Mountain’s Trek’s holistic approach to self-care challenges the mind and body for an unforgettable week-long, off-the-grid experience in British Columbia.
Self-care is often the first thing on the chopping block amid life’s daily grind where friends, family and work always seem to win out. At a week-long wellness retreat in British Columbia called Mountain Trek, the goal is to put some much needed focus and energy back on the neglected self. The reclamation of personal vitality (or as the kids say “living your best life”) starts with five pillars upon which the program is based: fitness, sleep hygiene, nutrition, stress management and detoxification.
The 6-day immersion relies on biology and nature so fitness fads, trending diets and exotic detoxification methods get checked at the door. “Most people are coming in to get back on track,” Mountain Trek director and lead guide Kirkland Shave says. “Our job is to give the educational, holistic view that really it’s all about hormones, which are all about lifestyle choices. The more we can come back to living an ideal, optimal Circadian day, then our hormones will come back into alignment.”
With the help of incredibly supportive guides, and basic needs accounted for (i.e. daily meals, laundry and housekeeping), guests are left with no choice but to look inward at themselves and outward at the stunning world around them.
So, what does six days in the Canadian Rockies look like? The program is highly regimented, a prescription that founders have continuously refined over the years to change the body from a catabolic to an anabolic state (inactive to active, essentially). No alcohol, sugar or caffeine and minimal screen time all contribute to the self-rehabilitation process.
With a cozy living room as its anchor, the cabin feels like a home and the other guests (up to 15) and guides leading your group soon feel like family. Outside by the fire pit or in the outdoor hot tub is where you will want to spend most of your free time gazing out over the Kootenay River to the towering mountains in the distance. The property also has a yoga and exercise studio, a sauna, a steam room and a cold plunge.
The engine that drives change during a stay at MT is the elimination of “decision fatigue.” By offering relatively little free time, the program is meant to eradicate the stress of monotonous daily obligations. Following the Circadian rhythm, guests rise and retire with the sun the way hunter gatherers did before electricity. All meals are sugar and starch free, organic and carefully portioned to encourage hormone rebalancing and weight loss (1,200 calories for females; 1,400 for males).
Each day begins at 6 a.m. with yoga and breakfast followed by a four-hour guided hiking excursion along various scenic trails in the Kootenay and Purcell Mountain ranges. Back at the cabin, rest is accomplished by guide-led educational seminars centered on the program’s core principles. Just when you think your body can’t handle any more action, you surprise yourself with a post-dinner “fat flush” cardio work out session. After an evening massage, bed soon beckons.
All meals are organic and locally sources. Moutain Trek’s app offers guests a number of take-home recipes.
The program uses Nordic Fitness Trekking methods, which engage 90 percent of the body’s muscles.
“I come here for my future self,” a MT alum says.
Besides the job that comes with being in nature and unplugging from the stresses of everyday life, Mountain Trek promises the gift of results through weight loss and muscle gain. By measuring each guest’s weight, body fat and body fat mass on arrival, MT’s resident nutritionist is able to highlight their tangible results before departure. Although the rigorous routine is enormously challenging both mentally and physically, the hardest part is leaving. Just knowing that old habits and negative triggers are waiting for you back home is daunting. Harder still is the idea that Mountain Trek’s nature-filled utopia is not compatible with the real world.
For that reason, the program does not ask you to change your life, but to simply take one or two small habits with you. Whether it be turning off your phone two hours before bed or eating dinner an hour earlier, Shave reminds each guest that baby steps matter. “Health is a journey, it’s not a pill. It’s not one diet or one exercise,” he says. “It’s a long pilgrimage back to our best self.”
FIVE PATHWAYS & FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM MOUNTAIN TREK’S GUIDE BOOK
STRESS MANAGEMENT: 20 minutes immersed in nature is all it takes to reduce stress by lowering levels of cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone).
SLEEP HYGIENE: If our hormones don’t receive enough hormone cortisol cause us to store fat, but our appetite increases.
NUTRITION: Eat breakfast within 30 minutes after getting out of bed to jump start metabolism; snack getting out of bed to jump start metabolism; snack every three hours during the day; eat 2/3 of your meals within the first nine hours of the day.
DETOXIFICATION: A cold shower (or a cold plunge) can improve the circulatory system by redistributing blood throughout the body. Water, fiber, sweat, massage, breath and greens are all helpful elimination resources.
FITNESS: Strength training builds the muscles we need to burn calories and cardio activities create the energy demands that will convert fat into fuel. Both are integral to weight loss.
Mountain Trek now offers an East coast program in the Carolinas and international trips throughout the year; $5,400 per week, all inclusive. Packages include three evening massages; mountaintrek.org.
For more outdoor summer adventures, check out our article, STAY OUTSIDE IN STYLE