All Articles Tagged "exercise"
The standard of beauty in America has long plagued the Black woman. From back in the day, rail thin was in and sisters with curves were often-times left out into the cold. Fast forward to the present day, you have Kim Kardashian getting praised for her assets and more and more Black women going through the rigors of plastic surgery to get a bigger booty. If one more person says Serena Williams is mannish, I am going to scream.
But, I got news for you. some of us men go through similar things.
I subscribe to two magazines – Esquire and GQ. As time has gone on, I have evolved as a man and want my style to reflect that. The only issue is, I cannot find anybody in these magazines that look like me. The models are all super thin, extra fit and exclusively wear “slim fit” clothing of all sorts. These dudes are perfect in every European way – even the ones with melanin.
I have managed to maintain my weight, driven by an aspirational need to stay in line with what is seen as attractive and my own dreaded self-loathing.
Most men won’t admit it, but a lot of us simply hate ourselves.
One of my homegirls called me out on that after telling me that she had finally discovered self love. For men, it comes out in different ways, I believe. For example, some dudes will totally stop caring that their belly could give Santa a run for diabetes. Hello, dad bod. Others stop buying new clothing when they get married and then can be seen wearing 2000’s Karl Kani or something. They chalk it up to getting older, being too busy or simply being wore down to the very last compound.
To keep it 100, I have always been hyper sensitive about my size and physique and it has dominated my approach to women, socializing, the beach, and just about every facet of life. At one point in my life, I couldn’t even take a compliment until somebody told me to just say, “thank you,” and shut up after that.
Only recently have I started to get better. But think about it…
From when we are kids, super heroes with bulging muscles and spandex have come to represent higher manhood. Then, it turns real through Hollywood with dudes like Arnold and Stallone. Then, rappers like LL Cool J. Sure, some dudes rejected these standards like Biggie Smalls, but the standards remain. Our esteem is constantly under siege. I know it is seen as a wholly negative, but I do my best to accept the challenge. I push my fitness as much as I can, eating right and staying dope as much as I can. Sadly, I want to look as good as I can when I transition after life on this Earth.
It is a delicate juggling act of self esteem and health.
Listen. Men aren’t going to admit to this. We care even when it seems we don’t. Some dudes from the younger generation may, as they tend to be thinner and oftentimes less inclined to adhere to those stereotypical standards of masculinity. I idolized Batman, Superman and The Hulk before Malcolm, Martin and Mandela. I think some of this mental super human strength is necessary to be real. A dude and I had a candid conversation and he said, “Who is going to defend the women when America breaks out in war?” He then lightly punched me in the shoulder as if to say, “Yeah…sturdy people like me and you.” I know that is a whole ‘nother conversation, but I’m just saying…
We have to stop the bleeding and defy the presumed contradictions. I definitely want my daughter to love herself in a way that I did not, but I also want her to be health conscious in a way that escaped me as a youngster. I want to be that super hero to her, but also a flawed human, too. She’s got to learn that what the Creator gave her is enough and that’s something that I have to wrestle with as women whistle at Idris Elba. I have never wished I was Idris. I wished I was his best buddy, but not him.
I’m enough too.
Yeah – sniff, sniff – I’m enough too.
Here Are 5 Ways You Can Feel Good, Dad!
1. Work out.
I know I am never going to have the body of my favorite super hero, The Incredible Hulk. But, like I said, this is aspirational. This means, I continue an endless quest towards being in shape. This means, I willingly workout knowing I’ll never slip into the overweight Chuck that used to fill me with self-loathing. Work out, man!
2. Pose In The Mirror
I know this sounds a bit silly, but do it. There are studies that say posing in a powerful position actually makes your stronger and boosts confidence. When I was a kid, I walked with a slump. They always told me I would been a hunchback by the time I got older. Clearly, I am not the Hunchback of New York now, but I feel it was reflective of my state of mind then.
3. Accept The Compliment
You might think you are wack, but you don’t need to tell everybody! I never thought I was wack, but for whatever reason, I was unable to accept compliments. I just didn’t believe that the person was telling the truth. Now, I give them. I know it also makes others feel better, particularly if it is from a genuine place.
4. Dress For Success
Women know this – knock ‘em dead! Men tend to hold on to the same suit for year and years, forgetting that men’s styles do change even if we don’t. So, force change upon yourself and do different things that illicit a reaction from people. Sure, its outside stimuli but it builds you up, just as other influences can tear you down.
5. Accept Who You Are
I have my dad’s body now. Now, I love my dad, but there are parts of him I have been trying to avoid. However, as I get older, embrace the “man weight” – that inevitable scoundrel that creeps up on many of us. People that truly know me, know that I’m very uncomfortable in my own skin, but even that is a part of my self that I embrace. Hell, I am all about the work – in career and in life. I enjoy it but own the notion that it is a process. However, being honest, I don’t want my kid to go through the inner turmoil so hopefully she will pick up the newer me, not the old me. It has been fairly recently that I have truly learned how to smile with genuine happiness behind it. Life ain’t perfect or fair and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be.
Congrats! You’ve been working out and eating healthily for a while and are starting to see and feel wonderful results. Your dedication is paying off! Now you have a vacation coming up, and are concerned with stalling your progress, or worse, backsliding and re-gaining weight.
Don’t worry, your vacation does not have to be a saboteur to your healthy lifestyle. Here are four easy ways to stay fit on vacation.
Choose Active Excursions
Step one is to choose a vacation that offers you the ability to be active each day. Yes, lazing on the beach and tanning is relaxing and fun, but doesn’t burn many calories. Snorkeling, Diving, Hiking, even walking tours offer lots of fun and a great calorie burn. Plan your vacation with being active in mind. My husband and I always make sure to pick an active excursion to mix in with our beach days when we cruise. And when we travel to cities like Vegas, we are sure to spend time walking or hiking in the canyons.
Make Use of the Hotel Gym
If you’re a gym bunny, be sure to choose a hotel that has a decent hotel gym or offers running paths. Sneak away in a quiet pocket of time to grab a quick workout. Hotel gyms are never crowded, and you’ll likely never have to wait for a machine like at your home gym. We have found that even the most sparse hotel gyms have at least a cardio machine for you to do intervals on, and a few free weights for you to get a full body work out if you’re so inclined.
Pack Your Workout
If you normally work out at home, bring your “gym” with you. Exercise bands are light and travel easily. You can bang out a workout in the morning before heading out for the day, to get you in the healthy mindset to make better choices throughout the tours and exploring.
At a loss for a quick in-hotel-room workout? Check online before you leave or pull up an exercise app on your phone while on vacation. I’m a beachbody junkie so I will use beachbody on demand to play my workouts on my computer from anywhere.
Choose Healthier Meal Options
The constant dining out during vacation can really sabotage your healthy eating efforts if you let it. Nobody wants to eat strictly clean during vacation, but you can make easy choices to minimize damage to your current results. Try starting each meal with a green salad, to fill up on veggies and eat less of your decadent meal or dessert. On our recent cruise I ate on plan for all meals, had a salad with each meal, and only splurged for desserts.
Wear a Tracking Device
Wear a pedometer or a calorie counting device during your vacation. Be mindful of how many steps or how many calories you’re burning. Set a goal amount for the day and be sure to reach it. This gives you a fun way to ensure you’re being active, without forcing you to adhere to a specific workout regimen. I wore my Jawbone wristband for the cruise and had a great time trying to beat my step count each day.
This is just a start to the many ways you can sneak fitness into your vacation and keep your momentum and progress going. Enjoy your vacation, but don’t let it ruin all of the hard work you’ve been putting in. If you backslide during vacation, don’t beat yourself up, just get back to the healthy habits you were implementing before your vacation.
Have a great trip!
Danielle Faust is a certified life and wellness coach helping busy women create kickass lives. She’s the blogger behind the mommy/lifestyle blog OKDani.com and co-author of From Blank Space to Blogging Brilliance.
With summer comes family vacations, changing schedules for your children, traveling for work, and a full calendar of social activities. For those who may not work out regularly, the intention is to start working out with the New Year. However, the motivation comes and goes and before you know it summer is here and that swimsuit you packed away is now snug in all the wrong areas.
US Open body builder, fashion designer and philanthropist Theresa Roemer offers five fierce fitness tips to get in shape and get the sleek summer figure you want in record time:
- Wake Up Earlier – Feel as though there isn’t enough time in the day to work out? Commit to getting up at least 30 minutes earlier. It’s that simple. Create the time you need to take care of you.
- Incorporate Working Out Into Your Regular Schedule – Add a standing meeting with yourself to your calendar. Stick to it as you would a work meeting or a doctor’s appointment for your child. Make yourself a priority or a regular basis. Whether the time is working out or allowing yourself time to prepare a healthy meal instead of grabbing fast food use this extra time doing an activity that will help you to reach your goal.
- Speed Up Your Metabolism With Intervals. Interval training has been proven to speed up the metabolism in a short period of time. If you are looking for quick results interval training is the answer. Example: Spend 20 seconds speed walking or jogging with 10 seconds of recovery. While any amount of activity is good, being conscious about HOW you are working out will provide quicker results.
- Recruit a Partner – An accountabilibuddy can make all the difference when you are looking to change your routine and often lack commitment. Having a friend with a common goal will keep you both motivated and you can cheer each other on when one or both of you is feeling less than enthusiastic about working out.
5. Consistent Sleep – Your sleep hygiene is critical to losing weight. A study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that going to bed at a decent hour not only stops late night snacking, but those who sleep 6-8 hours a night burn 20 percent more calories after a meal compared to those who are sleep deprived. That should be enough motivation to pack it in early.
About Theresa Roemer
Health became important to Theresa at a young age. As a sickly child who was diagnosed with a lifetime of physical constraints, Theresa became interested in health and fitness. Theresa opened her chain of fitness centers, Body by Design in Wyoming in 1991 and ran five fitness facilities through 2000, while also providing personal training services through her company Phenomenal Physiques. She took the U.S. Open title in body-building at the age of 40, and in the year 2010 Theresa held the titles of Mrs. Houston U.A., Mrs. Texas U.A., and was the 1st runner up for Mrs. United America concurrently. Theresa Roemer is also the CEO of Theresa Roemer, LLC and a small business owner who specializes in business philanthropy.
It may sound superficial, but if we’re being honest hair is a big consideration when it comes to Black women’s physical health. Even if we don’t let our strands stop us from busting a sweat, there’s no denying it takes some planning, pre- and post-workout, to put our best hair forward after a cross-fit class, Zumba, running the treadmill, or any other physical activity.
A few of MadameNoire’s editors have been going hard with their fitness routines lately so we decided to break down what we do to maintain hair that not only looks great but is healthy from the inside out. Read on to see how we care for our locs, permed, natural, and transitioning hair while working out.
Every time I prepare to go running, my routine is the same: Throw on some workout gear, grab my headphones, find a random place to stick my keys, and pull my hair back in a struggle ponytail to stuff it under a cap. Nothing about this 10-minute prep is inconvenient, but each time I cringe at the thought of how much maintenance it’s going to take to return my hair to a presentable form after a decent sweat session.
I’ve been natural for two years now. Long enough that my hair schedule and styles are pretty set, and even if wash day does skip around, my hair doesn’t fret. It gets me. Well, it gets me most of the time.
But because my fitness routine hasn’t been this consistent since those high school track and field days, my new natch pattern has no loyalty to this change of pace. Not to mention, every switch in seasons requires me to rework my hair product concoctions in order to keep my hair moisturized, frizz-free, and my blowouts protected from impending summer humidity. That means double the not-so-fun task of trial and error with hair products and styles all over again. Yay.
When I first started working out regularly, I was letting my post-cardio hair air dry. But the tangled ‘fro that followed, especially under my resident Bad Hair Day hat, was a frightening hot mess. In the hopes of improving the look and feel of my strands, I started co-washing every other workout day to ensure my hair was clean, which helps promote hair growth and retention, right? Well, that was overdrying my hair a bit, making it a tad too brittle. Despite my best efforts, my hair isn’t really cooperating with me and my new lifestyle.
So I’m starting to wonder, is this my punishment for wanting to be my healthiest self? Are my hair goals at a standstill because my body goals are flourishing? Hardly. Though I do believe it’s a dilemma every natural girl faces at some point during her fitness journey. So how do I keep my hair cute and clean, my edges laid, maintain my style from the gym to a possible post-gym outing, and not go crazy wrestling with my hair every day?
If you thought I had the answer, I don’t (I would not have written this if I did). I have yet to find that sweet spot of looking somewhat decent after exercising. And while I struggle to salvage my hair post-workout, I don’t think it’s impossible to do so.
As the saying goes (and remains true), everyone’s hair is different. So while throwing in quick Celie braids before hitting the gym works for some, I’m stuck with a head full of crusty tendrils after the sweat dries. (Sorry, I can’t get jiggy with chasing my summer body goals through St. Nicholas Park in a head scarf either.) It’s a process to nurture your hair to the point that everything you do with it just, well, works. And that’s just the nature of being natural. Add in the fact that you’re pounding the pavement and introducing a whole new set of elements to your ‘do every day, and it’s safe to say that managing natural hair can be extremely frustrating. This is especially true when you’re trying to get your body right. It’s a whole new hair obstacle that’s not for the faint of heart.
For now, the answer for me is a protective style (thankfully a hair appointment is set for the end of the month). I can’t focus on the extra TLC my hair needs right now. And although you can’t totally abandon your tresses, even with a weave or wig, my hair and my hands needs a break because mama is tired. I do love my hair and I’m dedicated to figuring out what it needs. But until I can figure out how to successfully marry my hair goals with my new workout schedule, it will be a painful process and a long summer…for the both of us.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about spin class. The insane classes that require you to ride on a stationary bike for 45 mins to an hour while doing various exercises. Most people fall into two categories when it comes to spinning. You either love it and find yourself completely addicted OR just the idea of riding on a stationary bike makes you cringe.
Well for me, I have fallen into the completely addicted and obsessed category. As a previous ballet dancer, I never thought I would see the day that I got a high from riding a bike. I always pictured myself as the old lady teaching ballet classes to young children during her spare time. However, things have changed.
If, you’ve ever taken a spin class with Nichelle at Cycle House in West Hollywood or ventured off to Soul Cycle in Union Square, you would understand my new found love. The highs of spinning are the confidence boost, and even improved posture you feel after 4 or 5 classes. It’s the improvement in your stamina and endurance that keeps you coming back. It also helps when the instructor empowers you during your work and plays your favorite music. The first class may be the hardest, but the progress and need to push yourself will become addicting.
Now, I’ll admit, spinning does have it’s lows. The pain you feel in your legs and especially your tailbone the first time you ride without a cushion isn’t fun. Nor is the complete pain and sting your arms feel when you’re doing arm exercises while riding. And, let’s not EVEN discuss the burn you feel when you’re told to turn up your resistance. It will have you cursing at your instructor and promising yourself that you will never do it again.
Still, spinning is unlike any other work out. It builds strength in your legs and stamina. While many people believe spinning will make you fat aka your legs get bigger from building up the muscles down there, I personally love it. It’s a great source of cardio for you. If you’re worried about it, throw in some yoga classes or my second favorite, barre classes with it. Trust me ladies. It’s worth the try.
Am I the only one addicted to spin? Let’s talk about it ladies!
Being fit and fabulous is the new black, especially via social media. Instagram has become the vehicle for strong and confident women who want to share their fitness journey with the world. Truly, they are building relationships with other woman who share the same struggles.
Sometimes motivation in the form of talking isn’t enough. Pictures are everything and these women are helping their followers get fit visually through Instagram pictures.
This week we are highlighting Yazmine ( @beautifullyripped). This 5’6″ mom is on a journey to healthy living. Her weight loss journey started at a weigh in of just over 223 lbs. In just six months she’s worked her way down to 161lbs and she’s still moving toward her goal weight of 150 lbs. She shares her meal plans and workouts to motivate women to take the leap toward a fit, and fab life.
Instafitness Friday: Fab, Fit and Flawless
In 2 Years, Millennial Brittne Jackson Has Built An Online Fitness Business. Here Are Tips So You Can Do It Too.
You may know her from her popular fitness Instagram account as Brittne Babe. Over the past two years, the 21-year-old New Jersey native, Brittne Jackson, has grown her platform from one that offered free workout tips and documented her personal fitness transformation to a growing online fitness coaching business where she has assisted clients with meal planning and fitness training.
We chatted with Brittne about her entry into the fitness world, business challenges and successes, how others can get into the industry, and her future goals.
MadameNoire (MN): What inspired to start online fitness coaching?
Brittne Jackson (BJ): When I started two years ago, I was 18 going on 19. I was a freshman and put on a lot of weight. I wasn’t huge, but I wasn’t as slim as I used to be. At that point, I reached out for help but it didn’t work out well. I figured out how to do everything on my own. I researched everything and took classes while at school.
I started to put my social media to good use documenting my journey. People were asking me for help [so] I made an email account and helped people daily for free by giving out meal plans, video guides, recipes, and tips. I stayed up all night. My mom was like, “What’s going on here?” She told me that I can’t do everything that I’m good at for free. That’s when I began to [build my business.] My mom helped me a lot. She had to leave her job because I didn’t know what I was doing.
MN: Instagram was a big driver of your business growth. How can others build their following and customer base?
BJ: When you think of Instagram, you think of things that are visually pleasing. Before I was in fitness, a lot of my photos were of fashion. I got about 40,000 followers in a year based off that. When I transitioned into fitness, I kept it bright. It was more about fitness and helping others. That’s what attracted the crowd.
If you want to grow your following, be yourself. You can’t look at my page and say you are going to do everything that Brittne does. Your social should be a combination of everything you have to offer. Show off workouts, your progress, and others that you’ve helped.
Do your best to network within the fitness industry with people who have similar followings. Share with them. Get some of their followers who may not be consumers but may be looking for something that you have. I built my following based off sharing with other fitness accounts. I asked everyone. A lot of people will say no. Others will want to charge you. Some people do pay to get featured, which is fine. You would consider that using a marketing budget. My mom and I market through social networking. We have a small budget set aside for fliers. For the most part, everything is through social networking, our website, and word of mouth. If you have the money put aside and don’t have a big following, then you should invest in features.
MN: What were some of the challenges you faced when building your business?
BJ: One of the challenges was just trying to break into the fitness industry being an African American, a teenager, healthy, and athletic. It’s weird to certain people. The main features are usually the White chick, slim with abs, big legs, a nice butt… “sexual fitness porn” as I like to call it. I was none of that. I had a huge male following prior because of the fashion Instagram I had. The girls who followed me were into the same type of things. It was hard for the Black community to accept it at first. It was also hard for the fitness Instagram society to accept me. They wouldn’t do shares with me. It was unheard of for a Black girl to get into the fitness industry.
I’ve gotten a whole lot more respect within the fitness industry. They understand that this is not just a phase that I’m going through. My followers are very diverse now. In the fitness industry, everyone’s like “I’m better. I train better. I work harder. You have more followers. That’s not fair.” I don’t work too well with senior fitness people.
MN: What are some of the services you offer?
BJ: I’ve been doing meal plan and online training since I started. My meal plan program is based around a healthy balance of all food groups. I calculate how much a person should have based on their height, weight, and level of activity. It’s all about portion control. We have weekly check-ins. I give them tips.
I also have online training, where I send them training routines they can do. As they progress through the program, I add more based on how they do. I started to introduce workout video guides. Nutrition is where it starts. A lot of people want to know about good exercises for back fat, how to build a butt, etc. Everything is about nutrition: how much protein, carbs, and fat you are getting with exercise.
MN: How have you developed as a businesswoman since you started two years ago?
BJ: I’m definitely still growing. I’m 21, live at home, and commute to college every day. It’s pretty tough. This business has made me more organized and focused on my goals and what I want out of life. It’s made me better at school. My studies used to suffer. At this point, I’m only seeing myself getting better.
MN: Why do you think there’s been such an explosion of online fitness coaches?
BJ: It’s free marketing. You don’t have to pay a dollar to market yourself. The money that you are bringing in, you are not putting out.
MN: What makes you stand out then?
BJ: I’m pretty strong. I can do pretty much what any guy can do. Also, I’m actually helping people. It’s not just a butt shot where I’m getting crude remarks. I can count on two hands how many crude emails I’ve gotten since I got into the industry. I try to keep my page as professional as possible.
MN: What tips would you give to a women of color trying to break in to the online fitness world?
BJ: Don’t get butt naked on Instagram. You don’t have to take pictures in your panties. You don’t have to concentrate on butt workouts. Have personality. Be yourself. Training is not just about how many push ups you can do. Don’t be rude. Be sensitive and positive.
MN: What needs to be done within the Black community in order for individuals to have a more encouraging outlook on fitness and wellness?
BJ: It starts at home. My mom got into nutrition about 10 years ago. She pretty much threw everything out. At first, I was pissed. Eventually, it changed my lifestyle.
As adults, we need to have awareness about any issues that are going on internally. Get your physical. You will get a full report of what you need to work on. Don’t just do it for yourself. Do it for your family as well. Knowing what’s going on inside your body is number one. Heart disease is a silent killer. You may think you are fine because you are skinny. My cousin is 110 pounds but she is on the highest dose of blood pressure medicine because she likes to eat salt.
When I do my sessions, I always ask when was the last time you had a physical. It’s very rare that my clients say this year or last year. It’s usually a couple years ago.
MN: What keeps you going?
BJ: This is both me and my mom’s lifestyle. This isn’t something that I do part-time. This is how we eat every day. We go to the gym. We meal plan. We like doing that. It’s not a punishment. I like going on Instagram and taking pictures. We like teaching our friends and talking to them about fitness. We like people asking us if we’re sisters. We do this full-time meaning from when we wake up until we go to bed. We spend our entire day putting together different ideas, workouts, programs, and videos.
Are you sitting down now? Most of us spend the entire work day sitting down. In addition to this, we come home and sit on the couch for a few more hours In fact, we spend half of our lives sitting down. And it just isn’t good for your health. It’s bad for two reasons.
“Number one, sitting all day goes against human biology and evolution; number two, sitting all day is literally killing you,” reports Elite Daily.
Humans are unique in that we are the only animal species that has the same capacity to walk on two legs and use their hands as we do. Sitting down all day may actually be stunting our evolution since we are not making use of all our functions.
And it’s negatively affecting our health. Studies have shown that even if you exercise, sitting down all day increases your chances of dying early from disease or other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
According to one study that followed 92,000 women for 12 years, those women had a 12 percent increased chance of dying from nearly any health condition if they sat for 11 hours or more each day. And, they had a 27 percent increase of dying from heart disease and a 21 percent increase of dying from cancer, reports Elite Daily.
And sitting around at home watching an average of six hours of television each day can cut five years off your life, according to another study.
So what to do? Stand more. Instead of sitting on the bus or subway on your way to work, stand up for the trip. At work, take breaks and walk around. You could eve go as far as using a standing desk. And try watching TV standing up for a bit. Better yet, skip the TV viewing and hit the gym.
When my new friend suggested that I go hiking, I thought she was mad.
I am not Reese Witherspoon and this is not the film, Wild. The only hike I have ever been on was on the trails in the Wissahickon in Philly (which are beautiful by the way). And the longest hike I have ever been a part of was when I didn’t have enough bus fare to get me from downtown Philadelphia to my house. Now she wanted me to scale a mountain with her in the Southern Drakensberg part of South Africa.
She must be mad.
Plus, we all know that Black people don’t hike.
She laughed, “That’s madness. I’m Black and I hike.”
I gave her a massive side-eye. “You are an Indian from Calcutta and you live in Canada.”
She laughed again, “But in South Africa, I’m considered Black so there is that.”
Okay, questionable racial designations aside, there was just no way she was getting me out on the trails. As stated earlier: Black people just don’t hike. It has always been an unwritten rule – sort of like, White men can’t jump or dance or have bad credit. The point is that for many of us, hiking is not something we consider a good time. We like beaches and hot water in warm hotel rooms and room service; none of which exist out in the wild. A hike for many of us is climbing the stairs to the second floor of a home after getting a glass of soda out of the refrigerator. The only use many of us have for a Land Rover is to transport our friends and all of the fresh new gear we just picked up from the mall. And as for camping, that’s what we do in front of the television when Empire comes on.
In fact, not one of history’s greatest land and sea explorers, including Lewis and Clark, Marco Polo, and even Dudley Do-Right, the Canadian ranger from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, are Black people. And according to a recent survey by the Outdoor Foundation, out of the 142 million people who enjoyed outdoor recreation in 2012 (that is up by 800,000 since 2011), 70 percent of those people were White people.
Not to bring our ancestors into all of this, but I’m convinced that Martin Luther King Jr. did not march and Huey P. Newton and Malcolm X did not fight the power so that I could go “roughing it” out somewhere in the dirty wilderness. That sounds too much like oppression to me.
“What about the San people who have lived along those trails and mountains for at least a century? They’re Black and basically they hike.”
But I’m a city girl who freaks out when I see a mouse or even a roach. What am I going to do when I cross paths with a snake? Or worse, a serval cat (wild cat) or jackal? Also, what do I wear? What do I bring? I don’t even have the right gear. The only shoes I brought with me to Africa were a pair of Pumas, which I do Zumba in, and a pair of Betsey Johnson fashion boots, which aren’t exactly functional, but look damn good with a short skirt. I felt totally unprepared for this journey, especially compared to everyone else who was all geared up. I did not have the time nor money for such a trip.
And as noted in the Outdoor Foundation’s report, I had a good reason to feel that way. While lack of skill and a general lack of interest remain the top two reasons why people avoid outdoor recreations like hiking, the cost associated with these activities is not that far behind. The average annual salary for someone who participates in outdoor sports, like hiking, is above $75,000 a year. You would need to make that much to pay for all the expensive gear needed for such excursions. A good pair of hiking boots can run you a couple hundred dollars. And let’s not forget backpacks, weather-proof clothing, tents, walking sticks, hiking tours guides, and other camping gear necessities.
And then there are the park fees. Most national parks and conservatories require permits for entry. These fees may be necessary to help pay for the upkeep of these beautiful landscapes, but they can also act as a deterrent to a family on a fixed income – like myself. When you consider all of that, you can kind of understand why many people think hiking is a rich – and White – person’s sport.
“You don’t really need all of that,’ she said. “Just throw on some comfortable shoes and warm clothing. You can’t let what we’re supposed to do and have stop you from having this experience.”
Another great point. At best, I would have a good time doing something I had never done before. At neutral, I would have a nice quiet weekend sitting cozily in a log cabin by the mountains while my friends hit the great outdoors. And the worst thing that could happen is that I would fall off a ridge and get my arm stuck between two boulders, only to have to chew it off after 72 hours of being trapped by my lonesome.
However, in the words of Drake, you only live once and that is what I intended to do. YOLO.
There were five of us who decided to hike through to the Sani Pass trails in the KwaZulu-Natal province of Southern Drakensberg. As no surprise to me, I was the only non-Indian Black person who took part in the hike. In fact, upon our arrival at both the park and the lodge, I would be the only Black face seen for miles, with the exception of domestic help and lodge staff, who lived a ways away. Not only would I have to endure an entire weekend of White people smiling awkwardly, but I would also have to endure curious stares from some of the Black people who wondered what the hell was I doing out there with those crazy White folks.
The lack of Black faces – both indigenous and foreign – reminded me of the scene in Darkest Austria, a great mockumentary that harpoons the National Geographic anthropology specials on tribal cultures. In the mockumentary, ethnologist Kayonga Kagame points out the peculiarity of White people hiking, or basically walking through the wilderness, as recreation. Basically, he notes that indigenous folks do not walk long distances in rough terrains for fun–they do it out of necessity.
And yet there was my Black behind, standing at the mouth of the park about to go hiking. For a second, I thought about turning around and “hiking” back to the lodge. However, when I saw the park itself, every fear I had in me seemed to vanish. To say that the park was absolutely beautiful is an understatement. It was definitely something I had never seen in Philly or anywhere else in the world I’d traveled to for that matter. There were plush green mountains and clear fresh water so clean that you could drink right from the stream. There were big blue skies and fluffy white clouds. And then there was the silence. No car horns, no loud conversations coming from cell phones and no blaring televisions dishing bad news. The only “noise” to be heard for miles was the chatter of crickets and other critters. I swear, if God decided to have a vacation home on earth, I’m certain it would be in Sani Pass.
We walked down the trail, along the river and then up a mountain to get a closer look at a waterfall. It was a tough climb, but surprisingly, not too difficult. Those years playing Billy Elliot in Zumba class really helped to increase my stamina. And in spite of not having on the “right” gear, I was still very comfortable. In fact, the only time I fell was when I took off my Pumas to wet my feet in the river.
Over the course of one weekend, we hiked on three separate occasions. One of those times, I even worked up the courage to hike by myself. We saw lots of mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and ancient rock wall art, drawn by the Sans people hundreds of years ago. We also saw lots of baboons, elands and funky insects too. Don’t worry: they stayed far away from us. Apparently they were more scared of me than I was of them.
The final day of our trip, we hiked for seven straight hours. Although we didn’t reach our goal, which was a special rock formation at the very top of a large mountain, I finally understood what hiking was about: It’s never about the destination, but how you survive and manage the journey. I also learned a lot about myself, mainly that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was, physically as well as mentally.
There were also some things I learned about the hard way: like the benefit of wearing long pants and hosing yourself down with mosquito spray. My legs look like a winning game of tic-tac-toe…