Paws Along the Trail with Champions in Unalakleet
The village of Unalakleet on Norton Sound has driftwood sticking out of the snow on the windblown beaches. As we walked around this larger village which has the Igloo and Brown’s Lodge burger places and the well-known Peace on Earth Pizza establishment, we came across what I first thought was a skateboard ramp on the beach. Later, a more knowledgeable Iditarod volunteer told me she believed it was the training apparatus for the “Eskimo Ninja”, made popular by his participation in the TV show American Ninja Warrior.
Nick Hanson is very interested in health and fitness. He lives and eats clean, no sodas. His heritage is Inupiaq. According to the Anchorage Daily News, his grandparents of Barrow, Alaska, started calling him the Eskimo Ninja. The diet of his people continues to be part of his healthy living. He enjoys berries in summer, muktuk, whale blubber, and oogruk, dried bearded seal meat. As a coach in Unalakleet of the Native Youth Olympics, he has encouraged young people be strong and healthy through diet, exercise, and strength through the traditional competitive events such as the kneel jump, seal hop, and one-foot high kick.
On his obstacle course, one must hold the bar, swing your legs, and then swing with the bar onto the other rungs. Nick also shows in a video how he jumps upward to the next level with the bar. What I thought was a skateboard ramp is an exercise base where you must run up the ramp and land on the top. His videos show the results of practice.
Another TV celebrity to watch for in Unalakleet is musher Jessie Holmes. He is featured on the show, Life Below Zero. Jessie is now racing in the Iditarod. His willingness to work hard toward his goal, living simply and in a healthy way, makes him also a strong role model for students. He fishes to get enough salmon for himself and his dogs using a fish trap. According to National Geographic which produces the show, Jessie’s motto is “If it breaks, fix it; there’s no other option.” He may get to do just that on the Iditarod Trail.
Both of these men work hard to be strong and stay healthy. Nick’s plan is this: “Nourish your body with plenty of water, fruit and vegetables. Do lunges, squats, push-ups, sit-ups and high-knee exercises. Run. Play. Move every day.”
Watch in the next two days for lots of action in the checkpoint of Unalakleet as the mushers arrive. The mushers are champions for getting this far in the cold and long days outside. I have attached a circuit strength/cardio training plan for various age levels to set some fitness goals to get to Nome!