Yoga. What does it even mean? At this point, the word is overused and cliché. Unfortunately, social media and capitalism has encouraged vanity and exploitation of a practice that has been around longer than most of us and is rooted much deeper than we give it credit for or even begin to think about.
I am not qualified to explain what yoga means because it is a very personal experience for everyone. I want to talk about my personal experience with yoga and how it has been a necessary component to balancing out my active lifestyle. I am not spiritual, and I do not practice yoga in the same way that it was originally intended – but I also do not do it to look a certain way or profit from it. I truly believe that everyone can benefit from the teachings of yoga, you just have to find what style is best for you.
I used to think that yoga was “glorified stretching,” but that term has a negative connotation to it. Although as a runner I benefit most from opening up my hamstrings, yoga is much more complex and presents challenges to the mind and body that I never would have been introduced to in any other sport. Yoga directly supports my future as runner, yet opens up a world I can’t tap in to when I am running and this is why I need to talk about it.
This is the prologue to a few different chapters about my continuing yoga journey.
I found my love for trail running while I was living in San Diego, but only ventured as far as Mission Trails and Cowles Peak which is pretty much in San Diego proper. I hadn’t yet discovered the value of driving an hour or more to get to the backcountry. I didn’t even know San Diego had a backcountry until I had moved away and learned how to hunt for trails.
A few weeks ago I went out to San Diego to visit girlfriends and I set a day aside to visit a trail I never experienced when I lived so close.
Gaskill and Lawson Peaks TH: No proper TH. There is room for about 2 cars right in front of the gate that blocks off the road and then it is street parking. The shoulders are virtually non-existent though, so I suggest not going on weekends. Conditions: Mostly 4wd road until you start getting on the peaks and then it is scrambling that is not as intuitive as you would like. AllTrails Route:Gaskill and Lawson Peaks My Route: Same Miles: 8 Elevation Gain: 2,600ft. Water: No way. Bathroom: Nope. Dogs: On leash. Always. Special Notes: I am used to the best months in the backcountry being June-October. This trail and this backcountry is best in Winter, (October – March.) There is no water and no shade, and in the summertime would be awful.
This was the best time to do this trail. This backcountry is desert, and if you go out in the peak of summer it will be hot and there is not water and no shade.
We went when the clouds were hovering just above the peaks, the trails were wet and we even crossed a few streams! There was so much life yet my dad and I were the only two people on the trail. It really was a beautiful time to see that area.
I am kicking myself for not utilizing that area when I lived there, but it was such a special hike to do years after I had moved away and to do it with my dad.
I am convinced that there is wild beauty in every corner of the world, you just have to want to find it.
Hopefully soon, I will write much more about the benefits of strength training. My love for fitness actually started in the gym and I have some experience with weights and body weight exercises.
I love to feel strong, and even in the summer when I am ramping up the running miles and spending a lot of time on the trail, I make it a point to squeeze in a few days a week of strength training. It improves my running form and performance and improves my physical ability to get around in daily life easily.
I am just starting out with this whole thing, so this first post is just to get a page started where I post a specific workout I have done. It is meant to inspire and allow you to cherry pick what you want to try and what might work best for you.
Keep in mind, I am a trail runner and I usually do exercises that directly benefit my running. My goal is to be toned, light and lean. I am not interested in bulking up. I just want to be strong in places that matter when I run and when I engage in daily physical activities as a part of living. In order to accomplish this, I do a ton of body weight exercises and only occasionally add light free weights.
**If you try this at home, adjust reps to your ability. You most likely will be weaker or stronger in the exercises.**
Workout for 9 January, 2019:
3 sets each:
Round 1: Burpees 8 reps. Wide-legged squats 10 reps Plank 30 sec. – switched to forearm plank for second set Side crunches 20 each side. Crunches 15 reps
Round 2: Pull-ups 10 reps (I own a body tower) Dips 15 reps Hanging Leg Raise 10 reps Jump Squats 15 reps
Round 3: Sliders 15 reps (mixed up what I did with them each time) Pistol Squat 3 each side Push-ups 12 reps Lunge into single leg stance 10 each side
I did 3 sets of each round and I didn’t rest until the end of the third set. That way I had 10 or 15min. at a time of an elevated heart rate, improving cardiovascular and respiratory strength. This workout took me 50min. If I become more consistent with strength training, I could probably get the time down or I could start to add more reps to each workout to keep the time the same.
January, 1 2019. I am sick as a dog. It started as a little chest thing on Monday, and was full blown chest cold/flu yesterday.
Today – day one of my goal to get outside and get moving every single day of this year – my chest is wheezing and I can’t breathe through my nose. Oh, and the fatigue. Oh, and it is 12° outside.
We got out on the XC skis. It was cold, but the sky was blue and the sun heated our cores. The trail was fast and the crisp air helped clear my stuffy nose. I made it an hour before the fatigue set in and I knew it was time to call it.
Full disclosure, yesterday was the worst of the sickness and beside some light stretching, I took the day off. I slept a lot. Rest is important, especially when you are sick. The more you move and get to know your body, the easier it will be to know when you need and don’t need rest.
Today I knew I could find the balance of getting some fresh air and not over doing it. With the exception of a few circumstances in life, (only a few), I still believe any movement, no matter how big or small – short or long – is still better than no movement at all and can always be worked in to your day. Even rest days can and should include light, easy movement.
So, day one already an adventure – as it usually is in the mountains. I am excited to see what the rest of this year will bring.
Get wild, be free.
Nutrition Note: We spoiled each other for Christmas and bought ourselves a VitaMix. Tonight we made hummus and pita bread. Another goal of mine this year is to really dive in to healthy eating and home make as much as I have time for. I will also get better at taking food pictures.
Happy New Year’s everyone! Starting tomorrow I’ll be attempting to make a significant movement outside, every day of 2019.
Along with exercising every day, I will also be venturing into starting my own business. I need to get through some school first, but it’s finally time I take the step to make my passion my career. I have been putting it off too long.
So welcome to the beginning of my journey’s – follow me on instagram @wildlybalancedathletics where I will post my activities daily. I will also be adding to this blog with tips on nutrition, cross-training etc. and what is working for me. Once I get some school under my belt, I will begin programs and videos you can follow along with and take advice from.
I hope you’ll join me in this adventure. Even if you don’t want to do the every day thing, taking any step toward becoming more active and getting outside is worth it.
Last note – I’m a real person. I make excuses, and I have lazy days. Promising myself with 365 days of movement is a challenge, I promise you. But I believe there is always time, every day, to fit in some type of activity. If you learn to balance exercise and exploring the outdoors into your lifestyle, you will find balance in all other aspects of your life. I know this because I have been living it. Life is not perfect and shit happens, but being in control of my body and my free time has made many other aspects of my life and decision making easier and I want others to experience this feeling.
Oh boy. Grouchy this early a.m. Glad I didn’t let my mind win this morning because we had a great skin up A-Basin and I realized that, yes, I can still ski even when it gets a little steep. The mind is a powerful, scary thing. I am grateful, everyday, that I live in a place that makes it easy to get outside. Excuses are only that in this magical place.
16 January, 2019:
Arrived back home today from a 5 day trip to San Diego. My flight was early and I hadn’t gotten outside yet so Frank and I skinned up Peak 9 around 6p. It was snowing, windy and stormy. We still managed to make it to the highest point of the uphill access and had a tiny adventure getting down in the dark while snow pelted our faces.
The Cats hadn’t made it through that section yet and the snow was falling hard enough to leave a couple inches of fresh for us on the way down. It’s the first time I have skied on anything more then perfectly groomed snow. It was fun as I felt my skis a little differently, and learned to move with the inconsistent terrain.
I have high hopes I am going to be able to get out into the backcountry on skis before this winter is over!
10 January, 2019:
7th day of skinning and what a great morning it was! I worked late, but I got my ass up at 4:30a to get a lap in with Frank. He works at 7ish, so we have to get out a little earlier then the normal skinning time. We took Peak 9 for the first time as it is walking distance of our house. The whole ski was by way of headlamp and I hadn’t lost any of my confidence from the last time on the downhill.
I am a little sleepy, but so happy and content that I started my day early and outside. My work schedule has been ridiculous for two weeks and utilizing my free time wisely is crucial to my survival in the customer service jungle I am stuck in too many hours a week.
6 January, 2019:
6th day of getting out for a skin. Today was awesome. The best day by far. I had a great time going downhill. Something clicked and I just get it now. It felt natural and I went faster then I ever have before.
I still need to get more consistent with it and go more often, and now I can practice and hopefully just get stronger and more confident. Up until now, I was just surviving on the downhill.
From here on out, I am just going to add to this page every time I go uphill-ing. I don’t want my blog feed to fill up with updates about skinning the same mountain.
Anyway, day five. I worked late and was in bed by midnight. I was able to pull myself out of bed at 5a and Frank and I were going uphill by 6a. It was dark and 10°.
I was overdressed for the way up and underdressed for the way down. I am still getting my gear game down. By the time I reached the bottom the sweat on my back was ice and I had screaming barfies in my hands and feet. We had planned on two laps at least, but I wimped out. We got coffee instead.
Every time gets a little better. It’s shameful that it is two months into winter and I have been on my skis only four times, but after the holidays I plan on ramping up my efforts.
Anyway, up until yesterday morning I wondered if I was skiing just because I felt like I had to if I was going to make it in a ski town. This probably explains my lack of effort so far.
Yesterday morning felt different. I got the hang of my climbing risers and felt efficient and strong on the uphill. On the downhill, I had some fun (gasp!) and started to put a little trust in myself and how to use my skis. Somehow I am improving with practice only once a week, so I am excited to see what will happen when I start giving it a few days a week.
I didn’t take any pictures. It was a beautiful sunrise, hardly any wind which is very rare in Colorado, and I was with my partner and a really good friend. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
I get asked this question a lot. It seems like an absurd question because of course, runners run in winter.
But, when you live in a ski town as a runner you are actually the minority and so it’s a legitimate question. Even most runners in this town will swap out their running shoes for ski boots in the winter.
While I respect changing sports according to season and I am making an effort with skiing, running is my mental sanity and my true love and so there is no way I can go all winter without it.
With that, here are a few thoughts and tips I can share in response to the most frequently asked questions I get about running in the cold.
Can you run on the trails? Short answer, yes. Not in the backcountry, but dependent on where you are there should be a good amount of neighborhood trails that get packed down quickly by the fat-bikers, skiiers and hikers. It’s all dependent on the storms. During, or one day after a storm, I don’t mess around with trail running. I have an awesome time hitting those trails on cross country skis. The snow is perfect for it. If it has been at least two days after a storm and dry, I can usually get on the trails right near my house and someone has packed them down enough that I am not post-holing. You just have to get out there and try it. After a few times of success or failure you will start to learn the habits of your local community and know what trails get used most often and become accessible.
What shoes do you wear? Trail shoes. A shoe is a very personal thing so I can’t recommend a specific shoe for you, but I run in the La Sportiva Mutant and Akasha and they are my favorite. I can recommend that you go with a brand that focuses on the mountain runner as opposed to the road runner because they will have the beta on what a trail runner needs. For example Asics, who is a top notch road running company, makes a trail shoe but I don’t know anyone in the trail running community who wears them. That’s not to say they don’t make a good shoe or that no trail runner wears them, but they don’t have the extensive research in mountain athletes in order to know exactly what we need. Some good trail running brands are: La Sportiva, Salomon, Inov8 and Altra. For the exception, the Brooks Cascadia is awesome and Brooks is a company that has been able to do a fantastic job for both road and trail runners.
Do you wear anything on your shoes? In most cases, my Mutants are aggressive enough on their own and I don’t need extra traction. Again, it’s a case by case basis. Micro-spikes are very aggressive and I have found that I only need them if I am running a steep trail or if it has been over a week or so without any storms and the local trails have become sheets of ice. When the snow is still relatively soft, your trail shoes should be enough on regular trail. If you are going to do some steep uphill, regardless of when it snowed, I would bring my spikes. It helps with the micro slips that occur while you are trying to go uphill on snow and will save a ton of energy.
What clothing do you wear? This is dependent on the day. Read my blog post that explains what I wear in certain temperatures.
A note on road running: Unless specifically asked about the trail, most people wonder if I am running on the roads. YES. I like talking about this most because road running becomes an entirely different mental thing for me and it makes me fall in love with the sport even more. I’m not a road runner. I try my best to run on dirt 100% of the time, especially in non-winter months. However, when winter rolls in and the streets are white for 5 months, suddenly the road seems like the trail and I dig it. With snow and ice on the ground, you have to stay attentive to each step and make sure you are gripping or not sinking into the snow and into a hole or off a curb that could potentially injure you. My favorite thing about it? It slows me down. I run at a leisurely pace and just enjoy being outside.
Barefoot running: Is anyone in the Western culture in this century seriously running barefoot in the winter in the mountains? If so, please message me. I need to hear your story. I never hear anyone mention this anymore, due to demographics most likely, and for that I am thankful. **In my opinion** The barefoot running thing has a small window of legitimacy, and for most of us who have grown up in shoes, it is not a necessary or realistic way of running. Shoes are not bad and companies have had years to learn the individuality of the foot. You have to figure out what works best for you which might take a few mistakes to figure out. If you’re are a barefoot runner – nice! But it isn’t the only, or best option.
My best advice for winter running? DO IT! Take my suggestions and go try it for yourself and see what works for you. Don’t be scared of the snow, ice or cold – as they say – “There isn’t bad weather, just bad gear.” And attitude. Embrace changes and challenges and appreciate your love for running in an entirely different way!
Horsetooth Rock Loop TH: Soderberg TH Trail: Single track and a tiny section of 4×4 road. Conditions: Hard packed dirt, slightly technical in some places but mostly smooth trail. AllTrails Route: This is just the route up to the summit. My Route:A lollipop loop. Miles: 10.5 but really any distance you want. Elevation Gain: Water: Only in one spot and not all year. Always bring water on these trails. Bathroom: Yes Dogs: On leash. Special Notes: There are a few TH’s, Soderberg being my favorite to start from. On a weekend or good day all of these TH’s will fill up, but most people are headed straight to the summit. Even with full parking lots, I would find solitude on some trails. This park is WILD. There is a lot of wildlife, including rattlesnakes in the summer. Stay alert and be careful.
This park is easy to navigate and you can dream up all sorts of distances and routes. This route I have posted is a personal favorite. It’s a loop, it covers the prettiest trails of the park and you summit a “mountain.” There’s not much more you could ask from a trail. If you are in the area, this park is definitely worth playing in.
We travel to the front range for the holidays every year and always try to get out to this open space for a run. This specific loop is our new Thanksgiving morning tradition for as long as we have family in the front range to visit.
Heading up the rock
Special note: Once you get to the base of the rock, navigate your way up the left side. The right side is the common route and more than a few times, we have climbed up the left side and had it all to ourselves while the right side was packed with people.
Looking at the shit show on the right side of the rock.
Also, this park is wild. In the peak of summer there is A LOT of snakes including rattlesnakes. Stay alert and be extra careful if you have a dog with you.
I went up the mountain again yesterday. I said I would post every time I managed to get on the skins for accountability on my end and inspiration on yours.
I met up with a friend and we were at the the bottom of the hill by 6:15a. At 15°, twilight was creepin’ and the sunrise looked promising.
I throw my skis down and notice they seem slick.
I forgot my skins. Can’t go uphill without those.
My first thought is, “Well, guess I’ll call it.” Then the better half of me screams, “No idiot, you live right down the hill. It’s a rookie mistake. Go get your skins and do this.”
With my boots still on, I drove home, grabbed my skins and skinned halfway up the hill in time for sunrise.
The best part of that morning was the downhill. For the first time, I felt like my form had improved and I had fun skiing down instead of just feeling scared. I embraced the leaning forward and standing taller, and I actually was able to play with making shorter turns and feeling what my skis would do when I put a little more trust into them.
I tried to take the first excuse I had to not go up the mountain. Had I taken it, I would have missed out on the sunrise and the best downhill morning I have had so far.
Forgetting my skins is just being a newbie at something. Using that as an excuse to quit before I even begin – that’s a mistake.