Rock Climbing: What’s the Point?

Hey everyone! I just wanted to share the news that a personal experience article I wrote for Summit Adventure just went live on their site today, and I wanted to share the link with those of you who follow this blog (also with those who happen to stumble in here randomly now and then).

In “Rock Climbing: What’s the Point?”, I reflect on how the highs and lows of learning to rock-climb have helped me to better understand some of my own life experiences. Here’s a snippet preview:

…I live an hour away from Yosemite–home to some of the best climbing in the world. And, with the aid and friendship of an experienced coworker, I’m taking advantage of that convenience. I exercise throughout the week to prepare for day-long climbing trips on the weekend, or the half-day excursions that sometimes occur during the work week. My body is often tired, sore, and dotted with bruises, scrapes, and scabs. I started realizing that I fork out a lot of time and energy to yank myself up rocks.

And what’s the point?

Sure, I can value the sense of accomplishment in building up my strength to achieve a goal, specifically that glory-feeling in completion of a difficult route. The community factor of spending time with friends by sharing an adventurous activity is also a positive, less narcissistic value. But the more engaged and skilled one becomes in rock-climbing, the more easily it becomes consuming with the need for more gear, technique, commitment, energy. I could just as easily set my physical goals in something simpler and less consuming like running. And I could just as easily invite friends over for dinner to spend time with them.

So, again: what’s the point? Why go rock-climbing?

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here. I hope you are able to spend some time reading it…maybe even leave a comment? ;) Check it out!

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5 Simple Outdoor Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Creative, frugal, and romantic: the ideal date descriptives we aspire for on Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, many-a-couple will get sucked down the whirlpool of cliche, costly, and cheesy, made inevitable by checking off the flowers-chocolate-Hallmark card-and-dinner list. I can hear you sighing over your own predictability. But it’s not too late to bring some fresh air to your date plans–literally.

Check out these five outdoor adventure styled dates that will help you achieve that personal, romantic, and wallet-friendly Valentine’s Day you’ve been dreaming of (and, don’t worry, you don’t have to be an Eagle Scout or a Dawn Wall climber to enjoy any of these activities).

Stargazing

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Before you quip that this date idea is just as cliche as a candlelight dinner, let me explain: there’s the “really-easy-obvious” way to do stargazing, and then there’s the “super-awesome-sweet-and-snuggly” way to do stargazing. This method is still fairly simple, but involves some important prep-time to make this date unique.

This is your new Stargazing Gameplan:

  1. Find the ideal stargazing spot. If you live in the mountains, this may be in your backyard or a 20 minute drive away. But if you live in the city or a valley, you will need to determine the closest drive to the area with the least amount of smog and light pollution.
  2. Know the best time to go out–just because the sun went down doesn’t mean it’s primetime for stargazing yet. Find out at this site when the moon will rise on February 14th, and whether or not the phase will be outshining the stars.
  3. BLANKETS. BLANKETS BLANKETS. Is stargazing in February possible without at least one blanket?
  4. Take advantage of that quiet-back-porch or nighttime-windy-road ambience and max it out by making a soft, sweet playlist of you and your date’s favorite music to play in the background.
  5. Get a little nerdy; Google up some astronomy. So instead of saying, “Hm, I wonder if that’s a constellation,” you’ll actually know. Better yet, get an actual book on constellations so you can carry it along with you. There’s also a constellation app available for all you app people.
  6. Get a little more nerdy. Ever wonder why a constellation or a star has its name? Ancient cultures created mythologies for the celestial map, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Greeks. Learn a few of these stories before your night out (check out Perseus & Andromeda, or Orion) and exchange them with your date. 
  7. Don’t forget to prepare some hot drinks!

Bonus style points: Stargazing from the bed of a pickup truck, on top of a water tower, or in a boat at the middle of a lake.

Build a Quinzhee

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For those of you living in a place with snow (the struggle is REAL in California this winter), you are in the ideal position to make that romantic snow fort–or Quinzhee–happen. A Quinzhee is basically like an Igloo, except much easier to make. Depending on where you live, this could take place near your house or during a weekend in the backcountry–and all you need are two snow shovels.

The simplified steps of building a Quinzhee:

  1. Shovel a ton of snow into a huge pile.
  2. Pack down the snow mountain as much as you can.
  3. Let the snow settle for a few hours, during which lunch and a snowball fight are recommended.
  4. Carve out a cave in the mound of settled snow.

This video will further explain how to properly make a Quinzhee.

Bonus style points: Prepare soup or chili beforehand to bring as a warm celebration meal to eat inside the Quinzhee. And hot drinks.

Hug a Tree

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Do you have a serious nature lover in your life? Better yet, are you BOTH serious nature lovers? Why not do some nature lovin’ for your Valentine’s date? Why worry about buying the right color of roses when you can’t go wrong with shrinking your carbon footprint?

Five ways to make your inner hippies happy:

  1. Instead of driving to the store to buy a Valentine’s Day card, make your own homemade note out of materials you already have at home.
  2. Pick up trash at a local park or beach, or volunteer your time to clean up a hiking trail.
  3. Plant a tree, or start a garden.
  4. Be doubly environmentally and socially conscious by not purchasing flower bouquets. Instead, cut from your own garden, buy a pot of organic flowers, or hike to a meadow (but remember to practice Leave No Trace by letting the wildflowers stay where they are!).
  5. Bike or walk to your date spot.

Bonus style points: Make that dinner date at a Vegan cafe or restaurant.

Like-a-Hipster-in-a-Museum Day Hike

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They slowly peruse the walls of art, with their trendy clothes and a camera slung about their neck–those hipsters. We might judge them a little for their show, but maybe we can learn a few style points from them…in this case, meshing their methods with a day hike to make it unique, different…and perhaps a little hipster?

How to day hike like a hipster in a museum:

Step 1: Choose a moderate hike with a comfortable length for you and your significant other. This hike isn’t going to be training you for Mt. Everest; it’s about spending time with your loved one more than conquering that mound of dirt or taking care of your calorie count.

Step 2: Keep the frame in mind that you’re treating this hike like you’re walking through a museum; take your time. If you or your partner sees something of interest on the trail–animal tracks, wildflowers, a hidden view, a funky lookin’ tree, etc.–stop and look at it, explore it (keeping LNT practices in mind), have an existential crisis about it–whatever it is. Take a picture or two.

Step 3: Bring a disposable camera and use all of the exposures–after the hike, get the film developed and see how your pics turned out. Other options include using a Polaroid camera, or just your phone, so long as the challenge is that you won’t look at the pictures until after the end of the hike.

Step 4: Pack a sack lunch or snack with a blanket to share at the top of the hike. You can be as thrifty or extravagant as you want with this one, but remember you get bonus hipster points for bringing an offbeat bottled drink.

Step 5: Don’t forget the Valentine’s notes–something homemade or handwritten, perhaps, or some of those Valentine’s you’d give to someone in third grade; whatever speaks to your hipster-at-heart best.

Adventure in the Concrete Jungle

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Clearly, you don’t need a week-long backpacking trip in the wilderness to plan a romantic outdoorsy excursion with your significant other. But what if you just can’t escape the city or suburbia? Here are a few ideas of how to adventure in that concrete jungle: 

  1. Pack a picnic lunch, some books, and/or a frisbee, and enjoy at the neighborhood park. Bonus style points for bringing a hammock.
  2. Plan a date at the climbing gym (maybe this one isn’t “outside,” per se, but it’s pretty darn adventurous for being indoors). Not sure about climbing? Gyms provide challenges for all levels of climbers, as well as technique classes you can sign up for with your date. Belaying also helps practice trust and communication with your partner. 
  3. Bike ride option A: ride together to a favorite cafe or dinner date spot.
  4. Bike ride option B: ride to a local department store for a spontaneous shopping spree, under an agreed dollar limit. Buy a LEGO set or puzzle to build/solve together after the ride back. Or pick out a random CD based on the cover art to listen to as you sit around a space heater. Or find a comic book to read together next to the fireplace. Or maybe buy some cheap t-shirts to draw all over and make each other wear for the rest of the day. So many options…
  5. Stoke up a bonfire in a fire pit on your patio. Complete the picture with a string of twinkle lights and fixings for s’mores.

Sense that inspiration smile creeping on your face? Now that you have all these fun ideas, you can throw out that old flowers-chocolate-Hallmark card-dinner checklist for a plan much more adventurous. And who says you need to be in a relationship to do any of these? Get together with a group of your single friends and have some fun–and make sure to exchange those corny-cute third-grade Valentine’s with them, too.

Thou shalt not demonize thy neighbor’s Yoga pants

I would like to begin this argument by posing that it is okay to notice other people’s butts.

There, I said it. Butts. And that won’t be the last time I say that word today.

I have decided that the war against Yoga pants needs to stop. Yoga pants will continue to exist, and no one’s making any friends by fighting over it (I just want everyone to be friends).

I’ve heard the comments. I’ve heard the whole shebang; I’ve heard, “The guys have pleaded us to ask you all to be more careful about wearing yoga pants,” I’ve heard, “I just don’t see how Yoga pants could be comfortable…I would feel so…revealed…”, I’ve heard, “If you don’t want us to look at your butt, don’t wear yoga pants.” I get. Okay? I GET IT. My turn to talk now.

And I’m going to call everyone out on their bullcrap. Yes, everyone, the clad and the unclad. I mean, those bearing Yoga pants and those who…don’t bear them. Yeah.

Part A: The case for the existence of Yoga pants.

First off, I want us all to take a deep breath. And another. Now, we’re going to think about why Yoga pants were born in the first place. Yoga pants–much like cycling shorts, swimsuits, wetsuits, and those spandex bunhuggers made for volleyball players–are an exercise technology. Dear EVERYONE, Yoga is indeed a method of exercise. I wear Yoga pants when I practice Yoga, and, yes, my Yoga pants are in fact essential to the most efficient Yoga experience, and due to the type of Yoga I practice, I am very often sore the next day. Yoga pants are the offspring of Yoga as an exercise. Glad we got that cleared up.

Now, the Yoga pants phenomenon has spread virally throughout workout gyms to all females practicing various types of exercises. Why, you wonder?

One reason: running shorts.

You want to talk about “revealing?” Running is pretty much the only exercise a female can engage in without fearing that those (seemingly) benign running shorts will expose her netherworld. Doing squats in these “regular exercise shorts” is the worst. Using most any exercise contraption in these “regular exercise shorts” is THE WORST. They ride up, they show the jiggle spots, they show panty lines, they give *lowers voice* eternal wedgies, and who knows what other sights the common exercising passerby will unintentionally become party to when he or she happens to glance your way? Good lord, I feel exposed enough just to be a female in (what I like to call) the “meathead” section of my local gym. Back off, a girl needs to do her shoulder presses, too. Geez.

Essentially, these so-called “regular exercise shorts,” or running shorts, are an inferior exercise technology for women, in the face of Yoga pants. Especially for the reason that the female hip and butt regions come in all different curved shapes and sizes. It’s no wonder that those ubiquitously flimsy short shorts are going out of style in the workout world; NO ONE LIKES WHAT THEY DO TO US. Conversely, the wonderfully forgiving technology of Yoga pants not only allows for different shapes of women to fit into them, they’re also versatile (aka comfortable) to wear in different exercise practices as well. Sure, you can see the outline of my figure, but can you see my underwear and the horrifying etc.? Nope. Great, I’ll take the Yoga pants, then.

Are you catching my drift? Thou shalt not demonize Yoga pants as an exercise technology.

Part B: The “male gaze.”

Okay, so I’m not gonna go all TEAR DOWN THE PATRIARCHY ALL HAIL YOGA-PANTS-WEARING MATRIARCHY on you. Seriously. However, I am going to make an effort to logically (and calmly) deconstruct the common whines of the (typically) male voice regarding Yoga pants.

Firsthand, I’d like to begin with the fact that men also have exercise technology quite akin to Yoga pants, especially for sporting activities such as cycling, wrestling, and swimming. My dad is a cyclist. He wears ALL the spandex stuff available for the hardcore cyclists. Why? So he can ride faster and won’t get HIS CLOTHES CAUGHT IN THE BIKE AND FALL OVER. Because it’s efficient exercise technology. It all bears the same spandex-enthralled idea as Yoga pants.

I myself enjoy cycling and have been privy to the sight of many spandex-clad members of the opposite gender. Yeah, men in spandex. And it’s a normal thing; if you don’t wear spandex in the cycling world, everyone will know you’re a noob and you’re not gonna have a good time. You’re a cyclist? Here’s your spandex.

Do Yoga pants act similarly on women to the way that cycling shorts act on men? Yes.

Do I whine about the fact I can see all the “outlines” of the male anatomy? No, because the purpose for cycling shorts is not for the viewer’s comfort, it’s for the cyclist’s comfort (and safety). And they’re just gonna keep cyclin’.

Thine mouth shalt not grumble in view of cycling shorts, lest thy be cast from the presence of thine bike.

So, my first aim, especially in the context of the exercise world, is to gently suggest people to get over it. Get over your discomfort, because in this context, it’s not about you, it’s about the athlete. Spandex will do what spandex will do to anyone’s body–fit the form of how it’s shaped.

“But, but–” you say– “I don’t want to see a woman’s body like that and–” *whispers* “think…you know, thoughts.”

*Cue my groans* Thank you for that segue-way, though; now I can call upon the second part of this discussion regarding the “male gaze.”

My question is, do you mean to say that you can’t control your own thoughts? The whole “It’s because I’m a male and I’m wired this way” AKA “I can’t help myself” is a mindset that society has truly brainwashed you to embrace. To suggest that a person can’t control his/her own thoughts connotes an issue of inferior psychological development. That might sound super offensive, but what I’m trying to say is that you AREN’T stupid, because that is, in fact, ridiculous. However, I’d like to revisit that idea of “brainwashing” that I mentioned a second ago.

American society constantly objectifies women sexually, and in our day of modern technology, this media message is pretty much unavoidable. Therefore, I don’t think it’s impossible for this standard to have incurred a sort of “brain damage” upon men. Let me explain. A Cognitive-Behavioral therapist treating a patient dealing with anxiety/depression will explain that negative and anxious thoughts come easily and seemingly quite naturally because of the pathways formed in the brain by habit. It’s like when you drive to work, you take the road you’ve formed a habit to take, even if other routes exist. In lieu of this, Cognitive-Behavioral therapy will help a patient fight this “damage” by using certain exercises to develop new pathways in the brain that access positive methods of thinking more easily/naturally than negative methods. I pose that, in the same way, if a male has grown up bombarded with the thought process of sexually objectifying the female body, it is easy to understand how that thought process would eventually come quickly and seem natural.

I, as a heterosexual female, am aware of my mental capability to objectify the guy doing pull-ups with half a shirt on (you know, those shirts that have each side entirely cut out). But just because he has nice tone in his back that I am free to view does not mean I am helpless to objectify his body. Nor will I blame his shirt–no matter his intentions toward his viewers–because I’m going to assume it gives him the ventilation he needs to stay cool, and I respect that, as we reside in a city that features triple digits in the summer. Perhaps this mental process is somewhat easier because men are less sexually objectified in society than women. But, for my part, I know with certainty that I have made this mental process possible for myself because I have purposefully and consciously resisted the mindset of objectifying men, which does (in fact) exist.

Dear brother, I see how society has marred your mind. But I believe in you, in your ability to develop your mind and train it to value a humane mindset, one that can see women carrying on their exercise routine in properly efficient exercise attire and yet refrain from objectifying them.

Following this statement, I do want to draw the distinction between appreciating someone’s body and sexually objectifying it. This hearkens back to the opening statement I made: that it is okay to notice other people’s butts.

So, with that same guy I saw doing pull-ups, I clearly noticed that he has a finely shaped back. And after that observation, I continued on with my day, alongside the happy knowledge of the existence of finely-shaped men. If it’s a crime to simply notice and be pleased that the guys curling dumbbells are indeed reaping the rewards of toned shoulders, send me to Hell, then, but I don’t believe this to be the essence of objectification. Human bodies are cool. Muscles are cool. Why not accept the fact that I notice them?

However, to lust for that man’s body to give me something just for the sake of my own sexual desires–that’s sexual objectification. This is different from mere appreciation because of its nature in dehumanizing the person in view. Dehumanizing occurs when someone rejects the inherent value of humanity in another. By sexually objectifying a person, the beholder removes the person in view from his/her actual context (in this case, casually lifting weights in the gym), and divides the person from his/her emotional and mental psyche by viewing the person as a solely physical object that exists for the sake of fulfilling the beholder’s sexual desire. The person in view, decontextualized and separated from parts of his/her human nature, is thereby dehumanized.

So, let’s say there’s this attractive girl attending a kickboxing class in the gym. She is doing great at the whole kickboxing thing. She is clad in Yoga pants. You notice she has a nice butt.

Whoa, isn’t that so cool? She has a butt like EVERYONE else in the world! And you noticed that it’s there, not missing, not in the wrong place, but it’s right where it’s supposed to be. And it’s nice. How wonderful. You know what that might mean? That she works out often. Good for her! Way to be a strong woman. Hey, you know what that also might mean? That she has a decent work ethic, since she seems to be committed to working up a sweat three or so times a week in order to keep her body healthy. What an inspiration.

See how beneficial noticing other people’s butts can be?

All right, I know I’m being sort of facetious…but not really. Thou shalt not demonize thyself for noticing/appreciating/evaluating thy fellow workout enthusiast’s nice butt.

Cut yourself some slack. It’s a butt. It’s round. People have them, you know. And, guess what, a lot of women have nice butts. Ladies, if a guy notices your butt…well, he notices your butt. Yes, you do in fact have a butt! And it’s probably nice, too, *gasp*. Wait, am I giving away a secret of the universe that no one should ever know or something?

Sorry, I think I’m being facetious again. In all seriousness, though, this is my point: we all need to just calm down for a second…and realize the truth of what’s happening here–and that the goal should be to move forward and learn to look at each other as if we’re looking at humans, beautiful humans…not objects.

Part C (finally!): All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.

Yes, you’ve made it past the deconstruction part! High-five.

Okay, so this is the concluding segment where I’m going to introduce the idea of personal responsibility and practicality in this matter, AKA, Yeah there are times and locations when your butt, as nice as it is, is now being a distraction (amongst the other features Yoga pants reveal).

Let’s go back to that first fact that Yoga pants are an exercise technology. Yeah. Just a reminder. You didn’t forget that they’re an exercise technology, right? I mean, you wouldn’t wear Yoga pants to work, right? Well, why not? Oh, because they’re initially designed to wear at the gym. Got it.

“But if I’m not at work, I shall wear my Yoga pants anywhere and wherever I choose, thy be damned if thou keep me from doing so!” This seems to be a recurring mentality…and I want to discuss it in the following.

So in one aspect of this situation, Yoga pants are a parallel to the male use of basketball shorts. In my experience, the athletic sort of guy LOVES his basketball shorts. Why? They’re comfy, perfect loungewear. Same goes for Yoga pants with girls–we like to wear them because they’re comfortable. Perhaps this is why lots of comfort-seeking people are seen all around everywhere wearing basketball shorts or Yoga pants, because our society is less formal on dress nowadays, especially in California.

This is a widespread occurrence: workout attire in general can easily be worn too casually. Come on, everyone. Would it kill us to wear a regular jeans-and-t-shirt combo instead of our sweaty basketball shorts/Yoga pants? In this respect, Yoga pants and basketball shorts can be viewed similarly–as athletic wear that might be crossing socially appropriate boundaries when worn outside the context of an exercise environment.

That’s one aspect of it.

However, Yoga pants have been adapted into the realm of leggings and as such have been incorporated in casual, non-athletic attire as well. And the rising universality of Yoga pants has influenced the more common wear of leggings, I surmise. This trend shouldn’t necessarily pose much of a problem, in view of my previous discussion on clothing efficiency and the development of a gaze that appreciates rather than objectifies. Also, many women have adopted the style of pairing a longer/oversized top or sweater with the slimming Yoga pants/leggings to create a nicely contrasting outfit, that keeps the rear region under decent coverage as most socially appropriate outfits are meant to. Wins all around. And excellent use of design principles, by the way.

But sometimes, that delicate region isn’t covered. I could argue about battling the burden of gaze again. But I’m going to pose something different. I want to point out the fact that (typically) men don’t casually walk about in spandex material.

And I want you to imagine what the world would look like if they did.

What if men wore cycling shorts or just some nice black compression shorts around casually? Okay, maybe it’s kind of a toss-up; it might go over somewhat manageably since society expects women to objectify men’s bodies less. But…let’s be honest. It might be kind of a weird occurrence, in reality.

It wouldn’t be a big deal if my dad wore his bike shorts around the house all day. But it would be weird if he wore them to a family gathering (and, trust me, he’d feel weird too). And I can imagine that if a guy took me out on a date wearing compression shorts, and (for the sake of this comparative argument) didn’t wear a shirt that helped cover his more personal regions, I would probably have a stronger propensity to…not look at his face. Would these hypothetical occurrences necessarily be bad, or result in bad things happening? Ehhh…*shrugs*…not really, in light of the big picture of the world’s overwhelming injustices that happen on a nauseating hourly basis. Would these hypothetical occurrences cause, let us say, not necessarily positive distractions to those viewing the spandex-clad men? Most likely, as the current social use of that garment has been taken out of the appropriate context and highlights a region that–going back to the date situation here–I’d prefer not to be distracted by on a romantic occasion in which I’d rather give preference to personality, emotional, and intellectual subjects? Unless we were on a date at the gym.

All this to say–all things are permissible, yet not all things are beneficial. Maybe wearing yoga pants instead of jeans all the time simply isn’t appropriate sometimes.

But let’s decide to be humane to each other.

There’s no need to stone yourself or others for wearing efficient workout clothes.

There’s no need to stone yourself or others for going to the grocery store after your workout whilst wearing such efficient workout clothes, in your daily life of trying to use time and gas wisely.

There’s no need to stone yourself or others for noticing other people’s butts.

Use your brains and your Yoga pants wisely, people. And have a nice workout.

Ninja Move of the Day: Accidentally getting 3rd place

It’s been a while since I posted a Ninja Move, but I figured this one was worthy.

This past Sunday, a bunch of family members, family friends, and I ran the 5K race for Knottsberry Farm’s annual Coaster Run.

I’m not much of a runner, guys. Honestly, I stated running mostly because it takes less time than going to the gym for a weight or bike workout.

However, I found out that when you run in the nice, cool, moonlit evening, you don’t feel as crappy as when you run in the middle of the day in the blaring California sun. I run something like 2-3 times a week, about 2 miles consistently, and I actually have found the release of endorphins is really quite a pleasant post-run experience.

Anyhow, so I got signed up for this run Sunday–and I’ve only done one 5K before in my life, (which I’m still not sure was actually 5K). So I figured, hey, I’ll just do my best, try to get my time under half an hour, and I’ll get to eat a lot afterwards,  which is always nice.

So a gunshot went off, I started running, I weaved in and out of a lot of human obstacles (which was a nice attention diversion), and I decided to push myself the last mile or so. Past the finish line, I was sweaty and very glad it was all over, stuffed some free banana in my face, and went to go check my time on the screens set up (the participants were all given nifty time chips before the race).

This is what I saw:

Women 19-24
Person #1 *Some really fast time*
Person #2 *Another pretty fast time*
My Name–28:19

Hey, that’s a pretty good time. Nice. WAIT–did I just get 3rd place in my age group? Oh, that means I get a plaque with Snoopy and roller coasters on it? Well, that’s pretty cool. I’m not even a hardcore runner.

It happened…and, of course, my family cheered me to embarrassment when the announcer called my name to get my award. But, hey, it feels good to have aNinja move after so long–and not only was the move Ninja, it happened without me even knowing it, making it  especially a Ninja move.

Get some dirt in that bike tread.

I’m in love with dirt. Seriously.

Okay, not just any dirt. Dirt that’s shaped like this:

And this:


I would argue that the dirt courses and mountain bike trails are the best things that ever happened to Woodward Park. They’ve given a place for anyone who owns treaded bike tires, with a variety of things to do.

There’s the jumps for those looking to get some major air (or just a speed rush)…

…agility circuits for those thrill-seekers that like precision…

…random trails for those who like exploring, hill-climbing, and just riding around….

….and there’s even little stations around the park with workout structures if you want to get your pull-ups in.

And who wouldn’t want to do pull-ups in a place like this? The trees are just so inspiring…But seriously, it sure as heck beats the garage.

And, see, this all proves the point that getting a workout doesn’t have to be a drudge. An hour will fly past, and you’ve worked your heart, lungs, legs, butt, and abs, along with improving your balance and overall ability to be a ninja.

It’s also great place to go to feel like you’re not in Fresno. I like to stuff my digital camera in my bike bag, because…well, it’s a park. It’s hard to go to a park without finding something you want to take a picture of.