Comment

Featured client: Kelsey McGill, PCT through-hiker

near mile 100 on the California PCT

near mile 100 on the California PCT

Hey readers,

This past year I've worked with an aspiring through-hiker, Kelsey McGill, and decided to share her story here for you to enjoy.

Kelsey has been a wilderness educator for many years at Outward Bound here in the North Cascades. She is a colorful character who practices excellent self-care, trains diligently, and she's one of my daughter's best friends. Her ultra-light kit is a testament to her thoughtful approach to athleticism. Kelsey's PCT journey began two weeks ago and she recently passed the hundred mile mark.

Read on for helpful packing tips, mental preparations for your own journey down the trail, and how we worked together. You can also follow her journey on her website and Instagram.

Brittany Raven


First things first: what's your favorite trail snack? SNICKERS

What is in your pack? Cooking system: Crotch Pot, titanium mug, Titanium spoon, mini Bic lighter, MSR Pocket Rocket (for purely hot drinks!) 8oz fuel canister, stuff sack. Shelter: Black Diamond BetaMid, 6 stakes, gossamer gear UL umbrella Sleeping system: 15 degree marmot xenon down, polycro ground sheet, Thermarest z-lite. Pack: ULA CDT. Clothing (not worn): nano puff, alpine Houdini, Houdini, R1, Trek pants, baggie shorts, Capilene tshirt, Capilene bottoms, wool hat, liner gloves, 2 pairs Darn Tough socks, bandana. Clothing (worn): tropical fish dress, Injinji socks, desert button up, dirty girl gaiters, Altra Lone Peak 2.5, Black Diamond traverse poles, sunhat, Suncloud glasses. Hydration: 2 2-liter platypus, 4 Smartwater bottles, Sawyer squeeze. Nav: Halfmile maps & compass, Yogi's resupply info. Ditty bag: gossamer gear UL trowel, tooth powder & brush, anti-chafe stick, hand sanitizer, earplugs, mini leatherman, mini light, AAA battery, sunscreen, Dr. Bronners soap, diva cup, arnica salve, sharpie, journal, pen, pocket palette. FAK: arnica salve, weed salve, monkey butt powder, lavender oil, turmeric tincture, tea tree oil, Leukotape, ibuprofen, antihistamine, mini anti-chafe stick, gauze, safety pin. Repair: needle w/ floss, repair tape Tech: iPhone w/ charger, Anker backup battery, headphones.

How did you train for this multi-month, 2,700 mile hike? I believe there are two components to this: physical and mental. Physically, I was skiing and running during the winter several days a week eventually transitioning to mainly hiking into the spring. On top of training, I was in physical therapy for my hip (an injury sustained by years of to carrying heavy packs and repetitive motion as an Outward Bound instructor). This opened my eyes to how intricate the connection is in the body and the awareness I can observe while I'm moving. However, I strongly feel that the bigger focus for me was the mental preparation because this is what it boils down to in endurance events. An 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class was a life-changing experience for me in many ways. This class incorporates various meditations, yoga sequences, and tools to carry with you in everyday life to become more of an observer in life versus attaching to emotions/thoughts that can so easily rule our lives without even knowing. Since I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life, I've also been in therapy which I'm so grateful to have someone to support me in this process! I think back to a year ago and how daunting anxiety was for me, "something is wrong with me" or constantly comparing myself to others was crippling all the beauty in my life. I'm amazed at what I've overcome the past year and how much more confident and grounded I feel, with much thanks to both of these paths.

I strongly feel that the bigger focus for me was the mental preparation because this is what it boils down to in endurance events.
— Kelsey McGill

What has been the biggest challenge as you prepare for your trip? Adjustment is usually the crux for me whether I'm coming back into the "real world" or I'm heading back out in the field for another season. Reminding myself to be patient, have self-compassion, and give gratitude is key. 

How did your coaching engagement with Magnetic North help you prepare for the trail? Brittany was an invaluable resource in preparation. Having a thorough discussion on my self-evaluation including my current self and goal setting. Afterwards, we dove into the physiology of endurance and how to give it what it needs to receive positive results. Having a regimented training plan allowed my awareness to grow on my body's needs and make that connection stronger between the mind and body.

Is there a piece of advice you'd share with others considering a through hike? I would strongly emphasize cultivating meditation as a part of your journey and purchasing Yogi's Pacific Crest Trail handbook while you're at it.

Comment

Comment

The secret magick of pull-ups

some crimpy pull-ups, 38 weeks pregnant

some crimpy pull-ups, 38 weeks pregnant

I was surprised the other day how much interaction happened the other day as a result of a simple video I posted of me doing post-climb pull-ups. 

The basics: A pull-up is the range of motion from a fully-relaxed hanging position to the chin level with the hands done with palms facing away from your body. No kipping, no starting with bent arms. When done properly, the pull-up is an excellent exercise for your abs (hello transverse abdominus!) and promotes good posture.

They help you climb: Though no single exercise is going to make you a strong climber, the strict pull-up (and any number of more challenging or more permissive variations) has a permanent place in the climber's training repertoire. Pull-ups have a direct translation to alpine and ice climbing as well as a more indirect translation to sport and shorter trad climbs. When an outdoor session does more of a job on your fingers than on big muscles such as your abs and lats, hit the rock rings post-crag to get an alpine-esque fatigue going in your forearms.

They help you run: More so than supporting one's climbing, pull-ups are excellent for mountain runners. Too often the runners I coach focus solely on building endurance in their lower bodies. There are two reasons this is not the best strategy. First, the athlete needs to build muscle in order to increase Vo2Max after a certain level of fitness is reached. Second, strong lats and abs support the upper body while the hip flexors and legs work away transferring all of the power into turning of the legs instead of into unnecessary movement in the upper body.

Most people don't do them right: Most climbers I see doing pull-ups at the gym either start with their arms slightly bent or kip slightly when they pull. Both of these mistakes negate much of the hard work done in a strict pull-up. Learning how to do them correctly is invaluable - and time saving.

The pelvic floor: I've said it before and I'll say it again... the pull-up is a wonderful ab workout. Any workout that strongly recruits your transverse abdominus, the band of muscle wrapping horizontally around your middle, translates directly into pelvic floor strength. Pull-ups are an extra good exercise for already-strong preggos and postpartum women alike - though not an exercise a woman is wise to begin during pregnancy.

The towel and dowel: One excellent thing about pull-ups is the amount of creative variations an athlete can devise given limited resources. While traveling for work in Sub Saharan Africa, I began slinging a hotel towel over a sturdy tree limb and holding one end in each hand for an effective training exercise for ice climbing. You can achieve the same effect in the gym by using the hanging dowels often provided. 

Weighted: For those of you trying to up the number of pull-ups you can do in a set, weighted pull-ups can be useful for breaking through a plateau. Simply clip an alpine draw around a kettle bell and attach the draw to the belay loop of your climbing harness. Instant self-torture machine!

Negatives: For those of you just learning to do pull-ups, negatives can be a friendly way to start. Though many trainers advise beginners to do static holds in flexion, this can lead to overuse injury and simply does not translate well to the movement associated with climbing, running, and, well, pull-ups. To do a negative pull-up, jump up to the top of the pull-up and focus on lowering your body down in a controlled manner. Begin with one or two then progress to a full range-of-motion pull up when you're able.

Recruit a friend: Skip the crutch of using a chair, a wall, or a band for support (those props build bad habits) and, instead, get a friend to help you. If you need a bump on a pull-up, bend your knees behind you, cross your feet at the ankles, and have the friend gently lift up on your crossed feet while you pull like mad.

 

I coach endurance athletes of all stripes - even those who just want to do their first pull-up - or their first set of ten pull-ups.

Comment

Comment

What types of athletes does Magnetic North work with?

Magnetic North has five years of experience working with novice to professional alpine climbers, through-hikers, mountain guides, marathoners, pregnant athletes, ultra runners, backcountry skiers (okay, and some split-boarders), recovering triathletes, and US Military Special Forces. My clients experience resolution of long-time overuse injuries, completion of their endurance goals, and increased connectedness with their natural surroundings.

Basically, if what you do is in the mountains and requires any level of endurance I'm your coach.

 

Since the inception of this business in 2012, I've worked with first-time 5k runners to first ascentionists who have been at it since before I was born. My clients and I have partnered during times of adrenal fatigue, pregnancy, intense ambition, rewarding rest, pursuit of a lofty goal, and in review of the annals of a beloved daily routine. 

The athletes who benefit from engagement with Magnetic North choose different modes of ambulation - foot, ski, split-board, bike, ice, and batholith - but we work on the same thing:

 

the actualization of their full potential as spirit-athletes.

 

If you're looking for a quick fix, if you want me to do the work for you, if you don't believe in your own inherent magick, if you think bodywork is for fools, if you lack motivation then this coach is not for you. 

If you wake up after five hours of fitful sleep in a trench on a glacier with the full moon boring a hole in your eyelids and ready to charge, I'm your coach. If you've ever failed in the audacious pursuit of a big peak, you'd value my services. If you've ever hiked to the top of the Issaquah Alps and wondered what it would be like to walk on a glacier, your money would be well-spent here. If you love to run but think your knees/hips/IT bands/pelvic floor can't handle it anymore, I can get you back to a happy lope.

I believe in the endurance athlete's ability to thrive in the alpine environment. This belief in you knows no bounds of age, physical abilty, size, reproductive status, heritage, or place on the gender spectrum. I believe movement paired with yin is medicine, my medicine to deliver through this business to you, dear athlete.

 

Most importantly I believe in you.

Comment

Comment

Let it find you


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner "Lost"

Comment

Comment

"Run like a geek"

credit David Moskowitz

credit David Moskowitz

When I was training for my first mountain ultra in 2010, I called up a reputable physical therapist in Seattle and asked him to analyze my running gait. Once he learned I was not currently injured, he laughed and told me he doesn’t work with uninjured athletes. After conducting a gait analysis on myself, I went on to run twenty-five ultras without overuse injury so I knew I was on to something.

This PT’s philosophy seems rather convenient: don’t help the athlete until the situation is one of dire dependence on the services requested then charge out the nose for bi-weekly appointments for the rest of eternity. I decided to operate my business a little differently. By offering pre-injury or post-rehab gait analysis sessions to athletes who run, I will save you a mint spent at the physical therapist’s or orthopedist’s office and keep you moving on your favorite trails - pain-free. Running, even ultra distances, does not have to devolve into bodily entropy.

As spring fills us to overflowing with vim and vigor, now is the best time of the year to review the basic mechanics of your motionA recent study of novice runners found that gait retraining was effective in preventing some common types of tendonitis - the same kinds of nagging injuries that will dog an untrained runner for years upon years.

So, as I like to tell my clients when we have the joy of running together in person, “run like a geek”. During our two sessions on the trail of your choice, in either an Issaquah Alps or Methow Valley location, I’ll teach you the finer points of stacking your spine like a cairn, proper alignment of hips to knees to toes, sex-specific anatomy relevant to the running motion, and we’ll create for you the most efficient gait possible.

I have three slots left this spring for gait work and they’re going fast - another just filled this morning! Five miles or fifty, every runner benefits from proper gait. To claim your spot click below or share this email with another friend who would like to remain uninjured this running season. 

Comment

Comment

Perfecting the taper

Tapering involves a relaxation and turning inward of the mind, body, and habit; it may last from a few days to six weeks depending on the event. During my various tapers for rock projects, expeditions, alpine climbs, and long runs I've developed a few transferrable strategies to make sure I'm well-rested and prepared for the big event.

 

Rest: Allow your body to cycle into as deep a state of rest as the event requires. For an endurance event, allow yourself to go to the state of rest where you're peeing a lot, sleeping more than normal, and don't feel motivation to train. Ideally, the body cycles through this state and back into an impatience for movement and more normal sleep patterns prior to the event. In addition to what one might normally think of as rest such as less training and more sleeping, try to eliminate excess items from your calendar or take a couple preparatory days off from work. Time away from stress, even productive or good stress, is necessary to allow your mind to prepare.

Insulation: Perhaps the least-practiced and most important part of tapering. To allow the most regenerative pre-event experience, this introvert avoids excess social contact, introductions to new people, new experiences, and most media during the taper period. According to the event, it may also be nice to insulate oneself from the cold in order to prepare for some extended time out in the elements - this provides a time of coziness to harken back to when chilled to the bone and moving. This period is a safe island isolated from the intensity of training and event.

Self-care: Good self-care is always a key to high athletic achievement, but becomes acutely so in this final period. Through your final massage and acupuncture visits, note your body's energetic tank filling, perhaps even track it in your training journal. Depending on the seriousness of the event, consider updated blood work and a visit with your primary care doctor to be sure everything is in prime order. Continue your meditation practice, even deepen it at this time. Use delicious, whole foods to nourish the body and mind.

Reaffirmation: In your meditations and lucidity sessions, visualize the exact sequence of your project, fly over the mountain you're about to climb, or let your feet touch the bends in the trail you'll travel. Feel yourself strong and vital as you complete your event and imagine the states of mind you'll need to cultivate for each stage of performance. You've committed to preparation for this event now review the goal and your path. This practice helps me see how far I've come and instills in me greater confidence in my ability to achieve the impossible.

Logistics: Practice packing for your event well in advance. In the process, you'll likely note a few items that could use repair or that you still need to purchase. This is cruicial for expeditions and self-supported events. Review your map or itinerary - the physical one and the topo in your head. As you conduct these final preparations, take a few shakedown runs, climbs, or rides just to keep the qi moving.

Recovery: Recovery begins with pre-event preparation. Clean your space to prepare for your return home. Collect your favorite recovery foods - even consider preparing them so they are ready to eat at the end of the event. Bring your most comfortable post-event clothing. On expeditions for the time between getting off the mountain and returning to the US, I find it nourishing to have a few touches of home like nice street clothes or my favorite chocolate. For endurance events, I have a favorite pair of lush sweatpants that I only wear post-run and find myself looking forward to during the event. 

I hope you've found this useful. If you'd like to learn more, visit my Coaching page and sign up for a consult on the topic of recovery. Resting is an important element of athletic progression and I'm happy to lead you through these steps.

Comment

Comment

Get ready for sending season

Spring snuck up on you! The time is here: time to be fit enough to send your project, run your first ultra, AND get enough rest so you don't flunk out.

That's where I come in. By signing up for coaching with Magnetic North you take the guesswork out of tackling your next daunting event. Having a clear plan for movement, recovery, and self-care will free you up to keep up in your professional life while feeling certain you're preparing in the right way as an athlete.

My longtime clients see improvement in their ability to consistently meet their goals; they experience value in having structure around their outdoor endurance pursuits. They appreciate having an athletic sounding board, a constant friend encouraging them to go deeper, and they enjoy learning a thing or two about the physiology of long, cold, and high.

Build some efficiency into your practice, sign up for a multi-month coaching package below. Two levels of coaching allow you to tailor the content and intensity of our engagement.

Comment

Comment

Pain and pleasure

my Source, Cougar Mountain 2016

I find the pain
and make it look at me
it turns to face me and says
"you are worthy"

I become the pain
it consumes me
it travels through my muscles, fire and acid
heavy limbs dipped in concrete

I validate the pain
and I become it
I remember it
I'm still moving

I step through my pain
it transforms me
the wind blows through the low angle of the sun breaking golden second growth bearing a springtime clean scent
and there they coexist:
pain and pleasure in my present

Comment

Comment

Parenting at the Vertical World

at the gym, Rumi is nine months old

at the gym, Rumi is nine months old

i went into labor nine months ago while climbing at Vertical World Seattle. now #RumiWren likes to join me for fitness and climbing sessions here.

early the morning of 23 May 2016, I felt the excitement of the early stages of labor. stoked to dig into the work of laboring and birthing at home, I set about finishing the last details of my work and training before the contractions intensified. that morning I met @laurelfan for a coaching appointment. by timing my questions for her between contractions we made it through the meeting - a few times we even paused to feel my belly tighten with contractions and to ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ with amazement.

after walking home from the cafe where Laurel and I met, I gathered my gym climbing kit, put on yoga pants and top, and wrangled Babydaddy for one last pregnant gym session. knowing I’d soon be in too active of labor to climb well, we sped off to Vertical World which was a ten minute drive from home.

we had a surprisingly good session. I climbed eight pitches between contractions, belaying him uncomfortably because at that point it didn’t feel awesome to stand still. after the eighth pitch we paused so I could spend some time in the lead cave visualising my first postpartum leads. knowing my next lead would be just days away, being that I was already in labor, I sat for ten or twenty minutes looking up at the route on which I’d begin. I bouldered the start, I tried to remember the feeling of whipping, I envisioned myself confidently clipping draws, and I remembered the distinct mixture of fear and exhilaration inherent in leading at my limit.

during my ninth pitch of the day a whopper of a contraction hit. I asked Babydaddy to dirt me, quickly peeled off my harness, and announced I was ready to give birth so we should go home. Rumi was born twenty-four hours later on my bedroom floor, 24 May 2016.

on 27 May 2016, I tied in to the sharp end for the first time since November 2015. as I sailed happily off the wall, whipping a good fifteen feet, I giggled maniacally and thanked myself for the faith I had in myself to continue my upward progression throughout pregnancy.

Comment