Why I Changed My Mind About Crossfit - The Outside and In

After many years of declaring Crossfit wasn’t for me, I begrudgingly agreed to try it out for 3 months last May. Seven months later, I am still attending classes almost daily. If you think I’m going to tell you that Crossfit is going to help you lose 20 pounds, get 6-pack abs or allow you to leap tall building in single bound, you won’t find that here. You can trip over that type of information anywhere you look these days. I’m going to tell you my personal experience beyond that.

A little history…

Over the past few years I have been dealing with some nagging adrenal fatigue/autoimmune/thyroid symptoms. I’m not going to get into details here, but suffice to say I have been extremely focused on doing what I can to get past these issues. Cutting out stress, eating clean, removing toxins and doing whatever it takes to heal.

Exercise is something that was the last frontier for me to address. Mainly because I didn’t think I needed to.

When it comes to exercise, I’ve been doing some variation pretty much daily for the past 25+ years. I tend to enjoy fast-paced, flying-high, sweatfests. I love Shaun T’s Insanity program, all kinds of bootcamps, running and high intensity training stuff.

When your adrenals are taxed however, most experts recommend cutting waaay back on exercise. But what if exercise is something that brings you joy (which it was for me)? The two months prior to starting Crossfit I actually stopped doing anything but walking and yoga. But man I missed my daily movement so much!

It was at this point that Brian recommended (for the 100th time) that I give Crossfit a try. I thought, “What the heck? It’s got to be better than doing nothing.”

My hesitation with Crossfit

I’ve been familiar with Crossfit for a long time. A high school friend of ours who served in the military shared it with Brian probably 10+ years ago. Brian was doing the daily workouts in our neighbor’s garage before there were any Crossfit gyms in our town. Whenever I would look at the prescribed workouts, they looked horrible. When I say horrible, I mean that the movements and exercises all seemed like nothing I would ever be able to even do, so what is the point? Things like pull ups, snatches, ring dips, burpees. Not only where they foreign movements, they were foreign words. AMRAP, Metcon, EMOMs…what?! I didn’t want any part of that.

Another thing that turned me off was the stereotype of Crossfitters. I got the impression if  you drank the Koolaid, you had to walk around all beefy and ready kick butt at all times.

Despite all of my reservations, when Brian recommended I try Crossfit out last May, I finally agreed. Itching to dive back into something physically active, I decided try it just for the summer. Knowing I was going to hate it, I made a big deal of getting it in writing at the gym that I could go back to a non-Crossfit membership as soon as my 3-month trial was over.

The first few months

When I started, I hated it just like I had prepared myself for. These weird exercises I couldn’t do. The lack of keeping my heart rate up for an hour like I was used to. Am I even going to be in shape when I stop?

And these people who all seemed so happy to be here. Annoying.

As I mentioned earlier, exercise has always been part of my daily habit so I was going every day. Slowly but surely, after the first month or so, I started to hate it a little less.

At our gym, the class starts with a good warm-up, then we move on to a weight training or skill component, followed by a metcon challenge. Metcon is basically just short for metabolic conditioning. This is the part of the workout that will get your heart rate up, but not usually longer than 20-30 minutes, which in my case is key.

During the second and third month, I started to feel less awkward with some of the weightlifting – some! At the end of my self-imposed 3 month trial, I decided to stick with it a little longer. Maybe it wasn’t so bad.

Now it’s been 7 months and I have had some revelations as to why switching to Crossfit has been a very good thing for me during this season of life. I’ve been feeling really good the past couple of months. And while I won’t say it is all because of Crossfit, I definitely think it played a role.

Here’s what worked for me:

Being the overanalyzer that I am, there are some key differences that Crossfit made for me. And those are:

  • Variety – I love that every day is a completely new and different workout. Every. Single Day. Our coach usually posts the workout on a special app the evening before. It’s like unwrapping a present. What will it be? Will it surprise me? Will it be something I hate (like farmer carries)? Or something I love (like situps)? No matter what it ends up being, I end up going. Because if I hate it, I probably need to work on it to grow. And if it is something I love, then let’s go!
  • Challenge – Crossfit challenges me every day. And I don’t mean in the physical sense (although it does that too). Nothing is ever straight forward. There is always a twist or an element that makes it seem impossible. Think back on a time that you have conquered or even stepped up to a challenge. How did you feel afterwards? That’s the feeling you leave with every day with Crossfit.
  • Less taxing – This probably sounds really strange. Especially after going on about how challenging Crossfit is and all those insane movements. However, since I had been doing high intensity for so long, it took a lot of cardio for me to get fatigued or even feel it. Probably too much. With Crossfit, you are able to scale every and any movement to your ability. And since there are so many different variations, it always seems fresh.
  • Modeling for my kids – Like most of you, there are so many things I want to teach my kids. I want them to learn to not be afraid of failure. I want them to work hard. To follow their passions. To have growth mindsets. And so much more. But one thing I know for sure is that you can tell them to do everything you can think of. And they will end up learning what you do versus what you say. Crossfit has been a beautiful vehicle for so many life lessons I want them to pick up on. First, they see me going every morning. Being physically active throughout your life is important – check. Doing things to take care of yourself is important – check. When I come home and they are heading out for school, they hear Brian ask me how it went. They hear my disappointing results days, my good days and everything in between. Today, I came home and told them I came in last in my class. But I was smiling when I said it and they know I will be back tomorrow to try again. Modeling growth mindset – check.
  • Connecting with Brian – Brian and I stopped working out together a long time ago. First, because I was kind of a bossy workout partner. Also because we gravitated towards different styles of exercise. With Crossfit, I go at 6am and he goes at 12pm, which is perfect. We can experience the same thing, just not at the same time 🙂 And then, we have something fun to talk about that does not involve our kids. I like that they hear us talk about having fun. I don’t want them to think being an adult is all work and no play, you know?
  • Being coached – Do you remember a time in your life that you have had a coach or a teacher that pushed you further than you thought you could? My guess is you have, and that you think fondly of that time. For me that was my high school basketball coaches (don’t laugh) and my masters swim coach. And now my Crossfit coaches. You see, we are all wired for growth. A good coach will do that for you. Our coaches are insanely talented athletes. But it is their passion and commitment to help us reach our potential that stand out above everything else.
  • The people – Okay, those people that I totally stereotyped? You guessed it. They are also super nice individuals. Each and every one is ridiculously supportive and encouraging.  My 6am peeps are fast becoming friends (whether they like it or not). I guess that is what happens when you spend 5 hours a week together. Just when I needed a reminder that stereotyping an entire group of people is never a good idea…lesson learned.

The one thing that has made all the difference:

Of all the things that surprised me during this experience, there is ONE major deficit that Crossfit filled for me above all others. Something that has nothing to do with heart rate, max effort, or a specific exercise…

Bringing play back into my life. 

As we turn the corner into adulthood, things get so serious. When is the last time you played? And just had some flat out fun? Apparently it had been too long for me. Imagine the impact of scheduling laughter, games and camaraderie before to do lists, work and drudgery would have on your overall health. Well, now I have it scheduled on my calendar every weekday morning. And I credit it to improving my health.

A few parting words of encouragement

As a new year begins, odds are that you have made some resolutions and set some goals around your health. We’re always cutting stuff out. Gluten. Dairy. Sugar. Alcohol. But what if you look for fun stuff to add versus bad stuff to remove? What if you looked at change from the perspective of wanting to do things versus having to do them?

I encourage you to look at you approach to physical activity and make sure it’s working for you. It doesn’t have to be Crossfit. It could be swimming. Or that barre class that you love. Whatever that “fun” thing is for you. But make sure you prioritize it like your life depends on it.

Because it kind of does.

Photo credit: AJ Ravay

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

First Post of 2018 - Let's Catch Up!Happy New Year! Although I have not actually hit “Publish” in a while, I feel like I’ve written about 18 posts in my head since the last one. However, the posts seem to be getting stuck in my head and not actually getting written.

My problem is I tend to have so much to say about topics I’m passionate about, that I’m having a hard time finding enough time to write everything down. So then I write nothing. This tendency to write the “all-encompassing” post on every topic is preventing me from writing anything. Ugh.

So in the spirit of not letting perfect be the enemy of the good I’m pushing myself to write more imperfect posts in 2018.

Please excuse the randomness of the following updates but please know this is a “baby step” for me. Here we go!

Podcasts:

In addition to the ones I told you about a couple of months ago on THIS post, I have recently subscribed to 2 new podcasts that I am obsessed with.

The first one is Selfie. No, not that kind of selfie. More like self-care. The podcast is the perfect mix of light-hearted banter about lifestyle stuff (like hair, skincare, holiday wishlists) and deeper dives into interesting behavioral topics. When a new episode comes up on my podcast queue, it trumps all my other favorites.

Right now, they are really digging into the Enneagram personality framework. Are you familiar with it? I took the test and apparently I am a #1. Do you know what a #1 is all about!? Let’s just say that it explains why I am my own biggest obstacle in getting anything done.

First Post of 2018 - Let's Catch Up!

In addition to Selfie, my other new podcast discovery is “By the Book”. Tell me if this doesn’t sound like so much fun?…The hosts of the program, Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenburg, pick a self-improvement book (think “French Women Don’t Get Fat”) and dedicate themselves to following it by the letter for 2 weeks. They record a podcast episode sharing their experiences and revelations during the experiment. Then, they record a second episode afterwards reflecting on what aspects of the experiment worked and which didn’t. As an avid non-fiction reader, this is right up my alley.

First Post of 2018 - Let's Catch Up!

Clothes:

Remember THIS post from when I attempted a summer capsule wardrobe? Although I don’t do an official capsule wardrobe anymore, I do try to keep a very limited amount of items in my closet. I do it so I don’t waste time wondering what to wear every day and also because it forces me to really think about what I need before pulling the trigger on any item.

A pair of high-rise jeans in a lighter wash has been on my list for a while now. I finally got a chance to try THESE on last weekend and they were winners. Next on my list to purchase will be THESE shoes. I have the sandal version and wore them all summer and fall.

First Post of 2018 - Let's Catch Up!

Home Decor:

I probably haven’t mentioned on here that I am doing a bit of home decor freelance work these days. That is something I hope to share with you more in 2018.

One of the projects I am working on is a redo of a beach condo in Crescent Beach. I went for a few days to work on it after Christmas and made some good progress. And, I finally got to use THIS IKEA pendant that I have been eyeing for a long time. Can you believe the price?!? It makes me so happy to see it in this dining area. Stay tuned for hopefully a detailed “after” post soon!

First Post of 2018 - Let's Catch Up!

Minimalism Game:

Remember the Minimalism Game I posted about last year? I ended up playing two rounds of it and unloading 1,000+ items from my house. Towards the end of this year I started feeling bogged down by clutter creeping back in. So I’m playing again this January. Today is Day 6! I can tell last year made a big difference because I am not finding quite as much.

If you are interested in playing, all you need to do is read the rules, grab a friend and get started. Somehow the most mundane task becomes fun when it is turned into a game.

First Post of 2018 - Let's Catch Up!

Movies:

I don’t go to the movies much these days, but I did manage to see two over the holiday break. Lucky for me, they were both excellent. We watched “Disney’s Coco and “The Greatest Showman. Have you seen either of them? Gave them both A+’s. But I must say, my heart is still soaring after “The Greatest Showman”. The soundtrack has been on repeat over here since we saw it.

So, what have you been up to lately? Have you read or listened to anything interesting? Share with me and let me know if there is anything you’d like me to dive more into this year 🙂 Thank you for letting me share in this little imperfect corner of the internet with you!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

In yesterday’s post I outlined why we chose to stay in the Sacred Valley as our primary home base for visiting Machu Picchu and all the other sites in this area. Today I will go into more detail about our visit to Machu Picchu and some of the other sites we visited.

Day 1: Fly into Cusco, drive straight to Tambo Del Inka in Urubamba

In my opinion, one of the most important details to consider when heading to Peru’s Sacred Valley region is the altitude. Altitude sickness is a real thing.

As I mentioned yesterday, your flight will land in Cusco. The altitude there is 11,000+ feet above sea level. If you are planning a trip to this area, I would definitely recommend leaving a buffer day to acclimate. Another precautionary step is leaving Cusco and heading into the Valley. Which is what we did. Our hotel in Urubamba was at about 9,500 feet, which was much better.

Not knowing if anyone would be feeling sick when we got there, we did not plan anything on the day we arrived. Other than settling into our hotel rooms and relaxing. The previous 3 days had been non-stop for the boys, and they really needed a break. They watched a movie on the iPad, went swimming in the hotel pool, and checked out the game room.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

The only place we did go is a local restaurant, PaCa PaCa, for a late lunch. Thank goodness for my aunt who knew all the good places to eat in this little town. The food was delicious. And the bohemian vibe was right up our alley.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Weary and hungry before lunch at PaCa PaCa

Day 2: Maras, Moray and Chincheros

Our first stop on our second day was Maras, an area famous for its salt ponds. The water comes from an underground spring. Once the flow is cut off and the water evaporates, what is left is this mineral rich salt.

A dozen or so families from this community run and harvest salt from the platforms you can see below. It was really cool to see the people raking it up and filling their big bags with this salt.

Our guide, who I will tell you more about later, encouraged us to dip our hand in the stream and let it dry out. What remained was a salty powder. The boys loved getting their hands in the stream and licking off the salt.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Dipping our hands in the salty water. As soon as it dried, you had a salty powder coating your hands.

Our next stop after Maras was the Incan archaeological site, Moray. Moray is a perfect example of what gifted farmers the Incas were.

Moray has several of these terraced precise circles. The one below has been restored beautifully, and the others are in the process of being restored. If you are wondering who dug the hole, it was actually a meteor!I R

The Incas used the existing crater as a head start to creating this agricultural marvel. The terraces are spaced in a way that each level is 4 degrees different than the next. So they would base which crops they planted on each terrace based on the temperatures needed. Crazy, huh?

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Chincheros was our last stop of the day – Brian’s favorite of the trip. Of all the places you will visit in the Sacred Valley, this is where you will be at the highest altitude – over 12,000 feet above sea level. The day we visited, a storm rolled in as we arrived at the main square.

The buildings were a marriage between the Incan structures and the Spanish who conquered them. If you look at the stones at the bottom, that is Incan. The white on top, Spanish. Even the cathedral was like that. I guess the conquistadors recognized good engineering when they saw it.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Walking through the streets of Chincheros. Feeling the altitude.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

The colonial cathedral in Chincheros

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Behind the cathedral, more of the Incas’ terraced farmlands.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Heading back to the car before the storm rolled in

Our last stop in Chincheros was a textile workshop. Here we got to see how they transform unrefined alpaca wool into the beautiful colorful textiles Peru is famous for.  All using natural plants for their unique colors.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Using a natural detergent to clean the wool

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Day 3: Machu Picchu

Finally. On the third day it was time to hit Machu Picchu. It’s kind of an ordeal to get there, so as I mentioned before, we left it up to the hotel to take care of most of the details. I didn’t want to miss something and be the reason we didn’t get in.

First of all, when you purchase your admission tickets, you have to choose what time of day you will be visiting – morning or afternoon. I guess they are trying to manage the crowds a bit better. We chose the morning time slot, which allowed us to have access until noon.

We got picked up from Tambo del Inka at 5am. The driver took us to the Ollantaytambo train station about 30 minutes away. There is actually a train station on the Tambo del Inka property, which would have been super convenient. But…its schedule didn’t have an early morning departure. So we took the 6:10 am train from Ollantaytambo instead to our destination in Aquas Calientes.

The train ride is INCREDIBLE. For about an hour and a half, you are weaving through mountains and out of this world scenery. That is definitely a highlight of the Machu Picchu experience in my opinion. One I even remember from 15 years ago when Brian and I were here last.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Leaving the train station in Aquas Calientes

From the Aguas Calientes train station we needed to get on one of the many green buses headed up the mountain to Machu Picchu. We were prepared for a long line to get on the buses, but there was no line. By 8am, we were at the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Max at the entrance of Machu Picchu, waiting to meet up with our guide

Up at the entrance, we met up with our pre-arranged guide, Patricio.  One of the ways that they are protecting the ruins is by requiring admittance with a guide. You are basically following a path that has a beginning and an end along with your guide. Sure, you can stop, take a little detour, etc. But you don’t want to go against the flow of the traffic.

For the next two hours, he walked us around the famous Incan ruins. Most people think that Machu Picchu is at a super high altitude because of the clouds. Not really. At least not in comparison to Cusco and Chincheros. You’re only at around 8,000 feet above sea level here. The clouds are more a result of MP being at the edge of the Peruvian rainforest.

Can you wrap your head around the fact that the Incas created this city with no metal instruments and without the wheel?! It’s just crazy to think about. How did they get everything up there? Look at all they built with no mortar. It really is as jaw-dropping as it looks.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Machu Picchu: so how crowded was it?

Going in, we were prepared for Walt Disney World type crowds. You see, last year when we were in the Peruvian rainforest, we met a couple who had just come from MP and they told us how crowded it was. I’m glad I was mentally prepared, because there were a lot of people. But not as bad as I had feared.

We did get there early though. So if you make plans to go to Machu Picchu, I would try to be at the entrance by 8am. It seemed to be a lot more crowded when we were exiting around 11am.

Another good move I feel like we made was having pre-purchased lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge. The Sanctuary Lodge Hotel is the only hotel located next to the Machu Picchu ruins. If you can shell out the $1,000+/night to stay there, I cannot think of a more magical experience. Clearly, we did not.

But, we did have tickets to eat their delicious lunch buffet though. Having woken up at 4:15am and barely eaten much, lunch as we left the ruins at 11am was perfect. We ate slowly and meandered out to catch a bus headed back down the mountain.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Machu Picchu: Day Visit or Hike the Inca Trail?

If you have ever looked into visiting Machu Picchu, you probably know that you have an alternate  option to get there: hiking the Inca Trail. These guided 3 to 5 day hikes are supposed to be incredible. You hike in the gorgeous scenery you see from the train ride I told you about earlier. On the last day of your hike, you wake up pre-dawn to arrive at Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate as the sun is rising. Magical from what I hear.

Although we have been to Machu Picchu twice already, we have not yet done the Inca Trail. We felt like our kids were just not there yet this time. Overall, they are comfortable hiking and camping, but not sure they could keep up with 3 days’ worth. Happily anyway 🙂

If you are going solo or your kids are teenagers or older, my advice is definitely do the Inca Trail if you can! Once in a lifetime experience for sure.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Day 4: Hike in Yucay, Lunch at the Hacienda Huayoccari, Pisac Market

Our fourth day in the Sacred Valley was probably my favorite. When planning our activities for each day, my aunt Pierina had thrown out  possibly doing this hike from the village of Yucay that she had done a few years earlier. The destination? Some pre-Incan cave drawings that looked like this:

We thought that it would be a fun change of pace for us and the kids. So we headed out on our trek that morning.

For some reason, I thought this would be a leisurely walk on a flat trail. And it was…at the beginning. We were surrounded by farmlands on both sides as we walked along a mountain stream. Not one tourist or visitor ever crossed our path. The only people we saw were a few farmers here and there. It was heavenly.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Until it got hard. The flat terrain started to slope steeply as soon as we headed into the mountains. And pretty soon our leisurely stroll got intense.  And from that point, we never saw a soul. Except for the mule pictured below walking by himself down the trail. And his owners trailing behind him.

You might notice in these pictures Brian is cajoling the kids into not giving up. There was a lot of stopping for rest at this point.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

At every turn, my aunt thought we were so close to the pre-Incan drawings. And then nothing. Here you can start seeing how steep it started getting. And rocky.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

After 2 hours of intense hiking at a high altitude, we decided to head back. Somehow, Max and Brian got lost. They think we got lost. Regardless, we finally all made it back in one piece. Tired and hungry.

After it was over, we all agreed what we had just experienced was Type II fun on the fun scale:

Miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect. It usually begins with the best intentions, and then things get carried away.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Good thing we were hungry, because the next stop was the Hacienda Huayoccari. This place was so cool. Still owned by the same family, this home/restaurant/museum was tucked high up a mountain. Thank goodness our guide’s car was 4 wheel drive because it was like 5 miles going up a steep dirt road to get here. But it was definitely worth it!

If you are in the Sacred Valley, you should definitely make plans to eat here. Make sure you have cash though. They do not accept credit cards, as we regrettably found out the hard way.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Views from the garden at Huayoccari

Our last stop of the day was the town of Pisac. Pisac is know for its outdoor market. There are dozens of stalls set up in the center of town filled with artisan goods to entice all the tourists. We got there towards the end of the day, so there were not too many other people there. The boys used their spending money to pick up a few things.

After a full day, we were ready to head back to our hotel and jump into the jacuzzi.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Day 5: Leave Urubamba and spend day in Cusco

On our fifth day, we enjoyed our last breakfast together at Tambo del Inka with my aunt, and headed back to Cusco. She went to the airport, and we checked into our hotel. Our flight was scheduled for early the next morning, so we took the opportunity to walk around and explore the city.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

One recommendation I had found online was Cusco’s ChocoMuseo. The rave reviews on TripAdvisor for the chocolate-making classes intrigued us enough to sign up. Thankfully, we did because I cannot remember a time we have had so much fun together.

We laughed so hard we cried. Our teacher was insanely funny – I wish I could remember his name! Surprisingly, we actually learned a whole lot about the process of making chocolate. All this to say, if you are in Cusco, take the “Bean to Bar” workshop!

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

How We Got Around

I should probably mention that although Tambo del Inka had a very good trip planning agency located on-site, we only used them for our day trip to Machu Picchu. For the other days, my aunt had a super handy contact for a personal driver who took us everywhere. Plus, he also served as our guide everywhere we went.

Although it doesn’t sound like it would be, going this route was way more reasonably priced compared to using the hotel’s service. If I would have known he could also have come to Machu Picchu with us, I would have done it. Probably would have saved a lot there too.

Our guide, Jose Luis (pictured below), was extremely knowledgeable on pretty much anything and everything we wanted to know. From Incan history to cultural issues of today, he covered everything with us. He also spoke great English. Email me for his contact info if you are heading to this area of Peru any time soon.

Our Family's Visit to Machu Picchu and More - The Outside and In

Our driver and guide to the Sacred Valley, Jose Luis

As you might be able to tell, we loved every minute of our time in the Sacred Valley. Machu Picchu was awesome, but there is so much more to appreciate in the region. And the frosting on the cake? No time difference. So no jet lag to deal with.

If you want to go somewhere that feels and looks like you are in a storybook, look into visiting Peru!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Over Thanksgiving, our family went on a little adventure to Peru’s Sacred Valley. My aunt, who lives in Lima, invited us to go on this trip with her and for us to get some good quality time together as we get to know Peru better.

Peru has such amazing natural and archaeological sites, that we have a long list of places we still want to explore. On this trip, we were excited to bring the boys to experience Machu Picchu, located in Peru’s Sacred Valley region.

Machu Picchu

I am guessing you have heard of Machu Picchu. If Machu Picchu doesn’t sound familiar, this photo might look familiar.

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Often referred to as the “Lost City” of the Incas, it was discovered pretty much in tact by American Hiram Bingham in 1911. What makes this find so amazing is that the Spanish conquered the Incas 400 years earlier, but never found Machu Picchu.

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

Despite its celebrity status, Machu Picchu is just ONE reason to make this trip. Today I want to share with you why we chose to spend 5 days enjoying the Sacred Valley and why you should not limit yourself to just seeing Machu Picchu if you come to Peru.

Flying into Cusco

Most people who come to Peru are flying into Cusco, and headed straight to Machu Picchu. Cusco has always been an important Peruvian city. As the former capital of the Incan Empire, it serves as the gateway to the Sacred Valley. No matter where you’re coming from, your flight will be landing in Cusco – the only major airport in the Sacred Valley.

Because of its historical significance, there are some incredible archaeological and colonial historical sites in Cusco. When Brian and I visited 15 years ago, it seemed a lot sleepier than it is today though. The drive from the airport on this visit was a huge eye-opener that this city has grown quite a bit since the last time we were here. And so has the traffic. The picture below gives you an idea of how congested the city is.

For this trip, we stayed in the rural part of the Sacred Valley for four nights, and then only one night in Cusco on our last night before our return flight.

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

Cusco, Peru

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

A view of the Sacred Valley from up high.

Sacred Valley: A Lay of the Land

Both Cusco and Machu Picchu are located in the Sacred Valley. But so are a lot of other villages and ruins that are equally as impressive.

In this mystical region, the Urubamba River weaves through the Andes mountains like a snake. Which is also why you might see it also referred to as the Urubamba Valley.

Outside of Cusco, the Sacred Valley will make you feel like you are going back in time.  From our visit last year, I had heard several Peruvians saying how much they enjoyed staying in a village in the Sacred Valley as their home base to visit the many sites versus staying in Cusco. Now I can see why.

The picture below is an example of what the roads in the Sacred Valley were like. No billboards. No tall buildings. Just mountains. And farmlands. As we drove around to our destinations, we would see shepherds with flocks of sheep. Farmers plowing their fields with oxen. Women walking down dirt roads with their mules. Llamas munching on grass.

Coming from an overconnected, fast-paced world, this place felt like nourishment for an over-thinking soul.

Our itinerary:

For the sake of keeping this post fairly short and manageable, I will just outline our itinerary here. I will follow up with another post sharing details and photos of what we did each day.

Day 1: Flight from Lima to Cusco. Head straight to our hotel in Urubamba.

Day 2: Guided tours to Maras, Moray and Chinchero

Day 3: Machu Picchu

Day 4: Hike in Yucay, Hacienda Huayocari, Pisac Market

Day 5: Head back to Cusco. Explore the city and attend chocolate making class.

Day 6: Fly back home

I felt like we got to thoroughly enjoy our days in the Sacred Valley. It was a nice blend of adventure with rest and relaxation.

Would I have liked an extra day or two? For sure. I would have probably added one extra night in both Urubamba and Cusco. If you can swing it, you should.

Where we stayed:

There are several amazing places to stay in the Sacred Valley. We stayed at an incredible resort in the village of Urubamba, called Tambo del Inka. I cannot think of anything they could have done better. The service was top notch during our 4 nights with them. We loved everything about it. Even the smell. In the evening, the lobby had live Peruvian flute music. The flames from the fireplace seemed to dance along.

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

The lobby at Tambo del Inka

Like most of the resorts in the Sacred Valley, the scenery around you is jaw-dropping. Incredible views from every window, including our room. The resort grounds were kept in pristine condition and added to the peaceful environment of Tambo del Inka.

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

The rooms were super comfortable and amenities very well-thought out. I wish I had better pictures to show you.

The boys’ favorite part of the hotel was the pool and jacuzzi areas though. The swimming pool was part inside and part outside. I joined them on our last evening because I just had to experience looking up at the stars from the pool.

You could actually spend a whole day here without leaving. My aunt actually did that on the day we went to Machu Picchu. She stayed behind and had a massage at the spa, worked out at the gym and a nice lunch at the restaurant.

5 Days in Peru's Sacred Valley

Max enjoying the indoor/outdoor pool

As I mentioned earlier, we did head back into Cusco on the night before we left. This allowed us to explore the city and also be close to the airport for our early flight home. We stayed at the JW Marriott El Convento. The hotel was very nice and was excellently situated. Walking distance to everything.

To be honest though, we missed our friends and the serenity at Tambo del Inka a little bit. And my aunt, who left us to go back to Lima.

I am so glad we stayed in the Sacred Valley as our home base for exploring and visiting this gorgeous region of Peru with my aunt.

If you make plans to visit Machu Picchu, I would strongly recommend staying in the Sacred Valley. You will not regret it!

For more on our Peruvian adventures from last year, check out THIS post and THIS post.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

My Experience with a Medium-Depth Chemical Peel

One thing I’ve learned in recent years is to find people I trust to help me with my (many) weaknesses. Skincare is one of those areas for me. I am at an age where my lack of care and interest has caught up with me though. Many years of not protecting my skin from the sun left me with sun spots and hyper pigmentation that just doesn’t look great.

As I shared in THIS post last year, once I discovered Beth Casse and her team at Beyond Skin, I felt good about letting them guide me. Only of my favorite things about Beth and her team don’t make me feel guilty about my mistakes from the past. These ladies have a “leave it to us” attitude for people like me that I really like.

My Experience with a Medium-Depth Chemical Peel

Lightening up sun damage

In the case of my skin’s hyperpigmentation, we’ve tried many topical approaches over the past year. While there was some improvement, Beth was honest with me that if I wanted to really see a difference, we would have  to try something a little different. For me, she recommended the ZO medium-depth chemical peel followed up by a skin lightening treatment.

After explaining the whole process and why she felt I would be a good candidate for it, I was totally game for giving it a try and sharing my experience here on the blog. Just in case there are other people like me out there who are curious cats like I am.

The First Day

My appointment for the peel was fairly quick. Beth prepped my face and then applied the solution. She warned me that it would be uncomfortable for about 5 minutes. She was right about that. My skin felt a stinging sensation, but was made much more bearable with a fan.

After she applied some sort of other cream, the feeling went away. Beth and her team went through all the instructions and let me ask my gazillion questions, and I went on my way.

Below is a visual for the first day. My face was shiny and had a yellow tint from the whatever the ointment is that stops the peeling process. Nothing like taking close up shots of your face to make you feel self-conscious. Oh well, we’re all friends here, right?

My Experience with a Medium-Depth Chemical Peel

All greased up the afternoon of my medium depth peel at Beyond Skin.

Days 2 & 3

On the second and third day, I could tell something was happening, but I don’t think anyone else could tell. My skin felt tighter around my face. It was also darker, and my beloved sunspots got darker too. My skin was getting ready to peel, but nothing else.

In my opinion, these are days that you could totally go out and about and probably no one would notice anything was different.

Days 4 & 5

On the morning of the fourth day, something was finally up. I woke up with the skin around my nose peeling in a big sheet. I was relieved to see that it was just brand new healthy baby skin under there instead of the Freddy Kreuger look I had been envisioning.

If you have ever had a bad sunburn on your back or shoulders and started peeling, that is exactly what it was like. The next two days were definitely days I felt self-counscious talking to anyone. So I tried my hardest to avoid being out and about.

Below is a visual so you can get an idea of what it looked like. You can also see a little of how yucky the peeling around my nose was.

Days 6 & 7

The last two days were basically no sweat. I was in the home stretch. Most of the major peeling was over. All that was left was the bits around my hairline. Which did kind of look like dandruff, but I don’t think anyone looks that close to tell. Right?

Overall, the peel was much less scary than I had imagined it to be. What I was worried would be 1 week of my face falling off and scaring little children, was basically 2 days where it looked like I was peeling from sunburn.

After the Peel:

After the peel had done its thing, I went back to Beyond Skin and they put me on a one month brightening system that would start addressing the hyperpigmentation.

Unlike my typical low maintenance, minimal product self, I actually used the system they put me on. I think I followed through with this because I knew there was a purpose for it. The system I used was the ZO Multi-Therapy Hydroquinone System pictured below. For the next month, I just applied the product in the morning and evening.

Below are the before and after of the one month on the hydroquinone treatment.

As you can see, while my skin is nowhere near perfect, the hyperpigmentation did fade quite a bit of the spots in one month.

I am currently taking a break from the lightening treatment, but will probably be hopping back again in the next month or two to see if we can get some of the more stubborn spots.

In the meantime, I am trying my best to wear sunscreen every day. My goal is not to look 25 years old, but I also don’t need to be speeding up the aging process by being careless. Wish I would have come to this conclusion 15 years ago!

My Experience with a Medium-Depth Chemical Peel

Q&A with Beth about Chemical Peels

If you are curious like I am, you might be wondering how and why these medium-depth chemical peels are so effective when combined with a therapeutic treatment. Beth was kind enough to answer some of these questions for us.

My Experience with a Medium-Depth Chemical Peel

What is the difference between the light peels you do during a facial, versus a more intense peel like the ZO Peel?

Unfortunately, several small steps do not equal one big step when it comes to chemical peeling. Very light, monthly peels will help some with discoloration, decongest the skin, induce cellular turnover and improve skin texture.

But they will not help with fine lines… the peel is just not strong enough to reach the deeper layers necessary for improvement in fine lines.

Medium-depth peels will help sun damage, discoloration, and even fine lines and wrinkles. You will peel dramatically for 7-10 days.

What do you look for in a good chemical peel? What do you avoid?

I prefer using low percentages of multiple acids, it gives a better outcome with less irritation than a single acid at a higher strength.

What types of people make good candidates for a deeper chemical peel like this one? 

Medium-depth chemical peels can be applied to the face, neck, and body and are highly effective in smoothing texture, improving superficial discoloration and mild photo-aging, eliminating fine wrinkles, and enhancing vitality of skin. 

Medium-depth chemical peels are ideal for those who want more dramatic results than a superficial peel can offer but wish to avoid the risk and recovery time associated with deeper peels or laser. 

Nothing controls melasma or hyperpigmentation better. Although there isn’t a permanent cure for the recurring sun-triggered or hormonal dark patches but chemical peels (paired with at-home bleaching creams, sunscreen and avoidance of sun exposure ) offer the best chance. 

These peels may be applied safely on all skin types and are a great alternative to clients whose skin types  are too high risk for laser such as those with olive skin to light brow to dark skin tones.  Lasers may make lofty claims, yet they’re essentially trying to treat a light- and heat-sensitive condition with light and heat.

How long should someone go between peels like these?

There is moderate downtime associated with medium-depth chemical peels, and they can be applied up to four times per year.

My Experience with a Medium-Depth Chemical Peel

Hopefully that helps you understand what the medium-depth chemical peel is all about like it helped me. I will certainly be returning to the team at Beyond Skin to help me on this journey to reverse the sun damaged skin on my face.

In the meantime, if you are local, and have skin issues of your own you may want to schedule a visit with Beth, Jonsie or Leslie at Beyond Skin.

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave