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Cross-Country Skiing

This ancient sport is one of the best forms of exercise you'll ever find. The full body movements of cross-country skiing, working both arms and legs, will get your heart pumping without any of the impact that harms knees and other joints. Not only is cross-country skiing terrific exercise, it's also a great way to glide across a snow-covered landscape. On your long Nordic skis, you'll be the master of snowy fields and trails, no matter how deep the drifts.

How To
Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing is easy to pick up, but it does take a little getting used to. Nordic skis are longer than downhill skis, to better spread the skier's weight across the snow. This makes them effective as skis, but challenging for anyone trying to turn or pivot. The best way to use your cross-country skis, then, is to travel in a straight line whenever possible.

Your cross-country skis will be equipped with bindings that clip onto your ski boots, but unlike downhill skis, these don't pop free when you fall down. Also, they're only affixed at the toe, leaving your heel free to move. When you start skiing, begin by pushing one foot forward. Transfer your weight onto that foot and slide your other foot forward. This glide-and-slide motion is the basis of cross-country skiing. It's a little like shuffling around the house in slippers that are too big, and it can take some time before it feels comfortable. The good news is that you can make progress and move down the trail even while you're learning and perfecting your technique. Unlike downhill skiing, this really is a sport you can pick up within minutes.

Your ski gear will also come with poles. As you get used to your sliding foot motion, you'll soon see how you can use the poles to push yourself forward. They also help you keep your balance as you're learning. When you become a proficient skier, you can learn new techniques like skate-skiing that will let you fly across the snow.

Turning
Making a turn in cross-country skis can be tricky. For beginners, it's best to come to a full stop and angle your skis to the side, step by step, taking baby steps until you make a full turn. Try not to step on one ski with the other -- you're most likely to fall down if you get your skis tangled. As you progress in your skills, you'll learn to use your poles to make a jump turn that will spin your skis in one quick motion.

Going Uphill
How do you go uphill on skis? On cross-country skis, you have three options. First, you may have skis with 'fish-scale' type material on the bottom. With these skis, you can ski straight up small slopes easily. If you find yourself slipping, however, you'll need to use either the side-step or herringbone technique. The side-step is a beginner's move, but it comes in handy in a pinch. Pivot your skis and turn so that they're perpendicular to the slope you want to climb. Move your uphill ski up one step, then move your downhill ski up until it's next to the other ski. Keep 'stepping' until you climb the whole hill.

The herringbone technique is far more advanced. You'll see Nordic skiiers using this method in the Olympics and other races. To perform the herringbone, stand facing the hill. Lift your right ski and place it in front of you, turned out about 30 or 45 degrees. Shift your weight to this ski. Lift your left ski and bring it forward, turning it out 30 or 45 degrees. Keep moving like this, with your feet turned out like a duck's. The angle will keep you from slipping back down the hill. Use your poles to keep your balance and move as quickly as you can.

Cross-country skiing will give you an amazing work-out. But the beauty of it is that you can go at your own pace, resting whenever you like. It feels less intense than it is! Just remember to dress in layers, so you can cool down as you warm up.

Yoga - Discover Your Inner Yogi

Yoga is an age-old practice that stretches the body and calms the mind. By performing a series of poses, called asanas, yoga students make themselves more limber and relaxed. This results in lower blood pressure, a decrease in stress, and healthy joints and muscles. But beyond its health benefit, yoga is a lot of fun! With poses that range from simple to challenging, yoga feels great and gives your mind something to think about while you exercise.

If you're just getting started with yoga, it's best to sign up for a class at a nearby gym, community center, or fitness club. The yoga teacher will help you learn to perform the poses correctly, so you don't strain your back or neck. You can also learn from a DVD or a good book with pictures. If you're studying on your own, ask a trusted friend to critique your form as you do the poses, focusing on your head, back, and neck position.

Get started with your yoga practice by trying out a few simple poses.

Mountain Pose (or tadasana)
Standing barefoot on a no-slip mat, put your feet side-by-side so that the bases of your big toes are touching. Stand comfortably and adjust your feet as necessary until they feel good against the mat. As you stand straight up and down with your arms at your sides, feel the strength in your legs. Contract your thigh muscles and feel your knee caps lift. Practice holding your head and neck in a straight line, as if you're being dangled from an imaginary threat that extends out the top of your head. Relax your shoulders. Breathe in and out, and focus on your breathing.

Triangle Pose
Begin in Mountain Pose. As you exhale, move your left foot about three or four feet to the left side. Lift your arms until they're parallel with the floor. Stretch your fingertips outward. Then pivot your left foot 90 degrees to the left, and turn your right foot about 45 degrees toward your left. The heels of both feet should be in line underneath your arms.

As you exhale, reach your left hand out and over your left foot, bending at the waist. Reach downward with your left hand and let your torso follow, until your torso is parallel with the floor and your left hand is either on the floor or resting on your left shin or ankle. Don't stretch any more than in comfortable. If the stretch hurts, pull back and move your left hand up to your upper shin. Your left arm should be straight; your torso bent to the side, so that your face and torso are pointed at the wall (not the floor).

When you feel comfortable here, with a gentle stretch in your waist and hamstrings, lift your right arm until it is pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Stay here, breathing, for one minute. For a more advanced version, turn your head to look up at your right hand. It can be hard to balance this way! To come up, inhale and press back into your heels as you reach your right arm back, over your right foot. Come up to standing, pivot your feet in the other direction, and perform triangle pose on the other side.

Cat to Cow Pose
This is a great way to loosen a tight back, neck, or shoulders. Begin on all fours with your palms under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Hold your spine and neck in a straight line. Then drop the head and neck toward your mat, pull your stomach muscles in tight, and round your back up toward the ceiling. Hold that pose and breathe in and out. As you exhale, return to neutral, then drop your belly toward the mat and tilt your head back gently so that your eyes move up toward the ceiling. Feel your spine move more deeply into your body. Breathe in and out here.

Continue to roll back and forth through the two phases of cat pose. After your initial movement through the pose, you can speed up your movement so that you roll your spine toward the ceiling on the inhale and drop your belly toward the floor on the exhale.

Perform these poses every day, if you can, and gradually add more asanas to your repertroire. Before long, you'll notice a positive change in your posture, your strength, and your flexibility.

Is Fresh Air Really Good for You?

We all grew up hearing people tell us to "go out and get some fresh air." But is fresh air really as good for you as your mother always claimed? According to recent studies, the answer is a qualified yes, depending on the air quality in your area. If you're in out camping or RVing in one of our beautiful wilderness areas, the answer is a gigantic YES!

Fresh air cleans our lungs. If the air you're breathing is clean -- which it would be if you're away from the smog of cities -- then the air is filled with life-giving, energizing oxygen. If you exercise out of doors, your body will learn to breathe more deeply, allowing even more oxygen to get to your muscles and your brain. Did you know that your brain sucks up twenty percent of your body's oxygen? So getting plenty of clean, fresh air into your lungs is a good way to keep your brain functioning at tip-top capacity.

Recently, people have begun studying the connection between the natural world and healing. All across the country, hospitals and recovery centers have begun building Healing Gardens or Therapeutic Gardens -- places where patients can go to be near nature during their rehabilitation. It turns out that just looking at green, growing things can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and put people into a better mood. All of which greatly helps with health and healing.

Greenery is good for us. There is evidence that hospital patients who see tree branches out their window recover at a far faster rate than patients who see buildings or sky instead. Being in nature refreshes us. It gives us an overriding feeling of peace.

Just as importantly, we tend to associate fresh air with exercise, and for good reason. Anyone who's ever spent time outdoors on a brisk fall day or a cool summer morning knows how invigorated it makes them feel. The more you're outside, the more energized you feel, which in turn makes you want to be outside and active even more. It's a beneficial feedback loop! Of course, city air that's badly polluted can be harmful rather than helpful. Particularly if you suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems, you may have a hard time breathing outdoors on smoggy days. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, issue air quality warnings for that very reason. If you find that the air outside makes breathing more difficult, then maybe it's time to plan a trip into the woods or country.

Another side benefit of getting fresh air is sunlight. While the sun's rays can age and harm our skin, they also give us beneficial vitamin D, a vitamin that many Americans are lacking due to our indoor lifestyles. To make sure you get enough vitamin D -- but still protect your skin -- put on sunscreen right as you head outside. It takes sunscreen about fifteen minutes to start working, and that's plenty of time for your skin to soak in a day's worth of vitamin D.

It's almost impossible to feel lazy or sleepy when a light breeze is tickling your back. Even winter weather can be invigorating if you're dressed for the cold and rain. So what are you waiting for? Like your mom always said, it's time to get out into the fresh air!

Enjoy Camping More – Get Fit with Cardio.

We’ve all heard the saying “just do it.” The principal behind a cardio workout is “just do a little more.” You are already getting cardio exercise by cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, or packing your RV for your next big adventure. One of the benefits of cardio workouts is that there are many different types to choose from, so there is a higher chance of completing a routine. Almost any activity can be included in a cardio workout.
There are numerous activities that you can do that do not cost you anything but your time. By far the simplest workout is walking or riding a bike, however you need to ensure that you’re going fast enough to cause your heart rate to slightly increase. If you can talk easily without puffing you are not walking fast enough to have any aerobic benefit.
If getting out of the house is difficult, you can use cleaning activities for your workout. Keep moving while you clean! Activities such as scrubbing and vacuuming burn calories. Just because house chores are boring doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself while your doing them. Play music while you work and dance along. Encourage children to join you and get them exercising as well.
Can’t get motivated? Showing up is half the battle, so find a walking partner (you probably have on sitting on the couch next to you), join a fitness group, or get a dog.
Get a fitness partner
If you have a partner counting on you, it makes showing up easier. Plus having someone to share the walk or bike ride with makes the time pass more quickly. Exercise becomes a social outing instead of a dreaded chore.
Join a group exercise program
Most communities offer some type of group exercise program and most of them are free or charge just a minimal fee. Make friends in the class so you have a pleasant reason for making getting to class a priority.
Get a dog
One of the easiest ways to add a little more cardio to your day is to get a dog. Dogs need to walk and they need you to walk with them, 3 – 4 times a day. Additionally pet ownership has been proven to ease depression and lower blood pressure. Just make sure you do your research to find the right breed for you. If you are an active RVer, smaller might be better.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how you get your exercise – just get it! When you’re fit, all of your camping chores will be easier and more pleasant. Plus the next time the kids or grandkids want to take that extra hike, you’ll be ready.
As with any fitness program, check with your doctor before beginning. Start out with simple activities to gain motivation and increase the frequency and duration slowly. Make sure you don’t over do it, and you will see results.

Mental Agility

As we all know, exercise provides a wealth of benefits. It makes you stronger, more flexible, more energetic, and increases your stamina. In the same way that it benefits the muscles of your body, regular exercise can strengthen your brain, too! By using your mind in fun, new ways, you can improve your memory well into old age and dramatically reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies have found that the best thing you can do for your brain is to keep learning new things. Experts divide leisure activity into three types. There’s the physical activity that keeps your body in good working order – activities like walking, biking, gardening, and weight training. Passive activities include watching TV, socializing, watching movies, and listening to music. It’s the activities in the third group, however, that really boost your brain’s juices. These intellectual activities include reading, writing, creating artwork, woodworking, and puzzle-solving.
It’s the amount of intellectual activity you do over the course of your life that matters. Studies have shown that people who are less mentally active in their younger years, between ages twenty and sixty, are four times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. In other words, you’re never too young to give your mind a workout.
Because the brain transmits information through connections between neurons, it stands to reason that the more connections you can build, the better off your brain – and your memory – will be. A great way to build neural connections is by learning new things.
Taking up a new hobby such as painting, cooking, playing a musical instrument, or a game like chess provides your brain with a serious workout. You’ll get a similar strengthening dose from crossword and sudoku puzzles, word jumbles, and other brain teasers.
You can also eat your way to a healthy brain. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can help keep an aging brain in good shape. Aim for purple fruits and veggies like blueberries, cranberries, plums, and prunes. Foods that are high in B vitamins like niacin and folic acid can also help keep the mind sharp. These foods include legumes (beans, lentils, and chickpeas), fish, lean meat, dairy, grains, and dark leafy greens.
Recent studies have also shown that eating curcumin, a spice found in turmeric and curry, can prevent memory loss. If you possibly can, add a daily dose of curry to your diet.
Americans are living longer than ever, so it just makes sense to prepare your mind for a lengthy old age. Taking a few key steps can make all the difference. Try something new, learn a new skill, and keep your brain firing on all cylinders well into your golden years.

Green and Glorious Vermont

Nestled between the mountains of the Adirondack National Park and the woods and streams of New Hampshire, beautiful Vermont is a bucolic paradise. With rolling hills, green fields, and picturesque farms covering its landscape, this is a food lover's haven. Head to Vermont for exquisite cheese, produce, and ice cream, for long hikes in the woods, and for a laid-back, friendly culture. Even Vermont's small towns have plenty of culture and history to offer.

The Long Trail
Slicing lengthwise through the middle of the state is the oldest long-distance trail in the U.S. The Long Trail was built between 1910 and 1930 by Vermont's Green Mountain Club. From its southern start at the Massachusetts border, the trail winds through all of Vermont's highest peaks until it reaches Canada. If you take some time to hike a piece of the trail or one of its side trails, you'll cross picture-perfect ponds, hardwood forests, and fast-running streams. The trail is 270 miles long, and includes 175 miles of side trails.

Farm Fresh
Vermont is famous for its farms and farm produce. You can get a taste of this bounty by visiting local farm stands and sampling the maple syrup, cheeses, ice cream, apples, and other homegrown delights. In Wilmington, visit the Adams Farm, a homestead that's been in operation since the Civil War making maple syrup. At the Allenholm Orchards in South Hero, the owners bake pies made with fruit from their own orchards.

Brattlebro
Begin your tour of Vermont in the south at Brattlebro, voted Vermont's best small town. This charming village is set between the West and Connecticut Rivers. Its downtown is a National Historic District that has a lively shopping area with plenty of small stores and boutiques. You can see the 1930s art deco Latchis Theater, visit one of the five independent bookstores, or see the traditional old hardware store.

Brattlebro is known for its lively arts scene. If you're looking for some amazing art, tour through Brattlebro's many art galleries and the museum. Even the cafes and bakeries here are filled with locally-made art. You can often catch readings, performances, and impromptu artists' gatherings at the bookstores or one of the coffee shops.

In June, Brattlebro celebrates a quirky festival that's all its own -- the Strolling of the Heifers. In early Fall they host Puppets in the Green Mountains, and in the winter the town puts on DecemberFest.

Head north on Interstate 91 to Interstate 89 until you reach our next destination:

Montpelier
This is Vermont's capital city, but it still retains its small-town charm. Montpelier has a fabulous collection of historic buildings that date back to the 1700s. Today you'll also find plenty of modern shopping and dining opportunities as well as a thriving arts scene. If you enjoy history, be sure to visit the gorgeously restored State House with its marble floors and portrait gallery. Visit between January and April to see congress in action!

From the State House, take yourself on a walking tour of the downtown. You'll find four independent bookstores, fabulous delis and restaurants, and small shops selling one-of-a-kind items. This is the home of the Green Mountain Film Festival, held in March every year, as well as a pocket park music series and Wednesday night band concerts. Many people use Montpelier as a jumping-off point for cross-country ski trips, hiking in the North Branch River Park, or touring the many first-rate art galleries.

Follow Interstate 89 northwest toward Lake Champlain to explore the lively college town of Burlington:

Burlington
With its bustling waterfront and vibrant college atmosphere, Burlington is known as Vermont's Queen City. This charming city is home to four colleges, grand architecture, and the brick-paved Church Street Marketplace, a gathering space for friends and locals. In the summer, you'll see street vendors and entertainers as well as outdoor cafes and live music around the marketplace. Enjoy a romantic dinner on the square or head to the shipyard to explore the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Burlington Schooner Project.

Sunny San Diego

San Diego is a beach town that has increased in size, but never outgrown its warm, relaxed attitude. With a comfortable Mediterranean climate and over 70 miles of coastline, this is a place that makes outdoor living easy. And with world famous attractions like SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, home of the giant pandas, you'll find plenty to do and see.

Outdoor Adventures, San Diego-style
With the gleaming Pacific Ocean on one side and the Anza-Borrego Desert and Laguna Mountains on the other, San Diego has plenty of amazing outdoor spaces. Whether you're headed out for a day of sailing and snorkeling, fun on the golf course, or a quick jaunt into Mexico, you can do it all from the second-largest city in California.

Most visitors like to start with a trip to one of San Diego's stunning beaches. This is a great place to try something new like surfing, windsurfing, and sailing, or to stroll along the golden sands. Golfers will love the 90 courses in the San Diego area, a region that Golf Digest named 'One of the Top 50 Golf Destinations in the World.

This is where the sport of skate boarding got its start, and San Diego remains a skating haven to this day. You'll find plenty of skate parks as well as hiking trails up Hot Springs Mountain and Valley of the Moon, just to name a few. You can go rock climbing at Mission Gorge in the Mission Trails Regional Park, do some mountain biking at Corral Canyon, or go surfing at Point Loma and La Jolla.

Family Fun
The whole family will love San Diego's amazing animals. No trip to this region is complete without a stop at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, where you'll take a guided tour through remote African and Asian landscapes, watching for giraffes, lions, and zebras. At SeaWorld San Diego you can catch Shamu in "Believe," the most ambitious killer whale show in the park's history. The world-famous San Diego Zoo has a fabulous new exhibit called 'Monkey Trails and Forest Tales' that you won't want to miss.

For rides, shows, and an incredible display of landscapes built entirely with Legos, head to Legoland, a great place to spend the day. And be sure to stop at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, which recreates life in the Mexican and early American periods of 1821 to 1872. The kids will also love the rides and games at Knott's Berry Farm, America's first theme park, and a walk through the old-fashioned Gaslamp District.

Day Trips
For a terrific south-of-the-border experience, plan a day trip to Ensenada, Mexico, a friendly, beautiful coastal town that's a ninety-minute drive from San Diego. Known as the "Cinderella of the Pacific", Ensenada is a Baja stop that's a favorite for cruise ships and pleasure boats. You'll soon see why as you explore this charming city.

You can head to the coast for days of whale watching, looking for the gray whales that calve in Baja's many lagoons. Pay a visit to the Riviera del Pacifico, a plush gaming casino from the 1930s, or see Hussong's Cantina, the oldest bar in the Californias, dating back to 1892. Ensenada has an open-air fish market, lively shopping on the El Malecon boardwalk, and a gorgeous park at the Plaza Civica. Be sure to stop by the flea markets for some incredible bargains, and don't miss the stunning beaches. You'll also find excellent hiking and bird watching in San Quintin, the colorful and bustling agricultural center that stretches along both sides of the transpeninsualar highway.

San Diego Festivals
With all the festivals and events in San Diego, you'll find something special going on no matter when you visit. Don't miss highlights like the November San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, Southern California's largest luxury wine and culinary event. In December, you can ooh and aah over the twinkling lights at Del Mar, then return in February for Museum Month, when all museum admission fees are half price. In June San Diego hosts the Loews Surf Dog Competition, the nation's largest surfing competition for man's best friend, as well as the La Jolla Festival Of The Arts And Food Faire.

From incredible restaurants to fabulous nightlife, San Diego truly has it all. Be sure to squeeze a visit to this beach city into your vacation schedule, so you can feast on fish tacos, swim in the ocean, and hike in the desert. It's the perfect winter get-away spot!

North Idaho

From the winter swish of snow under a pair of skis to a summertime tromp through meadows, forests, and streams, North Idaho is an outdoor lover's dream. The panhandle area of the state is all about scenery, wildlife, and outdoor adventures. This is a land where people make their own huckleberry jam, tell stories about the fish that got away, and prefer to spend their time out on the trail rather than indoors. No matter what your outdoor passion, you'll find the perfect place to enjoy it in North Idaho.

Things to Do
This region has a remarkable array of natural and man-made outdoor attractions. You'll find exquisite rock climbing walls, trails that go on forever, and plenty of bodies of water that offer everything from white water rafting to water skiing. There are also outstanding golf courses and amusement parks, shopping centers, ranches, restaurants, and museums.

Water Sports
North Idaho has dozens of recreational lakes and rivers for canoeing, rowing, sailing, kayaking, and rafting. You'll find glass-smooth lakes for water skiing or paddling, plus amazing white-water rivers. There are even beaches for volley ball, strolling, sunbathing, and parasailing opportunities. Don't miss the chance to go lake kayaking on beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Skiing and Snowshoeing
Sun Valley Trekking in Hailey operates six backcountry yurts in the Sawtooth National Forest that are ideal destinations for snowshoers. Rentals and multi-day, guided trips are available. Also, the entire Upper Big Wood River area surrounding the Galena Summit is a snowshoer's playground and is closed to motorized traffic.

The Coeur d'Alene area boasts three ski resorts. Silver Mountain in Kellogg has two peaks, 50 runs, 2,200 vertical feet of fun, and the world's longest, single-staged gondola. Lookout Pass Ski area in Mullan is also nearby for alpine exploring with 540 ski-able acres, vertical drop of 1,150 on 23 named runs plus two glade areas and acres of tree skiing. Or skiers can head north to Schweitzer Mountain Resort with 58 runs across 2,500 acres and Stella, its 6-passenger high-speed chairlift.

Snowmobiling
Since Idaho has more groomed snowmobile trails than any other Western state, it's no wonder that residents and visitors to Kootenai County find snowmobiling one of their favorite winter activities.

Click here for more information about snowmobiling and other snow sports in Northern Idaho.

Hiking and Biking
This region has thousands of acres of trailed wilderness that are just waiting to be explored. Stop by any forest ranger station to pick up a map and suggestions for the best local trails. Road bikers should be sure to pedal down the scenic Centennial Trail that runs from the Washington border through the east end of Lake Coeur d'Alene. For mountain biking, just head tone of the area ski resorts and speed down one of their alpine trails.

Fishing
This area is famous for its superb fishing as well as its gorgeous streams and mountain lakes. You'll reach the best fishing holes by hiking up a trail and stopping off at a secluded lake. Most local fishers find great success with a fly rod and regular tackle.

Mine Tours
Idaho is silver and gold mining country, so it's no wonder the area boasts a number of fun mines to explore. At the Crystal Gold Mine, you can head underground into an authentic 1880s gold mine. This Silver Valley mine is open year round, winter and summer. At Coeur d'Alene's Sierra Silver Mine Tour, you can take a one-hour tour through an underground mine. Tours depart daily every half hour (kids must be age for and above). You'll learn all about the techniques and skills involved in hard-rock mining at this attraction that's open from May to September every year.

Whether you're looking for a quiet camping trip near a shining lake or a rousing Old West ranch adventure, you'll find what you're looking for in North Idaho. This is a place where wilderness is truly right outside your front door, and trailheads are more plentiful than people. So pack up your binoculars and your hiking boots, and get ready for some North Idaho beauty!

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