Archive | August, 2012

How the Trainers Eat, vol. 3

31 Aug

And now for another look at my tasty eats…

As summer is winding down (or just picking up here in the foggy environs of San Francisco), I wanted to get as much mileage as I could out of all the wonderful corn from Eating with the Seasons.  It is also the time of year for grilling!

With that in mind, I decided to grill some steaks – my favorite being a marinated hanger cut – as well as grill the corn, and then create a wonderful spicy soup that could be enjoyed either warm or cold.


6 ears of corn

1½ green bell peppers, chopped

3 T. butter or ghee

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 white onion, chopped

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. chili powder

4 red-skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped

6 radishes, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 c. chicken broth (homemade if you can)

4 dried arbol chiles


About an hour before starting the meal, soak the corn – in husks – in a pot of water.  When ready to cook, place the corn (still in the husks) and peppers on a hot grill over medium heat.  Turn occasionally, letting the husks dry and begin to char.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  Peel the husks off, being careful of any hot water that might drip out of the husks.  When corn and peppers are lightly charred, remove from the grill and set aside to cool.

In a large pot, melt the butter.  Saute the onions and garlic until translucent.  Add the potatoes, cayenne, chili powder, and salt to taste.  Stir to coat the potatoes.  Cook until the potatoes begin to soften and then add 2 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a light simmer, stirring frequently so as not to burn.

Add the radishes, carrots, and dried chiles and stir.  At this point, chop the green peppers and add to the pot.  Stand the corn cobs vertically on end and slice off the kernels; add to the pot as well.  Continue stirring to incorporate all the ingredients.  When potatoes and carrots are soft, remove the pot from the heat.

Working in batches, carefully ladle the soup into a blender or food processor and puree to your desired consistency.  Add the pureed soup back into the pot and add the remaining chicken broth to get the thickness of soup you would like.  Serve hot or cold with a garnish of fresh cilantro and a dollop of whole milk sour cream.

My First Strongman Competition

28 Aug

I’ll admit it. When I was staring at this huge tractor tire weighing 650 pounds, I was intimidated.

Why? Because it was 250 pounds heavier than any tire I had ever moved. And I had to somehow flip this thing end-over-end to a finish line 80 feet away while a judge stood right next to me with a stopwatch in his hand. I could hear my wife and friends cheering from the sideline and feel the stares of the other competitors.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “so this is what a strongman competition is like.“

Strongman is a sport with a very simple purpose. Get people together and see who is the strongest by making them lift heavy objects off the ground, put things overhead, and carry them across some distance as fast as possible.

And that was my task last Saturday in Reno for the Northern Nevada’s Strongest Man competition. I competed in five events. Each simple in their task. And each remarkably demanding both mentally and physically. I flipped a 650 pound tire, deadlifted 565 pounds, pulled a Ford F-550 weighing 8,000 pounds, pressed a log (yes, a log) overhead, and threw a 180 pound atlas stone over a four foot high bar more times than I remember.

As amazing as it was to compete, it was a thrill to also witness men and women of all shapes and sizes, college grads to forty-something year-old moms, lay it out there in each event. All of us competitors were spurned onward by the small, but very supportive crowd.

It was a grueling day in the late summer sun, but I somehow found myself in first place in my division at the end of the competition. For my efforts, I was handsomely rewarded with a full-size sword. Yes, a sword. No medal. No plaque. Just a sword.

I had such a great time, I’m hoping to compete again in October. This time, maybe I’ll have a chance to win a giant ax.

What I (vicariously) learned from Jordyn Weiber

21 Aug

I don’t know about you, but I’m going through serious Olympic-withdrawal. For two weeks the Olympics were my constant companion. And now, they are gone. All I have left are memories…

Among the array of memorable moments, one of the greatest story lines of the competition was Jordyn Weiber’s performance during the team all-around finals.

Entering the competition as the gold-medal favorite, Jordyn Weiber made several uncharacteristic falters and balance checks in her performances during the qualifying rounds causing her to narrowly miss the cut for the individual all-around finals. Upon seeing her final scores, the camera fixated on the tears streaming down her face as she realized she would not be competing in the individual finals.

Shocking as it was to everyone, consider Jordyn’s response. Instead of falling apart, she put on a rock-solid performance in the team finals only two days later. She nailed every one of her routines with confidence and grace, icing the gold medal for the US team with her floor routine.

I was amazed and inspired by her show of poise and resiliency in the face of adversity and disappointment. And I (re)learned a few things from Jordyn about how each of us can respond well in the face of adversity.

First, the profound ability to focus. We are bombarded with distractions that threaten to knock us off track all the time. Maybe it’s something someone said at work or that pesky voice in your head that begins to second-guess yourself. “Can I really achieve what I’ve set out to do,” it asks.  Yes, you can. Great things can happen when we are able to filter out the distractions and maintain a steadfast focus on doing the hard work necessary to achieve our goals.

Second, the ability to leave the past behind. No one would have been surprised if Jordyn had a mediocre performance in the team finals. But instead of letting her past define her future performance, she let go of the disappointment and excelled. This is a profound insight. How many times have I stopped short of reaching my goals simply because I had failed in the past? Perhaps too many times to admit. But great things can happen when we refuse to let our past define and shape our future goals.

And finally,  a refusal to settle. Jordyn’s performance is inspiring because she refused to settle for anything less than what she was capable of achieving. Great things can happen when we refuse to settle for anything less than our greatest potential.

We love sport competitions because, in some ways, they are a proxy for life. The athletes’ journeys are in some ways microcosms of our own. As such, I hope you will be as inspired to continue moving forward with focus, a refusal to settle, and leave the past behind, just as I am.

How the Trainers Eat, vol. 2

9 Aug

So it’s been a while since I posted any of my culinary explorations, but here is the most recent:

Curry Carnitas & Indian Style Corn

While we here at FIT generally recommend staying away from grains, this corn might be an exception. It comes courtesy of our wonderful CSA friends over at Eating with the Seasons so we know that it is not genetically modified and comes pesticide free.  And since corn is not a gluten-grain, I can safely say that it won’t trigger any digestive distress for those who are celiacs, or others with wheat intolerances.  We usually advocate for a lower carbohydrate intake, but there’s just something great – maybe it’s my Midwestern roots – about fresh corn on a warm evening in the summer (it was even rather warm at my house in SF!).

The corn recipe comes from the wonderful Sally Fallon cookbook “Nourishing Traditions”.

And to go along with the Indian flavors, the pork was rubbed with a Vadouvan curry spice, kosher salt, and white pepper.  It was then cooked “carnitas style,” meaning that it was braised in lard (about 3 cups) with aromatics for several hours (in this case chopped red onions, garlic, and cilantro stems).  Keep your oven low, and let it cook for several hours (250deg. for 3-ish hours for a 3-lb. bone in pork shoulder).

I hope you enjoy!

“Street Cred”: Tracey’s Story

7 Aug

This is a follow-up post to last week’s post on women in healthcare. Tracey is very candid in sharing her perspective. 

Fifteen years ago, while living abroad and having learned that with my professional credential as a certified athletic trainer I could not work in sport at the level I desired, I turned to personal training and individual fitness as a job for which I was qualified.  I was 24 years old, I slept on average 4-5 hours/night, drank, smoked and paid little attention to nutrition.  Although I was knowledgeable, I was not credible in my humble opinion.

I moved to California, got reacquainted with my former athletic self and began taking better care of myself.  Although I was walking the walk as ‘they’ say, my clients still objected about my credibility in that I was single, didn’t have the responsibilities of children, was young . . .you name it.

At 26, I found myself between opportunities and through equal parts ignorance, bravado and good fortune, founded a fitness facility with one of my best friends/former co-workers with whom my training philosophies were well aligned.  My responsibilities had grown, now in addition to working, commuting and maintaining some semblance of a social life, I had a business to run and employees to manage but still the objections were ever present . . .‘yea, but your single, you don’t have to worry about cooking for anyone other than yourself.’ or ‘you don’t have kids so you can work out whenever you want.’

In the ensuing 3 years all that changed but then again, it didn’t.  In my 29th year, I got engaged to my best friend who I mentioned earlier was also my business partner, completed an ironman triathlon and was diagnosed with cancer.  Suddenly, I was almost too credible.  Throw on the 2 children that followed and my street cred was through the roof, and yet . . .

I do, and have always, been responsible for the financial management of our business which has thrived for the past 12 years and has weathered some challenging economic times.  I co-founded FIT when I was 26 years old and single.  I am passionate about what I do, have lived it and continue to learn and grow as a professional.  And yet . . .

Ever since I married my business partner, the assumption that is made almost, if not all of the time, is that it was my husband’s business that I joined, that it was his passion that we pursued.  I’m unsure if this is the result of a larger bias related to female business owners or if it’s specific to the fitness industry but would guess that neither works to my advantage in establishing my professional credibility independent of my husband.

Women can, do and should play an important role in health care and health promotion.  Inherently, we offer a different perspective and insight than our male counterparts.  While I disagree with all the individuals who claimed that I lacked credibility because I had not lived it and disagree with woman who insists that a male trainer cannot work with them as effectively as a female trainer simply because they don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, I do think, generally speaking, that the compassion and insight professional women in this industry have to offer earns us a seat at the table.

Joel Black Conquers “Death Ride”

2 Aug

You may have seen him in the corner, pedaling furiously on the Watt Bike for what seemed like an eternity. And if you asked Joel what on earth he was doing, he would humbly respond, “Training.”

This year was Joel’s year. Despite difficulties in the past, this year Joel was going to complete the infamous California Death Ride.

I got a chance to ask Joel a few questions about his experience. Here’s what he had to say.

What was your motivation for taking on this challenge?

In broad terms, cycling is a hobby for me, and I’m a sucker for ridiculous dares: when I saw that there was a challenging cycling event called the “Death Ride”, I couldn’t resist. I mean, what’s a better name for a ridiculous dare than “Death Ride?” Who wouldn’t sign up for THAT? 😉

More specifically: I tried this ride in 2009, and didn’t complete it. The Death Ride consists of five mountain-pass climbs over 129 miles, and the first time I tried it, I only completed the first 3 passes. I wasn’t happy about that, and I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I rode all five passes. However, I’m something of a workaholic, and in 2010 and 2011, I was too absorbed in my job to train sufficiently. This year, I decided I had to go for it–I didn’t like it hanging over my head–so I made it my number one personal goal for the year.

How would you describe how grueling the ride was?

Well, I should start by saying that I’m not a particularly strong hill-climber, and the Death Ride is a climbing event. So it’s an especially tough ride for me by definition–which adds to the silliness of the dare.

Anyway, the way the course is laid out means that, for the first four passes, riders spend their time either climbing or descending. There’s very little flat, and it’s not a matter of many little hills, it’s all about climbing at perhaps 7-8% grade for 10 miles at a time (see the course here: I suppose an indication of the difficulty is that the riders tend to be quiet. In contrast to an event like the AMBBR 100-miler (incredibly fun ride in Tahoe each June), where people are chatting as they ride along, in the Death Ride, much of the time everyone is just heads-down, silently pushing their gears. It’s a little eerie, especially in the early morning.

For most riders, the first four passes take up the morning. In early afternoon you drop down into the river basin and ride about 20 miles of rollies before you start the last climb, which is also the longest in terms of distance. Because it’s afternoon, it’s hot, and since you’re not on mountain roads, there’s not much shade, and it’s typically a bit windy, and of course you’ve been riding for awhile, so you’re tired. All of that makes the last pass pretty tough. I saw a few riders still looking fresh and strong by that point, but most of us were just slogging our way to the finish.

In retrospect, I came to think of the first four passes as a fun and difficult challenge. Like a very strong opponent in a sporting contest–the first four passes made you earn every point, played hard, but played fair. And then the last pass came along, and the ride became a surly opponent who is going to try to take the fun out of your victory. That last 50 mile stretch is just a suffer-fest. 😉

Any fun aspects to the ride?

#1 The descents are incredible. Unlike the local climbs which involve a lot of tight blind turns that can make descending treacherous, these descents are on wide closed roads, and they last 10 miles of steep! 50 mph is easy to achieve, and not hard to control. The descents are almost worth the climbs!

#2 The first climb is from Markleeville up to Monitor Pass. From there, in the morning sun, you can look down to the east to highway 395 and Nevada. That view from the top, combined with the feeling that you climbed there under your own power, is tremendous.
How did you change your training to learn from your previous experiences?

#1 During my training in 2009, I used one brand of electrolyte drink, but then changed to another just before the event. During the event, the new drink made me nauseous, so I didn’t drink, and unsurprisingly I suffered extreme cramps in my quads, and had to stop at the top of the third pass. I believe that was my biggest mistake. This time, I tried different drinks and foods early on, then settled on what felt right and didn’t change a thing.

#2 I rode more hills. 😉 I kept working on hills until I could ride 7-8% grades without continuously thinking about getting to the top. Instead of thinking of a hill as a short pain to conquer as quickly as possible, I tried to get to the point that hills were just like flats, except that for some bizarre reason you had to push harder than normal. And you just had to keep pedaling.

How did your training at FIT help you?

FIT training helped in at least two ways:
#1 Thom and Scott like to create workouts for me that I’d really rather not do. If I was working on my own, I wouldn’t work that hard. And then they keep me laughing at myself, and keep challenging me, which has helped with the “just keep going no matter what”.

#2 As you know, I started training in earnest for the Death Ride in March…and purely by coincidence in March I tore a biceps tendon and had to have a surgical repair. Problem with that was that my doctor wouldn’t allow me to ride my bike for the first 5 weeks after surgery. Given the timing, that threatened to be a disaster! Happily, Thom offered to let me use the WattBikes as much as I wanted, and loaned me some good workout DVDs to ride along with. So that’s how I spent April, my arm in a brace stuffed with towels to soak up the sweat, riding WattBikes at FIT. It’s not the same as real riding, but I think it saved my bacon. I’d thank Thom, but it might make him think I wanted to ride more workouts on the WattBikes, and I don’t like to give him any ideas…

What are your goals moving forward? 

Back in the Pleistocene era, I used to run 10ks and duathalons fairly often. Just an age-grouper, but I always enjoyed those events. I let that level of fitness get away from me because I worked too much, but I’ve been sort of hoping to start running again, and resume events like those. And as a stretch goal (it’s a stretch because I swim like a rock), I’ve started working on swimming…and maybe someday I’ll do some triathlons.

What would be your advice to anyone considering taking on an endurance challenge?

Shoot…I don’t know anything about training for endurance challenges, but if you want to train for ridiculous dares:
#1: Don’t just blindly “work out a lot,” rather make a plan that relates clearly to your goal. Think about how achieving your _training_ goals is preparing you to achieve that _event_ goal.
#2: Keep in mind how important psychology is, in addition to physiology. Keep track of your progress, and build your store of confidence by recognizing your achievements during training. You’ll need that confidence during the event.
#3: Remember that if you don’t succeed the first time, you’re just going to have to do it all again ’til you do succeed…so you might as well give it your best effort that first time!

Wise words, Joel. You’re an inspiration to us all.