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Archive for the ‘hobbies’ Category

A Walk in the Woods

Myself and a friend, looking at the map.

It’s always good to know where you are going.

Since fitness is my passion, most of my posts are commenting on articles I run across pertaining to fitness. However, I just had the opportunity to backpack for the weekend, and I feel it was worth writing about. I find it ironic that I’m getting into this hobby at the time when “Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods” are in vogue. I was told to read both those as I started doing this. I don’t think I’ll ever be a through hiker, the term for those who stay on the trail from start to finish. When I was younger, I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, but now that I know what that entails, I find I’m happy with just doing weekend hikes.

I have experienced many facets of fitness – aerobics, weight lifting, biking, kayaking, swimming and walking. I’ve worked out in the gym and at home. I’ve participated and taught classes, and done fun things that were incidentally fitness producing. I’ve done indoor rock climbing and learned how to climb trees safely. Having done all this, I’ve discovered that fitness is a positive circular cycle. You have to exercise to be fit enough to do active things, and doing active things increases your fitness level. A way to demonstrate this is how you feel the first time you go for a bike ride in the spring, vs if you keep it up all winter on a stationary bike.

a picture of me going down the stairs.

Down is worse than up.

So, I had to train to hike, and hiking was what I did to train. It is excellent for fitness. There are all the benefits of walking, and many of the benefits of weight training, since you are carrying 30 lbs on your back. Unlike walking, most trails are rather challenging, like the one I just went on that had an uncounted number of stairs. The first few times I did it around my neighborhood, I was so sore the next day, especially my calves and feet. I quickly adapted. The heat was an issue, we had one seasoned member bow out after the first day, opting to get a boat home. (We were hiking along a lake.)

We left on a Friday, and did 8 miles (roughly) the first day. We did shorter hikes the next two days, roughly 6 miles Saturday, and five on Sunday. Since I had not trained on consecutive days, I was concerned that there would be some adaptive stress to daily hiking, but there was none. My right knee and foot got sore the second day, after all those stairs, but seemed completely recovered the next.

Hiking and backpacking aren’t for everyone. If you have physical limitations, or just aren’t sure of your

a group picture, including the dog.

Our merry band

footing, it can be daunting. Backpacking means carrying everything you need on your back, which can be physically too much for some. It also means accepting a certain amount of risk, being organized and learning new skills. Of course, it also means eating, sleeping and peeing in the woods, which can be a gross-out for overly fastidious people. Having said this, many state parks have shorter, flatter trails for the less able. My husband hikes on shorter hikes. Also, you are in control of your hike. You can decide how many miles you want to do. You can always turn around and go back. Many trails are loops, of set mileage, which helps determine if they are something you’d like to challenge.

I do think most people would benefit from some sort of hiking. Getting out in nature, getting your vitamin D, socializing (you should never hike alone), and, of course, exercising, are all benefits of it. I like backpacking because of the feeling that I’m tied to all of human history. Most people lived their whole lives in a fashion similar to how we camp. It gives you great respect for our forebearers, and deep gratitude for all our technological advances.

So That’s Your Plan?

Do you have a plan?
Do you have a plan?

Do you have a fitness goal?

What is it? Do you want to lose weight? Get stronger? Stay in shape? What are you doing to get there? While any effort will often get you somewhere, if you are having trouble reaching your goal, you may have to spend more time thinking about what your goal is, and what you need to do to get there.

How specific are you?

So, What is your goal? “I want to lose weight”. How much? Can you break that down into manageable proportions? You want to lose a pound a week? Two? To do that, you need to consume approximately 3,500 fewer calories than you burn a week, per pound. The people who lose “5 lbs in the first week!” are losing mostly water from reducing their carb intake, and will gain it back the minute they start eating normally.

The point being, you have to be specific and have a plan. How will you get to that 3,500 calorie deficit? Eat x amount less and exercise x amount more- but fill in that number. How do you know how much you are eating? You HAVE to measure and log it. Not for the rest of your life, but until you get the feel for it.

How consistent are you?

I would rather see someone doing a little bit every day than a sporadic all out effort. Consistency gets better results than any other method. Make a plan you can stick with. Running for 2 hours on Monday and then doing nothing the rest of the week is not going to get you as far as the guy doing a 1/2 hour a day.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Whatever your goal is, make it a S.M.A.R.T. one. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound. Don’t say “I want to get stronger”, say, “I want to bench press my body weight”. That’s specific. Make it measurable. It is very similar to specific, but it applies to how you will get there as well. “I will bench press 3 sets of 10, starting with x number of lbs., 3 times a week”. Attainable, realistic and time bound- set your goals to something you can reach in a step like fashion. Maybe your overall goal is to bench press 200 lbs. Depending on your size, gender, age and frame, that may not be attainable, or take so long as to be discouraging. So figure out what you can bench press today, and set about increasing that by 5 lbs a month. Or set about achieving the goal of losing 1 lb a week, and see where that gets you. Your goals have to be tied to how you are going to get there. Bench pressing 3 times a week is a goal in itself. Sticking to an eating plan is a goal. achieving those goals brings you to the others like losing dress sizes and bench pressing x number of lbs.

You also need to  get specific about treats too,of not eating pizza and dessert more than very occasionally. What is occasionally? Once a week? Once a month? I often hear “I haven’t had this in a long time”.  Ok, but did you have something similar? If you only have pizza once a week, and  a sub once a week, and ice cream once a week,…Keep a treat log and be HONEST. Pick a treat day or time, or log your calories enough to know what treats will fit where. You can eat pizza and lose weight, but only if you keep to a true minimum and track it.

It’s fun to have big goals, bucket list goals. But most of those are made up of the little goals. I want everyone out there to have big dreams and goals. I work out so much because I want my body to be ready when I get the opportunity to climb a tree, go snowshoeing, kayak down a river, or climb a mountain. My next goal is rock climbing, since tree climbing was so fun. I also am dying to go toSkydome, the trampoline place. Next summer I want to be out camping every weekend. I want to hit every trail in Ellicottville, since I’ve never gone on those. The number of trails to hike/ bike on, the number of waterways to kayak on, mean that I could go to a different place every weekend just here in Western New York.



People are Amazing

I think we need good news on a regular basis to uplift our spirits and help us to have a better attitude towards our fellow beings. God said to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that can be difficult at times. My obsession with fitness extends to all aspects of health, and mental health is one aspect that is part of the big picture. Hobbies are one of those things that seem to make people better. Most hobbies make us more active and give us motivation for our lives.

When I see what people do for fun, and how much mental and physical effort they put into it, I’m so impressed. When most people think of hobbies, they might think of sports, either team sports, or ones like swimming, biking or hiking. In your public parks, you might see people playing frisbee golf, Can-Jam, flying kites or radio operated planes. Some hobbies are so extreme you only seldom see them, like hot air balloons or ultra-lites. Rock climbing and horse back riding won’t be in every public park, but they are also hobbies for many people.

I just can’t get over how much of people’s spare time, money and effort go into their hobbies. I think it is a wonderful thing. When I look at the difference between people who have hobbies and those who don’t, I see a marked difference in the quality of life. Those without hobbies seem less interested in their own lives, less satisfied, and overall less happy. Those who have hobbies seem to stay interested in life in later years, and have better health overall.

The buckskinner Rendevous that I attended this past weekend is what prompted this post. I am always amazed at how much goes into this particular hobby. It requires a great deal of effort and equipment, along with a love of, and knowledge of, history. Here are two participants:Two buckskinner rendevous participantsIn case you aren’t thinking about how much is involved, everything has to be period correct, from the late 1700’s- mid 1800’s. (pre civil war). They have to obtain all of the equipment, which obviously isn’t manufactured anymore, so they need to make much of it themselves.

Here I am, with another participant, demonstrating spinning on a great wheel. Spinning, knitting and weaving are my hobbies, so that’s how I got into this. I borrowed the clothing from another participant. The author with another woman standing with a great wheelTalking with the woman pictured here, I found out beside Buckskinner rendevous and Civil War reenactors, there are also WW II reenactors and even some Vietnam as well.

We have two choices in life, We can ride  along, swept onward by the clock and calendar, bobbing across the top of life like a cork, or we can dive in, participating fully, experiencing as much as we can. You can easily see what my opinion is, I think the more you put into life, the more you get out of it. If nothing else, having hobbies makes you a more fascinating person, and keeps you out of mischief!

C’mon People, it’s Only Winter.

winter word artIt’s time to stop treating winter like an unexpected house guest:

couple arguing

“I thought she was your friend.”

“I didn’t invite her, but how could I say no?”

“How long is she staying?”

“I don’t know, it seemed rude to ask.”


wintery bridge

It comes every year. If you live in the northern climes, it is no surprise. But everyone acts like they weren’t expecting it and wish it would go away. This isn’t the 12th century, you can choose where you live, and you have a pretty good idea of what the weather in those places are. If you choose to live here, you are tacitly accepting winter.

beautiful winter day

So, embrace the 6 months that are winter. I know, according to the calendar it is only three, but everyone knows that’s a lie. I always said I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that has worse winters than us, and when I see it has snowed in the Dakota’s, Montana and places like that in June, I decided those weren’t the places I wanted to live.


How to embrace it? Ski, snowshoe, hike, make snow angels. Enjoy hearty soups and stews. Cook things in the slow cooker. Enjoy the rough challenge of driving in bad weather. Buy a warm sweater. I was looking for pictures and I found this link to Montreal Winter activities! Looks great.

car off the road in winter.I realize that it is a challenge for many people. If you are elderly or in poor health, the uneven surfaces might cause you to fall, not to mention the ice. In those cases, I would say moving isn’t a bad option, many of our older friends have happily fled. If moving south isn’t an option, it might be a good time to think about moving somewhere where the shoveling and ice clearing either isn’t as daunting, or is taken care of for you. On the plus side, there are a plethora of gyms out there to join, to walk in heated comfort, or walk the mall.

For those that don’t fit in the above categories, get out there, fast. I see too many people making themselves invalids by allowing themselves to get so out of shape that they cannot handle what winter brings. Of course you are risking a heart attack if shoveling snow is the most exercise you’ve gotten in the last year. Of course it will give you a bad back if you don’t know how to lift properly, and haven’t practiced those motions on a regular basis. So, if you needed any more motivation to get to the gym, then picture yourself out there shoveling. If you don’t think you can do that- start now. Cable twists, wood choppers and hay bailers will strengthen those muscles. Dead lifts will strengthen your back. Lunges will strengthen your legs for those unexpected slides on the ice. Step ups will strengthen all your leg muscles to avoid twisting ankles. Finish up with the elliptical and you will be all set to cross country ski.

Why I Like 4 Wheeling

polaris ranger

It’s a toy, but I like it.

Those who know me might be surprised that I like 4 wheeling. It isn’t exercise; in fact it is pseudo exercise. It feels like you are doing something, while you are sitting. I like hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing, activities that some might see as being in opposition to 4 wheeling, since they are all looking for the same real estate.

Here are the reasons I like it. While it is pseudo exercise compared to what I do, for someone who is not active, and would not exercise otherwise, it at least beats the couch. You at least have to activate your tva and other core muscles isometrically to keep from being bounced around. It follows my principle that anything beats nothing. It also engages you in the real world, as opposed to watching the idiot box.

As far as the environment goes, when people are interested and invested in using our parkland and forests, they are interested and invested in maintaining them. The more people who want to use parks for recreational activities, the more money and power will flow to the park system, improving and increasing access for all. Since ATV’s operate in their own little niche, the owners will have to travel to locations to engage in their hobby, increasing tourism and boosting local economies.

It also makes my dogs happy. Today we went on two 4 wheeling jaunts and two short walks. It was 95 degrees, making short walks a necessity. The 4 wheeler provided natural air conditioning.

So there you go, even an exercise nut can find room in her life for other things. Most of my life is intense, I like living in high gear. This is one activity where I have to sit and do nothing, and probably the only one that wouldn’t drive me nuts. I wouldn’t want to do it for hours on end, we agreed on that today after a 6 hour trip, but shorter jaunts are soothing and pleasant, and it gives my husband and I a joint activity, very important for a healthy marriage.

Mindful Eating? How About Mindful Living?

In case people don’t know, the concept of mindful eating means not sticking anything in your mouth without thinking about what you are doing. As in the opposite of “mindless eating”. It is an excellent concept, especially when it comes to snacking. It is so easy to eat huge quantities of chips or popcorn if they are available while watching tv. The lack of mindful eating leads to over consumption, and a consumption of unhealthy foods. This was brought to mind as I was debating how to use the water I had brought in the house.

Our well failed, and we are in the process of getting a new one dug. We have been without running water since Friday, and short on it since Wednesday, so it’s been a week. Fortunately, it rained this weekend, and we bought garbage cans to use as rain barrels. This gave us over 64 gallons. However, we have to bring it in in gallon milk jugs. This has taken all the daily chores out of the realm of mindless habit and into mindful meditation. While I certainly don’t want to live like this, I do appreciate the lesson. It makes me think about those who live like this, and the worldwide problem of accessable water. It’s made me think of how people behave-when things are readily available, we use more. A lot more. It takes 3-4 gallons to flush a toilet. A little over a gallon to wash dishes. How much more would it be if the water was running? What do I NEED to do, and how can I do it, without running water?

I don’t think a year from now I will be thinking about how much water I’m using. It’s human nature to put things in the background, so we can concentrate on other things. But just like you clean your closet once a year, getting rid of the clothes that don’t fit, how about getting out all those habits and cleaning them out? Are there habits in your life that are the equivalent of mindless eating or mindless water usage? For one thing- how much time do you spend on entertainment? Are those activities benefiting your life or spirit? Personally, I hate the idea of sitting there, “vegging out”, watching tv, probably a program you don’t even care about. You only have 70-80 years on average, why waste a minute of it? If you are too tired to do anything, go to sleep! If you want to watch a program, because you enjoy it, fine. But 40 hours a week? What are you not doing while you are watching tv? What goals do you have? Learning a language? Shooting a bow? Hiking in the woods? Learning an instrument? What could you get rid of to find time to do these things? Is there someone you hang out with for no reason?

I’m not saying you can’t spend time playing. Play.  Play a lot. Play hard. Just do it because it fits your life and what you want from it, not because you fell into it and don’t really care about it. Just don’t waste time or pass time. Choose your activities mindfully. Just like I won’t be thinking about water in a year, you and I will slip into habits requiring this housecleaning from time to time. If you tell me you don’t have time for this that or the other thing, ask yourself, “how much time do I spend watching other people live their lives, instead of living my own.”

Carpe Diem

Running Vest, or as I Like to Call it, The New Toy.

I couldn’t post this on my exercise site, so I thought I would do so here. I have been looking for some way to carry stuff while running, especially difficult to carry concealed. In cold weather I can wear my coat or vest and have pockets. When it is hot out, I wear stretchy stuff with no pockets. I even tried my back pack once. Bad idea. So I’ve been looking around and I found this:

My new toy

Room for everything and comfy too.

I took it for it’s shakedown cruise this morning. It was great. I would wish for one more strap at the bottom to keep it from bouncing at all, but it was well within acceptable limits. I could add something later if I want. I was carrying my LCP, pepper spray, my cell phone and keys. Not bad. It is small, lightweight, reasonably attractive, soft and airy. I bought it on Amazon for far less than any other vest I looked at. I love products that work and solve a problem.

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