Category Archives: Fitness

An Update on My Walk to Mordor

Do you remember a few months ago when I blogged about my plans to walk to Mordor?

That is, I signed up for an app that lets you track how many miles or kilometres you walk every day and gives you updates about what Frodo and Sam were up to when they’d walked a similar distance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Someone I know also signed up for this app when I blogged about it back in May, so I’ve had a buddy to compare journeys with every time I log in to update my account. That was a nice surprise, and I’m always open to connecting with other people on this journey if anyone else wants to start it.

The cool thing about this challenge is that it almost feels like I’m walking alongside Frodo and the other characters from Lord of the Rings as I log my kilometres walked every day and read about the people they met and the places they visited during their question.

Now that I’m a third of the way through this experience, I thought it was time for an update. 

A Long Journey

Screenshot of the Walk to Mordor App. It shows a green bar filled one third. It also says that there are 38 km to go before I reach the next milestone in Sam and Frodo's journey. What I’m enjoying the most about this walk to Mordor so far is fully realizing just how much walking it required. On average, I log between 9 and 10 kilometres a day. Those numbers are nothing compared to what Frodo and Sam must have done on most days in order to make it to Mordor on time.

It’s one thing to read about characters walking a long distance.

It’s quite another to walk that same distance yourself. Every time I read a new update on their adventures, I wonder how these characters kept going day after day. What I’m doing for the sheer fun of it they did because they really had no other choice. Either Frodo needed to destroy the One Ring at Mordor or see his entire world be destroyed.

To be fair, I have a warm, soft bed to sleep in every night, a sturdy pair of sneakers, plenty of food to keep me going, and no Nazgul hunting me down. So my experiences with this fitness challenge are obviously going to be much easier than the real journey was.

Although I will always be a little jealous of the fact that Frodo and Sam got too eat lembas.

Non-Competitive Exercise

The non-competitive nature of this challenge is something I’m also really liking about it. Other players might make it through all 3109 kilometres (1932 miles) faster or slower than I do. Honestly, this isn’t something I’ve taken the time to google or spend energy thinking about.

There’s nothing wrong with other people competing with each other on distance walked or how long it takes to finish the game, but I’m completely content to keep chugging along at my usual pace. The storyline provides so much fodder for the imagination that I honestly don’t want to rush this experience.

I’m currently estimating that I’ll complete this challenge in March of 2020 if I keep up the same pace. In my first post in this series, my best guess was that I’d be finished by late winter or early spring. It will be interesting to see if that same prediction holds in a few months when I share another update on my progress!

This post is going to be shorter than usual, but I really don’t have much else to report for now. The walk to Mordor is going well and I’m feeling good so far.

Respond

Have you ever taken up a fitness or other challenge based on a book? If so, what was it? This experiment has been well worth my time so far, and I’m definitely interested in trying similar games in the future if anyone has recommendations.

3 Things I Love About Summer Strolls

It’s time for the third instalment in my series about hiking – or, in this case, strolling –  during the various seasons. If you’re a new reader or would like to reread my previous posts, I’ve also written about the things I love about spring and autumn hikes. Eventually, I’ll finish this series off with a post about winter walks.

Why have I switched from talking about hiking to strolling for the summer post?

Well, July and August in Toronto are extremely hot and humid. We’ve had multiple days so far in July where the humidity levels were well above 70% and the high temperature felt like 40 Celcius (104 Fahrenheit) or more.

While some Canadians do go out hiking in that weather, I’m not one of them. Spring and autumn are best for brisk outdoor exercise. Summer is better for swimming during the daytime and walking at a slower pace either before or after the hottest part of the day.

With that being said, there is still plenty to love about walking outside during this time of the year.

The Long, Warm Evenings

Sunset in Toronto generally happens between 5 and 6 pm in the winter. During the summer, sunset is at about 9 pm. When you combine those extra hours of daylight with evening weather that feels like 25 C (77 F) instead of -25 C (-13 F) after the sun goes down, it’s no wonder that summer evenings can be such pleasant times to walk.

I spent much of my childhood in a climate similar to the one that Toronto has that I was about seven years old the first time I realized summer had much more daylight than winter.

It was only after running outside for hours after dinner did I realize that the sun still hadn’t set yet that day. When I asked my mother if the sun was never going to set again, she laughed and explained the summer solstice to me in more detail than I’d known before. Her explanation gave me a sense of wonder about the world that I still feel every summer as an adult.

Winter days are short, cold, and punctuated by many hours of darkness before the sun has any hope of rising again. Summer feels magical in contrast, especially if you’re lucky enough to spend plenty of time outdoors during the evening.

The Friendly Background Noise

Yes, I know I mentioned my love of peace and quiet when I talked about spring hikes earlier this year. The interesting thing about walking during the summer is how noisy it can be!

Our streets come alive after the temperatures drop outdoors. After a long, hot day, many people spill out onto the streets to take their dog for a walk, let their children burn off energy at the park, go shopping, meet up with friends for dinner, or otherwise enjoy the nice weather.

There are countless concerts, festivals, parades, and many other events that can lead to evenings punctuated with the sounds of other people having a wonderful time if you happen to wander into the right neighbourhood at the right time.

As much as I love my quiet time, I’ve also learned to deeply appreciate the distant hum of an excited crowd or the faint vibrations of a band from a street or two away.

Being surrounded by relaxed, happy people is a lovely feeling, and Torontonians tend to be pretty happy in these scenarios.

The Sense of Community

One of the coolest and least intuitive things living in a city as large as Toronto is how often you tend to run into the same people over and over again. You’d think this would be rare given the fact that millions of people live here, but it’s really not!

This is the time of year when I stop to say hello to neighbours or acquaintances on almost every walk I take. Sometimes I’ll need to stop and talk to multiple people on the same stroll.

Since folks are spending more time outdoors being sociable in general, the chances of running into someone you know are higher than they would be in January when people tend to stay home after dark.

My parents did this regularly in the small towns I grew up in. Back then I assumed it was something that only happened in rural areas, but now I’ve learned that it’s part of city life as well. The world is a much smaller place than you’d think!

I’ve come to enjoy seeing how many people I recognize on these strolls. Some neighbours pop up so regularly I can nearly count on saying hello to them several times a week, while others only cross my path occasionally.

What do you like most about summer strolls?

Posted By:
Tagged:
4

My Experience with (Mostly Not) Exercising on an Alaskan Cruise

Photo credit: Jim Schoch.

I’m still basking in the afterglow of the amazing Alaskan cruise I went on with my spouse and extended family earlier this month.

This was the first time any of us had been to Alaska before, so our vacation was filled with all sorts of firsts.  We spent one week sailing by glaciers, mountains, virgin forests, totem poles, and other beautiful sights.

Other than wishing I’d taken more photos during it, there isn’t a single thing I would have changed about that trip. It was wonderful to spend time with my parents, siblings, sister-in-law, and nephews again. We hadn’t all been together in the same place for three long years!

When we weren’t soaking in the hot tub, swimming, exploring the various ports of call or looking for whales, seals, and other wildlife bobbing past our ship, we ate meals together, played Dutch Blitz, attended various programs on the ship: nature and history lectures, cooking shows, poker tournaments, and more.

When I ordered food, I tried to strike a balance between eating a well-rounded diet and enjoying treats. There were some amazing sorbets on this cruise, and I tried to taste as many of them as I could. It’s not every day that a non-vegan restaurant has dairy-free desserts!

The one thing I didn’t do on this vacation was stick to my normal exercise routine. This is rare. Normally, the gym and running track are among the first places I explore when boarding a cruise ship. I like sticking to my fitness routine as much as possible when on vacation.

Why did I break that pattern this time?

  1. I’d caught a cold at the end of June and was still coughing when this trip began.
  2. I wanted to keep my daily schedule flexible.

Get-togethers with my side of the family happen rarely enough that I didn’t want to rush off from a leisurely breakfast or skip a last-time invitation so I could exercise. The fact that I was still feeling sick at first only gave me another reason to take it easy. With that being said, I wasn’t completely sedentary that week.

Taking the Stairs

As much as possible, I took the stairs instead of hopping on the elevator when we were on the ship that week. There were no specific goals here. If I was short on time or coughing a lot one day, I took the elevator without a second thought.

With that being said, walking up or down a few flights at a time can add up over the course of a day if you do it when it’s possible.

I take the stairs a few times a day here in Toronto. When I’m on a cruise, I can do dozens per day. It effectively doubles or triples the average number of staircases I walk on for that month, and most cruises only last about a week!

(No, this wasn’t the staircase that they had on board, although they both were wrap-around designs.  I forgot to photograph the real one while we were there, so I picked an eye-catching stock image photo of another staircase).

Walking Everywhere

While my cough limited how much brisk walking or other forms of exercise I felt up to doing, it didn’t stop me from walking at a slower pace.

When I’m home and feeling well, I try to log about 12,000 steps per day.  I accidentally met this goal on about half of the days of our trip.

Once I even made it to 16,000 steps! While most of that movement involved strolling instead of power walking, I was still pretty happy with how much gentle activity I was able to include in everything else that was going on.

It didn’t get my heart rate pumping as high as I’d normally try to get it, but that wasn’t a goal I was concerned about as I healed and spent time with the family.

A week off won’t mean much in the long run. I’m back to my normal weightlifting and cardio routines now and very glad I took the time to fully recover and make memories with my loved ones.

What do your fitness routines look like when you’re travelling? Do you try to stick to the same schedule? Do you take breaks from them?

 

Why I’ve Decided to Start Walking to Mordor

When I was a preteen, one of my uncles gave me copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I read and enjoyed The Hobbit immediately.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy took longer to get into. The vocabulary in it kept making me pause to look up words I’d never heard of before, and the pacing was slower than I was used to in the other stories I discovered at that age.

Still, reading about the roughly 3109 kilometres (1932 miles) that Frodo and Sam walked during the course of this adventure did grab my attention. I was the sort of kid who liked the outdoors in small doses before I ventured inside again to cool off and have a snack.

The thought of walking – and occasionally running –  as far as they did while being hunted down by all sorts of malevolent creatures and skipping second breakfast made me shudder.

As an adult, I wonder what it would be like to walk that distance for the sheer fun of it. There have been various points in the past when I’ve run across accounts of people who made spreadsheets that tally how far the characters walked to get to each each milestone in the plot  and when they as a fan can pretend like they’ve reached the next one based on how far they’ve walked in real life.

It was only recently that I discovered a site that keeps track of this information for you. Walk to Mordor offers free cellphone apps and also has a space on their website for people who prefer to log their miles that way instead.

The best part about this game is that it gives you notifications about what is happening in the story as the distance you’ve travelled reach specific plot points. It starts in Bag End, Frodo’s home and the opening scene for this tale, and it goes all the way through what happened in the Grey Wood after the battles had all ended. I like the thought of that.

The man who created it developed it out of his love of these books, and I’m talking about it today simply because I think it’s an incredibly cool idea that I thought some of my bookish followers who also enjoy exercising might want to check out.

As always, this blog does not feature sponsored content and I am not being compensated for this post in any way.

Why Mordor, Though?

Because it’s a challenge.

Over the past five years, I’ve been keeping track of some of my fitness-related statistics. I’ve walked an average of 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) a day since I first began recording this stuff. This includes days when I didn’t move much due to illness or injury, so that number is higher when I’m feeling well.

Weight training is my other main source of exercise. I still find it challenging, and there’s nothing I’d change about my lifting routine at the moment.

As much as I enjoy walking, it doesn’t give me that same sense of accomplishment that moving up to a heavier set of weights or noticing how my body changes when I lift weights and eat a good diet.

By no means am I bored with walking…but I do like the idea of seeing all of the distance I put in on the average day add up to something tangible.

There’s also the fact that Walking to Mordor has a definite end date. If I continue at my current pace, it will wrap up at the end of winter or beginning of spring in 2020. I like the idea of starting something new while knowing that it won’t and can’t last forever.

(Relatively) Calm Entertainment

Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

This style of storytelling appealed to me, too. I’ve been looking for a fitness app that was somehow tied to science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction for a while now, but I was selective about what sort of adventure I was going to be signing up for.

First of all, It needed to be something that wasn’t going to track my location in the real world or sell my personal information to other companies. There is far enough of that happening in the world as is!

I also wasn’t interested in an app that tried to get me to move faster or for longer distances because of a storyline that involved anyone being chased by zombies or other dangerous creatures.

While I can see how that would be very motivating for some players, it’s not the sort of thing that I personally find appealing. Tell me a good story, but do let me move at my own pace while everything is unfolding.

Knowing how it ends for Frodo and his many companions was yet another reason why I decided to sign up for this game. I was definitely not feeling calm the first time I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there is something to be said for returning to a world you’ve visited many times before even if it’s plot isn’t exactly what most people think of as a soothing one at first glance.

I was willing to pay for what I was looking for, by the way. The fact that I found a free app that fit my criteria was icing on the cake.

Join Me

If anyone reading this wishes to friend me on Walk to Mordor, do a search for Lydia Schoch. I kept my username there simple on purpose, and I’m happy to share my journey there if we’ve talked before and you’d like to link up.

Either way, I may be blogging about this game and others like it again in the future as I move through the various scenes. The thought of turning exercise into a non-competitive game appeals to me very much!

3 Things I Love About Spring Hikes

Signs of spring are popping up everywhere now here in Ontario. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed the photos I’ve been sharing there of our first flowers of the year.

It’s still a little too muddy and chilly outside to spend much time traipsing around out in nature,  but I’m hoping the weather will become nice enough to change that soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the joy of going on hikes or walks during this season. There are many reasons why this is the perfect time of year to do that. Today I’ll be sharing three of them with you just like I talked about my love of autumn hiking last year.

The Peace and Quiet

Toronto almost feels like an entirely different city in each of its four seasons. Things grow quieter here in the winter, especially once all of the December holidays have ended.

Summer is our busy, tourist season. There are certain parts of the city I don’t visit much at all during those months because of how crowded they are when kids are out of school and families visit Toronto. Tourists are always welcome here, but I’d rather visit familiar landmarks in the off-season than wait in long lines outdoors to see them in the never-ending heat and humidity of August.

Spring and autumn are transitional times. We don’t have as many tourists or warm weather at these parts of the year, but the weather can give us many unexpectedly beautiful days. It’s been my experience that there aren’t as many Torontonians venturing to a park or the woods in the in-between seasons for reasons I haven’t quite figured out yet.

At any rate, I like these quiet, peaceful days out in nature. Sometimes they start out cold and foggy but later turn out to have several hours of mild, comfortable weather in the afternoon. It’s always a gamble at this time of the year, but I like grabbing those few hours of decent weather when possible and using them to visit parks that haven’t yet begun to see their full stream of warm-weather visitors.

I’d also much rather go wander around outside on a day that is slightly chilly and overcast than one that may leave me sunburned or overheated by the end of it. To each their own on that topic, though.

The Outdoor Exercise

After spending the last several months exercising indoors due to a mixture of weather and health-related reasons, I can’t tell you what a relief it’s been to start doing some workouts outside.

There’s something so invigorating to me about feeling the sun and wind on my skin as I exercise. Watching all of the TV shows or exercise videos in the world can never replicate that sensation anymore than they can show what it feels like to greet a friendly neighbour you happen to run into while exercising outdoors.

Life isn’t always conducive to this, of course, especially when I had a sore foot a few months ago and needed to avoid slipping or falling while it healed.  With that being said, it’s a nice experience when possible, and I’m hoping to do it much more regularly now that I’m feeling like my old self and the sidewalks aren’t dangerously slippery for anyone who needs to be careful to avoid a fall.

The Scenery

As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, spring is my favourite season of the year. Winter is cold, snowy, drab, and long here, so it’s always a relief when the temperatures rise and I begin seeing bright splashes of colour on the landscape again after the flowers begin blooming.

I’ve already paused more than one walk with my spouse in order to snap a picture of a flower or new leaf on a tree. Every bit of colour that’s added to the landscape makes me that much happier.

It’s going to be even nicer once I’m able to visit a forest that isn’t dormant at all any more! I can’t wait to see flowers, leaves, and grasses growing no matter what direction I look.

If you’re also a fan of hiking or taking long walks, what do you like most about it at this time of the year?

3 Things I Don’t Love About Fitness Culture

A few days ago blogged about the four things I love about fitness culture. Today I’m going to be talking about three things I wish I could change about it. Since it can be difficult to read people’s tones on the Internet, know that I’m bringing up these concerns because I care about this topic… Read More

4 Things I Love About Fitness Culture

With the weather gradually warming up here in Ontario, I’ve been spending more time thinking about fitness and fitness culture. Once the last patches of snow and ice have melted for good, my neighbourhood is going to have even more people going out and about for a jog, walk, bicycle ride, or other forms of… Read More

4 Things I Miss About My Old Workout Routines

I have a slightly embarrassing story to share with all of you today. About two weeks ago, I was walking around barefoot in my house and accidentally smashed my little toe into one of my hand weights that was lying on the floor. (Pro-tip: this is not an amusing way to pass your time. I’d… Read More

My Review of Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of workout routine.  In addition, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this post, I’m not affiliated with anyone at… Read More