Month: May 2014

A TALE OF OPPOSITES

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(Martin St. Louis)

I watched two games last night on television, two different games in two different sports. Both important games in their sport yet each athlete I honed in on are so polar opposite I felt the need to share.

It’s NHL Playoff season. The series are long and brutal. Each series lasts seven games. The winner of each series moves up to the next stage until the reach the championship for the Stanley Cup, the granddaddy of all pro sports awards. Nothing beats it. Nothing.

My New York Rangers were 1 win, 3 losses against the Pittsburgh Penguins. One more loss and they’re out of it. So, they had to win last night. One of their new star players Martin St. Louis also had a personal tragedy. His mother, after a long, extended illness, passed away on Thursday the day before yesterday.

He flew home to Montreal immediately to be with his family and after a brief visit talking it over with them, decided to play Friday night, his father telling him that’s what his mother would have wanted him to do. He played with a courageous face and a brave heart. He put it all on the ice. He commented that she was with him the whole game and indeed she was, in his heart and in his soul.

Contrast that emotionally charged, beautifully touching picture with this: a bravado, cocky young Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team player, Yasiel Puig so full of himself he makes a big deal out of every hit he gets. In fact, he celebrates nearly every walk, every hit, every on base that comes his way. He throws a tantrum each time a pitcher dares throw a strike past him. And if he’s out, he nearly stomps up and down in protest. He flips his bat even when getting a single and saunters to first base, taking his time. He hit a home run last night and took extra time to brag about the moment towards my team (SF Giants’) pitcher Madison Bumgarner. This angered the more mature Bumgarner, as it would anyone, which if it had been an isolated incident wouldn’t attract any attention, but because Puig does this every time he’s at bat makes him the Justin Beiber of Major League Baseball. Puig’s behavior is tolerated by the Dodgers’ organization as Beiber’s disgraceful behavior is tolerated by the commercial music industry.

But what do these individuals have to do with a fitness and health blog, namely MY blog? Because like St. Louis and Puig, we all have the chance to act in life. We CHOOSE how to act in our lives. We’re never perfect. Humans make mistakes. Each and every moment we’re given the chance to make choices how we treat ourselves and other people. If we screw up, we can choose not make those same choices again.

When someone like Martin St. Louis, who knows his team is relying on him to him to help them win the team’s most important game of the year, even in his moment of pain and despair chooses to stand tall and put aside such heartbreak and be the stronger for it, he’s made a choice. When Puig acts like a spoiled princess because he can’t get his way and stomps his feet, treating others like crap, that’s the choice he made. But he makes that choice over and over and over again. He never learns that this is not the way to behave. Whether he has no one to teach him otherwise, or if he’s been told this is the way to act to get what he wants is unclear, but somewhere along the line, something went wrong.

So, we have a choice to make. Will we be our stronger selves today and make the right choices or do something else?

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(A tearful Puig?)

IN DEFENSE OF CALORIE COUNTING

I enjoy receiving emails from a few different fitness and nutritional sources. One of the websites I like is MindBodyGreen. I’ve had no reason to question them until this morning when I read something that irked me enough to want to write about it.

Hundreds of weight loss and “diet” tips are thrown at us all the time. One of the latest trends is to avoid counting calories. In the latest email from MindBodyGreen the author writes that we should avoid doing this because 500 worth of soda isn’t the same as 500 calories worth of Brussels Sprouts. Well, duh.

I think I can speak for most, if not all of us when I say, thank you for underestimating the readers’ intelligence here. For the beginner just entering into weight loss, this may be a good suggestion, but for those of us who do know the difference between a sugary drink and a vegetable, it’s insulting.

Keeping track of the food I eat through a website like MyFitnessPal is a great way to not only help me with portion control, but it also helps me ensure I get the right amount of nutrients, fiber, etc, I need. Calories are just one of the many tools I use to help keep my Way Of Eating where I want it to be. I never use it to replace healthy foods with junk and I never rely on counting up calories alone.

I think the original author of this article’s biggest mistake is to assume that her readers don’t know a darn thing about nutrition. We know, we know. We know that kale is one of the best foods out there. We know that white flour and white sugar has virtually nothing nutritionally for us. We know that we should be working out rather than sitting in front of the television. So why try to take away one item in our workshop?

Nutritionists should not be writing for all their readers with the same broad brushstroke. I would love to read an article that didn’t treat me like I knew zilch about the food I eat. I don’t have the degree, but I’ve probably done TONS of reading about nutrition and can sit and have an intellectual conversation with any PhD’d Nutritionist. And I bet a lot of you can too. I wouldn’t be reading all the emails and websites if it was a subject I wasn’t interested in learning more about.

At my age, it’s vitally important that I practice portion control. One of the ways I do this is by understanding not only the size of the portion of food I eat, but also the calorie count. It all goes hand in hand. Maybe a young person doesn’t need to exact such control over what they eat; youth is on their side. But even with all the physical activities I do, if I am not very careful about what I eat, I will gain weight. I wasn’t always this way, when I was young, I could eat whatever I wanted and I’d lose weight. It was pretty hard accepting that as we get older, this stops. At least for me it did.

Maybe I make the wrong assumption thinking there are others who are as meticulous as I am about counting calories. I’m much too busy to think about the caloric count of everything. Is that what you’re thinking? Sure, it takes a few minutes, but not that long. It takes about as long as checking into Four Square. And I dare say, it’s more worthwhile.

So, to all you health/nutrition writers: please understand that some of your audience knows a little bit about the subject you’re writing and also that not everyone fits neatly into little boxes.

Cheers!

 

THE HUNGER AND DESIRE TO WIN, OR AT LEAST NOT STOP

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(The path at the entrance to Golden Gate Park)

I watch a lot of professional sports. My favorites are baseball (Go Giants), hockey (Go Rangers) and football (Go Niners). This time of year, the NHL is in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the best teams are finding ways to win and move, while the weaker ones go home. Baseball is warming up with ball parks filling up as the calendar moves into summer and our thoughts turn towards shorts, BBQs and easy, lazy afternoons.

When I think of sports in relation to my running, I start thinking about what makes some teams, some athletes, or individuals keep going, even when everything is stacked against them.

This morning I ran six miles through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach and then down the Great Highway and back up to Judah Street. It was a good run; I didn’t stop that much, just a couple restroom breaks and then once for the traffic light and a couple more times to drink water or electrolytes. But my runs are getting longer, smoother and a little bit faster.

My biggest problem when I run is to keep running and not stop after a while. To be honest, I want to stop and walk because I get bored running after a while. It’s not a huge problem with six miles, but as I increase mileage, it gets more of a problem when I train for longer races. Like when I trained for my half marathon; running 10 or 12 miles was just dull.

Like the team who has a tough game with an intimidating opponent ahead of them, the mileage can be just as intimidating. Without the right attitude it can be a runner’s downfall. So, like the team who wants to win Sir Stanley’s Cup or the World Championship, to finish even a training run, we have to have a winning attitude. “We CAN run this distance!” We must keep telling ourselves. I was thinking of the comparison to the NHL teams who are hurt and tired and beat up playing in playoff games night after night, as they reach closer to the Stanley Cup Championships. They want nothing more but to end it all, but they have that desire, that longing, that hunger to WIN. And the one who wants it more will get it. So, we CAN run this!

Or course, proper planning and preparation have to go into it. I make sure and not increase my mileage too much, too soon. I’ll be running six miles for my long run two more Sundays. I don’t have another half marathon until September so I don’t mind taking it easier right now, getting my base stronger and maybe a little faster before I start tacking on the miles. And while I’m making my base distance faster, I’m also losing weight.

So, when the times get hard, when we’re tired and all we want to do is get home, take a shower, have our coffee and eat, when all we want to do is STOP we must keep moving….find a mantra that works for you. I choose one like “Keep your feet f**king moving” or “One more step” or “Almost there”. You get the picture. Anything like that will work and don’t stop.

WE CAN RUN THIS!!!

Warm Evening Run

I used to really dislike running after work. I always felt they were inferior runs, and would arrive back home disappointed, promising I would never run late like this again.

But this changed a couple weeks ago when I had gone to the Giants game the night before and there’s was no way I was going to wake up early to run. I went out after work and had a great 3-mile Interval session. Something turned around my dislike into pure enjoyment. Well, not pure enjoyment. I was doing intervals, after all and those are probably the hardest type of run workout to do. But, I did them pretty well, with no negative effects from changing the time of my run.

So, why not switch one of my three weekly runs into an evening run? Why not??

I went out for a 3-mile Tempo run tonight after stopping off at Trader Joe’s on my way home. It was warm and a bit breezy. The hardest part of the run, the hardest PARTS were the beginning; it was difficult to get going in the heat and the very end, when I wanted to finish the 3-mile distance, but I was running completely out of steam.

It made it a little bit easier that I was going on one of my favorite routes, but it was also rush hour, so I had to deal with lots of working people leaving their offices heading home. I ran down Geary Street to Market Street and then to the Embarcadero along with Bay to AT&T Park. There’s something about running past the Park when it’s quiet and empty that I love. The building is so beautiful and has such character, I love it and makes me swell with Giants pride whenever I’m near it.

I pushed through the fatigue that started to bother me and finished my run. My Ultimate Direction vest, (love love love) had a nice, cool bottle of water for me as I waited for MUNI to take me home. I can definitely see my Thursday Night Run becoming a regular thing.

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Earlier, during my lunch, I went to the Thursday Crocker Galleria Farmers Market. I love this smallish weekly market. The produce is always top-notch and not badly priced either. And SCORE!! Cherries are finally here. They are my very favorite fruit. Every year, I eat as many as I can through the small window of time they’re available. I will only purchase organic cherries as well; chemicals and cherries don’t mix. Today, I was able to talk to the farmer who grew them. He told me that he would have four different kinds of cherries available for about seven weeks or so, giving me a heads up. I’ll be there every week if I can. I also talked to him about the damage the late rains did to the crops. He said that the amount of cherry harvests were affected throughout the state, but that the quality of what’s available is really great this season, which made me very happy.

Along with a basket of cherries, I also bought some beautiful fresh ginger, (it is seasonal, you know), and baby kale. It took me a while to get used to eating so much kale. I don’t like the junk sold at regular supermarkets. It’s stringy and tough. But the organic kale, especially the baby kale is tender and delicious. And sweet enough to be eaten raw in salads. Avoid the pre-packaged inferior kale if you can and make an effort to find organic kale. If you always thought the super green stuff was “eh”, you’ll love it after dining on quality kale. I know most of us can’t always have the best of everything in our diet, but a small thing like getting superb kale is well worth it. And We are worth it.

After my run tonight, I had an excellent kale salad. I wasn’t even that hungry, probably due to the heat, but a salad sounded nice. I added red onion, raw, fresh English peas, red bell pepper and slivers of Parmesan cheese. I made a light olive oil-red wine vinegar dressing and enjoyed.

It’s been a rough week for workouts. This was my first one since Sunday. I’ll try not to let it go so long again, but sometimes things can’t be helped. Between going to baseball games and watching the NHL Playoffs, trying to get enough sleep is about all I can do. Tomorrow night is the first Rangers playoff game in the second round, which is on at the same time as the Giants away game. It’s going to be a busy night!