Friday, October 2, 2009

African dance class burns calories

If you're looking for a fun way to burn calories indoors without the monotony of using exercise machines, then a dance class such as this African dance class might be a good option for you. Read about the class on Qcity Metro.

Lashawnda learns African dance from beermakesyoufat on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Swanky outdoor fun in the Blue Ridge Mtns

I am so jealous of my Observer co-worker John Bordsen. He recently tried out Primland, a swanky outdoor resort lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s a 14,000-acre resort in the Meadows of Dan, Va. north of Charlotte.

This place is phat. In an Observer article, Bordsen described how he went hunting, horseback riding and dashing through the woods on an ATV. I like all of those activities except hunting. I haven’t ridden an ATV since I went looking for marijuana fields with the York County Sheriff’s Department, but that was another lifetime.

In this lifetime, I’m drooling about riding a four-wheeler at Primland. And I emphasize dreaming because the place isn’t cheap. Lodging starts at $199 a night and goes up to $1,200. And horseback riding is $100 per person.

If Primland is too rich for your budget try these local alternatives:
Rides at the equestrian center at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve start at $20.

For your ATV needs, try Carolina Adventure World in Fairfield County, South Carolina, about an hour from Charlotte. One of my fellow motorcycle instructors raved about this place and I can see why. A day pass to use the ATVs and dirtbikes is only $25. Ziplining is only $5.

With these kind of prices, it sounds like Beer Makes You Fat needs to do a round trip. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thread trail provides a change of scenery

Ever tire of running the same route or biking the same greenways? Well, the Carolina Thread Trail could solve the cardio doldrums. The trail is planned as a 15-county Carolinas network of paths linking cities, towns and attractions spread over 7,300 square miles.

Many of us probably already use parts of the trail now without realizing, but that's getting easier. Earlier this month, Thread Trail logo signs were added in 11 communities over five counties to designate 22 miles as branches of the Thread Trail, according to a story in the Charlotte Observer.

So follow the signs and pedal through our neighboring counties.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hiking, biking and ziplining

Whether you like hiking, biking or zipping through the air praying you won't die, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area has an outdoor facility to fit your needs and often your budget.

This area caters to outdoor enthusiasts because of amenities at places such as the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation's extensive facilities and the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Then there are natural attractions such as the surrounding mountains and lakes that provide ample reasons to go outside and play.

Andy Phin, co-founder of Charlotte Outdoor Association, helps outdoor enthusiasts and newbies take advantage of the outdoor opportunities. The group sponsors dozens of outdoor events each week from hiking to canoeing. He said the region's mild weather makes it easy to stay active outdoors all year.

"We have so many greenways and parks," said Andy Phin, co-founder of the Charlotte Outdoor Adventures (CHOA). "I love to do all of the kayaking."

CHOA sponsors kayaking trips, but the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation also offers kayaking excursions.

The best resource for information about Park and Rec programs is on the comprehensive Web site With about 210 facilities and 30 area recreation centers, the county's park system offers the widest variety of outdoor activities for the region. Along with its diverse selection of activities and facilities, the best thing about Park and Rec programs is most are affordable or free.

One of the most popular park system attractions is the greenway system. A greenway is a 10-foot-wide paved trail that winds through vegetation and sometimes past creeks. The trails are popular among bikers, joggers and walkers. There are 33 miles of developed and 147 miles of undeveloped greenways in Mecklenburg County.

For the competitive outdoor person, Park and Rec's athletic facilities and recreation centers offer a variety of organized sports from basketball to flag football. The system also has five golf courses, and more than 100 tennis courts. Another system attraction is disc golf, which involves throwing discs at a target. The county has about a dozen courses in various parks. Most offer 18 playing holes.

Ginny Guedes, 29, and her friend Chris Lewis, 28, both of Cornelius, play nearly every day. Guedes likes playing at Hornets Nest Park because it's convenient and challenges her.

"Charlotte is really a mecca for disc golf," Guedes said. "People just don't realize how lucky we are."

If land isn't your thing, there are a variety of water sports available in the region. Water activities range from kid-filled water parks to neighborhood pools. Fresh water enthusiasts will enjoy kayaking or canoeing on area lakes such as Lake Wylie or Mountain Island Lake.

Those who enjoy the thrill of navigating rapids can test their skills at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It's a non-profit outdoor recreation facility that has whitewater rafting, canoeing and kayaking. The man-made pond boasts Class II to IV rapids. Paddlers can bring their canoes and kayaks or rent equipment. The three-year-old center sits on 307 acres near the Catawba River off Interstate 85 South.

To challenge experienced paddlers, the center increases the water volume coming down the channels on Wednesday evenings, said executive director Jeff Wise. This makes the rapids even more powerful.

"We're always looking for new things that are exciting," he said.
Another adrenaline rush is the center's new ziplines. They're 32 feet above land. Riders zoom from the back of the top competition channel, over the bottom pond, up the wilderness channel and ends at the island.

Wise said the ziplines have been extremely popular.

"People are not as intimidated by the zipline," Wise said. "Zipline is more like a ride, get clipped in and you just go."

The center also features hiking and mountain biking trails, and extensive climbing walls. The walls cover about 5,500 square feet of varied surfaces. There are more than 40 roped climbs for climbers of all skill levels.

"The facility is really a lifestyle center," Wise said.

And, Charlotte is a lifestyle city where residents can work, live and play – indoors or outdoors. Mecklenburg County Park and Rec has about 210 facilities and 30 area recreation centers with everything from kayaking to tennis. In September, Park and Rec publishes its bi-annual activity guide Get Going, which is also available online. Park and Rec has a comprehensive Web site that allows users to search and register for events.

The U.S. National Whitewater Center provides a full day of fun for everyone from paddling rapids to biking the trails. The center offers lessons for various activities and hosts scheduled events and competitions. 704-391-3900. 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway Inner Peaks Climbing Center boasts 8,000 square feet of climbing wall that reach 25 feet high. Advanced climbers use it as a training facility, but the facility also offers options for novices and kids. 704-844-6677. 9535 Monroe Road, Ste 170.

Crowders Mountain State Park is just across the border in Gaston County. It has more than 15 miles of trails for the casual and advanced hiker. The park also has primitive – extremely primitive – camping. For climbers, the park has 150 routes. Located off Interstate 85 South Exit 13, in Kings Mountain.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bootcamps provide extra motivation

At Crown Point Elementary School, the three women looked at the steep hill warily. Jennah Hardy grinned malevolently. Participants in her Rock Hard Bootcamp had just finished running through ladder rungs and around cones for 30 minutes. After running they curled PVC tube filled with sand or pushed sand-filled tubes above their heads to work their shoulders.

Their muscles screamed.

And now, Hardy wanted them to climb the kind of hill you sled down, not run up. Actually, running up the hill would’ve been too easy. No, Hardy wanted them to lunge up the hill instead. Slowly, the women stepped one foot forward and dropped their opposite knee toward the ground.

Lunging up a hill. Who does that?

Jennah Hardy.

And it’s Hardy’s creativity – or insanity – that keeps Marti Stegall, 44, coming back to Hardy’s bootcamp each week. This is Stegall’s second time doing the three-week camp and she loves Hardy’s creativity.

"I don’t know if we’ve ever done the same exercise twice," Stegall says. She’s always got something new and different in the hopper."

Stegall, like many people, turned to bootcamps to get and stay in shape. Television shows such as "The Biggest Loser" and "Celebrity Fit" club have made getting in shape for the average person chic. Unlike fitness infomercials which show ripped bodies, reality shows depict everyday people and B-list celebrities struggling with their weight. The shows often use a bootcamp format of outdoor activities and group exercises to train contestants.

Tim Lenchzowski, director of marketing for Atlanta-based Operation Bootcamp, said reality shows motivate viewers. People see these contestants who are sometimes extremely overweight, but they’re spending hours in the gym. The contestants’ determination inspires other people to spend an hour a day working out, he said.

"They’re not as fearful, not as resistant to start their own program," he says.

In Charlotte, about a dozen bootcamps have sprouted up in the last few years as more people seek alternatives to personal trainers and gym memberships. The camps can be found in parks, schools and gyms from NoDa to Uptown to southern Mecklenburg County. Most are in the early mornings, but there are a few in the afternoons.

Participants range in age from their 20s to people over 50s and are typically women. Some are moms who want to get back in shape after having a baby. Others are professionals whose work schedules leave little time or energy for the gym. Bootcampers range from participants who work out at a gym to people who don’t know when was the last time they saw their gym card to some who loathe gyms.

"I hate the gym," says Angela Sparacino, 30. "I always felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was wandering around, staring at the machines and just feeling like I wasn’t getting the most out of the time I was spending there."

Sparacino is participating in Operation Bootcamp, which meets at Latta Park in Dilworth. The Charlotte camp, owned by Christen Lewis, is one of 56 franchises for the Atlanta-based company. While many people use bootcamps to kickoff a plan to get back in shape, Sparacino and other others use it as their main form of exercise. As a result, local bootcamp operators say they have numerous repeat customers. Retention is good, but it makes it tough to challenge participants.

During a July workout, the Operation Bootcamp instructor made the dozen or so participants crab walk down a basketball court at Latta Park. Then they had to lunge-walk along the sidewalks. Then do pushups with a pause on the way up and down. And that was only on the second day.

At Operation Bootcamp, instructors use a mix of strength training with resistance bands and bodyweight exercises as well as cardio blasts, such as sprints. The worst is sprinting while someone holds a resistance band around your waist. Talk about hard.

Christen Lewis, 30, started the Charlotte franchise of Operation Bootcamp in March. She and her husband Chris moved to Cornelius from Orange County, Calif. late last year. On the West Coast, Lewis worked as a personal trainer and also participated in bootcamps. When she and her husband Chris moved to Charlotte, she decided to open a bootcamp because she enjoyed the workouts and camaraderie.

Bootcamp is for the person who wants to get in shape, but doesn’t know what to do on their own and doesn’t want to pay an average of $50 a day for a personal trainer, Lewis said. With a personal trainer, a customer typically sees their trainer once a week and then workout on their own. Bootcamps meet several days a week. Operation Bootcamp is four days a week for four weeks. Lewis also holds occasional free weekend camps. Lewis says bootcamps aren't the best exercise option for all people, but it’s perfect people who need motivation.

"It’s for the person who has that gym membership and can’t motivate themselves to go and needs that someone checking in with them everyday and will miss them if they’re not there," Lewis says.

Jessica Crowell, 24, is one oft those people. She worked out a "million" times a day in college, but her job as a bank analyst drained her. Her crazy work schedule makes it difficult to workout in the evenings, she said. Trying to make herself wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym wasn’t happening, so Crowell signed up for Operation Bootcamp with friends.

"It’s just really hard to motivate yourself when you have so many other things you have to do," she says.

Sgt. Roy Lewis uses a mix of exercise and inspiration to motivate his participants. He’s an Army drill sergeant and he uses military principles of honor and integrity to push his campers.

"Being a drill sergeant is more than getting in people’s face and screaming at them," he says. "You’ve got to be able to motivate them to find out what makes them click and get them to do what they never thought they would do."

He applies that philosophy to his bootcamp, which he started at the Dowd YMCA 10 years ago. Now, he operates the bootcamp independently and by contract for the YMCA. His camp is one week, it’s offered nearly once a month. His workouts typically include sprints, short-distance running, calisthenics, strength training and team-building exercises. One year, participants carried a log down Morehead Street.

Brenda Murray, 58, remembers the time Sgt. Roy made them climb 40 flights of stairs. She didn’t think she could make it, but he ran along side her. He encourage her to visualize her personal goal and see herself reaching it as she climbed each step.

"It really forces me to push my limits, to kind of break through my limits to try and reach a higher level of fitness," said Murray, who has attended the camps since he started 10 years ago. “It’s just a phenomenal experience."

In Mint Hill at her Rock Hard camp, Jennah Hardy uses everything from the hills that make participants cringe to PVC tubes to keep her workouts fresh.

"I use obscene things, like tires," she says. "We do crazy playground workouts. That kind of thing you’re not going to see in the gym."

Hardy started the bootcamp after teaching an athletic conditioning class at the Morrison YMCA for a couple of years. Many of her clients are members of the YMCA. Hardy has been a personal trainer for eight years and she started her monthly bootcamp three years ago. It grew out of her personal training work with seven women. Hardy watched the women form a friendship around the workouts.

"They were encouraging each other," she says. "They were motivating. It’s almost like it was more fun."

The workouts are fun, Marti Stegall says, especially when friends participate. Stegall started doing the bootcamps earlier this summer after she lost her job at the YMCA. Although, she worked at the Y, she rarely worked out. Her job and her family kept her from using the gym, she said.

"It does make you feel guilty when there’s 10,000 square feet of fitness space in a building and you don’t take advantage of it," she says.

Stegall says over the years, she’s worked out inconsistently. For example, she ran a half-marathon in February 2007, but then changes at work took her out of her groove.

"I’ve always been on that roller coaster ride," she says. "Sometimes I’m in a great place. Other times I’m not giving it much."

Hardy’s bootcamp has inspired her to stick with it, she says. She took her exercise ball and dumbbells on her recent vacation to Ocean Isles Beach. She walked, biked or ran nearly everyday.

"I just feel too good right now," she said.

Operation Bootcamp –
Owner: Christen Lewis owns the Charlotte franchise.
Where: Latta Park in Dilworth. Plans to open a south Charlotte location this fall.
Length: Four weeks. Four to five days a week.
Hours: 5:45 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.
Cost: $275 - $350.
Info: 888-7-FITNOW,

Rock Hard Fitness
Owner: Jennah Hardy
Where: Crown Point Elementary School in Mint Hill and her nearby home studio.
Length: Three weeks. Three days a week.
Hours: 6 a.m. – 7 a.m.
Cost: $145.
Info: 704-839-6331.

Sgt. Roy’s Bootcamp
Owner: Roy Lewis
Where: Different locations uptown
Length: One week
Hours: 5:45 a.m. – 7 a.m.
Cost: $45.
Info: 980-225-4053.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ramblin' Rosers lose pounds, gain friends

(This is an article I wrote for Lake Norman magazine)

When Julie Smith of Huntersville talks about the Ramblin’ Rose triathlon, she doesn’t talk about how she’s lost 83 pounds. She doesn’t talk about how she can now run three miles, after once being barely able to walk a block.

When Smith, 49, talks about the triathlon, she talks about the friends she’s met in the last few months while training for the event.

“I’m enjoying this,” she says. “I want to see what I can do next.”

Laurie Hardin, 44 and also a Huntersville resident, is also preparing for her first Ramblin’ Rose. She, too, focuses on the women who’ve inspired her rather than the weight she’s lost.

Training for the women-only Ramblin’ Rose has helped hundreds of women form friendships that continue long after the women cross the finish line. In its third year here, the Ramblin’ Rose has become one of the area’s most popular triathlons.

It’s a two-mile run, nine-mile bike ride and 250-yard (10-lap) swim in a pool. The event, a great triathlon for beginners, will be Sept. 27 at the Huntersville Family Fitness Aquatic Center.

Chapel Hill-based Endurance Magazine started the Ramblin’ Rose in Chapel Hill in 2006, and launched one in Charlotte a year later. In its first year, the Charlotte event drew 400 women and sold out two months beforehand. This year’s cap was 800, and it sold out seven months in advance.

Endurance Magazine founder Steve Lackey says Charlotte-based Girls on the Run, a running and healthy living program for grade school girls, inspired the Rose. While working with Girls on the Run, Lackey says he realized adult women needed a program. The idea was to create a community to encourage women to live healthier lives.

Along with Roses in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, there’s also one inWinston-Salem. Lackey plans to add a second Rose in south Charlotte in spring 2010. The magazine will also add a Rose in Raleigh next year. There’s also talk of creating a national model in the coming years, he says.

Although elite athletes participate, Ramblin’ Rose isn’t overly competitive. During the race, volunteers cheer the swimmers, pedal with the bikers and encourage the runners. Many of the women bring friends and family as well. The event feels more like a pep rally than a triathlon.

“The event is all about celebrating the empowerment of women,” Lackey says. “You do it the way you need to do it and get across the finish line.”

‘All in this together’
“There’s something about that dynamic that is very encouraging,” says Alyse Kelly-Jones, who has been competing in triathlons for nine years. “It’s like a spirit of ‘We’re all in this together’ as opposed to ‘You are my competition.’ I think that’s what makes this so unique.”

The participants become a family. Many an athlete begins feeling terrified she will drown, fall off her bike because she hasn’t ridden since she was a child or feels self-conscious about jogging slowly. Once she’s experienced all of those emotions, and still steps across the finish line, she’s a changed person. Every person who inspired her to do the Ramblin’ Rose becomes part of her transformation.

Kelly-Jones, a south Charlotte physician, helped train hundreds of women for Ramblin’ Rose. She’s seen women like Smith and Hardin progress from being health-warning statistics to healthy women.

Kelly-Jones started a program called the Ramblin’ 100 in 2007 to train women for the first Ramblin’ Rose Charlotte. Her goal was to encourage 100 first-timers to sign up. More than 120 women registered. Each Ramblin’ 100 participant was paired with a mentor. Kelly-Jones organized volunteers to host clinics to teach the women how to swim, run and bike. After completing the 2007 race, several members of Kelly-Jones’ Ramblin’ 100 created the non-profit Tri It For Life. This year, 225 women are signed up for Tri It For Life. Next year, Kelly-Jones expects to draw 300 women.

“Women really need something like this,” Kelly-Jones says. “They connect with other women who have a common goal.”

‘They have been incredible’

Hardin and Smith are members of Tri It For Life and they credit the group and its volunteers for inspiring them to get in shape.

“They have been incredible and are great motivators,” says Hardin, whose job is servicing and maintaining aquariums and ornamental pools. “I have seen them take people on a swim who are afraid to put their face in the water. It is incredible.”

Hardin started as someone who didn’t work out at all. Now, she runs at least three days a week for about three miles. She also swims twice a week and rides her bike with the group. Since January 5, she went from 262 pounds to 187 pounds.

Smith has a similar story. She’s a single mom who works at a bank. Before she started training for the Ramblin’ Rose, her daily routine was to work and go home. Back issues made walking so painful, she mostly sat in a chair at home and did nothing.

“I was a mess,” she says. “I couldn’t walk more than a block. I looked like a fat old lady.”

Smith’s initial reaction to training for the Ramblin’ Rose: “There’s no way on God’s green Earth would I ever consider a triathlon.”

In 2005, she weighed 252 pounds and was considered morbidly obese. Two years later she had surgery to help her back, but she still didn’t actively exercise. Last September, her brother-in-law suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 47.

His death scared her. She worried about who would take care of her 14-year-old son if she died. Her scrapbooking consultant told her about the Ramblin’ Rose, and Smith decided to do it. Smith hasn’t looked back since.

She’s up at 5 a.m. several mornings a week for a run. She drags her son out of bed as well. He takes great pleasure in beating her home during their morning jogs, she says. On Sundays, she often does 20-plus-mile bike rides with people from Cool Breeze Cyclery in Mooresville. On weekdays, she participates in swim clinics in Charlotte through Tri It For Life.

Smith now weighs 165 pounds. She hopes to lose an additional 15 pounds. Her blood pressure has dropped, she’s no longer borderline diabetic and she doesn’t take painkillers anymore. She plans to participate in at least three triathlons a year.

She loves how she feels, and credits people such as a 64-year-old Tri It For Life member who is chipper and happy. Smith wants to be like her. Then there was the tattooed guy at Cool Breeze Cyclery — he was just so nice. She also can’t forget the elite triathlete who held a free bike clinic for Ramblin’ Rose participants, taking care to speak in layman’s terms.

“If it hadn’t been for all of the people out there, I wouldn’t be doing this,” she says.

Next year, another Ramblin’ Rose first-timer may say those same words about the woman who once couldn’t walk a block and now runs three miles.

More information
Ramblin’ Rose: 8 a.m. Sept. 27, Huntersville Family Fitness Aquatic Center. The women’s only race is closed, but $150 charity slots may still be available. All proceeds from these slots go to Girls on the Run. At least 800 women are registered for the event.

Tri It For Life: The training program prepares women for the Ramblin’ Rose, and also promotes healthy lifestyles. It has mentors and sport-specific clinics.

Endurance Magazine: The Chapel Hill-based magazine, which features athletes from around the state, sponsors the Ramblin’ Rose and several other sports events.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sign up for kayaking, fishing and segway tours

It's not too late to enjoy some outdoor activities with the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

Most of Park and Rec's outdoor sports last year round, except the kayaking tour of Mountain Island Lake. Sign up before it's too late.

September 26 – 9 a.m.-12 p.m. ( Program #3164) and 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. (Program # 3228)

September 27
– 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Program # 3229)


October 3 – FAMILY CANOE DAY – 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. (Program #3260) and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Program #3261)

October 10 – 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Program # 3230)
October 17 – Kayaking and Fishing 9 a.m.-12 p.m. (Program #3161)
October 17 - Kayaking – 1 p.m.-4 p.m. (Program #3231)
October 31 – Kayaking and Segway Adventure Day 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (Program #3327)

Register at or call my buddy Kevin Pimentel. 704-875-1392

Monday, August 10, 2009

Up the steps and through the woods

There are two ways to hike up Stone Mountain. The hard way and the harder way.

On Saturday afternoon, we chose the hard way - the 4.5 mile Stone Mountain Loop trail. During the two-hour hike up, we passed brooks and splashed through creeks. We lingered at the big waterfall, and raced up a flight of stairs.

We finished our frolicking at the 2,305 summit overlooking tree tops and listening to the waterfall hundreds of feet below. It was so quiet up there. A flock of really big birds soared by.

If you go: Stone Mountain has numerous trails. We parked in the Lower Lot. If you take the trail to the right you will pass the waterfalls. It takes about two hours. If you take the trail to the left from the upper lot, it's a shorter distance, but it's more strenuous. You can also park in the Upper Lot for a shorter hike - assuming you go in he correct direction. The park also has nice camping facilities for tent and RV camping. It's only about an our north of Charlotte up I-77. Easy day trip.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Graduation day at bootcamp

Day 5: Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp - Graduation

I'm participating in Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp. It's a one-week intense exercise program lead by Sgt. Roy Lewis, a real Army drill sergeant.

It was the last day of bootcamp, but Sgt. Roy didn't go easy on us. One woman was late, and she had to do 10 push-ups during warm up.

After warm-ups we moved out onto the field. We formed a huge circle. Each of us had a piece of paper with an exercise on it. We performed the exercise until he said stop, then we moved to the right and did the next exercise. The exercises included mountain climbers, jumping jacks, pushups and about half dozen more.

After we did three minutes of exercises, he would stop us and make us do an agility drill. We ran through rings, around corners and through an exercise ladder. Then it was back to the circle for more exercises.

My legs screamed. I totally have second-day muscle soreness from climbing the steps on Wednesday.

After we finished and did a cool down, Sgt. Roy handed out certificates. He gave us another pep talk about motivation, and shared some of the personal struggles he's endured, such as being laid off three teams and his daughters illness.

We also got some goodies from Murray Fitness. Sgt. Roy will be hosting another bootcamp next month. Maybe I'll see you there.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Swimming in jeans isn't fun

Day 4: Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp - The Pool

I'm participating in Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp. It's a one-week intense exercise program lead by Sgt. Roy Lewis, a real Army drill sergeant.

Wearing blue jeans and t-shirts, we climbed into the pool at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center. We started with one minute of power jumps, followed by a minute of flutter kicks on the wall and pushups.

Jumping wasn't so bad, but the flutter kicks killed me. I can barely swim and being weighted down by blue jeans didn't help. After three rounds of that, we swam the length of the pool using kick boards. I ended up walking because the kicking thing wasn't working for me.

We finished the day's workout with a fun game. We split into two teams. The objective was to get a volleyball to the other side. We quickly learned that passing was the only way we would get the ball past each other. My team went up three to one, but Road Dawg's team came back to win.

Next time, they're going down.

Oh, and next time I'll bring a change of clothes. Duh.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More tears, claustrophobia and no-shows

Day 3: Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp - The Stairs

I'm participating in Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp. It's a one-week intense exercise program lead by Sgt. Roy Lewis, a real Army drill sergeant.

Today was the big day. Running up 45 flights of steps. I'd been dreading and looking forward to the challenge for the last 24 hours.

When we arrived at the Dowd, I noticed or group was smaller than usual. The guy who felt he let his team down yesterday didn't show up. I was kind of disappointed. I had hoped he'd tough it out. As Sgt. Roy said, the bootcamp wasn't about finishing anything first, it was simply about finishing and doing your best.

We alternated between jogging and walking from the Dowd YMCA up South Tryon Street to the Bank of America building. We passed construction workers and a few joggers on the street. They looked at us like we were crazy as we sang whatever silly song Sgt. Roy made up.

At BofA, Sgt. Roy told us to take our time and do our best. He said a medic was at the top in case anyone needed help. That was comforting. (I guess).

I thought we were going to jog all the way up. I entered the stairwell behind some veterans so I could follow their lead. After walking three flights, I knew jogging up the tower stairwell was never really an option. By stairwell 10 flights I was winded. By 20, I was holding onto the rail occassionally. A couple of women stopped in the landing to catch their breath. Others passed me on their way, and several women didn't finish. Road Dawg stopped at 11, and greeted me with a big old smile when I came down.

She'd done her best, and I was glad she even showed up. She told me quitting was never an option.

Two women battled claustrophobia, but Sgt. Roy coached them through it. They went all the way up. The kid cried again, but she finished. No one needed a medic.

Oh and it wasn't really 45 flights of stairs -- only 39.
I wished I had timed myself. Next time I want to see if I can do it faster.

Afterward, Sgt. Roy told us he was proud of us. He said the motivation to climb the steps didn't come from him.

"It was in you all along," he said. "If you can go all the way up there, you can do anything."

He said bootcamp was a chance for us to motivate ourselves to try harder in life.

"Find out what you are made of and bring it."

Today we jog up 45 flights of stairs

I'm participating in Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp. It's a one-week intense exercise program lead by Sgt. Roy Lewis, a real Army drill sergeant.

Today we're supposed to jog from the Dowd YMCA to the Bank of America building. Then we're supposed to jog up 45 flights of steps. I'm excited and nervous.

I'm pretty sure this will be the most physically demanding exercise I've ever done. Sgt. Roy says it's okay if we don't make it to the top. He says it's okay if we only get to the 18th floor as long as we try our best.

It's not okay with me. I just hope my body agrees. We'll see.

(Did I mention, we have to jog back to the Dowd YMCA after we run the steps?)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 2: Tears and disappointment at bootcamp

Day 2: Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp - The Rope

I'm participating in Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp. It's a one-week intense exercise program lead by Sgt. Roy Lewis, a real Army drill sergeant.

Today's workout was tough, but tomorrow's will be hard.

This morning we separated into groups of four. Each group had a rope. We jogged one long single file line. We had to jog as a unit and we couldn't drop the rope or leave a teammate behind.

We jogged about a 1/4 mile then stopped for calisthenics then we jogged a 1/4 mile and stopped for more calisthenics. While jogging, Sgt. Roy also made us do a "wagon wheel." The lead group circled around to the back and then jogged to the front. We did this for 30-45 minutes.

Did I mention we started with 100 jumping jacks for our warm up? Yeah, it was that kind of day.

By the end of the workout, we had our first set of tears and one guy felt like he let his team down.

Sgt. Roy used both moments to encourage us to dig deeper. He said it wasn't important to finish first. It was important to try your hardest and finish. He congratulated the man who felt like he'd let his team down because at least he came to camp and tried his best.

He was a little less gentle with the young woman who cried. Apparently, she plans to enlist in the Air Force. He told her to get all of her crying out at this camp. He said she couldn't go to basic training acting like girl.

She stuck her tongue out at him.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Boot camp with a real drill sgt.

I spent my morning crawling and lying in wet grass and yelling things like "Bulldogs train to win!"

Today was my first day at Sgt. Roy's Bootcamp, and it's unlike any other I've attended this summer. Sgt. Roy Lewis, a drill sergeant who trains drill sergeants, runs the one-week camp. He applies military technique to his camp.

We started the morning in formation and we respondee to questions with "Yes, drill seargent." Sounded cheesy until we responded incorrectly. That cost us an extra set of exercises.

Lewis pushed us firmly, but gently. We spent the morning at Dilworth Elementary School crawling and sprinting in the cold grass. We finished by doing too many pushups and crunches.

This is my first time, and I'm doing it with my friend Road Dawg. I don't think she likes me anymore. She was looking rather salty by the end of the first days camp. Something about being covered in wet grass didn't appeal to her. Oh, and the sprinting and pushups weren't a picnic either. Deep down -- way deep down -- I think she likes it.

Many of the participants have attended before. Thankfully, they know the correct responses to his orders.

The class is a mix of people in their 20s and up. One woman is working with her two teenage daughters. Very cute.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Novices learn to kayak on Lake Norman

A kayaking tour with the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation is a cheap and easy way to learn the basics of paddling.

This video appeared on

24 Hours of Booty expanding to ATL

This blog appeared on

The popular fundraiser 24 Hours of Booty is nearing the $1 million mark this year, and it's expanding to Atlanta.

Last weekend's event at the Booty Loop in Myers Park, raised more than $875,000 to fight cancer.

"We had a fantastic event this year and are thrilled about these preliminary numbers. We are closing in at breaking the $1 million mark as donations continue to come in for both the Charlotte and Columbia [Md.] events," said Basil Lyberg, executive director of 24 Hours of Booty, in a press statement.

The Charlotte event drew 1,200 riders from 24 states July 24-25. Celebrity carpenter Brandon Russell of TLC's "Trading Spaces" and Sir Purr of the Carolina Panthers were the official event starters.

Along with holding the event in my hometown of Columbia, MD, Sept. 26-27, the organization plans to expand to Atlanta next year. Atlanta takes the popular fundraiser to a city rich with cultural and nightlife options. Plus, it's home to so many celebrities.

It's going to be crazy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's BOOTY time!

I'm headed to the beach this weekend, but I wanted to leave you with a little workout inspiration.

Friday - Good cause. Good friends. Good fun. It's 24 Hours of Booty. It starts today and ends Saturday. Even if you don't know anyone participating, it's lots of fun. People camp out and there are all kinds of vendors. Plus, you can stand along the route and cheer on the riders.

Saturday - The Amica Triathlon is the newest event in the North Carolina Triathlon Series. It's going down at Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie.

Saturday and Sunday - Lake Norman is the final stop of the 2009 Hyrdo-Turf APBA Watercross National Tour. This a highspeed race and the last one drew about 10,000 spectators. Beatty's Ford Park.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ready to try trail running?

If you've been looking for a way to spice up your 5K run then try trail running. Basically it's running on single track trails. Head to the nearest park and hop on a mountain bike trail.

Then, when you're feeling pretty good try the 2009 Trail Run Challenge at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It's August 22 at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. It's a 5K and a 10K.

Here are a few tips:
*Try flat trails if you're a beginner.

*Plan to run fewer miles at a slower pace on trails than you do on the roads. It's going to kick your butt.

*Watch for obstacles such as rocks, roots, logs and branches.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Camping in the Carolinas

I'm not sure what I liked best about camping at Ocracoke Island. It's a toss-up between hearing the ocean on the other side of the dune. Or walking out our tent, up a hill and watching the sunrise over the ocean.

I try to go camping every year, and apparently the recession is sending more people outdoors, according to a New York Times article. If you're thinking about taking a camping trip this summer, the Observer listed some of the most popular spots in the Carolinas.

I love Ocracoke Island on the Outerbanks. I stayed at the National Park Services campground. It's the closest I've been to camping directly on a beach. The drawback is cold showers and little shade. If you go, plan to spend about a week. It's an eight-hour drive from Charlotte.

For our trip, we drove to Kill Devil Hills and stayed in a hotel overnight. The next day we drove the remaining hour or so, and took a ferry to the island. The hotel stay gave us a chance to get a good night's sleep before we tackled setting up camp.

If you have kids, Myrtle Beach State Park is a good option. It's on an undeveloped portion of the beach so it's clean and quieter than the beach access near the strip. The park has a general store that has any supplies you forgot. There are also kids' programs. The park is crowded and the campsites are close together so there isn't much privacy. It's extremely family friendly so your kids can easily meet other people their age.

I also love Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. It's only a four-hour drive. The tent campsites are private and shaded, and the park has hot showers. It offers plenty of trails for walking and exploring. There's also the Atalaya, a Moorish-style winter home of Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington, sculptress and philanthropist. The park also has a genera, which really can open containers and coolers.

So far, it's BMYF 1, raccoons 1.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trail linking area counties underway

A trail linking 15 counties in the Charlotte are is underway. The realization of the Carolina Thread Trail began with the opening of the publicly accessible, three-mile Rocky Creek Trail along the Catawba River south of Charlotte, according to a story by the Charlotte Observer's Bruce Henderson.

An S.C. state grant paid for the Rocky Creek Trail. The National Audubon Society has designated the trail and the surrounding land on both sides of the river an Important Bird Area, marking its significance as wildlife habitat.

The Great Falls Hometown Association, Katawba Valley Land Trust, the town of Great Falls, S.C., parks and natural resources departments and Audubon South Carolina partnered to develop the trail.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Marathons too easy?

Editor's note: This story appeared in this month's issue of the Charlotte Observer's SouthPark Magazine.

Charlie Engle has one piece of advice for anyone interested in running 100 miles: “Don’t be afraid.”

That’s easy for him to say. In 2007, the Greensboro native, along with Canada's Ray Zahab and Taiwan's Kevin Lin, ran across the Sahara. Yes, the desert. And they did it for fun.

It took them 111 days to jog, walk and limp the 4,600 miles from Mali to Egypt – the equivalent of two marathons a day. During the trek, Engle was the relentless motivator, pushing himself, his fellow runners and his pit crew to tough it out through windstorms, dehydration, blistered feet and frazzled nerves. Their adventure was documented in the film “Running the Sahara,” which had a special screening at Ballantyne Village in May (DVDs of the film are available at The trek became a campaign to raise international awareness about the need for fresh water in Third World countries, but the three also did it to see if they could.

“I’m not interested anymore in doing things I know I can do,” says Engle, 46. “I want my challenge to be something that I genuinely have a good shot at failing.”

Engle’s attitude makes him the perfect poster-boy for the growing adventure sports community. He is an ultrarunner, though his Sahara trek was a bit extreme even for the ultrarunning community. More and more people across the country are running races longer than marathons. An ultra is any race over 26 miles. Beginners often start with a 50-kilometer race (or 30 miles), and a 100-mile race is for more experienced runners.

Ultramarathons have been popular in the underground running scene since at least the ’60s, but in the last few years they’ve become more mainstream. The number of people participating increased 12 percent last year compared to 2008, says John Medinger, publisher of California-based UltraRunning magazine. The number of races has increased 20 percent, he says. The races, which have fewer slots than typical events, also fill faster now than in previous years.

Medinger says extreme sports stoke some people’s thirst to push themselves. Many people used to think marathons were the ultimate, but now they realize there’s something beyond that.

“It triggers their imagination,” Medinger says. “People like adventure.”

Engle is writing a book to help new ultrarunners prepare for their first adventure. For now, he offers free tips and advice at He says most ultrarunners start as marathoners. The first step is overcoming the mental hurdles from the marathon experience. People often recall the pain they’ve had from running a marathon and assume an ultra will be worse and longer, he says. The body can withstand the pain as long as the runner has the proper nutrition, hydration and pace, Engle says.

“Ultrarunning is very much a mental sport,” says Engle. “It truly is a matter of convincing yourself to continue.”

It’s also a time-consuming sport. Training takes months and involves running for hours. Engle says it’s more important to determine how long you plan to run rather than how many miles. Runners experience good and bad days during an ultramarathon, but the key is to keep running, he says. The sport also requires an extremely well-planned diet to make sure the body consumes enough fuel. Engle says ultra runners live in a constant carb-loading phase.

“You really get to eat what you want,” he says.

For Engle, eating what he wants means shoving fruits and vegetables into a two-horsepower blender. He’s a vegan, and an oddity. Ultrarunning requires large sums of calories, which are hard for vegans to consume. The wiry Engle consumes more than 3,000 calories a day thanks to his fancy blender. He swears he has a good smoothie recipe with kale, spinach and peanut butter.

“I feel really, really good these days,” he says.

Most ultrarunners eat food that requires chewing. At an ultramarathon race the aid stations are like buffets, with pizza, soup, quesadillas and other offerings, says Boyce Bedrock, a Charlotte-based ultrarunner and blogger.

“You name it and I’ve seen it an aid station,” Bedrock says.

Bedrock says he knows about 20 to 30 ultrarunners in the Charlotte area. There are also ultra communities in Raleigh and Asheville. The Carolinas boast the popular Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run and the Mount Mitchell Challenge. The Mount Mitchell race is a 40-mile race in February that Engle says is just plain hard. The Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, in April, typically sells out each year, and is starting to draw runners from throughout the country. It has a 50-mile option, which Engle ran a few years ago. It’s in a park, which makes it good for beginners because it’s a controlled environment.

For Engle, Umstead would be like a training race. After running across the desert, he has fewer adventures to conquer.

He does want to complete a challenge he failed last year: He tried to set a record running across America. His goal was to run at least 70 miles a day from San Francisco to New York. He fell apart in Utah, and had to complete the trip on his bicycle. He had sponsors for the event and a web following.

“My body just completely disintegrated,” he says. “I basically failed in front of more than 100,000 internet watchers. That was a big, big public failure.”

Engle is setting himself up for another challenge in July. After placing third twice at Badwater Ultramarathon, Engle wants to win this year. It’s a 135-mile race from Badwater in Death Valley (282 feet below sea level) to Whitney Portals on Mt. Whitney (elevation: 8360 feet). The temperatures reach up to 130 degrees. Ninety top runners will compete in the non-stop race, which has a two and a half day time limit.

“I’m going for the first time with the stated goal to win the race,” he says.

Here are Charlie Engle’s top five tips for doing a first ultra.

1. Choose a race somewhere you would like to visit. Ultrarunning is about the entire experience, not just the running.

2. When creating a training plan, focus on time, not distance. In other words, plan to run for three hours instead of 18 miles. This takes some of the pressure away from feeling like you must run a certain distance to have a good run. Some days are better than others and most of us can commit to time more easily than distance.

3. Create a nutritional plan that guarantees that you can consume about 300 calories per hour during your training runs because this is what you will have to do during the race.

4. Tell everyone you know you are running your race so you will have lots of support. They will help you when times get tough.

5. Remember 75 percent of Ultrarunning is mental and the rest is all in your head. Have fun.

For more information on ultramarathons:
UltraRunning: Web site dedicated to the sport.
Charlie Engle: The ultrarunners’ Web site.
Ultra Adventures: Website for NC ultrarunners.

N.C. races:
Umstead 100 Endurance Run: Considered a good race for beginners.
Mount Mitchell Challenge: Run from Black Mountain to Mount Mitchell, eastern America's highest point, and back again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great cycling opportunities in LKN

Editor's note: This story appeared in the Charlotte Observer's Lake Norman Magazine.

If you're considering getting into cycling, there's no better time in the Lake Norman area to take to the road or the woods.

The sport is growing, and experts say reasons for customers range from seeking stress relief to finding alternatives to gas-guzzling cars. Members of the cycling community are excited about recent developments ranging from new mountain biking terrain to a proposed cycle network.

Experienced mountain bikers can look forward to a new section of the Itusi trail. It's a challenging bike trail under construction at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. Volunteers have been building the trail for more than a decade. The newest three-mile addition, Laurel Loop, will have larger rocks, narrower paths and fast descents with turns. Other sections of the 13-mile Itusi are good for beginners.

The trail makes the park an attraction that draws cyclists from other parts of the state, says Wes Davidson, manager of First Flight Bicycles, which has helped build the Itusi.

“There's a ton of people that go ride that trail,” he says. “The more and more mileage we get, the more and more people we will have to ride.”

Road cyclists, meanwhile, are excited about a proposed Lake Norman bike network. The N.C. Department of Transportation has selected Lake Norman and its four counties (Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba and Lincoln ) for the state's first regional bike plan.

The idea is to create a safe and lasting network of bike lanes and paths that connect to parks, transit stations, downtowns, the lake and other destinations.
The N.C. DOT committed $171,000 to complete a plan, and they've been seeking public input. In May, residents had an opportunity to comment on the plan at a series of meetings. Possible sites for the network include Lake Norman State Park, Blythe Landing Park in Cornelius, Beatties Ford Park in Denver and the Davidson College lake campus.

“It really opens up the door for the cycle community and getting out with our family to bike for fun,” says Sarah Matchett, a manager at Cool Breeze Cyclery in Mooresville.

Matchett leads several area rides for the shop. There are four rides, from novices to experienced, on Sundays at Lake Norman State Park. Matchett also leads a women's ride on Wednesday mornings in Davidson. She knows the challenges cyclists face on the road.
Motorists have been slow to accept bikes on the streets, Matchett says. Back roads are fine, but some roads, such as Brawley School Road in south Iredell, are more dangerous, cyclists say.

“We're sort of in the baby stages,” Matchett says.

Matchett says they try to make it easy for cars to pass because they know it's frustrating to be stuck behind slow-moving bikes.

“We have as much right to be there as anybody else,” she adds.

Whatever kind of network the N.C. DOT builds will be a welcome addition to the area, because more people are taking to the roads on bikes. Arleigh Jenkins, of Trek Bicycle Store, says in recent months they've seen more customers buying bikes for different reasons. Last year, new customers said they wanted inexpensive transportation to save money on gas. Once the economy soured, Jenkins noticed more customers bought bikes for their families.

“People realize their kids aren't getting enough exercise and people are trying to find things that are local and cost-effective,” she says.

Cycle shops (many of which have rides and clubs)
Cool Breeze Cyclery
Mooresville Gateway (Exit 33)
124 Trade Court
Suite F
Mooresville, N.C.

First Flight Bicycles
216 S. Center St.
Statesville, N.C.

Spirited Cyclist
Rosedale Shopping Center (Exit 23)
9911-A Rose Commons Drive
Huntersville, N.C.

Upcoming rides

2009 Lake Norman Excursion, July 18. Lowe's Corporate Headquarters.
Cackalacky Cup 2009, August 21-23. Lake Norman.
Hospital 2009 Kids Triathlon Series, July 25. Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics, 11725 Verhoeff Dr. Huntersville,.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beer is your enemy

What if the thought of drinking your favorite beer or eating your favorite food suddenly made you recoil? Charles Stuart Platkin is a personal trainer who uses people's unhealthy desires, such as cake and rum, to motivate them to lose weight. He calls himself the Diet Detective.

Imagine if your weakness is beer, and your personal trainer made you workout by unloading beer kegs at a grocery store. Read about how Platkin uses similar tactics to to motivate people to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles. For example, he made one client walk for 2 1/2 hours while carrying a slice of cake.

Would something like that motivate you to get in shape and live healthier?

I'm trying a new bootcamp

The morning dew soaked through my sneakers and socks as I jogged up a steep hill beside Crownpoint Elementary School in Matthews. During the hourlong Rock Hard Bootcamp by Jennah Hardy, the hill became my friend.

I joined three other women for the 6 a.m. morning workout. We jogged up and down the hill. We lunged up the hill and squatted up the hill. The squats killed me. Oh and then we did these walking lunges with a torso twist. That killed me too. The day's workout also included agility drills involving running around cones and rope ladders. Those ended with arm-aching barbell exercises.

So far the camp feels a little more laid back than Operation Bootcamp, but the intensity of the workout can be hard if you push yourself. Hardy uses the terrain and school playground equipment for the workout.

It's three days a week for three weeks. Hardy also offers evening sessions. On Wednesday mornings she does additional interval running training on the school's field. That's not part of the camp, it's just for fun. She also does runs after the Saturday morning camp. I have a meeting this morning, but I'm definitely going to join her next Wednesday for the post camp interval run.

Also, I'm not going to call out a certain friend who was supposed to workout with us this morning, but you know who you are. You've been swearing for a month that you're going to do a bootcamp and you haven't done one yet. Not even one day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catching up with Carlton

I'm back from a week and a half of dranking, eating and hanging with the family. I was in the DMV for a family reunion and some good ol' mom's cooking. Now, I'm paying the price. Although, I worked out my usual five days a week, I still picked up some poundage.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. for Operation Bootcamp at Latta Park. There will be one additional free camp at the park on Thursday. Workouts start promptly at 5:45 a.m. The next paid session begins Monday. The slots are filling fast.

On Wednesday, I'm trying Jennah Hardy's Strive For Life bootcamp in South Charlotte. I'll let you know what I think.

Speaking of bootcamps, I finally caught up with Creative Loafing editor Carlton Hargro. We had lunch last week and he filled me in on life after Operation Bootcamp.

Yes! He's still working out. He said it hasn't been easy working out on the treadmill.

"I'm try to get that intensity like my chest is going to explode," he said. "It's tough, I cannot get a good workout."

Carlton said he works out four days a week. His attitude is better and he feels more energized.

I'm trying to convince him to run a 5K with me. We'll see what happens.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Go outside and play: canoeing and field day

I'm teaching motorcycle class this weekend so I won't be out and about, but below are some events for you to try.

Take it back to grade school with Creative Loafing's popular Field Day '09. Expect wacky games, lots of sweat and big fun.

This will take team work. Try paddling a 22-foot canoe with nine other people. UNC Charlotte’s Ventures Office will give you an opportunity with a paddling trip 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., June 20. It costs $54.

SERIOUS ROCKCLIMBING: Head out to the National Whitewater Center and see the NC State Games Boulder Climbing Competition & Kayak Competition. Climbing from 2 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. and kayaking from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Coming up:
Charlotte Breezers are organizing a white water rafting trip at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City.

July 25, 2009

$100-160* members or $125-185* non-members.

Price depending on overnight stay.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

U don't need legs to bike

I have two friends who have physical disabilities that prevent them from running, but the Charlotte Observer story below shows how they can still stay in shape.

A $10,000 grant is giving people with physical disabilities an opportunity to experience the thrill of mountain biking.

Cornelius-based The Cycle Path has two off-road hand cycles available for riders to borrow. They are free to use, but Cycle Path owner Mark Sullivan is having a hard time finding riders. He bought the bikes hoping they would provide physical activities for injured veterans. So far, Sullivan hasn't had many takers – veterans or civilians – and he wants to change that.

“We don't want them just hanging there and collecting dust,” he said.

Transamerica Reinsurance Co. provided the grant for Cycle Path to buy the bikes, which cost $5,000 each. The bikes have two wheels in the front and one in the back. The arm-powered cycles can be steered with the rider's chest and hands.

Thanks to the Tarheel Trailblazers mountain bike club, hand cyclists can stay in the Cornelius area to use them. The Trailblazers built a mile-long trail at Jetton Park that is wider than typical trails to accommodate the larger bike. There is also an adaptive trail at Southwest District Park.

Several trails at Lake Norman State Park are also wide enough to accommodate the bikes, said Tom Mathews, past president of the Tarheel Trailblazers.

For more information: The Cycle Path, 20900 N. Main St., Cornelius. 704-896-3331.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gator can't stop Fort Mill kayaker

Neither a broken oar or an alligator could stop Fort Mill's Dion Zucconi from paddling from Rock Hill to North Charleston. It took Zucconi five days and some frayed nerves to complete the trip. He deserves mad credit. I did a kayaking tour of Lake Norman last week. It started at 9 a.m., and by the time it ended at noon, I was more than ready to be on solid ground. I can't imagine five days in one of those.

I mentioned the Rock Hill Herald article about Zucconi last week because I wanted to know what type of outdoor or fitness feat have you always wanted to do. I'm still holding on to my goal of throwing the dogs in the car and hitting the road with a tent and cocktails. What about you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Segwaying thru Latta Plantation

Now, I know what it feels like to really ride a Segway. Last week, I took Latta Plantation's Segway Adventure Tour. My group included two couples and their friend - all class of Central High 1956. I had a great time with them, but we didn't cover as much as ground as the tour usually does.

This morning outdoor recreationalist Neil Elam took me back out for a quickie to see some of the trails we didn't get to see last week. Latta Plantation at 7 a.m. is one of the most serene places to be. We cruised along twisty trails such as the Catawba trail. I loved navigating my two-wheeler around roots, rocks, mud, hills and sharp curves.

We visited the equestrian center (Neal fed the horseys - cute.) We also visited the park's prairie (peaceful). The prairie is acres of natural native vegetation. We saw a turtle and a blue heron. Neal said if we were really lucky, we'd see a great horned owl, but we didn't. We also took the winding trails to different parts of Mountain Island Lake.

The Segway tour is a great way to see nearly all of the park, which has miles and miles of trails. The tour is only $35, and you can register through Parks and Rec. I suggest getting a group of up to six people and scheduling a private tour. If not, you can sign up for the park's existing tours.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Charlotte Roller Girls' day of bar games

The Charlotte Roller Girls spent Saturday afternoon challenging customers at Mac's in South Charlotte to beer pong, cornhole and arm wrestling. The event raised enough money for a month's worth of practice space fees. The next bout is July 19 at the Grady Cole Center. The afterparty will be at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille.

Friday, June 12, 2009

No excuses to get in shape

If you've been thinking about getting in shape and need a little inspiration, read about Dawn Brickler.

She's a quadriplegic who was injured in a boating accident on Lake Norman. According to a story in the Charlotte Observer, she founded the Race to Walk Fitness Center in Mooresville. It's a fitness center for people with paralysis, and features special equipment.

If paralysis doesn't stop Brickler and her customers from staying in shape, what's stopping you?

Go outside and play: kayaking and more

I'm planning a crazy active Saturday. It starts with a kayaking tour of Mountain Island Lake and then I'm planning to support the Charlotte Roller Girls at the their cornhole tournament.

If you're looking to dabble in outdoor recreation, here are a few suggestions:

ROCK CLIMBING: The Charlotte Breezers, an African American outdoor recreation group, is rock climbing at the U.S. National Whitewater Rafting Center in Gastonia. The Breezers are a fun group, and their events are well organized. I've done their ski trips and skydiving excursions.

Rock climbing prices: $27-$56. Contact: Hezekiah Barnette at 704-301-1724 or

KAYAKING: Experience a different side of Mountain Island Lake with a three-hour kayaking tour Sunday afternoon. Never kayaked before? It's all good. Tour starts with paddlers learning the four basic strokes, and how to enter and exit the kayak. All equipment provided, but bring plenty of water and snacks. $16. I'm doing Saturday's class.

The Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec site isn't easy to navigate. Go to the site, click Activities and then search for kayaking. There are only three slots left for Sunday's tour.

Coming up:

Take it back to grade school with Creative Loafing's popular Field Day '09. Expect wacky games, lots of sweat and big fun.

This will take team work. Try paddling a 22-foot canoe with nine other people. UNC Charlotte’s Ventures Office will give you an opportunity with a paddling trip 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., June 20. It costs $54.

Pre-trip meeting 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., June 16. More info: Sarah Fox 704-687-3398 or

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shedding pounds on skates

Amie Pinkie Adams never liked the gym, but roughing it up on roller skates inspired her to be more active.

After a car accident sidelined her for months, Adams trained to play roller derby. She is one of nearly 50 area women in the Charlotte Roller Girls League. She's lost 25 pounds since February, and she still enjoys chicken wings and beer (afterall, PBR is a league sponsor.)

"I didn't start conditioning before I started (playing in) the league," said Adams, 32. "It motivated me to get in shape."

Adams is an example of how getting fit doesn't have to occur in a gym, and doesn't require endless miles of jogging. The Charlotte area has numerous adult recreational leagues -- Charlotte Sports Connection, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, and Interlink -- that offer sports ranging from flag football to kickball. If you want to get in shape, try finding a sport you loved in high school or discover a new one.

I have played flag football off and on here for 15 years. I have tried ice hockey (I sucked), and played pick-up volleyball and soccer while living in the area.

Adams found her motivation on roller skates. Charlotte Roller Girls started with 10 women three years ago. Now there are three teams within the league. In September, the teams will compete for an intra-league championship. CLTRG teams play at Grady Cole Center and average about 1,200 people per game.

Along with intra-league play, the Charlotte Roller Girl teams also play roller derby teams throughout the Carolinas and surrounding states.

The woman aren't being paid to play, but they're more committed than some of those whiny professional athletes. Roller derby is a high-speed, high-impact sport that requires serious physical training. The women train on and off the skates.

Adams trained for nearly a year before she was in good enough to shape play in her first game.

"There's a lot of garbage cans, I threw up in," she said with a laugh. "I was out of shape. I had put on a ton of weight."

The players practice two hours a day, four days a week. Adams said a team member calculated the women burn at least 1,000 calories per practice.

On Saturday, the league will host its Inaugural Cornhole Tournament and Bar Games at Mac’s Speed Shop, 2414 Sandy Porter Road. It's from 12-6 p.m. Along with cornhole, there will be arm wrestling with a roller girl and beer pong. The next bout is July 19. The afterparty will be at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

ISO an outdoor adventure

I have always wanted to - and still plan to - do some kind of big outdoor adventure. I've done skydiving, whitewater rafting, ziplining in a rain forest and kayaking. But I'm talking about doing the kind of adventure that make your friends call you crazy and pray.

I loved what Christopher McCandless tried to do in 1992. He's the Emory University grad who gave away his savings and wandered across the country to rough it in Alaska.

The only problem is McCandless died of starvation in Alaska. I'm not into dying.

Fort Mill's Dion Zucconi's idea of adventure is my style. Zucconi, 30, is paddling a kayak from Rock Hill's River Park to Charleston's Cooper River. The trip will take at least a week and cover more than 500 miles of water.

Zucconi's kayak trip is a doable adventure. I'm still trying to figure out the right one for me. So, far the closest I've come is camping alone at the Grand Canyon a few years ago.

What type of outdoor adventure have you done or would you like to do?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yay! mom, but now I'm scared

My mother sent me a text on Sunday. She's worked out five days a week for three weeks. I'm proud of her. This is the most consistent she's been in minute.

I offered to workout with her when I go home in a few weeks. She invited me to go to her aerobics class.

Ugh, I was thinking we'd walk together. You know, spend a little mother-daughter time, walking around a park. But no, she wants me to be in a room with a skinny chick who wears headphones and has way too much energy.

I always look crazy in aerobics. I usually go in the wrong direction. And I don't know any of the commands they use. Me and my big mouth.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Intimidated by the gym?

Meet a Union County woman who lost 90 pounds in two years without going to a gym. The Charlotte Observer wrote about Sarah-Emily Peterson who created a home gym in her apartment.

I know lots of people who buy fitness equipment, use it for a few months and then never touch it again. It takes a lot of self-motivation to workout at home. Kudos to Sarah-Emily Peterson.

If you find the gym to be intimidating, too crowded or too expensive then consider creating a gym at home. Start with finding a workout plan to determine what type of equipment you need. On Men's Health's site, click on workouts. Also look at their Belly Off and The 300 workout. At Sparkle People, you can create a custom workout by answering a few questions. Click on fitness then workout generator. At Shape's site click on fitness and weight training 101.
You can also check the local library for fitness DVDs, and many of the sites mentioned above have podcasts and videos.

If you live in an apartment complex or a subdivision with a fitness room, you can use the available equipment. Depending on when you go, those fitness centers can be as private as working out at home - without the interruptions of loved ones.

If you're starting your own gym, look at Craigslist sporting goods listings. Also check garage and moving sales for weight benches, dumbbells and cardio machines.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We don't love our kids

A recent news story shows North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for youth obesity. Call me insensitive, but there is no excuse for kids to be overweight. Actually, yes there is - too many of us adults are overweight as well.

If we love our kids, we'll do more to keep them healthy. Letting our children sit around the house and eat junk because they're bored is inexcusable. We have so many parks from big ones such to small neighborhood ones tucked behind homes. We have greenways and bike trails. The Huntersville Aquatic and Fitness Center is doing a kids triathlon series. Many YMCAs and other fitness centers offer programming and activities for kids.

Along with making our kids become more active, we also have to feed our children better. Whether it's fast food or frozen food, we can't keep feeding them food that is high in calories, sugar and fat because we don't have the time or energy to cook. The Johnston YMCA has a free nutrition class for members on June 15 from 6-7 p.m. I'm sure other YMCAs offer nutrition classes as well.

Most of all, we have to show our kids how to be healthy by leading health lifestyles ourselves. It starts with us.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I love you: You're fat

For years now, I've been going back and forth with my mom about losing weight. She always says, "I know honey, you're right." Or, "I've been so busy." Or, "I know I just have to do it."

In our latest round, she bought a treadmill. My parents have owned a gym membership since I was in grade school. Mom has used it sporadically for the last decade. But, about two months ago she bought a treadmill. She swore she was going to use it. You know how it goes, it's more convenient, she doesn't have to leave the house, blah, blah, blah.

She used it for a month - maybe.

My frustration led me to tell her she was going to die of a heart attack. That didn't work either. I suggested, again, that she hire a personal trainer. Then she would be more accountable since she was paying money.

For some reason, that one clicked. She realized she had a gym membership she wasn't using and a new treadmill. She's been going to exercise class and using her treadmill everyday for the last couple of weeks. She complains she hasn't lost any weight. I tell her it's only been two weeks and to stop worrying about the scale.

I'm hopeful, but no overly optimistic that she will truly start exercising regularly. Operation Bootcamp owner Christen Lewis says it takes several months for a healthy lifestyle change to become permanent. She gave me some advice in case my mother strays again.

She suggested trying to change my mother's eating habits first and then adding exercise.

"Doing both can be really overwhelming if you haven't done either in a long time," she said.

She also recommended because it has everything from meal plans to personalized workouts to various tips. The site also has groups so you can find local folks or people with similar goals/interests to be your weight loss buddies - online or in person. The groups schedule hikes, walks and runs together, among other activities, Christen said.

Christen warned, however, " (the site) makes it really easy to not exercise because you're chatting online with your weight loss buddies."

How have you motivated someone you love to lose weight?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wholistic healing keeps you sane

The economy's freefall has made some people suicidal according to a story in the Observer, but others turning to alternative therapy to relieve stress. Across the state, holistic practitioners say many clients are looking for ways to reduce stress or postpone costlier traditional medical care.

Jill Akbay, massage therapist at Om Enerji on Central Avenue, is one of the Charlotte-area business owners who have seen an increase in business.

Akbay said clients walk in and say, “ ‘Whoa, I was able to take a deep breath for the first time today.' ”
Her sister Jennifer Thompson, a sound therapist, said many of her clients feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

“They're just stressed out and just wanting some relief,” she said. “(They want) to feel some hope, to feel there really is something out there that can help them feel a little bit better.”

Their client’s problems are similar to what other practitioners report. Rebecca Fowler, publisher of Natural Awakenings, which covers Charlotte-area holistic businesses, says advertising and circulation has increased for the magazine in the last year. Jill Milunic, publisher and editor of Natural Triad Magazine, is seeing similar trends in the Greensboro-based magazine’s circulation area.

“I’m hearing everywhere …people in general want to take care of themselves ahead of time,” Milunic said. “They want to stay well and they want to be preventive.”

The economy’s downturn hasn’t translated into new business for all holistic businesses. Ginna Browning is the educational officer for the N.C. Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She said most members of the association reported a decline in business. Browning said many clients at the massage and acupuncture clinic where she works in Raleigh complain of headaches, anxiety and depression. Some hope to delay surgery because they don’t want to miss work.

“They don’t feel like it’s a good time to have any extended leave of absence,” said Browning.
Phyllis Rollins, owner of 8th Street Yoga Studio, tried to help her stressed students by exposing them to a variety of holistic therapies. Each week, for a month, a different practitioner – from yoga to Thai massage – gave a free lesson.

“People are interested in feeling better about themselves,” Rollins said.

Rollins says she has clients who've lost their jobs and are unable to pay. Some trade services for classes.

“I've tried to make a point of not turning anybody away because they don't have money,” she said.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Strained groin on vacation

I spent my birthday weekend at Hilton Head Island, eating and drinking way too much. Sometimes you have to cheat a little to stay motivated. And I indulged.

Frugal McDougal has this great 18-bottle mix of Guinness, Harp and Smithwick's. I grabbed a box on our way to the beach. Saturday, we bought garlic king crab clusters at a little carry-out seafood joint in Savannah. Beer, crabs and homemade garlic butter was just what I needed to celebrate.

It rained everyday except Memorial Day. I was so excited about the sunshine, I ran sprints on the beach. For the last seven weeks, I've been doing an NFL sprint workout. Run 60 yards, rest 45 seconds and repeat seven times. Rest three minutes. Then run 40 yards, rest 35 seconds and repeat seven times. You keep doing these intervals until you're doing 10-yard sprints with 15 second breaks.

Somewhere between not stretching and sprinting, I strained my groin. No more sprints this week. I'm jumping rope instead. I might swim tomorrow. I have to be 100 percent for my flag football game on Tuesday. It's time for the playoffs, but we've had so many rain delays so who knows.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Did Carlton run a mile?

Operation Bootcamp - The test

Carlton jogged around a stop sign at Latta Park. The finish line was in sight.

This time, Carlton Hargro didn't need someone to jog with him to keep him motivated. He was doing his one-mile run for the physical test on the final day of Operation Bootcamp, and he was determined to run the entire way.

The other Operation Bootcamp participants stood near the lamp post waiting for him.

"Sprint," his fellow campers yelled.

Carlton threw his head back and laughed as he jogged all the way to the lamp post.

"I was very happy," Carlton said. "It was essential to show that I really have gotten more in shape."

That's an understatement.

On the first day of camp, he sweat buckets of beer. Carlton finished the mile in 11 minutes, but walked halfway through it. Today, he finished in 9:34 minutes.
He went from completing 35 crunches in one minute to doing 72. Dips went from 26 to 60 and push up went from 26 to 47.

He's not resting on his accomplishment.

"I'm still going to keep this up," he said.

He wants to lose an additional 20 pounds. He plans to drink beer one day a week. He plans to continue eating six small meals a day, and eating more steamed vegetables. One day a week, he will treat himself to junk food like fried chicken wings.

And he's going to buy some new pants.