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!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Alternative Salty/Crunchy Snack!

Sometimes nothing seems to hit the spot but a little bit of salty and a little bit of crunchy.  For those of us who are watching calories and fat intake, we want an alternative to reaching towards chips, right?

Enter a snack we first encountered at a legendary Italian restaurant and bar, Lucca Grill in Bloomington, Illinois years ago--a plate of simple olives and celery sticks.  We wish it was still part of their appetizer menu.  At 4-8 calories, each olive delivers a whollop of salt in a tiny package.  A couple of these may deliver 10-15% of the recommended amount of sodium you need each day, but that might be enough to satisfy a craving for salt.

Celery gives you the crunch, and at one calorie per "stick," according to Livestrong.com, you can eat a full cup of celery slices and take in only 17 calories.  Seventeen!

Lucca Grill, Bloomington, Illinois
(Lucca Grill photos by Brian Brakebill)
In contrast, tortilla chips deliver many more calories, and it is easier to eat QUITE a bit more than one standard "serving," right?  A serving of potato chips is 16 chips according to Livestrong.com  (when's the last time you ate just 16?!?) and delivers 157 calories.

So here's a tip: when you're eating out, read the entire menu before ordering.  You may be surprised by what you find...there may be some good options there for new dining or snacking alternatives!