YMCA launches virtual exercise programs

YMCA launches virtual exercise programs

The YMCA is launching a virtual workout program. Photo courtesy YMCA

With a pandemic raging, I’m not comfortable going to a gym right now. I’d rather ride my bike, go for a run or swim outdoors, where scientists say we have less risk of catching the virus that causes Covid-19. I’d rather not spend my time at an indoor gym, sharing exercise equipment and breathing space with other people.
But if you’re a dedicated gym rat, you’ve got options for sticking to a workout program.
The YMCA of Austin is launching a series of virtual fitness programs to help you stay fit from the comfort of your own home.
YMCA members can access more than 20 hours of live exercise classes each week, plus an on-demand library of hundreds of instructional fitness classes, at no extra cost. A stand-alone Virtual YMCA membership is also available for $25 per month.
Classes range from yoga, barre and tai chi to cardio fitness and high impact interval training, and are appropriate for all ages and abilities, according to a press release from the YMCA of Austin. The offerings include senior programs such as balance exercises and low-impact workouts for people with reduced mobility.
“On-demand fitness platforms are everywhere these days, but what sets the Virtual Y apart is the local, personal connection we can provide with our instructors, other participants and the community as a whole,” said James Finck, president and CEO of YMCA of Austin.
More virtual programming is in the works, including virtual personal training as well as youth and family options.
For more information go to https://www.austinymca.org/virtual-membership-now-available.

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam

If you’re lucky, catch a pop-up performance on the Butler Trail this weekend

If you’re lucky, catch a pop-up performance on the Butler Trail this weekend

Zach Person performs Oct. 3 on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail. More pop-up concerts are planned this weekend. Pam LeBlanc photo

Last weekend, as I rambled around downtown Austin by bicycle, I caught a live performance by Zach Person on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
The Trail Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to protect and enhance the 10-mile trail around Lady Bird Lake, is hosting a series of surprise, pop-up performances on the trail. To avoid attracting crowds during the pandemic, they’re not announcing exact dates or times, so you just have to get lucky.
Person, who reminded me of a mashup between Lenny Kravitz and the Beatles, with a dollop of Buddy Guy tossed in, serenaded runners and walkers as they rounded a bend on the path. Another artist, Kalu James, performed later that day at another location on the trail.
More performances are planned for this weekend, but again the foundation isn’t revealing the exact date or time. The Trail Foundation is taping each show, so if you miss the performance, you can watch it online later.
This month’s series is focused on Black musicians, and this weekend’s lineup will include performances by Saul Paul and James Robinson.
“We’d been planning this series for some time, as another way to make the trail a welcoming space for all of the communities we serve, to provide local culture on the trail, and to promote and support Austin music and musicians,” said Heidi Anderson, The Trail Foundation’s chief executive officer. “As an organization committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, we believe that representation and visibility matter. With the pandemic, we’ve envisioned a way to keep the ideals of the project and keep everyone safe at the same time.”

Austin musician Zach Person performed on the trail as part of a series of surprise, pop-up concerts. Pam LeBlanc photo


The Black Musicians Edition of the series will conclude with The Trail Foundation’s Twilight on the Trail annual gala event Nov. 1 at the Four Seasons, where four musicians will perform on portions of the trail adjacent to the hotel’s lawn. HEB is the title sponsor of the Music on the Trail Series.
The performers were selected with the help of a committee of local arts and entertainment influencers and experts. The musicians will be paid; 98 percent of the project budget is earmarked for the musicians, with 2 percent going to videography and photography so the music can be shared online, according to a press release from The Trail Foundation. To hear more local music, check this companion Spotify playlist featuring local Black musicians, including the 12 who are performing during October.
For more information, go to www.thetrailfoundation.org.

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam

Keep your head in the clouds with new Ahaa! app

Keep your head in the clouds with new Ahaa! app

An app called Ahaa! lets you trace pictures in the clouds (or anything else) and compare them with what your friends see.

The other day, as I paddled the San Marcos River, I looked up in the sky and saw a horse charging through the clouds.
I didn’t mention the illusion to my paddle partner, but he probably saw something else in the white puffs skidding across the sky.
Everybody sees something different when they gaze at the cream swirling into a cup of coffee, eyeball a mountain range or look at a tree branch. And now an app, created by someone I met while whitewater rafting in Colorado this summer, lets you compare your discoveries with friends.
Matthew Burdine, 35, guides whitewater rafting trips on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista. I spent a morning this summer blasting down rapids with him, and as we floated past a cliff face, he pointed out what looked like the outline of a woman in the shape of the rocks.
That prompted Burdine to tell me about the smart phone app he was creating called Ahaa!, which was in development then but has since launched.
Here’s how it works: You take a picture of anything – a cloud formation, a cliff, a mountain or a cup of coffee. You share it with a friend or two, and everybody traces the outline of whatever form they see in the picture. When you press “compare,” the app shows everyone’s picture.
“It’s all about seeing other peoples’ perspective. We all see things differently, but no one’s wrong,” Burdine told me by phone this week.
The idea, he says, applies to more than just clouds. It reminds us that we all have different perspectives on life, and that’s OK. “It doesn’t mean that they’re wrong – it’s just how we see things,” he says.
As a kid, Burdine says he visualized entire kingdoms in the clouds. In second grade, he remembers his mother calling his father as they drove to school on a foggy morning.
“He said, ‘Sally, tell Matt if he wants to touch a cloud, to stick his hand out the window right now,’” he says.
Burdine earned an MBA degree from Ole Miss in 2010. After five years as a rafting guide and ski instructor, he took a solo paddling trip down the Mississippi River to raise money for breast cancer research. That’s when he got the idea for the app.
“Spending six months in a canoe, you can build stuff in your head,” Burdine says.
After the trip he hired a company to design the app he’d dreamed up. The Ahaa! app costs $1.99 in the Apple store. A Google Play version is coming soon.
“It’s just a way to reconnect with the natural world, the outside world, and our surroundings,” Burdine says. “It’s about waking up our imagination, and a way to remind us to look around more.”
And now that we’re stuck at home because of the pandemic, it’s an easy way to engage with friends and family.
“We’re craving interaction, and it’s hard to do that right now,” he says.
I tried the app, which allows you to pull photos from the camera roll in your phone, or snap a new picture. It’s easy and quick, and a good way to get kids involved.
As Burdine told me when our call ended, “Keep your head in the clouds.”

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam

I almost saw my husband hit by a truck this morning

I almost saw my husband hit by a truck this morning

Chris LeBlanc nearly got hit by a truck on the way to swim practice this morning. The ride home, shown here, was much less eventful. Pam LeBlanc photo


My husband came within a second of getting hit by a truck this morning, as I watched.
It all unfolded in slow motion in front of me, a flurry of screeching brakes, streaking vehicles and screams.
We were biking to swim practice at Western Hills Athletic Club at about 6:30 a.m. It’s still dark at that hour, so we each had bright white headlights and flashing red blinkies attached to our bikes. I was wearing a bright pink reflective vest.
We were pedaling south on Winsted Lane, which runs parallel to Loop 1 (MoPac). As we approached the Windsor Road intersection, Chris was slightly in front of me, and moving fast on the slight downhill.
Our light was green.
I happened to glance left and noticed a pickup truck barreling westbound on Windsor. I could tell it wasn’t going to stop, even though the traffic light on Windsor was red.
I screamed as loud as I’ve ever screamed. I knew they were going to hit. Chris locked up his brakes and skidded; the truck slammed on its brakes and swerved.
I waited for the impact that, thank God, never came.
In nearly 20 years of commuting to work by bike and riding all over Austin on two wheels, I’ve never come this close to a terrible wreck.
Yeah, I’ve nearly been knocked off my bike a few times, but a low speeds. I might have broken a limb or two, but I’m pretty sure I would have survived.
Not this one.
We dragged our bikes to the side of the road to gather ourselves. The truck slowed, paused a few seconds in the darkness, then drove away.
Those seconds keep replaying in my mind. My knees still feel wobbly. I’m so grateful we were able to get on our bikes and keep riding.
Please, look twice for cyclists.

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam

Honoring RBG: Sisters With Blisters run in gavels, collars for Supreme Court justice

Honoring RBG: Sisters With Blisters run in gavels, collars for Supreme Court justice

Members of the Sisters With Blisters run across the Ann Richards-Congress Avenue Bridge this morning wearing collars and hoisting gavels to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Pam LeBlanc photo


Tiny wooden gavels in hand and elaborate hand-sewn collars around their necks, a group of runners dressed in black made their way through downtown Austin this morning.
The women, the word VOTE printed in white across the back of their shirts, made two laps around the Capitol building, then paused to do planks before dashing back down Congress Avenue. They passed the statue of Angelina Eberly, an innkeeper who fired a cannon at the General Land Office to stave off a rebellion and preserve Austin as the capitol of Texas, then hustled across the Ann W. Richards-Congress Avenue Bridge before finishing near Zilker Park.

The group ran past this statue of Angelina Eberly, who shot a cannon to prevent a rebellion and keep Austin the capitol of Texas. Pam LeBlanc photo


Sisters With Blisters running group member Amy Moore helped organized the run after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18. Another member, Marni Francell, sewed the collars worn by many of the runners.
“I wanted to gather us together to honor RBG because after she passed away we were all feeling pretty down and this was something positive we could put out in the world,” Moore said.
The women have been running together for about eight years. An entourage of husbands, children and friends cheered the women on and snapped photos as they ran.

The runners pause in front of the Capitol to hoist their gavels. Pam LeBlanc photo


Moore designed the route so the runners would hit 5 miles at the Capitol to honor RBG’s five Supreme Court victories. They held a plank for 87 seconds, and ran a total of 8.7 miles to honor the justice’s 87 years of life lived in service to the country.
“Doing this was important to me because I was born a few years before my mom could get a credit card on her own, and I am not that old,” Moore said. “It was important to me to honor RBG’s life of always fighting for equality. Her legal work over her entire lifetime paved the way for my life to be easier than my mom’s or grandmother’s. I wanted to honor her so we don’t forget our recent history and her intelligence, feistiness and service to the U.S.”
The group plans to repeat the run in a few weeks.

Marni Francell leads the group as they run in front of the Capitol. Pam LeBlanc photo

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam

I finally took the leap!

I finally took the leap!

I carefully crawled up this leaning tree in the San Marcos River, downstream of Martindale. Jimmy Harvey photo


I’ve been eyeballing a leaning tree in the San Marcos River for the past few months.
Someone nailed a couple of boards along its backbone, and I’ve been tempted to stop and climb it each time I paddled past. Honestly, it looked a little scary, so I never made the time for it – until now.
The tree arcs over a deep hole on a stretch of the river between Shadygrove Campground in Martindale (9515 FM 1979) and the dam at Staples, which I paddle with my buddy Jimmy Harvey about once a week.
Getting out in nature during the pandemic has kept me steady; everything on the water feels the same as it did a year ago, before Covid hit. Jimmy and I get a little exercise, a couple of hours to chat, and pure Texas views of blue herons, turtles and towering cypress trees.

I climbed to the fork in branches. Next time I’ll go higher! Jimmy Harvey photo

Bombs away! Jimmy Harvey photo

Splashdown Jimmy Harvey photo


Yesterday, I finally stopped, shimmied carefully up the tree (the trunk is partway underwater, so it’s slippery with algae), and took the plunge.
My hat flew off, but I captured it before it sunk. The water – blue-green and cool, and dappled with sparkling sunlight – felt amazing. I clambered back into my boat and continued my trip down the river.
I can’t wait to go back. I’m climbing even higher into the Jumping Tree’s branches next time I pass it.

About Pam

I’m Pam LeBlanc. Follow my blog to keep up with the best in outdoor travel and adventure. Thanks for visiting my site.

Where is Pam?

Click to open a larger map

Follow Pam