Hiking: Humpback Rocks + Dobie Mountain

Hiking is good for my soul.  Apparently it’s good for my heart as well, because we hit the mountains Saturday, and I didn’t have a single heart palpitation all day.  Nature for the win!

Andrew and I went with our friends Evan and Kristina;  Evan is one of my coworkers, and we’d been talking about all going hiking together for a while.  It was great to finally make it happen!  Kristina’s sister and her boyfriend drove up from Virginia Tech and met us at Humpback Rocks.

This hike, which is one of our favorites because of the awesome views and close proximity to home, is always steeper than I remember.  There was very little conversation happening for the first 15 minutes or so :-D.  The ascent to the overlook is only one mile though, so before long we were looking at this:

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After we reached this overlook, we decided to continue hiking–the trail meets up with the Appalachian Trail pretty quickly.  Humpback Rocks shares a parking lot with another hike we’ve done recently–Dobie Mountain–and the two are connected by the AT.  Now, we had never done the combined hike and weren’t sure exactly how many miles of AT stretched between the two, but the group decided to give it a try.

This section of the AT (going north) was beautiful–mostly downhill, lots of pretty leaves, and lots of switchbacks.  So many switchbacks… none of which were visible on Google maps (yes, the AT is on there!), so when we’d been hiking for 15 minutes and I said, “We’re just about a mile away from the next overlook,” I was very wrong.  About an hour later, we were…one mile from the overlook.  My bad, guys. 🙂  Eventually we made it, and it was worth the extra miles:

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The whole gang

By the time we made it out of the woods, I think we’d hiked about six miles.  Not too shabby!

Hiking just makes me feel alive, and as I previously mentioned, it seemed to quiet the frequent heart palpitations I’ve been having lately.  Plus, we had great company this weekend, which made the day even greater!

Where have you hiked lately?
What was the highlight of your weekend? 

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Rainy Day Weight Circuits

I don’t know how things look out your window, but here on the East Coast there was a quick switch from hot to cold-and-rainy in the last week.  While I am not afraid of the rain and certainly don’t mind running in it, if I can complete my workout without actually leaving the house in this weather, that is fine by me!

I created and have been doing this weight and cardio workout from the warmth (well, dryness, anyway) of my living room this week:

Living Room Weight Circuit

 

By moving straight from one exercise to the next without a break, you can make it a cardio workout as well as strength.  I typically use two 10-lb dumbbells for the moves that require weights (and sometimes for the walking lunges, if I’m feeling ambitious :)).

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

What have we been eating this week to power such a grueling workout?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  The last two nights we’ve had one of the most neutral-colored meals possible:  tilapia + brown rice pasta + spaghetti squash.

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We baked the tilapia with a mixture of butter*, garlic, lemon juice, and basil, and made extra to season the brown rice pasta.  We roasted the squash with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Everything was delicious, despite falling in the oh-so-visually-appealing beige-yellow-tan category.

(*Nature’s Promise organic non-dairy buttery spread)

Tonight may be a stew night, despite the fact that it’s not Stewsday. 😉

Have a great Thursday, and if you’re experiencing the weather we are, stay dry!

What are you eating this week?
How does the rain affect your workouts?

Weekend Backpacking: The Priest and Spy Rock

On Saturday Andrew and I ventured into the mountains for a couple of days of backpacking and camping.  The original plan was to car camp–set up our tent beside the car, which we could then use as a base to store our stuff while we slept or hiked.  At the last minute we decided to make it more of a backpacking trip.  We parked our car in a gravel lot about half a mile from the Appalachian Trail and about 1.5 miles from where we camped, with the intention to still use it as a (less convenient) base, resupplying Sunday so we wouldn’t have to carry everything at once.

When we arrived Saturday afternoon we took what we needed for the night and started the ascent–the very steep ascent.  Here’s a map for reference (I’ve added red dots for your viewing convenience 😉 :

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From the parking area (marked “P”) we hiked to the AT (marked “i”).  From this point on, I will refer to that stretch as, “the half mile of doom”.  It’s a steep, dreadful dirt road that is tough with nothing on your back; add a 20-something-lb pack, and I started questioning my physical fitness levels.  From there we hiked east on the AT to the Priest, which provided little relief in terms of incline, and finally arrived at our campsite (the red dot near the shelter).

We set up camp, met a nice family from very rural Virginia, and made dinner.

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If we’d had a few more days to plan for backpacking, we would have been more intentional about bringing a lightweight pot/stove and dried food.  We didn’t though, and heavy dinner is the main reason we kept a few things in the car.  Before leaving we’d prepped dinner in a large zip-sealed bag and traveled with it in a cooler–soup with canned chicken, green beans, squash, mushrooms, peppers, cooked rice, black beans, and a bunch of spices.  We put the combination in the pot with water, heated, and enjoyed.  For a somewhat random mixture of canned foods (and a few from our garden), it actually tasted very good!  Who says you can’t eat well in the woods?

We slept–not particularly well, but not horribly either–and I woke around 6:00 AM when the smallest amount of light was coming through the tent walls.  I decided to pull myself out of the sleeping bag and try to catch the sunrise at the overlook less than half a mile away.  (Andrew decided  to keep sleeping :)).  Oh man, it was worth it:

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After enjoying God’s awesome creation and the stillness of the morning for a while, I made my way back to camp and waited patiently for Andrew to wake up.  On second thought, “patiently” might not be the right word;  as soon as I heard the faintest stirring sound, I unzipped the tent and demanded that he come outside and play :-D.  We ate breakfast, packed what we didn’t need for the day, and began the 1.5 mile hike back down to the car.

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Coffee and a French press;  it’s all about priorities, people

We dropped off a few items at the car, grabbed our day packs and pre-made lunches from the cooler, and reveled in the lightness of our loads compared to the overnight packs. 😀  Looking at the same map above, we tackled the half mile of doom from the parking lot to the AT, then hiked west to Spy Rock (well, we went a little beyond Spy Rock, but that was the highlight.)

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MmHmm.

 

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We ate lunch, hiked a bit more, then started walking back.  When we had roughly two miles left until we’d reach the car, it started raining.  Then it started pouring.  In case it’s unclear, two miles is a long way to hike in the rain.  We finally made it back to the parking lot and sat in the car to wait for the rain to stop.  At that point, I was done.  If it was necessary, I could tough out camping in the rain, but my dry bed sounded very appealing at that moment.  Andrew was not as sure, but eventually conceded that the rain was not likely to stop anytime soon and that would not make a great night of camping.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just start the car and go at that point?  It sure would be… but wait!  Our tent and much of our gear was still at the top of the dang mountain.  So, with 10 miles under our belts and water sloshing in our shoes, we had to make the 1.5 mile hike back up the steep mountain, pack all our gear, and hike back down.  Oy.

We survived but were pretty whipped by the time we arrived home.  Thankfully we had a pre-made dinner in a bag that we just poured in a pot on the stove and heated. 🙂

Even with the rain, it was an awesome trip, and I don’t regret going.  I love those mountain views and the workout they require to view them (our legs were hurting so good the next day!)

How did you spend your long weekend?
Have you hiked Spy Rock or the Priest?

Last Week’s Workouts and the Wonder of New Shoes

For the last few weeks–perhaps even a month–my knees had been feeling achy on runs and long walks.  I pulled back on intensity and distance, which helped some, but not enough, and then it finally occurred to me:  I haven’t bought new running shoes since April.  Those shoes maxed out their mileage some time ago.  Sunday night I bought a new pair, and it’s made a huge difference in my workouts this week!

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The Brooks Ravenna 4

Here’s what last week looked like in terms of workouts (spoiler alert:  I kind of dominated :-D) :

Sunday: Biking- 11 miles (with Andrew… it’s possible that we stopped for ice cream/Italian ice somewhere in the last few miles, but if we did, I assure you it was 100% Andrew’s decision, and I only went along with it for moral support.)

Monday: Running- 30 minutes (debut run for the new shoes!)

Tuesday: Lifting- 30 minutes; Ultimate Frisbee- 90 minutes

Wednesday: Running- 30 minutes

Thursday: Lifting- 30 minutes; Elliptical- 20 minutes (intervals);

Friday: Running- 60 minutes (trails)

I have been a devoted living room weight-lifter for years, but while we were in Jamaica I discovered the beauty of lifting at the gym.  The allure is about 15% accountability–I won’t skimp on reps if someone is standing next to me–and 85% vanity–mirrors on multiple walls so I can see my muscles working from different angles?  Heck, yes!  Pure vanity, but very motivating.  I had two great lifting sessions this week as a result, and  I’m pretty sure I’m stronger already.

In retrospect I should have taken a day off because we are leaving today to hike and camp for the long weekend!  I think today will mostly be driving and setting up camp, with most of the hiking being tomorrow, so hopefully it will give my muscles a chance to rest.  I can’t wait to be in the mountains!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

What was your best workout this week?
Weight lifting: living room or gym?
Any big plans for the long weekend?

Jamaica Part 2: Fitness and Adventure

While it may be tempting on vacation to lie on the beach all day–especially when a waiter walks by at regular intervals and says, “Hey Princess!  Are you doing okay?  Can I bring you a drink?”*–it’s also exciting to explore all that the activities the area and resort have to offer.  And you’ll feel better if you move a little bit between those buffets and fruity drinks. 😉

(*After this happened a few times, I requested that Andrew start addressing me as “Princess” and offer to bring me drinks regularly;  he declined.)

Here’s how we stayed active in Jamaica:

Snorkeling
When we were on our honeymoon we purchased snorkeling masks, which we brought with us last week.  The resort offered snorkeling trips, which we did once, but most days we also explored on our own just off the coast.

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A huge thanks to our friend Kevin for letting us borrow his waterproof camera for the week!

Sailing
The resort offers a variety of water sports, so we went sailing one day!  The culture difference related to this cracks me up:  In the US, in order to take out a sailboat you’d probably have to take a class, sign a waiver, pass a test, etc.  In Jamaica they said, “You know how to sail?  Have fun!”  😀

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Beach Volleyball
This was more Andrew’s thing, but I played one day too!  Every day at 4:00 the resort staff organized a volleyball game, and Andrew played most days.  Also, if I may brag on my husband for a moment, Andrew is kind of awesome at volleyball.  I had no idea (he never played on a team or anything), but I supposed I should have realized, considering is good at most sports.  The one afternoon he didn’t play, all his teammates kept saying, “Where were you??  We needed you!”

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Also, minutes after the above photo was taken, the guy on the right dove into the water to cool off and came up screaming expletives, his foot gushing blood.  We looked in the water and saw that he’d stepped on a stingray, which then pierced his foot!  We talked to him the next day after he’d spent a good portion of the night in the medical center; he was in some serious pain, but he’s okay!

Offsite Adventure: Ziplining and Waterfall Hiking
The only thing we did that was not included was an excursion to Ocho Rios (about 90 minutes from Montego Bay) to zipline and hike a waterfall.  The trip was absolutely worth the extra cost!

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The view from the sky lift

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Dunn’s River Falls is a series of 3-4 ft waterfalls with big pools at the bottom of each.  We hiked from the ocean to the top of the falls.  It was awesome (and provided some great photo ops! :-D)

The Gym
In addition to staying active outside, we did hit the resort gym a few times–once for Andrew, twice for me.  Each time I completed 20 minutes on the treadmill (intervals + a short warm up/cool down), and 20 minutes of weight circuits.  I wanted to make the workouts count without feeling like I was spending too much precious vacation time at the gym.

That was our Jamaication!  I’m still not sure about this whole, “not on vacation, back in the real world” thing, but I am slowly adjusting.  Yesterday afternoon I made myself a “transition from paradise to reality smoothie”: pineapple, mango, and strawberry.  I compromised by not including spinach, flax meal, or rum. 😉

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Not bad, but not Jamaica.

Have a great Tuesday!

Where did you go/are you going on vacation this summer?
Have you ever been to Dunn’s River Falls?

Youth Group Hike (Dobie Mountain Round Two)

What’s better than hiking on a Thursday in perfect 75 degree weather?  When that hike technically counts toward your work week!  (Benefit #2028 of working in youth ministry :-D).  All the youth I work with are currently on summer break, so yesterday a group of us went hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Back in May, when Andrew and I hiked Dobie Mountain, I made a mental note that it would be a great hike for a group of youth–nice views, not too long, and not too many steep uphills.  Overall, it was a big hit with the group yesterday, though I did forget just how steep one of the uphills was…

We started on the Albright Loop, which is made up of a lot of woods, rocky trails, and switchbacks.  At one point, as we walked single-file over a small stream, I heard the boy behind me say, “Ouch!”, then the girls behind him, “Ouch!” “Ahh! Ouch!” and so on down the line.  I turned around to see what was happening, and everyone behind me was swatting some insect away from their legs and arms.  I told them to keep walking past the water in case whatever it was had a nest there.  Once we were out of the ouch zone, I inspected the bites/stings.  They looked–and apparently felt–like bee stings, but the victims said the bugs looked like giant mosquitoes.  Anyone know what that is??  One girl’s bite was particularly red and puffy, and when I asked if she was allergic to bees she said, “I don’t know.  I’ve never been stung!”  Oh God, please do not let her have an allergic reaction…  We kept an eye on the wounds, and thankfully no one had any serious reaction!

After about two miles, we reached the intersection of the Appalachian Trail.  When Andrew and I hiked this, we continued south on the AT;  yesterday we decided to hike north for about half a mile to reach an additional overlook.

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After resting for a few minutes and enjoying the view, we began hiking south–all uphill at this point–to reach the bigger Glass Hollow Overlook and our lunch destination.  I love the sense of awe that everyone inevitably feels when stepping out onto an overlook like this:

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But seriously–could this be any more beautiful?

We ate lunch and hung out around this area for over an hour.  (Silly me–I thought I would have to convince them to simply be and enjoy the views, but as it turns out, the mountains are hypnotizing to more people than just me.  😉  I kept hearing, “I could stay here all day!”)

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We still had a few hours before we needed to drive back to Richmond, and the remainder of the hike would only take us about 30 minutes, so we decided to hike a little further on the AT.  We continued for a mile or so, during which I uttered the understatement of the day:  That particular stretch of trail was relatively flat, with soft dirt and lush greenery all around us.  I said, “This is nice little path we’re on!”, and quickly realizing the humor added, “And by ‘nice little path,’ I mean, ‘the Appalachian Trail.'”  Hah!  You know… that nice little path that runs from Maine to Georgia. 😉

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Our fierce, young hikers

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My new friend Juliet who came with us to help and was such a trooper!

We returned to the overlook for one final glimpse, then began the trek back to the parking lot.  This is the part of the hike for which I apparently had slope amnesia.  When we met back up with the Albright Loop, we only had one mile to go, but the first half of that mile was a serious uphill.  How did I not remember that?  After already hiking about six miles at that point, we were hurting!  Eventually we made it and began the trip back to Richmond.

The original plan was to hike 4 miles–the Albright Loop, plus the short trek on the AT to reach the Glass Hollow Overlook.  However, we added a mile to see the first overlook, then about two miles on the AT at the end, bringing our total to roughly seven miles.  Not bad!  When I started hiking yesterday, my legs and glutes were still sore from the cardio class I took Tuesday night.  After all those hills, I am hobbling. 🙂

As always, the hike provided an awesome workout with beautiful scenery to ease the pain.  Plus, I had great company yesterday. 😀

Have you hiked anywhere particularly cool lately?

Cardio Extreme

Last night on a whim, I took a new-to-me class at our gym, and I am feeling it today.  We typically play Ultimate Frisbee on Tuesday nights, but when I arrived home yesterday evening, I just wasn’t in the mood.  Andrew grabbed a quick dinner and headed back out the door for UF.  I wanted to take my time, enjoy dinner, and relax for the remainder of the night.

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After eating my perfect potatoes, steamed broccoli, and marinated baked chicken at a leisurely pace, I was bored and regretted staying home.  I checked our gym’s group fitness schedule and saw that there was a Cardio Extreme class happening in 30 minutes.  Before I could talk myself out of it, I made the decision to go.  It was only half an hour;  how hard could it be?

Hard.  It could be very hard.

I walked up to the door of the group fitness room at the same time as another woman and decided to get the scoop on the class from her.

“Have you taken this class before?”

“Yeah!  Have you?”

“Nope!  Is it tough?”

“Yeah, this is the toughest instructor.  Have you taken this class with anyone before?”

“Haha, no…”

“Oh… well, if you can survive her, you can handle any of the instructors!”

Awesome. 😉

We began with a warm up–jogging around the room, jumping jacks, butt kicks, fast-paced squats–and then moved into circuits.  The first round of circuits consisted of jumping rope, high-stepping through a rope ladder on the floor, jumping on and off a step, walking lunges across the room and sprinting back, and skaters.  It was fast-paced, and by the second station I was thinking, “What did I sign up for?!”  

After the first round of circuits, we did another “easy” jog around the room, jumping jacks, etc., then began circuit 2–mostly variations of the stations from circuit 1.  We did mountain climbers instead of skaters, and skips instead of lunges.  Finally, we cooled down.

I loved the high-intensity;  I pushed myself much harder than I would have if I’d been alone, which is one of the reasons I love group fitness classes!  As much as I was hurting in, oh, the first five minutes, the class actually went by very quickly.  Afterwards, I knew I’d received an awesome workout, and that’s a great feeling.

As my brother said when I told him about the class, “An intense 30 minutes is wayyyyyy better than a casual hour.”  So true.

Have you ever taken a Cardio Extreme class similar to this?
Do you incorporate high-intensity cardio into your weekly routine?