The State of Maine is vast, full of wild things and wild places to enjoy.
One of the greatest ways to experience Maine is to hit the waterways of this great state via a canoe expedition. If you’re thinking about Maine Bucket List adventures for next year, the classic canoe trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is just the ticket. The Allagash is Maine’s most famous canoe expedition, with lakes, easy river sections and miles of unspoiled scenery. It’s also the best way to see the wildlife of this great state —moose, deer, eagles maybe even a bear or two. And don’t forget to wet a line for some of the best fishing around!
The classic Allagash expedition takes about seven days or longer if you want to take your time. From Chamberlain Lake north to Allagash Village, there are 80 rustic campsites along the way with a couple of short portages (nothing too drastic).
The Allagash is roughly 65 miles long and drains into a remote and scenic area of wilderness in the Maine North Woods north of Mount Katahdin.
If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing and effortless, but just as awe-inspiring, there are around 6,000 lakes and ponds to explore in Maine. Beyond those that are named, there are additionally more than 2,500 unnamed lakes and ponds to take your pick. Open a map, pick a spot, pack a tent, canoe and provisions, and don’t forget your camera.
Get your outdoors on folks, be safe and I’ll see ya out there! Booyaakah!
Canoe Expedition Portage Pack
If you are into canoe expeditions you’re going to need and want this pack! Heck, if you’re into camping, hunting, hiking expeditions and more, this is exactly what this pack was built for.
Made in the U.S., the Canoe Expedition Portage Pack by Raging River Trading Co. (Veteran-owned and operated) in North Carolina, is, by far, the best made and thought-out pack of its kind. Made from 10,000-Nylon Cordura, a waterproof bottom panel, two side panel sleeves, two grab handles on front, fully adjustable shoulder straps, a chest strap and three load-adjusting straps on each side, it even has molly webbing galore for attaching anything you might need that won’t fit inside the over 3,900 cubic inches of pack space, including four inside mesh pockets, a drawstring closure with expandable drawstring overstuff panel.
There is definitely something to be said for a company that puts a lot of thought into their products and this pack’s quality is the best I have seen. I coined the phrase “History in every stitch” for other products made by Raging River Trading Co. and their gear has never let me down. I wish I’d had this type of gear when I was a Marine —it’s tough, dependable, comfortable, versatile and built to last. Check out Raging River Trading Co. at ragingrivertrading.com or on Facebook and see my video review on this on YouTube at LibertyRogueOutdoors, tinyurl.com/ragingriverpack.
— Text & Photos: Alex “The Rogue’Stah” Ribar. Alex is a U.S. Marine, survival expert, avid traditional bow hunter, contestant on ALONE, Season 4 and alternate on ALONE Mongolia Season 5. Owner and operator of Liberty Rogue Outdoors, check it out on YouTube!
Moosehead: An Adventurous Tradition
For eons, our Waponaki neighbors have lived, fished, hunted and protected the majestic wilderness area we call the Moosehead Lake Region.
In 1846, Henry David Thoreau made the first of his three adventurous trips to the pristine wilderness with the assistance of Penobscot , Joe Attean. The Penobscot River was a central portage of what had been known for centuries as the Meductic Trail; an ancient water road used by the tribes of the region for seasonal trading and swift travel to southerly regions. This trail begins in New Brunswick, on the St. John River near the site of Meductic, the oldest known Maliseet settlement, which was a fortified village and thriving trade center.
The poet, philosopher, activist and great voice of wildness and wilderness, described Moosehead Lake as a “gleaming platter at the end of a table” in the documentary account of his explorations in The Maine Woods.
Starting in the mid-1830s, lumber became a major Maine industry. During that period, Bangor became known as the Lumber Capital of the World with more than 300 sawmills and numerous vessels from both Europe and the U.S. docking daily to fill their limit of lumber cargo. Entrepreneurs saw the North Maine Woods as a golden opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the burgeoning lumber industry.
Aaron Capen, Sr. and his son, Aaron Jr., trekked up from Boston in 1833 to check out timberland opportunities in the Moosehead Lake Region. After cruising around the lake, they found that Deer Island and neighboring Sugar Island (with an excellent supply of timber) were available, and in 1834, purchased the two islands. Their timberland investment soon evolved into Capen’s Sporting Camps.
Harry E Wilson, a Union Army Civil War veteran, decided that a life in pristine Maine with a guaranteed job provided him with a perfect choice. Thus, he moved to the Greenville Junction area, and commenced working at a local sawmill. He soon realized that the loggers needed some accommodations, which motivated Harry to build Wilsons Camps in 1865.
THE GILDED AGE
In the later part of the 19th century, industrialist and bankers such as John Astor, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller were often referred to as the Robber Barons.
As a result of their wealth and power, this new class of nouveau riche was fascinated with having wilderness experiences, and entrepreneurial Mainers were up for the challenge of developing fishing and hunting camps to satisfy this need.
Trains, steamboats and stagecoaches formed the transportation infrastructure that made travel to the Maine wilderness possible. During the summer of 1873, Teddy Roosevelt, then a young teenager, made his first trip to Moosehead Lake from New York with his family. They traveled to Dexter, Maine by train and then boarded a stagecoach for Greenville. During the last half of the 19th century as many as 55 steamboats plied the waters of Moosehead Lake. The late 19th century and early 20th century saw the development of additional sporting camps and infrastructure.
In 1880, Charles Randall from Milo, Maine developed West Branch Pond Camps, and in 1901, Mose Duty a young Maine guide and boat builder, started clearing land for what would become Spencer Pond Camps. A century ago, Walter Maynard established the iconic Maynard’s in Maine Sporting Camps in Rockwood.
In 1910, the Great Northern Paper Company established Pittston Farm in Rockwood to provide accommodations and food for the men involved in logging drives. Today, the farm serves as a lodge for folks engaged in sporting activities and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The historic steamboat Katahdin was built in Bath in 1914, and joined the fleet of steamboats carrying passengers to sporting camps and lodges that dotted Moosehead Lake. Later, she was converted into a towboat for hauling lumber. The Moosehead Marine Museum completely refurbished Katahdin during the 1990s and today, it’s listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, while offering cruises on the lake from their Greenville dock from late June until Columbus Day.
Another legendary fixture in Greenville is Harris Drug Store, which has been serving local resident and visitors for well over a century by Harris family pharmacists. Today, Mike Harris carries on the family tradition.
The 1930s saw the establishment of The Birches as a hunting and fishing lodge in Rockwood on the shores of Moosehead Lake. Today, in the summer months, they have fly-fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking trails to explore. You can search for wildlife on a moose cruise or wilderness safari. Accommodations vary from cabins on the lake and lodge rooms, to large rental homes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the dining room overlooking the lake.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION & WORLD WAR II YEARS
The ingenuity, strength and resilience of the families that operated the sporting camps in the Moosehead Lake Region during WW II and ensuing years, allowed the families to come through those hard times, ready to move forward.
Traditions are valued, but nostalgia does not mark today’s sporting camps and the new adventurous traditions have evolved.
THE NEW ERA
The mid-1950s marked a new era in family vacations. The new suburbanites with access to cars and interstate highways soon discovered Moosehead Lake as a vacation destination as it had become a one-day drive from southern New England.
Fishing and hunting remained a part of the region’s attractions, but canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking, moose safaris, bird watching and leaf peeping were new activities that brought new adventurous to the Moosehead region.
Unfortunately, November 17, 1953 saw the iconic Capon’s Sporting Camps on Deer Island be destroyed by fire.
The 1960s saw the opening of downhill skiing at Squaw Mountain, and a bit later, snowmobile trails started to be groomed, which ushered in a whole new era of sports for the region.
Moosehead sporting camps continued to flourish in this new era by adapting to the needs of the time. Many stayed open year-round to support the growing interest in winter sports.
Roger Courier made access to remote lodges and lakes of the region by initiating a float-plane service in the early 1980s. Prior to this venture, Courier had been a contract pilot for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries. He currently operates Courier Flying Service that offers sightseeing service to the region, as well as a seaplane museum. His operation is located at 447 Pritham Avenue, in Greenville.
Coming up on the current summer season will see Maynard’s in Maine celebrating their 100th anniversary. Gail Maynard and her son, Bill, are the camp’s hosts. They operate a four-season business, but have limited winter accommodations for snowmobilers.
Wilsons Camps were purchased by the Snell family in the 1980s from the Wilsons, run by the camp’s hosts, Scott and Alison Snell. Today, renamed Wilsons on Moosehead Lake, the camp is run as a four-season operation. Snowmobilers can sled from their cabin onto well-groomed trails.
In 1969, the Willard family purchased The Birches. John Willard is the host of this iconic camp that is marking its 50th anniversary within the Willard family.
The West Branch Pond Camps, hosted by Eric, Mildred, Avis and Oscar Stirling, has two seasons: Summer/Fall, which runs from ice out in May until Columbus Day and Winter, which starts on January 15. Their winter season specializes in serving cross-country skiers.
Spencer Pond Camps, hosted by Christine Howe and Dana Black, (both registered Maine Guides) provides guests with a true nostalgic wilderness experience as it is off- the-grid, which allows its guests to experience what life was like at camps in the late 19th century.
Guests to the Moosehead Lake Region can choose accommodations from lodges with impressive amenities and gourmet cuisine to rustic cabins and yurts with family-style meals. A huge menu of activities include canoeing, kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking, birding, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, and ATVing are just a few of the opportunities.
Northern Outfitters in Greenville can help visitors with any outdoor sporting needs, including the rental of ATVs and in winter snowmobiles. They also can arrange for a fun rafting adventure. If you should bring your own ATV or snowmobile, and it needs servicing, Moosehead Motor Sports is available to help. And Northeast Whitewater can arrange for a perfect experience on Maine’s wild and beautiful rivers.
Indian Hill Trading Post in Greenville is worth the visit as it is a unique combination of a large sporting goods store with a complete super market and liquor department. This one-stop location offers a wide range of brand name gear and apparel, hunting and fishing licenses for residents and non-residents, firearms, fishing equipment and extensive outdoor supplies.
If it’s cultural interests you seek, drop by the Moosehead Historical Society and Museum. This past June, the Moosehead Lake region’s famed outdoor traditions were celebrated with the unveiling of a new, permanent exhibition titled, “Moosehead’s Outdoor Heritage.” The renewed interest in the mystique of the North Maine Woods makes the opening especially relevant. Visitors are introduced to the spectacular places, wildlife, and the working traditions that are still a part of the Moosehead Lake Region today.
The Main Campus of the Moosehead Historical Society is located at: 444 Pritham Avenue Greenville, ME. For more information: (207) 695-2909 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year, plan to enjoy traditions following in the footsteps of many a Maine adventurer.
— Text: Jim Harnedy joined the Activities Guide of Maine team as Sr. Editor in 1992, and has been closely involved with the magazine’s evolution through time. His 10th book: Forgotten Tales of Down East Maine was just released by The History Press.
The Quoddy Loop: Passport for a 3-Nation Adventure
The Quoddy Loop provides a unique opportunity to visit and enjoy the scenic coastal and island communities of Down East Maine, the home of the Passamaquoddy Nation and the West Fundy Isles of New Brunswick.
Adventures abound: nature walks, whale watching cruises, lighthouse and history tours, galleries with paintings, jewelry, pottery and sculpture by fine local artists as well as chance to enjoy a leisurely pace and refresh oneself.
Each of three communities has its own rich history. It is believed that ancestors of current Passamaquoddy tribal members lived on the Quoddy Loop more than 12,000 years ago. Ancient art depicting their history and culture is found in 3,000-year-old petroglyphs carved in rocks at a shorefront site in Machiasport. Pierre Dugua, Samuel Champlain and a group of 77 French explorers, established the first European settlement north of St Augustine, Florida on St. Croix Island, just of the present day Calais, Maine in 1604. The few settler survivors of the horrible winter of 1604 -1605 were saved and helped to relocate to Nova Scotia by members of the Passamaquoddy Nation. During the Revolutionary War the Passamaquoddy tribe joined forces with Americans in their fight for independence. Today the Passamaquoddy Nation is physically located on two reservations in Down East, Maine. One reservation is located in Indian Township near Princeton; while the other reservation is located at Pleasant Point on Passamaquoddy Bay a short distance from Eastport.
Washington County is the eastern most county in the United States. Machias which was settled in 1763, serves as the shire town for this region. The name Machias is derived from the Native American word, Mechises which means “bad little falls” or “a bad run of water.” Machias, Lubec, Eastport and Calais are the four largest communities in the county.
Campobello Island, Deer Island and Grand Manan Island are the three Fundy Isles of New Brunswick that lie closest to their American neighbors.
Captain William Owen who came from an affluent Welsh family received a royal grant in 1767 for what was then called Outer Island. Three years later, he and a group of 38 indentured servants that he had signed up arrived to settle Outer Island, which by then, he’d renamed Campobello Island.
The Owens family continued to rule the island as their private fiefdom for the next 110 years. Transportation between neighboring ports have been achieved through the years by ferry connections. Although the distance across the Narrows between Lubec and Campobello Island is but a stone’s throw, it was not until August 1962 that the two were connected by the Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. Ferry services continue to link Lubec, Eastport, Deer Island, Grand Manan, Campobello Island and St. Andrews.
A seafaring lifestyle is the strong thread that ties the past to the present. Many celebrations, festivals and occupations are dependent on the seas around them.
The Quoddy Loop has a number of light houses providing visibility for the mariners plying the local waters but two lights are especially well known as attractions for visitors—West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec and East Quoddy Head Harbour Light Station on Campobello Island. In addition to the pristine views provided from these two lights they both have wonderful nature walks to enjoy.
Captain Butch extends a special invitation to visitors to the region, to join him for a fun-packed experience on the Eastport Windjammer’s 47-foot lobster boat. Guests will have the opportunity to see spectacular wildlife: eagles, porpoises, seals, minke, and finback whales. On-board educational experiences will include lobster trap pulling, demonstrations, and a touch tank for viewing crabs, lobsters and sea urchins and other sea life. Captain
Harris also offers two-hour sunset sails. For more information and reservation call (207) 853-2500 or
Great nature hikes marked by refreshing ocean breezes and unspoiled natural beauty are available across the entire Quoddy Loop from Fort O’Brien State Park in Machiasport, where one can enjoy a spectacular view of Machias Bay where the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War was successfully fought by a small band of American patriots to the St. Croix Island National Park site near Calais that commemorates the ill-fated first North American settlement north of St. Augustine, Florida.
Fun activities do not need to be damped by a stormy day. A number of wonderful galleries can be found throughout the area. Several unique museums including Raye’s Old Stone Mustard Mill Museum in Eastport, which offer daily tours at 10:30 a.m., are open to visitors. This iconic mill has been inthe Raye family for well over a century. This year the Rayes have opened a new retail outlet for their gourmet mustards and other Maine products at 54 Water Street, downtown Eastport.
The Summer of 2019 marks the 55th anniversary of the Roosevelt International Park, which lies just across the Roosevelt International Bridge that links Lubec, Maine to Campobello Island, This should be a must stop on all visitors’ lists of activities to do. The summer home of President Roosevelt is the centerpiece of the world’s only international park and serves as a unique memorial to the close relationship between the people of Canada and the United States as well as the special place that FDR hadwith his beloved island. The Roosevelt cottage is open from Victoria Day (the Saturday prior to Memorial Day) through Canadian Thanksgiving Day (corresponding with Columbus Day in the U.S.) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ADT). The park’s visitor center remains open through October 31 to accommodate fall visitors.
Check out our events calendar for the many festivals held in the region.
Great dining and accommodations from B&Bs, inns, motels and campgrounds make the Down East Quoddy Loop your 2019 destination.
Be sure and bring your passport, as both Canadian and U.S. Customs require them.
— Text: Jim Harnedy. Jim joined the Activities Guide of Maine team as Sr. Editor in 1992, and has been closely involved with the magazine’s evolution through the years. His 10th book: Forgotten Tales of Down East Maine was just released by The History Press.
Enjoy a Scenic, Stellar Bike Ride Around Portland
With the arrival of autumn in Maine, some bicycling is indubitably in order.
There are 70 miles of trails and green space in Greater Portland, according to non-profit organization Portland Trails, which builds and maintains the trails.
This means there are plenty of trails to take, whether you’re running, biking, walking, rollerblading, scootering or performing an endless series of cartwheels while juggling chainsaws, which I wouldn’t recommend.
However, I would recommend one particular trail for bicycling enthusiasts. A picturesque, adventurous and dynamic route, this approximately 16-mile bike ride isn’t terribly strenuous, takes about three hours (depending on pace) and enables you to see a myriad of scenic Portland landmarks – and drink beer! You’ll see and experience Baxter Boulevard, Casco Bay, the Old Port, the Casco Bay Bridge, South Portland’s Green Belt Trail, Bug Light Park and, of course, a couple breweries.
Begin by parking in the Back Cove parking lot, located across the street from Hannaford Supermarkets on Forest Avenue, which is accessible off Exit 6B from I-295 north or Exit 6A from I-295 south.
From here, hop onto the beautiful Baxter Boulevard Trail. This is a scenic trail with amazing views of Back Cove that touches upon Edward Payson Park. Follow this all the way until you get to the trail that hugs I-295 south, where a barricade will keep you safe from all the motorists like Sammy Hagar who can’t drive 55. This is when you’ll deviate off this part of the trail and head under the bridge of I-295, known as Tukey’s Bridge. This will lead you to the Eastern Promenade Trail to the left, where a series of beguiling scenes await you.
Follow this straight for more nearly two miles, marveling at the 360-degrees of arresting charm and beauty (that is, after you pass the East End Treatment Plant) until the trail transitions into Commercial Street. This is where you’ll get the most urban conditions and, thus, traffic, (as well as pedestrian activity) so use caution as you proceed all the way down until you reach the Casco Bay Bridge. I’d suggest taking a right onto High Street, a left on York Street, then getting on the pedestrian side of the bridge to the left since it feels safer than the bike lane on the other side. It also provides an easier exit from the bridge. Just be mindful of and courteous to pedestrians. When you eventually see the exit to the left, follow this instead of continuing down the entire bridge.
When you get off, you’ll land on an enchanting cobblestone strip in what’s known as Thomas Knight Park, where you can take in the views of Portland beneath the bridge.
Just past this is Foulmouthed Brewing on the right, where you can stop for both beer and a snack. After that refreshing pause, continue straight on Ocean Street, then to Cottage Road, then take a left onto the paved path right after Hannaford, called the Green Belt Walkway. Follow this straight all the way until you reach Bug Light Park, and take in a stunning panoramic view of Portland and Casco Bay.
After taking a moment to enjoy this – the terminus of the first half of your bike ride – turn around and go back the way you came. (Indeed, this unfortunately is not a loop trail, but it’s so dynamic and ever-changing that it hardly matters.) Only this time, be sure to pull off the Eastern Prom Trail by Tukey’s Bridge and head over to Goodfire Brewing, Lone Pine Brewing, or any of those other breweries in that area.
After all, as Bissell Brothers is wont to say, “you earned it, bud.”
— Text & Photos: Garrick Hoffman. Garrick is a freelance writer and photographer living in Portland. Follow him on Instagram, @satisfaction_garrickteed, and visit his blog at GarrickHoffman.com.
Overlanding: A great way to get away from it all
Overlanding, a relatively new trend in the U.S., fuses camping and driving an off-road vehicle, and if you’re planning an overlanding adventure in Maine, you’ll need a tough and reliable vehicle. My pick is the Wrangler, though a Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser are other popular choices.
Although it’s a bit ironic, the vehicle actually helps you get closer to nature by allowing you to get away — far away — into the wilderness.
In exploring the rugged terrain of Maine, you have several options, including the North Maine Woods, Baxter State Park and Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument.
The North Maine Woods is made up of more than 3.5 million acres of commercial forest owned by an organization of private landowners. It is situated in western Aroostook and northern Somerset, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties. Baxter State Park and Katahdin Woods & Waters are located adjacent to each other in Piscataquis County and encompass more than 200,000 acres.
Known as The Maine Highlands, these places are truly in the wilderness. The roads are not paved. And you’ll find no visitor centers, stores or supply stations.
Camping is available in designated areas, all of which are without a bathhouse, portable toilet or even running water. You will have to bring your own water for cooking and washing as well as drinking. We freeze reusable bottles of water, which serves as ice in the cooler. As it thaws, it becomes extra drinking water. Don’t forget a good knife and some kind of small basin for washing.
To avoid unpleasant encounters with hungry bears, store everything, including dry goods, such as beef jerky, trail mix and bread, in a sealed container. A cooler inside a locked vehicle is probably safe, unless your vehicle has a soft top which may not keep the scent from reaching hungry noses. In that case, consider a good locker, food canister or bear bag.
Another caveat while overlanding — don’t count on having cell phone service. You want to make sure you have everything you will possibly need, including a spare tire, because you probably won’t even be able to reach AAA. If you bring a cell phone, or if your camera uses rechargeable batteries, make sure you have the means to charge them in your vehicle. You’ll also have to plan your trips so that you pass by towns at the right time to get gas and other supplies. GPS navigation is notoriously flawed up in these areas, so get a Maine Atlas and Gazetteer at any sporting goods store as well.
Of course, you will also need to take along anything needed for your preferred activity, from a good pair of hiking boots to fishing gear, bikes, canoes and kayaks. For us, the joy comes from hiking. Among the highlights of our trip was hiking to Billings Falls (extra special because we share its name) located in Gulf Hagas near the Katahdin Iron Works gate to the Maine North Woods.
Overlanding also gave us the chance to eat when we were hungry without concern about where we would find the next restaurant or picnic area. We simply stopped the Jeep, set up our folding chairs and had lunch, using the cooler as a makeshift table. Lunches like this don’t take long, either, leaving more time to dedicate to exploration.
My passion for photography goes hand in hand with my enjoyment of the outdoors. During our overlanding trip, we saw only about a half dozen other people, not counting those at supply stops. This meant I could take virtually any photo I wanted without unwanted people in the shots. There was no waiting for giggling visitors to take two-dozen selfies before I could capture my own image. I didn’t have to worry about anyone walking into the shot either. Those were probably some of the easiest photos to take, but they remain among my favorites.
The closest place to rent a vehicle that can handle overlanding is in Bangor, which is approximately two hours south of the North Maine Woods. A Google search of outdoor outfitters in Bangor will provide all of your camping and sporting good rentals, along with Northwoods Outfitters in Greenville, as well.
— Text & Photos: Johanna S.Billings. Johanna is an award-winning writer/photographer based in Steuben. She covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County for the Ellsworth American newspaper.
3 Yoga Poses to Practice in the Maine Outdoors
As the weather gets warmer and the days stretch out longer, Mother Nature presents us with an abundance of opportunities to bask in summer mindfulness. There’s no simpler way to get lost in the moment than by spending the perfect present being perfectly present. Whether it’s a hike along your favorite trail, paddling down a rushing river or picking the season’s plumpest blueberries, the outdoors can offer us countless chances for deep self-reflection, restoration and wonder.
Adding yoga and meditation to the list of outdoor activities that can awaken the senses feels like a no-brainer. An article from Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging shows that meditation plays an active role in positively changing brain matter and increases overall well-being and quality of life. And according to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, yoga has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve a vast number of autonomic functions and offer a myriad of other physical and mental health benefits.
With the many majestic destinations Mainers have to choose from, it seems only fitting to explore them as places to practice yoga and meditation. Here are three of the best yoga poses you can strike to become one with Maine’s natural beauty:
1. A Mountain Top Mountain Pose
Mountain Pose, or “Tadasana,” is the single most foundational pose in yoga. To practice it, the yogi stands tall and straight, stacking the spine upright while rooting the feet into the earth. It’s from this pose that all other poses stem. As yogis flow through more progressive movements, maintaining Tadasana, authenticity is what keeps them safely aligned. This stacked positioning facilitates ease in seated meditation — a pivotal part of yoga.
Practicing Tadasana on top of a mountain is an awe-inspiring way to become one with the outdoors. Since it’s also the first posture in the series, “Sun Salutations A,” flowing through a few rounds is a great way to welcome the dawn and channel the ancient yogis with mindful morning movement.
2. Grow Your Own Tree
Tree pose, or “Vrksasana,” is a balancing posture that explores the deep connection between our inner roots and the Universe. To practice it, place the sole of one foot on the inside of the opposite calf or thigh. You can adopt a “mudra” or symbolic hand gesture to draw yourself further inward, or grow your branches into the sky and sway them playfully in the breeze.
The best way to experience Tree Pose is in your favorite stretch of woods. Strive to become one with the elements, fixing your gaze on a faraway focal point or “drishti” and taking deep, relaxing breaths of fresh, forest air.
3. Flow Through Easy Seated Ocean Breaths
Ocean Breath, or “Ujjayi Pranayama,” is known as the “Breath of Victory.” This deep, measured yogic breath is practiced by inhaling fully through the nose, keeping the lips sealed and breathing out through the nose. The length of each exhale is equal to the length of each inhale. The breath originates from the base of the throat and creates a hoarse, whisper-like noise upon release (think Darth Vader). You can practice Ocean Breath to help maintain focus, invigorate the senses and distribute dynamic breath through the entire body.
Find a comfortable seat on the sand of your favorite Maine beach, close your eyes, place upward-facing palms on your lap and begin to flow this energizing breath through your system. Work to sync up to the sound of the crashing waves, keeping your thoughts on the power of the present and the force of your Ujjayi Breath.
Yoga means “Union” in Sanskrit. Merging it with Maine’s most compelling outdoor destinations is one of the best ways to nurture yourself… with nature.
—Text: LeeMarie Kennedy. LeeMarie is a copywriter and content marketing specialist in Boston, Massachusetts. When she’s not meticulously wordsmithing, she can be found teaching as a certified yoga instructor, exploring her own yoga practice, traveling the world, laughing, drinking coffee or eating something delicious.
Three Outdoor Activities to Reduce Your Screen Time and Recharge Your Spirit
In a world that’s never been more easily connected, the average American spends about 11 hours per day on a device. According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report, whether we’re scrolling through social media, watching TV or video, swiping through mobile apps or perusing digital media, the majority of the population’s pastimes revolve around staring at a screen; which can be a little bit… disconcerting.
This unprecedented engagement with technology is also causing an influx of digitally-induced afflictions. “Facebook Depression,” for example, is an actual disorder that correlates social media usage to depression and loneliness.
“Cell Phone Addiction” is also considered one of the greatest addictions of the 21st century, causing all kinds of physical and psychological issues, including rigidity and muscle pain, ocular afflictions, fatigue, insomnia and a loss of interest in social and recreational endeavors. And according to the Journal of American Medical Association, the risk of developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms more than doubles with high screen use.
With all this time spent adapting the body to meet our digital demands, the physical effects of stress take their toll. The strained position of the head and neck with device use is known as “Tech Neck.” It causes unnecessary stress on the spine and reinforces poor posture patterns—bringing some serious long-term consequences such as disc degeneration, arthritis and chronic pain.
The good news is, spending time outside is one of the best ways to undo all that digital damage. Here are three outdoor activities that reverse the negative effects of screen time and recharge your spirit:
1. Paddling and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Paddling puts your muscles in the perfect position to open up the front line, stretch and strengthen the shoulders and stimulate the trapezius muscles to combat all that hunching over. Activities like kayaking and canoeing build overall endurance and can carry us to some of the most scenic destinations Maine has to offer. Some studies show that our connection to nature increases attentional capacity and positive emotions, decreases stress and even enhances our ability to solve life problems.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is a fun alternative to traditional paddling and provides a full-body workout at the same time. On top of engaging the entire upper body, SUP flexes deep core muscles to keep you upright and cruising across your favorite body of water.
2. Hiking the Ergo Way
The world’s most tried, true and time-honored pastime — hiking, is one of the easiest ways to get away from your desk for even just an hour. Just you, your backpack and the profound sounds of nature. The benefits of hiking are almost too many to list: cardiovascular engagement, decreased blood pressure and stress, overall enhancement in physical and mental wellbeing, and most importantly: restored attention. There’s no WiFi in the woods, so there’s no temptation to break your focus.
To maintain healthy alignment, however, choose your backpack wisely. Ergonomic backpacks are padded for your spine, designed to reduce the strain on your neck, easy to adjust, and facilitate overall ease in your hiking experience. Some important features to look for include wide straps, a waist strap, multiple compartments to evenly distribute weight and proper contact of the body with the pack. The more adjustable the pack, the more comfortable and enjoyable your hike will be.
Swimming is a low-impact aerobic activity that reduces joint stress, increases personal strength and promotes overall spinal decompression. It’s also a chance to connect with nature in a truly immersive way.
Whether it’s charging through the ocean waves, drifting down a flowing river or floating along a calm lake or pond, swimming offers you the chance to build up a healthier spine and reverse the dreaded screen time.
However you choose to engage with the outdoors, remember to put the phone away. A simple reset is often the best remedy for tech burnout. Get outside, get moving and experience all the offscreen Maine has to offer!
— Text: LeeMarie Kennedy. LeeMarie is a copywriter and content marketing specialist in Boston, Massachusetts. When she’s not meticulously wordsmithing, she can be found teaching as a certified yoga instructor, exploring her own yoga practice, traveling the world, laughing, drinking coffee or eating something delicious.
Hikes & Brews: Bluff Head Preserve and Strong Brewing Company
You’ll find Strong Brewing Company at the junction of Route 175 and Route 15 in Sedgwick. Park across the street and walk a quarter-mile west on Rope Ferry Road to the Bluff Head Preserve, 58 acres under the care of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. Three short trail segments—Oaks, Erratic and Pine—combine for a delightful walk of 1.5 miles out to Bluff Head. The 90-foot high ledge overlooks a big bend in the tidal Bagaduce River, which flows 14 miles from its source at Walker Pond to empty into Penobscot Bay at Castine.
If a little more walking is in order, head south on Route 15 for about four miles to Cooper Farm at Caterpillar Hill, home to two miles of trails. The view of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge over Eggemoggin Reach from the extensive blueberry fields is impressive, while the mossy spruce woods below are delightfully cool and fragrant. In late July, the berry picking is amazing.
Strong Brewing is housed in the daylight basement of the clapboard home of Mia Strong and her husband, Al, who was a homebrewer for many years. Together, this pair of admitted beer geeks decided to open a brewery as their retirement job.
The taproom is a cozy space with a few tables and chairs, while the brewing operation is behind the hanging windows to the right. At the short bar you’re likely to find Mia or son, Stephen, serving up pints and flights of ales and lagers poured from six taps. Localmotive, a California common style brew, Bale O’Hay IPA and Soulpatch Porter and are the mainstays, while in summer you’ll also find Maineiac, a double IPA, and the hoppy Rope Ferry Red, among other refreshing selections.
Enjoy your brew indoors, or better, outside at the picnic tables on the lawn or under the timber pavilion topped with a bright red roof, which regularly hosts live local music talent. There’s usually a food truck parked next door as well.
Hike: Bluff Head Preserve, bluehillheritagetrust.org 207-374-5118
— Text & Photos: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is an avid beer drinker, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.
Celebrating 35 Years: Activities Guide of Maine
The 35th edition of the Activities Guide of Maine is dedicated to the founding publishers, my parents, who both were still a major part of the sales and operations of each magazine, months before each of their passing. Both started this new career in their early 50s, just as they were getting close to retirement and technology was archaic.
Mom and Dad, look how far we have come since 1984! To Mom—whose unconditional love for me and all my siblings, has taught us to always be positive, keep smiling, and to keep pushing forward. She was a true matriarch. While raising a family, she became the top grossing sales person the last 15 years of her publishing and sales career. She played a huge part in the production of every magazine as she and my Dad would stay up until dawn for three days straight, laying out the magazine on light boards and using the very first desktop Mac computer with the PageMaker program. She did the “paste ups” literally, using Elmer’s glue to add all the little clip art and fun sketches that brought life and humor to pages of the Regional Activities Guide of Maine before the digital era. She was a renowned cook, homemaker and entertainer; her famous hors d’oeuvres recipes made appearances in every magazine (recipes which I would like to bring back to future issues).
To Dad—the consummate salesman, who lit up a room and had the gift of being an expert conversationalist. He asked a lot of questions and would actively listen to get to know a new acquaintance or offer family members some knowledgeable advice. He had a sincere interest in people and relationships were always important, which was also evident in his sales accounts. Dad was a great teacher and planted goals in all of us in hopes they would grow and flourish.
I remember riding along on sales visits with both Mom and Dad when I was a kid; it always seemed like they were meeting old friends with hugs and handshakes. I could see that the advertising relationships were deeper than contracts and marketing.
Both were loved by their advertising partners and built relationships they valued and this is something I hope to do as we move our publishing titles forward.
As part of our remembrance for this issue, we lost Ellie Stengle, a veteran of our Sales team who passed away last November. She is greatly missed.
I would like to acknowledge the talented team that has brought you our 35th edition. Their amazing work has taken the Activities Guide of Maine, and our sister media titles, RaceME and the Maine Brew & Bev Guide, to the next level. My deepest gratitude to all: Jim Harnedy for more than 25 years of sales and editing, Larissa Davis, Kristina Roderick, Mike Leonard, Kay Stephens, and Robin Bean—you all are VIPs!
I close with a heartfelt acknowledgement to my wife, Elizabeth, for all her encouragement and assistance throughout our adventure together.
See you out there!
Stanley J. Rintz, III
On the Water in Maine
Waves crashing against a shore. The buoyancy of floating. The rush of a river pouring over rocks — it’s no wonder we’re drawn to the water. Scientific evidence proves that water, just the sound and the movement of it, relaxes us. And, the best way to relax and reconnect in Maine this summer is to get on a boat.
Discover Boating, the world’s largest online guide to recreational boating, is tapping in to research conducted by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, to promote the health benefits of boating. “We now know, thanks to science, that the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin, and inducing relaxation,” said Dr. Nichols. “It only makes sense that being on a boat is one of the best ways to access the wellness benefits of the water.”
Luckily it’s easy to do that in Maine. Our state is filled with pristine lakes and rivers as well as 3,478 miles of coastline to explore. Our blue waters beckon you to grab a boat — any boat —and experience the happiness that comes from being out on the water.
Nearly 40 percent of visitors to Maine in the summer of 2018 took part in water activities, according to research by the Maine Office of Tourism. Most of those visitors were from other New England states, traveling with their kids.
“If you’re in Maine and you’re not out on the water, you’re missing out on what makes Maine unique,” said Tracy Coughlin, marketing director for Freedom Boat Club, Yarmouth Boat Yard, and Moose Landing Marina. The Freedom Boat Club of Maine is helping more families discover recreational boating. Their rentals are moored in Portland, Yarmouth, and Naples. Steve Arnold, owner of the Freedom Boat Club franchise and the two marinas, started the program last year out of the Yarmouth Boat Yard. The premise is so popular they doubled their projected membership last year from 30 to 60.
Here’s how the Freedom Boat Club works. You sign up to become a member, pay a monthly fee, and get unlimited access to their 22- to 24-foot Sea Fox boats moored in southern Maine. Members also enjoy access to other Freedom Boat Clubs across the country. “It’s a great way for people to try out the boating lifestyle without making a huge investment in their own equipment,” Coughlin said. Not only does Freedom Boat Club of Maine offer beautiful boats and top-notch service, they also train you how to safely use and maneuver the boats. “Boat Clubs are changing the way people vacation; it’s a brand new way of boating in Maine,” Coughlin added.
Boating provides the means to get outside of daily routines, allowing our brains to reset, think beyond our current circumstances, and connect to nature. Here are more benefits to boating:
Boating resets our brain. We work hard and getting out from behind our desks gives our brains (and our bodies) a change of pace. Boating is a fun, active activity that you can do by yourself or with a group. Being on the water is as different from your cubicle as it gets.
Boating is meditative. The ebb and flow of the water is relaxing. Bobbing along in a boat, breathing in fresh air, helps connect you to nature.
Boating is playful. Watersports are a source of play, which trigger the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
Maine is filled with opportunities to get on the water. Whether you’re looking to explore one of our beautiful bays on the Atlantic or go tubing around one of the vast many inland lakes, boating in Maine is a fun-filled activity all summer long. Here are some of our favorite places to take your motorboat this summer:
Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine and one of the state’s crown jewels. The lake is approximately 40 miles by 10 miles and is home to more than 80 islands. You may even see a moose hanging out in one of the quiet coves of this massive, rural lake. There are public boat launches in Greenville, Rockwood, and Seboomook. If you don’t have your own motorboat, you can rent one at Wilson’s on Moosehead, The Birches Resort, or Wilson Pond Camps.
This southern Maine lake is the second largest lake in the state after Moosehead. It’s the deepest lake in all of New England, making it a favorite with motorboating enthusiasts. Thanks to its location, (just 30 minutes from Portland) fishing opportunities and crystal clear water, make it a consistent draw for visitors from across New England. There are many marinas along the lake where you can fuel up, rent a boat, or purchase a boat for your own family fun. If you’re heading to Sebago Lake, check out Sebago Lake Marina, Long Beach Marina, Kettle Cove Marina, Richardson’s Boat Yard, Panther Run Marina, and Port Harbor Marine.
A popular inlet of the Gulf of Maine on the southern coast, Casco Bay is certainly a working waterfront. It’s also a great spot for exploring the islands that make the bay a unique setting for exploration. Motor your boat out of Four Points Marina and start island hopping. Explore the sandy beaches of Long Island or fine dining on Chebeague Island, Peaks Island, or Great Diamond Island. Bring along your camera and binoculars to spot seals and sea birds.
If pristine and serene are two adjectives that appeal to you, head north from Augusta and spend some time on the water in Maine’s Belgrade Lakes Region. You’ll want to pack your fishing pole for this trip. The Belgrade Lakes are a chain of seven freshwater lakes that range in size from 500 acres to more than 8,000 acres. Each of these lakes has a public boat launch and excellent fishing (just be sure you have the proper license). Visit the Belgrade Lakes Region Business Group to find local businesses that will make your boating trip to this region a memorable one.
Home to 13 lakes — and some of the most beautiful, relaxing views you’ll see in the state of Maine — the Lincoln Lakes Region is a lovely spot for some boating fun. The downtown area is located right on the shores of Mattanawcook Pond. There are six public boat launches in Lincoln, giving you access to several lakes and the Penobscot River. You can also fish for brook trout, lake trout, landlocked salmon, white perch, pickerel, and smallmouth bass.
Ready to launch your watercraft? Check out the hundreds of public boat launch sites on the Maine.gov website and enjoy the beauty of Maine from the cockpit this summer.
— Text: Melanie Brooks. Melanie has had the pleasure of writing and photographing her home state of Maine for the past 12 years. You can find her work at www.melanie-brooks.com.
Stillwater River Trail & Marsh Island Brewing
The Stillwater River Trail wends easily over an old railroad grade (circa 1860s) along the Stillwater River from downtown Orono nearly to the islands and dam below the Stillwater Reservoir. When the sewer system (laid down under the railbed 50 years ago) needed repair in 2005, the town decided to create the walking trail, a three-mile out-and-back hike.
From the Bennoch Road trailhead, follow the placid Stillwater River west for a half-mile on private property before you reach the section owned by the Orono Land Trust, the pathway’s stewards. Mixed hardwoods and the occasional pine, then a grove of pretty paper birch, and finally some huge red oaks and impressive hemlocks punctuate the route. Near the Orono Water District building, retrace your steps to the parking area, but instead of turning up to it, continue along the river to Main Street and Marsh Island Brewing, which is directly across the road.
A few years back, Jim Swett, the owner of Swett’s Tire and Auto in Bangor, and his wife, Alice, who owns Hogan Road Deli & Convenience next door, took notice when one of their master mechanics, Clay Randall, began winning numerous homebrewing awards. That’s when the trio put their heads together and decided to open a brewery. An old storage space in Orono seemed like the perfect location, so they rehabilitated the place and got to work, with the help of the Swett’s son, Prentiss.
The comfortable Marsh Island Brewing tasting room features a long bar and table tops made of huge white pine slabs, and 11 taps pouring a variety of high-quality, traditional recipes and contemporary brews. Downrigger IPA was the first beer the brewery produced and is still the standard bearer, while the hop-forward Pulp Truck IPA and the Wooly Bugger Pils are regulars as well. If they’re on tap, the Lime Gose is a refreshing treat on a nice summer or fall day, but then, so is the Peanut Butter, You Who? Chocolate Milk Stout.
Hike: Stillwater River Trail, oronolandtrust.org
Brew: Marsh Island Brewing, marshislandbrewing.com
— Text & Photo: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is an avid beer drinker, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.
Getting Back on the Road and Preventing IT Band Syndrome (ITBS)
While the most hardy Mainers continue to pound the pavement year round, most of us probably stick to cushioned treadmills in the gym, or even taking a breather over the winter months. But, whenever it’s time to get back out on the road anytime after a running hiatus, runners in particular, need to be cognizant of developing overuse injuries as they get back into training. By keeping a few key points in mind, athletes can prevent or significantly decrease the severity of these frustrating (and sometimes devastating) injuries.
What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is an overuse injury caused by friction between the Iliotibial Band (on the outside of the thigh) and the lateral femoral condyle (outside portion of the knee). It is most commonly seen in runners, cyclists, and other athletes who are repetitively flexing and extending the knee. Pain is usually felt in the front/outside portion of the knee and can be extremely debilitating. ITBS accounts for up to 15% of overuse injuries around the knee, and running athletes are at highest risk.
What causes ITBS?
Common causes for ITBS include a rapid increase in either the volume or intensity of running. A prime example is a runner who has not been running over the winter and returns at the same volume as he or she was running the previous season. Poor arch support from running shoes, particularly in athletes with a tendency to over pronate, also places runners at risk.
STRETCHING & STRENGTHENING FOR YOUR IT BAND
What to expect from medical intervention
ITBS is a fairly straightforward diagnosis. However, it is important to see a sports medicine trained physician if you are having persistent pain around the knee that doesn’t respond to simple resting. X-rays are typically normal in athletes with ITBS. MRI can be useful in athletes with particularly severe cases in order to rule out more serious issues that may mimic ITBS including meniscus tears and stress fractures.
On average, 90% of patients engaging in appropriate treatment will have resolution of symptoms within 4-8 weeks. Treatment initially consists of rest, icing, and oral or topical NSAIDs. Physical therapy with training modification is also a mainstay of treatment. Therapy focuses on stretching of the ITB, lateral fascia, and gluteal muscles, deep transverse friction massage, strengthening hip abductor muscles, and proprioception exercises to improve neuromuscular coordination. If initial attempts at conservative therapy fail to provide relief, a corticosteroid inject may be considered.
Tips for preventing and recognizing ITBS
Keep a running log. Increase your training intensity/volume by no more than 10% per week.
Consider including cross training with an exercise that does not require repetitive knee flexion/extension in your regimen. (i.e. swimming)
Allow a rest day once per week.
Warm up and focus on stretching before your runs. A foam roller can be particularly helpful to stretch the IT Band.
Make sure you have appropriate arch support from your running shoes. Change your running shoes every 300-500 miles.
If you have worsening pain that comes progressively earlier in your runs and is not relived by rest, or if you have persistent pain, particularly at night, seek an evaluation with a sports medicine physician.
— Text: Jonathan P. Watling, MD; Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
Plogging: A New Way of Running that is Sweeping the Nation
One of the best things about Maine is the diversity of landscapes. Whether it’s outside your front door or an hour or so drive to the mountains, the coast or a pristine lake, we get to enjoy a run or walk on beautiful roads, trails and beaches. It doesn’t get any better than this.
But it seems that just about wherever you go these days you find yourself running or walking by trash. More so on the roads but occasionally you’ll see trash on trails, too. A water bottle here, a beer can there. Plastic bags, paper cups, cardboard, Styrofoam. Even used diapers.
Many who run or walk by the trash will shake their heads. But the problem with the righteous-indignation response is the trash is still there on the side of the road. It takes about a millennium or longer for a plastic bottle to degrade in a landfill. Disposable diapers take up to 500 years.
So, here’s a novel idea that a crazy Swede came up with a few years ago: pick up the trash while you are running or walking.
No doubt you’ve heard of plogging by now. It’s a mashup of the Swedish word for picking up—plocka upp—and jogging, and it’s a global “thing.” Not only is plogging good for the planet, but also good for your health. That’s because you use different muscles to bend or squat to pick up trash. Consider it a form of CrossFit minus the type-A trainer screaming in your face.
I confess, I’m a plogger. It helps with my physical conditioning and it makes me feel good to do something positive for the planet. New Year’s Day 2019 was sunny and mild so I decided to go for a five mile plog. Unfortunately I only managed two miles because I hit plogger’s pay dirt. (See photo.) In all, I collected 32 pounds of trash consisting of 54 redeemable bottles and cans, some Styrofoam, two windshield wipers, and a lot of paper, cardboard, and plastic, and a frozen disposable diaper. Yes, I was wearing gloves.
Anyone can plog, you don’t need fancy shoes or moisture-wicking clothing. Just stuff a couple bags in your pocket (reusables are best) head out the door and start walking or running. You don’t know what you’ll discover.
— Text & Photo: Bruce Rayner. Bruce lives and plogs in Cape Elizabeth. He’s Chief Green Officer of Athletes for a Fit Planet and a member of the Maine Track Club. On March 11, the Town of Cape Elizabeth voted to make two weeks a year official Plogging Weeks – the week of Earth Day, April 21-28, and the week of Indigenous People’s Day, October 14-21.
A Competitor’s Nutrition Guide
The number one mistake I see when working with all athletes of all levels is under-fueling. I think most people feel that in order to perform better, they need to keep a slim figure and that this can be achieved by eating the bare minimum needed to sustain performance.
Nutritional Guide for Runners and Athletes
Long-term athletic success is not sustainable without proper nutrition, and eventually the body will break down, whether it is from injury or other health issues. Athletes need to eat enough to sustain their bodily functions (based on how much lean muscle mass they have) and then eat to perform on top of that. Performance nutrition does not come out of your body’s energy to live and often people confuse these two things.
By fueling enough for your body, brain and your performance level, every running foot strike, every rep, every soccer ball kick, etc., can be utilized more efficiently with an optimized nutrition plan.
|This plan is based on 4 personal nutritional questions for athletes to ask themselves in order to improve their overall health and performance:
These questions are important to address because often athletes will mistakenly focus solely on macronutrient choices without knowing if they are actually consuming enough in the first place. Depending on the desired length of performance, if you don’t consume enough fuel to sustain you, the type of food you eat will not matter as much.
Another common mistake is that people think that supplementing will help them perform better. I always say, until you know you are dialed into the first 3 steps above, a supplement of any kind will not do anything to help and you may end up wasting your money.
So how do you know if you are eating enough or too much? Linking up with a Certified Sport Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian is a good place to start.
It is helpful to find a professional who can assess how much lean muscle mass you have through anthropometric measurements. Typically they will assess how much body fat you have, and be able to indirectly calculate your lean muscle mass from there.
By assessing your unique physiology and training goals, the right professional will be able to customize a nutrition plan that will sustain your lean muscle mass and support your daily training and competition schedule. A hint for finding the right help: if you are training regularly, your nutrition plan should not be the same day to day. Just like training, your nutrition plan should also be periodized toward your daily training goals.
If hiring a professional nutritional support is out of reach, the next option would be to eat a balanced diet – meaning items from each food group (or substituting if you have a food allergy) – and eat frequently. I like to tell clients to aim for 6-7 meals per day, each meal containing carbs, fats, and proteins, and to aim to eat every 2-3 hours. This will at the very least ensure that your body is fueled at all times and not going through periods of energy depletion. While this may sound daunting, it is very easy when you break it down like this:
- Pre/Post Workout fuel
People fright at the thought of eating “this much,” but this is what is takes to perform whether it is in sport, exercise, mentally at work, in relationships, etc. Your body and brain will thank you and you will achieve far more than you ever thought you could!
A good summary of this guideline is found in a favorite quote of mine: “I don’t diet, I just eat according to my goals”. I think if people regularly adopt this mindset they can overcome a lot of the biases that are out there in regard to nutrition and what is “healthy.”
— Text & Photos: Tara Whiton. Tara has her PhD in Sport Physiology and Performance and a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition. She is a certified strength and conditioning coach (CSCS), Certified Exercise Physiologist, Certified Anthropometrist, and Certified Sport Nutritionist. She can be reached at email@example.com or her Instagram @timandtara for more information.
Early Specialization in Youth Sports
In 1997 Tiger Woods drained the final putt of a record-setting performance at the Masters, millions of parents, coaches, and educators watched in awe. By age 21 he was the most formidable force in the sporting world. Either conscious or sub-conscious, these well-documented facts galvanized the early specialization movement. Best-selling books such as Outliers, The Talent Code, and Bounce are wonderful accounts of the grueling ascent to expertise. However, they might create as much trouble as inspiration. The message received by parents and coaches often places early specialization into one sport above the value of diverse movement. More importantly, it’s held high above “play.”
Tiger joined a list of young phenoms like Mozart and Bobby Fischer; people who got in their 10,000 hours at a remarkably young age. The message is loud and clear to many parents and sport coaches: start your kids young. However, I think the real lessons are distorted. When I think of starting young, the intent should always be developing the fundamentals that can apply to all branches of a discipline. For Mozart, that’s developing pitch and scales; for Bobby Fischer its reading people and learning strategies in Chess; for athletes, it’s the fundamental patterns of movement. It’s not about sending your kid to pitching camp at age 9. It is about playing football or soccer in the fall, basketball or wrestling in winter, and track or lacrosse in spring. It is about learning how to run, rotate, lunge, skip, and pivot. What can be developed is fundamental to athleticism: acceleration, deceleration, rotational power, read and react, etc. No one sport corners the market on these skills. Likewise, no one sport should dominate the lives of children or even young adults.
Before you send Suzy out to that summer camp, understand that collegiate coaches look as much for athleticism as anything else. They want their players to be athletes first and it is best developed by a wide range of sports. Early specialization can accomplish this but it carries the likely prices of burnout and overuse injuries.
It’s unfair to draw from a sample of one but we can look deeper into the early phenomenon and find more clues. Athletes like Tracy Austin, Jennifer Capriati and Ty Tryon (there are many more) all reached notoriety at a very young age, and subsequently slipped due to injury and burnout.
Research has clearly shown that the body will accomplish an assigned task with little regard to correct movement mechanics. So if a 12-year old is pitching 8 months a year, the task remains the same but the movements will change due to fatigue. This is the platform for developing an overuse injury. Statistics show these are on the rise. The same holds true for any posture specific to a single sport. It’s why swimmers have a hard time with good shoulder mechanics and tennis players struggle to hip hinge. It’s precisely why baseball and softball athletes should pick up a soccer ball.
Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with sending a child to soccer camp over the summer. Problems occur when a child plays the same sport year-round. There is no suggestion to drop the concept of hard work or “deliberate practice.” Simply put, a child’s 10,000 hours should be spent moving in all kinds of environments and being a part of different sport cultures; aka “playing.” What comes of this is a group of athletes who are: a) less likely to burn out; b) more capable of adapting to a new coaching style (an underrated piece of the puzzle); and c) less likely to be injured. These players will look like athletes and work in whatever sport they end up loving. So feel free to work on those 10,000 hours, but don’t drive by the playground on your way to Jimmy’s “elite” summer hockey league. Stop the car and let him go play.
— Text and Photos: Stan Skolfield, ATC, CSCS is the owner of Skolfield Sports Performance and has over 20 years of experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is a leader in the fields of sports performance and athletic training with a concentration in youth sports. He has worked with athletes from 7 years old, up to the elite professional level. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook: Skolfield Sports Performance.