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DUALITIES. BALANCE. THINK ABOUT IT.

Dualities. Balance. Yin and Yang. Effort and ease. Activity and stillness. Community and solitude. Sound and silence. The list just might be infinite. Sage Rountree (http://sagerountree.com) introduced the concept of dualities to those of us participating in training at Kripalu to Teach Yoga to Athletes. It is a profound concept.

It’s something we think about – a lot – in the practice of Yoga. Life is so full of ups and downs, ins and outs, happy and sad, ease and disease. Our quality of life, our emotional and mental stability, in fact our very lives, depend on the balance of these opposites, these dualities, these partners in each individual existence. And it is, in fact, a balance rather than the elimination of one or the other. Many dualities are equally positive or equally challenging, just different. Often it is a matter of coincidence, coordination, comingling, cooperation.

In our Yoga practice, we give equal time to stretch and strength, twist and bend, prone and supine, kneeling, standing, lunging, forward fold, back bend, Tadasana and Savasana. And those are just the Asanas, or physical poses. (Asanas are but one of the eight limbs of Yoga so there’s plenty more to practice!)

In the gym we make certain to cover all our bases: warm up and cool down, challenge ourselves aerobically, build muscular strength, enhance quickness and coordination, balance without falling as well as balancing opposing muscle groups in training, and, of course, flexibility.

Once again I am reminded of the shared elements of all forms of training. Yoga has been around for a very long time, so coincidences in functional training, physical therapy, Pilates, and so much more can usually be traced back to some form of Yoga. Likewise, practice in one discipline aids performance in another.

Perhaps I find it most significant to remember that there is no right or wrong. Of course, asking each individual body to move in a way appropriate to that body, seeking maximal alignment for each, is key. Repeatedly practicing a movement, a training exercise or a Yoga pose inappropriately leads only to overuse or even wear and tear that negates the effort invested over long periods of time.

But that being said, there should be no feuds between instructors, coaches, athletes, or schools of practice.

Josh Summers (https://joshsummers.net/podcast/what-is-yin-yoga/) presents an excellent definition of Yin Yoga. The notion that Yin and Yang are BOTH valid and should BOTH be practiced, simply triggers the imagination to consider the value of blending opposites of all kinds.

Balance is, after all, equilibrium.

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For the past three weeks I have indulged in shared time spent with my dog, or friends, or family. Each dynamic generously gifts its own special blessing. This year has been different from past in that my “me-time” has been with my 11 month old Lab. (As my brother quipped, “it’s just like having a toddler!”) She has been by my side for multiple and daily trail walks, swims, off leash runs/on leash training, and even a little rock scrambling in Camdenhttp://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/camden-hills-state-park-interior-trail-network). We’ve both learned a great deal about each other and have kept each other moving almost constantly, mutually increasing fitness as we go.

Balancing outdoor activity have been hours of Yoga practice (both Vinyasa and Yin at Freeport Yoga Company, http://freeportyogaco.com) and the deck.

Time spent on the deck where I am living is time sketched in gold. Vivid oranges and pinks fire up the day even before the sun makes its early appearance, bouncing color and energy off the surface of the water. (No wonder Sun Salutations are integral to one’s Yoga practice.) Though the sunset on the other side of the peninsula is equally dramatic, there is something oh so lovely about its residual glow from our deck. And the full moon? There are not words …. But if it weren’t for the deck, would I pause to sit there and observe?

The deck is the intuitive gathering place for all of us. Sophie could sit there and look for hours. My family and I can talk endlessly, but there always comes the fall into a reverent or contemplative silence – just watching. Tides ebb and flow, lobster boats motor up and down the sound working while I play, fish rise and re-enter with a significant slap, ducks search for food as cormorants dive under for so long I wonder if they’ll ever reappear. They do.

But it is not in stillness that my random thoughts are born. Movement, not stillness, generates curiosity, the attempt to define, ponder or even organize what floats in and out of mind. Hours spent hiking the trails, walking the rocky shoreline, or riding the roads are the hours that produce thoughts that beg follow up study.

So, in my experience this summer, it seems that balance has been paramount. The Yin and Yang of the hours teach. May I be a receptive student.

CREATE YOUR OWN, PERSONAL LOGO? WHY NOT?

 

A logo is a symbol that helps to represent or identify a particular business, organization or individual. A logo plays a key role in “branding.”

Did you notice that I said “individual?” Do you have a logo? If not, why not?

Creating your own, personal logo is not just crafting a design, but it is an exercise in probing who you are, how you identify, what you would like others to see in you, and perhaps peeling away a few layers to find core values, purpose and preferences.

After developing this website in 2014, I waited to work with a professional to design a logo. I’m glad I waited. This is not something to do frivolously or hurriedly. And, most likely, it is not something to do only once.

With a few simple lines, colors or words, one must snapshot a profession, service, career, qualifications, or even a belief system. Good grief! While a logo might characterize services available, it equally suggests more intrinsic values and personality.

Let me use my own new logo as an example. While I chose to work with a professional designer, it was also significant that she is a friend who knows me – my work and enthusiasm. What I thought would be a quick and easy exercise (since I had done plenty of groundwork prior to our first meeting), turned into months of give and take, trial and error, introspection and expression.

Professionally I have altered my course. Yes, I am still a dedicated Personal Trainer working with individuals and small groups. Yes, I have untold hours of continuing education and training in many aspects of fitness, sports performance and rehabilitation. And while I am still passionate about cycling, I am no longer teaching multiple Spinning® classes per week or spending hours and indeed days on the road riding and training.

My life has taken a turn that perhaps is more a continuum, bringing me back full circle to my early days. As a 13 year old, I began a series of 3 summers on scholarship at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Massachusetts. (I went on to have a long and successful classical dance career performing and later teaching.) When I began the study of yoga in January 2015, I attended an eye-opening workshop, Yoga for Athletes, with Sage Rountree, at Kripalu – just a stone’s throw from Jacob’s Pillow. Full circle?

In any event, I am now a dedicated Yoga practitioner, thrilled to be a student, and, with my RYT 200 completed, am on my way to 500 hours. I am also eager to share what I am learning, to enrich the work that I do with my clients and classes, and perhaps more. I am also passionate about family, Vermont, the outdoors, and well-being in its broadest sense.

Linda Freeman Fitness logo designed by
Carrie Baker Stahler, 2017.

Therefore my logo embodies more than a superficial business. Hopefully this one small design suggests life, health and wholeness as organic – to be lived, loved and savored.

The central design suggests an athletic body in a yoga pose that is part of the Dancing Warrior sequence, a composite of strength and grace. The mountain is Camel’s Hump, Central Vermont’s well-loved and well-hiked mountain.

The rings represent miles of cycling as well as full circles or life’s spirals. The colors? Spring green is all about newness, freshness, birth, curiosity and possibilities. Shades of blue touch on the spiritual. And orange? Orange, of course, is all about fun: laughter, playfulness, the ability to let go, be spontaneous, recognize happiness, honor joy.

It is quite possible that when I look at this logo, only I know what brought this design into being. That’s ok. It works.

What about you? You may well have a professional or business logo with which you work day in and day out. But what about yourself? Given the opportunity, how would you design a logo for yourself? What would you like to put out there for others to see? What would your logo say about you? Are you willing to expose yourself, to share, to relate, to touch?

Designing a logo can be fun/meaningful; frivolous/intense; disturbing/satisfying….

“Given the opportunity?” Well, why not? Maybe it will be just for you, tucked away in a journal or the wallpaper on your computer screen. But I suggest that the process of conceiving a personal logo is an act of self-awareness, identification and perhaps meeting yourself as others might meet you. Go ahead. Take the “opportunity” and have a go at it. What have you got to lose?

Kelly Brush Century Ride

Kelly Brush Davisson has a story to tell and work to do. The Kelly Brush Century Ride, September 12, 2015, will help. It is a ride to savor, remember, and feel good about.  Read below what was featured in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus ACTIVE VERMONT section on 8-23-2015.

Kelly Brush Davisson at the start of the 2014 Kelly Brush Century Ride

Kelly Brush Davisson at the start of the 2014 Kelly Brush Century Ride

Active Vermont: ‘Getting people back to life’

As the story goes, Forest Carey, head alpine ski coach at Middlebury College in 2006, sent his athletes home for the summer with the mandate to each to “Raise $1,000 or don’t come back.”

Though there may not have been teeth in this charge, the 20 or so member team one-upped their coach by raising $60,000 for their injured teammate, Kelly Brush, to purchase adaptive equipment that would allow her to pursue her athletic dreams.

Today, Kelly Brush Davisson is still dipping into those funds.
But there’s far more to this story. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Kelly grew up skiing in Vermont and, after graduating from the Green Mountain Valley School, went on to ski for Middlebury College. Racing in February 2006, she crashed into a lift tower, broke her back, and became yet another in the growing number of spinal cord injuries.

The damage was done at T7 (the seventh disc of the thoracic spine located in the upper back) resulting in permanent and total paralysis from that point downward.

During a long and intensive rehabilitation, Kelly thought of her then-boyfriend, Zeke Davisson, her sister, Lindsay Brush, her parents, and her friends, all of whom were still out there on the slopes skiing and subject to the same risks.

“How could this have possibly happened to me?” she thought. Furthermore, what could she do to help prevent the same thing from happening to others?

At first she wanted to form a foundation to improve ski safety. “I felt like my life as an athlete was over,” she said. “then I learned I could get back.”

Getting back, however, is expensive. “It is so unfair for people who have this injury to be faced with higher life costs and then expensive equipment to help them live a full life.”

The Kelly Brush Foundation was born with a twofold purpose: to assist groups in promoting ski safety and, perhaps more significantly, to help injured individuals to explore and pursue the active lifestyle available to them with appropriate funding for adaptive equipment.

Zeke Davisson illustrates the problem a potential adaptive athlete faces: “If you want to do something active, say walk or run, you can buy yourself a good pair of shoes for less than $100 and head out the door. But if someone like Kelly wants to begin, even entry level costs are prohibitively expensive, starting at a minimum of $2,000 for equipment.”

The first annual Kelly Brush Century Ride. photo supplied

The first annual Kelly Brush Century Ride. photo supplied

Each year since its inception, the foundation has raised funds that are in turn awarded to selected recipients. In 2014, the foundation awarded $240,000 in grants fulfilling only a part of the $525,000 received in grant requests, yet up 62 percent from 2013. “Grants to date are nearly (if not over) $1 million,” Zeke said. The goal is to do more.

Zeke and Kelly, married in 2012, live and work as a team. I met with them at Sea Dog Brewing Company near Brunswick, Maine, where they currently live, though the foundation is located in South Burlington.

Kelly works full time as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Zeke is executive director of the Kelly Brush Foundation. One cannot spend time with this young, athletic, attractive couple without being caught up in their vivacity, enthusiasm and passion for life and their shared goals.

The fact that Kelly is in a wheelchair becomes irrelevant. She is just like everyone else.

This young woman overcame logistics and her own nerves and with the help of a team of friends, skied Tuckerman’s this spring. This same young woman not only skis, but cycles, plays golf and tennis, and drives a car to work where she pursues her chosen profession, suffering the same anxieties and stresses as others.

Kelly’s achievements are impressive. In 2009 she was awarded the NCAA Inspiration Award and followed that by winning the women’s hand cycling division of the Boston Marathon in 2011. In 2012 she was one of 10 chosen “Athletes Who Care” by Sports Illustrated, possibly topped by snagging viewers’ attention in the Buick Human Highlight Reel broadcast during the Final Four Men’s Basketball Tournament of 2013.

This year Kelly is the featured subject of a spotlight on athletes who have overcome adversity and turned that adversity into advocacy at the A2A Alliance. Anther milestone in 2015 is the 10th anniversary of the Kelly Brush Century Ride, which this year will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12.

Kelly Bush Century Ride

The sixth annual Kelly Brush Century Ride in Middlebury on Saturday drew 721 riders including 24 adaptive athletes using handcycles.The event supports the Kelly Brush Foundation raising money for spinal cord injury prevention and adaptive sports equipment grants and is one of the best attended events in the Northeast for adaptive athletes using handcycles.

Riders along the scenic route.

At a time when fundraising events proliferate, many “whose time has come” fall by the wayside from dwindling participation, the Kelly Brush Century thrives. Each year there are more cyclists, more funds raised for the foundation, and more fun had by the growing community that embraces riders new and seasoned.

Why a century ride? The Davissons are often asked that question since skiing is Kelly’s primary sport. “It just happened,” Kelly said. That first ride just took off and has mushroomed since.

Part of the attraction is the scenic and forgiving course, some of which is often described as rolling hills. The country roads meander through a piece of Vermont’s most beautiful landscape and along Lake Champlain. With the start/finish at Middlebury College, riders choose distances from 25 to 100 miles with optional turn-backs along the way. Furthermore, the event is well organized, the course well marked and the support excellent and plentiful.

Originally twice around a 50-mile loop, the full ride now continues up to Shelburne, and back, partly along the Lake. It is truly a ride designed for each participant and can be adapted according to each one’s needs for the day.

The Kelly Brush Century Ride Powered by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. Saturday, September 7, 2013. Photographs © 2013 Rajan Chawla Photography.

Photographs © 2013 Rajan Chawla Photography.

Sharing the road with hand cyclists reminds all riders why they are here (For more information, to register or to donate, go to http://kellybrushfoundation.org). Kelly, along with most hand cyclists, rides the 25-mile segment. From Jan. 1 to 7 a.m. the day of the ride there are ups and downs of planning and stress.

“It’s a really fun event, “ Kelly said. “A lot of work goes into it to make it enjoyable, a good ride, but there is definitely a stressful component.” The day itself, however, makes it all worth it.

“A month after, giving out the grant money, makes it more than worth it,” Zeke added.

One look at a smiling Kelly on century day proves the point. But right now? “As I get closer I begin to stress about the shape I’m in,” Kelly confessed. Preparation becomes a matter of logistics and conditioning.

An active lifestyle

Kelly maintains her fitness and conditioning, her athletic edge, by training and pursuing recreational and competitive activities along with Zeke, her family and friends. “You should see our garage,” Zeke said. “Kelly’s equipment claims prime real estate.”

A hand cycle is just like a bike but with three wheels. It has arms, the same gears as a regular bike and the same tires on somewhat smaller wheels but equally susceptible to flats.

Hand cycles are built for a broad range of capabilities from recreational to racing. The entry level, recreational variety is more upright and has more padding, starting at around $2,000. Racing hand cycles can range to far higher costs much the same as a two-wheeled bike, depending on materials, components and design.

Kelly added to her stable of hand cycles a mono ski and a tennis chair (similar to an everyday chair but with wheels that have enough camber to allow the chair to spin faster).

“Tennis and skiing are some of the few conventional sports that work well with or without disability,” Zeke said. Kelly also plays golf by means of her golf cart that is a power driven wheel chair designed to enable her to stand up to swing her club and drive the ball.

An investment

The Kelly Brush Century Ride is a win-win, a sure investment despite the condition of the day’s economy. Entry fees and money raised buy more than a great day for the participant, and, might I add, some of the best swag and incentive gifts around.

“All donations go directly to our mission,” Zeke said. And that mission is more expansive every year. “Over the last 2 years we have grown a ton and have become nationally recognized,” Kelly added.

The KBF has made a strategic decision to grow and has restructured accordingly. “The demand is huge and is only getting bigger,” Kelly said.

“We can never do enough,” Zeke added. “There are 12,000 newly diagnosed spinal cord injuries documented each year. An average individual grant is $3,000. We want to allow anybody with a spinal cord injury to lead an active lifestyle.”

There are two types of individuals who submit grant applications. One is clearly the athlete, perhaps injured during his or her athletic pursuit. The other is the individual who may or may not have been previously active but suddenly sees the possibilities of adding something to his or her altered life expectations.

Adaptive sports programs that offer coaching and equipment fill an essential role in developing adaptive athletes and introducing the potential to engage in sports.

“We want to be the next step,” Zeke said. “We want to offer to that individual the ability to take ownership of an active lifestyle, and to be able to join family and friends when and where the opportunity exists.”

To offer opportunity, possibility, a level playing field, this is what drives the KBF. And this is what could drive each of us as we cycle through our ride on September 12 or ask our friends for support.

“I was so active before,” Kelly said, “now this is what I want to do.” Her message? It’s all about “getting people back to life.”

The Kelly Brush Century Ride Powered by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. Saturday, September 7, 2013. Photographs © 2013 Rajan Chawla Photography.

Photographs © 2013 Rajan Chawla Photography. Kelly Brush Davisson and Lindsay Brush Getz, front row. Back row, left to right, Tom Getz, Zeke Davisson, and Kelly’s parents, Charlie and Mary Brush.

Pro Cyclists Train in Vermont Winter

As I write this it’s -12 degrees and the State of Vermont is blanketed in snow. How cold is it? It’s so cold that on Saturday an avid fatbike enthusiast came to Spinning® class instead of riding outdoors. It’s so cold that my dogs had to break the ice on their water in the heated garage. It’s so cold that many of us have finally given up and are out there bundled up to within an inch of our lives just because we can’t bear to miss another day of some sort of outdoor adventure.  Rocking Chair measures snowfall

But to think of training in this stuff, bicycle training, is a reach. Skiing? Of course, but cycling? So, to learn more, I turned to a talented you rider in Central Vermont. Keep reading.  First you will learn about Elisa Otter. What you learn may surprise you. Then you will read what she has to say about all this. Enjoy and do read on.

MEET THE ATHLETE: ELISA OTTER, by Linda Freeman, “ACTIVE VERMONT”

Elisa Otter

Elisa Otter, Montpelier native, has only begun to show what she can do and already that’s a lot. At 28, Otter has demonstrated exciting cycling potential and, as a reliable source tells me, “This gal ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Elisa Otter

From Evergreen State College in Washington state, Otter landed at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C., where she raced on the varsity mountain bike team. For a small liberal arts college “of under 1,000,” Otter says, “15 were from central Vermont.” There Otter received coaching and racing experience that catapulted her to an amazing journey.

After Wilson, Otter was recruited to coach and race as a graduate student at Union College in Southeast Kentucky.    “I was racing full-time with a sponsorship out of Kentucky,” Otter says, and then came a move to Colorado.

The name Leadville strikes fear in the hearts of runners and cyclists who know the challenges of racing there. If not fear, then respect. Otter won the National Championship for Category 1 Women (that’s overall) and then burned out. Fifty races in one summer, doing it all on one’s own, will do that to an athlete.

“I was pretty much forced to come back here,” Otter says. “I needed to ground myself.” It had been an astonishing summer, but Otter was depleted. “It was a gift,” she says. “I was able to see the window of where I want to go, but I wasn’t ready for it yet.”

After some time off and a soft re-entry, Otter got on a bike, renewed her pro license and returned to the National Championships in Pennsylvania where she finished in last place. But last place was a victory. “I did it,” Otter says. “I was scared. I had no idea you could overdo it.”

Living in Middlesex, Otter has gravitated to Northfield where she runs the after-school program at the local elementary school and is an enthusiastic member of Team Bicycle Express, a professional cycling team out of Bicycle Express bike shop on the square in Northfield.

Since 2008, under the leadership of Noah and Ezra Tautfest, TBE has worked to provide a community-based cycling experience for multiple levels of riders through professional, development and club teams who ride, train and compete in MTB, road and cyclo-cross races and events (for more information go to www.bikeexpressvt.com). Riding with TBE, “I was training for fun,” Otter says. “It was great. I took pressure off myself. I had team support, loved the camaraderie and had a blast.”

July 2014, Otter was back, finishing 13th overall in the pro field of the National Championships in a four-day comprehensive event of cross country, short track, super D (as in the enduro stage, pedaling downhill as fast as possible combining endurance and gravity skills), that tests all elements.

Post race, Otter was better able to define her goals and was “really inspired.” Next came the World Cup in Quebec and qualifying for the U.S. Team in August. “It was awesome,” Otter says. “I lined up with 60 of the best women in the world.”

Today Otter continues to find fun in her cycling experience, even as she trains for bigger and better performance challenges. She values her home, family and community in Vermont and is testing her belief that a pro cyclist can indeed live and train here yet be a national and international presence. “I’m pretty focused,” Otter says. “My teammates are going to California mid-March for national races. I’m trying to do what I can within my own budget. I hope to bike full time on sponsorship on the World Cup Circuit eventually.”

What does winter training look like for Otter? On top of her 30-hour work week, she trains six days. She has a gym membership at First in Fitness in Montpelier where she works on strength and core twice a week and then spends another 10-15 hours a week on cardiovascular, aerobic exercise either outdoors on a bike or skiing, or indoors Spinning on a trainer with her team.

Tomorrow is another matter. Speaking of TBE she says: “We definitely want to put ourselves out there as the Vermont based MTB team. Our mission is to promote a healthy lifestyle and spread the Vermont brand.” They are, after all, racing on an international level from small town Vermont.

Otter’s story tells its own message, but does she have another for you? “Keep moving,” Otter says. “We’re born to move and it’s become so easy not to. Moving stimulates happiness.” She adds, “When you start, it’s so hard it hurts. If you stick with it though, it’s euphoric.”

Article published Feb 15, 2015, “ACTIVE VERMONT”, by Elisa Otter for the Rutland Herald & Times Argus Sunday Magazine Section

Vermont: Training ground for Elite-class cyclists?

The first question asked when I say I race mountain bikes on a national level is, “Can you do that in Vermont?” It’s true. The winters are long, cold and snowy, making year-round bike riding difficult, if not impossible. It may be precisely these harsh conditions that provide the mental demand it takes to push oneself through the intensity of an endurance competition.

At least that’s what Elite-class racer Noah Tautfest of Vermont likes to think. He rides for the Bicycle Express Race Team based out of his shop in Northfield and is gearing up for highly competitive cross-country mountain bike season this year.

“It’s a mental sport when you get down to it,” Tautfest says. “Here, you have to fight the mental struggle of the harsh weather. It’s easy to do a six-hour training ride at 70 degrees in Arizona. But moving through the wind and cold, and people thinking you are crazy, that’s getting mentally prepared for the pain of a race.”

He should know. Tautfest has been spotted, bundled up and biking on a two-hour commute home in below-zero temperatures and on stormy nights. That is mental strength. Luckily for Vermonters, and according to Tautfest and top riders around the globe, cycling training does not need to be solely on a bike. In fact, mixing up training methods may be another positive aspect to training that is essentially forced in Vermont.

Montpelier native Andrew McCullough is another Vermont-based cyclist. His dedication and hard training landed him a spot on the professional road team, VCP Loudeac, based in Brittany, France.

“Being outside and moving in any capacity provides a mental freshness and inspiration to keep training,” McCullough says.

Before leaving for France, he spent a large amount of time cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking the trails of Vermont. Like Tautfest, McCullough recognizes the importance of the mental aspects of training.

Cycling, or any sport done year-round and at the volume necessary for Elite competition, can push athletes to “burnout,” a condition that can lead to severe depression. “Burnout creates gaps in training. You have to change it up, keep it interesting” McCullough says.

McCullough and Tautfest use indoor training bikes as a tool to keep legs accustomed to the motion of cycling, providing specific training for bike racing. But this method is used in conjunction with other cross-training methods and does not, and arguably should not, be the only method. The growing popularity of fat biking could change the perception of climates and conditions ideal for competitive bike training. Oversized tires (up to 5 inches wide) allow for low tire pressure and good traction on snow and ice. Centers around the country are building designated trail systems where sustained winter training on fat bikes could become a reality. Here in Vermont, Kingdom Trails in East Burke, the Catamount Family Outdoor Center in Williston and Fat Bike Vermont at Killington are already providing this service.

Endurance cycling requires pushing the body and mind to ruthless extremes. Without a solid network and the support of family, friends, teammates and coaches, an athlete will break. The small state of Vermont provides a strong sense of community out of which has come an astounding number of world-class athletes.

“I do some of my best training in Vermont,” McCullough says. “The community, camaraderie and active lifestyle are conducive to effective training. There’s so much support here and you can always find people to ride with.”

I, myself, am gearing up and training early for a competitive cross-country mountain bike season ahead. I have been racing for five years. Most of this time was spent down south where I was going to school. The last two seasons I have qualified within the Elite field and have raced with the fastest women in the country. But I have never trained through a winter in Vermont. I am curious to see if training in the cold, harsh conditions will deepen my mental capacity to overcome discomforts experienced in competition.

Will the cross-country, backcountry and Alpine skiing help me to come into the season mentally fresh and excited to ride my bike? Will living in my home state, close to the support of my family and the active community I grew up in provide a stronger a sense of self? Will Vermont prove to be a training ground for Elite cycling? We shall see.

Elisa Otter, photo by Jeb Wallace-BrodeurPhoto of Elisa Otter by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur. 

HOW TO HANDLE A TIME OF CELEBRATION…

The month of December means many things to many people, but often a season of excesses – excesses of stress, holiday parties, food, drink, spending, and perhaps more significantly, scurrying to end one year well, personally and professionally, while preparing for the start of the next.

It is often a challenge to prioritize, to keep values in order and to maintain one’s sense of humor by not taking oneself too seriously.

A reminder of Christmas playfulness.  Photo taken at Shelburne Museum 2014.

A reminder of Christmas playfulness. Photo taken at Shelburne Museum 2014.

In that spirit, I share with you what has become an annual tradition – the writing of a holiday poem gifted to me from the wonderful athletes I train at BCBS of Vermont.  These folks are burdened with bucket-loads of work and stress yet diligently and with good humor take time several days per week to exercise during their lunch break.  (Kudos to BCBS for providing this opportunity for them!) I love this poem because it is funny, irreverent and yet captures the energy and enthusiasm of each. These people “get it”.  They “get” that cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and just plain choosing to be active is what daily life should be. They, in turn, are reaping the personal benefits while their employer reaps the benefits of employee loyalty and performance.

Take a few minutes to sit back and enjoy this year’s offering.  Picture a group of men and women dressed in athletic attire sweating it out in a dedicated studio space in which a collection of free weights, stability balls, jump ropes, medicine balls, ladders, foam rollers and the like reside. Periodically I schlep in my large bags of “toys” – Bosu trainers, wobble board, rocker board, dyna bands, dyna discs, cones, tubing, agility dots, slides, and a collection of balls.  Woohoo! Sometimes we meet outdoors and sometimes we take to the halls for lunges, skips and jogs. But, throughout all there floats the sound of “c’mon, you can do it,” and “good job” as camaraderie is articulated.  And of course there’s my “Are we having fun yet?!”

A Visit from Elf Freeman

 Twas the week before Christmas and all through the gym Everyone was moaning and groaning, “Oh, let the fun begin”…

The mats and the weights were distributed with care; And we hoped that we weren’t in for a tortured affair.

 The victims were scattered all over the room; Thoughts of caterpillars and side planks still loomed

While visions of lunges and wall sits danced in their heads, Taylor said loudly, “I’d rather be sleeping in my bed”

 When inside the gym there arose such a clatter, We sprang from the mats to see                    what was the matter.

Away to the doorway we flew like a flash, Like when Linda gave orders to make a mad dash

 The weight of the weights in our newly gripped hands, Gave a luster of sweat to the tightly stretched bands

When what to our wondering eyes should appear, Is a red haired lady with all of her gear

 She’s a little slave driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment I was going to be sick

More rapid than eagles the stretches she gave; And she whistled and shouted                           and called us by name

 Julie and Renee and Janet and Will, Get on one leg and only stand still!

Susan and Holly and Lisa and Tom, Touch your left knee to your right palm!

 Run then walk, now walk then run, She asked with a smile, “Are we having fun?”

To the top of the Bosu to the end of the hall, Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

 Stop and go the other way she proclaimed,We could all feel our quads going up in flames!

Back to the mats with post and with haste For some more exercise at a fast pace!

 More pushups, more sit-ups and more rotation too, It was not time to bid Linda adieu!

Hoping and praying that the torture would soon end, Tom knew he couldn’t do one more bend!

One by one we glance at the clock, And each of us can only gawk!

For it is 1:30 and it’s not through; There was at least 10 more minutes and we all knew.

 Our droll little bodies drawn up like a bow, And the flab of our chins were as white as the snow

The stump of our legs held our bodies beneath, And the steam it encircled our heads like a wreath

 She was bubbly and happy a right jolly ole elf, And she laughed when she saw us                        in spite of herself!

But I heard her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight—

                                      “What a great workout today, you’ll feel it tonight!!!!”

Seasons Greetings and Peace to All.

Seasons Greetings and Peace to All.

 

 

 

Winter Hiking

Photo:  Jeb Wallace Brodeur who knows plenty about winter hiking!

Photo: Jeb Wallace Brodeur who knows plenty about winter hiking!

Temperatures are dropping, the white stuff is in the forecast and restlessness tugs against the temptation to grab a good book and settle in by the fire. With a few exceptions, most bikes, boats and summer gear are packed away for next year.

Then the email rolls into my inbox. “Hey, who wants to do some winter hiking?” What on earth does that mean?

It appears that there are two kinds of winter hiking. One involves multi-day excursions that are borderline tests of survival skills while the other is simply doing what you do in the summer but adapting to winter terrain and conditions. Let’s look at the latter.

To get outdoors to hike in the winter requires the same steps as doing so at any other time during the years, just more of them.

Establish a destination. Roaming randomly is not a good plan, especially when weather conditions are sometimes dangerously variable. Hike with others and be sure that friends or family members know that you are headed out, where and for how long.

Gear is important. Hiking poles are especially helpful in the winter. Layers of warm and warmer clothing, a shell that is wind and rain resistant, gloves, hat, good socks and footwear, and later a buff and maybe some handwarmers.

You will want to regulate your body temperature by shedding or adding layers as you go. While you’re at it, stuff a few dry items into your pack such as extra socks and gloves.

Also in that pack be sure to have a healthy supply of fuel. The usual fluids and snacks are good, but extras as well as a thermos or two of something hot are even better. Don’t forget that water in the hose of a hydration pack can freeze; so can solid foods. Because you will be gradually extending your winter hiking expeditions, you will learn what works and what doesn’t as you lengthen distance and increase hours on the trail.

HIKING FITNESS

Perhaps the best plan is to consider winter hiking as a continuum. Just as one season segues into another gradually (usually), adapting to the challenges of the outdoors should happen over time. Shocking the system with too much, too soon is endangering to health and safety as well as a sure-fire way to blight budding enthusiasm.

Hiking is an excellent way to increase and/or maintain fitness. Repetitive walking and climbing movements build muscular strength, while practice on diverse surfaces improves balance and coordination. The heart, lungs and skin adapt to the cold as a sense of well-being gains traction.

When you’re not on the road or the trail, spend some time training core strength and stability to help you deal with the additional weight of a pack as well as unexpected missteps and off-balance maneuvers along the way.

Flexibility exercises help to maintain joint integrity while preventing inappropriate muscle tightness that could lead to injury. Lower body strength needs are obvious, but it’s not all about the quadriceps. Be sure to balance all muscle groups by addressing the lower leg as well as the upper, back and front, inside and outside. And, of course, upper body strength is important for pushing and pulling, reaching, clasping and utilizing poles effectively.

Search engine results for “hiking fitness” are plentiful. A better approach might be to visit a fitness professional to design a program appropriate to you and your individual needs and goals. Beware of any training plan that is promoted as one-size-fits-all.

Remember, a hike is not a one-time deal. Begin with shorter, easier routes and gradually intensify the effort by finding longer and more difficult trails.

A hike is a hike. A simple winter’s walk on a class 4 road could well be the hike for you. More likely, however, trails will beckon and you will be drawn to greater adventures. As you build endurance and capability, and as hiking regularly becomes habitual for you and your companions, you will want to enlarge the boundaries of your initial outings.

WINTER WHITE

Snow is beautiful. It is also wet, cold, slippery and often unexpected. It can hide pitfalls or make them more navigable. Snow can cause or cushion falls, make you work harder going up or easier sliding down. It can blanket you in insulation or chill you to the bone. It can surprise you with dehydration and fiercely bounce the sun’s rays back to your eyes and skin. Bottom line – prepare and prevent snow hazards.

Watch the weather forecast. Wear appropriate boots, gaiters, and waterproof outerwear. Carry snowshoes for deeper amounts or shoe grips such as stabilicers or yaktrax for slick. Hydrate purposefully and apply sunscreen liberally.

Maneuvering through snow demands additional energy and effort. Beware to assess your ability realistically and heed signs of onset of fatigue. It is always better to turn around early than to get stuck far from your base, miserable and potentially at risk.

Even on shorter hikes of only a few hours, it is wise to be prepared packing with you a flashlight, first aid kit, waterproof matches and an emergency blanket. If your cell phone works, great. Don’t rely on it.

Fortunately there are ample resources for hiking in Vermont. For example, go to http://www.greenmountainclub.org/ to find hiking advice and destinations. Note that on the Long Trail, trail blazes are white and might be hidden beneath deep snow or difficult to see.

Winter is not a good time to get lost. Heed advice to carry a map (many are available at GMC) and a compass, and be sure you know how to read them.

By the way, when you visit the Green Mountain Club online, by phone or in person, be sure to learn more about what they do and what they offer that might appeal to you. There are group hikes appropriate for all levels, workshops, lectures and events. Granted, much of what you may learn is common sense, but even the brightest among us needs to have rational information organized and presented as functional and accessible.

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL FITNESS

Vermont offers unlimited opportunities to explore the outdoors all year. Because of changing seasons, there’s always something new to see, even along the same path. Summer’s lush, green foliage gives way to an often drab stick season. While it is prudent to stay off trails during mud seasons, and be careful in the woods during hunting seasons, dirt roads and recreational paths offer unrestricted venues to keep the legs moving.

A hiker is often surprised to find distant views through bare branches. A narrow trail opens to expansive vistas that carry thoughts along with it. Changing light and shadows, snow cover, frozen brooks, sunrise, dusk, all take on new meaning.

Research proves that physical activity is a healthy antidote and potential cure for sadness, discouragement and even clinical depression. To work it’s magic, exercise must be performed regularly. Add to regular practice stellar scenery and good friends and you have a solid reason to get out and hike. Even in the winter. Especially in the winter.

To Vermont From Maine; the end of a month on the coast

It is important to recognize one chapter as it closes and a new one begins, to carry forward that which is recent past. Wellbeing springs from the small things, duly experienced, identified and remembered.

Today I am uncharacteristically undisciplined. At least that is the word some would use; I prefer to use words like structure, organization, commitment, etc. when I speak of my work and practice, my habits and lifestyle. In any event, it’s what I am, or am not, today. P1000150 It is the day before I drive back to Vermont from my month’s relocation (another word I use instead of vacation which somehow signifies that I am still industrious, still doing something useful and not lounging around ineffectually – I guess).

Will I never learn? I counsel clients and write about the value of rest, recovery, regeneration. In my faith I strive to be silent, even if only for a few minutes. I read favorite writers who encourage me to do so – writers like Kathleen Norris and my newfound favorite Anna Quindlen. Yet I resist. At the hint of success, I become apologetic. But today I am giving myself over to mixed emotions that are wheeling around inside me like bumper cars in the boardwalk arcades of my childhood.

My to-do list is crowded: write my pieces for next week’s “Active Vermont” page, post a blog, do loads of laundry (but be careful of the whites that will turn orange with the rust in the water), pack a month’s worth of living on the rocky shores of an ocean Sound, clean and clean the cottage so there are no remaining footprints (or rather white hairs) from my two little old Jack Russells who have already indicated that they are as loathe to leave as I am, P1000102pick up trinkets for the kids and Christmas presents for friends, fill the gas tank, say goodbye to new friends, write thank you notes to old ones, take one last walk along the water and one final search for shells and seaglass.

I was meant to do a tempo training ride today. Not happenin’. It’s cool, overcast, windy and, most of all, I lack the motivation to do so. So my final ride for this summer as well as my final paddle are over. Missed already. I love to ride here. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to share these roads and surprisingly challenging hills with Teague and Tara or with my summer riding companions of Merrymeeting Wheelers out of Brunswick. Sometimes I ride alone but those rides, too, are satisfying and joyous. The roads here in mid-coast Maine are constantly being repaired and, though there is often no shoulder, it does not matter as the surface is good and drivers SLOW DOWN and observe the Maine 3’ safe passing LAW. The coincidence of good paving and considerate drivers is a blessing for which I am daily thankful.

Paddling is pure pleasure. We try to start in the morning before the wind picks up and often find ourselves heading out with the tide. Put-ins are plentiful if you look for them, and any starting point marks the beginning exploration of shoreline, cove, islands, rocky coasts, and a few beaches. Working dories and lobster boats, pricey pleasure and more pricey sailboats, a daily cruise boat from Portland and P1000159an authentic schooner (chartered) create my neighborhood as I remind myself with each stroke to engage my core, sit up and try to look like I know what I’m doing. I can’t resist pausing when I see a suspicious head in front of me that turns out to be a seal or to whip out my ever-present, waterproof camera to take a shot of a quaint cottage, a lobster buoy that catches the light,P1000158 an osprey or once, and eagle. Today, however, I can only think about these things.

After saying goodbye to my husband who drove away this morning, I took the girls for a ride, or so I told myself. My car ended up parked in front of a store in downtown Brunswick and later at the tip of Bailey’s Island. Back at the cottage I unloaded my bags of goodies and realized that I wanted yet another cup of coffee and eat bagels loaded with peanut butter. (OK, I did stop at one organic, multigrain bagel topped with freshly ground almond butter from a wonderful natural foods market charmingly named Morning Glory.) I sat down to write and somehow ended up talking with my daughter and arranging shells and bits of sea glass that I have carefully collected over the past four weeks (paltry; how DO people find this stuff by the bag full?) and filling an antique replica glass jar to bring a bit of the coast home to my studio.

I think of my Maine friends: Sue, my favorite realtor anywhere; the owner of my cottage with whom I connect on important levels; the neighbor across from me who has the mind-bending job of working with the memory impaired and elders facing an already forgotten end; Jenn who tirelessly organizes and befriends each of us as cyclists and Pam. I just met Pam and she amazes me. There is no doubt that our paths were meant to cross. Pam exudes energy, generosity, kindness; a woman whose beliefs and trust have seen her through some tough times; a woman who does not shy away from very hard work or the needs of those around her, and, those around her happen to be her family. What a privilege it is for me to live briefly on the edges of an entire community that is comprised of various members residing somewhere on the proverbial family tree; a community that lives and works together and supports each other. (You might want to check her website: http://www.pamsmainewreaths.com. )

So I’ve given it up for today. The washer is going and my things are finding their way into piles to stuff into duffels and load up for an early departure tomorrow morning – but NOT until after I watch the dawn break over the Sound and have my morning coffee on the deck as the sun rises, watching the ducks dive for foodDSCN0008 and hearing the occasional slap of a fish who enters the water leaving expanding ripples on the surface. In a few hours I will walk the dogs along the shore of Potts Point as it juts into the ocean. I will go at low tide so they can walk on sand and not shoals. I’ll time it so that I can see the sunset and hope it will be a last glimpse of sun 8-11-13 blazing orb quickly descending below the tree line on the opposite shore. I was here when the moon was spectacularly full. Now the last phase of it will appear late.

These are moments I will remember. I still rock slightly with the rhythm of my boat in the water. I hear the whirligig spin and watch the sailor in his yellow slicker row like mad to keep up. A distant buoy clangs, a hummingbird hurries past, a noisy squirrel sits in a tree next to the deck and taunts Lucy and Lola, the incoming tide splashes against the rocks and a snake that I do my best to avoid camps out on the steps to the dock when the sun is warming them. I did not read as much as I had planned, did not complete online courses that I hoped to finish, did not write or train more than absolutely necessary and did not really sleep late as I never wanted to miss fishermen in lobster boats DSCN0003motoring out to set traps. I did spend every possible minute outdoors, riding, paddling, walking, hiking and giving myself over to my family and the uncomplicated experience of being here. And why cannot I do that in Vermont? Vermont is the perfect bookend to Maine. Mountains of strength and spectacular beauty join an ocean of possibilities accompanied by reassurance that there is balance in the natural rhythms and continuous movement. Life between these two is sustained by heightened awareness, dreams to be dreamed and the promise of “thus far and no farther.” I CAN take it all home with me; take it home to be savored and shared; home to be lived and practiced; home to be loved; the essence of well-being.

just do it

Recently I wrote a short piece for ACTIVE VERMONT, my page in the Rutland Herald/Times Argus Sunday newspaper, that sparked interest and generated comments from a number of readers.  Clearly we all suffer from the same reticence to perform certain deeds,complete particular training plans or take the steps needed to meet goals. Several have told me that they connected with this concept, they aspire to the notion that sometimes we need to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,” (wherever did that saying come from? surely it’s obsolete but we get the point), and, well, just do it.

July is a month packed with notable sports that lure us to the home screen. Wimbledon Tennis (June 23-July 6);  FIFA World Cup Soccer (June 12-August 13); Tour de France (July 5-27); MLB All-Star Game (July 15); British Open (July 17-20): and surely more draw us like magnets to a cooler indoor setting and a comfy chair. That’s fine. There’s room in our days to spectate as well as participate. There’s a place for R&R, team spirit, camaraderie, and some level of motivation that sneaks in the back door when playing the observer position.

But, don’t forget, there are always two sides:  left and right, forward and back, offense and defense, (we’ll leave right and wrong off this field), and, of course, spectator and participant. Sometimes to assume the latter role one needs a push, to “just do it.”  Read on.

 Just do it. I say it often. I say it to my clients when I ask them to do a particular training exercise and they look at me with that are-you-nuts look. I say it to myself when I am dragging and need to walk into a room and appear energetic and encouraging to a group of individuals who are unsure about their fitness commitment. I say it when I sit down at my computer after a long day and know that I must say something significant in response to emails, post a blog or write my Sunday Active Vermont page. Sometimes I say it before my treasured training rides or even when the alarm goes off.

It works. JUST DO IT (stylized in all caps), coined by Nike in 1988 by Dan Wieden of Wieden and Kennedy ad agency, has become the go-to motivator for a large cross section of the world’s population. Last summer the slogan celebrated its 25th anniversary as one of the most recognized and often uttered phrases in all time. Remember, this was before the media and digital explosion erupted in texts and tweets, before “going viral” was a model.

JUST DO IT is more than a means to sell running shoes and appeals to far more than runners. The phrase is simple and invites definition. It is individual, offering a very personal connection.

In fact, the story of the inception of the phrase demonstrates the simplicity of the time as well. It seems that in an early ad, 80-year old Walt Stack jogged across Golden Gate Bridge. While doing so he shared tales of his daily 17mile run and quipped that in the winter he kept his teeth from chattering by leaving them in his locker.

Smith Rock is a well-know climbing mecca in Oregon that attracts climbers of many levels and abilities. In 1992 a French climber, Jean-Babtiste Tribout (known as J.B., born in 1961) scaled a route that had not previously been climbed. He named the ascent “Just do it.” Today that route is rated as a 5.14. Its overhanging wall is known as the most difficult climbing in America.

Is there a connection between Smith Rock and Nike? Presumably it is merely coincidental, but the spirit is the same.

Perhaps that is the magic of JUST DO IT. It is a sentiment that works for each of us; it easily rolls off the tongue. Basic or erudite, the concept can be found in any collection of memorable quotes. For example: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (H.Thurman, African-American writer).

Or: “Do it no matter what. If you believe in it, it is something very honorable. If somebody around you or your family does not understand it, then that’s their problem. But if you do have a passion, an honest passion, just do it.” (Mario Andretti, and we all know who he is.)

Often there is no right or wrong, no hard and fast rule, no all or nothing. Often there is “just do it.”

didn't get lost on this century

didn’t get lost on this century

Site Launch

barn

Barn

February 14, 2014. It’s snowing. This morning I left home to teach the early a.m. Spinning® class and was psyched to make “first tracks” into Montpelier. The trip was magical-including the more-than-ever hearts scattered all around town by the mysterious (and probably soaked) Valentine Bandit(s). As I write this I am excited to know that I will probably launch my new website on the 15th. Getting up and running has been a process, but working with the best web developer a mom could ask for, and welcoming encouragement and suggestions from family and friends, has been a good process. We are simply going to go ahead and put it out there. Throughout this journey I have learned a little about WordPress and a lot about what I want this site to be. I want it to be about good writing and good artwork. I want it to be a meeting place for my friends and a welcoming space for those who share similar interests, concerns, goals, struggles and accomplishments. I want to welcome all guests in hopes that they will become a part of this amazing community in which we live, work and share so much. I want to play some small part in making a fit, healthy, active lifestyle a habit, a choice, for all of us. I want this to be an organic conversation. I hope you will check out my previous post – written optimistically at the beginning of 2014. Log on now and then to see what’s happening. There are good things on the horizon and change will be a constant for this venture. As it should be.