Tag Archives: outdoor gear

The Hole Inside

I got sick over the winter holidays. It happens to most of us, right? Typhoid Mary gave Dirty Santa a whole new meaning this year, and friends and family alike were struck down by the same bug right around Christmas. And masked by the illness at first, my hernia showed up again to put a damper on my exercise.

The day before this mess started, I was lying on the couch watching TV, and my 30-pound dog jumped directly onto my stomach with his full weight. I felt a sharp pain, to the point where after a few minutes, I took pain reliever to, well, relieve the pain. I went to my part-time job in retail the next morning. I started out the work day just fine, but after an hour of being on my feet, I completely lost my appetite, felt feverish and nauseated, and still had to put on a smiling face to process customer returns on the weekend after Christmas for another 6 hours.

I had a case of the holiday season retail employee illness going-to-throw-up-on-your-receipts blues.

I had a case of the holiday-season, unwell-retail-employee, going-to-throw-up-on-your-receipts blues.

I was down with a bug for the next week, but even after I got over the fever and the tossing of the cookies and the aching of the body like the rest of my family was suffering, I was still feeling mild nausea at least once a day — mostly in the morning if I hadn’t eaten breakfast. And that’s a sign of… hernia! Aw yeah! Wait, that’s bad! No! Ugh!

Given my history of abdominal surgery and spending most of the summer of 2012 miserable and curled around a bottle of ginger ale, any abdominal weirdness puts my mild hypochondria into overdrive. Living in the U.S. without healthcare insurance, this turns into fruitless worry and hoping very hard that nothing is wrong.

Happily for me, I haven’t had any pain since the first night, and the nausea is getting a lot better. I’ve been taking antacids as needed, eating foods that will reduce the hydrochloric acid in my stomach, and not exerting myself too much.

Sadly, the weather shaped up beautifully over this weekend, and as much as I’d LOVE to be out for a run, wishing I’d bought a pair of fingerless gloves last night, I’m taking a rest to let my body heal. I don’t want to power through it and do more damage.

There's a hole in my innards. (Not to physical scale...kind of to mental scale.)

There’s a hole in my innards. (Not to physical scale…kind of to mental scale.)

My day job is about to get super busy, so I’m disappearing down the rabbit hole of work. But I am hoping that once the hole in my innards is healed, I can get back out on the road and keep on pursuing the sport I’ve fallen in love with to keep myself sane and remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is a filing deadline that must be met.

And depending on how long it takes me to heal and how much of my life has been eaten by my job by early March, maybe I won’t need to outfit myself with fingerless gloves after all. That would leave a 3-month gap in my workout history, unfortunately, so maybe I should go ahead and get some outdoor sporting-appropriate gloves in case I feel mended enough in a couple of weeks to put my running shoes on during one of these 38º F days.

I’d like to give a shout out to chicken broth. You complete me. When I am feeling sick and trying to avoid pasta as per my doctor’s standing orders two years ago, you are chicken soup in the purest, most digestible form. I love you.

Advertisements

It Is Still Fresh Air, Even If It Smells Like Manure

The out-of-doors in the summer. It’s gorgeous! It’s covered in bees! It’s covered in kudzu, wildflowers, horses, crops, and cows, too, as far as I can tell.

Ahh, the countryside.

Ahh, the countryside.

The temperature has been more than reasonable most of this week – 75-80F (24-27C), partly cloudy, breezy. The place where I live has gentle, rolling hills and shade trees and farmland all mixed together. It’s ideal.

I haven’t been walking much the last 7 months, ever since I moved into my own house with a yard that didn’t leave dog-walking as a necessity anymore. Moreover, I took my dogs out a few months ago, and we were attacked by a dog that came off its chain down the street. So there’s been precious few dog-accompanied adventures, and until recently, precious few adventures undertaken solo.

I have enjoyed walking down to the flat bridge over a nearby creek. I’ve only been on that walk a few times, though. Part of that is the mental battle I have with that steep-ass hill that leads down to the creek. The 1.3 miles down to the creek is almost completely downhill. The trip back up is not really a lot of fun. The creek is usually lovely and enjoyable to watch for a few minutes. I have rediscovered my love of skipping stones on the water, and I usually come away with a memento, such as a little geode I plan to clean up and put on my desk at work.

Flat bridge ahoy! So beautiful and calm! And at the bottom of a mile-long steep grade! Bleh!

Flat bridge ahoy! So beautiful and calm! And at the bottom of a mile-long steep grade! Bleh!

The main problem with walking down the main road to work out: traffic. I’m not very keen on sharp hill crests and turns where I could be a surprise object in the roadway. I try to cross the road, or walk in the tall grass in ditches on the side of the road, if I hear a vehicle coming. But there are a lot of ticks in this part of the country, and they sometimes hang out in the tall grass, waiting. Planning. Scheming. Hungry. The ticks and I are at war. There are no survivors once they are found in my house, on my pets, and especially on my person. The first line of defense is a good offense, and that means walking on the road when I can.

Being an explorer and a self-preservationist, I decided to walk in the opposite direction of the bridge the other day, opting for a nearby single-lane, paved, quiet road that winds through the main Mennonite settlement in my county. It was a good choice. I mean, the county where I live is just chock full of natural beauty anyway; it’s really nice to be able to walk slowly through it and appreciate it up close without fear of being run over by an F-250 every two minutes. While on this slender thread of pavement through lush farmland and riotous green woods, I gave directions to some lost folks in a pick-up and waved politely at anyone who passed me, whether they were in work trucks or open-air horse-drawn buggies. I felt that I looked out of place, walking along a road mostly traveled by farm workers while in my bright teal workout shirt (get your rear in gear!), headphones, hiking boots, sunglasses, and knee brace. But I was also very at-home in my surroundings. I spent some of my childhood summers on a sprawling farm just outside of town: riding bikes down dirt roads, looking at the cows, trying to rescue birds from oil ponds bubbling up next to little-used derricks, and picking blackberries. I’ve always loved the outdoors, and living in a place where I can more easily appreciate it year-round is a gift I will always cherish.

Wide open spaces and a seldom-used fork in the road.

Wide open spaces and a seldom-used fork in the road.

Meeting house, complete with water pump and hitching posts.

Meeting house, complete with water pump and hitching posts.

I photographed all kinds of wildlife while I was out earlier this week. I was delighted to find a small waterfall lurking behind foliage, trickling slowly into a creek that wound under a bridge and into a pasture where several beautiful honey-colored horses grazed in the midday sun. I marked that bridge as my halfway point to make an approximate 5k (~3.1 miles) from my starting point. When I reached that point again today, the horses were gone, and there was something very dead by the creek. It smelled terrible, and it persisted for a tenth of a mile. Then, on my way back to my starting point, the wind had shifted to where I was upwind, and I managed to be in the path of the breeze after it had passed over every single pile of horse manure on the road. I took it in stride in the name of better health.

I had a great couple of walks, though I know my calves are going to be sore for a few days. Months of activity followed up by three 5k walks in a single week? Not without consequences. At least I had the foresight to wear my ankle brace and my knee brace both. And sunscreen, most of the time.

Future home of freckles.

Future home of freckles.

Now, it is time to talk tragedy. My amazing hiking boots that I got last fall, which have seen me through many miles with my dogs and on my own, suffered an eyelet loss earlier today. Quel dommage!

ALORS. Now my laced-up boot looks ridiculous.

ALORS. Now my laced-up boot looks ridiculous.

I’ll figure out a fix – it may involve heavy-duty glue, or an awl, or something. The boots are otherwise fine, and I might even be able to get away with still wearing them in their current, stupidly-laced state for a while yet to come.

Another lesser tragedy: my old sports bras are now in dire need of replacement. They are not structured at all; I bought one at Target, another on sale at a sporting goods store, and I bought them both to wear to physical therapy when I was 40 pounds heavier than I weigh now. It’s going to be a while before I can afford a really good underwired upgrade, so I may either tailor one of them or buy something inexpensive to get me through the fall at a big box retailer.

My less-than-sturdy body parts are doing well; little ankle soreness, no knee complaints to speak of, and even my surgery scars are all right. I am still ever-mindful of too much exercise straining my abdominal surgery scars. No pain so far after my third walk in a week, but it could take a day or two for that to still happen.

Inclement Clothing

Northern hemisphere snow party! Whoo!

It’s around the darkest days of the year with the least sunshine, and it’s not so bad, to be honest. Yeah, it’s in the 20s F in the morning with highs rising all the way to the 30s F by the middle of the day, but as long as it doesn’t rain and get all damp and gross outside, that’s not so bad!

Unfortunately, it’s been damp and gross – the wet kind of cold weather that isn’t pretty and doesn’t have the decency to not soak through every layer you have on – for a lot of the last couple of weeks. Snow flurries fell over the weekend, though, and didn’t stick to much, melting and refreezing almost as soon as they hit most earthbound surfaces. This morning, it was cold, clear, and dazzlingly sunny.

As I’ve said several times before, I’ve put together a cold weather wardrobe. It proved to be inadequate the other night when it was just above freezing and started to rain very hard as the dogs stood in the back yard, alternating between finding things to eat in the bushes and pulling away from me toward the house without having used the potty, which was the entire reason we were out there. I have a rain coat, but I wasn’t wearing anything warmer under it than a sweater. I don’t have waterproof boots or pants that resist rain. My flannel pajama pants I’d worn out into the rain got pretty damp, and I let my shoes dry out for a day before I took the dogs out for a long walk again. So basically, those things are next on my list of winter-wear gear. I’ve got being warm enough down, now I just have to stay dry as well.

Rain hasn’t been much of a problem for me for years. Texas doesn’t get a lot of rain, and the last two summers have been phenomenally dry and included a record-breaking drought. Now that I’m in Kentucky at the foothills of Appalachia, it’s a different story. We’re not quite far north enough to get snow, and we’re not quite far south enough to have a warm winter. We get a wet, damp January, leaf-stripped forests for three months, occasional snow. It seemed worse when I was young and didn’t always have adequate protection from the elements. But now, I’ve grown up, accessorized with fleece and a dozen different garments, and I’m good to go when it’s snowing in my face.

This is what I wore last night on a circuit around the neighborhood across the hard gravel road, around frozen puddles, into the murky night lit via light pollution caught by low-hanging clouds. I was so toasty.

A woman's leg clothed in hiking boots, argyle knee-high socks, black tights, and purple pants

Pants layers – long socks, tights, yoga pants, and boots.

A woman in a leather jacket, fleece hat, and two sets of gloves giving the thumbs-up

Gloves and face layers.

A woman in winter clothing wearing four shirts.

Shirt layers – tank, thermal sweater, fleece pullover, and leather jacket.

Next on my shopping list are rainproof pants and boots. I could probably apply some water resistance to the boots I have now, but it might be easier to upgrade to another pair at some point.

The ability to be comfortable as I go out into the world is the only thing that makes it tolerable going out. I went into the cold woefully underdressed a few nights ago and didn’t really get almost comfortable until about 20 minutes in, when I’d warmed up from the exertion. By that time, my hands were frozen, and we were almost back at the house. Lesson learned.

Compelling Cold

What is it about the cold that makes me want to be outside?

I took two accidental hour-long walks with my dogs today. We’ve been strolling through the nearby ballpark (where I spent 7 happy summers on various softball teams as a kid), expanding on our neighborhood exploration, and apparently that’s enough to boost our outdoors time past the 60-minute mark. I took the dogs out on an intentionally long stroll this morning to reward them for being so good during the rain of the last several days.

This evening, I called my sister, wrangling the dogs with one hand, and we probably moved a lot more slowly than usual. I also wore my knee brace, because the walk this morning, plus stumbling in the mud in my work shoes during lunch, made it feel necessary. When I hung up the phone and checked the time, we’d been out for over an hour and 10 minutes.

The temperature this morning was about 32F/0C; this evening, it was 25F/-4C. I guess I’m not a Texas girl anymore if I can put up with that with a smile on my face.

I was super cozy this evening in a new sweater I picked up for $15 at Kohl’s: a Tek Gear 1/4-zip microfleece jacket. Lows in the 20s are about as cold as it regularly gets in this part of the country, so modern fleece is just fine for this climate. I practically live in my performance fleece zip-up jacket from Old Navy, bought for $12 about a month ago. My hiking boots are still amazing performers. My long socks are warm and comfortable. A fleece hat that a friend gave me 13 or 14 years ago still looks good, feels soft, has kept its shape, and is warm and familiar. It’s great to feel so well-bundled, so well-prepared.

A woman in a pink plaid fleece jacket

Me in my new fleece jacket, late November. I wore this zip-up damn near everywhere the first few weeks I bought it.

The only part of me that got remotely cold this evening was the hand in which I was holding my phone, and then only because I took my glove off in order to dial. I don’t think my life has gotten to the point where I need fancy gloves that allow me to use touch-sensitive devices, but I’m sure everyone will offer those in 5 years.

The dogs have weathered the cold very well for being suburban beagles their entire lives, too. When it was chilly and wet out the other day, they actually went chest-deep into standing water in drainage ditches; they got a nice bath when we got home. Today, they dragged me through some red Georgia clay, a subsoil with a lot of iron in it, and came home with their little white feet turned orange. They didn’t seem to mind getting a quick feet and belly rinse-off with warm water. Like me, I suppose, they don’t mind getting cold and gross in the out of doors, as long as there’s warmth and comfort waiting on the other side. I don’t think they’re the kind of dogs that require clothing or protection from this level of cold; they rather enjoy it, from all appearances. And their enjoyment helps feed into my own enjoyment. My girl dog gets mesmerized by wildlife and shatters the peace of whatever time of day we’re out with short yelps or excited whimpering. But seeing her so excited, smelling everything, rapt with attention, studying a tree, solving problems, is such a joy. The only time I’ve ever resented being outside with the dogs is going out at 5:30am with inadequate clothing, sometimes without shoes, and waiting for one or both of them to go potty… without result. But what can you do? They’re my companions and my compulsion to exercise. I’ve built my wardrobe around the activity of taking them outside to enrich their existence. As long as there’s a need for them to go out, I’ll keep outfitting myself to withstand whatever weather I must to be a good steward for my dependent, loyal dogs.

Several dogs on a paved street in late autumn.

Dog walking. Sometimes, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s damp, it’s raining. Most of the time, it’s fine. Every time, it’s worth it.

Quality Time With The Out Of Doors

My dogs and I have a pretty regular schedule – a walk in the morning, a walk at night, and a longer walk during the day on weekends, sometimes two. Multiple long walks are meant to wear the dogs out. Usually, they are ready to keep going, and I’m ready for a nap.

Two beagles and a Great Pyrenees standing by a foggy roadside during the day.

Dogs in fog. The little beagles drag me all over the neighborhood. I think my arms would be pulled out of my sockets if I attempted to lead the Great Pyr, too.

Due to  joint pain from increased usage of this body of mine, I started to wear my ankle and knee brace. I’m lazy, forgetful, and messy, though, so my braces are now lost (on a superficial level) in my closet. There must be a way to minimize impact to at least one of my often-used joints without having to take the extra step to put on yet another accessory each time I step outside to walk the dogs.

Being both lazy and resourceful, I harnessed the power of the internet to research shoes that would be awesomely supportive for my ankles. Of course, when I hit the big discount shoe retailer, none of the recommended models I’d made notes on were in stock. My boyfriend made a helpful suggestion, though, that seems to have worked out even better.

A pair of women's hiking boots on a bedside table lit by a lamp

My new, much-beloved, much-used hiking boots.

My new boots were not terribly expensive, are nothing super fancy, and have been augmented by gel inserts to make them more comfortable. I’ve had them for a little over a week and think the worst of the breaking-in period is over. My shins were a little bit sore last week. But I think since I’ve been climbing the hills in our neighborhood pretty regularly in a variety of shoes with orthopedic inserts in them, my legs were ready for another weird muscle group usage.

I’m really pleased with my new shoes. I’m not normally a big shoe shopper; I don’t want to spend too terribly much (I have no problems up to about $150 for really good shoes), I want something that lasts and is classic, I need something comfortable, and I tend to either stick to favorites or go in without doing research of any kind. That’s why I tried to do some homework before handing a store a large amount of money.

My dad says you get what you pay for when it comes to shoes, and investing in footwear is something you’ll never regret, since these are the only feet you’ll ever have. So far, so good with these boots. I conquer the streets, hills, gravel roads, and fields around the house with a smile on my face and no ankle pain.

I can’t yet decide if the recent twinges in my knee are more related to walking on it all the time without a knee brace or bruising the crap out of it while taking apart old furniture in the garage the other day. If my knee is still bothering me once the purpleness fades, I’ll have my answer.

Yeah, I totally spent two hours in the near-freezing cold (about 34-36F/1-2 C) helping my boyfriend pull old staples and nails out of furniture for a future woodworking project. I came out to ask a question and wound up picking up a screwdriver to remove drawer handles and hinges. I got cold, went inside and donned more layers, then came back out for more deconstructive fun. And while hammering out nails, I knocked a piece of wood off the table into my leg, giving myself a good whack in the process. There were antibiotic ointment and bandages applied.

Remind me to schedule a tetanus booster before I go out into the garage with a hammer again.

It took maybe half an hour to get acclimated to the cold – no heater in the garage, and the sun was only a little help – but once I was dressed for the occasion and hard at work, I was just fine.

A pile of wood planks reclaimed from old furniture

Pile of reclamation – wood planks from old furniture, waiting to be sanded, cut, and prepped for new purpose.

I think I’m getting the hang of being outdoorsy in southern Kentucky in the late autumn. I’m doing it just in time for winter to come along and remind me that I’ve got a little more acclimation to do before I’m best friends with the outdoors just yet.

The Right Way

An absurd moment of relief hit me this summer as I sat in a small office in the ER as a nurse was taking my vitals, getting my medical history, and asking me questions. I was in pain with the mysterious malady that ruined my July, zeroed out my appetite, and put all my fitness aspirations on hold. But what really got my attention was the number on the hospital scale: 162.

“At least I’m still under my goal weight,” I remember thinking.

That is messed up thinking, folks.

It is several months after the ER visit, and I want to think my body’s on the mend. As I said before, my team of doctors thinks what happened was I tore something in my abdomen related to my gallbladder surgery, and it took about a month for the initial healing. It may take longer to completely heal, it turns out. To me, that meant no more attempted running, take it easy on the stairs, and don’t walk too far, too fast.

With these behavior caveats in mind, I’ve taken care of myself as best as I can with decent eating habits, taking care of myself when I’m sick, and walking the doggies around the hilly neighborhood (girl, my calves are going to be uh-mazing).

I got a new digital scale over the weekend. Its decimal places settle my need to know what fraction of a pound I lose by taking off my socks before stepping onto the arbiter of progress. It reads the same weight no matter what way I turn it on the hardwood floors of my new home, so I have faith in its accuracy. And with that accuracy comes a clean, reliable knowledge of the fact of my weight. There it is! There’s no doubt stemming from the vagaries of an older scale that has an adjustable wheel for calibration and imperfectly spins numbered black lines past a red line. There’s no squinting, then putting on my glasses, to read the tiny marks all the way at my feet. Like the hospital scale, this new sucker’s electrical. It’s digital, it’s clear, and to me, it’s like my achievements are being narrated by Morgan Freeman.

An image of actor Morgan Freeman from Evan Almighty with a number superimposed over his chest

The Morgan Freeman-Narrated Weight Scale. People would buy it. They would feel reassured about their weight. If the makers included a voiceover with eating and exercise guidelines, they could probably solve the majority of obesity problems in the Western world.

This morning, my digital scale told me as clear as a bell that my weight was 165. This is great news for me! And I’ll tell you why:

  • At 162 pounds in July, I was nauseated and not eating, dehydrated, and miserable. At 165 pounds this November morning, I am taking long walks with the dogs nearly every day, I ate 4 pieces of chicken for dinner last night, and physically, I feel pretty dang good (albeit a little lightheaded from a lingering ear infection).
  • Despite life being extremely tumultuous this year, I’ve kept within 8-10 pounds of my goal weight of 163.
  • I kept to my goal weight the right way. I haven’t starved myself. Not everything I’ve eaten or drank this week has been on my diet, but most of it has. Not every morning has found me working up a sweat or working up enough body heat to keep my nose from falling off, but most have.

I am really proud of myself for not only my accomplishment and the way I achieved it, but also for holding onto it through hard work and good habits. It gives me hope that I’ve got my weight problem licked.

Speaking of spending time outdoors, I picked up some more winter wear this week, and I’ve resolved to start wearing my ankle brace again, at least until I buy new sneakers.

An aging pair of sneakers with one shoe insert on the floor next to them

Sad shoes. They served me well for quite a long time, but I had to put new inserts into them a month or two ago, and even those are now wearing out.

I wore my ankle brace and knee brace once last week. That was an immediate relief for the soreness I was experiencing, and I didn’t feel the need to wear my ankle brace again until after my morning dog walk today. As long as I wear it as needed and get some better foot gear, that shouldn’t be a problem.

My post earlier this week discussed appropriate outdoor gear for cooler weather and the adjustment I had to make when I moved from Texas to Kentucky. Something I’ve picked up since then is my new favorite accessory (move over, Batman beanie): a fleece neck gaiter. I didn’t know what it was called and spent quite some time with image search, shopping search, and browsing outdoor gear websites to find out that it was different than a balaclava.

Woman wearing a black fleece neck gaiter in four poses

The many looks of a neck gaiter. Bottom right is my toddler niece’s favorite. Probably everyone else’s favorite, too. Because everyone I know is a jerk.

I found this one at Wal-Mart with a headband (which I gave to my sister because I have an assortment of awesome headgear and would never wear it) for around $7.00. I’ve already put it to good use and am in love. As you can see, you can wear it many ways, and it helps complete any look.