Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fitness for the Frugal - 5 Items NOT to Skimp On

Fitness items come in waves of fads and fashions, but here are a few necessities that we shouldn't skimp on:

1. Water bottles

Reused disposable water bottles can leak harmful chemicals into your drinks, as can cheaply made plastic washable bottles. Opt for stainless steel or BPA-free plastics and remember, you will not have to replace it nearly as often.

2. Shoes

Proper footwear is key. It can mean the difference between injury and fitness, comfort and blisters. Hiking shoes have extra grips, running shoes extra cushions, biking shoes that allow for clip-ins. Shoes are often on clearance, especially if you are more worried about price than color or style, but always have a good pair suitable for your activity.

3. Helmets and safety gear

This one is a no-brainer. It doesn't have to have a designer label on it, but safety gear for whatever sport you are choosing should be something you never skimp on. Helmets should be appropriate for the activity and should be replaced if they are ever subjected to a heavy impact. They have done their job at that point and they need to be retired. Ropes and climbing gear should be inspected before every use for frays and weak points, etc. Staying safe should be a higher priority than saving money. If you can't afford the gear for a certain activity, choose another one until your first preference is within your financial limits.

4. UV Protection

Even winter sports fanatics can be sensitive to the sun's rays reflecting off the snow, and summer sports fanatics know that sunscreen, sunglasses, and the right clothes make long trips and the days following much more pleasant than a nasty case of sunburn. If you are at a high risk for skin cancer or sensitive to the sun due to illness or medications, this goes double (or triple!) for you.

5. A great attitude

Absolutely free! Don't let money worries ruin your plans. Choose something within your limits - there is always something within reach. There are local, state and national parks available to use free of charge. There are discount vacations, natural wonders, and adventures right outside your front door if you know where to look. Bad weather, injury, and other minor catastrophes will happen, unfortunately. But with a great attitude, it can become a tiny mishap compared to a ruined day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Survival of the Fittest...Or the Most Prepared?

There are a lot of shows on TV these days focusing on survival tactics. From extreme heat to extreme cold, from inner city riots to post-apocalyptic scenarios, cable television plays out over and over again the basic needs of survival.

Most of the survival situations come upon us unannounced - for example, a vehicle breaks down in the desert or a plane crashes into the water. Most of them we cannot relate to, and hopefully will never have to recall them.

However, we often put ourselves into (albeit less) dangerous situations on our planned outdoor excursions without even realizing it.

Like last week, for example, I decided to bike about halfway back from our hiking trip. I had my husband drop me and my bike off on the side of the road when we reached six miles from home.

"Are you sure?" He asked me worriedly. "Its pretty windy out today."

"I'll be fine," I nearly scoffed back at him. "We do six all the time and this is all flat this way!"

He drove off in his truck, I put my helmet and backpack on, and followed on my bike. Within minutes the truck was far from sight down the long country back road. The wind, however, was brutal.

Determined not to give in, I pedaled on. I was thrilled when I found the street that marked my halfway point, because it meant I'd be turning south and finally have the wind at my back. Only as I pedaled further after the turn, I realized - this wasn't the right road.

I was close to home, so I was not lost. I knew exactly where I was. I also knew the road I was on and the road going home did NOT meet. At all. The road I was on led to a busy, busy highway with a shoulder just wide enough for Evel Knievel to ride his bike along next to the speeding semi-trucks.

And I wasn't him.

My six mile ride home turned into a nine mile ride home, of which one half mile was ridden on lawns and fields along the above mentioned highway to avoid the shoulder catastrophe. So it also, besides growing in length, turned into a mountain bike ride.

It was a hot sunny day, but I had a backpack full of water, graham crackers, and fruit snacks. I had a helmet and a cell phone and identification. The most danger I was in was having to face the embarrassment of calling my husband and admitting to him what I did wrong on the ride.

However, had I left without my phone, or without water and snacks, it could've been another story altogether. If I had been hit by a car and didn't have my wallet, how would they know who I was? Or who to call?

If I didn't come home on time, where would my husband look for me? Certainly not on the roads I was on. If I was smart, I would've called or texted him an update. I could've said I had plenty of energy and was taking the long way - to avoid the embarrassment - instead of hiding in shame and risking the highway without anyone knowing I was even on it!

My friend and I went hiking the other day, and I brought four water bottles total for myself and my two kids, plus water in the cooler in the car to refill. She brought two water bottles for herself and three kids.


Often we purposely put ourselves into situations where we could dehydrate, get poison ivy, get lost, get injured, all for the sake of having fun while staying fit. It makes sense to at least carry a small bag of gear to deal with these things or avoid them completely.

We need to have fun, be brave, get fit, explore. But we need to be prepared!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't Judge a Book by its Helmet

"Be careful!"

Two little words. They mean well - they shouldn't be enraging. Its almost comical really.

I'm sure it would get a good laugh, and I'm sure tomorrow I'll laugh about it. Because it is kind of humorous, right? Except tonight it isn't.

Not to me tonight. Not to me sore and wishing I was just the same and carefree as everyone else seems to be.

I was out on my bike ride today - my newest obsession in my quest for fitness. I have found that I love to ride. When I ride, the only hurts I feel are good hurts, like the burn of exercise a normal person feels, the burn of muscles rebuilding, getting stronger. Not the aching of joints and shots of nerve pain, but pure strong exhilaration.

Yet one of my problems is I get dizzy. I'm on meds too, and one of their side effects - you guessed it - dizziness. Double doses of dizziness, great!

I don't fall down (yet), but it can be disorientating. So I decided if I'm going to ride a bike and zip down hills and fly around corners and share the road with cars, I'm going to wear a helmet. Because with my luck, one of those moments, those zipping moments, will be the first time I fall.

And herein lies the problem.

Because I don't go all out with the style - I don't commit. I ride a mountain bike, as of now, until I save up enough pennies for a road bike. I wear jeans. Yep, jeans. I wear a light, or white, t-shirt, and its usually baggy.

None of this builds a picture of speed in your head, does it?

So I can see why the friendly neighborhood man thought the helmet a bit out of place. I could see why he might mistake me for someone else, someone with a more severe disability.

I can see, just a teeny, tiny, eensy, weensy bit why he would smile at me like I am "special."

Yet I am mad!

"Be careful," he says as I pass, with that smile you reserve for children or the naive or the slow.

"Be careful."

And I ride on, enraged.

But I still wear my helmet. Most of us should wear helmets. Some of us need helmets. Others don't need to know why.

Tomorrow I will laugh about this. For tonight, though, I just ride.