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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!

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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 .

Bethany Hamilton to Star in New EPIX Documentary, ‘The Current’

Written on March 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm , by

Written by Jordan Clifford, editorial intern

Life-altering events can happen quite unexpectedly, this we all know. Sometimes they’re amazingly good occurrences (like nailing that CrossFit move you’ve been working on forever), and other times, there are tragic things that happen, often begging the question, ‘why me?’ For elite athletes and thrill seekers, tragedy can be exceptionally devastating; ripping away the things you’ve spent your life aspiring to. But to overcome adversity is a show of true strength. Pro surfer Bethany Hamilton knows just what I’m talking about. In 2003 she lost her left arm in a tiger shark attack, but  didn’t let that stop her. A mere month later, Hamilton returned to the water and went on to realize her dream of becoming a professional surfer. She shared her story with the world in her 2004 autobiography, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. And then of course came the 2011 film based on the book, which caused the nation to fall even more in love with the blonde beach babe.

Now, Hamilton is back in an EPIX original documentary, The Current, premiering tonight at 8 p.m. EST. She’ll share her story along with five other athletes with disabilities who explore the deep wonders of the ocean and the healing freedoms it can supply.

We caught up with Bethany to talk about her workouts, surfing career and what it was like to be a part of The Current.

The Current is mainly based on the idea of using the healing powers of water and the ocean as a way to rediscover the freedom of movement. Can you tell us about that? What is about the ocean or water that has helped you?

I believe God’s given us the ocean and the outdoors as a place of healing. I remember when I first started surfing [again] after losing my arm, everyone was like, ‘Aren’t you scared of sharks?’ But for me, I was more scared of not surfing and not being able to spend time where I love to be most: in the ocean. So that was kind of just the start of my whole recovery. And even to this day, when things are getting stressful it’s nice to be able to get in the ocean. I don’t know, everything can kind of just melt away and you can just get out there and enjoy creation.

Did you get the chance to meet any of the other athletes? What was it like to hear their stories?

I got to spend time with Grant Korgan [the first adaptive athlete to ski 80 miles in the South Pole]. He was in a snowmobiling accident and just got annihilated, and broke his spine. He’s been told he’s never going to walk again, but he’s slowly getting feeling back [in his legs] and he’s just working endlessly to recover his body. It’s been pretty incredible to get to know him and his wife and their story, their perseverance. We went scuba diving and got to experience some of the most beautiful places in the underwater world. It was pretty incredible.

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MORE/FITNESS Half-Marathon Runners: Score A Discount on the Official Race Jewelry!

Written on March 7, 2014 at 5:20 pm , by

Whether I’m running my first, 10th or 50th half-marathon (someday!), commemorating it in a special way is always at the top of my wish list. So when one of FITNESS’ favorite jewelery-designers, Erica Sara of Erica Sara Designs, agreed to create the official race jewelry of the MORE/FITNESS Women’s Half-Marathon, I jumped (and possibly squealed) a little in excitement. Erica’s line is gorgeous, and wearing a necklace or bracelet every day is more feasible than sporting that medal around your neck. Well, unless it’s the week after your race. Then all bets are off…

As the official race jeweler, Erica has created a custom necklace and bangle bracelet for all racing the MORE/FITNESS Women’s Half-Marathon on April 13th. First things first, though: if you’re not registered yet, do it now! As the largest women’s-only half-marathon in the country, there’s nothing quite like this race. There’s so much encouragement, girl power and positive energy pulsating through every footstep of those 13.1 miles through Central Park. I remember the first time I raced it (my first half ever!) – I could NOT keep a smile off my face.

Once you’re registered, head over to Erica’s website and check out the bling. You can get the necklace for $78 and  the bangle bracelet for $118 – both are amazing deals – and personalize the back of the logo charm with race details (Central Park, NYC/April 13, 2014/finishing time). Want to score an even bigger deal? Purchase your new bling by April 20th and enter the code FITNESSHALF on the website to score 20% off the entire race collection.

And while you’re at the expo to pick up your race bib and other goodies, be sure to stop by Erica Sara’s booth. She’s offering a 20% discount on all race-specific pieces, and 10% off the rest of the collection shown. Who knows what else you’ll fall in love with! Personally, I want one of everything.

Photos courtesy of Erica Sara Designs

More from FITNESS:

Sign Up for the 2014 MORE/FITNESS Half-Marathon!

FITNESS’ Half-Marathon Training Guide

You Know You’re A Runner When…

Music Monday: What’s New with ‘The Voice,’ and the Alums We’re Totally Jamming Out To

Written on February 24, 2014 at 9:10 am , by

Finally. After a long season of basically no TV (I mean, the Bachelor was there to hold me over), and a slight delay due to the Olympics, my favorite shows are back from winter break. I’m a total sucker for reality TV – obviously, since I watch the Bachelor - so the show I’m most excited for would be The Voice (OK, OK, I’m also really stoked for Scandal and Nashville). Cheesy as it may be, I love discovering new artists along with the rest of America, and this group of coaches has a ton of on-screen chemistry. And I’m not just talking about Adam Levine and Blake Shelton (though their bromance is pretty epic) – Shakira and Usher are back in the spinning chairs for season six, and now that they’re no longer newbies, these two are coming out of their shells even more (Shakira even claimed Blake’s wife, Miranda Lambert, as her guest coach!). All of their personalities shine in a big way, and watching them bring out the best in young performers is as heart-warming as the steamy mug of caffeine-free tea I’ll be cupping while I snuggle into my couch and watch (yes, I’m aware that I sound like an old lady #judgmentfreezone).

But as a running-addict, the best part of The Voice is, in fact, finding new artists to add to my always-changing playlists. We all know I love country music, so Danielle Bradbery and The Swon Brothers are my jam, but I’ve also totally been digging Cassadee Pope and Will Champlin lately. Not one to keep good music all to myself, here are The Voice alums I’ve been sprinting, interval-ing and hill-climbing to these days. And if the weather is still terrible in your area, just hop on the treadmill Monday and Tuesday nights. The music will keep you entertained, and the coaches will make you laugh enough that you just might forget you’re running…maybe.

In other Voice news, there have been a lot of questions swirling around who will claim the red seats for season seven. The last few seasons have had a lot of back-and-forth, with an unprecedented switch between CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera with Usher and Shakira. Last week though, CeeLo announced on Ellen that he definitely would not be returning to the show. If that’s the case, will Shakira permanently take his place (based on where the replacements sit), and Christina reclaim her chair, making it an even playing field of male and female coaches? Or maybe Usher will return on a permanent basis too, since the two currently come as a pair? Or perhaps producers will use the vacancy as a chance to bring in a revolving chair (yes, pun intended) of coaches, opening the door for even more celeb appearances. It’s up in the air right now – as far as we know – but tell me what you think. Sound off in the comments, or vote in the poll below on your favorite pairing.

More from FITNESS:

Go Indie for New Music

Are the 10 Most Popular Workout Songs on Your Playlist?

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Olympian Mogul Skier Hannah Kearney on Bouncing Back From a Setback

Written on February 20, 2014 at 7:02 pm , by

Kearney knows how to “trick” her way to the top. (Photo by Garth Hagar)

Three-time Olympian Hannah Kearney has come a long way. Although she’s always been a phenomenal mogul skier, she’s faced plenty of adversity – the 2006 Winter Games come to mind pretty quickly, when Kearney placed 22nd out of 30 competitors. But rather than letting that defeat her, the Vermont native learned from her mistakes, and spent the last six years rising to the top of her game. So much so, in fact, that she snatched the gold in the 2010 Games, and was projected to repeat in this year’s Games. Unfortunately, a mistake on the course during the medal round dropped her out of contention for the top spot. But she still came away a winner: with head held high, Kearney stood on the podium claiming bronze for the U.S. After so many setbacks, we caught up with the champion (because winning a bronze is still pretty badass) to find out more about bouncing back, and whether or not retirement is in her near future.
Tell us about your Sochi experience? How do you feel coming away with a bronze medal?

Sochi has exceed my expectations. The mogul course was challenging, yet fun to ski. I knew I was capable of winning a gold medal again – I have made sacrifices, trained hard and made mogul skiing my life for the past four years. Although I am proud to be a two-time Olympic medalist, and grateful I got to compete in the Games for a third time, I am disappointed that I made a large mistake in my final run.

But bronze is still amazing! And you’ve come such a long way since the 2006 Olympics. How did you stay motivated amidst such discouragement?

I viewed every setback – injuries; losses – as an opportunity to become a stronger mental competitor. I believe that everything happens for a reason, so when I was sidelined from training and competitions, I tried to make the most of the break by adopting a dog, putting up a Christmas tree for the first time, and watching more of my brother’s hockey games.

Anything specific you can credit to your rise to success?

There have been many factors. Opportunity, supportive parents, a community that valued winter recreation, and coaches and friends who believed in me when I was very young. And a little bit of luck.

So…will we see you in the next Games potentially? Or are you thinking about retirement?

It’s hard to answer that when I feel as strong as ever and very motivated by the feeling that I can ski better than I demonstrated at Sochi.

What’s next for you, then?

After completing the World Cup season in Japan, Norway and France, I will be finishing my freshman year at Dartmouth in the spring!

OK, time to spill some of your success secrets. What’s on your pump-you-up playlist?

My workout playlist is a mix of contemporary pop and hip-hop, classic rock and some folk music.

A little bit of everything. What about food? Any that really fuel your fire?

I eat Bear Naked granola when I need a quick snack to give me energy! Plus, I love that the granola has ingredients that I can see and recognize on the label. I’ll mix it into a Chobani yogurt for a hearty, balanced, natural snack for pre- and post-workout.When I need to grab-and-go, I’ll use Bear Naked’s single serving packs – I keep them in my workout bag and in my car.

You’re working with Bear Naked on the #OneUpIt challenge. How do you plan to “One Up” your game post-Sochi?

I’m in the process of planning my One Upping strategy. I feel strong and motivated, so I am not ready to retire. I will train this summer to add a more difficult trick to my repertoire.

More from FITNESS:

Eat Like an Olympian: Healthy, Travel-Friendly Breakfast Ideas

How Gymnast Aly Raisman Stays Fit and Motivated in the Off-Season

10 U.S. Olympic Hotties in Sochi

Music Monday: Go Indie!

Written on February 17, 2014 at 9:47 am , by

I love chart-topping artists like Queen B and T-Swift as much as the next girl, but sometimes finding new, independent artists is an easy way to freshen up the ole’ workout playlist. And I bet you agree, whether you realize it or not – Macklemore’s winning streak at the Grammy’s is proof that independent musicians can hold their own, even against the major names we’ve come to fiercely love. So, to help me reboot my earbuds, I turned to TuneCore, a distribution service that many indie artists use to get their songs on the big platforms – you know, Spotify, iTunes and Amazon MP3. They’ve put together this playlist of mega-hot tracks guaranteed to spike my energy. Now if only it automatically transported me to the gym…

More from FITNESS:

The Best 100 Workout Songs

Blast-from-the-Past Beatles Playlist

Put Down the Instruments – A Capella is Here to Stay

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.

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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 .

Music Monday: Bring It Back with the Beatles

Written on February 10, 2014 at 9:32 am , by

It’s hard to believe, but 50 years ago the Beatles made their first appearance in the United States. The iconic band has made an impact on our society in a way like no other, and fortunately for us, we can relive their music in more ways than one (we all remember Across the Universe, and I highly recommend seeing Cirque De Soleil’s Love). But rather than sitting through a performance that takes you back in time, try sweating instead. This 50-minute playlist from our friends at Run Rock ‘n’ Roll honors the monumental anniversary of the guys jumping across the pond, so take it for a whirl during your next workout. Better yet? Consider signing up for the inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon and Half-Marathon, and make sure to bring these tunes along for the ride. Nothing like a little John Lennon to get you through a tough training run, especially when you’re going to his homeland.

More from FITNESS:

FITNESS’  Half-Marathon Training Guide

100 Best Workout Songs

Pump-You-Up Playlists

Natalie Uhling’s NUFit Workout Takes the NYC Fitness Scene by Storm

Written on January 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

Courtesy of natalieuhlingfitness.com

Courtesy of natalieuhlingfitness.com

Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern

You may remember Natalie Uhling from her days as an enthusiastic trainer at Barry’s Boot Camp or even recognize her from those strong and sexy ads for Under Armour Women. She has sweated her way through New York City’s fitness scene throughout the last decade, and at the age of 29, we think it’s safe to say that she’s officially made it to the top.

Last fall this fitness instructor decided to channel her entrepreneurial spirit and endless drive into designing a killer workout program of her own. The result, called NUFit, combines dance cardio, kickboxing and toning in one high-intensity, music-blasting class for a workout that makes you feel nothing shy of empowered. Embodying Uhling’s fit philosophy, “a strong core makes you lethal,” NUFit will push you to new heights you never imagined possible. Not to mention her contagious energy will keep you motivated and moving down the last second!

KiwiSweat, a fitness company dedicated to discovering the newest and most exciting ways to work out, named Uhling’s NUFit workout the winner of their “Coolest, Most Awesomest Workout Ever” contest Wednesday. Judged by FITNESS’ very own fitness editor Jenna Autuori-Dedic, Well+Good editorial director Melisse Gelula, MizzFit founder Bianca Jade and celebrity trainer Lacey Stone, the contest sorted through dozens of kickass entries from the industry’s top trainers in search of the hottest new class in town.

Dare to give NUFit a try? Join Uhling and her Under Armour teammates this weekend at Grand Central Terminal for the biggest fitness party the Super Bowl has ever seen! Check out the sweat-filled schedule for details on when NUFit classes will be held.  You can also find Uhling teaching NUFit at Pearl Studios at various times throughout the week.

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Music Monday: Your Super Bowl Party Playlist

Written on January 27, 2014 at 6:48 pm , by

It’s almost game time, guys! You know I’m talking about the Super Bowl – or should I say Puppy Bowl? – and while I love watching men battle it out in tight pants, my beloved Patriots are not in the game, so I’m not nearly as interested as I should be. And let’s be honest, whether we’re big football fans or not, the half-time show is one of the best parts of the game (along with the commercials, obvi). Add on the fact that Bruno Mars will be performing (after securing a big Grammy win for Best Pop Vocal Album, no less) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are making an appearance, and well, you basically won’t be able to tear my eyes from the TV screen.

So whether you’re planning a big party for the game, or just want to take a trip down memory lane, I recommend plugging into this playlist. We’ve gathered hit songs that were performed during the iconic halftime show in the past – including the always-infamous “Rock Your Body” by J.T. and J.J. – and sprinkled in a few tunes we hope Bruno and the Peppers (New band name? Maybe? OK, no…) grace us with on Sunday.

More from FITNESS:

 10 Easy, Healthy Pizza Recipes

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