The growing awareness of fitness in the mainstream population has seen a proliferation of products and services promoting health and wellness. Fitness tracking devices, juice cleanses, and vitamin and protein supplements are among some of the more popular trends these days. Some of these things may be beneficial as “a la carte” solutions to improve one’s diet and fitness, but a sensible lifestyle plan is one that is sustainable in the long-run. Temporary measures tend to bring about temporary results. So, to provide more in-depth educational tools, a number of reputable health and wellness retreats can teach skills to develop lasting habits. There are a number of such retreats around the world, each offering something slightly different: some promote yoga and meditation; some involve strict eating plans. Others may be more flexible with the menu but push the guests to their physical limits with a merry-go-round of fitness sessions.

MT foodThough I don’t fare too badly with dietary restrictions, I find submitting myself to gruelling indoor training sessions filled with bar-bells, kettle-bells, or any bells for that matter, the hardest habit to implement and maintain. But I know enough to know that a sensible diet is only half the battle when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so when I feel the need to reboot my physical fitness, I look for retreats that “trick” me into thinking I’m having fun while getting my sweat on. Anything from lessons in ranching to ballet classes to aqua-size classes held outdoors in a sunny climate.

A few years ago, I attended a hiking fitness retreat, Mountain Trek. Located outside the beautiful town of Nelson, British Columbia, the daily hikes were highly challenging, but took place in such an impossibly gorgeous alpine environment, I was almost able to forget I was exercising. Almost.

MT alpineThe week-long program at Mountain Trek is intimate by design (only a maximum of 16 people are allowed), is a lot of work but is surprisingly fun. As long as you sign up knowing that this is not a relaxing spa vacation, you should be prepared for what lies ahead.

Indeed, it is clear from the get-go that the program doesn’t allow much time for dawdling. Under the watchful eye of Program Director Kirkland Shave, there are many rules to follow and a lot of information to digest. But that’s to be expected since the overall goal is to get out of our comfort zones and rid ourselves of our sedentary lifestyles in order to kick-start a healthy lifestyle. This is not something you can learn overnight so the program is intense. But it is done in a highly-supportive and fun environment.

MT meadowsThe days at Mountain Trek went as follows: wake-up sometime before 6:00 a.m., greet the day with a small smoothie before heading to the sunny yoga studio for a gentle class. We would then head to the dining room for a healthy-smart breakfast. (The diverse menu served at Mountain Trek was comprised of calorie-controlled but very tasty dishes). After changing into our hiking gear, we would embark on the four-hour hikes, each taking place on a different trail, but all boasting steep inclines and rugged terrains. No matter what level of fitness each guest was at, across the board, we found that our endurance and cardio was challenged far more during these hikes than by whatever comprised our usual workouts. And the fresh air and glorious scenery made the hard work tolerable, and by the end of the week, even enjoyable.

detox hot tubs at mountain trekBut this only took us until mid-day and there was more to come upon our return to the lodge. There would be educational sessions each day led by Kirkland and his colleagues, on topics ranging from nutrition to sleep health to stress management; followed by dinner, and then another fat-burning fitness session. Our few extravagances during our stay did not include anything like dessert or a cocktail, but instead took the form of a massage, an infrared sauna aimed at detoxification or best of all, a blissful trip to the local hot springs. Not what most of us would normally consider an indulgence, but at Mountain Trek, it’s all about learning new habits. And hopefully ones that we can sustain in the long-term.

Thank you to my Guest Contributor Lynn Burshtein