Aug 202019
 
Looking east from the summit at Grotto Mountain in Canmore Alberta

Earlier this month, we decided to hike and climb Grotto Mountain. Grotto Mountain is just outside of Canmore, Alberta, with it’s trail head starting right by the Alpine club. This was my 3rd time doing the hike, and 1st for my friend. This was however the first time I’ve done the complete loop, ascending the ACC route, and descending the hard route.

While we completed the loop in a clockwise manner, I highly recommend against this. From the summit down, it was extremely difficult to find the trail, even with a downloaded map and GPS. Not only will you get lost, but it’s also incredibly difficult (probably one of the most difficult descents I’ve done simply because I kept slipping).

I’d highly recommend doing the loop in a counter-clockwise method. While this trail is “safe”, it is difficult and challenging requiring lots of stamina and cardio work. Things can get a little risky on the hard route.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/alberta/grotto-mountain-trail

My AllTrails Recording: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/recording-aug-04-06-07-pm–3

Looking east from the summit at Grotto Mountain in Canmore Alberta
Grotto Mountain Summit view East

Grotto Mountain is an ascent up to an altitude of around 2,870m (9416ft), with beautiful views of Canmore, Alberta and other mountains. I completed this trek with my usual hiking buddy Elisha!

Selfie of Stephen Wagner and Elisha Comeau standing on Grotto Mountain
Stephen Wagner and Elisha Comeau – Grotto Mountain
Stephen Wagner standing on Grotto Mountain Summit
Stephen Wagner on Grotto Mountain Summit
Elisha Comeau standing on Grotto Mountain Summit
Elisha Comeau on Grotto Mountain Summit
Summit view from Grotto Mountain
Summit view from Grotto Mountain

And of course, below is a picture of the mountain from Canmore, Alberta. The summit is actually the peak/summit on the right side of the mountain, the left is the lower fake summit.

As I mentioned above, it’s very challenging even having done it a few times before. The ACC route is a nice long slow climb and descent, while the hard route is pretty much straight up and down.

Along the hard route we did see some wild life like mountain goats, but they stayed far away. I’ve never seen bears on this hike, however I believe there may be a risk at the bottom, as well as up to the point of the top of the tree line.

Grotto Mountain Hike Pictures

Stay safe, be bear aware, and always make sure you always do hikes like this with a friend!

Jul 192019
 
King Creek Ridge Summit

Sunday (July 14th, 2019) we had the opportunity to hike King Creek Ridge. I’d considering this hike a moderate hike, very steep, and can be completed in a short amount of time. Taking the traditional route to the summit, it took us around just under an hour. This hike is located in Kananaskis Country, and there is no cell reception anywhere on the trail.

There are other trails (and alternate trails) along this path. I do not recommend taking these or attempting these. Please read below to find out why.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/alberta/king-creek-trail

King Creek Ridge Summit View
King Creek Ridge Summit View

King Creek Ridge is a steep ascent to an altitude of around 2,400m (7,874ft), so it’ll require some cardio. I completed this hike with my friend Elisha, and her step-dad Tim!

Stephen Wagner and Elisha posing on King Creek Ridge
Stephen Wagner and Elisha on King Creek Ridge
King Creek Ridge Valley View
King Creek Ridge Valley

On this hike, we met a nice group of other hikers who mentioned that they read in a book (that was 15 years old), about a loop on this trail. Once at the summit, they planned to go down the Mount Hood route to complete the loop. Using the map I had downloaded to my mobile, I actually had a copy of the Mount Hood route, so we figured we’d attempt it as well.

Mount Hood Route Detour

IMPORTANT: DO NOT ATTEMPT THE MOUNT HOOD ROUTE! IT IS AN OLD ROUTE AND THERE IS NO VISIBLE TRAIL. IT’S FULL OF DENSE BUSH, LIMITED VISIBILITY, AND HAS WILDLIFE (BEARS).

Once we had our time at the summit and relaxed (we flew up there pretty quick), we decided to try and locate the path down to the valley to complete the Mount Hood route. We located a small channel that was very steep and full of loose rocks (extremely dangerous). After navigating down, we noticed that an avalanche or weather related incident had damaged the path and it was simply a cliff. We proceeded to find a different way to go down in to the valley after doing a big of climbing down.

King Creek Ridge to Mount Hood Route
King Creek Ridge to Mount Hood Route

After the dangerous part, we found a steep path down (shown above) that we used to get in to the valley. Unfortunately this was short lived. Once getting in to the valley, we approached bush that was ~5 ft high, and numerous places to be ambushed by bears. We had to use boulders to throw in to the bushes ahead to make sure there were no bears further up (also using regular bursts of the air horn).

Finally once we made it to the creek, we realized using the GPS that the Mount Hood Route was extremely old and grown over. There was no visible trail for Mount Hood Route. We continued along the creek (walking in/over it) for some time until it became so difficult and dangerous that we decided we had to turn around and go back.

Back to King Creek Ridge from Mount Hood Route
Back to King Creek Ridge from Mount Hood Route

The hike/climb back up to the summit of the King Creek Ridge hike was grueling. It was one of the steepest hikes I’ve done, and finished with sections that we actually had to climb (using our hands) to get back to the King Creek Ridge summit.

Back on to King Creek Ridge

So the detour, while extremely dangerous and unnerving, actually made the hike as long as we had originally wanted it, and as fun as we had hoped, so it turned out pretty good (after we realized we weren’t going to be stuck in the valley all night, lol).

We finally descended down the way we had originally came up, and all in all the day turned out to be amazing! The hiking trail actually was extremely busy later on in the afternoon by the time we went down.

King Creek Ridge Hike Pictures

Below are pictures from the hike, please click to enter the attachment page, and then click again to enlarge. The below are low quality thumbnails, when you click on the image it will open the high-resolution image.

Stay safe, be bear aware, and always verify trails exist before you head out on to them!

Jul 122019
 

Last week (July 3rd, 2019), I hiked and climbed Mount Lawrence Grassi with my friend Elisha. It was a very aggressive hike, ascending very quickly to an altitude of 2,685 meters (8,809 feet).

It took us around 7 hours and 45 minutes, with a total moving time of 4 hours and 43 minutes. We completed a total elevation gain of 1,177m. My cardio has been horrible this year as I’ve been focusing on strength training so I slowed us down a little bit.

Picture gallery is below of the hike.

I’d only recommend this hike only for advanced hikers as the last 100 feet can be extremely dangerous (risk of slipping, sliding off cliff on both sides). Cell phone reception (for emergencies) is available for most of the hike.

Stephen Wagner Posing on Mount Lawrence Grassi while Hiking
Stephen Wagner on Mount Lawrence Grassi

We’ve had issues with weather this year, but fortunately for us we chose the perfect day. It was a bit chilly at the top, but it turned out perfectly! The views from the summit were amazing!

View from Summit at Mount Lawrence Grassi

Other than the sketchy 100ft at the top, the only other issue we had was a bear encounter on the way back to the vehicle. Once we got back to the bottom of the mountain, starting our 2km walk to the vehicle, we crossed paths with a black bear. We immediately prepped our bear counter-measures (we always carry bear mace, bear bangers, air horn, etc), however two chirps of the air horn caused it to retreat in to the forest.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/alberta/mount-lawrence-grassi

Mount Lawrence Grassi Hike Pictures

Below are pictures from the hike, please click to enlarge. The below are low quality thumbnails, when you click on the image it will open the high-resolution image.

The best photos are at the end of the album when we reached the summit!

Stay safe and be bear aware!

Oct 212018
 
People Exercising at Gym

I’m going to stray away from the norm on this blog post. While I usually post about technical content, I’m going to jump in to a bit of health, fitness, exercise, and wellness.

As we all know, being a geek, nerd, and/or IT Professional, we have some crazy hours. Whether it’s pulling all-nighters training/learning, working entire weekend shifts to complete big implementation or migrations, or waking up extremely early to support companies in different geographical areas, it’s all extremely hard on the body and doesn’t give us a lot of time for a personal life or to stay healthy with exercise and fitness. This post is also relevant to the typical business professional, anyone who works or spends large amounts of time on the computer, or anyone who just wants to start working out! Think of this post as a beginners guide!

Disclaimer

I’m not a health professional, nor do I consider myself an expert with any of this. I simply did my own research, came up with my own plan, and found my own resources. I have to recommend to consult with a professional before performing any of the suggested acts in this post. You should only exercise if your doctor clears you and says you are healthy enough to exercise. If you have any pre-existing health concerns, make sure you consult with a doctor before exercising.

The Problem

It’s a challenge to come up with a workout plan due to the hours needed, determination, and having absolutely no idea what to do if you’re just starting out. A lot of people are scared because they don’t want to do it alone. Many also are worried and/or embarrassed about their current physical state, or embarrassed how they’d look at the gym (size or strength levels), and not knowing what they are doing.

One of the biggest problems with living and working on the computer or in the datacenter, is health! Specific problems I’ve felt and experienced over the years, include (but are not limited to):

  • Body Posture (Slouching and Hunching over)
  • Hand, Wrist, and Finger fatigue from typing (and/or carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Back pain (upper and lower)
  • Sciatic Nerve Pain (Absolutely friggin horrible)
  • Inactivity
  • Difficulty Sleeping (problematic sleeping patterns)
  • Mood
  • Weight Gain

Also, lack of exercise and fitness can have serious impacts on mental health as well. This can seriously interfere with your ability to deal with stress, think clearly, perform well at work, and just feel generally well.

I wanted to share some of the things I do, to keep healthy, stay mentally sharp, deal with stress, and feel great!

Preparation

So you’re ready for the next step, now to prepare. Here’s a few important things you’ll either need to know, or to prepare for mentally:

  • Get some exercise clothes. You don’t need to be a fashionista, and who cares if you look good or bad. You do however need some clothes that will avoid chaffing (mostly for runners), and won’t get caught or grab on equipment at the gym.
    • Running – Compression Boxers/Underwear, shorts, and a compression shirt (helps evaporate sweat and manage body temp), and of course running shoes
    • Strength Training – Shorts and a T-shirt or sweatpants and a shirt, and runners. Most gyms require you to change footwear when entering the gym. Wear your outdoor shoes, but bring a pair of runners to change in to.
  • Whether your running in public, or working out at a gym, you need to make sure you DO NOT CARE what anyone thinks of you (either the way you look, or your current body shape/size). Everyone’s there for the same purpose to look better and get healthy.
  • Stretch!
    • Stretch when you wake up
    • Try to have stretched around 30-60 minutes before a run or gym session (if it’s first thing, your morning stretches can count as these)
    • Stretch after running or gym session
    • Stretch before you go to bed
  • Be prepared to get SORE. You will hurt for the first week, possibly second week, and maybe even the third week. This will get better with time, and you just need to stay with your regiment. If you’re strength training, you can add 15-30 minutes of cardio after your workout session to assist with recovery and reduce pain, however don’t do anymore than 30 minutes as this can affect muscle growth and your gains.
  • Commit to your plan
    • Instead of doing a month-to-month gym membership, try signup on a 1, 2, or 3 year term to make sure you HAVE to go.
    • Get a fitness tracker to track your runs, bike rides, and gym sessions. Visibly seeing what you’re doing allows the competitiveness in you to compete against yourself! And it’s fun!

The Solution

First and foremost, you need to find or make time. If you’re like me and are an early riser, wake up even earlier to go for a run or hit the gym. You can also do so during breaks in the day, lunch for example. If you can’t wake up earlier, then plan for at the end of your work day.

I have a membership at Anytime Fitness, which is a 24/7 gym. Not only are they open 24/7/365 so you can workout whenever you want, but you also get access to their vast network of gym’s worldwide. This is perfect for the corporate traveler, or the individual with crazy hours.

For the two previous years I focused on cardio, however this year I decided to get back in to daily strength training (which I haven’t done for 4 years).

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve been active for the past 4 years, so don’t expect to be able to do the same distances running, distances cycling, or workout plans I do. Please use the resources in this post as a guide to develop your own plan and what you’re comfortable with.

Aerobic (Cardio)

Aerobic exercise is the act in which your muscles use oxygen from the air to sustain a certain activity. This is commonly referred to as cardiovascular exercise, or simply cardio. Below are are activities/exercises I do that involve aerobic cardiovascular exercise.

Biking/Cycling

Cycling for FitnessBike riding is an excellent way to get exercise. You can use any type of bike, get out, see nature, and get a great workout. I have both a mountain bike, and a road bike. Typically I use the mountain bike for outdoor terrain (dirt, paths, etc.), whereas the road bike is used for high-speed, long distance riding and training (pathways, roads, etc).

When I was running daily, I would regularly switch randomly from running to cycling every few days to maintain performance and switch things up. You can burn a crazy amount of calories on extremely long rides, I was recording over 2,000 calories burned on rides over 70km. Occasionally when I wanted to increase distance, I would cut running, and focus primarily on cycling for a few days or a week at a time to crank out the extra distance.

Running

Running has turned in to a personal favorite activity of mine. It helps you get out, unwind, de-stress, think, and just clock-out. There’s not much to running except to throw on some clothes, throw on the running shoes, and your good to go.Running

When I was actively running, I would make sure to run daily. Typically I would shoot for 8-14km per day, and once every week or so I would have a good long 20km+ run. Whenever I noticed I was burning out or performance was plateauing, I would swap some of the daily runs for long bike rides which would then help me realize gains running. The muscle gains from cycling or strength training can help with running further and longer.

Please remember to stretch with running to avoid serious injury.

Hiking

Hiking is another great activity for cardiovascular health, and can also help build leg strength. Luckily for me, I live by the rock mountains so I have Banff, Canmore, and Kananaskis Country right at my doorstep within an hour drive. You can do easy hikes or hard hikes, whatever you’re comfortable with.

Stephen Wagner Hiking

Stephen Wagner Hiking

I like hiking particularly because it’s challenging with the terrain, and you can do it with other people. Once you start to go on more aggressive hikes, you can climb to the top of mountains, take beautiful videos and pictures, and see things most other people will never see in their lifetimes.

Anaerobic (Strength Training)

Anaerobic exercise is the act in which your body uses glycogen and fat as fuel to sustain an activity. This is commonly referred to as strength training exercises, or simply lifting weights. Below is how I perform Anaerobic strength training exercises.

Strength Training

Strength Training Using Weight Machine

Strength Training Using Weight Machines

As mentioned above, I’m a member at Anytime Fitness. I usually wake up at around 3:00AM to 4:30AM everyday, work on e-mails and overnight issues, and then visit the gym at around 5:00AM to 6:00AM. It’s the perfect routine for me as it allows me to deal with emergencies and kick off the day with a great workout (which gives me crazy amounts of energy). You can do a similar schedule, or find one that works best for you!

For work out plans, you can find many on the website www.bodybuilding.com. They have a wide variety of content for the different type of workouts you may want to do, you can also click/tap on the specific exercises in the workout plans, view videos of the exercises and learn how to do them, as well as read on proper form an technique to make sure you’re doing it right. Having your phone with you while you’re at the gym allows you to follow this exactly and make sure you are actually doing it right to get the most out of the exercise as well as avoid injury.

The current 5-day workout plan I’m on is “J-DAWG”‘s at: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/what-is-the-best-5-day-workout-split.html

If you’re just starting out, I might recommend a plan similar to this one: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/an-amazing-4-day-workout-for-lean-mass.html.

If you’re on an aggressive plan, make sure to have 1-2 rest days every 7 days, even more if you’re just starting out. You should never work the same muscle group more than once in 24 hours.

If you’re just starting out, maybe try using the weight machines more, then as you’re comfortable move to the free weights. Free weights are ultimately what you want to be using in the majority of your exercises as they not only work on your main muscle groups, but also develop stabilizing muscles.

Strength Training using Free Weights

Strength Training using Free Weights

Make it fun/Extra Tips/Supplements

There’s a few extra tips I want to provide to help out as well as make it more fun!

Energy Boost

On those crazy days where you didn’t get enough sleep, or you’re feeling drained, hitting the gym first thing can give you a massive burst of energy… And if you start dying out in the afternoon, a quick 30-45 minute run can re-inject you with another 4-6 hours of energy to help you finish your day. After a night of no sleep, or a night out partying, I commonly use this method to help me get through the next day!

Fitness Trackers

One of the great ways to stay motivated is to buy a fitness tracker (smartwatch) that can track your progress. Not only can you prove you worked out that day to self-motivate, but you can also track your progress, vitals, and how your body is performing. I’ve used a few including the Microsoft Band, Microsoft Band 2, and now I’m using the Samsung Gear S3. The Samsung Gear S3 is my favorite.

Samsung Gear S3

Samsung Gear S3

With my Samsung Gear S3, when I’m running or cycling I can track the route with GPS, minutes per KM/Mile, heart rate, and other metrics. When my Gear S3 syncs with Samsung Health, it can also sync with Strava. Strava is an online platform that tracks Running and Cycling over a social network at https://www.strava.com.

The Strava App

The Strava App

Strava is an awesome way to track your progress and connect with your friends who are also on the platform.

When it comes to strength training, my gym Anytime Fitness, has an app for my phone. The Anytime Fitness app tracks you gym visits, connects with the Under Armor “Map My Run” app (despite run in the name, it can also track strength training), and allows you to track your burn, heart rate, and other information. For strength training I typically use the Under Armor app, as it connects to the Anytime Fitness app. However, you can use the standard Samsung Health app on our Samsung Gear S3 to track strength training as well.

Supplements

It’s all about the protein! Whether I’m doing cardio or strength training, I consume as much as I can of this stuff as I can. I find when taking 1.5 hours before a run, I can run longer with more energy (always take some after as well). When it comes to strength training, protein is extremely important for muscle growth, and to stop your body from eating away at them (which happens if you don’t get enough protein). Once you start advanced training, you can add more supplements as needed.

I purchase most of my supplements from www.bodybuilding.com, or the local suppliment store. The website bodybuilding.com also has a great protein dosage calculator at: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/calpro.htm

 

I hope the information in this post either helps your existing workouts, or motivates you to get on the fitness bandwagon. Please feel free to leave a comment and correct me on anything, or add your own advice. I will occasionally update this post, so feel free to bookmark and check from time to time in case I post anything new!