Archive for the ‘Training’ category

Stress, Boxing and Granola

May 31, 2015

There is nothing quite like hitting when it comes to stress relief.  Between work and my personal life, there are days when I feel as though I might self-combust with all of the energy built up from teaching group fitness classes, working with clients in physical and emotional pain and then, of course, my own emotional junk that seems to pile up as I ignore my own feelings while I am thinking about everyone else. Although an extra workout is probably the last thing I need, wrapping my hands, slipping into my 16 ounce gloves and throwing jabs, crosses, hooks and upper cuts brings the sort of relief that leaves me soaked in sweat, limp with exhaustion and free from every single thought that burdens me.

The drive to Peabody is long. The traffic is heavy as I sit in my tiny convertible waiting for the last couple of traffic lights to turn green. Finally, I am in the dirt parking lot of the boxing studio. Throwing the gear shift into park, I leap from my seat, gym bag in hand, and take the three flights of stairs to the gym two at a time.

I burst through the door and John, the owner of Dullea’s boxing gym and also the trainer, greets me with a broad smile and a bear hug. “Where you been?” I confess to working too much and he shakes his head. “You gotta make time! We miss you!” And I feel as though I have come home. I make my way to the back of the gym and drop my stuff beside a heavy bag. There are men and women already putting on their wraps, standing around, chatting. I see my friend Leah and her husband Dave. I see Eric and Chris. Jen comes in, looking like she has been training hard and ready for more. The room begins to fill up, but today it looks like the class will be small enough that I will not have to share a bag with anyone. Good.

I chat with Leah. She talks to me about running, one of our shared passions. She used the training plan I wrote for her to not only run a half marathon, but to become a runner like me—that is, she runs almost every day, cannot get enough of it, and well, is addicted to the feeling that comes with logging mile after mile. It’s that peaceful clarity and elation that makes us both want to run and run and run until there is nothing left but the movement of body, the breath and the stillness of the mind. Moving meditation.

We talk about the vast quantities we both eat to fuel all of our workouts. I tell her about my favorite “second supper”. Home made nuts and seeds granola mixed with crunchy almond butter and dusted with raw cacao is better than ice cream—it’s creamy,  it’s not cold, it’s satisfying and packed with nutritious calories. As we prepare for tonight’s workout, she asks if the recipe for my granola is on my blog. I feel a rush of guilt and neglect. I have not been writing.  Better get on it.

The bell sounds and we start with jogging in place, jacks and push ups. We move into plyometric squat jacks and I get that awesome sense of floating every time I squat low, then explode up into a star shape, arms and legs open wide, hovering in the air before landing lightly and returning to a deep squat. We do about 50 push ups, about 40 squat jacks, all woven into running in place, knees high, sweat pouring and puddling on the soft mats underfoot.

Drills start and I throw jabs, crosses and hooks. First in the air, then on the bag, each punch releases anger, fear, pain and stress. Each blow to the bag jars every inch of my body. Because I have not hit in a while, my hands begin to ache, then hurt outright. I don’t care. I hit and hit, free-style on the bag. Jab. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hook. Jab. Jab. Left upper cut. Right hay maker. My shoulders clench. I have to stop and wipe sweat from my eyes.

We hit the mats for core work, then flip over for about 50 Japanese push ups (which are really Hindu push ups.)

I do them all, grunting and pushing myself until I think I am going to break. Off the floor again, we start shadow boxing, then a couple more three and five minute rounds of free style on the bag. I stop bothering to think about combinations and just start throwing hooks, one after another, until I cannot lift my arms.

We spar for two rounds and my friend Danny holds the pads while John calls out the combos. I barely make it through the round. I hold for Danny and I can tell that he is going easy on me. I want him to hit hard and egg him on. “Come on! You can hit harder than that! Let’s go!” He finally lets loose for the 30 second drill and I fight to take his punches. The bell rings and we are done.

We finish with core on the floor. John bellows “Iron Cross!” and we do an isometric iron cross pyramid, which means we hold it for 10, 20, 30 seconds, then 60, 30, 20 and 10. On the floor, on the back. Head two inches off the floor. Arms wide to the sides and legs together, all two inches off the floor. I look around and from what I can see, I am one of the few still holding the pose at the end. I feel strong. I feel good. I stand, unwind the long wraps from my hands and head toward the door, both drained and exhilarated. There really is nothing like hitting. I am myself once again.

Now, the recipe for my friend Leah:

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Nuts and Seeds Granola

Ingredients:

1 c rolled oats, gluten free if you are allergic to gluten

1/2 c raw coconut butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 c each raw walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans, cashews and any other raw nuts preferred

1/4 c raw sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/4 c maple syrup

3 T chia seeds

3 T raw hemp seeds

1/2 t cinnamon (optional)

1 T raw cacao powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 260 degrees F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine everything except for the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Place sheet in center of oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, or until nuts and seeds turn golden.

Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, cinnamon and cacao powder (if using) and transfer to glass containers. This keeps for up to six months, if it lasts that long!

Add some dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries and/or apricots before serving if desired. I don’t bake any dried fruit with the granola, as dried fruit gets too hard in a slow oven, and I don’t mix it into the finished granola, because it adds too much moisture. I like granola crisp and crunchy.

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Nuts and Seeds Granola

Second supper: Mix 1/4 c raw, crunchy almond butter into 1/2 c nuts and seeds granola. Stir in a generous spoonful raw cacao powder and some dried fruit. Yum!

 

 

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Catching Up, Eagle Sighting and Raw Cashew Cream

November 4, 2014

Blogging has taken a backseat these days—there have been a myriad of changes in my life and I have been busy focused on adjusting to divorce, moving, a new relationship, and a significantly greater workload.  No complaints here, though.  Life is good.  My ex and I have remained friends, my new relationship is a blessing I was not expecting, and work is physical and fun.  I am still teaching vegan cooking in a group setting on a monthly basis, as well as in private settings for individuals.  I am still running!  Definitely not the 50+ miles each week like last year, as I am doing a lot more personal training and wellness coaching for work, as well as teaching group fitness three times each week for the Recreation Department of my town.

This morning I had the opportunity for a long run.  My early client cancelled last minute and I found myself racing through Halibut Point State Park, enjoying the late fall scenery with it’s nearly-bare trees, glass-surfaced quarry and vast expanse of ocean view.  With the hours of cross-training I have been logging with work, running feels easier than ever.  This was one of those days where breath, legs and mind were all on board from the moment I stepped out the door.  I felt as though my feet barely touched the ground and I don’t think I heard a single song on my playlist after the first mile.  Running is meditation just as much as it is physical exercise, maybe even more than ever before. I did get to see an eagle perched on a treetop as I ran home. Not that I noticed it myself—a pram-pushing mama pointed it out for me. Magnificent.

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Teaching vegan cooking is a joyful experience.  The people who come to my classes are enthusiastic, open-minded, and excited to learn each month.  My amazing photographer has been recovering from a broken ankle, so I am sorry to say I have none of her beautiful pictures to share in this post.  She is coming along nicely in her healing so am hoping to she will be back soon to take photos and notes for me.  It makes me realize how fortunate I am. It’s amazing how good people are to me and how much I depend on the kindness, generosity and skills of those around me to help me get through and be successful in this life.

In the meantime, I want to share a very easy cashew cream recipe.  I posted earlier about cashew cream and the recipe called for roasting the cashews first.  That recipe is delicious!  This recipe is even creamier than the first, and without the roasted flavor, it is even more versatile.  Used in vegan chowders, cream soups and cream sauces, the rich, thick texture lends a sensual mouth-feel and no one ever misses the dairy.

Raw Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

1 c whole raw cashews

filtered water

Method:

Rinse the cashews in cold filtered water and drain.  Place the cashews in a medium sized bowl and cover with filtered water.  Soak for at least 20 minutes, but overnight is a great choice.  Without soaking, the cashew cream will not be as creamy.

Drain and rinse the cashews after they have soaked.  Place in high-powered blender and add 1 c filtered water.  Blend on low until the cashews start to move around easily.  Turn blender speed to high and blend until completely smooth.

I always double this recipe and freeze what I don’t use.  It’s great to have a stock of some basics ready to go when I find myself standing in the kitchen, pondering what to make for dinner.  Consider pasta primavera, pasta al invierno, sweet potato and corn chowder, creamy tomato soup, creamed spinach with cumin, cayenne and cubed tofu—bring it on, winter!  Hearty food awaits!  More to come…

Campus Run

May 4, 2013

The Twin Lights Half Marathon is tomorrow and I will not be running it.  I am at UMass Amherst with my husband for his 40th (or thereabouts) reunion with his mates from way back.  Although I am supposed to be training for a marathon in October, this weekend is out of bounds for training.  That being said…

After a night of eating, drinking, and some other stuff I am not going to mention here, I managed to haul my dehydrated self out of bed by eight o’clock this morning, throw back some kombucha and about a gallon of water, and get dressed in running gear.  The campus at UMass is ginormous, spring-green, and nicely paved all around. My start and end point:  the UMass Campus Hotel.  MH says it looks like a waffle iron.  I beg to differ.

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It took a mile or so to clear my head and remind my legs that I run.  I started easy, then picked up the pace as I passed dorms, science buildings, some very young runners, and a lot of construction sites.  I logged seven miles in a little over an hour, not bad considering last night’s behavioral slips.  I circled the campus a couple of times, took a few short detours through residential areas, and worked on reconciling myself with the anxiety I feel that stems from struggling with meeting and hanging out with a lot of strangers who share a serious history and know each other well.  Everyone has been nice to me, but it’s just a little weird.  It makes me wonder if I have ever done this to MH.  Probably.  He is just way more chilled than I am about this kind of stuff.  He’s a Type B.  Me?  Definitely a Type A.  Which is why I brought running gear and got up and out this morning.

There are two more days of fun planned, including a dinner tonight.  MH has built a video slide show from old slides and photographs from “back in the day” adventures from Wheeler dorm.  He has spent countless hours scanning slides and pictures, adding a soundtrack of music from the early seventies, back when I was still a little girl.  The music I know.  The adventures depicted in the slide show?  Not so much.  There may be more drinking.  Okay.  There will be more drinking.  And tomorrow, there will be more running.  Wish me luck!

Notes from the Imaginary Ring

January 16, 2013

I love to hit.  I found myself trying to explain this to a friend yesterday.  He is a relaxed guy who definitely experiences anger and fear, and talks himself through those emotions in a constructive way.  He cannot understand how I can enjoy hitting as much as I do.

I love to make contact—either with a pad my sparring partner is holding, or with a nice, heavy bag—and I love to make contact over and over again, throwing jabs, crosses, hooks, and upper cuts.  I love to roll under a hay maker, to slip by a fast punch, ducking low into a squat, tucking my chin and bobbing down, or twisting from the waist, holding my gloves high against my cheeks to protect my face.  The smack-boom-thunk-smack-boom-thunk of my gloved fists as they slam into the heavy bag are my own rock-and-roll tune that plays in rhythm to my heart’s beat; heavy exhalations add harmony to this intimate song of release.  Give me three or four combos and I will hit you a rock opera of anger, frustration and release that will knock you out.

The brawl punch—now that is something else again.  I stand in a wide stance, almost a side lunge.  Left foot forward, toe pointing straight ahead, right foot back and to the side, toe pointing out.  Left arm extends down toward the floor with the hand flexed and fingers straight and at knee-height, as if holding someone down on the floor.  The right hand, curled into a tight fist, pulls back up to the right shoulder and then, with a bend to the back knee and a twist of the hips and waist, the fist flies down, slamming, again and again.  Right hand up to the shoulder, dip, twist, and hit.  Slowly, then faster and faster, until the sweat flies from my arms, runs down my back, blinds my eyes.  I stand up and lift the edge of my tank top to wipe my face.  I turn around, set up, and brawl punch on the other side, letting my stronger left arm go to town until the sweat flies again.

Kickboxing, BodyCombat, Kenpo karate, sparring.  I cannot believe these are part of my fitness routine on a regular basis.  I am a happy person with a wonderful husband and family.  I let the all the junk that negative people toss at me roll off my back, or shoulders, or wherever that stuff is supposed to roll off of me when it hits.  I meditate (mostly while I run).  I do a lot of thinking about life, humanity and  theology.  I really don’t get angry.  Yet I find that throwing punches releases an awful lot of anger.  And frustration.  And I find that throwing punches also releases fear and anxiety.  Throwing punches clears up some serious space.  It’s as if with every punch, the negative energy is thrust out from me and gone.  Just gone.  Until the next time.

I have studiously read about fighting—about boxing, mixed martial arts and more—and have discovered it is not necessarily  about violence.  It is about form and finesse.  About fitness and health. It is about skill, speed, and hard work.  It is about bringing your best.  It is about release in a controlled environment.  And I have learned that releasing all that negative emotion leaves room in me for more patience, more pleasure, more love.  And more room for appreciating all the good and beauty in my world.

So, back to my friend.  As I try to translate all the feelings I have and release when I hit, he begins to get a certain look in his eyes.  It is not a look of  just beginning to grasp what I am saying, but one of complete understanding.  I see emotions cross his face, then I see him deciding that this may be something he is interested in learning.  He has some physical challenges, and my mind begins to race as I try to think of how he might find enough balance in his body to hit and get the satisfaction I have promised by description.  As we begin to talk about how he might be able to hit and how good (translation:  EXCELLENT) it is going to be, I am plotting how to prop him up against a wall so that he can try brawl punches.  I have a feeling he is going to love it.

Baked Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Manicotti

May 11, 2012

Tomorrow is the big day!  I can barely wait to run the Twin Lights Half Marathon.  I am trying my best to rest and relax, which is work for me.  This morning looks perfect for a long run—the sun is out, the temperature hovers around 50 °,  and I am going crazy from resting.  I stick with my plan, though, and make a date for a lunchtime bike ride with my husband. What to do with myself for the morning?  Cook!

Carb-loading has never been a big concern for me, but this time, since I am working from a plan for this race, I figure I should follow some advice from Runner’s World and other runners.  I am also still succumbing to food daydreams.  My visions of roasted tomato sauce lavishly enveloping thick pasta stuffed with creamy ricotta and garlicky vegetables have reached a pinnacle and I must prepare this pre-race feast for dinner tonight.

Baked Tofu Ricotta-Stuffed Manicotti

Ingredients:

1 pkg manicotti pasta

For the tofu ricotta:

1 pkg firm or extra-firm organic tofu*

juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/4 c nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp sea salt

For the vegetables:

3 T olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, diced fine

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 c grated carrot

1 small red bell pepper, diced fine

1 16 oz. pkg frozen spinach (I prefer the loose frozen spinach—that big frozen block just irritates me.  Too hard to defrost!)

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

sprinkle/pinch crushed red pepper flakes

10-12 large fresh basil leaves, minced

For the sauce:

8 cups tomato sauce of your choice (I used the final container of last summer’s roasted tomato sauce from my garden. You can use any sauce you like.)

Method:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 7 minutes.   Drain, rinse, and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables and tofu ricotta:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the onions, garlic, carrots and red bell pepper.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the spinach, black pepper, sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook until spinach is no longer frozen.  Turn off heat, stir in the minced basil leaves and set aside.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tofu ricotta:

In the bowl of a large food processor, combine the tofu, lemon juice, marjoram, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes and salt.  Pulse to combine, scraping the sides if needed.  Process for 30-60 seconds, or until tofu mixture is mostly smooth.  Taste and correct seasonings.

Combine the tofu ricotta with the vegetable mixture, either in the skillet or in a bowl.

To assemble:

Spoon half of the tomato sauce into a large baking or lasagna pan and spread it evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Fill each of the manicotti pasta tubes with the tofu ricotta and vegetable mixture.  Place each tube in the baking pan on top of the tomato sauce.  Continue filling the tubes until you either run out of pasta or filling.  (I ran out of pasta, so cooked some jumbo shells to use up the rest of the filling.)    Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the manicotti.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Serve as an entree with a leafy salad.  These freeze well, too and heat up nicely in either the oven or the microwave.

*If there is one food to buy organic only, it’s tofu.  Most of our country’s soy is GMO and grown in toxic fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals that do not wash off.  It’s worth paying the extra quarter or so for the organic version.

Ready for Race Day

May 7, 2012

It’s Monday morning and I head out for an easy five mile run.  The sun shines warm and bright on me, and on the tiny new leaves on the trees.   The full moon has pulled the low tide farther out than usual and I can see dozens of seaweed-covered granite boulders poking their heads up on the shore of Back Beach.  As I run, I make my plan for this week.  I will back off on the miles, ice my heel and arch, refrain from any crazy plyometric sessions, and ease up on strength training—in other words, rest a bit so that I can run the Twin Lights Half Marathon this coming Saturday and finish strong.

Today is the third day in a row for running.  There is a part of me that still doesn’t trust myself to run the distance.  While I rest, I plan to spend some time adjusting my attitude.  I am going to get in my own head and boss myself around.  I am going to muzzle  the chattering monkeys.  And then, I am going to let go of everything and be present each minute of the race.  I like the plan.

The monkeys are already backing off this morning.  Each stride is relaxed.  My breath comes easy—I can sing along to Girl Talk, The Black Eyed Peas, and Foster the People.  I run along Granite Street and close my eyes for a moment to fully appreciate the scent of the hedge of flowering lilac bushes along the sidewalk.  The sweet pungent blooms bow gently over my head and I think of my Nana and how she loved lilacs, magnolias, and lilies of the valley.  This feeling of being in the moment, with good memories tagging along, takes me to the place that makes running magical for me.  I am not thinking about the race.  I am not thinking about my foot, whether it is hurting or not.  I am not thinking.   I am just being.

I make sure to cut my loop short so I stay within my self-imposed five mile limit.  I curve around Phillip’s Ave. and turn right instead of left, easing down the steep hill toward the ocean and the old Tool Company.  The water, visible to the left of the building,  glistens and sparkles in the early morning light.  The clean smells of ocean, low tide and flowers are the core of my awareness.  As I turn back onto Granite Street, I run past a few walkers.  A car horn sounds and I see the hand of someone I must know but don’t recognize wave to me from their window.  I raise my hand back, but don’t even look to see who it is.

I take the big hill slowly, not pushing, but when I come to the long, easy slope that heads back to town, I speed up, letting my body go as it wishes.  My legs feel long, long, long today and I can feel myself flying.  My feet barely have time to make contact before they pick up to stride again.  I sprint down Broadway, cross Mount Pleasant, then slow down to a dog-trot as I turn onto Atlantic.  A small sadness sets in, as I know I will be backing off the rest of the week.  That was it, the last real run.  I will take a couple more short jaunts, but otherwise stick to the plan.  I’m ready.

High Tech Magic

March 22, 2012

My physical therapist brought out the big guns on Tuesday.  She had frowned when I limped across the waiting room to join her for my session.  I confessed to nearly perfect behavior, at least for me, for two whole weeks.  I had been wearing my old orthodics regularly as I promised I would.  I only ran seven miles the previous week; a mere three this one.  Even in cross-training, I had eased up on plyometrics considerably, modifying my boxing warm-ups and cardio classes.  And, I had spent almost a week in bed, flatten by the flu.  I felt betrayed by my own body, unable to bear my own weight without experiencing pain. I could see by the look in her eyes that she sympathized with me.

“I spoke with my supervisor, and we think we should have the head of the department assess your foot.  The usual therapies are not working like they should.  This is unusual.  But there’s one more thing I want to try.  I’ll be right back.”

I lay on my belly on the table, my foot in the air and flexed, trying to stretch the tender tissue even more as I waited for her.  I could feel the crunchy tissue in the arch as I flexed and winced, resting my chin on my folded arms, trying to hold tight to my patience.

“This is the laser.  It’s not usually covered by insurance for this purpose, but we just came back from an informational session where this therapist did a study on using laser for soft tissue inflammation relief.  He said he has had huge success with it, especially for plantar fasciitis.  Let’s give it a try.”

My first question:  “How much is it going to hurt?”

My posture while asking this question:  Leg extended, offering the offending extremity up for sacrifice.

“Oh, it doesn’t hurt at all.  I have to wear these” and here, she held up a huge pair of black-framed sunglasses, the lenses tinted bright green, “and you have to wear them, too, unless you promise not to look back while the machine is on.”

As she made her fashion statement, slipping on the horrid eye protectors, I turned right back around and put my head between my arms, face down on the table.

“I’m good.  Don’t need to watch.”

I felt her hand on my foot and the slightest pressure as she pressed the tip of the laser on my foot.  It was over in less than two minutes.

“That’s it!  All done.”

“That’s it?”  I flipped over onto my back and sat up.

“Should it feel better right away?  Does it take time to notice a difference?”

“Well, you should notice today for sure.  See you in two weeks.”

I bent down and shoved my foot back into my sock and sneaker, wincing as the orthodic pressed up against my arch.  I grabbed my purse and book and left.

I pulled into my driveway, got out of my car and found myself walking, not limping, up the back stairs.  I spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at the lack of pain.  After a while, I forgot I had plantar fasciitis.  I went to kickboxing.  I did the whole warm up.  I stayed for the R.I.P.P.E.D. class afterward.  I jumped around in the back row of the class beside my friend Krissie, grinning like an idiot.

The pain is not completely gone.  But I ran a little over four miles this morning without much pain.  I am walking heel-to-toe on that foot now, instead of landing on the ball of my foot to avoid touching the ground with my heel.  The pain seems to be along the perimeter of my heel, the places where the laser was not applied.

I sit here on my couch writing this.  My cat is snoring loudly beside me.  The sun is blazing full-strength outside my living room window; the thermometer on this March day reads 81 degrees.  I am obsessed with wondering if I will be able to have laser therapy at my next and final physical therapy session in two weeks.  I wonder why it would not be covered by insurance.  I take no prescription drugs, I eat well, I exercise regularly.  I see my doctor for one check-up each year, at which time he shakes my hand, gives me a warm smile, and suggests I write a book on how to stay fit and eat right.  I think he has a crush on my cholesterol numbers.  Why would my insurance not cover this, when in the long run (my long, long run), they would be saving money?

It’s time to get back outside and live in this remarkable day—but the high tech magic of Tuesday will sit in the back of my mind, along with the hope for one more zap.