Utah Hiking Trip
Are you looking for the perfect fitness retreat or thinking of taking a Utah hiking trip? Sol Fitness Adventures specializes in customizing your adventure. We tailor active vacations for everyone from solo business travelers to small corporate groups. The outdoor places we explore are extraordinary, but it’s our expert approach to combining fitness with outdoor activities that makes us unique. You can learn of our guest Jeff Tassey’s recent fitness adventure in his own words, shared below:
I first met Melanie Webb when she was a trainer at the Sports Club LA in Washington, D.C.—my immensely patient Pilates instructor (I am a large, western male with only enough connective tissue for general locomotion) referred me to her as I was training for a marathon and wanted to cross train during the taper period, two weeks before the marathon. It was the beginning of a beautiful—if somewhat strenuous—training relationship, and I stayed with her for general strength/flexibility training thereafter. Melanie proved to be a highly inventive and intuitive trainer—no slave to a particular style or philosophy, and always on the lookout to increase her and incorporate new disciplines, not fads. Like most athletes who always go all out, she is no stranger to injuries and knows how to work around most issues, and most importantly is a stickler for form, the precursor to injury free training. She also possesses a great sense of humour- a necessity for training me—just ask my former pilates instructor—and can charm you into doing your best. To sum up, she can teach you how you learn, do it safely and effectively, and unless you are a complete stick in the mud, have fun doing it.
It was no surprise to me that she decided to leave DC—among many other things, she had been working on establishing an outdoor fitness adventure company, plus there were just too many new things to learn and new places in which to learn them. I kept up with her from time to time, and a year ago, I had some information on a topic of mutual interest, so I did a search for her company and was delighted to find that she was back in her native Utah, where she has always loved roaming the canyons, and climbing the rocks—something she did as a biologist for the state after college—I mention this because it is emblematic of the breadth of her background and natural curiosity, as well as her love of the outdoors and nature. As I read through the website, I noted with great interest how much Melanie had refined her philosophy and approach—as we are becoming increasingly aware, the mental benefits of physical training are possibly greater than the physiological, and with a little conscious attention to the mental component, the whole experience is greatly optimized—it falls under the rubric of “mindfulness”, which is not some wispy “new age” concept, but really an essential component of a complete physical workout. After driving my Pilates instructor out to California—you can see a pattern here with my trainers—I started yoga with a former colleague of hers (she is still in DC—even more patient than the Pilates instructor—we are getting into sainthood here) and slowly began to understand this dimension—I have a lot to learn, but the first step is simply being open to it.
Several weeks ago, I happened to have a business trip to Salt Lake City, so I sent Melanie an e mail about getting together and instead of a standard gym workout, she suggested a Utah hiking trip at Alta Mountain, location of the famous ski resort. Melanie picked me up at about 8 in the morning in downtown SLC, and 20 minutes—no exaggeration– of wonderful conversation later we were at 8800 feet in a stunning natural setting, on a trail to Cecret Lake. There was a light rain, but it might as well have been sunny and dry, and to be honest, the grayness made the wildflowers standout more and the greenery that much brighter. As we started the hike, Melanie (after asking me if it was ok) read a short translation on natural beauty that she had learned from spending time with some Navajos on the Arizona border during one of her post DC jobs. Too touchy-feely for you? No need to worry, because a few minutes later even the most macho among us will be panting up the trail at 9000 feet or so. My advice is to go ahead and take advantage of these simply and sincerely offered little spiritual and mindfulness opportunities—no one will ever find out and you never know when some little part of it will speak to you. Just the intent with which each one is offered is enough to make it valuable.
Returning to the physical, Melanie had never been to Cecret Lake, and still has not—we allowed ourselves to be distracted by an interesting trail, and we set off on a long detour that looped around the face of the mountain and featured simply spectacular views, flowers, rock formations and wildlife—we saw a marmot—not something you see every day—as well as a beautiful deer—quite a bit different from the residential deer I encounter in Washington. After completing the hike, Melanie had me engage in a series of active stretches that were different than anything that I had encountered—they echoed some of what I had learned in yoga and pilates, but were very efficient in scope and effectiveness—whether instinctively or otherwise, she focused on my hips and shoulders, the two areas where I am the least flexible. I mention this to emphasize what I said at the outset—no slave to a particular discipline, but conversant in many, she has what one of her fellow trainers described as a “bag of tricks” to maximize your health benefits and get you where you need to be.
As we were driving back to the city, it suddenly occurred to me that I could have come out for a Utah hiking trip and these types of fitness experiences all along. I had held—for no reason—the rigid view that since Utah was “far away” and I could not see Melanie on a regular basis for workouts that somehow the only option was one of her full-fledged fitness adventures. This is the same thinking that used to keep me from doing a cardiovascular workout unless I could get at least 20 minutes in—somehow, it was better not to do anything? It moved me to volunteer to write this. Salt Lake City is about 4 to 4.5 hours by air, and my round trip, non-stop ticket out of BWI was $591. SLC is a major hub for Delta and the West Coast is only about another hour. Once you have landed you are close to the full range of outdoor activities in stunning surroundings. A trip to New York City can take longer and cost more—I know—I spend about a third of my time in New York. I am heading back the week before Labor Day, tacking two days on to a trip to Toronto. Melanie is confident that she can teach me to stand-up paddle board in two days in addition to getting in a couple of hikes like before–I will report back. By the way, in order to teach SUP in a federal park, she had to get licensed as a boat captain—she can tell you about it.
What can you get out of it? This type of “workout” is at a minimum, a reward for–or culmination of-all of the other routine workouts that you have done—“applied conditioning” if you will, where you can see the benefits of your efforts under unique conditions. Even if you have no interest in the mindfulness aspects of it, the exposure to the natural beauty results in a meaningful reduction in stress—Melanie can discuss the science with you, but I know how I felt. Yes, but does it last? I do not know how long the observable physiological benefits from one excursion stay with you, but once you have the experience, you want more—hence my return engagement three weeks later. It is a chance to learn something new physically and mentally, and to experience the benefits over a longer period. Like other mind/body undertakings, you want to learn to maintain that state of mind outside of the workout or specific natural environment. I get plenty of exercise—I work out all the time and am currently training for a 100 mile bike ride. I do not need to strengthen my hip flexors, etc. I am adding this to the mix because it gives me a dimension that I cannot get from disciplined workouts or other athletic activities. What if you do not work out a lot, do not feel particularly “athletic” or have other issues? Even better, I think as the outdoor beauty part of it is accessible in many healthy ways and Melanie Webb can tailor the exercise part of it so that it is manageable, healthful and if you have any inclination, sustainable. The Utah hiking trip does not have to be grueling or a big undertaking, but it can still be a big deal.