Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Stand-for-an-Hour Challenge #standhourchallenge

Make a conscious effort to stand for an hour at a time when available seating would be a more logical option. Challenge yourself, and keep track of how long you last. Even if you are physically capable of doing this challenge, your mind may trick you and lead to your doom.

Mine did me after 11 minutes. I'm trying again.

(Here's a tip: Get your computer up off your table or desk by propping it on a banker's box or shoebox, or two, depending on your height).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My weight loss (and fitness) motivation (revisited)

I want to hike the highest mountains. I want my body not to lumber along, but to move through the world with grace. I want to ride my bike great distances without tiring. I want to swim oceans and rivers and not be taken by the currents. I want to climb great rocks. I want to camp on mountaintops.

I want my body to create energy, not only consume it. I want to be fit enough that I may help others in case of emergency. I want to be able to run if I must run. I want to be able to carry those who cannot run to safety on my shoulders. I want my body to be strong well into old age.

I want my feet, my knees, my back and my joints to be happy. I want my cells to be friendly, not fight me. I want not to be a slave to pills and medical procedures. I want health to radiate from within. And most of all, I want my parents to know I value the life I've been given.

Follow on Twitter @MyFitLife2Day and on Instagram @fitlifechronicles

Thanks for reading MyFitLife2Day. For more about what I am doing NOW to overcome obesity once and for all, check out this post. The orginal post - My weight loss motivation - was written in January 2010 when my weight topped 400 pounds. 

Follow me on Twitter @MyFitLife2Day and on Instagram @fitlifechronicles.

Answering "Why I choose weight loss" and "Why I choose Nutrisystem"

I started Nutrisystem for the first time in early January 2010. At that time, one of the counselors I spoke to recommended I write a brief statement about why I was losing weight so that as I achieved incremental goals I would be able to look back on my statement and be edified. Today, after two years of being in a more-or-less maintenance mode (give or take 40 pounds - ugh!), I thought I'd look back on that statement and see what encouragement it could give me. Here is what I wrote:
I want to be able to ride rollercoasters again, feel more comfortable in airplane seats, be able to sit in those tiny chairs on the patios of cafes, not cause the tires in my tiny compact car to wear unevenly, start my 40s in a year and a half with the same healthful optimism with which I started my 20s, let my parents grow older without having to worry about my health, be able to shop for clothes at the mall again, rollerblade without pain again, and dance the night away again without having to sit the next one out! 
Breaking apart the statement goal by goal today, I see that I pretty much achieved every one of them. So why am I re-starting Nutrisystem again now? Well, it's complicated. To make it more comprehensible (to me and to anyone who might be reading this blog for inspiration or sheer curiosity), I should break this question down into its component parts. Why am I choosing to "diet" again? And why have I chosen to go back on Nutrisystem when it's obvious that I am able to lose weight on my own?

First, I'll address reasons why I'm "dieting". Well, to be more precise, I'm not "dieting" but rather "modifying my diet" (but that's for another conversation). And the reason for this is clear. I am currently at a weight that is unhealthy. It's not unhealthy because I say so or because society says so (or even because I am currently experiencing any health problems, as was most definitely the case when I was 420 pounds). But according to the medical community, I have a disease - obesity - and this disease is a precursor to a slew of other chronic and acute disease that I personally would like to avoid.

No one believes me when I tell them, but I am pushing 300 pounds. At 296 pounds, I may "carry it well", but I would rather not have to carry it at all. This weight is hard on my body and limits me in many ways, not the least of which it makes it more difficult for me to pursue my hiking passion, keeping me from doing longer and more strenuous hikes. It also hurts my joints and keeps me from recovering as quickly from injury. I recently twisted my ankle while traversing a rock-strewn trail at the top of Mount Tammany in Northern New Jersey. I was lucky to make it back down. If I had experienced a greater injury, it would've take five or six big guys to carry me down.

For more on why I want to lose weight, check out the related blog post: My weight loss (and fitness) motivation (revisited). For now, though, I'll get to why I'm kickstarting this next phase of my weight loss journey with Nutrisystem. See, the first time around I lost around 80 pounds on Nutrisystem and another 85 pounds on my own; Having learned from Nutrisystem's portion and calorie control I was able to piece together a plan using regular grocery store foods that worked quite well for me (until I decided after 18 months of rigorous attention to my diet to ease up a bit and began enjoying ice cream and other treats again in a less than moderate manner). But now that I'm out of practice, Nutrisystem will help me relearn healthy portions and develop a more regulated eating pattern.

On Nutrisystem I will eat six times per day - three meals per day and snacks about two hours after each meal. The plan is based on science, creating by nutritionists. It is balanced and does not keep me from eating the kinds of foods I truly enjoy. In fact, some of their meals are quite tasty. The cost is about $260 per month (for the men's plan that I'm on), and this includes five prepackaged foods - each meal plus two snacks daily  (one of the snacks is on your own, such as yogurt or nuts) - as well as access to amazing tools that track your food and water intake and allow you to log your exercise. There is also a very active online community where you can get inspiration from others who are likewise on a weight loss and fitness journey of their own.

At that price, you have to eat what they send you. For $20 more, you get to choose what you want. It's worth it for some, but since saving money is another objective of mine, I just choose to enjoy what I get. After all, "It's your decisions, not the conditions of your life, that determine your destiny", as the great motivational communicator Anthony Robbins would say.

Today is the first day of being on the Nutrisystem plan, and I have to tell you I am pumped. I know Nutrisystem works for me, and I know that even though I will begin to feel hunger between eating events, I know that's a good thing. My stomach will begin shrinking and I'll begin to shed weight, probably quite quickly the first week and more steadily after that. I can take comfort that even though I'm feeling hunger, it's a good thing, and it will only bother me for a couple of weeks.

So that's really why I'm doing this. Hunger is a way of my body telling me it's time to eat. In our society we tend to eat simply because there is an abundance of food. But in a few weeks my new habits will take hold and my eating habits will carry me on auto pilot to finally achieving my goal of overcoming obesity once and for all.

Thanks for reading MyFitLife2Day. Follow me on Twitter @MyFitLife2Day and on Instagram @fitlifechronicles.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Weighing pros and cons, giving Nutrisystem weightloss another go!

My weight-loss journey has been a struggle lately. Culture shock. Lost luggage. Forgetting wear home is. Aimlessly trekking through the world of #fitspo and #fitfam social media. When I'm exercising, I'm not eating right. When I'm eating right, I'm not exercising. I wouldn't say the train has jumped the track. It's just that I just seem to be out of synch with myself. It's time to regain control!

The train hasn't jumped the track - yet - but it's time to regain control!
Today I made a decision to go back to basics; I ordered a month's supply of Nutrisystem, since that's how I initially got on track with my eating habits, learned about portion control and how to include a variety of healthy, nutritious foods into my diet.

I've been on the fence about ordering for quite some time now, mostly because Nutrisystem does not focus on organic, non-GMO whole foods, and I would like to. But I realize that my weight has steadily increased over the course of the past year, and if I don't take drastic measures I may lose control of the degree of healthy weight management I have been able to maintain after losing more than 150 pounds a few years ago. So I bit the bullet and submitted my order just moments ago.

Immediately I downloaded the app, which I'm excited about, since when I was following the program before I didn't have a phone that support the app. Now that I do, I plan on taking full advantage of it, logging my food intake on the go rather than writing things down and logging them at the end of the day.

FYI - My goals are the same as ever. I will work toward losing fat while building muscle in order to get my weight under 227 pounds, which is the cutoff for obesity according to my height. My aim is to achieve this by losing 70 pounds within seven months - April 2014.

When I started my journey at 420 pounds, I was alone. But as I reached my low weight point at 255 pounds, I was flush with friends and followers. I'm hoping that as I get back on track, I will reconnect with some of the folks I have lost touch with over the course of the past year or so. To regain some of that momentum once again, I plan to get more active on Twitter @MyFitLife2Day again, and I'll be using my Instagram account - @fitlifechronicles - more purposefully as well. I know me, and I will need encouragement from others as I continue my journey. If I'm lucky, I hope to inspire others as well as I regain control and continue my fitlife journey toward health, healing and longevity.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to lose weight without even trying - yeah right!

Permanent weight loss is not something that just happens. But it does happen. With modest effort and keen focus on key details like caloric intake, nutrient variety and consistent exercise, significant weight loss to overcome obesity and lifelong weight management are possible for almost anyone.

In my journey to overcome super obesity and live the life I deserve, I lost 165 pounds over the course of 18 months. At the end of that time, during which I held my caloric intake to 1,800 calories a day and exercised or at least 20 minutes five days per week, I decided to give myself a break. I eat more or less what I was eating before, but I gave myself days and times when I would enjoy my favorite snacks, like ice cream, cake and cookies, which I had strictly given up while I was in pure weight loss mode.

Permanent weight loss is possible with modest effort and keen focus
For the past two years, since easing up on my restrictive diet and exercise regime, my weight has fluctuated between 265 and 295 pounds. I have gained and lost the same 30 pounds a number of times. This is because I have not really had any "habits"; My effort has been strong, but not consistent, and so my weight loss and weight gain has been as sporatic as my food intake and lifestyle choices.

The one thing that has remained consistent throughout this time of flux is hiking. I continue to hike between 10 and 20 miles per week. If it were not for hiking, I'm sure I would have broken into the 300 club once again. I have been careful not to do so. Still, I am not satisfied where I am currently, and though I have set goals time and time again over the last two years, I have failed to follow through with them with the same consistency as I had during that glorious 18 months of consistent weight loss.

So here I am, once again, considering where I am and where I want to be. I just returned from the grocery store where I stocked up on some of my favorite organic, hunger-satisfying staples - Greek yogurt, carrots, celery, apples. These snacks always keep me from taking extra servings from my stash of trail food - nuts, seeds, dried fruits and granola. While these things are considerably more "healthy" than ice cream, cakes and cookies, the extra fat from the nuts and seeds and calories from the dried fruits and granola can just as easily put me well over my daily caloric intake goals with a simple snap of the wrist and chomp of the jaw.

So without being explicit with my weight loss goals, or the manner in which I plan to achieve these goals, I'm putting it out here once again that I am cognizant of my need to regain focus, and I am currently in the process of doing just that. So I hope you'll keep checking back in with me from time to time to see how I'm doing, because while I know I have the strength and courage to tackle my goals on my own, I know I'm much more likely to succeed with my #fitfam supporters keeping me accountable along the way.

Thanks, as always! You guys rock!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pedestrian lifestyle fitness in full effect on the streets of Philadelphia

I relocated a little more than a month ago from Albuquerque, NM, to Philadelphia, PA. With the move came a dramatic shift in lifestyle. I traded in my truck for a sturdy pair of shoes, a mountain bike and a transpass. I'm finally living the pedestrian life, and I couldn't be happier! I mean, what's not to be happy about? By changing from a motorized to a pedestrian lifestyle I've already lost nearly 15 pounds!

I get tons of exercise just maneuvering through my day-to-day life. I ride my bike to work at least twice a week and other days I take the subway - which means taking several brisk walks and at least six flights of stairs.

Getting around on foot - walking, taking stairs and biking - is fit fun!

Living in a city like Philadelphia, you get a lot of exercise on stairs. For example, I live on the third floor of a row-home; the kitchen is on the first floor and the laundry room is in the basement. On a regular morning I take about 8 flights of stairs (up and down) before I even get out the front door. If I do laundry before work, that adds another 9 flights. Also, I take the stairs at work and anywhere else I go - no elevators or escalators for me!

I get a lot of exercise biking, too. On my Tuesday commute, I ride seven miles round trip to one of my teaching gigs and four miles round trip to another gig. I also ride my bike to go to the grocery store - Trader Joe's is another four-mile trip. Plus, I'm riding more and more on the weekends. I started with 10-mile rides for fun, then upped that to 15. Last weekend I did a 20-mile bike ride, and this weekend I'm planning to do between 25 and 35 miles. I'm posting about my bike rides on my blog Man of Merit and plan to begin posting more about bike commuting at MyLifeInMegalopolis.

Scene from my morning bike commute - South Philly to North Philly
On top of all this "lifestyle" fitness, I go to the gym a couple of days a week for strength training. I had not lifted weights for several months and was shocked at how weak I felt on my first few workouts. But I'm getting stronger with every workout, so I'm sure I'll be back up to where I was a year ago within the next month or so.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention - I'm still hiking! This is by far my favorite activity, and I try to get out to the Wissahickon Gorge at least once every week for a hike of at least five miles. This weekend I'm planning on doing the 8.5-mile Yellow Trail. And once a month my goal is to get to a regional state parks to enjoy longer, more strenuous hikes with some moderately significant elevation gain. (I record my adventures on these and other hikes on my blog, HikeyHikey!)

Well, there you have it: I'm more active than ever before, and for the first time in my life the majority of my exercise comes from changes in my lifestyle. I love being a pedestrian in Philadelphia, and look forward to reporting to you soon about further weight loss success. Thanks as always for reading! Staying accountable to my #fitfam helps keep me in line and on track with my goals.

Check out my progress as a Philadelphia pedestrian here.

Brian Schwarz is an award-winning journalist whose career was derailed by super obesity. He fought his way back to health - losing 165 pounds in the process of his "fit-life journey". A professional communicator by trade and activator by nature, Brian's personal mission is to inspire others live their fullest lives. Follow Brian on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back in Philadelphia - 5 years later and 150 pounds lighter

The last time I lived in Philadelphia, I gained 75 pounds. This time around, I hope to lose 75. I know it's going to take a whole succession of healthy decisions every step of the way to make that happen. But that's okay, because I'm all about living MyFitLife2Day (and every day)!

When I left Philadelphia for sunnier shores five years ago, I weighed somewhere around 420 pounds. And I was miserable. A year later, I began a new phase of my life, which I fondly refer to as my fit-life journey. My fit-life journey includes choosing clean, organic, whole foods over processed foods and exercising regularly - including lifting weights, biking and hiking. Plus, remaining positive and patient throughout the process has allowed me to dramatically change not only my physical dimensions but it has also permanently altered my state of consciousness. As a result, I'm happier than I've ever been. And now that I'm back in Philadelphia, I'm ready to begin next chapter of my fit-life much closer to home.

Brian in Philadelphia, 2008, addicted to fast foods - always delivered!
South Florida was a great place to shed the excess weight, because I was able to exercise outdoors year round. Then, being exposed to the hills of New England while living outside Boston ignited in me a healthy passion for hiking. I followed that passion out west - to Albuquerque and then to Palm Springs. And while I was beginning to feel I would never again be able to find happiness without having access to those massive mountains and endless miles of trails in my backyard, I've realized now that life is about more than the individual pursuit of happiness.

For me, happiness is about being able to share my life and my passions with those I love - my family and my friends. Since I was raised in the Mid-Atlantic, went to college in Pennsylvania and summered on the Jersey Shore, Philadelphia is at the heart of it all. Being here, I feel I've found a central spot, a place that allows me to be myself while giving me a greater sense of being at home.

While you won't find Philadelphia on any lists as a great hiking mecca, there is hiking here. Most locals aren't even aware there's any hiking nearby, but there is an amazing park system here - the largest urban park system in the United States. And the jewel of Fairmount is a 7.5-mile gorge carved by a fish-stocked creek called the Wissahickon. I went exploring in the Wissahickon as soon as I got here a little over a week ago, and I've started blogging about it on my hiking blog, HikeyHikey.

Brian on a recent hike along the Wissahickon Gorge Orange Trail
I hope to find an apartment near the Wissahickon Valley Park, possibly in Roxborough, Chestnut Hill or Germantown, so I can hike here several times a week. I will be joining a gym so I can continue swimming and lifting weights regularly, too. Also, I'm on the lookout for local establishments with grab-and-go foods that feature organic, all-natural ingredients. This way, I'll be able to fuel my healthy lifestyle even when I'm not able to cook and pack my meals and snacks in advance. So far, I haven't found any, but I've been told they're out there, so I'll continue my search and report back any findings.

Well, I'm off to take my pups for a walk. They're loving that we've adopted a pedestrian lifestyle here in Philadelphia - and so do I. It's the healthiest thing for all of us! Tomorrow I'm planning to go for another hike in the Wissahickon. And later this week, once I get my bike fixed, I'll be heading out to explore some of the Schuylkill River Trail, a paved trail that follows the Schuylkill River north well into the suburbs.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

How missing my grandma's last Easter motivated my weight loss

Easter 2009 I was living in Albuquerque, where I had moved to be closer to my Grandma Fay, and I was too fat to fly back east to my mom's house with her for a special family portrait. Here's an outtake of the photo shoot where they made a HUGE space for me in the back row so they could Photoshop me in later. It would be her last Easter. Not one to wallow in regret, missing this moment was a HUGE motivator for me to lose weight and get healthy. I owe so much to this moment.

That HUGE hole in back was for me, but I was too fat to fly home for Easter
I'm feeling lonely tonight as I face spending Easter - my favorite holiday - alone, without my family or friends. But tomorrow I'll be hiking the Del Agua Trail for a long overdue visit with my Grandma Fay. A few years ago when my grandmother passed away, I was too fat and lazy to hike the trail as her ashes were scattered there. When she sees me there I know she'll be so proud!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pedestrian Fear Factor vs. Train Like a Pedestrian

Successful pedestrians stick to a common set of rules, not the least of which is this: Avoid death at the hands of others. You need to be fit if you plan on getting around on foot, bike or public transit. If there weren't enough good reasons to get and stay fit, add this one to your arsenal of motivators.

Train like a pedestrian - urban core fitness with medicine ball workouts!
Since I've recently been forced into pedestrian life - No, I did not get a DUI! - I decided I can no longer ignore the mush that's become of my core over the winter. A flabby core means reduced reaction time, which can lead to disaster while biking or trying to avoid reckless drivers while crossing the street. We've all seen similar headlines to this: "Motorist mows down biker on morning commute!" Well I don't want to be a statistic no one remembers.

With a strong core I know I can avoid getting creamed by a driver who doesn't know how to check his mirrors or is talking on a cell or texting while driving. The drunk drivers might take more than a strong core to avoid, but being able to control the bike from my core will be crucial in most emergency situations.

Hiking was keeping my core in shape last year, but as hiking season puttered out - when I should have been returning to my core workouts of pre-hiking days - I was enjoying some time off, accompanied with ice cream, cookies and peanut butter.

So I'm back at it. I love my old medicine ball workout, but I'm developing a new one that builds on my old routine to give me some variety and add spice to my workout. Also, I'm looking into a way to blend medicine ball and yoga. Anyone have any ideas? If so, please leave a comment below.

To see a video of me using my 12-pound medicine ball, check my YouTube channel.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Broken-down truck ushers me into a pedestrian life (at least for now)

My truck broke down near the trailhead yesterday after a late afternoon hike with my dogs. Now I'm waiting for it to get fixed, which could take a while. Meanwhile, I've very quickly had to adapt to life as a pedestrian.

This is a good thing. A very good thing. But it's also a complicated thing. I'm currently working freelance, and I attribute my ability to get work every day to my flexibility. Bound to the bus, it limits my options. Bus plus bike, though, is totally doable. I'll need to dedicate a couple of hours this weekend to finding paths to employment that are within biking distance - or at least are convenient on a one-bus routes from the downtown bus station, which is a quick bike ride from home.

Yes, I'm fortunate that I own a mountain bike. But to be honest, it's a rarely-used mountain bike, because I'm not always confident the parts will hold up in transit given my current weight. Most commercial products are only guaranteed to stand up to at most 250 pounds, so it's a valid concern. But today I had a couple of errands to run and I was able to get everywhere I needed to go on bike and by bus. So I just have to pray that my bike holds up until I can take off another 30 pounds.

My first road bike, 1981, which I rode for miles on country byways
On a side note, I've dreamed of living the pedestrian life ever since I got my first road bike, in 1981. While we lived in the country, I remember visiting my grandmother in D.C. or my aunt in Hoboken and seeing lots of people on bikes, carrying grocery bags on their handlebars or in a basket on the front. Later, I was a roller-blading pedestrian in New York and Miami. And I've been a public-transit commuter lots of times. But I've never been a true cycling pedestrian. So the way I see it, now's my chance!

The best part of this whole thing is the health benefits of not being bound to a motorized vehicle. By being forced to adapt to a car-free lifestyle, exercise will be injected forcefully into my daily routine, thereby speeding up my metabolism while at the same time reducing the available of excuses not to exercise. And because it will take me longer to get home, I'll need to plan and prepare my meals ahead of time just so that I won't starve - convenience foods do not sit well with me when my body's being called to service with exercise. It will just be a matter of packing as if I were to spend a day on the trail.

It is likely that I will be truck-less for at least two weeks, if not more, which is perfect. They say habits are formed in two weeks, so I'm betting that even once I get the truck back, the benefits to my body, mind and spirit will far outweigh any benefits of convenience so that I won't want to go back to the way it was.

The only big complication I was thinking of was being able to get to the mountain for hiking on Saturday. Well, a friend emailed me out of the blue today and invited me to go hiking with her and her friend - ride included. So that takes care of this weekend. And even if I didn't have a ride there are still ways to get to the trails via public transit. In fact, I plan on writing more about that on my other blogs, so stay tuned if you're interested in how all that works out.

For now, it's time to do some research about ABQRide and do some tuning up on my bike. Until next time!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Epic hike ignites dormant muscles, sparks spring fitness fury!

Today I went on one of my most epic hikes of recent memory. I don't usually go off trail, but I've been hiking the Southern Sandias pretty extensively since I got here a few years ago, and I felt curious today to find out where an unofficial trail would lead me. As a result, I ended up scaling a canyon wall, crossing an amazing high desert prairie-like landscape and crossing paths with a gorgeous, big blond coyote before finding a familiar trail I knew would take me back down to the trailhead. All in all, I'd say I hiked around four miles with an elevation gain/loss of more than 1,000 feet.

Sunshine + Mountains = Bliss

The best part of the hike is that I feel exhilarated, re-invigorated to achieve my fitness goals, and on fire for hiking and wilderness exploration once again.

Copper Trailhead with view of the U-Mound on the right
Starting off at the Copper Trailhead in Albuquerque's Southern Sandia Mountains, we walked around the west and north sides of the U-Mound and took the arroyo there that leads east to a whitewash, which is basically a dry waterfall with a white hue from mineral build-up, at the mouth of an unnamed canyon.

View of the whitewash, heading east through an arroyo
My friend and I had come to the same whitewash last week, but we came up from a trailhead south of Copper, so we hiked over the saddle, passing the junction where the south branch of the Eye of the Sandias trail joins the trail to the top of the U-Mound. I remember pointing out the south branch of the Eye of the Sandias trail to my friend, thinking we might take it sometime, as the Eye hike is one of my favorites, especially in the winter.

A look back from whitewash ascent at U-Mound and ridge up to the "Eye"
So we made it up to the top of the whitewash and decided to continue going beyond the whitewash. We stayed in the canyon and hiked up the arroyo, which in the New Mexico mountains is the name for an intermittent mountain stream. It has been very dry this winter, so the stream bed held no visible water today. It only became evident that the ground was slightly damp where an animal had dug into the canyon floor and turned up dark brown earth, a stark contrast to the typical light brown color of surface soil here in the western Sandia Foothills.

Typical gritty trail surface on the Sandia Mountains' west face
We hiked a ways past the whitewash, but I don't know if it was a quarter mile or half a mile or what, because at some point we came across a huge boulder, the size of a small bus, and we decided to head off trail and scramble up the wall of the canyon. The intense scramble took my attention away from estimating the distance we'd traveled. In fact, all attention was focused on my hand and foot positions, and all spare energy was directed to my legs, especially my quadriceps, which, once ignited, were called on over and over again to lift and push my 280-pound body up to another ledge, to top one massive boulder after another.

Ascending southern wall of canyon, from about 1/4 mile east of whitewash
Once we made it to the top of the canyon wall, we realized we were not too far from the south branch of the Eye of the Sandias trail. We would have to cross three deep-gully arroyos to make it to a saddle between two other prominent Foothills peaks. That's where we found the upper part of the south branch Eye trail. We sat for a moment to have a snack and more water. And just as I sat down and looked back up the trail I saw the gorgeous blond coyote come up the hill we'd just come up and run off into the distance.

It looks easier than it is! We had to cross three gullies to reach that saddle
From here we took the Eye trail back down to the trailhead. The Eye trail's south branch comes out underneath the set of electrical poles just above the saddle by the U-Mound. From the saddle we took the switchbacks on the south side of the hill to make it back to where we'd begun.

The Coyote headed up this trail as we headed back down to the trailhead
What made today's hike so epic is that it was one amazing workout for the body, but it also was a workout for my brain. I love maps, and I often pore over maps of the Sandias - the Southern Sandias in particular, because they are so accessible to central Albuququerque, where I live. So today's off-trail adventure helped me weave together my book-larnin' with actual on the ground experience. It's like those topographical maps have come alive in my head, and I'm more ready than ever to get out and explore some more!

Feeling exhilarated (and spent) as I walk into the sunset toward my truck
I'll be posting more great hikes in the Southern Sandias, as well as other New Mexico hikes, soon, on my blog HikeyHikey. (You'll also find hikes there, from the all over the United States, including New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and elsewhere in the Southwest and Southern California.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Soon-to-be shorts weather hiking Sandia Mountains

Spring is in the air; the sun gets brighter as each day grows longer. The air is brisk but the sun's warmth and the heat of hiking make it shorts-with-longs-sleeves weather. Today, though, I was out in jeans, wearing a long-sleeve wicking layer, a thin cotton sweater and down vest, and I felt comfortable as well. I have days off next week and will plan my hike-wear accordingly as I explore the Southern Sandias.

Your blogger, Brian, descending a dry waterfall in the Southern Sandias
Today I hiked with a friend across a saddle ridge and down into a canyon that led up to a humongous dry white-walled waterfall, which we climbed. From the top I could see the up into the textured South Mountain side peaks. I took a few pics; below are two of my favorites. I'll share more, along with the story of how to execute this hike, on my blog HikeyHikey.

Trail leading northeast from Hilldale Trailhead to the U-Mound Ridge
Looking west toward the U-Mound, from halfway up dry waterfall

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Back to old habits can be a good thing

I feel like for the last two months I have not been living MyFitLife2Day so much as MyLazyWinterLife2Day. But that's all changing as of this moment. It's about my decisions (right Tony) and not the conditions of my life that determine my destiny.

So some bad habits that have crept steadily back into my life since my return from the low desert of Southern California's Coachella Valley to the Rio Grande Valley in the high desert of North Central New Mexico. Meanwhile, my remaining good habit - hiking! - has waned because I've been wussing out with the cold, windy weather we've been having intermittently throughout the season.

Tomorrow, Saturday, today by the time I post this, is supposed to be heavenly outdoors. I will get up earlyish, have some oatmeal and a big cup of joe, and get some work done at home; then, after my 30-minute medicine ball workout I'll have my mid-morning snack of greek yogurt and blueberries before heading out the door to take care of some business in Nob Hill (about a 2-mile round trip walk from home).

I'll walk home, picking up some carved chicken from the market on the way, and get my gear together for a nice two-hour hike in Sandia Mountain Wilderness and the Foothills.

Sunday will not be as nice outdoors, so I'll plan on going to the gym to stretch and life weights on Sunday. I hope to not be too sore on Sunday to do another set of my medicine ball workout. I am seriously feeling the need to take care of my core now before it permanently returns to mush as a result of my temporary return to the sedentary lifestyle this winter.

Bueno, it's time to hit the hay. Tomorrow's a new fit day!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Let's hike, let's trek, let's see nature the way it's let

Southern sun over the Missouri River, from bluffs west of St. Louis

Life is like a river, whether shallow or deep, short or long, held back or head strong. There is only one.

Erosion and expansion near the mouth of Tijeras Canyon, Albuquerque
There is a place in my life for romanticism, just as there is a place for existentialism. I don’t know that I visit these places as often as I visit other isms, but I do just fine.

Southern Sandias, near one of the ridge trails leading to Eye of the Sandias
Is there an ism for getting one’s body and one’s mind in an increasingly fit state? If so, I’m exploring that ism.

Saguaro Sunset over Tuscon, from Saguaro National Park East
Truth be told, I’m a Mojave Joshua Tree, a desert away from the dance promised to me in the Sonoran by my partner in crime-fighting, Saguaro.

Mojave Joshua Tree looms in the direction of the Sonoran, Ryan Mountain

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An afternoon in the Southern Sandia Foothills, Tijeras Canyon Open Space

Today I went on a short hike in the Tijeras Canyon Open Space, from the Camino de la Sierra trailhead in the southeast portion of the Supper Rock neighborhood to the "new cactus", a 30-foot agave plant sculpted from what look like shiny missile shells, located on the north side of Interstate 40 at the base of a large hill near the mouth of Tijeras Canyon.

The Tin Agave along Route 66, Tijeras Canyon Open Space, Carnuel, NM
The hill is probably just a half mile from the trailhead. I parked along Sierra, and from there I took the path with trail signage pointing to the intersection of the Foothills Trail (#365), which leads north toward the Copper Trailhead and south, to a random point along the interstate, where it just stops. I crossed the 365 and traversed a narrow alluvial plane composed of the eroding South Mountain Foothills, my sites set on hiking the snowy north-facing side of a large hill that that stood before me in the distance, remarkably back-dropped by the Manzanita Mountains and capped with a dropping afternoon sun.

The views from the top of that worn down yet still majestic mound begged me to scramble down its sun-drenched, boulder-strewn southern slope. At my weight, my impact on the environment is greater than so-called normal weight folks. But fortunately, I can count on built-up core strength - from my intensive 2010 medicine ball workouts and tons of 2012 hiking to keep me on solid ground, even in scree or talus zones. Always considering Leave No Trace ethics, I carefully avoided sections of trail labeled "closed for re-vegetation" and stepped mindfully to avoid uprooting the dry high desert grasses with my sometimes clumsy feet.

Looking east toward Albuquerque from Tijeras Canyon Open Space
Scrambling up and down boulder fields gives a rush of adrenaline which, mixed with the endorphins released from sustained aerobic activity, is like taking a big breath of happy gas. And after each hairy bouldering maneuver, I'd analyze my next move as I gazed at the views in all directions - To the west, and the high speed crawl toward downtown Albuquerque, to the south, across the southern expanse of Rio Grande Valley where mountain-dotted horizon meets silver-lined burnt-winter sky, to the east, where the highway disappears under the Rt. 66 overpass heading into Carnuel, and to the north, at the fallen rock landscape of steep slopes hiding the Eye of the Sandias on its perch high above the canyon. The experience was just this side of overwhelming. Thank goodness, because it was really the perfect amount of whelm.

Southern Sandia Foothills, Tijeras Canyon Open Space, Tin Agave Hike

For me, it was the last hike of 2012. Here's a pic of today's short but still epic hike. Stay tuned for more hiking in 2013! You'll find more hiking posts on my goals blog Man of Merit and my hiking blog HikeyHikey.