Why you should take a Wilderness First Aid class?

If you are an outdoor enthusiast that spends time hiking, paddling, climbing or camping, having the skills to help an injured person in the wilderness is essential. This course is great for people of all experience levels, and is best suited for those who recreate outdoors where EMS response can be expected in a timely manner (fewer than 8 hours).

You’ll learn the Patient Assessment System, how to provide effective first aid treatments for injuries and illnesses common in the outdoors, and how to make appropriate evacuation decisions. The curriculum also goes over Spine Injury, Head Injury, Shock, Wilderness Wound Management, Musculoskeletal Injury, Heat Illness, Cold Injury, Lightning, Altitude Illness, The Medical Patient and Anaphylaxis.

Below a video of the Patient Assessment, a fundamental tool taught in this course.

You can sign up for my next course here


A Cold Shower in the Morning!

Taking a cold shower in the morning is an unthinkable situation for many. Modern life has become addicted to certain luxuries (for some people) like pampering oneself at the spas, bathing in warm water, visiting beauty parlors, etc. that cold shower therapy has been almost forgotten. But all those who have tried bathing in cold water in the morning, enjoy amazing health benefits.

When I worked for Outward Bound we had our morning dip in the Maine ocean.  This morning protocol not only help us face the first challenge of the day, but also prepared us for the day ahead of us.  Now, that I do not spend time teaching sailing expeditions for Outward Bound anymore, my option is a morning cold shower.


Cold shower is a technique that has been used from ancient times to promote overall health. Here are some of the greatest advantages that anyone taking a cold shower especially in the morning can enjoy:

  1. Bathing in natural cold water springs and streams is highly effective in curing various diseases and is recognized as a form of hydrotherapy that is natural and cheap and easily accessible to all.
  2. If you can bear the cold water for a minimum of 10 minutes, you can boost your immune system and simultaneously flush out toxins from the skin and body.
  3. A cold shower improves blood circulation and helps in the growth and repair of the circulatory system of the body.
  4. When you bathe in hot water, the pores of the skin are exposed to the harmful elements like chlorine and others from the soap, etc. present in water. A cold shower keeps the pores closed and thus protected from the environmental damages. The skin retains its quality and luster.
  5. It helps to maintain balance in the automatic nervous system. Acting as an anti-depressant, a cold shower enhances mood and reduces stress and anxiety as the nerves become calm after the cold shower.
  6. It has been found that a cold shower in the morning increases fertility strength in men. It is considered as one of the most important anti-aging secrets that keeps the skin from sagging and retains the elasticity and glow of youthful skin.
  7. Standing under the cold shower especially on winter mornings requires great courage and once you can overcome your fears in the process, you gradually increase your will power and have courage to face all problems with confidence.
  8. The ability to fight against and bear with all kinds of temperature and climatic conditions increases and it helps to get rid of negative forces as well as emotions that often cause hindrances to success.

Give it a try and if you can take a cold shower one day, you will surely succeed in doing it every day and enjoy all the health benefits for life.

Reflecting on my challenge course professional experience (Part 1)

As I put the finishing touches on the ACCT pre-conference workshop , I went down memory lane on the path that I have taken through challenge courses and corporate teambuildings.   I was first introduced to a challenge course in 1991 when I was working for the Boy Scouts in a camp in Puerto Rico called Guajataca Scout Reservation.  Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (COPE) is the name the Boy Scouts gave to the experience that consisted of cables hanging from trees with wooden ladders and other obstacles. Rudimentary beginnings…. But inspiring.  I worked there until 1997, facilitating mostly during the summers and some weekends. 

DSC_0085.JPGIn 1999, I joined the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School’s Sea Program. They had a challenge course with both dynamic and static elements next to the climbing site, an old quarry.  In every sailing expedition we will spend time at Hurricane Island, doing a half day in the challenge course and half day of rock-climbing among other activities. 

Look for 2 more blog posts (part 2 & 3) in the coming weeks.  Until then…

My WMI ITC Application letter

Some of my subscribers have asked me what did I write in my application letter for the Wilderness Medicine Institute at NOLS.  Below you can see some of the highlights of my cover letter.

I consider myself an eclectic outdoor educator.  As you can see in my resume I have demonstrate proficiency in different field skills including: rockclimbing, backpacking, mountain biking, snow shoeing, sea kayaking, sailing, SCUBA, canoeing and challenge course management.  My academic background is in Biology; which helps me understand and teach about human physiology as it related to wilderness medicine.  Also, I have a Masters degree in Outdoor Pursuits Recreation Administration, which helps me achieve the WMI-NOLS goals due to my understanding of the outdoor pursuits. My native language is Spanish, but also I feel very comfortable with articulating myself in English. I have a doctoral degree in Education, with a concentration in curriculum and instruction from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Also, I have been teaching at the college level for the last ten years in the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.  Some of the courses I have taught are in outdoor recreation, wellness, health and the Education department’s Teacher Preparation program.

Because of my commitment and dedication to both education and outdoor experiences, I have held a variety of positions in well-renowned organizations and institutions. I have worked for different Outward Bound schools for the last several years, delivering adventure education programming and developing new courses like the Caribbean Semester course established in 2004. In addition, for the last three summers I have been working for Dartmouth College Outdoor Programs delivering experiential education programs to the undergraduate and graduate student population in their newly built challenge course.  Last year, I was invited to be part of the AEE National Standards review team.  This volunteer position allows me to serve AEE and to use my expertise in risk management in assessing other programs across the country.   Most recently, I conducted the Thompson Island Outward Bound Annual Safety Review for their environmental program following the Outward Bound USA Safety Standards.

My wilderness patient care experience extends to being the EMT for 80 teenagers at Sail Caribbean for 70 days, lead first responder for Mead Wilderness Base, and medical officer for all my Outward Bound expeditions. Please refer to my attached Expedition Resume for detailed responsibilities and duties.  Below, I will briefly describe chronologically my professional outdoor experiences, personal expeditions, one medical incident that I was involved as the first responder and my teaching experience in the outdoor and indoor classroom.

During the summers of 1989-92 I worked for Guajataka Scout Reservation doing canoeing, backpacking and rock climbing five days expeditions.  All the expeditions were self-supported.  Most of them took place in the rainforest and Guajataka Lake of Puerto Rico.  During the summers of 1993-95 I worked for Mead Wilderness Base located in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.  At MWB I delivered backpacking expeditions in the Presidential Range of NH and rockclimbing experiences in Pawtuckaway, NH among other expedition elements(see resume).   During the summer of 1997 I conducted  scientific research on MonaIsland (http://welcome.topuertorico.org/city/mona.shtml).  I was studying the population of the endemic Mona island iguana (see expedition resume).  During the spring of 1997, I joined Encantos Ecotour in which I taught marine science and lead tourism trip.  In addition I was in charge of running the southwest branch located in Copamarina Resort, Puerto Rico.  In 1999, I started working for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School located in Maine. I worked for the Maine Sea program as well as the Florida Sea program as assitant instructor and instructor.  The summers of 2000 and 2002 I worked for Sail Caribbean (http://www.sailcaribbean.com)  in the BVI and the Leeward Islands.  I worked as a captain and assistant program director (see resume). Also I delivered their advanced leadership program in the Windward Islands sailing a 50 foot boat unsupported for 18 days and then double-handed the delivery of the boat from Grenada to Antigua.

In 2001, I taught for HIOBS during the spring and summer seasons as an instructor for the Florida and Maine sea program. In 2003, 2004 and 2005 I instructed for Thompson Island Outward Bound in their sea program and I was invited to do the watch officer training in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Other instructing opportunities that I have had have been with the HooverOutdoorEducationalCenter in Yorkville, Illinois (see resume for more details).  In addition, I developed and implemented a Leave No Trace workshop for Oak Brook Park District in Illinois as part of their Earth Day celebration.   Also as part of the graduate student population in AuroraUniversity, I taught orienteering skills to undergraduate students as part of a 3-credit class during the fall semester of 2000.  In 2003, I came back to my native land Puerto Rico and started an adventure based experiential education company.  Aire Libre (www.airelibrepr.com) is the name of the company and we have delivered more than 400 programs so far, ranging from corporate teambuilding’s to week long leadership programs for youth in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  We are committed to introducing Leave No Trace practices to the community of Puerto Rico as well as a new understanding and set of skills for the greater appreciation of the island.    Also in 2003, I started lecturing at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.  One of the courses I enjoyed the most was HPER 2220 Outdoor Recreation because of the balance between theory and practice that course presents and an opportunity to shape & build a thorough curriculum in a developing field for Puerto Rico.

As far as personal expeditions, I did several extended land trips in the rain forest of Puerto Rico with my college friends during the years of 1992-1996.  Some of these trips include a 10-day backpacking trip from one end of the island to the other, several 3-day bush-whacking through the GuajatakaRiver and rafting with non-commercial watercraft in different shallow rivers of Puerto Rico.  I have also sailed an O’Day 25’ sailboat many times on my own as part of the maintenance and care of the boat during my days working for Encantos Ecotour.  I had a Hobbie 14 sailboat in which I took some solo overnight trips to different mangrove island in the south end of Puerto Rico.  Some of these trips included night sailing as well as overnight camping.  Also, I helped sail a Sabre 30’ sailboat from the Marathon, Fl, to the Bahamas and spent several days cruising with my friends in the Bahamas (see expedition resume).  I have done some more personal hiking, rock climbing and camping trips (see expedition resume).

Lessons learned: Working for Mead Wilderness Base on a 5-day biking trip, the first day I had an incident.  I briefed my students about safety and proper bike use before we all went down a steep hill.  The co-instructor was at the end of the group while I was leading the group.  Probably, five minutes after I started descending, I was hit by one of my students who had been hit by another one.  In just a couple of seconds the three of us crashed into the ground.  I called the student’s name that lost control first and he responded fine.  Then I called out the other student and he did not respond. I approached him and found him unconscious with his helmet broken in half.  I assessed the situation and offered the appropriate first aid.  The ambulance came shortly and we all ended up at the hospital.  I found out that I had a broken wrist at the hospital.

I hope this helps you create your own application letter for the WMI ITC!

Workout efficiency

 Jose mt biking

The workouts that are performed under normal outdoor conditions are more difficult than those performed in controlled internal environments. This means that the workout output and benefits of running outdoors can never be replicated by running on a treadmill. Research studies that have been conducted throw light on the fact that for the same parameters (speed and gradient) the energy expended on a treadmill is lower than that expended while running outdoors. This may perhaps be due to the inherent running mechanism involved as well as due to increased drag or resistance experienced in outdoor conditions. A study in the late 90’s conducted by scientists in UK stated that a 1% gradient accurately reflected the energy expenditure of running outdoors when speed and distance are same in both cases. Similar results have been seen in other activities such as cycling.

Benefits of fitness through active lifestyle and outdoor pursuits

We can break it down into two main benefits: 1. Physical benefits and 2. Psychological benefits

SUP lagoonPhysical activities include trail running, hiking, swimming, cycling, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding, to name just a few. The biggest advantage of these activities is that they provide a lot of variation and address the whole body. This ensures that all aspects of physical fitness such as cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, agility, power, flexibility, coordination etc. are addressed in each workout.  Each and every single one of these components is crucial for optimal physical fitness and therefore should be targeted.

In my next blog post, I’ll address several of the physical benefits in detail.


Outdoor Program Administration course – Jan 2-24, 2013

Outdoor Program Administration Course description:

This online course is for individuals who manage outdoor programs or individuals looking to learned, through real life projects, how to effectively administer outdoor programs.    Using case studies, contemporary issues, instructor-lead discussions and projects, students will acquire the managerial skills to effectively manage outdoor programs at a college, a non-profit organization, a municipality, and a military program.   This course will have a strong emphasis on budgeting, marketing, policy-development and staffing.  Hands-on projects and online discussions are the primary components of this class.  This class is ideal for juniors and seniors in the Outdoor Ed program, practitioners that would like to enhance their management skills and individuals from other disciplines looking for a career in outdoor programs administration.

Sign up today: www.plymouth.edu

Required textbook below: