Summer Bucket List: Getting the New Bike (A Little Bit) Off Campus

After two weeks of back-to-back days filled to the brim with work and 90º F weather, I finally gave in and decided that July is not the best time to take my newish bike out to the >20 mile American Tobacco Trail. I had originally included this as an item on my summer bucket list because I wanted the chance to get out and try the bike on an open trail away from the many obstacles of the on-campus biking experience. This week, I decided that doing so was still possible without dragging my bike and myself out to the ATT, so I decided to bike two local, Chapel Hill bike trails close to campus instead: the Bolin Creek Trail and the Booker Creek Trail.

The day started out like any other and I finished giving a campus tour at 1pm. Upon coming home to eat lunch before setting out on my biking adventures, I did indeed eat but I was delayed for two reasons. First, I got an email saying that my computer was ready for pick-up after dropping it off at ITS on campus for some help with a glitch a few days ago. Thank goodness for those lovely people who always help me through my various unlucky spells with technology. Before going to pick it up, I was at home using my phone to look up what kind of nozzle attachment I needed to pump up my bike tires, because road bike tires have different nozzles than the mountain bike tires to which I am accustomed. The page wouldn’t load, and after double-checking other apps on my phone, I reset the modem hoping that the Wi-Fi connection would start working again. Instead, my browser loaded a lovely message from Time Warner Cable stating that my modem no longer supports their “faster speeds” in my area. Exactly what I was in the mood for.

I promptly unplugged the modem, put it in my car, and went and picked up my computer on campus, which has been restored to pristine condition. I then went straight to Time Warner Cable, which is quite possibly the most infuriating place in the world, closely followed by the DMV, and waited in line for 30 minutes with everyone else coming to trade in their modems all of the sudden.

I finally got home and Nathan came over to bike at 3:30pm. Thankfully, he had a pump that fit my bike tires, so we double checked our tires and set off on the Bolin Creek Trail first! This short trail is about 1.5 miles long and runs from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to East Franklin Street and passes a community park and rose garden along the way! The trail is wonderfully flat and some sections are very wooded and shady, which is nice. Based on the large, concrete, cylindrical protrusions from the earth at even intervals along the trail, I think this area was originally cleared for sewage planning purposes, but now it has been paved and the grass is always nicely trimmed, so I think it’s a lovely use of the land following the small creek!

The trail is extremely flat, so it was a very leisurely ride and we stopped along the way to peek in this one section of the creek where fish make these little nests in the sand to lay their eggs. I think it’s really interesting because I don’t know much about fish, but these particular fish use their tails to make a little bowl-shaped area in the sand at the bottom of the creek to keep their eggs safe. I also stopped to take some pictures of the rose garden and the roses that are still blooming there, although they have thinned a bit throughout the summer!

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Near the park at the end of the trail, there is a staircase leading from the trail up to Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen on East Franklin Street because the trails sits below street level. The staircase is steep, but it has these convenient troughs in the center in which you can place your bicycle tires to pull it smoothly up the stairs beside you, which I thought was a wonderful idea! We then had to bike 0.8 miles down the more busy, main-road part of Franklin Street before reaching the entrance to the Booker Creek Trail.

This trail was very similar to the last and I appreciated the flat land and the cool shade provided by the bordering trees. We rode past a neighborhood of houses at the end of this trail as well; I especially liked a house built out of brick that varied in color from white, to tan, to pinkish bricks arranged in varying designs. The fun thing about biking on these quiet, wide paths together is that we can bike beside each other and chat while we ride instead of just following each other around. Once we’d finished exploring this area, we turned around and rode the whole thing back through the thick evening humidity.

We rode for only a couple of hours and many less miles than we would have on the American Tobacco Trail, but we still arrived back at my driveway quite hot and sweaty. I was glad to save the trouble of transporting my bike to Durham by simply exploring a couple of quiet trails here in Chapel Hill, and I am entirely in love with my new bike, which I’ve actually had for a couple of months now. It is my first road bike, but I’m finally comfortable with the drop handlebars and the different ways of shifting gears. Hills are certainly more manageable with the wider range of gears available on this bike, compared to my previous bike!

I had never been to the Booker Creek Trail before, and it was nice to do a bit of exploring! It was the perfect way to get out of the house and get some fresh air and sunshine for the afternoon, and we made it back in time to cook breakfast for dinner—one of my favorites. I had tons of fun and I still managed to accomplish another item on the bucket list, even if it wasn’t exactly in the original place that I had anticipated. Now I’m thrilled to make it through just a little more hard work before I get to go spend some time with my family at the beach! I’ve been excitingly anticipating this planned vacation time all summer long!

  • Try out my new bike on the American Tobacco trail

P.S. Be on the lookout for the blue moon tonight!

Summer Bucket List: Sunday Evening S’mores

A few weekends ago, I had planned to go to a riverside bonfire in Mebane with friends. Unfortunately, it poured that night so none of even attempted to go have a bonfire… leaving my bonfire bucket list item lonely and unfulfilled! We were never able to reschedule our super-fun bonfire plans, but I made up for it in a different way yesterday evening.

After church, I went over to Nathan’s house because his parents were coming into town to visit for the day. After spending literally two hours on his computer (mine is currently having issues…) agonizing over reviewing every detail of an application, I finally turned it in and I decided to chill for the rest of the evening. I helped make dinner with his sister, Jennifer, and we made veggie pasta, which is one of my favorite recipes. All you do is make a big pot of shaped pasta (I prefer the bowtie shapes) and sauté your favorite vegetables in a separate pan. We used asparagus, zucchini, carrots, onion, and mushrooms. Once the vegetables are about done cooking, you just add a big scoop of chicken base and a packet of Knorr brand vegetable soup mix to make a sauce for all of the vegetables. Then you mix the veggies into the pasta, sprinkle some parmesan cheese over it, and voila! Delicious veggie pasta is done and it only took two dishes to do it!

Nathan and I also made an éclair cake, which is even easier than the veggie pasta. It just requires a lot of layering of vanilla pudding and graham crackers and a thick layer of chocolate icing on top! We all had dinner together and sat around catching up. Right as the sun started to set, Nathan’s brother-in-law suggested a bonfire, and I was suddenly super excited that I would finally get to make my first s’more of the entire summer! We sat around a small fire pit in the back yard laughing about each other’s stories about how one day, Jennifer heard a small knock at the front door and she opened it and screamed because there was literally an escaped ram named Bubba standing on her front porch, tapping on the glass with his horns. (Don’t worry, Bubba is safe and has now been returned to a farm thanks to a rescue group.) I told about how when I was little, one day we came home to find that a duck got into our house by coming down the chimney somehow, and it had flapped all over the house and knocked over lamps and bowls and dad had to chase it out the back door with a broom. What else would you talk about at a bonfire, right?

We made s’mores and sat outside until 10 o’clock, and I enjoyed sitting there talking and listening to the sounds of the night insects that are only this loud in North Carolina. I just reveled in this beautiful place for a minute, and I thought about the new North Carolina branding tagline that says “NC: Nothing Compares.” I’ve spent the entire summer telling dozens of tour groups about how much I love UNC, but as I sat there at the fire, the back of my mind just thought about how much I love North Carolina in general. I love that some of our mountains are the oldest in the country and that no matter where you live in NC you can get to the beach or the mountains without any unreasonable amount of trouble compared to most places in the county. I’ve always called this place home and if my tour groups ask me about if I’ve enjoyed growing up in North Carolina, I like to tell them that they haven’t tasted barbeque until they’ve tried it in NC, and they haven’t seen beauty until they drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall when the leaves are changing. The humid summer night and the insects and the bonfire just made me nostalgic about it all, even though I still live here.

As I was finally driving home Sunday night, I realized that I had fulfilled my bucket list goal of enjoying a summer bonfire with s’mores and friends after all, but I hadn’t taken a single picture for the blog! At first I was frustrated with myself, but then I thought about the fact that sometimes I feel like the best days and moments are the ones where you were having so much fun the entire time that you forgot that your phone existed, so you didn’t feel the need to pull it out and take a picture to post on social media to prove to the world that you had an awesome weekend. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but I think that a memory is worth a million.

• Go to a bonfire… because summer just needs a good bonfire. With s’mores. And friends.

This summer is flying by, and fall semester will be starting again before we know it. Make the most of the weeks you have left to savor the summer moments with family and friends and to give yourself a break before getting back to school. I know we all need it!

Summer Bucket List: Nothing Like a Summer Evening Run Up Hillsborough Street

At the beginning of my bucket list, I made it my goal that by the end of the summer I would be able to go for a run up Hillsborough Street, which acts as a bridge between MLK and Franklin Street, without stopping to catch my breath. I made this my goal because I’ve started countless runs at the base of Hillsborough Street, but not once have I run all the way to East Franklin Street without stopping to walk or catch my breath. I love to jog down the sidewalks on East Franklin Street because there are tons of beautiful houses to look at while I run, but I have to get there first!

The thing that always frustrated me is that the distance from the base of Hillsborough Street to Franklin Street is less than one mile! According to my running app, it’s really only about 0.7 miles total! The problem is that the entire street is one steep incline, and I am terrible at running up hills; if I’m running, I want the road to be extremely flat.

I decided that the best way to increase my running endurance was to do it gradually, so I did some searches online to fine a simple schedule to go from “a walker to a runner” over a matter of weeks. The schedule, found on the Runner’s World website, spans ten weeks, but I didn’t exactly pay attention to solid weekly boundaries. The point of the schedule is to help you gradually increase your running endurance by alternating between walking and running and gradually increasing the running time until you reach 20 minutes of continuous running. I knew that if it was flat ground, the run up Hillsborough Street would take me less than 10 minutes, but I thought that gradually building up to 20 minutes on flatter trails would still help me in the shorter, uphill run. Here is a copy of the schedule I was using:

Week 1: Run 1 min, Walk 2 min (Repeat x7) – Total Time: 21 minutes

Week 2: Run 1 min, Walk 1 min (Repeat x10) – Total Time: 20 minutes

Week 3: Run 2 min, Walk 1 min (Repeat x7) – Total Time: 21 minutes

Week 4: Run 3 min, Walk 1 min (Repeat x5) – Total Time: 20 minutes

Week 5: Run 4 min, Walk 1 min (Repeat x4) – Total Time: 20 minutes

Week 6: Run 6 min, Walk 1 min (Repeat x3) – Total Time: 21 minutes

Week 7: Run 9 min, Walk 1 min (Repeat x2) – Total Time: 20 minutes

Week 8: Run 12 min, Walk 1 min, Run 7 min – Total Time: 20 minutes

Week 9: Run 15 min, Walk 1 min, Run 4 min – Total Time: 20 minutes

Week 10: Run 20 min – Leap for joy – then leap again – Total Time: 20

For the sake of not taking ten weeks, I started by timing myself to see how long I could run before I started feeling like I really wanted to stop and walk. I started from this point in the schedule and worked from there, repeating a single week’s prescription for several days until I felt like I was ready to move on to the next one. Adding a minute to your running time is actually more exhausting that I expected, considering that I’m not much of a runner and I haven’t been doing it much lately at all before this, due to the heat and humidity of late.

Finally, this week, I decided that I was going to try again to achieve my goal of jogging up Hillsborough Street without stopping. It was another 90º F North Carolina day, so I decided to wait until just before sunset with the hope that it would have cooled down a few degrees. At 7:45pm, I stretched my legs and started with a few minutes of walking, like I usually do, before I turned on my most upbeat workout music and I was off!

As with any run, at first I felt completely fine! It was right before I got to the bus stop in front of the Town House apartments that I really started to feel the incline: it was the steepest point and I got that feeling of quick breathing and impossibly heavy legs as I pushed up the sidewalk at what felt like a snail’s pace. I kept my eyes on a small staircase built into the sidewalk and I knew that if I just got up that staircase, the road would flatten out significantly and the worst would be over.

This is where it get's really fun...

This is where it get’s really fun…

I got to the staircase, but it took what felt like an hour and near suffocation to get there; I won’t lie to you and tell you that it was some magical run and it finally felt awesome. Nope, it was definitely a struggle, but at the top of that staircase I could already see the traffic light signaling that the intersection with Franklin Street was closer than I expected.

Even though I was still jogging, breathing got easier as the sidewalk flattened out and I kept my eye on the prize. I passed one house, two, three, four, a large shrub, five… and I was finally there! My fingers touched the crosswalk button at the intersection and I stopped with one giant exhale in a moment of exhausted accomplishment. I rewarded myself with a minute of walking, because that might be an easy run for some runners but it sure wasn’t an easy run for me!

So just like that, on a summer evening, drenched in sweat and humidity and looking like a tomato with eyes, I knocked one more goal off of the bucket list! If you’re trying to reach a running goal, whether it’s a specific time or distance, I’d definitely suggest trying a schedule that helps you slowly increase the difficulty of your run to build up endurance. If I set out randomly one night and decided that “today is the day I run up Hillsborough Street without stopping,” sheer will wouldn’t have gotten me to the top of that hill and my body would not have appreciated the attempt.

  • Get to the point where I can run all the way up Hillsborough Street (super steep hill) without stopping to catch my breath (this has been a personal goal all summer… slowly getting there)

There is not one specific distance or pace required to make running a great form of exercise, so don’t focus too much about not being a “good runner” or a “fast runner.” Instead, focus on that goal similar to the end result of the schedule above—reaching a 20-minute run—and know that your health benefits from every effort to get up and off the couch and be active.

Summer Bucket List: A Weekend at the Beach with Friends

This weekend was brimming with another bucket list adventure that started with me oversleeping on Saturday morning and then scrambling to throw all possible beach trip materials in my trunk. My sister was staying with me so we met some friends at 7:45am and the five of us crammed into one car after we spent a literal half hour playing trunk tetras as we tried to get all of our stuff to fit. We eventually accepted the fact that the big food cooler just wasn’t going to fit, so we traded it out for the first cheap Styrofoam cooler we could find at Target.

By 8:15am, we were off on our journey to Atlantic Beach. I generally don’t mind long car rides too much as long as there are other people to talk to, so I enjoyed the three hour drive but I ended up falling asleep at some point along the way. When we finally arrived in Morehead city, we met up with a bunch of other people that I knew from church and we all had lunch before heading to the beach! At first we drove the wrong parking lot and several people nearly had conniptions when we saw signs that said “No swimming. No wading.” As it turned out, we discovered that that particular part was a state park and we had to go back to the public access about a mile down the road to be able to swim.

After obsessively slathering on sunscreen and setting up a few umbrellas for shade, I finally got hot enough that I headed for the ocean. I’m ridiculously paranoid about sharks this year (even though I know the probability of shark attacks is still tiny despite the greater publicity of more attacks this year) so I just got in to about knee level and let the waves and the wind cool me down. Also, there’s nothing quite like that lovely feeling of getting salt water in your eyes while you’re wearing contacts that just soak in the burning salt and make it feel like someone just squeezed a lemon in your eye. It’s truly a pleasant experience (read that in intense sarcasm voice).

It was just a long, super fun day at the beach and we even had dinner and Klondike bars for dessert at a picnic table area right beside the sand. I refuse to get in the ocean in the later evening (again, out of shark paranoia) so a few of us went on a long walk on the beach down to the state park area just to look for seashells, check the area out, and watch the sunset.

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Sisters watching the sunset

Eleven of us stayed the night at our friend Alec’s grandfather’s house because he was nice enough to host us (which we loved because we all got to stay together without worrying about hotel rooms!) In the morning, several people went out on the dock at the house to watch the sunrise, but I’m not enough of a morning person to do that so I slept in a bit.

After we ate breakfast on Sunday morning, our group of eleven parted ways when six of them had to leave early to get back to Chapel Hill. The five of us that rode together decided to go to church on this tiny island called “Harker’s Island” in the morning before spending a bit more time on the beach. We wanted to change it up from where we were the day before, so we took a little 15-minute ferry to Shackleford Banks, a small island really close to the state park. One side of the island faces the sound and has clear water and hardly any waves. The other side faces the open ocean and the beach is quiet and practically deserted, which was quite a contrast from Atlantic Beach.

The ferry dropped us off on the sound side, so we marched across a trail of white, extremely reflective, blistering hot sand to get to the beach side of the island. I was less than pleasant by the time we got there because I was hangry (angry due to hunger) and my poor skin just hates being out in direct sunlight for that long, even with sunscreen. Once we finally got there and ate a picnic lunch, I mellowed out a bit and we spent a fun afternoon on the beach. There were great seashells on the beach and the water was much clearer than where we were the day before, which was nice.

As we walked back through the trail across the island later that evening, we ran into several of the Shackleford wild horses! Over a hundred wild horses live on the island and have done so for hundreds of years. There are also four foals on the island right now and we were lucky to come across one of them taking a nap! I’d never seen a horse laying down before, but it seemed like the baby was taking a nap because he was just lazily laying down on the grass and flicking his tail every few seconds. Several of the grown horses were standing around the foal and almost seemed to be babysitting, which was really cool to see. The horses are so used to people on the island that one of them was just casually standing in the middle of the trail eating and was not at all interested in moving for us, so we had to go off of the trail to get around it, which I thought was kind of funny.

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We spent a half hour or so on the sound side before we caught the ferry back across to the mainland. As we were standing in the clear water of the sound, Nathan saw a big blue crab and we tried to get it to come out of the water to the shore so he could pick it up. I would have taken a picture, but it decided to charge me and I flailed around shrieking so much that it got away before we could get it. I have a talent for flailing.

Back at the mainland, we traded our used ferry tickets for sand dollars, and the lady who gave us the sand dollars told us that the horses have a vet that comes over to check on them regularly, especially the babies. That made me feel better because I was a little worried about the baby laying in the hot sand, but I was glad to hear that someone checks on them in case anything was wrong.

Something about a day at the beach with all of that sun and heat makes me feel unbelievably exhausted, so by the time I finally got back home in Chapel Hill that night around eleven o’clock, I was felt like a zombie and I slept like a rock. It was such a fantastic weekend with friends and it was so fun to have my sister there with me! I’m so excited that she’s starting school here in Chapel Hill next month, so I’m sure this beach trip was just the first of our many future college adventures together this year!

  • Go on at least a day trip to the beach with my sister!

P.S. My dad sent me these picture of my dog after he got a haircut. He’s a short-haired pup but he gets so hot in the summer that sometimes we get him shaved down a bit. I had to share because the cuteness almost melted me.

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“Hi I’m Fletch and I’m adorable”

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“I’m happy to be home because I hate the vet and the groomers and my family gives me treats as a peace offering after they pick me up… nom nom nom”

Summer Bucket List: Trying out Pinterest Workouts

When I lived in a dorm, I used Pinterest workouts every now and then when it was raining outside and I didn’t want to walk to the gym, or on the rare occasions that the gym closed due to winter weather. Pinterest has tons of easy, at-home workout ideas, as well as stretches and other motivational ideas. I got the idea to make a “sweat stash” this summer from the UNC Campus Rec Pinterest board, so I’m putting a dollar in a big jar every time I work out, and at the end of the summer I’ll use the sweat stash money for some kind of treat!

As part of my summer bucket list, I’ve been exploring the UNC Campus Rec social media outlets, including Pinterest, and I’ve tried out a few different Pinterest workouts! Due to copyright rules, I can’t copy the actual images of the workouts directly into the blog, but I’m adding hyperlinks to all of the workouts as I give my opinions about each one that I’ve tried so far!

  1. The 5 Best Post-Cycling Stretches

I’ve been trying these stretches after doing a group fitness spin class or biking outdoors on my own. Cycling, especially doing it specifically as a workout, really leaves my legs feeling sore and tight to the point where I literally feel like I’m waddling the next day if I don’t stretch. This post includes a hamstring stretch, a calf stretch, a glute stretch, a back stretch, and a quad and hip stretch. I really liked all of the stretches and they helped to loosen up my legs for sure!

However, I don’t really like sitting on the floor to stretch whether I’m outside or in the cycle classroom, so I modified the glute and back stretches. For the back stretch, I basically do the same thing shown in the Pin, but I just do it while sitting on the stationary bike. I just reach my hand backward and across my body for a twisting spine stretch. For the glute stretch, I just do this instead while holding onto the stationary bike for support if I’m in the cycle classroom. In this picture, I’m just in my dining room:

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  1. 8 Exercises You Can Do While Watching Netflix

This article claims that working out and watching TV at the end of a long day don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and provides eight suggested moves to try while watching your favorite show. To really test out the claim of this workout, I attempted to do this while watching “Chopped,” a food competition show that I like. Here are the eight moves, for which you can find detailed instructions by clicking the link:

  • Pillow crunches: These are pretty manageable while watching TV, it’s just harder to remember to breathe if you’re distracted by the show (haha).
  • Roundhouse kicks: These are not as intense as the name implied. I approve of these as a TV-friendly move.
  • Leg circles: Practically the same as the roundhouse kicks, but on a smaller scale.
  • Sit and twist: I cannot watch TV while doing this, I mean you’re basically doing sit-ups and twisting in the opposite direction of the TV once you sit up!
  • Oblique twists: This one worked because you’re twisting your core but it specifically says to keep your head stationary.
  • Knees to chest: This one is difficult, because you’re supposed to be holding your body in a “V” shape, which makes it hard for me to focus on anything other than the movement. But at least I could still see the TV.
  • Hip rotations: This was another fail for me as far as watching TV goes—I mean you’re lying face down, how am I supposed to be casually watching my show while doing this without breaking my neck? The move itself was fine, but it just doesn’t qualify as an exercise you can do while watching Netflix in my book.

Overall, I think this workout was a good idea if you want to make even your TV time more useful by adding in some physical activity. However, I’d say that all of these are best to do with a show that you’re fine with just listening to when you can’t actively watch it during some of the exercises. If it’s your favorite show in the world and you’re extremely invested in it, I’d advise making your workout time separate from your Netflix watching time.

  1. 47 Plank Variations for a Killer Core

Planks are one of my favorite core workouts because they engage plenty of other muscles throughout your body at the same time. I had my own little plank routine that I would incorporate into the end of my workouts at the gym last year as my ab work, so I figured this article would give some great ideas to mix it up!

I went down the list trying them all out, and I held the stationary plank positions for one minute and just did 5-10 reps of the dynamic plank exercises. I had to skip nearly 10 of the planks exercises, because I was doing them at home and I don’t have a BOSU ball, TRX straps, or a stability ball at my house (although you can definitely find stability balls in the gyms on campus!) The fingertip plank (#33) felt like I was going to snap my fingers off, so I wasn’t a big fan of that one. Other than those, I really liked all of the ideas and my arms and core were shaking by the time I got through all of them, which means that they were really causing some good muscle work!

The "Bird Dog Plank." I fell over the first time I tried this.

The “Bird Dog Plank.” I fell over the first time I tried this…

  1. Give me 50!

This workout featured a simple infographic showing five simple exercise moves with the challenge to do 50 reps of each! The five moves are: prisoner squats, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, push-ups, and crunches. The entire thing only takes about ten minutes, so if you’re really feeling ready for a challenge, you could repeat the circuit two or three times! I only did it once, because I was saving some of my energy to try one more Pinterest workout, but I was definitely sweaty and breathing hard after only ten minutes with this quick workout!

  1. Text Book Fit Workout with Kit Rich

As a student, I felt an obligation to try this one out when I saw it on the Pinterest board. I found a couple of textbooks that I never managed to sell back laying around my house, and I put them to good use! This short workout shows you how to use textbooks as weights to make push-ups, squats, and a few cardio moves more challenging and fun at home! I liked it and at least I found one way to use the custom-to-UNC organic chemistry book that they just had to change right after I finished the class (so I could never sell it back… not that I’m bitter about that or anything.)

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Text book push-ups

Overall, I thought that trying out the Pinterest workouts was fun! I feel like I’ve been ignoring them for a while thinking that I want a “more complete workout,” a video to follow, or just something a little bit longer. However, there are days when I feel like I don’t have time to exercise at all, but I can easily fit these Pinterest workouts right in, even on my busiest days. Ten minutes of exercise is definitely better than zero and it gets me up and moving! Also, when our internet went out after a storm a few days ago, I was in the middle of a workout video online. Once the video froze and the internet stopped working, I felt like I couldn’t finish my work out! I could have just pulled up a few Pinterest workouts on my phone and done them instead!

One more item on the summer bucket list complete! For quick workout ideas and inspiration, check out the UNC Campus Rec board on Pinterest!

Summer Bucket List: A Day Hike in Blowing Rock, NC

Yesterday, for my sister’s eighteenth birthday, I got to go celebrate with her and also accomplish another fun item on my bucket list! I got up early to make the three-hour drive to Morganton and then from there my family went to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. When we were little kids, mom and dad would bring us to Blowing Rock to play at Blowing Rock Park and eat ice cream from Kilwin’s, across the street. Now that we’re older, we like to make day trips to Blowing Rock to spend time together as a family and explore some of the many beautiful areas that lack the previously necessary playground equipment.

We came to the Moses Cone Estate today, which is comprised of the beautiful Moses Cone Manor on the top of a beautiful, mowed hill and has a fantastic view of the wide expanse of rolling land beneath the house. The estate is now open to the public and the Moses Cone walking trail is a wide, graveled path friendly to day-hikers and horseback riders alike. It feels more like a leisurely uphill walk than a hike. The path winds around the forest of the estate and surrounds Bass Lake in the center of the land. The lake was a clear blue and full of lily pads, ducks, and geese today. We even saw a poor little goose with one normal leg and foot and the other with only the leg and no foot! L I felt so bad for the little guy but it did seem quite adapted as it hopped around eating from the grass.

The many walking trials are different lengths and difficulties around the estate, offering the opportunity for a casual stroll or a hotter, sweatier walk and tour of the historic farmhouse manor. We walked around chatting but didn’t make it up to the actual manor because it was at the top of the hill and the tours must be reserved in advance. We had to turn around for time’s sake, which I didn’t mind at all because it allowed us to catch back up to my dad, who has injured his knee recently.

Here are some pictures from the Moses Cone Estate!:

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I found the perfect climbing tree; the branches were practically evenly spaced!

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Bass Lake in the background (my sister and me)

Once I rehydrated and we all took a few moments to cool down, we traveled the short distance over to Price’s Lake to get out on the water for an hour or so! They rent canoes and kayaks for less than $15/hour, so my sister and I got a two-person kayak and explored the lake for an hour or so. We loved the kayak because we could go much faster and in much shallower waters than in the canoe! It was beautiful outside and it was really hot, but it actually didn’t feel too bad at all thanks to a nice breeze! If I flopped my feet over the side of the kayak and let them skim the water it felt just right!

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It was so much fun but I was so tired by the end of the day! It was definitely worth the drive home, because I got to celebrate my sister’s birthday with my family and you won’t find a mountain town as charming as Blowing Rock anywhere near Chapel Hill! For anyone who is curious, the town is so named because it contains a 4,000 foot cliff known as the Blowing Rock. The cliff got its name because the rock walls around the gorge beneath the cliff form a vertical tunnel and the wind sweeps upward through the tunnel so strongly that if you throw something light over the cliff (like a handkerchief, perhaps), the wind will blow it back up and prevent it from falling to the bottom. Pretty cool!

We wrapped up the fantastic day with Italian food, birthday cake, and a few episodes of Friends! I hadn’t expected to make it to Blowing Rock this summer, so it was a welcome surprise and I consider one more item on the bucket list half complete! (I’ll still go to a place I’ve never been before to hike before summer is over!)

  • Go on a day-hike in a place (in NC) I’ve never been before

Summer Bucket List: Fourth of July Weekend

This weekend for my summer bucket list, I had to figure out a fun way to spend the Fourth of July since it was the first time I haven’t spent it with my family and I didn’t make it to our yearly Fourth of July family reunion this year. I was wide-awake at 8:30am, which was pretty unusual for me considering that I went to bed late (as always) and I like to sleep late on Saturdays.

I took advantage of my odd “awakeness” and went for a jog on the Bolinwood trail starting on Hillsborough Street. It wasn’t too hot yet and there was a nice breeze, so even though my legs felt like they were made of lead, it was still a really enjoyable jog. There were tons of people out and about on the trail, and I even ran into one guy doing yoga in the rose garden at the park that I use as my turn-around point. He said hi and we chatted for a few minutes because he was so friendly and in such a good mood that it was infectious. When I got back home at 10am, I realized that my roommate had gone to the grocery store and accidentally locked the door I left unlocked on purpose (because I didn’t take a key… always the genius…) so I chilled on the front porch until she got home.

After a shower and an early lunch, Nathan and I decided to go spend the afternoon at the Sarah P. Duke gardens since we didn’t have any plans until later in the evening. The gardens are so widespread that we wandered around for nearly three hours. We even found one section that is a dedicated food garden! It was growing everything from pumpkins to peanuts to blue tomatoes, which I had never seen before! Somehow I had missed that part of the garden last time I went, and I’m a total nerd about exploring the gardens so I had a great time.

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This goofy picture practically smells like cheddar we are cheesing so hard.

At 5pm, we met up with several other friends and brainstormed how to spend the evening. All of us are students living in houses or apartments without any kind of grill, so a traditional Fourth of July cookout would have been kind of difficult. We decided to take the easy route and we went to Buns on Franklin Street for dinner. It was my first time eating there, which is apparently a major crime according to most people, considering that I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for three years now. But if we couldn’t have a cookout, what better way to celebrate America than with a big BLT (I don’t like burgers) and French fries? The cashier warned us that the order of large fries could feed five adults, but we all thought he was exaggerating. We ordered a basket of fries for the table (there were six of us) and the guy wasn’t kidding at all—we didn’t even finish all of them because we were all so full!

After dinner, we made our way to Kenan stadium and picked a spot as high as we could find. For two whole hours, eleven of us (five more had joined us at this point) played “Go Fish,” which I haven’t played since I was little enough to have a babysitter. It was great, even though we had to yell at each other over the ridiculously loud blaring of the acapela band coming through the speakers they had set up on the field. The band actually sounded pretty good for the most part, I was just irritated by the volume and any acapela group outside of a college setting has a tendency to remind me of Bumper from Pitch Perfect 2. Their beat boxer had mad skill though, so I at least respected that.

At 9:30pm, it was finally dark and they turned out the lights in the stadium. Everyone had been given a glow stick when we came in the stadium, so the sea of glowing green looked pretty awesome in the darkness.

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I was holding my phone all lopsided and the photo quality is terrible, but you get the point.

They launched the fireworks right there in the stadium, and I thought it was a great show! I had to cover my ears because I already had a slight headache and the echo of the stadium made them extra loud, but it was amazing to see them so close! You know those boring, terrible pictures of fireworks that just look like a tiny burst of light on a black background that most people take on their phones? Well, I was determined not to post one of those cliché blurs here:

Photo credit for this beautiful image goes to Bryan S. Wang, co-founder of UNC’s first all-inclusive photography club, CarolinaClicks. You can support their club and see more awesome photos like these by checking out and liking their Facebook page here! I really appreciate him letting me share this photo with you all!

After the fireworks, the night was still a bit too young to call the holiday a wrap! We brought it to a close by going to Waffle House for a late night snack before I came home and crashed. I just don’t think I will ever quite be able to get over my extreme love for waffles, so it was a great end to a wonderful holiday. The entire day was planned on whims and group votes, but at the end of the day, it was fantastic and I was exhausted.

I had a great Chapel Hill holiday with friends and I’d like to express my appreciation for the countless men and women who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice their time, their convenience, and even their lives so that we can stand proud of this amazing country that we live in. From the first ships crossing the Atlantic to the soldiers still in uniform every day, we owe our home and our safety to many nameless others. Even though fireworks and cookouts are fun, may we all remember what it takes to have that privilege.

Summer Bucket List: Barre Class

This week on my bucket list, I went to the group fitness barre class held in Woolen gym dance studio (in the basement—B19). This is one of the newest group fitness classes, and it just started up this summer! Attendance has been so high that the class started as only one night per week, but quickly added a second class on Tuesday nights to answer the demand!

Barre, pronounced just like “bar,” is a type of fitness class that uses a ballet barre and ballet-inspired movements to tone and sculpt your body. As such, it is typically held in a dance studio, although there are also plenty of videos that you can buy to do at home, using the back of a chair as your barre. As it was my first time going to the class, I walked through the front doors of Woolen and asked someone working there to point me in the direction of the dance studio. Good thing I did because two staircases and approximately 76 turns and hallways later, I finally arrived at the dance studio in one of the many unknown basement corners of Woolen gym. I was actually surprised when I walked in because I had never seen it before and it was a really nice studio! I also realized that I left my phone in the car… so sadly there are no pictures to share today—so sorry!

Everyone just found a place to sit against the walls (where the barre is attached) until the class began. I’m not exactly sure how many people were there but we were pretty close together and I would estimate that it was close to sixty! There was also a standalone barre in the center of the room, but it requires an equal number of people on both sides to balance each other. Sabrina, the instructor, introduced the class and we got started!

A lot of people raised their hands when she asked if this was their first experience with a barre class. I think there was a lot of surprise about how difficult it can be, because within the first ten minutes I was already hearing a lot of “Aw man!” and “It burns!!” We started off holding onto the barre and sitting back into a series of deep squats and small pulses. My quads were definitely burning, and another lovely detail about barre classes is that they love you to spend at least half of the class up on your toes with your heels off of the floor. Now the calves were also burning.

Not only were everyone’s legs on fire, we also got to see the lovely faces we were making at close range because the walls to which the barres are attached are entirely covered in mirrors. I found it both funny and awkward. Just when I thought my legs might actually burst into flames, we took a “break” to work on arms. If anyone happened to walk in the room and just watch us doing the arms portion, it would probably look super easy. We stood upright and moved our arms very, very slowly back and forth forward and up until our hands came together in a circle (like we were holding a beach ball) in front of us and then above our heads. We were supposed to keep our muscles engaged the entire time like we were pushing through molasses. There were no weights, just our own arms, and yet it was actually crazy difficult after only a few minutes! My arms were actually burning too and I quickly understood why ballerinas tend to have nice arms even though they don’t seem to be actively using them to bear any weight while they dance (most of the time).

Next we worked on the glut muscles, which is just a fancy term for your bum and always seems like it should be spelled “glute” to me, since that is the way it is pronounced. Google says otherwise. We stood farther away from the bar on one leg, hinged forward to hold the bar so that our torsos were parallel with the floor, and then lifted the non-standing leg up so that it was also parallel with the floor. We did several small, seemingly simple motions such as circles with the lifted leg and small pulses of lifting and lowering. Once again, it might have looked easy, but it got harder and harder to keep my leg up by the second!

Just when I thought we’d exhausted all of our muscles so surely the class must be coming to an end, Sabrina threw in five minutes of ab work on the floor before we finished with a cool-down. I think it was safe to say that we were all sweaty and very aware of all of our muscles that had just worked so hard for an hour!

I thought it was really fun overall—definitely more fun than doing the videos at home in my living room! You don’t need to be a ballerina or have any dance experience whatsoever to do this class! The moves are ballet inspired, but they are adapted into a workout class, so even if you are a dancer they will feel quite different from your dance classes. If you haven’t tried the barre class and you’re in Chapel Hill this summer, I would definitely suggest it. Otherwise, I’m feeling pretty sure that it will continue during the school year! One more new experience on the bucket list complete!

  • Attend the new barre class in Woolen gym (Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 6:30 – 7:30pm)

P.S. I also went to YoPo and tried one new flavor combination this week: Key lime-coconut swirl! I don’t usually choose two fruity flavors at once, but this one definitely paid off in a delicious homemade waffle cone. One more mini bucket list item half complete. :)

  • Try 2 new flavor combinations at the Yogurt Pump… so scary for a creature of habit

Happy 4th of July weekend everyone!! Be safe and let’s all hope that the rains hold off long enough for some fantastic fireworks!

P.S.S. My original bucket list included “Attend Kyle Harmon’s Zumba class…”. However, since I’ve realized that (1) Kyle Harmon’s Zumba class doesn’t work with my schedule, (2) She is actually a girl and I shouldn’t have automatically assumed that she was  guy because her name is Kyle, and (3) I’ve already done 2 group fitness bucket list items, I have changed that bucket list item to finding a fun way to spend the Fourth of July with friends instead. We’ll see what I come up with and I’ll write about it next week!

Summer Bucket List: Early Morning Cycle Class at the SRC

I consider myself a night owl, and waking up before 8am is definitely not a regular occurrence for me, especially in the summer. However, for the sake of the bucket list, my alarm went off at 5:30am this morning and I dragged myself out of bed. My first thought of the day was “good grief, it’s still dark outside,” and my second was a moment of mad respect for my roommate, who was also up and getting ready for her 7am shift at the hospital.

I threw on some athletic clothes and a pullover since it was actually early enough to be slightly chilly outside. Having been awake for 20 minutes, I wasn’t awake enough to eat a “real breakfast,” but I knew I needed some energy if I was going to cycle! I compromised by mixing some chocolate protein powder in a big cup of milk. My whole body was thinking “why are you eating this early? Actually, why are you awake right now?” To which my brain responded: “For the sake of the bucket list and health, so calm down!”

Not only was it too early for non-morning-person human beings to be awake, it was also too early for the bus to be running. I decided that I was going to work out and get sweaty anyway, so I biked to the SRC and called it a warmup. On my way there, I saw a surprising number of people out running and walking their dogs and I was thinking “mornings would be so much more pleasant if I had a puggle to jog with me.” One older man was out walking and as I passed him on my bike he bid me a cheerful “good morning!,” which I reciprocated over my shoulder.

The nice thing about the hours between 6 and 8am is that the people who actually like mornings and get up early by choice are out and about and are already chipper and friendly. Once you pass that 8am mark you start to see a lot of people who just need to be at work or in class by a certain time, but they would really rather be sleeping. I realized that you won’t find many groggy, grumpy people out on a morning stroll at 6am, and that man’s “good morning!” cheered me up a bit and encouraged me to pretend to be a morning person for the day.

I arrived to the cycle class at 6:10am in the SRC, and the class started at 6:15am. Morgan, the instructor, was excited and ready to go! We started out slow and did some arm stretches while we warmed up our legs. There were 8 people there total, which was more than I expected honestly, and she kept the lights dim, which my eyes appreciated.

Here we go...

Here we go…

We went through a series of sprints and climbs and Morgan was encouraging without yelling at us, which I like. By then I was extremely awake and my heart was pumping! I loved that she did some really slow “climbs” with a ton of resistance because I could definitely feel that my muscles were engaged instead of just feeling my heart pounding. At some points she told us we could use our obliques, which involves kind of bobbing back and forth as you pedal to engage your abs and use your body weight to help with each pedal stroke. At other times, she told us to hold our cores still and straight and really isolate the legs, which was incredibly difficult!

She even incorporated some arm work into the workout, which was new to me in a cycle class! We did a modified tricep pushup down toward the handle bars and back up to seated position as we pedaled at a steady pace. We also moved our upper bodies as we pedaled standing up but leaning over the bike in the pattern up left, up right, back left, back right, repeat. Overall, I really enjoyed the class, and by the time it ended I was tired and sweaty—the hallmark signs of having completed an awesome workout.

I couldn’t believe that it was only 7 o’clock when I left the class! I can easily see how people can get addicted to early morning workouts because it feels really great to have finished doing something so great and empowering for your body before your day really begins! I realized that I still had two whole hours before I had to be at work, which gave me enough time to shower and eat a real breakfast.

This is tired, post-workout Emily and one of the few selfies you'll ever get from me! :p

This is tired, post-workout Emily at 7am and one of the few selfies you’ll ever get from me!

With my crazy schedule that requires me to work late and then go to bed late many nights out of the week, I don’t forsee myself getting up at 5:30am to cycle every Tuesday and Thursday, but I can see it happening every once in a while! Overall, it was a fun experience and I would definitely recommend trying it sometime!

  • Attend a 6:15am cycle class at the SRC (so early!!)

Another dollar goes into the sweat stash and another item is checked off of the bucket list, all by 7am!

Summer Bucket List: An Evening at the Quarry

After an unexpected detour to meet someone delayed my afternoon plans by three hours, I was still determined to make it to the quarry. I drove to Durham all sweaty and tired from giving a campus tour in this lovely 95º weather we’ve been dealing with every day lately. My boyfriend and I ate a quick dinner at his house before driving to the quarry, and it was 6pm by the time we arrived. It had cooled down slightly outside and the sun wasn’t beating straight down anymore, for which my fair, freckled skin was extremely grateful.

We drove down the dusty road to park in the small graveled lot. After claiming the last available spot, I followed him down the curvy trail through the woods, knowing that I always forget where to turn left and hoping he would remember. He did remember, of course, and after 20 minutes of stepping over rocks and roots, we emerged to the open expanse of the beautiful, clear quarry on a stunning summer evening.

IMG_2260It had been a while since I had been here, and I was happily surprised by the clarity of the water and the relatively small number of other people around to crowd the waters. I was already hot, sweaty, and sticky and the water looked so inviting, but the quarry gets very deep, very quickly, and it is DEFINITELY advisable to bring any sort of flotation device to the waters. (Not doing so could lead to exhaustion out in the deep water in the middle of the quarry, where it will take a lot longer to get back to shore than you expect.) After ten minutes of sitting on the bank, blowing my precious, panting breath into an inflatable pink pool lounger, I was finally ready to swim.

As I stepped into the water, it was much warmer than I expected! It felt nice but I almost wished it was cooler to counteract the hot weather. After trying twenty different ways to sit on the float and still paddle, I ended up laying on my stomach on the part made for sitting so I could do a pseudo-breaststroke swim to the middle of the quarry. We always paddle to the middle to get a good view of the people jumping off of a high point in the bank. As always, there were people lined up to contemplate the 30-ft jump and then plenty of shrieks as they went for it, one by one, and came up laughing from the adrenaline. I’ve jumped a few times in the past, but this time I didn’t feel like climbing up there and mustering the energy and courage to convince myself to jump, so I watched instead as I chilled in my float and chatted with Nathan. Throughout the quarry, other clusters of people laid on pool floats, giant floating logs, and even an inflatable pretzel and random words and laughter floated across the water.

IMG_2264Two hours passed by in what felt like no time at all, and soon a park ranger was walking the path that circles the quarry announcing, “Gate closes at 8:30pm! It’s almost eight o’clock now!” We made our slow progress back to the bank and then had to go about the time-consuming process of getting all of the air out of our floats so we could carry them back in a bag. By the time the floats were in the bag and I checked the time on my phone, it was already 8:15pm!! While I think that Chacos are amazing shoes and excellent for most outdoor activities, I still can’t run as fast in them as I can in tennis shoes. Nevertheless, we turned and started running up the trail, Nathan in his tennis shoes and backpack and me in my Chacos with a giant flailing beach bag full of floats on my shoulder.

I ran up the trail panting and staring at the ground to avoid the hundreds of roots and rocks just trying to slow me down. The trail magically felt twice as long as when we were coming down the first time. I found myself looking ahead at Nathan’s back and wondering “How on earth is he so much faster than me? I know he has tennis shoes but I go running regularly by choice! He hates running! Good gravy.”

As we got close to the parking lot and he got farther ahead of me, I called out that it was 8:28pm and he needed to run ahead and move the car outside of the gate!” We were serious and laughing at the same time at the hilarity of our flailing to get to the car on time at the end of what was supposed to be such a relaxing evening.

I emerged from the woods into the parking lot at exactly 8:30pm to find Nathan sitting in the car chugging a water bottle just outside of the gate and the park ranger about to lock the gate with the last remaining car of the evening still sitting empty in the lot. The small group of people who were still swimming when we left was in for a lovely surprise.

So that was it: the tale of my evening at the quarry and first item checked off of my summer bucket list. Who knew I was in for such as adventure? Even though we were exhausted by the time we got back to the car, it didn’t change what a fun and beautiful evening it had been and we laughed about it on the drive back to his house.

  • Swim at the rock quarry in Durham. Check!

I’m looking forward to what happens next as I continue with my bucket list next week! I have a feeling that this is going to be more fun and interesting to write about than I anticipated!

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