Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A Blog for Adventurous Women

Choosing the right active vacation

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 27, 2015 12:16:20 PM

In rock climbing lingo, the definition of "sandbag" is: "A climb which receives a much lower grade than steepclimbdeserved. Also used as a verb when referring to the act of describing a climbing route as easier than it actually is." This under-rating isn't intentional -  the rating is assigned by the first person to climb it and reflects their own experience, skills, and climbing quirks. What feels like a sandbag to me might feel spot on to you.

There is probably no topic on our active vacations, trip evaluations, and even our guide retreats that engenders more discussion than the topic of the ratings for our trips. Our goal, always, is to get you on a trip that delights you and meets your expectations. Choosing a trip with the appropriate degree of challenge is one part of that.

Your personal experience of how challenging a trip will be are a complex interplay of at least 5 factors:

  1. your fitness level; 
  2. how many hours of hiking, kayaking etc the trip requires; 
  3. your amount of experience with the activity;
  4. the current conditions (especially weather); 
  5. your personal reaction to all of the above.

Fitness and activity:
Our ratings system is primarily based on fitness and length of activity. None of our trips are suitable for women who are completely sedentary. A rating of 3 is often interpreted as moderate and it is - but its moderate for a woman who regularly engages in aerobic activity, either jogging, biking, working out a gym, or power walking. Women who are very active during the day but whose regular exercise is walking mostly on the flat will find that trips rated 3 are pretty challenging.

Previous experience: 
Previous experience in the activity is also a key factor. We try to address that in the section of the trip description called "Is This the Right Trip For You", especially in the Ratings section. Here we describe why it has the rating it does and whether it's appropriate for novices or whether some or alot of previous experience is suggested.

But experience isn't everything. A few years ago on our Canadian Rockies Hiking Holiday we had 2 hikers of very different experience levels, one having hiked a couple of times in the Colorado Rockies and the other having hiked in a variety of places, including several trips with us. On one descent from a pass the trail goes through a scree field, i.e. there are lots of small rocks. Most people, unless they have lots of experience hiking on similar trails, find they have to pick their way down carefully. On this particular trip, the woman who had less experience wasn't bothered by the trail and came down easily. The more experienced hiker had a lot of trouble, felt totally unprepared by our description, and was exhausted at the end. I personally hate descending on trails that are hardpacked with lots of tiny little slippery rocks and can pretty much count on feeling tired at the end of the descent if its more than 30 minutes. We all have our personal reaction to different conditions. Experience helps - I've learned how to safely go down those trails with hiking poles - but I'll never enjoy them or find them easy. And of course the only way to gain the necessary experience is to do them. Experience can, to a degree, also compensate for lower levels of fitness because of the efficiency learned over the years. An experienced less fit hiker/paddler will often have more energy at the end of the day than an inexperienced hiker/paddler who is more fit. This is particularly true if the conditions (weather, footing) are challenging.

Current conditions:
Whenever you're engaged in an outdoor adventure (i.e. any of our trips), there are always unpredictable conditions that can change the nature of the experience. A common one is weather. We have been offering kayaking trips in Belize for the last couple of years that we have rated 2 and 3 because there are options for how you balance relaxation time and activity time on some of the days. This year the initial day was quite windy on one trip with bigger rolling waves, and what had taken an hour and a half last year took three hours of hard paddling this year. Everyone successfully made the crossing but they definitely had to work harder than they expected. Based on this experience and the feedback of participants, we have decided to rate the trip as a 3, since we generally want to put the rating at the highest level that might be required for any one day. But next year if the water is calm, we might hear that it deserves a lower rating.

Personal Reaction:
The last factor, your personal reaction, is probably both the hardest to quantify and the most critical - often because you yourself won't know until you're in the middle of it. But that is also what makes something an adventure - we are outside our normal routine, trying new things in new places with new people, and in the process learning about ourselves. You might learn that you don't like something or that you really need something specific to be happy. Or you might learn that you can push yourself further and harder than you ever imagined. I was recently talking with someone who was interested in Trekking in Nepal, a trip that not only has challenging hiking but also a completely different culture and living standards than we are used to. She was quite fit but had done little hiking and no travel in a Third World country. Since I was confident she could do it physically, I told her that I thought it would be taking a big leap to go on the trek; but if that was what she was looking for, it would be an amazing experience.

Our ratings are meant to be a starting point, a way for you to start assessing whether a trip is appropriate for your fitness level. The itinerary will also give you additional information. But the itinerary can't give you context you don't have i.e. if the itinerary says that you will be hiking 4 hours with a 3000 foot elevation gain - but you've never hiked more than rolling hills - you can't have any way of knowing how that will feel. So if you're in any doubt whether a trip is going to be suitable, we want you to call us so we can talk about what your experience is, what you're looking for, and why you're interested in a particular trip. We don't want to sell you a trip, we don't want to talk you out of a trip, we want to help you choose the right trip for you. The last thing we want is for you to feel sandbagged.

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: active travel, health and fitness, preparation

Lodging options for your next active vacation

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 6, 2014 4:54:00 AM

So you're planning your next active vacation and, having made your plane reservations, the next question is lodging. While air travel has gotten more expensive, more limited, and less enjoyable, the opposite is true for lodging. In fact the variety of lodging options, and the tools with which to findrooms the one that suits you, has just exploded. Covering all the options would be impossible so this blog is confined to short term stays.

Hotels: Hotels offer predictabilty, anonymity, and freedom from interacting with anyone other than the desk clerk. If all you want is a bed for the night, which is often true at the end of a long day or a long flight, they can be your best bet. Here are three possibilities for finding the right hotel room and which is better depends on where you're going, whether you have a car, and your preference for certainty.

  • If you have a car: Having a car gives you more flexibility. If your hotel ends up being 15 miles from the airport, it doesn't really matter. In this case I use the 'Name Your Own Price' function on Before I put in a bid though, I go to Hotwire is also an opaque site, meaning you don't know exactly where you're staying until you've agreed to stay there, but it offers fixed prices. That gives me a feel for what I can expect to pay. Armed with that info, I go to Priceline and put in a bid that is 10 to 30% lower than Hotwire. Be sure you look at the area map so you don't end up in another town.

    I only use Priceline when I have a car because I won't know if the hotel has an airport shuttle; and a taxi fare to a hotel that ends up being 6 miles away can eat up any savings I might have gotten - particularly if I have to return to the airport the next morning.
  • If you don't have a car: My favorite website when I want to know where I'm staying is Trivago. Trivago is a hotel metasearch engine; this means it not only lists lots of different hotels, but displays the current rate for each hotel on the date you want on each of the major booking websites (e.g. hotels. com, expedia etc.). It also gives overall ratings as well as the ratings at each of the booking sites. If it's not clear whether they offer an airport shuttle (never assume they do unless it is clearly stated), call them and ask. And while you're talking to them, tell them the lowest price you're seeing on the internet and ask them if that is the lowest rate they can offer.

    If you don't see anything you like, another comprehensive and easy to use booking site is It has more options in more places, particularly for international destinations. We've found this particularly useful for international bookings. Checking out Priceline's Express Deals, where you can specify amenities such as airport shuttle and free internet, is also worth it.
  • If you have a high tolerance for uncertainty: There are an increasing number of booking sites that offer that day's unsold hotel inventory. The most well known is Hotel Tonight, which is only available as a smartphone or tablet app. You can get some great deals this way! Typically, though, it is good deals on higher end hotels and if price is the only consideration, you may be able to find cheaper on one of the other sites. It also only lists hotels in larger cities, so don't count it for finding you a spot when you're on a road trip in the West. And in the end, the uncertainty might not be worth it.

Hostels: Hostels used to serve only youth and often required chores. Those days have changed! The American Youth Hostel Association has been renamed to Hostelling International, because they don't just serve youth anymore and they truly are international in scope. The kind of lodging you'll find under the name hostel has also expanded, but typically you'll find: 1) all or some of the rooms are available to people who don't know each other (i.e. if there are four beds in the room, you may be sharing it with 3 people you don't know); 2) the bathroom is often outside the bedroom and shared by several other rooms; 3) there are cooking facilities available; and 4) they are much less expensive than hotels. An increasing number also offer private rooms and family rooms, and/or rooms segregated by gender.

We stay in hostels for all of our northern Georgia trips (the Hiker Hostel, owned by one of our guides, always gets rave reviews) and for our Canadian Rockies Hiking Holiday. In both cases we rent the entire hostel. This allows us to cook some of the meals, keep the price lower, and, just as important, gives everyone some common space to hang out together  - all of which make the trip more relaxed and less scheduled.

I often stay in hostels when I'm traveling personally; in addition to being less expensive, the hostelkeepers are usually great sources of local information and offer an opportunity to meet other travelers. I stayed in rifugios (mountain huts that are like hostels except they provide meals) when I was in northern Italy last year and one of my best memories was the evening I spent talking with a young couple from Bavaria and a cook from northern Italy. The two websites I use are HostelBookers and Hostelworld.  However, for people who like having some degree of privacy, hostels are not a great choice.

AirBnB: AirBnB has absolutely revolutionized the options available to travelers. Originally Bed and Breakfasts were homes of people who rented out a spare room to supplement their income. Especially in the US, they have morphed into more elaborate and expensive enterprises that are often more like small inns, although still offering great breakfasts, local knowledge, and the potential for connecting with other travelers.

AirBnB started by returning to the original concept, using the internet to connect people who needed a room with people who had one to spare. In the last couple of years it has exploded: people may choose to rent out a room or a whole house or apartment; it has even become the platform of choice for some small hotels. Both hosts and users can leave reviews, thereby helping to weed out the bad apples. There have been some legal issues in New York and other locales that forbid short term rentals (laws that are usually passed at the behest of the traditional hospitality industy), and critics who say that this provides a way to get around health laws and licensing. But most peopel who write about the travel industry think it is the wave of the future and in most places the issues will be resolved.

This is one of the most rapidly changing areas in travel, withnew ideas, websites, and apps appearing every day. The ones here are all likely to be around for awhile and, depending on what you're looking for in accomodation, all worth checking out.

Topics: active travel, travel tips, lodging

Buying airline tickets for your next adventure vacation - Part 1

Posted by Marian Marbury on Feb 3, 2014 7:00:00 AM

I've written a blog post about this previously but there are some new considerations and some new websites that make it worth updating. This advice is oriented towards the person who is considering or has booked a specific adventure vacation and therefore is locked into specific dates - perhaps you have a day or two of flexibility but you're not in the position of being able to go anywhere or anytime.

There are three issues to consider: 1) when should you book your airline ticket; 2) should you use a travel agent; and 3) if you book your own tickets, what sites are most useful? I'll look at the first 2 questions in this post and consider the third one in a second.relaxing in the Caribbean

When should you book your airline tickets?

In the original blog post, I suggested you start looking not earlier than 4 months and not later than 3 weeks. Those are still not bad guidelines, but it's not that simple. Airlines have gotten very sophisticated at projecting demand and basing their pricing on that - the cost of your ticket has virtually nothing to do with how many miles you're flying. If you are going to a popular destination at a popular time of year (e.g. the Caribbean in February, Florida during Spring Break, Europe in July, or home for the holidays), you might start looking 6 to 8 months in advance and you should definitely book early while there are still lots of seats. As planes fill, prices will go up. That is particularly true if you are flying from a small airport, on a route with limited competition, and/or to a place of high demand for your particular departure city. For example, if you live in Michigan and want to go to Florida this March, hopefully you already have your tickets booked. If instead you're going to Minneapolis, you can probably wait a few more weeks. 

Of course if seats don't get sold the prices may go down (one website reported that on average, the lowest price was 3 weeks before the departure day); but you take the risk that seats will be sold out and/or prices will go up. You also have to factor in your time and anxiety level. If you think you found a good price, just book it and don't look again. If you don't find a good price, then set up a fare alert. Maybe the price will never come down but at least you will have had time to adjust to the fact that you are going to pay more than you hoped.

Warning: if you haven't flown recently, be prepared for sticker shock. Prices have gone up significantly on many flights in the last couple of years. With continuing consolidation of airlines, this is not likely to improve soon.

Should you use a travel agent?

Travel agents charge a fee (the one we work with charges $35 for domestic tickets and $45 for international flights) and may or may not be able to find a flight that is cheaper than you can find on your own. But in addition to saving you time and relieving you of the paralysis that sometimes descends from looking at too many booking sites, a huge advantage is that you have someone to help you when your flight is delayed or cancelled. Rather than trying to get through to your airlines' call center which is being inundated by 1000s of other stranded customers, you call your agent and she takes care of it, finding you the best alternative there is.

The major disadvantage is that, if you're like me, it's hard to know what the optimal itinerary is until you actually see all your choices. Price is the single most important determinant for me, but it's not the only important thing. I might be willing to pay an additional $50 to get home four hours earlier or go a day earlier to save $120. But maybe I won't  - I don't really know until I see exactly what the choices are.

So what websites do we use when we're booking flights? I'll cover that in the next post. There are a couple of new entrants to the crowded field of airline booking sites. And the most surprising thing is that you can't rely on just one!

Our EBook will help you get ready ready for your next interational trip

Topics: active travel, travel tips, preparation, how to

How to Stay Warm Outside in Winter

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 4, 2014 10:19:00 AM

Plunging temperatures this week may have you convinced there is no alternative to staying indoors with a good book until Spring. Think again! Staying outdoors and active improves your mood, fends off winter weight Deb snow queengain, and keeps your vitamin D level high. Of course you won’t want to stay outdoors if you’re cold, but follow these 5 simple tips and you’ll be able to play outdoors all day.

 Keep your hands warm

Research has found that women really do have colder hands than men: when temps drop, the blood vessels in women’s hands constrict more so that blood flow is diverted to the core. The benefit is that women’s core temps stay high and thus help protect against hypothermia. But it also means that keeping your hands warm is more challenging for women.

 So are mittens or gloves better? The answer depends on you, the activity, and the outside temperature. If you’re doing something highly aerobic, or you require manual dexterity, then gloves can be fine.  But gloves are like sleeping bags – they don’t contribute warmth, they retain the warmth you have. Fingers lose heat faster when they are separated; if you can't find a pair of gloves that keep your hands warm, you are likely to find mittens preferable.

And what material should you use? Wool is the only material that keeps your hands warm if your gloves or mittens get soaked. Synthetics will dry quickly but they lose insulative capacity. Some gloves and mittens are made of GoreTex or a waterproof material and may be useful in damp conditions, but tend not to work in very wet conditions.

A pair of glove liners under a pair of thicker gloves can give you manual dexterity and help keep your hands toasty.  However, if you are someone whose fingers don't stay warm in gloves, wearing glove liners under mittens will actually make your fingers colder than if you just wore mittens. Personally my hands do better if I just whip my mittens off when necessary.

 Wear layers of clothing

Your goal is to stay warm while sweating as little as possible. Several lighter layers both provide more insulation and are much more adjustable than one heavy layer. The only time you might need a down parka is when you are standing around or otherwise not active. Bring a daypack so you have some place to put your extra layers as you warm up or take a break.

Start with a BASE LAYER of silk or "lightweight" synthetic long underwear and liner socks. These materials draw moisture away from the skin (this is called "wicking") and help keep you dry and therefore warmer. Over the base layer wear a second, MEDIUM-WEIGHT layer on your upper body such as "expedition-weight" Capilene or Polartec, and wool pants or a synthetic equivalent such as Polartec or Capilene fleece. Over the second layer, add a third HEAVY-WEIGHT layer. This should be a thick material such as wool or fleece. Typically this layer will not be necessary, even in cold weather, as long as you’re active. As soon as you stop for a break, put this on. If you're overheated, you might think you want to cool down. You don't, at least not abruptly. By the time you think you’re just right, your body temperature is on a downward trajectory that will overshoot. If it’s raining or windy, you will also want to add the outer layer described below.

This fourth and final layer is called the OUTER LAYER. This layer is for protection from wind and rain and should be a parka or jacket made of a coated nylon or a waterproof/breathable fabric like Gore-tex, HellyTech, Membrane, H2No, or Ultrex. Be sure it keeps water out. Before making this important purchase, be sure that it fits you properly. It should be large enough to fit over all your layers. In particular, the hood needs to be effective. It should shield your face from the rain and turn with your head. Movement of your arms should not interfere with the hood. Put on a daypack; can you still raise your arms? Lastly, the wind pants. They should be comfortable, allow enough room for your layers, and permit free movement of your legs (for example, can you crouch comfortably?). Partial or full-length leg zippers are useful for easily putting your pants on over your boots.  Even when it is not raining or windy, we lose heat from convection, the movement of air against our body.  This layer eliminates that and keeps you substantially warmer.

When you start, you should be just a little on the chilly side. If you're already warm, you will quickly overheat and before that happens, stop and pull off a layer. On a cold day I often start with my lightweight and midweight layer with my outer layer over that, and then pull off the midweight as I warm up.

3.  Don’t wear cotton

 In the discussion of layers, we mentioned several kinds of synthetic materials. The reason is that cotton absorbs moisture like a sponge and then keeps it next to you. The damp material will cause you to chill severely in cold weather once you stop for a break.

This is just as true for underwear as for t-shirts.  A cold, clammy cotton bra next to your skin is uncomfortable at the least and can lead to severe chilling. You will be warmer if you stop and take your bra off, even though that means temporarily exposing a lot more skin to the elements. Prevention is better yet! You can either choose not to wear underwear or you can invest in one made of synthetic materials that wick sweat away.


4.  Stay hydrated

The most important part of staying hydrated is to drink plenty of water. Even if you're not sweating, you lose moisture simply because the air is so cold and dry. Like heat, moisture seeks equilibrium between places where there is plenty (inside your respiratory system) and places where there isn't much (the outside air). When you become dehydrated, your body functions less efficiently and you get cold more easily.

Do not drink alcohol until you are off the trail and back in your cozy lodging. Alcohol packs a double whammy in the cold. First, it causes your blood vessels to dilate. That makes you feel warmer, but it causes your body to lose heat faster. Second, it impairs your judgment. Hypothermia, the condition caused by excess heat loss, does the same thing. And of course you really want to keep as many wits functioning as possible when you are out in the cold. Alcohol can also contribute to dehydration if the alcohol content of your drink is above 10% and you drink large amounts.

Of course, if you stay well hydrated you will need to urinate more often. If you are lucky enough to be out in the snow, try a "snow wipe" (using a snowball for wiping yourself) is a true refreshing pleasure.

Another key aspect of staying hydrated is protecting your skin by keeping it protected form the sun and well moisturized. Chapped skin is not only painful, it means that the protective barrier of your skin has been damaged. Moisturizing cream with an SPF of 15 or greater will prevent that


5. Should you wear a hat?

Well yes, of course, it makes you look outdoorsy! And there are so many cute hats these days. But we used to think that more heat was lost from an uncovered head than any other part of your body because of the rich network of blood vessels that feed your brain. However recent research has shown that heat loss through your head accounts for about 7% of your heat loss because the head accounts for about 7% of your body surface. Of course 7% is not insignificant and that plus the fact that hats make you feel cozy make them well worth wearing.

6. Stay hydrated and eat lots of snacks 

This is my favorite tip! I started winter camping when I heard that polar explorers had to eat 5000 calories a day just to maintain their bodyweight. That might be a little excessive for a couple of hours of hiking or skiing, but there is no doubt that the snacks you brought with you, washed down by the thermos of hot tea you just happen to have in your pack, are not only tasty but also essential for staying warm.

Zero degree weather? Bring it on! 

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: clothing and gear, active travel, outdoors tips, health and fitness

Training Tips (Part II of III): RPE Decoded for Active Travel

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Jan 24, 2013 5:00:00 AM

RPE resized 600

A few mornings each week, I teach a group cycling class at a local gym. There are typically about 25 people in the class at all different fitness levels, each with different fitness goals. So how do I ensure each student gets the workout they need/want? I use a scale called Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE. It’s not a fancy scale that requires an electronic heart rate monitor or one that requires multiple heart checks throughout class; instead, it is a mental scale determined by each individual student in my class.

RPE is a scale from 0-10 (0 = no exercise; 10 = very, very strenuous exercise); the scale is different for everyone, that is – “very, very strenuous” could be walking at a 3 mph pace for one person or running at an 8 mph pace for another person. Each number on the scale from 0-10 is equated to a different level of intensity. Here is the breakdown:


What It Means


No exertion. The only movement you're getting is pushing buttons on the remote.


Light exertion. This is how you should feel when you're warming up, cooling down, and stretching.


Medium exertion. You're breathing a little faster. Your heart is pumping a little faster. You're feeling a little warmer.


Moderate exertion. You're breathing pretty hard now, you're probably sweating. You can talk, but it's getting tougher.


Hard exertion. You're breathing really hard and you can only say a few words at a time. You're wondering how long you can go on like this.


Hardest exertion. You cannot keep this pace for more than a minute. Speaking is impossible. This is your limit.

Using an RPE scale helps individuals personalize their exercise program; tailoring one’s program to their fitness level and ultimate goal is important, because one exercise routine does not fit all.

When beginning or progressing through an exercise routine, you may wonder if you are exercising hard enough to reach your goal. For example, there is a difference between a leisurely stroll and a hilly power walk: You may sweat and breathe hard on your power walk while during a leisurely stroll you may feel more relaxed than physically challenged. This is an important difference when training toward a certain exercise goal. To simplify the difference among exercise intensities and across fitness levels, many trainers, instructors, and exercise programmers utilize RPE. 

There is no one best exercise for everyone. The benefits to your heart are similar as long as the type of exercise satisfies some basic requirements and you follow the recommended program goals, as prescribed by your doctor or exercise physiologist.

Your aerobic exercise program should have four goals:

  1. It is aerobic. It uses large muscle groups repetitively for a sustained amount of time

  2. You perform it for 30 to 60 minutes, three to five days a week

  3. It meets the cardiovascular goals your doctor or exercise physiologist has prescribed for you

  4. It is something you will enjoy doing for an extended period of time

One way to determine your RPE is known as the "Talk Test." During an "aerobic" exercise session, one should be able to carry on a somewhat stilted conversation, if you are indeed "with oxygen" - which is what the word "aerobic" means. If you are gasping for air and unable to talk, you are most likely working at or beyond the anaerobic "without oxygen" threshold - a very, very, very hard intensity level at or beyond at the high end of their aerobic zone.

If you can sing the entire Star Spangled Banner and hit the high note with ease - you are probably not exerting much effort - and you have a great musical range! If you can sing Row Row Row your Boat, but have to take a breath after every other word, then you are probably working pretty hard! While these methods of reading intensity level are subjective, they tend to be good ways to help participants judge and adjust their level of exertion according to their fitness goals. For Adventures in Good Company trips rated a level 3 – exercising between a 3-4 on most days and a 5-6 once or twice a week is a good routine. For trips rated a level 4 - exercising between a 4-5 on most days and a 6-7 once or twice a week is a good routine. If you have questions about training for a certain trip – please don’t hesitate to contact the AGC office.

Our goal is for you to physically enjoy the trip you choose!





Topics: active travel, health and fitness

Training Tips (Part I of III): 3 Month Sample Cardio Routine

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Jan 10, 2013 5:00:00 AM

2013 is underway – and for some, starting an exercise program may be among your New Year resolutions. We all know the many benefits of exercise – from improving our mood to decreasing the risk of heart disease- even preventing Alzheimer’s! And if you have registered for or are considering one of our active vacations in 2013, physical preparation for that trip may also be among your goals.

Now, beginning a workout routine can be overwhelming – cardio, weights, stretching… oh my! Where to start, how to start, how long to exercise, and how many times in week you should exercise are common questions. Those questions do not have to be barriers to a new fitness regime or to adventure travel training. We’ve got some answers for you in the diagram below.

But first -- here are few thoughts to keep in mind as you begin:

    • Start simple. Exercise does not have to be complicated – it can be as simple as taking a walk on your lunch hour.

    • Enjoy it. The key is finding an activity that you enjoy doing (i.e. if you dread running – don’t run) and something that fits into your daily routine (though waking up earlier or rearranging habits such as an evening full of TV may be necessary).

    • Partner-up. Finding a work out partner can be a key to success – accountability, meeting someone to walk or at the gym can make exercising a lot less arduous.

      Now, what does a fitness regime look like? The diagram below focusses on cardio. It can be used as a guide for individuals just wanting to become more active or for those who would like to be able to enjoy one of our Level 3 adventure trips.

      For a Trip Rated Level 3 we want to prepare your body for 4-6 hours of daily activity. In addition to the suggestions, below try to implement other movement into your day.  For example, park further away from your office building or the store, take the stairs at work, go shopping, do light housecleaning, take your dog for a walk, mow the lawn, or garden. These “everyday tasks” in conjunction with the program below will enable you to physically ENJOY the trip!

      Stay Tuned for…

      Part II: Rate of Perceived Exertion – What is RPE?

      Part III: Hiking Leg Preparation – Toning Exercises for your Bottom HalfSample Cardio Routine resized 600

      Topics: active travel, health and fitness, trip preparation

      Three myths about training for hiking trips

      Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 8, 2013 5:43:00 AM

      Arriving at a hiking trip that you're really not physically prepared for is no fun. But at the same time you don't want to unnecessarily talk yourself out of a hiking trip that you might love. Having a realistic assessment of the match between what a trip requires and whether we are or can be in that kind of shape is important, and equally important is making sure that we don't hiking Zion National Parkfall prey to these common self-defeating myths.

      1. You don't have time to prepare. Many of us lead pretty busy lives and it can be difficult to find the time to carve out an hour every day to go to the gym, for a run, or whatever. The good news is that spending an hour a day devoted to exercise isn't essential for any but the most strenuous trips (i.e climbing Mt Kilimanjaro or Backpacking the Grand Canyon). Here are two ways to help with time management.

      • Do intervals. Intervals are short periods of more intense aerobic activity interspersed with less intense activity. The key to successful intervals is to really push yourself to the point of discomfort during each one, so you are almost gasping for breath. Research has shown that intervals increase your endurance as effectively as longer, slower exercise - and take much less time.

        Some examples: if you're a runner, run all out for 30 seconds followed by 1 minute of an easy jog; if you're a walker, find a hill and walk up it as quickly as possible and then walk down it; if you work out on machines (treadmill, elliptical etc), do the same thing. Gradually build up the length and number of intervals. The Mayo Clinic has a good summary article and there are other resources on the web.

      • Do lunges and squats while you're talking on the phone, waiting in line, brushing your teeth, or watching TV. Having strong muscles to protect your knees will keep you hiking pain-free, and these are 2 critical exercises you can do in a variety of circumstances.

      2. You live in the flatlands and there aren't any hills for training. Not all of us are lucky enough to live where there are real hills, much less mountains. Fortunately we all live near stairs - stairs in buildings, stadiums, even our own house. Yes, definitely more boring than hiking in the mountains. But all you need is 12 stairs. If you're just starting to exercise, start with going up and down the stairs a step at a time. Then start going up faster, until it's definitely an aerobic exercise for you. Then start taking two stairs at a time on the way up, but still a step at a time on the way down. Go up and down for 5 minutes, then take a quick 2 minute walk on the flat. Gradually increase the number of repetitions of the stairs/flat cycle and also the lenth of time you do stairs. This exercise, done once or twice a week in conjunction with other kinds of aerobic exercise, will help you get ready for a hiking trip with hills. Using a stair master at a gym will also help. Aerobic exercise and strenth training alone can't completely prepare you for going uphill.

      3. You have to already be in good shape to sign up for a challenging hiking trip. Actually I hate to call this a myth because it may well be true and requires you being honest with yourself. If you know from past experience that you get really enthusiastic about ideas and make big plans for how you're going to accomplish them, but then in a short period of time you lose enthusiasm and motivation, signing up for a challenging trip just isn't a good idea. A better approach is to sign up for a trip that has some options, maybe every day having a choice between longer and shorter hikes. That way whether or not you meet your fitness goal, you can still have a great trip (example: Lodge to Lodge on the Superior Hiking Trail or Exploring Utah's National Parks in Fall.

      On the other hand, if you respond well to having a carrot in front of you - something you really want to do - then by all means, sign up for that challenging trip now. Most of us are not all one way or the other. I am never so regularly at the gym as when I have a challenging trip on my calendar in the next 3 months. But my coworkers can tell you about my various enthusiasms that have fallen by the wayside when they didn't work out quite as I hoped or were harder to implement than I had realized.

      Want some more hiking tips?

      Hiking Tips for Women

      Topics: active travel, hiking, health and fitness, trip preparation

      Getting Ready for Kayak Tours: 5 Upper Body Exercises

      Posted by Katie Flanagan on Nov 8, 2012 5:00:00 AM

      Physical preparation for an adventure travel paddling trip is a great way to kick start or enhance your upper body resistance training routine. Many of us are comfortable on treadmills, elliptical machines, or walking/running outside, but fewer women regularly incorporate resistance training into workout routines. Kayaking and canoeing are great oppotunities to exercise the upper body and preparing for such activities can help create a more functional and healthy upper body. Toning your upper body can be simple; there are actually a lot of upper body exercises you can do in your home or without any fancy equipment. Below are five efficient, (and if you choose) equipment-less exercises that can help you maintain arm and core strength between paddles, or when preparing for your next adventure travel  paddling vacation. Each of the exercises incorporates both the upper body (mostly shoulders and back) and core (abdominals and obliques) simultaneously. These exercises can be done with or without hand weights. Performing them 2-3 times a week in conjunction with cardio 3-5 times per week can create a great fitness base and a paddle-ready adventure traveler.





      Topics: active travel, health and fitness, trip preparation

      Adventure Travel Training Trips: Training for Outdoor Travel Inside?

      Posted by Katie Flanagan on Oct 11, 2012 5:00:00 AM

      Indoor vs Outdoor Workouts resized 600

      In most places, unbearable temperatures have made way for breezy, cool afternoons; among the perks of fall weather is the ability to get outdoors and train for your next adventure travel vacation. Before we know it, we’ll be forced back indoors by snow and ice, so we must take advantage of this weather… right? Well, maybe for some… or for some, sometimes. Personally, I enjoy morning runs outdoors with friends but even in the best weather conditions, an indoor workout beckons. Though, I often end up feeling a need to convince myself that it is ok to exercise indoors when it’s beautiful outside (this is not a fun mental guilt trip - its hard enough getting motivated to exercise). So instead playing that mental game, I give myself permission to go with my mood; I try to listen to my body and exercise where I led. I find that if I force myself to exercise in a way that goes against the grain of my gut, I will likely dread the notion and ultimately skip working out. So my mantra: Do what works for you and what works is different for everyone and also may be different for you depending on the season, day, or time.  If the bustle of rush hour and scents of dinner prep put a skip in your step – remind yourself of that and head outdoors. If watching Good Morning America while in motion gets you up in moving, go with it. The main point is moving that body and training for your next adventure travel vacation.
      Here are is my mental pro/con list that helps me move with my mood.

      • Uneven surfaces and wind resistance improve stability and best simulate adventure travel activities
      • Good thinking time; reflect and breath in nature’s beauty
      • You can bring your dog along!
      • Get exterior home improvement ideas from houses you pass
      • Vitamin D = healthy bones and a longer active life
      • It’s free!
      • If you live in a mostly flat area, then a treadmill’s incline setting are ideal for training
      • The bathroom is close and water fountain too
      • You can get your morning news fix or catch up on your favorite evening sitcoms – just remember your headphones (laughing is extra cardio)
      • If you like to socialize and sweat but you and a friend prefer different paces, then you can use adjacent machines and set them to different speeds/inclines
      • The mere presence of other gym-goers around you often act as motivation
        Compiled from:

      Topics: active travel, health and fitness, trip preparation

      High altitude adventure trips for women: what you need to know

      Posted by Marian Marbury on Oct 8, 2012 4:50:00 PM

      Should you even consider one of our adventure trips for women that involve high altitude (for example, our Kilimanjaro Climb and Safari or Trekking to Machu Picchu)? If you're like most people, you may never have been over 8 - 10,000 feet and you have no idea how you will respond. There are alot of myths and misinformation about altitude so the first step is to get some basic information.

      • There isn't less oxygen at high altitudes. But there is lower barometric pressure, which means there is less pressure to force those oxygen molecules out of the air and into your blood stream. Your body has both short term (faster breathing and heart rate) and long term (more hemoglobin) ways of helping you adapt up to a point. 

      • Most people do not have trouble at altituStanding on top of Kilimanjarodes below 8,000 feet, other than perhaps a little breathlessness and rapid heart rate the first day or so (e.g. this comonly occurs when we go to Bryce Canyon). Beyond that, our response to altitude is largely determined by our genetic makeup. Those people who climb Everest without oxygen? It isn't that they are super athletes or follow special diets (although those may be true too); it's just that they chose their parents well.

      • You can have trouble adapting to altitude one time and no trouble the next, or vice versa - because it isn't all genetic. Nonetheless, it isn't a hopeful sign if you have problems twice in a row or routinely have more trouble than other people when you are over 8,000 feet.

      • People with a long history of heavy smoking and/or chronic lung disease are mor elikely to have trouble at altitude ebcause their lung function is already affected.

      • Being in top physical condition won't prevent altitude sickness.

      • People do not get more susceptible as they get older - in fact, there is some evidence that the reverse is true.

      • The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to build in adequate time for acclimatization, preferably never sleeping more than 1,000 feet higher than the night before.

      • Staying well hydrated, eating more carbs and less fat, avoiding alcohol, and getting more rest can all help you adapt.
      • If slow acclimatization isn't possible or if symptoms of mild altitude persist, then the drug acetazolamide (Diamox) is very effective for most people. Fortunately the symptoms many of us typically get - headaches, nausea, fatigue - often resolve in a day or two.

      • Occasionally people don't adapt, and then altitude can be deadly.  Once you develop any of the forms of altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, High Altitude Cerebral Edema) the most important thing is to descend to lower elevations. Fortunately at altitudes of 20,000 or less, these are not common.

        In the end, there are no guarantees. You can do everything you need to do to get ready for a high altitude adventure trip and then have altitude problems. People with known chronic lung disease or demonstrated sensitivity to altitude probably shouldn't even bother trying. But if there is something you have been wanting to attempt and all that is holding you back is your uncertainty about how you will respond to altitude? If you don't try, you'll never know.

      Topics: active travel, hiking, safety, travel tips, health and fitness