How Surfing Inspired Me To Create A Weight Loss Camp In Canada
Finding the best weight loss retreat program that ‘ticks all the boxes’ can have you wanderlusting from Bali beaches, through to mid-West deserts. It’s not easy to sift through all the various benefits and disadvantages of each program! Figuring out what kind of environment you want to be in is perhaps the first step.
Craving sunshine and ocean swimming? Culture? Tropical yoga retreats might be your best bet.
Want to be in the mountains? Keep reading!
You won’t get a tan here…
One of the reasons I created my health retreat in 2008, was to create a truly results-focused environment. One where you could work hard in your fitness goals while ‘losing yourself’ in the superb surroundings. I’d been working as a nutritionist and personal trainer for 7 wonderful years already.
Yet one of the greatest frustrations that my clients had, was the desire for MORE TIME to focus on themselves fully. All day exercising, activity and movement in the mountains – at a steady moderate pace that empowered them (and saw results). I wanted to give this to them!
The year prior, in 2007, I’d been to a fabulous surfing academy in Costa Rica for six wonderful weeks. There, I did four hours a day of surfing with a coach, in a small group environment. Other participants in the group were just like me! I made some fabulous friends and we all motivated each other to success and progress. They lived in non-surfing towns, and knew that to really pick up the sport, they’d need to immerse themselves in it.
As a lifetime traveler (surprised that I wasn’t born in a tent), this solo trip that I’d given to myself was a game changer. I loved every element of it, and I didn’t want it to be a ‘one off’ memory. But I’m not sure that it was the surfing itself that I loved the most.
In this article, I’ll share the below 3 elements that I took into Whistler Fitness Vacations.
- All-day activity
- Being with others who had the same focus
- Having a daily purpose
I felt so strong and empowered when I returned home to Whistler, refreshed and above all, HAPPY.
My light bulb moment
When I returned to my personal training clients in Whistler, it suddenly hit me! I needed to start a destination fitness retreat of my own – somewhere that gave similar environment to what I had in Costa Rica. I loved that I came back from vacation in better shape than I left. So often when I traveled it was a battle to stay fit and eat well (and my personal training clients had the same challenge).
I wanted to work either one-to-one on a customized boot camp weight loss vacation intensive with my clients, or in very small groups. Results were always highest on the list of priorities as to what I wanted my clients to achieve.
To get the ball rolling, I contacted several contacts that I’d made in the film and entertainment industry. I’d worked with celebrities in the earlier stages of my personal training career, from 2003-2005 especially when I was working in Vancouver. “Did any of your talent need a body transformation within a deadline?” I asked.
Yep… turns out they did. One person booked me for a one-month residential weight loss camp, then another. Soon the bookings overlapped and I couldn’t run one-to-one programs anymore. I developed into the next level of outdoor fitness vacation, with different paces and abilities. It was easy to find staff in the outdoor town of Whistler, therefore scaling the company.
What a dream job it is to be outside leading hiking, biking, kayaking and fitness classes!
I turned my passion for hiking in the mountains into a positive career, and business from which happiness flows. I couldn’t be more proud of the journey that led Whistler Fitness Vacations and Cat Smiley Retreats & Coaching into the company we are today. Hundreds of smiling customers, from all over the world.
Top 5 benefits of choosing a wellness retreat in the mountains
Being in nature of any kind will bring a sense of peacefulness and positivity to your life. Yet there’s something about the majestic land masses that rise up from the ground that makes it special.
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Improved heart health
- Increased calorie burn & decreased appetite
- Forces you to slow down
- Better sleep quality
- Promotes physical activity
Reduced anxiety and stress
Few would argue that the mountains hold a sense of calmness, making it easier to tap into a more peaceful mindset. As a result, people with stress and anxiety often feel better when surrounded with the views of nature, and sounds of alpine terrain.
This study revealed that forest environments are advantageous with respect to acute emotions, especially among those experiencing chronic stress. Accordingly, forest environments can be viewed as therapeutic landscapes.
Improved heart health
Living at higher altitude may have a protective effect on the heart, and potentially reduce the risk of heart disease. In this 2010 study, they describe the link between the production of new blood vessels allowing more blood to travel to the heart.
Increased calorie burn & decreased appetite
On the Go Ask Alice website, by Columbia University, ‘Alice’ explains the science behind the faster burning of calories. But before thinking you can burn your cake off faster, it’s more of a benefit that visitors to higher mountains such as Colorado will see. Whistler is below 5000 meters which doesn’t really count as high altitude.
The first few days especially of being in a higher altitude may result in an increase of your breathing rate and usage of carbohydrate as an energy source. Consequently, usage of fat as an energy source decreases and your blood becomes more acidic. These changes lead to a slight increase in basal metabolic rate, and the energy needed to keep your body working optimally at rest (for 24 hours).
Recent research has suggested that spending time at high altitudes can actually promote weight loss by decreasing appetite and increasing metabolic rate.
Forces you to slow down
Mountain life is definitely a place to disconnect from all the texts, calls and notifications. While most resort towns like Whistler have excellent wifi everywhere, it’s a bit hard to check your phone when walking over rocks on a trail! Often cell range cuts off as soon as you hit the mountain passes, such as driving the Sea-to-Sky highway out to Mt. Currie (about 30 minutes north of Whistler).
Being surrounded by gorgeous peaks is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with both the people around you, and yourself. Plus, unlike surfing you can totally relax out on the trails – there’s no worries that a huge wave is going to throw you!
Better sleep quality
Deeper stages of sleep and REM sleep are reduced at altitude, therefore more of the night will be spent as light sleep and sleep quality will not be as good as at sea level. Dr. Swati Srivastava.
Traveling to a mountain town that is lower in altitude will mean that your sleep will not be negatively affected.
While high-altitude environments have adverse effects on sleep quality, guests at Whistler Fitness Vacations will experience the opposite. Whistler village is only 675 meters (2215 feet) above sea level. Altitude sickness can hit some people hard in higher mountain towns like Vail, Colorado, where altitude rises from 8120 feet (2476 meters) to 11,570 feet (3,527 meters).
Promotes physical activity
Being in the mountains has been shown to promote physical activity. For example, hiking can burn up to 500 calories per hour, mountain biking burns 600, while rock climbing can burn up to 750. In fact, out of the 10 most active states in the U.S., four are states with mountains. – Monq.com
How our health retreat is different
If you want the best year ever of your life, you’re going to have to come up with a vision, Tony Robbins, the great motivational speaker once said. What do you want? What’s going to be different this year? What do you want to change, what do you want to transform??
Finding the best weight loss retreat is sort of the same vision.
And when creating that vision, it’s important to be realistic. Most people overestimate what they want to achieve in their fitness goals, and when trying to find the best weight loss retreat that ‘checks off all the boxes’, they lose sight of what they really want.
There’s always the uncertainty as you research, with many gorgeous websites showcasing fitness retreats and weight loss camps that seem (on the surface) to be the dream. Yet as you dig a little deeper, you start to question.
- Could you go there for a month and feel at home?
- Do you want to be with a ton of people, or just a few?
- And what about being in fitness classes all day, is that really what you feel like doing? (Hint: we think not, that’s why our weight loss retreat only has a couple of classes a week)
You’ll get fitter every day!
One thing for sure, is that Whistler Fitness Vacations wins the hearts of people who are willing to get uncomfortable. Pushing to your maximum within the safety guidelines each, and every day… that truly takes trust of the coach who is asking you to do it.
There’s nothing quite like that first time when you realize you just rode your bike for two whole hours along beautiful lakes and forest trails, without having to walk up any hills!
Or when you finally get to hike in the stunning alpine trails, over rocks and all kinds of terrain that you thought only ‘fit people could do’… before realizing hey you’re doing it too! Our hiking weight loss retreats really are an incredibly rewarding way to spend your valuable vacation time. And most of our guests travel solo. You’ll meet lots of wonderful people here, just like you who are rolling their sleeves up and focusing on improving their health.
Cat Smiley Coaching Style
As the owner and fitness director for all programs, it’s a pleasure to be invited into the exciting challenge that lies ahead for every new guest.
I care about earning the trust of each person. With this as a high importance, we usually don’t talk together about weight loss outside of your consultations. You have to know that I care about you first as a person (learn how I roll over at catsmiley.com )
Workouts at your level
At our weight loss camp, you’ll have daily custom adventure workouts on the schedule; hiking, biking and kayaking with gorgeous sunsets that you can watch from the top of the mountain! Everyday you’ll be outside in the breathtaking forest, mountain and lakeside trails of Whistler. We’ll get you up close and personal with Canada’s most famous resort.
You deserve to feel amazing and our integrative fitness programming will get you there. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, or how beginner you are. As long as you show up with the mindset to be coached, we’ll take you from there either working with me directly, or placing you in the care of the best suited fitness trainer or fitness guides for that day.
The fitness classes can be really hard, so the guided cardio adventures are a nice way to break up the day. They’re like the light happy moments of the day where you just switch your mind off and let your body move. It sure is a beautiful place to move. There’s a reason why Whistler is so famous. – Jordie Thorneycroft
It wouldn’t be the best weight loss retreat, without the best lodging!
Centrally located in the heart of town, guests stay at the upscale Westin Resort and Spa, Whistler; amazing health club and outside swimming pool on-site and spacious rooms with a full kitchen. Dogs/spouses and children stay free!
Whistler Fitness Vacations? there’s everything right here, in one place. it all comes to you. The amazing fitness guides who take you on daily cardio workouts on the forest trails of beautiful Whistler, biking different routes on the towns incredible valley trail network running in alpine with mountain peaks all around you. Amazing fitness classes and small group personal training inspiring workshops and educational sessions.
“Great getaway!” – writes Jeanette H on a trip advisor review in November 2019.
This was a great hotel close to everything right in the village. They have a fridge and kitchenette so if you have room with this, bring your own snacks and drinks! There were also dishes there which is also useful. We had a cute but very small balcony and separate bedroom area. There was a great tub in the bathroom, a fireplace and the rooms were fairly up to date. Would stay here again.
Who knew that a surf trip would inspire the foundations to create one of Canada’s best weight loss retreat programs today!