Category Archives: WORK IT

Dispatch from Italy: Hiking in Cinque Terre

Well. We have officially survived the hiking in Cinque Terre.  When I was telling people about the whole Cinque Terre hiking-thing I was like It’s European hiking so it’s just sort of like walking around. And then you drink wine. 

I was totally right about the wine drinking thing and totally wrong about the hiking thing.   Marcus and I do zero hiking in America but at some points the paths we were trekking had me seriously concerned about broken limbs and/or whether or not our life insurance was in order. In my heart of hearts, I do not feel that this is the norm but nevertheless We Pressed On!

Since some of the paths are CLOSED (there was a mudslide in 2012 that took out several parts of the main trail between Riomaggiore and Monterosso) and others were “closed” we were a little creative with our plans. That being said, even with some segments of the main trail shut down there is still plenty of rigorous hiking to do!

Even though we don’t really own any formal hiking gear (boots, backpacks, pants, etc.) we did load up Marcus’ backpack with about 2.5 liters of water (we refilled the 1.5 liter bottle at every opportunity) and some granola bars. On Saturday morning I also discovered a giant length of decent rope that Marcus had purchased for our Pamplona trip (like a gazillion yards) to use as a clothesline. So we were ready for some adventure. 

On Friday, we hiked the 531, which is the “high” path that connects Riomaggiore and Manarola. The main path takes 20 minutes and is allegedly easy, but alas it was closed. This path?  One hour including rugged ascent and descent!  

Our other trek was the main path (the 2) between Monterosso and Vernazza. This is the only officially open part of the trail and is apparently also the hardest.  Between the ascending, and the portions of the path that were one person wide without a guard rail and sheer cliff beneath, there was plenty to keep us alert.  That aside, the views were beautiful (obviously).

Today, we kicked off our morning with a two part hike of the 593 loop to Madonna di Monte Nero. Our first ascent ended after 30 minutes of heavy climbing (or as it was described to us, Up, always you are going up.) when we confronted this situation. 

We descended and re-ascended in the reverse via a straight 60 minute stair climb for something like 1600 feet. 

This is first descent. 

Also, all of the paths are marked with a trail marker that looks like this every once in awhile. 

Sometimes it appears with great frequency. Other times, it vanishes. 

During our hikes, Marcus and I would play a fun game called Hiking Path Or Private Farm? where absent a trail marker we would guess whether we were turning onto the correct path or if we were walking straight into someone’s private plot of farmland (there are just tons of little personal gardens and farms on the hills of Cinque Terre!).

Anyway, after we survived all of this insane climbing sometimes on stairs, sometimes on boulders and sometimes on things that are hard to quantify other than as “climbable,” we saw this. 

Our second hike of the day was on the 2 from Vernazza to Corniglia. Technically this path is “closed.”  

Honestly, I think this was probably the safest path we hiked on the entire time, even considering this, which I believe was supposed to be the most dangerous part. 

So much room to walk on the trail and even sometimes handrails!

Lest you think that we were freestyling on our own, we passed probably 20-30 other hikers. This view = also not bad. 

And then we got gelato in Corniglia as we sort of aimlessly searched for the train station, crossed that town off our list, and hopped back on a train to Riomaggiore to watch the sunset. 

I told Marcus that we are officially hikers now. I am really so proud of us for being able to hike to each town.  It was a real physical challenge and an accomplishment, sort of in the same way that crossing a finish line feels like a victory. I highly doubt that we’ll be planning more hiking vacations any time soon, but this was the perfect interlude between art and…more art. 


Running Again


Last week I got the Go Ahead to actually exercise again (AKA really raise my heart rate and stretch my incision) and that was wonderful.

Which is not to say that the two weeks of rest were totally terrible.  It was (admittedly) a good break for my joints.  I  power walked each day and that was sort of a good thing and sort of ponderous.  Generally speaking, I like power walking – it’s a nice way to break-up my workouts throughout the week because you can’t run every day.  Allegedly it puts you in a heart rate zone that is fat burning, but I can’t really confirm or deny that since I don’t actually have a heart rate monitor.  But after 14 days, it was sort of like, enough was enough.

On the other hand, it was a great reminder that we don’t always get to choose what sort of exercise we get to do.  We’re not always in shape to run.  We don’t always have the upper body strength to do push-ups.  It’s like they say in yoga – I am working with the body I have today, not the body that I had yesterday, and not the body that I hope to have tomorrow.

I know that I shared my worries about gaining weight while I wasn’t running.  On the contrary, I lost weight.  Who could have guessed.  I ate the same amount of food I usually eat and just didn’t worry about it and that was that.  There were a few nights where I went out to eat and I definitely enjoyed those meals, but on the same hand, I also tried to make sure that I didn’t overdo it.  As we all know, one treat here and there won’t make a difference but an all-treat lifestyle definitely will.

I think that every runner’s greatest fear is that when they’re able to start running again, they won’t be able to.  Like either their body will have completely forgotten how, or they won’t be able to run a full mile, or it just won’t feel like it’s supposed to.  Good news: it feels like it’s supposed to AND I can run a full mile (or three).  And so I’m back into a routine.

Walking (Slowly).

From the department of extremely boring, I am on Day 4 of living a borderline sedentary lifestyle.

On Thursday, when I was sitting in the doctor’s office immediately post-surgery, I basically asked every way that I could to get permission to run and do yoga.  When I didn’t get that, I consoled myself with the prospect of power walking.

If I can be completely honest, when the doctor told me No Running, my first thoughts were:

  1. I am going to balloon into a whale over the next two weeks
  2. I need to focus on what I am eating so I do not balloon into a whale

Which is horrifically superficial, I know.  But this is honestly a bigger “break,” than I have ever taken from…exercise.  Even when I had awful tendinitis, I was on the exercise bike every afternoon, doing yoga every morning, and right now that is simply not an option.

With my first bandage change, there was a reality check.  I have a two inch incision and about 16 stitches in my back.  It was sort of alarming.  And it was 100% not the same as two centimeters and a few stitches.  At all.

I get it now.  I really do.  I can’t run or do yoga or even power walk right now or anything that will cause that area not to heal.  I can walk.  Slowly.  Which is just phenomenally boring.  But that is it, because I really need those stitches to stay in place and my back to mend.  I need to eat the foods my body needs in order to heal, which is not about amounts, it is about things.  Like lots of fresh produce, protein and healthy fats.  And daily mugs of hot cocoa because that is healing too.

A YouTube Workout

Kittens, as we’re now nearly a week into the New Year, I hope we’re all still on track with our resolutions and our efforts to get back into some sort of routine that we will later deem “normal.”  I would say that I definitely feel like I am finally getting back onto the right path.  My face has cleared up, I’ve found the spot in my Day Designer where I will track my workouts this year, and I’ve really been trying to keep processed foods at a minimum.  It’s all such a process.

I know I am about 100 years late to this party, but I have just discovered workout videos that you can source via YouTube.  Patty and I were at the bar watching the Gophers lose to the Tigers in the Citrus Bowl and she was telling me about this hip hop tabata routine that she had been doing.

Anyway, what she had to say about it was interesting enough that I was compelled to do it as my Friday afternoon workout.  I decided I would tell you all about it if I actually felt a burn afterward.  Guess what?  I did!  For two days!

So.  This hip hop tabata arrangement is by Keaira LaShae.  As far as I can tell she is a fitness instructor/aspiring singer.  The whole video is set to her song, “Drunk Love” and some other song that I don’t think she mentions by name, so be prepared to listen to the same two songs for 20 minutes.  She and her friends do these workouts in an actual living room, so you should have no trouble doing this in yours.

This particular workout seemed really focused on glutes and quads, with a bit of “core” work.  I’ll be completely honest, I could only do the Level One moves.  Patty says she usually does the Level Two and I was like OHMIGOD YOU ARE A WORKOUT WARRIOR.  I have done no other tabata-style workouts before in my life, so I really cannot tell you if this one is true to style or not.

As a fun follow-up to the hip hop tabata (and just to get my heart rate going one more time), I also did the 90s Throwback Hip Hop Cardio, which is about five minutes long.

What YouTube workouts are you doing?

Healthy Living: Working Out

This week’s healthy living workshop topic is Working Out because I am currently in mourning.

You see on Sunday, I had to send my first running top to the marathon course in the sky.  The elastic had finally disintegrated and the destruction was total.

This top was one of my proud purchases four years ago after I finished my first half-marathon.  Up until that point I had been fitnessing in cotton yoga pants and old white camisoles from Express.  Not fashionable, but it worked.  And I didn’t want to financially commit to gear if I wasn’t sure I was going to wear it.

Even though so much of healthy living really is about diet, I know that there was a certain point in my weight loss journey where I realized it would be impossible for me to lose any more weight if I did not start working out.

Which was really overwhelming because I didn’t even know where to begin.  Answer: my apartment had the world’s most tragic excuse of a workout room.  An old treadmill, an elliptical machine with a hitch in its stride and a decrepit hot tub that no one ever entered or exited.

When I started exercising, working toward my goal of running a 5k, I decided that if I could train three days a week as my baseline I would be in a good place.  It was the minimum amount of time I needed to dedicate to training in order to have success, and I knew that scheduling workouts into the rest of my life wasn’t going to be a totally seamless process (surprise: it wasn’t).

Today, my fitness life looks a little bit different.

Every day, I move.   I do a 20 minute yoga practice in the morning on weekdays.  Along with some crunches and some girl push-ups.

Five days a week, I run.  Two days a week, I power walk.

Seven days a week of cardio.  Five days a week of twice-a-day workouts.  It sounds…a little intense when I say it that way.  But do you know what’s actually intense?  Continuing to maintain a 60 pound loss.  Fixing a profoundly broken metabolism.

Those first few months, learning how to run, learning what a downward dog was, those were really really hard.  Giving up 30-35 minutes in my day (plus the 15 minutes I needed on either end to get ready to workout/get ready to go out) was not easy.  However, when I was on that side, I never could have understood how truly good I would feel now.

What I do remember clearly, even at the beginning is that I know I have never, ever regretted a workout.  The day I stopped living with excuses was the day that freed me in so many ways.

Yes, there are days when I am busy.  Sure, there are days where I am sick.  Of course there are days where I am just exhausted.  Instead of sitting on the couch, I just keep moving.  And for each day that I am able to do this, I am a better person.  Not only to myself but also to those around me.


For the amount of running I do, I don’t replace the majority of my gear very often.  When I do, it transpires in the following order: Shoes.  Tights.  Socks.

Let’s all take a moment to remember the fact that I was a sock monogamist for three years.

That should give you a better idea of the sort of replacement timeline I’m working on.

Hand to God, I have yet to throw out a running top or a sports bra.  It’s nearly time for new sports bras, but the tops are still hanging in there.  I almost wish that some of them would give up the ghost already, except now I’ve owned them for long enough that we have Finish Line Memories together.

I realize that all of that might sound slightly crazy, but pretty much we wear things until they fall apart in this house.  I’m fairly certain that the C9 brand from Target could survive the nuclear apocalypse.

But when I saw the Athleta Jaya top a few weeks ago, I decided that I needed to have it.

Jaya Tank

It was originally $54, and even though I thought it was possible I could love it that much, I just couldn’t bring myself to hit the Checkout button.  So maybe I’ve been stalking the site for the past few weeks hoping that the magical combination of A Sale and My Size would happen.

A 20% off of sale items coupon code ($26 including shipping) made it worth it.  It also explains this springy green color versus…gray.  Or pink.  Or navy.  I think I gave up on color preferences about the time I graduated from college – the one that looks best on you is the one that you are wearing.  Sooner or later one of my running tops will fail.  But until then, I’ll be enjoying something purely because I happen to find it pretty.

Where do you get your favorite workout tops from?

namaste. (or something)

I am a basement yogi.

Y’all have seen my DVD repertoire, but since I’ve got the vinyasa track of the 10 Pound Slimdown memorized, more often than not I find myself actioning my 5:00 AM practice to Morning Joe.   I understand this is not the natural order of things.

About a month ago, when Laura, Danny, Marcus and I were out for dinner at Tilia, Laura mentioned that she takes classes at the yoga studio not five minutes away from our house.  So we agreed to set a date and go together.

Lake Superior 001

I slapped together an outfit (I think you’re meant to make an effort when you work out in front of strangers) and ransacked the house for a proper towel to bring with since most of our hand towels are cream colored.  The last thing I wanted to do was wipe my face off on one of them.  I ended up with this treasure.

Lake Superior 002

Brilliant, right?

The studio entry itself was pretty much what I expected.  Lots of blonde wood and muted tones.   A prayer request box.  Cubbies.

As we entered the actual studio, one of the instructors squeezed Laura’s shoulder and enthused, “I saw the two of you embrace.  That’s very exciting.”

Um, okay.

There were about 10 of us in the class, total.  One of our number was a total Kath Eats doppelganger.  Besides the part where we did the splits, I really enjoyed it.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see in-person whether or not what I’ve been up to for the last three years has been “correct form” or not.

Good news: I’m on the right path.

Yoga class two came five days later courtesy of girls’ weekend at Bluefin Bay.

After coloring ourselves varying shades of enthusiastic about breakfast, we put on all of our clothes because it was OMG ZERO DEGREES outside and trotted over to the wellness center where we were greeted by a fart-filled entryway (truly horrific) and a bin of community yoga mats.

Lake Superior 024

And those blankets.  Can we talk about those for a moment?  Because apparently they are the unsung hero of the yoga prop stable.

Blessedly for all of us, the instructor had already hit the incense party train.

Lake Superior 025

Nevermind the fact that Brady described the scent as Catholic Mass.

The actual session was uneventful, besides the part where we spent so much time in Pigeon Pose that I had to go into Child’s Pose and pretty much no one could walk afterward.

But.  The crowning jewel was not the incense.  Or the Pigeon Pose from hell.  Rather it was the festive chanting of three rounds of “Om” at the end of the practice.  What pitch to chant at?  How long to go?  How loudly or softly to send that sound into the universe?  Mysterious stuff, indeed.