Appalachian Trail Hike

A few years back, my wife and I hiked up Table Mountain during our trip to South Africa.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and, without a doubt, the most exhausting hike I’ve ever completed in my life.

We should’ve used the cable car!

Today we decided to complete part of the Appalachian Trail, so we set out for a part of the trail called “Raven Rocks”.  The hike is 2.75 miles long (5.5 miles round-trip) with some fantastic scenery and some pretty strenuous trails.  The toughest part was the elevation changes, with over 1500 feet of total elevation gain throughout the hike.  I had heard that this trail is a good test for beginners to see if their heart is really into hiking.


If you are looking for something fun to do where you are getting a lot of great exercise, I would highly recommend hiking.  The goal of the day, in addition to exercising, was to test myself to see if I should keep pursuing this goal or just scrap it.  Below is my test criteria, but I would encourage you to go on your own hike and rate yourself too.


Lower Body Strength: This part of the Appalachian is extremely rocky, so the steep ascents and descents really test the strength of your legs.  In addition, keeping your ankles stable on uneven terrain is critical.  I didn’t really help myself out by wearing normal tennis shoes.  Next time I’ll invest in better hiking boots.

Lower Body Strength Grade: B+


Stamina: If you are going to test yourself, test yourself with a hike that is around 100-200% of your normal long run.  Usually, I tap out on a run at 3.25 miles, so a 5.5 mile hike (170%) was a pretty good challenge.  Elevation change is what really drains your stamina; varying the elevation and terrain is a tough, but worthy trial.  To be honest, I think I held up fairly well today.  At the end of your hike, if you feel like you still have some decent energy to keep going, you did well (or you didn’t go far enough).

Stamina Grade: A


Upper Body Strength: Not all of hiking is with your lower body, especially if you’re carrying essential items on your back.  For me, this meant lunch for me and my wife, plenty of liquids, and my light camera equipment.  Multi-day hikes obviously come with even more essentials.  I’ve always had back problems, but my workouts in the weight room have improved my upper body strength tremendously.

Upper Body Strength Grade: B+


Pace: Everyone walks at their own pace, but continuing a trail walk at a strong pace can be the difference between making it to a shelter and not.  In the harsher climates and weather conditions, this is even more important.  Today was a beautiful day (60 degrees and cloudy), so weather didn’t factor into play.  We were able to walk 5.5 miles in 3 hours and 30 minutes, and if you strike a few brief pauses and 20 minutes for lunch, I think the pace was pretty solid.

Pace Grade: B+


Equipment: Here’s where I get docked a lot, but this is part of the learning process.  Walking poles are important.  Well-soled hiking shoes are important.  I didn’t really know this when the day started, but seeing the people out there (who knew what they were doing) shed some light on the subject.

Equipment Grade: D


All in all, it was a great day for hiking, and while the hike definitely put me to the test, I think I’m ready for something longer and more challenging.  My grades weren’t all A’s today and there are many ways that I can improve and get better.  But whether it be a multi-day hike or just a short day trip, if you are getting out there, exercising, and having fun, you’re already improving and getting better.


Down, but never out

Your humble blog writer has been sick with the flu for the past few days, which likely isn’t helping the weight loss goals.  I’m still staying under my calorie count each day, but the inability to workout is going to catch up to me eventually unless I get over this sickness soon.  The most important thing to do when you’re sick is to take your medicine and rest up.  I can stay in bed for the day, but most of the time is spent trying to clear my head rather than actually sleeping.  With a head cold, I find that staying upright (walking or sitting) is a lot less stressful than lying down where the congestion just goes to your head.


Then I thought, there needs to be a way where I can work out without physically destroying myself.  There needs to be a way where I can be sick but still work out in a limited capacity.  Even though the majority of the last two days have been spent miserably going through tissue after tissue, I was determined to find small ways where I could stay active.


Workout choice #1: Treadmill

And when I say treadmill, I mean walking on the treadmill.  During a usual run, I’m going around 5.8 to 6 mph, sometimes faster on a good day, sometimes slower on a bad day.  Walking on the treadmill while you’re sick means you should cut your average time in half, maybe more.  Today, I walked for a mile at 3 mph, and even that may have been a bit fast for me.  Take your time and don’t worry about walking fast.  In addition, don’t worry about making the walk continuous.  I broke up my 20 minute mile walk into three pieces.  When you feel even a bit tired, it’s time to stop.


Workout choice #2: Stretching

I have never tried yoga, but subtle stretching seems to work for me.  This is less of a workout and more of just getting your muscles and joints loose.  The stretching that I did today helped ease the stiffness that I’ve been feeling over the last few days.  It also gets your mind focused on other parts of your body rather than what hurts the most with the flu.


Workout choice #3: Walking the dog

This goes under the same premise as the treadmill, except you are getting some fresh air and so is your dog.  The unfortunate part about today was that my dog and I were home alone and we were both sick (I won’t get into the details of her sickness).  I think the fresh air helped us both.  I liked the outside walk because I could control my own pace and take breaks as necessary.


I will reiterate that the most important thing to do when you’re sick is to rest.  Take care of yourself and don’t overexert your body.  I began to feel the symptoms on Thursday night, and Friday I did absolutely nothing but rest.  When you are sick, listen to what your body is telling you.  If your body says rest, do it.  Today, mine said to try and slowly get back to normal, but I recognize that it will take time.

Bucket List #12: Complete

Senseless acts of violence are absolutely terrible, but it hits much closer to home when it’s in your own neck of the woods, and I cannot even imagine what it must be like for the people and families who are tragically involved.  From 9/11 to today’s events at the Navy Yard and everything in between, I just can’t understand why things like this happen, and what logic people follow when they commit these horrendous crimes.  My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved in this incident at the Navy Yard.  I wish nothing but the best for you and your families.


When something that is overwhelmingly negative occurs, it is extremely difficult to maintain faith.  When a tragedy occurs such as this one, it’s tough to maintain faith in people.  If someone goes through a bad breakup, it’s easy to lose hope in finding love.  Even something as little as seeing a higher number on the scale can cause a difficult strain on your psyche.  Today, I was determined not to lose faith in society just because of one nut case.


For those of you that haven’t read my “Bucket List 2013”, I welcome you to do so.  I didn’t start the day thinking that I was going to complete one of the “pay it forward” items, but my hope was to spread just a tiny bit of good will to someone, even if I didn’t know who that someone would be.


I pulled up to the drive-thru at Wendy’s and ordered the usual… two Grilled Chicken Go Wraps.  Considering the fact that it is fast food, it’s actually somewhat healthy at only 500 calories for the meal, and I usually can mix in a fresh apple for variety.  It was a little after noon and I saw a packed line behind me.  As I pulled up to the window, the gentleman told me the total with change already in hand.  I gave him the money and told him that I wanted to pay for the car behind me.  He looked a bit confused, and after completing the first transaction with my full change, he then told me the total of the car behind me: $6.91.  I paid for that as well, after which he handed me my food.


I don’t know who I paid for, or whether it was a man or a woman (they had very tinted windows).  I didn’t look back.  I didn’t see a reaction.  To be honest, I didn’t want to.  My hope is that I was able to give whoever it was in the car behind me a slightly better day.  My hope is that six dollars and ninety one cents made one person see that the world may not be as messed up as it sometimes seems to be.  My hope is that even the smallest good deed will inspire good deeds elsewhere.


“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

Workout Boosts

Working out for some people isn’t as fun as it is for others.  For me, personally, it’s a mixture.  Some days I’m EXTREMELY motivated to work out.  Other days, that is one of the last things I want to do.  They key for me is to have more motivated days than unmotivated days.


Sometimes, all it takes to get motivated is a little outside pressure, or maybe a workout goal to attain, or maybe something fun to help you workout.  Sticking to the same workout routine can be monotonous, so I’m always looking for new ways to keep things fun and interesting.  In addition to the “About” and “Bucket List 2013” page at the top of the screen, I’ve also started a “Workout Boosts” page.  If you need any ideas for workout boosts, feel free to head there.  No, I’m not a personal trainer and didn’t create any of these on my own.  I will, however, post my own personal reviews of each of these.


The one I tried most recently is an iPhone app called “Zombies! Run!”.  Yes, I know I’m extremely late to the party, but let me tell you… this app is flipping amazing!  While the cooler weather may have contributed, I ran a 5k faster and had much more energy than ever!  I’ll post a full review at a later day; but the long and short of it is, this app is fantastic!


I hope this helps keep workouts fun and entertaining!  Stay active, my friends, and keep checking back for new content!

Complimentary Breakfast

Actually, this isn’t a post about breakfast or food, so if you were looking for a free bowl of cheerios… sorry, I got nothing for ya.

Rather, this post is about the true power of a compliment.  Has anyone ever gone through a time in their life where they’ve felt a lack of motivation, confidence, or drive?  All hands should be up.  Everyone has their subtle insecurities; questioning your ability to do something, questioning your self worth; questioning your self-image.  On occasion, those insecurities will pile up to the point where your motivation, confidence, and drive will exponentially suffer.  For me, it sometimes feels like quicksand.  Sometimes the harder you fight, the deeper you sink.

But also like quicksand, sometimes it takes a compliment to help pull you out of it.  Compliments don’t solve problems or complete tasks for us, but they absolutely boost our self-confidence to be more productive.  A journey towards getting healthier and losing weight provides a perfect example.  I feel as though I’ve been working very hard to work out and follow a strict diet for the past 2 months to lose weight.  There are times where I’ve told myself, “Is it worth it?”, “Maybe I’ll just work out tomorrow.”, and “I just want to have some junk food!”.  All of those doubts are the quicksand pulling you down, negatively impacting your motivation and drive.

Yesterday, I was stopped by someone who I see in the gym regularly.  We don’t hang out outside of the gym, but we often talk, give advice, and share stories while we are there (and getting advice from someone who is pretty fit seems like a wise idea).  We exchanged greetings and chatted for a minute or two, after which they said, “You look like you’re trimming down a lot.”

How would this make you feel?  When you have put your time and effort – your blood and sweat – your heart and soul – into something, achieving positive reinforcement from someone else to affirm how hard you are working is exceedingly rewarding.  Those eight words made my day!  What I appreciated the most was the fact that this person didn’t HAVE to say that, but did.  Whether it be at work, at home, in the gym, or on the field, people can be motivated by acknowledging their efforts and achievements.

So here’s what I’m asking from you, my readers (do I have any yet?).  Make a concerted effort to give one compliment a day.  It could be a simple “Good job” after a tough set in the gym, or a “I thought that report you turned in was fantastic work.”  Never underestimate the power of a good compliment.  A few words can bring a lot of joy.

Complimentary breakfast for everyone!

Do Short Workouts Really Work?

Today’s words of wisdom come from none other than the man, the myth, the legend; Rocky Balboa.

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t what you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”


Damn straight, Rocky.  Damn straight.


How many times have you gotten home later than you expected and, unfortunately, you only have 15 minutes before you have to start making dinner or (insert any kind of home chore here).  What if you don’t have general access to a workout facility?  Having traveled to a very wide variety of countries and having stayed in a wider variety of hotels, I can say that workout facilities in hotels are not as common as you’d think, and sometimes the term “gym” to a hotel actually means a 6×6 room with a TV and a stationary bike from 1972.  The point is that we’re not always going to get the most ideal conditions when we want to stay active.


A friend of mine who travels a lot recommended “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout“, and it seems to be fantastic for the on-the-go traveler who has no access to a gym or any type of workout equipment.  I don’t travel too much anymore, but I decided to try it out.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s only 12 simple exercises for 30 seconds each (with 10 second breaks in between).  This routine is a bear.  I don’t think I realized how painful the “Wall Sit” was until about 20 seconds in, and to go from that to push-ups and then to crunches burns your abs.  What I like about this workout is that it’s quick and it can be done in any location; even in the comfort of your own hotel room.  It’s easy to get into a routine when you go to the gym.  When I go to the gym, I have a normal weightlifting routine that usually takes me around an hour.  I still do that, but I’ve included this workout as part of the normal regimen.  This will make it much more comfortable if I’m ever away from the weights, and I will still feel as though I can have a successful workout.


If you’re a frequent traveler, or just want to get a good workout in wherever you are, give this a shot.  I think you’ll find that when you do it, it won’t completely wind you, but it’ll get you to work up a small sweat.  Once that’s accomplished, do it again, and maybe one more time for good measure.  You’ll be glad you did.

Motivation and Control

“Motivation and control…are fragile experiences that need to be worked carefully and attentively.” -Hazel

I hope you don’t mind that I took this quote from CC, Hazel, but I’ve been pondering the true nature of this quote since you posted it last week.

Everyone reading this blog can likely relate to this quote.  Sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling pumped, driven, and ready to tackle the day.  Other times… well… not so much.  What motivates us to act in a certain way?  What drives us to complete certain goals?  I honestly don’t believe that motivation just comes naturally.  It’s something that you have to crave and desire.  For me, there are multiple levels of motivation that are all inter-related.  I desire to have better self-esteem and a better self-image.  This motivates me to shed some pounds and be in the physical condition that I know I’m capable of, which drives me to eat healthier and stay active.  I’m not a runner, and trust me, I wouldn’t have run 5k’s on Saturday and Sunday if there wasn’t that driving motivation behind it.

If the motivation is high, control will follow suit.  I have certain weight loss goals that I want to achieve, and a defined time with which I want to achieve it.  Perhaps it’s the upcoming milestone birthday coming up, but I’ve never been as motivated to reach my goals as I am now.  As such, I have a level of control (around food, bad habits, etc.) that I have never had before.  That doesn’t mean I avoid all bad foods, but moderation and good eating decisions have become paramount to controlling my diet and exercise to ultimately hit my targets.

That being said, how do you keep motivation high?  I’m going to preface my answers to this question by saying that I am not an expert in the topic, but that I have read a lot into it and have tried a few methods that seem to work for me.  Also, I’ll be using weight loss examples, but many of these methods can work in other aspects of life as well.

1) Define realistic goals – My past weight loss goals sound like this: “My goal is to lose weight.”  The sentiment was good, but the goal was generic and unattainable with no defined end.  This is likely the reason that my past weight loss efforts have taken a nose dive after the first few weeks.  My goal now is: “Achieve my target weight of 185 pounds by December 31st.”  Once this has been achieved, the next goal may be “Maintain 185 every month for the next 6 months.”

2) Maintain flexibility – Unexpected things in life can sometimes interfere with doing what we want to do.  If your goal is to save money to buy a new car by the end of the year, and then something unexpected happens where you have to delve into some of that money, don’t think that you failed your goal.  Simply update it.  Granted, this should only be used for events that are out of your control.

3) Know the external and internal reasons for your goals – On many occasions with weight loss/maintenance, I have often asked myself why I bother.  There are a dozen perfectly good brownies out there with my name on it.  What stops me is the knowledge of these external and internal drivers.  Internally, I’m doing this to boost my self esteem and my self image.  Externally, I want to look good for my wife, my family, and the people around me, and I want to be looked at as a role model and a mentor.  These reasons are much more important and long-lasting than a dozen brownies.

4) Find creative ways to increase your motivation – Earlier in life, I had a spreadsheet of good things to do, whether it be eating healthy, running errands, being active, and the list goes on.  I gave every item a point value and would do things to earn points.  For awhile, it worked, but it lacked the accountability, and eventually, I gave up on it.  I replaced that with Calorie Count because I was held publicly accountable for my actions and, in addition, it provided a moral support-group type atmosphere with other people going through the same challenges.

5) Make it fun – They say that “nothing good comes easy”, and I guess there is some truth to that.  Cutting out a lot of sweets and eating healthier foods isn’t always easy or fun, but making your good habits into a lifestyle will make it easier.  Keeping a positive outlook on things will also make it easier.  This journey certainly is a lot of work, but the day I started seeing solid results was the day the diet started getting a bit easier for me, and I think a lot of people feel that way as well.


Motivation is fragile, and may not always be 100%.  When it’s not, remember what drives you and know that what you are doing is worth it.  Keep at it, and don’t take no for an answer.  The climb up may be difficult, but the mountain-top will be oh so sweet!