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Several years ago, after ruining my knees from a lifetime of running and martial arts, I took up spinning to keep my cardio up while I rehabbed.  I hated it…  but not for long.  After a while, I started putting together playlists and decided to become a certified instructor.

At that point, I committed to donating everything I made from teaching to charity and to donate my time whenever possible. Eight years later, I’ve done dozens of charity rides (both indoor and outdoor), mostly for children’s causes, and have been lucky enough to donate several thousand dollars to various charities. I’ve been blessed with the support of so many people who join me on my rides or donate in support of these wonderful causes.

Two years ago, FFC paired up with World Bicycle Relief and asked if I would participate in their “One Day – 100 Bikes” Event. WBR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing greater access to education, sustainable business and healthcare in developing areas of the world through the power of bicycles. The goal of the event was to raise enough money to provide 100 Buffalo Bikes. These special heavy duty bicycles would provide needed modes of transportation to allow children (particularly young women) to get to and from school safely, entrepreneurs to maintain sustainable businesses and clinicians to see more patients. I was hooked. Since that time, WBR has become one of my main charitable causes and is part of both my personal and professional life.

This year, WBR is again hosting the “One Day 100 Bikes” event and I am proud to say that Northwestern Medicine and Northwestern’s Global Health Initiative are part of the team, graciously providing needed sponsorship and support to this wonderful organization and event.

I love being able to give back and to promote fitness.  As long as I’m healthy, I’ll keep going.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Bill Bower.

About One Day 100 Bikes

The mission of One Day 100 Bikes is to create fun and active events to support the World Bicycle Relief organization. Funds raised at these events will provide hundreds of bikes for students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in need in Africa.

Easy Ways to Get Involved

Sign up to participate in one of the 3 fitness events listed below happening through the month of September! Register here to save your spot! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/one-day-100-bikes-tickets-48719972750

  • Friday, September 7 – “Silent Spin” Outdoor glow in the dark cycling class on the pool deck at night at FFC West Loop
  • Sunday, September 9 – Dance for 100 Bikes cardio dance mashup on the sun deck at FFC Lincoln Park
  • Saturday, September 15 – Outdoor Cycling spin class outside on the sun deck at FFC Lincoln Park

There will also be a Filmed By Bike film festival on Friday, September 14, in addition to a morning group ride on Saturday, September 15. Learn more by clicking here.

 

FFC personal trainer Marylou Tawney pens a humorous breakup letter to her Fitbit, explaining that her fitness goals have evolved and become too complex for the step counter.

Dear Fitbit,

I’ll never forget the first time we met. After a fiercely-fought firm-wide challenge was won by my team, The Piercelings, way back in 2012, you arrived as my prize. Excited to see what all the buzz was about, I clipped on that first incarnation of you to the middle of my bra and strutted towards my first 10,000 steps. The precarious placement of your device never stopped me from checking my steps or the time in far too conspicuous of places because, frankly, I was proud of you. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had a step goal, and I was going places.

You got me motivated to move even when it was socially appropriate to stand still. As you whispered sweet urgencies in my ear, “10,000…” you kept my feet marching. Desk to candy jar? 54 steps each way. Desk to water cooler? 73-77 steps each way, depending on the enthusiasm of my stride. Together, you and I have walked the 5,772 miles of the Russian Railway, and have gone up 20,000 floors – as high as a shooting star.

I introduced you to all my friends and family right away. We didn’t waste any time, but neither did they! They adopted you immediately, and they too strapped you to their bras and checked their progress in far too conspicuous places. We cheered each other and challenged each other every week to hit those step goals. You got us off the couch and stepping, stepping… and stepping. I knew I’d really committed to our relationship when I got the Fitbit scale that syncs up with you. It was our equivalent to a diamond ring.

We’ve had some crazy times. Do you remember in my postnatal fog that it took me several days to realize that I was getting false steps from sitting on an exercise ball, holding my precious bundle of only-sleeps-when-held, bouncing for hours and hours? Remember that? I got, like, 96,000 steps in one day, and all my friends were worried that I was over-exerting myself, only to find they’d been cheated out of that week’s step-count leaderboard. I took you off and didn’t wear you for a month after that! Oh, still too soon? No, I get that.

You really left your mark on me. Literally. You finally migrated from my bra to my wrist – as my fifth and final model – my Fitbit tan line became so strong that I wore you even when your battery was dead.

Then something happened. My fitness goals evolved and grew more complex. I began to focus more on strength and high intensity interval training, balance, and mobility – the things that you, my dear Fitbit, did not recognize as primary goals. If I wasn’t on a treadmill, I wasn’t earning trophies or accolades for my accomplishments. But strength training protects your bone mass, and builds muscle mass. It burns more calories, reduces the risk of depression. It assists in motor planning, and reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease! Studies have even shown there is a link between strength training and mental alertness. Grip strength and longevity of life! And I learned new ways to measure progress.

  • First of all, I designed a multi-week exercise program in which a series of workouts and movements are periodically repeated at various intensities and quantities (reps/sets), so I am able to document my strength from one week to the next. (Need a plan like this too? Check out the FFC Workout of the Month!)
  • Second, on each strength training day, I perform a total body workout; however, I focus on certain muscle groups each day without neglecting the others. After all, muscle strength requires muscle balance, so hitting both sides of a joint each time you exercise keeps those joints nice and healthy.
  • Third, I changed my warm ups from the treadmill to a functional warm up that prepares my body for the specific movements I am about to perform. This way, my body is not exhausted before I even start trying to lift weights. However, since I do enjoy a good sweat, I throw in some high intensity intervals on the front end of my workout as well as a fun metabolic finisher at the end. This satisfies my addiction to cardio by getting my heart rate up for my whole strength training workout.

My achievements towards these goals felt disregarded and uncounted by you, my faithful Fitbit. You, who got me moving. You, who kept me stepping. You have your place on steppers wrists, whose goals are to move from sedentary to active, but when goals are no longer aligned, we must finally part ways.

I will forever thank you for keeping me and my entire extended family on our fitness journeys for so many years, but I can’t help but feel you and I have grown apart as my fitness goals have changed. As I cover up the untanned strip on my wrist with a new device that better understands me, I won’t forget you. I forever remain in your debt.

Sincerely,

Mama Lou

FFC Oak Park Marylou Tawny Fitbit letter

Marylou Tawney is a personal trainer focusing on prenatal and postnatal exercise at FFC Oak Park. She is a mother of two rowdy boys, and specializes in wrestling, tackling, and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can find her on Instagram at @mamalou_fitness – or shoot her an email at mtawney@ffc.com to set up a complimentary consultation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. I have read this mantra many times in different forums and articles. While I don’t know if the ratio is 100% accurate, what I do know is that nutrition is an extremely vital part of a good fitness plan. The only problem is, I never truly internalized this fact until I started seeing Alicia Huggler, registered dietitian at FFC Park Ridge, who helped me change my perspective on nutrition.

Time for a Change

I began my journey a bit over 2 years ago at the age of 26. I finally decided it was time for a change after years of laziness and poor diet had done its damage to my body. I felt awful most of the time and I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. In December of 2015, I signed up for a membership at one of the budget gyms in the area, looked up a workout program, and started hitting the weights hard. After about 4 months of going consistently, I definitely felt much better. However, I wasn’t seeing much progress on the scale or in the way I looked. This is when I started doing more research and discovered the 80/20 guideline.

I started a meal-prep regimen based on (as I look back on it now) a lot of “bro-science”. Breakfast was always eggs and oatmeal. Every lunch and dinner consisted of either chicken or frozen fish, a vegetable (peppers, broccoli, asparagus), and either brown rice or quinoa. I avoided snacks like the plague and ate 3 massive meals per day. The meals were bland, boring, and repetitive, but the new diet was effective. My weight plummeted from 215 to 195 in a little over 2 months.

Related: food prep sound overwhelming? Here are some tips that will make the process as easy as possible so you can stick to it!

From Progress to Plateau

However, my body fat percentage wasn’t changing as drastically (I went from around 25% BF to 20% during this time). This sudden change wasn’t without issues. I had very little energy throughout the day, leading me to skip many gym sessions (until I stopped going altogether). I lost a lot of progress on my lifts. Cheat meals became a regular occurrence. The meal plan wasn’t sustainable, and I slipped back into my old habits. My weight rebounded past where it was originally, and just like that I was back to square one.

Despite all of this, I wasn’t ready to give up. In December of 2016, I recommitted to my fitness plan. Thinking I would be more inclined to go if I paid more for the membership, I canceled at the budget gym and looked for pricier alternatives. I decided FFC had all the equipment and amenities I was seeking, in addition to being in a convenient spot. I looked up a new workout program and restarted my meal-prep regimen. Progress was going great for a while, but over time I began slipping into the same patterns. Cheat meals, skipped meal prep, and missed workouts due to the lack of energy became the constant. I was frustrated and almost quit again.

Changing My Perspective on Nutrition

On a whim in May of 2017, I decided to see Alicia. It was a game-changer and she completely changed my perspective on nutrition. During our first session, she asked me what my current diet consisted of and what foods I enjoyed/didn’t like. She gave me some basic nutrition advice to get me started while she developed my full meal plan. The second session was where I learned that I was on a good path before, but I wasn’t doing the little things that would have made my diet consistent. My proportions were off: I was eating too much protein and not enough carbs or fats. I love the taste of red meat, but I had cut it out before in favor of lean white meats. To compensate, I wound up overeating red meat (pound or two of steak per meal) when I cheated.

This time around, Alicia built lean red meats into my meal plan. She informed me that snacks weren’t the enemy and in fact necessary to avoid overindulging during meal time. Variety keeps the meal plan interesting and staves off the propensity to cheat. Cheating was even OK as long as it was responsible and limited. “Have a burger every once in a while,” she said, “just don’t get the triple stack with bacon.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. She even opened my eyes to delicious healthy whole foods and substitutes that I had never heard of before: chicken sausage, chickpea pasta, farro, nutritional yeast, and Halo Top ice cream to name a few. Additionally, she was a great resource for tasty recipes that fit my meal plan.

Alicia is a very warm and open person; always upbeat and energetic. She won’t just take measurements and talk about nutrition in the sessions but will also take a genuine interest in you. She never chastises you for falling off the rails one week and instead encourages you to do better the following week. She’ll even let you know what sweets she indulged in that week, so you won’t feel as bad. Her attitude was a key factor in helping me stay the course.

How I changed my perspective of nutrition and lost 11% body fat

Seeing Sustainable Results

I could continue about my experience and how awesome Alicia is, but what’s really important is results. My initial measurements when I first started seeing Alicia were 218 lbs and 25% body fat. I can happily report that I’m now down to 196 lbs and 14% BF. Pants I purchased a year ago no longer fit and I’m down 2 belt loops. I feel a great sense of pride in my new physique when I look in the mirror. My lifts are steadily improving. More crucially, I feel much better. I have consistent energy throughout the day and will have maybe 1 caffeinated beverage a week if I really need it. I’ve only been sick once in the past year and I fought off the illness swiftly. Looking and feeling great has been an incredible confidence booster. Proper perspective on nutrition really has changed me for the better.

Even though I’m in the best shape of my life at 28, I’m still not satisfied and hopefully never will be. Fitness is a lifelong journey and I have a long way to go. I can now embark upon this journey armed with proper knowledge about nutrition. If you have been going the gym consistently like I was and aren’t seeing the results you want, proper diet may be the missing piece – you may need to change your perspective on nutrition. If you have any questions about nutrition or are curious about what a registered dietitian can do for you, I encourage you to seek one out and talk to (or email if you’re shy). And if you decide to start a nutrition program with her and stick with it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Good luck on your own fitness journey and I will see you in the weight room!

Post written by FFC Park Ridge local’84 Cafe attendant Andrew Wrobel.

 

We’ve all been there. Searched good ol’ WebMD, typed in a few common symptoms, and get the news we’re knocking on death’s door. This is the one time I took it seriously, and boy, am I glad I did.

I first realized something was off when, two weeks away from that time of the month, I was experiencing extreme cramping and other symptoms. Deciding that I’d rather not risk a possible cyst on an ovary rupturing, I went to the ER. Two scans and one pelvic exam later, I had my diagnosis: uterine fibroids. Not the best news, but it also gave me a much better understanding of the constant, worsening symptoms I was experiencing leading up to my diagnosis.

Fast forward two weeks later – my symptoms were worse than ever, and I needed help. I went to the doctor, where they did a blood count check, prescribed me medicine, and sent me on my way home to sleep.

Not Just a Scare

The following morning, I went to work, trained a client, then fell ill. Hoping I could sleep off the pain, I took a three-hour nap. I got a call from my gynecologist’s office, highly recommending I get to the ER, ASAP. My hemoglobin level was a 3, and it should have been an 11. A blood transfusion was needed to get my levels up. Although I was terrified to receive someone else’s blood, I realized the medical team knew best, and headed over to the hospital. As I was being admitted and they saw my hemoglobin level, they asked me if I had been brought in an ambulance. I looked at them like they were crazy, seeing as I had easily driven myself to the hospital.

I found out my oxygen levels were extremely low (65%), which ultimately led to me losing a tooth and worsening eyesight. Amazing how the body works, and knows what areas of the body need oxygen the most. Two days, FOUR blood transfusions, and two IVs of iron later, I was cleared to go home. My hemoglobin level was still so low that I required five weeks of iron infusions as a follow-up.

All of my health issues FINALLY made sense. When I started to develop daily headaches that brought me to tears, I knew something was off. The need for a two hour nap every day, the pain in my legs and back going up a short flight of stairs made me more aware of an underlying issue. The spells of dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations were the red flags that made me wake up, and get the help I desperately needed.

Related: how fitness and wellness helped FFC member Avnit make a doctor-recommended lifestyle change.

Exercise Saved My Life

So many of the doctors and nurses I met during my stay were baffled at my situation, and how I was able to function on a somewhat normal level. All they were able to attribute to me still being alive was the fact that I took care of my physical health. I was told that due to continual exercise and a healthy lifestyle, my body was able to adjust to the little blood and oxygen it had, and was able to sustain it for some time. People in my situation have dropped dead, passed out and gone into a coma, or into cardiac arrest. Overall, this is a testament to the fact that you should trust your instincts and get the help you need – but also never underestimate the power of a healthy lifestyle.

I am grateful to God and fitness for my existence!

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Childcare Supervisor Nicole Achille.

 

 

 

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My name is Charise Horn. Fitness has always been a huge part of my life – especially in the last few years. In January 2013 I decided to change my lifestyle for the better. I was 250 pounds, depressed, my confidence was to the floor, I was trying to get my foot in the door with my culinary degree and things were just not working out. So, with the help of my brothers, I started my fitness journey. From January 2013 to May 2013 I was able to drop 25 pounds, but I needed to change up my fitness routine. That change was boxing.

How boxing changed my perspective on fitnessMy cousin, who has been boxing for the past twenty years, offered me the chance work out as he was preparing for an upcoming fight. Come June 2013, I had officially started boxing. Throughout the summer, my cousin and I continued to box and work out together, and he brought me to his friend’s gym called Body Shot Boxing Club.

While working out there, I continued to lose weight and also signed up for my first amateur boxing match – the finals of the 2014 Chicago Golden Gloves.

The match was to take place in front of 2,000 people. It takes a lot to get into that ring– let alone in front of that many people! I did not come out of the match victorious, but it was probably the best thing to happen to me. You have to be humble in your defeat as well as your victories.

After my fight, I continued to train and lose more weight. In February of 2015 I hit my goal of losing 100 lbs! The feeling of accomplishment was the best I have ever felt in my whole life; my confidence was the best it’s ever been. The long days and nights of training, early mornings of running – nobody can take that feeling of accomplishment away from you.

Related: how FFC helped member Lauren find fitness & gain confidence. 

Boxing as a weight loss workout

Before all of this, I didn’t know where my life was going; I didn’t exactly know what career path I wanted to follow. With the help of my family I decided to go back to school for Bachelor Degree in Business Management, and started working at FFC.

Throughout the last three years my life has taken a dramatic turn for the better – I want people to know how important learning from failure is; that no matter what, don’t ever give up, no matter how many setbacks you encounter. Keep pushing forward because you never know where your life might take you!

Post written by FFC contributor Charise H.

 

 

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My name is Erika Boer and I’m one of the massage therapists at FFC Park Ridge. Last summer, when I was looking for jobs up north (I moved from southern Illinois), I came across a job listing for FFC. Not knowing what it was all about (besides that they needed therapists), I googled it and was amazed. Not only was FFC a fitness club, it had so much more… like a full staff of registered dietitians who might be able to help me change my perception of nutrition!

Before moving back up north, I had tried many “diets”. Those diets, along with working out at the local gym, did give me some results, but not as much as I wanted to see. When I saw that FFC offered help with nutrition, I was sold on the job listing and applied.

Since I can remember, I’ve had problems with my weight and have always tried to consider the different reasons why that might be. It wasn’t until I started working at Denny’s years ago that I gave more thought to my weight and decided to do something about it.

Related: 3 of the best registered dietitian-written books to help you get on the right track.

In the past, I had always purchased those body detox cleanses and pills and tried going to the gym… but always had an excuse not to go. I never thought about talking to a registered dietitian.

As I became a massage therapist, I listened to my body more and realized that if I wasn’t in a healthy state, I would probably have a hard time with my body mechanics. In order to make sure I didn’t hurt myself, I decided to start exploring ways to be healthier without putting all that other stuff in my body.

Nutrition Wasn’t What I Thought

I remember the first time I walked into Alicia Huggler’s office at FFC Park Ridge. She was super sweet and made me feel comfortable (for some reason I was nervous!). I’m sure I’m not the only one who had been in her office who thought they knew what they needed to do and what to expect – but I was completely caught by surprise!

What I thought (going by all those other “diets” I had been on) wasn’t what I should have been focusing on at all. She also caught me off guard when she said she would put together a meal plan consisting of things I would normally eat and most importantly like, rather than what I “needed” to be eating. We even talked about other indulgences, like alcohol. She asked me, “do you drink?” I of course said yes, but not that much – but she said that was okay because she would take that into consideration. A meal plan based off MY lifestyle? This couldn’t be true!

Just one hour in her office helped change my life for the better and change my perception of nutrition. We got an idea of where I was at as far as weight and began to piece together my meal plan. The following week I received the plan and it was great! I started around March/ April of this year and, though I’ve struggled a bit due to various life factors like a breakup and moving, I have lost 23 pounds so far! I have 28 more to go to reach my goal.

Not only did I lose all that weight, but my BMI went down a few points and I lost inches around my waist. I know that by sticking with the meal plan, weighing in every week and working out at least 4 times a week, I will be at my goal weight by the finish line that I have set for myself.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation with an on-site registered dietitian at FFC!

A Lifestyle Change for the Better

When my mom came up to visit for my cousins wedding not too long ago, her jaw pretty much dropped to the floor when she saw my progress. She kept exclaiming how proud she was and how good I looked (she even “showed me off” to her friends because she knew how much I wanted to lose weight and that it’s been a struggle for me). Even my friends have been noticing a huge difference, which makes me feel so much better. I’m starting to get my confidence back, thanks to Alicia! It’s definitely been a transformative process.

Alicia is an amazing person and she definitely know what she’s doing. She not only helps me and motivates me every week, but she always offers to be there for support throughout the week (if I feel like I’m about to fail at something). I always look forward to my 15-minute weigh-in appointments (good or bad) because we also talk about what’s been happening.

She’s not only a coach, but a friend as well. There have been times I’ve broken down into tears because of big problems or knowing that what was happening in my life at the time was bad or distracting me from what I needed to be doing, but we’d press on and discuss what I needed to do to get back on track anyway. There have also been times when I would gain weight, but we would talk about it and make a list of items to address.

My Valuable Takeaways

Along with the tough times, there have also been some moments of surprise – times I’d step on the scale and see that I had lost more than the 2 pounds planned for that week! It’s been a rough road and I have had gains as much as losses, but I think everyone goes through those highs and lows when they want to succeed at anything in life. It just makes you want to push harder.

I also didn’t know changing my perception of nutrition and being healthy could be so much fun! To actually learn about different types of fats and other types of macros has been fascinating. Yes, I’ve tried to count those calories, but it never really stuck until now. Granted, I still have to watch my timing, drink more water and start meal prepping again, but I know I can get back into it. Once you put your mind to it, nothing can stop you from achieving your goal.

I want to say thank you so very much, Alicia Huggler – not only for helping me through this journey, but being there to motivate me when I need it. I would probably not even think about pushing myself this hard if it weren’t for your help. I haven’t had this much energy and drive for a very long time. You are definitely in inspiration to me and so many others!

I recently joined the Fitness Formula Clubs team as a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown. While walking into FFC for my audition prior to starting classes, a memory of how I began my journey to following a plant-based diet was sparked from when I first entered this industry.

15 years ago, after earning my AFAA certification, I dove head-first into the world of teaching. Some days would go from 6 AM until 10 PM, teaching 4 or 5 classes a day. I was teaching all kinds of formats, all over the city, working to supplement my unpaid passion for theatre and dance.

On top of the 20 hours a week I spent teaching classes, the hours of dance rehearsals for shows, and the personal training I’d do in between, a compulsion drove me to do more.

I would be on the elliptical machine for an hour before teaching a double, just to make sure I burned my magic calorie goal that day. I’d push myself to run 6 to 10 miles, even before the gym opened at 5 AM. I never took a day off.

Then, I got injured; plantar fasciitis in my heel and tendonitis in my knee. I was beating my body into the ground.

But I was also overweight. My obsessive workout routine was only to compensate for the food addiction binges I’d have. I could tear through 3 bowls of cereal and 2 “energy” bars before noon. I thought running two Chicago marathons and lifting 5 days a week would solve everything. My disappointment with my fat stomach and chubby legs had one solution: add more exercise.

Time for a lifestyle change - to a plant-based dietTime for a Lifestyle Change

It wasn’t until I changed my diet that I started to lose weight and have more energy. My plant-based journey began with a “vegan challenge” – I’d eat plant-based and oil-free for 30 days.

I wasn’t ready to make a full plant-based change after that first month. Yet I couldn’t deny the effects it had on my body. I had lost weight, I was sleeping better, I didn’t feel bloated, and I had more overall energy.

In the 6 years since that “challenge”, I now fully embrace a plant-based diet. I’ve cut my addiction to refined sugar, oil, and flour. I’ve let go of dairy. I’ve discovered oats, beans, and red rice to be more flavorful and satisfying than poached eggs or roasted chicken breast.  

In the 15 years since I first entered the fitness industry, I’m now 50 pounds lighter, lifting heavier weights than ever. I can cruise at an 8:00/mile pace for a 10K, and I’ve learned how to balance my high-intensity interval training with slow, mindful yoga.

The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Eating plant-based, my body has been able to reset itself – feeling satisfied and nourished with a healthy amount of fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. I still crave carbs when I need more energy, but now I hunger for bananas and grapes over energy bars.

Related: ever thought about adding seaweed to your diet? Here’s why you should!

I thirst for watermelon to re-hydrate after a 90-degree 7-mile run. I dive into a bowl of lentils after heavy strength workouts. My recovery meals are full of delicious plant-based energy. I have let go of the refined flours, oils, and sugars – also letting go of my addiction to these foods. I feel like such a different body, with such a different emotional mind.

I feel joyful and lucky that fitness has always been a part of my life. I am equally grateful to have discovered the drastic impact a plant-based diet has had on my body. I look forward to sharing my passion for fitness with the FFC family. And I welcome any skeptics of a vegan diet to take my classes and see how strong plants can be!

Post written by FFC Boystown Group Fitness Instructor Katie Simmons.

Related: want to try a nutrition session at FFC for free? Click here!

 

Katie Simmons group fitness instructor at FFC Chicago plant-based diet

About Katie Simmons

Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Halsted Street and a personal chef based in Chicago. When she’s not teaching, she specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com

Outside of the kitchen, she is a fitness instructor, with over 15 years of experience in the industry. For fun, she loves to travel. Some of her favorite trips include week of Holi Festival and Curry in Northern India, 4 nights hiking and camping on the Incan Trail in Peru, 10 days of trekking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile, and 5 months backpacking through New Zealand.