Welcome! Log In | Register

Guest Blogger

Location #9: Chile

Written on April 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm , by

Rock climbing near santiago

Paige climbs at a desert cliff near Santiago, Chile. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com)

Paige is climbing in Chile to support VE Global, which fosters the development of children at social risk in Santiago by empowering volunteers to serve as positive role models, educators and advocates of social justice. Learn more and help Lead Now support VE at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourchile

—–

By Paige Claassen

I awoke abruptly to horns, chatter, and clanging. I was in the city. Nothing unusual for most, except that I’d spent the last nine months far away from noise and traffic – deep in forests, barren Indian deserts, or vacant winter shores.  For most of Marmot’s Lead Now Tour, my climbing objectives were peacefully removed from civilization. But my final month of travel brought me to Santiago, Chile. I felt culture shocked.

For such a large, sprawling city, Santiago boasts many nearby outdoor climbing cliffs. Mountains surround the entire city, but the tall snowy peaks are rarely visible beneath the brown haze of pollution. My throat ached each morning, not yet accustomed to breathing the clouded air. Yet Santiago offered the change of pace I yearned for over the past months. I could practice my Spanish while navigating the city and find fresh fruits and vegetables at each corner.

I spent most days attempting hard climbs outside the city, completing a few routes that no women had climbed before. But the end of the month brought the final challenge of Lead Now – the largest climbing competition in South America. The pressure of performing well in front of a large audience and the challenge of attempting a route I’ve never before seen excited me as a teenager. But over time, I transitioned my focus to climbing outside. I hadn’t competed in three years, nor had I climbed in a gym in nine months. Climbing in a gym and climbing outside are practically two different sports. Each requires very different skill sets.

south american rock climbing competition

Paige places 4th at the largest climbing competition in South America. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com)

I wasn’t prepared for this competition, but I knew it would be a fun reintroduction to a facet of climbing I hadn’t recently explored. On the first day, I performed well, completing all 5 routes in the qualifying round and placing second. The following day, I placed third in semi finals after timing out on my last route. In finals that evening, my body felt exhausted. I opted for a brief warmup in hopes of conserving the little energy I had.

ve global

Young girls from a VE Global supported residential home in Santiago cheer for Paige at South America’s biggest climbing competition.

In climbing, competitors must remain behind the climbing wall before the competition, so as not to see the routes they will climb. As I walked out to the wall, I scanned the crowd and spotted four of the little girls supported by our Chilean non profit partner, VE Global. Their smiles calmed me. I didn’t feel intimidated. Instead, I felt my old competitive edge creep back in, fed by the loud music and cheers of the audience.

I didn’t do my best in finals. I couldn’t shake the fatigue built up in the previous rounds. My body was accustomed to climbing one very hard route outside each day, but I lacked the endurance needed for a multi-round competition. But unlike my early days of competition, I wasn’t disappointed. I had fun. I left Chile after nine months of travel with a smile on my face, reminiscing about all the new friends I had met around the world and the beautiful places I climbed. The journey has been rich with memories, but it feels good to be home!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a final video about Paige’s adventures and stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Chile!

Location #8: Ecuador

Written on March 18, 2014 at 10:22 am , by

Paige is climbing in Ecuador to raise money for Heifer International, a global non profit that applies the “teach a man to fish” philosophy by helping bring sustainable agriculture to impoverished communities. To join Lead Now in supporting Heifer, donate online at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourecuador. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

—–

By Paige Claassen

It wasn’t until I arrived in Ecuador that I connected the dots: ‘ecuador’ means ‘equator’ in Spanish. This small country, roughly the size of my home state of Colorado, is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Pristine beaches, snow covered 20,000 foot peaks, and the Amazon jungle are each accessible within an eight hour drive.

Paige Claassen and local Ecuadorian climber Christian Medina take in the site of the Tungurahua volcano. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com).

ecuador rock climbing middle earth

Paige became the first person to climb the new route Middle Earth, graded 5.13d at 13,000 feet. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com).

Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism is making the country’s many outdoor sports available to locals and tourists alike. Roads, bike lanes, and access to National Parks seemed even more progressive than in the United States. With four weeks to explore the country, I set out to visit as many unique areas as possible, each holding it’s own special views, cuisine, and activities.
My tour began amidst the historic architecture and abundant cathedrals of Quito. As I drove south into the countryside, the Quilotoa crater presented the opportunity for a breathtaking two hour hike at 12,800 feet around the 7.5 mile crater rim.

A bit further into my journey, I reached Tungurahua, an active volcano spewing steam and black puffs of smoke along with its thunderous explosions that shook the town and farmland beneath. I missed Tungurahua’s eruption of lava by just a few days.

But my true objective waited in Cajas National Park, just outside the quaint city of Cuenca – an unclimbed route on a 30 meter cliff spattered with orange lichen awaited a first ascent.

After spending a few days cleaning the route of loose rock and volcanic ash, I was ready to attempt my goal. Yet Ecuador wasn’t yet willing to hand over this beautiful piece of rock to a foreigner, and instead struck me down with food poisoning.

I came back three days later light and ready to attack, and completed the route. I named it Middle Earth for the fairytale setting – rolling hills with Dr. Seuss like tufts of grass, horses whinnying and llamas humming below the cliff, and menacing wisps of fog rolling quickly in and out of the valley.

alpaca fiber spinning in ecuador

A local farmer supported by Heifer International spins alpaca fiber by hand. Alpaca fiber is much softer than sheep’s wool! Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com).

To top off my trip, I visited two of Lead Now non profit partner Heifer International’s local projects in Ecuador. Heifer helps impoverished communities establish a secure income and future by developing sustainable agriculture practices through livestock, seeds, and training. During the first project, I learned from alpaca farmers about their animals and how the alpaca fiber, or fur,  is spun into yarn and sold at markets. As part of the second project, local produce farmers invited me to roast cuy, or guinea pig (a local delicacy), over a fire and then share a meal together. These interactions with the local people are experiences I will always keep close to my heart.

My preconceptions of Ecuador misled me. I expected a third world country similar to that I experienced in Peru – beautiful but dirty and seemingly a bit unsecure. Instead, I found a country rich not only in traditional South American culture, but filled with diverse settings, impeccably clean streets, and the friendly faces of parents and children playing. I’m so glad I seized the opportunity to explore this often underappreciated country. Thank you for the beautiful memories Ecuador!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Ecuador! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

More on ‘The Biggest Loser’ Controvery: Season 11 Winner Olivia Ward Speaks Out

Written on February 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm , by

Ward posed with sister (and season 11 runner-up), Hannah Curlee, after her win in 2011.

Written by Olivia Ward

Sitting in the audience during NBC’s live The Biggest Loser finale is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my life…and I’ve done it four times. Not to mention I’ve actually had the awesome experience of being on stage and winning season 11. So  to say, “It’s not my first rodeo” is probably an understatement. Having been involved with the show for many years, I feel like I’ve seen it all…until recently. Of course, you know I’m talking about the live Season 15 finale, where 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson was crowned the winner at 105 pounds.

I will admit that when she walked out for the first time that night, there was a huge collective gasp from the audience. It was as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room in a single moment, and it wasn’t because everyone loved her dress (although it was stunning). I think, more than anything, nobody thought it was possible to see a contestant get that small. Having been an avid Loser viewer for years, I always expect people to have huge transformations, but this was very different.

My first thought: What happened? Having been through the same experience, I knew Rachel would be small in the end. We both started the show weighing around 260 pounds, and we both left the ranch – as a part of the final four – around 150 pounds. I ended my journey on The Biggest Loser at 132 pounds, which at five-foot-ten, was really, really small. But I was fully aware of that, and I’ll be the first to admit that I never expected to stay at such a low weight for long. Instead, I viewed it as my “prize fighting” weight. Why? I was training (and eating) for 8 to 10 hours a day, every day, for the seven weeks that led to my finale. I was essentially treating the finale like my job, and I was a professional athlete. It wasn’t meant to be sustained for the rest of my life. It was a conscious adult choice I made because I was in a game, and I wanted to win.

Now, back to Rachel. First of all, I personally have never spoken to her (although I can’t wait to meet her one day), but I do have a level of understanding that most don’t. I’ve stood on that scale and I’ve worn the weigh-in tank top. I know what kind of outside pressure you feel at the end to win, along with the self-induced pressure of wanting to win so badly yourself. To train day in and day out like an athlete, you have to have tunnel vision and be extremely focused – clearly, those are things Rachel is extremely familiar with. So if you want my opinion, I think that when it came down to making a choice to really widen the gap between her and the other competitors, she did. By 10 percent. And therein lies the rub. The gap never had to be that big. Now, I’m not shunning her – or defending her – but as someone who’s faced the same situation, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t (and didn’t) make the same decision Rachel did.

Read more

Location #7: Turkey

Written on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 pm , by

Paige and Heather sit among ancient ruins in Turkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11)

Paige and Heather sit among ancient ruins in Turkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige climbed in Turkey to support CARE, which combats global poverty. Help Paige raise $10,000 for CARE on her Crowdrise page.

—–

By Paige Claassen

A marathon runner will likely earn sloth status in a sprint. A road cycler is prone to a few bruises on a mountain bike course. Put a technical sport climber on a horizontal roof and watch them flounder and fall. We’re all assumed to be experts in our respective sport, career, or hobby. But seemingly subtle variations from the outside actually make a big impact when you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

I spent the month of January climbing the steep limestone roofs of Geyikbayiri, Turkey. Typically, I prefer vertical climbs that require precise footwork, strong fingers, and technical movement. Alternatively, the rock in Turkey offers a much steeper, more powerful and physical style of climbing. My attempts to navigate the stalactite roof features left me feeling disoriented, as though I was underwater and didn’t know which way was up.

As with other styles of climbing, roof climbing is a very specific skill that requires dedicated practice. Roofs often require climbers to lead with their feet rather than hands. Surprisingly, roof climbs often offer “no hands rests,” whereby a climber can wedge their knees against features and let go of the rock with both hands. Unfortunately, my skillset does not lend itself to this style of climbing. I struggle to identify sections of the route where I can let go with both hands, or where I should climb feet first.

Paige navigates the sea of roof features, such as the stalactite in the foreground. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11)

Paige navigates the sea of roof features, such as the stalactite in the foreground. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Challenges within our own field of expertise can leave us frustrated and disheartened, when we struggle with a feat that we “should” be capable of performing. However, these obstacles offer unique opportunities to grow within our field. Likely, improvement in one area of our trade can only help us in our given specialty.

With this in mind, I tried to learn all I could about roof climbing in Turkey from my friend and fellow visiting American climber, Heather Weidner. I observed Heather’s seemingly effortless roof maneuvers. She gracefully twisted around the same stalactites I had tried to climb over. Whereas I saw a blank section of rock with no holds, save a 90 degree angle I couldn’t possibly grab, Heather saw an opportunity to “knee bar” and let go with her hands. After a few weeks of Heather’s instruction, I felt more comfortable identifying rests and tricky movements. What once felt impossible suddenly didn’t seem so unreasonable.

This is why I love to climb. Each route offers a new obstacle, a new chance to learn, and a fresh start. Thanks for showing me the way through the roofs, Heather!

Heather Weidner demonstrates a "no hands rest." Photo by Paige Claassen.

Heather Weidner demonstrates a “no hands rest.” Photo by Paige Claassen.

Did you know that women and girls make up 70 percent of the world’s 1 billion poorest people? Or that a child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5? These are statistics from CARE, a Lead Now supported organization that helps the poorest communities in the world unleash their full potential. Help Lead Now support CARE by donating online at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowturkey. Contribute $27 or more for a chance to win a Marmot two-person tent!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Turkey! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

Location #6: India

Written on January 13, 2014 at 9:55 am , by

Local indian girls share a laugh and bright smiles with Paige's team. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Local indian girls share a laugh and bright smiles with Paige’s team. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige climbed in India to support Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which works to combat sexual exploitation of women and girls. Help Paige raise $10,000 for Apne Aap on her Crowdrise page and don’t miss this bonus video from Louder Than 11 about the three million women currently trapped in prostitution

—–

By Paige Claassen

In our society, we strive towards a similar ideal. Whether that comes in the form of a high ranking, high paying job, a slender waist, or elegant clothes, the model women of magazines all look much the same. We’re praised for creating our own paths and for defining ourselves as individuals; but if we step too far outside the box, our motives might be questioned. I, for example, am currently traveling around the world to rock climb. I’m not earning a salary, I haven’t worn makeup or fixed my hair in months, and I don’t have a permanent home. The path I’m taking is not straight, it’s not predictable, and I don’t know what’s around the next bend.

I spent the month of December in India, and my goal was to climb the hardest route in India, called Ganesh and graded 5.14a. Unfortunately, the hot Indian sun beat down on Ganesh all day, making it nearly impossible to climb. I woke up at 5 a.m. each day to put in my attempts before the sun rose at 7 a.m. My day ended at 9 a.m., when I walked away from the cliff, dripping in sweat, hair disheveled, and frustrated with my efforts. This route lent itself better to a male’s strengths. The moves were long and powerful and I would need to channel all my strength and motivation to complete this climb.

A beautiful sunset and a monkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

A beautiful sunset and a monkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Meanwhile, India offered a few additional obstacles of its own. The small, dusty town I visited had a reputation for inflicting the dreaded traveller’s diarrhea on visiting foreigners (which I did not avoid). A high risk of malaria in the region also had me taking preventative medication, rumored to have a variety of unpleasant side effects. Oily food, few fresh fruits and vegetables, and no opportunities to run or cross train provided further fitness challenges.

But I had traveled all this way for one route, which was one of the best in the world. I knew I was capable. So with that determination, the matter was settled. I punched through the long moves that a girl isn’t supposed to be capable of doing. I finished the route, and I finished it before the boys. A little extra icing on the cake!

It's one big move after another, says Paige about Ganesh. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige Claassen becomes the first female to ever ascend Ganesh, the most difficult sport climb in India. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

I realized that my path, with all its turns and unknowns and new challenges each month, is a path of choices. Sure, India wasn’t the most comfortable month of travel, but it was a month I’ll never forget. The sites I saw, the people, and the colors each left their own special imprint in my mind and opened my eyes to a new world.

Paige got to know a few local Indian women while on her trip. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige got to know a few local Indian women while on her trip. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Part of that world is beautiful, but deep scars lay behind the beauty. Lead Now’s non-profit partner in India, Apne Aap, offered a glimpse into the struggles many women in India face.  Apne Aap says that “every year, nearly two million people are trafficked for sexual exploitation; of these, the vast majority are female, and half are aged 12-16.”  This is a statistic I can’t even begin to grasp, but I want to do what I can in reducing that figure so that other women can have the choices that I enjoy day to day. Join me by donating online at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourindia

To get involved and donate online to help combat sexual exploitation, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in India! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

What To Wear for Your Workout in 2014

Written on January 1, 2014 at 7:30 am , by

FITNESS has teamed up with Gilt to bring you up to 60 percent off the best workout clothes and gear. Shop the sale at gilt.com/fitness starting January 1. Here, check out the go-to pieces Tracey Lomrantz Lester, the women’s editorial director of Gilt, chooses for looking stylish while working out.

———–

Fitness is a really important part of my life. I’m prone to being a stress case, so I love the opportunity to turn everything off and  sweat it all out. Here’s a peek at my best get-sweaty looks.

Bikram Yoga
Bikram is my therapy! I aim to get to the studio three mornings a week, usually on my busiest weekdays so that I can get centered before the crazy comes. I think my most productive workouts are my sweatiest ones, and there is no lack of that when you spend 90 minutes in a 105-degree room. I keep my wardrobe minimal so the laundry isn’t as daunting; a sports bra and little boogie shorts do the trick.

BEYOND YOGA Strappy Back Bra: Original Retail $68, GILT $35
BEYOND YOGA Jersey Knit Short: Original Retail $57, GILT $29

Spinning 
I do most of my spinning on the weekends, because that’s when the class times are most convenient for me. I love to do a 9am on a Saturday–it makes me feel energized all day (and a little less guilty for that second martini on Saturday night). My go-to gear is a long bike pant and a tank top with a built-in sports bra. I like something streamlined so it doesn’t get in the way of my ride.

BEYOND YOGA Racerback Solid Tank: Original Retail $69, GILT $39
BEYOND YOGA Long Colorblock Hem Leggings: Original Retail $88, GILT $49

Cardio at the Gym
When I can’t commit to a class time or am in a crunch, I’ll head to my gym for some cardio and light weights. I like 45 minutes on the stair climber or elliptical, usually in running shorts and an old college T-shirt swiped from my husband’s drawer.

New Balance Prism Running Short: Original Retail $48, GILT $29

Outdoor Cycling
Even in the colder months, I love getting a little fresh air when I exercise. I live close to Central Park, so I take my bike around the 6-mile loop once or twice. They key is to layer up so you don’t freeze your butt off! I usually wear my bike pants, a sweat-wicking top, a zip-up jacket, and a fleece or a vest on top.

HKNB for New Balance KHNB Moto Pullover: Original Retail $75, GILT $45
BEYOND YOGA Stripe Long Essential Legging: Original Retail $79, GILT $49
HKNB for New Balance HKNB Moto Jacket: Original Retail $120, GILT $69

–Tracey Lomrantz Lester

LOCATION #5: China

Written on December 23, 2013 at 10:00 am , by

Can you spot Paige climbing on the famous Moon Hill arch in China?

Can you spot Paige climbing on the famous Moon Hill arch in China? Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige climbed in China to support the Colorado flood relief efforts of Foothills United Way. Foothills United Way has established the ‘Foothills Flood Relief Fund’ in response to the impact of the severe flooding across Colorado’s Front Range. The funds raised through this effort will be used toward health and human services for those affected by the flooding in Boulder and Broomfield counties. Help Paige raise $10,000 for Foothills United Way on her Crowdrise page. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

—–

By Paige Claassen

China can be an intimidating place for foreigners. I remember visiting Beijing eight years ago for the Youth World Championships of rock climbing. Half of the US team suffered from either food poisoning from local restaurants or sore throats from the pollution. As a result, America’s best young climbers relied on Pizza Hut for their pre-competition fuel. The situation was less than ideal.

 Paige belays Ting on her warmup for the day

Paige belays Ting on her warmup for the day. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Memories of my first time in China littered my mind as I drove up to the cliff in Yangshuo last month. Upon arriving, I looked down the cliff line to see a young woman my age bounding around, hanging from trees, and performing calisthenics warm ups.  I’ve learned over the past few months of travel that I have to make new friends everywhere I go. I wanted this girl to be my new friend.

Xiao Ting, or simply Ting as I called her, welcomed me into her world. Rock climbing remains a severely male dominated sport in China, so Ting was as eager to meet another motivated female climber as I was to find a companion I could climb and laugh with. Ting’s lively personality meshed perfectly with my eagerness to embrace this new environment, and over the following three weeks our friendship grew.

Ting taught me her warm up calisthenics (actually a great ab workout!). She pointed out routes she thought I might like. She admitted that she tried harder when climbing with other women because she felt more driven to push herself as an individual rather than rely on her boyfriend Abond (arguably China’s best climber).  Aside from climbing, Ting and I shared an interest in food and nutrition. She wanted to learn to bake western style cakes, so I shared some of my favorite recipe sites with her (I’m a big Smitten Kitchen fan!). In return, Ting introduced me to a new food I can only describe as a collagen rich granola bar, containing sesame seeds, goji berries, nuts, and a few unfamiliar ingredients. She explained that in the winter, she puts the homemade mixture in hot water to make a sort of porridge that is good for digestion after meals and smooth skin.

Ting demonstrates her pre-climbing warmup routine

Ting demonstrates her pre-climbing warmup routine. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

These little tidbits from another young, motivated, and energetic woman made China comfortable. After five months of international travel, I needed a good dose of laughter with a girlfriend. I think the comfort I felt from Ting helped me achieve two of the more difficult routes I have ever completed. One even required me to climb upside down out a horizontal roof. Thanks for the inspiration Ting, I’m thankful to have you as a new friend.

:)

To get involved and donate online to help the Colorado Flood Recovery efforts, visit leadnowtourcoloradoflood.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in China! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

Related: Lead Now Tour Main Page

Paige completes Sea of Tranquility (5.14a)

Paige completes Sea of Tranquility (5.14a). Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Ditch the Fitness Excuses: How I Hope America Moves Forward in A Nation of Obesity

Written on December 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm , by

Photo courtesy of Maria Kang

Photo courtesy of Maria Kang

Written by Maria Kang

I believe our emotions are what drive our successes or failures.

Motivation is an incredibly powerful emotion. It helps you challenge yourself and push through plateaus. This kind of energy can help us interpret messages in a positive light, envision possibilities, and then seek out those opportunities.

My “What’s Your Excuse?” poster evoked motivation in some, particularly the audience reading this right now. For others, it sparked shame—and outrage. Those people labeled me a bully and a fat-shamer, and suddenly I was at the core of controversy.

But when FitnessMagazine.com asked its audience what they thought of me, a large chunk of you said I was an inspiration. When Facebook banned me from its site and FitnessMagazine.com then interviewed me, you rallied on my side. You’ve defended me because of one common truth among us: We know our health is important.

So what do we do now?

We want to stop the obesity epidemic in America. We aren’t complacent—or at least don’t want to be. Whether we’re overweight or super fit, we know none of this is really about me, the messenger. It’s about the message.

The message is about balance, and yes, pushing past self-acceptance. It says that when we deprive ourselves from living a healthy life, we limit our ability to thrive.

As I’ve said numerous times over, it’s important to love yourself. But let’s challenge ourselves and the people around us. When something or someone refers to obesity as “normal,” challenge it! I’m not saying to shame or bully anyone, but we must focus on progress. On a daily basis we engage in a comfortable schedule, with comfortable people and comfortable habits. Instead, let’s focus on how there is always room for improvement.

The first step in discouraging complacency is to create a goal and go public with it. This goal may be to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans or to eat less processed foods. You need to write it down, set a deadline, and create daily steps in your life to hold you accountable. Accountability begins when you set up mental and physical enforcers that will push you to move out of your comfort zone – because let’s be honest, we are creatures of comfort. It’s only natural to gravitate toward what is easier rather than what is harder.

So let’s fight the complacency trend by making life harder. Here’s how:

Read more

LOCATION #4: Japan

Written on November 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm , by

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige used the month of October in Japan to raise money for the Colorado flood relief efforts of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross responded immediately to the September flash floods that claimed over 17,000 homes along the Front Range with rescue, food, shelter, care, and comfort for those who suffered severe damage. Help Paige raise $10,000 for the American Red Cross at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourcolorado. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

—–

By Paige Claassen

Imagine you’re unable to distinguish between a restaurant and a bank when walking down the street. Going to the grocery store is a three hour event. A busy city street full of people is completely silent. This is Japan, one of the most unique and fascinating countries I’ve ever visited.

‘Organized chaos’ is the only way to truly describe Japan. From the outside, Japan seems cluttered, frantic, and hectic. But focus in and you’ll find perfect order and tidiness. At first, I found Japan intimidating in it’s lack of familiarity. But after a bit of acquaintance, I fell in love with this country, aptly known as the Land of the Rising Sun. Everything is sunny in Japan, except the weather.

I visited Japan in October and encountered an unusually late typhoon season. While my objective was to rock climb, I was forced out of the mountains by torrential rains, a small earthquake, and the threat of tsunamis.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Perhaps this interruption in my plans was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to dive into the Japanese culture. Here’s what I discovered:

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market.

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

  • My new favorite foods: Okonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake, which is nothing like a pancake) and sashimi fresh off the boat, which melts in your mouth like butter. Japan also grows amazing fruits. My favorites were Fuji apples and Asian pears.
  • Bowing: To thank one another, or even to greet or bid farewell, the Japanese people bow. As a foreigner, I found this incredibly convenient, because even when I couldn’t express my gratitude in words, I could smile and bow.
  • Cleanliness: Feeling under the weather? The Japanese wear face masks when feeling ill to prevent the spread of germs out of respect for those around them. Hand rails in public areas are sterilized throughout the day. As a result of this respect for health, I found I could eat nearly anything in Japan. Unrecognizable seafood, street food, and nearly raw eggs served on top of most meals – no problem.
  • Prices: I had always heard Japan was incredibly expensive. In general, I found prices comparable with the US. The few things that will empty your wallet are toll roads, gasoline, and fruit (expect to pay $50 for a cantaloupe and $3 for one apple). On the other hand, I regularly paid $5-$10 for a full meal of sushi at the popular conveyor belt restaurants.
  • 7-Eleven convenience stores: 14,000 7-Eleven stores throughout Japan are open 24 hours a day and provide cheap meals on the go, prepared daily. For a quick, inexpensive, and tasty lunch, this is your stop.
Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps.

Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

I hope these tips help you navigate Japan. While overwhelming at first, I think Japan might actually be a more comfortable and convenient vacation option than Europe. Try it out for yourself!

To get involved and donate online to help the Colorado Flood Recovery efforts, visit leadnowtourcoloradoflood.

Check back next month for a video and update about Location #5. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Japan! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

Related: Lead Now Tour Main Page

9 Add-Ins for Super Smoothies

Written on October 16, 2013 at 9:25 am , by

Toss in one of these add-ins to supercharge your smoothie. (Photo courtesy Lisa Shin)

Written by Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. and Jamba Juice Healthy Living Council Member

As delicious and good-for-you as smoothies can be, it’s possible to make them even better with some interesting add-ins that intensify flavor and boost nutrition. Customize smoothies to suit your needs by mixing one or more of the following surprisingly nutritious ingredients with your favorite drink for meals and snacks.

Greek yogurt: With double the protein of regular yogurt, going Greek has some serious benefits. Add a half-cup of the fat-free plain variety to smoothies for 10 grams of protein, and more calcium, too.

Protein powders:  Wondering whether it’s worth it to hop on the protein powder train? Whey and soy powders provide essential amino acids your body needs to repair and build lean tissue including muscle.  It’s also an easy way to include the 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein experts suggest at every meal.

Oats: Oats fill you up and can help give you the energy to stay active and take on the day. Add oats at home, or when you’re out, mix in a Quaker Whole Grains Boost at Jamba Juice for additional fiber and at least 16 grams of whole grains – one of the three to five suggested daily servings of whole grains.

Chia seeds: Tiny but mighty chia seeds supply alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which your body can’t produce and must get from food. A diet rich in ALA is linked to a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.  Chia seeds also supply fiber to slightly thicken smoothies and also aid in digestion. Read more