Weekend Adventuring – Part I
I’m not going to bore you with the usual “the weekend is almost 30% of your week, don’t use it as an excuse to go off track blah blah…”. The weekend is there to be enjoyed. It’s a time to relax, unwind and spend quality time with loved ones.
This weekend, try something different; try to rest, recover and restore a work/life balance. Give yourself some head space away from the 4 walls of your office and gym. Move your body, breathe some fresh air, explore the great outdoors. Good walks, good chats and good coffee can be a great cure for whatever ails you!
Below are some of my favourite places to hike/walk/run and pick up some healthy food and good coffee nearby at the weekend.
Too many to mention, but Glendalough and Djouce are right up there with my favourites. Honourable mentions go to the Sugar Loaf, Roundwood Reservoir and Lough Dan.
Flashback to Leaving Cert geography field trips!
It had been a good few years since I’d last been to Glendalough, but returning for the first time a few months ago, I was reminded of just how beautiful it is.
There are 9 way-marked trails in the Valley; ranging from 30 minute strolls to 4+ hour hikes. It’s pretty touristy, which has its downfalls (go early if you’re like me and get irrationally frustrated by Sunday strollers!), but it does mean that it’s well marked, not too treacherous underfoot (hiking boots probably advised for higher up once you go off the path) and there’s bathrooms and ample parking.
If you’re up for a good ‘un, try the Spinc. It starts with a steep ascent by the Poulanass Waterfall, followed by 600+ steps up to the peak (490m). You’ll feel it in your glutes for sure, but the views from the top make it all worthwhile. There’s some amazing scenery looking down over the Upper Lake and Glenealo Valley and there’s always a good chance of seeing some deer!
From the peak, you can choose to descend through the Glenealo Valley or turn off to Lugduff Mountain, which eventually links up with the Wicklow Way and will lead you back to your starting point.
Wear layers, bring a snack and don’t be planning a heavy leg day the day after!
One of my favourite hikes in Wicklow and one that I come back to time and time again. I remember climbing it for the first time with my two hiking buddies, Jessie and Hayley, and feeling my lungs burn as we ascended to the 725m peak…the climb gets easier each time, but the views remain as beautiful as ever.
As with Glendalough, it can get very busy, so go early to get parking (we usually park roadside by the “Pearl Gates” entrance to Lough Tay, but you can also go from Crone Woods car park) and have the boardwalk to yourself. The boardwalk itself is made up of wooden planks covered in staples and chicken wire, goes almost all the way to the peak and provides a relatively fool-proof way of staying on-course for those of us that are orientationally challenged!
Allow about 3-4 hours for this one…you can easily get distracted by the scenery; Powerscourt Waterfall, the black waters and white sandy beach of Lough Tay and the panoramic views of Sally Gap and Dublin Bay. Be warned though…it’s very exposed at the summit and there can be ferocious gusts of wind which can make it pretty chilly; so wrap up warm, chow down quickly on a snack and start making your way back down.
It’s worth mentioning that the area is notoriously bad for car break-ins. Lock up, don’t leave any valuables in your car and leave the glove compartment open.
Once completed, warm yourself up in The Conservatory in Laragh. This lovely coffee shop is just a few minutes’ drive from Glendalough. Cute décor, good coffee and scones to die for (or, em, so I’m told!). Not the most amazing for healthy food choices…but sure, aren’t weekends about balance and if you’ve just made your way to the top of the Spinc, who am I to tell you that you can’t indulge in some fresh, out of the oven, home baked goods!
2. Dublin Mountains
We recently did The Fairy Castle loop which varies between forest, open mountain and boardwalk trails. It’s a popular spot for trail runners and mountain bikers, who looked infinitely cooler than us, but it’s probably worth mentioning that it’s a not a good idea to walk on the bike trails…it will only end in disaster!
The loop is way-marked with green signposts from the top of the car park and brings you through the Three Rock Wood up to Three Rock Mountain. It’s straight up to the summit from there where you’ll be rewarded with unrivaled views over Dublin city, Dublin Bay, Bray Head and the Wicklow Mountains.
It’s a relatively easy walk (allow about 2 hours) and is simple to follow, so a good option if you’re with kids or not so fit people! We wore our runners, but if you’re precious about keeping your runners clean…a pair of boots should do the trick.
It’s also always a good excuse to get a late breakfast in one of my favourite spots in Dublin – 250 Square in Rathmines. I like pretty much everything about this place; the industrial warehouse style interior, the original artwork on the wall outside, the ability to pick and choose the contents of your breakfast…and don’t get me started on the coffee. For anybody else who has a long-standing love affair with coffee..this stuff is proper good! I’ll be honest, as breakfasts go…it ain’t cheap, but poached eggs, avocado and marinated kale will leave you feeling so smugly virtuous, you probably won’t even notice.
3. Dun Laoghaire
The lesser frequented of the two piers that make up Dun Laoghaire’s harbour, if you are looking for the perfect spot to take in the sea breeze…the West Pier is the business. I grew up a stone’s throw away, so maybe I’m biased , but the hour long walk is peaceful, quiet and every bit as lovely looking as the bustling East pier.
It’s just over 5km and flat, so not strenuous at all but ideal if you’re looking for headspace and calm. Take out your earphones, listen to the sounds of the sea and enjoy the maritime scenes; kids from the local sailing school splashing about, fishermen taking in their catch, seals popping up to say hi. Yes, the ground’s a bit uneven and the grass isn’t always cut, but there’s something more wild and earthy about this pier.
As you get back to reality at the end of the pier you are faced with a decision – turn left and continue on to Dun Laoghaire, get some healthy grub in the hustle and bustle of the local farmer’s market and spend the afternoon people watching while sipping coffee and munching on falafels or turn right and walk another 20 minutes to Blackrock. There is only one option in Blackrock and that is The Mellow Fig. Healthy brunching, quality coffee and the warmest welcome from Viv and Janine awaits you. Enough said!
When it comes to the hips, ensuring we have good ranges in flexion, extension, internal and external rotation and abduction is vital to reducing the stresses and strains placed on the lower back and other area of the kinetic chain that can compensate. Below are a few of my go to drills for trying to improve hip mobility, but it’s worth remembering that they are simply part of a bigger picture. All the stretching and mobilising in the world won’t necessarily improve your motor control, pain and movement abilities without stability and neutral positioning of the pelvis and spine…but more on that another day!
A nice drill that addresses multiple areas…external rotation on the lead hip and internal rotation and adduction on the trail leg.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try a few transfers, ending up in the same position on the opposite side.
So often performed with poor technique…but when done correctly, this is a really effective drill for addressing mobility issues with hip extension.
Switching on your glute max will also induce what is known as reciprocal inhibition – whereby the activation of one muscle decreases the activity in the opposing muscle/muscles. In this case, squeezing your butt helps to decrease the activation in the anterior hip musculature.
Basically an isometric or static hold at the bottom position of a squat.
Bringing it all home with a big bang for your buck drill that I use with the majority of my clients. It manages to hit both hips simultaneously; incorporating hip flexors, adductors, internal and external rotators.
Give these a try and assess how you feel after…more mobile? Less pain? If so…it’s probably a good sign to start incorporating them into your training regimen. Hopefully it goes without saying that if you experience pain and/or a deep pinching in your hips with any of the above…stop!