The Utah native, a former wildlife biologist and environmental consultant with 15 years' experience as a certified personal trainer, heard her high-powered clients from the White House to Wall Street asking for something more — outside the gym. People were wondering how they could get fit on their vacations, she says, not in spite of them.
"In the adventure-travel market, there might be an option for a 10-day cycling trip in Amsterdam," explains Webb, an endurance athlete, snowboarder and SUP enthusiast. "But nowhere in that is there something personalized to an individual's body and fitness goals."
Webb is the first to combine her knowledge of the outdoors and experience as personal trainer, plus increasing scientific evidence revealing that people tend to be healthier if you get them outside, into one multi-level mind-body-nature guiding certification.One newly certified Sol Guide, Seattle-based personal trainer Chris Kirchoff, is taking nine women on a hiking/fitness/meditation trip to Nepal next month. “I’ve always wanted to combine fitness and travel, and Sol Guide offered a comprehensive program with everything from program design to business strategies,” she says. “I also like Melanie’s philosophy on health and fitness that getting out in nature is really important for overall wellness. I believe it’s a way to train the body from the inside out."
Amplifying environmental and stewardship aspects of the trip, Kirchoff set up a crowdfunding site and raised $10,000 to help rebuild an orphanage after recent earthquakes ravaged the country, and her adventure group will be fundraising to help restore electricity to Sibuje, the village to which the group is trekking.
It’s the adventurers who may stand to profit even more deeply from the nascent guiding project. Webb says Sol Guide-trained outdoor-fitness adventure pros can lead anyone from college friends with a hankering to get outside and get wild to weekend-warrior lawyers who want to take their kids on their first weekend backpacking trip. In fact, at least 50 percent of her clientele is male."Men might actually appreciate a more nurturing environment and being able to relinquish the cultural expectation of being in control," she theorizes. "People are busy, and sometimes it's nice to just show up in the outdoors and turn over that control to someone that knows what your body needs."
Sol Guides will earn credentials to plan and permit custom adventures that combine physical exercise with outdoor activities to maximize health. That includes ways to Zen out and connect with nature by incorporating mindful practices directly into adventure travel.
"I feel like we're just creating more opportunities for having the experiences that humans innately want," says Webb. Sol Guide combines the physiological knowledge of, say, how to warm up for a day of standup paddle boarding with some dry-land training to get the core muscles firing first, but are also extolling the calming effects of being in nature.
They’re schooled in stress-reduction techniques, from simple meditation and breathing to word/imagery techniques and Native American mythology practices. "I do a Navajo ‘beauty walk’ blessing with clients, and I've had CEOs cry on me,” says Webb. “Really powerful people just break down.”
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