Sunday, October 6, 2013

Too few and too much!

When things get crazy... get crazy with them, they never see it coming!

   Sorry to all who check in regularly for the few and far between posts lately. Work and family can make devising posts and especially writing them out a challenge. Tack on my insatiable need to constantly be finding some way to keep moving and digging though books to learn new information to take in and test out while exercising and you get the idea.

   If you are a regular (or just passing through and find yourself curious) please feel free to comment with a question or even send an email to

   Curious about veganism? Excellent. Just want to know some fun ways to use your body for exercise? Superb! Just beginning or even experienced and looking for a fresh view? Bring it on! Chances are most of your questions will be ones I like and will help in creating a few new posts as I have no doubt others likely have the same questions somewhere out there and will hopefully stumble across them here!
   Everyone is important and I certainly want to continue sharing any knowledge I can to hopefully help someone and preferably everyone lead a healthier happy life.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Recipe to warm and charge you- Butternut Squash Soup

   This recipe will take some preparation time but is well worth it for the ability to satisfy your hunger, give you a healthy mix of delicious fall vegetables and is so good you won't even notice it is a vegan meal (after a couple simple substitutions).

   It has become a huge hit in our home and never lasts long, no links to other sites today however, it is a recipe my wife had pulled from Racheal Ray magazine a few years ago and the clipping always resurfaces at this time of year to the delight of our taste buds! The mix of sweet and smooth roasted flavors of the vegetables finely blended with a piece of bread to dip in it is excellent for warming up on a cool evening and helping to prepare you for a nice long workout (after which you could eat some more of this should you choose to).

Here is how to make this fall wonder dish:

Butternut Squash Soup

1 peeled, seeded, and chopped butternut squash
1 peeled and quartered onion
1 peeled and quartered baking potato (can sub out for sweet potato)
1 quart vegetable broth (original recipe called for chicken broth)
1/2 to 1 cup original almond or soy milk, unsweetened (original recipe calls for same measurement of whole milk)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

   Preheat the oven to 400 degree. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, toss the butternut squash, onion, and baking potato with extra virgin olive oil to coat; season with salt and pepper to taste(don't go too heavy, you can add more later).

   Bake until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour - vegetables should be easy for fork to penetrate through without much effort. After baked, transfer the vegetables and any juices to a large soup pot, add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Stir in your milk choice according to your desired soup thickness then finish seasoning with salt and pepper.

Nutritional facts for 1 serving (about 2 cups) using vegan options (vegetable broth and almond milk):

Calories: 220
Carbs: 41
Fat: 6
Protein: 4
Sodium 755 - This is due to using a store bought vegetable broth, if you can make your own or have a better source it can be made significantly lower.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Never out train recovery time.

One step at a time is all it takes!

   To stay along the lines of the recent theme of continuing exercise with an injured body part, it seemed good to throw out some tips for the recovery portion where you are doing better but may still be in the danger zone.

   Your injury is probably feeling better. The pain is likely subsiding and you are itching to get up and run around. The transition period of returning to your normal exercise period can be a slippery slope. How much exercise is too much? Is the strain or sprain fully healed? Have your tendons or possibly even a fracture become strong enough to tolerate normal load again?

   All of these questions are good to ask yourself before hopping out the door and going for a regular run or putting the usual strain on the previously injured limb. On average you can be putting up to and even beyond 6 times your body weight on your legs and feet while running. Because of the danger, it is good to ensure you are always following doctor instructions for when it is ok to get back to your regular fitness regimen.

   Once you are finding yourself in that zone which can vary from "If it doesn't hurt, you should be fine," to "Take it easy and no extra activity until you can come in for a check up to ensure it is healed," it is likely going to be time to take those first steps back to normal you have been craving for some time. Not to mention your family will likely be happy to have a less grumpy person hanging out around the house missing their regular exercise!

   Whatever you do, don't allow yourself to become overexcited and risk injury by going too hard too soon. By my original training plan I would have been running 20 miles today. By the new plan (and surprisingly a certain amount of relief to just be free of a confined space) I walked 2 miles and did a few light jogs of about 50 feet at a time during the walk. There was pain involved afterwards which didn't lend any surprise to my day. After so much rest and downtime allowing for thorough healing there comes a small issue that is only a temporary setback. My foot had become "rusty" and needs some tune-up work!

   Muscles, tendons and bone need to be reminded of what they can do. All the rest has allowed for tightening and softening of muscles and ligaments. They haven't been put through the average rigors for what is assumed to be 2+ weeks of rest and recovery. Some pain is to be expected while things stretch and rebuild, take time and allow things to settle back. A little at a time now along with listening to your body and sensations will go a long way in the long run towards coming back stronger and healthier than before. Not to mention a little smarter about what not to do next time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weight Vest Workout

Getting creative with your workout tools can be half the fun!

   As promised here is a simple workout that allows you to exercise without needing your feet and even allows for some leg work (assuming your legs are still good). Always ensure that workout you start is approved by your doctor to prevent potential for further damage if you are currently injured. Once you begin, if you are unsure, find the help of a qualified trainer or physical therapist to help you properly execute your workout.

   That said, this workout is quick (about 20 minutes to half an hour should be enough) and requires only a weight vest - or even a backpack - with your desired amount of weight added. Please bear in mind that unless you have done all the exercises below it is a good idea to start light and add weight as needed once you are comfortable with the movements and can go through each rep safely. It is designed for a basic whole body run to help exercise all your muscles with little time to risk higher potential for further injury to already sensitive areas due to fatigue.

   Make sure you are stretched and avoid stretches that will aggravate your injury.

   Exercise 1 - Weight Vest Knee Raise : Hook your feet through the shoulder straps of your vest or pack while seated on a chair from your dining room (or equivalent, you want something sturdy but padded for some comfort). Hold the sides of the chair and pull your knees up towards your chest trying to keep the bag hanging from your ankles and your back straight.
A variation depending on your current predicament - an example being a tender sprained ankle - would be to hang the bag higher up towards your knees and find a place to hang from (such as a pull up bar) and perform hanging leg raises.

   This exercise can be tricky, so again make sure you have someone available to help out if you need a second set of hands (including holding the straps in place).

   Exercise 2 - Vest Chest Pull/Press: For pull portion lay face down on a bench and pull your bag or vest up towards your chest as far as you can. The press portion is executed similar to a bench press (lay on your back and press the vest out until your arms nearly lockout then lower and repeat.
For an alternate chest pull method wear the bag or vest and find a strong table you can lay underneath and grip two sides comfortably. Pull yourself up as far as you can, lower and repeat.

   Exercise 3 - Vest Dips: Set yourself up between two chairs on a solid non slip surface. Place your hands on the top of the chair backs, lift your feet and perform a dip, lowering yourself until your elbows form a 90° angle and push back up. For this you want to make sure the chairs will not flip back or slide around so test for security before.attempting. Once more, someone to help spot is highly recommended especially when exercising and injured.

   Alternatively you can use paralletes or parallel bars if available. They are usually far more safe and secure than a chair but not usually a common household object. Also, two shorter stools may be used if you are having trouble holding up your body weight. Extend your legs out and rest your feet on a pillow or over a bar. Whatever provides comfort and does not hurt you or aggravate your injury.

Workout plan:

   Try to fit into at least twenty minutes with a goal of around half an hour. If you are unable to complete a set in one shot, do as much as you can, rest a moment but no longer than absolutely necessary (5 to 10 seconds should work) and try to push out a couple more reps until worked through all reps for each exercise. Once through round, start over and repeat through rounds until half an hour is up.

   A good starter setup will be 5 to 8 reps per exercise. Try this and see where you are at end of the round, then adjust up or down from there and try to complete same number of reps from then on throughout the workout.

   Enjoy your workout and remember that if at any point the workout is affecting a sore spot for your injury you should stop and reassess your workout, adjusting as needed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lesson learned...

   Well, the doctor today informed me after some waiting, painful prodding and X-rays of my foot that I have an overused tendon and it needs rest to avoid further damage or irritation. Running too hard and too fast on top of an unlikely hole in the ground added up to an unwanted guest on top of this, a mildly sprained ankle. All said, I got lucky, but still need to rest my feet to give them time to recover. As it is, sitting still for me is like a semi in hurricane winds. It just won't work.

   This injury seems to be coming at a decent time however as I want to ensure all of my readers know it is easy to have a mistake take away a passion. You can then either choose to find a suitable alternative or sit around depressed and moody about it (a little of the latter is understandable of course - driving past your favorite running spot can be alarmingly discouraging). It is your choice as always whether you then simply give up and wait or take control and find a way to pass the time while maintaining your sanity (and fitness level to boot!)

   So I have decided to venture into other new exercising plans in order to compensate for this injury while attempting to maintain a roughly similar amount of strength in my legs and core to be ready for when I can begin running again. Keep an eye out, I will be testing out some of my ideas and seeing if they will pull through over the next few weeks! If nothing else, they should at least keep my mind and body entertained.

   Hopefully they will turn beneficial for someone out there with the same fate or just looking for a new and interesting way to stay fit! And if anyone out there would like to share tricks they have come across to deal with unwanted injuries and extra exercise free time please share below!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Earn your workout!

Earning a treat always makes it more sweet than just eating it for fun!
   Not in the sense of doing something to allow yourself a workout, more like finding that something you enjoy to drive you through a workout. Everyone has that something, that little thing they really never want unless they have earned it for some reason. A workout is a great opportunity to create a positive out of a craving.

   Maybe it could be something where every time you exercise you can throw some change or a dollar to the side for a well earned [enter whatever it is you are saving for here]. For some who are lovers of chocolate but are working on trying to get more fit and eventually lose weight as well it could be a few M&M's. Keep that one reasonable of course. Five or six of them is all you would really need and limiting in that way makes them all the more valuable at the end of a workout when you have earned them and aren't just throwing them down for the heck of it.

   My own personal earnable is the Saturday wearing of my Hard Charge shirt after a long run (pictured above). It seems silly to some but for my own psyche it is a huge boost since Hard Charge had been my breaking point in running fitness. That day was a challenge and although it now appears fairly easy, at the time it had been something I really had not been sure I could even finish. Running across the line at the end had created a fire in me that I had never known existed and a new interest in pushing boundaries that now has me setting my sights on things like the Western States 100, Tough Mudder and someday (assuming my insanity holds out) the Badwater 135.

   Having a target not only helps you reach a goal, but having something to earn at the end will also help you to focus and likely come to a conclusion that you need to work hard enough each time for that earnable to be worthwhile. Victory over self tastes so much better when you break your own limits only to then discover a small pot of gold you left for yourself at the end.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Primal Fudge Bars

This may become your new favorite snack! Try with Coconut Crack Bars for an extra delicious treat!

   Getting into the time of year when there are sweets in abundance and the urge to get some sugary treats can be one of the tougher things you will do while working on your fitness and practicing a more controlled way of eating. It becomes tough watching so many people snacking on those sorts of snacks that they, and you, know are something that really should be moderated a little.

   Fear not, this treat will hit your sweet tooth, deliver some fats that are healthier than those you would normally get and believe it or not it is also free of additonal sugars that are mixed into so many snacks on top of other ingredients without tasting like it! That is to say it is sugar free! Primal Fudge bars contain only simple natural ingredients that all have a part in helping your health and can be a great treat for after a workout (especially running or other vigorous cardio that has a strong fat burning affinity - and remember, although you may be trying to lose weight at some point, you need to fuel your body to keep it from going towards a catabolic state, eating certain fats will actually help your metabolism).

   The recipe can be found here: Practical Paleo. We used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder and then in place of using an almond butter or peanut butter my wife and I made our own walnut butter that although higher in fat than most nut butters also adds Omega 3's and helpful antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory property (again, good for after long runs when your body has taken a pretty good beating). Being home made it also means we can nix the addition of sugar. The natural sweetness of the walnut plus the other ingredients in the recipe add enough sweetness on their own.

How we made walnut butter:

1 cup walnuts
1 Tbsp refined coconut oil

Put walnuts and coconut oil in food processor and blend until mostly smooth.

Then you can just mix the remainder of the Primal Fudge recipe in with your butter and complete the recipe. Easy and no extra dishes to be made either!

Nutritional Facts for 1 small bar of Primal Fudge (at 20 servings instead of 10) using walnut butter and Dark Chocolate cocoa powder the Maple Syrup option:

Calories: 105
Carbs: 5 (there are the natural sugars in maple syrup)
Fat: 10
Protein: 1
Sodium: 26

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Finding your "Spark" - Looking for emotional Zen to transform yourself

This picture comes from the Self-Conscious Facebook page which aligns similarly to my own views on life.
   You got it, this is one of those pro-nerd sorts of posts! Everyone has a similar sort of energy to them that keeps them going from day to day that is in some ways far more simple and and in others equally complex. This energy is strange in that it can bring you up or slam you down. And despite the fact that no drug, or scientific instrument can yet seem to get a perfectly clear unquestionable understanding of what this energy is it still has a powerful influence over your daily life. Call it willpower, spirit, soul, or anything else, it still has the same effect between every single person - it is the thing that gives you what you need to get up every morning whether you want to or not and drives you to live even when the outlook seems bleak.

   Whatever your belief system, it is pretty well known that the human body is an extremely sophisticated organic machine. We may not be filled with alloys and wiring, oils and lubricants, or have a hard drive and processor whirring away in our heads but we do have a general equivalent for all of these. There is the nervous system that has intricate fibers reaching from your brain to everywhere between there and the tips of your toes, fats like Omega 3 keep your joints lubricated and the brain itself working in tandem with your vascular, digestive and nervous systems is a complex computer far beyond anything we have even today. The sheer number of calculations your brain makes at any moment to analyze, process and begin synthesis of proteins and gasses for energy production in your body alone is incredible to consider.

   Keeping the above in mind, consider this next part; what happens when such an intricate and advanced machine gets something as simple as the wrong gas in it? Or perhaps a driver who simply does not understand the inner workings thinks he can tinker without any sort of issues? Confusion, damages, and long hours spent repairing and diagnosing all the systems that have been mangled are the likely outcome.

   Then you have what most would refer to simply as the mind. When it comes to the inner workings of the human body nothing is less understood or harder to fully comprehend as the mind. You can see where the mind is looking and sorting out thoughts and memories with a brain scan, but it is still a challenge to see how each little process changes your perception. Scans can see what is happening but it is hard without the same persons interpretations to know why and where the thoughts are actually leading. Your mind is that self aware portion of your thoughts that allows you to be creative, learn and imagine. It allows you to generate the will to do more than what even your brain thinks it is capable of and it also can be the destroyer of everything you try to build. On that same note, it can just the same be the builder of all you want to see yourself become.

   Positive and negative thoughts both originate from here. And both can have an effect on what becomes of your body and what it is capable of. There are physical signs of what the mind can accomplish, adrenaline bursts, pain, increased heart rate and even heart failure. But it doesn't work alone. That is where I like to consider the human "Spark" to exist. The zone between mind, body and brain is probably the most complex and challenging thing to understand of all.

   A person could train for months, even years and be more prepared than they could ever need to be for a simple race. Their body is a machine of precision and power. Built to withstand thousands of footfalls, send oxygen as efficiently as possible to every corner of the body and their brain is able to keep control on all of the muscles, oxygen ratios and release of sweat in such a way as to cool the body without compromising its vital systems. All that is moot if the mind suddenly decides it can't do it. In a positive frame the athlete will run his or her hardest, use every available internal resource to gain every advantage possible. In a negative frame, nothing. Muscles that should be primed for anything fail with no effort. Nerves that should be tuned to knowing real pain from imaginary misfire and everything that should be nothing hurts. Breathing in the first mile feels labored and it seems impossible to go any further. The vital systems get out of sync and fail to do their jobs to the extent of what they have been trained for.

   The Spark is something in all of us that we need to take care of as much as anything else. A healthy way of eating, exercise, and learning are all ways to improve ourselves in brain and body. But we also need to ensure we take care of the mind too. The mind can have such a profound effect on how the rest of your body works at any given time that as mentioned about the athlete even the strongest best trained brain and body will succumb to negativity.

   Steer away from negativity. Turn "I cannot" into "I could," and then into "I can." You can then turn "Why should I?" into "Why not?" And definitely do not forget to practice changing "I'll start tomorrow/next week/some other time" into "I am going to at least try it right now."

   Feed yourself with all the positivity you can. Try to maintain contact with positive and optimistic friends, look for the good in things first and try to think of how things could go right as opposed to all the little things that could go wrong and may not even cause trouble with the outcome save for what your mind balloons the issue into. Practicing the maintenance of a positive outlook on your training, eating and attempts at creating a stronger healthier you will have an overall greater effect than always wondering if you are doing enough, or concerning yourself with thinking you can never reach the goal you wish to achieve.

   Between things like Yoga, meditation, running, breathing practices and trying to fill your day with only people who are trying to see life from the same positive outlook you will find it easier to attain goals than with the same regimen and nothing but negative surrounding you. Don't forget to use things like Facebook or other social spots like running or exercise forums. You will often find that the impact of a few "Good Jobs" and "Keep it up, you are doing great," is priceless to finding a way to keep everything working in sync with your Spark.

   As one last piece of advice for those who would like to share advice, never think that another persons efforts are too little. Let them know that every step they take in a healthier direction is a step towards a stronger body and healthier outlook on life. Just because you can lift 300 lbs is not a reason to tell someone just starting out that lifting 100 lbs is chump change. The fact that they are there and trying is something remarkable in this day and age with all the technology we have to draw us away from such attempts requiring physical effort. A person who gets up and runs a mile instead of sitting in front of the TV to play a video game as they always normally do is a person on the right track. Encourage and inspire. Offer to run with them on occasion. Offer helpful tips for motivating and maybe even making it fun (I personally listen to audiobooks on long runs with a slow pace - not to escape the run but to enjoy two of my favorite things while experiencing the freedom and beauty of a night sky and an open road at 3 AM).

   Every single step in the right direction is another step away from the wrong direction!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pumpkin Apple Harvest Rice - A fall dish to hit all your fall cravings!

   Although the heat seems to be lingering in some areas, it is still getting into the fall season meaning it is getting into that time of year where pumpkins and apples are sounding amazing! This recipe takes a little bit of preparation time but hits all those little fall cravings at once and fills you up without weighing you down.

   I highly recommend giving this dish a try if you are a person who tends to run after dinner. Being vegan, the lightness of the ingredients and the fact that the dish has a pretty solid carb content are all quality needs for the evening runner. The addition of walnut gives you some fat to burn and protein to feed your muscles as well! Before your next cardio workout give this a shot for your dinner meal and see if it hits the spot for a tasty energy booster to get you charged.

   Interested yet? Good! Click on the following link to check out the recipe for yourself and give it a try! Pumpkin Apple Harvest Rice. And remember, this time of year most of these ingredients will be available fresh from your local farmers market or other fresh produce areas. Try making it all from scratch to boost your nutrients further and help your local economy a little in the process of building a healthier you!

Nutritional info for 1 serving assuming about 5 servings out of recipe:

Calories: 326
Carbs: 47
Fat: 14
Protein: 7
Sodium: 389

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Simple is good too!

He decided I was too slow and his mother decided it was a good photo op while my arm fell asleep! 
   There are those times where you will head out and just not feel like doing too much. Maybe the day is packed with plans, maybe you are just sitting there with that little voice in your head trying to coerce you to go back to sleep for a while or find something less strenuous to do.

   First off, tell that voice where it should go (I am sure everyone has their own version of "get the heck out of here" that they will utilize). Second, as I've said in earlier posts, just try to get out and start an exercise to see how it feels, sometimes your body just needs to get the ball rolling and build some momentum.

Should those two fail and you have stomped that little negative voice trying to con you into giving up for the day and vegging out. Here is another little strategy that might work. Find some family, friends, or if you want even just you alone if it sounds fun enough and go find some sort of outdoor activity that gets you walking. Yep, that is it. Just find that little simple activity, and then walk. Walk to it if it is close, drive out and park farther away to add some extra walking, then walk a little more. Find a farmers market, a walking trail, a good sized mall and just walk. Looking to be at least a little adventurous? Find yourself a good corn maze and give it a whirl. Try to accomplish all of their listed activities or make it the full way through and you will have likely covered a mile or so with a decent sized one. The same applies for walking a trail, enjoy nature, download an audiobook or just let your mind wander and keep on moving. Most trails are a mile all the way around, before you know it you will have burned some calories, gotten some Vitamin D and even helped your cardio along just a little more while managing not to succumb to that bossy little voice that was trying to break your spirit.

Get out! Get moving! Once in motion you might find it hard to stop and may even go 2 miles or more before you know it!