Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On the sideline

I apologize for being M.I.A. Life has happened, as it always does, and as a result I have had to take what I hope will be a temporary break from my challenge.

When things start to settle down in my life this autumn, I hope to continue trying new sports. I have officially retired from soccer, so my quest to find a replacement sport is even more important now!

Until the next sport,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rained Out

Technically this should be my last post about cricket. It's now a new month, which means I should be giving the game a score. However, because I started late and last week's game got rained out. I'm giving the game one more week.

That's one of the annoying things about outdoor sports though, isn't it? Sometimes the weather gets to decide what you do.

On Monday is was clear that higher powers were against me exercising. I got up before 6 a.m. to go to the gym, only to find out the person with the keys had slept in and wasn't around to open it for everyone else standing and waiting. Then, that evening it started raining and my friend told me the game would be rained out. So, I went home and watched TV.

But because I didn't get to play doesn't mean I don't have cricket wisdom to share. (Well, "wisdom" is a loosely used term here.)

The field is round, unlike a baseball field. Although it's easiest to hit a "six" (i.e. when the ball goes over the boundary line without touching ground you get six points without needing to run) like a baseball slugger, the reality is you can hit the ball any direction you want. Typically in cricket the bowl ("pitch") bounces before getting to the batter; as a result, it's sometimes easier to help the ball continue on it's journey beyond you. During my practice week my friend Luke helped me get my batting stance down. Here are a few poses you could try on the pitch.

Protecting the wicket with your body, the bat should be angled down to avoid a "fly ball" that can be easily caught

Hitting the ball up high

Hitting the ball behind you
Everyone I mention I'm trying cricket to scoffs and says, "Doesn't it last 7 days?"

Let me bust that myth. In professional leagues it's true, the game can go on forever. However, in amateur leagues like the one I've been invited to participate in, the rules ensure that you'll be off the pitch within a few hours. There are limited "overs" (which mean each player/team will only receive so many bowls). As a result the game timing is a lot like baseball. Otherwise, I wouldn't have time to write this blog.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A cricketer's tough hands

Batting warm up
If you've ever seen a game of cricket, you know that it's an elegant game. The white uniforms against the pastoral green field are calming to watch. It's not a violent sport. There isn't a lot of yelling.

So I was surprised this week when they put me on the field and I realized that with elegance comes a painful truth.

It's a gloveless game. The only player on the field with something to soften the blow of catching a ball is the wicketkeeper (or catcher). During the warm up our team tossed the ball around. Soft high balls. Low grounder, bouncy balls. And then, when I didn't expect it, a hard bullet throw. Oy! With the stinging that hard ball left on my hand I was worried that I wouldn't be able to catch anything else.

I was instructed from then on to cradle the ball.

Before batters come onto the field, the other team claps for them. I figure it's their attempt to toughen up their hands. After the team scores a run or gets someone out (depending if they're fielding or not), they all run together and high five. Again, I suspect this has more to do with conditioning their hands than it does with team celebration. (But maybe I'm wrong.)

The only other safety equipment are leg pads worn by the batters. The ball they use to play is small and hard, and the bowlers (i.e. pitcher) get as much momentum and accuracy at the wickets that they can. Of course, the batter's job is to hit the ball and defend the wicket. This means that batters tend to stand with feet at hip width distance apart directly in front of the wicket. A ball rocketing in could definitely leave a welt on the batter's leg without padding. Plus, because unlike baseball where you don't want the pitch to hit the ground, cricket bowlers do their best to get a good bounce to psych the batter, without losing aim at the wicket. As a result, you never know where it's going to go.

And so, I got all padded up ready for my first chance in front of a bowler. Unfortunately our team got too many "overs" (i.e. good bowls) and our turn was literally over. To the field we went... more on that next time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What is a wicket?

A metal practice wicket
The City of Victoria is well-known for its English traditions inherited from the Empire that colonized this region of Canada. As a result, hints of Britain pop up everywhere, despite locals not necessarily understanding their significance. I bring this up because of the word "wicket", which I've encountered numerous times at a very popular pub/restaurant in town and never connected to anything material.

Do you know what a wicket is?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a "wicket" is: A set of three sticks called stumps, fixed upright in the ground, and surmounted by two small pieces of wood called bails, forming the structure (27x8 in) at which the bowler aims the ball, and at which (in front and a little to one side of it) the batsman stands to defend it with the bat...

This week's cricket experience almost didn't happen. I almost didn't see a wicket up close and personal.

First, a little something we in Canada call the Stanley Cup Final cancelled the cricket games. Then, my friend hauled me out to Saanich for a team practice, only to find an empty field and a miniature horse. Luckily my friend is a good sport and he spent an hour teaching me some of the cricket basics.

We stood in the middle of the field and he showed me how to swing the cricket bat and explained the different ways to get out. I'm not a baseball player, but my basic knowledge of America's "favourite past time" helped me get a feel for cricket.

Here are some of the basics I learned this week:
  1. There are 11 players on one team
  2. There is a bowler (or what in baseball we call a pitcher)
  3. There is a wicketkeeper (known to most of us as a catcher)
  4. The field is a circle, with the "pitch" in the middle of the field for the batsman, bowler, and wicketkeeper
After my lesson this week, I think I better understand why Tricia told me I could have found a game with more complicated rules. More like, could there be more diverse names, positions, and rules?!

Next week I think I might be participating in a game. We'll see if this week's one-on-one sunk in.

I wasn't kidding... there was a mini horse!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


There are quite a few things I think of when I hear the word "cricket". Disney's famous Jiminey. The chirping insects that kept me awake all summer as a farm girl in Ontario. And, my favourite, the Cricket doll. (Seriously, the Cricket doll was so cool and I wanted one so much!)

So when my friend and coworker told me he plays cricket, I was shocked. Cricket?! Who plays cricket?

Those who migrate to Victoria, where I live, all seem to come with a nostalgia for another place. With loads of South African and Indian immigrants, it shouldn't be surprising. And because sports are so important to our childhood (and often what connect us as a culture), it makes sense that cricket has found its way here with new Canadians... even if it's not ready to rival the current Stanley Cup finals in popularity.

June will be a month of cricket.

I'm excited because I know basically nothing about the game. Here are some things I did know:
  • Traditional cricket is played in all white clothing (of course; stereotypical woman knows about the fashion rules of the game!)
  • There is a bat (shaped more like a paddle than the bat I used at tee-ball)
  • There is a ball
  • There is something called a wicket (which in Victoria I know only from a little pub restaurant called "The Sticky Wicket")
  • It's popular in Britain, South Africa, and India
According to stickiewicket.com, "It is commonly accepted that the game originated from a very old leisure activity indulged by shepherds. The shepherds used crook and other farm equipments to hit a ball like device which used to be made up of wool or stone."

Seriously, shepherds? This might be my game, given I grew up on a sheep farm.

Try it yourself. 
Here is a link to Cricket Canada and the USA Cricket Association.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The score on cycling (and on staying motivated)

Cyclists at Bastion Square Grand Prix - 75 laps of fast (more photos here)
My month of cycling came and went. Truth be told, I didn't really like it. And, worse, I started to lose my motivation to continue my challenge with this blog.

It's not for a lack of cycling events going on in the city. I definitely got my fill of spectating in - way more than any other month. But I just couldn't get into the sport. For one, my bike is not really road biking material. I couldn't get over that mental hump. And I really couldn't get over my fear of biking in traffic. Without someone to come up and whisper in my ear to coach me, it was hard to get motivated.

All that said, watching the cyclists come in the finish line of the 140 and 90 km races was truly inspiring. I felt disappointed that I hadn't participated. I hadn't challenged myself. The score I'm giving cycling is, of course, reflected of my experience this month. I know there are many people who would argue against me though. I can only tell you what I thought...

So what does a girl do when she loses motivation to stay fit and active? She pampers herself of course!

I have so many pairs of running shorts, sports socks, and headbands that I bought during fitness lulls. I don't know why, but there's something motivating about a material item that that can inspire you to get back at it.

This time I went and had a pedicure. In part, it's because my feet were getting truly disgusting from all the sports I've been trying. The other part was I needed to get out and relax. I needed to get some perspective.

Tanya, the owner of Emerald Day Spa in Victoria, was amazing. Not only did she make my feet beautiful, she also helped me unwind. We talked about what's next in my challenge and what I could do to get back on track. We also talked about my ugly toes and how different sports can damage them... and how a nice pedi can make a world of difference to keep toes healthy. After she had smoothed my feet out, I fell into a perfect little sleep while she massaged my feet and lower legs; much needed for a girl who has been on the move (or at least thinking about it!).

The result? Obviously beautiful toes that I'll be proud to show off in summer shoes. But also motivation to get back at it.

I'm doing the fitness challenge for the same reason I got the pedi - because I want to take care of myself. I don't want sore joints because I've been sitting at my desk all day. I want my clothes to fit nicely. And I want to get out there, meet new people, and try new things. So, my next challenge will be announced next week.

If you are looking for a place in Victoria, BC to treat yourself, I highly recommend Tanya and the Emerald Day Spa. (The staff are amazing, the space is relaxing, and you'll come out feeling totally refreshed!) They specialize in pedicures, facials, and waxing (and I hear moms really like "Monday's for Mommies").

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's a biker's world

Despite my sprained ankle, the world hasn't stopped moving. In fact, in Victoria the biking community has kicked it into high gear!

Here are some shots of just a few of the biking events that have taken place over the past week in Victoria, BC. (And it's just the start. The Victoria International Cycling Festival kicked off with the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria - other events will continue through the month of June.)

Bike to Work Week starts in June. To get some news coverage and cyclists in the area hyped, they had a big launch at a local Starbucks. (Yes, I just happened to walk by as I was walking to work!)
The Harbour Sprint Series will go for the next few Fridays. It's put on by a local bike shop - you can see one of the event organizers with his megaphone getting ready to clear the streets.
Three sprinters race by toward the finish line. The races are described by the Harbour Sprint organizers as "1/4 mile drag races"... it was fun to watch, especially to see what the racers were wearing. Who knew cut-off jean shorts were the new look for male bike racers?!

These cyclists have just started a 140km bike ride. Word on the street is that Tour de France cyclist Ryder Hesjedal is one of the cyclists in the blue shirts at the front of the pack.
Happy, laughing cyclists... and just under 140km to bike.

Monday, May 23, 2011

True Confession Time

It's true confession time. After starting this fitness challenge I did not stop playing soccer. As soon as my knees were strong enough, I was back out on the field. Honestly, the boxing and rock climbing really prepared me to go back on the pitch... and then I stopped those activities and just kept playing soccer. Bad idea.

Two weeks ago I sprained my ankle. In the photo you can see me doing all the right things as soon as I got injured. RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Plus one of the other players had ibuprofen to help ease the swelling and the pain.

Urgh! It's a frustrating cycle.

If you've been injured you know what I'm going through. You're injured, so you can't play the games you love because you're not at your optimum fit level. And it's a challenge to get fit, because you're injured and can't do your regular routine.

As I was slamming my fists in frustration (and yes, a bit of pain too), my teammates rushed over because they were worried it was my knee again. Thank goodness it wasn't. Instead, it was a new and equally annoying injury. And my first two thoughts were - "There goes my soccer career (again & forever!)", and then... "s@#*! There goes my summer of outdoor activity."

Luckily it was just a sprain. However, it has made biking difficult. And I'm at a crossroad again trying to decide if it's time to give up on the game I love the most.

Upon taking my doctor's advice, I didn't go overboard, but I didn't stop moving.

Last weekend I went out for a fairly stunted bike ride. I know I'm supposed to write about the good stuff, but can I complain about the challenges of cycling through traffic for a moment? I'm not on a road bike and I'm glad; the smooth wheels and high speed scare me when I know I'm driving on a road shared with cars much larger than me. It's one thing to be a commuter cyclist (p.s. Bike to Work Week is coming up soon: biketowork.ca), but it's another when you're trying to outpace the cars and go for gold.

I'm fortunate to live in a city that is set up for all kinds of activity. We have a beautiful trail called the Galloping Goose. Although it's not perfect - there are wooden bridges that hurt to cycle over and there are a lot of pedestrians - you don't have to compete against cars and it's pretty scenic.

We'll see what the next week brings. Hopefully sunshine, a healed ankle, and more excitement on the road!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bike gear and "stuff"

After my first week back on a bike in more than a few years, a few things are clear. There is a lot of gear with this sport!

Maybe it seems like there is more equipment than other sports because I'm coming off a month of running; all you need are your clothes, some decent shoes, and you're off. It's not so with cycling.

First, of course, you need a bike. Depending on how into the sport you plan to get, the price of a bike can go as low as around $100 for a used bike and as high as $500,000 for a custom bike. (Interested in what a bike that expensive looks like? Read about the Trek "Butterfly" Madone bike designed by Damien Hirst here.)

So why are bikes so expensive?

One word: components. You can add that word into your cocktail party dictionary for when it's time to wax poetic about your new love for that sweet ride you're about to buy!
Pausing on Dallas Road - gorgeous spot to cycle

Components, the parts that make up a bike, can change the price of a bike substantially. You want it light? You'll get carbon fiber, which is expensive. Don't care about weight? You can go to Canadian Tire and pick up what they've got on sale. Jim Langley, a cycling enthusiast and writer, put together a great image showing the names of all a bike's components; check it out here.

The other thing that affects the price of your bike is the brand and size. Um hmm: Bikes come in more than kid's, women's, and men's sizing.

If you plan on getting into proper road biking you will need to get sized. A few weeks ago in preparation for this month's sport challenge, I stopped by a cycling store and got sized. I'm fairly short and we decided a 48" bike would be suitable. If I had to jump from the pedals in a panic, I would be able to touch ground without landing with the "top tube" between my legs and getting hurt.

Quiet streets are fun to explore from a bike
Then of course, there's the helmet. In six Canadian provinces the law requires cyclists to wear a cycling helmet. (It's required in 22 states for you Americans reading!) British Columbia is one of those provinces, and I have to admit that when I moved from Ontario (one of the six provinces) to Victoria, BC, I noticed that people actually follow the law here. I feel like much less of a dork with my helmet on here than I did biking around Ottawa.

According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, "Common sense tells you to avoid a helmet with snag points sticking out, a squared-off shell, inadequate vents, excessive vents, an extreme "aero" shape, dark colors, thin straps, complicated adjustments or a rigid visor that could snag in a fall." (I was surprised that there's an institute focused solely on bike helmet safety; I guess I shouldn't be...)

If you know of a women's size 48" used bike for sale - please let me know.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm gonna be a biker...

It's a new month, which means time to try a new sport. What says spring more than the month of May? Maybe getting on a bike and peddling around? That's right. I'm gonna be a biker. At least for a month anyway!

Time and again I've mentioned that I live in Victoria, BC. Not only is it beautiful, but it's also a prime spot for athletes of all abilities. In the past few months the city has been buzzing with one subject - cycling.

Sometimes the chatter is controversial (i.e. will the Johnson Street bridge be able to accommodate the hundreds of cycling commuters?), but more often it's about the thrill of competition and the love of the sport of cycling.

Only a few months ago, the first ever Victoria International Cycling Festival was announced. And it's big people!

For those of you who aren't avid cycling enthusiasts, I'm going to bet you've heard of the Tour de France. Victoria's own Ryder Hesjedal is one of only a handful of Canadians to have competed in this world class event and done well. Given his love of the sport, Ryder came home and decided it was time to launch something here - so this May Victoria will host the first Tour de Victoria and kick of its first cycling festival. (Can I just use this opportunity to point out the obvious? How perfect is it that the Hesjedal's named their son after the activity he would eventually take to new levels in Canada?!)

So, it's in the stars that this month be about cycling.

I'm going to borrow a friend's road bike. But for now, I thought I'd take out my old bike - neither road bike nor mountain bike - and get a feel for being on two wheels again.

People always say, "It's like riding a bike: you never forget!" I'm going to put that old adage to the test. The first step was for me to dust off the ol' bike and pump up the tires. Find out more later this week...

And, if you're interested in participating in the activities associated with the festival, details are on the festival's site: www.vicf.ca

For those wanting some pictures from my TC10K experience, here you go!

The road ahead, mid race
Helping the Victoria Foundation mark its 75th anniversary supporting our community!
My friend Liz and I... finally done!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The score on running

It's the final day of April, which means it's time to disclose the score on running.

Before I you get to the scorecard, I should disclose that I don't feel I gave my all to my month of running. Having my wisdom teeth out meant I lost momentum mid-month. I was running 10 kilometers and getting stronger. My hip flexers and toe joints were starting to get accustomed to the extra work they were doing on the trail. And then, bed rest for 4 days took the wind out of my sails. Or I should say, the hop out of my step.

This week my friends met me downtown for a short run around the beautiful harbour in downtown Victoria, BC. We didn't even run 5 kilometers and I was struggling. On May 1st I will be running the Victoria Times Colonist 10KM run. According to an article in the Times Colonist, more than 13,000 participants are expected. I've run the race before, but this year they changed the route - a change that many local runners have been preparing themselves for. My goal was to run the race in 1.5 hours, but after my run on Thursday night, my goal is to simply run the whole thing without having to walk more than twice. We'll see how it goes.

If you're thinking about running, here are some things to consider:
  • Social or solitary? Running can be a sport you do on your own or something you do with friends. There are running groups in every city around North America. Find a local running store and they will be able to tell you about groups you can join. Running stores often offer running clinics for newbies too.
  • Knee trouble... beware. I will never be a distance runner. Running is hard on your joints - your toes, your knees, and your hips. But, the rewards are pretty hard to argue with. After running you'll feel energized and, if you stay with it, you're bound to slim down. 10KM is probably the longest I should ever run. 5KM is a much better distance for me. My best to those of you out there who have ambitions of running a half or full marathon!
  • Technology and music options are awesome! While I have no plans of becoming a serious runner, there are endless gadgets for those of you who want to be. For example, Nike partnered with Apple to offer the Nike iPod Sport Kit; it will tell you your time, distance, pace, and calories burned. A fellow tweeter told me about iTunes special running play lists. Her favourite is Nike's CassiusPlay.
And now, here is the score on running:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Special Report: Horseshoes

You might be surprised to find that this week's post isn't about running. Last week I had all four wisdom teeth pulled, and I've been recovering ever since. Because I've looked like "Chippy" the Chipmunk, I have shyed away from running or any other physical activity. I knew I'd be immobile, and thought now would be a perfect time for a special report on horseshoes!

A few weeks ago I was invited to stop by the Victoria Horseshoe Club Open House. What can I say, other than I had the greatest time?!

It's a game you've probably heard of many times. Heck, you might even have played it at the occasional family reunion. But, here are a few facts you may not have known about the game:
  • Horseshoes as a game dates back to the second century in Western Asia and Europe
  • There are competitive leagues in the United States and Canada: The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association of America (NHPAA) and Horseshoe Canada Association
  • Victoria, BC has the second largest club in Canada (a club in Ontario is the biggest)
  • You don't "throw" the horseshoe, you "pitch" it
  • When the shoe encircles the stake, it's called a ringer (worth 3 points)
  • Shoes that land within 6 inches of the stake, but do not encircle it, are worth 1 point
  • A shoe that lands against the stake, but does not encircle it, is called a "leaner"
My friends and I had so much fun learning how to pitch the shoes properly. My friend Liz and I practiced standing at the women's line, while our friend Timal stood at the men's line. I try not to brag, but I did get multiple ringers. ;) Although, as the afternoon went on I think I lost my accuracy a bit. We had amazing coaches in the Club members though. They reminded us to stay loose, focus on the direction of our arm, the height at which we released the shoe, and having fun all around.

Special thanks to Tom for reaching out through the comments section of Injured Player and inviting me to the Victoria Horseshoe Club Open House. And thanks to - Gordon, Pat, and Sharon for being excellent teachers! And to all the members of the club; my friends and I felt so welcome and had a great time.

Are you the next great horseshoe player?
The Club is always looking for new members. Men, women, and youth! Visit their website for more information: www.victoriahorseshoeclub.com

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Step to it

What makes running great is that you can do it anywhere. Nice weather? Hit the streets. Ugly weather? Find a gym and get on the treadmill.

Unlike the sports I've tried previously for Injured Player - boxing and rock climbing - running presents an opportunity to change the scenery. You can literally run anywhere.

And so, my preparation for the upcoming 10K run took me out to beautiful Elk Lake. As you can see from the pictures, there's a great running trail that is scenic - it follows a lake and is sheltered by trees and the west coast's "wilderness". It's a very popular spot for runners because it's approximately 10K, so people can easily track their distance.

I went with my friend Liz and a few of her friends. She's in a regular running group and has been kind enough to give me some pointers.

Secret number one: Talking while running is good! If you can't talk because you're out of breath, you're probably running too fast. (This may be the sport for me after all!)

Secret number two: Smaller, short steps are good for keeping your energy up. Plus, she said that when you step your focus should be on lifting your knees up. Most of us focus more on pounding the ground, getting that next step in. Instead, if you focus on lifting your knees you'll find a longer run less daunting.

Secret number three: Try not to hunch your body or lean too far forward. As Liz recalled, at the end of a long race you often see people barely standing, their bodies are so exhausted they just want to fall forward. When running, you should try and keep a nice up and down line through your body.

Running 10K off the bat is a lot, which is why I've been doing several smaller runs before going straight to the long distance. I've run Elk Lake twice now. At this point I'm still walking and running. I noticed that last time my body felt much better - my hip flexer and toe were a bit achy at the end again, but not nearly as bad as they were after my first trip around the lake.

I think the key is to listen to your body. Don't push yourself at the expense of your health.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On the treadmill

We were born to run. It's nature's transportation system for us humans! And then humankind came along and "innovated". We gave ourselves the treadmill.

This week I ran in two different gyms on the treadmill. I was in Vancouver, BC and had hoped to explore the city; but my running friend got sick, so I played it safe and hunted out the hotel gym. That's one of the pros for choosing a treadmill over outdoor running - if you're alone or it's dark and you're not comfortable outside, the gym offers a safe alternative.

There are pros and cons for treadmill running though, as I've discovered.

One con: running on a treadmill can be boring or uninspiring. (Especially if you are in a gym like the one my hotel had. Ick, look at that wall colour!) Another is that the treadmill isn't entirely natural - the machine sets the pace for you and the conditions are ideal (not like outdoor running if you're preparing for a race). In my experience, the upside to treadmill running is you can set a pace and stick to it; I have a routine so I know when I'm going to speed up and slow down. Running Planet has a explanation of the various pros and cons of treadmill running.

Been running shoe shopping lately? 

The question that always puzzled me is whether I need a neutral shoe or one for a pronator. I'd move awkwardly around the store as the salesman asked me to walk in my socked feet to "observe my movement". Then he'd say something like, "ah, you need this type of shoe." I didn't get it... until this week.

Thanks to my focus on running on a treadmill this week I discovered I'm an underpronator!

As I was on the treadmill trying to distract myself (my earphones weren't working and I was left without music to entertain me), I started paying attention to how my foot was hitting the tread. I run on the outside of my foot. Eureka! I finally know I should be buying a shoe with more padding on the outside edge.

Not sure if you have a neutral, overpronator or underpronator running style? Check out Runner's World's great article (with video!) "Pronation, Explained".

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prepare to Run

Well, it's a new month and time to try a new sport again. Without further adieu, I am announcing that April will be a month spent running!

Are you groaning? "She's running?!"

In deciding what I'd tackle next, I kept bumping up against the idea of running. My decision was made easy based on a few factors. First, we're finally experiencing spring-like weather: Yay for being outside! Next, with the time change it's possible to get out in the evening to run. And finally, my wallet could use the break; I've got a pair of ratty old runners, so my equipment costs will be low.

In my research for the Injured Player I've started reading blogs and articles about sport to get ideas. Almost every blog about sports I've encountered is predominately focused on running. It leads me to believe you or someone you know might be considering taking up running.

Here are some of my favourite running blogs:
Run to the Finish
Woman on the Run
Geek Turned Athlete

Running could be the worst thing I try as far as my knee injury goes. But, as one of the most popular adult sports, I couldn't really not try it. At the start of May I'll be participating in a local 10km run. I have no illusions of running a marathon. My knee couldn't handle it.

The top running injuries don't appear ACL related, which is good news for me. However,  according to the experts I can look forward to everything from blisters to shin splints. But - being the optimist I am, I will make sure that I warm up thoroughly to avoid anything more severe than a blister. About.com has a good overview of top stretches for runners, including:
  • Standing calf
  • Standing IT band
  • Standing quad
  • Seated hamstring
  • Hip flexers
  • Simple shoulder
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • (and my favourite!) Pigeon
So start stretching and get out there. Maybe we'll see each other on the run!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The score on rock climbing

The best stretch after a hard climb!
I hung from the rock wall for the last official time on Monday night. After only a few weeks, I almost feel like I could be a stunt double in the next Spider Man movie. (Ha ha!)

I made sure I challenged myself on the last night, but I didn't leave on a climb I couldn't finish. There are still routes that haunt my dreams... I hope to get back and beat them when my schedule frees up a bit!

Before we get to the score on rock climbing, here are some considerations for those of you thinking about rock climbing for the first time:
  • Do you have a fear of heights? This is probably the quintessential question you need to ask yourself before climbing. You could be a serial belayer standing on the ground, but where's the fun in that? To be a climber you need to have confidence with your body in the air - far above the ground.
  • Get strong. If you, like me, spend most of your day sitting at a computer, rock climbing could be the perfect activity to counter-balance your daily routine. You remove the pressure on the spine you sit on all day and you get blood pumping into your wrists. Climbing works your forearms, shoulders, back muscles, and fingers.
  • Small groups make climbing magic. You can't really climb alone (unless you like to boulder, but you're unharnessed... and that's scary!). Find someone you trust and make it your bonding activity. I saw quite a few couples; maybe climbing could be your next date night activity!
  • Climbing is not for the hyper need-to-move every minute person. It's not like boxing or other high intensity cardio workouts. However, I was so glad I'd completed the boxer training before hitting the walls; my arms were much stronger from the punching bags. If you like a steady challenge, climbing might be for you. But don't count on climbing being the end-all of your workout routine.
Want to try it for yourself? There are two climbing facilities around Victoria, BC: Crag X; Boulder's Climbing Gym. Anywhere else in the world, check out this site: www.climbingwallindustry.org/community

Stay tuned. April's sport will be announced in the next week!

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Chalk and a little creativity

    It's unclear to me if there is a rock climbing expert. However, after almost a month of climbing, I've learned that with hand chalk and a little creativity, most climbs are possible!

    In the photo to the left you see me belaying Timal. He's a great climber. Honestly, he makes the most challenging routes look fairly effortless. It was the first time I belayed him on a route that he was actually wondering if he could complete though. And I discovered the other side of climbing in a real way - being the belayer.

    Even the most experienced climbers can slip off the wall, jump for a hold they can't reach, or get tired and need a minute to hang off the wall and strategize. I didn't tell Timal this at the time, but I kept thinking, "What happens if he falls and I drop him? I don't know first aid!" Luckily climbing gyms often have climbing ropes anchored to the ground that a light belayer can hook into. With the assurance of that anchor, knowing that Timal's weight falling would not pull me up,  I did my job. And, of course I watched as Timal completed yet another ridiculously challenging climb!

    Strategy session with Jen - one of many!
    Then it was my turn. I climbed the same wall you see Timal on. But of course, I didn't think to take any pictures, which pains me because it was the hardest climb I've completed. The wall juts out on an angle, so you start the climb in the hardest position - you need to use all of your strength just to stay hanging on.

    Here's the lesson: If you try climbing, make sure you bring encouraging people with you.

    With Jen and Timal's encouragement, I got past challenging move after challenging move. And even better, with their comments from the ground looking up, it made my success that much more rewarding. On the wall, I was simply focused on moving. But on the ground, they could see how I was maneuvering and would comment when I did moves that, to them, were creative.

    One of the interesting things about climbing is that people don't necessarily go up the same way. Depending on your height, weight, arm span, flexibility, and strength, a climb can be tackled a number of ways. Heck, I witnessed Jen make a move by resting her right foot on a hold and her right knee on a slightly higher hold - I have no idea how she moved out of that, but she did!

    So get yourself some hand chalk so you don't slip and then get out there! (If you're like me, you'll love how toned your arms are when you get home!)