“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out,
I found, was really going in.” – John Muir
Innovative Coach/Educator Brings Outdoors into College Curriculum
(Part I of II)
Santa Rosa Men's Head Soccer Coach and Kinesiology Professor Marty Kinahan has always been a proponent of the fact that spending time in nature enhances physical fitness. Each year he includes outdoor experiences in his soccer team's training curriculum, and on a personal level, for years Coach Kinahan literally has been walking the walk by keeping a weekly appointment with himself for a 5+ mile hike in Trione-Annadel State Park. Every Saturday at 8:00 a.m., rain or shine, he and Chico, his trusty, 7 year old Black Lab, hit the Annadel trails.
Four years ago, right before Christmas, a small group of students approached Coach Kinahan seeking a solution to a problem which they all shared. These students had all struggled with being overweight their entire lives and were not looking forward to the upcoming season of annual resolutions which for them, based on their past experiences, was more a source of dread than of hope. Renewing their gym memberships year after year simply was not cutting it for them, and these students were desperate for some approach to conditioning that would produce the results they dreamed of, yet which, from their perspective, seemed destined to elude them. After some consideration, Kinahan made them a proposition.
He told them about his Saturday morning hikes, and he offered for them to join him. However, he had a couple conditions. First, they had to commit; this would be a hard and fast weekly appointment - no excuses. Every Saturday morning, no matter the weather, they would hike. Second, they had to agree to follow his lead - go where he would go, for as long as he would go, at his pace, and without complaining.
The students agreed to their coach's terms, and upon the new year, the hopeful band began treading the Annadel trails. It took about a month for the tenderfoots to develop their trail legs and form the requisite callouses. Yet, as the pounds began to melt away, the focus of their endeavor gradually shifted from the workout itself to the trees and the meadows, the deer and the wild turkeys, the incredible vistas and the Red Tail Hawks circling overhead in the endless blue sky. The weekly event gradually transitioned from a training obligation to a much anticipated adventure. As the troop became consumed with exploring the entire park, the trails encouraged easy conversation and a gentle camaraderie.
About two months into their experiment, one of the students casually remarked to Coach Kinahan, "It's too bad there isn't a class like this at the J.C.," and BAM! - a light bulb flashed on for Kinahan. Never one to ruminate long on a good idea, by the fall of that year, the industrious coach had written his new hiking class proposal, had submitted it and had had it approved by the administration, and was conducting his first Kinesiology Fitness 35.1 SLRP class. Popular with the S.R.J.C. students right from the jump, the class has become a perennial favorite with enrollment always at or near a capacity.
Although the class hikes are not as aggressive as the coach's Saturday morning outings, each semester, for 16 weeks, the class gathers in the Annadel parking lot every Friday at 8:00 a.m., and just like the Saturday morning hikes, rain or shine, at 8:05 a.m., the class promptly departs for the park's upper regions. The hikes last anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours and range in length from 3 to 9 miles.
In order to accommodate most students, the pace objective for the S.R.J.C. class hikes, is "steady" rather than "brisk." Coach Kinahan usually keeps pace with the head of the pack, while his assistant, fellow S.R.J.C., Kinesiology Instructor Paul Comish, brings up the rear. In order to keep the class together, one of the few class rules is that the hikers in the front have to be able to see the hikers in the back. So far, this practice has served the class well as Professors Comish and Kinahan have a perfect record with no lost students and, other than the odd blister now and then, no significant injuries.
The class seems to appeal to a broad spectrum of students with various objectives. About half the class are college-aged students looking for a few units, and the other half run the gamut as far as demographics and goals. In one of his first classes, Kinahan fondly remembers three 66 year old women, friends who took the class together as a social as well as recreational activity. "They never missed a class, were always prepared, and had no trouble keeping pace with their significantly younger classmates," recalls the veteran coach proudly.
Jayme Morgan, a 44 year old who has undergone several knee surgeries, was an enthusiastic member of the most recent hiking class. He loved that over the course of the semester the class was able to explore most of the park, and he particularly enjoyed their walks around Lake Ilsanjo. Also, he was pleased with the salutary effects of Annadel's gentle slopes on his knees. Kaiya Kramer, a 31 year old Santa Rosa native who absolutely loved the class, was also a member of the Fall 2019 hiking class. She cherished it simply as an opportunity to get out into nature once a week.
On the Thursday before each hike, students receive an email containing the next day's itinerary and a map of the hike. Although students are encouraged to bring cell phones for safety reasons, they are not allowed to use them or any other electronic devices during the hikes - no earbuds, no iPads, no Bluetooth, no music, no audio! While on the trail, the goal is to focus on the hike and the surrounding natural environment.
(to be continued - part II of II in next issue of MAD Times)
Rules, Regulations, Recommendations & Guidelines
It always pays to read the signs and heed their warnings. The National Park Service has posted this sign at Ocean Beach.
Finally, when one ventures out into the wilds, it is good to go equipped with some safety guidelines so we have linked to the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s page on Hiking Safety https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24051 . In addition to the State Park’s safety rules, we have a few suggestions of our own.
1. Always check the weather before you go out into nature. The difference between being prepared for weather conditions and not being prepared ranges from a pleasant adventure, a miserable outing, and disaster.
2. Be on the lookout for signs or bulletin boards where directions, warnings, and rules are posted. When you find any of these, read them.
3. Obey all rules and heed all warnings. Most accidents that occur outdoors result from a failure to do so.
4. Live by the universal rule of the great outdoors: Leave it better than you found it! Many people pick up a set number of pieces of trash each time they visit nature. They view this as a gesture of respect and gratitude for mother nature - a way of giving back. This would not be a bad habit to adopt.
That’s it for the rules and information. Now it’s time to get up and get out into nature. So be safe, have fun, and let us know how it goes.