feel comfortable with and try them out at some point today.

December 30, 2013: 
Day Two: DETOX

Challenge: Our lifestyles put our bodies to the test. Rising stress levels, lack of exercise, constipation, poor diet and poor lifestyle choices – not to mention the ever-increasing levels of toxins in our environment – push our bodies to their limits. While it’s impossible to avoid toxins completely, it’s important to support your body so it can get rid of them.

Task: Today we challenge you to an infrared sauna. An infrared sauna uses infrared heaters to emit infrared light experienced as radiant heat, which is absorbed by the surface of the skin. Taking a 20-minute infrared sauna is a great way to sweat out toxins, with a side benefit of weight loss.

December 31, 2013:
Day Three: NUTRITION

Challenge: Today we want you to eat breakfast. And not only that, we want you to eat breakfast within a half hour of waking up. So many of us skip breakfast altogether. Not today. Eating breakfast kick starts our metabolism, supports our circadian rhythms and keeps our livers from initiating the “famine” response.

Task: Make yourself a fruit and veggie smoothie (or prepare it the night before and keep it in the fridge), enjoy a bowl of muesli, scrambled eggs, or broccoli and smoked cheese frittata in the morning. Whatever your choice try and include equal volumes of complex carbohydrates, protein, vegetables or fruit, as well as a teaspoon of omega oil.

January 1st, 2014:
Day Four: SLEEP

Challenge: This one shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, especially if you’ve been up celebrating the night before.
As an adult, our being needs between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, in order to maintain a healthy, growth-centered metabolism.

Task: The challenge on this night is to go to bed early (get cozy in bed between 9 and 10pm) and sleep relatively undisturbed for 7 to 9 hours.
If, like so many of us, you spend too many hours on your computer, download justgetflux.com. During the day, computer screens look good—they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun. The f.lux software fixes this: it makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

Have a good night…

January 2nd, 2014
Day Five: STRESS

Challenge: For some of us, today’s challenge may be the toughest… a gadgetry detox. Try one full day without a technological gadget or social media platform that usually has you so absorbed in it that you feel a sense of panic when that thing is temporarily taken a way from you.

Always being available to answer an email or take a call from someone at work has made our workdays 10 to 14 hours long (in some cases longer).

Task: Just for today, turn it all off! Your heart rate just went up didn’t it? You’ll be okay.

If it’s absolutely not possible to turn it all off, try one gadget at a time. Turn off your cell phone, or try no emailing, or no television, or no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. And substitute the dopamine fix that you usually get from the gadgets, with a healthy dopamine boost. Shut your cell off, go for a hike. Substitute a no-social-media-day with a day of visiting friends and family. Turn it all off and fill your day with yoga, meditation, and healthy cooking.

 January 3rd, 2014
Day Six: WILLPOWER

Challenge: Admittedly, if you successfully went through a gadget detox the day before, then your willpower is on the right track. But now it’s time to strengthen it even more, because today is the day you engage one of your resolutions for 2014.

Task: Pick a healthy habit and embrace it. Today is the day you start yoga classes, or begin healthy cooking classes, or reconnect with an estranged loved one, start writing that novel you’ve always wanted or find some way to love yourself a little more every day. Whatever it is, seize the day with open arms, open mind and open heart.

January 4th, 2014
Day Seven: NATURE

Challenge: Has it been a while since you’ve explored and enjoyed the great outdoors?  On this, the final day of our Heath and Fitness Challenge, we urge you to get outside and play. We don’t need science to tell us that doing some form of healthy activity outdoors is good for the soul.

Task: Take your dog for a long walk along the beach, go for a hike with your son, snowshoe with your daughters, cross-country ski with an old friend, swim in the ocean with your spouse, stroll through the neighbourhood with your grandchild, or ride bikes with your mom. Whatever it is, get out there, breath the fresh air and be thankful that you’ve made it another year!

Once again, let us know how you do, we’d love to hear from you and good luck!

8 Tips to Manage Temptations during the Holidays

8 tips to managing temptations during the holidaysIt’s impossible not to indulge, and in many cases, overindulge in all the treats on display around you during the holidays.

Absolutely everywhere you go, from office parties, to dinners at your in-laws, to your local grocery store, there are juicy, buttery, sugary food items tempting you, ready to hit your taste buds. It can be challenging to stop the parade of plump turkeys, Swiss chocolates, endless eggnogs, mountains of mashed potatoes and seasonal micro-brew ales from sliding down into your warm, inviting belly. Heck, you’ve worked hard all year; you deserve some down time and a few treats. After all, food and festivity is the essence of the holidays.

BUT, there is a way to enjoy all the deliciousness that the season have to offer, without gaining 10 pounds of excess weight and guilt along the way.

Here at Mountain Trek we’ve come up with some simple, effective tips to help you avoid the dreaded OVERINDULGENCE…while still having fun and enjoying the festive season.

Keep exercising. You don’t need to maintain the same schedule as you did throughout the rest of the year, but you don’t need to stop exercising altogether as well. Often you’ll find you do have some extra time over the holidays, try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, jogging or to a yoga class. Ask your relatives to go for a walk with you. That way you’re getting some exercise and so is your favorite uncle.

Stick to your regular meal times. Healthy snacking is good but it’s easy to eat full meals at every party you attend. Try eating dinner at one party and then a few hours later, desert at another party. Spreading out your meals will mentally help you to avoid overindulging.

Make healthy food choices. With all the delicious treats around you it’s easy to forget about vegetables, salads and fruit. And if you’re the one doing the cooking, try using fresh, lean, organic ingredients. Instead of frying, grill your food. And remember, there is a host of low-fat, vegetarian and vegan dishes (including desserts) that can compliment the usual turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoe dinners.

Leave what you don’t want. Despite what our parents may have instilled in us as children, don’t feel obliged to clear your plate. When you’re feeling 80% full, stop eating. Simple as that.

Budget your food choices. If you can’t stop yourself from overindulging on turkey and stuffing, then skip the ice-cream and apple pie.

Be mindful of your alcohol intake. Remember, drinks have calories too. Alcohol can make you hungry and weaken your ability to say no to overindulging. Alcohol is a depressant and can add to feelings of stress or sadness, thus leading you to make poor food choices. And if you drink too close to bedtime it can interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.

Stay strong. Be assertive. Don’t feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food and drink. If you are not hungry, then politely say so. Do not let yourself be bullied by your auntie or grannie, into eating something that you really don’t want.

Don’t over schedule yourself. While this may not necessarily stop you from overindulging, it will help you to focus on what’s most important about the holiday season–spending quality time with loved ones. And remember, everything in moderation.

Happy holidays from everyone at Mountain Trek!

Healthy Gift Guide: 6 Gift Ideas to Support a Healthy Lifestyle

6 Healthy Gift IdeasIt can sometimes be a challenge to get that special someone just the right gift, never mind a gift that promotes well being! We’ve thrown together a few gift ideas that are easy to incorporate into your healthy Mountain Trek lifestyle, and are sure to inspire your loved ones to embrace wellness too.

  1. Re-useable Containers: What could have previously been thought of as an unexciting present, is now the catalyst to healthy snacking and meals throughout the day! A Tupperware set will provide lots of little pots, perfect for your cut up veggies, nuts, and dips. We recommend ‘Her Lunch Set’  by  Tupperware. A thermos is also a great idea to bring a low calorie, highly nutritious and warming meal on the go.
  2. Nordic Trekking poles: Nothing says “join me on a hike” like a set of trekking poles. With that added support while hiking, and added calories burned from their use, these are a great gift for any hiker; from seasoned to novice. We recommend poles with shock absorbing springs.
  3. Fitness balls, mats, and bands: Get into the fitness groove with the help of some simple, inexpensive, yet super effective exercise equipment!
  4. Aromatherapy and healing salts: What better way to wind down from the day than a bath with oh-so relaxing lavender oil and Himalayan healing salts? Engaging in these relaxing rituals can help put us in a frame of mind that takes us away from stressors, and ready for a restful night’s sleep. You could even get your giftee an essential oil diffuser, allowing the aroma to better fill their space.
  5. Spa Voucher: Who wouldn’t love a trip to the local spa for a relaxation massage or detoxifying Infra red sauna?
  6. Wellness retreat: You could of course go all out, and get that special and deserving someone the gift of a rejuvenating retreat at Mountain Trek! What better gift than getting to feel your absolute best!

Supporting each other on this journey towards vitality and continued wellness is so much easier, and so much more fun when we can be engaged together. Give the gift of facilitating health and wellness this holiday season!

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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