Saturday, October 10, 2009

When in Doubt, Make it Up

So last weekend I escaped the heat and misery that is the American Southeast and drove to the beautiful blue ridge mountains, planning to take a short break from my training and just relax. Read, watch some football, look at get the idea. And at the last second I shoved some running shorts and a sports bra into my suitcase. You never know!

But I did know.

Of course I was going to train! The weather was too perfect - 50s, overcast, almost raining - and the scenery too beautiful to spend it inside. So on Saturday morning I laced up my sneakers and set out to run the loop around our cabin, which somehow strangely manages to always be uphill regardless of which direction I am running.

And then ... I went the other way. My legs just turned the other direction and I headed down the road, away from my trusted loop, and down the gravel road that leads to the paved road that leads to town. In a characteristic completely unlike me, I decided to go with the flow and see where this ran took me. After all, I was on vacation. Why not explore a little bit? I vaguely remembered that the last time I went running beyond the circle, I was running with my dad and he nearly killed me with some vicious hills. I decided to pretend I had just dreamed that.

As I jogged along and enjoyed the silence of nature, I took stock of my surroundings. The leaves were turning red and gold, the air was rich and fresh, and I truly felt lucky to be alive. I wanted to breathe in every part of the sensory treat I was getting, starting with maximizing my access to a challenging workout in a new setting. Opportunities for obstacles were obvious all around me, so I took some inventory and mapped out a circuit workout for the next day. Vacation schmacation - for me, the opportunity to work out without time constrictions is a vacation!

I took note of a fence where I could do decline push-ups, a small rock wall perfect for step-ups, a tree stump where I could do some box jumps (God I hate those), and a little set of old stairs to run up and down like Rocky. I also saw what may have been evidence of someone else's obstacle workout involving a small piece of wood leading to a stack of logs, and accented ominously with an axe. I skipped that one.

That night, like the nerd that I am, I wrote it all down (always write down your workout if you are going alone so you don't get distracted or tempted to slack!) so I could review it before I left the next morning. It felt a little like Christmas Eve, if your idea of a fun start to Christmas morning is running a circuit outside in the cold and rain. Which mine kind of is. For real, that would be fun. Who's in? Okay, we'll talk later.

The next morning, husband asleep and child busy "helping" Grandma make breakfast, I stepped outside and wondered how challenging this would really be. Figuring that the worst case scenario would be a good run and some calisthenics, I decided that maybe being happy with the workout regardless of its difficulty would be part of my vacation mentality. Well, the real worst case scenario would be me falling into a ravine as a result of attempting box jumps on a wobbly tree stump and my cries being lost in the snap, crackle, and pop of bacon frying and coffee brewing inside the warm, dry cabins for the happy families who are ignorant to me precariously clinging to life just outside their door. But that couldn't happen twice in a row, could it?

Luckily, the workout was challenging and I survived it intact. I ran downhill to the paved road, and then ran uphill back to the house and around the circle, pausing every couple hundred yards when I reached one of my obstacles. Hooking my ankles onto the lowest rung of a fence to do push-ups, sprinting up the concrete steps that used to lead to a house, and doing step-ups on the stone railing of a bridge not only got my heart pumping, but it refreshed my morning in a way that another trip to the gym could not. Sometimes being on vacation doesn't mean taking a break from the daily grind, just making it a little less daily.

I'm back at the gym now and glad to be there, but it was fun to challenge myself to find a way to get a good workout out in the woods. I've decided to keep a set of gym clothes at the ready in my suitcases, car, and office. You just never know. :)


Michael said...

Great post Heather!

Fran G. said...

Great blog, Heather. Makes me want to lace up my shoes and go for a run in the woods. A trail run always seems like more fun and less "work" than a street or track run.