Get Ready for Good Times-Part I

By Linda Ballou
NABBW’s Adventure Travel Expert

Soft adventure is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry.  People want to get outdoors, breathe fresh air and rid themselves of city stress.  But, do they have the stamina, and energy to withstand the rigors of sleeping in a tent, paddling a kayak, or hiking all day? Outfitters are fond of saying that anyone can enjoy outdoor adventure holidays that include horseback riding, hiking, river rafting, kayaking and birding. I think this is true with the caveat that you prepare yourself for your adventure.

Linda at Taggert LakeSince turning fifty, I\’ve enjoyed riding horse back in the High Sierras, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, gliding down the Green River in a kayak through the Labyrinth Canyon, sailing through the British Virgin Islands, and birding in Glacier Bay Alaska. Through trial and error, I\’ve arrived at the following suggestions to help you enjoy, rather than endure an active holiday.

(1) Start training about a month before your vacation begins.

If you’ve missed your day at the gym for the last five years, it’s still not too late to get into shape.  The minimum, requirement of walking twenty minutes a day will jump start your cardio-vascular system.  Everyone from medical doctors to the homeopathic guru Deepak Chopra tells us that we need to walk everyday to keep our bodies healthy. In a couple of weeks of daily walking, you will find your stamina and energy level building.

As a fun reward for good behavior, add a two or three mile nature walk into your regimen once a week.

  • A hundred million Americans are on foot because they want to unplug from the modern world’s pace for couple of hours.
  • The repetitive action in walking is a form of meditation for your body. You can start out troubled with a disturbing question on your mind, and end up with an answer that simply comes to you as you focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
  • As you walk you’ll receive a continuous intake of new images that in turn trigger new thoughts.

(2) Add exercises specific to the sport you will be enjoying on your vacation.

If you are going horseback riding, do some deep knee bends and calf stretches. If you’re doing a kayaking or rafting expedition, get your arms and shoulders into the act.

  • Just the basic lifting of hands to the sky about fifty times will strengthen muscles in your back that hold you upright.
  • When you’re ready, strap a five-pound weight band onto your wrists and really give your arms a good workout, during your daily walk.
  • Stand up straight and hold your stomach in when you walk. Gravity encourages us to slump and curls our spines into stressful postures.

The simple act of holding yourself erect is the single most important thing you can do for yourself. It allows your organs to function properly and is a tremendous isometric exercise for your muscles. Balance is important in almost all sports.

Your mother told you to stand up straight, and this is one thing she was definitely right about.

(3) Do you dread leaving the cozy confines of your down comforter to sleep outdoors on unforgiving terra firma?

Invest in a Therm-a-rest sleeping pad. Self-inflating, you just unscrew the nozzle and it inflates to a comfortable half-inch mattress.

  • Instead of playing slippery slide all night on a plastic air mattress in a nylon sleeping bag you can get a good nights rest.
  • This nifty little item slips nicely into a pack and gives just enough support to your back to prevent the “corkscrew” effect that sleeping on the ground can have on your spine.

If you are a back patient, like 80% of the U. S. population, you should do back exercises everyday. Don’t leave your good habits at home.The Therm-a-rest doubles as the perfect exercise pad.

  • Before crawling out of your toasty sleeping bag do basic knee to chest movements to warm up your muscles.
  • While the cook is boiling water for your coffee, you can use the first twenty minutes of the day to loosen up aching muscles.
  • Exercise energizes us by sending oxygen and nutrients to our muscles. You’ll feel better and have more endurance.
  • If you pitch your tent away from the group you can slip your pad outside of your tent and do a few stretches in the snappy morning air while you watch the sunrise.

(4) Whether you are a back patient or not, invest in a back brace.

You don’t need the black, industrial version you see the clerks at Home Depot wearing. You can get a nice white, much less obtrusive version at any medical supply store.

Put it on when the guide says, “This is going to be a bit of a grunt.” In jock language this means you may be bending an effort for several hours that day. Giving your back a little support will allow you to paddle, pedal or hike much further without getting tired.

(5) Steer clear of alcohol.

Make it a part of your training to skip that tumbler of wine you look forward to at the end of the day for a week or two before you leave on your trip.

Your body will have a big job adjusting to climate changes without alcohol retarding the process. Tripping through alpine meadows, and sniffing wildflowers is a wonderful holiday, but you may find yourself climbing into high altitudes at a rapid rate. The symptoms of altitude sickness: spike in the forward headache, nausea, and food tasting like tin foil can be avoided by drinking loads of water and not drinking alcohol.

  • Over the counter Ginkgo Biloba is credited with preventing altitude sickness with the pleasant side effect that it restores memory cells.
  • Diamox, the prescription remedy for altitude sickness, can cause frequent urinating as well as dizziness and lightheadedness during the first few days of use. A half tab is usually enough to head off nausea and aids in the sleeplessness experienced by most people on their first night in high altitude.

The same admonition about alcohol applies when you head for desert regions. Your body clamors for water and alcohol just gets in its way as it tries to adjust to the dry air. That daily drink of wine, that your body is accustomed to having at home, can cause you to turn the corner to disaster on your holiday.

Linda Ballou says her mission is to experience as many beautiful places on our planet as she can, before they are no more. “Travel tales relating my experiences while kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, birding and hiking about the globe have appeared in numerous national magazines. I had a great deal of fun collecting travel stories, and profiles of people I have met in “naturally high places” for my newest book, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales. For a complete bio as well as published on-line clips with photos go to my website www.LindaBallouAuthor.com.  Your reward, aside from learning about me and my work, will be to discover the secret to youth! Follow my blog to keep up with my latest adventures.”

Go to www.examiner.com and search for “Linda Ballou” to view my Great Outdoor Days in L.A.

Linda's mission is to experience as many beautiful places on our planet as I can, before they are no more. Travel tales relating my experiences while kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, birding and hiking about the globe have appeared in numerous national magazines. I had a great deal of fun collecting travel stories, and profiles of people I have met in “naturally high places” for my newest book, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales.