Free Mountaintop Yoga is Back at Grouse Mountain this Summer!

free yoga grouse mountain

Image courtesy of Grouse Mountain

The yoga class with the best view in Vancouver is back for the summer! Grouse Mountain and YYoga have brought back the popular mountaintop class for August and you’re invited to stretch in the sunshine on Saturdays and Sundays.

Each 60 minute yoga class will be led every weekend until August 27th from 10:00am – 11:00am in the Plaza at the top of Grouse Mountain – just outside of the chalet. It’s the perfect excuse to get out of bed early on the weekend and relax in the sun while gazing down on the stunning views over the city and beyond. Plus, did we mention that it’s free?

Grouse mountain free yoga 2013

Image courtesy of Grouse Mountain.

Whether you need a great post-Grind cool down, or you’re just looking to experience a different yoga venue, these 60-minute mountaintop yoga classes are bound to enhance your physical well-being and kick start your weekend!

If you’re planning to hit up the yoga class after conquering the Grouse Grind, keep in mind that typically people climb it in an hour and a half. But, it can take much longer if it’s your first time attempting the climb. Depending on your fitness level, you can get your time below an hour, or you can take up to two hours. Don’t forget your water bottle!

Alternatively, you can arrive to the yoga class in style by taking the Skyride up the mountain. Tickets up the mountain cost around $50.00 for an adult, but include access to Lumberjack Shows, Birds in Motion demonstrations, Ranger Talks at the Bear Habitat, and much more.

If you prefer your yoga at sea level, there is also free yoga held every day in Kitsilano and Main Street.

For those who don’t want to lug a yoga mat up the mountain, there are mats available for the first 50 yogis in the class. Otherwise, bring a towel to stretch out on the grass and you should be fine.

More information about the free mountaintop yoga classes can be found on the Grouse Mountain website.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Preparing for a hiking adventure

“Am I too out-of-shape for an adventure trip?” It’s the number-one question we’re asked by so many travellers inquiring about our trips.

It’s the nagging worry that especially keeps 50+ adventurers from taking the plunge on the vacation of their dreams – and that’s a shame, because anyone who loves the outdoors is a good candidate for an adventure tour.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to prepare before your trip to make it more enjoyable. A little investment in your overall fitness before you go pays big dividends in terms of what you can accomplish out on the trail.

That doesn’t mean you have to join the gym or punish yourself with a triathlon-level training regimen. There are a lot of common sense steps you can start right now to get yourself ready for the adventure of a lifetime. So if you’re a 50+ adventurer and wondering where to start, try these eight fitness tips to give yourself the confidence to achieve your personal goals.


1. Give yourself time to prepare.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

In general, it can take your body from three weeks to three months to really see a significant improvement in your fitness level and to respond to a change in routine. So if you’ve already booked your trip, you’d best get started now!


2. Focus on your cardiovascular fitness.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week for people 50+ with at least 30-minute sessions at a time.

The best aerobic activities for mature athletes are swimming, cycling, brisk walking or jogging—all of which are great preparation for an adventure like exploring Peru and Machu Picchu.

Even if you can’t get outdoors or make it to the gym, there are lots of great cardio exercises you can do at home to get your heart pumping. Jumping jacks, half-jacks, squats, leg raises, hops, and even plank-jacks are great bodyweight exercises that require no special equipment or skill.

If you’re doing a hiking adventure (like Mt. Everest perhaps), high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly beneficial because it improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness and prepares your body for the bursts of strength you’ll need on your climb.

HIIT sounds more complicated than it really is – it’s simply adding a short period of more strenuous exertion into your daily walking, jogging, swimming, or biking routine. For example, if you take a 45-minute brisk walk, try to jog for 30 to 60 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes of your walk. Same if you swim or bike – add a few sprints during your usual routine.

A note of caution for you mountain adventurers: Even if you’re in pretty good shape, it’s important not to push yourself too hard at higher altitudes. Exertion is a key driver of altitude sickness.


3. Focus on leg strength.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Strength training is generally a good idea for athletes of all ages, but for hikers, leg strength is essential for an enjoyable experience. Your legs are doing the bulk of the work, after all.

Lunges, squats, and calf-raises are all good exercises you can do at home. Try slowly stepping on and off a step or exercise platform, gradually increasing the height as you progress.

Setting your treadmill at a higher incline is also great preparation – or just walking up a few hills on your evening stroll.


4. You need a strong back to carry your pack.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Your adventure pack and a few bottles of water are a portable gym to help you get in shape just about anywhere. Strap on your pack and practice “step ups”. This will really get your calves and back ready for the weight you’ll be carrying on a hike! Walking up and down the stairs with your pack is also great training.

Push-ups and planking with a loaded pack build up essential muscles in your core, shoulders, and upper body that you’ll need on longer hikes. Here are some good exercises you can do with your pack to strengthen your back.


5. Don’t neglect your core.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Your core muscles are your abdominal muscles, back muscles, and the muscles in your pelvis and they give you balance and flexibility – and underpin just about every other physical activity you’ll do on an active adventure.

Crunches, bridges, and planks are some of the best exercises to build a strong core. You can tune up your core by sitting on an exercise ball while you read or watch TV at night; step up your core fitness game with these stability ball exercises.


6. Keep it balanced.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

This sounds too simple to mention, but a few minutes spent improving your balance can prevent injuries on your trip and give you more stability when you climb. Walking heel-to-toe with your arms out at your side and your eyes looking straight ahead is an easy and effective balance exercise. So is simply standing on one foot for 30-60 seconds at a time (longer if you can manage) before switching to the other foot.

Here’s a great video with some easy exercises to improve your static and dynamic balance (and you’ll need both on the trail).


7. Don’t forget the practice hikes.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Now’s the time to put all those exercises to work for you with a few practice hikes. Look for places with variable terrain and elevation so you can get the feel for how your body responds to the stresses – and areas where you may want to improve.

Remember to wear your pack and toss in a few water bottles, adding more as you progress, so you get used to handling your body with a weighted pack.

The practice hikes are essential for one more extremely important reason: You’ll get a chance to break in your boots – or buy a new pair if the ones you have aren’t supporting you correctly. There’s nothing worse than hitting the trail with a pair of painful, poorly fitting boots.

Remember that new boots rarely feel great right out of the box. The lighter models may break in with just a few hikes, but some of the sturdier leather ones may take weeks to really conform to your feet. Keep that in mind if you’re considering a new pair of hikers before your trip.


8. Mental preparation is important, too.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Fear is the enemy when it comes to trying something new. Combat it with physical preparation – knowing you’re doing positive things to get your body ready for the trip.

Focus on the “why,” the personal benefit you hope to attain by completing an adventure: “I want to hike the Inca Trail because I will _______________________.” Keep that benefit firmly in mind when you’re feeling discouraged, both in your preparations and on the trail.

Finally, visualize success. See yourself standing on the vast Tibetan Plateau or hiking Grey Glacier in Patagonia. Seeing success is the first step toward achieving it.

Don’t be afraid of a little self-doubt – it happens to everyone, even the most well-prepared. But you can combat it by knowing why you’re taking an adventure tour in the first place and what success looks like to you.

Of course, a really knowledgeable and supportive trip leader can make all the difference, too.


Final thoughts…

You don’t have to be in the best shape of your life to have a memorable and successful adventure tour. But it helps to give yourself confidence with a little preparation before you go.

Just remember – no matter how you feel when you leave, you’ll return renewed, refreshed, and alive with a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re ready to take the next step and start planning your own active adventure, why not contact us today to talk about your travel goals?

And if you’re not ready to have a conversation, but want to know more about adventure vacations and how to plan and prepare for them, sign up for our free email course today.

Illuminate the bike: A race through NW China

We followed a team of young professional cyclists on a 14-day adventure as they raced 1,256 grueling miles through the world’s highest plateau in the rural Qinghai region of Northwest China.

It was an exhilarating experience that included a unique combination of natural beauty and the shear grit required to compete in the world’s most-taxing sport — cycling. We found daily life in China to be drastically different from our lives in the Western world; however, we were able to form strong positive bonds with local people by sharing the love of cycling with one another. As we all race forward in our day-to-day lives, let us all pedal together.

The most subversive way to travel

Image credit: Darren Garrett

A 17-year-old boy of Bengali immigrant parents once told me how much he loved riding a bicycle—but that he would drive a car when he was an adult.

We were cycling from London to the coastal city of Brighton at the time. His mind was clearly infused with cultural notions of car ownership as a form of status and wealth — but more than that, it seemed to hinge on an idea that cycling belonged to a time of childhood, youth, and, broadly, of innocence. His image was in harmony with futurist author H.G. Wells, who wrote in 1905: “Cycle tracks will abound in utopia.”

In an age of politics proud to knock the vulnerable, where many fear for society’s loss of innocence, the way bicycles are creating a place for themselves on the world’s car-filled roads offers both a beacon and guide. It shows how a fringe and fragile, but rational idea can survive a political climate that prides itself on the ability to be firm, tough, and even mean.

Physics alone makes a compelling case for the value of the bicycle. Designed to human proportions, bicycles are recognized as the most energy-efficient means of transport available — better even than walking. A bicycle requires around 50 calories per passenger mile, and while cars vary greatly in efficiency rates, the equivalent figure starts at around 1,500. The bicycle is to transportation what pulleys and winches are to lifting; in their very essence, and even quite literally, bicycles give power to the powerless.

Over history, this quality has made them ever-present in both social change and protest. In 1896, American suffragette Susan B. Anthony famously pronounced of the bicycle, ‘’I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.’’ In the grainy footage of Chinese protesters clearing the wounded from Tiananmen Square in 1989, bicycles are visible bearing stretchers and helping protesters get around. In Saudi Arabia, as religious leaders prop up a conservative nation reliant on oil prices, the country’s first domestically produced film, Wadjda, features a young girl determined to resist the forces that try to stop her from riding the green bicycle she dreams of owning. The bicycle toes a delicate cultural line, along which it is powerful enough to inspire, but innocent enough not to offend censors.

In many examples, the bicycle plays both practical and emotional roles. Kimberly Coats, a cycling advocate who’s worked across Africa, has seen bicycles allow health workers to cover otherwise-impossible distances. Coats now runs women’s cycling club Team Rwanda Cycling, and explains how women have been slower to take up riding in Rwanda than in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other places she has worked. “It’s been an uphill battle to find women interested in learning to cycle and then having the fortitude to stand up to the cultural stigma placed on them for riding,” she says. “It’s a slow process, but it is a process, and we are witnessing change. It’s not just freedom; bicycles are essential to a better quality of life in Africa.”

Una publicación compartida de Team Rwanda (@teamrwanda) el

Coats’ partner organization, Qhubeka, runs a number of projects across Africa that reward community work with bicycles. In the informal settlement of Kayamandi, in South Africa’s Western Cape province, 18-year-old Olwethu is now able to cycle to school and pursue ambitions of studying medicine. “Riding my bicycle has brought me closer to myself. It has taught me to be brave. The bicycle has changed my life,” she says. “I’m standing proud to show that I can ride my bicycle as a female and that not only men can ride. We also can do this.”

Those qualities are well-summarized in a 2012 message, encouraging riders to join a bicycle phalanx as it made its way to New York’s Union Square and Occupy Wall Street protests: “Bike Blocs at street protests have the advantage of being able to break up and reform. The spontaneity of a Bike Bloc means that participants are able to easily move through the streets without needing leaders or a decided route … In the past, Bike Blocs have provided a tremendous amount of solidarity and logistical support to demonstrators who are on foot.”

In both Western and non-Western settings, the low barriers to obtaining and using a bicycle, which requires little maintenance and is largely resilient against most kinds of mechanic failure, predisposes the technology toward inclusivity.

Although it’s hard to plot a single, accurate timeline in such a global trend, 2009 might usefully be seen as a tipping point in the cultural renaissance of the bicycle — a moment when its marginal, grassroots appeal started to go mainstream. With a greater number of people living in cities than the world’s rural areas for the first time, a pendulum tipped — bringing with it the need for efficient transport in settings that now define most of the human presence on Earth.

In the manicured spaces of the modern Western city, the bicycle offers a safe, healthy means of rebellion, perfectly attuned to the new vogue. Financial institutions in London and New York, which flocked eagerly to sponsor cycle hire schemes, have led the clamor around buying a slice of H.G. Wells’ prophesied utopia.

Nonetheless, the bicycle now has an almost existential appeal. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has begun closing stretches of urban expressway so that the banks of the River Seine can see a “reconquest” by bikes and pedestrians. Back in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to double cycling investment, build more bike lanes, and “make London a byword for cycling.” Campaigners are determinedly holding his feet to the fire on those promises, but the way politicians are now expected to come to the table with positive sound bites on bicycles demonstrates how central they are in the creation of modern, livable spaces.

This growing political popularity of cycling is not only the prevail of public-spirited leftists. In New York, it was finance-billionaire-turned-mayor Michael Bloomberg who first insisted Manhattan streets must accommodate bicycles. Some of the most impressive cycle infrastructure in London was signed-off by Boris Johnson; a man educated at Eton and Oxford, belonging to the highest walks of the British class system. To traditional conservatives, cycling seems to have a life-affirming appeal that draws resilience, thanks to the diversity of its gene pool.

The notion that bicycles form part of the architecture of a healthy city is also growing outside the West. Clarisse Linke is Brazil’s country director for the global Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, through which she has successfully pushed for the implementation of bicycle infrastructure in sprawling, gridlocked São Paulo. A well-integrated network of bike lanes has boosted the popularity of cycling on key routes by 116 percent, while also delivering large reductions in fatal accidents.

“The bike lane program came with a broader movement for reclaiming public spaces in São Paulo,” explains Linke. “There’s also an important mindset change in the population, which started to discover the need and joy of being ‘out in the streets.’ Bikes play an important role in that, as citizens have the possibility to interact with other citizens while outside a car.”

A city-centric view of the unstoppable roll of the bicycles, however, is perhaps wishful thinking. In thriving urban areas, we see bicycles in a glorified role as an avatar for metropolitan liberty. Cycling is celebrated in a city’s culture, media, and politics; cycling fashion is championed, each fatality is given broad coverage, condemned by campaign groups, and commemorated by protesters willing to close junctions by lying down in the street — an action that channels the idea of a sit-in into a “die-in.”

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It isn’t only a question of urban areas, however. Different cities have different characteristics. Activists in the concrete sprawl of Houston, Texas, have been moved to begin a “ghost bike” project in which painted bicycles are left at those places where cyclists have been killed by drivers; their deaths treated by police as if such events were an obvious cost of using the road network on two wheels. Despite the existence of a grassroots cycling community to condemn the injustice, its presence has not yet permeated the minds of public servants.

Outside major metropolitan areas, the rights of cyclists are even more easily flouted. The statistics bear this out. In the U.K., rural roads host just 32 percent of every billion miles cycled, but are home to 58 percent of cycling fatalities. When the League of American Bicyclists ranked state policy on cycling (measuring a mix of state spending on bikes, long-term planning, and enforcement against driving offenses), it was Washington that topped the table, with West Coast companionship from Oregon and California also inside the top 10. States with lower urban density, like Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas, and Nebraska, propped up the bottom of the list.

Then there’s the curious phenomenon of the extreme anger that the mere presence of cyclists on our streets seems to evoke in some. Despite cyclists frequently suffering as the victims of roads, allowances for bicycles attract an ire that seems to go well beyond mere infrastructure. In New York, Bloomberg’s pro-bike changes saw a rival politician remark that, if elected, he would “tear out his fucking bike lanes.” Cycling communities are full of stories of unwarranted road rage. Even London’s former mayor, Boris Johnson, mercurial in his love of cycling, criticized fellow riders in 2012 for thinking of themselves as “morally superior.”

Julian Huppert, who served as MP for the U.K.’s top cycling city, Cambridge, tells similar stories about Eric Pickles, a minister with a bruising reputation for dismissing bikes. “He attacked Cambridge for focusing on cycling, describing it as the choice of the ‘elite,’” Huppert tells me. “In Cambridge, over a third of trips for work or education are done by bike; imagine the gridlock if we stopped cycling!”

These incidents aren’t isolated. In an era of Brexit and Trump, bicycles can be readily found in the basket of goods used to typify supposedly out-of-touch city types. The same nostalgic politics that harkens back to a glorious, unfettered past sees the curtailment of car use, imposition of speed limits, and affordance of greater rights to cyclists as an arrogant imposition of the future, a world of “political correctness gone mad.”

One common view of bicycles, rational and human-scale, is as a vehicle of liberalism, while cars become the prevail of those with an affinity for libertarian power. On roads dominated by heavy traffic, the cyclist quickly learns what it is to feel a minority, vulnerable, and structurally and systematically discriminated against. What happens in a culture that diminishes the value of rules, or scoffs at those that protect the vulnerable, is an increasingly central question of modern politics—but a familiar one in cycling.

Looking at the road through this political lens, the value of bicycle campaigning takes on broader resonance for how vulnerable ideas can protect and advance themselves in judgmental times. A number of characteristics have, in this regard, always worked in the bicycle’s favor. For starters, cycling is an active, physical activity with a real-world manifestation that is at odds with the sometimes cerebral disposition of liberal thought. To cycle is to vote with your bike, and in a network built around cars, it’s a de facto public protest.

While liberal politics can struggle to offer symbols that enforce abstract ideas with semiotics that evoke feeling, the bicycle as a visual icon — instantly recognizable and unifying — has a galvanizing, rallying role in campaigns. Despite efforts — both positive and critical — to typecast cyclists, bicycles have broad appeal across a political spectrum; adherents are as likely to be proponents of conscientious living as they are to believe in a free-market world of survival of the fittest.

Many of those who campaign for cycling provisions genuinely see it as an answer to their perceptions of the world’s ills: climate change, pocketbook politics, self-reliant transport, taxpayer value for money, improved public health, emotional well-being. The belief that the bicycle really could fix all of our problems, whatever they are, creates an absolute vision that serves bicycle campaigning with both a practical roadmap and a religious zeal. It’s easier to build a utopia if you can imagine what it looks like, even if the only detail in that image is plenty of bikes.

The necessity of walking the talk is also paramount, and international cycling groups have exemplified much of what is required in smart, successful campaigning: Point to positive examples elsewhere, create healthy competition between nations and cities, get media visibility, don’t indulge rivalry between groups in the same movement, share knowledge, make politicians aware, hound them where they do not acknowledge you and praise them where they do, reply to consultations, write letters, propose visions. In short — be busy. Cycling has the added bonus of creating its own tribe — cyclists — and a value system is always at its strongest where it resides in the shared form of a community, rather than in potentially atomized, isolated individuals.

This inclusivity and action has had a tendency to filter upwards, making it possible to put ideals into practice. Female politicians have been instrumental in pushing through transport changes to the good of cycling: Anne Hidalgo has made Paris a leading light of the movement, Janette Sadik-Khan (no relation to London’s mayor) bossed Bloomberg’s transport policy, and Val Shawcross has been stalwart in London’s pro-bike changes.

The consistent thread in all of this is one of bicycles as a solution; an idea that can open those ghettos that form when busy roads segregate public space. It is not a combative form of transportation, but rather one that is well suited to pulling down the walls between groups and breathing air into the places where hostile politics fester.

Much of this can help in forming templates for how the politically vulnerable ideas and minorities of this world can now fortify themselves — designing transport to relegate motor traffic and prioritize humans and human interaction is only a metaphor for a broader struggle getting underway. Coats, though talking of bicycles in Rwanda, has words that are global in their relevance: “What I love about cycling is that it’s a sport that can cut through ethnic divisions, country conflict, and help overcome social and cultural stigma.”

In sympathy with this, the bicycle offers a pace of travel that is itself an incitation to patience. Change happens slowly, and you will more likely win a war by converting an opponent than defeating them. Huppert recalls how campaigners once struggled to get cycling issues into Parliament, but after a debate was scheduled and attracted a packed house in September 2013, it became easier to secure funding and changes further down the line.

Una publicación compartida de Colleen Lidz (@klidz) el

Linke describes São Paulo’s eventual embrace of its bicycle infrastructure as evidence for the same gradual acceptance. “Public opinion changed significantly since the start, when the media voiced several criticisms, amplifying problems and making the population go against the program,” she says. “In the beginning, critics simply denied the possibility of bikes in São Paulo — saying that ‘bikes are good for Amsterdam, but they don’t fit in São Paulo.’”

Clear in Linke’s reflection, however, is a desire to welcome rather than punish those slow to come around to her way of thinking. “As the network moved forward and started to show new cyclists on the road, the main criticisms moved their focus from, ‘We don’t want bike lanes’ to ‘These bike lanes are not so good, we want better ones,’” she explains. “The media support changed along with the population’s support towards the bike lane program.”

Against a backdrop of social media burnout, and the unsettling capacity of the internet to create multiple realities, the fake-news furor of the 2016 U.S. presidential election seemed a high watermark for the feeling that the delicate bonds that secure human empathy are under threat.

As Donald Trump makes and unmakes both his promises and insults, playing fast and loose with facts along the way, the concept of gaslighting has been popularized as a term used to describe a process of taking control of a subject by making targets question their own memories, perceptions, and even sanity. Gaslighting is done through chicanery and contradiction, conjecture and non sequitur, rather than outright opposition.

But if gaslighting’s purpose is to unhinge people from their sense of self, cycling as a form of transport is the opposite, an antidote. It offers space to think. To ride is a small act of self-affirmation. I cycle, therefore I am; I am pedaling, I move forward, I feel the wind on my skin.

The word “transport,” unpacked to its etymology, means literally “across doors.” It represents the gray area between home and work, lived realities that we strive constantly to control. Transport is very often the thing that happens while we are making other plans.

As concern for the state of our public discourse begins to mount, as we rue our inability to communicate across divides that seem very new and needlessly wide, perhaps the humble bicycle, a transportation mode that puts people in contact with one another and gives them back that control they seem to crave, offers a unique opportunity to remake those realities for the better.

This piece was originally published at How We Get To Next and is reposted here with permission.

Some rights reserved Licence Creative Commons