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New Favorite Song and Old Favorite Shoes April 28, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in General Exercise, Running, Uncategorized.
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I’ve had a few really good runs lately. There have been some real nut-busters on the treadmill, but also an eye-opening run around Seward Park. Why am I such a monster all of a sudden?

1) New favorite running song. Icona Pop, I Love It. And I’m not (too) embarrassed to admit it.

2) Same old kicks. Despite my earnest belief in replacing running shoes on a regular basis, a combination of laziness and reluctance to spend money has kept me in the same pair for a couple of years. That same reluctance to spend money means I’m sporting the absolute cheapest running shoes I could find that fit. I feel much better about my tatty old shoes after reading this article in New York Magazinehttp://nymag.com/health/features/46213/. If I’m ruining my feet with shoes, at least I’m not over-paying for the privilege.

3) Quad-strengthening exercises, particularly targeting the vastus medialis. That’s the quad muscle (there are actually four quadriceps muscles, that’s why they call it that) right over the kneecap, on the inner part of the thigh. You may have observed this muscle is particularly protrude-y on runners, soccer players, bicyclers, etc. Because of the female body structure (we have hips, you know), the knees tend to drift toward each other. Running in a knock-kneed fashion is not good for one’s knees, regardless of gender, but the ladies have to be especially vigilant. My chiropractor gave me some exercises to get my knees straight over my ankles, and I have to say, they’ve been a big help. Now when I see women run, I look at their knees. When I see women running with their knees practically pointing towards each other, I wince. Strengthen up that vastus medialis, ladies!

4) Map My Run. I had been using Map My Run to track walks and dragon boat practices, but only on my laptop. I would get home from practice or a walk, and I would log my workout, guesstimating my route and duration. Then I downloaded the app to my phone, and it changed some things for me. Most amazingly, I realized that I actually run a lot faster outside than on the treadmill, to the tune of two minutes per mile faster. Now I know why running outside has always been so much harder than the treadmill.

There are probably other contributing factors. I just got a Vitamix, so I’m all full of smoothies. That can’t hurt, right?

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in a Dragon Boat March 24, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in Dragon Boat, General Exercise, Uncategorized.
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As any dragon boat paddler will tell you, dragon boat racing is the ultimate team sport. We count on each other to show up and give 100%, both physically and mentally. The mental part of our sport is just as important as the physical part. If you get your head straight on the boat, chances are you’ll have your head straight in life, too.

Focus in the Boat

Some dragon boat races are bigger than others. At the biggest festivals, there can be as many as 8 or 9 dragon boats lining up at the start. There are tillers and callers on all the other boats, and they will be loud, and maybe wearing funny hats. There may be drunken morons nearby doing donuts in speed boats, and there will likely be race officials shouting nonsense at your tiller through a megaphone.

Whatever you do, don’t be distracted by the spectacle going on around you. You’re there to race. You don’t want to be like the dog in Up (Squirrel!). You want to be more like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, and the finish line is “Mine!”

Life Lesson: There are a billion idiots with megaphones out there. Stay focused on what matters.

Race Our Race

We say this a lot at races. There are likely a lot of boats that will be faster than us. But there’s no point in comparing ourselves to the other boats. If we’re looking up to see where the other boats are, we lose timing and cohesion on our boat. All that does is slow us down.

Off the water, I rarely compare myself to others.  Sure, most people are faster, prettier, skinnier and smarter than me, but comparing myself to them certainly won’t make me any faster, prettier, skinnier or smarter…or happier.

Life Lesson:  If you’re busy comparing yourself to others, you’re just slowing yourself down and missing out on your own potential.

Heavy Water

You can paddle at a thousand and crazy percent, but if you’re not pulling heavy water, you’re not contributing any power to the boat. The farther back you sit in the boat, the harder it is to pull heavy water. By bench 10, the water is literally rushing past you. It’s altogether too easy to just let inertia take over, and dip your paddle in at the same time as everyone else. But what are you contributing?

Braking power.

To pull heavy water on the dragon boat, you have to very mindfully flex your core and intentionally create resistance between your foot and the blade (there just happens to be a boat and some water in between your foot and the blade). Make every nano-movement count to maximize the amount of water on your blade. You have to get that blade fully buried in the water BEFORE you pull back, and you have to do it all very quickly, and in time with the rest of the boat. That’s very hard to do. But you have to try.

To pull heavy water in life, you have to find those places where you feel resistance, and make a decision to channel that resistance into something constructive. Also very hard to do. But, you have to try.

Life Lesson: Don’t sit on a doily and lily-dip through life. Contribute something worthwhile, even if it’s hard.

Leave it on the Water

This is what we say when we want to make sure no one is going to save any energy for later. Every drop of power should be used up in every stroke. You should feel like jelly, physically exhausted, when you get off the boat. This is especially important in practices. Unless you’re giving 100% at practices, how will you know what you’re truly capable of in a race?

Unless you continually challenge yourself, how will you know what you’re capable of in life?

Life Lesson:  Being a bad ass takes practice. Don’t save up your best effort for later.

Watch Your Leads (or, Eyes Up for Timing)

Dragon Boat racing is a team sport. Timing is the most important factor in team performance. If everyone is entering the water at different times, we’re just slowing each other down. Want to go fast? Paddle in time! Want to paddle in time? Watch your leads!

The lead strokes sit in bench one, and they set the rate for the rest of the boat. But it’s not about the leads being large and in charge, and everyone meekly following along. The caller, bench one, and bench two are in constant communication. If the leads are out of sync, we call each other on it. If bench two is fast or slow, we let them know. The caller watches us, and we watch the caller. If things are getting out of hand, someone will yell “Watch the rate!” And we constantly ask for feedback from the entire team. Too fast? Too slow? We seem to have better results when we work together to figure out the optimal race rate for our whole boat.

You get better results when you collaborate with others. Pay attention. Listen to people. Put their needs ahead of your own, sometimes.

Life Lesson: Don’t be a self-absorbed asshole.

It’s a Water Sport

Inevitably, we get wet. Sometimes someone will launch a typhoon at the person in front of them, and flood their butt crack with cold lake water. There’s always laughter, and the one who splashed will say “Sorry!” The appropriate response here: “It’s a water sport.”

We knew we were signing up for a water sport when we got in the boat. You can’t set yourself up to get wet and then complain when you get wet. It’s a water sport. We get wet. Duh.

Life Lesson: Take responsibility for the consequences of your choices. Duh.

This Soup Stinks Good January 19, 2013

Posted by starshipexercise in MIgraine, Recipes and Food, Uncategorized.
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I love fish sauce. It has this awesome funk to it that is so funky…it’s actually fonnnnn-kaaaay. Anyhoo, I like fish sauce a lot, but it’s a migraine trigger on oh-so-many delicious levels. It’s fermented. It may contain gluten (some do). It’s tasty. Ok, ok, flavor isn’t necessarily a migraine trigger. I’m just feeling sorry for myself.

Not all triggers are created equal. I can tolerate some foods in small quantities, like bananas and citrus. Too much, though, and wham! Headache. There are some foods, though, that I can’t eat any of and fish sauce is one of them. Or, maybe there is a safe amount, I just love it too much to restrict the amount I consume. Whatever, the result is a headache, so why split rabbits?

I do pretty well, food-wise, and although my long no-no list inspires sympathy every where I go, I generally don’t feel deprived. There are so many great foods I can eat, I see the restrictions more as a logistical challenge to be solved.

There are a few things, though, that I miss terribly. One of them is pho, which is rife with fish sauce. I even used to make my own pho (it’s EASY, by the way). I love it enough that when I first went on the elimination diet, I tried making fish sauce-less pho.

WRONG.

Pho really needs that stinky/sour/salty taste, otherwise it’s just soup.

Well, I’m tired of doing without. It’s taken about five years of hard thinking (or maybe I just needed five years to forget what real pho tastes like), but I finally came up with an acceptable alternative. While I was at it, I decided to skinny up the recipe by replacing the traditional rice noodles with shirataki noodles.

Disclaimer: don’t expect this to taste just like pho. You’ll be disappointed. It is delicious, but it’s a pho-alternative, not a pho-replacement. Also, I’m missing some garnishes: bean sprouts, fresh jalapeno and basil would all be traditional, and delicious. But I don’t have any of those today. And the right sauces would be sriracha (rooster), hoisin, and fish sauce, which I have but I can’t eat, so they’re not listed in the ingredients. But by all means, if you have the access and inclination, dress up your soup with all sorts of accessories.

Quick Faux Pho

Servings: 4

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
3 dried star anise
3 large cloves garlic, halved
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup unfiltered sake (do not use sweet cooking sake, you want the strongest, sourest sake you can find)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb total)
2 14 oz packages of Shirataki noodles (I use the yam variety, but the tofu ones are easier to find and are therefore more convenient if you can have soy)
lots of salt, to taste
1 cup shredded carrot (for garnish)
fresh cilantro (for garnish)

Preheat broiler. Toast ginger, cinnamon, anise, and garlic under broiler for one or two minutes, or longer if needed. Check frequently. Anise in particularly can go from zero to crispy very quickly.

Bring stock up to a simmer. Place ginger, cinnamon, and anise in a large coffee filter (contents should be loose), and tie off with one end of a long piece of kitchen twine. Tie the other end of the twine to one of the handles on your pot. Drop the garlic straight into the soup. Bring back up to a simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken breasts, sake, and lemon juice, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Add salt and taste it to make sure it’s salty enough.

Meanwhile, break open those shirataki noodles. Drain them in a colander, rinse them well, and dry em off as best you can. You may need to cut them, sometimes shirataki noodles are really just one long noodle wound around itself a million times (sort of like every necklace in my jewelry box). Divide the noodles equally between four bowls.

Salt the soup, and when it tastes right, remove the chicken breast and garlic. Chop and divide between four bowls. Garnish with carrot and cilantro. Ladle the broth into each bowl, enough to cover the contents.

Stinks pretty good, even if I do say so myself.

Calories 338.4
Total Fat 6.1 g
Cholesterol 80.2 mg
Sodium 1,200 mg
Total Carbohydrate 16.7 g
Dietary Fiber 0.3 g
Protein 33.9 g

Weight Watcher’s PPV: 6

The Lazy Glutard December 16, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Recipes and Food, Uncategorized.
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Last weekend, I realized that I’ve been eating my failures. Literally and figuratively.

You see, I’m usually too lazy to seek out gluten-free baked goods that meet my stringent dietary requirements and taste good (it’s a rare combination, indeed), and I’m FAR too lazy to bake anything myself. Also, it’s hard to find GF flours and other products that don’t have xanthan gum.

In case you don’t know, xanthan gum is some sort of primordial goo that is used to replace the gluten as a binding agent. It’s nasty, and it gives me the collywobbles. And it’s in EVERYTHING, people, not just GF products. Read. Your. Labels.

The one time of year that I bake is at the holidays. I started many years ago by making chocolate-pumpkin bundt cakes to give away. For the past several years, I have been baking donuts to give as gifts.

Which brings me to last weekend. I planned to bring some donuts to a holiday party, and decided to experiment:

  1. New recipe – chocolate-cherry donuts with a port wine and cherry glaze…doesn’t that sound AWESOME?
  2. New xanthan-less GF flour
  3. New mini-donut pans instead of mini-bundt pans

Sadly, all I could taste was the awful flavor of the GF flour. I tested multiple iterations with multiple tweaks. More cherries. More chocolate. A teaspoon of espresso powder. Port in the batter. Reducing down the port with some cherry juice. I tried umpteen variations for the batter and the glaze. The flavor of the flour overshadowed everything else. They didn’t suck, but they sure didn’t sing, either. They were a failure.

Here’s the twisted part: instead of just throwing them out, I kept eating them. Hello! I was literally eating my failures. It’s like a god-damn metaphor for life, my dear bitches! Don’t we often internalize our mistakes so we can hold them close and feel bad about them for a while? Wow, man. Deep.

Anyway, I finally gave up and resorted to my tried-and-true recipe for cinnamon donuts with a honey glaze, adapted from the recipe on Eating Well, and showed up at the party with a plate of minis and feeling like a complete sap.

It turns out, our hostess has end-of-year tradition that makes a pretty good party game. Write down something (or things) on a piece of paper that you want to let go of from the previous year, and throw it in the fire pit.

So that night, “eating my failures” went into the fire. Buh-bye.

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