CategoriesFitnessUncategorized

Sanskrit to Celebrity Yogis: 10 Things I Hate About Yoga

Yoga that doesn’t mess around. (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

I took my first yoga class in 1999. I found a lot to like about it. I could feel my body snapping back into alignment. It even helped my concentration – at the time, I played a lot of hockey. After a yoga session, I’d strap on the goalie pads and the puck seemed bigger and slower.

On the flip side, I found out there some things I hate about yoga. An aborted session at At One Yoga in Phoenix (more on that in a future post) really brought this to the forefront of my mind.

1. Sanskrit Chanting – Exactly what is the point of that Sanskrit song that so many yoga classes start out with? I don’t speak Sanskrit, and I’m frankly not there for a "spiritual" experience. And besides, whoever said "chanting" begat "spirituality?" I grew up going to Catholic mass, so I’ve had a bellyful of unneeded verbal repetition. Let’s get to the good stuff!

2. The overly soft, nurturing, gentle yoga teacher voice – Exactly where do some yoga teachers get that overly measured, breathy voice? It sounds ridiculous. And I say that even though one of my favorite teachers uses it. Coming from male teachers makes it even worse – I always hear them as Mr. Van Driessen from Beavis & Butt-head.

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CategoriesFitnessGear

5 Facts About Bike Shorts

bike shorts
Now that’s a pair of bike shorts!

Bike shorts are a bone of contention with just about every new bicyclist. “Do I have to wear Spandex?” they’ll whine. “Why are they so expensive?” usually comes next. The answer to the first question is “yes, you do.” The answer to the second is “‘Cause they’re doing a hard job – supporting your miserable, stinky undercarriage!” Here are a few things that might add some detail to these short answers for the new bicyclist.

1. Yes, you really need to wear bike shorts.

They have a pad in the butt to make sitting on a bike seat more comfortable. They’re also made from materials that wick sweat away so it can evaporate. That means less heat and less chafing. You’ll be far happier than a bicyclist wearing jeans!

2. Dude, please don’t wear underwear with your bike shorts.

My brother tried taking up biking. I think he stopped after the relentless mocking I gave him when I caught him wearing tighty-whiteys under his bike shorts. If you wear undies (boxers, TWs, thongs, whatever), you defeat the wicking capability of your shorts. You will stay wet, making you feel like you’re wearing a diaper. If you’re into that sort of thing, fine!

3. I consider $80 for a pair of Castelli shorts money well spent.

But to me, throwing $35 down for some Bellwethers is like spraying my money with WD-40 and lighting it on fire. The difference in quality and fit is huge. A new bicyclist riding short distances might not notice the difference. But some experience and increased time on the saddle will reveal all.

That said, budget shorts are getting slightly better as you may notice in this review of The Black Shorts, which seem a cut above other cheap bike shorts.

4. When you’re looking for shorts, look for a few things:

The butt pad (aka chamois) should not be a big blob of foam. It should be designed to conform to your mysterious man/lady parts. Also, the shell of the shorts should be constructed from more than one big piece of material. The more panels, the better the fit. Just try on a pair of Bellwether or Canari shorts, and follow with something from Castelli, Assos or even a higher-end Pearl Izumi. You’ll know where your money is going.

5. After you’re done riding, don’t go to the coffee shop and lounge around in your bike shorts.

There’s still some moisture in there, as well as some heat. That’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Change into some regular ol’ shorts for your post-ride coffee. Sure, you won’t look like the cool bicyclist that you are, but you’ll smell and feel better.


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CategoriesFitnessUncategorized

Mountain Biking Scottsdale, Ariz. – McDowell Mountains

 

 

A view from Waypoint 22!
A view from Waypoint 22!

This is the first in my series about mountain biking in Scottsdale, Ariz., and this episode will focus on the trails on the southwest wide of the McDowell Mountains.

There’s something about mountain biking that’s kind of funny. Despite the name, it often doesn’t happen in or on mountains. There’s a lot of mountain biking in valleys, plains, glades, prairies and the like.

But if you’re mountain biking the trails on the west side of the McDowell Mountains, you are truly biking on, up and down mountains.  Most of these are part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This preserve has a pretty interesting history, and it’s certainly worth reading about.

But enough about that: On to the riding! Just look at the trail profile – I still haven’t gotten my new GPS and mapping software to talk nice to each other yet. But you’re looking at close to 1,500 feet of climbing jammed into six miles.

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CategoriesAdventuresFitness

Pass Mountain Trail at Usery Park

pass mountain trail
The view north about two miles from the Pass Mountain Trailhead.

Pass Mountain and many other county trails get overlooked often. And unless you live in the Phoenix area, the only time you’ve probably heard the phrase “Maricopa County” is in relation to its relentlessly self-promoting sheriff, Joe Arpaio. I’m not going to dive into that can of worms except to say that he doesn’t exactly do much to foster warm, fuzzy feelings for the county government.

That’s a shame for the Maricopa County Parks crew. This system of more than 10 parks isn’t perfect – but it is outstanding. I am constantly thankful for the county parks department, and all it has done to provide a lot of quality outdoor recreation for residents and visitors alike. I feel like it’s a bargain to hand over my $6 whenever I go into a county park (See a complete list of fees). Huge props to the county parks staff, especially for McDowell Mountain Regional Park. That one’s my favorite by a long shot.

Today, I’m focusing on Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa (we’ll get to McDowell in a future post) and the Pass Mountain Trail. This is getting you close to the famous Superstition Mountains, and within very nice sight of the Four Peaks Wilderness Area.

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CategoriesFitness

Why I Hate the P.F. Chang’s Rock & Roll Marathon

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An old shot of the medal collection.

If there’s any one marathon in Phoenix that people know about, it’s the bloated corporate monster that is the P.F. Chang’s Rock & Roll Marathon, which is coming up in a few weeks. So, why do I, the normally laid-back Wandering Justin, shoot flames from my eyes at every mention of it? (And you should see my wife every time someone asks if she’s running the Rock & Roll Marathon … the offending person usually gets in earful from her very similar to what you’re about to read)

Here’s why:

4. The course is incredibly dull and ugly, meandering through some of the most unscenic parts of the Phoenix concrete jungle. There are decent bits, but overall it’s uninspiring as all get-out, running near a freeway for a good distance before turning onto the charmless Van Buren Avenue before heading to the finish in Tempe. Ugh.

3. I love rock & roll. Love it enough that I devote a lot of time to playing the guitar and writing songs. But this event just doesn’t draw good bands. I suspect that’s because it’s way too early for the rocker lifestyle. What can the event organizers do to get better bands? Embrace the fact the rock should be loud and edgy, and that a good band just might make the event a little less family-friendly.

2. There’s a freakin’ huge number of people in this thing. That makes parking a nightmare. Running a full marathon is tough enough. Who wants to add logistical headaches to it? And it also makes you just another face in the crowd.

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There are plenty of running events in the Valley that provide better experiences than the mega-marathons.

1. It overshadows Arizona’s best marathon, the awesome Lost Dutchman Marathon. This is a small, humble event. It just happens to be beautifully organized, along with being routed through incredible scenery near the Superstition Mountains. Residents along the route will often set up impromptu aid stations while genuinely and enthusiastically cheering runners in the full marathon, half-marathon and 10K. And their finishers medals kick serious butt – a real piece of hardware.

I guess it saddens me to see that mere money can overshadow genuine quality, but it happens all the time, doesn’t it? I’m hoping this is a record year for the Dutchman since it’s now nearly a month removed from the Rock & Roll Marathon. The Dutchman had previously been hamstrung by being the weekend after. Still, all the locals who were in the know showed up for the Dutchman instead, and left Chang’s to the elite runner chasing paychecks, the less-experienced runners and those who thrive on hoopla.

So many things in this world seem to be about corporate suits “establishing a brand” and “connecting with core consumers” and “generating maximum visibility.” I much prefer the events that feel like they exist because a group of people who love running/biking/fencing/watermelon throwing/whatever got together and said “Hey, you know what would be cool? Running an event the RIGHT way so that it’s fun and welcoming.” Yeah. There’s just something about that.

This year, we won’t be running the Dutchman. That’s because there is a new marathon the same weekend on the other side of town. This one is the IMS Marathon, and it’s the inaugural running. We thought we’d check it out. And it raises money for the state leukemia and lymphoma society, which is nice. I think it will also be a cool, intimate event. A large part of me will still wish I was lining up for the Dutchman, but I have high hopes for the IMS. And there’s nothing wrong with two low-key events for those of us who don’t like the overly slick, blandly packaged, made-for-the-masses stuff.

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