Staying Safe and Having Fun on the Fourth

Whether you’re having a family barbecue, heading out to the lake, going to the Greenbriar to watch some golf and Kenny Chesney, or sitting at home watching fireworks on your TV, I think all of us are well aware that tomorrow brings a rather fun festivity that comes only once a year. Here are some tips to make your Fourth that much more enjoyable:

  1. If you’re planning on spending a day on the lake, I recommend going out on your boat in the morning or evening. The middle of the day is going to be crowded with tons of other people – granted it’s not raining
  2. If you’re going to be around any body of water and happen to have little children in your general vicinity, be watchful. It only takes a split-second for them to fall under the surface
  3. If you’re driving somewhere, please be extra vigilant of other drivers – especially at night when people are bound to be drinking. It goes without saying that you should find a designated driver if you yourself decide to have a drink or three
  4. If you happen to be going somewhere where the rain has not been quite as constant, be careful about using fireworks around dry bush. Starting a wildfire isn’t a good experience to have on your resume
  5. Come visit us at the gym if you have nothing better to do. We’ll be there till 5!

Have a fun holiday, and take it easy!

Trail Running

It’s common knowledge that running is a great way to get fit and stay fit. The problem is, so few people actually put forth the effort, and I think I have a hypothesis as to why. I daresay the most popular method of running is on a treadmill or elliptical machine. Some choose to do it on an actual track. All of these methods have two things in common: convenience, and a complete lack of inspiration.

For me, 5 minutes of running on a machine feels like 10 minutes, and 10 minutes feels like an hour. Even when I’m listening to music or reading a book or watching the news on the gym’s TV, I can’t wait until I’m done. Track running, for me, is even worse. I can still listen to music, but I’m not stationary (so no book or TV) and I’m left staring at the same walls as I run around and around and around. It gets monotonous and, frankly, boring. Maybe it works for some people. And if it works for you, that’s great. I’m not dissing it – just saying it’s not my thing.

I’ve found an alternative that seems better in almost every way: trail running. If I can find a secluded enough trail, I don’t always even bother bringing my iPod and headphones. The tranquility of nature is enough for me. Observing my constantly changing surroundings keeps me plenty distracted from my hard breathing and really makes the time pass quickly. Furthermore, I think the constantly changing terrain works your muscles more effectively as well – as well as improving your footwork, balance, and coordination. Best of all, though, it’s not only tranquil, interesting, and distracting, but it’s inspiring. Gee, imagine that. Running to find inspiration. You come away in the end not only feeling physically tempered, but also mentally stimulated. Starting off a day like that is, in my opinion, lightyears ahead of drinking a cup or two of hot coffee.

Be Happy – Live Longer

Came across a list of the world’s happiest countries/provinces/cities today and found it fascinating. Why don’t we try to liven up Roanoke a little bit? Here are some common features that each of these places share.

1. Natural Movement –
The world’s longest living people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.

2. Purpose – A multitude of studies have reported that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. Furthermore, Patricia Boyle, a researcher at the Rush University Medical Center and part of “Rush Memory and Aging Project”, has identified that having a life purpose greatly reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive degenerative diseases.

3. Down Shift – Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. What the world’s longest living people share are the routines that help reduce and cope with stress.

4. 80% Rule – “Hara hachi bu” is a 2500 year old Confucian mantra originated in Okinawa and said before meals that reminds people to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing or gaining weight.

5. Plant Slant – Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat, mostly pork, is eaten on average only five times per month.

6. Wine @ 5 –  Moderate, regular drinkers are said to outlive non-drinkers.

7. Loved Ones First – Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home. They were also committed to a life partner, which can add up to 3 years to one’s life expectancy.

8. Right Tribe – The world’s longest living people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. Thus, the people with highest life expectancy had health behaviors that were favorably shaped by their social networks.

Some Words on Food

Families in first-world countries like ours have a habit of forgetting how central food is to the lives we lead. Every move you make (on the wall or not), every thought you think, the emotions we feel, the drive and impulses that motivate us forward, how your organs function… it all depends heavily on the nutrients floating around in your body. These nutrients are used up as we need them, so we constantly need a new supply of them. How does a species like ours get nutrients into our bodies? We ingest them. Most of us call this nutrient-ingesting process eating (or drinking).


Food is all too often associate exclusively with body weight. Don’t get me wrong – of course there’s a correlation between food and weight. But there’s so much more that food does to you and for you; there are far more correlations that I highly recommend you open your mind up to. The foods you eat can do many different things to your body, it’s up to you to decide how you want to use these nutrients… or lack thereof.


Concerns about physical health, heart disease and cancer have increased awareness of the nutrients in our food – especially cholesterol, saturated fat, antioxidant vitamins – and the benefits of eating more of some foods and less of other foods. Yet, in reality, the way our country eats has changed little in recent years. Many of us still use coffee to boost energy levels in the morning, and fast food burgers, fries, pizza, shakes and soft drinks to support busy, stress-filled lives. We have too little time for ourselves or our loved ones, let alone time to cook – or stop and think. Enlightening realizations often happen far too late – not until after these harmful nutrients have already made us sick.


Fresh, whole, live, organic foods in general have far more favorable effects on our health than processed foods containing the chemicals of artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Think of the vital energy you get when you eat something that lived and lived well versus something that came from a factory’s production line or a fast food restaurant’s freezer.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to disrupt your life by saying this, but in all honesty it’s probably nothing you haven’t heard before. But hey, that’s no reason to disregard it. Keep it all in mind and don’t forget that your food is your life.

Outdoor Activites

We’ve talked a lot about rock climbing on this blog, but there are so many other great ways to enjoy the outdoors. In today’s post, I’ll describe in a fair amount of detail some of the other outrageously fun outside activities you might like to do this summer.



One of the greatest things about being in the Roanoke Valley area is that we are indeed in a valley. And where there is a valley, there are also mountains. What do we do with mountains? We climb them. In fact, we have over 600 miles of hiking trails here in our lovely little valley. Some climbs are tougher than others, but they’re each worth the effort. After all, there’s nothing quite like getting lost in the woods. Click here for a fantastic rundown of some adventures you can take.



My favorite thing about fishing is that, by default, you’re right on the water. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if there’s anything I love more than a beautiful natural body of water. Being able to interact with whatever swims beneath the surface is just the icing on the cake. There are so many different levels and styles of fishing that there’s really no excuse to say flat-out that you don’t like it. Smith Mountain Lake is an obvious go-to fishing hole, but if you’re looking for an experience unlike any other you can find in the area, I recommend Big Pine Trout Farm. The service is excellent, and there are some really great fish (Rainbow and Brook trout) up there – not to mention the location itself is beautiful. Of course, there are plenty of others, too.


Boating, Canoeing, Kayaking, and Other Water Sports

Who doesn’t enjoy playing around the water? Between spending a day out on the open water on a pontoon boat, ripping around on a ski boat or jet ski, being pulled behind a boat in a tube or on a board, paddling down a creek in a canoe, challenging some rapids in your kayak, there’s so much fun you can have. And here in southwestern Virginia, there are oh-so-many places where you can have your fun. I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life on Smith Mountain Lake, so understand that I’m biased when I say that that’s my personal favorite for big, exciting activities with lots of other folks. But quieter, more tranquil experiences can be found not too far away in North Creek, Craig Creek, or Carvin’s Cove – just to name a few. There are so many different water paradises that can be found practically in your backyard.


Other Experiences Not to Forget

There are so many things to do around here, I can only briefly touch on a few of them. Some others that didn’t fit in above but should not be forgotten include: the Natural Bridge, the Dixie Caverns, Wilderness Adventure, cycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and, of course, FloydFest.