Family Activity Vacation Guide

It’s been a couple of months since I last posted here because we have had an extremely busy summer. First we had to move house, which was a great thing and then we had the whole back school stresses. It probably was one of the busiest summers in a very long time but last weekend we finally got back into a normal routine and we decided we should reward our family with some vacation planning.

Compared to the average family we are certainly very fit and both I and my husband pay a lot of attention to our diet and how much we exercise. We have set up a home gym which we religiously use and we make sure that we encourage each other as much as is possible. While our kids are too young to be spending a lot of time, or any at all, on a treadmill, we did find other gadget solutions that I have written about before here.

One thing we try to avoid is to plan our vacations around lazy days at the beach or pool. We often go to Florida because of friends and family there and the weather there is ideal for things like rollerblading, cycling, swimming, surfing and hiking among so many others. Any time we have gone we planned lots of very active days out, which helps us keep up with our fitness regime and also makes for incredibly fun days out.

skiingBecause summer is practically over and we cannot take days off work until later in the year we have decided to look into some winter activities and some places to go. In college I spent a few weeks with friends at California’s Lake Tahoe and I absolutely loved it. Unfortunately that will work out quite expensive for our family as we cannot just get in the car and drive there.

So we are looking at a few different places in the general New England area and there is a great site with some really practical advice. What I am trying to find out from my readers is if anyone can recommend a specific resort. At the moment we are kind of leaning towards Sugarbush in Vermont mainly because we have found some really nice vacation homes that would suit us really well. In the past we have always stayed in hotels, but this is no longer practical with a young child. While we do tend to go to bed early, 8 pm is a bit too early for us and if we wanted to watch TV or read for a while it would be a problem with the little one getting to sleep.

Overall it looks like a great place with lots of family friendly activities other than just skiing. So, my question to you is have you been skiing in New England with your family and where would you recommend the most. We will most likely go a couple of days after Christmas and want to go for about 5 days. It is going to be a tester to see if we like it enough to go again in the future.

Two Very Fit Professions In America

At a family barbeque a couple of weeks ago I met one of my cousin’s new boyfriend and got into a really interesting discussion about fitness levels in different professions. He is a paramedic and spent about 5 years as a fire fighter as well before he decided to become an EMT and then paramedic. He has had a very interesting career and has encountered a lot of very intense situations.

We first started talking about how to become an EMT and the training involved for the different stages that lead to paramedic. I didn’t actually realize that many states require a bachelor’s degree to quality as a paramedic and that some of the training programs take 3 to 4 years. I was quite impressed.

100218-F-5214M-025However, what was personally more interesting to me was what level of fitness was required to be able to do the job well on a consistent basis. Frank is big into personal fitness and does a lot of competitive running and he said that it makes his job a lot easier.

On many call outs he ends up having to carry equipment and sick or injured people up and down stairs. Or he has to hike or walk long distances to reach a patient, and he has often seen colleagues struggle because of a lack of fitness. The first thing is that needs to be fit enough to run up multiple flights of stairs, but the important thing is that when he arrives at the patient that he is not completely out of breath struggling to focus on his job.

During his firefighting career he required huge levels of fitness as well. He ran down some numbers of what kind of weight there was in the equipment that he had to carry into emergency scenes and it was quite staggering. He certainly thinks that the physical strength required as a fire fighter is much higher than as an EMT, but because he had that level of strength and fitness he has carried that through to his paramedic job as well.

I tried looking online and will have to confirm this with Frank when I meet him again. But from what I have found it doesn’t seem like there is a physical fitness test involved before becoming an EMT or paramedic, but there does seem to be one for fire fighters, or at least they are required to pass pretty tough physical training exercises.

Overall I was really impressed by how he and his colleagues try to stay fit in order to help patients better. I really had never thought of it that way. It is quite easy to image running up 5 flights of stairs and then immediately trying to focus on a life or death task without making any mistakes. The fitter you are the less of a problem you will have with the physical challenge of getting to a patient, giving you a lot more energy and focus to think about diagnosing and treating a patient.

My Baby’s First 5K Run

Yes, you read that correctly, my 19 month old baby has been part of 5K charity run which I competed in last weekend. Before you start making claims of child abuse, let me clarify that she remained in her jogging stroller the whole time, and she absolutely loved the whole day out. It was a local 5K run for charity and a fantastic family day out with lots of stuff for kids as well as adults.

I’ve written previously about my plan to run a half marathon in September and how I have set up a training plan to help me achieve it. Part of that training plan is to take part in several shorter races just to get me into the mind-set.

running-is-girl-running-mdWhat I haven’t written about is that I have started training a lot more during the day, since I invested some money in a jogging stroller. Because I now do not have to wait for my husband to get home I am able to go for a run during the day without being reliant on someone to babysit. After a little bit of online research I found a fantastic jogging stroller review site and decided it was time to go jogging with a stroller. (For some great reviews check out the info provided at

Basically, it is designed is a way that allows me to easily go for a run and push the stroller along at the same time. I was sceptical at first, but within about 10 minutes of running I was totally convinced. It is fun and very easy to adjust your running style to not keep bumping into the frame.

The main difference to a normal stroller is that it has only three wheels and has a very sleek design. The front wheel can be either fixed in place for when I go running or it can be set to swivel which makes it easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces. This was originally a concern for me as I didn’t want to constantly switch strollers if I was just heading to the store.

The model I bought is a Baby Jogger FIT, and I cannot think of one reason why I would regret my purchase. It has all the accessories I need and when I go running I like to travel light anyway. So, I have been bringing along the baby for a run for about a month now, and she really loves it. On numerous occasions she has come to me pointing at the jogging stroller, which has been a great encouragement and motivator.

What I particularly like about this stroller, and which convinced me to buy it in the first place is that it has a hand brake. This means that I have much better control over the stroller when I run downhill and I feel less worried in such situations.

For the race, I had originally planned to just run it with some friends of mine, but because my daughter enjoyed it so much I decided to bring her along. It actually worked out fine, as I waited for the majority of the crowd to take off, which gave me space to run at my own pace and not accidentally bump into other participants.

Now, I don’t think that it will be a good idea to bring her along to longer races, and it certainly won’t be happening at the half marathon later this year. But I think that we all enjoyed the 5K race and I really hope that it is setting a good example for her and that she will always see the benefits of staying fit and exercising.

My First Experiences With Heart Rate Training

Since my fitness levels have improved a lot in the last 12 months I have actually decided to take some bold action and I have signed up for a half marathon in September. The reason I did this was because one of my friends did it last year and has just run a full marathon. Her message was simple: if I can do, anyone can.

One of the main sources of her success has been that she started heart rate training about a year ago, which gave her some very precise measurable data. I spent an afternoon with her and she showed me what she was able to achieve and most importantly how much fitter she is now than before.

runningSo I went off and looked through some heart rate monitor reviews and then bought one that I could hook up to my iPhone. Essentially it is a strap that goes around your chest and this measures your heart rate and sends it to your phone. I’m still trying out a few apps to work with but there really is no shortage of free ones available.

The idea behind heart rate training is simple. You go for a run over a certain time or distance and rather than focus on your speed you focus on a predetermined heart rate. Some apps just display the heart rate while others will have an audible sound over your headphones which warns you if you start going too fast or too slow.

The ideas is that over time when you run the same distance your average heart rate for that route should start to come down, and you will be able to see this in your data. The lower your heart rate the fitter you are and the further and longer you will be able to run.

So far have used the heart monitor for about two weeks and I was surprised how quickly you get used to it and adapt. I now need to figure out a training plan with different distances to run so that I can gradually build up my fitness levels. Once I have made a final decision on what I am going to use, I will probably make a post on my experience with it and I will probably also invest in some of the in-app purchases to keep more records of my progress.

The next 6 weeks will be very interesting as I hope to have some very tangible data to show you all how my average heart rate has declined for my usual run. The great thing is that with each run I can target a different heart rate. So if I want to burn more fat, I preselect the fat burning zone. If I really want to give my body a push, I will try and target the higher rates for several periods on each run. This can be done by sprinting or running up hill. It really is amazing when you see a graphic output of your heart rate for each run.

Have any of you tried this type of exercise and had success with it? I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions. There are loads of HRM reviews that I found useful, so you might want to take a look at this link.

Bring The Gym To Your Home

In my previous post about post-natal exercise plans I briefly mentioned that we were planning to not renew gym membership and use the money to set up a gym at home. One of the main reasons behind this was that both of us used the treadmill and bike, and my husband sometimes used the rowing machine and some weights. So, we took off to see how much it would cost to get a basic gym set up and if possible fit it into our garage, just so we could keep up with some cardio exercise.

1197098403637762300SteveLambert_Exercise_Bike_Man.svg.medThis also gave us the added incentive to clear out some of the accumulated trash; stuff we had out in storage and after 4 years has not been unpacked, so it is essentially good to say good bye to it. So we cleared it out and managed to get a good enough area of free space that would accommodate some of the equipment.

Neither of us have high end needs for this equipment and in the gym we never used more settings that speed or intensity. So it turned out that there are some pretty decent treadmills with basic settings available that do not take up a huge amount of space. The same was the case for a rowing machine which can actually very easily be stood upright in the corner when not in use.

For the bike we are still on the search for something, as it does seem that the cheaper ones are pretty flimsy and we haven’t seen any good online reviews that have really convinced us. If you have a recommendation then please comment below.

We then got a set of dumbbells and our home gym was pretty much all set. It all fits nicely in the garage and we actually do use it very regularly. It is so much easier to get some exercise in the winter months when the baby is asleep and I just need to bring the baby monitor.

Now for the costs. It essentially all cost as much as 18 months gym membership, so within a very short period of time we will be saving ourselves a bit of money. It’s not a fortune, but enough for a nice weekend away every so often. Overall, we are really happy with our decision and both of us feel a lot better and lighter ;-)

Post Natal Fitness Plan

The first thing to keep in mind after childbirth is that you should not follow the lead of some of the celebrities out there and get to the gym immediately. Your main focus should be on physically recovering, especially if you had a caesarean. In this case you should consult your doctor before doing any kind of exercise or strenuous work. It is very important that your incision is fully healed as you can do a lot of damage otherwise.

baby-mdIn my case I had a pretty OK labor, at least compared to some of the horror stories I had heard about. I was in hospital for two days and so glad to get home. It was at least a week or ten days before I went for my first walk and even then I just went for a slow stroll. I did go for a walk every day and very very slowly increased my speed and distance. This way I could closely watch for any adverse reaction and also make sure that I did not inadvertently exhaust myself.

After about 5 weeks I really felt confident again, but I was very tired due to all the night feeding. I think this was one of the biggest problems and it did take quite a while for us to really get a routine going where we managed to get enough sleep. One thing I found very beneficial was to go for a swim two or three times a week. The main thing that I enjoyed was to just get out of the house for an hour and have time to myself.

Even just a quick dip would just provide some refreshment and I could actually switch off not having to listen for baby cries. What I didn’t realize was how quickly this gave me so much more energy and the baby weight started to drop off.

I really hadn’t been monitoring my weight that much as I just thought it would take months to really start working on my weight again. But when I did start tracking my weight I was totally surprised that I was only a few pounds above my pre pregnancy weight.

My belly was probably the only area that was still a bit flabby, but that was mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t really done any target muscle exercise. When I eventually started yoga again and also did some ab training that really quickly changed. I also started running again and because I had been so active all through pregnancy my fitness levels rebounded really quickly.

I have now got a very flexible but at the same time effective training plan that includes walking, running swimming and some yoga. I haven’t gone to the gym again, but I might consider that sometime in the future. Personally I’m not that big a fan, and my husband has actually been doing some research into setting up a home gym.

When we worked out what our membership costs a year and how little of the equipment we actually use, we realized that we would probably be better off to set up a small gym in the garage. I will probably write a post about that in the near future so stay tuned for more info.

In the meantime, let me know what you did to get back into exercising.

Exercise During Pregnancy

The first thing I have to say is that every pregnancy is different and that certain medical conditions and even slight complications can have a serious effect on your and your baby’s wellbeing. If you are concerned with anything or start feeling pains while doing any type of exercise of physical strain make sure to immediately consult your doctor to make sure that everything is OK.

I was very fortunate that I had a pretty straightforward pregnancy from the start. This meant that I was able to try out a lot of different types of exercise without really having any negative effect. One thing I did give up very early on was running. While it is apparently safe to do so for a while it just didn’t feel right to me.

To compensate for this I switched to going for more regular walks often 3 or 4 times a day. At work I would just go for a 15 minute walk on my lunch break and I moved around a lot to avoid being stuck at my desk all day. To me walking is one of those totally underrated forms of exercise. And when I say walking, I don’t mean going for a leisurely stroll, but rather pick up the pace.

In the last two months it did get pretty uncomfortable and the pace at frequency of walking did drop. But I firmly believe that a lot of the back and hip pain was relieved by the fact that I kept mobile instead of sitting idle all day. But it did get very testing in the last few weeks.

At the end of the first trimester I was convinced by a friend to join her yoga class. I had never done it before and I was surprised to see how many pregnant women were there. From the start the class was really well geared towards splitting the class into different skill levels and also to give pregnant women different exercises to do from the rest.

Obviously the bigger the bump gets the more restricted you are, but I found this to be very effective right up to month 7. Then it just became very awkward and uncomfortable.

Another thing I took up and have been sticking with for quite a while now is swimming. Pregnancy is probably not the best time to learn to swim but if you are at all comfortable in the water it is actually a great way to exercise.

I found this especially the case in the last trimester where getting into water was a wonderful experience as all the weight is lifted. I almost went on a daily basis and on some days I just got into the pool to float around a bit and feel the relief on all my joints and my back.

In conversation with my doctor and some nurses in my family I did find out that there are certain exercises that should really be avoided. These include any type of contact sport, or sports that involve a lot of significant impact, like basketball. But the list also includes cycling mainly because of the risk of falling. It is also a lot more difficult to keep your balance as the bump grows in size.

Winter sports should also be avoided, even if you are a very skilled skier. The problem to me is that while I might be a very good skier and will go on the easy slopes at slow speeds, that doesn’t mean that some idiot will come crashing into you.

So, that is my post for this week. I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear some comments.