Monday Motivation

#MondayMotivation - Long Drive Ahead

Tahquamenon Falls - Upper Falls - December 2015

The trip to Michigan for my brother's wedding is finally here!  We leave tomorrow, Tuesday June 12, in the evening and will hopefully be to my hometown by Wednesday evening.  In the past, driving across the country or back to Michigan seemed a lot easier.  Nowadays, I'm exhausted by hour nine and ready to pull over.  Most of the time when we go to Michigan, we have such a limited time frame, we can't really plan for multiple day drives up or down.  Powering through is the only option ahead, and I'm going to use my upcoming hike at Tahquamenon Falls as motivation.  Oh, I suppose seeing the family is motivation too, but those falls...dang.

This will be the first big adventure for Oliver the Outback, and I couldn't be happier about our destination.  It will be good to get some adventure miles instead of just the obscene amount of commuter miles I've put on since last July.

This is my first step in getting back on track with my outdoor plans and personal goals.  I'm using this trip, this drive, and this upcoming hike as motivation to get back to my normal existence.  I've had plenty of great days and fun destinations locally, but there is just something about a trip out of state to shake things up and make you appreciate life all over again.  Once I accomplish this hike, I know I'll want to keep going even once back here in the hot, humid, sun drenched land that is known as Texas.

These routes take anywhere between 19-24 hours, depending on traffic and weather.

#MondayMotivation - Slacker Edition

Self-inflicted bullshit is the easiest to create and hardest to destroy.

I've been slacking.  I've been kind of out of control with certain aspects in my life and it's taking a toll on me.  Yesterday, I started to clean and organize the apartment and that brought some clarity to my brain.  It's time to take control and stop living in a free fall.  I need routines and structures and it will take a little while to build them up, but I'm working towards it as an overall goal.

Back to my hiking routines, cleaning routines, morning routines, and cooking routines.  I've been avoiding cooking, leaving laundry all over, not cleaning up after the cooking I do, and generally being a slob-lazy-bum.  It's easy for me to blame this on whatever, but really it's only I who can snap the hell out of it a get into a better head space.  I'm working to find the positives, find the organization, and crawl back up to a normal existence.

It's been a weird few months with the death of my grandfather, the onset of hot weather, the general boredom of local trails, too much alcohol, too much fast food, and the general dislike I've been feeling towards my body.  I'm certainly past due to get my shit together and get to hiking regularly, living within my means, smiling more often, eating food for fuel, and sleeping well again.

#MondayMotivation - Just keep going!

Personal goals are a way for me to focus my direction in life and fun way for me to keep track of activities, health stats, and personal achievements.  I used to set unattainable goals that weren't smart or helpful.  Now, I set goals in a much more logical sense that are both attainable and challenging while remaining flexible.

Current Goals:

  • Prepare to backpack this fall - drop some weight, increase cardio, etc.
  • Plan for an affordable trip w/ my BFF - sometime at the end of summer or fall that fits in to our busy schedules and doesn't cost a fortune
  • Hike 400 miles this year - which would almost double what I did in 2017 (hike your own hike, people)
  • Get back to the Olympic Peninsula this fall/winter, if an affordable option can be found for a long weekend
  • Lose 34 lbs by my 34th birthday, which is just over 6 months (a work in progress)
  • Fit into the puffy vest I bought that's a little too tight, by winter
  • Drink enough water to feel hydrated, daily
  • Stop using online shopping and eating as therapy for stressful days

Not everything goes as planned, but as long as I have the goals I have a path to get back to if I stray too far one way or another.  One day I may eat too much or not drink enough water, but I can correct that action and try again.  It may rain and prevent a hike or outdoor exercise, but I have other days or an indoor gym to use as a backup.  Travel may never be affordable enough in the time constraints of life, but we can always find something less exciting to work for our trip if necessary to hang out for a weekend.  I can always keep going and so can you.

My words of wisdom:  work towards your goals, set them accordingly, and don't beat yourself up if you have to change the plan to get to them.  Setting smaller goals, or levels of achievement towards a final goal, can really help break it down and make it seem less daunting overall.  Be realistic, yet push yourself to a new level.  (I'll be taking my own advice here, by the way)

If you've read this, I hope you have a great week ahead, thanks for stopping by! - Mike

#MondayMotivation - Reflect & Regroup.

I think losing someone you love is a long, slow burn. There's the initial spark of immediate grief followed by the moments along the way when they come up and you remember again that they’re gone.  It's not bad, it's not good, it's just life. I feel eventually it’ll just be a low flicker or that tiny flame that will never go out. For now, with everything so fresh, it’s one of those big bonfires you have one when you drink a little too much.

It's been four years since my granny passed and only days since my grandfather and it's the same “woah” feeling every time I come across some random thing that makes me think of either of them.  A memory, a moment, something they would have loved, or something they helped me achieve. I’m not one to dwell on things, but I have been known to get caught up in a moment every now and then and completely lose it over something so small but so important to my memory.  Today I’m using the grief, the moments, the memories, and the flames of loved ones who have passed as motivation to continue to live a life I love and move forward with purpose. I remember the people who passed as strong, helpful, and wise in their own ways and if here, now,  would only continue to push me forward and motivate me to be a better human. Use your pain, past experiences, and downtrodden moments as fuel to keep moving. If you don’t have inspiration right now, take some of mine and run with it, I don’t mind.

Death has this cliche effect on me that causes me to reflect and regroup.  I think it’s natural, from what I’ve read, but I feel it's still cliche and a little absurd.  I wonder if I’m living life the way I should or taking care of myself enough, among other things.  I really do like the excuse to reflect and regroup, but I need to do it more consistently along the way - not just when I lose a loved one.  Here’s to more reflection, but not too much that I fall into a downward spiral of doubt - a happy balance.

Happy trails and I wish anyone reading this a wonderful week ahead.

#MondayMotivation - Driving helps me organize my thoughts

I'm looking back at the past 18 months or so and I can hardly believe that I accomplished something as simple and motivated as hiking every week for a year.  I finally got out to hike yesterday after being sick to my stomach the previous Sunday and it was as Invigorating as I had hoped it would be.  I went somewhere new, saw new landscapes, and felt the sun beat down on me once again.  I hiked five miles, not the furthest by far, but far enough to find joy again.  I drove three hours to hike and wander for just about the same, but it was worth every minute.  Driving used to be my thing - set some music, open the moonroof, hit the road, process everything in the world, and return in a better place.  The recent drive to the wildlife refuge in Oklahoma brought me close to that old feeling of driving therapy and made the hike even better.  My brain was relaxed, my mind was flowing, and my body was ready for the day.  I look forward to more long drives to hiking destinations to give me a moment with the open road, my thoughts, and nothing else.

I had some thoughts while driving home, this is a snippet of me just getting the words out so I can reflect.  I'm truly grateful to have the ability to live this life and I look forward to building on the experiences of the past year and a half.  I hope you all can find some inspiration out there and keep pushing forward.

#MondayMotivation - From puffy body to wearing that puffy vest

Disclaimer: This is a little more personal and a little less outdoorsy.  If that's not your thing, just check back for another post celebrating the outdoors later this week.

April 2012 - Bloated and puffy, motivational poster against drinking too much and eating whatever you want

This photo, from April of 2012, is one of my most motivating photos.  This photo showcases my puffiest time - the first time I was truly uncomfortable with my appearance and weight.  My weight has fluctuated so much in the past seven years, it's crazy.  Since moving to Texas seven years ago, I've consumed more calories per day than I ever have before.  From lazy days drinking on the water to just having more access to eating out, I know I have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Knowing this, it doesn't really mean I can manage the problem without a level discipline I often lack and can easily excuse.  In the past seven years, my weight has fluctuated 70 pounds which proves one thing: with discipline, I can make it happen even if it has been only temporary.

My favorite excuses:

  • I commuted, worked, commuted, and now I'm tired
  • We can't walk to the park
  • The trails are gross around here
  • I'm tired
  • It's just easier to go get food instead of making it
  • Portion control and good foods are boring
  • You only live once

Damn, I'm good at excuses.  I often use other people to get out of exercise or eating well, and I am really good at justifying anything bad because it tastes good.

What I know I need to do:

  • Cook at home, regardless of time or what my other half wants
  • Stop relying on other people to motivate me
  • Stop saying I'm tired - I can easily go walk a few miles after work
  • Stop drinking as much alcohol
  • Hike more and plan for it to be more adventurous
  • Really do the couch to 5K instead of just pretending

I always KNOW what I need to do - it's just a matter of doing it.  There's always an event, an outing, a celebration, SOMETHING.

This post is supposed to be motivational, or inspire change so I'm going to try.  I know what I have to do, and I know it can be done because I've done it.  I know health is an even more important factor than looking puffy, so there's that too.  Here's to trying new things, staying motivated, and knowing it's all about balance.  Here's to the 50th time I've tried this whole balance thing, and here's to hoping I've set up my plans and tools for success.

Sources of inspiration:

  • Fellow outdoorsy people - doing all the outdoorsy things I want to do
  • Mountains - I wanna climb your pretty rocks
  • All these damn babies my friends/family are having - I'd like to be the cool "uncle" who takes them on adventures and shit...can't do that from the grave or being out of shape
  • My puffy vest in my closet that is just a little too tight (and several other things, but mostly the vest)
  • Just the hope that I'll feel better about participating in group outdoorsy activities
  • My dog and his need to sniff and exercise too
  • My 2013 body, it was my favorite.  I wasn't my lowest weight, but I felt the best.

I have a lot of anxiety around hiking with people.  I always open my hikes to anyone interested in going, but I'm secretly terrified someone will judge my speed or ability.  I definitely hike my own hike - I sweat a lot, drink a ton of water, and am still mastering elevation changes.  I don't give up on my hikes, so why should I give up so easily on my everyday life?

Things I aim to do this summer that would be easier with a little less weight/a little better breathing:

  • Canoeing when I'm up in Michigan!
  • Hiking from Upper to Lower Tahquamenon Falls
  • Bike rides
  • Morning park walks w/ the dog
  • Evening hikes

I secretly love running.  Back in 2012/2013 I kind of got into it when I was living mostly alone and had a lot of time on my hands since my roommate worked away for weeks at a time and my other half was 40 miles away and in school full-time.  I used to incorporate running into my routine walks, especially up the hills and I always felt so damn alive.  I think I'd like to trail run or run a 5K or 10K, but I know it will require full dedication and a lot less bullshit than I allow right now.

I used to publicize these feelings and goals, then I stopped because I was such a failure and I'd essentially be lying about progress or motivation.  I'm trying again, to be vocal and public about this for my own reference and so people close to me can point it out and give me shit if they notice I'm a little too off course.

A few little goals:

  • In a healthy way, lose 34 pounds and maintain that loss before turning 34 in December
  • Before going to Michigan in June, drop some weight and at least be exercising daily until then
  • Start using the VERY NICE gym at our new apartment complex - baby steps, though
  • PLAN AHEAD to avoid most excuses... grocery shop like a normal person, check the weather for the week, and set aside time in advance

I had a real wake up call when I wen up the trail to Mt. Storm King... I am way the hell out of shape.  I don't want to feel that inadequate again - especially when exploring beautiful places.

Being chubby/fat/out of shape doesn't mean I'm incapable of doing things, it just means it takes a lot more work.  I'd like to work harder now so I can get even more out of my adventures, hikes, camping trips, etc.

I hope you all find your motivation, continue to enjoy life the best you can, and maybe even find some motivation in my endless post about excuses and bullshit.  Happy trails!

Here are some photos highlighting my general shape and face for each year beginning in 2012.

December 2012 - One of my lowest weights, wearing a size or two smaller shirt even!

May 2013 - Pants were several sizes smaller, shirt the same but fit better, and I looked good.  Up a little from 2012, but still good. GOALS...

August 2014 - We took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and I'm puffy again.

March 2015 - Puffy AF at Zion NP and not even trying at this point in life

June 2016 - I had been trying, but soon gave up (again)

February 2017 - I had been working on losing weight and getting healthy before a trip to Minnesota, less puffy but it didn't last.  Puffy again by summer.

March 2018 - puffy again, but still capable

#MondayMotivation - Help your fellow trees!

One of my favorite things to see in the forest is new trees, ferns, or mosses growing from logs or stumps.  Trees never die, they just help each other out in the circle of life.  Queue the song from the Lion King.  But, seriously, if we took a lesson from this and offered to help one another a bit more, we would probably achieve a better balance.  Think about it.  Help someone!  Maybe you're just a sounding board for someone - you could be the stump, and their idea could be the new tree.  Maybe you need a log or stump to help you grow?  Who knows?  Take a moment to think about it, if it makes any sense at all.... enjoy these photos of trees or plants growing out of other trees or plants.

All of the organisms in an ecosystem work together, and I think we need to rethink our human ecosystem sometimes and see how we can exist more like the plants in these photos.

#MondayMotivation - Power Through

Do you ever have an upcoming trip and that's all you can think about?  Me too.

Currently, I have a big project to finish at work and I have to finish moving things from the old apartment over to the new place, as well as clean both.  I have a lot to do, but I can't stop daydreaming about my upcoming trip.

In just under two weeks I'll be flying to Seattle and taking a rental car through the Olympic Peninsula for three days.  I keep checking trail conditions, local weather reports, and the Olympic National Park website.  But, I need to keep moving to clean out and organize the apartments, finish that big work project and get it submitted to the government before I'm in the clear.

This post may be short and without a real point except to say... "POWER THROUGH" whatever you've got going on so you can get outside to enjoy what nature has in store for you.  Power through your work project, ice that knee, and get going!

#MondayMotivation - Make it happen!

Standing out on Spectra Point at Cedar Breaks National Monument (one of my "Must See" places in Utah)

It was May of 2017 when I bought the round trip ticket from DFW to SLC.  I was going to Utah in mid-August, for a weekend, and I was ecstatic.  I was flying out after work on a Friday and flying home on a Sunday night because I didn't have any vacation left to use - it just all fell into place.  I had been tossing the idea of revisiting Utah around for a while and I was tracking flights for weeks.  I knew I had to go and I decided to make it happen.

While it was a short hike, it was exhilerating to be walking along the rim.

Booking that flight was a rush.  Planning the trip was easy and only continued to build my excitement while allowing me to feel the reality of it all sinking in.  I had solid plans, some "must do" moments, and a daily itinerary to maximize the time available for adventure.  I opened it up to friends and let everyone in my outdoor circle know what my plans were and that I was open to anyone joining in.  My best friend Molly decided she could make that weekend work and would be flying out to join me.  Her company and our chance to reconnect easily made that weekend one of the best in 2017.

The might Bristlecone Pine - Cedar Breaks National Monument

The 52 Hike Challenge was a major motivator in 2017 as were the various outdoor communities I had connected to online.  I had been camping and hiking more than ever before in my life, I couldn't let a weekend go by without something happening.  When my hikes were getting repetitive, I knew I needed a change of pace and a weekend away.  I looked at many cities, tracked flights for weeks, and weighed many options, but Salt Lake City just worked for that moment and I'm glad it did.  I would have flown anywhere for a weekend if the flights and prices worked out so I researched many places - Vegas for Death Valley, Portland for Crater Lake or the coast, Seattle for Olympic, etc.  Through this adventure I learned that I could make a weekend work, even with a flight, and that I actually thrived with a limited amount of time because I made every view, rest stop, and moment of daylight count.

I'm thankful that I have the resources to do a spontaneous weekend, because I haven't always been in that position.  I'm aware that I'm privileged to be able to run away for 48 hours and see the beauty our country has to offer.  I know not everyone can just book a flight and explore.  My point with this Monday Motivation is to simply make it happen if you want it to happen.  It could be pushing yourself to get outside locally, hiking further next time, finding a friend and taking that weekend road trip, or booking a flight and exploring your favorite places.  Too often I fall victim to my own laziness, so this is also a reminder to myself to keep going and make it happen.

A picture from my BRIEF visit (drive through) in 2009.

I've been obsessing over the Olympic Peninsula for months now, so I just booked a flight over Easter weekend to Seattle so I can go hike and reinvigorate myself and find new motivation.  Anyone is free to join, but I will be hiking the Ozette Triangle Loop (Olympic National Park on the coast) on Saturday, so plan accordingly.  I'm taking suggestions and recommendations for things you love about the Olympic Peninsula and things I "must see" while I'm there.  I fly in Thursday night, late, and fly home over night for a Monday morning arrival before work.  I'm so excited, probably even more than the flight to Utah last year.  Here's to making it happen! 

#MondayMotivation - The nervous and excited energy of just getting out there

I still think back to my first, and only, camping trip to Arches National Park.  It was part of a great road trip involving two friends that went from Michigan to the west coast and back.  My camping prior to 2009 was limited to the Great Lakes and I really hadn’t been in the middle of nowhere like you are in Arches or along US-50 in Nevada.  This trip in 2009 was my first real hiking through a National Park, my first middle of nowhere camping trip, and my first time TRULY appreciating the little things like a campfire, cold beer, or a crappy hotel room.  When I sit here and think it’s too hard to get outside or it’s too far, I think back to that trip.  We camped, road tripped, stayed in hotels, hiked, and everything in between all on a budget and with time constraints.  I now look to my peers and see them doing all of the activities from simple car camping to backpacking trips and beyond and I’m motivated.  I’m glad to be connected to so many people doing things I had never even heard of before.  I’m glad to have memories of being a bit nervous about traveling across the country and camping, but also just so excited.  I’m motivated today by my desire to keep that feeling going and the desire to just go for it – whatever activity that may be.  Happy trails and stay motivated!

#MondayMotivation - An excuse for everything

The pond in the morning at Cedar Ridge Preserve - Dallas, TX

This weekend, I had an excuse for everything.  From dinner plans to household tasks that NEEDED to be done, I avoided my local hiking haunts like the plague.  I had apartment tours to take, property tours to take, a friend's birthday dinner, chores, shopping, and uncooperative weather.  I truly had an excuse for every hour of daylight.  Were the excuses legitimate?  Maybe some, but certainly not all of them.  Could I have taken a hike at one of my standby locations?  Definitely.  I'm not opposed to hiking in the rain or even the dark, but I used those two situations to justify staying home and being less active.  I reached out to a couple of people to see if they would go with me, they were busy, so I used that as an excuse not to go out.  The drive to the place I really wanted to go was 45 minutes, through traffic, so I avoided it.

I wasn't motivated at all this weekend to get outside because the options just weren't that appealing to me.  I had this problem last year - when I didn't have an out-of-town trip planned, or couldn't drive a few hours to a nice state park, I would lose motivation or begrudgingly go to a local staple and not even enjoy the outdoors that much.  So this post today, is about fighting off the excuses, fighting through the illusion that local green spaces aren't good enough,  and getting excited about the local haunts that keep me sane between bigger adventures.

Pros of local spots:

  • Easy to access, usually
  • User-friendly
  • A little green in the concrete jungle
  • Always there when I need it
  • Cheap or free

Cons of local spots:

  • Can seem boring
  • Often crowded/overused
  • Not wild enough/secluded enough
  • Trails not long enough

This is all psychological, for me, and once I actually drive somewhere I get a little more excited and can look past the cons.  Getting from my apartment to the car is the hardest part for local hikes so here's what I'm going to do to psych myself up:

  • Start earlier to avoid people and traffic
  • Know that I'll be better off after a few miles through the woods, always
  • Come to terms with the fact that this is enough and plan for a more exciting hike the next time - it's all about balance

This post isn't very motivating, yet....hopefully this helps.

I'm aware that this is a personal problem, and is specific to my city life in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  I'm working on being more grateful for the green space and nearby state parks I do have while also knowing I need to balance out these local spots with more adventurous places.  I know life can get busy, but the whole point of the 52 Hike Challenge is to make sure I always set aside time for a hike.  It is time to get pumped up again and make up for this missed week.  It is time to show gratitude for the places I do have nearby and for the peace and clarity they can bring.  I hope, if you're having trouble getting outside or are sick of the same parks you have, that you can try to break through that mindset too.  Share with me what motivates you to get outside, bonus points if you have a story about feeling refreshed about your local spots.  Happy trails!

Cedar Ridge Preserve - Dallas, TX

#MondayMotivation - 2017 Was a Damn Good Year

Today is my aunt’s birthday, and I was looking back at photos to share in a Facebook post to celebrate her life.  I went scrolling through the 2017 photos to rediscover that we had some fun nights, plenty of summer boat days, spirited holiday gatherings, and a nice hike at one of my favorite local spots.  While scrolling through I got distracted, as I often do, by all of the hikes and all of the beautiful places I visited throughout the year and it led me to one conclusion:  2017 was a damn good year.

I embarked on the 52 Hike Challenge, not knowing what to expect.  Looking back the results were all I could have hoped for.

  • I got out more, every week to be precise

  • I reconnected with nature

  • I met a ton of virtual support

  • I saw new things, beautiful things, some that were right in my own state

  • I started to get a better mental clarity

  • I didn’t really get in “better” shape, but I maintained a weight for most of the year and strengthened my legs

  • I spent valuable time with friends on the trail

  • It let me to find my passion - getting people outdoors - and I’m finally branching into that area of helping people get outdoors and finding that equality balance

  • It didn’t cost me a lot of money, well to actually get outside anyway

  • It kept me sane, grounded, and on schedule with other things in my life

  • It’s helped me get even more fired up for our public lands and all that we need to do to protect and fund them

I visited a few National Park units, plenty of local state parks, and some new local trails.  I spent more time outdoors in 2017 than I had in the six years prior.  I haven’t been this excited for life in a LONG time.  I grew up with hundreds of acres at my disposal and I was always outside.  As I aged into those teenage years, I found myself outside less but still not opposed to spending time in the woods or at the lake.  In college, I camped and road tripped so the outdoors was back in play, a little.  I eventually took a job a city park ranger and did some unrelated trail work for my major - wildlife management.  A few trips here and there through the years had me camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Arches National Park, and along the Loneliest Road in the USA.  When I moved to Texas in 2011, the outdoors seemed to be on the back burner.  I did a lot of boating and I did a few road trips between 2012 and 2017, but it wasn’t until the hiking challenge that my fire for the outdoors was reignited.

I can’t picture myself just sitting around all weekend ever again.  Sure, I have moments when I’m just feeling lazy, but the desire to be camping or hiking always wins.  Road trips west to the Oregon Coast, Redwood National & State Parks, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and western Texas over the past six years were the kindling and wood but the 52 Hike Challenge was the flame that set me on fire again.  If you find yourself feeling a bit unsure, find something that will challenge you to be a better version of yourself.  I’m not implying that everyone responds to challenges the same way, I’m just saying they work for a lot of people and maybe they’ll work for you.  Set attainable goals, focus on things you love, and find your happy place(s).  Surround yourself, in person or virtually, with people that support you and your goals.  My year of motivation is something I’m looking back at and I can’t wait to push harder, explore further, and try a bunch of new things in 2018.  Find your passion and own it.  Happy trails!

Here are some of my highlights from 2017: