Thru-Hiking The Continental Divide Trail

Hi! I hope your week is going so well so far.  My schedule is finally getting back to normal, and I feel like I’m starting to get my head above water.  Plus, it appears as though cool fall temperatures are heading our way in the next few days, and you know that always makes me happy!

A few months ago, I started a series discussing the pros and cons of thru-hiking each of the long distance trails in America.  Honestly, if I had my way, I would do all three of them!  However, if you’re like me and thru-hiking a long distance trail probably won’t happen until retirement, you may find yourself having to pick between the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail.

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I’ve already given you my reasons for and against both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and I’ve saved the very best for last.  It’s no secret that my heart lies in the Rocky Mountains so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Continental Divide Trail is the one I dream about.  This particular trail runs from the Mexican border up through the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Canadian border for a total of 3,100 miles, and crosses some of the most rugged terrain this country has to offer.  While the CDT has my heart, it’s not without some drawbacks to consider before making your choice.

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Pros

1.  Intense, awe-inspiring beauty

Perhaps I’m a little biased, but I can’t imagine anything more beautiful.  To be fair I’ve never been to the Alps or even seen the mountains of the West Coast, but I would bet that these views at the very least give those places some serious competition.

Justin and Caite on top of the Continental Divide Trail during our summer trip!

Justin and Caite on top of the Continental Divide Trail during our summer trip!

2.  Isolation

I realize that this would not be a pro for everybody, but isolation from the problems of the world (and, yes, people in general!) remains one of the reasons why I love getting into the backcountry so much.  There is an abundance of this on the CDT.  Because of the extreme terrain and underdeveloped trail, significantly fewer people attempt the CDT every year than the other two long distance trails.  I can only imagine that this would create a “last person on earth” kind of feeling which I think would be kind of cool.

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3.  Physically Challenging

This is not a trail for the faint of heart.  While embarking on any long-distance thru-hike is daunting, the CDT presents a whole host of challenges to overcome.  Between extreme weather, rugged terrain, high altitude, and the higher number of miles, it’s no wonder that so few people finish this trail each season.

Cons

1.  Water

The CDT will provide water challenges for the first several hundred miles of your trip.  Like the Pacific Crest, the CDT passes through desert and very dry conditions which means you’ll have to carry quite a bit more weight so that you can pack in the water that you’ll need.  More weight=no bueno. At certain points, you’ll be able to cache (set out ahead of time) water, but, at the very least, logistics will become a bit of a headache.

2.  Unmarked Trail

According to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, only 76% of the trail is permanently fixed as of this point.  This will required more planning as you prep for your trip, and not a small amount of bushwhacking once you’re out.  You will definitely have to know your way around a map, and it wouldn’t hurt to be familiar with a compass either.  If you’d rather just jump on a trail and start walking, the AT would probably be a much better option.

3.  Extreme Isolation

Yep, this is one is both a pro and a con.  For me, isolation is a great thing for all the reasons I listed above, but it’s not without its challenges.  The CDT is very, very remote.  It passes through or close to very few hamlets, and, of the ones it does, they tend to be what you might call a “one horse town”.  Resupply will be an interesting logistical problem to overcome.  Also, remember how I thought it would be a pro to run into very few people?  Well, really consider that.  If you’re a people person, you might prefer more camaraderie!

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Despite a few cons, there’s no question for me which one I’d like to attempt.  The CDT is not without its problems, but the physical and mental challenges will lead to so many benefits at the end.  I, for one, think it’s more than a fair trade-off!

Let’s Give It A Try: The Advocare Challenge

Hi guys!  I was a little MIA last week, huh?  Work has been absolutely nuts!  We have a teacher at school that has been out for an extended period of time due to some health issues, and last week my principal asked if I wouldn’t mind taking over her classes for a few days.  So, for most of last week, I was teaching two other classes in addition to the two I already have plus my library duties.  I very much felt like I was running around like a crazy person, and everything was only getting halfway done including the blog!  Hopefully, this week I’ll have a little more time to chat with you guys.

I definitely wanted to pop in today to tell you guys about something really exciting that I’m going to try starting next week.  I’m sure you’ve all heard of Advocare, right?  It seems like its been all over the blog world recently, and, despite the fact that I’m usually skeptical of such things, I’ve been swayed by some of the awesome results I’ve seen from people who’s opinion I trust.

I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to lose a few pounds.  I don’t feel like I have a ton to lose, but dropping ten to fifteen and leaning out a little bit would be very beneficial.  I’m having a hard time doing it on my own though.  I don’t have the kind of magical metabolism that makes dropping weight easy, and turning thirty has not helped that situation at all!

Losing weight isn’t the only thing I’m looking to accomplish in the next few months.  I’ve decided that I’m going to go for a sub-2:00 hour half at the Cowtown Half Marathon in February, and I’ve already started training with that goal in mind.  One of the positive things I keep hearing about Advocare is how it’s helped athletic performance in almost everyone who’s tried it.

I guess you know what I’m building to, right?  I’ve decided to take 24-Day Advocare Challenge!  From the Advocare website:

The 24-Day Challenge™ is a comprehensive supplementation and nutrition program. Give your body the jumpstart it needs to help you reach your goals. There’s something for everyone: weight management, energy, overall body composition or overall wellness.

For twenty-four days, I’ll be eating completely clean.  Basically that means no processed food and lots of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and complex carbs.  I’ll also be taking the required supplements which break down into two phases:  The Cleanse Phase and The Max Phase.

Day 1-10 is the Cleanse Phase, and the supplements are designed to get rid of all the crud in your body to prepare it for Max Phase.

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Max Phase is Day 11-24, and this round of supplements work to provide energy, appetite control, and a boost to your metabolism.

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Through both phases, I’ll be using the Spark drink for an energy boost.  I’ve actually already tried the Pomegranate and Green Apple flavors of Spark, and they’re not too bad!

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I’ll start this challenge next Monday, October 6th, along with a ton of other bloggers and readers.  I’m really excited that I’ll be doing this along with other people so I’ll have community support.

Would you like to join us too?  You can check it out on the Advocare website or, I would highly recommend, reading more about it on Katie’s blog.  She actually did her first challenge several months ago, and loved it so much that she became an Advocare distributor!  She’s super knowledgeable about all things Advocare, and would love the opportunity to guide you through it!

I’m not sure that I’m brave enough to share before photos, but I’ll definitely share numbers with you guys and check in with an update post after the first ten days.  Wish me luck!

Full disclosure:  Katie provided me with the Cleanse Phase box, but only after I reached out to her asking questions about the challenge.  I truly wanted to try this!

Must See (For Me!)

How was everyone’s weekend?  I’m currently nursing a slightly hoarse voice because I screamed my head off during our incredible Saturday.  Actually, from start to finish, it was just one heck of a great time.

We headed to Oklahoma City Friday night to be the “support crew” for our friend, Jedd’s, first Ironman distance triathlon at the OKC Redman.  I’m not going to go into great detail or talk too much about it because he doesn’t like a lot of Internet or social media attention, but I do have to take a minute to brag on him just little.  After six months of making training his second full-time job and weeks of battling different injuries, he crossed the finish line with a time of 12:59:20.  He worked so hard and did a phenomenal job, and we are all so incredibly proud of him!

John, Jedd’s wife, Whitney, and I had an awesome time on Saturday being the cheering section.  John had a little too much fun.

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This was far and away the most popular sign of the day.  It got quite a few smiles from some very tired athletes!

John and I ended the weekend by catching breakfast with my OKC friends, Hayley and Erica, before heading home.  For the second time in a row, I forgot to snap a picture of all of us so next time I’ll be sure to get their smiling faces up on the blog!

It’s always hard to start a new week after such a great weekend, and this weekend in particular felt like a mini vacation that I didn’t want to end.  Luckily, this week is one of my favorites of the entire year.  Premerie week!  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I seriously love TV.  I always tell people that I’m still a very well-rounded person so my intense love of TV never makes me feel guilty.  As a result of that love affair, I get truly excited by the return of all my favorite shows every fall.  With all the old shows comes a whole new crop of shows that do their best to win the hearts of the public and become a regular part of everyone’s lineup.  I’m always slightly hesitant to give my heart to any new show because I’ve been burnt more times than I care to think about, but I still can’t resist trying out a few of them.  Today I thought I’d share a list of all the new shows that have caught my eye.

1.  Madam Secretary

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I bit of a political junkie so I have a natural inclination toward political dramas.  Not to mention, I love Tea Leoni!

2.  NCIS:  New Orleans

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I’m a fan of both of the other members of this procedural drama family so I can’t imagine I won’t love those one as well.

3.  A to Z

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Purely because I have developed a little girl crush on Cristin Milioti.

4.  Forever

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I think this concept is incredibly intriguing, and the idea is just a little bit different from anything else on TV.

5.  How To Get A Way With Murder

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Yes, I am one of Shonda Rimes’ many, many fans.  There was never any question that this one was going in the lineup.

I’m sure there are a few more that I’ll have to check out.  In a few weeks, I’ll definitely do a follow-up post to let you know how these are panning out!

Are you TV obsessed?  What shows are you looking forward to?

One Of Those Weeks!

Hello, friends!  It’s one of those kind of weeks so I’m popping in for a Thursday Thoughts!

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1.  I apologize for my absence this week.  It’s been one thing after another at school, and I have had something going on every evening.  Weeks like this are fun every once in awhile, but I’m exhausted!

2.  One of my engagements was making race signs.  My friend, Jedd’s, Ironman is this weekend so his wife, Whitney, came over Monday night to make some “motivational” posters.

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We decided we wanted to make some that will have him busting up with laughter when he sees them.  I think we’ve succeeded!

3.  Speaking of how awesome all my friends are, did you guys see this girl finished her first ever 100 mile race last weekend?  She rocked it, and I am so proud of her!

From that time we road tripped together!

From that time we road tripped together!

4.  The weather is aggravating me.  Every day I think I’m going to wake up to fall, and, instead, I wake up to 85 degrees and 110% humidity.  Needless to say, my hair has been in a ponytail for weeks.

5.  So I started a new training plan last week.  I’ve decided that instead of signing up for a fall half-marathon, I’m going to put in the work and shoot for a sub-2 at the Cowtown Half in February.  I’ll have to take thirteen minutes off my time to do it, but I have five months to prepare so here’s hoping!

6.  It is Book Fair week.  I know you hear it from me every time, but Book Fair is the bane of my existence.

7.  Tonight we’re having Parent/Teacher Conference which means we’re off tomorrow!  Yay!  I have a mile long to-do list to take care of, and then it’s off to the City to be a spectator at the Ironman.  I can’t tell you how badly I need the weekend.

8.  Do you know what next week is?  Premier week!  It’s that special time of year in which TV junkies like me rejoice and start making spread sheets to keep up with how many shows we’re watching.  You better believe I’ll be doing an entire post dedicated to my love of TV next week :)

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What shows are you excited about?

9.  Just so you don’t write me off as a mindless TV drone, here’s a look at what I’m reading.

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The new Philippa Gregory book came out last week, and I dove into it last night.  As anyone who knows me will attest, I have this little thing for English History so devour anything on the subject-even fiction!

10.  Speaking of reading, does anyone do Goodreads?  I’m not as active as I’d like to be, but every time I check it out I think I need to utilize it more.  Maybe I just need some more friends on there.  Follow me!

What are you reading right now?

11.  I’m off to tackle the long day ahead.  Have a wonderful day and a great weekend!

Never Forget

I know it’s not news to any of you that today marks the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11.  This particular day always sneaks up on me.  I get so busy with the beginning of school and getting back into a routine that before I know it special documentaries are playing on the TV and survivor stories are being featured on the Internet.  I’m glad that we still put so much significance on the anniversary instead of letting it fade away to annals of history like so many major events do.  I know as the years go by that will start to happen, but for those of us who lived it, albeit from a safe distance, acknowledging our country’s tragedy is way to pay tribute to the men and women we lost.

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This year I was fortunate enough to witness a tribute to the brave men and women of the New York City Fire Department that lost their lives on September 11th.  Most of you know that John is a Hot Fireman on the side.

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He tried out and was hired for the local fire department (it’s a part-time department) about two years ago largely because he thought it would be a really great experience.  Thus far, he’s really enjoyed it.  Of course, he may be feeling differently today since he was out until 1:30 on a call last night, but I digress!

A few months ago, some of the guys at his station started talking about the third annual Oklahoma City Stair Climb.  This is an event in which firemen and women from all over the state (and others!) come to Oklahoma City to climb 110 flights of stairs, the number of flights in the Twin Towers, in full bunker gear.  Some of the local guys participated last year, and they talked John into coming along this time.  It didn’t take much for him to jump on board, and he spent a few months really training for it.

Fast forward to this last weekend.  We made the three-hour trip to OKC on Friday night, checked into our hotel, and tried to get some sleep before the alarm went off.  John had to be there to register by 7:00 so I dropped him off in front of the First National Center, and tried to find a parking spot downtown.  It was raining like crazy which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  The temperature was right around 65 degrees which was heaven in that stairwell for everyone participating.

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The building they were climbing has 29 floors which worked out to about three trips up.  They only open registration to 343 people who represent the number of fire personnel that were killed.  Most everyone participating chooses to do so in all of their bunker gear including their air tank.  It is a lot of weight, but the main problem is the suits hold in ALL THE HEAT so the lower temperatures were wonderful.  Trust me-Oklahoma in September can be very, very different!

They deployed the 343 climbers in groups, and the first group started up at exactly 8:46, the time the first tower was struck.  The lobby of the building was crowded with families and various spectators who would give a rousing round of applause for each group entering the stairwell.  There was a definite feeling of camaraderie.

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I was able to get a few pictures of John as he passed on his first and second trips up.  After that last time, I moved across the room to get a good spot to take a picture of him finishing which was truly the most touching part.

Each person was given the name of a fireman that died on 9/11, and they carried that person’s picture and name tag during the climb.  When they finished all three sets, each climber would ring a bell set up in the middle of the room,  and then move to a board to place the name tag of their fallen fireman.

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At that moment, you could see on every person’s face the gravity of what they were doing.  Many knelt to pray, and all seemed to be taking a quite moment of reflection.  I was surprised how emotional it made me feel.

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I am so proud of John for participating, and very thankful that I was able to be a small part of it.  I know every person there felt honored to pay tribute to the fallen, and every time days like this happen, their memory is kept alive.  It’s a small way to make sure we never forget.

Enough With The Stuff

Hello!  So today I was going to jump right in, but I cannot pass up a mention of how excited I am to hear the royal couple are expecting baby number 2!  I am not a kid person by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a total Anglophile and anything to do with the royal family grabs my attention.  Ok, I’ll stop my nerding out now.

I do have a subject near and dear to my heart that I wanted to chat about today.  Stuff.  You know what I mean.  Our closets are bursting with it.  The drawers are overflowing.  Under most beds in most households live the very darkest of my nightmares.

The only serious hoarding problem I have.

The only serious hoarding problem I have.

Yesterday morning I was chatting with one of the fourth grade teachers at school, and she was telling me all about the exciting changes she and her husband are getting ready to make.  The pair is gearing up to downsize from their 2000+ square foot home to an 1100 square foot space.  ”The stuff is weighing me down, ” she told me.  ”I’m done with the stuff.”

I enthusiastically encouraged her.  We live in a society in which everywhere we turn we’re encouraged to get more, buy more, want more.  We need three cars per family, and our houses need to be bigger and better.  I mean, how could you possibly raise two kids in less than 3000 square feet?

I don’t mean disparage anyone’s choices, but I truly believe more stuff does not equal more happiness and the clutter of our lives is existing simply to tie us down.

Generally, John and I do a pretty good job to resist this temptation.  We are definitely purgers, and we have very little sentiment which makes it easier to throw things away.  The feeling I get when I get rid of stuff we don’t need is liberating.  We have a smallish house, but, when we build a house someday, we’re planning on building a smaller one.  I often say that my goal in life is to be able to pack up and move within the space of one day, and, right now, I think we could do it.  If not, we’d get very, very close.

However, like everyone, we still have stuff that we hang on to that I would never miss.  So, yesterday afternoon, I identified some areas in my house that I could do a little work on.

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This is our “catch-all” cabinet.  I feel confident that every home in America has one, and we are no exception.  It’s not overwhelming bad, but there are still odds and ends and way too many cookbooks taking up space.

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Memory boxes!  Even though I’m not overly sentimental, I still have three of four boxes of memorabilia that I collected in my youth.  I need to go through them, and only keep the stuff that actually does have significant sentimental value.  If I can’t remember why I kept it, it’s probably safe to throw away.

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Last but least, my closet(s).  Here’s what I don’t understand:  I am not a clothes horse.  I know very little about fashion, and I generally wear the same five outfits all the time.  I even purge my clothes regularly, and, yet, I still have two closets full of stuff that I haven’t worn in a year or more.  I really have no idea how this phenomenon occurs.

So I’m taking a page from my colleague, and committing to taking the next month to really do away with the extra floating around my house.  By October, I want a less stressful house so I can have a more peaceful mind.  I’m challenging each one of you to join me!  Let’s all say enough with the stuff!

Are you a hoarder or a purger?  What’s the biggest area of your house that needs to be cleaned out?

#trailtime

Today I’m joining Amanda in one of my favorite link-ups so that I can Think Out Loud a bit!

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1.  So I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Wild movie trailer has been released.  You guys, I am ridiculously excited about this.  I’ve watched it half a dozen times at this point, and I’m sure there will be at least another couple dozen viewings between now and December.  By the way, the movie comes out two days after my birthday.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence, and you better believe I know what I’m doing for my birthday celebration this year.

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2.  This weekend John and I are headed to Oklahoma City, and we are definitely going to check in with these wonderful women while we’re there.

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Brandy (the blonde in front!) just had twin boys a couple of months ago so I have two very important gentlemen to meet.

3.  Unfortunately, Hayley (the blonde in back!) won’t be around, but we’ll catch her in a few weeks when we’re back in the City for a very important event.  Our friend, Jedd, will be at the starting line of the Redman Triathlon, his first Ironman-distance event.  He’s been putting in months and months of training, and I’m really excited to be there to cheer him on.

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4.  Have I mentioned I love fall?  You know it’s coming when the fall decor and candy start hitting the stores.  My mother-in-law knows the way to my heart, and had this special treat waiting on me when we visited the other day.

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Candy corn is love.

5.  I subscribe to The Notes From The Universe website, and yesterday this was in my inbox.

“Please don’t be alarmed, dear Natalie, as you walk down the path of life, should you ever find you suddenly don’t have the foggiest idea of how your grandest dreams will one day come to pass.

This is a good thing. A really good thing.

Just keep walking…
The Universe”

I can’t tell you just how much that was the exact thing I needed to hear.

6.  I am such a sucker for old music.  My James Taylor or John Denver Pandora station is playing constantly at work.

7.  Here’s progress picture on the kitchen cabinets.

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It’s coming along!  Now we just have the other half of the kitchen to do…………..

8.  I feel like I’m back in college these days.  I’m teaching European History this year, and I spend a large majority of my  mornings reading and making sure I’ve brushed up on all the facts for the afternoon lessons.  I love digging back into some of the subjects I haven’t studied in awhile, but, wow, is it a lot of information!

9.  So the most exciting thing I need to tell you about is tonight I’m teaming up with Sierra Trading Post to host a #trailtime Twitter chat!  We’ll be talking about all aspects of camping, and there’s always a lively discussion with some outdoor people who really know their stuff.  Be sure to pop in at 4 PM Mountain Time to discuss, learn, or just hang out with us.  I can’t wait to chat with you!

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See you this afternoon!

Workout Burnout

Happy September!  Yes, I am just about to get obnoxious on you.  It is no secret that I am not a hot weather fan AT ALL so I’m always more than ready for fall to roll around.  Even though we’ll still have ninety degree weather for a few more weeks, the beginning of September always means that fall is coming, and I might have done a little dance yesterday when I turned the page on the calendar.

Speaking of the weekend, I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day.  Although we had big plans to get some stuff done around the house, we didn’t get quite as much accomplished as we would have liked.  We are horrible home improvement people.  On any given weekend, John and I can think of about 1,000 things we’d rather be doing including binge watching The West Wing which is exactly what we did most of the weekend!  We did manage to start scraping the kitchen cabinets yesterday, and my kitchen has now become a war zone with a kaleidoscope  backdrop.  It takes us a really long time to finish projects in our house so I don’t even want to think about the amount of time the kitchen is going to look this way.

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So today I wanted to talk to you guys about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.  Workout burnout (isn’t that snappy phrasing?).  It seems like ever since we got home from our backpacking trip, I have had zero motivation to workout.  I don’t feel like running.  It’s hard to drag myself to Cross Fit.  I just plain don’t want to do it.  I think this is for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, I was way too overextended last year.  Not only did I spend most of 2013-2014 (you know I measure in school years!) getting into running and training for my first two half-marathons, but I picked up Cross Fit and consistently went four times a week.  By May, I was mentally and physically exhausted.

Plus, I’m a homebody.  It’s terrible but true.  How does this manifest itself in my workouts?  Well, it means that by the time I come home in the afternoon the last thing I want to do is turn right around and go to a class.  Perhaps it’s good old-fashioned laziness, but there it is.

Last but not least, I have a little confession to make.  The truth is, I really don’t like to workout.  Hear me out.  It’s just not something I naturally like to do.  Yes, I love the way you feel afterwards, and, yes, I still do it because I know it’s what’s best for my body.  However, I don’t crave it or even really enjoy it the way some people do.  If given my choice, I would spend the majority of my free time curled up with a book or hiking in the mountains (<–if I lived near mountains, all my exercise problems would be solved!).

So how do I combat this workout burnout and get my groove back?  Here’s a few simple strategies:

1.  Walk-I think sometimes walking doesn’t get the credit it deserves because it’s not seen as a strenuous exercise.  Sure, it may not be quite as intense as running or Cross Fit, but walking can still provide a great workout.  It has always been my favorite form of exercise, but I’ve not been doing it as much lately because I feel like I have to get more bang for my workout buck.  I plan rediscovering my love of walking especially on those days when fresh air would help after a long day at school.

2.  Switch it up!-I have a ton of different workout DVDs that are just gathering dust, and I use to really enjoy doing them.  There’s a workout board on Pinterest that I haven’t glanced at in ages.  It’s time to think outside the box a little.

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3.  Sign up for a race-I really do love to race.  There’s just something about the atmosphere of a half-marathon or even a 5K that’s addicting.  Plus, I am definitely one of those people that work better with a specific goal in mind.  Signing up for a race will give me focus and a goal to work towards.

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4.  Give myself a break-A huge part of the reason why I’ve developed this attitude lately is because I’ve been putting huge pressure on myself.  All day long I think about how much I need to make the 4:30 Cross Fit class so that by the end of the day, it’s the last thing I want to do.  I’m not going to put any expectations on myself for a few weeks.  If I feel like going, I’ll go.  If not, no problem.  Hopefully, this will mean that I truly enjoy the experience on the days I go, and that will make it a pleasant association in my mind again!

So this is what I’m going to focus on in the next few months.  Mental health is just as important as physical, and, hopefully, these strategies will clear my head and give me a fresh perspective on exercise in general.  Now, if you’ll excuse, I’m going for a walk!

Do you ever suffer from workout burnout?  How do you cope?

 

Channeling My High School Self

I am a total and complete sucker for “getting to know you” surveys.  I blame it on being a teenager in the early days of email when your friends would send you surveys all the live long day.  Come on-don’t pretend you don’t remember.  I saw this on Ashley’s site a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist playing along.  So, without further ado, here are 25 things about me!

1.  I’m happiest when I’m with John.

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2…..especially if it involves being out on the trail.

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3.  I’ve always wanted to live in the mountains.

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4. My family and I have this thing about Colorado.  I am not the only one obsessed (although my obsession is the strongest!), and I totally come by it honestly.

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5. I was a terrible math student.

6. My first job was at Burger King.  How cool was I?

7. I could probably eat ice cream every single day.

8. I stole a boy when I was in high school.  Not my finest moment.

9. I was born on the same day as Ozzy Osbourne, Amanda Seyfried, and Julianne Moore.

10. My all-time favorite film is When Harry Met Sally.

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11. I do a pretty mean southern accent.  Oh, wait, that’s real.

12.  I’m still mad I quit piano when I was younger.

13. I met my husband in college.

14.  I always knew I wanted to live in the mountains.  Dream will become a reality someday!

15.  I’m not afraid to try new things. I will pretty much try anything once!

16. I make the best lasagna.  Ok, it’s not restaurant quality, but I love it!

17. I have almost no singing ability. Seriously, it’s embarrassing.

18. I always cry when people find out they’ve been picked for Extreme Weight Loss.  They’re so happy, and you can just tell they know their lives have changed forever!

19. If pressed, I root for the OU Sooners and the Texas Rangers because that’s who my family loves, but, honestly, I’m not that into following sports.

20. I spent 4 years with a crush on John before we finally got together!

Friend zone days!

Friend zone days!

21. I wish my folks lived near me!

22.  At 8, I was deeply in love with The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins.

23. I believe if everyone had a dog the world would be a better place.

24.  I can’t stand when people are self-righteous.

25.  Whenever Gilmore Girls is on, I’ll watch it.

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See, wasn’t that fun?  Now you guys play along and answer a few in the comments.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Essential Gear For The Beginning Backpacker

Hi guys!  I hope everyone enjoyed your weekend, and your week is off to a great start!  John and I are actually looking after his boss’s house while they are exploring Ireland (yes, I’m jealous!) so we had the opportunity to soak up some sun by their pool.  It was like a little vacation without leaving town!  I could definitely get used to it.

So my assistant superintendent and her family have recently decided to get into backpacking.  This makes me all kinds of happy, and we’ve talked about almost nothing else every time I’ve seen her the last few weeks.  I’ve been getting random text messages asking about pots and sleeping bags and whether or not they should get a little lantern.  Backpacking and what trails we are exploring next are always my favorite topic of conversation, and discussing it with her lately has taken me back to when I was a  new backpacker.

I remember how daunting it felt to figure out what I needed/wanted to pack for that first trip.  What was absolutely necessary?  What would make the trip more comfortable?  What can I do without to cut weight?  It can definitely be an overwhelming process.  Luckily, John loves research and set us up pretty nicely!

But, for those of you who don’t like spending hours at a time in front of a computer, I’m going to boil down the few things that are must-haves in my book to make your first trip comfortable (relatively!) and successful.

1.  Backpack

A proper backpack is a top priority because it will be the vessel that carts around extra weight for the whole of your trip, and, believe me, they don’t all fit the same.  We are a Deuter family all the way.  John and I both have two Deuter’s a piece so we’re prepared for both short and long trips.  My brother-in-law used an Osprey over the summer, however, and really liked it.  Whatever you choose, make sure it fits properly on your hips.  If you’re completely unfamiliar with the way a backpack should work, I highly recommend going to a specialty store like REI.  They can definitely show you the ropes!  Tip:  You might think about buying your backpack last.  The type and size of the other gear you buy will determine the size of the pack you need.

Caite wore my small Deuter on our trip!

Caite wore my small Deuter on our trip!

2.  Sleeping Bag & Pad

This is definitely where quality matters.  Where it might be tempting to go for the $30 bag in your local Wal-Mart outdoor section, I can promise you’ll regret that decision the first night it drops below 45 degrees in the high country.  Sleep is precious on the trail, and sleeping on the ground can get old even among those of us who wished more of our lives were spent in a tent.  A sleeping pad that states inflated and keeps you off the ground along with a well-rated sleeping bag can make all the difference.  Also, it’s not all about comfort.  Getting caught in frigid temperatures without proper cover can become a safety issue.

3.  Tent, Tarp, or Bivy

So, technically, you can sleep under the stars and it’s something I’d like to try someday, but, all in all,  a form of shelter is an important piece of equipment.  We hike almost exclusively in the mountains where weather can be volatile and unpredictable so it is essential that we have somewhere we can take shelter.

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4.  Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes

When people talk to me about getting into backpacking, I always tell them my number one rule-take care of your feet!  They are you’re only modes of transportation, and in can be a game changer if something happens to them.  Even something as minor as a blister could develop into a serious problem if you’re fifty miles from your car.  At the very least, it will be a long, painful walk back so it’s best to avoid all that by finding a pair of boots or trail shoes that feel good on your feet.  Try several different pairs on, walk around the store, take them home and walk in them exclusively for a few days.  It’s important to really get a feel for a pair of boots before you take them into the backcountry.

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5.  Water purification system

Water is one of your biggest needs out on the trail, and, unfortunately, it isn’t safe to simply scoop up a handful of it out of a nearby creek and take a sip.  Even high mountain streams can contain serious, harmful bacteria so you’ll need something to ensure your safety.  There are all kinds of products on the market that can accomplish this, and I’m going to simply tell you to get one of them.  You can use something as basic as iodine tablets to cut weight or pack in a water filter for a little bit better taste.  There is even a new product called a Steripen that is lightweight and uses ultraviolet light to purifiy your water in about 90 seconds!

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(source)

Basically, what you need for backpacking is the same things the pioneers needed-transport, food, water, and shelter.  Of course, there is a ton of other gear to consider when taking your first trip, but these items  will serve as the foundation and get you ready for your first trip in no time.  Before you know it, you’ll be an old pro!  Happy trails!

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