Biking Adventures

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

My little hound dog is on the mend. The meds the vet gave him help and he is a much perkier pooch. He’s still on restrictions though, so no walks for a couple weeks. I took him up to the cabin last weekend. There, I have a big open lot where I can put him out on a tie-out and he can get fresh air without a walk. It also has the advantage of not having any stairs to climb, so it was a good spot for recuperation.

In fact, it was good for both of us. The cabin is the perfect place to relax, but there are also a ton of options for outdoor activities. Maybe I can’t walk my dog on the trails, I can still bike them! I went out on the kayak several times a day and even went for a run one morning. Cabins aren’t all R&R though, they are still another house that needs maintaining. I spent a couple hours each day raking, picking up sticks and cleaning out the gutters. It might not be pretty, but it is definitely a work out!

Being able to take my bike up was glorious! It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that. There is a rail trail near the cabin, which is perfect for me. It’s fairly flat, which suits my one speed cruiser to a t, and as the photo suggests… it wasn’t all about fitness! There was plenty of “life by the lake” downtime as well.

I stayed through Monday, (an early morning kayak ride is the perfect way to start a week, by the way, so much better than meetings.) With some newly acquired bike time under my belt, I decided to try something else new on Tuesday – I biked to the studio! Now, the boxing studio is not that far away, I knew I could ride there. What was holding me back was traffic. I just got my bike last summer and I haven’t really ridden a bike since I was 16. I’m still getting my feet under me. There are bike lanes part of the way, which are super nice, but still, it is a little intimidating.

That is why I did my practice run at 7:00 in the morning. There was some traffic, of course, but it was early enough that it wasn’t crazy. The ride went fine. There was only one spot that I was a little unsure about – one large intersection where the bike lanes get really confusing. Fortunately, a woman many years my senior smoked passed me and flew through it ahead of me. I got to see how she handled it. Yay for older gals on fast bikes teaching this gal on her slow bike how to ride! (In retrospect it was perfectly obvious, but for a newbie like me, it was a little intimidating. That woman passed me at the perfect time, I am very grateful to her, and I am sure she has no idea.)

Now that I have done it once, I know I could ride to the studio for a class. I’d have to pack my water bottle and boxing gloves in a backpack (I don’t have a basket for the bike yet) but it seems fairly easy. It would be nice on weekends or if I decide to swing in for the 5:30AM Monday morning class (yeah, I know) to be able to peddle over. I’m looking forward to it.

Making it Work – Roof Rack Love

Guess who bought herself a new present?roof rack

This is my new roof rack. It can hold a bike and a kayak! I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Last summer a friend gave me a bike, and while I loved riding it, it was difficult to take places without a rack. I could put it in my hatchback and leave the back open, but that just didn’t seem very safe. On top of that, there are some great riding trails up by my cabin, but if I took my bike, I couldn’t take my dog. (I am not going to attempt to transport my dog in a car with an open hatch. He’d probably be fine, but I am not taking that risk.)

Likewise, I have a kayak at my cabin. However, it’s 10 feet long – it definitely won’t fit inside my car. And while I enjoy paddling around the lake by my cabin, I’ve been itching to take it elsewhere – even just down the road a half a mile to a pretty woodland inland lake.

So, I had a bike at the house I wanted to bring to the cabin and a kayak at the cabin I wanted to bring home occasionally, and this week, I made it all possible! Hooray!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fitness goals. I’m doing a lot of things that at first glance seem pretty different: yoga, strength training, boxing, walking, running, biking, kayaking… and so on. Really, anything that catches my eye is fair game. So, what am I trying to do?

1) I’m looking to find fitness that is fun for me. I was at boxing class the other night and chatting with an older fella that always seems to be there. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Oh, you know… I’m unmotivated. I always feel that way before class. But, (siiiighhhhh,) I make myself get out and do it…” He was the Eeyore of boxing. I thought, “What the heck? Someone actually dreads this class? This class is awesome!” Of course I realize it isn’t for everyone, but then why come? Why not do something else?

If I am going to stay active for the next 40 – 50 years, I am going to do it by finding things that are fun for me. Even running, (which is probably my least favorite of all the stuff I do,) has benefits I love. I make it even better by running in parks and beautiful places. It may not be my forte’, but I never dread it.

2) I want to be a superhero. That is the best way I have of describing it. I want a whole bag of tricks at my disposal. I want to be strong, but also able to run. I want to be able to throw a punch, and also twirl a hoop. Actually, Steve at Nerd Fitness wrote a great post that totally fits in with how I feel: Becoming AntiFragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos.

3) I’m still figuring stuff out. Up until one year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me that I’d be running or working out at fitness studio. I’m still figuring out what this new life is all about. The more things I try and say “Yes” to, the more I learn about myself. It’s a good place to be.

Putting it all Together

spokes by ben alfordTonight I am fasting so I can get some blood work done. It’s nothing serious; when I saw my physician the other day she noticed I was overdue for a full physical. She wants to get the blood work done in anticipation for that. I spoke to one of the nurse practitioners about when I should stop in to get the blood drawn – she said I could do it any time of the day, but since it is a “first come, first served” situation, the earlier the better. She suggested getting there right at 7:00AM since the lines are lowest then. So, I’ll have a meal around 6:30 and fast for the rest of the night.

I’m not particularly worried about it, I don’t eat much at night anyway. Actually, I am glad I am having it done. It will be good to see what my health looks like now. It seems like I am focusing a lot on health right now – two different doctors this week and three fitness classes, (two boxing classes and Hot Yoga is Saturday morning.) I’m hoping I can also get in a run or a bike ride too.

Speaking of which – I stopped in at the fancy schmancy sporting goods store yesterday and inquired about a bike/kayak rack for my car. Since I have an older model car (I bought it 10 years ago this month!), they had to special order in some of the parts. It will cost far more than the cost of the kayak and the bike combined, in fact, it will be pretty much double. I’m a little freaked out about spending that much money, but it will let me take the bike up to the cabin and bring the kayak back here, giving me so much more flexibility. Since I drive a Honda, I expect I’ll have this car for another ten years, so it’s a good investment. (And most of the parts I can take to a new car when I get one, so I won’t lose that way either.) It looks like it will be a couple of weeks, but once that is done, I’ll have a lot more options. I like that.

 

Photo credit: Ben Alford on flickr

Lake Dreams

lilypads

Dreaming of the lake

Last weekend I went up to the lake. I have a small cabin there, not much of a place – one bedroom, one bath, but all mine with 80′ of shoreline. It is, in a word, heaven.

Here is a breakdown of my typical day last weekend:

  • Get up at 7:30AM. Dress in walking gear and grab the dog. Hike a nearby rail trail with him for an hour.
  • Get home, eat breakfast.
  • Change into swimsuit and shorts, go take the kayak out before the lake gets too busy.
  • Get home, change into comfy clothes and take a nap.
  • Get up, grab a cup of coffee and read an old fashioned murder mystery while sitting by the lake.
  • Put on work clothes, clean up sticks and rake leaves for 45 minutes.
  • Back into comfy clothes, take another nap.
  • Get up, have lunch.
  • Back into work clothes, another 45 minutes doing yard work.
  • Head in for a glass water and a snack, then go sit by the water and read.
  • 6:00PM change into walking gear, take the pooch out for another hour hike on the trail.
  • Change back into swimsuit and head back out on the kayak once the “no-wake” time starts at 7:00 for a final quiet paddle around the lake.
  • Get into comfy clothes, make and eat dinner.
  • Have a glass of wine while reading more of my murder mystery.
  • 11:00PM go to bed.

When I am at the cabin, I change clothes a lot. I reuse them – I only have one pair of old jeans and a t-shirt for raking the lawn, one swimsuit for kayaking, and so on, but there is a lot of switching of clothes.

I also get a lot of sleep. I usually stay up later than I do when I am home, but I also get up later (as long as Hermes lets me. Sometimes my pup doesn’t quite understand weekends.) I always manage to get several naps in. There is something about laying on that couch – windows open, breeze coming in of the water… it is just too perfect not to nap.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

Most importantly, I am active. It wasn’t always this way. I used to get there and my only movement was from the couch to the lawn chair and back again. But now I find I want to do things. I love being on the water and hiking with Hermes. It seems like this is the kind of life I should be living. Oh, I know I have to work in there somewhere – the bills won’t pay themselves. But now that I have more things that I like to do, and I have more energy to do them, it feels right. I makes me happy.

There is another side to all this, though. I call it “re-entry.” Eventually I have to come back to reality. My life is very, very good and I have many things that I love here, but there is also all the stress and problems of everyday living that pop up. Suddenly I have to check my email and return phone calls. There are angry customers and annoying coworkers to deal with. There is a distinct lack of a kayak. I am very hard to live with following a cabin weekend. “Grumpy” is probably the kindest word I can use.

It eventually passes, but it is a good reminder of what I need more of in my life. I don’t need a big house, fancy gadgets or a nice car. I need a spot on a lake, a boat to paddle around on it, and a good place to walk my dog.

 

Water Dreams

Kayak summer by Ted SakshaugLast night I had a crazy mixture of wild dreams. They were so vivid they woke me up roughly every hour, on the hour. I’d get up, get a drink of water or use the restroom, and then try to get back to sleep, only to be shot back into another vivd dreamscape.

The last dream, right before the morning alarm went off, was actually awesome. I dreamed that a friend of mine and I ran into each other at a fitness shop/gym and were both looking for some ways to increase our strength. We were talking to a saleslady about what to get, when a another salesperson came up and said, “If that’s what you guys want, you need to try our kayak slide.”

You know how some shops that sell boats have a small pond that you can try them out on? Well, this gym had a kayak river course. The goal was to get through it as quickly as possible. It was a cross between a full scale river and a video game (There were also animated penguins – don’t ask me where they came from.) It was great! I was flying down the river course, all the time knowing that I was fairly terrible at it, but having a blast. I knew I was going to sign up for a gym membership to this place immediately, and I was going to conquer that course.

Then I woke up. The dream was so vivid that for a moment I actually wondered if I could still kayak. A glance at my phone, and the weather app which was predicting snow, quickly shot that down. (I am sure there are folks that kayak in wet suits right up until the water freezes, but I am not that hardcore. (yet.)) But I had a new resolution.

This spring, I am buying a roof rack for my car.

I had money set aside for a rack awhile ago, but when my dog ended up having to have emergency surgery, all my extra cash went into helping him get better. That was fine, goodness knows I want my dog to be healthy more than I needed a roof rack, but now that he seems to be doing okay, it’s time to replenish those funds. I am determined in the next six to seven months to save up for a roof rack that will carry my kayak and my bike – the two summer sports I adore.

It isn’t a gigantic expense, but it isn’t exactly cheap either. I’ve priced out some of the components and I’m looking at several hundred dollars. I’m okay with that, I know exactly what I want and I want it done right, so now all I have to do is put aside the cash. To that end, this week I am going to get out my old budget. I used to use a budget religiously, but the last few years I have gotten away from it. Since I have some goals for 2014, (the roof rack being just one of them,) it’s time to figure out where I can pinch a few pennies.

In the meantime, I am going to hope I have that dream again, because man, that was fun!

 

Photo credit: Ted Sakshaug on flickr

This Month, I Turn 40…

Health Today

There are no promises, of course. We’ve all heard about the young, super healthy runner who had a heart attack mid-run, or the fitness instructor who had a stroke. Nature, red in tooth and claw* does what it will. A good fitness regime or an eating plan is no guarantee of longevity. Sometimes even the opposite is true. A dear friend of mine passed recently. He was known for his ever present cigarette. He never drank water, instead preferred Guinness or whiskey. The last time I saw him, we drank red wine out of Styrofoam cups in his hospital room. He was 80 years old.

So, while I hope eating well and working out improves my long term health, I know its a craps shoot. But what I do know is this – since losing weight and starting running, kayaking and lifting weights, I am happier, less stressed and have a lot more energy. I am in the best shape I have been in, in my entire life – and it just keeps getting better.

40? Bring it on!

 

* Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Is It Still Working Out When You Are Relaxing?

turkey vultures

A good reminder why it pays to stay healthy!

As I wrote yesterday, I spent last weekend up at my cabin. It was wonderful! The cabin helps me to reset and recharge. It’s always been a place of journal writing, reading, taking long naps, and cooking elaborate meals. It’s still that, but nowadays, I also find myself getting in a lot of exercise. It is the kind of exercise I like best, but is the hardest to get: unplanned and out in nature. The weather was gorgeous, so I took long walks with the dog, kayaked around the lake, did a whole bunch of yard work, and even went for an unplanned run.

The roads near my cabin are mostly long gravel lanes or country highways. There are no short blocks, so my morning and evening dog walks stretched out to an hour or more. When I have the time, this is my favorite way to walk. Hermes and I both enjoy it. He pretty much keeps his hound dog nose to the ground, but I saw deer, rabbits and lots of birds – including a large flock of turkey vultures. No worries, they weren’t interested in me! I’m not dead yet!

On Saturday, after a long nap, I popped up, threw on my shoes, and went out for a three mile run. It didn’t go as well as my last run, but I didn’t really expect it to. It was more about just getting out and keeping up with my running than it was about any specific times. When I got back, sweaty and tired, I sat on my picnic table for a few minutes catching my breath, then finished cooling off out on the lake! (My run, and the couple hours I spent doing yard work and raking, were good calorie burners, which made me feel a little bit better about my multiple glasses of evening wine!)

By far my favorite cabin exercise, though, is kayaking. At this time I don’t have a way to transport it, so where my kayak is, is where I kayak. So, when I am at the cabin I go out as much as my arms will allow. I went out twice each day on Saturday and Sunday. (I would have gone out Friday night too, except it was dark by the time I got there. Fall is coming way too fast!) I like to start with a morning trip around the lake around 9:00 AM. It’s after the fishermen have left the lake, but too early for the weekenders. These morning paddles are fairly leisurely. I look for fish, turtles, frogs and water birds. I saw several nice sized bass – bigger than I have seen there before. (Which gives me hope that my little lake hasn’t been fished out yet.) I also spotted birds in a rainbow of colors: purple martins, blue herons, green herons, yellow finch, orange orioles and, of course, cardinals; plus gulls, geese, kingfishers and hawks. My afternoon rides are more… focused. There is usually a lot of motorized watercraft out by then, so the wildlife goes to quieter places. I just concentrate on joy of being out on the water.

When I got back to town on Monday, I was pretty tired. I could feel it in my bones. Good thing I had to go back to work – I had to take a rest day from my relaxation!

The Cabin, Sharing the Road and Thoughts from the Weekend

Hermes at the lake

Hermes checking out the temperature of the lake.

Last weekend at the cabin was amazing. I had a lot to do in town before I could hit the road, so I didn’t arrive until pretty late Friday night. I unpacked, got the pooch settled in and just relaxed for the evening.

Saturday and Sunday followed the same basic pattern:

7:00 AM up with Hermes, out for a long walk

8:00 AM home again, time for breakfast

9:00 AM out on the kayak

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM snacks, naps, reading, relaxing, lunch

2:00 PM out to do yard work (mostly raking) for a couple hours

4:00 PM kick back for an hour, have a snack

5:00 PM out for a run

5:30 PM back from run, drink water, catch breath

5:45 PM finish cooling off by going out in the kayak

6:30 PM come back home, change into dry clothes, feed dog and head out for a walk

7:00 PM home again, time for dinner

8:00 – 11:00 PM kick back and relax

It was great! I got a lot of yard work done, which pleased me. My cabin is deep in the woods and no matter how many leaves I clean up in the fall and spring, there is always plenty left to clean up the rest of the year. I picked up countless wheelbarrow loads of them.

These guys sounds like miniature Gatling guns. i love them.

These guys sound like miniature Gatling guns. I love seeing them.

The kayak was, as always, wonderful. I liked the 9:00 AM rides the best. It was too late for fishermen and too early for vacationers, so I had the lake to myself. The water was a bit murky, but I still managed to see tons of ‘gills, sunnies and bass. The waterbirds were in full force too, especially the kingfishers which were diving all over the lake.

My running went well too – despite the heat. I managed to decrease my intervals so I am now up to 3 min. run / 1 min. walks. That feels really good. There really aren’t good places to run up by my cabin – lots of busy rural highways and almost no sidewalks. I have a route that I run that is roughly a 30 minute loop along some back roads. There is still plenty of traffic, however. One thing I have learned – people are a lot nicer to dog walkers than they are to runners. When I am walking Hermes, people not only pull their cars out out to give me more room, they frequently pull completely into the oncoming lane. They also never fail to wave and smile. When I was running, however, many of them barely moved over and one woman completely refused. I could see her male companion in the seat next to her yelling at her and gesturing to move over, but she refused. (I just jumped into the weeds, no big deal.) I told Julian about it and I thought he had a good explanation for this behavior:

“Well hon, they understand dogs.”

I think he’s right. This neck of the woods is pretty rural, and although I don’t see a lot of people walking their dogs up there, I do see a lot of people that own them. (They just usually keep them tied up in the yard.) My dog, which is obviously a hunting hound, seems to fit right in. He does attract positive comments on a regular basis.

Runners, on the other hand, are a lot more rare. In the nine years that I have owned my cabin (and in particular in the last two when I spent a lot of time walking my dog around there,) I have seen precisely two other runners. I saw both of them this summer, and they were both running really early in the morning. It might have been to avoid the heat – or it might have been to avoid the traffic!

I wish working out was always this easy, though. I never felt rushed, or pressured. Even the yard work – sure, it isn’t exactly fun, but it was great exercise and I didn’t mind doing it at all.  …somehow I never feel that way at home!

 

Photo credit of kingfisher: Mike Baird

The Recap

Horizon Blue Skies by Andre EleazerSorry I have been a bit MIA as of late. Last week I was traveling for work, and while on the road, I received some news that broke my heart. Being out-of-town and getting bad news is a special kind of salt in the wound. I grant you, there probably wasn’t a dang thing I could have done if I was here, but being hundreds of miles away from people you love at times like that sucks. It just does.

Anyway, between travel and work waiting for me when I got back, I’ve been a bit off my game. It doesn’t mean things haven’t been going on, I just haven’t had time to write about them. I thought I would write a quick “catch up” post on a handful of things and then over the next few days fill you in on some of the bigger things I’ve been musing on while driving state to state.

Work Outs

workout-motivation

Working out on the road brings a special set of challenges. I was lucky the hotel that my trade show was at had both a pool and a fitness center. The pool was lovely, and one glorious night, I had it to myself for over a half of an hour. I love to swim, so it was a special treat, and chlorinated water does a good job of masking tears.

Unfortunately, the fitness center sucked. It was tiny… and hot… and smelled like other people. It only had five pieces of equipment and only one of them was a treadmill. I’m not a big fan of treadmills, but they aren’t bad in a pinch. The only good thing was that it was open 24 hours, so as the other guests and I scheduled our treadmill time around each other, we could work out at 3:00am if needed. (No, I didn’t end up working out at 3:00am – but I could have!)

The fitness center did not have a weight set, however, and that was a bit disappointing. I brought my resistance bands (which are easy to throw in a suitcase) but as hard as I try, I just don’t like them as much as good old-fashioned weights.

Runs

This is where I screwed up. Instead of using the lone treadmill in the sweatbox, I should have gone for a run. I brought my shoes. The problem was that I was fooled by the geography. A lot of the convention center/hotels that I go to for trade shows are located for convenience, not sightseeing. So, most of them are right off the expressway and usually located in an area that isn’t pedestrian friendly. Sure enough, this one looked like it was the same way – on a busy street right at the intersection of a couple of expressways. What I didn’t realize until the last day (when I took a client to dinner,) was that a short hop over was a beautiful area for walking or running! I’ve decided that next time I am in a new area I am going to do some pre-scouting on Google maps followed up by chatting with the locals. In this case, either of those two things would have done the trick.

On the upside, back in my hometown I did find a new park to run in before I left. That is to say, it isn’t a “new” park, just a new one to me. We’ll call this one Big River Park.  Big River is a great place to run! I had been there before a couple times before for various functions, but never walked the length of it. It has wide trails that are long and is perfect for running. It’s away from traffic and well shaded, two other features that I liked. I’ve run there twice recently, and I will be back again.

Other Fitness-y Kind of Stuff

Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to sneak away for a day and head up to my cabin. I went up with one thing on my mind – getting out the kayak. It was a breezy day, making it a bit more of a work out than either of the other times I have had it out, but still marvelous! I got to see a little water snake and some fish on their beds. I love that.

I’ve also started on my boxing DVD, but that will be a post of its own. All I have to say for right now is that it is so. much. fun! I actually find myself hoping I can get home a little early tonight so I can keep at it. How great is that?

 

Photo credit: Andre Eleazer

The Kayak of Happiness

Happiness. Orange happiness.

Happiness. Orange happiness.

This is my kayak. I took this shortly after I pulled it up on the shore. …and I wish I were on it right now.

My first time out was on Sunday afternoon. I admit, I was being a bit of a wimp at first. It was rather chilly and there was a stiff breeze – jeans and a long sleeve shirt kind of weather – not “let’s go out on the lake” weather. I was sitting down by the water, ostensibly reading a book, but really deciding if I had the guts to get out there… when I noticed how many kids were in the water. Kids are tough and they will go out in anything, but was I really going to let a bunch of eight year olds show me up? Finally, I put the book down and decided it was time.

Honestly, I was also a little nervous. I haven’t been in a one person kayak since 2004. Still, there wasn’t really a lot to lose. My lake is roughly 3′ deep (or less) in most place and it only gets really deep towards the middle, which was not where I was headed! I’m a great swimmer and I was going to be wearing a life vest, so the only thing possibly at risk was my dignity. I lost that once before – the first time I tried to use a rowboat, actually – so I wasn’t afraid of that.

I put my book away, put on clothes that could get a little wet, and cut the plastic wrap off my new kayak. The minute I got out onto the water I thought, “YES!” Immediate pure happiness washed over me. I was grinning like a maniac as I paddled around.

Eastern Snapping Turtle

Why hello there!

The lake was beautiful. It took me about 40 minutes to get all the way around the lake. I saw herons, fish, and big snapping turtle that swam right underneath my kayak. I kept thinking, “I wish my lake were larger!” When waves picked up or the wind started to blow, I thought, “Good! Bring it on!” None of this is my nature. It was so awesome though. I just wanted the ride to go on as long as possible.

I will also say this – I definitely noticed a difference between the first time out on my own, and the first time in my two person kayak. On that first trip, by a third of the way around my lake, my shoulders were aching and I was worn out. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it – and I had another person to help paddle! This time, on my own, I kicked butt. Working out and lifting weights has made a huge difference. I went around once and could have easily gone around again. Oh, and did I mention I had spent 2 hours raking and another hour weed whacking a bit earlier the same day?

The next day, the same thing. I put in a few hours raking and weed whacking (much-needed spring clean up) and then got out the kayak and hit the water. The weather was worse. Gray, cold, and windy. Even the kids had packed it up and stayed inside. Me? I was out on the kayak.

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke