The Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Northern Virginia made for a beautiful, but hot, day of sightseeing. On a Friday in the summertime, I was surprised to see only about 3 other groups of people, which made for a much more appealing trip, as crowds can take away from the ambiance of trip. Though I did find the place to be relaxing and appealing, it did seem to be a little sparse on flowers- which is what I had expected to see going into it. Though from reviews online it seems that I may have just went at the wrong time of year. The flowers weren't supposed to be the main attraction, as just a short walk from the Information Building stood a Korean Garden with a Bell Temple and other interesting sculptural and architectural creations. Unfortunately the large log used to ring the bell is chained back, so visitors are not allowed to ring it. The tower looks to be modeled after California's renowned "Korean Bell of Friendship," which supports Korean American relations.
All in all, it was a great place to visit on a day trip, and a beautiful photo taking opportunity for either scenic pictures or personal portraits, they even host weddings and photography sessions (though it would definitely be easier to just bring a friend to take pictures).
There's a lot of hype around stationary cycling classes, and going into my first class I had the mindset that biking in place couldn't be nearly as fun as biking in the real world (Although my "real-word" bike is at least ten years old and the gears sound like they are breaking when I shift...). The idea of 90 minutes was daunting, HOWEVER, I LOVED my spin class. I went Zengo Cycle, for a free class, which was a promotion for first timers. I was immediately drawn in by the interior. The whole place was very well designed, including clean bathrooms with pebble floored showers and fancy goodies like hair-ties, hair-dryers, and q-tips (I have low standards for gym bathrooms). The bike room was set up with maybe 50 bikes directed towards a bike on a platform (for the instructor). I was a little put off by how close together the bikes were, but it ended up not bothering me at all. The instructor personally adjusted my bike, brought me 2 lb dumbbells (that's right biking and weightlifting. Who knew I could multitask?), and they even provided hand towels, though I had my own cooling towel. Another thing with this spin class was that the bikes were designed to have special shoes click into them, so they require you either own or rent shoes from them. Though the shoes were weird to walk on, once I was strapped in they didn't bother me at all.
The instructor claimed it was her 4th class of the day, which would take a LOT of effort on her part I soon realized. As the class began, the lights dimmed and the music went up. The instructor didn't spurt of random scenery descriptions like I had suspected from movies, in fact, she pretty much just gave instructions and motivational advice. The difference between biking alone and going to a spin class is really just that voice of encouragement, and that seems worth the drive to me. On my own I probably would've gone home after 10-20 minutes, but with the group mentality those 90 minutes flew by. It turned out to be a GREAT workout, though sometimes if I pedaled too quickly I'd lose control, which can be scary if your feet are literally strapped in. Other than that I actually enjoyed exercise for once. Another benefit with stationary biking, there is NO UPHILL, plus you can control the resistance... so don't resist (PUN) trying a spin class out.
In accordance with my summer of trying new things, I took an Aerial Yoga Class for Spark Yoga with a friend. I did feel like, even though it is a specialized class and it was worth the money, $30 was a little pricey. It's cheaper if you become a member, but I wasn't able to do that since it's such a long drive for me. The class was, however, worth every penny and all 75 minutes that it lasted. Despite the fact that, as hard as I've tried, I have never been able to accomplish a handstand, this class made me feel like I was finally capable. In my first class, we went from doing aerial lunges (putting the hammock under the knee and lunging without your foot on the ground, sidebar this REALLY stretches everything) to executing flips, handstands and all kinds of inverted poses. I realized that letting gravity do the work was much more simple than trying to force myself into positions in regular yoga. In fact, some businesses refer to Aerial Yoga as Anti-Gravity Yoga, which is very accurate. Inverting yourself seems scary at first, and somewhat uncomfortable, and as a result many of my classmates and I were extremely hesitant, but after deciding to trust my hammock and my body, I noticed Aerial Yoga relieves a lot of physical tension in my body, my neck and back especially, and I felt altogether amazing afterwards, although I did have a slight headache from spending so much time upside down (*Disclaimer I'm very prone to headaches, so it might just be a me thing*). This is just one of those activities that would be great for improving flexibility, as you can see in my right-most picture below, I do not have nearly the amount of flexibility that I'd like. My friend, a lifelong dancer, was able to touch her foot to her head in the same pose. That would take a LOT of practice for me, but maybe someday...maybe...very unlikely though.
My instructor claimed that he owned a personal hammock in his home, which is not altogether uncommon. On my venture to purchase my own hammock, I've found many for sale online, (though it seems to me many companies are overcharging). In my mind, all you really need is a certain amount of fabric (from what I've seen many use silk or tricotton blends). I feel that DIY-ing an Aerial Yoga setup would be pretty straightforward, however, the problem is that rigging a hammock in your home can be dangerous. Keep in mind that when you move on the hammock, you are generating more force than just your body weight. Therefore the hammock requires very intricate installation, and many sources I've read recommend hiring a professional, even one that specializes in aerial installation. Also you need a certain amount of height, and despite the beauty of the outdoors, most specialists warn against rigging a hammock on a tree due to the unpredictability. Therefore, if your ceilings are short like mine are, there is just not a foolproof way to go about installing a hammock.
For Spring Break I decided to try something new and hike a small section of the Virginia portion of the Appalachian Trail. Though it was exciting to shake things up, I quickly realized that hiking is not as simple as it sounds. I'd been on day-hikes before, the kind that you can execute effectively with a stylish leggings and a cute sports bra, and with that simplicity in mind I greatly underestimated the challenge I would be facing.
Let the record show that in my defense I had picked out one of the more difficult sections of the Appalachian Trail, and I quickly realized that my lack of experience could've proved to be somewhat hazardous. Therefore, I am now fully aware of the importance of proper planning.
For one, a simple backpack just won't cut it. You need to be able to comfortably carry a sleeping bag, tent, food, water purifier, compass, rain gear, etc, all in one bag for around 10 miles a day. I found my Gregory to be very comfortable, even though it wasn't specifically designed for women. One of the most obvious differences between a normal backpack and a hikers backpack is the belt. Designed to tighten directly above the hip bones, this belt is a lifesaver. The weight of the pack, which depending on the length of your trip can range from 20 lbs to 80+ lbs, is placed on your hips instead of your shoulders. Therefore its extremely important to get a properly fitted backpack, and to adjust all the straps and clasps beforehand to increase comfort. It also improves your safety, as it balances the weight, making it harder to "topple over" when standing up or climbing.