Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Trip to Europe - Part 1

     My week-long trip to Germany was more than just getting to visit another part of the world, it was an opportunity to visit my oldest son who is stationed there in the Air Force, whom I haven't seen since he left on Memorial Day almost 15 months ago. Being the oldest of my three children, the last time I got to spend a whole week alone with him, he was a baby so this was very special to me.
Day 1
     I left August 14th at 6pm from Newark Airport in NJ and luckily had two very nice women sitting next to me which made the 8-hour flight more bearable. I landed in the Frankfort Airport hoping to just find my son right away since I had turned my cell phone off before I left the United States and I didn't speak German. It was such a relief and happy moment to see him walking towards me near the coffee shop we planned to meet up at in the airport. That was a very over-due hug!
     We went to the place on the Ramstein Air Force Base where the military people go to for shopping, eating, and other necessities. My first purchase there was a bottle of German wine to take home, but it didn't quite make it back since we decided to open it one of the nights.  The currency on the base is the Dollar, not that you can get anything anymore for just one! After seeing his dorm room, we actually went to a Chinese buffet called Bambusgarten to eat since he wasn't sure where to bring me that would have vegan food.
     We drove to Landstahl and checked into our first hotel of the trip called Zum Storchennest which I think means Stork Nest. They had a very large cage on the property which had 4 storks and an Albino Rabbit. The property was very country like with a nice terrace, but we didn't eat there. The room was OK for one night but my first shower was with cold water until we told the owner to turn on the hot water, and the beds were way too soft, but I got to relax and also walk around and take some photos of the neighborhood.
     After resting up a bit, we drove to Keiserslautern, also commonly known as K Town where I bought a change person to separate my Euros from my Dollars. We stopped at the Brauhaus for my first German Beer. I drank a wheat beer called Weizen with a salad and he had a dark beer called Dunkles with a steak dinner...he's clearly NOT vegetarian. We walked around a bit and then went back to the room to get some sleep since we had a 6-hour drive the next morning to Prague.

Day 2
     We gassed up the car with Diesel Fuel and me with caffeinated Coffee and drove a few hours before we stopped to eat in some little town called Kammersteiner and I had to get another salad due to lack of vegetarian options.  My photos from the road are blurry since it's common there for people to drive 100mph! Every thing there is the Metric System which had me guessing the speed he was driving, the distance of our destination, and the temperature outside.
     We found an Internet Cafe once we entered Prague so we could connect to WiFi and find a hotel and figure out how to get around while we were there. A helpful server there mentioned the high-rise hotel across the street which is rated #2 called Panorama Hotel. We booked a room for that night and were able to park in their garage for 490 CZK and walk to the subway a block away. Once we stepped out of the subway station we knew we were in a big tourist location, Prague Old Town....WOW!
     Unlike Times Square in New York City, these buildings were not tall, but the architectural structure of them had great detail and a nice look.  Up the street is a popular structure called the Narodni Muzeum. I took out my camera to photograph it and what did I see standing in the middle of the pedestrian walkway, playing an instrument, being photographed, and accepting tips? No, not a Naked Cowboy or Naked Cowgirl, but a Bagpipe Player in a kilt just doing his own thing. Since I decided when I planned this trip that I'd be strictly a tourist and NOT bring my "Naked Cowgirl Cindy Fox Signature Bikini" and guitar, I figured the tourist-like thing to do would be get my photo taken with him and give him a tip!
     There was no mistaking the Prague Old Town Square, a huge open square bordered by all sorts of shops, restaurants with outside tables for people watching, some very interesting old buildings like Tyn Church and the Astronomical Clock. Vendors were set up in the middle selling souvenirs, beer, a variety of food mostly containing large pieces of meat, and potatoes made in every way you can imagine (on our second in Prague I had to indulge on the homemade Potato Chips)...yummy!
      I'm not a beer drinker so once I stumbled on a vendor who sold Honey Wine, which is like Irish Mead, the party officially started!Justin.TV when I had my "Cindy's 7am Coffee Club", I collect coffee mugs from different places I travel. I found a perfect one, but it broke before I got back to the room.
We walked up and down all of the blocks while drinking it looking for souvenirs. As some of my followers already know from back in my webcam days on
     We walked over the Charles Bridge and saw more street performers, monuments and religious statues, and many people taking photographs and enjoying the view. After walking around for about 5 hours, we decided to finally stop to eat. We decided to eat at Caffrey's Irish Bar & Restaurant and sit outdoors since it was so nice out. My son got the Shepard's Pie and I ordered a side order of sauteed mushrooms and a side of fried mashed potatoes...SO Good!
     As much as we wanted to see what the nightlife was like, we were starting to burn out, but we did manage to stop at James Dean's Diner and Bar which had photos of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley all around the place and it had the look of the 50's but in Neon lights. We stayed just long enough to say we were there and headed back to the hotel.
 Day 3
     In the morning my son got breakfast in the hotel and then searched for other hotels in the area. We booked a night at Hotel Herrmes a little further out of the way in the middle of a residential area, but we were very pleased when we got there. The place was less expensive and very modern and clean and a block away from the train station and parking was free.The front desk staff were very helpful to us. We thought the only way we'd actually be able to experience the "nightlife" of Prague was to go out for a while during the day, come back and nap, and then get ready to go out much later. That's exactly what we did!
     We took the train back into Old Town Square and walked around a bit. Apparently the Prague Gay Pride Parade 2013 was going on and we stumbled right into it. Those parades are always so festive and fun to watch or participate in, so we walked along side and took photos until we got to the souvenir shop from the day before. We searched for the same coffee mug that broke but it was the last one, so I had to chose another one that was also fairly different from the rest.
     We stopped again to watch these acrobats perform in the Square that was there the day before. They have 3 guys that perform stunts and a guy playing an electric guitar for them. They are from France and I was told they are called BAM. Ever since I was 3 years old I wanted to be an acrobat in a circus doing the trapeze, so I loved watching their act.
     We went back to the hotel to nap and then my son looked up some bars that might be fun to go to and he mapped out our own "Pub Crawl" for the night.  First I had to get a double espresso from the lobby before I could even think of going out at 11:30 PM, then I'd be ready to have a glass of that German Wine I bought on the first day I arrived in Germany.
     I wore my flip flops until we got where we were going since the streets are mostly cobble stone, and then switched and put them into my bag...good choice! We couldn't find the old rustic pub on our list so we stopped into some bar that was dark and boring. We left after one drink there and found the 5-Story KARLOVY LAZNE Night Club the locals were telling us about. There was a long line outside consisting of kids that looked like they were between 15-25 years old, with drinks in their hands. Considering I was with my 23-year old son, that would be too weird for both of us to go in there. Besides, I didn't wait on those lines to get in a club when I was that age!
     We found a Hard Rock Cafe and went in just to say we went to the one in Prague. I got a Margarita and my son ordered us Tequila Shots with salt and lemon...yuck! Our next stop was Coyote Ugly Bar, Czech Republic. With all of the Cowgirl Boots and Cowgirl Hats there, I was feeling right at home...and NO, I did NOT get on the!
     Considering it was 3am and the only thing I ate that day was homemade potato chips during the day from a vendor, we both decided to try to find food, after all, isn't that what people do after the clubs? Being a vegan really limited my options at that time so I jumped at the opportunity to go into KFC and get a bucket of Fries, a corn on the cob, and small salad. Yes, I said a BUCKET of Fries! As good as it was at that moment, I paid for it the next day. To be continued....

Friday, July 26, 2013

"No Pain No Gain" Mentalilty CAN Cause Serious Injuries

     This summer is 30 years since I picked up my first dumbbell (I'm not talking about guys), and these were the old sand weights I started with! The summer following my junior year in high school I started dating a boy who had that "naturally thin" build and although he was very fit, when he took his shirt off to go swimming, I told him he was skinny. Apparently guys don't like to hear that as much as girls do, so he started working out with the free weights in his garage. He became so obsessed with getting "BIG" (like most young guys that first start lifting weights), that if I wanted to hang out with him I'd have to watch and spot him...or join in. I've been a trainer and eventually a group exercise instructor ever since!
     I've acquired many certifications over the years, worked in numerous fitness facilities, and worked with as well as worked out with some experts in the field. It's safe to say that I have a lot of experience when it comes to working out and I find it disturbing when I see other trainers having their client do exercises that are either incorrect in form, inappropriate for their size or age, or just harmful for their joints. I don't want to come across as a "know-it-all" because I don't, but when I see this I cringe.
     My objective here is NOT to criticize other instructors/trainers because I probably did some of the same things when I started working in a gym at 17. I am trying to raise awareness to all of you who use a trainer, take group exercise classes, or just train with a friend who helps motivate and guide you. I totally encourage getting help form someone who knows more than you or someone who will actually get you to "Just Do It" as Nike says.
     The phrase "No Pain No Gain" is something athletes and bodybuilders have been saying for years and I've said it myself. That refers to the "burn" you fee when your muscle is fatigued, or the way your body feels when you're doing an intense workout and your MIND is telling you to stop. This is very different from feeling pain in your knees when you're being told to do "step ups" on a bench so high that you need to shift all of your weight on your front knee to get up there...over and over. I'm referring to using dumbbells so heavy that every time you raise them you feel an uncomfortable pain in the joint of your shoulder. Another one of my "pet peeves" is seeing people do lunges incorrectly either in place or especially across the floor. Your front knee should never be coming in front of your toes (of the same leg), so if you can't take a big enough step forward to get your foot in front of your knee when in the down position, do NOT do them across the on proper form in a stationery position first. This same principle goes for squats. If your going down and your knees are coming way out in front of your toes, you are putting too much pressure on the joints of your knees.
     My last tip (for now) is about working your "core muscles", which refers to your midsection. If you're abdominal muscles aren't strong and your being told to hold a plank position on the floor (resting on your forearms and toes facing down with your body off the floor and straight in a line) too long, you can strain your lower back. Planks are great exercise to strengthen your back, but if you start to fatigue to the point that your back is arching and your abdomen is starting to drop to the floor, you need to stop and take a break for a few seconds.
     The same goes for doing abdominal exercises on your not arch your back or you will strain it. Straight-leg raises or any other "abdominal" exercise that hurts your BACK is either improper form, or your your abdominal muscles are fatigued and your back is starting to do the work instead. When doing "crunches", your neck should stay neutral (looking up to the ceiling) and you only need to lift your shoulders off the floor to the point you feel your abdominal muscles working. It's normal in the beginning to feel your neck get tired from the weight of your head, but when it's feeling strained in the back, you need to rest a few seconds and then continue.
     A trainer is there to guide and inform you, motivate and encourage you and teach you some new ideas to keep your workouts interesting. Don't be afraid to ask for an alternative exercise if the one you're doing is causing pain to your joints, back or neck, or if you're afraid of losing your balance and falling. It is your money and you only get one body in this lifetime, so be safe.....and get "FOXY FIT"!
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