Friday, March 20, 2015

8 Ways to Travel Fit

So you've made it! You finally took the chance and the leap of faith and made it overseas, to see the world! But after a few months you've started to notice something, whether or not you were super fit before you left, you seem a little, "softer" than before. It seems during all your adventures and galavanting around you forgot to make a little time to "pick things up and put them down". 

The truth is it's hard to stay fit while you're traveling abroad; hard, but not impossible. Now you probably won't come back shredded and ready for the next Crossfit Games, but you can most definitely avoid coming back with a little extra baggage around your mid-section. The key with staying fit while your traveling is not to focus on gaining, but maintaining. Now if you are going to be in one place for an extended period it's certainly realistic to become a regular gym-goer and keep up a regular routine. However, if your plans are to be ever-changing and never in the same place twice, then I've compiled a simple list of tips and tricks to help keep you body on point, while you let your spirit wander. So here are "8 Ways to Travel Fit":

8. Cook Your Own Meals:

This is a no-brainer for anyone who has every done a proper training program before. Eating out is expensive, and depending on where you're traveling (in Australia for instance, it's almost impossible to find a decent meal for under $20), and its usually loaded with other flavor-adding extras that are packed with calories and overloaded with fat content. When you're traveling the important thing is to eat a healthy and balanced diet, not necessarily an exciting one. I'm a TERRIBLE cook, but thank god for the internet there's millions of article loaded with easy cheap meals anyone can make. It's great to sample local cuisine and get a taste of local culture through food, but when traveling in expensive countries, eating out will tear a hole through your budget and your belt faster than anything else. 

7. Cardio:

When I was in highschool I used to run 6-10 miles a day, every damn day... it's been a LONG time since then and I hate running now, it's probably one of my least favorite activities. But, it's effective, it's free, you can do it anywhere, and it's a great way to take some time for personal introspection. When you're on the road constantly moving it's nearly impossible to gain size or mass (well... good size or mass). Since the key while traveling is simply to maintain, cardio is one of your best weapons against building a gut from all the other fun that you're having. I still hate running but I make a point to do it at least 3 days a week, and when I'm not running, I walk, everywhere! Public transport is a great option and many places around the world have a much better system than we do in the U.S. but there's no better way to get acclimated to a new city then walking. Of course if you're traveling out into the country side or coming home late, public transit is probably your best option, but for simply getting around town, walking is a great way to get in your cardio without even trying. 

6. Outdoor Park Gyms:

Certain cool, hip cities in the U.S. have started to incorporate outdoor park gyms, but  in OZ they're everywhere. They're also super easy to find thaks again to the old Google. If you've never been to a park gym it's pretty much a variety of body weight resistence training exercises available for free to the public. Some are extremely basic and just consist of adult "monkey bars", but every once in a while you find one that offers a vast array of equipment you can use, that uses your own body weight as the counter balance (think Chuck Norris in the Total Gym). Now you can't get massive pumps here but you can do great high volume circuit training, perfect for cutting out pesky fat and keeping you nice and lean for your adventure. 

5. Day Hiking, and other Outdoor activities:

Any place worth going in this world (at least in my humble opinion) has a few areas of selected land they've decide to protect and turn into a national park. Think Yosemite, but with all kinds of crazy plant life you've never seen or explored. The best thing about these parks and camping in general, is that you get to experience the beautiful outdoors and nature, but it's also a great way to get a free workout. Hiking is free anywhere you go, and by simply checking park websites you can find great trails and free activities in most National Parks. If you've got a little extra coin on you, you can also look into booking some paid activities, things like kayaking, canoeing, and white water rafting, a blast to do and a great workout at the same time. 

4. Sports Parks:

Whether it's pickup basketball or pickup crickett (which I still don't understand), in most major metropolitan cities there's always free sports parks to play at. Outdoor, recreational sports are fun, free, and also a great opportunity to meet new people and make some new friends. It might be a little out of your comfort zone to just walk up to a group of people and ask if you can join, but in reality sports unites all of us. In my experience nothing is a better conversation starter than giving sports fans an open invitation to tell you all about their favorite sport. Whether you actually walk away with a grasp for the game is not really the point, the point is Rugby involves a lot of running, a lot of comradery, and playing sports is a fun, easy way to stay fit. If you have a sport you're already more passionate about, look online and see if there are any free (or cheap) rec leagues available in your area. Making sports a regular part of your routine on the road will keep you active, meeting new friends, and in tip top condition. 

3. Calisthenics:

Every person on earth has their own personal gym built into their bodies. No matter where you are, you can always have enough space to do pushups and situps, and occasionally even find a make shift pull-up bar. If you make it part of your daily routine to incorporate a few hundred push-ups and situps throughout the day (50 here, 50 there), you'll create a habit that will hugely benefit you when you don't have time for a "proper" workout. There's a story I love about Legendary Running back Hershel Walker in college. When he first came to the University of Georgia, he would never participate in the teams group fitness training, because he had his own regimine. The coaches said either he had to come in or he couldn't play. Legend has it he came in for one training session, and shattered every weight lifting record in the school's football program. After that coaches agreed to let him continue on his own. Well, his training regimine included no weight lifting whatsoever, Hershel did over 1500 push-ups and 2000 situps every day, that was it, all calisthenics, and the dude was a beast. 

2. Develop a Yoga Practice:

Yoga is not for everyone, but it's done wonders for me in my own life. I've always played sports, and lifted weights growing up, so for years I put a lot of stress on my joints and muscles without giving much love back. Since I began a regular yoga practice over a year ago I've seen a tremendous difference in both my physical and mental wellness. I still can barely touch my toes, and my balancing is "iffy" at best, but no gym session can compete with the feeling of overall health and well being I get after a 90 minute yoga practice. The problem with yoga studios, is they tend to be very expensive, but there's a solution. Almost all yoga studios offer an introductory rate for either a week, ten days, or sometimes even a month. If you're thinking about adding yoga to your fitness regimine, I implore you to take advantage of one of these offers. Go in and learn the basics from a certified teacher, see if it's something that speaks to you, then simply start a practice of your own. There's thousands of free videos online you can watch, and I even use a yoga app, right on my ipad for a private class anywhere in the world. While your out there seeing the world it's important to take some time to reflect on all these new positive experiences, yoga allows you to do that while also being a great way to stay toned and fit. 

1. Be committed:

At the end of the day, fitness is all about the effort you put in. Remember you're not out here seeing the world and intending to come back with a chisled six-pack, but you also don't have to come back a fat slob. Use this list as a starting point, something to get you pointed in the right direction when you're on the road. Find something that works for you and that you're passionate about and stick with it. If that means you run every day, make the investment and spring for some new shoes. If you decide yoga is more your thing, look online for a cheap deal on a mat and take it with you wherever you go. The point is if you committ to something and make it a habit, then after a while it won't seem like work anymore, it will simply just be some "you do". So go out there, see the world, and just do it! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Hypocrisy of the Church, and Organized Religion

Hypocrisy is a word we like to throw around a lot in this country. Whether we're discussing athletes doping, celebrities who are full of it, or any other person who genuinely talks out of both ends of their mouth. But without question in my mind, the biggest hypocrites, in not only our country, but the world, are organized sects of religion, and the people who associate themselves with them. 

Now let me clear a few things up, because that was a paragraph fit to get a lot of people turned off without reading any further. I don't think religion is a bad thing, in fact I think following a value system and a set of morals in a world that seems fraught with ill contrived ideas and moral codes is if anything, a saving grace. I grew up in a religious household, I was baptised catholic (and when we got over the religious calisthenics) raised non-denomonational Christian. There were some churches I loved going to growing up, and others I despised, I have life long friends I met in Sunday school but also people I would never associate myself with. As I got older, I realized organized religion wasn't for me, if I wanted a relationship with God, I wanted it to be personal. I didn't feel I had to go to some big ornate building to be told I was a heathen, and then eat a cracker and some grape juice and all of a sudden be forgiven. 

When I go back home to Nashville (which has more churches per capita than anywhere in America), I LOVE going to church. I don't love the process of waking up early on a Sunday morning hungover and dressing up. I love going to church because the church I go to has one of the most progressive thought provoking ministers I've ever encountered. I've sat in the stands and watched as my pastor has made people cringe in their chairs as they're faced with coming to terms with their own morality. Nothing is out of bounds at this church, nothing is too taboo to discuss, because this man, this pastor, he knows that we can pretend all we want, but at the end of the day we are all human, and we all face the same temptations and contemplate the same internal dialouge. I've been going to this church on and off when I was in town for over a decade, and I've seen it grow from 30 people gathered together in a elementary school cafeteria, to a massive building of its own with a congregation numbering in the thousands. That was until about a week ago. I received a message from my father telling me that there were major changes happening and a great shift had taken place. You see Nashville is the "Church Capital of America", the "Buckle" on the Bible Belt if you will, but what my father told me finally made me realize that all my inhibitions about church and organized religion had been right all along. 

On Sunday, January 15th, my "Church" became one of the only Christian churches in the country, and as far as I know the only church in the south, to open their arms to homosexual brethren. Now we've never turned away gays, lesbians or any other of the like away, but now... it was official. This caused such an uproar among the congregation that approximately half of them decided this church was no longer the place they would come to worship the man who said:

JOHN 13: 34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another."

These people who in their own right are broken souls, coming here to find the light and ask forgiveness, couldn't be bothered to share this house of God with a bunch of FAGS! And that for me was the tipping point, I could no longer stand the hypocrisy, the outlandish ideals held by those who consider themselves to be holy and follow in the light of the lord. To those who stayed, I applaud them, but to the rest of you, good riddance, and in time hopefully you will see the shame in your ways, and ask for forgiveness.


1. Religion is a business... and Business is BOOMING.

Untaxed land, neverending leases, untaxed contributions and for those who follow the unofficial rules, 10% of every members' income (give or take). There's no wonder religion is the biggest non-for-profit business in our country and the rest of the world, but what do they do with all this money? Yes, a lot of it goes to work improvements on the physical church, a lot goes into funding various charitable programs, but where does the rest go? Who's in charge of making sure that all these billions of dollars of funds donated annually are all 100% allocated for properly? Who decides how much a good pastor or priest makes, say versus a subpar one? And most importantly who's in charge of keeping an eye on the people that are in charge of all those things? Whenever you're dealing in such large amounts of money, you need a system of checks and balances to hold people accountable. One thing that's always bothered me about the church is it seems as if the congregation always simply believes the church will use money to serve their best interest. Forgetting that these are men and women just like you and me, and even those who stand on the pulpit can grow weak for the green back snake, named "Benjamin". The truth is the majority of people involved with handling these funds are good honest people, but for every hundred "Pastor Daves" who just do an honest days work, there's one or two Jerry Fallwell's ready to take us for every penny under the guise of the lord.

2. People Don't Practice What They Preach.

You can't be a heathen all week, then eat a cracker on sunday and pretend everything is all right. One of the things that really bothered me when growing up in the church was Youth Groups. Now in theory it's a great idea, getting young people involved in a relationship with God by making religion fun, playing games, singing songs, and the like. However, in my experience all youth groups really did was show young people how to "Act Holy" without actually taking any of it to heart. I saw people leading prayer groups and playing songs about Jesus, who I knew for a fact were doing drugs and having sex, and all the other things we were trying to prevent at these groups. So all this experience really provided was practice, practice for those people who think it's important to have a veil, a religious "facade" if you will, to present to those around them. All these retreats were simply allowing these people to get better and better at faking it, till only those who truely knew them, knew what type of person they actually were. Now this doesn't mean if you're not perfect you shouldn't associate yourself with the church, religion is about forgiveness, but it's also about trying to improve, if you simply show up because people expect you to, you're not participating in the process. These people, these "Kumbaya" singing heathens, are the same type of people who walked out of my church back home, their true morals (or lack there of) couldn't compete with the facade they had created. 

3. A Relationship With God, Doesn't Need to Take Place in a Building... In Fact... It Shouldn't.

Considering how I am constantly hearing how the moral standards of our society are in the toilet, it baffles me how many churches are still around, and how many more are constantly being built. It's kind of like porn (stay with me for a second) no one will admit to watching it, but the numbers don't lie, the porn industry is right up there with Oil, Apple, and well... the Church, as some of the biggest money makers around. So if all these churches exist, and stay open, we must assume all these holy people are attending them, but if everyone is going to church, where is all this societal degradation coming from? It must be a conspiracy, it's probably the same one guy who's watching all that porn... by himself... definitely not me.

The point is you don't have to go to a building once a week for an hour in order to be a good christian, or Catholic, or Muslim, or whatever. We see all these people going, but what does it change? There's still war, still famine, still porn, the only thing it does is continue to put money in the church pockets as we trying to buy our way out of "moral debt". 

When I stopped going to church regularly I felt like for the first time, in a long time, I actually started to have a relationship with God again. He was no longer being jammed and force fed down my throat, I could actually come to him on my own terms, whenever I wanted, and I found myself doing it more often than I ever expected. I started reading about religion, not my religion, just religion in general, and it showed me that though there are obviously glaring differences between different holy books, the bottom line is all basicaly the same, "be a good person, and try and leave this world a little better than when you came." What really separates religion is the fanaticals, and the people who try to read in to deeper meanings that sometimes just aren't there. The people who truly have found happiness in their religion and their life, at least in my experience, are the ones who will never "casually" bring it up in conversation. If you define yourself by being a "Christian", or a "Muslim" or any other religion, you're putting yourself in a box, and making your life all about labels, instead of substance. When I die I don't want people to say "Logan was a great Christian", I want people to say, "Logan was a great person, and we're gonna miss him!"


In the next few years, we will be sending a manned mission to MARS!??!!! to see if astronauts can colonize there, and in 2015 there are only 2 evangelical churches in the country that have opened their arms to the LGBT community. This fact boggles my mind, more than anything else. Churches are famous for sweeping social issues under the rug or simply ignoring them all together. Whether it's the Catholics dealing with pedophila, the Christians dealing with Evangelical money laundering, or the Muslims dealing with accusations of being a violent religion. But this is not an issue of something the churches have done wrong, it's an issue of something they haven't done at all. I can't imagine how my pastor must have felt when he finally announced those words of equality during his sermon. From what I've read and heard it was received with mixed reviews, thunderous applause from supporters, and open mouth gaping and quiet hands from detractors. But the more I think about it, the more angry it makes me, that it took this long to even make this change. This is America the home of religious, ethnic, and social equality, gay marriage is legal in over 50% of the states in our country now, but it is only finally being addressed in churches now, since civil-unions were first passed in Vermont in 2000. Is that the time it takes for religion to catch up? 15 FREAKING YEARS?! All this does is confirm in my mind that there either needs to be a fundamental shift in our religious understanding, and our religious leaders in this country, or organized religion as we know it will soon be a thing of the past. 

My Pastor, my friend, and one of my personal mentors, his name is Stan Mitchell. He is a great, compassionate, and truly caring human being, who just happens to be a Christian, and happens to make his living running a Mega-Evangelical church in Nashville, called Grace Point. He is the type of, not just Christian, but man, that gives me hope for those who truly believe in God and their religion and their church. Good, honest, hard-working people, who know they are flawed, but find guidance and wisdom through the church. The people who wake up on Sundays, not because they feel they need to redeem themselves for the week they just left behind, but go because they want to be a better person tomorrow, and the next day. These people, and these leaders, are the ones I feel sorry for, because they are having their religious livelihood jeopardized, by these phonies, these bigots, those using religion as a facade. 

Organized religion is not a bad thing, but it just wasn't right for me. For those of you that do believe, and do want whats best for your church and your congregation, I implore you to be the change you wish to see in the world. Petition your pastors, your priests, your youth leaders, for inclusion, and equality. Now is the defining moment of the young religious generation, and if you follow in the footsteps of men like Stan Mitchell, you might just have a chance to save that which matters most to you.