Fitness

#30Burpees30Days – Because… Well, because I can.

21 days into the 30 Burpees for 30 Days Challenge…

30 BURPEES.

EVERY.

SINGLE.

DAY.

FOR.

THIRTY.

DAYS.

And I’ve been back to running nearly every day.

And, I did yoga for the first time ever last night.

EVERY

MUSCLE

IN

MY

BUTT

IS

K. I. L. L. I. N. G

ME!

Well, really, EVERYTHING hurts.

That’s what happens when you go from wimpy girl who can barely peel herself off the ground to full-on She-Ra Beast Mode – it should never get easier, because you should always be pushing past limits and reaching towards new goals!

I’m stronger than I’ve been in a couple of years, looking good, feeling fabulous (except when I don’t!), and able to hold baby girl for extended periods of time despite her growing bigger EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY (the whole reason I took on the burpee challenge)…. All after only THREE WEEKS!

Burpees are now, officially, my favorite total-body workout. Thank YOU, Spartan Race for the challenge!

Now maybe I’ll be able to run my first full marathon (Spring 2014) in less than a full day! 😉

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Adventure, Fitness, Travel

CARPE DIEM

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I grew up embracing this motto, and in the past, for me, “Seizing The Day” has looked like striking out on my own at an early age, competing against the Big Dogs even when I didn’t stand a chance, saying “Yes” when I should’ve run the other way, saying “NO” when I should’ve said “Yes”, saying “YES” at just the right time to just the right man, touring England (and sweet-talking a Royal Guard into speaking to me), training in Krav Maga, “Caveman Training,”  going to Vegas and jumping out of an airplane, Fox Hunting, marathoning (well, Half-marathoning – I still haven’t met my goal of a full marathon, BUT I WILL!), moving from my Homeland to get closer into the Heartland, hiking the mountains of Southern France, pursuing a child in need of a loving home, and…

Well, yesterday, seizing the day looked like bruised, skinned, swollen knees, shredded hands, raw and bruised elbows, blackened hips, and as sore a body as I’ve ever felt.  Yesterday I took life by the horns and wrestled it to the ground. Deep into the ground. All the way down to 300 feet under the ground.  Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I went Spelunking.

For the past year, I’ve lived above the World’s longest known cave system, with over 400 miles of mapped passages, and more to yet be discovered.  I’ve traversed above ground trails, and taken two of the “tamer” tours through the caves and was itching to see a wilder side of this place I now call home.  So, I laced up my hiking boots and bought a ticket for the “Wild Cave Tour” – 6.5 hours of getting off the beaten track.

I am truly regretting allowing myself to get out of shape! I THOUGHT I could handle 6.5 hours of Spelunking, but after 4 or 5 hours of hiking, climbing, sliding, crawling, crawling, crawling, crawling, crawling, slithering, inching, wiggling, rolling, dragging my body by my fingertips/pushing with my toe tips, climbing, crawling, crawling, crawling, and FINALLY back to hiking…. WHEW! It was all I could do not to cry “Calf Rope!”

It was fun, though, and challenging. I had to do some free climbs that I NEVER would have even considered doing before. And though I did fail at one climb (despite assistance), I did make it up an alternative climb, though I couldn’t have done it without the help of our two guides.  The climb I failed to make (failed two attempts), required a stretch that my poor stubby, inflexible legs absolutely maxed out on.  My whole body was badly trembling as I stretched from wall to wall, suspended above the underground canyon floor, desperately trying to muster the strength to swing my right leg from one side of the canyon to join my left leg on the other side. I just couldn’t do it, Cap’n! I lacked the pow’r!

Ah, but I am comforted by the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

I may never go Spelunking again…  well, I may just have to sign up in a CrossFit gym and get back in good shape before giving it another go! All I know now is that I am so sore I could barely roll out of bed this morning. Really, rolling is just too difficult. I had to wiggle my way to the edge. I can’t lower myself onto the couch – I just flop.  Yesterday I managed to soak in an epsom bath, but today I can’t lift my knees high enough to get into the bathtub.  Yesterday my right knee was about the size of a grapefruit, but the swelling came down since I slept with an icepack.  I can’t imagine what my knees would’ve looked like had I not have been wearing knee pads and coveralls!

All of the bruises and soreness are incredibly worth the memories, though. Once I reached the park, I immediately began encountering wildlife.  I saw a big doe, a squirrel darted across the road ahead of me and pounced over the double yellow lines, and I stopped for a turkey hen to cross the road with her flock of tiny babies. I’ve seen many deer and squirrels in my life, and even turkeys, but never before had I seen poults (baby turkeys). Another first was seeing bats inside the caves. They were so small and delicate, clinging to the cave walls. As we descended into the depths of the earth and away from the most-travelled paths, we looked up and were delighted with the sight of much larger Gypsum Flowers than I’d seen in previous tours.

If you visit this link you’ll get a taste of the wonders I enjoyed. There are many images on that page of the sights to behold inside Mammoth Caves, only one of which are the lovely Gypsum Flowers. I can tell that that particular group visited the caves not too recently, though, as now all participants on the Wild Cave Tour are issued coveralls and gear for the sake of preventing the spread of White Nose Syndrome – a devastating disease that is wiping out bat populations.

Some highlights from my Wild Cave Tour experience:

  • entered through The Carmichael Entrance
  • spent a LOT of time crawling on hands and knees for the first few hours
  • BARE Hole – I BAREly made it through! Must extend arms ahead, slither into the hole on belly, and push/pull/wiggle (not much room to wiggle as it was just big enough for my hips) by scraping the ground with your fingertips and toes of boots.  I almost didn’t think I would be able to get out on my own power, but somehow managed to inch towards a stable rock that I got my left hand on and pulled myself out. Also, my back left pocket was hooked on a jagged rock inside the hole, which is how the hole got it’s name. In years past, before visitors were required to wear the coveralls, some cave divers had had their clothes ripped off by that jagged rock.
  • The ManHole – a bit embarrassing that I couldn’t make it up that particular “Canyon Walk”, but the group was very encouraging and the guides were so great.
  • Through one crawl space, I had to half crawl, half drag my body. There just wasn’t room enough for two knees on the ground.
  • Mary’s Way – another passageway that was barely big enough to crawl through. There wasn’t room enough to hold my head up, so I was looking down the whole way through, unless I cocked my head at an odd angle. As I crawled and dragged myself along, I noticed someone’s missing button, a missing zipper pull, and the blood trail being left by a fellow Cave Diver ahead of me.
  • I don’t remember the name of the location, but at one point, we stopped at a running creek where our guide had explained that the acoustics were phenomenal in that spot. We turned out our lights and I spontaneously led the group in singing The Star-Spangled Banner.
  • Crystal Lake – a magnificent shaft with running water
  • Frozen Niagara – as lovely as it sounds (and available for even the elderly and small children to see on the short Frozen Niagara Tour)
  • Irene Ryan (Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies) signed a wall in the caves in 1937 – I was exhausted by the time we reached her signature. We were close to the end of our tour by then. We also were told about John Wayne’s signature in the caves, but did not see it.
  • The “Snowball Room” – I was shocked – SHOCKED – to discover that we were actually stopping in a subterranean cafeteria for lunch, WITH INDOOR PLUMBING. REAL TOILETS. AND AN ELEVATOR FOR FOOD SERVICE. Food service wasn’t available that day, but the amenities available were shocking all the same.

So, to sum it up, it was an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to someone that feels up for a challenge. A word of caution, though – get fit or be sore!!

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Fitness, Phoneography

Run For Boston 4-17…

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With some of the best running partners a girl could ask for!

…. annnnnnd…. how many things can you spot wrong with this picture?! (for the answers to that question, scroll down and flip your screen upside down!) Looks like SOMEBODY got slap happy with the markers and lost her mind a bit!

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ƃuoɹʍ sı ɹɐǝ⅄ ˙Ɛ
pǝllǝdssıɯ sı ʎʇıƆ ˙ᄅ
uʍop ǝpısdn sı uƃıS ˙Ɩ

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Run For Boston

Tomorrow, lace up with me and Run For Boston – let’s show our support for those affected by the Boston Bombings. Dress in blue or yellow, gather your friends, go for a run, take a pic and post it on the Run For Boston Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Run-For-Boston-417 … photos will be made into a coffee table book.

Though at times it can be so hard to just get out there and do it, once the run is done, it feels so good. Running – it’s good for the soul!

Fitness, Phoneography

Run For Boston

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All Things Horses, Fitness

Do you get fit to ride, or ride to get fit?

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Or do you just live your life, ride your horse, and let fitness take care of itself?

There is a fitness revolution underway and it seems to be affecting every walk of life. I rarely go a day without diet and excercise popping up in conversations or reading material. Even health & safety meetings at work include reminders to engage in stretching exercises. Equine publications frequently outline rider-specific exercises and there have even been entire books written on equestrian fitness. There are many levels of intensity in riding and exercise, and while the surest way of gauging intensity is with a heart rate monitor (which is on my wish list), there are ways of getting a good guesstimation. Thanks to Android and CardioTrainer I am able to track my “exercise” with a wonderful range of data. A few statistics from this past Saturday’s ride are as follows:

Duration: 2 hours 33 minutes (including the Stirrup Cup)
Distance: 11.52 miles
Max Speed: 22.2 mph
Calories Burned: 745
Fastest Mile: 3 minutes 11 seconds (mile 8 )
Slowest Mile: 37 minutes 43 seconds (mile 10)

The accompanying picture to this post is of the CardioTrainer graph, charting speed (on the left side) and time (in minutes, along the bottom). You may draw your own conclusions.

So, back to our opening question… how do you approach riding and exercise? Though I enjoy my little gadget and the data it produces, I actually tend to fall into the third camp. For the most part, I just enjoy my incredibly active life (I’m on my feet 11+ hours a day) and the fitness follows. I originally started running the CardioTrainer app during hunts to better learn the hunt territory, as I can review the aerial image of the land we rode over. Over the past year I have learned to love exercise for the sake of exercise, as I love riding for the sake of riding, though I’ve never truly combined the two, or done one for the sake of the other. The first half of last year, we spent every spare moment in the gym while the horses languished in the pasture. During the second half we forsook the gym and took up the reins again(though I did maintain an irregular running routine). I entered the summer in the best shape of my life, thanks to Krav Maga and Caveman Training. That experience gave me a newfound appreciation for health and fitness, and, though I have cancelled my gym memberships, the lessons linger on.

There is one major unifying theme that links Krav Maga, Caveman Training and Fox Hunting (aside from sore, aching muscles), and that is extremism. It’s all about pushing past your limits to get the job done. In Krav Maga, our coach would begin our end-of-class “Shark Tank” stress drills by asking, “what does your mind do when your body is exhausted?” We learned to think in the midst of exhaustion and chaos, to better protect ourselves and our families. With a motto of “COMMIT! NO EXCUSES,” our Caveman coach taught me how to dig down deep, push past every weakness, until I was nothing but a pile of quivering muscle collapsed in a pool of sweat on the gym floor. Every week I was pushing past the limits of my strength, speed and endurance…and defining new limits to be pushed past. We steeled our minds in sweat-drenched gyms. The lessons learned are forever stamped into our iron-wrought souls. If you don’t block, you get hit. HARD. And if you don’t give it your all, you’ll never know what you’ve got.

These lessons serve us well in Fox Hunting. Hunting is not a game. It is a blood sport, and sometimes the life lost is not that of prey, but of rider.

Late last year, Ireland experienced one hunting-related fatality – a teen girl, if my memory serves me correctly. Last month, the life of one British rider, a Whipper-in for the Minehead Harriers, was lost. Both of these deaths resulted from head injuries. Just last week, the joint-Master of Full Cry Hounds – Dr. Lewis McCurdy – was injured in a hunting accident. He is currently in critical condition, with a broken neck. (Dr. McCurdy passed away the evening of this post. My sympathies go out to his family.)

So, you may ask, why do we do this? Why continually risk life and limb in pursuit of archaic tradition? Well, I say, ask yourself:

What is life without death?

What is love without loss?

What is health without sickness?

What is comfort without pain?

You can’t truly appreciate the former without facing the latter. Freedom always comes at a cost, and we refuse to be shackled by fear, so we sip our Port to warm our toes and steady our nerves, then we trot off into the misty morn. And, if Fate smiles upon us as she did last Saturday, we’ll be off like a shot, riding hard after hounds in full cry, with no time to consider what may happen, no time to dwell on mistakes. There is only time to live in the moment, and it’s in these moments that you learn how to live the rest of your life – as if any moment could be your last.

RIDE HARD, LOVE FIERCELY and SEIZE THE DAY!

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