Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Making a comeback at the gym

Now that my travels have concluded and I'm back to the daily grind of work (well, not exactly daily, I mean, who works everyday in Tahoe?) it's time to get back to fitness and health blogging.

First topic of discussion: kicking my own ass.

I'll be honest, it's been a while since I've worked out intensely. Traveling around Southeast Asia, we did a lot of walking and hiking, and since returning home, I've been snowshoeing and snowboarding to stay in shape. But I haven't exactly been sweating it out at the gym and I figured what better way to reintroduce cardio and strength training than by working out with a trainer?

Aside from the variety of weight training equipment, cardio machines and group fitness classes, one of the great things A Sante Lakeside Fitness has to offer is an amazing selection of certified trainers. I decided to workout with Christina, one of my favorite group fitness instructors and hopefully a future trainer at A Sante.

Getting back into the gym can be a daunting task. There's so much equipment to re-familiarize yourself with, your routine may need a revamping and your muscles usually need a refresher course on how to function properly. Let's face it, Rome wasn't built in a day and your bikini body won't be either. So I turned to Christina to give me some fresh exercises and to vary my old routine, which was getting tiresome and was probably the reason I took some time off from the gym in the first place.

In preparation for my training date, I ate a healthy breakfast of granola, flax seeds, almonds and yogurt, which I washed down with some green tea. I headed to A Sante around noon, ready to do some easy, light-weight training.

Rule number one: Check your ego at the door. I admittedly was feeling way too confident about this training session and did not prepare myself mentally. I was picturing the old me that was in excellent shape over the summer and would have had no problem with the workout Christina had designed for me. I had failed to take into consideration the last 3 months I had not been working out....oops. In my mind, I thought Christina and I would compare notes on our Thailand trips, talk about ways to improve my workout and catch up on any other Tahoe gossip that came into conversation. In reality, from the moment we started, I didn't have time to say much between breaths accept "girl, you are kicking my butt!".

Rule number 2: combining total-body strength training with cardio bursts is ridiculously efficient! What I loved about Christina's regimen was that I wasn't on a treadmill or stairmaster for 30 minutes, staring out the window, trying to stay focused. We were circuit training, using lots of props and going from station to station, working every muscle in my body from my finger tips to my toes. Circuit training combines cardiovascular endurance and balance with resistance training, which keeps your heart rate up, makes you sweat and builds muscle all at the same time. It's an extremely effective way to get into shape, plus it's entertaining!

Rule number 3: Don't give up. I'm not ashamed to say there were moments in our workout when I looked at Christina with eyes of defeat. I wasn't sure I could do one last set of military squats with a 10-pound ball that I had to throw up as high as I could and catch before squatting back down. I didn't think it was possible to do 3 sets of 8 push ups on a Bosu Ball without cheating into a "girl" push up. But Christina had faith in me and with a the extra push from her, I began to have faith in myself too. Like I said, Rome wasn't built in a day and my body won't be back into excellent shape after one session either, but it was a great start and Christina's motivational words have me excited for my new routine!

At the end of our workout, I staggered behind Christina to the stretching room for a much needed breather and an attempt to relieve some of the soreness I was sure to feel the next day. I was exhausted, slightly nauseated and not proud of the endurance I had lost by taking time off from the gym, but referring back to rule number 3, I decided not to accept defeat. I immediately booked another training session for Saturday and promised Christina to do some strength training and cardio in the meantime!

Next healthy goal to tackle: eating vegan at least 1 day per week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tail end of Thailand and beginning of Cambodia

I'm pretty exhausted from all of our fast and furious travel, but here goes blog #2...sorry for any errors, my brain is not functioning at high speed right now (and neither is the damn internet).

After a swift flight from Northern Thailand to Phuket Island in the South, we checked into a $10-per-night guesthouse on the beach in Hat Kamala - balcony overlooking the ocean and everything! I have to say (something I already knew about myself) that island life strongly agrees with me! The first day in Phuket we experienced a bit of bad weather so we bravely rented a car and set out on the busy streets, valiantly tackling the left side of the road! Ok, that's a lie. There was nothing valiant about it...we may have let out a few shrieks as mopeds whizzed past us in all different directions...but nothing was harmed, no injuries sustained, so all in all it was a success! We explored the island, driving the perimeter and making stops here and there to wander along stretches of sandy beach and explore the bustling streets with vendors trying to entice you to purchase made-to-order suits, bikinis and ceramics. We even tackled the busy city of Phuket Town - dubbed "Bangkok on the beach"by lonely planet - which we surprisingly navigated quite efficiently, finding our way to the bus stop to purchase a ticket for our return to Bangkok, then triumphantly getting the hell out of there.

Our next day in the South, we took a boat to Phang Nga National Park (for those of you Bond fans this is where the movie Man With the Golden Gun was filmed - which I've actually never seen). Phang Nga is an unspoiled bay northeast of Phuket where limestone cliffs covered in vegetation jut dramatically from the turquoise sea. We kayaked, did some swimming and had lunch at a village on the water before returning back to Phuket.

Our last day, we headed further south to Kata and spent the day basking in the sun and swimming in the sea. It was nice to relax after all the crazy traveling we've been doing. People in the south are extremely friendly and most of the tsunami damage has been repaired. If you haven't explored southern Thailand, I would highly recommend adding this to your vacation destination list. There's cheap accommodation for backpackers or luxurious resorts for anyone who still has money after this past recession (or current, whatever).

We sadly left Phuket and headed back to Bangkok on what I will remember as the worst bus ride of our lives. It was overnight and took about 12 hours. We were told when we booked the ticket that there would be a buffet stop where we could grab dinner so we (regretfully) did not eat before hoping aboard. Around 8:30 pm the bus lights were shut off so we were forced to close our books and take a sleeping pill in order to get some shut eye. By midnight, as my tummy growled, I had given up on the buffet as we had not stopped yet, but low and behold around 3 am the lights were flicked back on and we were required to get off the bus to have something to eat - which was of course a bunch of sauteed meat dishes - nothing for us measly vegetarians. I stuck to Pringles and a 7up. And while the sleeping pills did knock me out, I'm still recovering from a terrible kink in my neck :(.

We spent our 1 day in Bangkok meandering around the markets of Khao Son Road and catching up with Rachel's hometown friend who has lived in Thailand for about 3 years. I also got a $4 massage to try to work through that damn kink...helped a little but still doesn't feel quite right. The next morning we took the 2nd to worst miserable ride - a train from Bangkok to the border of Cambodia. While we did get to gaze out at the countryside flying by, the train was quite crowded and definitely not air-conditioned. It only cost us $1.50 though so beggars can't be choosers I suppose.

We heard horror stories about the Thailand/Cambodian border crossing, but it was in fact quite simple with very little scams or hassles, so don't believe the hype. Most scams were on the Thailand side and once we were in Cambodia, government officials were eager to help us sort our visas and arrange for transfer to Siem Reap.

We checked into a guesthouse and spent the next day exploring the temples from dawn to dusk. We awoke for sunrise at majestic Angkor Wat, which cleared out immediately after the sun came up so we were left with it all to ourselves - quite a meditative and soothing place. I can't say I've felt more at peace than I did wandering the ancient initially-Hindu-but-now-Buddhist temple. Built in the 12th century for King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat is now undergoing restoration work but still looks extremely intact and grandiose as ever. After our long day wandering through the surrounding temples of Angkor, we went out for a traditional Khmer dinner and dance performance.

The next day in Siem Reap we set out for Tonle Sap Lake, taking a boat ride through the floating villages and traversing through the forests that rise straight out of the green waters. That evening we went to our tuk tuk drivers house for dinner...thanks Denise for hooking us up with Synon and his younger brother Eang, who drove us around during our entire visit in Siem Reap!!! Synon's wife cooked us a traditional Khmer dinner; however, we unfortunately forgot to mention we were vegetarian. We couldn't both deny the meal so I took one for the team and ate some duck, which merely reinforced my vegetarianism. Rachel braved the beef broth soup which she regretted later when it came back up :(. Poor girl has vomited more times on this trip than I'd like to say. The meal was truly appreciated though and the experience unforgettable.

We dismally departed Siem Reap the next afternoon and took a bus to Phnom Penh for 1 evening. We were originally headed for Vietnam, but we love Cambodia so much (extremely friendly people, beautiful energy) so we decided to alter our plans and head south for the coast instead. We're now in Sihanoukville which peers out over the Gulf of Thailand. Upon arrival yesterday we relaxed on the beach. Today we took a boat to several different islands, snorkling and jungle trekking along the way. We met lots of other backpackers and are headed out tonight for what we were promised would be a bar with dubstep and other dance music! (If I hear one more Shakira song or "Empire State" by Jay-Z I swear I will pull out my ear drums! Southeast Asians love their American pop music! I miss my ipod!).

Anyways, I'm curious as to what went on with the Nov. 2 elections as the internet connection in this entire country basically sucks and I haven't been able to do much Googling without crashing the entire system!!! Someone please clue me in! Hope all is well back in the states. We are headed to Vietnam on Saturday - for real this time! Saigon for one night then flying to Hanoi where we will finish out our adventure. I will be sad to leave but I miss Ted so much my heart hurts thinking about him!!! Peace and much love to you all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tales from Thailand

I usually reserve this blog for work-related thoughts as Social Media Coordinator for A Sante Lakeside Fitness, but seeing as I'm in Thailand and my immediate and not-so-immediate family members are expecting detailed feedback from my trip, I'm going to sway from my typical fitness and health blogging to do some travel writing.

After nearly 30 hours of planes and layovers, Rachel and I finally made it to our first of many destinations: Bangkok, Thailand. The city is more Westernized than I had expected. Roads are complete with traffic lights, lane changes and actual vehicles. Skyscrapers line the panoramic view and Starbucks, 7 eleven and KFC are poking out amongst motorbike shops and massage parlors (ugh). Much different from some of the 3rd-world travel I have done before such as in Chennai, India where you share the unpaved road with virtually every moveable object from camels and cows to rickshaws and town cars.

We spent an evening at Rachel's family friend's house in a more remote part of the city. On our second day in Bangkok, we sorted out travel plans and visited some landmarks including the Grand Palace, where the King formerly lived from the 18th century until recently. We also took a boat ride down the Chao Phraya River, which offered a fascinating perspective on Thai river settlements. We graciously left Bangkok that evening on an overnight bus for Chiang Mai. The bus was quite comfortable and a sexy Thai tranny with false eyelashes and bright pink lipstick served us food and drinks along the way.

We arrived in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) early the next morning and headed straight to a guesthouse in the city to catch a few more hours of sleep before waking up to explore. We hired a driver for the day and went first to an elephant camp where we rode on an elephant named Boonmba through the mountainous jungle on the outskirts of the city. Now I can scratch elephant riding off my list of things to do in life! Next we headed down the mountain to a tiger park where we were escorted into a cage with 3 tigers - imminent death it seemed - but the tigers appeared more interested in sleep than eating us so we were able to pet them and lie on the ground with them (not my idea) which made for some great photos. I was definitely weary of supporting this particular tourist trap seeing as the reason I became a vegetarian was to support animal rights and I felt I was going against my ideals by participating, but then again, what the hell? Petting a tiger was pretty fucking awesome and when would I have that opportunity again?

Next we headed up another steep mountain pass for Doi Suthep - one of the most venerated temples in all of Thailand which sits upon a mountain top gazing down at the dense rainforest and city below. We sat infront of a glowing, golden Buddha for a while and although I haven't quite reached enlightenment :), it does feel spiritual and meditative to bask in the radiance such a divine symbol of happiness, love and peace.

The next day, we departed for Pai (pronounced BYE) in the morning, which is where we currently reside. I don't think I would ever leave this quaint, bohemian village if it weren't for Ted. Pai lies in an isolated region of northern Thailand near the border of Myanmar, nestled in a valley surrounded by a lush jungle that blankets the mountains. The town has a Berkeley meets Burlington meets the Shire (hobbit town) from Lord of the Rings feel. The roads are mini-sized and made for mostly pedestrians and mopeds though there are some vehicles. Rasta flags adorn many restaurants and bars and the smell of incense lingers around the tattoo and massage parlors.

Yesterday we checked into a charming guesthouse near the river and immediately rented a moped to tour the town and surrounding jungle. I'm not sure if I was feeling an elevation high from the 3-hour winding road it took to get to Pai or if I had perhaps been a professional moped driver in a past life, but I hopped on that thing, gunned the accelerator and headed for the hills. We immediately got caught in a rainstorm and were forced to pull over for a Singha brewski before getting back on the moped and checking out a waterfall. After too many Thai meals, we decided on pizza for dinner and called it an early night as Rachel was still recovering from a bout with food poisoning.

Today we woke up early and set out on a trek through the jungle. We were notified of a hike alongside a river by a very unofficial information booth, but we listened to the sketchy directions and fortunately did not get lost. The forest was dense and full of diverse foliage and wildlife. Upon driving the moped back to town, we (or rather I) may have possibly sped through a patch of mud a little too quickly causing the bike to veer off the unpaved road and into the brush...oops. No harm done, no injuries sustained...sigh of relief!

After our jungle trek we decided massages were in order so we headed to the nearest open-aired avant-garde massage place we could find and paid a heaping 200 Baht or approximately US$7.30 for an hour-long massage. I'm feeling pretty relaxed in Pai to say the least.

We are reluctantly leaving this hippie oasis tomorrow for Chaing Mai where we will catch a flight to Phuket in southern Thailand. But first - a savory Thai meal for dinner and live reggae music under the full moon tonight!

Hope everyone is well back in the US! If you actually give a crap what I'm doing over here, stay tuned for more blogging, if not, well, screw you too. :) Miss you all! Behms - give Ted a hug for me! Tom - still looking for a sword.... Lois - would love it if you were here! Dad - you would hate Thailand, I have yet to see a golf course. Peace and much love.

Friday, April 23, 2010

To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat?

I just finished reading the book Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. It's a witty, in-your-face guide to looking your most fabulous by eliminating processed foods, giving up unhealthy addictions and most importantly, eating vegan.

After viewing the documentary Food Incorporated two or three months ago, I've been sticking to a predominately pescetarian meal plan (that's a diet consisting of seafood and vegetarian for all you relentless meat-eaters out there). I'll slip a little turkey into my grub on occasion because, sadly, ignorance is bliss. There really isn't an abundance of information or focus on the turkey industry so I can still picture them as happy turkeys, gobbling about in the wilderness until a hunter-gatherer dressed in a primitive, raw-hide skirt comes along, killing the carefree turkey with one swift bow-and-arrow shot to the jugular. Like I said, ignorance is bliss.

Anyways, Food Inc. was definitely an eye-opener on the capitalism of the meat industry and our over-consumption of meat products as Americans. It was pretty disturbing and having heard the little piggy's squeal, I no longer find it as satisfying to bite into bacon. The idea that there could possibly be over 1,000 different cows ground up into 1 perfectly-sized burger patty has me sworn off beef. As for chicken, when I see a piece of plump breast meat, I picture all of the hormones and antibiotics that were pumped into the poor creature to give it that juicy texture. I could go on, but you get the point.

Skinny Bitch also included many revelations on the cruelty of animals and unnatural consumption of animal protein, or as the authors like to refer to it, the "dead, rotting, decomposing flesh diet." I'd have to say, their analogy of the food chain was interesting: "Look at your flimsy fingernails in comparison to an eagle's talons. Look at your flat, blunt teeth compared to a lion's fangs. Compare your speed and agility to that of a tiger. Compare the strength of your jaw to a wolf's. Imagine yourself trying to run after an animal, catch it, and kill it using your bare hands, fingernails, teeth, and jaws. Not only would you look ridiculous, but you'd probably get your ass kicked, too." This is a pretty good argument, I think. I mean, just because we can eat meat, doesn't necessarily mean we should. Man evolved to the top of the food chain because man created weapons, slaughterhouses and mass production. If lions had created these things, they'd be roaming Planet Earth instead of the idiots as we know them.

What I found most interesting was this false sense of security we have in our government (or don't have if you're as untrustworthy as I am.) Even if it says organic on the label, large conglomerate corporations don't actually give a crap whether it is 100% organic, they just want to sell their product. According to organic.org, "organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones." But in 2004 (according to some skinny bitches), the USDA made some changes to their National Organic Program standards, stating that livestock were allowed to eat non-organic fishmeal, even if it contained toxins or synthetic preservatives and cows were given growth hormones and antibiotics as long as there was a one year separation between the drugs being administered and the byproduct being produced. That doesn't equate to organic in my mind, but I'm not one of the capitalist morons working for the USDA. Luckily, after much complaint, the USDA reversed these changes shortly after. Whew! Thank goodness.

Moral of that story is don't trust anyone from the USDA because chances are they're in bed with the evil industries that supply our food. The EPA and FDA are also sleeping around with food industry top officials, so once again, trust no one. Everyone involved with our food production is clearly a bunch of money-grubbing sluts!

So why do I still consume fish, turkey and other animal products such as cheese, milk or eggs? Aside from my ignorance...which I'm really not, I just like to use it as an excuse...I think for everyone it's about moderation. I'm not going to press my food beliefs on others and I expect others to do the same....accept for the authors of Skinny Bitch, they are all about enforcing their opinions. I like the taste of fish and turkey, plus I'm not big into lentils or beans (I don't like having gas while in public) so I have to get my protein from somewhere and eating tofu day in and day out is boring. I think as long as your happy, healthy and making positive choices when it comes to putting things in your mouth, you're on the right track. You are after all, what you eat and I would personally not like to be a cow, pig, or chicken, but a turkey or fish, I can handle, in moderation of course.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Child's pose, please!

I woke up on Monday morning and decided it was time for some public humiliation. In other words, I attended my first yoga class in over two years. Taking new classes can be scary; I personally can find 100 reasons not to go..."I haven't tried that class before," "I'm running 5 minutes late and don't want to interrupt," "Downward dog makes me feel awkward," ect. But luckily for me, I was meeting my friend Lisa and felt the obligation not to bail on her, so I forced my full-of-excuses-butt out of bed and headed to A Sante.

I forewarned the instructor that it had been a while since my last yoga class. I didn't want to cajole her into taking the class down a notch, but rather wanted to constrain any laughter she may have felt when I attempted Utthita Trikonasana or extended triangle pose.

The first ten minutes I was starting to feel pretty arrogant about my yoga skills, but then again we were sitting cross-legged on the floor, breathing in and out. 'I could do this all day,' I thought to myself with a narcissistic grin stretched across my face. Of course, I wound up eating my words.

30 minutes into the hour-and-fifteen-minute class I was sweating like a nymphomaniac in church! Every time she instructed us to return to forward-bend pose, I would finally remember to breath - the one thing I thought I was actually good at in yoga! Turns out when I'm not sitting cross-legged on my mat, breathing becomes far too complicated to add in the mix of twists and bends.

I kept giving Lisa the "I'm dying over here" stare-down and thankfully she gave it right back because I don't always like being a fish out of water all by myself. Around 9:40 I glanced at the clock thinking to myself, 'shit, here we go, it's almost time for the cool down, but I know this elastic broad is going to push us to do something crazy before we get there.' Much to my dismay, I was right.

"Now we're going to enter upward plank pose," she said with a calm, tranquil tone as though we were about to get a massage, not contort our bodies in mysterious ways.

'You've got to be kidding,' I thought to myself. 'Who can actually pull this off?' At that point I finally acknowledged the 10 people to the left of me that I had forgotten about ever since the cross-legged breathing ended. I looked around at the different sizes, ages and ability levels. About 15 percent of the class (that's approximately a person-and-a-half to be clear) looked as graceful as the instructor, the other 85 percent looked like they wanted to hear the words "child pose" just as much as I did!

When it was finally time to relax and wind down, I started to feel something rather unexpected. I know what you're thinking, I probably felt a sudden urge to run for the door screaming murder never to return, but it's quite the opposite. Endorphins were clearly releasing inside my body, creating a euphoric feeling in my brain and I actually wanted to do more yoga!

That afternoon as I proceeded with my day, I felt accomplished, gratified and most importantly, more limber than when I awoke that morning. I can't be certain, but I think I've caught the yoga fever...Lisa and I have plans to attend next Monday's class for round two! Here's hoping I remember to breath past the first 10 minutes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Work that butt!

The gluteus - your butt muscles - are the largest and strongest muscles in the body. Their function is hip extension, or driving the upper legs backward, plus having a great backside can't hurt when it comes to picking up a member of the opposite sex! The female body naturally carries a lot of fat deposits in this area and because of our child-bearing nature, our bodies are more hesitant to give up these fat deposits. Activities that engage this muscle group include walking, running, jumping and climbing, but lunges, leg lifts and squats really focus on the gluteus muscle group. Engage the abdominal muscles while performing my - and Jillian Michael's - favorite squats (listed below) in order to get a double-whammy workout!

1. Traditional Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your weight on your heels. Keep your abs tight and your shoulders squarely over your hips. Sit back and down as if you were going to sit on a bench. Keep your back straight. Then stand up, straightening your legs and repeat.

2. Sumo Squat: Place your feet as wide apart as you can and point your toes outward. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for a beat, then exhale and press back up to the starting position. Repeat. This squat modification places a greater emphasis on the inner and outer thigh muscles.

3. One-legged squat: Stand with your weight balanced on your right leg. Lift your left foot an inch or so off the ground. Keep your head up and don't lean forward. Abs stay tight and the right heel stays on the ground. Don't let the knee extend over the toe. Slowly lower yourself as far as you can on the right leg. Continue for a full set on the right leg, then switch to the left leg and repeat. This modification requires tremendous balance and allows you to strengthen each leg.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shredding the pow!!

Happy Birthday to my Mom today! She would be turning the big 60 if she were still around, which I'm pretty sure she is because it was a beautiful bluebird day at Squaw, lots of fresh, deep powder to shred, and the sun was beaming down. I'm pretty certain that was thanks to her.

Snowboarding is definitely a great way to burn calories! My legs are beat after moving around that much powder! The trick at Squaw on a Saturday is to try and avoid the gapers...aka
Guaranteed Accident Prone on Every Run! I did unfortunately have an unavoidable collision with one gaping Bay-area klutz, but it was not too bad for a weekend-warrior day. Rachel (my besty) and I were able to make it to Silverado just before they opened the flood gates. It's pretty intense to witness the herds rush down for fresh lines at Squaw when a new run is open. All in all, a successful Saturday of snowboarding.

Well, I just wanted to give a shout out to my Mom on her birthday! The photo attached is of the two of us shredding the gnarly powder at Heavenly just a few months before she passed. She was a rock-star, obviously. I'm off to walk Ted then do some stretching at A Sante this afternoon. I've gotta keep these worn-out legs from getting too sore!