A new virtual retreat helps to reset your health goals in just one weekend.
Named as the No. 1 wellness retreat in the United States and Canada in the 2019 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa has rightfully garnered this honor. Located in Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Colombia, Mountain Trek’s modern, timber-frame lodge is nestled in lush forests overlooking Kootenay Lake and the Purcell Mountains. The all-inclusive luxury wellness retreat, which runs from Saturday to Saturday, hosts a maximum of 16 guests. While travel may be a bit restricted at the moment, it’s still possible to take part in North America’s most successful health and fitness program through Mountain Trek’s virtual Basecamp Retreat.
If you are one day able to attend the in-person retreat, you will certainly enjoy the lodge’s state-of-the-art spa with infrared sauna, steam room, multiple private massage rooms, outdoor jacuzzi and hydro-therapy plunge pool; large yoga room overlooking the lake and mountains; and the high-tech fitness facility. The attentive staff also cooks all meals. While the virtual retreat may lack these amenities, the program—carefully designed by doctors and wellness experts to be the most transformative health experience in the world—can completely improve the way you live.
The program focuses on nutrition, fitness, stress reduction, sleep and detoxification, and it is built upon the three pillars of small group participation, mindfulness and immersion in nature. During the retreat, you will learn about common practices used by the healthiest populations from around the globe. By integrating these practices into your daily life, you can expect to relax fully and sleep deeply, reduce stress, reset your metabolism and change your body composition by increasing muscle and losing weight.
“Our three differentiators are having a formulaic and science-based program; a pristine location; and an impeccable staff,” says Kirkland Shave, program director and lead guide. “While the virtual retreat is designed for alumni, it’s a great way for anyone to do a health reset.” The No.1 piece of advice Shave has for those wanting to improve their health is mindfulness. And that consists of everything from meditation and envisioning the future you want, to chewing slowly and taking in the sounds of nature while walking.
Prior to the virtual retreat, you’ll receive a grocery shopping list so you can pick up your meal ingredients ahead of time. Then you’ll spend the weekend expertly guided through healthy meal preparation and cooking, yoga, nature immersion sessions, exercise classes, and mindfulness and stress reduction exercises—all on Zoom from the comfort and safety of your own home. Another technology used throughout the retreat included the Slack app, where all participants were able to stay in touch with one another, ask questions of the attentive staff and follow along on the schedule.
I spent this past weekend experiencing the virtual retreat firsthand, and I will attest that I emerged on Monday feeling like a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon. Not only was I recharged and revitalized—albeit a bit sore from the fitness programs—but I learned so much about nutrition, goal- and habit-setting, mindfulness practices and overall wellness. Sometimes, it can feel like the information on health and wellness can be a bit overwhelming. However, the staff at Mountain Trek really takes the time to break everything down into easily digestible bits of info that you can actually put into practice. They also took the time to address individual questions from every participant throughout the course of the retreat.
Staff members who participated in the virtual retreat included Shave; Cathy Grierson, head guide and fitness director; Jenn Keirstead, nutritionist and guide; Kristy Shields, kinesiologist and guide; and Katya Hayes, yoga teacher and fitness instructor. The itinerary kicked off on a Friday with a welcome talk followed by a cooking class with Chef Jillian Fae and Keirstead. Not only was it fun, but also educational, to cook alongside these seasoned pros to create a healthy and delicious meal of Malaysian Lime Coconut Scallops with Asian Vegetables. We also prepared a Golden Almond Butter Dip to have with fruits and vegetables for snacks throughout the weekend. Following dinner, we prepared a High Protein Energy Smoothie led by the nutritional wizardry of Keirstead for the next morning. To finish the evening, we had a guided meditation and journaling session to incorporate the mindfulness aspect of the retreat.
The following morning began at 7 a.m. with a quick blend of the smoothie followed by sunrise with yoga led by Hayes. By 8:30 a.m., it was time for breakfast. At Mountain Trek, the goal is to eat about every three hours to spread out calories and keep blood sugar normalized throughout the day. The Mountain Trek Granola Breakfast Bowl was easy to prepare and was the perfect meal to kick off the day. At 9:30 a.m., we gathered together again on Zoom for an hour-long HIIT workout class with Grierson followed by a morning snack (an apple with our Golden Almond Butter Dip).
To be honest, this was the most I have accomplished by 10:30 a.m. during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. At 11 a.m., we each set out on a 90-minute fitness walk in our individual neighborhoods. While the actual retreat in British Columbia includes mountain hikes led by expert guides, the virtual retreat fat-flushing fitness walks are meant to be leisurely yet steady. By doing both the high intensity interval training class and the fitness walk, Mountain Trek armed us with two different tools we can use for fat-flushing: either a high-intensity workout for a shorter amount of time or a low-intensity workout for a longer amount of time. Both provide an equal amount of fitness benefits for our bodies.
I was amazed to find myself hungry again when it came time for lunch at 12:30, but all of this activity definitely revved up my hunger quotient. Lunch consisted of leftovers from the night before, and it was just as good the second time around. At 1:30—let me tell you, we followed the schedule to a T—we had a life vision exercise led by Shave. During this activity, we used the Canva app to create mood boards using our intuition to guide us on life goals we would like to see incorporated in our life within the next year. In the past, I created a vision board that I hung up in my room, and, one year later, almost everything on my board had come to fruition. So, I can attest that this process works.
That afternoon, we met up again with Chef Fae and Keirstead to prepare the night’s dinner. This time, it was Poached Mango Chicken with Cauliflower Rice. The sauce had just the right amount of fruity flavor, and the addition of sunflower seeds in the cauliflower rice added extra crunch. We also prepared lunch for the following day, Black Bean Soup, which was super quick and easy.
After we had a bit of time to digest, we met again for an evening fitness class with Shields—this time focusing on abs and glutes. By this point, I wasn’t sure I could take much more. But the instructor’s friendliness and enthusiasm kept me going. Shields previously competed on the Canadian bobsleigh team for six seasons during college, and she was the assistant coach for Team Belgium at the 2010 Olympics. It’s no wonder she’s in amazing shape and really knows how to motivate her students.
Afterward, we were rewarded with restorative yoga taught by Hayes. Interesting fact: she was the first Western woman to receive certification by the International Korean Yoga Association. She has studied Buddhism and Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga. I finished the day with a lavender epsom salt-infused hot bath and a short meditation. Needless to say, I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.
We started off the next morning once again with a healthy smoothie and sunrise yoga, followed by a Florentine Omelet with Swiss Chard for breakfast. Our morning fitness class with Shields focused on Pilates. After a Q&A session with Shields and Grierson, Shave taught us about goal setting and habit formation. Hopefully, by this time next year, everything on my mood board will have come true.
As lunchtime rolled around, I couldn’t wait to try the Black Bean Soup (topped with plain Greek yogurt and a twist of lime) that we had prepared the night before. It was bright, flavorful and filling, and I’m definitely adding this recipe into my regular rotation. It was downright delicious, and every bite felt wholly nutritious. We concluded the weekend with a 90-minute fitness walk immersed in nature, followed by a group farewell.
Over the past several months, it’s been easy to let our health slip. And while we may not currently be able to visit the lodge in British Columbia (it’s definitely on my bucket list for the future), this virtual retreat provided a hands-on way to reprioritize health. I met some wonderful people on this retreat, and I’m excited to incorporate what I learned going forward. $450 for Mountain Trek’s At-Home Weekend Health Reset, 800.661.5161, mountaintrek.com