Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Meals Banned in San Francisco . . .

"McGuilty" by J Salvador

. . . and while most healthy eating advocates are rejoicing at
this news (which actually won't go into effect until December 2011 -- barring any litigation or appeal,) I personally am feeling a bit more mixed. And not out of nostalgia of Happy Meals in my younger days (though I know better than to eat a McNugget now.)

I'm all for eating more healthy and less processed foods with a half-year shelf life, but I just don't think enacting citywide bans are the best way to change eating habits, and prefer the carrot rather than the stick approach (no pun intended) as far as public health policy goes.

Instead of banning certain foods, why not further incentivize healthy eating? Engage the kids in farmers markets and kitchens, have them meet the people who are raising, growing and preparing healthy foods,
educate them about the ills of junk food.

Besides, I can see all sorts of loopholes and ways this ordinance can backfire . . . toys may be sold separately (further lining fast food companies' coffers) or parents may be buying adult-sized portions for their children since the kids meals are off the menu.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lesson & Thoughts As I Gradually Re-embrace Meat . . .

Nigiri Trio #1
So, seven months after I embarked on an animal-free April (which transpired into meatless May, jumping off flesh June and so on...), I finally gently slid off the vegetarian wagon and went back to eating meat, starting with sushi @ SugarFISH Downtown. Was it an epic struggle? A profound epiphany? Not really (and I say the same thing about starting and maintaining my months-long vegetariaism,) I simply craved sushi and decided now was just as good a time as any... it's half a year longer than my planned monthlong experiment, anyways.

No surprise to anyone, during the veg-stint most people asked me "WHY?" And as I've replied numerous times before, the short answer is really "no reason in particular" or "to see if I can do it and for how long." The slightly longer answer involves animal-eating's impact on health, the environment and humane treatment of animals. Now, I'm not PETA vigilant about any of those aspects (but I do give them kudos for their very helpful online resource on transitioning into & maintaining an animal-free diet,) but those factors combined did make me want to rethink my relationship with meat (and the quantities I, and everyone else in the U.S., get served of it nowadays.)

According to MyPyramid, someone of my height (5' 5.5"), weight (145) & age (28) should be eating around six ounces of protein a day (in meat portions, that's about two decks of playing cards worth, before cooking.) And note that I said protein, since that category (and my recommended 6 ounces a day) includes meat (land, sea or airborne), beans, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Speaking of nutrition and health, for most part my body didn't change -- I didn't drop any weight (thanks my love of dairy and desserts) and I didn't take on a sickly pallor or lose muscle mass, though my blood-iron has been on the low side (always just a bit under the requirement to donate blood) despite my regular consumption of iron-rich plant-based foods. So, in returning to meat-eating (and its easier-to-absorb heme-iron,) I look forward to making my regular pint donations again.

Having read and watched a good deal of books, essays and documentaries about the food industry, which usually pays special attention to how animals are raised, farmed, caught and slaughtered, I definitely want to be more conscientious about the meat that I do consume, and going vegetarian for this length of time helped recalibrate my food mentality; namely, that I don't need a dead animal on my plate to consider it a real meal. Heck, moving forward I may even be a "weekday vegetarian" (though unlikely to label myself as such.)

Of course, re-embracing meat in a humane, healthful and planet-friendly way is gonna be a learning process (for example, at the SUGARFISH dinner I found out towards the end of the meal that the featured seafood came from all over the world; not exactly eco-friendly in terms of carbon footprint; and as divinely delicious as the meal was, this is surely something I'll take into consideration for future sushi outings, which is simple as asking "which seafood on the menu is locally and sustainably caught/farmed?" or keeping a Seafood Watch pocket guide or smartphone app handy. Or just enjoy in moderation.)

But I definitely look forward to sharing those lessons with you here as I gradually and conscientiously step back into an animal-including diet. But in the meantime, I'll follow Michael Pollan's simple, sagely advice to "Eat [real] Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."

And in closing this post, my favorite vegetarian meal during this animal-free period -- the chef's tasting @ Melisse (with the omnivorous Mr. Grumpy)
Melisse Collage

Monday, November 1, 2010

Motivation Monday: Don't 'Phone In' Your Workouts!

While I'm pretty vigilant about working out 5-7 days out of the week, there are certainly days when I haven't given it my all. I'm sure everyone has these moments, just slogging through the motions without paying attention to precise positions, proper postures, or a complete follow-through of the movements.

So, I was rather inspired to hear personal trainer Angela Parker (of Body Inspired Fitness) to tell me and others to NOT PHONE IN YOUR WORKOUTS.

When I did a weekend bootcamp workout with her last week (more on that in a near-future post,) Angela made it loud and clear that she expects 100% participation and focus out of her attendees. And I definitely agree that the more mentally-engaged I am with my exercise, the more effective it felt and the more satisfied I am after since I *knew* that I did give it my all, pushing through limits I didn't think I could do (this time, it was doing 100 bicycle crunches in one session! Yowza for my obliques!)

I do yoga regularly so I'm aware of the mind-body connection (it takes a lot of willpower to maintain those postures!) but I was floored by how that can be channeled into a helluva active interval cardio & strength routine.

And it's not just all in the head too, if you're not focused on the workout, you're not truly engaging your body in the exercise... which means less effective fat burn & muscle-building and even a greater risk of injury (esp. if you mindlessly let momentum carry you through the motions.)

So next time you workout, instead of challenging yourself by upping your reps or sets or how many pounds you can lift... see if you can stay mentally focused on your exercises throughout the whole session. And once you notice how making that 100% effort feels, you may never wanna go back!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Smart Snacking & PopChips Giveaway!

As one of the 90% of Americans who snack at least once a day, I'm all about picking options that are healthy *and* tasty. Sometimes it can be a sweet, juicy piece of perfectly-ripened fruit, or a crunchy handful of lightly-seasoned nuts, or a decadent piece of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.

... and, when I'm craving something crispy and potato-y, I reach for popchips, which strikes a wonderful balance between regular fried chips (which, obviously, isn't healthy at all) and the baked potato chips (which is super bland with an unappealing rice-cake like crunch.) They are
incredibly light, crispy and flavorful (the sweet-tangy-spicy barbecue is my favorite, with the zingy salt & pepper being a close runner-up!)

Another plus is that they are sensibly portioned,
the individual sized bags are .8 to 1 ounce so you are only sensibly snacking 100-120 calories (compared that to the 2 oz. "snack sized" bags of regular potato chips that amounts to approximately 300 calories - yikes!)

So, I was ecstatic when the popchips folks approached me, and having found out I've been a fan of theirs for years, and
collaborated on a giveaway for more folks discover its healthy AND tasty snacks.

Without further adieu, here are the three simple steps to enter:

Comment on this blogpost with your favorite healthy snacks, twitter username and email address (or if you feel sensitive about your e-mail addy, send it to me via e-mail -- it's just so I have a way of directly contacting you.)
"Like" popchips on their facebook page. (and while you're FBing, might as well check out the newly made Foodie Fitness page too!)
Tweet " I'd like to win the @foodie_fitness healthy snacks giveaway w @popchips! " ~ following is optional but appreciated!

I'll pull winners on Friday, Oct. 15, around 10 a.m. and e-mail/DM for mailing information. Five First Prize Winners will get Popchips' coupon booklets with some serious discounts (incl. free bags and 2-for-1) and Two Lucky Grand Prize Winners will get 10-bag sampler showcasing all their current flavors!

So what are you waiting for? Enter away and good luck!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My First Trail Race @ Pt. Mugu!

Since I do enjoy a good run and a trail hike, I figure, why not combine the two loves with a trail run? Which is what I did this past weekend with XTERRA's Trail Race @ Pt. Mugu State Park.
Since this was my first trail run ever, I opted for the 11K instead of the 18, and I'm SO thankful I did
Check out the incline/decline on that elevation chart (over 1,100 feet!) And despite being less than 7 miles, running this course, with all its hills, rocky trails, and occasional sharp turns, gave my body & legs a half-marathon esque burn.
That being said, I had a fun time running the trails of La Jolla Canyon, even with throngs of people, I felt really calm & serene and just connected to natural landscape (and breathed a lot better too without having worrying to inhaling car exhaust from nearby roads.)

And, because of their no headphones rule (really understandable esp. when we were in single-file trails and people wanted to pass,) I actually was more attuned to my body, from the way my legs strided to how my feet hit the dirt and how my upper body is positioned.

Marine Layer
And while the marine layer gave the whole route a mystical feel, it also made me uncomfortably wet since my sweat isn't evaporating as quickly as it should--so next time I'll be sure to check the weather reports and dress appropriately (i.e. a top that I strip off & can tie around my waist, or at least one that wicks moisture off my body super-fast)
sweaty & shirtless
My pace time wound up being 12-minute mile, not as good as I hoped or as bad as I feared so gonna work on improving that for future trail races, something I look forward to doing again (maybe even as soon as Thanksgiving for XTERRA's next SoCal event, the Topanga Turkey Trot!)
Unibroue Apple Ephemere
Let's Be Frank's "Not" Dog
Last but not least, to celebrate, I met up with blogger-pal Caroline on Crack where I got a few brews @ Father's Office & a spiced-up Vegetarian "Not" Dog from the nearby Let's Be Frank cart. Probably not the ideal post-race recovery meal, but a well-deserved treat after one of the most strenuous runs I've done lately.
Finisher's Medal
Oh yeah, I also called dibs for wearing this swanky medal for the rest of the day--and look forward to collecting more in the future races!

A few more photos from my flickr set here, and race map & elevation profile images courtesy of XTERRA Trail Run's site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Refreshingly sensible advice from LA Times Mag . . .

Vanity of the Calves...
Pausing during an Urban Hike to capture a shot of my calves . . .

In a world full of diet and exercise fads, and a media that continually propagates them with ad-libby headlines "shed (number) of pounds/inches from (problem area) in (unrealistically low number) days," I was surprised to see that this month's LA Times Magazine had a really well-written article on personal trainer Tracy Anderson and her balanced approach to eating and exercising healthfully.

Her dozen or so tips include the obvious "don't [crash/fad] diet" & "trust your body to take out the trash" (i.e. no need to detox!) but also a good dose of self- and reality-acceptance advice, like giving yourself the OK to gain the few pounds of "boyfriend/girlfriend" fat when falling in love (due to eating out more frequently than usual,) or maintaining your discretion [and modesty] (which is what I did when I was actively aiming to lose weight, long before I started this blog, I didn't feel the compulsion to broadcast my plans to revamp my habits and have countless eyes watching me onwards -- I just did it solo, and made me my biggest cheereleader & competitor over the last 35-40 pounds.)

Anyhow, check out the article here and love to hear what you think of her advice.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Photos & Highlights from the Downtown LA Urban Hike

Downtown LA skyline
The downtown LA skyline

The August Urban Hike criss-crossing downtown LA was my funnest one yet; it was one of my shorter ones (about 6-7 miles) but practically every block had plenty visual appeal, here's some of the amazing stuff I saw during my half-day hike.

Alexandria Hotel Signage
Historic buildings such as the Alexandria Hotel and Orpheum Theater

Angels Knoll park (where I found out via tweets is where "500 Days of Summer" filmed) and the recently restored Angels Flight railway (next time I'm gonna pony up that 50-cent to get that souvenir two-ride ticket)
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Strolling by the artsy performance centers of the Bunker Hill district, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall
Olvera St.
Windowshopping the stalls and stores of Olvera Street, which happened to be the site of a street carnival that weekend.
"Peace on Earth" statue
All sorts of fun and eclectic sculptures and murals that are sprinkled throughout the area.
Grand Hope Park
The Grand-Hope Park, a little, well-manicured and nicely decorated oasis of green in the urban hustle and bustle.
Closed off LA Live
Checking out the recently developed LA Live complex (though I didn't stay too long.)
My only sore sight for the day, an Ed Hardy store in downtown - ugh! As if that entire block on Melrose isn't vomit-inducing enough.

As always, the other half of the fun is discovering the eats & drinks of the neighborhood, which I'll post about on my other blog, but here's a preview with the delicious grilled cheese from Corkbar.

Pulling Grilled Cheese Apart
More photos on my flickr set here, and as for this month's Urban Hike . . .

View Larger Map

. . . I plan to soak up the last of the sunny, warmer days in true Southern California style, with a 8-mile loop along the beaches of South Bay (Redondo, Hermosa & Manhattan -- which I shortened to "Red Herman") The planned route is below, and I plan on starting around 8 a.m. on September 26. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reminder: Downtown LA Urban Hike this Sunday, 11:45 a.m.

Spicy BBQ Pork Hash
Just a quick reminder that this month's Urban Hike, criss-crossing through downtown L.A. on Hope & Spring Streets, will start this Sunday 11:45 a.m.* with a brunch @ Nickel Diner (their 5th & Main Spicy BBQ Pork Hash pictured above.) Or, for those who want to opt out of a carb-loading brunch, meet up around 12:30 p.m. outside -- or anywhere along the way as I livetweet from @LAOCFoodie.

View Larger Map

This route is gonna be around six miles (considerably shorter than most of my previous Urban Hikes) but there will be lots to see along the way, from historical landmarks (Olvera Street, Angel's Flight Railway) to newer attractions (L.A. Live) to artsy buildings (Walt Disney Concert Hall, MOCA) and other fantastic-looking scenery.

And here are some of the fun eating and drinking options I've plotted along the way, mostly low- to mid- end and definitely casual-attire & walk-in friendly. And feel free to recommend more places to stop, asides from Nickel Diner nothing is set in stone.

As always, all you need to bring is your two feet plus comfortable hiking clothes & shoes, a bottle or two of water, and some cash for whatever you will eat/drink/spend en route. Hope to see you there!

P.S. Odd start time, I know -- but Nickel Diner informed me that they stop serving most of their pancakes at noon, so just in case any hikers have a hankering for flapjacks . . .

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quick Yoga Routine to Burn Calories & Build Strength

For those who think yoga are a bunch of lengthy, gentle stretches that does nothing for cardiovascular or strength fitness -- check out this fast-yet-effective sequence by Tara Stiles for Master the Shift - with a series of postures that'll burn calories, build core & lower body strength and of course, a great tension-relieving stretch.

And being a 5 to 10 minute routine that requires almost no equipment (I think even the mat's optional if you have a clean & non-slippery floor,) it's a great way to squeeze in some activity during a short break or to warm up before or cool down after a more vigorous workout.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Motviation Monday - Keeping It Fun

Seal Beach pier
Hiking up & down Seal Beach's Main Street and pier and checking out & tasting the local scene

Yesterday has been pure bliss, and partly because it felt so effortless and fun having an 'active' day ~ I took in a refreshing 4 mile jog at dawn to wake me up, then played tennis for about an hour and a half with a friend, broke a pretty intense sweat with a spanking new DDR machine for another hour, then took in another hour of scenic hiking at Seal Beach & Culver City.

It just made think about how getting and staying fit comes in many different forms, but the best way to make it stick is to make it an enjoyable experience. Personally for me, that means I'll never have to see the inside of a gym -- I much rather get my blood pumping & muscle moving with an outdoor run, a yoga or dance class with the community recreational center, laps at a local pool, an interval workout w weights to a DVD at home, the occasional tennis and snowboarding, and of course, urban hiking.

So I don't fit in the stereotypical mold of going to a gym several days a week (or even one day a week,) but the regimen I made for myself is still balanced in cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercises and more importantly, it's a routine I enjoy! And I honestly think that's the secret to getting and staying active, finding activities that you look forward rather than dread. And if you start feeling ho-hum about activities you once enjoyed, take a break and switch it up for something else that's fun or interesting-sounding.

And those four hours of "working out" gave me one of the best night's sleep I've had in a while.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Colorado Blvd. Urban Hike - from Glendale to Arcadia.

The Colorado St bridge is closed for some reason. Taking it anyway #urbanhike
On the Colorado St. bridge heading into Old Town Pasadena (photo credit: Caroline on Crack)

Once again, this month's Urban Hike was a hit - this time traversing most of Colorado St./Blvd. from Glendale to Arcadia. And even though I cheated a bit with a Metro Gold Line ride following a pitcher of sangrias @ La Grande Orange -- with all the side street twists & turns I still logged about 14 miles that day (Here are the maps for my hike before & after Metro-ing.)
Colorado St. Bridge
Overlooking Arroyo Seco & Colorado Street Bridge

Of course, making this hike even more fun was the company this time, from Nancy who joined me for the first half (before her legs gave out from a hill-run in flip-flops incident the day before,) to Gourmet Pigs who did a brief stroll with us through Eagle Rock, to Caroline on Crack who accompanied me for the final stretch through Pasadena and Arcadia.

As always, despite a few boring blocks, there were plenty of interesting sights and finds, such as:

1. Some funny signage, not that they got us into church for Sundays... or the dental exam chair.

2. Finding a seed bomb dispenser machine outside Little Flower Candy Co. (to which Caroline and I first thought were some funky, beyond-expired gumballs;) Caroline and I both bought one and used them on the grounds outside Eagle Rock Brewery. Here's hoping there'll be some wildlflowers there next time we go.

3. Discovering that Eagle Rock has a Sunday farmer's market at its mall parking lot, though I found its music choices (Lady Gaga, Ke$ha) questionable, or as Nancy puts it "someone isn't letting go of their Saturday night!"

4. Learning from Nancy how Eagle Rock has become a Filipinotown of sorts, exemplified by the businesses in the mall, including a Seafood City supermarket, Jollibee & Goldilocks and even a Pinoy Blockbuster.

5. The number of rampant peafowl that escapes the LA County Arboretum and into the surrounding residential area of Arcadia ~ enough to warrant a "do not feed" sign.

Like previous hikes, I'll post about my eats & drinks along the way on the foodventures blog. In the meantime, if you want to join next month, it'll be an easy afternoon five-miler criss-crossing downtown LA via Hope & Spring, starting with Aug. 29 noon-ish brunch @ Nickel Diner and hopefully ending with a fun downtown-area Happy Hour with a good dose of fun sights & stops along the way -- from Olvera Street to all the live venue spaces along Hope & Grand to Grand Central Market and maybe a swing by of L.A. Live too.

Here's the route for your preview, hope you can make it:

View Larger Map

Here are Caroline & Nancy's posts on the hike; and the more photos on my flickr set here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Colorado Blvd. Urban Hike this Sunday!

Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach, finish line for my Beach Blvd. Urban Hike last month

Just a reminder for those interested in joining, my Colorado Blvd./St. Urban Hike will start 8 a.m. this Sunday at Colorado & Kenilworth in Glendale; approximately 14 miles long, it'll go from Glendale to Arcadia, hitting Eagle Rock and Pasadena along the way.

As far as landmarks go, we'll be skimming by the downtown Glendale (maybe a sidetrip to Porto's is in order?) the main drag of Eagle Rock and Old Town Pasadena, wrapping up with a swing-by of LA County Arboretum and Santa Anita Park & Racetrack.

I've pasted a map of the route below & here are some eats and drinks options along the way. Hope you can join! If you have questions regarding logistics, parking, etc. feel free to e-mail me or send a tweet over.

And as always, I'll be live-tweeting along the route on my @LAOCFoodie account so feel free to join for even a part of the hike.

View Larger Map

Monday, June 28, 2010

The LA/OC Beach Blvd. Urban Hike - 6/27

At the Ocean
Touching the ocean at the finish point

This month, the Urban Hike goes long... really long! Almost 23 miles covering L.A. & O.C. as I tackle the entire length of Beach Blvd. from La Habra to Huntington Beach, and visiting La Mirada, Buena Park, Anaheim, Stanton, Garden Grove and Westminster along the way.

Stanton Park
Unlike previous hikes which tackled more visually-appealing parts of town, the Beach Blvd. one has quite a few long stretches of nada. Nonetheless, I had a pretty fun time -- thanks a pretty bumping hiking playlist (of GreeeeN, Funky Monkey Babys and Lisa Loeb.)

Some of my more interesting discoveries during the hike:

- Buena Park is O.C.'s Koreatown, spotted numerous restaurants, shops and oddly enough, a sushi academy (huh?) . . . plus a Pub that opens at 7 a.m. -- guess it's never too early to get your drink on!

- Knott's Berry Farm's free-to-public Independence Hall, a replica of the building where the declaration is signed. And also a lot of free-roaming chickens and ducks!

- The Old World German Village in Huntington Beach, a very cute mini-mall of assorted shops, bakeries and of course, pub & restaurant - where I enjoyed a few refreshing drinks and some pastries while watching football fans go World Cup crazy.

- Coming upon Adventure City in Anaheim, which basically looks like a traveling carnival... but permanent, along with a sprinkling of ghost towny hobby shops and a miniature replica of the White House.

- The Sea Breeze pet cemetery that's unusually full of flowers, even moreso than an actual cemetery... I was wondering whether there was a Pet Memorial Day of some sort recently but upon closer inspection, Caroline on Crack and I discovered most of the flowers were fake.

- The traffic lights in O.C. (or at least those along Beach Blvd.) take a loooong time to change, even when there are no cars on the green.

- DDR X! Finally had a chance to play the latest version at Huntington Beach's Century 20 cinema in Bella Terra. Wicked cool.

- Sun protection -- which I woefully neglected and regretted once the day got really sunny, thankfully I tend to tan versus burn, but I'm sure the two shades darker by the end of the day isn't doing my skin any favors in the long run.

Of course, I had my fair share of eating & drinking revelations too, will post on that soon on my other blog. But here's a preview shot of the tasty & healthy Som Tam (spicy papaya salad) I had at Thai Nakorn in Stanton.
Som Tam
More photos from flickr set here.

P.S. For the July Urban Hike on Sunday the 25, I'll be tackling the length of Colorado Blvd./St. from Glendale to Arcadia -- a considerably shorter 14 miles, and one that should include some more scenic attractions such as the Arboretum, Old Town Pasadena and main drag of Eagle Rock. Here's the route and hope you can join:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Urban Hike this Sunday - LA/OC edition

Almost sunset @ Pier
Hitting the beach in time for sunset in my February Urban Hike

Keeping with my (almost) monthly urban hike ritual, this Sunday I'm tackling the Orange Curtain and walking down the entire length of Beach Blvd. from La Habra to Huntington Beach.

Here's the route:

View Larger Map
Plan on starting at 7 a.m. and hope to make it to the beach before sunset (and even better yet, get to Don the Beachcomber to sneak in a drink before their happy hour ends at 7 p.m.) And here are some of the other interesting eats I've plotted along the way.

As always, feel free to join for all or part of the hike! I'll be livetweeting @LAOCFoodie along the way so feel free to catch up for even a portion of the hike.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Laguna Hills Half-Marathon

It's been a while since I signed up for a running event (Nike's Human Race in October 2009 was my last one) but the Laguna Hills 1/2 Marathon is quickly becoming a tradition for me. It's my third year participating in this event, and for good reason, great route (a mix of road and trails) with good scenery and generally mild weather.

As for my performance, I ran an 11 minute per mile pace (primarily because I ran-walk the last three miles) which I feel ambivalent about. The pace is better than expected considering my short training period this time around... but definitely nowhere near my P.R. for this race (when I paced 8' 31" in 2008) so definitely gonna train a little better and try a little harder next time around. And get some more ZZZs in the night before too (unexpectedly woke up in middle of night and opted to stay awake, another running boo boo.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vegetarianism Doesn't Have to be a Full-Time Job

Right now, I'm still running strong in my full-time vegetarianism (with no immediate plans to stop) but I just across this recent TED lecture by Graham Hill (founder of giving an illuminating speech on being a "weekday vegetarian"

For the most part, I agree -- the choice to eat meat vs. not to eat meat shouldn't be so mutually exclusive, and the choice of what to put on your plate doesn't have to be a full-on battle between the tastebuds and the environment/animal rights/good health every single time. Nonetheless, it is worth the effort to make better choices whenever possible--whether eating less meat overall, choosing meats from sustainably-raised sources and/or favoring the generally healthier white meats of fowls and seafood over red mammalian variants.

As for me, I'm taking my everyday-vegetarianism one day at a time, but I'm leaving the possibility open for eating animals should the craving strike (it hasn't yet.) And if and when I ever get back into omnivore mode--I'll know I can consume meat without feeling guilty over my body or my planet.

And I love Graham Hill's parting final food for thought... "if all of us ate half as much meat, it would be like half of us becoming vegetarians."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back on the 'board at Baldy

Thanks to the El Nino weather, the slopes and lifts were still operational last weekend -- so I decided to get back on the horse again and give one final go at snowboarding before the thaw, hopefully ending my season on a good note and not with the painful memories of a swollen and bruised bum from Mammothing.

Mt. Baldy at Dawn
Since Groupon offered reduced price lift tickets for Mt. Baldy, that's where I went. And I was surprised by the quality of the snow for late April, not nearly as slushy/icy/compacted as I would've expected -- though that could've been attributed to the recent storms that probably laid down some fresh powder.

And I definitely love how uncrowded this mountain is, definitely a great place to learn without worries of being run over or barked at by the more experienced.

As for the run itself, I finally re-taught myself how to link turns and carve (albeit with all the grace and speed of a turkey.) And I still took a few tumbles and falls but they're nowhere as hard as ones at Mammoth. But at least I ended this season on a positive note.
Snowboarding passes
Let's see how much I retain come next season . . . in the meantime, I'm definitely looking forward to hitting those end-of-season sales for some protective padded gear and, if the prices are good enough, my own board and bindings!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Maybe, Possibly Another Hike This Weekend?

Still OK to Hike on this?
And this time I got more than lack of trails to worry about!

Still recovering from my snowboarding injuries of this past week (where my red and swollen buttock is now bruised and swollen) but I'm pondering on whether to join my friends for a 22-mile hike at the Monrovia Peaks this weekend. One part of my brain is craving for some real activity, and another part is telling me not to be a dumbass and exert so much energy when I'm still very visibly injured.

One one hand, I can walk OK, even though I've given up double-stepping when going up the stairs. On the other, my buttocks and hamstrings is not a big melon-sized blotch of black and blue -- and I don't have complete range-of-motion in my right leg yet (putting on socks is still quite a feat every morning!)

And while I am hiking with friends at a steady, leisurely pace this time around, goodness knows how much help they can offer should I become incapacitated in the wild.

So... to hike, or not to hike? That is the question (and let's hope for the former that I don't wound up like Yorick!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Putting RICE on my bun . . .

Icing down my bruised, swollen butt on the Mammoth slopes;
photos on this post courtesy of Hungry Hungry Hanh (her flickr here)

This weekend I had an amazing trip up to Mammoth Mountains (my first time there), long slopes, cool little village and, of course, great company in the form of fellow blogger/twitter folks Hanh, Caroline on Crack, e*star LA, Mattatouille, Gourmet Pigs, Sam Kim, Roycifer and others.

The not so good news, while practicing/relearning my toe-turns and edges, I fell on my right butt cheek quite hard -- repeatedly. The result, a bowling-ball sized glute that makes me look like Beyonce or J Lo from one side.
Note the two buns for comparison, I can't even snap the button shut on the right back pocket of my pants! (and I've been asked, repeatedly, whether I stuffed anything into my back pocket-- nope, that's all me!)

As such, I figured it's a good a time as any to talk about recuperating after injury. Being no stranger to bruises, cuts and scrapes - I'm well acquainted with the R.I.C.E. method of recovery. Namely:

1) Rest (which, of course, means no exercises that requires glute work)
2) Ice (applying cold packs or chilly ointments to reduce pain)
3) Compress (to reduce inflammation and promote healing)
4) Elevation (also to reduce swelling)

It's no surprise that #4 is the hardest to do around-the-clock (imagine someone walking into my office and I'm at the computer or on the phone with my butt hiked up in the air!) but I do keep my behind slightly elevated, and sleep backside up, when I go to bed.

And of course, when my butt recovers enough to exercise, I'll ease back into my routine gently with yoga and some pilates work before going for the likes of cardio-kickboxing, plyometrics and running.

In the meantime, I'm being a bit more vigilant about my food intake since I'm not as physically active, and focusing my workouts on upper body exercise that wouldn't put strain on my glutes (e.g. seated bicep curls, tricep extensions, push-ups, chest fly, shoulder press/raise.)

And while I don't think this is a serious injury (already the swelling and soreness went down a little) if I don't recover in a few more days I'll definitely get an appointment with my physician. And if you're ever in doubt about the severity of your injury, do go to the doc first and let the expert decide.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Four lessons from La Brea Urban Hike and Eat . . .

Shadow of Self at Gold Line Terminal

Even if my Urban Hike and Eat didn't go as planned, I'd still consider it a fun success; but did learn a few takeaways for next month's walk.

1. Checking the route beforehand! Alas, I entrusted my hike path to Google Maps, only to discover that a stretch of La Brea along Baldwin Hills is not made for pedestrians. And so, my almost-12-mile affair turned into a 16-mile roundtrip hike (noted in above map) as I made my way back to the starting point (and beyond)
Back through the Freeway
2. Being flexible - of course, I could've easily cut my hike short and just bussed my way back after ~7 miles. But since I had the time and energy, I decided to hike my way back. On a similar note, I gave myself lots of eating/drinking options and set a pretty loose, open-ended schedule -- which worked in my favor when I found out my 1st and 2nd breakfast options were not opened yet, and I still got very delicious nosh at my 3rd stop. And of course, the choice of always hopping on a bus if I feel too exhausted, which leads to...
Still OK to Hike on this?
3. Being safe - especially important when hiking alone. On Urban Hikes, I try to pick routes where I'm always within a few blocks of a busstop, so just in case I can't hike anymore (either out of exhaustion, dehydration, or even plain ole laziness.) On this particular La Brea hike, I was intent on paving through Baldwin Hills on an improvised hiking path after the sidewalks have ended, but quickly turned around upon observing broken beer/wine bottles, used syringes and a vial of testosterone along that "trail."
My meaty legs...
4. Have fun & relax - In a recent LA Times article about marathon motivation, they found that people with intrinsic reasons for running (inner sense of accomplishment, reveling in the sheer joy of activity) are more likely to complete the entire 26.2 miles than those with extrinsic motivators (weight loss, getting a medal, etc.) In many ways I feel the same way during my urban hikes, it's a time for me to de-stress, observe the scenery, check out interesting sights... and even check myself out! And taking pleasure in the journey itself means the time and distance flies that much faster to get to the destination, if it even matters at all.

And, on that note, I've already decided on the route for my third Urban Hike and Eat slated for April 18, going past the Orange Curtain via the entire length of Beach Blvd. from La Habra to Huntington Beach. It comes out a little over 20 miles so it will be a full-day affair, but I'm really looking forward to the sights and sounds I'll encounter (and of course, the eats and drinks too!) Hope you can join me!

And here's the post on the eats I had on my La Brea Urban Hike and Eat, or click here for more photos.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Urban Hike and Eat this Sunday: from Hollywood to Inglewood!

Almost sunset @ Pier
End of the hike from Union Station to Santa Monica Pier last month

Given how happy I was with last month's Urban Hike and Eat Street Foodventure, I decided to make this a recurring (hopefully monthly) affair, discovering Southern California on foot, checking out sights and scenes I would usually miss behind the wheel - and grabbing some interesting bites and sips along the way too.

This Sunday, I'll be tackling the entire length of La Brea Avenue, from Hollywood to Inglewood. This urban hike clocks in a little under 12 miles, and with my planned start time of 7:30 a.m.--I expect to the hike to conclude by 3 p.m.-ish at La Brea & W Century - after which we can ride the bus back up to the starting point for a cool $1.25.

View La Brea restaurants in a larger map
As for the eats along the route, I've chosen a sundry of places on or near La Brea: some ethnic finds (El Nido for Nicaraguan, Ngoma for "Pan-African",) healthy joints (Stuff I Eat, M Cafe de Chaya) classic favorites (Susina Bakery, Campanile) and some meaning-to-trys (Food Lab Cafe, Soul Food Kitchen.)

Of course, I don't intend on stopping and eating at every stop cited on this map -- but these are just some fun options to consider along the way (and almost all of them are cheap-moderate price eateries) and there probably will be a lot more cool, funky joints to check out once we hit the streets (which is the beauty of the hike, we can stop whereever and whenever) If it's anything like my last Urban Hike and Eat, I don't expect the day's food bill to run more than $35.

So that being said, if you care to join me on this Urban Hike and Eat (the more the merrier, and the more grub we can try and share!) contact me! But I'm planning to be at the start of the hike by 7:15 a.m.-ish; hope you can make it too!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't Ignore Flexibility!

One of my favorite stretches after a cardio or lowerbody strength workout -- great for hip, butt and thigh muscle groups.

In the three primary areas of fitness, flexibility is often the most overlooked aspect; I see it all the time from observing and hearing about my friends' routines, they may pump some major iron or go on uber-lengthy running/cycling sessions, but when I inquire about their warm-up/cool-downs or any flexibility-related component, more often than not I get a blank stare or a quick "that's for sissies" brush off. Oh, what a big mistake.

On the surface, stretching and flexibility exercises aren't as outwardly sexy as muscle-building strength workouts, nor does it compare to the calorie burn of a cardio session, but it definitely has its own benefits that makes it an important part of any well-rounded exercise regimen. Experts agree that it helps with:

- muscles' range of motion
- injury prevention and recovery
- reducing post-workout soreness
- stress relief

And most importantly, being flexible actually improves your ability with strength and cardio workouts, since your body is less likely to be fatigued, better able to stay in proper form and recover faster afterwards, letting you work harder and longer without setbacks such as lactic acid buildup, muscle tightness and injuries, not to mention gently setting a positive mood in preparation for, and recovering from, a session too!

Personally, I do a combination of yoga, pilates and active stretches (the last is particularly great for Type A folks too impatient to stay in one posture for an extended period of time.) Sometimes it's a simple 5-minute warmup and cooldown around my usual workout, other times it may be a 30-60 minute routine dedicated to improving flexibility, but I try to incorporate it in at least three times a week.

I may not be a human pretzel anytime soon, but I'll at least be happily finding my calm in a sun salutation instead of limping around looking for ice, pain cream or pills after a race or a game.

P.S. Of course, it should be noted that if you have already strained/pulled/injured a muscle, do check with your doctor before stretching it since that may aggravate the injury -- and when it is OK to engage that body part again, just like all other workouts, ease into it progressively and with caution rather than immediately doing the "regular" full load.