Fitness in the 405
This month, I’ve written an extensive feature about fitness opportunities in Oklahoma City. Buried in the end of the article, is a “note from the author” that I am particularly pleased with, as it is a true telling of what happens when you eat like an utter slob for a year and then see a picture of yourself on Christmas morning and have a mini breakdown because you are shaped like an egg, you’re buying new pants at Target because your good pants don’t fit and get exhausted tying your shoes… Thought I would share the sentiment here on my blog as well. Please check out the whole, in addition to the note from the author here.
Here’s how it happened.
Last year, I did a story on destination dining in the towns surrounding Oklahoma City. The research involved eating some of the finest and fattiest cheeseburgers, French fries, fried chicken, fried okra, chicken fried steaks, pasta, tacos, brisket, ribs, pie, fried pie and every other delicious artery-clogging, night-sweat-inducing delectable that the Sooner State had to offer. So enjoyable was the gluttonous, sodium- and sugar-packed expedition that even after the story’s publication, what I now ruefully refer to as “The Year of the Cheeseburger” continued. “I’m just enjoying myself,” I’d think in some far-flung, neon-lit burger shack, before popping another onion ring or 12 into my mouth. “The food in Oklahoma is really good … [slurp of soda] What’s this place got for dessert?”
Six months later, I found myself in the lobby of Edmond’s popular fitness class Orange Theory, talking with one of their cheerful instructors. “How can we help you?” he asked enthusiastically. My sweatpants cinched at my waistline like a noose. I was out of breath for no reason and where once there was hair, I feared that I’d soon be growing French fries.
“I’ve been eating …” I said. He simply nodded, giving me space to continue. “… A lot.”
The trainer put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder and assured me that they’d get me back in shape. If I could savagely chomp my way across the state, then so, too, could I hike, bike, run, row, spin and stretch my way back into my old sweatpants – and more importantly, to a state of health suitable for a man a year shy of 40. I don’t recall much about my first Orange Theory class; only that at some point, I’m fairly sure I “saw the light.” After the class was out, it took quite a while to formulate words. I was on my way. “The Year of the Cheeseburger” had come to an end.
For two months, I took on fitness classes and outdoor activities across the metro. And like our dive-iest restaurants, each has something that makes it special. The Pilates chairs at Beyond Fitness worked my core so intensely that for two days, my lower torso ceased to function. At Western Boxing Gym, I learned that there is great catharsis in punching a heavy bag, but punching a heavy bag for an hour makes you feel like you’ve been punched. At Cycle Bar, I learned that if you push yourself hard enough, you won’t even notice Justin Bieber playing through the sound system, and at Orange Theory, if you make yourself uncomfortable as they encourage you to do, eventually you will be able to fit into your old sweatpants. I learned that outdoor activities in Oklahoma, such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and hiking, are a lot more fun if you can do them without wheezing. And most importantly, I learned that nothing tastes better after a Saturday morning workout than a cheeseburger and a beer. Especially since you’ve earned it.
While this is a new article, it has been several years since I actually had the privilege to hike into the ran forest of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to visit these gorillas. I still remember the experience with such remarkable clarity. The musty smell, the way the rain seemed to stop as you came into their presence. The odd way that fear melts away to closer you get to a beast that could kill you in seconds. I remember asking a fellow traveler if there was a chance in the world we would see something in nature so profound. The answer thus far, despite many thousands of miles and adventures, is a resounding no. I hope in my lifetime I can make it back. Read more about the experience here.
Mountain Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Horses and Cowboys is downtown Pawhuska
Before I moved back to Oklahoma, a trusted travel writer and friend of mine said that among the most beautiful places he’d ever been was the Tallgrass Prairie in Northwest Oklahoma. In addition to the thousands of acres of blue stem and three thousand bison, several Prairie Chickens called this prairie home and it was a hell of a place to watch the sunset.
Sunset at the Tallgrass Prairie
Bison and the sunset at the Tallgrass Prairie
Eager to see it, I made a point to visit after doing a small piece on Ponca City, an hour or so away. After getting lost and wandering down several dirt roads for considerably more than an hour, I finally came across a cattle guard and a sign warning morons that it is best not to try and touch buffalo. I’d made it.
Barn outside Pawhuska
After a beautiful drive and a visit to the visitor center, I came out the other end (the correct entrance/exit) into the charming town of Pawhuska. Not only was this the (correct) entrance to the Tallgrass but one of the most soulful and up and coming towns in Oklahoma.
night sky at the Tallgrass Prairie
In and around this magic little town clouds dance, the prairies beckon and cowboys still walk their horses down the street. Bison graze and the sun and stars playfully try day and night to outshine one another.
Buffalo on the Tallgrass Prairie
Read more about Pawhuska and the Tallgrass Prairie here. And enjoy more photos below.
Cowboy working a herd at sunset.
Working cowboys outside Pawhuska
On the first morning of seven days and nights in the southern passages, I woke up to icebergs. Perched above the iceberg was an eagle and above the eagle on an iceberg was a rainbow… All of which was happening in front of a waterfall.
An hour later, while watching a brown bear bumble adorably along the shoreline, just off the bow of the boat, a humpback whale leaped out of the water. By day’s end, the sun made a royal departure, turning the night purple and gold for just a moment until everything was silent. Pics are below and link to my two stories are here for 405 Magazine and here for Lost Tribe.
Killer Whale just off the bow of our sister ship.
Nothing like waking up at 4am with the sun already up surrounded by icebergs. One of the most memorable mornings of my life.
Nothing rivals the EXPLOSION that follows as this glacier shed its primordial ice.
The view above Mendenhall Glacier
Salmon is always the best choice in Alaska.
An eagle perched on an iceberg looking for some lunch.
One of many waterfalls in the eastern passages.
an old volcanic plug
Dancing at Turtle Island
As our skiff cut its way across a remote, narrow channel from Turtle Island to a remote village fifteen minutes away, I was surrounded by beauty. Despite the bustling colorful coral reefs below us and the towering volcanic mountains that made up the surrounding Islands in all directions, I was less overwhelmed with beauty that surrounded me and more focused on the experience that awaited. Like a kid before prom, finally about to meet his first girlfriend’s parents, I was nervous. Read about what happened on that beautiful day here!