Hiking, Disconnecting, and Taking a Break from Productivity
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
- Tim Kreider, author of We Learn Nothing
This was one of those trips where the deck was stacked against us.
So many reasons not to go.
...The timing wasn't ideal.
...We scrambled to finalize travel arrangements.
...Complicated logistics of housing (and transportation) for six people.
But we pulled it off.
My wife and I, and our two kiddos, packed up and flew to the mountains for a week long trip in beautiful Dillon, Colorado.
And I'm glad we did. Because in addition to creating unforgettable memories with my family, I needed to step back and gain some perspective.
Since committing to SaltWrap full time, I haven't taken a single day off.
Sure, there have been several days where I only spent less than an hour checking up on things.
Making sure there weren't any fires.
But I can honestly say that I haven't taken a full day off (weekends and holidays included) from writing, checking email, running reports, and responding to questions in over a year.
My parents — who did their own fair share of packing strollers, beds, and other toddler equipment for the trip — met us at the Denver airport.
From there, we drove together to our vacation rental in Dillon, CO where we spent a week hiking, taking pictures, eating local food, and chasing our kids around the mountains.
Upon arrival, we were met by a moose family who apparently likes to eat the flowers growing around the condo and poop on the sidewalk to the front door.
There was a young moose (yearling, probably), a bull, and a cow.
We made sure his momma was a safe distance away first, but had to get some shots of this curious young moose.
The goofy thing even strolled into our garage.
(And yes, I realize how dangerous these animals are. Especially during the rut).
We observed Daddy Moose from the safety of the kitchen window.
The odds of seeing moose on a trip like this are low.
The odds of a moose family living in the yard of your rental home on a trip like this are astronomically low.
It was a good start.
The rest of the trip was far from idle.
There were some serene moments, like this one from our balcony:
But most of the trip was filled with activity.
Hiking to Fairy Forest in Breckenridge.
Eating at the Butterhorn Bakery in Frisco (a few times).
Panning for gold in the Country Boy Mine.
Photographing the golden leaves of Aspen trees.
Driving up through Loveland Pass to see the Continental Divide.
And plenty of everyday activities.
Grocery shopping. Doing laundry. Cooking at the condo.
It definitely wasn't one of those umbrella-cocktail beach vacations.
We were spent at the end of each day.
Which is exactly what I needed.
To get out of my head. Go outside. And just disconnect for a while.
Why is this relevant?
Transparency and personability are not the future of online business.
They are the right now.
Online shoppers demand it. And they can afford to, because there are plenty of options out there.
Even the keepers of the internet are demanding it.
Google is now actively rewarding websites in the health and wellness vertical that have transparent author biographies, credentials and other trust indicators.
Not coincidentally, websites that post unsubstantiated content or have shady business practices are being severely punished.
We're going through a massive ecommerce cleansing right now.
Email Service Providers (ESPs), credit card companies, banks, search engines and website hosting platforms are making it difficult for immoral health businesses to operate.
We've been going through this weird consumer phase for the last couple decades.. buying things online because it's easy without caring who the seller is.
If they're trustworthy. Or if they are the kind of people we want to do business with.
Ecommerce boomed in the early 2000's. And unscrupulous marketers cashed in.
Now, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.
Heads are rolling.
And setting the censorship debate aside, I'm happy about it.
Because we sincerely try to do things right.
Our products use proven ingredients and dosages.
Any claims we make in our marketing (and on our blog) are backed up by peer-reviewed research.
And we do our best to give every customer a fair deal.
We make mistakes. Not claiming we're perfect by any means.
But we've also taken the whole "Road Less Traveled By" thing to heart, genuinely trying to do the right thing with our products, content and advice.
Our readers and customers are smart. And this is the only way that I can see us staying in business and continuing to grow.
Sadly, some honest companies have been caught in the crossfire — losing website traffic, getting banned from advertising networks, and kicked off social media just because they cover unconventional health protocols.
Those stories are few and far in between.
Most of the companies getting smacked right now have it coming.
As for us — with continued hard work, and a drop of luck, SaltWrap will keep on keepin' on.
Back to relevance.... Do I think Google or Bank of America cares about the moose I saw on vacation?
The reason I'm posting this update is because it's a valuable exercise.
When I started putting my goofy face on article headers to show you that we're a real company with real people working behind the scenes, I noticed a shift in my thinking.
I found myself writing in a more natural voice. It felt more genuine.
So, from time to time, I want to do this. To keep myself honest.
And so you know that there really are humans behind SaltWrap.
Who are far from perfect, not even close to knowing it all, but give their best, genuinely hoping to add value to your life.
There's something else that is relevant here too.
Virtually every broke-down, injured, inflamed, beat-up client we have pushes too hard on the gas pedal.
That's why they're always injured. On the verge of burnout.
And I'm a lot like the people we work with every day. 🙂
So this is an exercise in "walking the walk."
I'm not good at vacation. Or even taking a day off. But, this is me taking a step back.
Someday I'll be one of those cool founders who pays people to do all the work while they travel the world... but for now, I'm still very much part of the operations team at SaltWrap.
Here's how I worked, moved, and ate on this mountain get-away:
My work strategy during the trip was simple: do as little as possible.
I spent 30-45 minutes each morning checking in, then closed my laptop and didn't open it the rest of the day.
Outside of one or two unplanned phone meetings, I stuck to this schedule.
I turned off cellular data on my phone to prevent me from checking email.
Which most of the time didn't matter, because I didn't have service anyway.
On Day 3 or 4 (can't remember which), I pulled a Freudian act of self-sabotage when I accidentally unplugged something called a "No Loss Amplifier" from a wall outlet in our condo so I could plug in the baby's sound machine.
Little did I know, the No Loss Amp was responsible for keeping the cable and internet connection intact throughout the entire place.
After two days of having no internet, I called the cable company.
They sent a technician, who mercifully tried to make me feel not-stupid about unplugging our internet.
He said it happens all the time.
I take every 8th week off from the gym.
This encourages connective tissue recovery, helps bring down inflammation levels that may have risen from training, and prevents central nervous system and psychological burnout.
During this rest week, I allow myself to do what feels good.
Walk, maybe go for a run, ride a bike, do some yoga. But no intense exercise.
I scheduled a rest week during our trip. Which worked out well.
I stayed active with plenty of hiking and walking, and didn't feel the need to waste time at some gym, wishing I was climbing a mountain or building rock towers.
I did some mobility exercises on a few days to work out kinks in my hips and upper back from carrying a 35 pound toddler on my neck.
But no heavy lifting. No exerting myself.
To my surprise, I didn't lose any strength when I returned home.
In fact I felt fresh. Joints felt solid.
If you've been beating yourself up in the gym for a while, I highly recommend implementing the rest week habit.
It's a classic case of taking one step back so you can take two steps forward.
And it's the single most effective injury prevention technique I've found.
I once worked with a popular food blogger right after she released a best-selling Paleo Diet book.
We arranged a Twitter Chat, where she fielded questions from her readers and other curious Tweet'ers about all things food, weight loss, and health.
Someone asked what her favorite cheat food was.
She responded: "I'd be more interested in eating cardboard than a piece of cake. I treat my body with respect at all times."
I cringed. And immediately felt embarrassed to be a part of the event.
In just two sentences this paleo-blogger managed to shame her fan, drive a wedge between herself (the Guru) and the audience (the Masses), and discourage any would-be dieter who has ever fallen off the wagon.
The saddest part of all?
She doesn't eat cake.
Look, I eat healthy and stick to a plan 90% of the time.
But make no mistake: I'm very interested in junk food.
Pizza, burgers, ice cream. The real stuff. With grease and sugar.
I love it all. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or delusional.
So when I'm on vacation, you're damn right I'm going to eat some good grub.
To avoid turning into the Michelin Man, I gave myself two rules:
1) Skip breakfast.
Instead of breakfast, I had a strong cup of coffee. Then indulged in a reasonable lunch and a not-so reasonable dinner.
2) Don't eat to the point of being sick.
I normally go for volume. But on this trip, I decided to avoid gorging myself. Instead, I'd just eat the food I wanted, and stop before I was miserable. Not a ground-breaking concept, but still a new strategy for me.
Bonus (when eating out): I learned this from watching my parents. Since big lunches make you lethargic, and most restaurants serve 2x the food you need anyway, try splitting your entree with someone instead of eating an entire platter. It's a good portion control technique, and cuts your dining bill in half.
This WOE (Way of Eating) was a welcome change from my typical meat + vegetables diet.
I even partook in the local flavors of CBD-infused coffee along with chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
After 7 days on this schedule (plus a lot of hiking), I lost about 3 pounds.
Didn't mean to, it just happened.
The combination of increased activity and only two meals per day resulted in a pretty significant calorie deficit.
This clearly isn't an ideal diet for performance, overall health, or building muscle (I probably lost a little muscle mass).
But if you're looking for a fun way to eat/live on vacation without feeling guilty and bloated the whole time, this is the travel-diet I recommend.
I can't tell you how many times I get some version of this question:
"So do you even take any of that stuff?" (referring to supplements)
It's a fair question. An educated question, even.
Because most supplements are horse manure, and most supplement marketers aim to produce products as cheaply as possible, while selling for as expensive as possible, while making claims that are just shy of illegal.
Thing is, I created all the SaltWrap products for myself — with exception of one or two that are based on client feedback.
Each SaltWrap product fills a different unmet need (of mine) in the supplement landscape.
To answer the question, Yes, I do take them.
But as you know, gulping down pills can feel like a chore. So it's nice to take a break from time to time (only referring to non-life sustaining supplements here, not prescriptions).
Also, I'm currently trying to pare down the products I use.
Rely more on whole food.
Here's what I did on this trip:
- Joint Clinic: 4 capsules before bed. I was working through a double wrist sprain, and this regimen was more effective than anything else OTC for keeping inflammation at bay while still being active during the day.
- Adaptogen Greens: 3 capsules with my first whole food meal of the day (did this on most days during the trip). This product is no where near our best seller, but ironically it's one of my favorites. I took it during this trip in lieu of over-consuming caffeine. For me, it provides a subtle cognitive boost without a stimulating effect. Perfect de-stress protocol to supplement a de-stress vacation.
- Joint & Muscle Creamer: My wife uses this religiously, each morning in her coffee. I used it in my coffee a few times during the trip when I knew that lunch was going to be late.
- Electrolyte Powder: This was a lifesaver for me during the trip. In addition to drinking more water than you think is necessary, adding an electrolyte supplement can prevent altitude headaches which will otherwise kill your mountain vacation fun. Ultima is my go-to product. Clean label, no extra junk.
- Mag R&R: I always travel with this. But only used it during the first couple nights to help my circadian rhythm adjust. Good product to take before bed after a hard day of hiking too.
I could have gotten by without any of these. But it was worth it to travel with them for the slight improvement in quality of life that each supplement offers.
I didn't have any major epiphanies up there in 'them mountains.
But stepping back from the computer and the day-to-day grind allowed me to gain some perspective. At the least, it helped me remember a few basic truisms that are all too easy to forget:
To get out of your head, get into your body.
For the dense and neurotic (like me), the best way to calm the mental thunderstorm is to move your body. Do something that requires total concentration on physical movement (preferably outdoors), and the mind clears.
By the way --- you don't have to spend a week in the mountains to reap benefits here.
Just 20 minutes of contact with nature lowers cortisol levels.
It's not that bad.
Coal and precious metal miners, like those who built the Country Boy Mine we visited, went to work every day knowing they be injured or die by suffocation, gas poisoning, rock collapses and explosions.
My work problems aren't so bad.
Your body won't fall apart if you take a week off from training.
In fact, it comes back stronger. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated that participants were able to maintain muscle mass and actually improve strength on the leg press after taking two full weeks off from training.
Rest isn't always the answer.
Rest is important. Especially after an injury or a bout of tendinitis. But it doesn't solve everything. If you have a mechanical issue that needs addressed, like limited mobility, you're better of using active recovery. Case in point --- My body felt great after the trip with one exception. My left shoulder, which I had surgery on to repair a torn labrum several years ago, was slightly forward in the socket by the time I got home. It was clicking, popping and stiff. After two days of my normal stretching/exercise routine, it was back in alignment and the discomfort was gone.
Bottom Line: some issues require rest, others require regular maintenance.
Regular, scheduled breaks are necessary to get any work done.
Like author Tim Kreider says, idleness is "as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets."
Plus -- scheduling a break, vacation, or time off gives you something to look forward to. Studies show the anticipation of a future vacation makes you happier than the actual vacation. For me, the best type of idleness involves shutting down my mind and using my body.
Money is better spent on experiences than things.
Research that supports this notion keeps popping pop. Like this study from the Journal of Positive Psychology. People who spend money on experiences rather than material items feel happier, and more satisfied with how the money is spent.
I'm leavin' this city life In my mind I'm flyin' away
I'm leavin' tomorrow and all of the old yesterdays
I'm leavin' the trash cans, the bright lights, the telephone lines
I'm leavin' my sorrows and all of my memories behind
To see what I find
Somewhere in the shade near the sound of a sweet singin' river
Somewhere in the sun where the mountains make love to the sky
- John Denver (All of My Memories)
The mountains make you feel small. In a good way.
Maybe that's why people in Colorado seem so chill to me.
Or maybe they're using some local herbs.
Either way, doesn't matter.
I think being reminded of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things is good. Because maybe, hopefully, we're part of something bigger than us.
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Author: Scott Hogan
I created SaltWrap to bring together the most practical ideas in sports nutrition therapy, injury recovery and functional fitness — with the goal of keeping you (and myself) strong, mobile, and built to last.
I've worked as an A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise) Certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach (A.C.E.), and nutritional supplement formulator.
But more importantly — I've spent most of my life battling injuries, joint pain, and just being plain beat up. So I know what it's like to struggle toward fitness goals.
SaltWrap is here to push you through injuries, setbacks and perceived physical limitations. To a place beyond what you think you're capable of.
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