Get Tips and Advice from the guides at Mountain Trek. Nutrition, Hiking, Sleep, Detox and Fitness are just some of the topics we cover.

What’s so hot about hot springs? 5 Reasons to go for a soak

Hot springs are full-steam ahead on being the #1 luxury that vacationers prioritize when picking their holiday destination. Why? Not only are they great for post-ski socializing, they work wonders for your body, physically and mentally. Japan and Europe have known about the healing powers of hot springs for thousands of years, but Canada is also home to some of the best sources of balneotherapy–the therapeutic use of water for relieving pain, stress, skin woes and more.

Our lodge in British Columbia is fortunate enough to be located in Ainsworth, home of a large healing hot spring pool that was first visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples, who recuperated in the hot water after a long day of hunting, fishing, and gathering roots and berries. Mountain Trek guests have unlimited access to this marvel of nature during their stay, and here’s why it’s important to take advantage of soaking in the hot mineral waters.

What is a hot spring?

A hot spring is an all-natural body of water that is warmed geothermally. One way to classify a hot spring is that it must be well above the temperature of the surrounding earth, and usually hot springs hover around the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. The temperature of a given hot spring depends on the heat supplied at depth (sometimes from a magma chamber), the rate at which the water flows, and if there is a mixture of cooler groundwater into the flow of hot water.

Where are they found?

Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth.

Therapeutic Benefits

Hot springs have an especially high mineral content, because heated water can hold more dissolved solids. This means they contain everything from calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and even radium. In other words, they’re a multivitamin for the skin. The heat in hot springs envelopes and helps soothe aching muscles, and the minerals present in the water get soaked up by the skin, stimulating certain bodily processes.

Here’s how the combination of these minerals and the hot water help us:

Musculoskeletal problems: Documented in Chinese and Japanese history, hot springs have been used to aid with swollen joints, arthritis, muscle fatigue, ligament damage, and more.

Eczema: Chronically dry, flaky skin, otherwise known as eczema, is a skin condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and Canadians. Regularly soaking in hot springs has been found to reduce eczema itching and redness.

Nasal Congestion: The heat of the water, combined with sulphur, makes for a winning way to combat nasal congestion caused by the common cold, allergies, or even chest congestion.

Circulation: Sodium bicarbonate and calcium found in mineral hot springs help with good circulation in the body. This can have numerous positive impacts, including lowering blood pressure. The weightlessness that comes with floating in the water also helps improve circulation.

Relaxation: Never to be underestimated, is the power of de-stressing and relaxation. A stressed state can lead to all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, depression, and an increase in the output of the stress hormone, cortisol. When cortisol is released in stress-induced doses, our hormones are thrown off balance, which affects our mood, immune system and metabolism. Long story short, if you’d like a faster metabolism and the ability to shed those pesky pounds, you’ve got to make sure your hormones are balanced.

In regards to the different minerals in hot springs and how they help our health, here’s the lowdown:

  • Magnesium: aids with clear complexion, and healthy-looking skin
  • Potassium: eliminates toxins and promotes healthy skin
  • Sodium: decreases inflammation in swollen joints, and can help the lymphatic system
  • Sulphur: helps with respiratory problems and skin inflammations

Don’t hesitate another moment–hurry over to a healing hot spring; the rewards you’ll reap are thoroughly worth it. Or, come visit us and use ours!

SMART goal making with Lead Guide Cathy

Cathy Grierson has been Mountain Trek’s Head Guide & Fitness Director for almost two decades, and she’s not slowing down. She embodies ox-like strength, and is a leading source of fitness-related non-quackery.

In an attempt to become even one hundredth as physically tuned-up as Cathy, I sat down with her to chat about how she’s diving into 2019.

 

Thanks for taking a few moments off from skiing to sit down with me, Cathy. 2019 has officially tiptoed in, and I wonder how you’re viewing the New Year.

My fitness resolution, or big picture “goal,” for this year is to keep moving, in any form, be it hiking, dancing, biking, skiing, spinning, HIIT, yoga, you name it. As they say, “If you keep the body guessing, you keep progressing.”

 

A buffet of activity, of sorts! How do you foresee sticking to this variety?

First thing’s first: you have to keep it realistic by making S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time anchored) micro-actions, one at a time.

For example, this winter, I made cross-country skiing my #1 priority for cardio fitness. Here, I’ve kept my action specific (cross-country skiing), and time-anchored (the 2018/2019 winter season).

To stay motivated and committed, I did a few things. First, I bought a cross-country ski pass for the season, and the financial investment has immediately made me more accountable. To feel like my investment has been worthwhile, I want to pay the pass off. This means that if it cost $150, and a drop-in fee is $15, I have to ski 10 times to pay it off. That’s the “measurable” part.

Second, I want to pay it off by the time I go on Mountain Trek’s South Carolina program in February. This is where the “time anchored” component comes into effect. Whatever I ski once I return will therefore be a bonus, which will feel like a reward. Overall, this means I will have to have skied 10 times from when the track opened on December 15th until I leave on February 1st. That’s a total of seven weeks. I made the decision to commit to cross-country skiing twice weekly, except for the week of Christmas, until February 1st. This statement is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time anchored.

 

I like how you’ve broken down your goal to make it doable. Can you elaborate on how your S.M.A.R.T action supports your objective?

By ticking all the S.M.A.R.T boxes, I’m ensuring I’ll keep moving. At the same time, I’m upholding my values by doing my part in reducing environmental impact and climate change. Instead of driving to my errands, I’m skiing to them twice per week!

I’m also going to find other cross-country skiing allies to ski and carpool with, thereby surrounding myself with like-minded athletes. Having a support network is key to upping the fun factor, and to holding yourself accountable. Having skiing buddies is important to me because if I don’t feel like going out but know someone is depending on me to go with them, I am more likely to follow through.

Lastly, I’m going to track and log each of my skiing adventures using Strava or Gaia. I’m going to record the temperature, snow conditions, distance, elevation and time, as seeing how I am improving over the season will keep me motivated.

 

Your organization, drive and savviness are enviable. Did you make a goal last year, and did it last?

Yes, I made a 2018 resolution, and, yes, it lasted. I made Hot Yoga my #1 priority flexibility fitness action, which supported my long term fitness goal to “keep moving.”  I went through a very similar process: I bought a pass, figured out how many times I needed to go to pay off the pass, committed to that number using the S.M.A.R.T formula, and it worked–I love hot yoga now!

Discover why micro-resolutions are twice as likely to succeed than lofty New Year’s resolutions. Also, read more about how Kirk, Mountain Trek’s Program Director, views goal-making, and how Jenn, Mountain Trek’s Nutritionist, regards intention-setting and dietary goals.

New Year’s resolutions with nutritionist Jenn

Mountain Trek Hike with Guide Jenn

Last summer, I walked into Mountain Trek with a host of digestive issues. Food and I were not—I repeat, and emphasize, NOT—on good terms. I was bloated. I was inflamed. I was crumbling.

Jenn Keirstead, the program’s nutritionist, fixed that. And within a week. With her emphasis on non-inflammatory foods, and appropriate meal times and portions, she was able to save me from the dark depths of a body in revolt. I picked her brain as much as her brain would allow for picking—her tolerance is remarkably high, if not infinite—and my gut and I left forever changed.

Because of Jenn’s excellence, I interviewed her to learn exactly what she’ll be doing throughout 2019. I needed to get into her head to find out just how she’s always, well, a ball of sunshine. Is it what she eats? How she views life? How does she view life? I may not have gotten all the scoop this time around, but here’s a snapshot into how one nutrition specialist views New Year resolutions. 

Thanks for spilling the beans on how you’re kicking off 2019, Jenn. What are your resolutions?

To be honest, I don’t make resolutions! Instead, I take time to look back and reflect on the previous year. I’ve noticed this habit of reflection helps me create more self-awareness, and resilience. I’ve also found it helps me establish, and achieve, more meaningful goals. As a nutritionist, I also focus on the dietary strengths and challenges of the past year. I ask myself, how did my diet seem to affect my health, my energy, my overall wellbeing?

Interesting. How do you go about asking yourself these hard questions?  

I encourage you to take your time with these questions over several sittings. Let your thoughts percolate. Stay with the questions over the next few weeks. You can start by asking yourself what went well, who needs to be acknowledged, how you grew, what didn’t work so well, and how will you continue to meet your dietary and fitness needs?

MT emphasizes keeping goals doable upon returning home. How can we apply this logic to our goal-making for 2019?

To help make the goal of reflection achievable, ask yourself what the year ahead will look like. Questions such as, “Will there be big changes this new year, with work or relationships,” “Who would I like to connect with more,” and “What kind of leader/ friend/ partner would I like to be?” Try to create very specific intentions you are wanting to achieve. 

How have you created and manifested your own intentions?

During my swimming career, my coach would encourage me to specifically visualize every second of the upcoming race. I found this to be one of most helpful practices in all areas of my life. For example, my husband and I adopted a little boy this year, and during the three year preliminary adoption process, I would constantly focus on manifesting a healthy, happy child in our world. And it has seemed to work out beautifully!

What’s one tip you can offer regarding diet this New Year?

Here’s the bottom line: small, sustainable change is much more likely to turn into a lifelong habit. Try not to aim for dietary perfection, as that often leads to increased stress and unachievable success. Baby steps will get you there. For example, something as simple as focusing on mindful eating, and putting your fork down between each bite, is an excellent place to start. 

Discover why micro-resolutions are twice as likely to succeed than lofty New Year’s resolutions, and Kirk’s take on goal-making in 2019.  

 

5 Reasons You Need to Start Hiking in 2019

We’re meant to be outside. The terrible thing is, most of us spend over 2,000 hours at our desks yearly. That’s like watching The Titanic 616 times in a row. The stress, the long hours, the sedentary nature of our chair-bound lives—it’s all sucking the life out of us.

This year, take it outside. More specifically, go hiking. Time spent hiking doesn’t just burn calories, it helps cell health, lowers stress levels, balances hormones, improves immunity, and deepens sleep. How? It all boils down to ditching your devices and immersing in nature.

By simply trading your iPhone, iPad, iPod, i-you-name-it for a walk amongst the trees, you’ll immediately notice a sort of cellular exfoliation. You’ll feel alive. Truly alive. This is because, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in nature, you’re exposed to terpenes, a naturally-occurring hydrocarbon in plants and animals that are neuro-protective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumorigenic. Don’t ask us exactly how they work—all we know is they do the body good.

That’s just the beginning. According to the School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, forest bathing, by which they mean spending at least two hours in nature, is a meaningful way to significantly lower pulse rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Their study also found short bouts in nature to be “an effective psychological relaxation strategy.” Turns out the forest engages all of your senses—your mind stills, and you reconnect to your soul.

Going on a three to four hour hike can burn serious calories—over 1,500 if you really get after it. Beyond the obvious benefit of burning fat and losing weight, this type of medium-intensity, extended-duration exercise does two things. First, it elongates our deep-sleep stage, which is the most restorative stage of sleep that sees the release of growth hormones. Second, it reduces our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is directly linked with memory loss, poor immune function, decreased bone density, increased weight gain, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and the list goes on. It’s a no-brainer that cortisol wreaks havoc.

This is why we say 2019 is about booting up—the benefits are too compelling not to. John Muir, the “Father of the National Parks,” once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” No matter what you’re seeking this year, make sure you look outside first.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of hiking, please contact us and send us an email or give us a call.

New Year’s resolutions with Kirk

Last year, I took a week off from my Bay Area-based job to enjoy a week at Mountain Trek. I won’t deny the first few days were difficult—sugar is my vice—but mid-way through the program I noticed a fundamental change within—a change so monumental I decided to leave my job and start creating written content for the retreat. To kick off my role as Mountain Trek’s Content Creator, here is my first interview with Kirkland Shave, Program Director. 

From cutting out ketchup to reading a book monthly, I’ve made my fair share of New Year’s resolutions. And with that, I’ve had my fair share of non-successes. Mid-way through my year of no ketchup, I convinced myself I could have a little dollop every Sunday, then weekends-only, and, soon enough, the sweet, salty, tomatoey sauce made its way into every. single. meal. The year I vowed to read more, read more I did—of Instagram and Facebook.

Concerned for what the onset of 2019 brings–what should I resolve to do differently this year, tangibly, spiritually, you name it, and how can I actually, finally triumph?–I reached out to Kirk to learn the ins and outs of successful goal-making.  


Thanks for talking New Year’s resolutions, Kirk. Let’s start with yours.

Here’s the twist: I don’t make them. Over the years, I’ve learned the changes that stick for me come from allowing enough time for daily introspection—for noticing imbalances and truly feeling, in my deeper self, where I need to create harmony.

I wouldn’t know where to even begin with the harmonizing. What do you suggest?

Pick something manageable. For me, I choose an action I can routinely integrate in a very real way, be it with friends and family or at work. If I don’t find a way to meld my goals with my routine, I end up self-sabotaging, giving up, and feeling defeated. Or like a failure. Neither of which are productive.

What are you currently working on?      

Not allowing for 12 hours of non-ingestion between my last intake at night and my first meal the following day. Today’s intermittent fasting fad isn’t my motivation; doing a natural, daily fast is.

What sparked your desire to fast for 12 hours during the night?  

I’m currently traveling through rice farming villages in South East Asia, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how everything follows the sun. Research shows that digestion while we sleep interrupts autophagy, the body’s opportunity to not utilize energy (from food), instead going into a recycle—repair period. Ideally done for 12ish hours, this time of non-digestion naturally boosts cell health and longevity.

Late-night cookies, pre-bed ice cream, you name it, I’m a post-dinner snacker. How do you combat the urge to eat right before turning in for the night?

I set my alarm to remind me to brush and floss at 7PM. Once my teeth are clean, I think twice about looking for a snack. Am I always successful? No; I’m human. That said, by brushing my teeth right after dinner three times per week, I’m slowly but surely forming a habit. After a few months, I’ll add a day. As they say, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard.”     

What 3 things does it take to help fulfill the lifelong pilgrimage of health and vitality in the wake of curve balls?

  1. Patience
  2. Curiosity
  3. Incremental change—make actionable micro-resolutions you can subtly develop into habits

Using Mountain Trek’s 5 pillars of health—destress, detox, sleep, fitness, nutrition—how can I help myself feel revitalized?

I recommend not trying to tackle them all at once; pick one pillar and make one micro-resolution. For example, if you’d like to work on sleep, you could make a micro-resolution to be in bed (and asleep!) by 10PM three times per week, and not wake until 6AM, earliest. If you’d like to work on fitness, you could resolve to take the stairs whenever you have the option of using an elevator or escalator at least twice per week. Start small and the results will be bigger.


Thanks, Kirk, for the insight. I was going to go cold turkey on sugar again this year, after only making it a couple of weeks last year, but now I’ll rethink my intention. I need to find a way to make eating less sugar something I can bake into my routine more successfully. Going cold turkey on it doesn’t work in the long run.

To set yourself up for some serious mental, physical and emotional success in 2019, read more about why your resolutions are doomed, and how 2019 is all about the micro-resolution. For brownie points, log your micro-resolution for this year in our Micro-Resolution Tracker. Hold yourself accountable, and get after it.  

 

-Hannah Timmons

Set Micro-Resolutions To Succeed In 2019

How doing less will help you achieve more

Ringing in the New Year is supposed to be exciting. The thing is, it’s often far from. While smearing trout atop countless cucumber rounds for the night’s festivities, we’re reminded how our New Year’s resolutions didn’t last more than a few, by which I mean maximum two, of the 52 weeks we were supposed to uphold them. We’re reminded we don’t have the willpower. We don’t have the discipline. We’re “failures”.

Just writing these words bum me out. Because in reality,we’re not powerless. we’re not negligent. we’re not a failure. If anything, we’re simply overachieving, and, in turn, we’re setting ourselves up for not accomplishing our goals.

We’ve looked at this problem long and hard (Learn the top 5 pitfalls of typical Resolutions). Let me introduce you to what will forever change not just your sentiment around the New Year, but your life: micro-resolutions. Micro-resolutions are simple, concrete actions that compound over time to achieve a goal. Tiny behavioral changes you can form into daily habits. These are the key to making lasting changes.  Micro-resolutions, even though the seem less impactful, are twice as likely to succeed as typical goals. These small wins will add up over time to be something far greater than any goal you have set in the past.

With that, I’d like to suggest that 2019 be about being less ambitious—about making intentions so doable they seem trivial. Because if it’s drastic, it’ll feel too foreign, and you won’t bake it into your routine. Chose a micro-resolution that can build upon an existing behavior;something specific and personal. The less abstract your goal, the easier it will be to enforce because you won’t be quite so resistant.

Here’s an example. Last year, I made the lofty New Year’s resolution to cut out all refined sugar, primarily because I thought it would bring my hormone levels into harmony. At first, the arbitrary line I drew was no desserts, cookies, doughnuts, chocolate, candy, waffles, ice cream and brownies. No sweetened yogurts, cakes, milkshakes, you name it, either. I was going cold turkey.

Not even one week later (yes, you have permission to laugh), I was tricking myself into chocolatey granola bars—they’re healthful and fibrous and good for the heart, no?—and jam-topped toast, because jam’s practically a fruit, right? My goal—no sugar, at all, ever—was too ambitious. It caused me to crumble, and quick.

This year, I’m tackling the same sugar-free resolution, but with a micro-resolution mindset. Instead of saying none, ever, my micro-resolution is: enjoy two desserts per week. Seems doable, right?  This means I can still enjoy a vanilla yogurt every now and then, and I won’t feel so painfully deprived. By moderating my sugar intake instead of ending it, hard and fast, I’ll be able to more-easily achieve  my ultimate goal of hormonal balance. Win, win.

Here are some more examples of how to turn over-ambitious resolutions into manageable micro-resolutions:   

 

Resolution Micro-resolution
To eat healthier To cook one new healthy recipes per week
To sit for only four hours daily To stand at my standing desk every morning while I read my emails
To never use my electronic devices around my children To leave my phone at the front door when I get home Monday through Friday
To lose 20lbs To eat breakfast three times weekly
To exercise every day To go for an energizing hike, at least 60 minutes, four times monthly
To give up alcohol To only drink on the weekends, Friday included, after 5pm
To sleep more To get to bed at 10 pm on Tuesday of every week

 

As the author John Bytheway says, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life’s hard.” Setting concrete, actionable micro-resolutions will seem easy at first, because they are inch-big improvements, but over time will compound into dramatic, mile-sized changes.  

We also discovered that actually writing down your micro-resolutions, instead of keeping your goals to yourself, dramatically improves your chances of success. This happens because once anyone else knows about your goal, it becomes more real than ever. You are no longer accountable to just yourself, but everyone who knows what you are trying to accomplish. To help you accomplish your goals this year, we’ve created a simple micro-resolution tracker. Using it will make you three times more likely to succeed!

I wish you the best of luck this year and hope to see you in British Columbia!