The Stages of Going to the Gym

The Trigger

Something triggers you to join a gym. New Year’s, or a desire to finally do it, or a picture, either of someone who did do it, or a picture of yourself, and you are shocked at how you changed so much without noticing. 

There’s a gym by your work, or by your house, or next to a shop you frequent. It’s intimidating to go in to sign up, but put on a brave face and head in to get signed up, possibly with a trainer who enthusiastically tells to sign up for personal training, trying to sell you a bundle of sessions. Maybe you sign up, needing to get that appointment on  your calendar for motivation, maybe you push it off, not wanting any critique or awkward feelings as you start. 

The Beginning

Your first day at the gym is awkward and uncomfortable. It’s unfamiliar territory, and you feel everyone’s eyes on you, judging you, making you self conscious. Your friend at work told you to try weight lifting, or your neighbor said jogging is best, so you pick a machine based on their advice and awkwardly try to use it. 

As time goes on, you feel a bit more comfortable, and establish a neat little routine of exercises you like to do, still feeling like a doofus among all these people who know exactly what they are doing. 

The Wait

It’s been a week, or maybe even a couple of weeks, and I don’t look any different. Why haven’t I lost weight yet? Why do I still seem so flabby? You look at yourself in the mirror, and except for being a sweaty, red faced mess, absolutely nothing has changed. The lack of any instant or semi-instant results is discouraging. You’re really trying, and you want something to happen, but nothing at all is happening. Why even bother? There’s no point to this.

Despite the disappointment, you keep going. Maybe it’s willpower, or maybe it’s because your gym is at your work and you like to use it to get ready for work,  but you push through and keep working out. 

Why do you not show me what I want, scale?!

The First Great Workout

One day, as you’re working out, you push yourself a little more. You jog a little further (or at all). You put the weights up another 5 lbs. It burns, and it burns good. It wears you down in the moment, but after you recover your breath, the soreness is welcome and invigorating. As you go around the rest of the day you still feel it. It sticks with you, reminding you of what you did that day. It feels good, and you want it again. It’s addicting, and you know the only way to both soothe out your soreness, and get more sore, is to go again. It’s not so hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym now. The workout addiction starts.

The Results Start Trickling In

One day, you notice your pants feel a little looser. You’re not quite sure anything has happened yet, but that seems positive. You ask other people if you look thinner. They aren’t sure. You want them desperately to say yes, but you also don’t want to come off as a weirdo.  

But then, without asking for it, people start saying it without you saying anything. They tell you look different, and it’s surprising to you that you don’t actually feel any different. You’re the same person, but just getting fitter. 

The Habit Forms

Weeks into forcing yourself to go to the gym, it eases into your life as a habit. Just like you set aside time for lunch and dinner, you set aside time for the gym. Your day feels incomplete if you don’t go to the gym. You feel comfortable at the gym, and you’ve finally realized that no one else at the gym is judging you. In fact, most people are so caught up in themselves, they hardly notice you. You know this because you’re so interested in your sets or your time, that you hardly notice them.

The Lifestyle Takes Hold

Now, you’re focusing on fitness and working out so much, you naturally become interested in other aspects. You wonder if your diet is appropriate, and start looking into the ideal protein to eat after a workout. You notice people on Instagram flaunting various body parts and wonder what’s the ideal workout to get that look. You branch out your workout, trying out HIIT, or crossfit, or any of the classes offered. Where once it might have brought you anxiety to try new things, you’re excited at the prospect of what the new workout will incorporate. You eagerly compare workouts with other enthusiasts to see what works for them. 

And on top of it all, you’re looking better than ever. You might have bought fancy gym clothes to work out in. Your normal clothes are fitting loosely, or it might be time for a whole new wardrobe. You catch sight of yourself in mirrors and marvel at how much you’ve changed. It doesn’t even seem now like it was hard physically. It was mainly a battle of willpower, and you beat it. You’re proud of yourself for sticking with it, and knowing you are in control of yourself. 


Results may vary person to person, but this is the general process I’ve been through the two times I began taking the gym seriously. I’m not an expert, but I have now moved to the Lifestyle phase, where I devote time daily to both working out, thinking about working out, and talking about working out. It’s firmly ingrained as part of my life. 

The final phase could be burnout, but I’m hoping to avoid that part. Trying out new workouts or pushing myself is going to keep working out interesting, and I still have a long way to go to get to my goals. I’ve just made it part of my morning routine, and I will always spend that time on some aspect of it. 

It’s hard to start up, but it’s basically just a new habit to be formed. If you really want it, force yourself to do it, and after a while, it’s just part of the routine. You can do it!

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Whole 30 Follow Up

A while back, I started up Whole 30. I meant to post a more weekly update of what was going on, but let’s be serious – I didn’t have much to say and it would have been super boring. But, now that it’s been several weeks I thought I’d provide an update.

Yes, I kept with it to the bitter end of those 30 days. Then I ate a plate of pasta, felt like garbage, and went right back onto Whole 30 again. So I’m currently on round 2. 

So, how’s it going?? You might ask. (Let’s pretend you’re really that interested.)

I would reply:

  1. I’ve lost 10 lbs since I started. The main reason I am posting this update is because I finally got back on the scale to check my progress. My clothes were getting looser, but I couldn’t really tell I was losing anything at all. It was kind of discouraging that I seemed exactly the same, and I was wondering why am I putting myself through this craziness for nothing. Well, turns out it wasn’t for nothing, something did happen – 10 lbs over about 6 weeks. Sadly, just in the history of this blog I’ve lost and gained that same amount before. My weight yo-yo’s. The real challenge will be keeping it off. 
  2. My energy levels are through the roof. I go to the gym weekday mornings, but I was pretty lazy about it, and sometimes I’d only walk on the treadmill for a few minutes before hitting the shower. Now, I warm up on the treadmill or bike, and do a full weightlifting session. It feels good, and I feel good. I also used to immediately want to nap when I returned home from work. Not anymore! I’ll alert and awake basically until the moment I put my head on my pillow, and then I’m out like a light.
  3. I notice how different foods effect me. The pasta was one example. Another, I caved in and ate some delicious canoli’s at work, and for the next three days I had crazy sugar cravings. They disappeared after I refused to give into them. Now I crave fruit and vegetables. They make me feel good. 
  4. I can eat a bucket load of food. It seems like I can basically eat any quantity of the allowed foods, feel completely satisfied, and not gain weight. If I want to eat 6 bananas I do it. If I want to eat two steaks, I do it. But, on the flip side of that, I don’t feel as hungry as I used to either. Smaller portions seem to satisfy me, except for those days where I’m so hungry and I just feel like I have to eat all day (although that doesn’t happen often…seems to be triggered if I break my diet.)

Those are the main benefits. Now, the downsides:

  1. I can’t drink alcohol. I never realized how much alcohol I drank until I stopped drinking it. It was hard the first month, but now it doesn’t bother me as much. But it’s still bizarre to me. In another life, when I’d go out drinking with friends, it would shock me if there was someone in the group that didn’t drink. Like, why!? Why would someone not drink?! But, now that’s me. I’m the one getting weird looks for not drinking. 
  2. I’m still a terrible cook, and haven’t utilized the cookbooks I got specifically to remedy this. I experienced food fatigue from constantly eating the same things… and now I’m still eating the same things, but it doesn’t seem so bad anymore. But I don’t find the cooking part fun. I want to work on this, plan my meals out in advance and get a better handle of this.
  3. I miss convenience foods. I miss being able to walk to the pantry and pull out pop tarts to cram into my mouth. I miss easy access to bread and cereal. Such things were staples in my life. 

The plan moving forward is to basically stick with the Whole 30 plan, finding ways to cook more, and diversify my meals a bit. I’m going to jump into this with renewed vigor as I have a new goal to set. I’m going to Florida twice in the next two months, and I want to be sure I look good in a bikini. Is it super shallow? You betcha. Don’t care – I’m doing it. But, I have to work harder because while I think 10 lbs over 6 weeks isn’t terrible I basically only have 3 weeks until one visit, and another 3 weeks before the next one… so need to make progress sooner, rather than later. 

I think the best part of people posting diet plans are before and afters. But because I don’t seem to have any recent photos of myself, I only have this before, taken in true horse person fashion, on a horse. 

Taken around July 2nd I think. I normally wouldn’t post this because I usually only post flattering pictures of myself, but it seems to make sense here.

So, in a few weeks, I’ll wear the same outfit, get on the same horse, and get another picture. We will see if I made any progress (although I really hope it’s very obvious since that picture was taken at the begining of Whole 30, and I’ve already lost 10lbs!).

 

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Whole 30 – Week 1

I have made it a full week on Whole 30. It wasn’t that hard. Apparently “tough love” is common in this system, and there’s an emphasis on not being that hard. I agree it’s really not that hard. I did end up buying the book to see what I had actually got myself into – It’s a full explanation of the program as well as recipes that I will try. And, shockingly for me, I bought two cookbooks. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a cookbook before and now I bought two – one written by the Whole 30 creator, and one that’s for crock pot receipts. I also barely use my crockpot, so I’m not really sure what my thinking was there… but I do like the idea of a crockpot, so perhaps I will use it now.

whole30 program

This week has been a bit of a mix. Some days were completely fine. The hardest thing was resisting delicious pastries from our work caterer. There seemed to be an endless stream of meetings that had leftover food just begging to be devoured. It was hard, but I managed. 

I did accidentally break the diet on two days. One day, I got a salad from McDonald’s for dinner, and ate corn and black beans in it, both of which aren’t allowed. Another day, Dave marinated our steaks in a wine/whiskey marinade, which is also not allowed. Despite this, I’m not going to restart it, I feel like those are small slip-ups, and restarting would make me lose sync with my co-workers. Instead, I just will feel a deep and lasting shame. 

On Saturday, I was hit with weakness. It felt like I’ve never been so tired. I started out the morning weeding and mulching our front garden, and I felt like I was going to faint. I had to come in, clean up, and take a nap. After a nap, I felt super energized and ready for work! I went back out, started mulching again, but then, once again, felt super tired. I think my energy lasted 30 minutes at the most. Ah well… I was still tired on Sunday, but logistics forced me to stay awake. 

The weirdest part of this week so far – drinking black coffee. Normally I drink my coffee with milk and syrup. I have a cappuccino machine, I make myself lattes. It’s delicious. However, milk and sweetener are not allowed, so black it is. 

At first, I resisted. I made it a whole day before I was craving it so bad I had to get some. The first black cup was from a conference room pot. It was gross. The second was from a Keurig. It was still gross. But since it made me feel so good, I ignored the terrible taste. And then I had another cup, and another. It was still gross, but I ignore the taste.

On Saturday, due to a lack of a Keurig, I made my own coffee from my home machine. It was so nasty, I can’t believe I drank it. On Sunday the thought of making it again was sickening, so I had a way better idea: Nitro Coffee!

great harvest coffee

When I visited a local market that opened a while back, they had samples of this stuff. At the time, it was gross and I don’t know how anyone could drink it. But this time around… not too bad. The first sip is always, “UGH,” but after it works its magic by killing the taste buds in my mouth, it’s not too bad. I wish I could have this every day now, but it’s a bit pricey for regular drinking…especially compared to the free Keurig. 

In case you might be thinking of doing it, here’s an overview of my week, and some tips that might make it easier.

Peer Pressure

By far, the easiest way to get myself to stick with the diet was to have everyone at my work and in my life know I was doing it. I’m not a huge sharer, but with three other people doing Whole 30 with me, and one of them sitting directly behind me, word got around, and soon everyone knew I was doing it. This was useful because:

  1. No pressure in the office to eat. When the office had a catered lunch, people were suggesting food that I could eat on the diet, and food I can’t eat. Plus, their watching eyes would see me slip up. I ate the lunches I brought mostly.
  2. The pressure in the office to NOT eat. When I was feeling extremely tempted to give in and get gummy bears out of the vending machines, the watching eyes of the interns sitting near me prevented it. They would have seen me with the incriminating evidence. They would have heard the rustle of the bag. They would have told. Everyone would know!
  3. Different dinners at home – when Dave goes for his usual takeout, he doesn’t pressure me to try to get my usual meal. He asks what I can eat, suggests other resturants. 
  4. Social eating is not expected at this point. Let’s face it, eating is a big social activity. But, with everyone knowing, no one is suggesting it. Instead of going to get pizza, we bathed ponies and sat by the pool. It was a good day, and it didn’t break the diet, despite the urge to get some frozen drinks for the pool.

Avoid keeping bad foods in the house

This is tricky because I live with someone else, so I can’t just toss out food he’s going to eat. But, I can not buy all the foods that normally only I would eat. If it’s not already in my kitchen, I probably will manage to restrain myself from eating it on impulse (due to the sheer logistics, of course… can’t eat what’s not there.)

Have Good Food Ready

I’m not a huge fan of cooking. It’s okay, but if I have ready made food, I’ll eat that. That’s basically how this problem started – grabbing a pop tart out of the box is way easier than finding a pan, cracking some eggs, waiting for them to cook, cleaning up afterward, etc. If I have things that don’t require cooking, I can just grab that and eat it. Bananas, box of salad, sunflower seeds… none of these things require an investment of time. (ok, sunflower seeds do if you have to crack each one, but that’s kind of the fun of them.) 

whole 30 meal
Sunday’s lunch – mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, avocado and hamburger.

I’m going to work my way up to cooking my meals, which leads to…

Find a Way to Keep Food Interesting

According to the book, a major cause of burnout is getting bored of repetitive meals. Nearly every day last week, I had eggs for breakfast, bananas and strawberries for lunch, and some kind of meat for dinner. These are things that I like, but I’m already getting tired of flavorless scrambled eggs. Hence, the cookbooks. I’m kind of excited to follow some recipes and see what creations I can make. I’ve been intimidated in the past because recipes seem to have a million ingredients, but as this diet is so restrictive, it does put a damper on how many ingredients there could possibly be in there. This week, I’ll be trying to be adventurous with cooking!

I’m hoping for the best for week 2! 

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Whole 30 Diet

itchy pony

Today I embark upon the whole 30 diet. I was kind of tricked into it, but I decided it seems like a good idea.

Two coworkers behind my desk, discussing something. As one turns to leave, she says, “Courtney! You’ll do it, too, right?” and I said, “Sure, I’m in!” And then I had to turn around to my other co-worker and ask what I just agreed to. It was Whole 30.

But, even thought I could have weaseled out of it, I decided I’m going to do it anyway. My weight always yo-yo’s around, but I feel like this year has been especially bad. I bet it would surprise most people that I go to the gym 4-5 times a week. I definitely feel stronger since I started going, but I have gained so much weight. It’s been awful. it is because my diet is so poor. I eat out of the vending machine at work a lot. I just eat a lot of junk. So I’m hoping that Whole 30 will reset my eating, and I’ll get back on track. 

No alcohol allowed on this diet!

It is because my diet is so poor. I eat out of the vending machine at work a lot. I just eat a lot of junk. So I’m hoping that Whole 30 will reset my eating, and I’ll get back on track. 

Dave went to the grocery store with a shopping list and came back with lots of vegetables and fruits. Hopefully, I will be creative enough to figure out how to cook it all… or maybe I will learn how to cook from this. 

Has anyone else done this before? If so, any helpful resources?

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Berry is Out of Shape

You know, just to state the obvious…but so am I, so at least we are a matching pair of out of shape individuals. Our shape is more round, ball-like, and uncoordinated.

Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20170205143750

I had my first lesson of the year last weekend. Berry was blowing pretty easily, which meant our lesson included lots walking breaks. We learning nothing new, and although it was intended to be a refresher, Berry didn’t actually need refreshing. She remembered how to do everything she could do before, including exerting no effort into jumping, and basically just making a slightly bigger canter stride.

berry
Her eyes are closed here. Awwwww…

Unfortunately it felt like a waste of money, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s wasting money. Berry needs to be able to get through a 1 hour lesson without needing stop breaks. Lacking that, she definitely needs to be able to canter around a ring for mere minutes without her sides heaving.

It was a nice ride, though. It was great to see my trainer again, and it was great to just ride in general. I need riding for my mental well being. All horse people know this – We all turn into different people when we don’t regularly ride.

poffins
Poffins kindly demonstrating how akward and uncomfortable I feel when I’m not riding.

Once I made an effort to start riding, suddenly it seemed like I can fit riding into my schedule. It helps that the days are getting longer, but it riding regularly seems doable again. I sometimes lose a little heart when I think about how I have three of them to ride…and wonder why I thought it was a good idea to get three of them**…but my positivity means I will ignore that, and hope for the best.

**When we were kids, didn’t we always wish we had a full stable of horses to fit our discipline whim? HA! What a silly idea that is! (Sidenote – stop collecting horses…just don’t do it. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. Just keep thinking of the vaccination bills, my absolute, very least favorite thing to spend money on.)

But...the longing for just one more...
But…the longing for just one more…a lovely jumper foal…Vintage is getting old, WHAT WILL I RIDE WHEN SHE’S GONE?! (Besides, you know, the other ones…)

So, I have a plan, and although I wish I could reveal some devious, brilliant plan, it’s basically just that I’m going to ride more and not take another lesson until Berry is in shape.

Step 1: Just ride. Ride around the neighborhood, ride through your next door neighbor’s vacant lot he’s trying to sell, but he doesn’t live around here anymore, he’ll never notice a thing. Trailer to some trails, use vague promises friends once said about going riding to guilt them into being my trail buddy. YOU SAID IT, YOU CAN’T UN-SAY IT.

Step whatever-number: Drag my arena next time it rains so I can school in the arena again. In case you didn’t know, if stone dust arenas are rained on and not dragged within 2-3 days, they become as hard as cement. They require soooooo much dragging. I look forward to the day when I can get sand …. and a million other amenities, so I’m not really holding my breath. I just try to drag the arena as much as possible. It likes it, I can tell, except for those days when it tries to choke me out with clouds of dust. Then I am holding my breath.

But, despite what I said in the previous paragraph, I actually did not keep up with dragging my arena this winter – it is currently a block of cement. Luckily, this can be fixed, but I have to wait until it rains again. The rain will make it soft enough to drag. If I tried to drag it without rain, it would be like dragging a paved parking lot. The drag would do nothing. It cannot penetrate the solid block of rock.

Step 3: Obviously profit. Although I would then go to a lesson…so not really profit. More like deficit.

This makes me laugh.
Maybe stop bouncing so much next time. I won’t even charge myself for that bit of advice. 

I’m already looking forward to a weekend of riding. What I need to do is get that smug little pony in the rotation. He hasn’t even been ridden yet this year, but he did play tag with me in the pasture, so that was cute enough to get him off the hook. It is annoying that I’m always “it,” I feel like it would be much more fair if he took a turn…

Unless this is the start of him running away from me when I actually want to catch him… In which case, now I’m just annoyed. Damn that wily, conniving pony.

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The Most Painful Lesson

Holy mackerel! A post actually about riding! I don’t think I’ve done one of these in months! Because I haven’t ridden in months!

Yes, what I said in the previous sentence is true. I haven’t ridden since I started my new job, because I don’t have lights at home, and it’s dark all the time. On the weekends, it seems unfair to work the horses when they are so clearly unfit. Although I still would, except I lost my motivation. I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to ride regularly again, and it’s de-motivating.

The best thing to motivate my riding is getting into regular lessons. Lessons inspire me. Since I haven’t taken a lesson since early summer, D’Arcy suggested I come try out her trainer. Why not! I thought. Also D’Arcy made all the arrangements, and that appeals to my lazy side that hates planning anything.

As a side note – I don’t believe trainers own students. Even though I usually take lessons with my beloved trainer, she doesn’t have issues if I take lessons somewhere else, because she doesn’t see it as a personal slight. Because it’s not. This might be different if I was literally keeping my horse at her barn, but since my horses are with me, I like my freedom.

american-patriot

Anyway, so D’Arcy set it all up, and I showed up. For the true lesson experience, Dave dropped me off at the barn, and then my mom showed up later to pick me up, just like a real lesson kid. D’Arcy brought me my tack, and introduced me to Duke.

I am Duke.
I am Duke.

Duke is a super honest but green horse. I liked him a lot. If I had lots of money, and didn’t already have too many horses, I’d seriously consider buying him because I liked him. He reminds me of a giant Pony Man.

We all headed to the indoor, and mounted up.

trot

This is the thought progress of my lesson:

  • Alright, back in the saddle! This will be fun!
  • These stirrups seem really short. Man, I hate having to adjust stirrups, but I can’t ride with them this short.
  • Ahhh, much better. Okay, back to riding.
  • Trotting is kind of painful. It’ll probably go away soon.
  • Omg, cantering is super painful. I should just drop my stirrups.
  • Ahhhh, no stirrups is better. Maybe I should do the rest of the lesson this way.
  • What a stupid idea, I can’t normally do an entire lesson with no stirrups, why would I be able to do it now after two months of not riding?!
  • Okay, I’m putting my stirrups down again. I’m just going to go for the dressage look.
lawl - "Dressage length". Strange things happen to the rider's mind after 2 months of not riding.
“Dressage length”. Strange things happen to the rider’s mind after 2 months of not riding.
  • Instructor says I’m putting too much weight in my seat. This is a serious accusation, I must explain myself several times that my legs hurt. Okay, definitely overdid it, now I just sound like a whiner.
  • My tall boots are also too big, they keep sliding down my leg. I think this is contributing to the “broken ankle” feeling I’m getting.
  • Ankles have now become useless in ride.
  • Okay, warm up jump! Show them you aren’t a moron. It’s only a few seconds of pain, struggle through!
Incorporating what I learned from my defensive driving class into my riding.
Incorporating what I learned from my defensive driving class into my riding.
  • Okay, now a full course. Resisting urge to break down and cry. Mumble that ankles hurt, quietly enough so they hear, but doesn’t seem like I’m trying to complain.
I think the entire course was focused on keeping weight off my ankles. It's a radical new riding technique.
I think the entire course was focused on keeping weight off my ankles. It’s a radical new riding technique.
  • The messiest course ever. Luckily riding a gem of a horse who continues to carry me. Wondering slightly why they allow me to keep riding when I’m clearly broken and pathetic, but also grateful they let me keep riding.
  • Stopping to watch other students do the course is the best. It means I can rest my trembling, broken ankles. They basically can’t hold any weight at this point, I’m trying to compensate by clinging with my legs like a monkey, but not only are my legs too weak, the instructor is on to me.
This is where we learn to absorb the jump in our hands, an essential skill!
This is where we learn to absorb the jump completely in our hands, an essential skill!
  • Watch D’Arcy and other student on their speed demon horses, and makes me feel slightly better that at least I don’t have that to deal with, too. I just have to learn how to steer, a basic, rudimentary skill that I should have learned at some point in my riding career.
I look like a plane putting down their landing gear.
I look like a plane putting down their landing gear.
  • Steering is much better, this time I manage to accomplish putting Duke to nearly all bad distances. But he goes over them, and I followed a basic path, so success. The lesson ends, and I make plans to ice my ankles.
walk
It’s funny because I think I did permanent damage to my ankles!
  • Dismount, nearly crumple to the ground. Thank goodness Duke is good for grabbing onto.

Due to the extreme amount of pain, several times I wanted to just give up and stop riding. But I knew I’d be really pissed at myself later, so I forced myself to do it. It really was so much fun, with the exception of horrible pain. I think my boots constantly sliding down my legs were the culprit, so my plan is to never wear them again. Unless I can get them altered. Not even sure if that’s possible, we’ll see.

Halfway through the lesson, my mom showed up. The other rider’s family had showed up minutes before that, a stream of people coming out of a clown car, so her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I thought she just came because she loved me and wanted to watch me ride, but turns out she had actually coordinated with Dave, and was there to pick me up. But she still got to watch me ride anyway, so jokes on her! (love you Mom!)

It was convenient when she showed up, because now I had a camera (wo)man. She is responsible for all these photos, including classics like this:

The ultimate bliss of not having to do anything.
My face of agony.
darcy
Also, D’Arcy and Addy

Just like when I was a teenager, my mom sat in the car afterward until I had put away the horse and tack. Really brings back memories…

So now I have a brace on my ankle, and I can barely walk. My own horses were pissed at how long it took me to walk from the house to the barn. Bucking, farting, and snorting, running to the barn, looking back at me, taking another lap around the field, running back to the barn, staring at me… They could care less if I’m riding some other horse, but if they have to wait several extra minutes before they get their breakfast, there will be hell to pay.

But I do want to ride more… so success? I can just ride without stirrups unless my ankle is no longer painful! (you know, for probably like 5 minutes, but gotta start somewhere!)

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Hiking in the Shenandoah

Before we go back in time, this weekend, I managed to have my car break down in DC. Ever the gracious wife, I agreed to a quick trip to DC to reset some computer equipment. I offered to just circle the block, but Dave insisted we just park. So I park, but then when I realized I parked illegally, I tried to start the car to move it, and it wouldn’t start. In the thirty seconds it was off, my car turned on me. Fiats are CRAP. It was a good commuter car, but now it’s broken my heart. Six hours later, I finally make it home, quickly ending my dreams of getting a ride in before dark.

But let’s go back in time to a happier time, to a two weeks ago, when I went hiking in the Shenandoah.

hiking trail in shenandoah
Some of it looked like this, but some of it was narrow and windy, requiring single file line. At one point, I had to pull onto the shoulder/boulder to let some people through.

Going into the Shenandoah in late October, I was expecting lots of beautiful fall colors. Well, there really wasn’t. What a waste of a trip into nature!

"Hmm, looks a bit too green in here."
“Hmm, looks a bit too green in here.”

The main reason my hiking partner and I go hiking is to collect stamps in our National Park Passports. I mean, I guess there’s that whole nature and exercise thing, but we are serious collectors. We need to collect stamps from all the parks in the U.S. It’ll be a difficult journey, but so far we’ve got a couple of VA ones, and nearly all the DC ones. It helps that all the DC ones are so close together.

Even further back in time to when we collected DC stamps. Here I am with a very important DC monument: The paddling boat dock.
Even further back in time to when we collected DC stamps. Here I am with a very important DC monument: The paddling boat dock.

But back to the past, except less past than the time I was in DC. There are bears in the Shenandoah. In actuality, there are bears in 95% of Virginia. There are a lot of bears around. But, especially in the Shenandoah. And especially in Virginia. There was a warning sign of what to do if you encounter a bear. Make yourself big, and if they attack, fight back. We had our own personal technique.

We made sure to practice our bear poses.
Practicing our bear poses. She was inspired by “The Scream”.
I am posed for flight.
I am poised for flight, ready to use my coat as a distraction.

So after acting stupid in the woods for a bit…

Ahhh!! She's been trapped by a vine!!
Ahhh!! She’s been captured by a vine!!

…we eventually continued on and got to a fork in the trail. On the right was gravel road on a steep incline. On the left, a wooded trail descending into the woods. Guess which trail we took!

Yes, my terrible, awful navigation skills took us up the gravel path. To be fair, the map descriped the trail as continuing on a fire road. It looked like a fire road to me.

The gravel road went on for about 1 mile, and it was all uphill. The entire trail we were hiking was only supposed to be 3.8 miles. The gravel road twisted around, doubling back on itself, and then had a few stretches of straight. While I am glad we got the exercise now, it was agony. Eventually, we reached a weather station on top of the mountain. While not our first clue that we weren’t on the right trail, it was a pretty big indication that perhaps, just maybe, we weren’t where we were supposed to be. Especially with all the warning signs around, telling us of dire consequences should we start touching things.

Luckily we did end up finding an unauthorized footpath that led back to the actual trail. It seems we weren’t the only ones to make such an idiotic mistake. And, it was all downhill and then level after that. It seemed amazing easy after that horrible trek. And this is how I learned I will never be able to be a true mountain climber. My pipe dream of climbing Everest has vanished after that 1-mile hike up a moderate slope.

Hurrah for downhill!
Hurrah for downhill!

Once the footpath reconnected with an actual hiking trail, we interrupted a man’s date with his lady friend to beg directions. He spent several minutes with us, thoroughly explaining where we were, and the correct path to take to continue his hike, while his lady tried to hint to him they should move on. But, he knew his directions, and he wanted to make sure we went the right way.

The correct route!
The correct route!

The rest of the path was so simple, it felt way too easy. We’re probably ready to move on to more challenging trails at this point. As long as the challenge isn’t a really long, uphill gravel road.

We eventually made it back to the car, and began the next leg of our journey: The journey to food. Skyline Drive is really long, especially when the speed limit is 35 mph. Eventually we buy some at the hiking cafe, and then, it was time to head home.

While driving, we came across a traffic jam. There was a bear! People were getting out of their cars to stare. We stayed in the car, it seemed way safer. But the bear got bored of the crowd and left after only about 30 seconds. Oh well… at least I can say I saw one.

Thus concludes Shenandoah hiking adventure.

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Reasons Equestrians Workout

After an extensive study, I have concluded the following:

reasonstoworkout

Inconclusive if barn chores count as working out. Heard frequent comments that it should be counted, with the proof that one usually needs a shower afterward. Further studies to follow.

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The Hill Work

hill work conditioning

This warm weather has been incredible, and inspired me to make the beautiful image above of trotting through a glorious meadow (just squint and use your imagination). Finally, I can emerge from my hovel, and get back to riding. Except that my poor Berry, who has been mostly idle for the duration of winter, is very out of shape. She has a lot of bulk fat that should be muscle.

thoroughbred face
Berry is not amused by these comments on her body.

As part of my “I really want to advance this year” agenda, I’m going to make conditioning part of my rides. It’s not fair to expect her to do full jumping lessons or spend a full day at a show without taking the time to build up her fitness. The picture on my “About me” to the right certainly indicates how tired she gets from being at a show. Although (small brag), she did do awesome at our last lesson, with another grid set up, and a course with 2’6″ jumps, including the one in the picture above. She’s doing super awesome, and I’m keeping up with her. It’s feeling pretty good. But I digress.

Now that my property is no longer a mudslide, I’m going to incorporate the hill into our work twice a week. I’ve taken time after one ride this week to leave the arena, and go up and down the hill for about 10 minutes. I’m going to work up to more, but the main problem with this is that it is insanely boring to both Berry and I to walk/trot in a continual loop.

To make the exercise more worthwhile, I held two-point going up the hill, and leaning back two-point on the way down. I had Berry on a long rein, and I could feel her using herself and really pushing from her hind.

I would like to leave my property, but as far as I know I can’t get to the neighborhood trails anymore, and also Vintage freaks out when Berry leaves her. It’s really quite annoying. After 10 minutes of back and forth on the hill though, Vintage did seem to accept that we weren’t leaving, and just stared at us intensely.

horse up close

I would like to figure out if the trails near me are open again, but I feel like they aren’t. Until Pony gets back, it would be difficult to leave the property without Vintage going crazy, anyway. I’ll keep plugging away on my hill, but I really wish there was a place nearby where I could just trot up and down hills for miles, just like in my glorious image. That would be heaven. I guess I will have to accept that to find such a spot, I will need to trailer to it.

Or, I have some hilly property that is currently forest… I could create a loop through it, and then ride that loop… That may be the solution. Then it wouldn’t be so boring, and I could work my way up to 45 minutes of working on the hill. That would keep her in good shape! I’m getting excited thinking about it. If only it would just appear, instead of me having to go cut a trail down.

Our next show is this coming up weekend, and I am pretty excited! With being able to ride more, advancing in our jumping, and Berry being in better shape (although it’ll take longer for her fitness to dramatically improve), I’m feeling pretty good about showing.

riding glove engraved braclet
Soon to be show name of my baby Berry.

I’m going to be working her on my boring hill again before then, and hopefully the (minor) hill work really will have a great impact. I can definitely feel her pushing power going up the hill, and I hope that will translate well to her jumping!

Don’t forget to “Like” my facebook page if you want to win some Aztec Diamond apparel. The winner will be announced on Friday!

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Workout Wednesday – Motivation in 5K Form

color me rad

I love 5ks, specifically the ones with obstacles. Non-obstacled ones just kind of drag on. In order to motivate me to spend some more time running, I’ve come up with some 5k’s I could do. All have generous enough lead time that it is reasonable to assume I’d be able to train enough to run the entire thing, and no longer suffer the shame of giving up and walking.

(Half) Tough Mudder – June 12, 2016

https://toughmudder.com/events/2016-virginia-half

Am I a crazy person for considering this? Yes, I think I am. It seems way more intense than anything I’ve done before. But, this one would definitely motivate me to work out harder at the gym, as to not feel the shame of having to bow out on course. The main issue I see is that I would have to convince other people to be as insane as me, as they are really emphasizing the team part. I just don’t know if I can do that.

Also, spectators are $25. That doesn’t really seem right. I can’t force people to pay money to see me wobble around on course.

The Ice Cream Race – June 25, 2016

http://www.theicecreamrace.com/

And on the heels of SUPER INTENSE run, comes the light and fluffy ice cream themed 5k. It’s so incredibly adorable, how could I not want to do it!? I could even fulfill my life long dream of dressing up like an ice cream cone. I’d be the happiest ice cream cone that ever existed.

Also, these people put on a zombie race each year, which I’ve done twice, and it was pretty good. I recognize many of the obstacles from it. I can even still see the blood on the wall obstacle from the zombie race.

Color Vibe 5K – September 10, 2016.

http://www.thecolorvibe.com/manassas.php

It’s not obstacles, but it’s colors being thrown at me. That’s okay too. I did one of these before.

Color Me Rad 5k
Color Me Rad 5k

Right now, it’s only $29 for registeration. That’s a significant savings from the normal price, but only if I act today! Although I actually don’t think I would pay $60 for this, so I will need to decide upon my attendance immediately.

Insane Inflatable 5K – October 15, 2016

http://insaneinflatable5k.com/washington-dc/

YES I AM DOING THIS ONE!! I wanted to do it last year, but it was literally in DC, and I’m sick of going into DC. But, not this year! Now it’s almost close enough to throw a rock at, if I had a super powered arm!There’s so many inflatable obstacles! I don’t feel like anything else needs to be said about it! I am so excited!

Now that the contenders are picked, it’s time for the actual hard work. Back to the gym I go…

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