TOJ Heaven

Just got back from a vacation in Oregon, the perfect setting for a TOJ.

After a slow, pre-4th of July car ride with traffic from Portland to Bend, we hugged family then headed to the Entrada Lodge, tucked in the trees along the road to Mt. Bachelor. It's located right along a running/hiking/biking trail system which parallels the Deschutes River. I pulled on my Montrails and took a 45 minute run in 80 degree temps under blue sky and sunshine. The trail was vintage eastern Oregon, covered with an inch of fine dust (which coated my shoes and legs) and lined with manzanita and sage highlighted with an Indian Paintbrush here and there.

The next day I rested and went to a lively concert by Ween, a talented band that plays an eclectic mix of rock mixed with humor and awesome guitar riffs.

Then, the next morning, my son and I went with my daughter for a workout at Empire Athletics, a CrossFit (XF) gym where she's a regular. Though I'm sorta fit for my age, I was a little wary about how it would go after having watched a CrossFit workout at another XF gym about a year ago, thinking it might be a little strenuous for a TOJ.

But my daughter promised the Saturday session we were going to participate in would be pretty low key and fun. I had to use my imagination with this statement because CrossFit is not what I usually associate with low key -- the workouts are very robust and demanding high intensity exercise. What's unique about XF is that the workouts change with each session so all the major muscle groups in your body are challenged in different ways for a significant number of reps. When you complete one set of exercises, you move to the next one with a minimal recovery time. (You definitely will not find people sitting on exercise bikes in their Spandex chewing bubble gum and reading People magazine.)

There's plenty of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of the XF system for building strength and endurance, and, when combined with the Paleo Diet (widely followed by XFer's), reducing and controlling unwanted body fat. When you see XF athletes who've been at it for a while, you're struck by their leanness and muscle definition.

When you get to an XF gym, listed on a white board is the day's workout, which for us included pull ups, kettle bell swings, cleans with an Olympic barbell, sit ups, and box jumps. Because it was Saturday, the group was divided up into teams of four to do 150-200 reps combined for each exercise. My team had my daughter, fresh off a XF regional competition, and two other relatively new younger XFers, plus me, a total newbie. The fun for me was I could do fewer reps and let my daughter and younger team members make up the difference. :-)

The coach/trainer at Empire Athletics is a fit young guy named Mike Wild. I was curious to see how he'd deal with an old rookie like me. One concern you'll find on the Internet about CrossFit is that the intensity and speed of some of the exercises could cause injuries if a person is inexperienced or too fatigued. (Of course, anybody who's been around athletics knows that when you push your body there's always some risk of injury, no matter who you are.) If Empire is typical of certified Cross Fit facilities, this fear is totally groundless.

Mike, an experienced professional, minimized any risk by taking the time to demonstrate the proper technique prior to commencing the exercises, especially the lifts involving the back, and offering pointers during the exercises. I've done a fair amount of weight lifting and other resistance exercise through the years, but he still taught me a couple of valuable lessons on cleans and kipping during pull-ups. He also made sure to keep me on light weights/kettle bells to learn the right technique. I left Empire feeling great from head to toe.

Finally, early in the morning on the 4th of July, my wife, daughter, and son headed to downtown Bend to participate in a 5K run to raise money for a children's cardiac program sponsored by the local hospital. We joined a couple hundred other people to run a scenic course along the Deschutes River.

Sunshine, sweat, endorphins. What more could you ask for on a TOJ vacation?

Oh, yes, some ice cold Obsidian Stouts.

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