The trail we hiked last Saturday morning was the red trail at Raven Run, which is just down the road from our house. We hiked four and half miles, before lunch. The best part about trying to get ready for an intense high altitude hike, is that we must prioritize hiking practice, which means we get to do more hiking. If all our vacations involved months of physical training to avoid collapse due to exhaustion and altitude sickness, we would be healthier people, I'm sure.
This trail has a great views of the cliffs along the Kentucky River from the edge of a rock bluff that is high above the water.
Even after hiking four and half miles, then spending the rest of the day working on a stair banister project, I was happy to find out that my legs weren't sore the next day, unlike after our seven and half mile hike through rough terrain on our recent hike to Cloud Splitter. Being sore after seven and a half miles isn't so bad if I don't have to do more hiking the next day, but since the trip we are planning involves four solid days of hiking, and each day is more than seven and a half miles, I think I need more stamina and leg strength. So, how do I strengthen my leg muscles if I can only work in day-long hikes on odd weekends? Well, Jamie offered to let me join him at the gym on the day of the week he works legs muscles. The gym?! Me?
Unlike the hike at Raven Run, where around each bend there is the goal of a different beautiful natural feature to see, like the stream in the photo above, when I'm at a gym, there's no fooling myself that I'm not exercising. I have a problem, philosophically, with exercise. Recognizing that I need to exercise, I trick myself into doing it by walking the dog, gardening, building, working, hiking, yoga, or pretty much anything that involves exercise without the title. So for me, going to a gym feels like admitting defeat. Am I really going to exercise, for real? I think I'm going to try.
It was cold enough the morning of our hike, that ice formed on the branches of this twig that was resting in the stream. Each little branch dangling in the water had a perfectly round ice cube attached.
There are no pretty ice formations at the gym, I know, but to show myself that I am actually going to exercise on purpose, I invested in a new pair of jogging pants, my very own lock for a gym locker, and paid for a membership. There's no going back now, right?
Yesterday was my first day of "working legs," as Jamie and Brandon call it. I followed Jamie's lead, and when he used a giant bar loaded down with weight to do squats, I just did the squats with no bar and weights. I didn't feel overly stressed, but I was heeding his warnings of making sure I went easy the first day, just to make sure.
Same thing with the leg press machine. I did the repetitions with no weights - no problem. We used a strange torture machine to exercise our abdominal muscles, and I was still good. Then, Jamie selected a bar for himself with multiple weights, and suggested I select the tiniest little bar at the bottom of the rack with a single small doughnut sized weight at each end, for some dead lifts. We lifted our bars ten times and took a short break. When Jamie said it was time to repeat the set, I bent over to pick up my baby bar, and the back of both my thighs started to cramp! Ouch!! I quickly set the weight down, and hobbled around willing my legs not to cramp completely. I've never had hamstring cramps before, and I wouldn't mind never having them again. Stupid gym!
The forests at Raven Run used to be farmland, as evidenced by the long, moss covered stone fences that remain.
Instead of finishing the rest of the leg exercises with Jamie, I climbed on the treadmill and walked until I was sure my legs weren't going to seize up. How embarrassing would it be to cry on my first day? It's disappointing to find out I couldn't even make it through the entire routine, even without using weight, but I guess this proves to me just how much work I need to do to get my legs in shape for the big hike. I think I will be going back to gym for another dose of leg cramps. Sigh.
My legs are only a little sore after my trip to the gym, despite the cramps, but Brandon tells me that the second day after working muscles is usually worse than day one. So at least I have something to look forward to!