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

How to Train for Your Next Hiking Trip

Posted by Marian Marbury on Apr 8, 2015 6:52:33 PM

The correct title for this should probably be "How I'm training for my next hiking trip". Everyone is different and has their own ways of getting ready for a hiking trip so take this for what it's worth. But I'm pretty typical in many ways (I've never done a marathon in my life) and I'm getting ready for two challenging trips: Trekking in Nepal: the Mustang Region June 6 - 22 and Trekking to Machu Picchu July 29 - August 8. Being unprepared is not an option.

So first - it's at the end of a long winter. My last trip was in October and after I returned from CanadianRockiesCelebthat trek, I took about 3 weeks off where I didn't do more than walk the dogs every day. After that I started going to the gym 4 or 5 days a week (I'm extremely fortunate to be a 7 minute walk from a women's gym) where I worked out on an elliptical machine for about 30 minutes at a moderate pace (translation: I was breathing hard but I could still talk). I used to run but creaky joints made that uncomfortable and the elliptical is non-jarring. This is enough to keep me reasonably fit. Throw in a little stretching afterwards and the whole thing was about 40 minutes. I began telling myself I needed to prepare more in mid-February and finally in mid-March I actually started. This is what I am doing. The first 2 are on the elliptical and the third is on a stairmaster.

  1. Twice a week I do intervals. In a 30 minute period, I warm up for 5 minutes then I alternate cycles of a minute of working really hard with a minute of much less intense effort (the recovery period) for 20 minutes (so 10 cycles) and then end with 5 minutes of cooling down. Some days I can push myself harder than other days. A lot of research proves that this improves aerobic conditioning more effectively then longer periods of more moderate activity. I'm adding 2 minutes every week until I get to 40 minutes.

  2. Twice a week I do a longer moderate workout, at about the same level of effort that I was doing during my winter downtime. I started with 40 minutes and every three weeks I add another 5 minutes until I get to 60 minutes. The main purpose of this is to build endurance.

  3. Twice a week I workout on a StairMaster to combine aerobic training, endurance, and muscular conditioning in a way that mimics the long hills I'll be climbing. This feels like the hardest thing I do and I've found the key is to start slowly each time and build gradually and then do a series of intervals that are longer than a minute but where the pace is increasing or decreasing every minute  (e.g. 1 minute at 7, then 8, then 9, then 10, then 9, then 8, then 7). It must be working because today 10 felt easier than a month ago. I do a total of 30 minute and I plan to very gradually increase to 40 while also increasing the highest level I go to.

  4. Twice a week I also do sets of lunges and squats, along with a couple of upper body and triceps exercises. I started with 3  sets of each and have now worked up to 4 with the plan to go to 5, also increasing the hand weights I use while I do them. I also do abdominal exercises of some sort right before I stretch every day. I should do more weightlifting but I don't enjoy it, and this seems what I can make myself do. I know from long experience that my knees will be incredibly grateful on the long downhills.

  5. Now that the weather is nice, I plan to start hiking every Saturday. It's a truism that the best training for hiking is hiking and if I lived somewhere I could easily hike more often, that's what I'd do. I hike in the Baltimore-DC area and if you want to join me for a hike, please shoot me an email.

  6. But wait, does that mean I never take a day off?! No. I say twice a week but it can be more like 6 out of 8 days if something interferes or if I start feeling too tired. Sometimes when I'm tired I make myself workout anyway and it peps me up. But if it doesn't, if I'm slogging thru mud, then I take the next day off.

This may sound like more than you want to do. Honestly, its more than I want to do on a regular basis. But I'm really looking forward to both trips and I know that I will be grateful for every ounce of extra energy I'll have then from the training I do now.

 

Topics: hiking, health and fitness, trip preparation

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

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.


1.
 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.


2.
 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

A New Year's Resolution Worth Making

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 1, 2014 6:30:00 PM

If you make New Year's Resolutions about diet, exercise, or general self-improvement, the odds are you won't keep them. Don't be discouraged, breaking old habits takes time. But here is one that doesn't require you to sweat, make radical changes, or deprive yourself. Implement it and I guarantee it will change your experience of travel this year.

Disconnect from your electronic devices (smartphones, tablets) when you travel for pleasure. 

In the last 10 years I have too often seen peoples' vacations mentally ended by getting news from home or the outside world that they could do absolutely nothing about - but that took their attention from the present and diverted it to needless anxiety.

While cellphones without internet connectivity (i.e. dumb phones) can be distracting, the problem is much worse with smart phones: we not only risk getting interrupted by phone calls, but most of us, as long as our phone is on, will also check email, get text messages, and maybe even surf the web. All those activities shift our focus away from where we are and who we are with.

John Muir said "Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." 

So let's look at the most common objections to going without and examine some possible solutions.

1. Work has to be able to reach me! Really? Yes, expectations have changed. But mostly we are complicit in allowing those changes to happen and it's time we started fighting back. Twenty years ago, work couldn't contact you and the economy was doing just fine. Would they refuse to allow you to go on vacation if you were going someplace without cell reception (there are still places like that). Of course not. If that's really not possible, then either get a cheap dumb phone just for incoming calls or vacation some place that has a landline and tell them to call you if it's urgent. If your boss or coworkers can't just shoot off a quick email, you are likely to find that all those crucial matters can actually wait for a week.

2. My family has to be able to reach me! Particularly if you have aging parents or kids who are still at home, this can be important to your peace of mind when you're away. But that doesn't mean you have to leave your smartphone on. If you are part of a group tour, leave the phone number of the company running the tour and tell your family to call them. Or ask for your guide's phone number and leave that. If you're traveling with friends, set up a rotating schedule for who has their phone on and leave that with your family. Or get a dumb phone just for your trips. Even just having a few days without connectivity will be refreshing. 

3. I use my cellphone for a camera! Two possible solutions here. One is to turn your phone to Airplane mode so you can't get calls or emails. If you know you don't have self-control, buy yourself a camera. Really, decent digital cameras are so inexpensive these days. Your mental health is worth it!

Bottom line: The purpose of vacation is to break clear away from your every day life. Electronic devices, particularly those that are internet-connected, get in the way. Leave them at home. If you can't do that, leave it buried at the bottom of your pack and check it once a day (max). Decide how to minimize your use, even if its only for a day. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Happy New Year!!

Topics: outdoors tips, travel tips, health and fitness

How to Find Hiking Partners

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Jul 26, 2013 1:00:00 PM

In response to a recent blog, one reader commented with a question: Does anyone have ideas about how to find hiking partners? This is actually a common reason women sign up for our trips. That is, they do not have many friends that enjoy hiking (or other outdoor activities) in the same way they do. For some, an “active vacation” is an oxymoron; for others an “active vacation” is exactly what they love about traveling with Adventures in Good Company. On an AGC trip you will be among women who enjoy outdoor activities, but our trips only last a week or two. The other 50 weeks in a year, some AGC participants find themselves without hiking partners to share in their pastime.  Also, AGC participants looking to train for trips may not want to do so solo. If that describes you (or someone you know), below are 3 ways to find hiking (or other outdoor activities like kayaking and biking) and trip training partners near you.

1.  Sierra Club: Local chapters of the Sierra Club often organize group outings which are generally open to members and non-members alike. There are no fees except for incidental expenses like part-entry costs. The outings are led by Sierra Club volunteers and include a range of activities including hikes, peak scrambles, bicycling, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, conservation-oriented walks, or forays into the remaining natural areas of our major cities.  These outings can be a great way to meet people with similar interests. To find a local outing near you, visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/chapter/ agc banner2 03 resized 600 2.  Meetup Groups: According to their website: “Meetups are neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.” They are grassroots groups started by members of communities, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities. It is a way to connect virtually with others in your local community and then physically meet face-to-face to do an activity, discuss a certain topic, learn something new or just socialize. There are over 9,000 meetup groups throughout the world; one community may have meetup groups ranging in activities and issues such as outdoor adventure, running, movies, vegetarian lifestyles, entrepreneurs, scooters, and beekeeping. To find a meetup group (or start one of your own) in your community visit: http://www.meetup.com/find/

3.  Your Local Gym: Accountability and a regular exercise/fitness training routine often go hand in hand. That is why many gyms have a bulletin board or even webpage to find training partners. It is a space when individuals can find others with similar schedules, interests, and fitness level to exercise and train together. Often time a local community center, YMCA, or even church will have a similar system; if they don’t, suggest they create one (if you have time, offer to get it started) – it will benefit the organization and its members greatly. For an idea of what a gym “classifieds” section looks like visit: http://ontario.kijiji.ca/f-workout-partner-Classifieds-W0QQKeywordZworkoutQ20partner

 

Hiking Tips for Women

Topics: health and fitness, trip preparation

Should you try barefoot hiking on your next hiking trip?

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Jul 11, 2013 5:00:00 AM

The other day, I was walking on a nearby trail when I took a double take of a fellow hiker passing me. She was walking when I first saw her; my gaze turned down and I noticed she was not wearing shoes. My double take turned into a stare when she picked up the pace, turning her walk into a jog. I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed, stunned, or shake my head in disapproval at the ‘dangerous’ choice.  Although I'd seen a barefoot runner, this was the first time I’d seen a barefoot hiker. A few years back, I became familiar with barefoot running when I read Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  In it McDougall sets out to learn about the world’s greatest distance runners, the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, and their barefoot running tradition. It is a great read and while inspiring and interesting on a number of levels, it still did not leave me with the urge to start trotting or even sauntering sans shoes. Though others did get that itch - the book serves as a summons to the world's runners to ditch the shoes. It denounces fat-heeled sneakers as insidious abominations, responsible for most running injuries while getting trumpeted as the solution to aching knees and sore arches.barefoot hiking resized 600

Where there is barefoot running, there must be barefoot walking and hiking, but it seems the motives between the two groups diverge. For runners, many believe (and studies have shown evidence both for and against) that running barefoot leaves one less prone to skeletal injury (to read about this evidence follow this link). From personal experience, one running partner of mine struggled with knee pain for many years. She learned about the barefoot running idea and didn’t take the full plunge to naked feet but traded her sneakers for a minimalist piece of gear known as five finger shoes. In them, not only did her knee pain subside, but she ran her first full marathon. On a recent trip guiding in Bhutan one of my participant’s hiking shoes were a pair a Vibram Five Fingers. She has put many miles on the shoes and loves the feel.

Vibrams resized 600“The feel” is a recurring theme for proponents of barefoot hiking. The sensation of moss, pine needles, dirt, granite and roots below and in between toes can be exhilarating. Barefoot hikers describe the tactile tread as full of fresh pleasures and even a bit of a foot massage. Some claim that being barefoot nurtures proper posture and overall foot health. It certainly causes one to be more mindful of each step when hiking and therefore possibly more apt to enter a meditative or spiritual state while walking.

If barefoot hiking piques your interest, experts suggest starting at a slow pace and for short durations. Don’t attempt a mile on your first outing; 100 yards is a good distance for one’s first barefoot jaunt. And if completely naked feet do not sound fun, try the Vibrams or a less expensive type of minimalist footwear known as Xeroshoes.xeroshoes resized 600

I don’t foresee Adventures in Good Company changing our packing list to include Vibrams or Xeroshoes in the near future and we think trying it on a backpacking trip would not be safe or comfortable. Barefoot running/walking/hiking may be a passing trend. But until then, we welcome adventurers to experiment with different hiking styles and gear.


Sources:

http://www.denverpost.com/lifestyles/ci_23379977/barefoot-hiking-and-walking-colorado-inspired-by-barefoot

http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/dp/0307279189

Barefoot-Style Running Best? New Studies Cast Doubt
Are We Built to Run Barefoot?
Myths of Running: Forefoot, Barefoot and Otherwise

Topics: clothing and gear, health and fitness

Unplugging from the Outside World

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Mar 15, 2013 5:00:00 AM

Guest post written by: Lisa Franseen, AGC Guide

Packing up to leave for a recent trip on the Colorado River, I felt a twinge of angst as I threw my cell phone in the suitcase to leave behind. “When was the last time I was without this constant companion?”  I might pride myself in “unplugging” regularly, but certainly not for fifteen days!

The average person spends about eight hours every day engaged with digital technology – cells phones, texts and emails, Facebook, blogs, twitters, googling, and gaming.  And yet, a trip floating through the Grand Canyon means, literally, unplugging from this electronic “noise” and leaving our lives behind.  Are there mental and psychological benefits from doing so? Or negative impacts if we don’t?

Only a half hour a day outdoors in nature has been shown to increase our ability to focus, concentrate, make better decisions, and to feel less stressed out.   Research journals are now filled with studies that show the beneficial effects of being in nature.  Those of us who already play regularly outdoors don’t need research to tell us this but, unfortunately, in our “civilized” lives the average amount of time spent outdoors is only four minutes a day.  That’s about the time it takes to get back and forth to our cars!

unplug

Add to that dismal statistic the negative impact of never unplugging. Using canyon language, perhaps it’s now the norm to be drowning in a digital flash flood. Twenty years of studies on children have found that too much “screen time” (more than one to two hours per day) leads to obesity and poor nutrition, learning and focusing difficulties, poor social skills, and higher rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, irritability, and behavioral problems.  I have a client in my counseling practice who is trying to break his 6000-text-messages-per-month habit.  

Given the realities of our daily lives, it seems all the more important to build in time to unplug; to replace the virtual with what is real.  Paddling through the Roaring 20’s, I’d long forgotten about my cell phone!  The banter of our river tribe on a backdrop of silence bouncing off canyon walls quickly replaced that old urgency to communicate virtually. And, after two weeks of gazing uninterrupted at layers of sandstone and limestone, or the passing of stars across the slit in the canyon walls, I knew the canyon had truly awoken me.

Lisa Franseen, PhD, is an ecopsychologist and was in private practice in Traverse City, Michigan until October 2011. Burned out on insurance companies and bureaucracy, she is now skiing somewhere in the Rockies, and a guide for Adventures in Good Company.

Topics: adventure travel, health and fitness

Hydration and hiking trips: how much water do you need?

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 6, 2013 4:24:00 PM

Someone on one of our recent hiking trips suggested that we should increase the amount of water we recommend carrying from 2 liters to 3 liters, particularly on one hike. I had done that hike a few years back and knew I didn't even finish my 1.5 liters on it, but it got me todescribe the image thinking: how do you know how much water to carry?

It's an important question: too little water and the resulting dehydration will leave you feeling tired, headachey, and grumpy. But too much water and your pack ends up weighing more than it needs to. Each quart is 2 pounds, so 2 extra quarts means 4 extra pounds, not an inconsiderable amount.

Each person is different in what they need, and the only way to find out what you need personally is from experience. When you first start hiking, err on the side of carrying too much. For most people on most hikes, carrying 2 or 3 liters is sufficient. Carry more if the weather is hot, the terrain is challenging, or the trail is long and there isn't any chance to replenish your water supply. Drink as often as you're thirsty. If you're using a hydration system (which I personally recommend), sip frequently as you hike along. Never let yourself get significantly thirsty and if you're sweating, also be sure to stop and eat salty snacks at regular intervals to replenish electrolytes.

At the end of every hike, you should be asking yourself:

  • how much did I drink?
  • how do I feel?
  • what were the weather and terrain conditions?
  • when was the last time I peed?

This last question is important. You may be feeling fine but if its been 8 hours, you need to drink more often. The lesson for you is that you cannot completely rely on thirst or how you feel as your sole guide.

Hiking Tips for Women

By paying conscious attention to the above questions, you will learn over time how much you need and when you need to bring more or less than usual.

P.S. The picture was taken in the Austrian Alps, where water flows direcly from springs and is safe to drink without purifying - a rare pleasure!

Topics: hiking, health and fitness

Training Tips (Part III of III): Hiking Leg Preparation

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Mar 1, 2013 5:00:00 AM

For years, my exercise routine included cardio (running/walking, cycling, stair master, etc.), upper body weight training, and abs. I figured that my cardio routine was ‘enough’ exercise for my legs, so I could skip lower body weight training. After hitting a plateau (i.e. I didn’t see much improvement in my fitness level and my body just got conditioned to the same exercises), I consulted a personal trainer. She gave me a workout routine that included LOTS (or at least more than I had ever done) leg toning exercises. She explained that while cardio was working my legs, to really feel the benefits and see improvement – lower body resistance training is a key element in the workout mix. Hesitantly, I began to incorporate leg exercises into my workouts, and…she was right! Within a week or two I broke my plateau and began to see progress in my fitness level and leg shape. She made a believer out of me.

If you’re looking to break your own plateau, increase your fitness level, or train for a hiking trip, lower body resistance training should not be pushed aside. You see, your largest muscles are in your legs. Large muscles have the capacity to burn more calories than small muscles. So when you work your legs the calorie expenditure is greater than small muscles in the upper body or core.  And as your body becomes comprised of more muscle and therefore less fat, your metabolism also increases – that is, when walking to your car, even sitting and breathing you will burn more calories. With your improved fitness and leg strength, that outdoor adventure vacation that you’ve been unsure about, can become an ENOYABLE reality.

To begin this leg journey, review the chart below. It includes recommended exercises for each AGC trips rated levels 3-5. Within the table there are suggested leg toning exercises. The intensity/duration of the exercise is broken down into levels 3, 4, and 5 (L3, L4, L5). If the L3 recommended exercises seem too much for you, then do half of what is recommended. And again these exercises should be done in conjunction with a cardio program. For more on that, see past blogs Training Tips (Part I of III): 3 Month Sample Cardio Routine  and Training Tips (Part II of III): RPE Decoded for Active Travel .

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Topics: hiking, health and fitness

A 'Heart Healthy' Valentines the AGC Way

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Feb 14, 2013 9:16:00 AM

Tis the season (or at least weekend) for chocolates, roses, and heart tipped arrows. And while chocolate is a staple in my essential outdoor supply kit – I thought I’d take the opportunity this February 14th to share a few alternative Valentine’s Day celebrations Adventures in Good Company style. Now of course you could go “all out” and travel places like the town of Valentine, Nebraska or visit Lover’s Leap State Park in Connecticut or even venture around Valentine Lake Loop Trail in Louisiana. But those destinations may not be incredibly convenient for most. So instead – create your own valentine adventure close to home. These ideas may assist you whether you are the giver/planner or receiver (hint – forward this blog post to someone who loves you for gift ideas). They are also great if you’re looking to celebrate a special friend or family member, or if you just want to shower yourself with love – there are quite a few ways to add adventure into your holiday weekend.  Here are 5 alternative, active-themed ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day. (Each idea is embedded with a hyper link. So just click on the bolded/underlined text to read more.)

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    • Plan a Valentine's Day Hike: If nature is among  your passions, then consider celebrating Valentine’s Day outside instead of indoors. It is certainly a creative “date” - it’s different (and less crowded) than a restaurant, it takes effort (bonus points), and will undoubtedly be memorable whether it goes perfectly or not (it could end up being a funny memory). Add a picnic, maybe a few other special touches (wine, flowers, CHOCOLATE) and you will certainly make someone’s day.

    • Valentine candlelight ski, hike, or snowshoe: Do a quick google search and you may find one of these in your area hosted by a state park or your local parks and rec department. If you don’t find one close to you, then consider planning one in your neck of the woods for 2014. What better way to show love then create an event others can enjoy.

    • Meet someone naturally - Snowshoe hike for singles. Are you single and wanting to mingle? Events for singles are quite popular this time of year. For example – some communities host a fun and carefree hike for singles who share an interest in spending time outdoors, exploring nature, or hiking! Some gyms even host special exercise events for singles.

    • Partner Yoga – A yoga studio near you may be hosting a special partner yoga class. If you’re looking to try something new, (laugh a little helping each other into downward dog) this may pique your interest. The reward… you’ll feel great after an hour of stretching and breathing – just about as great as you do after a massage for a fraction of the price! (My partner and I are celebrating this way!)

    • Give a gift. Nothing says “I love you” more than a piece of outdoor/travel gear (right?), and there are several ideas that make the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.  Below are links to a few lists that will get your shopping juices flowing. And if you can find a way to incorporate chocolate into the gifts – you get extra points!

      Hiking Gift Ideas for Valentine's Day

      Gift Ideas for Your Outdoor Valentine

      A Valentine's Day Gift Guide For Guys With Outdoorsy Girlfriends

      If you have other ideas, please respond to this blog and share!

      From all of us at Adventures in Good Company Happy Valentine’s Day!

      Topics: health and fitness, gift ideas