Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Goals for Next Year!

One of the things I like so much about being a runner is that every day is a new start.  This puts the pressure off at New Year's time, as I'm so used to setting little goals for myself throughout the year.
So, here they are for 2013:
I want to run more miles than in 2012.  Easy goal.  Achievable goal.  All I have to do is schedule time, stay healthy and get out for those runs.
I want to do more active things with friends.  That includes running the upcoming Big Bend Ultra 10K with Mary (see above, we're finishing this year's local Turkey Trot together), and seeking out friends for walks, bike rides, and hikes all year long.  Being active with friends is a great way to build a HABIT of getting exercise.  When you are reluctant to roll out of bed for an early morning jog, knowing your buddy is waiting for you is often all the extra motivation you need. Half of living an active life is being in the habit of doing it.  And while I'm comfortable hiking, running and cycling by myself, I cherish time with friends.
I want to schedule more time to be a kid.  There's no better tonic for grownup stress than hopping on a mountain bike around dinnertime. The decades peel back and I'm a little girl again, free and independent without a care in the world. In 2013, I'm going to seize more little-girl bike time, and wander aimlessly around town and head out to the mountains.
I'm enjoying being a Stonewear Designs Grassroots Ambassador, wearing their terrific activewear and travel clothes all across Far West Texas and the Texas Mountain Trail.  For the Turkey Trot, I wore Stonewear Design's Rockin' Jacket and Rockin' Capri, both soft and warm for workouts on chilly mornings.   I love, love, love the Jacket's foldback cuff, which reveals a neat paisley print. I never really figured myself as a "paisley girl," but I really like the looks of this print.  And I've had folks stop in mid-sentence to say, "that's a NICE jacket."  What could be better than that?!?!  I also like the thick knit of the Rockin' series, a breathable barrier against our cold winds.  And in my cycling photo (above, right), same goes for their Echo Top.  It is rugged enough for the trail, yet soft next to my skin. The princess seams flatter, and it is so cozy...perfect for our warm Texas Mountain winter days!   

Monday, December 3, 2012

Should I Show My Higgely-Jigglies?

Warm and comfy and allowing for some coverage,
Stonewear Designs headband, Rockin' Jacket and Capri
Starting out as a new runner takes all kind of courage....courage to get out of bed in the morning and face a cold  run, courage to keep running even when you don't feel like it, courage to set your life in a new direction.

There's one more area of courage we can't ignore:  the courage to show your sweating, non-perfect body in public.

Stonewear Design's Dryflex Double Cross Top
and Rockin' Short

Let's address this issue one step at a time.  Consider issue of "non-perfect."  Not so long ago, I was visiting with a beautiful young woman, an avid hiker who'd logged a thousand miles on the trail.  In the course of discussing her considerable achievements, she said, "I'm not wearing my perfect body yet."  Wow, what a universal statement!  I pose this question to her, and to you:  "Is ANYONE wearing their perfect body?"  I don't think so!!

I'm approaching a milestone birthday early in 2013...I'm turning 55.  Over the course of the past few years--even though I've kept a pretty regular fitness practice going--I've noticed some changes of age.  My thighs (always, shall we say "robustly sized" for my height) got increasingly rumply-looking, and some of the skin appeared tired.  Very tired.  And one night I turned over in bed and wondered, "what the heck is between my shoulder blades?"....and it turned out to be my own skin getting a bit loose back there.  Yep, things just don't hold as tightly on my frame as they used to.  Bummer.  My body is gaining higgley-jigglies..new little curiousities to mark my age.

So here's the dilemma and a decision facing new runners: How much skin should you show during your workouts, particularly on those hot sweaty runs?

You want to look GOOD, right?  You want to be comfortable, right?  You want your workouts to be all they can be, right?

Here's my answer:

Yes, wear the clothing that will help you achieve, wear clothes that make you feel great....but know this....people watching you will see your effort first.  They'll see a person working hard, working to do something great for herself.  And if they notice some rumpled skin, or bulges here or there, they'll think "GOOD for her, that's a woman I can admire.  And she's doing it no matter what."

Early morning run in a hotel fitness center
NOT a glamorous time, no makeup
but a good run!
I admit I choose new workout clothes that allow for some modesty...I was delighted to find that Stonewear Design's Rockin Shorts covers up the worst my thighs have to offer.  But if I'm running in 90 degree heat and I can't stand it any longer, I'll pull off my top and run in a (pretty) running bra, baring my imperfect midriff for all to see.

One of my fitness heroines is Sadie, who still runs long distances in her 80s.  Does she have the body of a 50 year old?  No.  But I look at her and I say, "So that's what an 80 year old woman can look like..if I keep running, maybe I'll look like her when I'm that age."

And what will people say when I whip off my shirt, and run in a bra?

They'll say, "Look at her, that's what 55 years old looks like."  And, "Good for her for just getting out and getting the job done."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Be a Kid Again!

Because this little 2 minute video is so lovely, the photographer has given permission to share it with a wider audience.  We thought you'd like it too. The entire blog entry is worth a read....click here to get to it. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why do I ride? "You will eventually FLY down the other side," Artist, Carola Locke

Through friends, we met artist and cyclist Carola Locke, and loved her work so much, we wanted to share it with all of you!  And her story about getting on the bike for the first time as an adult?  Inspiring!  Take a look at her work, below...they're PAINTINGS, not photographs!  Wonderful, right?

Carola visiting Fort Davis' historic Indian Lodge
in Davis Mountains State Park
So first, why I do I ride?

"My husband did it. I had ridden a bit as a child, but never even considered it as an adult. It was one of those "impossible" things that gifted athletes did. However, shortly after being married, my husband found me an old steel road bike, rebuilt it, and gave it to me. I fearfully started riding it, but soon enough remembered what to do, and was thrilled with the rush and freedom which riding invokes. That was about  ten years ago. Riding a bike, whether for exercise, to commute, for socialization, or for therapy, has encouraged me to tackle fears which, otherwise, I never would have been brave enough to encounter. Riding has taught me to pace myself in life, and not to expect instant results. It has helped me learn that like riding up a hill, sometimes everything sucks, but it is only for a time; you will eventually fly down the other side.
"The Guru" by Carola Locke
My husband and I came out (to Fort Davis, TX) together to ride Cyclefest, and while it is the hardest ride I've done yet, it is also my favorite. The clean air and clear night sky, being able to see for miles, this area is my favorite in Texas. I've ridden the 75m route three times now, and hope to ride it many more times."

As for the art:

"I have always been artistic. But, about ten years ago (oddly the same time I began riding), I picked up a paintbrush and began trying to hone my skills. I painted a lot of people, beer, and nature themed pieces, but it wasn't until three years ago that I found my niche in painting bikes and their riders. The first piece I tried, "The Guru", floored me with how well it turned out. Usually, when I finish a painting I stand back and am amazed. It doesn't even feel like I painted them sometimes. I began showing my work two years ago. I love watching people enjoy the work I've done. Art allows me to meet people and travel and connect. As I meet cyclists at events I am flooded with new ideas and inspiration.

"36 Trinity" by Carola Locke
Sometimes, I'll be at a ride and see a really neat bike and will walk up and say "I don't know you, but you have a great bike. Can I photograph it and paint it?" Let me tell you, that's a great way to make a new friend!"

We asked Carola how we can see more of her work, how she shares and sells it, and her thoughts about being a working artist:

"There is much truth to the term "starving artist", as it is a difficult field to make a name in, but I consider myself lucky that I've managed to incorporate my gift (painting) with my passion (cycling). If I make money at an event, great, but if I leave having talked to other cyclists and gained new inspiration, that is often better. At this time my cycling paintings are exclusively displayed at Knobbies and Slicks in Colleyville, TX. It's website is http://www.knobbiesandslicks.com/ My website is www.artistcarolalocke.com My email is artist@artistcarolalocke.com I have 2013 calendars available and prints of most of my paintings. Most of the originals are for sale as well. Also, I am on Facebook at facebook.com/artistcarolalocke "
"Calf, de Calf"
by Carola Locke

We say, "2013 Calendars?"  Sounds like holiday gift possibilities to us...and thanks to Carola for sharing her story! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

White Bikes

Bike for Iris Stagner, photo by Libby Cluett
You may have seen them along the side of a road, and wondered, "what's up with the white bike?"

A memorial for a cyclist seriously injured or killed, white bikes or "ghost bikes," are put up near the scene of an accident to remind motorists to drive safely.

This is a ghost bike for our friend Iris Stagner, a cycling safety advocate, who lost her life last week riding her bike home from work.  The cause is still under investigation, but early reports indicate the motorist may have been medically-impared.  Regardless of cause, the result was tragic.  Iris was a board member for Bike Texas and passionate advocate for safety and a volunteer in our Texas Mountain Trail program.  At the request of her family, Bike Texas established a memorial fund.  You can read more about the fund here.

So when you see a white bike, think safety. Cyclists have a right to the road.  Want a refresher on safety tips as a motorist? Watch this video


Want to review some safety tips for cyclists?  Watch this video:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Running Alone and Getting Motivation from Others

Great running clothes! Stonewear
Designs Olympia Tank, Rockin' Short
Click to get a closer view!
Sometimes it is helpful to take a look back, so I'm posting this October 27, 2008 entry from an early, early, early blog of mine.  At this point, I'd been running about five years....and so much has changed since then!

Instead of running in Van Horn's incredibly special cemetery, I now run on a protected ranch road.  And I often run with Monte, since he moved from Houston to live in Marfa.

And since we lost my friend Iris last week in a cycling accident, I've added her name to the short list:  Dara Torres, Dr. Charlie, Sadie of Houston of names I chant to motivate myself during the hard runs.

October 27, 2008
"Today was a banner day. I topped my 2007 mileage total by passing 700 miles, so the rest of the year I'm marking virgin territory. Even though I tend to log the miles by myself, I'm usually not alone when I run.

There are people I tug along with me, people who inspire me to keep running:

Sometimes I chant with each footstep: Da-ra Tor-res, Da-ra Tor-res, Da-ra Tor-res, for the 41 year old swimmer who, when interviewed after winning a team gold at the Olympics said, "never put an age limit on your dreams." Yes, exactly.

Sometimes I conjure up the image of Dr. Charlie from Fitness Camp, the 91 year old--yes, that's right--cyclist donning his helmet and getting on his bike. This year, instead of sleeping in his little tent as he had in every previous year, he'd sleep in the bunkhouse with the younger guys.

Then there is the seemingly indefatigable Sadie, the 70+ year old marathoner in Houston, who is always out at Memorial Park.

Monte is a good coach when we run together and when we're apart, too. When I'm feeling a bit lazy and say I'm taking an extra day off, a simple "huh" over the phone will sometimes motivate me to get out there anyway.

But lately, there have been two older guys out at the cemetery watching me get my mileage in. I don't know their names, but they're friendly and we sometimes stop and talk a bit.

On weekends, a portly guy brings Pepita, his honey colored Pomeranian for a walk through the cemetery. On our first meeting, Pepita is happy to see me, running to me to catch a pet and listen to a bit of sweet talk. But this little pumpkinseed is serious about her walks. On the second round she won't stop, determined to keep up the pace, eager to keep her little legs in a blur.
She clearly has work to do. Her owner mostly keeps up with her; he's working off the extra pounds at Pepita's pace.

I came to know the other guy, also an older Hispanic gentleman, when I admired his family plot. It is well groomed, and I asked about the handmade cement planters and benches and the paintjob on the concrete curbing around it. He startled me a few months ago, when I heard a painful wailing across the cemetery. At first, I thought he was in trouble, or crying, as he was shuffling slowly and then I realized he was singing. I could pick out one word, "corazon" or "heart," so maybe it was a sad song of unrequited love. Since then we've talked, or tried to. I can't quite understand him as he lisps, has just a few teeth and a very small English vocabulary. But he's warm and happy to see me. And when I'm back from traveling, he comments that I've been away. Now I smile when I hear him sing."

Do you like the Stonewear running clothes?  They're great...and they're letting me try part of their winter line as a Stonewear Grassroots Ambassador this year. 

Pictured is the Olympia Tank (enough support for me, but suggested for yoga and walking) which I've actually worn to some laidback business meetings--yes, it is that stylish--over a nice skirt or their Liberty Skort.  I really like the princess seams and the detail at the neckline.  This top is a hard worker, yet graceful and feminine.  And the Rockin' Short is the perfect weight for fall weather, when you want something substantial as a bottom, but wearing pants might get too warm. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Want to try some YOGA...in your own home, or just about anywhere?

When I feel "stuck" and in a rut, and want to try something new, I log onto my laptop and browse Hulu.com's new "Health and Wellness" offerings.  This is a GREAT way to try out new fitness routines--yoga, pilates, cardio, or dance workouts--and you can do them anywhere.  That means you've got some privacy when you try something new--privacy of your own home or if you're traveling, in your hotel room.  And you know what?  It's free.
Want to focus on ab work, or relaxation, or upper or lower body?  There's a workout there for you.  Watch the video through first, to make sure it is a good match for your fitness level and capabilities--take good care of yourself, always.
When I travel by car, I try to pack my yoga mat, so I'm always ready.  But yes, I've also been known to stack hotel towels on the floor for a makeshift alternative! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Eating Healthy on the Road

Hyatt Place is offering a Hummus Trio plate on their new menu!
I'm on the road up to two weeks in a busy month, and it can be a challenge to maintain healthy practices.

Let's face it:  some days all I want is the comfort of a warm chocolate chip cookie.... am I right? 

Knowing this, knowing my weakness, I try to nip all temptation in the bud and plan ahead:

If I'm driving, I fill a small cooler with veggies, small containers of milk, yoghurt to snack on, and I try to book a hotel with a small fridge in the room.

I also tuck these into my suitcase:

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew packets (unsweetened varieties!)
packs of instant oatmeal
dried fruit pieces and/or nuts
small camping bowl and sturdy plastic utensils
paper towels or napkins
individual bags of tea

Just part of the breakfast spread at the Hyatt Place El Paso
Airport location--fruit, plain and berry yoghurts,
cottage cheese and a variety of fruits
That way I can always control at least one meal a day--breakfast--by heating water for oatmeal and coffee in the room's coffee maker. Some hotels offer great breakfast items, making it easy to eat well, and  not indulge.  One of my favorite places to stay in this regard is Hyatt Place, and the El Paso (Texas) Airport location is a good friend of our Texas Mountain Trail organization.  In fact, they were our first property to participate in our cycle-friendly program!  Yes, they offer indulgences at the breakfast spread that's included with the room, but there's also stonecut oatmeal, juices, cereals, fruit and yoghurt.  Easy, peasy.

Our El Paso Hyatt Place location is among the first 15 nationwide to roll out a new menu with some healthy options, including salads, soup/salad combinations, and my new FAVE go-to dinner item: (pictured above):   

Hummus Trio $7.75  A trio of Red Pepper, Roasted Garlic and Basil Pesto Hummus, served with Kalamata Olives, Pepperoncini, Fire Roasted Peppers, Warm Herb Flatbread & Carr’s Crackers

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Great Travel Dress

We're so happy to be in partnership with Stonewear Designs, a wonderful made-in-the-USA women's clothing company specialising in looks for active women. Texas Mountain Trail Executive Director, and Stonewear Design's Grassroots Ambassador, Beth Nobles, tests the Riva Dress.
In front of El Paso's historic
Plaza Theatre (click to get
a closer look)
"The Riva dress fell out of my suitcase wrinkle-free--I had been on the road a few days already--and just slipped it on.  Rarely I get such a perfect fit.  It was soft and moved with me all day long, from a public speaking engagement in the morning to bopping around in El Paso's downtown cultural campus and museum to museum in the mid-day sun, to dinner at the end of the day.  The knit was light enough to breathe from the cool morning temperatures to the late afternoon heat, and the long sleeves protected me from the sun."
 "Gorgeous color (now that I've got one in Pomegranate, I want one in Snow and one in Black!) and this is a dress that can take me anywhere.  I'm on the road about half the time, and the Riva is appropriate for visits to the State Capitol, nice restaurants, business meetings and speaking engagements."
View a slideshow of our visit to downtown El Paso wearing Stonewear Design's Riva Dress!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Green, green, green!

Much of the country has been suffering through drought, including our beautiful Far West Texas, however lately we've been blessed with rain and our entire region is greening up nicely.  Now's a GREAT time to get out on the trail!  Here are some shots taken on Friday in Big Bend National Park, along the Lost Mine Trail.


Here's a link to the park's webpage on mountain hikes in Big Bend's Chisos Mountains, including the Lost Mine trail we took on Friday!

And hikers in Guadalupe Mountains National Park or Franklin Mountains State Park, have you logged your miles in the Peak Fitness Challenge?  Do so, and you could win prizes...so far we've all hiked 635 miles!  This is a free, fun challenge for everyone, with VERY easy to VERY challenging hikes in both parks!  Sign up here, and join our facebook community here!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why get your exercise outdoors?

Sure, you can stroll through a mall to get your exercise for the day, and some days the weather calls for it, particularly if there's lightning or ice out there. 

But if you stay inside for all your workouts, you miss a bigger experience, and we daresay a better experience.  There's a big big world out there, and we're not alone.  Take your time on the trail, and you can pick up clues about the animals that share the trail with YOU.

The best time to see wildlife is typically early or late in the day, but even if you head out in midday, you may see tracks in the sand.  This morning we saw bird tracks, lizard tracks, mouse prints, and pronghorn tracks. 

So take your time when you're out there, and look down!  What do you see? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Scenes from our First Couch Potato Hike!

The Lazy Cow trail in Franklin Mountains State Park is great for hiking and mountain biking too! Click here to Read more about this easy hiking trail !!
Our first Couch Potato Hike of the Peak Fitness Challenge, led by Abby Austin (r), with Adrianna Weickhardt (TPWD, center) and hikers (left) on the Lazy Cow Trail of Franklin Mountains State Park! Click here to  Read Abby Austin's hiking blog here!
Would you like to join the Peak Fitness Challenge?  Visit www.GeoBetty.com/peak to register!

Summer Treat

Layer small chunks of watermelon, feta cheese and cucumber on toothpicks or skewers for a tasty
summertime snack (depending on size of your chunks, as low as 20 calories per skewer!)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Peak Fitness Challenge Begins!

 We're SO excited about this program---and everyone is invited, whether you're a beginning hiker or experienced trail runner!  The challenge will run a full year, so there's plenty of time to participate in organized hikes in the park, or plan your own adventures with family and friends!  Here's the press release and info about the challenge!  

You'll be able to sign up for the Challenge later today!

The Peak Fitness Challenge, a free hiking program for Franklin Mountains State Park and Guadalupe MountainNational Park launches today, June 21st   at the monthly meeting of the El Paso Hotel Motel Association.  A joint program of the parks, the Texas Mountain Trail regional non-profit, El Paso’s GeoBetty.com and PhidevInc.com, the Challenge encourages everyone from beginning hikers to experienced trail runners to get out on the park’s trails.  Participants can earn prizes for their accomplishments.

“Hikers can use the program to build their fitness and confidence levels to reach the highest peaks in the Franklins and the Guadalupes, if they want,” says Don Baumgardt, GeoBetty creator and publisher of the El Paso Visitors Guide.  “Participation is easy and free.  Folks can go online to register, log miles hiked and compete for prizes.  This Challenge is for regional residents and visitors to Far West Texas.” 

Information and sign up is available at GeoBetty.com/Peak .   Hikers and trail runners can compete as individuals or team members.  Participants may count the miles they log on organized hikes or adventures they tackle with friends and family members.  Everyone is invited to join the facebook community for the challenge at www.facebook.com/PeakFitnessChallenge

Planning for the Peak Fitness Challenge began last fall, when the new Superintendent of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and El Paso native, Dennis Vasquez, approached the Texas Mountain Trail for assistance in planning the park’s 40th anniversary.  “The park had ideas for a hiking challenge similar to programs we’d been considering for some time,” said Beth Nobles, Executive Director of the Texas Mountain Trail, a regionally-based heritage tourism non-profit organization serving Far West Texas. “When we invited GeoBetty.com and their developer Phidev, Inc. to join the project and handle the technical aspects of the Challenge, the program really took off.  With the addition of Franklin Mountains State Park, we knew we had a winner.” 

From the beginning, the Peak Fitness Challenge was designed to encourage everyone to get out on our Far West Texas trails, including beginning hikers.  Adrianna Weickhardt, Parks Interpreter/Ranger at Franklin Mountains State Park, started Women’s Only Hikes earlier this year to encourage more participation at the park.  “They’re great opportunities for females of all ages who may feel some apprehension or fear about starting this new activity.  We cover the fundamentals of hiking, and we take a slower pace, starting with beginner level trails.  There’s an experienced guide along for the entire hike to lead them, assist, and answer any questions.”

To encourage new hikers, Nobles began a blog called, “One Foot in Front of the Other,” (www.onefoottostart.blogspot.com)  which features fitness tips and interviews with hikers, runners and cyclists.  The blog has several “Hiking 101” entries already addressing topics such as, “What’s a Trailhead?” and “How do I Find the Trail?”

Some of the trails are labeled “Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes,” to encourage participants to learn about the heritage of the Far West Texas region.  One trail runs past a historic stagecoach route, another was the site of a murder of a Texas Ranger.  The TexasMountain Trail is a regional non-profit heritage tourism and economic development organization, representing the six westernmost counties of the state.  It participates in the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Heritage Trails Program.

In the days after the June 21st launch, participants may choose join hikes organized and led by volunteers or rangers at the participating parks:

Franklin Mountains State Park:
Make your reservation by calling:  (915) 566-6441
Bring:  Water, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, binoculars, a flashlight for the tin mines, a map and dogs are welcome on leashes!

Saturday, June 23 –“Couch Potato Hike” on the Lazy Cow Trail   
Start Time: 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Length: 6.3 miles/ 2 – 3 hours
Trailhead:  Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park/East side of the mountains (call for directions)
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  This single track trail is often used for mountain biking, but is a nice leisurely stroll as a hiking trail as well.  It is not difficult terrain to traverse, however, it is a longer distance and may be challenging for new hikers.  The plant and animal life in this area is readily seen and with the Franklins as a backdrop, this hike is beautiful.

Sunday, June 23rd– Mine Shaft Exploration
Start Time:  8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Length:  1.4 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
Trail:  Begin on West Cottonwood Springs trail, then enter the mineshaft to explore and end on the Agave Loop. *Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  Rocky along some sections, with a few short steep stretches.  The exploration into the mineshaft is fun and easy with one initial short belly crawl through the opening. 

Friday, June 29 – Women’s Only Hike – Upper Sunset Trail
Start Time:  8:00 a.m.
Length:  2.6 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to moderate.  We’ll encounter some elevation gains, with some short steep inclines/declines, a few rocky/rough sections, and great vistas as we walk along the ridgeline.

 Guadalupe Mountains National Park:  All hikes begin at 8:00. Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Saturday, June 23-- Devil's Hall
Start time:  8 am.
Length:  4.2 miles roundtrip, moderately difficult, but very rocky, 3-4 hours.  Meet at the Pine Springs Trailhead near the RV campground.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Sunday, June 24-- Smith Springs
Start time:  8 am   (2.3 miles roundtrip, moderately difficult, 2 hours) Meet at the Frijole Ranch Trailhead.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Sunday, July 1--McKittrick Canyon to Pratt Cabin
Start time:  8 am (4.8 miles round trip, moderately difficult, 3-4 hours) Meet at the McKittrick Canyon Trailhead.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Meet Abby Austin: 1,000 Miles on My Own Two Feet

This is the first of several interviews we'll post with Abby Austin, creator of the wonderful hiking blog, 1,000 Miles on My Own Two Feet.  Originally from Maine, Abby lives in El Paso while her husband is stationed with the military at Fort Bliss.  We LOVED her blog, and were excited to meet her recently...and get her support as a volunteer with the Peak Fitness Challenge!  (We'll announce the challenge on Thursday, but you can join the facebook community of the challenge now, at www.facebook.com/PeakFitnessChallenge )   Abby will be leading a "Couch Potato Hike" in Franklin Mountains State Park on Saturday, June 23.  Make your reservation by calling the park at  915-566-6441.
Lazy Cow Trail, Franklin Mountains.  Abby will lead a "Couch Potato Hike"
on June 23rd for anyone wanting to get out in the Franklins, regardless of experience!
One Foot in Front of the Other:  Last year, you started a quest...well, why don't you tell the story?

Abby Austin: My husband will be retiring at the end of 2012 after twenty years of service in the military. That means we’re in control of our future, and we have backpacking dreams. Fitness was absent in my life—I was a couch potato!—and I was fearful of the trails because I wasn’t in shape. I challenged myself to hike 1,000 miles that year to get conditioned for our future backpacking. What better of a place than the Sun City with three hundred days of clear skies every year?

Hiking in the Franklin Mountains State Park is a great opportunity for me to hike 1,000 miles. There are trailheads just miles from my home. It’s such a gift to be so near to outdoor recreation, despite being in the middle of a city of half a million people. The park is ideal for my needs because it’s easy to find a variety of trails, including trails that would take my day’s mileage into double digits. The Franklins are ideal, too, for providing challenging terrain. I am the least surefooted person you’ll meet, but I love mountain tops, and to see them, I have to trust my feet. I still don’t hike fast, but I feel comfortable hiking on loose rock now, which stumped me when we arrived.

One Foot in Front of the Other:  Why do you enjoy hiking?

Abby Austin: I love to see Mother Nature at her wildest, truest self.  There’s only so much of America I can see from a highway. By hiking and getting into the backcountry, I’ve had the opportunity to see loads of wildlife just here in the Borderland, including Oryx, Barbary Sheep, and Javelina. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as alive as standing on the summit of North Franklin—except for my few snake encounters!

Prickly Pear, Franklin Mountains
One Foot in Front of the Other:  What's your favorite hike? 
Abby Austin:  Do I have to pick only one? This region has so many fabulous hiking opportunities. I love hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend the Davis Mountains, but I’ll pick a favorite from the Franklins because I know this park the best. My favorite trail is Scenic Trail—and don’t let the subtle name fool you because “scenic” isn’t a good enough name. I’ve hiked this trail in the Franklin Mountains many times, and each time I come down feeling as though I’ve been at the spa. I feel refreshed, cleansed and inspired. My favorite time of day there is morning. I’ve seen the sunrise from up there, and a mountain view sunrise is better than the strongest java.  The morning light makes the mountain colors look more brilliant than any other time of day.

Scenic Trail, Franklin Mountains
One Foot in Front of the Other:  What's your favorite fitness tip?

Abby Austin: 
Enjoy the sport you choose. I love hiking. Even on days where it feels like a chore to get out the door, as soon as I see North Franklin Mountain towering over the North Hills, I fall into pace and wonder, why did I want to sleep late?

One Foot in Front of the Other:  What advice do you have for folks who are just thinking about getting started with hiking or fitness in general?

Abby Austin:  Enjoy the trail. There is only so much of America that we can see from the highway.

McKittrick Canyon Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Have confidence in yourself when you begin finding fitness. Self-doubt and self-consciousness are going to hold you back more so than the rattle snake blocking the trail. You might not look pretty doing it, you might be slower than someone else, but the bottom line is that you’re moving, and that is going to promote good health.

One Foot in Front of the Other: You’re going to be leading a “Couch Potato Hike” in Franklin Mountains State Park as part of the launch weekend for the Peak Fitness Challenge.  Can you tell us about that hike, the trail, and what participants can expect?

Abby Austin:  The Lazy Cow Hike and Bike Trail will be the trail we hike for the Couch Potato Hike. It’s located in the northeast section of the park, and it’s a favorite among mountain bikers, so the trail is well worn and comfortable to walk. The hardest part of the hike is at the very beginning as we will hike to the trailhead which has a slight uphill grade. The rest of the trail is flat, meandering through yucca, prickly pear, ocotillo agave and barrel cacti. The entire loop will be a six mile hike, but for those hikers who wish to hike less, there are loop backs to shorten their hikes.

The hiker I anticipate joining me will be someone new to the outdoors, perhaps someone who likes to walk around their neighborhood, but who would like to step it up a notch. This is a beginner hike, but at least a small level of fitness will be required. Hikers must bring one-two quarts of water and sturdy shoes/boots, sunscreen and/or thin, loose, breathable clothing to cover their skin.  Well behaved pets on leash are welcome (and remember their water!). This is one of the first trails I hiked by myself in the Franklins, and it was here that I gained the confidence to become a daily hiker.
One Foot in Front of the Other:  Join Abby on Saturday for the Peak Fitness Challenge "Couch Potato Hike" at Franklin Mountains State Park.  More information is here!  

**Make your reservation by calling Franklin Mountains State Park:  (915) 566-6441.**
Bring:  Water, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, binoculars,  and dogs are welcome on leashes!

 Saturday, June 23
Peak Fitness Challenge Hike  -   
“Couch Potato Hike” J  on the Lazy Cow Trail   
Start Time: 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Length: 6.3 miles/ 2 – 3 hours
Trailhead:  Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park/East side of the mountains (call for directions)
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  This single track trail is often used for mountain biking, but is a nice leisurely stroll as a hiking trail as well.  It is not difficult terrain to traverse, however, it is a longer distance and may be challenging for new hikers.  The plant and animal life in this area is readily seen and with the Franklins as a backdrop, this hike is beautiful.

All photos courtesy, Abby Austin!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Just be thankful it isn't 1895!

Over the next couple of weeks, Texas Mountain Trail will roll out a great story...the story of the first woman to ride a bike around the world and her visit to El Paso on that exciting adventure.  When did it take place?  Exactly 117 years ago.
I am...a new woman, if that term means that I believe I can do anything
that any man can do." -Annie Londonderry

In 1895, cycling was a craze in El Paso as well as many other parts of the country.  At the time, women were starting to ride bikes, but were faced with a serious question...what to wear?  Long skirts could prove dangerous, but bloomers weren't socially acceptable yet.  Here's a clip from the El Paso Herald's front page from June 21, 1895!!

and from June 15, 1895!
Follow the story on the Texas Mountain Trail Facebook page or our Twitter account!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Shirt that Changed Everything

Eleven years later, the
shirt still inspires a good
morning run.  Taken this morning!
Photo: Monte Riggs

I saw it in a store window, and maybe it was the color--a beautiful cornflower blue--that caught my eye.  There was just something about it that made me want that shirt.  But it wasn't just that.  I wanted to BE the person who would wear it.  I wanted to be a person fit enough to do it justice.

Eleven years ago, things were not going so well.  Caught in a challenging home life and a  golden handcuffs job that didn't fit anymore, I was confused about the direction of my life and I was not very happy. 

I'd started riding my bike, a heavy hybrid perfect for oldsters venturing out only on safe gravel paths.  And come to think of it, that was my situation.  I was feeling ancient too soon at 43, and not very adventurous.  Definitely not fit.  And definitely not stretching myself, in any sense of the word.

But that shirt...that shirt kept beckoning to me.

So I stepped into the store and bought it, my first athletic wear ever.

Gradually, I stepped up my bike rides.  Gradually, I started to walk in the mornings, then jog.  I worked myself out of some difficult relationships and stepped out on my own two feet.

After each laundry day, the shirt was there on top of the pile, ready for some adventure.  That shirt waited for me on the shelf, begging me to get out.  Morning after morning, the effect of the exercise and the endorphin rush built confidence.  Each day, things got better.

And while at first I thought I'd have to grow into being an athlete, a person who sweated enough to "earn" the shirt; in truth, I was legitimately that person from the very beginning.  All I had to do was trust myself to keep at it day after day.

So when I visit with people who are considering a new fitness practice, I encourage them to buy clothes that feel good to wear, and clothes that inspire them.  It may be a cornflower blue, long sleeved technical T, or it may be something else.  But when you see athletic wear that speaks to you, buy it, and wear it and love it.  You may be surprised by the athlete inside it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hiking 101--What's a Trailhead?

If you're a beginner hiker, you may have wondered...."what's a trailhead?"

Think of it as a visit to the mall...the trailhead is the mall entrance.  You park your car at the trailhead, get your gear ready and head out on your hike.  It is likely you'll end your journey at the same trailhead if you're taking an "out and back" or a loop trail. 

Since many parks have a network of trails, your hike might start out on one, but connect to another and another.  Just like shopping in the mall, there can be a number of ways to map your outing.
Many trailheads have maps to help orient yourself to hiking options.

Some trailheads have directional signs.

Our thanks to our friend Don for suggesting this post.  Don is with GeoBetty.com and a partner in our  upcoming Peak Fitness Challenge!  The challenge will be for all hikers--from "couch potato beginners" to experienced hikers and trail runners...stay tuned!
Credit, Mall photo under Creative Commons by demonrider12.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Well, HELLO there triceps! So good to know you again!


Mornings?  Lovely here in the Chihuahuan Desert.  The birds sing; soft breezes rustle the curtains.  But stand outside my window this morning, and you wonder, "what the heck is going ON in there?" 

Oh, that's just ME.  I'm working out.

"Grrrrrrmph."  (bicep curl)  "Pffffft."  (ab crunch)  "Ayyyhhhhhh!"   (tricep extension)
See, I'd let things slack.  While I'd added much more to my plate in the past couple of years--more adventure (cycling, trail running, mountain biking) and more responsibilities (new work duties and volunteer efforts)--I'd let something important slide.  For some reason, I stopped my regular workouts with weights.

I credit lifting with reshaping my body when I first got fit ten years ago, but more than that, it gave me power.  The weights made me step away from the weakling self-image I'd held since grade school sports jamborees, where it was a documented fact I never measured up.  No fancy equipment or gym was required for this change; I used hand weights to build muscle.  It wasn't long before I stood taller.  My running stride got stronger. My often-sore back stopped hurting.  I felt more confident all the way around.

I'm almost back to square one.  When I started ten years ago, I started light...just 2-and 3-lbs.  This time around, my starting point was 8-lbs.  Some of the old workout was a breeze right away, and I know I can easily double that weight in short order.  Some exercises  are hard, and I'm grunting my way through my workouts.

But, I'm having fun getting back into shape, grunts and groans notwithstanding.  I know the effort and the  soreness is getting me somewhere.  The burn I feel on those triceps are going to lead to toned, but more importantly, STRONGER arms.

Where I've hiked, but not yet been bouldering....Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site in Far West Texas, one of the best bouldering sites in the world.
This year, I'll get strong enough to go bouldering there!
See, I've got a goal beyond sleek triceps.  I've been in Far West Texas for seven years now, and it is about time I get my 54 year old body onto the rocks of Hueco Tanks and start bouldering.  Sure, I've been hiking there.  I've scrambled up rocks and explored pictographs on the overhangs and in the caves.  But now's the time to build upper body strength and try one of the best bouldering sites in the world.  Why wait?

So while all this exercise makes my tummy flatter and my behind a bit smaller, what really matters to me is the strength and the power.  I'm not very muscly even at my fittest.  Lifting, even lifting just hand weights ramps up the confidence level another notch.  I'll be facing a fear of heights (although you don't go THAT high in bouldering) and conquering some epic rock!

That gentle burn in the triceps?  That's the signal I'm looking for: validation that I'm working hard enough to get a little closer to my goal.  So while I freely admit I like to look good, what I can DO is much more important.  I'm going to get out and climb that rock!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Three Ways to Feel Like a Kid Again

Take a drink out of the hose.
Kneel down in the grass and slurp!
Take a bike ride after dinner.

Reward yourself, and acknowledge your motivation by putting a sticker
on the calendar when you get out and exercise!