MUSCLE & HEART RETREAT: The Big Island, Hawaii (Fri, June 16 – Wed, June 21, 2017)

MUSCLE & HEART is a 5-day / 5-night fitness and writing retreat led by Alexandra Franzen, an author and writing coach, along with Justin Smith, a personal trainer and yoga instructor.

It’s all about: sweat, positivity, encouragement, discovering how strong you really are, and writing from the heart.

Bring your sneakers, an open mind, and a writing project — any topic, any size — that you’re excited to work on for 5 days in a row.



MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII is happening: Fri, June 16 – Wed, June 21, 2017.

Here’s the schedule:

Fri, June 16: Arrive whenever you want (flexible check-in time), unpack, sip some coconut water, and settle into the house.

Sat, June 17: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Sun, June 18: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Mon, June 19: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Tues, June 20: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Wed, June 21: Pack up and leave whenever you want (flexible check-out time) and grab one last farewell hug on your way to the airport! (Today is Justin’s birthday! Please give him extra hugs.)


MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII is happening in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

You’ll sleep, write, and hang out at a gorgeous house right on the Wailuku River.

You’ll have your own bedroom (either a King- or Queen-size bed), your own bathroom, and plenty of privacy.


– Tranquil rainforest setting.
– Wailuku River and waterfalls in the backyard.
– Windows facing the garden, falls, and downtown Hilo Bay.
– 10 minute walk to historic downtown Hilo’s shops and cafes.
– 10 minute drive to white sand beaches and Japanese gardens.
– 15 minute drive to Hilo International Airport. (We’ll pick you up and drop you off.)
– Towels, linens, and bath products are provided, just like a hotel.
– Spacious “Lanai” veranda, so you can work sitting outside if you want to.


Fly to Hilo International Airport on the Big Island of Hawaii. You can arrive anytime on Fri, June 16, 2017. You don’t have to worry about renting a car. We’ll pick you up from the airport and whisk you to the house.

Departure day is Wed, June 21, 2017. We’ll take you back to the airport or into downtown Hilo if you want to spend some extra time there before your flight.


June in Hilo, Hawaii is gorgeous! You can expect temperatures ranging from 75 – 85 degrees, plenty of sunshine, ocean breezes, and native birdsong.

You should bring:

– Workout clothes
– Casual daytime clothes
– PJs / loungewear
– A wrap or sarong
– Sneakers
– Sandals

– Sunscreen
– A bathing suit
– One “nice” outfit
– Your laptop or tablet
– Your laptop charger
– Your phone

Plus, you should bring:

– Anything “special” that you need for your writing project: notes, audio recordings, art supplies, photos, etc.

Towels and bath products are provided at the house, just like a hotel, so you don’t have to worry about that stuff!


Alexandra Franzen is a published author, writing consultant, ghostwriter, and speechwriter. Past clients include tech companies like Hewlett-Packard, celebrity-driven brands like Rachel Zoe’s DreamDry, and empowering, body-positive fitness companies like Curvy Yoga.

Alexandra’s writing has also been featured on websites like Time, Forbes, Newsweek, HuffPo, and Lifehacker, as well as in song lyrics, and stenciled onto fine art paintings.

She has led writing workshops in 17 cities around the world, and one of her events was named one of the “50 Best Conferences to Attend This Year” by The Muse.

Alex’s superpower is… Making you believe that YOU CAN DO IT. Yes, you can write a book. Yes, you can tell your story. Yes, your words do matter. She has a knack for helping people simplify their ideas so that projects don’t feel so overwhelming. Clients repeatedly tell her, “You make me feel like this is possible.”

Alex’s past retreat participants have: self-published guidebooks, cookbooks, poetry collections, and e-books, launched new classes and programs, gotten literary agents and book deals, delivered TEDx Talks, and more.

She would love to help you START — and more importantly, FINISH — a writing project of any size that feels important to you.

You can see more Alex-related stuff at


Justin Smith is a certified personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, and lifelong dinosaur enthusiast. (Ask him to show you his brontosaurus tattoo. Or his “wild feminist” tattoo.)

He believes that the point of “fitness” is to release stress, build confidence, show yourself how strong you can be, and feel like a badass. (Getting awesomely toned abs is just a nice “side effect” to all of that.) 

Justin loves designing sweaty, surprising workouts that keep you guessing — and occasionally, grunting and cursing — but in a fun way. He has been hired to design new workout programs and community / motivation programs for numerous fitness companies, including Firebrand Sports, StudioX, and Honest Training. He’s also a HUGE music fanatic and takes great pride in creating EPIC workout music playlists.

You can see more Justin-related stuff at and on Instagram at @dinosaur.knuckles.


You should come to MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII if…

– You have a writing project — any topic, any size — and you’d like to spend 5 days working on it. It could be a personal project (like a collection of letters for your kid to read one day) or a business-related project (like an e-book for your clients).

– You want to reconnect with your body, try some new workouts, and challenge yourself — in a safe, healthy way — with a certified trainer helping you along.

– You want to sit down with a seasoned writer to share your work, get feedback, brainstorm, talk about how to start (and actually finish) your project, talk about the publishing industry, talk about your biggest writing blocks, or anything else on your mind.

You should NOT come to MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII if…

– You have a problem with LGBTQ people.

– You have a problem with Muslim people, Christian people, Tarot cards, astrology, or any other expression of religion / spirituality.

– You are grumpy and relentlessly pessimistic.

– You hate beautiful tropical islands.


When you register for MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII, you’re getting:

– 5 days and nights at a beautiful house with your own private bedroom.
– 5 sweaty, empowering, energizing workouts with Justin.
– 5 hours of free time to work on your writing project, every day.
– 1-on-1 writing coaching with Alex before, during, and after the retreat.

– 3 healthy meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) every day.
– 1 full-body massage (sixty minutes) Hawaiian lomi-lomi style.
– Waterfall hikes, beach trips, and other activities around the island.
– Airport pick up / drop off and transportation around the island.


It’s $3,700 – $3,850 to attend this retreat, depending on which bedroom you choose. This price is ALL INCLUSIVE. 5 nights accommodation. 3 meals a day. Airport pick up and drop off. Daily workouts. A full-body massage. Activities around the island. 1-on-1 writing coaching with Alex… everything is included! Hooray!


A deposit of $450 is required to book your spot. After that, you can break the rest of your payment into 1, 2, or 3 installments.

You can use any credit or debit card (Visa, AMEX, Mastercard, etc.). Your payment will go through a secure, encrypted payment site called Gumroad. You’ll see “GUMROAD” on your credit card or bank statement.


River Suite. King-size bed, private bathroom with a bathtub and shower: $3,850 – OCCUPIED

Queen Suite. Queen-size bed, private bathroom with a bathtub and shower: $3,795 – OCCUPIED

Orchid Room. Queen-size bed, private bathroom with a bathtub and shower: $3,750 – OCCUPIED

Ocean Room. Queen-size bed, private bathroom with a bathtub and shower: $3,750 – OCCUPIED

Palm Room. Queen-size bed, private bathroom with a shower: $3,700 – OCCUPIED

Aloha Room. Queen-size bed, private bathroom with a shower: $3,700 – OCCUPIED


You registered for MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII… but now you can’t make it? Bummer!

– If you’re canceling because you’re dealing with a serious illness / medical crisis, we can give you a refund, switch you into another retreat (if there’s space), or figure out some other arrangement that works for you.

– If you’re canceling for ANY OTHER REASON (“I changed my mind,” “I forgot to book my flights in time,” “I feel too nervous to show up,” “I didn’t coordinate childcare,” “My lawn needs to be watered,” etc.)… then, sorry, but you will NOT receive a refund. This is a firm policy. Please don’t register unless you are 100% EXCITED AND READY to show up. Otherwise, it’s just a big headache for everyone involved. Thank you!


MUSCLE & HEART: HAWAII is a chilled-out, intimate, small-group experience.

Just 6 participants plus 2 instructors.

You’ll have time for group activities as well as 1-on-1 time with Alex and independent writing on your own. This retreat is quiet, peaceful and introvert-friendly!


Maybe you had a sour, critical English professor in college. Maybe you’ve been burned by countless rejection letters from publishers. Maybe you got a super-mean blog comment one time and you’ve been afraid to share your opinions ever since.

If, for whatever reason, you’ve decided that you “suck at writing,” this retreat is a great place to shake that nonsense right out of your mind. (Byeee!)

At MUSCLE & HEART, you’ll be surrounded by encouraging people. People who want to hear your ideas. People who won’t shut you down or make you feel stupid.

Whether it’s doing your first push-up, or writing two paragraphs, or finishing your first three book chapters, we want you to feel proud of yourself… and keep the momentum going!


Maybe you were an athlete in high school but it’s been a looo-oong time since those days. Maybe you’re bored of typical gym workouts and you’ve been stuck in a rut lately. Maybe your current version of “exercise” is “walking from the fridge back to my desk.”

If you haven’t been doing much exercise lately, this retreat is a great place to reconnect with your body and get moving again.

At MUSCLE & HEART, you’ll experience 5 different types of workouts — a new style each day — so you’ll never get bored. You’ll also be invited to hike, visit waterfalls, walk down forest trails, and get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Your body will love it.

Each workout is designed to be SAFE for all fitness levels. Justin is a seasoned group fitness instructor, and he knows how to design his classes so that everyone can dive in and participate. Some of his clients are extremely athletic. Others are total beginners. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, he’ll help you feel “challenged” but without pushing you “too” far.


Feel free to send an email to and ask anything on your mind!


This retreat is SOLD OUT.

To get notified about retreats happening in late 2017 and in 2018, please hop onto this mailing list. Thanks so much!

“Believe in yourself. There is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.” –Christian D. Larson

“Movement in your body creates movement in your life.” –Erin Stutland