Northern Nicaragua Fitness Holiday!


Sometimes people want a holiday where they can do absolutely nothing. Eat, drink, sleep with a book on the face. Sometimes that leads to extra pounds added to the extra you were trying to get rid of anyway. Stress fades a bit and life seems more tolerable. It’s great!

But it could be oh so much better! What we are offering you is a recalibration week that feeds the soul, mind and the cells. Come adventure with us in the wild and rustic Northern Nicaragua. This is a perfect retreat to loose weight, slow down, get reconnected with your body, reflect on where your at and have some fun adventure. Plus hang out with some stoked individuals who are there to support your personal journey.

I spend a good chunk of the year in my southern home. Playing in the sea, surfing, fishing, eating from the local abundance and working as a life coach and fitness instructor with my company Stoke Your Fire. I am so grateful to have an amazing community here and I am pumped to be working with the talented and rad human – Grace Van Berkum of the Gracious Living Oasis.  It’s such a gift to meet people like myself; living their dream and sharing it with others.

March 10-17/ 2018, we are offering a fun filled week of Yoga Fitness Fusion. Daily fitness and yoga classes, plant based menu for optimal cell health, life coaching and lots of laughs! We have tonnes of additional activities available. Surfing, SUP, massage, horseback riding and so much more! This is a Co-ed retreat for all levels of fitness. Check out all the details here and book your trip!

Summer of YES.

find the fish

There are many times in life when we ride the crest and the fall of waves and tides. From utter bliss to complete devastation. As I grow older, I see more and more that there are deep troughs of challenge, peaks of ecstasy and the sigh of reprieve before it all begins again.

I can say I’ve had a few shit years of health. No, it was not cancer, war, world atrocity, injustice or slavery. So who the hell am I to talk. Yet we all have our challenges depending on where we live, culture, age, and country. Highs and lows, ebb and flow.

But you know what? I just had my summer of YES.

What can I say? I was a hooligan. This last summer, I turned 43 and maybe had the best summer of my life. I don’t recall saying no, sleeping in much and definitely pushed the responsibility envelope.

After almost 3 years of a disabling back injury, topped off with a .01% case of Zika that turned into a mad case of encephalitis and migraine brain change, I was finally pain free and illness free. Able to work again in all my industries and play like a kid.

I realized early on in the summer that I had the inherent potential to overdo it physically. It was the hottest summer in the Canadian Rockies in years, I was healthy, working, no kids, had a super active dog and a stoked husband.

Finally, I embraced a bunch of life lessons and chose to not climb, bike and over hike, as I would normally do. I learned to fly fish, to ride paved or gravel trails in town, to wander with my pup. And it felt amazing to be pain free and have my brain back.

I took a lesson in a soccer field how to cast and put my rod together, and marched into the woods searching for quiet mountain pools dappled in sunlight. Oh I caught fish! The joke is – none of them were more that 5 inches long! “Kiss and release,” a fellow female angler calls it. Did it ever bring me Joy.

I remember one day biking trails around town, fishing rod in the backpack, tunes on my mobile speaker blasting and a beer in my water bottle holder, thinking “This is living!”

I tell you I was worn out by October, exclaiming, “Thank god I can have a break!” when the rain and snow rolled in.

These are the lessons of the highs and lows of life.

I am very thankful I can celebrate life. Make decisions consciously. I had all intentions to work on my business, work more in all modalities, write, and be focused with the new return to health.

Then the sun rose again. It swept the stars twinkling over mountaintops and the morning alpine air called me to a new day. Get outside. Be a kid, explore, and that was that. It was worth every moment.

Boat dancing was my other sport. Thankfully we have great friends with fast boats and massive speakers. Being a personal trainer, all the crew wanted me to put them through workouts or join them in stair runs before the day’s shenanigans on the lake got started. My standard reply this year was, “ I will tell you what to do from the hot tub with a mimosa in hand.”

I swam hard, danced, surfed, and hugged myself with glee under a blazing star filled sky,  feet in the lake and not a sole around. I hiked a few peaks, mountain biked a bit, floated in the lake on my floaty chair by myself many a day, sun on my face and heart full.

Now I reflect on health, after having it for almost a year. I am baffled at the incredible amount of brain space and energy that pain and illness consumes. I am in wonder at all the things I can achieve with a clear mind and healthy body. But then again, how does it get any better than just taking time to really live and enjoy our life in all moments? Perhaps those are the greatest lessons and gifts.

The Art Of Reinvention

Chrysalis Emerging 5

Cartwheeling over one of life’s inevitable speed bumps and landing in a ditch, is the perfect time to hone the art of personal reinvention. We lick our wounds, shake our head and hopefully keep moving forward with a few curses streaming in the wind behind us.

Some people will continue trudging, head down, feet dragging, oblivious to the lessons at hand. The wise will stop, assess the scene and adjust for variables. Most of the time this is done with some foot stomping and a growl or two, but “Oh that moment!” when you surrender, adapt and look for new qualities within to reveal.

This is a beautiful rite of passage that comes with the human journey. The incredible fact that we can always become something else and find joy or satisfaction in new ways. What an amazing moment to savor, emerging from one form of yourself, shaking your wings and taking your first breathe from within the new you.

This is the time for new eyes, new opportunity and endless pathways ahead. Who will you be now?

I am always inspired by those souls who can be in a chrysalis of suffering, pain or loss, and emerge with new understanding or a new plan. To be the athlete turned painter, the builder turned angler, the scientist turned gardener. To see the possibilities spiraling out within any circumstance is true power.

How will you approach this new horizon? How will you reinvent and rediscover other aspects of yourself for the joy of moving forward and thriving in a new way?

The Hamster Sleepeth.


My husband and I had been enjoying an incredibly beautiful fall, walking in the woods with our pup and biking around town on days off. I barked out a laugh. “You know what I’ve been thinking? Absolutely nothing. Blank space. The hamster in my head is laying face down in the curve of the wheel, back arched, one leg dangling off the side, snoozing and drooling.”

This was a strange place to be. Especially for the personally motivated life coach, trainer, striver, traveller and seeker that I am. The status quo is for my brain to be in overdrive and at it’s peak at 3 am, stars twinkling as I plot and plan and dream of the next whispering horizon yet unseen.

This unknown territory began in the spring of last year, before I ended up in bed for two and a half months with a case of Zika turned into encephalitis. Five months of migraines and the stupids followed. The brain was turned to mush, ending in a slow drawn out recovery; hardly full of brilliant and complex thoughts.

I realized that for quite some time before that, I had been in between the chapters of my life. A space of unknowns, of questions, and a lot of the time – nothing. A moment of clarity bubbled up, that me (the usual loud mouth) had nothing to say and oddly enough had come to that elusive place of living completely in the moment and with no plan. Savoring the cup of tea, having an extra pint and listening to loud music on my Ipod into the wee hours of night, to choosing my new hobby of fishing and hanging out with my dog, over reading or growing my mind.

I found myself lying in my hammock pondering the width of my feet, to enjoying dinners of mixed languages with kids yowling with laughter at wrong words in different languages. To that moment when the only clear thought was “I don’t know.”

I spoke of it with friends and smirked at myself in my own quiet time. My husband smiled at me and a typical wise statement escaped his lips. “Vanessa, you realize that most of the people in the first world can only dream of attaining a place of the quiet peace you live in day to day. They dream of retiring and seeking the moment of the slumbering hamster. Yet here you are.”

Only a month ago I realized my brain had sped back up and THUMP, the pages dropped me over into a new chapter of my life. Even though lately the hamster is hot footing around the wheel of my mind, I now realize the gift of giving him snoozing breaks from time to time. I allocate siestas for him, and have somehow compartmentalized his workouts. Even though I embark on a new chapter, I take time breathe deep and feel my pups ears draping over my toes as I write this. I have to lift the computer off my lap just to watch her for a moment and take in the gift of a crazy animal that seeks out the comfort of drooling on my foot from time to time.

The reminder was that sometimes in life we need to allow for a break, to not know, to let the tides wash in and out of our minds, to clear space for new thought, and to rest up for the next segment. It really is OK not to be running full tilt all the time, and a blessing to have the “Hamster” take a good long nap.

Health and the elusive Balance.



Health. Some of us have it, and those of us that don’t, yearn for it, covet it, and prey for it to wrap its sunny arms around us.

Some people abuse themselves for life, and live to a hundred – insert here a photo of a craggy farmer smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky all his life. He lived outside, worked physically on the land and ate home cooked food with ingredients found close by. Got in fights, broke bones and ate dirt.

Some people are health nuts their entire lives: No drinking, no smoking, taking their vitamins, eating organic and religiously go to their Pilates class or the gym. They had a plan but were so stressed about keeping to it, they die of a disease or in a car wreck on their way to their next appointment. Sometimes it feels like there is no rhyme or reason.

As a personal trainer, people always are always asking me about the latest trends, or what they should and shouldn’t do in terms of exercise and diet. My response back is, in the gym and in normal life:

What are you willing to change?

What will you not give up?

How much do you want it?

And is your choice sustainable?

Often people do not want to really work that hard, and will find an endless well of excuses. Others make mind blowing gains due to some inner fire or driving need. Maybe its divorce, health, vanity, babies, growing older, whatever the reason, the results vary greatly.

And it’s confusing. When I am lying on the floor with a back flare up for the third month in a row, worrying about getting better, about my husband, if I will ever heal, am I putting on weight, and taking a ridiculous amount of medications to exist, is a cheeseburger and a beer healthy? Damn straight it is. If it brings even a fleeting feeling of normalcy, or a ray of sunshine through the clouds and ticks my stress meter down an inch, hell ya!

My husband and I snicker together at the definition of “Health food.” Sometimes it’s mental health food. As long as it’s not all the time, and oh that sneaky word of “Balance” pops up again to bite you in the ass.

More and more as I trainer I ended up listening, and cheerleading my clients through a breakdown instead of crushing out a workout. This eventually lead me to go back to school for personal coaching, in attempt to better support them through the mental aspect of their health. Something so overlooked in a lot of our health goals today. Our awareness is getting better but we have a long way to go in terms of application versus conversation.

In this day and age of technology, of electronic stimulus, fast lives and little time off, it seems hard to find the magic balance of what will keep us healthy.

We are all wired differently, with a myriad of needs and wants depending on culture, sex, country, and economic stature.

Yet one thing is undeniable. We have the choice to govern our lives. We can recreate ourselves each day, but have to take the time to inventory our life, ask what is missing, what makes us happy, and what the heck we really want. Make a plan, that is constantly reassessed, then have the courage and tenacity to take a perhaps staggering step towards the goal. If it’s forward, it’s still a step in the right direction.

A Reminder


It’s amazing to come back into your power after being broken.

After an injury, illness, divorce, whatever it may be that pinned you down, there will always come a moment that you will shake your head and realize that lesson is behind you. That you are clear, full, and back to being who you really are at that moment.

You may have some scars, some battle wounds, and you will never be the person you were, but the new and powerful you.

Be aware of that changing moment, that pause, that smirk, that happy dance.

For a lot of my friends, it might be a moment of clarity and joy, watching the sunrise over the mountain they are standing on, it might be mountain biking or skiing an epic line. Or surfing that glassy wave at sunrise.

For others its in meditation or yoga, or just plain and simple being able to walk to the park. It might be closing the biggest deal of your life at work.

It’s inevitable that in the future the hard lessons or life challenges will come again. If your in the hard times now, breathe, close your eyes and dream that beautiful moment to you. If your standing on top, shining with potential this is your reminder.

Open your eyes wide, look around and savour it. Celebrate this moment with every single way you know how.

The Journey back

Sunrise San Cristobal

My number one goal while lying stoned on pain meds and unable to get to the bathroom alone, winter deepfreeze crystalizing the landscape and frosting the window above me, was to be standing in the sunset palapa.

Drinking a glass of local rum on ice with a lime from out of the tree. To watch the sunset and know we were there. We had done it. Hardly an end but an unknown horizon ahead.

And there we were.

Tears streaming down my face, savoring each shift of light, the birds, the setting sun. Searing pink streaks and brushes of peach and gold across a fading blue sky.

An old playlist; casually put on, was the perfect soundtrack for a goal 7 years in the making.

I sobbed with happiness. Grinned with absolute joy and clung to my husband. An incredible new adventure so longed for, now a very surreal reality.

After another Fall of being laid up in bed with back flare up after flare up, made getting here that much sweeter.

I said to EJ, “ I feel like I am getting all my tough life lessons out of the way so I can have the best year of my life yet.”

Just getting on a plane crippled me during the first leg of our journey, then two weeks later, a bit more mobile with less medication, I whispered to EJ just get me to the sea and I will heal.

I would go slow. I would be patient. I would communicate my injury and get the support from my new family of friends. I would walk and swim and lay like a lizard in the sun or like a happy panting dog in the shade. If I am not mobile, I will get a puppy, perfect my Spanish, and learn all the plants and trees in the area.

It was a rough start to my 40’s, not knowing who I was without using my body in sport and play. Not knowing if I could ever surf again. Not really able to see my next ten years, to truly be able to visualize a future.

And now one month later, I sob once more with absolute soul filled joy.

This morning after 3 hours of sleep, I woke. Wrestled out of the mosquito net with creaking back and hamstrings like beef jerky. Staggering by the light of my I phone, out into a slight offshore breath of wind.

I breathed deep and gazed up, smiling under a full moon and the glimmer of dawn creeping. Constellations setting, as the sun tries to climb high enough to kiss the moon before he sinks below the shimmering sea.

I walk past the security guards thanking them for another quiet night. Their grinning missing-teeth smiles follow me as they place their guns and machetes on the table to be put away until sunset.  I wander down the lane as the light grows stronger, old traveling songs making my heart ache through my I pod.

I walk smiling and fighting off tears. Waking dogs barking, fires burning in hearths. I wave to families stretching out of hammocks above mud floors and grass roof dwellings.

I feel my back and hips stretch as I watch the sun spread her fingers over a volcan San Cristobal, just a silhouette in the distance. Pigs grunting, cows on their daily commute from pasture to pasture. Friends on motor bikes begin to pass on their way to work, with a fast honk and a wave.

I turn to see my husband, pulling up beside. Boards loaded, water jugs full. We grin at each other, munching on peanuts, and have our normal morning banter as we bump down worn dirt roads.

We turn the corner to see bigger swell and waves heaving onto the beach. We recognize friends in the water and trucks pulled onto sand dunes.

Sun shimmers across an out going tide. I stretch some more, and for a moment consider if I’m strong enough to paddle out. The question rolls by with another beautiful wave and I don’t think twice.

I time my exit to the back of the line up. I stroke off to the side, and within moments a perfect peak rolls towards me. I look around and it’s only me. Without a thought, I do what my heart and soul loves more than anything.

I paddle into the wave of the morning, making a deep drop and carve across a fast glistening section; a long wall that makes me yip with joy. I carve like before, unhurt, confident, and pull off with a dolphin dive off the top of the wave to swim below the depths and squeal with joy. Popping up to cheers of friends and relief of my husband.

I can see and feel the future we have been working so long towards.

I am home and nearly whole in body, with wisdom and support to go slow. My heart overflows and I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.