The outside advantage

espnW's resident coach helps you reach your full fitness potential.

As a kid, each year my parents would take me to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park for summer vacation. While there, I sat by a fishing hole, snacking on chocolate Twizzlers, marveling at my father's uncanny ability to catch fish after fish -- and unraveling the rats' nests I would continuously get in my line. I have fond memories of these July trips, wading deep into rivers, and connecting with the stillness of nature (and the mosquitoes).

The great outdoors have a way of resetting my body and mind like no other place on the planet. However, as a personal trainer and on-call mom, I spend a lot of time -- too much time! -- indoors these days. So every year, my husband and I make a point of re-creating this trip with our kiddos. Naturally, my instinct is to make it more athletic and active (not that I didn't love reeling in those fish, Dad!).

Here's how we made the most of our 2011 family vacay:

1. Hiking. It should be a federal crime to travel to this part of the country and not go hiking. The Grand Teton mountain range provides the perfect balance of physical exertion and mental calm. The scenery is so breathtaking that you hardly realize that your thighs are screaming and that the altitude is literally breathtaking. We hiked from Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Despite the fact that my 5-year-old daughter whined for the last 0.25 miles of the three-mile hike, it was perfection.

2. Snow seeking. This time of year, there's something wonderfully counterintuitive about playing in the snow. So we took the Jackson Hole resort tram to the peaks of the Tetons. Here, at the top of the world, the possibilities are endless. There are hiking and mountain biking trails (a definite for next year when the girls are a bit older!). If you miss the last tram down at 6 p.m., you have to walk seven miles down to the bottom. If I had been on my own lf, I would have accidentally missed it. Next time. Instead, we played around in the snow for a couple of hours, and then, exhausted and satisfied, trammed it down.

3. Getting inspired. In these mountain towns, there are some pretty impressive (and crazy!) adventure seekers. As we were playing around in the snow, we saw a group of four walk past us with skis and snowboards strapped to their backs, wearing only huge grins and shorts. These crazy bastards hiked to the very top of a mountain peak at 13,000 feet, and skied down. It literally took 90 minutes for them to get to the top, and a huge group of us watched in awe as they skied down the face of the mountain. I hope they heard our cheers!

4. Horseback riding. Our final excursion was a scenic horseback ride (even the slow ones are a glute-burning workout) and a chuck wagon dinner led by an experienced old cowboy named the Colonel. He is a legend in the Jackson valley, and a total bad ass with a whip -- a 17.5-foot long whip. Yikes!

I'm trying not to let this vacation energy and calm fade as I ease back into life's everyday chaos. As athletes, we tend to have one speed -- Go! This intensity is great when you're staring down an opponent, but sometimes our bodies and minds need a break. Back home, I feel more inspired, energized and stronger than I did before I left -- and I'm counting down the days until next year's Dixon family adventure.

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