Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Girl Power": RE-DEFINED

"And Though She Be Little, She Be Fierce." ~ Shakespere

A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to climb with a girlfriend from out of town.  As we were hiking down the path towards the base of the climb she said to me "Almine, I wish you were in the car with me last week.  I was driving two teenage girls, one of them being my daughter, to school.  In front of her friend my daughter said to me 'Mom, I wish you didn't have such big muscles.  They're unfeminine.'  I turned around, looked at her friend, and asked 'Do you think they're 'unfeminine'?  She said 'No.  I think they're cool.'  I then looked at my daughter and said 'I've earned these muscles.  I'm an ultra-runner and a rock climber, and frankly, your Mom's not too shabby at either sport.  These muscles make me feel proud, and are evidence of a lot of hard work."

"Almine, I was stunned.  It really drove home the fact that our young teenage girls are being influenced, not just from peers or the media, but from all sides as to what the definition of 'Feminine' is.  She certainly didn't get her opinion on what a woman's body 'should' look like from me."

I was stunned too.  With all the work that has been done, over the years, by the women's movement, you'd think that teen girls would feel free to think for themselves.  Capability, self-esteem, confidence and empowerment are all words that come to my mind when I think of my body.  Like my girlfriend, my muscle tone, flexibility, endurance and agility has come from years of hard work on many "playing fields."  I've earned it.  I feel healthy.  I don't feel apologetic about it.  So, why do young girls feel the need to apologize?  Why are they being handed down "second rate" definitions of who they are, and what they're capable of?  And more importantly, why are they embracing distorted views on definitions of "Feminine?"



It is the age old answer to blame the media.  Is this justified? Yes.  Is this a bigger social dilemma than the media?  Yes.

I had a conversation, the other day, with a beautiful 11-yr. old girl.  She plays basketball.  She's competitive in track.  Our conversation began with me talking about pull-ups.  She said "I don't know how to do a pull-up." I replied "No problem.  I can teach you."  She began to scroll through some photos on my phone.  She looked at some of me climbing rock and ice.  She also looked at some pictures of me Bellydancing.  She said "You do both?  Climb ice and Bellydance?"  I said "Yes.  Why not?  They both represent aspects of who I am.  Some days I feel tough.  Some days I feel delicate.  Both activities get me sweating, and appeal to differrent parts of my nature.  My mother taught me how to Bellydance.  Its a wonderful thing she and I share.  I don't need to deny that part of myself because I like to get dirty too."  Her eyes got big.  "Wow!" she said under her breath.  "I would've never thought of it like that" she said.  She continued scrolling through the pictures.  "And you run in a skirt too?"  she asked.  "Absolutely" I replied.


To deny various aspects of ourselves as women is what seems to be getting across to young girls.  You must act like (and look like) a boy to be taken seriously.  No lipstick allowed.  No pink allowed anymore.  That stuff's "unfeminine."  Then we have the "flip side" of the equation.  "Mom, your muscles are too big.  They're 'unfeminine' too."  The mixed messages that are being sent to teen girls is staggering.  Be empowered...but not too empowered.  Be athletic...but don't have muscles too big.  Climb and run, but only without make-up, and in clothing that could mistake you for a boy out there.  These teen girls can't win for losing.

What I'm proposing is that we begin a candid, honest, open dialogue of re-defining who we are as women.  This starts from the "ground up," and that would begin with our middle school and high school tween/teen young women.  The message I would like to see sent:  You Can Define Who You Are (& Change This Definition) Daily.  There Are No Confines Of Femininty.  You Make Your Own Rules.


Want to be athletic?  Guess what?  You can wear anything you want to that makes you feel that way...on any given day...a skirt or sweatpants.  You have the luxury to play with various aspects of who you are, as a woman, and teen girl, like a blank canvas.  You have unlimited colors to paint your canvas with, and the process of splashing your canvas with the brightest, most vivid (or not) colors is what makes life beautiful.

Luckily, I was not alone when having the conversation with my girlfriend about her daughter.  My pal, who I jokingly dubb "The Teen Tornado," Ms. Stephanie Jacobson, was with me.  Stephanie is amazing.  She is an inspiration to teen girls everywhere.  She is a sponsored "POCKETFUEL" teen athlete, who relishes in a good "CrossFit" WOD as much as she does doing a 30-day "Bikram Yoga" challenge.  She loves to trail-run, do charity relay/race events, and is now learning to rock climb.  Our conversation peaked her interest.  She said "You know, its tough out there for teen girls.  We have so much pressure coming at us from all sides.  I used to think muscles were 'unfeminine' too.  That is, until I started 'CrossFit.'  Now, everything has changed about my definition of 'feminine'."

I invited Stephanie to share her thoughts with us in this blog.  I'm grateful to young women like Stephanie.  They are re-defining roles for young girls, and are working diligently to re-define themselves.  This process, in turn, shines as an example to their peers.  It IS slowly changing the face of what we call "feminine."  One empowered, capable, strong young woman at a time... to check out Stephanie's blog you can go to:  http://gtdcrossfitteen.blogspot.com/


Stephanie's Thoughts:

Your changing view of muscles as your fitness has increased:

As my fitness has increased, I've definitely gained a greater appreciation for my muscles. I have worked hard and dedicated myself to gain each and every one of them. They did not come easily, and for that reason, I am highly appreciative of them. Fitness is measurable in all sorts of ways though, so having muscles doesn't necessarily define your fitness, but I know for me, I have gained a lot of muscle mass from CrossFit! It makes me stronger, and faster, and I love it. Muscles are the prize for hard work and dedication.

Body Image issues for teens:

"Issues" and insecurities with body image in teens is not uncommon. I can honestly say, I am slightly insecure of my body image, but that just comes with the territory. Somehow, somewhere in our late elementary, and early teen ages, there is this "idea" of "perfect" bodies. The influence is everywhere, magazines, the internet, and TV. Young women are being objectified and capitalised, and adolescent girls are one of the market audiences. They may not be advertising "perfect" body image, but when that is all you see, it becomes the "ideal" body image, and adolescent girls start questioning their body image. There is a huge pressure in school that says if your not: Skinny, have long shiny hair, wear cool clothes, and date a football player, then you must not be a "cool" person. And somewhere along the lines, "skinny" became the "standard" that most girls thought they needed to be. With this, self esteem, and body image issues develop. Girls don't love themselves for who they are, or what they could become, because there is a social stigma that plagues this world. As a teen, I will admit that I fell "victim" to this. I never felt good enough. I always felt the need to "change" myself. I was constantly thinking "How can I be like this person", " Maybe if I stop eating, and get skinny, I will be good enough and someone will want to be my friend, or date me". Thats not to say I didn't have friends, but I felt very alienated by everyone. Felt like I wasn't cool enough to hang with those people because they were somehow better than I was. I hated my body. I thought I was fat, and ugly. I read magazines, and dreamed to be like the girls pictured. I watched digital media, and longed to be as beautiful as all the models, and actresses were. I honestly wanted to be anyone but me, because I was "insecure", and unhappy with who I was and what I looked like.

What "Strong is the new skinny" means to you:

Strong is not just skin deep. Strong means you have the drive and determination to be better than you were the day before. To push past all the negative, and overcome obstacles that not only you, but others, have set for you. Strong is physical, and mental. There are no limits when you choose to be strong! If you choose skinny, you are choosing to let others control you. You are following what society says is "right", and allowing social norms and pressures to overtake your mind. At this point, you are not thinking for yourself, or as psychologist refer to: Group Think. "Skinny" Means wanting to change yourself because an outside force told you that you are not "good" enough. You are extrinsically motivated by someone or something that could care less about who you are as a person, as long as you look "good" or skinny in this case. When you choose skinny, you hand over your right to think for yourself. You are now a puppet, and there is more than one puppeteer. When you are strong, you set the rules, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You take ownership and pride in what you have worked for, and you respect the hard work and dedication it takes to reach goals, and strive for a life that's worth living. Strong girls, do things for themselves, they don't rely on others to get stuff done, because they are willing and capable. They forge their own way, and don't let anyone stop them. If someone doesn't like them because they won't "bow" down to what they want, they will keep on walking. Strong is empowered, skinny is weak.


What your idea of exercise vs. Fitness is:

Exercise is buying a gym membership and walking on the treadmill for an hour everyday because you "have" to. Fitness is striving to reach goals. Being a well rounded "athlete". Mixing up your routine, and trying new things that get you active and moving! Fitness is defined however you choose it to be defined. Exercise is sounds like a death sentence. Fitness is a way of life. Fitness is for life. I workout to live, I don't live to workout. But when you start doing things like rock climbing, trail running, nordic and alpine skiing, cycling, and trail running, fitness is amazing! Everything I listed gets you outside and active, and creates a healthy lifestyle. Anyone can be physically fit doing something they love that gets them moving. Exercise is a confining term, but fitness is a infinitely broad term that can take you anywhere!



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

WATER FITNESS: Why You Should Incorporate It

"In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it."  ~Lao Tzu, "Tao Te Ching"

As a "CrossFit" coach and certified fitness trainer, 2 years ago, I couldn't have been more thrilled.  When I heard the coaches, who were programming the international "CrossFit Games" were going to throw some "curve balls" in for the athletes, I got a smile on my face.  I knew it.  They had to.  It was a "weak link" for the "CrossFit" community.  Want to be called "The Fittest On Earth?" You better be able to back that up...in ALL capacities of fitness.  It was perfect.  Water.  

"CrossFit Games" Athletes Prepare For Event 1-Open Water Swim For Time


 There was nothing I could think of that would weed out "CrossFitters" more quickly than swimming.  It is our community's weakest medium, I believe.  This was going to be good.  And it was.  A pool test that separated the "wheat from the chaff" quickly.  The 2012 Games saw swimming bumped up to the next level...an open water swim.  Brilliant.  Again, the perfect "gauntlet" of a fitness test for those who preferred to train inside the 4 gym walls, versus, stretch their fitness capacity to other modalities.  Randomized, controlled, measurable tests in ALL elements is essential for overall fitness.

Still, there is a resistance in our "CrossFit" community to embracing swimming.  This is unfortunate, from my perspective, as the benefits of working out in the water are immense.  To add increased overall fitness for the competing "CrossFitter," the "CrossFit Endurance" swim WODs cannot be beat.  They are hard.  Very hard, in fact.  My advice to my students is to incorporate them 2x per week.  You will not want to leave the gym, get your hair wet, and put on a bathing suit, but if you do, the overall benefits will be profound.

Water Fitness Is Great Training For When I Like To Go Surfing

To convince everyone, why you should incorporate water fitness into your training, let me share with you just a few of the many benefits of working out in the water:

  •  LOW INJURY RATE:  How many people do you hear of getting injured while swimming?  Yeah, me neither.  Unless you're some Olympic swimmer, training for some national competition, clocking hours a day in the pool, then you're unlikely to get injured.
  • 20x MORE RESISTANCE THAN LAND-BASED EXERCISES:  In the water, you're working out much harder than you think.  The increased resistance of the water (& this resistance increases the more deep the water is you're working out in) provides simultaneous cardio & resistance training.  When a client says "Oh shoot, I don't have enough time to do both my cardio & resistance training today, I'll have to pick one or the other," I suggest swimming.  Why not make the most efficient use of your time & get both in at the same time?
  • LOW IMPACT TO INCREASED EFFORT RATIO:  For the amount of effort you will put into your water training, you won't find a lower impact on the musculo-skeletal system.  This means less injuries for you, while your fitness skyrockets.
  • EXERCISE IN WATER MAKES YOU FEEL 90% LIGHTER:  When would this be helpful?  For a pregnant woman, or for those who are overweight, just starting to exercise.  The lighter you feel, the less effort you believe you're putting out (though, this is not actually the case), the more you'll do.  This translates to more calories burned and increased fitness.
  • INJURY REHABILITATION:  I can't think of any exercise that's better than being in the pool, while rehabbing an injury (for all of the above/below reasons listed)
  • INCREASED PRO-PRIORECEPTION:  Yes, its a big, long word, but an important one.  Our balance decreases with age, due to decreased proprioreception.  Proprioreception is your sense of where your body is in space, relative to objects, and planes (vertical, horizontal, etc.).  Being in a weightless environment increases proprioreception.  This can only be a good thing for you.  An even better thing for seniors and folks with neurological disorders (post-stroke, M.S., Parkinson's, Meneire's, etc.).  Why do the elderly fall and break their hips so easily?  Decreased proprioreception affecting their balance.  Increase water fitness, the likelihood of this happening decreases.
  • WATER COOLS THE BODY:  During the searing summer heat nothing sounds better than a swim.  This instinct is there for a reason.  When have you ever heard of someone having a heat-stroke, while swimming.  I haven't.  It probably has happened somewhere, but again, its highly unlikely.  In the summer months, your body's temperature gauge will thank you for working out in the water, versus running on the hot, heat-absorbent pavement.
  • BUOYANCY:  This is paramount for the disabled, who are looking to maintain their fitness and/or increase it.  If a pre-existing injury is preventing the body from holding itself upright properly then water will assist with this.  Its buoyant nature provides this ability naturally.
  • LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE:  Your lymphatic system is underrated, rarely talked about, and chances are, not working as efficient as it could be.  Water can help with this.  Why?  Because the pressure of the water against the skin virtually "massages" it, thereby, stimulating your lymphatic system to pump more metabolic waste from the body.  This translates to less DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) the day after your workout, greater overall body detoxification, and less systemic inflammation.

Enough reasons for you to start working out in the water?  There's more, but we'll start there.

~ My Dad Gave Me My Love Of The Water ~
Lap-swimming is still something he & I like to do together.

Me and my brother, Brent, on swim team.  I was in 5th grade here.  :)

I'd recommend, whenever possible, seeking out a salt water pool, if you can.  While being on the road a bit, I've been pleasantly surprised to find more hotels with salt water pools than I anticipated.  Salt water pools are sanitary, buoyant, non-drying/irritating to the skin, and feel wonderful to swim in.

I'd probably live in a swimsuit if I could.  Water fitness gives you tone & well-rounded fitness.

Water Fitness Equipment:

To get the most from your water fitness workouts, I would suggest having a water fitness specific gym bag filled with "toys," that are specific to water workouts.  These additional pieces of equipment can help you ramp up your water fitness even more:

  • SHOES:  This may sound like a strange thing to wear in the water, but trust me, it will create more of a leg "burn" than you thought possible.  The added "drag" of the shoes just adds to the resistance of the water, & shapes your legs quickly.
  • WATER GLOVES/HAND PADDLES:   Hand paddles are more efficient for lap-swimming vs. deep water running or other water fitness activities, but water gloves are perfect for those types of workouts.  Think of a manatee.  Their flippers are efficient.  Hand paddles enhance awareness of stroke during lap-swimming, creates extra resistance for the swimmer to focus on upper-body strength and can assist the body on technique and form.  Hand gloves are what I call "penguin hands," & add a lot more resistance to deep-water workouts.
  • WATER WEIGHTS:  These come in various shapes and sizes, but I like to think of them as a "step-up" in training from the water gloves.  The water weights can get large in size, but don't let their light, buoyant material (sometimes they're made of styrofoam) fool you.  Once they get placed in the water they feel very heavy & add a great deal of difficulty (depending on size) to your workouts.  A big "plus," is that they don't have the joint impact that a regular weight would on your body, which can come in handy while healing an injury.
  • WATERPROOF iPOD:  While I relish in the quiet of being underwater, I acknowledge that I hear a lot from training clients that lap-swimming is "boring."  I do encourage them to try other types of water fitness, such as a deep-water running class or a "aqua boot camp" type of class to mix it up.  But, if they're bent on lap-swimming, because they're training for a specific type of event (such as a triathlon or open-water swim) then I suggest trying a waterproof iPod.  Music gets most of us going, & if you need to shake up your boredom in the water (is there such a thing? :) then I recommend it.
  • KICKBOARD:  Most pools do provide kickboards & hand paddles.  Just ask the lifegaurds, and they can help you.  You can use a kickboard to enhance your workout in more ways than you can imagine.  If you've ever tried sled pushing/pulling, you can mimic this same exercise in the water with kickboards.  You can also sit on them and practice what water polo players do:  using your core muscles to stay upright on the board while using your legs to quickly turn your body, while sitting on the kickboard in clockwise/counter-clockwise directions.  This enhances fast twitch muscle fibers in the water & is great interval training.  You'll break a sweat in no time.
  • RASHGAURD:  While I don't get cold in the water, there are some people, with various syndromes who do.  Folks who are hypothyroid, have "Reynaud's Syndrome," etc. may be prone to excessive cold, and thereby deterred from gaining the water's benefits.  I would suggest purchasing a rashgaurd, or some other type of warm clothing device for the water.

Swimming against the resistance of the kickboard.  In the picture, I'm holding 2 of them.  Add more for more resistance.  It feels like sled-pushing on the ground.

All of the above suggested equipment can be purchased online and/or at a swimwear/water exercise specific store.

Pro Surfer, Kelly Slater, & Gabrielle Reece (Pro Beach Volleyball Player/Olympic Medalist) Do An Underwater Workout

Pro Big Wave Surfer, Laird Hamilton & His Wife, Gabrielle Reece Perform An Underwater Training

  • http://breakingmuscle.com/swimming/swimming-and-crossfit-games-why-it-everyones-weak-link
  • http://www.uswfa.com/
  • http://www.waterfit.com/
  • http://www.aquajogger.com/
  • http://www.daratorres.com/
  • http://www.lairdhamilton.com/
  • http://www.crossfitendurance.com/

Monday, February 4, 2013

5 Things You Can Do To Enhance Your Wellness in 2013

“Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”  ~Edward Stanley

I get asked frequently what I think of "New Year Resolutions."   I don't think they're a bad thing, if used as a motivating tool, however they can be what I like to call a "Get Out Of Jail Free Card."  Our culture has a "feast or famine" mentality.  In regards to lifestyle choices and changes, this can be a "road block." 

In other words, I hear people say a lot "I'm just going to eat poorly through the holidays.  Then I'll start all over on Jan. 1st, and eat better, and exercise more."  Unfortunately, your metabolism isn't governed by a calender.  It doesn't quite work that way.  Your body likes consistency for overall longevity.  Consistency is what we all live by...the sun comes up everyday, the moon comes up every night.  We know the night will follow the day, and vice versa.  We live by a constant flow and rhythm of harmonious cycles.  It is up to us to align our body with these cycles, and this means consistent effort.  If you look at nature, it is a mirage of effort and cycles.  The bees are constantly working.  Ants are building ant hills.  Jaguars are ever on the hunt.  The only time rest is given, is when the job is done...when rest has been earned.  Humans are no different (though we would like to think we are).

Your body is a masterpiece.  A work of art.  It's a true temple of epic proportions.  Like tending to a hive, this temple is in constant need of restoration.  There is no rest, until it is earned.  The earning comes from a daily consistency of fueling it properly, exercising it in a variety of ways, and overall positive mental attitude.  These 3 things are the tools to constantly rebuild, restore, and renew your beautiful masterpiece.

The following question then ensues from my clients and patients:  "Where do I start?  Its all so overwhelming!"  Baby steps, and small efforts lead to bigger ones.  I would make a list of 5 things you can do (small things) to enhance your wellness, and start there.  There are 5 things that stand out in my mind that everyone can do more of to enhance their well-being (myself included).  If you need to start somewhere, start with these things.  You will notice an increased sense of well being in about 3-4 weeks.  Remember:  statistics show it takes, approximately, 21 days to make a habit.  I always give myself that "trial period" for anything.  I usually say to myself "If you still don't like it after 21 days, Almine, you can quit."  That rarely happens, however.  There is something odd that seems to "click" in your brain around that time, where your mind says "Actually, I really can do this," or "Wow, I think I can keep going."  Just give yourself 3 +/- weeks, and you'll see a change.  That encompasses adding a new exercise in, changing the way you eat, a new way of thinking, or forming any new habit. 

It takes about that long to tell your body and mind to re-train itself to a new pattern.  That's what happened to me with running.  I kept telling myself "Give it 3 weeks, Almine.  Just 3 weeks..."  And you know what?  It worked.  Around 3 1/2 weeks I experienced, what they describe as "runner's high."  I thought "Where has this been all my life?"  I realized I could experience the beauty around me, on the beautiful trails, in a way I never had before.  I could exercise my own body, and my pups, in a surrounding oasis of nature...quiet, alone with my own thoughts...to a cadence of my breath and footsteps...  It was a wonderful discovery.  Mind you, the first 2 weeks were not that enjoyable, but I just kept telling myself  "Give it 3 weeks."  I would invite you to do the same with the following 5 wellness suggestions:

1.)  Drink More Water:    How many times have we all heard this?  This is my "weak link" in my own lifestyle habits.  2013 is about changing that.  I now carry around a gallon jug of water with me everyday.  People laugh because they say "That's a lot of water you're carrying around with you!"  Do you want to carry around a heavy gallon of water with you all day?  I didn't think so.  Hence, the motivation to make it lighter.  So, you drink up.  The more you sweat, the more water you need.  It is that simple.  Since I've started to carry around a gallon of water with me everywhere, its made me realize a few things:  I'll actually drink water if I have it around.  If I don't carry water around with me (or I forget my water bottle somewhere) I don't drink.  The key, then?  Have it around.  And have around more than you think you'll need.  You'll surprise yourself, when you realize you drank both quarts of water, vs. 1, when you have 2 sitting in front of you.  We're all more dehydrated than we know.

2.)  Stretch:  Another one you hear all the time, but seem to never do?  Stretching gets shoved by the wayside by the vast majority of active people.  If you don't seem to have time for something, it tends to be stretching.  Unfortunately, its what the athlete needs most.  There have been alternating, oscillating studies on stretching:  when to do it, when not to do it, when its most efficient, how long, etc., etc.   At this point, I'd be happy to get some of my clients/patients to stretch 2x per wk.  I get you want to do the activities you love most:  run, "CrossFit," climb, surf, mtn. bike, whatever.  These things are only able to be done for the long-haul if stretching is included in your exercise regime.  Recently, at a "CrossFit" Powerlifting cert., I attended, I heard one of the head coaches say "Mobility IS longevity."  This couldn't be more accurate.  Want to do what you love to do, for as long as you can do it?  Stretch.  "Bikram Yoga" is my recovery Rx. of choice.  The "magical" combination of heat & stretching cannot be beat.  Your muscles will go from tight, achey and sore to supple, pain-free, relaxed and pliable.  This equates to better everything...and injury prevention.  I understand there is a price to playing hard.  Good food and "Bikram Yoga" are my dues.  I like to climb, lift heavy, do "CrossFit," trail-run, swim, ride my bike, etc.  All of these are wonderful for other aspects of my physical/mental/emotional health, but they do take a toll on the body too.  As Bikram Choudry says "Every other physical activity robs the body of energy.  Yoga gives it.  Its like the 'gas station' for the body to fuel up, so it can keep going."  This is true in my life.  Its what makes everything I do keep getting better.  Its the hub of the wheel, and all the other activities I do are like the spokes coming out of that hub.

Stretching/Yoga is my recovery Rx. of choice.  Here I am doing "Fixed Firm Pose" in "Bikram Yoga" (note the gallon water bottle)  :)

3.)  Sitting Practice:   It doesn't matter what your beliefs are.  To sit, in silence, with a quiet mind, doesn't require any belief.  It just gives relief.  Breath is non-denominational.  Anyone can sit and watch their breathing.  There are so many new wonderful studies on the benefits of doing this.  I suggest starting with a goal of 15 mins. a day, and working your way up in 5-10 min. increments.  It gives peace to a mind that doesn't stop all day long.  Your mind is even going when you sleep.  We call it dreaming.  Active meditation is allowing the mind to become still.  It's harder than you think.  It's a practice which gives coolness to an aggravated, over-used brain that is on demand the vast majority of our lives: relationships, children, family, life decisions, work, etc.  All of these things require calculated thought, and action.  Rarely, is silence allowed in our heads.  People think I don't sit still.  This couldn't be further than the truth.  I learned in India to sit in meditation for up to 10 hrs. a day in some monastaries.  It requires the same discipline, effort and determination as anything else.  Whether its mastering a good pull-up, or running a race.  Discipline is discipline.  But, the mind is the driver of the chariot.  If you have a driver, not in control, then the chariot is allowed to run wild.  Control the mind, the body becomes easier to discipline...and vice versa.  This is the premise of martial arts, and its accurate.  I jokingly tell people I exercise to get my "Ya Ya's" and "wiggles" out, so that I can sit quietly, before bed at night.  If I exercise, I know I will not only sleep well that night, but I know my body will be able to be still for a long period of time, before bed too.  I wake up refreshed the next day, excited to do it all over again.


Breath is non-denominational.  Everyone breathes.  Watch your breath.  It will still your mind.

4.)   Sleep:   There are too many studies on the benefits of good, quality sleep to ignore.  "Good" and "quality" are the key words here.  There are a few small things you can do to enhance better quality sleep, thereby waking up more rested each morning.  A good night's sleep equals more energy for your day.  #1) Make sure no artificial light is coming into the bedroom.  This goes for night lights in the room, televisions being left on, street lights, lights from signs outside, etc.  Studies show that even though your eyelids are closed, they still detect artificial light, even while you're asleep.  This, thereby, never really allows your nervous system to rest.  #2)  See above suggestion ("Sitting Practice").  A quiet mind before bed, equals a less active, busy mind during sleep.  #3)  Find a bed that really works for you.  We spend a large majority of our lives in our bed.  If, for any reason, your bed is not allowing your body to rest, then its time to invest in a new one.  If you're waking up each morning with a stiff back, neck, shoulders, etc. its hard to feel motivated to want to go and workout.  You're tired and sore, when you should be rested and energized.  A good bed is worth paying for.  Quality sleep is a priceless commodity, as the result will affect your whole day.  Many beds "off-gas."  Often mattresses are made with toxic chemicals, that you're inhaling all night.  Look into organic or natural bed mattresses.  They're readily available now, and can be found just about at any mattress store.

Na Night...  :)

5.)  Good Footwear:  Sound basic?  It is.  But its importance cannot be underestimated.  Our feet do so much for us.  They rarely get rest.   I currently treat a number of people for injuries that could've been prevented, had they changed out their footwear often.  In addition, finding the proper footwear for your specific activities is key.  Example:  I don't wear the same footwear for distance running as I do in "CrossFit."  When I start putting miles on my feet, they require different things, than they do for run-sprints.  Also, what terrain you're doing your activity on is important.  Are you running on road, trail, sand, grass, dirt or a combination?  I have trail-running shoes.  I have road-running shoes.  I have "hybrid" shoes for runs/courses that are a combination of the two.  I hear people say "Well, that can be expensive."  Perhaps.  If you look at the investment of either changing your running shoes out, when its time to retire them, or getting the proper footwear vs. treatment of a foot injury or chronic foot pain, the cost is nill. 

Bend is known as a capitol for endurance athletes:  ultra-runners, triathletes, cyclists, skate skiers, etc.  Because of this, we have a demographic of people here that are conscious of the footwear they use, for the most part, but I still treat issues around this.  Because of the nature of how important I think good footwear is,  I've set up a partnership with a local footwear store, "Fleet Feet Sports Bend," where ultra-runner/owner, Rod Bien, and his knowledgeable staff do "medical footwear fits," to make sure the footwear you're currently wearing is right for your given sport.  They go through extensive training to learn this procedure, and have assisted my patients and training clients with helping to reduce symptoms of "Plantar Fascitis," "Achilles Tendonitis," bone spurs, "Seismoiditis," shin splints, etc.  You eat soup with a spoon.  Not with a fork.  You eat salad with a fork.  Not with a spoon.  Your footwear should be like this.  You should have the proper footwear for the given activity.  Don't use one pair of shoes for everything.  You will wear them down, quicker than you realize, and your feet will pay the price.  That can hinder further activity for you down the road.  No fun.  And we're all about having fun.  :)

"HOKA" Evo Stinson's (Hybrid shoe for road/trail terrain)

I even have different pairs of shoes for different types of climbing  :)
Going more minimalist for my "CrossFit" shoes

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ouray Trip Report


It was a year of "digging deep."  Everything just felt more harsh...more cold...more sharp.  This year on the ice brought with it a host of emotions.  I was just starting to peer my head out over the horizon of a heart-wrenching 2012.  A year of letting go, understanding different elements of pain, and what it takes to move through those layers.

There is nothing that will make you, simultaneously, feel more "raw" & more vulnerable that the cold thickness of waterfall ice.  Its exquisite beauty and volatility hang like a delicate thread in the forefront of your mind at all times.  The fine line between pleasure and pain, the warmth of the sweat on your body with the coldness of the environment.  Ice climbing does all these things...and more.  You don't just see the vapor of your breath...you watch it freeze before your eyes.


One of the Ouray, CO. locals said it was the coldest "Ice Fest" he's attended since the late 80's.  Several of the days, post festival, were in the negatives.  It almost felt too cold to get out of bed.  Strong willpower, a motivated climbing partner and several strong shots of espresso seemed to be the ticket.


This was my 3rd year in a row, heading to Ouray, during peak ice climbing season.  January is when the "Ouray Ice Festival" is held, and the vertical "greats" all convene upon the small town that is also known as "Little Switzerland."

Ouray has been made, essentially, into a "ski town," with no skiing.  The main attraction?  The "Ouray Ice Park."  A large, man-made, "playground" for the climber "junkie" with a hankering to get their feet off the ground, even before the ground thaws.

This year, I had the privilege of connecting with some women that have greatly influenced my life, and have driven my desire to experience the vertical world.  Margo Talbot, Kitty Calhoun, Angela Hawse, Dawn Glanc, Kim Reynolds...these women have all contributed to the fabric of women in climbing (whether it be alpine, rock, ice or mixed).  Really, what we're talking about here are legends.  Women who have pioneered the sport, and have paved the way for other women, such as myself to enjoy them.


Margo Talbot is someone I hold very close to my heart.  Ice climber, alpinist, mountain guide, writer.  There is little she doesn't do with flair, style, whole-heartedly, and with an infectious laugh.  When I met her 3 yrs. ago at the "Ouray Brewery" I felt an instant kinship of spirit with her.  She has been someone who continues to influence me daily, through her profound connection to nature, and her journey.


The first half of my climbing trip, I had the opportunity to climb with a dear friend, Keith Young.  I met Keith in Ouray 2 years ago.  His kind smile, enthusiasm for the ice, and down-to-earth nature alerted me that we would be instant friends.  We spent the first part of the week working with negative temperatures, "getting our feet wet" with the intricate techniques of ice climbing again (since it had been a year for me).  When we could, we would hastily retreat to one of 9 local hot springs to fend off the wind and cold-to-the-bone temperatures.



For the climber the temperature is fine, for the most part.  For the belayer?  Brutal.  Standing there, doing your best to contain body heat, while paying the utmost attention to your partner, is a mental chore.  In addition, the cold "zaps" energy from your core.  You are burning more calories than you know, and are burning them in excess, just trying to stay warm, let alone climbing.  We were very grateful that "PocketFuel Naturals" sent us over there with healthy-for-you-fat-filled-staying-power, because we burned right through them.


Exit Awesome guy climbing buddy...Enter pro. climber, "Kitty Calhoun."  Kitty has guided all over the world.  Her resume is so stout and so long, that women like me had posters of her hanging in our dorm rooms in college.  Undergrad. book reports have been done about her legendary alpine, rock and ice feats. When she's in Ouray, she guides for a women's climbing company called, "Chicks With Picks."  This company is a wonderful venue for women to try their hand at ice climbing, and to experience the majestic beauty of climbing ice.


Kitty gave me all kinds of great "pointers," and even a pg. of handwritten "homework" notes for me to work on over the next year.  I was brutally honest with her that ice is a once-a-year medium for me, so she said "You like rock?  Good.  Then, we'll mix it up for you."  It was the first time I had ever tried "dry tooling" or "mixed" routes (rock & ice).  I found the lack of tactile contact with the rock (instead having crampons on & using ice axes vs. my hands) to be foreign in the way I was used to relating to that medium.  It was tricky to pull off rock moves that I normally felt comfortable with, "dangling off of 2 toothpicks."  It was a completely new way of me relating to the rock.  A more "primal" way, where my senses were stripped from feeling its texture, & I had to go by the sense of how I was hanging off of a small, sharp point.  It disarmed me a bit.  The fluidity needed, to move between rock and ice, was a phenomenal experience.  One that was both challenging and exhilarating.


To work with Kitty was a great honor for me.  I've deeply admired what she, and the other previously mentioned women, have done for women in the climbing community.:  putting up first ascents, paving the way for women at comps., getting women into the alpine backcountry, getting women sponsored, etc.


I look forward to seeing how the spring climbing season shapes up, and what lessons I can bring, down  from the mountains of Ouray, to the world of splitter cracks, basalt lines & the volcanic tuft of my "backyard," "Smith Rock State Park."