As many of you who follow me on my Live For It All Facebook Page, or who are in my Trainer In Your Back Pocket program know, my goal has been to add more adventure into my life this year. So, with my husband being deployed to the middle east, I have taken it upon myself to plan a new adventure each week while he's been gone. So far I've adventured out to explore Mount Diablo, Angel Island, Skyline Park, and Alston Park, all within about an hour of where I live in Northern California. (Blog posts on each adventure will be linked soon when I write them.) In addition to each adventure hike (or run or walk), I try to find a new restaurant or place to get a healthy meal as part of the adventure.
So, that brings me to today's adventure out to Moore Creek Park, near Lake Hennessy in the St. Helena, CA area. This park was recommended to me by our friend, Taylor, from Conn Creek Winery (a great place to taste some delicious red wines from each appellation in the Napa Valley.) She mentioned that her dog (also a boxer) loves to hike up the trail, and there's a great pool at the top for the pups to play in.
In my quest to find an adventure that Timber (my 6 year old boxer) could join me on, I thought I'd give this park/trail a try. I did my research on the trail system, where to park, etc. I always recommend doing your research especially if you're going out by yourself. I found the park very well marked from the road and it was easy to find the parking lot and the trail heads. Lots of signage to where the trails begin. Since we drove about 45 minutes to get there, I was glad to see there was a port-o-potty in the parking lot! The parking is free, but there is a donation box if you feel so inclined to donate.
Our goal was to take the Moore Creek Trail up to the end (I think about 2.5 miles each way) up to the pool of water at the top. What I didn't plan for was for Timber, a non-swimming dog, to NOT want to cross the creek crossings! We've had a lot of rain this month, so there was extra fast flowing water to cross. Boxers in general do not like water. The first two crossings were shallow enough that she could see the bottom and she followed me across. But at the third crossing that was about calf-deep, (if she could talk) she said Hell No! I didn't want to pick up a 60lb dog either and carry her over. Apparently this was not the trail for us to attempt this day. She did thoroughly enjoy drinking from each creek as we crossed though!
So, we turned around and backtracked to where the trail crossed the Valentine Vista trail.
The Valentine Vista Trail is a 3.1 mile trail that "ends" or for us today "started" at about the 1 mile point of the Moore Creek Trail which we had already done. So by the time we backtracked to this crossing, my GPS had us at 2 miles. This would give me a total of 5 miles back to the parking lot, which seemed perfect for the day's adventure. We adventured up the V-V trail which was quite steep with lots of switchbacks. The land was super green right now after all of our springtime rain, and the views were gorgeous! Not as much water for Timber to drink from creeks, since we were going up the side of the mountains, so if you have a dog, make sure to bring enough water for them. Timber is trained to drink water from my camelback ;)
The trail was super easy to follow. At one point I did consult Google Maps just to make sure I was going in the correct direction after one split that wasn't well marked, but I didn't really need to.
It was a cool 60 degree morning, and the sky was sunny! Couldn't have asked for a better day for a trail run!
After our run, I swapped shoes and headed off down the road toward St. Helena. I had in mind to find a juice/organic restaurant, but after searching the area and yelp, I couldn't find the one I was looking for. So I planned to just go to Dean and Deluca to pick up some healthy salads from the deli. First, however, my plan was to stop in at our favorite spot in Napa, Flora Springs Tasting Room for a wine tasting. I parked Timber out on the patio by a tree, and went in for a tasting. What I didn't plan for was for the butcher shop/catering restaurant next door to Flora Springs to be serving it's delicious lunch at the same time! (I guess I never come down to Napa during lunch time on weekdays!) They only serve one item each week, so if you don't want that item, then don't go there! Today's item was roast beef sandwich with a pesto aioli. I decided I would give up my gluten-free eating for one meal and dig in to the deliciousness. So, Timber and I sat out on the patio, enjoyed our wine tasting and roast beef sandwich to end our adventure of the day with an amazing vineyard view.
All in all, I'd say it was a successful adventure!
Today I went on an adventure to run a trail race in the SF Bay on Angel Island. (Read my blog about the Angel Island Trail Run here). Because I love food, and have been working on improving my diet to consist of primarily organic, non gmo foods over the past several years, one of my favorite things to do when I go to any new area is to look up local, organic food cafe's.
Today's quest brought me post trail race (in the rain, wind, and mud), to Cafe Del Soul in Mill Valley. YUM! I got the quinoa chipotle dish to go, along with an organic fresh pressed juice called Compassion (carrots, apples, celery, ginger).
What made me smile was not the delicious food that I got, but what was written on the to-go container: "Made with love." Who doesn't want to know that their food, especially food that was made by someone else, was made with love? What a cool concept. It brought up the vibration of the food itself, but also the vibration of me eating it. I felt so much better about eating it knowing that the hands that put it together were doing so with love.
It's something small, yet had a big influence. More restaurants should implement not only writing this on their boxes, but in improving the environment in which the food is made, and above all else, provide better quality, organic, non-gmo food options for us consumers!
How the Trainer In Your Back Pocket fitness program was born, and how it can help Military Spouses find an ounce of stability in our ever changing world.
If you're uncomfortable with loneliness or change, then you're going to have to do a lot of soul searching in this military life. I had no clue what I was getting into when I said "I Do" on November 12, 2011. But as I sit here alone, during the 3rd deployment THIS YEAR, I can only imagine how many other military spouses feel the same way that I do. Whether you're active duty, or a spouse (which gets the title of "dependent," a word which literally strips us of our "in(dependence)"), you're away from the ones you love for long periods of time. You're alone. How do we get through it? We just do. Or we don't. We are resiliant. Or we are not. It's a constant battle.
We move every few years, so when we finally get comfortable in our new home, our new surroundings, our new friends, guess what? They move. Or we move. It's exhausting to say the least. Add into that, trying to re-start a business in every new location, new city rules, new permits, new clientele, etc. and you've got a recipe for exhaustion, and eventual burnout no matter how strong you are.
I remember going to a business workshop with a panel of business leaders, a few years ago when I was part of the Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, MS. I will NEVER forget asking my question, searching for advice from these "successful" business leaders about being a military business owner, and starting/moving every few years. How does one do it and continue to make a living? The answer I got from each and every panel member was to the effect of "that sucks" and "you're in a shitty situation, but good luck!" I was floored. Was that really all they could say to me? Was there really no hope for me? Should I just give up? I mean, they really could have made something up about "be passionate" or some bull like that, but nope. They were like, you're S.O.L. I never knew how much it affected me till now, when I realized that I began to believe them. (And some days, I do still believe them, and feel like giving up, because... why bother? By the time I start making any money, it'll be time to pick up, move, and get slashed back down to zilch again.)
I grew up learning the importance of being independent. That meant having a job where I could support myself. So in essence, if I wasn't making money doing my "job," then I was just useless and worthless. This is a constant struggle for me as a military spouse.
Starting Live For It All was one of the best things I've ever done, but also the hardest. It's a struggle daily to grow a business, not knowing where I'll be living a few years from now. But, one of the best things that came out of being my own business owner, was my program, the Trainer In Your Back Pocket. (TBP for short). If I hadn't have moved with the military, there would have been no need for me to create an online fitness program for the clients that I was leaving behind to participate in. Even though I was going to be on the other side of the country, they could still work out with me! How cool would that be! While nothing replaces being face to face with a client for a workout or bootcamp class, the TBP was the next best answer I could provide. Of course, my goal with all of my clients is for them to be self-reliant with their workouts. They shouldn't HAVE to have an appointment with a trainer to value and do their exercise. The goal was that I would still create their workouts, their nutrition challenges, etc, and that they would be self-reliant enough to actually get to the gym (or do the @home versions) on their own.
Now that I am 5 years into the TBP program, I am so thrilled that it's a business program that I can not only take with me everywhere I move, but also, it's a program that other military spouses, and active duty members can take with them wherever THEY go! I've adapted and altered the TBP to accommodate my situation, and also millions of others military spouses who want some stability in their fitness plans in our chaotic world. In essence: Go to the gym. Take your TBP workout plan. Get in a great workout. It takes all of the thinking out of your workouts, since that's what the TBP does for you! You get the plan, do the plan, reap the benefits! We've got too much else to worry about. Don't worry about your fitness workouts! Let me do that. You just have to do them!
This question goes out to my military spouses: How frustrating is it, EVERY MOVE, to have to find a new: hair salon, nail place, doctor, grocery, butcher, farm, gym, trainer, dog sitter, mechanic, accountant, cable company, internet providers, repairmen, etc? The list is way longer than that, but sometimes people don't realize all of the other changes that go along with moving... all the time!
The TBP is your constant (and mine too). When you move, you still have your TBP workouts. You still have your trainer. You still have your @home workouts to do until you find a gym to do the @gym versions at. You still have ME and our TBP Tribe. We stick together no matter where we live, as we are all connected in the TBP. It may seem small and silly, but sometimes, you just need something to remain constant in your life when you are in the military. I hope that my Trainer In Your Back Pocket program can help ease the burden for many of you out there who need that connection, and that tribe, when you are constantly moving, relocating, or simply when you are home alone during deployments.
Join me in the TBP, and take your workouts with you wherever you go. Never feel alone in your fitness ever again, because you'll always have me... in your back pocket.
It's my constant need for checking my pace, and judging myself if I wasn't "maintaining my pace." As a running coach, I always teach how it's important to listen to your body, and on long runs, it's not about pace, but rather completing the distance, especially for beginners. This, I believe, is where the gap between road running and trail running lies. In the self-inflicted judgement.
As humans, we are always striving to be better. With respect to running, that means: go faster, go farther, whether or not you're running on the road or on a trail. Essentially, we want to be better versions of what we are today, tomorrow. So, in the running world, those two things (faster & farther) are our compass from which to judge. As I quickly learned, once entering the trail running arena, was that the amount of judgement involved was so much less than that of road running. I think this is one of the reasons I fell in love with trail running. I judge myself way too much and way too often on my own, so anything that helps me to judge myself less, is a good thing.
In my most recent running goal/challenge of running the Lake Tahoe Triple Marathon last year (3 marathons in 3 days around Lake Tahoe), my training was not about running faster. I solely focused on running farther and more often. The simple fact of disregarding my pace took off a huge burden that I had placed upon my own shoulders. I simply learned to enjoy running, slow and steady, without the pressure of going faster or beating my time. My goal was not to run the Triple Marathon with PR times, but simply just to finish. Of course on the last day, I did want to go as fast as I could to get it all over with!
While I was training for the Tahoe Triple, I made a few trips up to the Lake in order to do a few training runs at elevation. I did my elevation training on some trails (Tahoe does not lack good trail running at all!) What I noticed was that I could run forever! Suddenly running 15-20 miles wasn't a huge "chore." It became an adventure, and something I actually looked forward to. Rarely does one wake up and "look forward" to a 20 mile training run on the roads (at least I never did). This was the confirmation that I needed to put more of my time and effort this year into entering the world of trail running, and take one step out of the road running world.
Trail Running Rookie Mistake: My first trail race was the Blood, Sweat, and Beers trail run in Auburn, CA. This was about 6 or so years ago. It was "just 10 miles" so how hard could it be? I was trained up for running full marathons, so I signed up for this race and figured "how hard could it be?"
Those who have trained with me in my 5 Weeks to 5k, or Marathon Training Programs know how much I LOVE running hills. So, trail running would seem like the perfect fit. My goal is always to run up hills, no matter how slow I go. Think: "short, quick, tall, fall," for those who've taken my running clinic. Since this was my first trail race, I didn't really know what to expect. I thought I should be able to keep my regular road pace, because I was still in the mindset of "going faster and farther." How could going slower help me become a better runner? or rather, to enjoy running in a completely different fashion? Well, I completely powered through that 10 mile race (with little enjoyment), because I had to finish in my "time goal." It was a race, not just a run. Goal: Get from point A to point B as fast as possible. I couldn't even tell you what the trail or scenery really looked like. It was nice to cross that finish line, but, I think I had missed the point. As I mentioned, I powered through it. I did not enjoy it. I had "road running mentality" because that was all I knew at the time. My eyes hadn't been opened to the "trail running mentality" yet.
Trail Running Ego Blow: A couple of years ago I was in Alaska for my friend Mandy's wedding. Two days before the wedding was a 3 mile uphill-only trail run called the Bird Ridge Trail Run. How hard could this be? It's just 3 miles... straight up... non-stop. 3400' vertical elevation. I started off by keeping up with the pack, and as always, I tried to maintain my "jog" up the trail even while everyone else was walking (faster than me, of course). It lasted just a few short minutes before I had to stop and join them... and then stop and catch my breath... and then fight my way up the mountain to not be last. I had totally overestimated my trail running ability! I did make it to the top in about 2 hours. 3 miles in 2 hours! yikes! I ended up being 2nd to last up the mountain out of about 100+ runners. Talk about ego blow! I thought I was a pretty good runner before then! Coming down the mountain (not part of the race) was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. My legs were jello, on fire, and wobbly. The race crew had already taken down the finish line at the top, and were zipping on down the mountain with an effortless flow. I tried to keep them in sight, as all I could think was that I'd be the last one on the mountain, and eaten by a bear. I cried a little, not going to lie. I also couldn't walk for days. BUT IT WAS AWESOME! I needed this experience to teach me that it's not about being first or last in the trail race or how long the trail is. It's about exploring new territory, and achieving summits that are extraordinary. Pushing beyond personal boundaries that include more than how fast and how far. Plus, this 3 mile trail race was on the equivalent of as challenging as any of my previous marathons had been.
So, to wrap up my story, not sure I even have a point to this blog post, but my eyes have been opened to an entirely new world of running. It's not that I will forever eliminate road running from my life, in fact, I can't wait to run my next full marathon, but this world of trail running really has helped me to find more adventure, and less judgement/pressure in my life. I've coached marathon runners for 12+ years now for dozens of road races. But this year will be different. This year my hope and goal is to share my love of trail running with you guys. This year, my marathon training program will be for a trail race, in hopes of showing the "typical road runner" what it's like to focus on the adventure of running, and not the speed. What happens to runners when the pressure and judgement gets taken away? Do we start enjoying it again?
Come join me in our 2016 trail running half marathon training program! We begin on March 19th in Vacaville, CA for the Lynch Canyon Trail Half Marathon on June 4th! Click here for all the training details. I challenge you to try something new. Let's go explore and have an adventure together!
Abby Malmstrom M.S., a.k.a. The Trainer In Your Back Pocket, is an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, wellness coach, and "real food" nutritionist. Her life as an active duty military spouse takes her all over the world, allowing her to influence, teach, and connect with folks in communities she never even dreamed of reaching. Life's an adventure, so join Abby for the ride! It's time to "Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well, Be Well."