Friday, May 14, 2010

India and Travel Motivational Kitten


I had a really great week of training. I did double workouts 3 days this week and it went fabulously until I got to the third day, which had me running in the evening. It was a total nightmare. Weirdly enough, despite the fact that I had to stop 4 times to stretch my calves, my time was good. I was shocked when I walked in the door and saw how fast of a time I managed feeling so beat up. I am really hoping to destroy the Olympic distance race I have on June 13th. I'm feeling pretty confident right now. Crossfit has made a HUGE difference in my fitness and it's definitely translating to the endurance end of things. Yea!

I leave for India and Hong Kong tomorrow morning and while I would love to spend some hours in my hotel room sharing the good, healthy word with everyone, I am pretty sure there won't be time for that. My schedule there is intense to say the least (it's a work trip, not a vacation unfortunately). I return on the 27th and I'm sure, by then, you all will be dying to hear about how important it is to buy your mushrooms and berries organic.


Travel Motivational Kitten says when you feel like this after a long flight, a light workout will make you feel a million times better. I will be telling myself this while I'm jumping rope in my hotel room at 10PM after 20 hours of flying. I'm sure the people below me will appreciate it and understand completely.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Organic or Not to Organic

Where to begin here...

I am one of those people who has a tendency to read articles on say CNN and then, usually when it's about something that gets me all fired up like health care or gay marriage for instance, I punish myself by scrolling down and reading all of the ignorant, inhumane, grammatically challenged comments. Why do I do this? I'm not sure. Maybe I like to get even more fired up, who knows. I am a sagittarius after all. Any psychological breakdowns of this habit of mine are welcome.

See! Here I am, getting ready to shoot arrows at all of those ignorant commenters!


I read an article recently somewhere along the lines of this article, and the comments following it were all about how organic food is a scam, waste of money, anti American etc etc. First of all, what? To my knowledge organic produce never claimed to have higher vitamins, nutrients etc., did it? Please chime in here if I'm mistaken. I kind of thought it just seemed a lot better environmentally AND for my body if I was eating something that wasn't completely covered in pesticides. Isn't that the point of buying organic? Not to mention the health of the people who are growing it and living near it. I mean, if you really truly believe that our industrialization and rampant pesticide spraying does not/has not/will not affect your health, I say you're crazy and I'll say it happily to your face. How could it not? Here, here, here you don't even have to read the entire article, the titles should say enough. I can't even express how frustrated I get when I read things like the commentary on how organic foods are not "better" for you (in terms of vitamins and nutrients) and this gem here. Calorie measurement and nutrition are not the focus here. It is about concern for your environment and for your already unnaturally taxed body. People should be encouraged to eat organic foods period. I realize they are more expensive and, in all honesty, I don't buy everything organic. But, I do what I can and you owe it to yourself to do the same. In this world our bodies are constantly bombarded with unnatural elements that we have no control over. We can't stop cell phone waves or satellite beams or even plastics that leach into our food and water. We should all be aware of that and have enough self love and respect to think about what we are CHOOSING to put in our bodies.

"If you're buying organic food because you thought it came with ladies inside, you're in for a disappointment" Random Article, October 2009


Food, the way it's grown and where it comes from, has huge impacts physically on our bodies, environmentally and politically (more on that some other time). The best case scenario is to buy as much as you can from your local farmer's market. It is the most thoughtful choice economically and environmentally (beyond your own garden). Locally grown not only financially stimulates smaller farmers, who completely and utterly deserve all of our support, but it also significantly lessens environmental impact. Think about all of the fuel and pollution that goes into flying stockpiles of out of season fruits and vegetables from one part of the world to another. This is one reason why I love Whole Foods. It says right on the sign where the food came from, and you can decide if you want to spend your money on limes from 30 miles away, or limes from 3000 miles away.

I realize this is a lot to think about. I'm not saying you should stop buying food that was farmed far away. I realize that for most people (including myself) this is unrealistic. I am saying that you should think about it (do you REALLY need those grapes in January?) and when there is an option, choose the one that was farmed closer to your home.

Let's take a timeout for Coffee

Coffee is a really special thing that I will never stop drinking. Seriously. I have one cup a day and it makes me feel like a human being who is capable of functioning. I heart coffee and I know a lot of you guys do too. So, please read this article about what exactly the labels on coffee mean (fair trade, shade grown) and why they are important to look for.

Labeling

There are a lot of terms floating around out there such as hormone free, nitrate free, cage free, antibiotic free, usda certified organic, free range, fair trade and with coffee specifically: shade grown (see above linked article). How do we know what means what? Not all of these claims are regulated closely.


USDA Certified Organic

When you see this symbol on single ingredient foods, naturally, it means they are 100% organic. Foods with multiple ingredients are labeled more specifically:

100% Organic: all ingredients are organic
Organic: 95-99% of the ingredients are organic
Made with Organic ingredients: 70-94% organic
If the product has less than 70% organic ingredients they are allowed to list what ingredients are organic individually, but the main face of the packaging cannot make any claims to being organic.

USDA Certified Organic is as trustworthy as you can get. The food must go through strict checks and regulations to be approved to use their sticker.

Free Range

This term is not really regulated. It does not mean the cow who became your steak or the chicken who laid your egg strutted around in the sun all day. It basically means nothing. If the chicken was given access to outside for 5 minutes a day then the company can slap the free range claim on the packaging. This doesn't even mean the chicken actually went outside for 5 minutes. It means that they opened a little door in the overcrowded hen house for 5 minutes and the odds a single freaked out little chicken actually walked out it are pretty much zero.

Cage Free

While technically better than cages, the situation is not great either. Rather than being crammed into a tiny cage with 5 or 6 chickens, your cage free chicken has been crammed into a shed with thousands of other birds. Ummm....well, that doesn't really seem any better to me. It kind of seems worse. I will spare you the details of the other torments your cage free chicken goes through.

Illustration by Ralph Steadman for an edition of Animal Farm
No hormones

This is specifically referring to the growth hormones fed to cows to speed up the development process so they are ready for slaughter quicker. It is illegal in this country to give these hormones to chickens and pigs so if you see this claim on a package of chicken it means that they followed the law! How nice of them! Growth hormones are bad stuff, so I would recommend when buying beef to look for this claim. It is also present in non organic dairy products. Organic dairy products are hormone free.


Creepy right? I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.

No Antibiotics

I think you get the picture here.

Natural

This always seemed suspect to me. I see it on the chicken breast at Trader Joe's and I'm baffled. Yeah, it's chicken. Basically it means the product contains no artificial ingredients or color and was minimally processed. Oh, OK, so it means nothing. Thanks! Love the font!

Nitrate Free

Nitrates and nitrites are chemical curing agents added to meats to give them that nice pink color (hot dogs) and that smoky cured taste we all know and love. Did I mention they're chemicals? And known carcinogens? Although, they are present in very low amounts, I am always on the team that roots for avoiding the unnecessary and therefore support the purchasing of nitrate free meats such as turkey, prosciutto, hot dogs etc.

Did I miss anything? Can I be done now? Oh wait!

Grass fed

The animal was fed grass rather than corn/"meat" (read: the crap off the slaughterhouse floor) etc. This is a lot nicer on the animals digestive track and anything to avoid the menace that is corn sneaking into something is always a plus in my book.

Next time on the blog I will give you a list of foods you should really make a big effort to buy organically and ones you can skip on and save a few bucks, if you must.










Monday, May 3, 2010

The Wall and Injuries Suck

I am spending a lot of time lately thinking about that half marathon running leg of my triathlon in July. Exercise is just as much about mental strength as it is about physical strength. I have a big tendency to quit mentally when I'm running if I'm having a bad day. I've been training for that by putting myself in some serious discomfort while running and not letting myself stop no matter what. It's amazing how big of a difference you will see in your physical performance when you gain mental confidence in yourself.

The wall and why it matters to everyone:


It is important when you're working out that you push yourself through and beyond the walls you hit. The moments when your brain is telling you you need to stop, but you override it and force yourself to keep going are monumental and essential to getting stronger. Many studies have shown that alarms go off in the brain telling you to stop well before you physically need to. This is not to say you should push yourself to the point of complete physical exhaustion. But, it is to say, that you are completely capable of continuing physically, even when you reach your supposed end point mentally. One of the best ways to extend yourself beyond that voice telling you can't, is to create a plan of attack and commit to it. When you go out running/swimming/cycling, have a goal time or a goal distance you want to do it for. Or better yet, have a time goal, that you know you can reach with some extra effort, for a specific distance. This will help you to push yourself a little harder. If you're doing a strength conditioning workout that includes 50 push ups, before you begin, commit to a number you will do without stopping no matter how hard it is and then you can break the remaining number up into a few sets. Creating a mental plan of attack, as well as visualizing yourself successfully completing the workout or race ahead of you based on that plan, is key in keeping those mental demons at bay. People who mentally quit before they even begin are in for a long, hard road in achieving fitness goals. Really, it's just like regular life. You create small, reasonable but challenging goals for yourself in the short term in order to reach long term goals. The key is paying attention to and celebrating those short term goals. That is how you keep yourself motivated on that long path.

Tracking Your Progress and Keeping Yourself Motivated

This makes me laugh. See! Dinosaur attack! Just like I said in my last post, be prepared. T-shirt design

In general, if you're just wandering around the gym doing whatever and have no idea of what's getting better and what isn't, you probably aren't going to stick to a workout schedule. Everyone needs to see some sort of progress in order to keep them going and it has to be more than just trying to fit into a size 6. If that is your only goal and your only measurement for success then you're not only selling your experience of getting in shape short, but you're also setting yourself up for frustration.

1. Write down your goals short term (short term can be every other week) AND long term
2. Keep written track of your progress
3. Time yourself whether you are running 1 mile, swimming 3 or biking 50. The next time you go out and do it, aim to beat your previous time.
4. Every other week give yourself a test: what's your max number of push ups? squats? pull ups? lunges? If you keep up with your workouts you will see those numbers go up quickly.
5. Take body measurements and check them every few weeks
6. Pull out those jeans that maybe haven't fit for awhile but you're so close! It is really gratifying when you finally pull them on no problem.
7. Take before and after pictures. Seriously! You don't have to show anyone but yourself.
8. Educate yourself about the good you are doing for your body health wise and all of the potential injuries and illnesses you are lowering your risk for by exercising. It cannot just be all about appearance. I think about how awesome it will be if I'm in my 80s and can still run, hike and wear a bikini (OK maybe a one piece) or just simply exist on my own independently and confidently. No newspaper boy is carrying my groceries in the house for me dammit!
8. DO NOT simply rely on the numbers on a scale to make you feel good or justify your workout efforts. There are a lot of reasons for this that I am not going into right now, just trust me. I weigh only a few pounds less than I did before I ever started working out, but physically I look way different. I wish I had taken before and after pictures.

That's me in my 80's. Serious Vertical leap.

Injuries Suck

Illustration by J.J. Grandville

Yeah, they do. Big time. I was supposed to run a 10 mile race Sunday. On Thursday I did this really lovely workout involving running hills, jumping rope and jumping pull ups, and while I thought this was awesome, apparently my knee was all "WTF??? Quit pummeling me you 32 year old wide hipped female!" Shortly thereafter, my knee felt like crap. So Sunday morning rolled around. I got up at 5:45 and got all ready to go. Last second I decided that running 10 miles was not in the best interest of my mildly damaged knee, unless I was in the mood for upgrading the injury. So, I grabbed my bike shoes and my swimsuit and did a nice long cycling/swim brick. Despite the lack of running, my knee was seriously hurting for the rest of the day. Enough that I could barely walk the dog and had a hard time falling asleep. I was pretty bummed out. There's nothing worse than being hurt AND feeling sorry for yourself, so today I got up and did the CFE WOD in the pool. Swimming is a wonderful thing by the way. It is great for healing and rehabbing injuries, as well as putting your body through a tough cardio workout if you really go for it. Today I did ladder intervals and it was intense. My knee did not hurt afterwards and still does not hurt. Crossfit tomorrow? Yeah probably. Fingers crossed. Otherwise I'll be spending a lot of time working on my swimming, which is not a bad thing at all.

Update: Knee is holding up despite the fact that I kicked its ass with bike interval training, jumping lunges and sprints. Hopefully it will stay that way!!

Motivational Kitten

Motivational kitten says so what if I'm injured! I'm not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself in front of the TV. Yeah!!!

Omega Fatty Acids Part 2


Omega Fatty Acids Part II:
Omega 3 (in EPA and DHA form) is your BFF

In addition to the reasons your body needs Omega 3 in order to function normally, there are also a number of health benefits provided by consuming it. Please keep in mind, there have been numerous studies proving, as well as disproving, some of the benefits below. I will expand on this a bit more with each individual item.


1. Reduces the risk of heart disease
-This has been proven through numerous clinical trials and studies. Let me remind you that heart disease is the number 1 killer of Americans, so this is nothing to sneeze at.

2. Lowers levels of bad cholesterol naturally
-There are many studies that have proven that this is true. Studies of particular populations of people who consume high amounts of cold water fatty fish have conclusively shown that they have higher levels of HDL cholesterol (aka good cholesterol) and lower levels of triglycerides (bad cholesterol-fat in the blood) as compared to the general population. Studies have also shown that consuming Omega 3 in fish oil form lowers triglycerides.

3. Reduces blood pressure
-Numerous clinical studies have shown that consuming 3 grams of Omega 3 in fish oil form per day can reduce high blood pressure.

4. Helps lower risk of a stroke
-This has been proven through numerous studies. However, the "too much of a good thing" rule applies here. People who consume more than 4 grams of Omega 3 per day can actually increase their risk of a stroke. 3 grams per day seems to be the magic amount from the research I have done. So rule of thumb:

**KEEP YOUR DAILY INTAKE OF OMEGA 3 TO AROUND 3 GRAMS PER DAY**

5. Helps balance good vs. bad cholesterol levels in diabetics
-Many people with diabetes cannot efficiently convert Omega 3 in ALA form (IE, from plants, seeds, nuts & oil) to EPA and DHA form (the form your body needs Omega 3 in order to utilize it). They also often have an imbalance of good vs bad cholesterol levels. Consuming Omega 3 in fish oil form or by consuming fish has been shown to help correct cholesterol levels in diabetics. However, diabetics should speak with a doctor first before adding a fish oil supplement to their diets.

6. Treats symptoms of arthritis
-More and more studies are being done showing that people who suffer from arthritis may benefit from a diet high in Omega 3, which is essential in the synthesis of anti-inflammatory hormones. However, this information is still considered to be in its preliminary stages and is not to be confused with a cure. The debilitating progression of arthritis still occurs, despite the intake of Omega 3. It can be used to treat the symptom of inflammation and the pain caused by it.

The following benefits are still being studied and, in general, the results should be considered inconclusive at this point. However, there is potential that consuming Omega 3 also has the following health benefits:

1. Helps increase levels of calcium in the body and improve bone strength- potentially good news for people with osteoporosis and super important for all the ladies out there

2. Increases beneficial effects of prescribed antidepressants

3. Decreases relapses and mood swings in people with bipolar disorder when taken with prescribed treatment

4. Helps decrease behavioral problems(such as temper tantrums) in children with ADHD

5. Helps treat psoriasis along with prescribed medications

6. Relieves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

7. Reduces menstrual pain

8. Reduces the risk & slows the progression of colon cancer

9. Reduces the risk of breast cancer

10. Reduces the risk of prostate cancer

Again, I want to reiterate, these benefits are still being studied and results are not yet conclusive. And I also want to reiterate that ALL of the benefits listed are through consuming Omega 3 in EPA and DHA form. If you are a vegan purchasing supplements, please check to ensure the Omega 3 present is not in ALA form. Vegan friendly DHA and EPA are sourced from microalgae.


Recipe

Spicy marinated Cod Fish Tacos with rice and beans on the side

Marinade:

1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
3 chopped jalapenos (chop 4 total, 1 for salsa see below)
3-4 limes juiced
1/2 clove chopped garlic (chop extra for salsa see below)
1 chopped shallot (chop 1.5 shallots, .5 for salsa see below)
to taste:
chopped basil (I use 1 tbsp packed)
chopped cilantro (I use 3/4 cup packed) chop extra for salsa, see below
cayenne pepper
salt
pepper
chili powder

Mix all of the above in a shallow glass dish large enough to accommodate 1lb of Cod fish arranged in a single layer

Score surface of the cod lightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Salsa/Pico de Gallo whatever you want to call it

2 large chopped tomatoes
5 chopped scallions
1/2 chopped shallot
1/2 chopped mango
1 jalapeno
1 lime juiced
to taste:
cilantro
fresh garlic
salt
cayenne

mix everything in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator

Rice:

1 c black jasmine or brown rice
cook in:
2 c low sodium vegetable broth
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt

cook for normal amount of time

Beans:

I usually heat up a can of organic black beans. It's the easiest way. The real way would be to purchase dried black or pinto beans, soak them overnight and cook them in your own seasoning.

With about 10 minutes left on the rice, remove the fish from the marinade and cook in a saute pan over medium to medium high heat for about 3 minutes per side or until it is just cooked through (the fish will begin to flake or separate naturally). When you flip the fish, add some or all of the marinade to the pan. If you add it right at the beginning it will overcook or burn.

Additional taco toppings:

chopped spinach
sliced avocado

Tortillas:

I prefer blue corn but you can use whatever you want. Heat them right before serving on the stove burner about 45 seconds per side or until they start to brown.

Serve the rice and beans on the side.

Lots of color in this recipe, and you will be getting a great dose of B12 and Omega 3. It takes time to cut everything up but the good thing is, you can create the marinade and salsa ahead of time and then the rest is easy. I highly recommend using fresh herbs as regularly as possible.

Motivational Kitten

You never know when you're going to be attacked by a dinosaur! Motivational kitten says get in shape and be prepared for the unexpected.