Race Nutrition Tips from Run Experts

By Rachel Grunwell

(AD – the post is sponsored by the Rotorua Marathon which is on May 8, 2021. Enter HERE)

Carb-loading or no carbs? Gels, or no gels? Thoughts around race fuelling change constantly.

But the fact remains: Fuelling well helps you run well.

Fuelling right for optimum performance is something every runner cares about – whether you are at the back of the pack, or in the lead.

I’ve got some insight and tips below from an elite runner, nutritionist, seasoned runner and I also share some tips too as a coach and multi-marathoner. Some of these tips and anecdotes blew my mind and others had me laughing out loud!

Ultimately, fuelling comes down to an individual approach. So what works for one person, might not be the ideal solution for another, So it’s important to have tried and tested a few different ideas before you race – so you can run with confidence on race day knowing what to do. Here are the thoughts on nutrition from a few different peeps. Which one do you mostly connect with?

Simon Cochrane. Based in Hamilton, Simon is an elite endurance athlete who is an official pacer for the 3-hour group racing this year’s event. He is using this year’s event to pace as a training run in the lead up to an ultra-marathon in Wellington in July. He reckons there might only be about five people racing at this hot pace and so he hopes to help them all through. Simon is a top NZ athlete. He came 3rd in the Tarawera 100km Ultra in February. He has had 5 international podium placings over the Ironman distance in his careers and has raced the World Champs in Hawaii. At the Rotorua Marathon event previously, he has placed 2nd in a half marathon (1hr 13 mins) and won the 10km event (34 mins). He is a coach too through his business, Athletic Peak Coaching. Here are his nutrition tips:

“The usual breakfast for me is eggs, toast, and a couple of coffees. That every day – whether it’s training or race day.

“There’s no need to change it up race morning, as your body knows it’s normal routine best. You can maybe just eat a little bit earlier than normal to make sure everything is digested. 

“Same with during the race. Have the same nutrition plan as every long key session. 

“So mainly aim to keep everything the same – no need to carb-load or eat more as you will have tapered off the run volume and be storing more energy anyway,” says Simon.

I asked Simon about his thoughts around gels?

“Haven’t had a gel in 10 years! 

“I have Tailwind drink, and some real food (bars/bananas) if longer than 3hrs or so,” he says.

James Crosswell, age 71, plumber from Opotiki who is part of the Rotorua Marathon Survivors’ Club (this club includes runners who have done more than 15 Rotorua Marathon events to be an official member). He will run his 44th Rotorua Marathon this year (among almost 100 marathons in total). His fastest marathon is 2hr 52 mins at Rotorua previously. Last year he ran this event in 5hr 20 mins (he now walks and runs so he doesn’t put too much pressure on his heart, he says). Here are his nutrition tips:

“Before a marathon I usually have two pieces of (brown bread) toast with honey on and a cup of tea. I’ll have breakfast at 6.45am on race day.

“Then I just have water at the water stops usually.

“However I’m trialling a vitamin C energy tablet with water now while doing this year’s marathon. I tried it on a run recently and it was quite good.

“In the past I used to put corn syrup in used mini toothpaste tubes and have that while out on the marathon course. It was like a petrol boost,” he says, chuckling.

Mikki Williden, PhD, registered nutritionist and seasoned runner. Mikki is the 2005 Rotorua champion. She has an impressive personal best marathon time of 2hr 55 mins at Auckland where she nabbed a 4th placing in 2010. Check out a Mikkipedia podcast where she interviewed Kathrine Switzer. Here are her nutrition tips:

“With regards to carbohydrate ‘loading’ per se, this has moved on somewhat. There isn’t too much you need to change with regards to carbohydrate load of the diet – in effect, by tapering, you will be carbo loading and restocking your glycogen stores. That’s a really good thing! However, if you follow a pretty low carbohydrate approach, then adding in another 100-150g in the 3 days leading up can just ensure this process is on point. Think: a couple of pieces of fruit, 200g kumara or potato, 1 cup cooked white rice.

“Importantly, you want to be hydrated – so ensure you are drinking adequate amounts of water with electrolyte (such as Nuun tablet or LMNT electrolytes) – ideally not a lot of full sugared electrolyte drink as this isn’t really necessary – but you want to ensure you drink across the day and not backloading or front loading it – that you are just having it regularly. Going in to an event dehydrated can definitely impact negatively on performance outcomes. Becoming a little dehydrated throughout though, is no big deal and may in fact improve race outcomes.

“With protein load and fat load, no need to change things here, however some people feel anxious in lead up to race and therefore their stomach can play up. Dropping fat down a little bit can help. In addition, dropping out vegetables in the 2-3 days prior can also help with the overall gut-related issues that some experience – as the additional fibre at this time isn’t necessary and may interfere with your digestion and that in itself can be nerve wracking. We call this a low residue approach. For example, your meals have a few vegetables, but half what you normally would.

“Don’t make meals too big, and you might be better with a smaller dinner earlier in the day, and then a snack prior to bed in the lead up to the race (i.e. night before) so you don’t feel too loaded down with food. IE this might be a dinner at 5pm and a snack at 8pm (snack could even be just some protein powder mixed into coconut yoghurt with a few berries, or it could be banana and peanut butter or something like that.

“Dinner meals the night before are really individual. What has worked well in the past? Psychologically, it can be good to keep it familiar. Some favourites might be:

  • salmon, rice, broccoli,
  • chicken, rice, carrots, green beans
  • sweet potato with salmon mixed with mayo and a hardboiled egg or two
  • Could even be GF toast with avocado and salmon or scrambled eggs

“Breakfast the morning of, again, very individual. Don’t need a ton of food here, enough to restock liver glycogen which would have been depleted overnight, but that’s about it. Some people have nothing except coffee and cream, others have full on breakfast. Most are in the middle. Prior to my 2005 win of Rotorua I had 5 white bread buns with jam, a spirulina drink and a banana. Probably wouldn’t do that now, but looking back, it obviously didn’t do any damage on the day! Some ideas might be:

  • Protein shake with banana and peanut butter
  • oats + protein powder + almond milk + peanut butter
  • GF toast with 2 hardboiled eggs

“These are all some options – something to help keep you from being hungry, but not leave you so full. This might be 2h or so before the start of the race.

“Most importantly, don’t try something new on race morning! I made this fatal mistake in 2010 Christchurch marathon, leading to a DNF at 40k because my digestive tract had other ideas. That confirmed for me that dried apricots were not a goer for me pre-race. A mistake that, as a registered nutritionist, I probably shouldn’t have made, but we all live and learn! Good luck!”

Rachel Grunwell, Rotorua Marathon ambassador and 25 x marathoner, who has conquered 4 x Rotorua Marathons in this tally including guiding disabled athletes through three of these races. Rachel is also a run coach and author of the book Balance, which includes science-backed tips on how to be healthier and happier. The book includes four nutritionists too.

Practicing your breakfast and fuelling for race day is a must. If you don’t, you are asking for trouble! I love porridge with cream, blueberries and maple syrup before I run a marathon and have that two hours before I run. I also like a small coffee. While on the run, electrolytes are awesome and I take fuel on board only if I run a long run, or a half marathon or marathon. Under 10km, I’ll run without eating and will just have water mid-run. These days I don’t like the gels and prefer real food to fuel me. Dates or banana is great, but I’ll take on board something like chomps in a marathon. I like the latter because you can break off a bite sized piece of the chomp bar fuel when you need it and I like the taste of it. I guide disabled athletes through marathons from time-to-time and fuelling is something I advise the athletes on while on-the-run. It can make or break the experience. One athlete was feeling tired and took on too much sugary drinks about 34km through a marathon. It ended up in him feeling light headed and puking (I won’t name and shame here but we still laugh about this learning experience together. He learnt that lesson and has thankfully never repeated it!) You learn your lessons hard on a marathon and my hardest lesson with fuelling was not taking on board enough fuel early on in an event and then hitting the wall about 30-something kilometres and my running came to a crawl (I also ran too fast in that same race by the way and so I learnt two hard lessons from that event). What saved me that day and got me to the finish line? A mate meeting me to help me get through that run and him insisting I have a flat coke drink 5km near the end. That caffeine hit had me then fired up and running the fastest average pace in that entire race. Caffeine can uplift your performance and I definitely needed it that day!  

This blog was kindly sponsored by the Rotorua Marathon

Sunshine Smoothie Bowl

(AD) Sunshine Smoothie Bowl 

We can’t get to the islands right now. But we can bring a taste of that decadent island holiday food and sunshine like feels to our table!

I’ll be demonstrating how to make this smoothie bowl at the Go Green Expo in Auckland (March 27 & 28 on the Vitamix stand between 11am-2pm). Come along and learn some smoothie bowl tips and tricks and how to use a Vitamix to make smoothies, soups, bliss balls, juices, ice-cream and more!

I’ve had a Vitamix for years and back it. It’s sturdy, safe, powerful and has a seven year warranty. It never breaks!

By the way, this smoothie bowl is best served on a hot Summery day. Slurp it up loud. It will cool you down and that sweetness in the bowl will make you smile.

This bowl is nutrient-dense, delicious and you can make it up pretty quick.

One of the superfood ingredients is turmeric, which can aid digestion and is seen as an anti-inflammatory food.

Sunshine Smoothie Bowl 

½ cup almond milk

2 cups mango flesh (you can use fresh or I just buy it in frozen chunks in 1 kilo bags from the supermarket)

1 cup banana (skin removed)

½ teaspoon each of vanilla cinnamon and turmeric

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon’ Manuka honey


Place all the ingredients into the Vitamix blender in the order listed above. Blend the ingredients quickly until smooth. Don’t blend for too long (I do it for around 10 seconds) otherwise it will make the smoothie less thick and more liquid-like. Pour the mixture into a bowl and eat just as it is. Or you can top it with whatever you have at home. I had mint leaves, shaved dark chocolate, passionfruit and coconut chips. Eat and savour!

  • Rachel is a wellness expert, author of the book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness and a healthy recipe creator for magazines and brands. She is a proud ambassador for Vitamix! Follow her on Instagram or Facebook 

This post was proudly sponsored by Vitamix

5 Tips to Avoid a Hangover

AD This blog was created for those training for the Rotorua Marathon event on May 8, 2021

By Rachel Grunwell 

It’s the festive season and I too love to savour some wine and soak up social gatherings and the fun. 

I thought I’d share some tips and advice  around alcohol for those of you who love “the sweat life” too. Alcohol can impact on your performance if not drunk in moderation. So it might be helpful to know some of this stuff for when you are next contemplating how much to drink at a party or social gathering.

Firstly, a standard drink is 100ml wine (12% alcohol – and not that much liquid in a glass!) or a 330ml beer (5% alcohol).

According to the National guidelines, the consumption of any more than two standard drinks for women and four for men in one sitting is associated with increased risk of health problems (obviously if this is sustained over a period of time).

According to the Nutrition for Life book by Catherine Saxelby, hangovers are caused by dehydration and things like the substances in alcohol like congeners, such as tannins, volatile acids, methanol and histamines.

Dark-coloured drinks like red wine, brandy, and sherry can cause the worst hangovers – especially the cheaper brands, she says. Mixing drinks can also spell bad news for a sore head (and leave you witch-like the next day – likely! Or is that just me? ha ha ha ha ha).

Here are 5 tips to help avoid a hangover:

  1. Stop at one drink. That’s smart! Or have none, if you have a very long run planned the next day. I totally recommend this. I’ve drunk ONCE the night before a long run and I will never do this again. I felt nauseous!! However, some people can get away with this WAY better than me.
  2. Don’t mix a whole lot of different drinks. This is REALLY bad news for a hangover.
  3. Drink non-alcoholic drinks in-between an alcoholic one to slow down how much you drink ie water, fruit juice etc

2.   Have lots of water to combat the dehydration.

3.   Have something like milk, or cheese, before you drink – as this lines your stomach. So our mothers telling us to “line the stomach with food” wasn’t just them being bossy.

4.   Foods like toast, fruit, flat lemonade, weak black tea with sugar, boiled rice, and eggs, can be kinder on the stomach when you have drunk a lot.

5.   Sleep it off. You should feel better after 24 hours.

ps an extra tip from Catherine Saxelby is not to bother with those effervescent tablets. She reckons they are just expensive urine!

Meanwhile, when I coach clients on how to move, eat and live healthier and happier, I advise clients too that alcohol has a lot of calories (7 calories per gram). A lot of my clients are chasing weight-loss goals. So there’s that to consider too.

ps remember all things in life in “balance” can be okay. Just make informed choices about how you fuel your body and have moderation in mind.

Set your next run goal by entering the Rotorua Marathon event held on May 8, 2012. There’s a fun run, 10km, half marathon and marathon distance to contemplate. Enter HERE

Rachel is a wellness coach, keen runner (25 marathons at the last count) and Rotorua Marathon ambassador.

Rachel is also the author of the book Balance: Food, Health + Happiness.

Follow her via  Instagram @RachelGrunwell or click here for her business Facebook

Protein-Packed Choc Orange Bliss Balls

This snack is easy-peasy and quick to make. They’re a good snack for the kids and us “big kids”. I keep them in the freezer and so feel free to double the mixture and make twice as much so they’ll last a while. If you are lucky… My kids could eat the lot in one day. In fact they actually did, which made me a little grumpy ’cause I like these too!!

If you try them let me know what you think. Feel free to change up the ingredients. Perhaps yours will taste even better! A lot of people tell me how they change up my recipes in my book Balance, and I love hearing what they do! It’s really cool.

Protein-Packed Choc Orange Bliss Balls


2 Cups of raw nuts (I used a mix of almonds and hazelnuts, but you can also use cashews etc or whatever you have in the cupboard)

¼ cup cocoa powder

3 tablespoons of rice malt syrup (or you can use maple syrup or coconut sugar instead etc)

salt (one grind)

1-2 scoops of protein powder

3 tablespoons of coconut oil

1 orange (finely grate the outside/ squeeze the juice of the orange too)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 cup of coconut (half into the mixture, half set aside to roll the balls in this)

Method: Place the nuts into a blender and grind them down to a fine powder. Then add all the other ingredients (except the ½ cup of coconut left over).

Blend the mixture well. Set aside and put the ½ cup of coconut into a bowl.

Place a golf ball size of mixture in your hand and roll it into a ball. Then place this into the bowl of coconut to coat the outside. Repeat…

Check out Rachel’s book Balance which features 30 nourishing recipes and 30 experts sharing science-backed wisdom on how to live healthier & happier. Click Here

Go Green Expo Workshop Event in Auckland!

As an award-winning writer, qualified coach and yoga instructor, Rachel helps people to manage their weight, get fit and feel happier.

About this Event

Sick of the wu-wu health stuff and wellness white-noise that’s just so darn confusing?

Get science-backed health and happiness hacks (that are proven to work) from global experts by spending an hour in this workshop with Rachel Grunwell.

Drawing from the key principals in her book, Balance, Rachel will share the wisdom she’s learned from 30 worldwide experts to help you live healthier and happier with wisdom that actually works. Tips include nutrition hacks, psychology smarts, emotional intelligence advice, fitness motivation strategies and wellbeing wisdom that will motivate you into action. 

Rachel has been on a remarkable health journey herself. She shares how she transformed her life… and what to do to transform yours.

Book your ticket by clicking HERE

Rachel’s retreat are usually almost $500. This workshop is just $55 and includes the book Balance (retails $40) and a bonus beauty product from the New Zealand made beauty brand Linden Leaves.

Hangover Cures that Actually Work…

By Rachel Grunwell

A shorter version of this column appeared in Indulge magazine. Rachel is a weekly wellness columnist for Indulge. She is a freelance health journalist for several of NZ’s top lifestyle publications. She’s the author of the book Balance, which features 30 global experts sharing science-backed wisdom on living healthier and happier. Follow Rachel on Instagram & Facebook.

So, everyone has had the hangover from hell. Come on. We’ve all experienced it at some point. Let’s be honest. Me included. We all know how easy it can be to be carried away at a social event. One friend even put me to bed after her party once as the party was ending. I was the last one dancing due to a few drinks that got me “happy”.

I had too much of a good night. I felt mortified the next morning of course over my unintended sleep over. That is, until I heard another guest slept outside their posh place under some bushes. So my night ending was (slightly) less dishevelled. The party story that won out was about the bush-sleep, rather than sleeping beauty if you get my drift. Chuckle.

As I get older, I’m less eager to return to that hangover state. Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser (and like sleeping in my own bed..). But really I think it’s that I’ve got to a stage in my life where I’m more excited about training hard at the gym or running because I’m so goal-driven these days. And I usually have to take one of my kids to a swimming lesson or birthday party in the weekend and the suffering can be absolutely punishing then, right! So I’m a glass or two to celebrate these days kinda girl…

You know that feeling you want to try and avoid….the pounding headache, fuzzy brain, nausea, low energy, and a mouth that’s desert-like dry…

I interviewed nutritionist Catherine Saxelby about her new updated book, Nutrition for Life, which is full of lots of great info on how to fuel your body well. Her expertise is epic. She has been an authroity on diet and healthy eating for three decades. I skipped immediate to the section on how to handle hangovers. I dig her real-world approach and that she included this. Rather than trying to be virtuous – like some nutritionists kinda do. She knows in the real world people generally enjoy wine or beer and her nutrition bible helps with everything… so why not include hangover cures. I loved it. I also coach clients around how to balance some drinks in their week if they ask for advice around this…

Saxelby and I end up spending an hour on Skype. She’s so cool. And I love her lowdown on alcohol from our chat and some bits from her book… So here goes… this stuff is good!

She says hangovers are caused by dehydration and things like the substances in alcohol like congeners, such as tannins, volatile acids, methanol and histamines.

Dark-coloured drinks like red wine, brandy, and sherry can cause the worst hangovers – especially the cheaper brands. Mixing drinks can also spell bad news for a sore head (and leave you witch-like the next day – likely! Or is that just me? ha ha ha ha ha).

However, you won’t escape a hangover if you drink lots of other things too like beer, white wine, whiskey, gin, and rum too…

However Saxelby says the least effect around hangovers is caused by vodka. I bet a whole lot of you are vowing to celebrate now with that drink on the next celebratory occasion!

Meanwhile, champagne can get you intoxicated quickly as the bubbles push the alcohol into the body more quickly, the nutritionist says.

Speaking from Australia via skype Saxelby quips there’s only one sure way to avoid a hangover: “Don’t drink too much in the first place!”

But if you do over indulge, here are her top tips to avoiding a hangover – because you can’t always count on a bush-sleeping guest to outdo your party girl/Goldilocks-style-behaviour the next time…

1.   Drink non-alcoholic drinks in-between to slow down how much you drink ie water, fruit juice etc

2.   Have lots of water to counteract the dehydration.

3.   Have something like milk, or cheese, before you drink. So our mothers telling us to “line the stomach with food” wasn’t just nonsense!

4.   Foods like toast, fruit (fresh or canned), flat lemonade, weak black tea with sugar, boiled rice, and eggs, can be kinder on the stomach too.

5.   Sleep it off. You should feel better by 24 hours later.

6.   Don’t bother with the effervescent hangover remedies. “I think you just produce expensive urine,” says the author.

 Meanwhile, another nutritionist I met last year, also Australian- based and also super lovely and knowledgeable, Michele Chevalley Hedge, says “fish oils at bed are key to avoiding a hangover”.

Meanwhile, when I coach clients on how to move, eat and live healthier and happier, I’m guided by the national guidelines when it comes to alcohol. Firstly, alcohol has a lot of calories (7 calories per gram). A lot of my clients are chasing weight-loss goals. So there’s that to consider too.

Importantly, the guidelines are to limit alcohol intake to one or two standard drinks a day at the most. These guidelines warn that a daily alcohol intake in excess of four standard drinks for men and two for women could lead to serious health problems. Alcohol impacts people differently too. For example, I’m a bit of a light weight with it. So I’m really considered about what and how much I drink these days. Except for that night of the party with the unintended sleep over…. chuckle. We can all got a bit wild sometimes, right!

Also, it’s important to note that the national guidelines idea of a standard drink could be different to what you may think. For example a standard stubbie of beer contains 1.3 and 1.5 standard drinks. Watch the percentage of alcohol amount too on the beverage. Some can be quite high.

ps remember all things in life in “balance” can be okay. Just make informed choices about how you fuel your body.

Find out more about Rachel’s real-approach coaching and wellness workshops services, public speaking engagements and her book Balance: Food, Health and Happiness via inspiredhealth.co.nz  Instagram @RachelGrunwell or click here for her business Facebook


Why the Keto Diet Works…

How to Lose Weight & Look Good on the Keto Diet
Rachel Grunwell is a weekly wellness columnist for Indulge. This column appeared in Indulge magazine and on the Herald online too.
Is it me, or is instagram full of people thanking the Keto diet for helping them to lose weight and look good.
OK, I’m a wellness geek who follows lots of people who dig wellness. So it’s going to happen!
But seriously, the Keto diet is trending.

Read More

Pear Spelt Muffins recipe – & the low-down on the new book ‘The Eczema Detox’

eczma book

Go in the draw to win a copy of this book via a comp on InspiredHealth’s Facebook & Instagram

By Rachel Grunwell

Up to 1 in five Kiwis are affected by eczema. It’s an important topic to the public.

It’s also something that has affected my sister, Bex, who is one of the people I love most on this planet. So through her, I’ve heard over the years about how painful this can be and how the flare-ups can be intensely painful and even disable self-confidence (even when you look as beautiful as Bex).

My sister has tried everything over the years for relief. Absolutely everything. It has been a long-running battle that has felt paralysing at times. Thankfully, this Summer she has felt the best she has ever been in over 30-years. This is thanks to the hottest Summer in Gisborne, using steroid creams, and thanks too to some help from Be Pure’s office, but also to a book penned by “eczema nutritionist” Karen Fischer which advises which foods to eat, and avoid, when you suffer from eczema. My sister also buys Karen’s magnesium supplement too which she thinks is amazing for sleep and her wellness.

So when I got Karen’s latest wellness book across my desk, ‘the eczema detox’, I instantly thought of Bex and how books like this are so important. They’re literally the difference between a pain free life, or not.

This book is full of life-changing nutritional information and advice, articulated through 3 eating programs. Both Karen and her daughter, Ayva, have suffered from skin problems in the past but now live eczema-free from following Karen’s meal plans.

As for Bex, she is great at the moment, but she does dread Winter when the inevitable flare-ups return. She’s also still searching for a way to get off steroid creams… But she says the changes she has made around foods to avoid, or seek out, through Karen’s books “has helped to change my life”.

I personally love this book too from the perspective of not having eczema. The recipes are absolutely amazing and so I’m sharing one gem below.

Meanwhile, here are Karen’s top 12 foods for eliminating eczema.

mung bean sprouts

flaxseed oil 

red cabbage



spring onions





There’s so much advice in the book that is gold too including all those foods to avoid for eczema sufferers.

Here’s that amazing recipe below to get you started. If you try it, please let me know.

karen's muffins


Pear Spelt Muffins 

Makes 12 muffins, preparation time 15 minutes, cooking time 15 minutes 

• 1 egg (or use Egg Replacer, p. 211)

• cup real maple syrup or maple sugar (see ‘Eczema-friendly sweeteners’, p. 52)

• 1 cup organic soy milk (see ‘Non-dairy milks’, p. 54) 

• cup Parsley Oil (p. 134) or rice bran oil 

• 2 cups spelt flour 

• 4 teaspoons baking powder (wheat-free)

• 2 large ripe pears, peeled and diced (not Nashi/Asian or Yapears)


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place paper patty pans into the holes of a 12-cup muffin tray (or alternatively grease the tray holes with a little extra rice bran oil). If using Egg Replacer make it now. In a small food processor, blend the egg (or equivalent), maple syrup and milk until smooth. Then, while the motor is running, open the chute and slowly drizzle in the oil and blend well until smooth and creamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and mix. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and briefly mix using a large spoon. Then stir in the pear. Spoon the mixture into each muffin cup, ensuring each is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden on top. Test with a toothpick to see if cooked through.


• These muffins can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

• If you have tested egg during the FID Program (in week 3) and there were no adverse reactions after four days then you can use real egg in this recipe.

• If you are gluten intolerant, use rice milk or ‘malt-free’ soy milk and gluten-free self-raising flour instead of spelt flour. If you are using gluten-free self-raising flour, don’t add baking powder.

• If you are following the Eczema Detox Program, you can sprinkle the muffins with chia seeds


Extracted from The Eczema Detox by Karen Fischer available from www.exislpublishing.com and wherever good books are sold.


Inspired Health is run by Rachel Grunwell. Follow her via InspiredHealth’s Facebook & Instagram

InspiredHealth is run by Rachel Grunwell: Award-winning journalist, magazine wellness columnist & healthy recipe creator, wellness ambassador, yoga teacher & marathoner


Te Atawhai Retreat: Nurture, Nourish & Thrive


te atawhai main pic

Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Award-winning journalist. Good magazine’s wellness columnist & smoothie chick. Multi-Marathoner. Qualified Yoga Teacher. Blogger. Mum. The order of importance is in reverse.

Rachel’s mission is to inspire Kiwis to live healthy and happy. Follow Rachel via InspiredHealth’s Facebook page & Instagram 


Nurture. Nourish. Thrive.

These are the beautiful words that underpin the mission of Te Atawhai retreat, nestled out in the countryside at the foot of Mount Te Aroha in the Waikato area, in the North Island of New Zealand. It’s about two hours’ driving from Auckland, or about an hour drive from Tauranga.

te atawhai house

Te Atawhai specialises in offering a four-day “wholeness retreat” (although they offer one-day retreats at request too). Here you can learn, grow and flourish by learning healthy habits based around a blend of movement, mindset, real foods, and rest.

The retreat is run by an all-women team including: Rebecca, who worked for many years as a nurse in the mental health sector; Sherryll, who has 20+ years experience as a personal trainer; Well-known NZ fashion designer and businesswoman Annah Stretton. Rebecca and Sherryll run the retreats generally, while Annah drives the business-side of the venture and often joins guests for a meal.

Each of these three women have inspirationally transformed their own lives to be healthier and happier in recent years and so want to help others rise up in the same way too.

te atawhai retreat leaders

Pictured, Sherryll, left, and Rebecca, right.

I experienced Te Atawhai in December 2018 and felt the retreat was heart-led. Rebecca and Sherryll care about the guests and keep numbers relatively small – so everyone gets incredible personal attention.

The absolute magic in Te Atawhai truly is the people. They care about what they do and put their hearts into helping their guests. They are heart-connected to those who come to this place to re-set. 

Te Atawhai is not a bootcamp-style environment. You are challenged, but not pushed. You can go at your own pace and opt in challenges at the level of intensity that feels right for you. It’s not a yoga retreat – there is stretching in the morning, but it’s about mindful movement and starting the day inspired, rather than learning difficult yoga poses. This makes the retreat accessible and relatable to most people.

There is no alcohol, caffeine, wheat, dairy or refined sugar on the menu here, but rather nourishing, healthy, seasonal and real foods that are delicious. You will feel full at every meal too (and I do like to eat a lot and so I’m a good measure for this!) This is not a retreat about weight-loss, but rather the focus is wellness. I really love this – because the emphasis is about building healthy bodies and minds.

Karissa is the whizz in the kitchen and is passionate about serving  seasonal and nurturing food that’s truly delicious. The flavours she creates are memorable. She picks fresh produce from the garden daily to add to meals. One guest kept saying “I can’t believe healthy food could taste so good”.

te atawhai muesli

Check out this healthy breakfast. This was one of my faves.

The retreat is run from a large house in the countryside, where cows are thy neighbours and you get to see the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

te atawhai view 2

Check out this view from the bedroom I stayed in. This is bliss.

It’s like a home-away-from-home, rather than a fancy-pants, minimalist resort. There are books scattered around the house to read, a pool, health teas always on offer and you get to breathe in fresh air, unplug from technology and escape a hurried life and set goals for a healthier way forwards.

Each day starts with a gong to rise (you are encouraged to leave your watch in your suitcase for the four days). Then it’s a swig of apple cider vinegar (which boasts many health benefits), some gentle stretching with Sherryll and a sit-down breakfast. A challenging walk is then on the agenda – and each day you go to a different location for memorable scenery. An absolute highlight was climbing to the top of Mount Te Aroha (it took me 2.5-hours to get to the top at a gentle pace and 1.5hrs to come down). Half of the group opted in for this, while the rest of the group felt the half-way point was a challenge right for them.

At the top of Mount Te Aroha, I felt on top of the world. You can see the sea.

te atawhai - mount te aroha


You can also see green for miles miles and even the hump of Mt Maunganui far in the distance (in the far right of the picture). I wished I could sit there for hours. This, to me, is the definition of magic.

Being in nature is a therapy in itself, plus there are the movement benefits of course!

After walking, there’s a spa dip at nearby mineral hot springs (and you can opt to pay for a beauty treatment if you wish). Then in the afternoon there is an educational health seminar and some free time to relax. Then it’s a sit down chat for some reflection on the day, dinner and then free time before bed.

te atawhai food dinner example


On the website, Annah Stretton writes “Come to Te Atawhai to Nurture, Nourish, and THRIVE”.

Rebecca spoke memorably about learning “awareness” – “which is a key to setting you free”.

I’d also say come along too to this home-away-from-home to connect with these incredible women. Here you can learn tools to inspire you to live your best life.

* Watch a quick video interview with the retreat’s chef Karissa about nourishing kai. Click HERE

* Rachel was kindly invited to review the retreat as a professional wellness blogger. 

Resolution Retreats blissful health retreat getaway

resolution retreats complex

By Rachel Grunwell

The way to achieve your wellness goals is through “progression, not perfectionism”.

These wise words ring in my ears as I attend a three-day retreat in the Bay of Plenty.

I’m at Resolution Retreats, high up in the quiet, peaceful and beautiful bush-clad hills of Papamoa. It’s so green here, the air is fresh and I feel blissful and chilled-out just simply being in this stunning location. It’s wonderful to have “me time” and to be in a supportive and welcoming place that nurtures good health. It’s a place just solely for women to transform.

resolution retreats poolside

Here, you can kick-start a restorative journey to improve your own personal and individual health goals.

I’m among about a dozen women, mostly aged 40s and over, who have different goals from weight loss to wanting to improve their overall health, fitness, food knowledge or happiness levels. Some mums and daughters (aged in their 20s) too are here for a special healthy holiday. Others just wish to take a breath, refocus and feel pampered.

Founder and nutritional consultant, Joelene Ranby (pictured below), says she and her team will support everyone on their individual goals. Questions are welcome at any time.

resolution retreats joelene


I love that she tells us we can go to the daily fitness workouts or health seminars, or opt out for relaxation time instead, if we wish. It’s a no-pressure environment. One option for example, is walking to the Kaiate Falls. I opted in for that and loved being in nature (I’m pictured by one of the waterfalls below – how bliss does that look)!!!

resolution retreats walk


Ranby says she aims to inspire, educate and motivate women with tools on how to de-stress, recuperate and refocus.

She promises to keep things “simple”. She doesn’t want anyone “overwhelmed” and “trying to do everything all at once”. This is a key theme: “progression, not perfectionism”.

She implores us to focus on one important health message daily and think about leaving the retreat with one change to truly focus on back at home. This is because one change at a time, and little by little, we can transform our lives and achieve our wellness goals, she promises.

The itinerary over three days includes daily gentle yoga and different fitness sessions (here’s a pic below of a pool work-out). Seminars range from healthy eating education, to de-coding food labels, and there is a cooking demonstration done by a professional chef who shares helpful and healthy tips and tricks.

resolution retreats pool class 

Everyone raves about the girly-girl pampering sessions (you can get treatments from massages and facials to pedicures on-site). I have a facial which is so good I fall asleep! And a back massage helps me to de-stress down another notch.

I like that the retreat kept things accessible, realistic, and there are lots of real-life ideas shared. Food is super healthy (like this yum meal pictured below), but filling, and I cope okay without sugar (I’m generally a chocoholic!)

resolution retreats meal

The snacks are delicious too on the retreat. Check out this blissball goodness!

resoltion retreats snack

My bedroom is a tranquil oasis and boasts an inside and outside bath. Check out how lush it looks!

resolutuon retreats accommodation


I left the retreat feeling inspired and relaxed. What an amazing place where women can focus on themselves… and truly escape briefly the never-ending to-do-list and needs of the kids, partners and work commitments. I’d recommend Resolution Retreats as a friendly place that can empower women with real-life tools to live healthier and happier.


Top tips from the retreat:

Quit the guilt.

Keep things simple and focus on one health goal at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. “Ladies tend to see the bar too high. We all do it!” says Joelene Ranby.

Protein can help to keep you fuller for longer.

Be organised with meals. It will help stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks.

Figure out the things that “slip you up” and plan around them ie if you love chocolate and chips perhaps don’t buy them or maybe keep them in a place you can’t see them.

Ask yourself before snacking: “Am I eating because I am stressed?”

Exercise and get your heart-rate up before breakfast – even if it’s just for a few minutes. It will help kick-start your metabolism.

This piece was published in Herald group newspapers. The piece was penned by Rachel Grunwell: wellness writer & columnist, marathoner, yoga teacher and the director of this lifestyle website InspiredHealth. Follow InspiredHealth on Facebook (click HERE) & Instagram (Click HERE). We have amazing regular health giveaways and inspiration on living “well”.

Rach 02

Resolution Retreats runs numerous retreats throughout the year, ranging from three days to three weeks.