Thursday, January 29, 2009

Switched Plates

Monday morning, while I enjoyed my smoothie of spinach, soy milk, chocolate brown rice powder, blueberries, strawberries and a little bit of silken tofu, I gazed out the window and reflected about my diet's well... journey for lack of a better term. I thought about how I got to the point of drinking smoothies every morning. How great it feels to have a nourishing, healthy blend of foods to start my day. I also thought about how in 2008, I had absolutely no meat.
Though I became vegetarian at the start of 2007, I had meat that year when I went to Japan. My boyfriend at the time teaches English there, and one of his students invited us over for dinner. He was a very sweet man with a wonderful family. Unfortunately even though my boyfriend said we were vegetarian, they didn't really understand. They fed us meat. Since refusing food offered is one of the ultimate rude things to do in Japan, we ate it. I felt sick afterward. It was probably more of a mental thing, but I just didn't feel right.
That was the last time I had eaten meat, that is until Monday night. I went to an Italian restaurant. After making sure the marinara wasn't made with meat stock, I ordered Eggplant Parmesan while my friend ordered chicken. Not sure exactly what his meal was, I didn't really pay attention. Anyway when we got our plates they looked totally the same. Long plate with a thin something covered in cheese and marinara.
So I cut into my eggplant and noticed it was really hard. I thought, 'Wow, they really screwed this up.' I inspected the substance on my fork. It was thin enough to be eggplant, it kinda looked like eggplant, so not really thinking much further, I put it in my mouth and chewed. It was so tough! Then I really inspected the plate, the waiter came over. Then I looked at my friend, and realized, they had switched the plates. I started shaking and almost crying. Tears welled up and I was on the verge of hyperventilating. I was just so upset, I felt silly and stupid and duped all at the same time. The waiter quickly switched the plates and apologized. Then he ran into the kitchen and I heard him yelling something like, "I've gotta girl out here crying cause she ate meat!" I think it was more about him telling them to be more careful than annoyance over how upset I was. At any rate they still charged us full price. I felt bad about arguing simply because it's a small local establishment, these are hard times, and there was only one other couple seated.
For the rest of the night I felt sick like I had that time in Japan. I could clearly visualize the meat floating around my stomach. It felt foreign, and wrong and I just wanted it to be gone. People ask me if I'll ever eat meat again, and I honestly can't foresee myself at this point making a conscious decision to eat meat. It feels like a step backwards. I'm still upset over Monday, but there's nothing I can do. I trusted the waiter, especially after he made sure for me the marinara was okay to eat. It wasn't on purpose, but I'm never going back to that place again.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Orange Goodness

Posting a few awesome recipes I used last week. 'Orange Goodness' since they all include orangey ingredients, and I was sick of S-alliterated titles:

Sweet Potato Salad with Apple and Avocado
(From the February 09 issue of Vegetarian Times)

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup unsalted hulled pumpkin seeds or pepitas
1 medium red apple, diced (1 cup)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 avocado, finely diced

1. Place sweet potatoes in large saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Add corn, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, or until potatoes are tender. Drain in colander and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well.

2. Toast pumpkin seeds in dry skillet over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes, or until seeds begin to pop. Transfer to plate, and cool.

3. Combine apple, onion, cilantro and lime juice in large bowl. Stir in sweet potatoes, corn, and oil, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds just before serving.

Notes: I didn't have the hulled pumpkin seeds or pepitas, so I skipped step 2. It was still delicious without them. I used a full avocado, because honestly half an avocado is never enough. Also, I used canned corn instead of frozen. Served this on a few handfuls of baby spinach.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burrito

Notes: Click on recipe link to see it on Instead of baking everything in the tortillas, I put the black bean mixture and sweet potatoes in a food processor and then put it in the microwave for a few minutes to reheat. (Though that might not be necessary, I just timed the sweet potatoes wrong.) I cooked brown rice, and laid the rice out with the sweet potato/black bean mixture on top of warmed tortillas, and then added typical burrito fixins'. Fresh guac, sour cream, cheese and Sriracha (I prefer to call it "cock sauce".) The Sriracha gave the burritos the perfect kick, since I didn't have jalapeƱos.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash
3 cups veggie stock
1 onion (chopped)
1T grated fresh ginger (or more if you like)
3 T butter

1. Cut squash in half lengthwise, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast face down in a pan until soft.

2. When almost done, melt butter in a large pot. Add onions and ginger and cook until translucent.

3. Add veggie stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover for 10 minutes.

4. Blend veggie stock mixture with pulp from the squash until smooth.

5. Salt & pepper if needed.

Notes: I added a teaspoon or so of Pumpkin Pie spice and a little extra cinnamon to give it the sweeter taste I was looking for. I recommend using a small onion. Preferably, blend ingredients with a hand blender. Since I didn't have one, I used my blender. I was really happy with how creamy this came out, almost fluffy!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

19 Strokes

A quick post, since I've been sort of busy lately and my roommate needs to stop playing with our wifi.

Went to swim class on Sunday and it went really well... for a majority of the time. The worst part of the class was when we did the catch-up drill while holding sticks. The goal is to remain tall and the stick is used to reinforce the drill's technique. Unfortunately it just seemed to discombobulate me, and I dubbed it "the drowning stick". Luckily everyone in my lane seemed to have major issues using the stick.

Later, while counting strokes I counted 19 in one lap! That is a huge improvement from the 24 I was using just a few weeks ago. They say under 20 is great. In the article, 'Beginner's Guide to Swimming', writer Matt Bean writes: "Elite swimmers like Phelps can easily traverse a 25-yard pool in seven strokes (each hand entry counts as a stroke)." Yeah well... Phelps can suck it. If I was built like a man-sea-monster I could too.

Anyway, on my return lap from counting the 19 strokes, I surfaced to see the other coach (who during my first class made me feel hopelessly terrible) giving me the thumbs up. He said I've definitely improved and seemed really excited by this. So I left class feeling pretty awesome and optimistic about improving even more in the future.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday Morning Sweat Session

Woke up early on Saturday to catch the kickboxing and kettlebell classes at Aiki. I did my usual whirlwind wake-up, feed cat, feed self, get into workout clothes, find water bottle madness. I was a minute behind schedule, about to head out the door when I looked down to see my car blocked in the driveway. Ugh! My biggest pet peeve. I beat down the roommate's door, moaned, groaned and puffed til he bolted out the door. I was five minutes late to class and my temper was through the roof. I walked in to see the floor completely packed! Largest class I've ever seen there! I'd say about 15 people or so were punching bags and there was no room for me. I threw my gear into the women's dressing room when I heard the owner of Aiki and head trainer, Dennis Hill, call my name. He had focus mits on and told me to get my gloves on.

I was pumped! 1-on-1 training is worlds better than a bag workout. Dennis pushed me for the remaining part of class. We started and ended drills on the same time as the instructor who was teaching the rest of the class. Some of the drills we did were ones I haven't done in ages. Full minute on one leg doing roundhouse kicks, which is always exhausting. We did knee, elbow and teep (front/push-kick) drills and some blocking. Loved it, I was dripping sweat by the end and totally grateful to Dennis for his time.

By the time the kettlebell class started, I was exhausted! I had to go from my usual 8kg (17.6 lbs) kettlebell to the 6 kg (13.2 lbs) kettlebell a few times. Some people have asked about the drills I do in my kettlebell class. This kinda creepy YouTube video is actually a great demonstration of the various drills I do (I recommend you mute it, listening to his grunts and breathing is a little weird, even though I'm very used to hearing it) :

So those are a lot of the standing drills. We also do floor drills which are chest presses, crunches and sit-ups, Turkish Get-Ups (no, I haven't gotten to the child lifting stage yet) and my favorite The Bridge. Unfortunately I can't find a link showing The Bridge exercise we do, so here goes: Lie face-up, knees bent, with feet flat. Hold a weight with each hand at chest level. Squeeze butt and lift it and hips off the floor as you extend arms and press weight toward the ceiling. Bring arms down and backwards until arms are fully extended behind your head. Lift weight back up to over your head, then lower arms, hips and butt to starting position. Repeat. Sounds a lot more complicated than it is, but it feels great on the abs and works butt, hamstrings, abs and arms all at the same time. I do it at the gym with a medicine ball, and a variation of it on the Swiss ball with a dumbbell or medicine ball.

I had planned on going to the gym after my classes, but these two classes were enough! Usually I don't feel so whipped after them, but with such an intense kickboxing session and then the kettlebells, I was done for the day! This morning my shoulders are sore, hopefully it goes away before my swimming class tonight.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Salad, Soup and Spin

Went to spin class tonight. It was the guy I dislike, as he makes you "jump" the whole class. Jumping is making you stand and sit while spinning, and it sucks. It's not so bad if you stay in the up or down position for 10 seconds or so at a time, but he makes you go up and down too fast. When my knees say no more, I usually tune him out and do my own thing. Unfortunately a major portion of his spin classes are focused on this "jump" routine of his. At the end of class I finally told him that I'm not lazy or being disrespectful, I just don't want to ruin my knees. Fortunately off the bike he is much friendlier, and said that that's fine. During class though he barks and yells the whole time.

When I got home I started the Butternut Squash Soup recipe my coworker gave me. While waiting for the squash to roast, I whipped up an amazing spinach pesto. I've never made it before, and I was nervous but figured it'd be easy. Grabbed a few fistfuls of spinach, chopped up two cloves garlic, threw in some fresh parsley and basil, added olive oil and creamed it in the food processor. Put it over some leftover pasta, and it was so good!

Finally, the Butternut Squash Soup came out good as well! I added cinnamon and "pumpkin pie" spice to the recipe, and it gave it the flavor I was looking for. I think next time I will do it a little more Asian and add coconut milk. I really got into squash soup when I went to Vietnam, I had two different pumpkin soups and they were both fantastic. Will post the Butternut Squash Soup recipe this week.


Monday, January 19, 2009

January Drag

Getting back into the swing of things has been rough this winter. Took Friday off, Saturday I was still feeling exhausted, and Sunday went to NYC. New York is a dangerous city in that I want to try every morsel of food I see! There is so much to taste and savor! I had a General Tso's "Chicken" wrap at 'sNice in the village. It was tasty but even better was the bite of my friend's "Triple Decker", basically a vegan club sandwich. It was AMAZING! I need to learn how to make it!

Today I dragged myself to a workout and was pleasantly surprised. I was convinced feeling miserable would mean a horrible workout. Started off the treadmill slow and worked my way up to a decent pace. It really helped to listen to a mood boosting standby, Killswitch Engage's 'Alive or Just Breathing' album. It never fails to pick me out of whatever self-pitying funk I'm in. Burned 280 calories in 32 minutes, and ran 2.98 miles. I'm easing back into my old pace and distances.

Did core workout for 30 minutes. My core workout is comprised of exercises I've learned over time. Little by little my "exercise vocabulary" builds. Magazines and fitness classes are where I've learned most of the stuff I do. The swim class I take has a 30 minute pilates session before it, and I've learned a few new exercises. I also love working with a medicine ball. I usually do Russian twists, bridge, and sit-ups with the ball.

Finally I did a half an hour of swimming. I did a few laps of "6 kicks on side", which is a drill I learned from my swim class. Laying on your side with an arm outreached, head looking down, you kick 6 times, bring the other arm forward as you switch sides and breathe, and repeat. It's a lot easier to do in the shallow LA Fitness pool with no one in it, rather than in the deep pool at the Weston Middle School with everyone swimming. I'm a little too impatient for drills, and spent most of the time swimming laps and concentrating on improving my form. I need to do drills though, since they help to make you concentrate on one aspect of your stroke/form at one time.

Stocked up on more fruits and vegetables! Lots of avocados, pears, apples and greens. I bought a rutabaga since they are huge and cheap, and hope to make a mashed rutabaga side my coworker made for me once. Also bought a butternut squash I plan on using for soup. For the train ride back from NYC I bought a copy of 'Vegetarian Times' which had a few recipes I'm excited to try. Hope to try at least one this week.


Friday, January 16, 2009

A Mostly Raw Day

Wednesday after swimming I decided to incorporate more raw foods into my diet. In my zombie-like visit to the store yesterday, I stocked up on fruits and veggies.

I started eating a diet focused on raw food last spring. Unfortunately, I found out I was allergic to bell peppers after having major GI problems, and kind of fell off the wagon. It scared me off salad for awhile, since I didn't know what was going on. Then, by the start of winter I had become so stressed out, I was hardly cooking, and, sigh... eating Lean Cuisines.

So yesterday I ate mostly raw. I doubt I'll ever go 100% raw, or ever 100% vegan, but I do believe there are real benefits to those diets/lifestyles. Now, if you look up "raw food diet", you will most certainly run across some pretty insane sounding people. They talk about connecting with their food, being brought to emotional states by vegetables, and feeling energy not previously felt with "cooked food". Their descriptions usually remind me of 'The Ecstasy of St Teresa' by Bernini, as their descriptions of their foodgasms go pretty over the top sometimes.

When I eat raw foods, I definitely feel better, it's nice to eat a meal that's so basic, almost primal in a way. Does my "mega salad" of pears, apples, avocado, baby spinach, romaine and dried cranberries move me to states of ecstasy? Um, no but it tastes damn good, and I love knowing exactly what's in my meal. Do I think all the claims raw foodists make are silly? No, even if at first it's a little strange. With any sort of life choice, there are those who go a little overboard, but I do believe raw food is very nutritious, cleansing, and plant-based diets create positive energy.

After work, I went to spin class. The instructor last night usually teaches on Wednesdays and Fridays. I liked her a lot, and I think I'll make an effort to check out more of her classes. She was very positive but had a very authoritative presence, probably because she teaches middle school. After spin my friend Kelly and I went to "cardio pilates". It was... interesting, not horrible, but not exactly what we expected. The instructor is full of sass and bleach, and I hope I have her energy at her age.

Then, after we were done swinging body rings around in pilates, I taught Kelly some Muay Thai basics. It was a great refresher for me to teach somebody else. As I watched her, and really thought about my punches and my form, I had flashbacks to my Krus (Kru is the Thai word for teacher). I remembered a lot of their notes to me about my stance and form. It's pretty easy to remember the basic rule they taught me, "keep your hands up at all times". Very often during pad work if I dropped my hands, they would surprise me with a quick smack to the head. In this rule, I became a quick learner.

Speaking of Muay Thai, I received a shirt I ordered the other day from Antarai Active Wear. It's hard to find Muay Thai related clothes, and almost impossible to find well designed clothes for women! I love a lot of the designs at Muay Thai Stuff but NO women's shirts! I wrote a complaint in the past to them about this. Anyway, I was surprised and delighted my shirt from Antarai came in so quickly! Can't wait to wear it!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"She's a warrior."

kettlebellsThis has been an amazingly long day. It's almost 11:30 pm now, I woke up this morning at 4:50 am. I went to the 5:30 am kettlebell class with what I've dubbed the "Dad Crew". The class consists of me and three guys in their 40s?, two of which are named Sean. Anyway they do 5:30 am on Mondays and Wednesdays. The first 40 min of the Wednesday class is kettlebells, and now the rest of the hour or so is MMA. They do sambo and roll around the floor while I stick to kickboxing. Sorry, as much as I like working out with the Dad Crew, I will not roll around the floor with them, nothing personal.

Anyway, at one point while I was doing bag work I heard Sean #2 say something about me, I think like "She's really getting a workout too." or the like. Then Sean #1 said, "Yea, she's a warrior." It made my day. I much prefer working out with men, even if it makes me the minority. Very often in fitness classes the women chat about their kids or complain. I can't stand it. Shut up and work out, tea time is after class.

So after class, I rushed home and got ready for work. Work, a semi-slow day and damn the temptations! Ate a bagel and chips compliments of my company. The designers are partner rats. We eat the leftovers from meetings with partners. The spread usually involves brownies, chips, cookies, meat filled wraps, and if we're lucky, fruit salad.

After work I had about an hour and a half of free time, which was spent catching up on the latest configuration of the STD venn diagram that is Rock of Love, and headed off to my 'Swimming for Triathletes" class. It begins with half an hour of abs/pilates work, followed by an hour or so of drills. The main coach, Pascale, said I had improved already. I was so glad to hear this. Apparently I don't "snake" anymore, and my kicks are slowly improving. At this point, I'm willing to take ANY improvement. She said it was noticeable that I had been practicing.

Class ends at 9:15, but by the time I'm on the road it's like 9:40. Then it's a 40 min drive back home, oh and I had to stop for groceries. I was pretty much floating through the Stop&Shop. I'm glad I made it home. Guess what?! I get to do this whole schedule again next Wednesday! Thanks MLK JR! Ah, he's worth it, even if I DON'T get the day off :(


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Purple Belt

Tonight I received my "purple belt" in kickboxing. New belts at my current martial arts gym are never very exciting. My old gym in Hartford really made you earn a belt. When I talk about Plus One, I feel like an old woman talking about the days when I'd walk to school uphill both ways in a snowstorm. Testing was usually done in a group setting, but the trainers sat down and watched each student and took notes. They made sure you could complete the guidelines. There was also a certain amount of Thai you had to be able to speak.

Testing at Aiki, for kickboxing at least, is a breeze. The worst part is a minute of push-ups. At Plus One we had to hold the plank position for at least a minute, and they would put medicine balls or kettlebells on your back, and kick your stomach. I vividly remember grimacing and shaking and thinking how awesome it was to be pushed, and the pride I felt when I was moved up to Advanced Muay Thai, or when I received my white sash.
When you received your sash, or were moved up, you were brought to the front of the class, presented with your sash and certificate, and then ceremoniously punched in the stomach.

Now, all I get is a piece of paper, not even a belt. As much as I like Aiki for its kettlebell classes, and just a nice place to practice kickboxing, I really miss learning new techniques, sparring, and being pushed by my trainers.

Sawatdee kaa.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Hello Internet

The first post... how daunting.

I guess I'll begin with a little about me, and what I plan to achieve by writing this blog.

First a synopsis of my past few years:

Near the end of 2006 I was pretty depressed, constantly tired (I was convinced I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a tad overweight and out of shape. I spent most of my free time on the couch, and if I did get up to socialize, I usually drank way more than I should have. My life had become a boring routine and I was left feeling constantly unfulfilled. One day I decided I had had enough of being tired, constantly sick, and altogether miserable. I signed up for Muay Thai classes at a local martial arts gym. I also started going to the gym at my apartment complex a few times a week. Most drastically, I decided to go vegetarian.

At the beginning of 2007, when I started to take things really seriously, I lost about 20lbs. I was constantly covered in bruises from sparring, but I wore each bruise as a badge of honor. Even as a thin teenager I was always self-conscious of my thighs, but for the first time ever, I wore shorts and showed off my newly sculpted (albeit bruised) legs. I had more energy and I felt pretty amazing. Mid-2007 I moved down to New Haven, CT and started working as a web designer at a company I actually like. I was psyched when I saw that they have an employee gym, complete with towels and showers!

In 2008 I resolved to go to the gym at least 3 times a week. This quickly turned to 6 or 7 times a week. I mostly stuck to the elliptical, strength training with kettlebells, and doing kickboxing. I had made some amazing progress over 2 years and I was ready to really push myself. In May I decided to start running. I could barely run 5 minutes at first, but quite gradually increased both time and speed. Mid-June I began running outside, something I had attempted many times before but couldn't do. After a lot of research and trials of methods, I finally found ways to reduce the occurrence of the dreaded "runner's stitch" I would always get. With this resolved, I began adding miles. In September I ran my first 5K, finishing with a net time of 25:15, and later in October finished a 5k at 24:12, and placed 3rd for my division. By the end of the season my morning runs were reaching 7 miles.

During all this, I had also started biking a lot more. Since I was already running and biking, I thought, why not swim too? I joined a gym with a pool, and started swimming on a regular basis. At one point I decided that 2009 would be the year I would try my first triathlon.

Over the course of 2008 I had done a lot of research into nutrition, exercise and triathlon training. I follow a few blogs, and I'm always interested in how others tackle such a unique sport. Since there aren't that many triathlete bloggers that are vegetarian, I thought I could add something to the community. I hope to post recipes I enjoy, as well as my nutritional methods, book and product reviews, athletic inspirations, and the trials and tribulations I'll encounter while obtaining my goal. Basically, I hope to be the blogger I was constantly searching for. Hopefully there are people out there who will actually be interested! If not, it'll at least be a documentation of my lifestyle, and a place where I can reflect on my progress and an organized catalog of recipes and memories.