Trading The Gym For The Outdoors

Lately, I find myself choosing the outdoors over the gym to get my daily workouts. As the seasons change I typically find this to be what happens, although this year it seems earlier than most for this to be happening.

I am not, by any means, a gym die hard. I do, however, like to keep a routine and try and make it there at least twice during week and twice on the weekends in the winter months. The remainder of the time I just find it more convenient to workout at home. When winter comes to an end, I still try and make it there twice during the week but weekends often are spent outside instead.

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That being said, I can’t help but struggle during the week with going to the gym when the sun is shining and there is so much to be offered outside to get in a great workout. Which means some weeks I don’t make it to the gym at all.

For one, I love to do yoga, weights, and stretching in nearby parks. Find a back corner where there is peace and quiet and you can really clear your mind and get in a good sweat.

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As a family we have come to love disc golf. It’s challenging, it’s often a nice walk through a wooded park, and offers fun while your exercising and you often don’t even realize it.

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You all know if I had to choose a great hike over a visit to the gym….the hike would win every time. Here in the midwest, hiking season is short so I take advantage of every chance I get to log trail miles. Granted, I don’t get to work every muscle group I could be working at the gym….however, hiking is one activity that’s truly brings me peace and let’s me know that I can literally walk away from life for a short amount of time. On the trail I can just let everything go.

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Once summer arrives in full force, our paddles come out, get dusted off, and the water calls my name every weekend and even some week nights. From kayaking to paddle boarding, I often struggle with which one to do on which weekend. I know right….what a hard decision to have to make. Believe me…..it really is sometimes.

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During the months of June,July, and August I will be very lucky to touch foot in the gym even once. Weekends are jam packed with summer fun and week days are also jammed packed with other types of summer fun while I work. Caring for children during the days in the summer months is twice as exhausting as in the winter months for me. Winter offers the same activities in rotation. Summer, however, leads to all sorts of summer fun….especially when my husband and son are also home to join in the action. Things such as water balloon fights and critter hunting always add to the fun of summer.

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Do you prefer to spend time exercising outdoors or inside?

What’s you favorite outdoor exercise?

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

This was the only state park we visited while in the state of Tennessee. Located in Bledsoe and Van Buren counties and it surrounds the eastern top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau. We explored two waterfalls while here, Fall Creek Falls and Cane creek Falls.

Even when you take into consideration that we visited here without a plan, in mid January, and really only came to hike a quick hike to the Fall Creek Falls itself…..our visit here ended up being quite amazing. Now, apparently, there is an inn, campsites, cabins and meeting rooms for, I would assume, weddings and such…..we saw non of this. Like I said, it was quickly planned and we went directly to the trailhead we were seeking without any extra exploration.

Upon arrival to the trailhead we found ample parking, great signage, and an overlook for anyone not hoping to hike down to the falls itself.

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All very gorgeous and easily accessible……but we were looking to hike. So down into the gorge we headed.

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It was amazing. The terrain was mostly rock with some dirt trail here and there. We knew to be careful not to turn an ankle since the park ranger we spoke to upon arriving told us many individuals do injure themselves on this trail.

Beside the falls itself, our favorite spot we found to explore was a crevice in the rock that we all crawled into. If you recall in Sedona, the new family rule is I only hike on trails that are as wide as my hips and thankfully my hips fit through this crevice which meant I could also explore with my boys.

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Eventually you arrive at the end of the trail and two waterfalls roaring over the edge into the gorge.

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After we all did some exploring in this area it was time to head back out of the gorge and see if we could find our way to Cane Creek Falls.

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Although, by the time we reached the top again, we were hot…. in January…..again just amazing, so it was time do some adjusting to our zip off hiking pants.

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To reach Cane Creek Falls you followed a fairly smooth trail through some dense wooded areas with lookouts along the way.

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For us the lookouts were quite a disappointment since you could see very little if anything around the over grown tree line. So we headed a bit further down the trail to what we had read was a swinging bridge. How fun does that sound right? Well, it was fun, shaky and a bit unnerving to see cables with only, what I refer to as, chicken wire for edges. However, you only live once, so we all crossed it once and then twice to return to our vehicle from there.

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Our entire hike took us 5.3 miles through this state park.

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The park service rated this hike as strenuous and going into the gorge down to the falls I would agree simply because of the terrain. With that being said, I think anyone not disabled could do this at a comfortable pace per individual.

The trail to Cane Creek Falls I would rate as easy….since there is very little rock to be scrambling over to reach the overlooks.

 

First Hike Of 2017

We decided to forgo the gym on January 1st. and hike since the sun was shining and I came down with some sort of nasty respiratory bug which made working out difficult the day before. Plus, my husband was dying to try out his new GPS we bought him for Christmas.

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We headed to my favorite nearby trail to see if the construction signs were removed yet and the trail had reopened. Upon arrival, I was thrilled to see it open….it had been closed for at least the last 6 months. We wasted no time making tracks in the snow since it was too cold to stand around.

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The temperature was about 20 degrees when we arrived but the winds were quite low which made this hike fairly tolerable for this time of year. The trail did have varying depths of snow cover but was still easy to maneuver through.

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It felt so good to be outside and soak up some natural sunshine. It has been weeks since I have ventured onto any trail in the area.

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Even though my toes were cold by the time we were finished, it was a great way to start the new year.

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Today we hiked the first 3 miles(almost) of many more to come this year.

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Did you do anything special on January 1st?

Learning To Use Trekking Poles

My first trekking poles were given to me by my husband for our anniversary a few years ago. Now, some of you may cringe at this gift for an anniversary but I was thrilled to death. I am not the most graceful person you will find on any trail and my balance is by far balanced. Trekking poles have made life for me on the trail so much more enjoyable and have given me the confidence to explore deeper, hike farther, and go higher than I ever would have attempted without them. I am a complete fan of trekking poles which is why my husband recently bought his first pair.

His reasoning for purchasing trekking poles is a bit different than why I love mine. His is for help with his knee pain since his wife(ME) likes to hike mountains and this is what causes him pain. So recently we took a day trip to my favorite rocky bluff state park and he had his first experience with his trekking poles. IMG_5227

Our goal on this day was to hike up and down the bluffs which is a mixture of a few different trail terrains. Our first hike was up a gravel/rocky path on the East Bluff Trail.

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Uphill the entire way to the top with larger rocks thrown in there for some fun.

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After reaching the top we headed back down the Pothole Trail. This consisted of rocky steps all the way back down the bluff. This equals=painful on the knees.

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Next, we took a bit of a break, had a snack and headed back up. Although this time it was back up steps, not a rocky trail. And after that is was back down a mixture of terrain.

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He took many stops to adjust the length of his poles along the way until he finally got the hang of what he liked on which type of terrain.

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After a full day of hiking a park we have hiked numerous times in the past and knew exactly what we would feel like when we were done….the verdict was that his knees were not nearly as sore as they typically are after this particular hike.

I can only hope they offer as much relief to his sore knees during our trip to Arizona…especially since my goal is the very top of a very well know rock! Which ultimately means, if we reach the top we will also have to return back to the bottom.

Here are a few more things we saw during our hike and after when we took a quick tube float in the lake as a reward for a big day of hiking.

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Have you ever tried trekking poles?

What is your favorite brand?

Hello Again….It’s Been Awhile

Hello, hello….It’s been awhile since I have posted anything. Well, life got a bit busy and I needed to let something fall behind and it just so happened to be blogging. So let’s catch up a bit.

Training for our upcoming Arizona hiking trip has consumed most, if not all, of my free time. And I assure you, free time is not easy to find. If I am not working, I am exercising. Which has led to my new best friend being my foam roller. This really helped when we first started doing flights of steps which has since gotten much easier. It’s rewarding to see progress so soon.

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As to why my free time has been so limited….two weeks ago I added a newborn to the group of children I care for everyday. She is quite the little peanut but adds so much more work to my day. Feedings are much closer together and much of my time is spent sitting, feeding bottles to everyone during the daytime hours. All while keeping the toddler in our group happy and content. Add in household chores, meals and laundry and by evening I am tired. But each day she gets a bit older and now that everyone is starting to adjust to our new group dynamics its getting easier.

We did end up cancelling a recent camping trip we had planned due to a weekend of rain. This was quite depressing but we decided last minute to do the next best thing, we went shopping for outdoor equipment. We hopped in the SUV and headed to our nearest REI (2hrs from us) to purchase a few needed things for our trip and then made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s….my favorite grocery store.

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Before falling asleep every evening I have been researching places, restaurants, trails, outfitters and so on for us to explore while in Sedona. From what I read, there is a very good chance my husband and son may starve to death while we are here. I, on the other hand, will be in pure bliss since most of this area is vegan/vegetarian. And the one thing I am looking forward to trying is prickly pear ice cream….apparently this is very popular in this area. We shall see…

And remember that hiking group I am working on forming in our area. I have gotten some great responses from some people. Now I have been working on our first meet and greet trail hike and a date for this to happen. Hopefully it becomes a regular monthly thing. If any readers are local and interested in joining us, let me know.

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That about sums up life here lately. With the morning a bit cooler, school back in session,

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and fall right around the corner, I am racing to have as much fun as I can before the snow flies. You will all have to forgive me if blogging becomes scarce for awhile since I don’t find a whole lot of time to sit and type my name much less a complete blog posting.

Until next time….

 

 

Looking Back At 2015

About this time every year I find myself looking back at the year and like many of you, looking forward to the next year to come. 2015 for our family was not a typical year, from beginning to end, it seemed to challenge our strength as a family both mentally and physically. However, I will say, I do feel like we won this battle and came through it pretty well.

Take a look back with me,

January 2015

I experienced my first dislocated rib while working out and preparing for our rock scrambling vacation in February. Very painful!!!

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February 2015

Our rock scrambling vacation we had prepared for for months was suddenly cancelled due to a major snow storm and no flights were coming or going. We were completely disgusted for weeks….

March 2015

I celebrated a birthday this month with a venture out of the house and some first steps of the year on a muddy trail.

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April 2015

I finally decided to see a doctor for a sore foot I had been having for a few months. After testing and imaging I found out I had torn two tendons in my ankle. Which resulted in some new footwear for weeks.

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On the brighter side, my husband picked up his brand new Jackson kayak this month.

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May 2015

After 6 weeks in that orthopedic boot I thought I was going to go see my doctor and he would say everything looks good and I could remove it. Well, that was not quite what I heard from him. He said I still had two weeks to go, but now I could do anything I wanted to do as long as I wore the boot. I took that line,”anything I want” very seriously and left two days later for a hiking trip to our favorite WI state park. Thanks to my husband and son, I made it to the top of the bluff and back down again with that horrendous contraption on my leg. Let me tell you, IT WAS NOT EASY BUT I (we) DID IT!

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June 2015

I finally was able to remove my ortho boot and what happens next…..my husband suffers a sudden back injury that literally changes our entire summer outlook. After a day of lake kayaking and standup paddling where we were rained on all day, we returned home that night with him feeling pain in his leg.

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After numerous tests, doctors, and images, we had a diagnosis that we were hoping not to hear. Next would be physical therapy for weeks, a lifting restriction for quite sometime, and learning how to do things differently for the rest of his life. This took some soul searching and a lot of praying that he could eventually recover enough to continue doing what we love to do again.

July 2015

This month was the start of a few months of physical therapy which we all tried helping with. He did seek professional help for awhile but after some time his neurologist thought he could accomplish more on his own. Most people need a therapist because they are so inactive that they don’t know where to start. We, however, are very active and just needed to know the basics of what would give him the biggest benefits toward his recovery. We found all sorts of ways to do physical therapy.

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Resistance Bands:

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Walking:

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August 2015

After all that therapy he was given the ok to go on our planned family vacation which just so happened to be hiking in the desert southwest in extreme heat and with extreme elevation. He was limited on backpack weight and was not allowed to even touch our luggage but could hike as far as his body allowed him to hike(as the doctor kindly stated). So we did. And it turned out spectacular!

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September 2015

We returned from vacation, rested up for two weeks and hit the trail again, only a little closer to home this time. We headed to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and hiked the Chapel Loop together….10.6 miles in a day.  IMG_2530

He was still feeling some discomfort but by now we had learned how to deal with any pain he was having. We would rest when the pain started or soaking his foot in cold water was also a nice way to help decrease his discomfort.  IMG_1798  IMG_2661

I also got away in September for a girls day to Cranberry Fest. We had a blast!

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October 2015

October is when we celebrated our 22nd. wedding anniversary. We did this with a overnight trip to Sister Bay, WI at the Birchwood Lodge.

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November 2015

The beginning of this month we found ourselves, yet again, among numerous medical professionals supporting my father-in-law with a major surgery.

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Also this month my husband and I went on a shopping trip to my all time favorite city….Schaumburg, Illinois. I begged him to join me last year and he agreed. This year he offered to join me since we had so much fun last time. I think I may have a shopping partner (package carrier) for life:) Whoo Hoooo!  IMG_2888

December 2015

As predicted by weather forecasters, it had been a pleasant December. One of the best ways for me to celebrate a no snow December is to continue hiking which is exactly what we did. Here is where we spent Christmas Day as a family with sun in our eyes and doing what we love…..hiking.

(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes)

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So there you have it. Our year from start to finish. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride this year. Among so may other exciting things that have happened throughout the year, I am happy to see this year is now behind us.

My hopes for next year, of course, are to continue to stay healthy. We miss our kayaks severely, have not touched a golf disc in months, and are very excited to be traveling more in the upcoming months.

 

 

 

Celebrating The Half Way Point To Recovery

This week marks the half way point of when all the medical professionals feel my husband will be recovered from his back injury. It’s been three months this week since this all started and after meeting with his neurologist recently, he has gotten the go ahead to start doing some things that he has not done in months.

We have returned to the gym…..yehhhhh! I have gone here and there throughout this ordeal but mostly I have been doing my exercise at home in one way or another. He has been told he can start back on light cardio and VERY LIGHT weights.

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He still has not been released to grab that kayak paddle and will not be told to do so until at least spring at the earliest. As depressing as this may be, we are looking at the bright side…..at least he will eventually be able to paddle again. When this first all happened we were not even sure if he would be able to continue driving much less paddle anything.

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Regardless of all his progress, he is still to continue his physical therapy and slowly continue to ween himself off his nerve medication that he is taking. He has tried this in the past without much luck, but as of today he is four days and counting on half the full dose and hoping for the best.

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It’s odd to think what we have all done these past three months with such a debilitating injury. At one of his first appointments his physician told him that if walking and hiking is something that he loves to do, go ahead and do it since it’s also one of the best exercises for him to continue doing. Which was great to hear since we had our vacation planned before this all came about and it included hiking. He worked really hard to continue this activity since his foot and leg were what was impacted the most by his back injury. At first we would only walk a mile and he would start to feel pain.

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We would then stop, rest, and do some stretches until the pain subsided. Slowly, he worked his way up to more distance but it was not easy. We found all sorts of ways to relieve the pain when it would start, like rolling his foot on a cold water bottle we would carry along with us.

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Some of our trails would cross county highways and you could find us, at times, stretching on these highway crossings. We would also carry ice packs and leave them in our vehicle so when we returned from a hike/walk, he could apply the ice to his back and this would help the swelling go down faster which was pressing on the nerve causing the pain in his leg/foot.

Two of the biggest changes we made were, he started using trekking poles and we purchased a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sleeping mat.

The trekking poles he used mainly when we went to Utah for help and balance with elevation hiking. He loved them going up into the mountains, stating that they gave him the extra boost he needed with every step. Going back down was a challenge, as normally they absorb some of the impact from your joints and pass that onto the poles. He, however, did not feel they helped him as much going down as they did going up.

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As for purchasing the Therm-a-Rest- Z Lite mat, this was one of the best buys we have made. We found this while we were vacationing in Utah at an outdoor store and I knew immediately we had to have it. There have been many times since this all happened that he gets to a point that he just needs to stop and rest. Not because he is tired….because the pain in his foot/leg is getting to be too much to handle, so we end up sitting right on the trail we happen to be on at the time…..which for us in WI can be almost anywhere. When we were in Utah at least we had rock to rest on and a great view, here we are typically in the woods, knee deep in bugs and critters and such. So having this mat is awesome! We simply strap it to my pack and when we reach the point of needing to rest his foot/leg, I lay it out and we sit and rest. We have also used it to have a snack on and also some stretching…it sure beats the highway concrete. It also beats sitting in the dirt, bugs, and dampness of morning dew to rest. When we are finished, we pick it up, give it a shake and its clean and ready to strap back on my pack for a few more miles. The best part is it’s so light weight that I don’t even feel like I am carrying a mat at all.

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So as we celebrate the half way point of my husband being recovered, I hope by sharing this experience with all of you has only proved my point that moving is always better than sitting. We realize that he could have somewhat of a disability for life, which so far we have learned to live with quite well by making a few changes to our activities. Have we stopped being active……absolutely not!!!! Do we fully expect to be back in our kayaks next Spring…you bet we do…..but things will be different then also. There will be no more single person carrying kayaks, no more single person draining water from overturned kayaks and so on. We plan to do everything in pairs and treat our bodies kindly to some extent. Until that time when we feel the water drip from our paddles and hear the rumble of a rapid around the next corner, I will just be thankful he is still able to enjoy life like we choose to enjoy life and live in the moment….. together.

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