Loneliest Campsites in the Lower 48

Reconnect with what you love this summer as you set a course for inspiring travels through Virginia’s Blue Ridge. From town to peak and hidden gem to craft beverage, you’ll be reminded to continue seeking meaningful moments with the ones dearest to your heart. 2

That’s WanderLOVE.

Here are some suggestions and activities to include in your next WanderLOVE road trip to Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Outdoor Recreation

James River Paddling

Virginia’s Blue Ridge is an outdoor recreation destination, and unashamedly so. Our mountain biking trails are so wicked we’ve been dubbed America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital, our streams are among Virginia’s most scenic and boast some of the best fishing and paddling in the Commonwealth, and our hiking trails lead to some of the most photographed lookouts on the East Coast.

Rent a bike from Roanoke Mountain Adventures and hit the 60 trails of Carvins Cove, a 12,000-acre paradise of loops, climbs, switchbacks, and incredible scenery. Hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails are at hand in Virginia’s Blue Ridge giving you hundreds of reasons to come back again and again.

Mountain Biking Trail Maps >

The Upper James River Water Trail (pictured above) is a Virginia Scenic River that includes fun class I and II rapids as well as great flat water for floating and easy paddling. The Roanoke River Blueway is 45 miles of great fishing and canoeing with numerous local parks as access points. Incorporate such river activities plus hiking, biking, camping, and even a bit of history with a visit to Explore Park along the Blueway.

Scenic Blueways of Virginia’s Blue Ridge >

Great Small Town Experiences

Salem VA

Small towns offer the best in southern hospitality, and ours shine especially bright with cool place to be, eat, and drink. Road trip right this way…

In Rocky Mount we love the chance to catch live music at The Harvester Performance Center, and no visit to Franklin County is complete without a sip of moonshine. Visit Twin Creeks Distillery in downtown Rocky Mount for a swig inside their tasting room.

Vinton is an outdoor lover’s gateway to trails and streams. Tinker Creek canoe access point sets you on your way to a Roanoke River Blueway day or you can explore the parks along the Wolf Creek Greenway. Great burgers, pizza joints, and even authentic Thai are perfect fill-ups before a craft beer flight at Twin Creeks Brewing Company.

Situated alongside the James River and with the Great Valley Road slicing it in half, Buchanan was once a bustling town of westward homesteaders. The Buchanan Swinging Bridge is a prominent landmark positioned where a covered bridge once stood. Cross from the far side into downtown and climb Main Street for lunch at the Buchanan Fountain & Grille. It’s an authentic soda fountain experience and real small town treat.

South of Roanoke is the oldest settlement in Virginia’s Blue Ridge: Salem (pictured above). It’s also the home of Roanoke College, a great local farmers market & antique stores, and the Salem Civic Center. Stroll through town with a walking tour map and an eye for history to learn about Salem before it was Salem, and a few surprises, too.

Great Small Towns in Virginia’s Blue Ridge >

Scenic Drives

Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains

When scenery is all you crave, look no further than Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Our mountains are the quintessential road trip backdrop with peaks and valleys, so many hues of foliage, and delightful stops along the way.

Route 311 to Craig County serves up a driver over Catawba Mountain, an access point for the Appalachian Trail and McAfee Knob. Pass through fields, past farms, and climb Potts Mountain toward Paint Bank. Dining options include The Homeplace and The Swinging Bridge; either is a winner.

Route 11 to Botetourt County zips you into and out of Troutville while offering mountain, pasture, and Mill Creek and Beaverdam Creek views in some places. In late summer, Beaver Dam Farm’s sunflower fields are a reason to stop and stretch your legs. PomegranateGreenwood, and North Star are all down home restaurants to beat back your hunger.

Route 221 from Roanoke to Floyd is about 30 miles of farmland dotted with cows and round bales of hay. It’s an ideal, laid-back, rural drive that becomes vibrant with autumn’s colors in October. In Floyd there’s always a hum of creativity on the air, whether it’s from music, dance, or a potter’s hands. Southern Living called it one of the South’s Best Small Towns in 2016, and we believe it’s only gotten better.

The Blue Ridge Parkway (pictured above) always rises to the top when discussing scenic drives. Meandering through the woods and atop grassy knolls, ever on the lookout for the next place to stop and soak in the views…those are the moments that make the BRP our go-to any given Sunday. Pull off and venture down a trail to see what turns up, or stick near the pavement with a stop at Mabry Mill or Peaks of Otter. The former is known for great dining and history while the latter is known for great dining and some of Virginia’s best hiking. Neither stop will do you wrong.

NOTE: The Blue Ridge Parkway is currently closed from Milepost 115.5 to Milepost 135.9 due to road hazards.

Scenic Mountain Drives in Virginia’s Blue Ridge >

Hidden Gems

Texas Tavern - Roanoke, VA

To find some of the best of what’s around, you need to look closely and watch the locals. They’ll lead you (and point you) to some of our claims to fame as well as our favorite shimmering treasures.

One of our most brilliant (but still rather hidden) gems is the Roanoke Star. It’s hard to miss at night when its neon bulbs are abuzz atop Mill Mountain, but during the day it stands dark, watching over the Roanoke Valley below. Wind your way up the mountain to get the star’s point of view or to explore the many hiking and biking trails.

Texas Tavern (pictured above) is larger than life in our hearts, but in reality, you’d easily miss it if you didn’t know exactly where to find it. Like the Roanoke Star, its neon lights draw you in at night, but during the day you’ll need a keen eye. Operated by the same family for four generations, Texas Tavern is an old school, 24-hour lunch counter within a narrow building that isn’t much wider than the counter itself. Texas Tavern is a treasure that should be on any Roanoke road trip itinerary; their burgers are legend.

Waterfalls are long sought and much loved. If you’re up for a hike, we have a couple of our very own worth your wandering. Perhaps the most popular in our area is Cascade Falls in Pembroke for its 69-foot drop and the wading pool below it. Roaring Run Falls in Eagle Rock is an easy trail for families and not only includes a smaller set of falls, but also has a bit of history along the way. Do seek out the 19th century iron ore furnace for a quick family history lesson.

Off the Blue Ridge Parkway is Apple Orchard Falls, accessed by a 7.5-mile moderately difficult loop trail. It’s an impressive waterfall and one of Virginia’s highest. Another fun option is Bottom Creek Gorge in Bent Mountain. Bottom Creek is the headwater of the South Fork of the Roanoke River, and it roars down 200 feet into the gorge below, creating Virginia’s second highest waterfall.

Waterfall Hikes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge >

Share the LOVE

Elmwood Art Walk - Downtown Roanoke

LOVEworks are the popular L-O-V-E letters that have popped up all over Virginia in the past 10 years. In Virginia’s Blue Ridge alone you’ll find more than 25 LOVE installations to photograph and enjoy. Virginia is for Lovers has two-day LOVEwork itinerary ready for you as a suggested leap for love. Don’t forget to share your photos on social media and include #LOVEVA.

Public art is just about everywhere in Roanoke. Murals under bridges and on the sides of downtown buildings, metal sculptures in parks, and even functional art – like bike racks – are all over. There are nearly 60 pieces to see on the Ride Solutions Roanoke Hidden Art Map, which you can navigate by car or on a bicycle with Art by Bike. It’s one of many unique self-guided bicycle tours created by Ride Solutions.

No visit to or around Virginia is complete without a Virginia is for Lovers souvenir, and there are several places to pick up a key chain, snapbacks, bumper sticker, growler, or any number of other useful displays of your love and affection. The Smith Mountain Lake Visitor Center at Bridgewater Marina is a touristy spot to stop, but you’ll also find Lovers gear in downtown Roanoke at chocolatepaper and The Gift Niche.

Virginia is for Lovers – Online Store >

Unique Lodging

Family Camping - Explore Park Cabins - Roanoke, VA

What’s a road trip without some amazing places to stay along the way? Camping has a number of definitions these days. At Explore Park (pictured above) you can pull in your camper or stay in one of their swanky canvas tents, though camping, cabins and primitive sites for your own tent are also available. For the truly primitive camping experience, head to Deer Island at Philpott Lake. You’ll boat to the island and give it your best Survivor attempt. We’re hopeful you won’t end up Naked and Afraid.

Upgrade your overnight with a cabin rental. For the ultimate cabin stay, a treehouse at Primland in Meadows of Dan is the way to go. For an iconic option, consider the cabins at Mountain Lake Lodge, home of Dirty Dancing. Some Virginia State Parks also offer cabins. In Virginia’s Blue Ridge, you can book one at Claytor LakeDouthatFairy Stone, or Smith Mountain Lake.

bed and breakfast is a great overnight if you love a hot homestyle breakfast waiting for you downstairs when you wake up. It’s like being home but with a chef. If that sounds like a road trip treat you can get into, there are more than 20 to choose from, including an 1800s Victorian, lodges, a mansion, and even a railcar. See a list of B&Bs >

For a full-on resort experience, circle back to Mountain Lake Lodge or Primland to enjoy their main rooms, dining, and all of the activities you can work up the adrenaline to conquer. From golfing and zip lines to shooting sports and horseback riding, resort stays are pretty stellar splurges.

Book Your Stay in Virginia’s Blue Ridge >

Craft Food & Beverage

Flight of 4 different moonshine cocktails.

Toast your WanderLOVE wanderings with a pint of freshly brewed craft beer, a perfectly aged red wine, or a 90-proof rye. The Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail includes all of those and we even have a weekend sketched out for you, if it helps. Cheers Trail Weekend Itinerary >

Patio dining has been a thing for a while now, but in the midst of a pandemic, it’s all the rage. Fresh air and distance have taken priority and many local restaurants and craft beverages have adjusted to offer great patio space. Patio Options in VBR >

WanderLOVE - Virginia is for Lovers

Wandering is a good thing, and when you wander with the one(s) you love, it’s even better. Cheers to you and yours, with great expectation that the road leads you our way.

When you visit, we encourage you to commit to the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Stay Safe Pledge. It’s a short list of easy, simple steps based on public health guidelines that we can all do as we work together to help keep each other safe and limit the spread of COVID-19. Take the pledge >


Casey L. Higgins is a writer, editor, content consultant, and social media strategist working in the realms of travel and small business. She’s also a mom and wife living in and loving the mountains and valleys of Virginia. Casey previously wrote for Virginia is for Lovers and is excited to share her enthusiasm for family fun, outdoors, and culinary delights found in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Written by Kristin Smith for Backpacker and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Backpacker

The Benefits of Letting Your Kids Do Nothing During Quarantine, from an Early Childhood Education Professor

The Benefits of Letting Your Kids Do Nothing During Quarantine, from an Early Childhood Education Professor

I have given a lot of advice to parents during my career as a New York City classroom teacher and professor of early childhood education. About five days into the COVID-19 quarantine, I found myself answering work emails with one hand, holding a baby with the other and pointing to a map with my toe while trying to teach my other child geography. It was a defining moment for me as I understood how exhausting, unsustainable and unhealthy it was for everyone involved. I realized more parents needed real-world advice that was also research-proven and practical. Here's mine: It’s OK to do nothing sometimes

So what does “doing nothing” mean exactly? Doing nothing is breaking away from the notion that you need to schedule every second of the day for your child. It’s healthy to have significant gaps in the day instead of moving from one lesson to another. Focus more on setting up a safe environment that promotes opportunities for exploration (without your participation) and the idea that preserving the long-term love of learning will beat filling out all those worksheets any day.

They will get bored… for now.

Yes, they will get bored. That is OK. It might be a sign of initial withdrawal from their constant need for you to provide them with something to do. Boredom is healthy and a natural transitional phase that everybody needs to experience. It’s a reality check that life will not be full of playdates and one scheduled event after another. However, if you allow these moments to play out, children will eventually look for things to do and their imaginations will ignite. Early childhood experts agree that allowing for these unscheduled/unstructured periods of time promotes creativity, imagination and independence.

Embrace multiple possibilities.

“I’m finished! What’s next?” We have all heard those words. Evaluate toys (concrete and digital) that you are providing for your children and ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Can they use these toys independently?
  • Do they require adult supervision for safety?
  • Are they within reach of the child?
  • Are there multiple ways to use these toys?

Certain toys have more possibilities and allow children to express themselves in different ways. Coloring sheets are fine, but they don’t have as many possibilities as a blank sheet of paper and crayons. Stuffed animals are cute to cuddle, but they don’t have as many possibilities as a set of blocks. Consider creating a makerspace in your home with everyday materials such as recycled food containers, newspapers, and empty toilet paper rolls. Digital learning platforms like MarcoPolo World School promote more independence and allow your child to create a learning experience that is paved more by interest and possibility.

Think long-term.

Most likely, you are not a teacher, and even if you are, teaching your child at home is very different from teaching in a school setting. Academically, what is going to make a difference in the long run, is that you preserve their love of learning. The anxiety that comes from being overscheduled and the pressure to finish every single task, may leave children associating these negative feelings with school and learning. Instead, provide them with the space and time to discover and learn about what they are interested in and love doing, and this will instead cultivate a passion for learning that is more beneficial than any worksheet at this time.

My favorites items that foster independent play and interest-led learning:

Digital: MarcoPolo World School, part of the MarcoPolo Learning platform is a STEAM and literacy digital learning platform with more than 500 premium video lessons and 3,000 interactive learning activities designed to nurture curiosity about the natural world. MarcoPolo Learning has announced free access for 30 days.

Book: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is a book that asks children to imagine all of the playful possibilities of a simple brown box and a flexible imagination.

Toy: Magnetic tiles are full of possibilities and challenge your child to think about creating shapes, 3D structures and more. The tiles are easy to manipulate, safe for young children and the possibilities are endless!

Nermeen Dashoush, Ph.D., is a mother of two and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Boston University. Nermeen was a classroom teacher for over 10 years in New York City. Nermeen serves as a curriculum developer for MarcoPolo Learning and helped create World School, an Emmy-nominated digital learning tool for children.

Written by Nermeen Dashoush Ph.D. for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Working Mother

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hello there

Written by Ben Papillon for Ben's Bikes.

Hello Again

It’s me! Linda!

Written by Ben Papillon for Ben's Bikes.

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Written by Ben Papillon for Ben's Bikes.

Featured image provided by linda

This Home Cardio Workout Will Get Your Heart Pumping

This Home Cardio Workout Will Get Your Heart Pumping

All you need to complete this fast-paced, no-kit circuit session is a “don’t quit” attitude.

If you’re looking for effective home workouts to do during the COVID-19 lockdown then try the website of London studio Flykick, which is posting workouts every Friday.

The Fitness Friday sessions include an exceptionally useful timer that displays the exercise you’re meant to be doing and how long for so you can follow itin real time. If you’re not sure how to do the move listed, there are accompanying YouTube videos that demonstrate each one.

For an example of the kind of workout you can expect, give this circuit session created by Flykick instructor Lily-Blue Beaumont a go.

How To Do This Workout

The workout is made up of two blocks. Complete six rounds of the first block, and then step things up for the final block which you’ll complete three times for nine rounds in total. In each round you do eight exercises for 30 seconds each, then move on to the next one without taking a break. After one round you get a minute’s rest, then go through that block of exercises again.

Block 1

Complete six rounds of the following before moving on to the next block.

1 Walking plank

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

Get into a plank position supported on your forearms. Push yourself up one arm at a time until you’re on your hands, then come back down onto your forearms.

2 Press-up

. Coach

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

Start in a high plank position, or drop to your knees for an easier variation. Lower your chest until it’s just above the floor, then push back up.

3 Plank

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

Get into a plank position supported on your forearms and hold it for the time.

4 Plank jack

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

Stay in your plank position and jump your feet out to either side at the same time, as if you were performing a jumping jack, and then back to the middle.

5 Runner’s lunge

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

From a standing position take a big step forwards on your left leg. Bend your front knee until it’s at 90° and then put your hands either side of your front foot, keeping your back leg straight. Hold this position for the time, feeling the stretch in your hips and leg muscles. Alternate legs with each circuit.

6 Jump lunge

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

From standing, step forwards into a lunge and lower until both knees are bent at 90°. Push back up explosively, jump up and swap legs quickly so you land in a lunge position with your other leg forwards.

7 High knees

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

Sprint on the spot, raising your knees as high as you can.

8 Burpee

Time 30sec Rest 60sec

From standing, drop your hands to the floor either side of your feet, then jump your feet backwards to land in the high plank position. Jump your feet forwards to your hands again and leap up, taking your hands above your head (make sure the ceilings in your house are high enough).

Block 2

Finish your workout strong with three rounds of the following.

1 Walking plank

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

2 Press-up

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

3 Mountain climber

. Coach

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

In a high plank position, alternate driving each knee up towards your chest as fast as possible.

4 Plank jack

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

5 Jump squat

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Sit back into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then drive back up and jump up. Land softly and go straight into another squat.

6 Jump lunge

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

7 Burpee

Time 30sec Rest 0sec

8 Chest-to-floor burpee

Time 30sec Rest 60sec

Perform a burpee as before but when you drop to a high plank position, lower your chest to the floor and push back up before you bring your feet forwards again.

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Coach

How to Sleep-Train a Baby When You’re a Working Mom

How to Sleep-Train a Baby When You're a Working Mom

When you have a job, the usual rules for getting infants to sleep through the night don’t cut it.

When my formerly good sleeper started waking up as often as six times per night at around the 7-month mark, I started to feel desperate. It’s so hard to go to work on such little sleep. But I didn’t want to do cry it out again. I failed miserably with my firstborn. And I read so many internet comments about what a horrible mom I was for trying cry it out that I felt awful for even entertaining the idea again.

It turned out I had made so many mistakes with the “extinction” technique, despite diligently following online advice, that of course it didn’t work. After I spoke with family, educational and corporate sleep specialist Whitney Roban, Ph.D., founder of SLEEP-EEZ KIDZ and Sleep Well/Work Well, which offers corporate sleep programs for all employees, including working parents, and author of Devin & Evan Sleep From 8-7 and Devin & Evan Play Fortnite Until 11, I was convinced to give it another go. For me, the extinction method made more sense than the progressive/Ferber/check and re-check method. The former tends to take a few days. The latter tends to take upwards of a week. Working moms don’t have upwards of a week. Spoiler alert: The extinction method worked, and if I have a third child, I’ll name her Whitney after the magical woman who brought sleep back to our restless family. Stick with me, and you can be a well-rested working mom again.

Step 1: Ignore the haters. Sanctimommies love populating the internet with guilt-inducing drivel about why cry it out is evil and how even doctors who once supported the practice have turned their backs on it. Don’t take their word for it; hell, don’t take mine. Google “cry it out studies” and you’ll see science is mostly on the side of giving it a shot. If your baby doesn’t get 11 to 12 hours of sleep a night, and three hours of napping during the day, he’s probably not getting enough rest. Why wouldn’t a loving parent do what she can to help him fulfill that biological need? It usually takes two or three nights of crying until he can sleep through. Yes, babies cry when they need something, but they also cry when they want something and when they’re overtired. Staying put when your infant’s wailing in his crib goes against every mommy instinct. Do it anyway. I never thought I’d write those three words, and I’m already anticipating commenters telling me I’m an unfit mother. After meeting me and my sweet, well-rested boy, they’d probably feel differently.

Step 2: Get your pediatrician’s OK. Your baby should be at least 4-months-old and 14 pounds before you stop feeding him overnight. He also shouldn’t be sick when you start or have serious digestive issues. But don’t let a case of the sniffles hold you back—because daycare babies would never get sleep-trained then. Talk to your practitioner to be sure you’re good to go.

Step 3: Designate two weeks as your sleep-training weeks. No, that doesn’t mean your kid is going to cry for 14 days straight. Pick a fortnight during which your routine will be, well, routine. You’ll leave for and return from work at regular hours, your child will be in the care of the regular person or center while you’re working, he’ll be sleeping in the crib or cribs and room or rooms in which he usually sleeps (read: don’t try to sleep-train while on vacation, when you have to travel long distances or during some life upheaval).

Step 4: Start those two weeks on a Friday. The first night is going to suck for everyone in your home (unless you have an older child or partner who is a super sound sleeper). You would not be able to function at work the morning after an early-sleep-training night so don’t try. Since it can take a few nights for your child to get it, it’s best to take Monday off, but if you can’t schedule this for a long weekend (I couldn’t), you’ll survive; the sleep deprivation won’t be any worse than it is when you repeatedly soothe your poor sleeper.

Step 5: Prep the crib. Keep the crib free of everything, save for a mattress and a tight-fitting sheet. Mobiles might help a child fall asleep, but they can become a crutch, meaning that your baby can’t drift off without its hypnotic force.

Step 6: Plan to have your baby in his crib by 7 p.m. Really, Dr. Roban suggested 6 p.m., but I don’t even walk in the door until 6:30. 7 p.m. also seemed impossible, but we make it happen because sleep is a priority. (Baths on the other hand …) And keep things mellow in the interim.

Step 7: Gather everything you need for bedtime and put it in your child’s room. When you walk over the threshold of their room, don’t leave again until they’re in their crib. Have your baby witness you prepare the room for sleep, dimming the lights, putting on white noise, closing the door and blinds. “If kids are active participants in their sleep, they will accept it more than if it were being done to them,” Dr. Roban says.

Step 8: Do a quick routine in your baby’s room. I nurse my baby first. The only reasons not to feed your child as part of the routine is if he falls asleep while sucking or digestion makes him uncomfortable. When his belly’s full, I read a book, sing a song and give a verbal cue, “something you say right before you leave the room,” Dr. Roban explains. “The verbal cue can be ‘I love you, I’ll see you in the morning.’ It can be a line of a prayer. Whatever feels comfortable.” Everyone who puts your baby to bed should follow the same routine, but everyone’s verbal cue can be different. Just don’t let the routine go longer than 15 minutes. “You’re risking a child becoming overtired, which makes it physically more difficult for them to fall asleep,” says Dr. Roban. And only one caregiver should do the routine at a time. It’s too stimulating with two. “When you have a consistent bedtime routine and everything’s the same every night, even though the baby isn’t deciding what the routine is, they feel that they are in control because they know what’s going to happen. It’s very comforting for them.”

Step 9: Put your baby in the crib. Don’t rock him first; you want to put him down while he’s still awake, but drowsy. If he can roll from belly to back and back again, put him on his tummy. They’re usually comfier that way, but get your ped’s OK.

Step 10: Shut the light, close the door, walk out, and don’t go back in until 6 a.m.. Your baby will likely be crying. Keep walking. I know it’s hard. You’ve got this. “If one night you stay there and you rub their back, another night you yell because you’re exhausted, another night you bring them into your room, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re just going to keep pulling all the stops because they’re not sure and something they’re going to do will get them what they want,” says Dr. Roban. Even opening the door to check on them can set back the process. “Once they learn, this is how it’s going to be every single night, they love it. It lowers the anxiety because they know what’s coming next.”

Step 11: Turn on the monitor. Got a video one? Good. Make the volume low and watch your baby. The only reasons to go in are if he looks sick or hurt. Peeing or pooping doesn’t count, so be generous with the diaper cream. Crying hard doesn’t either. “He’s crying because he’s frustrated with what we’re teaching him, to learn a self-soothing skill,” Dr. Roban assured me. Binge-watch some Netflix because it’s going to be a long night (sorry). He will stop crying and fall asleep eventually. And then he’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Don’t go in then either. This is how he’ll learn to put himself back to sleep. You’ll also notice as sleep-training goes on that he’ll do something to soothe himself right before he nods off, such as rubbing his pajamas or twirling his hair. My baby kicks one leg. Every. Time.

Step 12: Go in at 6 a.m., or whenever he wakes up if it’s after then. Even if he’s too tired to crack a smile when you retrieve him, rest assured, he still loves you. It’s important not to go in before 6, though, even if you’re awake enough to start the day sooner. “If he wakes up and it’s still dark out and he knows somebody’s coming in, he’s not going to go back to sleep. That 5 a.m. wake-up will end up being 4:45, then it’ll be 4:30 and then the next thing you know he’ll be waking up again in the middle of the night. The most difficult sleep issue to fix and takes the longest is early rising.”

You’ll do the same thing every night now. The only things that’ll change? How long he’ll cry before he falls asleep (if he cries at all!) and how often you’ll hear him get up in the middle of the night. You’ll need to deviate when you sleep out of the house or have otherwise-unordinary schedules. A day or two that’s different here and there won’t wreak havoc. Three days in a row could, but you can get things back to normal in a week or less.

Unfortunately, though, your job isn’t done. “It’s important for families that can’t adhere to a super early bedtime to do a good job focusing on naps. The better napper he is, the later his bedtime can be,” Dr. Roban explains.

A few guidelines to help with naps: Avoid using motion to put your baby to sleep, and tell daytime caregivers to do the same. That means no swings, no pushing a stroller back and forth to induce sleep and no car rides during naptime, when possible. The reason: You don’t want your baby to require motion to fall asleep.

Nothing should happen in your baby’s crib besides sleep. Don’t put him there for playing or even for keeping him safe for a minute while you pee. Use a different safe spot, say, a play yard, for those moments.

If possible, put your baby down in a quiet, dark room. At daycare, you can request a quiet(er), dark(er) corner. They might not be able to accommodate; can’t hurt to ask.

Dr. Roban put my baby on a three-nap-a-day schedule, which is pretty typical for 7-month-olds (around 8/9 months they might drop a nap):

8 a.m. to 9 a.m

11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“But he goes to daycare” or “We have a nanny,” you say. “I can’t control his naps!” You can’t entirely, but you can share this schedule and the below steps with your child’s caregiver(s). I told our daycare center director I worked with a sleep doctor and shared what we’re going to be doing at home. “Ask them, ‘What can you do the same?’” It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just request that they be consistent with the routine. Dr. Roban kindly spoke to the head teacher at my son’s daycare and noted how following these rules ultimately would make her job easier. Naps aren’t perfect at school every day, but he seems to be getting enough restorative sleep most days because he’s not usually overtired for bedtime.

Does my baby actually sleep for an hour every two hours? Of course not. With that as your goal, here are some more steps to follow.

Step 1: Look for sleepy cues. If it’s 7:30 a.m. and your baby is already rubbing his eyes, it’s naptime, even though he’s not technically due to go down for another half hour.

Step 2: Follow steps 7 to 9 above. Yes, you’re really going to read a book, sing a song and give a verbal cue every time you do naptime. Ask your caregiver to do the same, but understand that daycare providers have a few other babies to worry about so their routine might just be a verbal cue.

Step 3: Walk out and don’t go back in for an hour. Nap-training doesn’t work as quickly as sleep-training. Although your baby might be sleeping through the night by day 3, naps might suck for a while longer. So yeah, you might have to let your baby cry for that whole hour the first try or two. A daycare might not be willing to do the same. Try to convince them anyway. “Babies get confused when they get picked up before they go to sleep,” says Dr. Roban.

Step 4: Retrieve your baby if he’s awake. But give him a few minutes to hang out before you go in. If your baby didn’t sleep for at least a half-hour, try doing your pre-nap routine again in 20 minutes and putting him down again. Naps less than half an hour long aren’t helpful to a baby's body or mind. If your child is still sleeping at the hour mark, let him sleep.

Step 5: Pay attention to how long he naps. His next nap should take place X time from when he wakes up, where X is the amount he slept (if more than half an hour) + an hour. So if he snoozed for half an hour, his next nap is an hour-and-a-half from his wake-up time. If he slept for 45 minutes, his next nap is an hour-and-45-minutes from his-wake-up time. An hour is the ideal nap length for a baby sleeping three times a day, so he should go down again two hours later. No need to wake him if he sleeps for more than an hour; simply adjust the schedule according to the formula above—or try for another nap when he shows cues that he’s tired. The only reason to wake him would be if he sleeps past 4:30 p.m. As such, don’t put him down for a nap past 3:30.

So what does this all look like in real life? The first night, the baby cried for just over an hour—Dr. Roban said the average protest is 45 minutes long. And then he slept for nearly five hours straight. He woke up and cried again for an hour and 40 minutes. I was a teary mess. He woke up for the day at 10 to 6. Naps were equally shitshowy.

The second night, the baby cried for 50 minutes before falling asleep. He slept for nearly seven uninterrupted hours. It was heaven. He then cried for 25 minutes and fell back asleep until 20 to 6.

The third night, he cried for 27 minutes before falling asleep for the night. He woke up coughing just 20 minutes later, but got himself back to sleep quickly after that. He slept for seven-and-a-half hours. But he spent an hour and 15 minutes crying before he got himself back to sleep once more.

By night four, Monday night, we were in a good place. He cried for just two minutes when I initially put him in his crib! He slept for just shy of 10 hours without waking. The pattern continued from there. He’s supposed to get between 11 and 12 hours of sleep a night, and he usually gets about 10 ½, which is a win since we can’t control his napping during the week.

Naps were still a mess at that point, so Dr. Roban emailed with me every day for about a month, giving me support and guidance that really helped.

Now, at 11 months, my baby naps for about two hours a day at daycare, and usually the full three hours when he’s home on the weekends.

When we sleep at my mom’s or my in-laws', the night is more unpredictable. And when he’s sick or teething, there might be a wake-up. But he’s able to get himself back to sleep, except when he’s feeling extra rotten. I mostly stick to his napping schedule on the weekends. Luckily, when we can’t swing it, it doesn’t seem to have a totally awful effect on his overnight sleep. Being on the other side of things now, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to sleep-train. I recommend the extinction method to anyone. My baby is a happy guy and goes to bed without crying most nights.

Full disclosure: Dr. Roban offered her services to me without a fee, but if her help didn’t work, I wouldn’t have written about it.

Written by Meredith Bodgas for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Working Mother

Ancient Crystals Show That Beer Has Always Had a Place At the Table

Ancient crystals show that beer has always had a place at the table

I’ve had a fascination with beer for a long time. I had my first one in Bavaria in 1961 when I was 16. It was legal there, but when I got back to New York, the drinking age was 18. One time, I wanted a pint so badly, I dressed in lederhosen, went to a nearby tavern, and pretended I was German. It worked—they actually served me.

I began studying alcoholic beverages in the 1990s at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, where I now direct the Biomolecular Archaeology Project. My colleagues and I had been researching the design and engineering of ancient pottery, but inevitably we started to wonder what had been inside those jugs.

Around that time, an archaeologist working in Iran brought us a roughly 5,500-year-old vessel with an unusual residue inside. It looked like calcium oxalate: a yellowish, crystalline residue that modern brewers called “beerstone.” It can harbor microorganisms that may warp a batch’s flavor or even be poisonous.

When we compared the residue with a sample from a local brewery, they were virtually identical. Combined with the fact that the crisscrossed lines on the container matched those of the Sumerian symbol for beer (kas), we were confident that we had found the oldest-known evidence of draft production.

New discoveries always pop up. In 2018, a team in Israel found a 13,000-year-old receptacle with potential brewing evidence. I think beer goes back to our species’ beginnings. If sugars were there to ferment, humans were probably trying to get that buzz I felt back in Bavaria.

Written by Eleanor Cummins for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Popular Science

What Is Running Power And How Can It Help You Improve?

What Is Running Power And How Can It Help You Improve?

Running with power requires a mental shift, but it can help you pace your training and race efforts to perfection.

There are three traditional methods that runners use to pace their training sessions and races. The simplest of these is to run on feel, gauging your effort based on your perceived rate of exertion. The most common is to run according to pace, especially in races when you know the target pace to achieve a PB. Finally, as heart rate monitors have become standard on running watches and fitness trackers, heart rate zones have also become a useful method to judge your efforts.

All three have their merits and all can work for any runner, but all have their faults too. We’re all liable to misjudge our efforts and overdo it when running on feel, while a raw pace number doesn’t take into account hills or weather conditions. Heart rate is better on this front, but wrist devices can suffer from accuracy problems, and your heart rate can vary based on things like stress and how much you’ve slept.

All this brings us to running power, which is a measurement that advocates claim is a better way to judge your efforts in all conditions, regardless of variables like terrain and the weather. To learn more about it, we spoke to Angus Nelson, co-founder of Stryd, which makes a power meter.

What is running power?

“Running power represents the intensity you’re running at,” says Nelson, and getting the intensity right is key when following a training plan.

“For pure runners, using pace as a training metric works fine if you’re running on a treadmill, track, or other very flat surface with no wind or temperature changes. You can keep an even pace and your pace represents your intensity. But when you run outside and you hit hills, or it’s windy, or the temperature or humidity changes, you’re going to be working a lot harder to keep a consistent pace.”

On those occasions, keeping your power output steady means your effort will be consistent, whereas trying to hold a certain pace could mean the training run is too hard, because you’re overdoing it up hills, or even too easy, if you have a tailwind pushing you along all the way. Either way, you won’t be getting as many benefits from that run as if you had stuck to the effort specified in your plan, and if you have worked too hard to hold a pace in unfavourable conditions it could affect the quality of the rest of your week’s training.

“Instead of trying to guess the right pace value as the conditions change, it’s easier to run on your energy expenditure directly – to run based on a power number,” Nelson says. “So you’re not trying to keep to seven minutes per mile, you’re trying to keep the energy expenditure that correlates with that speed. You might be given a power target of 300 watts, which correlates to seven-minute paces on flat ground, but when you start running up hill the pace changes. The power target doesn’t.”

What factors combine to produce the power number?

There are various power meters out there that use different factors to produce the wattage number you are given, but generally the idea is to take into account your speed plus external factors like hills, and in the case of Stryd conditions like wind, temperature and humidity.

“The Stryd pod connects to laces on the shoe,” Nelson says. “It can understand the effort you’re putting in because it measures the motion of the foot, and then it measures the environment you’re in and how that’s affecting you.”

. Coach

How can power help you improve as a runner?

“If you’re following a structured plan, you’re going to be doing some easy runs, some hard workouts, some racing,” says Nelson. “There is an ideal intensity to get the maximum benefits from training and run as fast as you can on race day. The most important thing is to establish the targets you should be training and running at. If you can do that you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of other runners.”

How do you establish those power targets?

It takes time to get used to power as a runner, and devices like Stryd also need some time to calibrate themselves to you and set your target power zones.

“[With Stryd] this is done through a system called auto calculated critical power,” says Nelson. “This takes all of your running data, profiles you as a runner and works out those targets. In the first few weeks you have the device, you have to tell the system what you’re capable of. You need to do three types of runs in the first few weeks – a short, fast sprint effort, a 10- to 20-minute tempo effort and an endurance effort. Stryd will then have a very good idea of what kind of performance you’re capable of, and that will determine what zones you should be training in and what effort you should be racing at.”

How does power help on race day?

“This is really the breakthrough moment for a lot of people who try running with power,” says Nelson. “Folks have a tendency to do a lot of strange things when racing – like start too fast, or push the hills too hard. It’s easy to get caught up in the atmosphere and stick with people who they consider to be of the same ability as them. But when folks start running with Stryd they have the confidence to run to the power value. They see those packs of runners push up the hill too hard, start too hard, surge mid-race – all these things are not optimal behaviour if you’re trying to produce a max-effort evenly paced race. People realise they weren’t taking control of their pacing strategy, but with Stryd they can.”

Power meters are especially useful for trail and cross-country races, or road events where you can expect undulating terrain or rough weather conditions.

“If you’re a trail runner, a cross-country runner or a road runner who loves challenges, you’re going to get a greater benefit from this technology,” says Nelson. “You’re going to be able to run faster in these difficult conditions.”

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Coach

Develop a Morning Routine That’ll Stick

Develop a morning routine that’ll stick

Every morning I wake up at 5:27. I read for 17 minutes, perform my ablutions (13 minutes flat), then meditate until 6:43 when I break four raw eggs into a blender with two strips of bacon, blend for 33 seconds, and chug in eight. By 6:50 I’m ready to face the day—and I’m sure most of you, mere mortals, are still asleep.

Or maybe not.

Your morning routine is what you regularly do when you wake up. For most people, that’s getting out of bed, having breakfast, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and heading into work. There is, however, a productivity movement driven by people like Tim Ferriss and James Clear that suggests having a morning ritual that includes activities such as meditating, journaling, exercise, and other healthy and mindfulness-oriented practices to get your day started.

But in order to work, a good morning routine has to be something that works for you. It’s better to have something that’s 60 percent perfect and you can stick with 90 percent of the time, than something that’s 100 percent perfect but you only have the time to do every third Tuesday.

Maybe you’d like to do some meditation before going out and facing the world. But if you’ve got a two-year-old whose morning routine is throwing tantrums, you’re not going to get those 20 minutes of silence before work.

Decide what you want to achieve

Journaling could be a great addition to your morning routine. You could even journal about your morning routine.
. Popular Science

Personally, I like having a morning routine that involves meditating, stretching, and journaling. I find it’s a really effective way for me—a childless, freelance, remote writer—to get settled and focused on work. I have seen many of the touted benefits of these seemingly over-the-top morning plans, like less stress, better emotional health, and more productivity. If I skip my routine, it’s easy for me to waste my morning procrastinating on Reddit and Instagram.

But that may be totally different from what someone with two kids and an hour-long commute needs to do every day before they go to work. There are lots of benefits to the aforementioned morning routine mainstays and the like, but focusing on them shouldn’t compromise other things you actually need to get done.

Before deciding on a highly demanding morning ritual, consider what you need to achieve and work backwards from there. If you have to make it to work on time, clean, well-dressed, and fully caffeinated, start with building a routine that allows you to do that—and then you can add in some weight training or meditation. On the other hand, if you struggle to get focused in the mornings, maybe a bit of physical activity or mindfulness practice is exactly what you’re after.

Don’t go overboard all at once

You already made that great cup of coffee. Why don't you try breathing deep a few times while it becomes drinkable?
. Popular Science

Like with any self-improvement plan, it’s easy to go from zero to 100 and back to zero again with your morning routine. Just because they’re currently in vogue, it doesn’t mean you need to create one that will best everyone else’s. It’s better to slowly build a series of habits you can stick with, than failing while trying to do everything at once.

The easiest way to build new morning habits is to piggyback them onto your existing routines. You can easily use the time you wait for your coffee to cool—which you probably spend scrolling through Twitter or Instagram—journaling, if that’s what you want. If you want to work on meditation, start with five minutes as soon as you get out of bed, or even 10 mindful breaths in the shower. Don’t set the bar too high—if exercise is what you’re interested in, for example, you’re far more likely to build a successful routine around a seven-minute bodyweight circuit than a 5-mile pre-dawn run.

Also, don’t try working in a dozen different things in one go—add new habits and routines slowly and let each one settle. It takes about two months for a new habit to become automatic, so don’t spread your focus too thin.

Morning routines start the night before

Just imagine the smile on Future You when they see the amazing fruit smoothie you made for them.
. Popular Science

While most of the focus is on what you do after you wake up, what you do before you even go to bed can determine how successful your morning routine will be.

Consider the ideal ritual you’re trying to build and look for both trouble points and opportunities to do more the night before. If there’s a way to head off a predictable potential problem with a bit of preparation, take it. And if there’s not, think about how you’ll deal with things in the morning.

If your goal is to eat a healthy fruit salad for breakfast, slicing up the fruit the night before makes it much more likely you’ll stick to the plan, and will prevent you from falling into the trap of quick and easy sugary cereal. If you want to get to the gym, don’t start your day digging through your laundry—take the time to get your washing done and leave your bag packed and ready before bed.

Stick with it

Some days are harder than others. Don't worry—you can catch up tomorrow.
. Popular Science

Once the initial flush of excitement fades, sticking with new routines is hard work. Just look at the vast majority of people who fail to keep their well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions—most flunked them by February.

And the February of your morning routine will come. You’ll just need to plug away through it. One of the best ways to speed up habit formation is to stick with it. It takes a few months for your morning routine to become an actual routine, so don’t stop as soon as you lose a bit of motivation.

Obviously, everyone will miss a day from time to time, but it’s important to not let skipping your routine become the routine. If life gets in the way, don’t overthink it and just continue where you left off. A good challenge is trying not to miss two days in a row.

However, if you do start skipping days, stop and reconsider things. That’s a sign that you either don’t really want what you’re telling yourself you want, or are taking on more than you can handle at once.

Don’t fight your chronotype

Are you sure you're a night owl?
. Popular Science

Some people just aren’t morning people. There’s actually a theory about how hunter-gatherers had staggered sleep patterns, with some falling asleep early and waking early and others falling asleep later and waking later, so there’d always be someone alert around the campfire in case lions came by for a midnight snack. This now expresses itself as your chronotype: whether you have a propensity to be a morning or evening person.

If you struggle to develop a productive morning routine because you just can’t get up early enough, you might just be genetically disposed to be a night owl. Don’t fight it—instead, schedule big things like gym sessions for the evening. You can still make a great routine for yourself, but you’ll need to be aware of what you’ll actually be able to achieve.

Be warned though—this comes with a major caveat. A huge number of people think they’re night owls, but in fact they’re just staring at screens too much and mess up their sleep patterns. I thought I was chronotypically an evening person, but as soon as I got a handle on my late night screen use, I found out I was actually a long-suffering morning person.

Adapt and thrive

Start small. Eventually, you'll be able to find your balance (literally).
. Popular Science

There is no perfect morning routine—only the one that’s perfect for you. And it is perfect because it gets what you need done, and therefore, you can stick to it.

If your morning routine still isn’t coming together despite your best intentions, then take a step back and reconsider what you’re doing. Change a few things, iron out any trouble points, and try again. You’ll eventually find out what works for you, what supposedly productive habits are actually good, and which ones are just ludicrous fads.

Written by Harry Guinness for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Popular Science