MUSCLE & HEART RETREAT: The Big Island, Hawaii (Mon, Jan 15 – Sat, Jan 20, 2018)

MUSCLE & HEART is a 5-day, 5-night retreat led by Alexandra Franzen, an author and writing coach, along with Justin Smith, a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. It’s all happening in the town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

This retreat is all about…

– Positivity.
– Inspiration.
– Encouragement.

– Moving your body.
– Writing from the heart.
– Getting big work done.

It’s an intimate retreat with just 6 – 8 participants. 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. Start your New Year in paradise!


It doesn’t get much better than… Hawaii.


It’s all happening in the town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

You’ll sleep, write, and hang out at a historic mansion right on the Wailuku River. It’s serene and spacious, and there’s a waterfall view from the living room.

You’ll have your own bedroom (queen 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.
– Towels, snorkeling gear, and bath products are provided.
– 10 minute walk to historic downtown Hilo’s shops and cafes.
– 10 minute drive to black sand beaches and Japanese gardens.
– 15 minute drive to Hilo International Airport. (We’ll pick you up and drop you off.)

A friendly sea turtle that we met during the last retreat.


Mon, January 15, 2018: Fly into Hilo International Airport. Arrive whenever you want (flexible check-in time), unpack, sip some coconut water, and settle into the house.

Tues, January 16, 2018: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Wed, January 17, 2018: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Thurs, January 18, 2018: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Fri, January 19, 2018: Writing, workouts, island activities.

Sat, January 20, 2018: Pack up and leave whenever you want (flexible check-out time) and grab one last farewell hug on your way to the airport!

Relax on a black sand beach after yoga class. Or, stroll through quirky downtown Hilo.

“This trip has been such an incredible reminder of what’s possible in life, on a daily basis. Waking to the sounds of nature, moving our bodies in ways that feel good and make us strong (even while recovering from injuries!), delicious meals and conversations, daily adventures, AND time blocked out to do the work we’re meant to be doing in the world. I had so much fun AND I got lots of work done!” 
–Laura Sprinkle, Branding, web design, and product launch specialist,

Akaka Falls.


Fly to Hilo International Airport on the Big Island of Hawaii. You can arrive anytime on Mon, January 15, 2018. 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 Sat, January 20, 2018. You can depart anytime. We’ll take you back to the airport. One last hug for the road!


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, empowering fitness companies like Curvy Yoga, and dozens of coaches, consultants, public speakers, and inspirational icons like Danielle LaPorte and Marie Forleo.

Alexandra’s writing has been featured on websites like Time, Forbes, HuffPo, Newsweek, and Lifehacker, as well as in song lyrics, and stenciled onto fine art paintings. Her work has also been mentioned in places like The New York Times Small Business Blog, BuzzFeed, and Inc.

She has led writing workshops and retreats in 18 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 heroes are Mister Rogers and RuPaul. Her motto is: “Today is not over yet.” You can learn more about Alex here, and you’ll find her books over here.


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, and feel like a badass. It’s not about getting a “bikini body” or fitting into society’s expectations of how you’re “supposed” to look. It’s about energy, joy, and making you feel unstoppable.

Justin 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 a music fanatic and loves creating epic workout playlists.

You can learn more about Justin at, and find him on Instagram at @dinosaur.knuckles.

“I have come back from the retreat with this re-connection to my personal writing voice that I had almost been afraid to hope I could find again. It feels so damn good to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and express myself for both my business and for myself. And thank you, Alex, for offering to continue to work with us for a few more weeks afterwards. It helps me to stay on track knowing that you will be there to give me some constructive feedback and cheering me on. So very happy!”  
–Valerie Tookes, Holistic Health Coach,

Carlsmith Beach.


MUSCLE & HEART is $3,800 per person. This includes everything (accommodation, meals, classes, activities, etc.) except for your airfare. You can reserve your spot with a deposit of $500, and then you can pay the remaining amount in 1, 2, or 3 installments.

More details on everything that’s included…

— Accommodation.

Your own private bedroom with a king- or queen-size bed and private bathroom that includes a shower and tub. Lots of privacy.

— Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is included every day — with the exception of one dinner, so you can spend a little time exploring downtown Hilo on your own. Healthy, tasty food, with plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options if that’s your thing.

— Morning workouts.

5 fun workouts with Justin, a personal trainer who wants you to know that your body is perfect and amazing, just the way it is.

— Writing classes.

A writing class with Alex, every day, followed by 4 hours of independent writing time where you can dive into any kind of project that feels important to you.

Feeling stuck? Want some feedback on something you’ve written? You can sit down with Alex for a one-on-one chat at almost any point in the day. Lots of time to talk it out.

— Island adventures.

Beach trip. Farmer’s Market. Hula lesson with a legendary local teacher. And more. Every activity is optional. Come along, or stay home and keep writing if you’re in a nice groove and don’t want to stop.

— Nighttime yoga.

5 relaxing yoga classes just before bedtime, outside on the lanai, with flickering candlelight and the sounds of tropical birds and frogs.

— A full-body massage.

60-minute massage with a phenomenal local healer. (She will rock your world.)

— Airport pick-up, drop-off, and transportation around the island.

You don’t need to rent a car. We’ll swing by and whisk you everywhere you need to be.

— Beautiful details.

Epsom salts in your room so you can soak your muscles after a long day. Fresh flowers by your bed. Postcards and stamps to mail a note back home. A farewell gift before you head to the airport. Lots of love.

— Six weeks of writing coaching after the retreat ends.

Keep the creativity and momentum alive… even after you leave the island. For six weeks, Alex will touch base with you once a week, to check in and see how you’re doing with your project. You can also send over a draft of something you’ve written and get feedback and encouragement.

Palms trees. Rainbows. Nonstop beauty.


January in Hilo, Hawaii is gorgeous! You can expect temperatures ranging from 75 – 80 degrees during the daytime, 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!


You registered for MUSCLE & HEART, 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!


Please fill out this application. You’ll get a response in 1-2 days. Thank you!

Photo credits: Alexandra Franzen, Justin Smith, Danielle Cohen, and Leslie Plesser.