Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's All About The Journey

Feel Empowered...Become Ready to Be Inspired!

Welcome, today I'd like to share a segment of a journey of a thousand miles. A journey that has so far taught that greatness is within, and not only within ourselves but within those that surround us. When I first decided to go back to school to earn my Master's in Sport and Physical Education, I never realized that the most rewarding transformation would be the opportunity to experience other's reaching their personal excellence.

This truly came unexpectedly. As a partial requirement for my degree, I had to complete 150 internship hours related to the area of sport and physical education. My original view was that these internship hours offered the chance to scope out future career ventures, see what I liked or didn't like. It was more or less, a testing of the waters without the obligation of being an employee or the benefit of receiving a paycheck. All in all, it was a check mark off a to do list.

The first 80 hours were completed by enrolling as a participant at a premier health and wellness facility called Fitness Ridge, which is a Biggest Loser Resort. The goal was to experience first hand what it would be like to accomplish a physical transformation towards a life-changing event. I came in knowing that my fitness level was moderate. I knew that the trainers job included pushing each participant past their limit in order to help them see what they were capable of, and though the thought made me a little anxious, it also was intriguing.

With 24 hours under my belt, I quickly realized that my goals merely represented a small part of a much bigger picture. That, in order to make this transformation, I had to realize that each person here had came to change their life. For many, it was a chance to correct a path of choices that were leading to the dramatic difference between life or death, or quality of life or imprisonment. For others, it was a retreat, a way to relax and find oneself. Suddenly, a signed piece of paper saying I was here, didn't seem so important.

It was through these individuals triumphs, their sweat, their tears, and their stories that my heart swelled with appreciation, compassion, and love. No matter how different we seemed from one another, I suddenly realized that the people sharing in this experience were all amazing. And, the best part was, I was able to take part with them in realizing this.

I witnessed the human spirit encouraging the body to transform. I witnessed the agony of pushing past defeat. I witnessed that no matter how much I thought I knew and understood, there is a constant chance to learn and grow from each experience and each individual story.

For me, I found that greatness is not something that you are either born with or without. Greatness is alive in every one of us. And I truly mean every one of us! It really comes down to how committed are you to find it. How willing are you to make small changes that lead to amazing feats. Remember, a setback is only a set-back, if you stay there.

It's truly amazing knowing that as we continue further down our path, there may come a time when doubt arises, yet that is when we will realize that we have came too far to walk back. In that moment, we will find comfort in knowing that no matter how different we all may be, others will be there to help push and carry us to the next leg of the journey. That is when we will realize that this journey of a thousand miles is reached through the combined efforts of various sized footprints.  All different. Yet, all with something in common, the search for greatness.

After all, whats a journey if there is no one there to share it with!

What my life has been like since the Biggest Loser at Fitness Ridge:

This next leg of the journey has been a blast.
The Biggest Loser sparked a crazy bone within and shifted my goals to focus on the obesity epidemic that our nation's youth are facing.

Through the use of this blog and volunteer work, I hope to reach out to individuals and share the importance of keeping kids active.

Some of the activities that we have done as a family to help promote the awareness of healthy lifestyles (which are written and posted throughout the blog) are:

Being volunteers at kids sport and charity events
Participating as a family in weekend triathlons
Teaching and coaching youth sport
Racing and volunteering at the Spartan Challenge - an obstacle course endurance race

Some of the outdoor recreational activities that we have shared in to reach the goal of staying active for 60 minutes a day include: Repelling, Spelunking, Hiking, Biking, Swimming, and playing various sports. 

They say...that for kids exercise is fun
So why does it have to change when we become adults
I say...let the good times role

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Self-Made Triathlete

The only one that can tell you, "you can't" is you. And you don't have to listen.

(Reminder: Get out and get those 60 minutes of play in today.)  

Unveiling the Triathlete Within:
Playing small does not bust through the finish line tape. Just imagine how sweet the moment of personal achievement is for a competitor that crosses the finish line crawling and fighting for every inch. In these moments, we see what we are capable of, we see how hard we can get hit and still keep moving. And when it is all over, the discipline behind being able to say, "I'm a triathlete" liberates us from our own fear and washes away any doubt of failure. After all, once we have began, we have gone to far to turn around and walk back.  

The transition from swimming to biking
in the Kid's Triathlon
When all is said and done, when we are rested and rejuvenated once more, we can see just how each workout we put in, how each hour we poured sweat, led to finding out how great we are.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."
-Spartan Challenge

The Triathlon:

Over the past decade, the idea of endurance racing has changed. Not long ago, people looking to get fit, slapped on a pair of tennis shoes and jogged the local track or street block. The popular 5K run event eventually began to extend to a mind-boggling 26.2 miles, forming a marathon. And it hasn't seemed to stop there. People continue to strive to find what the human body is capable of. The so called "plain vanilla" workouts have exploded into endurance competitions that not only push physical limits but also bring a crazy-feel good sensation that extends beyond the "runner's high". And it seems that this adrenaline bug is attaching to male and female, the young and the masters of age and wisdom. With a debut in the Olympics in the year 2000, the sport of swim, bike and run (aka: the triathlon) has become an international sensation.

Today's Activity:

By now, I'm confident that you'd score a 100% on guessing the activity for the day: a triathlon. However, since this blog is all about family involvement towards keeping active, it only makes sense to pick a weekend triathlon festival which our sons raced in a kids triathlon on Friday morning and Dace and I raced in a team sprint relay the following morning.

When it comes to the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle there is nothing greater for me than being at a sporting event that ends with each member of the family being able to say, "I am, you are, we are...a triathlete."

The sport of triathlons are growing in popularity in a wide-range of age groups. One of the major reasons why the sport of triathlon has hit an all time high in the United States is that it is becoming a multi-generational sporting event that all takes place on the same weekend. Families can come watch younger members race on a Friday and then take part in their own event the following morning.

A few years back, when my husband and I first started getting into triathlons, I remember reading a triathlon training book in which the author proclaimed what an accomplishment it is to be a triathlete. The book mentioned that only 1% of the world's population can say, "I'm a triathlete". I remember using this as my focus to discipline myself to train and compete in my first triathlon.

I'm unaware of what the percentage is today, but I know that each time I cross that finish line, it just keeps getting better. In 2010, nearly 2.3 million unique Americans participated in at least one triathlon. That is up 55% growth in just one year. With more people to celebrate in the accomplishment, it remains an incredible feeling to cross that finish line knowing that those of us here today didn't just dream of success but woke up and achieved it. 

Fun Facts:

The average age of a triathlete is: 38
Roughly 60% of triathletes are male and 40% female.
44% have children living at home
In 1999, USA Triathlon annual memberships were 19,060
In 2011, the year closed with 146,657 annual members

Triathlon growth has been particularly strong on the youth side, which saw a jump from 193 youth events in 2004 to 1,011 youth events in 2011.

Kid's Race "Triathletes"
The bright side is that as that 1% continues to climb, we can embrace in calling ourselves "triathletes" together.     

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Flying High on Adventure

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo da Vinci

They say there is an art to flying, or rather a knack. They say the bird and bee can fly because they have perfect faith and have not been told that flying is impossible. They say we are born without wings. Yet, the sky is the limit. However, there are people on this earth that have done the unattainable. They have accomplished what mankind has deemed impossible. 

The impossible that is, until one man or women overcomes it - then almost immediately others will do the same, breaking one barrier at a time, proving that our pursuit of excellence is limited by psychological barriers that we impose on ourselves.  
So perhaps, the answer to being able to fly is not the lifting off, but the ability to hurdle yourself off the ledge and miss the ground. Because, once you have tasted flight, you will always long to return. That is what makes us human. That is what makes us strive for excellence and attain the highest standards of performance. After all, if none of us pushed beyond the barriers to overcome the numerous obstacles, our nation would be filled with believers of limitations.

Lately, with the summer Olympics in full swing, there has been a lot of buzz about how greatness is not found in a single strand of DNA. It is not elusive or only given to a select few, but alive in each one of us. Greatness is not something you are born with, it is something you earn. Each one of us, every one of us, has greatness. All we have to do is find our commitment, our focus, our confidence, and mental readiness to imagine we can soar. If we align every aspect of our life to interact, to match our goal, we can achieve our own excellence.

If you have children, start this at a young age. Teach them that they can be a super hero for the day or a professional athlete on a track developed in your own front yard. Build their confidence, establish their focus, start their pursuit. Because just like the world's greatest performers or achievers, we are all made of the same flesh and blood. We all have greatness. The difference is their focus is their strength.

Achievements are our life's highlights. They make us feel alive. They absorb us completely and move us to a place where we are wanted. When we engage in sport or other meaningful pursuits, we are able to obtain these wide range intense emotions that are hard to find elsewhere.

That is why, for our 60 minutes of activity today we have chosen to reach new heights. Today was about asking the kids what they wanted to do most. What they have always wanted to try. Without hesitation, our oldest son, whose passion is devoted to biking, started making a makeshift bike jump using the front walkway as his runway. We joined in and helped sturdy up the jump.

Without the slightest pause in thought of crashing or being disappointed, he quickly rounded the driveway. With a widening sweep around our truck he built his speed and aligned for the jump. With tires screaming down the center of the ramp, he held control of his handle bars, cleared the ground, and made the landing. That was his confidence builder. That's all it took. A foot high jump that was monolithic in size to a six year old boy who all he wanted to do that day was get his bike off the ground. 

The next few hours were devoted to perfecting the jump, making it higher and hitting it with more speed. He wrecked a few times but it didn't distract him. His focus remained on flying, if only for a split second.

This is what achievement is all about. Each one of us needs an outlet. A way to express ourselves and feel alive. To feel as if we have accomplished what is important to us even if others don't get it. We all are into different things.

Yet, isn't it human to look to the sky and vision flying. Perhaps, we weren't born with wings, but we should do everything we can to enable them to grow.

Find your pursuit of excellence. Find your runway.
Find your Greatness!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stuck on Outdoor Adventures

What is it about mud that attracts boys? Perhaps it's a same type of question as asking, why do guys like hunting, or why is their favorite clothing camouflage? Now combine the three and all of a sudden you have a guys day out that couldn't get any better. That is the adventure for the day.

Scouting for elk for a dad and son bow hunt adventure that starts in two weeks.

Now the only question really isn't whether they will get an elk, but if junior explorers can stay out of enticing obstacles long enough to remember that they are there to hunt.

What an adventure. I remember last year when Dace took the boys on their first big game hunting trip. They set up the tent, established camp, and then started telling night time stories. Only problem, the story was about a coyote that came rampaging into a camp and...well the boys never made it to the end of the story. They had their dad packing up camp and spending the night in the truck.

Imagine all the stories each family creates when they go out in nature. As a little girl, I remember a varnished wooden sign that forever hung over the door of my father's gun closet. It read, "It is better to take your boy hunting than to go hunting for your boy."

Often times, it would be much easier and a higher probability of achieving what you came for if the kids were left behind. But like the words of my sons, "Life is boring without kids."

Looking back, life wasn't boring before having kids. But, now after having kids, a day left on  my own is quite, tame, and predictable. In a weird sense, it is somewhat boring. Now it's easy to see how kids are an important part of living. They can teach so much and that's why it is so important to keep them active, learning, and exploring. It is their way of learning and staying healthy. The average child doesn't lift heavy weights, run hours on treadmills, strategize in board meetings, wear hard hats, or study blueprints. Yet, they are eager to follow in your footprints. The question is, where are you leading them?

Whether it is fishing, hunting, or even bird watching it's not all about the amount you catch, bag, or spot as it's about experiencing life's moments with those you would have been telling the story to.

Stay active and share life's moments together.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Single Track to Keeping Active

This week we tackle the sport of mountain biking and other various athletic activities including a family triathlon. To get in on the action, stick around and come back often. But more importantly, hit the trails and get a little dirty. 

Above all, beware not to over look the importance of exposing kids to a variety of activities. They don't have to be experts or even have an ounce of experience. After all, it is all about getting outside and having fun.

All greatness starts with a beginning.

Below I have posted a video of my 5 year old son riding single track by himself for the first time in a group ride.

What's in Store Today:
With the school year quickly approaching, it's the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the freedom of long summer days. Keep in mind, that "Keeping Kids Active" is a safe bet to creating an early bed time that kids have a hard time resisting. And as an added bonus, it might just mean a few extra minutes of grown up time.

For those just joining this blog, for the past four weeks my family has shared in various recreational activities that encourage families to keep physically active in moderate to vigorous activity for at least 60 minutes a day. This is the national standards of exercise that children should be getting everyday. Children should also be encouraged not be engaged in sedentary activity for longer than 2 hour spans. The posts on this blog illustrate ideas on how to keep the whole family active through outdoor recreation.

From tennis to parks, pools to obstacle course racing, repelling to caving, zip lining to crossing rivers, we have saved the best of our events for last. As avid mountain bike racers, it's hard to find a sport that makes you come more alive than biking. Perhaps it's the versatility of it all: from asphalt riding and popping wheelies up sidewalk curbs to cruising down mountainous single tracks and enjoying long rides pulling kids behind in bike trailers. It's an activity that whether going uphill or down terrain has you on the edge of your seat and body conforming to every angling turn.

As for me personally, I grew up on mountain bikes. Since then I have also gravitated towards road bikes and downhill mountain bikes. Yet, still my favorite is a full-suspension bike that offers a forgiving ride. As universal as the mountain bike has become, it only made its debut in the 1970's.

History of the Sport:
By 1974, the sport of mountain biking had been born and the group of rowdy bicyclists (known as the founding fathers of mountain biking) had created a bike that sported fat tires, grafted gears, and motorcycle parts collected from scrap yards. The newly created "mountain bike" filled the void of being able to race a bike that could remain intact while riding off-road, away from “cops, cars, and concrete."

With a history like that, how could one resist taking the advancements of technology and not trying the sport out for oneself. So here is the mission for the week: dust of the bike (either because it has been hanging in the garage too long or because you have been riding it) and get back on the saddle. And keep in mind, the best way to break being saddle sore is to hop back on the saddle the next day.

Fun Fact:
Bicycling is an efficient way to burn excess calories, shed body fat, and improve cardiovascular health. The amount of calories you burn bike riding depends on your body weight and the intensity of your ride, but a person weighing 150 lbs will burn an average of 576 calories an hours.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Aerial Adventure

Flying Fox, Aerial Runway, or the better known term Zip Line is a popular outdoor adventure activity that is fun for the whole family.  
Since the zip line is designed around gravity used to propel the user from  higher to lower elevation, it would be wise to follow suit. But there will always be those who try to define gravity, and yes...most the the price.  

Look closely and you will see both of Dace's hands covered in blisters and biceps temporary tattooed with steel cable burns. Here is a guy, who like the famous words of Toby Keith proclaimed, "I'm not as good as I once was..." Perhaps, he should have stuck to ridding the zip line down the incline instead of muscling it up the mountain. Better luck next time!

This zip line adventure through the mountain gorge wrapped up this week's activity of hiking, exploring, and climbing. A lot had changed since the last time I had been to this location. Mainly being, the once 4-man bucket attached to the zip line, now replaced by a rickety wooden makeshift swing. Besides the obvious safety violations, a tree had fallen across the bottom portion of the zip line leaving a heightened jump at the end. Even with Dace's brave endeavors, the boys and I took to the water to cross over. We spent the rest of the trip hiking a trail cut through the beautiful canyon. Along the way, we stopped to adventure on the side cliffs and even tried our hand at shooting flying grasshoppers with the slingshot.

Being outdoors and exploring the mountainous areas around our hometown was a blast. We took the boys to places Dace and I hadn't visited in years. It brought back a lot of memories and created a bucket of new ones. I leave with you the encouragement to go explore! After all, it is the best way to create the start to those days that you never want to end.

Fun Fact:
Today's "Fun Fact" is about why I started this blog.

Since starting my own family, I have gained an increased passion for the health of our nation's youth. It is so important to get children involved in physical activity. Today's children are becoming less involved in unstructured play and outdoor activities. While the time spent in organized sports has doubled, in the past two decades children have lost eight hours a week of unstructured play. It is important to keep in mind that outdoor recreation plays a vital role in healthy development.
It is also a state of activity that can be enjoyed on a budget and involves all participants, especially if the physical play is being initiated as a family unit. With competition removed from the equation, members of various physical ability can come together to enjoy time spent together. And the best part is, that nobody sits the bench.     

For those new to the blog, the focus of this project is to reflect the importance of diversifying play/exercise in an effort to keep kids active. The activities posted on this blog are developed to help demonstrate that a child doesn't have to be on an organized team to be athletic or participate in sport or physical activity. With nearly 1 in 3 children in America overweight or obese, it is important for parents to lead the way and take measures in combating the rising concern of childhood obesity.

With busy life's, exercise is often pushed to the sideline. I would just like to share that this day's event of zip lining, hiking, and exploring was accomplished in 2.5 hours. That included having lunch, crossing back and forth across a river, muscle powering across the zip line, hiking, and taking time to play.

The best part of being outdoors is you never know what to expect. Like on today's adventure, when a lizard jumped on the back of my oldest son's shirt and climbed all over him. It was hilarious. I hope when someone asks how your weekend was, you can have an experience to share.

Enjoy your trip. After all, you are the one that planned it!     

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In Search For Gold

Keeping active by searching for hidden treasures. 

The search for buried treasure, lost gold, and hidden Spanish gold mines, is a subject bursting with adventure.
Yet, perhaps the warning, "Woe to anyone who dares attempt to disturb the hidden treasure" has detoured many.

But, not today. In a dessert hundreds of miles from ocean shorelines and any threat of mutiny or walking the plank sunk in the depths of history, I say, "We have ourselves a treasure to find." If in the end, all we claim is fool's gold, then in the words of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, "I wouldn't mind being a fool right about now."

The Adventure:
Drive 15 minutes up the mountain to explore hidden crevices for Spanish Gold. Total time of adventure: about 3.5 hours

$0-$20 (fuel and snacks)

Hiking boots, explorer hat, long sleeve button up shirt with collar (to keep the bugs off), zip off pants (to protect from brushing up against sage brush and cactus), water, knife, string (to make snare trap), and a handful of snacks.

How it played out:
The treasure hunt began with a drive up the mountain in search for a canyon surrounded by rock ledges and deep crevices. To help make the treasure hunt authentic, we choose an area with no guided trails or published tourist maps. It was an area that looked to only be guided by animal game trails. Like seasoned explorers the boys scoured the area for symbols marking out hidden mines and buried treasure. Any mark in a rock filled the mission and provided us with the direction in which to begin. As the terrain became difficult to traverse, Dace and our youngest son stayed below setting up snare traps to catch small animals. This was done in case we faced an emergency that left  us stranded without food. Or better yet...if we found treasure and had to spend the night uncovering it all.

My oldest son continued to lead me on the adventure, promising that he knew the way, that it was easy, and not to worry about the landslide of rocks created with each step we climbed. With minor cuts and scrapes we arrived at last, in what looked like the perfect advantage point to hide precious gems, gold, and bags of diamonds.

But soon our victory dance came to an end as we noticed a discarded chap stick bottle left from a previous climber. The chamber in the mountain hiding the treasure was empty. That's when we realized we had been beaten to the punch. No worries...There is always tomorrow!
With calories burned and the back pockets of our pants filled with dirt from the slid down the rock slide terrain, our stomachs did the talking. Back at the house, Dace barbecued hamburgers and corn on the cob (pre-soaking the corn with husks in water) for a backyard dinner and the perfect compliment to an exploration entrenched in young minds. 

Fun Fact:

Snares are anchored cable or wire nooses set to catch wild animals such as foxes, rabbits, and coyotes. Snares are one of the simplest traps and are very effective. They are cheap to produce and easy to set in large numbers.

To prove how fun snares are to make, check out the following video of the boys learning to build a snare in the front yard before we take to the treasure hunt adventure.

For those looking to use hiking as a source of fitness to get into shape and burn calories:
A person weighing 150 lbs will burn an average of 405 calories an hour hiking. Generally, to maintain your weight, the amount of calories you take in should equal the amount you burn.  To lose one U.S. pound (.454 kg), you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in as food.