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When you spend most of every day walking through the mountains in silence, you can experience ¨culture shock´´ when you walk into a city like Burgos.  I could handle the culture shock, but then I couldn´t find the yellow arrows that mark the path…and I did not know what to do.  I had no translators, people and vehicles were everywhere, and there was no sign of ¨The Way.´´

I tried to ask a few locals, but three of them each gave me different directions and none of them spoke English.  Great.  After about 15 minutes, I was exasperated, but I remembered my experiences the past couple of days.  I have felt guided here, not misled.  I mentally prayed to my recently deceased friend, Angel.  

´´Please, I need an arrow!´´

After that, I stopped worrying.  I just kept walking around.  Finally, I found a man who did not speak English, but I was able to understand what he said, and soon, I found an arrow.  I kept following the arrows through town.  Every now and then it would be a while until I saw one, but right when I was about to lose hope, one was there.

When I finally arrived on the street of the albergue I was planning to stay at, there was a fruit store called ¨Angel´s´´ right on the corner.  I literally stopped and laughed.  I kept walking closer to the albergue, and on the right was a hair salon called ¨Angel´s.¨  Now this was beyond comical.  I walked even closer to the albergue, and Francisco limped out of the pharmacy.  He walked me directly to the albergue, even though I almost turned the wrong way twice.  

Now, I am sitting in the albergue.  Another pilgrim has just informed me that Michael and Alex are in town and are planning on meeting Francisco and I for dinner.  I thought I was lost, but apparently I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 



Well, the Spanish went back home to Valencia today, we lost Alex, and Michael, Francisco, and I decided to split up.  

I walked the 31.0 kilometers from Lorogña to Najara in almost silence.  You see, even though I´m alone, I still have songs stuck in my head, talk to myself, greet passing pilgrims, and sing in every tunnel I walk through.  Call me crazy, but I´m just not a person of silence.

I did miss my companions, but it is time to start thinking and praying more.  I really enjoyed the peaceful solitude as I hiked through the breathtaking scenery.  I was a little startled when I entered the town.  The arrows that mark the trail are a little more difficult to find alone, I don´t have any translators, and it is amazing how many more cat-calls you hear when you AREN´T walking with two other men.  When I found that albergue, I just about gave myself a high five.


Ironically, when I arrived at the hostel, many of the people I have met within the past week were already here!  Lucas from Germany, Klause from Austria, Acquite from Basque, Mariel from Switzerland, etc.- they´re all in the same hostel!  Michael is on my top bunk and Francisco is catty-corner to us.  What are the odds?

There are of course new people here as well, and I am surprised to find people who actually came here to find their independence.  I have been hiking with people who are used to traveling and being alone, but today I have met a different group.

I asked a woman from Denmark why she chose to hike the Camino.

¨I´ve never done anything by myself before.  I´ve always been dependent, and I figured the Camino was a good way to break the habit.¨

Another woman from Britain told me that her husband had died two years ago.

´´I figure if I can hike to Santiago by myself I can do anything by myself.  I´m trying to learn to live alone.´´

Personally, I cannot relate to this.  My mom says that ever since I learned the motion of feeding myself when I was a baby, I would not let anyone else feed me my cheerios.  Independence is just part of my nature.  

However, I was glad to see my friends here in the hostel, so I cannot lie that I do like companionship.  It is interesting to me that we are all here for different reasons, but we all chose the same path to obtain them.


Three Things I Bet You Didn’t Know about Fitness Advertisements

I have three questions for each of you.

1. Are you completely happy with your body?

2. Do you know anyone who is?

3. Do advertisements affect the way you look at yourself and others?  Could fitness advertisements have a different outcome?

Whether you exercise or not, everyone has a body image, and most everyone has a negative one sometimes. Body image refers to what we think our bodies should look like, as opposed to what they actually look like.  Also, we think our bodies look one way instead of the way it actually appears; for example, you might consider yourself “chunky” when you are actually a healthy weight.

Exposure to the media and advertising causes many people, particularly women, to have false ideas on what their bodies should look like.  When you think your body looks differently than it actually does (thinking you look bigger than you actually are), or when you think your body should look differently than it does, then you have an unhealthy body image.

What makes this situation particularly awful is that advertisements can present an ideal body image that is genetically impossible for most women to achieve.  Fashion advertisements highlight the tall, skinny, and curvy figure for women.  Now with fitness advertisements, women are encouraged to ALSO have muscle tone.  This can get ridiculous!  You can’t have it all, but for some reason, women believe they should.

Surprisingly, advertisements for fitness do not have AS MUCH of a negative impact as other body-based advertisements do.  Clearly, they can and do spark negative body image.  However, I found it interesting that research has found these fitness advertisements might be less harmful for three reasons.

1. Fitness advertisements usually promote more than weight management.  These advertisements might cause less self-discouragement because they encourage individuals to actually be healthy, not just thin.

2. Additionally, fitness advertisements highlight what the body can DO, instead of only what it looks like.  This can also impact body image, since other research has suggested that body image improves not only with appearance changes, but with its capabilities. People who notice they have improved in strength, flexibility, or endurance think about their bodies in a more positive way.

3. Lastly  the bodies of “fit” people can be seen as “extreme,” a.k.a. unattainable.  Some research suggests that advertisements of extreme bodies do not have as much of an impact on our body image as more realistic bodies do.  Thus, there is a possibility that seeing  a toned fitness model is less harmful to our body image, since for some reason this is seen as less achievable than a skinny fashion model.

Well, I guess THIS doesn’t exactly turn me green with envy…


If anything, this controversial information proves that we need to be aware of how we react to advertisements.  Are we appreciative and impressed by the power of the body, or do we beat ourselves up?  Nobody is going to have perfect body image all of the time (unless you’re one of my conceited brothers, but they have other mental issues….just kidding); however, we can always work to improve it.

Next time you look in the mirror, find at least ONE aspect of your body that you like.  This is not arrogance!  You do not have to post any shirtless pictures on Facebook (in fact, please don’t!), but you do have to be able to look at yourself and NOT cringe COMPLETELY.

Add More Voices In Your Head…Yes, You Read That Right….

Those of you who are serious about staying healthy probably know how important it is to stay informed. Jillian Michaels says she stays informed and up to date by reading every fitness magazine she can get her hands on.  Doing so provides her with a variety of opinions and information, which is tremendously important for becoming well-rounded in such an important field.

That’s great, but not all of us can afford to subscribe to a dozen magazines.  However, with journalism switching from print to digital, there are so many blogs out there with loads of information.

CAUTION: There are SO many fitness myths, so be careful with whom you deem credible!

4.10.13 Fitness Myths

Lucky for you, I am enough of a nerd that I have three great blogs to recommend to you.  I do not completely endorse anyone, but so far these three have pleased me with useful, accurate, and entertaining information.

1. Shut Up + Run

Beth is a 45-year-old runner with a sense of humor.  She provides information on running, such as training plans and treating injuries.  However, she also has a sense of humor that might make you fall out of your chair.  Her blog is concise and easy to read, so it won’t cut too much time away from Facebook!

2. Peanut Butter Fingers

Julie is 27, and I recommend her blog because of the delicious and healthy recipes.  She posts three times a day, once for each meal, and keeps her followers up to date on her latest workout adventures.  She is also periodically sponsored by clothing companies, such as Old Navy, and writes reviews on performance-wear.

3. Natalie Jill Fitness

Natalie Jill is a fitness model, but she has devoted her life to helping other people improve their health.  I encourage her blog for the recipes (yes, if you haven’t noticed, my top priority is food).  She is also excellent at pointing out which foods are “clean,” and which contain a lot of pesticides, fillers, and other nasty stuff we shouldn’t be fueling our bodies with.

So there you have it.  Be careful where you get your information from, but do not remain ignorant!  Even if you are a well-informed and healthy person, there is always more to learn.

Photos compiled and edited by Anna Kallschmidt

photo credit: <a href=””>Elle_Ann</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a

A Big Fat Dose of Motivation

Why do you exercise?  Or better yet, why don’t you exercise?

When most people think of exercise, they think of changing their appearance.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this.  Usually, exercise does improve your appearance!  However, in one of my classes we have been studying how people tend to exercise more consistently and effectively if they have other motivations.

I know it’s sometimes harder to imagine better motivation than skinny jeans, but how about your own health? It’s true, we all love to improve our appearance, and that’s fine, but being active and maintaining a healthy body weight is probably much more important than you think.  We all know obesity is bad for your health, but why is it so detrimental?

Did you know that the leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, nephritis, influenza, pneumonia, and suicide?  Did you know that obesity is directly linked to heart disease, certain cancers (colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder), respiratory problems, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression?  Clearly, you cannot prevent all injuries, diseases, and accidents (trust me, I still have a road burn scar on my shoulder), but what we can do is use our healthy choices to enhance our well-being.

Sure, we’re all going to die one day, and on some days we’re all going to feel like we’ve been run over by a rabid cat driving a school bus (or is that just my imagination?).  Use your healthy heart and lungs to play with your kids, strong arms to open your own peanut butter jars, happiness to cause others to smile, and your increased chance of longevity to get to know your grandkids.


Take care of yourself so you can enjoy your life and spend it with those you love.  I encourage you all to set goals for yourself as well as with your physical goals.  Don’t just focus on getting a flat stomach.  Also shoot for learning how to dance with your partner, feeling more energetic, or becoming more resistant to sickness.

What is holding you back?  What do you have to lose?  Are you afraid to fail?  Are you afraid to try?

photo credit: <a href=””>Presidio of Monterey: DLIFLC & USAG</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;, edited by Anna Kallschmidt.

Crunch Time of the Semester…Literally

With finals week in view, I am hearing a lot of people say they “do not have time work out” because they have to study.  


My first thought is, “shouldn’t you have been studying all semester?”  After putting my foot in my mouth, I then thought about how exercise helps our brains, which over time might help us during finals week.

Modern technology has proven that exercise actually CAN make you smarter.  When your muscles contract, they send chemicals to your brain.  One of these is called “IGF-1,” which signals your neurotransmitters to produce brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).  This chemical is what leads to “higher thought.”

BDNF causes the brain’s nerve cells to branch out, connect, and communicate with each other in revolutionary ways.  Every time nerve cells connect, that signifies a new fact or skill that has been acquired and stored in the brain.  This makes sense, considering all of the “skills” that exercise fosters, such as balance, strength, hand-eye coordination, quicker reflexes, etc.  Brains with higher amounts of BDNF are better able to acquire and store knowledge.  On the other end, brains with low BDNF do not have a high capacity for knowledge. 

As humans age, they lose some of the individual neurons in their brain.  Scientists used to think that this damage was permanent; however, recent discoveries have proven that cardiovascular exercise can actually help the brain form new neurons.  Science speculates that aerobic exercise might increase the levels of BDNF, which may stimulate nerve growth.  One of the first skills to disappear with aging is matching names to faces.  Aerobic exercise has been proven to help with this because it supports growth of neurons in the hippocampus, which is the region of our brain that we use when we correlate names and faces. 

Overall, exercise increases blood flow throughout the brain, which helps the brain build new cells because it forms new capillaries.  Additionally, some athletes have more “astrocytes,” which are cells that support neurons and clean up neurotransmitters after they have relayed messages between cells.  This helps people focus, calm down, and act less impulsively.  Essentially, you are getting the benefits of a medication, without the side effects!  Alright!

Clearly, skipping your bio-chemistry to lift weights is not going to necessarily help you ace your test.  However, developing a consistent habit of regular exercise could prepare your brain for comprehending all of that nonsense in time for your final.  Happy studying!


“Slim Chance” and “Fat Chance” Actually Mean the Same Thing…

This blog is going to make many of you roll your eyes.

It’s about how to gain weight.


I know, I know, but believe it or not, I have received a request to explain how people who are underweight can gain muscle mass.  Eyerollers, please bear with me, and stick around; we’re going to talk about muscles!

Down here in Tampa, Mark Lauren is known for his bodyweight strength training.  In his book “You Are Your Own Gym,” he believes that diet plays a HUGE roll in gaining weight (well duhh dude…)

Okay, so let’s say you’re already thin and you want to be healthy, but you are afraid you’re going to lose even more weight (Yes, I am aware that this can sound ridiculous).  The trick is to eat more than you burn. 

In order to build strength, you are obviously going to have to build muscle.  However, you cannot build muscle if you do not supply the calories to build those suckers.  Lauren suggests consuming 500-1000 calories more than you would normally burn in a day.  When you strength train, these excess calories will help build muscle.

However, you cannot be eating a bunch of processed, sugar, saturated, and trans fat-filled foods.  Even if you are eating the perfect amount of calories, you are not going to have the same results.  Lauren suggests eating frequent meals five to six times per day.  He believes that this keeps your metabolism revved up and prevents hunger.  However, research completed by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine states that it does not matter when you eat, as much as it matters what and how much.  In my opinion, the main benefit of eating small meals throughout the day is that you are less hungry, and thus less likely to gorge or make poor diet decisions.

Also, cooking six meals a day requires time that not many people have, so you might want to alternate meals with protein shakes, if you are really serious about gaining muscle.  Lauren claims that there is not a particular protein powder that is essential; instead, he states that you should be sure that the powder is a complete protein (has all nine of the essential amino acids) and is low in carbs (especially sugar). 


Even if you do not eat six meals a day, protein shakes are a great post-workout meal.  Lauren suggests that exercisers consume 30-50 grams of protein and 30-50 grams of carbohydrates immediately after a strength training session.  If you’ve just completed a cardiovascular workout, you can skip the protein shake.  However, this blog is about gaining muscle, and if you’re trying to do that, you should skip the cardio (*tear*).

Overall, in order to build muscle, you’ve got to eat enough protein and train consistently.  Jillian Michaels claimed in one of her podcasts that muscle can be lost in as soon as 36 hours.  Yikes!  Now, keep in mind you MUST have a recovery day at least once a week, just don’t get too lazy!

Even if you do want to lose weight, remember that gaining muscle is essential to increasing your resting metabolism rate.  Therefore, if you want to gain muscle and lose weight, do not eat a load of excessive calories, eat 1.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, evenly split the amount of carbs and fat you consume, and be consistent.

There you go.  I hope I helped both ends of the weight spectrum today.

photo credits:

<a href=””>Spamily</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a

<a href=””>PunkJr</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;