Many consider Marin County the birthplace of mountain biking. And it’s almost a crime not to take advantage
of the great selection of routes, including many fire roads
and single-track trails that crisscross the county. Keep in
mind that mountain biking requires more skill than what’s
required to coast down a paved bike path. Lessons aren’t a
must for newbies, but as with any sport, a few pointers on
technique can really buoy your confidence. Folks who prefer
to white-knuckle it should be sure to stick to trails that are
appropriate for beginners.
Downhill U. S. national champion Celia Graterol owns
Mountain Bike Marin, a company that leads guided tours
and workshops on trails countywide. She recommends
China Camp State Park in San Rafael as the ideal starting
point. “It’s where I run most of my clinics,” Graterol says. “It
has great scenery and there’s options for the absolute beginners up to the very advanced.” Her favorite trail for biking is
Tamalrancho, a nine-mile loop in Fairfax that’s almost all
From a fitness perspective, working out on a mountain bike
will give you legs of steel and strengthen your core to boot. But
to get good results, body position and riding an appropriate-size bike are essential. “If you’re riding on the wrong-size bike
or your seat isn’t properly adjusted for your height, you’re just
asking for neck and elbow pain,” Graterol says. And even if
your form and equipment are perfect, all that time in one position can lead to muscle tightness: “I always tell people to get
off and stretch mid-ride. But ideally, people should think about
practicing yoga along with biking. It’s the perfect complement
because it loosens everything up.”
Lap swimming is an excellent form of exercise. But let’s face it: all that back-and-forth across a concrete box is, well,
kind of boring. Moving the discipline to the open water is a great way to shake things up. One attractive aspect of
open-water swimming is that you’re not battling a clock; you’re racing against nature — things like currents, tides
and other obstacles. “The adrenaline rush is huge,” says Bella Ferriter, a swimming coach at Scott Valley Swim and
Racquet Club in Mill Valley, who regularly trains both children and adults for open-water swim events including
the Tiburon Mile, which attracts about 800 swimmers of all ages and abilities. The September race starts on Angel
Island and finishes at Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon.
As far as workouts go, it doesn’t get any gentler. “It’s one of those sports you can truly do forever,” Ferriter says. Water
cushions stiff joints and fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of land-based exercises. And while it’s a no- or
low-impact sport, it works all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes.
Plus, water provides 12 times as much resistance as air in every direction, so working out in it helps build strength.
As for the temperature difference between the pool and the bay, well, it’s an adjustment. But “the more you swim
in cold water, the more brown fat you develop around your organs,” says Ferriter, who favors Aquatic Park in San
Francisco and Paradise Beach in Tiburon as places to train. “This brown fat gets turned into energy during races.”
( White fat is responsible for weight gain and calorie storage; brown fat, by contrast, burns calories and produces
heat.) So with practice and perseverance, you can escape Alcatraz.