Sunday, March 26, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide Top Pick 2016

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Gear, Miscellaneous, Uncommon Sense

Our Top Outdoor Gift Idea this year is a HEADLAMP.  Why a headlamp?   Because we care….PLUS:

Headlamp? For those of us who use poles, it’s a no-brainer.  Put in your pack even if you know  you’ll be done before dark.  Stuff happens OTT (on the trail). Explore caves, tunnels, enjoy!  Why this model?  Black Diamond Spot is lightweight, waterproof and has great features.   The red light is used at night so we don’t blind our buddies or lose our night vision.  It comes in great colors – get a bright one for yourself and your favorite hiking buddy.

But also use for:

  • Travel ~ If you’re in a hotel room and want to continue reading while your partner wants the light out – BINGO! The aim-hinge helps your neck and posture.   (So does putting your book on a pillow)
  • Safety ~ for those of us in earthquake land, we know to keep a pair of sturdy shoes under our bed, at the ready. A pair of socks goes in one and the headlamp (when not in the hiking pack) goes in   the other.  That way we have our hands available.

As we get older (beats the alternative), we need ways to stay safe.  Once you get accustomed to using a headlamp, you’ll never go back.  But – please – use it.

Note:  when in your pack – LOCK IT! It can go on inadvertently in your pack and you end up with a dead battery/useless headlamp.  So read the instructions and use in health!620621_torc_spot_headlamp_web

Custom Directions:

I find the directions a little murky, so here’s a recap:  Open with the little lever on the side &  install batteries (included).   Then give yourself a tutorial:

  • One press for strong spot. One press for off
  • 2 quick presses for double (reading) light
  • 3 quick presses for flashing lights
  • Press and hold (about 2 seconds) for red (night) light

Keep pressing (4 to 6 seconds) to lock – again – VERY IMPORTANT to keep light from accidentally going on and draining the battery – blue lock light will come on.  Press and hold (4 to 6 seconds) to unlock.

Notice battery monitor – cool huh?

Once on, if you press and hold, all lights will dim.

Power tap on side will alternate between custom dimmed setting and full strength.

This really is the coolest headlamp – now practice, have fun and please USE IT.   Aim it vs. straining your neck.  If reluctant, try reading with it and we hope you think it’s the best reading lamp ever!

Holiday Gift Guide #4 – Do you have knees?

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Fitness & Health, Gear

Hikers have knees.  We love our poles and they help save our knees – BUT – knees can still ache the next day after a tough hike.  When I ICE, I don’t hurt.  When I don’t ice, my knees are often quite vocal the next day.  Hit me over the head with a sledgehammer!

The problem is that they don’t hurt that day or evening, just the next day.  But NEVER when I ice.  I recently ordered a bunch of ice packs and this is the one I likeI don’t put it on bare skin.  I wrap it around really snugly and it provides some compression as well.  It’s EXCELLENT and so reasonably priced.

I can even put it in my cooler between 2 ice packs and have ice right after my hike.  Why make your kidneys pay (ibuprophen, NSAIDS, etc.) when applying ice directly helps?   Note:  You may not think you need ice because you don’t SEE swelling.  But if you have discomfort – ICE, ICE, ICE!

Also, in our opinion, EVERYONE should have a good ice pack in the freezer, ready to go.  I’ve used this on elbows, ankles, knees, shoulders….stuff happens!

Hiking Guidelines

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

BUDDY HIKES:  As people join our energetic hiking-for-exercise group, it’s helpful to communicate how we are VERY different from other groups.  I know this seems like a LOT, but every single one of these guidelines has emerged from some issue or concern.  Our goal is for everyone to have a good time and, since that’s different for everyone, please read before you join us:

Our prime directive is exercise.  Secondarily, we love nature.  That we can get great exercise – outside – and connect with our buddies is wonderful, but the social is an ancillary benefit to being outside exercising.

Chatter:  We are a “small” group by design.  Large groups of 16 to 20 can have 8 to 9 different, competing conversations.  It can get loud, when some of us want to hear the birds, the frogs, the burbling water, even the wind in the groaning trees.

  • Many people go into nature for the serenity.  4+ hours of competing conversations is not serene.
  • Some hikers are sound sensitive; some are hard of hearing.  One hiker I knew got migraines from the loud voices and stopped hiking with us.
  • Our hiking group is not the usual – show up, hike, social/chatty hiking group; hence these guidelines.
  • Quiet zones are where we walk in complete silence (except for trail hazard warnings).  They include early starts in places like Muir Woods where people go for serenity,  morning walks through campgrounds where people might be sleeping or waking, places where hazards are present so everyone can hear the warnings, as well as along streams, entering non-system trails or anytime a hiker requests “radio silence.”
  • Please do not wait for the leader to call a quiet zone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and, if in doubt,  listen.  Remember Shinrin Yoku!

Trail Hazards & Conditions:  We call warnings – “Low Branch,” “Poison Oak in the Trail,” “NEWT!” We ask the last person on the trail to acknowledge this so we know everyone has heard it.   This means that conversations must take second place to trail awareness.   Please be aware and ON so that everyone is safe and has a good time, even if part of that time is quiet.  If anyone steps on a newt – the consequences are too severe to put in writing.

Confirm:  Trail head locations and start times can change due to weather or whim.  We ask that you reply to the hike coordinator to let him/her know of your intention to join us.  If it’s a meet-up hike listing, keep your status current.

Plus One:  Please do not extend an invitation to someone  without first checking with the hike coordinator.  If you do bring a buddy, please make sure s/he reads these guidelines before joining us.

OTT:  We start walking at the posted start time – it’s our OTT (on the trail) time.  If you have a specific time you must finish by, let the hike leader know before the hike starts.

Stopping:  We plan our gear adjustment stops/pauses collectively to minimize non-hiking time.  When hiking in rain – many more stops!  If you are stopping for photos, it is up to you to catch up with the group.

Biology breaks:  call your need (for this or any other reason to pause or stop), we’ll either wait or continue more slowly (if it’s a trail without an intersection).  Please do not walk ahead of the group for a biology break and then expect everyone to wait for you.

Trail Etiquette: 

  • Wait at intersections.
  • If there’s a substantial spacing in the group, it’s important to make sure the last person is with the group.  If you’re in the lead, occasionally look back.
  • If you’re lagging, try to keep up, even if it means less talking, more walking.  It might surprise you how much more expeditiously you can hike if you focus on the trail instead of chatting with your buddies.   But, if you’re having trouble, let the leader or another hiker know.
  • If your plan is to go at your own pace, let the leader know at the start.
  • Please do not stop in the middle of the trail causing everyone behind you to stop.  Pull off to the side so those who like to keep moving (even if more slowly so you can catch up) can do so.
  • If you have your cell on (for GPS, work or medical reasons), try to turn it low or vibrate.  If you get a call while hiking, please hang back away from the group to have your conversation.

Perfume:  don’t wear it.

No Cussing Please:  Profanity isn’t pretty.

Pole Etiquette:  make sure your pole tips are under your control and not aiming at other hikers.

Hike Descriptions:   We try to accurately describe the hikes so that hikers can decide if they’d like to join us for that hike.  If you confirm your intention to join us, please plan to join us for the stated hike.  This helps prevent schisms and extra conversation on the trail.  However, sometimes people need to shorten the hike for all kinds of reasons.   If you need to peel off, it is essential that you inform the hike coordinator as soon as possible.   Hiking back alone, especially if your reason is a medical one, may be contraindicated.

Car Pooling: 

  • Not everyone is comfortable car-pooling.  Do not offer someone else’s car or coordinate for someone else.
  • Car poolers:  Be early.  Consider tolls, parking fees and gas contributions.  Bring extra shoes for wearing in the car after the hike (or some protection for muddy boots on floor mats).

Hike Ratings (when we use them):  Hike ratings consist of a number-letter code where the number is the distance and the letter is the amount of uphill climbing.

Length (miles)

1: Up to 6
2: 6 – 10
3: 10 – 15
4: 15 – 20

Elevation Gain (feet)

A: under 1,000
B: 1,000 to 2,000
C: 2,000 to 3,000
D: 3,000 to 4,000

Hiking & Ticks

May 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

this is not the first post on this blog about ticks .

Last week, after a magical morning hike on Mt. Diablo, I announced a tick check before we got into our cars.  We also did 2 or 3 tick checks while out OTT (on the trail).  Even with the post-hike tick check, I found a tick at my hairline about 30 minutes after getting into the car.  I did not have anyone check my hairline and this was a huge mistake.  A hiking buddy recently sent this link regarding tick removal out to our hiking group.  It’s a one-minute video that’s well-worth watching.

Let’s be safe outside!

Purchasing Poles Long Distance

April 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Gear, Poles

Blog Readers:  Jane is a lovely lady who is enjoying life, mobility and her poles.  She was happy to share her experience with you and I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures!  Her generous donation to her community is helping others to maintain their independence as well!

“Dear Jayah:  Living in the green state of Tennessee, I love to walk outdoors. I use my LEKI poles every time I do, even when I take the newspaper to my neighbor.

Because I wear trifocals, whenever I walk down a slant, I have to tip my head down to see where I’m going. That tilts my body forward, which is probably why I began falling face down on the sidewalk. Twice I had blood streaming down my lip. That’s when I googled hiking sticks. And found you!

First I purchased your hiking video, then I got the mobility one, too, and studied them both. My husband and I had a good telephone conversation with you, and the upshot was that you sent us a large box with five sets of poles to choose from.  With your guidance and expertise, I chose the LEKI and Mark chose Exerstriders. Then we sent the other three sets back to you in the same box. Easy.

Some might say all this was expensive. But compared to a doctor’s visit or replacing a pair of glasses or a front tooth, the dollars we sent you were peanuts.

Because at age 85 I’m beginning to have arthritis in my hands, I’ve been using the biking gloves you recommended. Their padding works just fine. Mark, age 87, doesn’t need them.

People sometimes tease me.”Are you waiting for snow?” I grin and reply, “I’m just down from the Alps.” Other friends ask me how to get poles for themselves. I don’t feel qualified to give medical advice, so Mark and I have donated both of your videos and several sets of poles to the Therapy Department here at Uplands Village, our continuing care retirement home. They plan to give a demonstration at the next Executive Chat.

Mark and I will tell about the lovely hike we just had, up and down the rocky hillside and along the bubbling creek. We do live in a beautiful, park-like spot.

See how your good work is spreading! Many, many thanks for your personal interest in my staying healthy and active.   Love and a hug,  Jane”

Pole Etiquette, Safety and READ BEFORE you Borrow My Poles

September 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Pole Tips, Poles, Uncommon Sense

The other day a participant in my class was walking and eating an apple with her poles dangling in front of her.  My immediate response was – STOP!  Please don’t walk with your poles dangling down because you can trip on them.  I know this because I have (several times) gotten all mixed up – poles, legs, hiking – yikes!

Then it registered to me that she was EATING an apple.  She was borrowing my top end, foam grip poles.  They’re discontinued and I have only a few pairs left to loan or sell.

This put me in the VERY uncomfortable position of having to ask her to please finish her apple and wipe off her hands before she resumed with my poles.  She completely understood and was gracious.   I loan gear and people expect it to be CLEAN.

Please, if you are a participant in one of my classes, consider that bananas, apples, sticky energy bars, etc.  do not mix well with high-performing pole grips.  Sticky grips – yick!

 

Mindfulness prevents falls

This is the exercise I teach at all my mobility classes because it encourages and enhances mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the syncing of the brain with the body.  As our body slows and our brain speeds ahead at its “regular” rat-race pace, this imbalance puts us at increased risk for falls.  When using poles for mobility, this mindfulness enables you to take a moment to remember to take your hands out of the straps.  Remember, never stand up or sit down with your hands in the straps. 

MODIFIED SQUAT:  This one simple exercise is excellent for slowing the brain down as well as improving:

  • leg strength (great for balance)
  • circulation
  • improved function (what’s more functional than standing up/sitting down?)
  • core strength which can significantly relieve back pain/discomfort/strain
  • plus it “tunes” the vestibular system  **  (see below)
  • excellent for posture and posture awareness (again, when done optimally)

The key to this exercise is the breath.  Learn and practice pursed lip breathing (also known as Pilates breathing)

  • Inhale fully thru your nose
  • Exhale thru pursed lips as if whistling
  • Notice the feeling in your tummy muscles (rectus abdominus) – the tightening (engagement/contraction/recruitment) of these core muscles is what helps your back

Starting Position:

  • Standing in front of a chair, feel the front of the chair at the back of your legs
  • Neutral Spine (see elsewhere on this blog for tips on optimal posture)
  • Feet and legs approx. hip width apart, keep parallel
  • Knees aim in same direction as feet (either straight ahead or slightly out – not in)

To Sit down:

  • Inhale and stand tall, feel front of chair at back of legs
  • Pursed lip exhale as you Slowly lower into chair, hinging at the hips (stick your bottom back – this is where you think of a public toilet)
  • Use arms if needed
  • Don’t “plop.”  Plopping Impact is really bad for the back
  • Use an arm chair if necessary – it’s the same amount of effort, but redistributed
  • Keep knees aligned (weakness in legs often brings knees together as a compensation)

To Stand:

  • Inhale while seated, elongating spine
  • Pursed lip exhale to rise, exhale throughout the entire standing process
  • Shift weight forward and rise. (as rising, lift from hamstrings, push forward with gluts and press in to feet – as in a dead lift)
  • Pause standing, check your balance
  • Squeeze gluts as you stand
  • Use an armchair if you tend to “hoist” yourself up.  This use of momentum often involves the low back vs. using the breath and the core

Return to seated position with legs also wide apart and knees pointing same direction as toes.

  • Each one of these is a rep (short for repetition)
  • Do up to 10 reps at a time until fatigue.
  • No pain!  Nothing should hurt even a little.  Use a sturdy arm chair if your knees complain.
  • When this is easy, slow them down .  Slower is harder and works (strengthens) the legs more.  Follow your breath.

FREE DO-OVERS

  • If you stand up without good form, you didn’t forget – you remembered late and you get free do-overs for life!
  • Called public toilets because as you sit down you stick your bottom out as if you don’t want to touch the toilet
  • Really focus on your body mechanics on this exercise.
  • This highly functional exercise will strengthen your legs.
  • Do these more slowly as you progress
  • Progress to arms crossing chest as legs get stronger.  You can also reach arms forward as you rise

**How to create healthy new habits that improve performance & safety.  Going the Distance, Article in 12/29/13 Parade Magazine by Bruce Grierson

“Simply standing up more is the best thing sedentary people can do to start becoming healthier, maintains Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., the former director of Life Sciences for NASA and author of the book Sitting Kills. The painless act of rising from your chair pumps blood from the feet to the head, and tunes the vestibular system, which helps maintain blood pressure and keeps you steady on your feet.”

Blister Prevention

June 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Trail Tips

Whether you’re walking The Camino or just day hiking, blisters can ruin your day/week/journey.  Here are some tips:

  • Sock liners – for more challenging hikes, I use compression socks as my sock liners.  (search this blog for more info on compression socks) – they reduce fatigue.  The friction occurs between the socks, not between the hiking socks and your feet.
  • Keep moisture to a minimum.  Alternate hiking shoes if you can.  Make sure shoes dry completely between wearings.  Use a fan or boot dryer – air circulation is key.
  • Stop immediately if you feel a “hot spot.”  That’s a blister trying to form.  Do not tough it out.   Affix some sort of protection.
  • Make sure your shoes fit properly.  Lace creatively to reduce unwanted friction.
  • I prophylacticly prevent blisters on my RIGHT heel by placing a piece of moleskin (not mole foam) lengthwise at the back of my heel and then I put a piece of cover-stretch tape over it.   I then carefully put my compression socks on making sure I don’t curl the edges of the tape.
  • Carry pre-cut mole skin and pre-cut cover-stretch in a little plastic baggie in your medical kit.    Cover-stretch tape will stay even with moisture.  It’s gentle on the skin.  If you try to put moleskin on when you’ve been hiking, it will not stay.   Practice with the cover-stretch so you learn how to “stretch” it over the moleskin.
  • Treat blisters with Glacier Gel or some other fancy, space-age treatment.   REI has lots of options.  Carry several in your medical kit.  We like Adventure Medical Kits (available at REI).  They’re a bit more expensive, but so worth it quality wise and sport-specific.

Remember to please shop REI and/or Amazon FROM THIS BLOG – click link on right hand side.  It affords us a small commission that costs you nothing.

Cover-Roll Stretch – 2″ x 10 yards available at medical supply or compression store

Got a blister prevention or treatment tip?  Please comment!  🙂

Addendum from Dr. DMP:  …from a medical perspective sometimes “blisters” can result in complications and cellulitis and be more serious than you allude to; a warning about seeking medical attention if the lesions do not heal is warranted.

Hiking Etiquette – Listening to nature

June 22, 2015 by  
Filed under Nature, Trail Tips, Uncommon Sense

I was MORTIFIED the other day when hiking with a regular hiking group.

We started at Muir Woods and I wanted to go ahead to warm up before our climb.  Plus, the quiet of Muir Woods early in the morning is magical.  I passed a gentleman and his son experiencing the wonder of this national monument.  I overheard the tourist quietly challenging his son to find a more wondrous experience.  He said it’s better than being in church.   I stopped to point out a few of the natural wonders with them.  We found ourselves whispering because the silence of the woods was serene and profound.  There’s even a sign asking people to respect the quiet of the woods.

Towards the end of the woods, I heard a cacophony of sound resonating thru the forest.  I knew immediately that it was “my” hiking group approaching.  I felt embarrassed.  The man and his son pulled to the side so the group could pass and I told him to go along because – thankfully – we were heading up a trail out of Muir Woods.

This hike was on the small side for this group – maybe 10 people, vs. the usual 15 to 20.  Imagine what that kind of noise an even larger group would have made.  This is a nature experience people go to early so they can enjoy the serenity and majesty of the big trees.

Large groups often have multiple conversations going on and people have to speak more loudly as they compete to be heard.  Long ago a woman, standing on a bridge over the stream at Muir Woods, asked our small group of 4 to be quiet.  I thanked her for reminding me.   I have a friend who hikes behind just so he can hear the sounds of nature.  Many times, I’ve had to remind  our hiking group to please be quiet as we approach and are near water.   I wish I did not have to remind people that part of the experience of hiking – in addition to the EXERCISE and the socialization –  is being able to hear the birds and the water and the wind.

I am going to request RADIO SILENCE the next time I lead an early morning group through Muir Woods.  Good luck to me.

Does this post resonate with you?  Or tick you off?  Either way, thanks for reading!

Pole Care

May 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Gear, Pole Tips, Poles

Take good care of your poles and they’ll take good care of you.

  • When your poles get dirty – wipe them down.
  • When your poles get wettake them apart and let them dry overnight.
    • morning dew, fog, rain, stream crossings – any moisture at all can cause corrosion
  • If you get poison oak on your poles, wash them with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, using enough soap or alcohol to cut the oil not just move it around.   Do not use Tecnu.
  • Never lubricate your poles.
  • If your poles start “sticking,” you’ll need to clean them with a pole cleaning kit – outside, with newspaper to prevent metal shavings from causing trouble.  With a little preventative care you can avoid this and you’ll keep your poles happy and healthy for YEARS.  🙂

You need to know how to take your poles apart and put them back together.  Some people are actually fearful of this and it’s a basic requirement  for pole care and travel.  It’s easy when you know how.

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