Friday, July 31, 2009

Training-Staying Hydrated

I like reading blogs. Some have beautiful pictures and interesting stories and you become privy to things about people you don't even know and will most likely never know. And sometimes you can learn things, too.

While training for my trek across Spain along the Camino de Santiago, I have been doing lots of walking and hiking. I know how important it is to keep my electrolytes balanced. Plain water, as good as it is for us, doesn't adequately rehydrate the body. So, I have been spending lots of money on electrolyte products, mostly the ones that come in individual packets that are easy to carry in my pack and add to my water bottle. Most taste horrid, but I know I need them, so I drink them.

Well, one of the bloggers that I read posted this. It not only reminds us how dangerous and deadly it can be if we don't take rehydration seriously. It gives some helpful tips on how to prevent problems. Visit Timecheck's blog and read this informative post.

After reading it, I googled "homemade electrolyte drink" and found thousands of links to recipes.

So, I went out and got all the ingredients and mixed up a batch. Surprisingly it tastes so much better than the electrolyte packets I have been buying. And, it's much cheaper.

Here's the recipe:

1 quart water
Tang, use measurement on container for 1 quart
1/2 tsp sea salt (sea salt has minerals not found in table salt)
1/4 tsp. Litesalt (which is potassium based)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
*optional juice of 1 lemon, for flavor(lemon has natural electrolytes)

Mix all ingredients well and put in your sports bottle. Drink throughout your hike or workout.
DO NOT give this drink to children under 12 yrs old. But, if you google "homemade Pedialyte drink", you will find a very similar rehydrating drink for children.
And those on any type of medication should consult their doctor before trying this drink.

Most of the recipes I found on the net called for 4 tablespoons of sugar(in the above recipe), but Timecheck had told me he used Tang in place of the sugar. Tang adds a nice orange flavor and from what I understand it is the only drink the astronauts use on their space trips. So, I guess if it is good enough for the astronauts, it's good enough for me.

Happy Trails

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Feet First

"More backpacking trips are ruined by sore feet than by all other causes combined. Pounded by the ground below and the weight of you and your pack above, your feet receive harsher treatment than any other part of the body."

-Chris Townsend, The Backpacker's Handbook

My sister-in-law says I have "good feet". She admires that I can wear any type of footwear from flip flops to boots to spiked heels with no problems.

Generally, most of us take our feet for granted, without realizing how much we really expect of them. And those that have "good feet" might not stop and consider all the things that can go wrong.

When training for a long distance trek one finds out fast how important our feet are. They are the "workhorse" of the whole trip. So proper foot care is the most important and first thing to consider.

There are so many things to think about: Boots? Walking or trekking shoes? Sandals? Which socks are best: Synthetic? Wool? Cotton? With or with out sock liners?

And, I am finding out that no matter which hiker you talk to or read, they each have their own opinions about how to care for feet, and how to prepare those feet for a long distance trek. I've heard recommendations from duck-taping my feet to soaking them in tea to toughen them up.

There are 2 things they all agree on:

1. Blisters are the bane of hikers and blister prevention should be foremost in our mind.

2. Making sure you have properly fitting footwear, whether it's boots or trekking shoes, and proper socks, sock/liner combination, whatever the material, will greatly reduce or even emlininate the possibility of blisters or other foot problems.

Everyone has different body types and different feet and foot issues, so I guess the only way to figure it out is to keep trying until you find out what works best. And, that is exactly what I have been doing. I now have quite a collection of hiking socks made from different materials and lots of liners too.

I would rather find out now, before I take on 5 to 8 hours a day of walking for more than a month's time, whether or not I will have foot problems.

So far this is what has worked for me: I prefer and feel more comfortable wearing hiking boots. Even though they are heavier and hotter for walking, it gives me a little extra ankle support and they are waterproof.

HiTec Sierra are the boots that work best for my feet.

I wear medium weight Smartwool socks with synthetic sock liners.

I find that rubbing my feet with a light coat of Vaseline before walking helps keep my feet soft and dry.
A great website, where I have found invaluable information about feet and foot care for the athlete is Fixing Your Feet.
Happy Trails

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Training-Playing With Trees

Some days friends or family accompany me on my training walks. This day, I decided to "introduce" my walking partners to an amazing and magnificent, sprawling tree that I had met in the forest.
The delightful spirit in the tree bewitched us and brought out a playful nature to our early morning walk. Which lead to several questions for pondering, that I believe to be true.
Do trees possess intelligence and wisdom?
Do they crave and enjoy love and attention the way we humans do?

Are there spirits dwelling in trees that communicate with humans?
Is playfulness a "language" that is understood between trees and humans?

When we walk in a forest and feel calm and relaxed, is that feeling evoked because the trees are eminating vibrations of peace and serenity?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Training-Enchanted Forest

"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks" John Muir

We had a downpour in the wee hours . I was tempted to pull the covers over my head and sleep in, but I made the wise decision to get up for my usual early morning walk.

And what an amazing morning it was. Walking through the mist, the air cool and wet, made me feel like I was walking through an enchanted forest. Trails I should know by heart seemed strange and other worldly; inviting and enticing me to explore deeper into this dreamy landscape.
What a delightful way to start the day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Training - A Walk In The Park

"There is an intense but simple thrill in setting off in the morning on a mountain trail, knowing that everything you need is on your back. It is a confidence in having left the inessentials behind and of entering a world of natural beauty that has not been violated, where money has no value, and possessions are dead weight....." Paul Theroux
Training for the Camino de Santiago means long days of walking. So, I consider myself a lucky girl. Not only am I a lover of a good walk; I happen to live less than 10 miles from one of the most beautiful parks in the area.
Maudslay State Park is situated on the banks of the Merrimack River Formerly the estate of the Moseley family, one of the richest families in new England.

The park covers 480 acres and has miles of trails running through natural woodlands, rolling meadows, towering pine forests, as well as 19th century gardens and plantings.
One of the many treasures in the park is one of the largest naturally occurring stands of mountain laurel in New England. Frederick Moseley was a lover of nature and seeking to protect this beautiful place, in the mid 1800's he began to acquire portions of the laurel grounds and continued to purchase surrounding lands. By 1900 he had a substantial estate where he and his daughter built magnificent residences. Although no mansions remain, the grounds retain much of the beauty that graced the estate in Moseley's day.

Someone commented to me, while walking with me in this glorious sanctuary, that it was a shame I would be wasting my whole summer training and walking in this park. The statement so overwhelmed me, that I didn't know how to respond.

But, I guess, there is no response to one who misses the joy in the delightful melody of birdsong, the serenity of watching deer grazing in the meadow, the balm of the gentle breeze against your skin, or the sensuality of the earthy smell of the forest floor beneath your feet.
I feel a peacefulness in my heart when I start the day with a walk in a place where I am able to enjoy the glorious gifts that nature has to offer.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Training-"Keep Walking Ambrose"

"Climb the mountains and get their tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." John Muir

Even though we walk every day, it would be foolish to attempt a long distance trek without some kind of training program.

Whether it be running, swimming, biking, walking, or any sport for that matter, the best training for it is to do the specific thing you are training for. If your event is running, train by running, if it is swimming, train by swimming, etc.

My pilgrimage through Spain will be about 500 miles through 3 mountain chains with several peaks of nearly 5,000 feet. Most of the walking is off road, sometimes through rocks, shale, gravel and uneven terrain. I will be walking for more than 30 days on average of 5 to 8 hours each day.

So, I have been training by walking and hiking. Fortunately for me, I love to walk and live in a beautiful area for walking. I generally walk for an hour or more each day just for the love of a good walk. But now that I have been training for my long distance trek, I have found that it is a must to walk for longer periods.

I will be carrying a backpack every day, so I have been walking with a fully loaded backpack during my training walks. Trust me, it is a lot harder to walk carrying 15 pounds on your back than just taking an evening stroll.

There are several good trek training programs available. At Do It For there is a 16 week trek training program and it is what I have been using as the basis for my training, with some modifications that work best for me.

Basically, I walk from 1 to 2 hours daily, sometimes I skip a day. Each week I increase one or two walks by 1 hour. My long walk is now up to 5 hours.

Walking has so many healthy benefits. it strengthens muscles, bones and joints. It can reduce the risk of many diseases from heart attack, stroke, hip fracture, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. It helps with weight loss, boosts good cholesterol, and prevents depression.

The list goes on and on. If you want to read more about the benefits of walking read this good article at

Less than 2 months before I start my pilgrimage. I can't wait!!


Monday, July 6, 2009

The French Road

"Life is either a daring adventure, or it's nothing " Helen Keller

There is a network of trails, followed by Pilgrims, from all over Europe that lead to Santiago de Compostela.

The route that I will be taking for my Pilgrimage, is known as the French Road or French Way. Most all pilgrim roads that lead to Santiago de Compostela merge at some point with the French Road. The French Road is the most traveled route and when one hears the term "El Camino" (in English-the way or road), it is generally the French Road that is referred to.

It starts in the Pyrenees, at the French border and runs roughly 500 miles across northern Spain through some of the most beautifully preserved medieval villages rich in heritage and some of the most scenic countryside and mountains of Europe.

Each year 100,000 people from all over the world, all ages, faiths and walks of life, make the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.

Pilgrims walk on average between 5 to 8 hours each day, carrying the bare necessities on their back and staying in a network of places offering a bed and shower and sometimes a communal meal. They are called albergues and are often in monasteries, convents or hostels. Many albergues only ask a donation or small charge.

The journey is an amazing experience of simplicity. Pilgrims leave behind all the conveniences, comforts and luxuries of home, as well as the burdens, the stress and the politics.

They say that the road offers many lessons to those who walk it, the most profound being the journey of self discovery.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sacred and Mystical Places

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, We are spiritual beings having a human experience"
Teillhard de Chardin

Sacred and mystical places are as spiritually meaningful today as they always have been in the history of mankind. Nearly every culture in human history has honored the divine, the mysterious, the supernatural or the extraordinary. They are special places where the physical world seems to meet the spiritual world and these have become our sacred places. They are generally awe-inspiring natural places that are in some way through myth, miracle or legend connected with gods, saints and heroes. They are believed to have "power to heal the body, enlighten the mind, and awaken the soul."

One needn't be religious or even a believer to recognize and even honor that holy places, religious buildings and sacred art are some of the most beautiful things in the world. And since prehistoric times humans have traveled to these sites, making them the most loved and visited places on earth.

The ancient practice of pilgrimage is as popular today as it was in ancient times. And the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is one of the top 3 pilgrimages in the world today only topped by Rome and Jerusalem. The mystery and the spiritual power of the Camino draws both the faithful and the curious.

"The idea that life is a pilgrimage and the really important aspects of life have been revealed to them through their experience of the route is a constant in Pilgrim narratives" says Nieves Herrero Perez, University of Santiago de Compostela.

The words I have heard most often from those who have made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is that it is "life altering".

Ten million visitors are expected to visit the resting place of Saint James the Apostle at the Cathedral of Santiago in 2010, which is a Holy Year (when Saint James' day, July 25, falls on a Sunday).