If you keep hearing about this ‘floating’ thing, it’s for good reason.
Floating is just starting to reach the mainstream, but the concept has been around since the mid 50’s and offers many benefits, with little to no drawbacks. Top level athletes, Navy SEALs, busy executives, mindful people, pregnant women, parents, grandparents, and even some kids are experiencing how this simple practice of floating in epsom salt can benefit their health. Floating is used for muscle recovery, relaxation, pain management, rest, mindfulness and more.
A float tank is filled with 10’’ of water saturated with over 1,000 pounds of epsom salt. This solution is warm, supportive, rich in magnesium and allows you to float effortlessly on the surface. The water and air are heated to the same temperature as your skin (about 94 degrees). Weightless with senses dampened; the salt solution, your body, and the air all merging in temperature, sensational boundaries become blurred. Modern float tanks are spacious and often equipped with colored lights and music options for easing into the sensory reduced environment. You can choose to turn both off and allow your central nervous system a reprieve from external stimulation. Float sessions are recommended to be around 60-90 minutes. Research suggests that around the 45 minute mark during a float session your body begins to show signs of reduced cortisol production, reduced inflammation, increased blood flow and dopamine production. It is a truly unique way to achieve deep physical and mental relaxation.
Floating was developed by a neuroscientist in 1954 at the National Institute of Mental Health to study the brain and its response to reduced stimulation. These studies became known as R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy) or Sensory Deprivation. Eventually float tanks were made for commercial use as well. No longer exclusively for research, they became popular with athletes and hippies. Float centers were predominately located on the west coast, however sprinkled throughout the US and Europe as well. With recent research and the momentum and speed at which information now spreads, floating is experiencing a resurgence, and centers can now be found in most major cities.
As people all over are waking up to the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle, many are using floating as another tool in their wellness routine. It couples nicely with yoga, meditation, chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture. Try it for yourself and see how much better you can feel.
Runaways Run Club
When my wife and I moved up to her native Maine from my native Louisiana in January 2017, we had some adjustments to make. The crawfish were ten times bigger, and you had to worry about ice dams instead of levees. We loved drinking good beer, being active, and surrounding ourselves with great people. So that March, she found a free run club on Facebook that met Wednesdays at local breweries in Portland, and we did not run away from the opportunity. It was not only what we wanted, but it was what we needed.
Ken Krogsrud, founder of Runaways Run Club, said, “I thought there would be five people, but we now have 50 people on a Wednesday night.” Originally from California, Ken moved to Portland and was immediately hooked by its connectivity. “I started seeing people on the street I knew, and it felt more connected than separate,” he said. Raised in a very run-centric community, he’s been running ultras (50 or 100 mile races) for nine years, and is now the Race Director for GiddyUp Productions, which coordinates running events.
The brewery connection was forged when Ken befriended Craig Dilger, owner of Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland. “Our brewery network grew from there,” said Ken. Calling their club “Runaways Run Club,” they have since been all over the Portland area ending up at Foulmouthed, Bunker, the Great Lost Bear, Urban Farm Fermentory, Shipyard Brewing, and Bissell Brothers. Runners have even made it over to Maine Beer Company (Freeport) and Dirigo (Biddeford).
“Brewers here really want that culture and the business,” said Ken. “And, Craig actually brewed a Runaways beer at Foulmouthed, which was a red beer with peaches. I love both red beers and peaches, so it was a refreshing, after-run beer.” Additionally, the Runaways are active in the community as well. For example, they held a fundraiser at Urban Farm Fermentory for Sarah Emerson, a local runner, who was fighting breast cancer.
If you’re an avid runner, don’t let the beer emphasis fool you into thinking these athletes aren’t serious about running. Members will run in artic temperatures or snowstorms. This past winter, we ran in Freeport in single-digit temperatures in the darkness with headlamps; it just made the Mean Old Tom go down even nicer. We also did a brunch run at Becky’s Diner on New Year’s Eve morning, where customers waited outside in heavy winter coats, while we ran up in thermal tights. That perseverance has been good for thickening my Southern blood and crushing my fear that the bitter cold would kill me on contact.
No matter if you’re quick as Hermes or slow as Hades, there’s a spot for you at Runaways Run Club. Even if you don’t like beer (chances are that you do because why else would you read a beer magazine?) they have several weekly non-beer related trail runs. They also have a strong presence at local races, so look for them at the Old Port Marathon and the L.L. Bean Trail Running Festival at Pineland Farms. “It’s completely free,” Ken said. “Just show up. Reach out on Facebook and Instagram. We all have a great time, and that’s how we’ve grown. It’s not the beer or the running. It’s the people.
— Text: John Breerwood. John is a cellarman at Shipyard Brewing Company and is currently trying to get his first novel published. He and his wife Madelyn had their first child last February.
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
How to Get Started as a Trail Runner
Trail running provides all of the health benefits of traditional road running and more while connecting you with nature. Getting started as a trail runner is easy. You need to know where to run, what type of gear to use and some basic trail running skills. In this article I’ll review the very basics you need to get started as a trail runner.
WHERE TO RUN
The great thing about trail running is that it can be done anywhere, on any trail. Trails will vary from wide carriage trails to very narrow fun and twisty animal paths. To find trails in your area check on-line and look for local parks, fire trails, ATV and hiking trails. Check with local clubs or try the excellent trail by state database at the ATRA American Trail Running Association.
In trail running the right shoe can make all the difference. You wouldn’t use your cross country boots with your downhill skis and you shouldn’t use your road shoes on the trail.
Trail running shoes are specifically designed for rugged terrain and they are significantly different from running shoes made for the road. Shoes for the trail fall in two main categories: light shoes for racing, sturdy and rugged shoes for the more recreational runner. Knowing how you’ll be running and the type of terrain you’ll be tackling will help you determine which shoe is best for you.
For recreational use or rocky and uneven trails, a shoe that is sturdy and rugged is the best choice. These shoes will have a heavier, beefier chassis with added protection around the toe box, heel and ankle. These trail running shoes also feature thick tread with a pattern well spaced to distribute mud, sand and other loose surfaces.
For smooth, hard packed, dirt trails a lighter, flexible trail running shoe with good cushioning is a great choice.
If you’re just getting started and run for recreation, a good rugged shoe like the ASICS Women’s Gel-Kahana 6 Trail Running Shoe or the ASICS Men’s Kahana 6 Trail Running Shoe is an excellent choice. I have been running on Asics for years and, for my foot, nothing is better.
For clothing wear a wicking breathable top, loose comfortable shorts, and breathable socks to stay cool and dry. For colder running, add gloves, hats, thermal compression pants and other protection. Be sure everything is breathable because even when it’s cooler you’ll work up some good body heat.
The right mind set about trail running helps you enjoy the sport. Trail running is like life, it’s not a race. Enjoy your time along the way. Think “it’s more about the trail and less about the run” and it’s ok to walk.
Walking for the first few minutes of every run is a great way to warm up and get a feel for the terrain. Walking when things get more technical is smart and an excellent way to ease into trail running. The same is true of up and downhill sections that are particularly challenging. In fact, many experts will tell you it’s more efficient to walk, briskly, up a hill than it is to run.
Use a smaller, shorter stride. If you’re converting to trail running from the road your natural tendency may be to take longer strides. On the trail, where you need to make quick, fast moves on uneven terrain, a shorter stride allows you to be responsive.
Using a longer stride is a common mistake road runners make when trying trail running for the first time.
Trail running requires focus and attention. Make it a habit to scan the trail 8 – 10 feet ahead so you’re prepared for obstacles with time to react. The first time you get caught day dreaming you’re likely to take a tumble.
Trail running is an excellent outdoor activity that’s fun, exciting and can help keep you in great shape. Finding trails is easy and getting started doesn’t require a huge investment in time or money. With some good shoes and basic skills you’ll be ready for your first run in no time. Get out there and give it a try. I bet you’ll be hooked after your first run.
— Text: Steve Stearns. Steve is a blogger who writes about health and nutrition. He is interested in fat biking and mountain biking, and lives in Bowdoin.
What’s New in Running Gear for 2018
RaceME sat down with John Rogers, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Maine Running in Portland Maine, and Erin Flatley, Marketing Manager, to learn about trends we can expect to see in running gear this year.
Starting with shoe trends, John says, “I see the future of shoe innovations continue to be aided by the latest technology in 3D imaging and scanning. This precise data combined with in-store gait analysis, makes it easier to assess proper sizing based on a person’s foot type, individual shape of arches and pressure points. These advanced imaging tools give us more accurate details for measuring gait characteristics from ‘heel strike’ to ‘toe off’ with significant information in real time. In the future, I see more shoe stores having the ability to make customized shoes right in the store.”
fit id™ creates a 3D scan of a person’s feet and provides specific measurements including foot width, length, and arch height. The scan takes five seconds to complete and appears on an in-store tablet, allowing the fit specialist to review, discuss observations, and find solutions together with the individual. Customers can get rescanned on future visits so Fleet Feet Sports staff can discuss any changes in measurements. fit id™ helps create a powerful in-store experience for customers that is free and they can’t get online. The technology also includes a kids’ scanning feature which incorporates a gaming element into the scanning process.
Erin is seeing another popular trend in shoe technology.
“I see shoe manufacturers being more aggressive with their midsole material and new products are trending toward increasing the energy return from the shoe back to the person with every stride.”
Carson Caprara, director of global product line management for Brooks Running says, “The Levitate features our revolutionary new midsole technology that releases energy straight back to the runner, making the experience so much fun they might feel like running forever.”
Other shoe companies have their own proprietary and innovative midsole material. Nike’s midsole material is called React, while Saucony’s uses their EVERUN material and New Balance features Fresh Foam. The technology in the midsole foam is also working toward more resilient and durable material to last longer over time.
Garmin 645 Wrist Watch
Enhance your run with the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music GPS watch. Technology is improving for more than running shoes this year. Garmin made this watch with runners in mind, the watch has music streaming, Garmin Pay and heart-rate tracking.
- On-device music storage lets you run with your favorite tunes; download up to 500 songs and connect with Bluetooth headphones (not included) for phone-free listening
- Garmin Pay contactless payment solution lets you make convenient payments with your watch, so you can leave your cash and cards at home
- Tracks speed, distance, steps and calories burned, heart rate as well as advanced running dynamics including ground contact time, balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more.
THINKING OUTSIDE: The University of Maine at Farmington
When people think of Maine colleges with a strong connection to the active outdoor lifestyle, the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) is the first school that comes to mind.
Perfectly situated at the gateway to Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Saddleback, UMF is also smack in the middle of some of the best hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, camping and rafting in the northeast.
Miles of trail running and mt. bike paths just off campus. Groomed Nordic skiing trails. Night skiing at Titcomb Mt. just on the other side of town. The swim-able, paddle-able, fly-fishing-able Sandy River running right beside its athletics fields. Flint Woods and Bonny Woods trails a short walk up the street from campus. And a quick drive takes outdoor enthusiast UMF students to the extensive Maine Huts & Trails system, the Appalachian Trail, Mt. Blue State Park and Tumbledown Mountain.
But the University of Maine at Farmington and the great outdoors isn’t all just fun and games. The University also offers an Outdoor Recreation Business Administration program (ORBA), an innovative academic major with a four-season focus and an emphasis on the business side of recreation.
Developed with leaders in the industry, the ORBA program gives UMF students the skills and knowledge to succeed in a variety of outdoor recreation fields. Students develop a broad range of business knowledge, skills in writing and oral presentation, problem solving, decision-making, leadership and team building. ORBA also has a required internship, which provides students with valuable hands-on experience and a network of professional contacts.
UMF’s Alpine Operations Certificate program is open to UMF students in any major and is designed to provide students with core skills for working in the skiing industry while also preparing them to earn PSIA Level 1 certification.
Alpine Operations uses Farmington’s Titcomb Mountain (just 7 minutes from campus) as its on-hill learning lab. Students run Titcomb’s successful UMF Snowcats children’s learn-to-ski program and also teach young adults, fellow UMF students and others how to ski and snowboard.
Both the ORBA program and Alpine Ops program not only bring students to the mountains — they bring the mountains to the students. Industry experts from Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Copper Mountain (CO), Ski Maine, Winterstick Snowboards, Mountain Force Apparel and many others come to UMF classes as frequent guest speakers.
MAINELY OUTDOORS — ACTIVE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE!
To take full advantage of its perfect location, UMF also offers a backpack full of epic outdoor adventures through its Mainely Outdoors program. Mainely Outdoors offers students, staff and the local community a wide range of exciting outdoor opportunities: trips and excursions, equipment and gear sign-out/rentals, clinics and lessons, certification and training opportunities, and much more.
Mainely Outdoors introduces people to new active outdoor activities and takes advantage of the unbelievable natural resources in the Farmington area: hiking Tumbledown Mountain, overnight camping at Acadia National Park, mountain biking the Carrabassett Rail Trail, skiing at Sugarloaf, flatwater kayaking North Pond, overnight camping at Gulf Hagas, whitewater rafting the Kennebec, snowshoeing the Maine Huts & Trails System, sunset canoeing Wilson Lake and a whole lot more.
At the University of Maine at Farmington, college students from across the northeast come to get their outdoors on.
— Text & Photos: The University of Maine at Farmington
Surrounded by beautiful lakes, and with 10 of Maine’s highest peaks within reach, Rangeley is a world class 4-season town that comes alive with winter events!
The 55 km, mapped trail system at Rangeley Lakes Trail Center offers winter trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking. Trails are groomed for skate and classic Nordic skiing. Dedicated single-track trails offer the backwoods experience for snowshoeing and fat biking. There are a variety loops that offer you a choice of trek length, from a quick workout to a day-long outing with a picnic!
Skis, snowshoes, and fat bikes are available for rent. The RLTC staff can offer suggestions for routes to match your ability or available time. When you return, warm up with a variety of choices for soups, hot or cold beverages, and snacks. Check their website for daily trail condition reports and special discount days. The Rangeley Lakes Trail Center is open 9AM to 4PM every day.
Located on Haley Pond is Ecopelagicon, a nature store. Purchase books about the Maine outdoors, maps and camping supplies, as well as crafts, cards and jewelry. Right outside their door is the town cleared ice rink on Haley Pond. Need skates? Free skates are available at Ecopelagicon.
At the end of the day, get some rest at either the newly updated Rangeley Inn or stay lakeside at the Town and Lake Motel and Cottages. Come experience the revival of a landmark, the Rangeley Inn offers a perfect combination of location, ambiance, and comfort. The Town and Lake Motel and Cottages are open year round and located on Rangeley Lake.
Whatever type of outdoor enthusiast you are, this four season vacation destination is sure to pull you back again and again. Ready to help you call this place home is Caryn Dreyfuss of Morton & Furbish Real Estate. From building lots to condos, and lakefront homes to mountain camps, they’ve got something that will tickle your fancy. Come to Rangeley and embrace this winter wonderland. Be sure to bring your camera!
Gearing Up for Winter Day Hiking
THE LONG, COLD AND SNOWY MAINE WINTER AHEAD MIGHT HAVE YOU WANTING TO HOLE UP INDOORS for the next few months, but what fun is that? A better plan is to get outside frequently on foot, on snowshoes or skis to enjoy some healthy exercise and beautiful scenery with friends and family. Winter hiking is challenging and has inherent risks, so you’ll need to be well prepared and self-sufficient. Here are some tips for comfort and safety in the winter woods and mountains.
Winter air is dry and since you’re usually working pretty hard, you’re going to lose a lot of water through respiration and perspiration, and this lost fluid must be replenished. In cold situations, your body tends toward emergency mode, redirecting blood from extremities into your all-important core. Frostbitten fingers and toes, or worse—hypothermia, can be the result.
The solution is to drink a lot of water and drink often, as much as three to four liters in a day. Drink before you’re thirsty. Fill your bottles with hot water before setting out, and use insulated parkas around them. Take along a Thermos of tea, cocoa or soup for a much-appreciated hot drink at lunch.
FOOD IS FUEL
For strenuous winter hiking, your body needs plenty of fuel for optimum performance. Food is fuel, and one of the joys for many winter hikers is the need to consume a lot more calories than normal. Eat before you’re hungry, and eat often. Carry a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in your pockets and pack, like jerky, cheese sticks, nuts, dried fruit, candy and granola bars.
Cold weather activities require dressing in layers so you can regulate your overall body temperature in response to changing environmental conditions and activity levels.
The base layer is worn right up against the skin. A good long sleeve top and long john bottom made of wool, polyester or a blend of the two will wick moisture away from your sweaty body and help keep you warm and dry. The initial mid or insulation layer consists of a fleece vest, sweater or jacket, worn on the move. At rest or in camp or if it’s really cold on the trail, add a main insulation layer, a down or synthetic fill jacket or parka. Finally, an outer shell layer of waterproof-breathable fabric keeps out the wind, snow and rain.
A ski hat and balaclava plus gloves or mittens and accompanying weatherproof shells help keep your upper extremities toasty. Spare gloves and hat and a second wicking shirt to change into are worthy extras.
Your feet are your transportation, so be sure to treat them well with a warm pair of Pac-style or other insulated boots with a good tread. Wear liner socks under heavy wool or synthetic socks. Knee-high gaiters will keep the snow out. Ice traction devices like Microspikes or Stabilicers are a must for slippery trails. If you plan to venture above treeline, you’ll want plastic mountaineering boots and crampons. Trekking poles with wide baskets aid with stability.
A quality pair of snowshoes will get you through the deep snow and require little more effort than regular walking, while backcountry Nordic skis require more skill but open up a whole new world of winter exploration.
PACK THE ESSENTIALS
For the winter trail, the “Twelve Essentials” should always be in your pack: map and compass, ski goggles/sunglasses, extra clothing, headlamp/spare batteries, first aid kit, knife/multitool, lighter/waterproof matches, extra food, extra water, emergency shelter (bivouac bag or heavy-duty garbage bag), cell phone, and toilet kit (toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer).
Check the weather forecast before you go and leave a trip itinerary with someone responsible (or at least put a note on the driver’s seat of your vehicle). Pack along a healthy measure of common sense and good judgment and use both liberally on the trail. Have fun, but always remember that getting to the summit is optional, while returning to the car is mandatory.
TAKE A HIKE!
With 120 miles of trails and 57 miles of carriage roads, Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island is an awesome place for a snowy hike. The Park Loop Road is closed in winter, but numerous public roads offer good access.
There’s more to the Bethel Region than downhill skiing at Sunday River and Mt. Abram. Tackle the high peaks of Old Speck or the Baldpates from Route 26 in Grafton Notch, or scamper up the open ridgeline of nearby Rumford Whitecap.
The Kennebec Highlands in and around Rome are home to more than a half-dozen easy to moderate hikes, like those on French Mountain, Mt. Phillip, Round Top, Sanders Hill, The Mountain and McGaffey Mountain.
— Text: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, and writes a regular hiking column for the Maine Sunday Telegram.
Unique ways to stay active, indoors and out
Staying active in the summer is a breeze. Warm-weather bike rides, outdoor yoga, hiking, and paddling feel more like adventures than exercise. And waking up for that early-morning fitness class ain’t so hard when it’s 75 degrees out and sunny.
But during the winter – when it’s not even close to 75 degrees and the sun isn’t anywhere to be found in the early morning – we need a little more incentive. Embracing the snow is a solid way to start. Renting cross-country skis or snowshoes for an outdoor jaunt on the trails is a good way to work up a sweat and have a memorable winter adventure that’s worth posting about on Instagram. If you’re more of a “stay inside where the snow and cold can’t reach me” kind of exerciser, there are a host of fun and unique classes around Maine. Slog away on a treadmill no more – this winter, you can stay active with the help of a hula hoop, a jump rope, a paddleboard, and a pair of drumsticks.
FOUR UNIQUE WAYS TO WORK OUT INDOORS
6:15 p.m. Thursdays at Body by John, 190 Riverside Street, Portland
Jumping rope as an adult is way different than it was when we were kids. The equipment hasn’t changed, but our ability to jump effortlessly for hours on end HAS changed. This makes a punk rope class a challenging and sweat-inducing workout, which will have your calves aching for days. But jumping rope to loud tunes (plus all the burpees and high knees and planks in between) still retains that fun we remember years ago, which will keep you coming back. $10 drop-in, $60 for 10-class pass. Body By John also has spin, kettlebell, step and a bunch of other classes. bodybyjohn.com
HULA HOOP FITNESS
9:35 a.m. Tuesdays. Quest Fitness
2 Livewell Drive, Kennebunk
A couple of points we should get out of the way: 1. Yes, hula hooping is exercise. 2. Yes, you can hula hoop, even if you haven’t done it in decades. It might take a few weeks to get the hang of it, but you’ll have a grand time along the way during this class. There is plenty of time spent swinging your hips in the hoop, but the class also includes flexibility and strength, too, so you’ll get cardio and work those muscles. $20 day pass, $139 for 10-visit pass. Quest also has host of other great classes and an indoor saltwater pool! questfitnessmaine.com
INDOOR PADDLEBOARD YOGA
7:40-8:35 p.m. Tuesdays at Riverton Pool, 1600 Forest Ave., Portland
Paddleboards are generally spotted on lakes, rivers and the ocean in warmer months, but this winter, the SUPs are coming inside for this indoor paddleboard yoga class. Yoga instructor Ashely Flowers leads the series, which is open to people who are new to paddleboarding or yoga. The SUPs will challenge your balance and the yoga will awaken your muscles. And if you fall in? No biggie. Just pretend you’re at a summer pool party. $125 Portland residents, $140 non-Portland residents for the series. www.portlandmaine.gov/390/Recreation
10:30 a.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. Saturdays. Maine Pines Racquet & Fitness, 120 Harpswell Road, Brunswick
Pound is a cardio workout with drumsticks. It sounds peculiar at first, but once you start drumming those sticks on the floor and over your head to the rhythm of the loud music, you’ll feel why it’s such a fun workout. The sound of the sticks drumming in unison sounds cool, and it also feels really good to drum those sticks on everything. You’ll get your heart rate up and do lots of floor work too. $15 day pass, $100 for 10-class punch card. Memberships also available. In addition to all the tennis, Maine Pines offers a ton of fitness classes. www.mainepines.com
THREE PLACES TO BE ACTIVE OUTSIDE
BETHEL NORDIC SKI CENTER
Bethel Inn, 21 Broad St., Bethel
You can rent cross-country skis and spend the day skiing the trails at the Bethel Nordic Ski Center (there’s even a dog-friendly loop trail). Or rent a fat bike or snowshoes, if you prefer. The 40 kilometers of trails here are groomed for classic and skate ski and include a mix of open fields with mountain views and woodsy trails with more challenging terrain. Even better, you can take advantage of the inn’s Ski, Swim and Sauna package. For $27, you’ll get access to the trails and the health club (which includes a couple of saunas), plus the outdoor heated pool. There’s also a tavern on site, so ski, swim, sauna, and drink.. Day pass for the trails costs $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12 for youth and kids 6 and under are free. bethelinn.com
ROBERTS FARM PRESERVE
64 Roberts Road, Norway
There are 7.5 miles of trails winding through the woods at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway, which are perfect for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the winter. And there’s a steady stream of cross-country skiing clinics and snow-related events, including the annual Snowshoe Festival and Nordic biathlons. But what makes the place even more stupendous: You can borrow cross-country skiing and snowshoeing equipment out of the warming hut for free. Yep, free.
180 Ski Slope Road, Farmington
Titcomb is a family-friendly place to ski – downhill or cross-country. The mountain might be small compared to its bigger cousins in Bethel and Carrabassett Valley, but with day passes from $5-$22 and a kid-friendly atmosphere, it’s a cool little community ski area. The 16 kilometers of cross-country trails are pretty sweet, too, and Titcomb happens to be one of the few places in Maine where you can ski at night, under the trail lights. It’s generally pretty quiet out on the trails in the evening, so you can ski for hours and feel like you practically have the place to yourself. A day pass for Nordic skiing is $10. Rentals are also available. www.titcombmountain.com
— Text & Photos: Shannon Bryan. Shannon loves to get active in Maine – from aerial yoga to moonlight paddles — and she writes about them all (to encourage you to try them too!) on FitMaine.com.
Five Mountain Trails to Ski Before You Die
FOR SOME PEOPLE, BUCKET LISTS ARE ARE ABOUT RESTAURANTS TO VISIT, OR BOOKS TO READ, OR CONCERTS TO GO TO. For skiers and snowboarders, they’re about checking off the best trails to be conquered. From massive resorts to small community hills, Maine has a wealth of terrain that you could spend a lifetime exploring. Here are five Maine ski trails that everyone should tackle at least once in a lifetime. They aren’t necessarily the most difficult trails in the state—there’s more to these experiences than an expression of raw skill—but they’re trails that are emblematic of the variety of skiing in Maine.
SUGARLOAF offers a wealth of options, from multiple miles cruising down Tote Road, to the snowfields that top its iconic logo, to the relatively wild chutes and glades of the ever-expanding Brackett Basin and Eastern Territory. However, no trail says Sugarloaf to me quite like Widowmaker. It’s a perfectly cut trail, which rides the fall line as it curves from the King Pine Bowl toward the rest of the mountain. Since being cut in the early 1960s, the trail has been one of the Loaf’s premier expert runs, even used by the U.S. Ski Team for training at one time.
At SUNDAY RIVER, there are almost too many runs to pick from, with eight peaks and more than 10 dozen trails. The cleverly advertised White Heat stands out to me. The trail, bisecting the White Cap peak on the resort’s eastern boundary, is a beast, to be sure. With an average pitch of about 30 degrees, and one side of the trail dedicated to burly moguls, it’s an exhausting and challenging run. But, more than just the terrain, I like the pitch that’s long been given for the trail—“the longest, widest, steepest lift-serviced trail in the Northeast.” It’s a good reminder of English classes and sentence structure; while there are longer trails, wider trails and steeper trails, none beat Sunday River at the combo of long, wide, and steep on a single trail.
At the CAMDEN SNOW BOWL, the Lookout trail provides a view you can’t get anywhere else. The Atlantic Ocean and the islands beyond Camden Harbor, spread out like a canvas. It’s a view you can get from a few places on the hill, but it’s best experienced on the appropriately named Lookout. The trail swings to skier’s right from the summit, just a short shot from the top of the triple chair installed at the resort a few years ago. The trail, a black diamond, offers both steeps and scenery, dropping dramatically towards Hosmer Pond and the Atlantic beyond through thin stands of trees.
I’d argue that Bull Moose at LOST VALLEY is emblematic of the community roots of Maine skiing. To really get the full experience, you’ve got to ski the trail on a weekday afternoon, when hundreds from school ski groups descend on the mountain. Kids swarm all over the trails and fill the lift, which runs over Bull Moose. It’s iconic in the sense that it shows the importance of Maine’s community hills in growing the sport, and gives any skier an experience akin to those of us who learned to ski this way. It’s one of the few black diamonds on the hill, and doubles at the race slope for the Auburn resort. Short and steep (you’ll only link a few turns from top to bottom), but wicked fun.
If you feel like showing off at one of Maine’s ski areas, take a few runs right under the Way Back Machine at MT ABRAM. The Cliff, one of the two double diamonds at the resort, is just that—a serious drop that just happens to be right under the lift, in full view of everyone. If you’ve got an exhibitionist streak, it’s a run where you can show off your skills to the assembled crowds. Just make sure you have the talent to back it up — otherwise, it’s a long trip down Fractured Fairy Tales under everyone on the lift.
Penobscot – Squaw Mountain
Saco – Black Mountain of Maine
T-Line – Shawnee Peak
— Text: Josh Christie. Josh is the author of a number of books on beer and the Maine outdoors, and co-owner of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine.
Five Essentials for your Backpack when Backcountry Skiing
You wouldn’t forget your skis, your boots, or perhaps your poles when you head off to the mountains. You wouldn’t get far if you did. Ski area skiing is one thing — heading out into the backcountry is another thing entirely. There are a few other essentials you should pack that can keep you safe and comfortable. Some things here may seem obvious, but then again maybe not. In any event, I never head out without these things packed safely away. You may not ever need them, but if you do, you’ll be mighty glad you packed wisely.
1. DUCT TAPE: Yep, good old duct tape. Now I don’t often take the whole darn roll (as much fun as that would be). I always have a full roll camping and banging around in the car, but when weight is an issue, I have to dial it down. Duct tape is like life insurance, property insurance and health insurance all in one. You never know when you might need it for equipment repair, to fashion a makeshift splint, to secure a bandage, or repair a tear in your jacket. Even just a small amount wrapped around a ski pole just below the handle is enough to power through. Be truly advanced and make it Gorilla tape. That stuff is virtually indestructible.
2. LEATHERMAN: This is also akin to an insurance policy. While I’ve never had to use my Leatherman (which is actually named for the company founder and developer of the original—Tim Leatherman) for a medical issue, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. It could be indispensable in fashioning a splint or crutch out of branches, or slicing off a piece of cord for a sling. It is far more frequently called into service for equipment repair. When I am trashing through the woods or getting ready to drop into something like the Left Gully at Tuckerman Ravine, I want to make darn sure my ski boot buckles and bindings are dialed in and perfectly adjusted. The Leatherman is a constant companion with just about any telemark bindings, which I find require a bit more love that alpine binders.
3. CLIF BARS: I have friends who go on and on about the beauty of food, the pleasures of dining, how you only have a finite amount of meals in your life, so you might as well make them count. I don’t disagree. However, I am not going to bring an artisanal multi-grain crust Margherita pizza with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella into the backcountry. When the priority is skiing (which only happens on days that end with “Y” when there’s snow on the ground), I get by just fine with black coffee and a CLIF bar or two. If I really want to get fancy, and pump up the protein count, I’ll even pack a CLIF Builder bar.
4. SPACE BLANKET: I am not a worrier. I don’t panic easily. Yet I am often prepared, occasionally to just short of overprepared. Thankfully I have never had a serious incident while out in the woods backcountry skiing or snowshoeing, but if I did and had to wait it out and spend a night in the woods, it would be a whole lot more comfortable with one of these lightweight, reflective Mylar blankets. It can keep you off a damp surface and preserve precious body heat. It takes up minimal space and weighs next to nothing. If you’re carrying a pack into the woods, carry a space blanket
5. HEADLAMP: Like a space blanket, having a headlamp, or at the very least, a fully charged flashlight, can help prevent a minor emergency situation from developing into a colossal nightmare. Headlamps are great for hitting the trail super early, or can help ease the path home if you stay out in the woods a wee bit too long. And again, this small relatively lightweight item can truly save your bacon. If you try to hike Katahdin in any weather or any season, and a ranger stops you and finds you are not packing some sort of headlamp or flashlight, they will turn you around. Heed their wisdom and always pack some light.
— Text & Photo: Lafe Low. Lafe is the former editor of Explore New England and Outdoor Adventure magazines. He is also the author of Best Tent Camping: New England, Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail: New England and the forthcoming second edition of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Boston.
Winter Running Essentials
The investment you make in high-quality gear will pay off in the form of many safe, comfortable runs all winter long. It’s a matter of making safety a priority.
In addition to tights, tops and a running jacket that protects you from the wind and the snow, make sure to stock your gear closet with these essentials.
HATS ~ A hat or balaclava will help ensure that your face and ears are protected from biting-cold temperatures.
MITTENS AND GLOVES ~ Extremities are the first to freeze. High-quality mittens or gloves which keep you warm and protect you from the wind will reduce your risk of frostbite.
EXTRA TRACTION ~ Products like Yaktrax, spikes, or even some heavier trail shoes can offer more traction in snowy conditions.
LIGHTS ~ A headlamp or hand-held flashlight will help ensure that approaching motorists, cyclists, and runners can see you, and that you are visible to them. Always assume that drivers have not seen you, and get out of the way.
REFLECTIVE GEAR ~ To increase your visibility, make sure to wear a reflective vest, or clothing with reflective accents.
DRY CLOTHES ~ Moisture will make you colder, so be sure to have dry clothes close at hand so you can change right away after a sweaty or snow-soaked run.
IDENTIFICATION ~ Even if you don’t tune in on the run, it’s best to have a phone in case of an emergency, or carry identification that includes emergency contact information.
GO TO ROUTE ~ It’s hard enough to trust cars when the weather is good. When the weather is bad and snow banks are obscuring sight lines, it can be dangerous to run on some of your normal summer routes. As boring as it sounds, having just one route you know you can run safely in any weather will keep you running outside this winter.
Last year, I had a 1.75 mile stretch of road that I knew was safe to run in any weather. I would go out my front door and run back and forth until I hit my goal for the day. For three months I ran that same route every day, going as far as 20 miles just back and forth. It wasn’t glamorous or exciting or all that fun, but it was one of the best winters of training I have ever had.
— Activity Maine
Strong Brewing Company: Beer Geeks to the Core
Take a tough Jersey girl with a tender spot for great beer, transplant her to Maine years later, and what do you get? A woman ready to take on the world of craft beer.
Meet Mia Strong, who with her husband Al, owns their tiny craft brewery in Sedgwick, Maine. Opened in 2013, Strong Brewing Company, whose motto is, “Beer geeks to the core…we brew what we like and we like everything,” has already grown in small leaps and bounds, completing a third expansion just this March.
Strong Brewing Company was the product of hard work and crowd-sourcing, including a successful Kickstarter campaign and a Community Supported Brewery, similar to a CSA. While Mia currently runs the business/operations end and Al makes the beer, she will soon train to brew on their new system. One can only wonder what beer styles she has in mind.
I caught up with Mia recently and peppered her with questions about how her love affair with beer began. “My mother was drinking Paulaner when I was in my teens. I snuck one of her beers and liked it. So long to the Old Milwaukee I pretended to drink with my friends, dumping it out when they weren’t looking. A few years later I discovered Old Rasputin from North Coast. I took a four-pack of it to a party and a guy told me, ‘Girls don’t drink beer like that.’ I had a few choice words for him to set him straight.”
In four years, the Strong Brewing Company has expanded twice, upgrading the brewing equipment, adding a tasting room, partnering with two food trucks and working to attract a third food vendor for summer, 2017.
I ask the million-dollar question: is there room for growth in the craft beer business?
Mia tells me, “I agree with the Brewers Association that we have only 12.2% of the beer market, so there’s plenty of room to grow. The diversity in styles is great for beer drinkers.”
“We’re not afraid to try new recipes and we listen. Last summer, people were asking for a stout. We switched up our production schedule in order to brew one to have on tap.” Mia has two kids, so I wonder what’s on tap at dinner time, for the adults, of course. What beers pair with comfort food like mac and cheese? “Something light, like our California Common Ale called Locomotive.” I’ve had it, and I agree. Goes great with clams and lobster, too.
— Kate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England, (Downeast Books, 2016). She is currently working on a book about her search for her Irish ancestors and the beers they drank. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Five Maine Running Groups
Find running camaraderie on the trails and the road
Warm weather brings all the runners out, from the mighty fast marathoners to the easy-going jog-walkers. And while solitary runs on local trails suit plenty of folks just fine, running with a group has perks, too. Running groups are supremely social (which often translates to making new friends), and running with other people supplies a level of motivation that’s hard to summon on our own. Many of Maine’s running groups are free to join, or have a nominal annual membership fee, and most of them run year-round, too (sometimes in snowshoes).
Maine Track Club
Maine Track Club has gathered local runners together since 1979. Open to all level, MTC has groups in several towns, including South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, Scarborough, Sabattus, and Yarmouth. They also organize several races a year, and members have access to training clinics and social events. Membership is $25 a year. Mainetrackclub.com
Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine
Trail Runners of Midcoast Maine is a free, year-round trail running group that meets a couple times a week in the Camden area (in warmer months, they usually run the trails at Camden Snow Bowl). Monday Night Dirt is a no-drop group run, which means beginners won’t feel left in the dust, and there are also runs on Wednesday and weekends. Find them on the web or on Facebook.
Old Port Pub Run
Old Port Pub Run is perfect for Portland-area runners who are motivated by post-run beers. The group meets at 6:15 p.m. every Thursday, year-round, at Liquid Riot Bottling Company in Portland. Runs range from 3 to 5 miles, and socializing back at the bar follows. The group is free, but bring money to buy your own beer. www.oldportpubrun.com
Fleet Feet Maine Running
Fleet Feet Maine Running offers run groups its locations in Brunswick and Portland. The $75 fee includes three days of running (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), coaches, a year-long training program, and informational clinics. www.fleetfeetmainerunning.com
Trail Monster Running
Trail Monster Running is for serious trail runners who aren’t shy of rain, mud, and snow. Membership is “paid in the form sweat and blood on the trails,” which means you become an official member by showing up to run and volunteer. How fast you are doesn’t matter – the love of trail running does.
Central Maine Striders
Central Maine Striders in Waterville, established in 1975, connects runners of all levels, from recreational runners to competitive racers. The $15 yearly membership fee is good for the whole household and includes discounts for club races and access to group runs and training programs.
— Text: Shannon Bryan
Take It Outside! Outdoor workouts for every level
On the water, on a trail, or planking in the sunshine, sweat-inducing outdoor workouts beat a treadmill any day!
From mountain biking and paddleboarding to outdoor boot camps and yoga in the park, you can find an outdoor activity that’ll have you panting up a storm and loving every minute of it.
If you’re brand-spanking-new to a sport, taking a lesson is always a good way to go. You’ll learn proper form and technique, as well as the best ways to stay safe once you’re out on your own (all things you don’t want to learn the hard way). Plus, that expert guidance will help you learn more quickly (bonus!). If you’ve already got some experience, there are groups, tours and events for you, too.
BEGINNER: Paddleboarding looks easy enough to figure out (it’s just standing up, right?), but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Start by learning the best techniques for getting upright – which can be harder than it looks – proper paddle form, and safety measure (including wearing a leash and PFD and being aware of weather conditions and tides). Outfitters around the state offer lessons, including Wheels N Waves in Wells, Coastal Maine Kayak in Kennebunk, Portland Paddle in Portland, SOPOSUP in South Portland/Cape Elizabeth, L.L. Bean in Freeport, and Acadia Stand Up Paddleboarding in Bar Harbor, to name a few.
SUP EXPERIENCED: If you’re comfortable standing up on a SUP, then it’s time to start exploring. You can certainly chart your own course on Maine’s waterways, or sign up for a guided tour to places you might not think of. Maine Kayak in New Harbor leads sunset tours in Pemaquid Harbor, Portland Paddle leads tours to Fort Gorges in Casco Bay, and Seaspray Kayaking & Paddleboarding offers downwind ocean paddleboard tours that depart from Hermit Island in Phippsburg and end at Sebasco Harbor Resort (where a restaurant, bar, and outdoor pool await).
To really work yourself out, check out a paddleboard yoga class with Koan Wellness in York, on Lake Androscoggin with Windsurfing Maine, or with an area paddle shop, many of which are offering SUP yoga these days. Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport offers SUP Fit classes to really work your core and get your heart racing.
BEGINNER: Learn the basics with free weekly skills clinics in Portland. Sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the Wednesday evening clinics are perfect for beginners. They alternate each week between novice clinics on the Eastern Prom and beginner to intermediate clinics on the Stroudwater Trail. Sunday River in Newry runs a bike school with 90-minute clinics that include a bike rental and helmet. L.L. Bean in Freeport offers Learn to Mountain Bike courses that include all equipment and instruction.
INTERMEDIATE RIDER: Hit the trails on your own — the New England Mountain Biking Association is a great resource for trails — or join up with a local mountain biking group for some trail togetherness. The Single Track Sisters is a free women’s group that rides regularly on Monday and Wednesday evenings (Mondays are great for beginners, too). NEMBA has several Maine chapters, including in the Carrabassett region, Midcoast, Central Maine, Portland, and Penobscot area. The Green Machine Bike Shop in Norway leads group rides, too. For group rides (all levels welcome) that end with beer, check out the Bikes & Brews events from Gear Works Productions.
GO AFTER IT: Challenge yourself with a mountain bike race such as 12 Hours of Bradbury Mountain in Pownal on September 16. You’ll compete against other area riders, push yourself harder, and have an incredible experience, too.
BEND & STRETCH: Yoga is splendid for all levels – it’s great for strength, balance, and flexibility. But if you’re looking for an accessible workout that’ll have you inhaling warm summer air (rather than panting for breath), yoga is it. Many studios offer outdoor classes in warmer months. Practice Yoga leads yoga classes on Ogunquit Beach every morning from 7:30-8:30 a.m. The Viewpoint Hotel in York hosts outdoor yoga with views of Nubble Light every Wednesday from 8-9 a.m. In South Portland, Kelly Rich Yoga offers yoga at Bug Light Park every Tuesday 6-7 p.m. and Sundays 10-11 a.m., and Willard Beach Yoga leads classes on Fisherman’s Point. In Portland, Ashley Flowers teaches 6-7 p.m. Wednesday nights at Payson Park. If you like to cuddle some baby goats after your workout, check out yoga at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland.
SERIOUS SWEAT: Outdoor boot camps offer you the chance to sweat your brains out on the beach, on the grass, or up and down the bleacher stairs at your locals sports stadium. These boot camps are open to beginners, too, and offer heart-pounding workouts that’ll leave you exhausted and happy. In Kennebunk, check out Get Out There Fitness for 45-minute workouts at Mother’s and Gooch’s Beaches. Saco Biddeford Bootcamp offers workouts on the beaches of Biddeford Pool on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Portland Sweat Project meets every Wednesday morning for free fitness at various locations around town.
REALLY KILL IT: Sign up for the Ragged Mountain Scuttle at Camden Snow Bowl on September 24.
— Text & Photos: Shannon Bryan