April 27, 2011

Paleo on the run!

Or... Oh crap! I'm gonna miss my bus and I'm hungry!

I looked up at the clock on my computer and realized I'm merely minutes away from needing to catch my bus home and I haven't even started gathering my stuff to hit the door. With at least an hour bus commute to and from work, I'm usually ready to hit the door with exactly enough time to get to the busstop on time. I try not to be one that gets so wrapped up that i work more than i have to. I take public transit (I hate traffic and am single handedly saving the earth from CO2 overload), have an awesome dog that needs my attention, I cook -a lot, and simply like my own time, so i dont have time to waste at working more than i'm paid. Now when the weather is less than ideal, like this rainy evening, the commute can stretch out a bit. Thus, it's usually even more of a priority to get the hell out of work on time.

Today I lost track of time while i was drownding in project management administration (you as excited about it as me? Thought so.). Oh no, it's time to go and it's raining outside and I don't have any of my stuff together. I'm hungry and thirsty to boot. Dammit! *Shaking fist* Objective: get something edible and thirst quenching, for time!
I swiftly packed up by throwing my belongings into my bag and walked briskly to the kitchen. Keep in mind I still haven't been given the okay to run/jog or anything of the like so I can really only shuffle QUICKLY. I opened the fridge and looked in my drawer. "hmmm..." grab, grab, go! My paleo snack on the "run" ended up being a square of meatloaf that I had in my hand already being munched on before I could leave the building, celery sticks, and toasted coconut flakes. I managed to get my protein, veggies and fat in one fail swoop! Hooray for being at least slightly prepared. All I have to say is that I'm thankful I prep food ahead of time. I try to minimize the hungry, grumpy girl on the his as much as possible. This helps a little. Now I just have to try and not let the disgruntled girl on the bus come out while being flabbergasted at Seattleites not being able to drive in the rain.

April 25, 2011

Broke Back Betty

The shoulda coulda woulda of healing from back surgery.

It's tough going from feeling your fittest, your fastest, and your strongest to feeling weak, tired, and exhausted. Well, I think it's tough anyway. I think it's tough knowing that you're going to have to start over again, that you have to give up for a while. Sure, life shouldn't revolve around trying to be fit or get fitter, and it's not, it's so much more than that. For anyone who has suffered from body issues, from fat days to eating disorders, you understand it's a really big goddamn accomplishment to be happy with your appearance. More over, you know the absolute mental fortitude that got you there. Body image has truly little to do with actual appearance. I'm sure I'm not saying anything profound, but feel it needs to be stated. The reason why this so called "journey"of a back injury has been so mentally crushing at times is because I was (AM) so absolutely proud of how far I have pushed my body and mind to grow healthy and strong. Being confronted with such a physical set back has made me question so many things about where I thought I was and where I want to go. Not to say reflection is bad, in fact it's necessary to move forward, but it can be awkward, uncomfortable, frustrating, and scary at times. I start wondering if I truly came as far as I thought I had. Knowing that I had no choice but to take some kind of step or leap backward was and has been a difficult thing for me to process.

It kind of goes like this... You stare at yourself knowing that you have so much more to give, but your body needs to recover and your mind needs to rest. It's a mental game you play with yourself. It's just plain tough as f* to know that you are about to become less fit (mind you, only in the short term) and have to give up the things that you love for a little while (once a gain, I refuse to listen to "can't" or "won't" statements). You have no choice but to sit on the sidelines and watch the other kids have fun. It's not like you just stopped making time for training or started eating donuts and stopped caring. No, that is what so many other people do. They become less fit because they made a choice to stop pushing themselves, because they "didn't have time", because it was no longer a priority or important, because eating cupcakes and heavy drinking is more important. You're not like that, like the others. 

Any injury produces a little frustration. And sometimes there is a lot of frustration and that's ok. It's a part of healing in my eyes. I try to turn my frustration, anger, and fear into something useful. These are the things that get me motivated to fight back, to come back faster, stronger, and even more badass than I could ever imagine! I wish I didn't have to deal with the back injury. I wish all of us could be injury-free and just train hard because being broken just sucks. But without the broken bones, torn muscles, scars, or blood we'd miss out on a whole different kind of endurance. These are the moments that allow us to bounce back and crank the volume up to 11!

This broke back betty won't be broken forever!

April 21, 2011

Asian Style Broiled Salmon

This was a quick and dirty recipe I pulled together to spice up some salmon I pulled from the freezer the day before. It was a perfect way to make an otherwise unexciting piece of salmon absolutely delicious! Awesome for a weeknight because it's wicked fast and ridiculously good.

The marinade makes enough for about 2-3# of fish, depending on how thick you like it. I'm all about sauces, so I piled it on. I only had about 1#, so I put the rest in the fridge to be used up soon (maybe mixed up with a can of salmon over some greens?!). You could also drizzle it over the cooked salmon if you truly like sauce. I let the fish marinade while I pressure cooked some squash and threw together a raw kale salad, probably about 15 minutes.

Broiled Asian Salmon:
1-3 lbs. Salmon (thawed if previously frozen)

2 small cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. wheat-free tamari soy sauce
2 Tbs. virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Approximately 2 Tbs. sesame seeds (used to sprinkle over fish before broiling)

Place all marinade ingredients into a medium sized bowl and combine with a whisk. Place salmon on a plate and drizzle marinate over flesh. Note, if the salmon has skin, only marinate the flesh side. Spread marinade over salmon surface and then sprinkle with desired amount of sesame seeds, flip and do the same to the other side.Go make your veggies! After you give it a 15 minute or so rest, transfer fish to your broiling pan/rack. Turn on the broiler and place the pan/rack inside the oven, closest rack to the heating element (I used a toaster oven on the broiling setting). Broil for 5 minutes. Flip and broil another 5 minutes or until done. Time will vary depending on the thickness and size of the pieces. When done, pull from the broiler and allow to rest for about 10 minutes (time to get your plat together). Enjoy!

I will be making this again, so I will update with photos. I didn't document the process because I didn't expect it to be so delicious! Mmm mmm!

April 17, 2011

PT at the bus stop

One annoying thing about battling leg/back pain for so long before finally getting relief is the associated aches and pains from muscle overcompensation. Not only does the original injury make you wanna scream, throw things, pout, and rage, but now certain muscles are been taxed to do extra work or different work to make up for the slackers that aren't working or can't keep up with the demand.

Now that I'm coming up on 9 weeks post second surgery, I can really start trying to get those muscles that shut down back into fight'n shape. This means I return to physical therapy this week and get back to the physical punishment(fun) that I'm used to! How exciting! According to my surgeon, 8 weeks is one of the magical milestones in the healing process when you can step up the exercise a notch. Ok, my surgeon didn't say "magical" but wouldn't it have been grand if he did? Eitherway, 4 weeks and 8 weeks post surgery are mini milestones. I was only allowed to walk for the first four weeks, then I could add light elliptical (oh... goody.) and really light bench presses. He said, "you know, light weight, high reps." I'm like, "oh hell yeah, I know all about that!" Which then translated into 300 benchpresses with an 20-25# curl bar. Come on, he said high reps. So for the last 5 weeks I've been able to remind my arm and chest muscles that they could push something off or away from me if they had to. Additionally, last week I added the stair machine to nowhere to my routine. Its actually been a welcomed change as well as a reminder that muscles quickly forget. Thankfully, they also quickly remember... 

Due to the overcompensation, I'm back to dealing with knee pain and clicking that I was previously able to rid myself of by growing up big and strong, as well as added various aches and pains. However, even though this is round two, I intend to win this one again! I've got the experience and knowledge that'll knock the ancillary pain out of the ring no doubt. However, with that being said this means working on PT OT. I'll need to seize my opportunities to do all the leg stretches and kicks that'll get me back to fighting shape. I'll be just like Molly Shannon's SNL character, Sally O'Malley (And I kick, stretch, and kick!) what this really means is that I will be performing my various moves for the public while waiting to cross the street, at the busstop, or contemplating a cut of meat in butcher's case. Its true, I'll be one of those weirdos standing on the corner of the street performing high kicks and leg stretches not merely to entertain you or give you something the laugh about, but so I can kick ass in my next WOD or trail race... Watch out Seattle, you're about to encounter someone who cares far more about healing and being fit than the latest color of stretch pants or f'd up hip haircut.

April 13, 2011

Boo for Back Surgery, Yay for Sweat, Blood & Blisters!

For reals son. I understand enduring injuries is to be expected when you're an athlete, when you push yourself to brink of sheer exhaustion, when you over analyze micro-movements in hopes that it'll help your PR...  Sometimes injuries give you pause and make you be creative with your training, to train a body part that you otherwise ignore. Other times they level you, mentally and physically. Now I don't want to sound like a whiner, but dealing with a back injury for 9 months is getting a little old. Its completely taken me out of my normal game, out of the mountains, off the pavement, and made me put the olympic bar in the rack to collect some dust. And honestly I'm really & truly pissed about it the whole thing. By far there are many 'a people out there suffering from much worse that have much less and far worse health insurance than I do. I am thankful for what I can do, for my creativity (and insanity) when it comes to training, for my strength and tough freak'n mutha of an attitude, and I'm especially thankful for the encouragement I get from the people around me. I am truly grateful. With that said, I still get PISSED now and again that I have to deal with it. I get pissed and frustrated that I can't brush off the daily minutia by hitting the pavement or trail, throw weights around to calm my nerves, or simply chase a bus down the street... Perspective is great, but sweat, blood and blisters are better. 

My family demanded proof that I was
actually resting as much as doctor's orders. 
After 6 agonizing months trying to rid myself of severe glut & leg pain with every conservative method imaginable, I came to the decision of going in for my first ever (and second*) surgery, a microdisectomy on my L5/S1 disc. Now in the grand scheme of back surgery a MD is no big deal, in fact it's all the rage these days it seems (just start talking to people about back surgery... It's like 1 or 2 degrees of separation). Surgery just weirds me out. Your bones, joints, organs, and muscles should just happily reside in the space in which they developed. Your body should take care of itself. I've spent so much of my time thinking and practicing "proper nutrition" and "fitness" and for what?! Apparently so I can recover faster and exercise more in recovery than most "healthy" Americans do on a daily average. People will tell you that they woke up from surgery pain free other than a back ache from the surgery itself. Assholes. My response should let you know that I didn't have such a lovely experience. No, I couldn't possibly just be satisfied with one surgery. Oh no, not me. If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it right! Three lovely weeks after my first surgery I was back on the operating table going in for my second. The damn disc popped right out again. But that lovely story is for another day... 

Before surgery I did a lot of research. I mean a lot. I read and read and watched animated videos, and then real videos of the procedure. I don't like to be surprised when it comes to my body and sharp instruments. This is the one time I don't want surprises. I have a tendency to get obsessive and this my friend was no exception. Now, I can take pain. When you push & challenge your body on a regular basis, you understand pain. It's about making a decision about how you're going to handle that pain. I was not prepared for the pain aftermath from surgery. I never thought scooting around in bed could be so painful. I have never needed to start a timer to ensure timely doses of narcotics only to stare at the timer willing time to go faster so I could take more. Thankfully this dreadful period only lasted a few days. I truly hate taking these things. I like to be in control. I like to feel my body and listen to its cues. Apparently, at the time it was telling me to give up the tough chick bullshit and take some damn pills. 

Before surgery and during my initial recovery phase, I read several support forums for people recovering from back surgery. I had to stop. Reading other people's stories was paralyzing. I was turning an already anxious situation into one that was not healthy or conducive to a glorious & triumphant recovery (would you really want it anything less than glorious or triumphant? Oh hell noh!). I decided that it wasn't a healthy activity to occupy my newfound sedentary lifestyle with horror stories or stories about how they'll never do <insert activity here> ever again. I have enough demons in my head, I don't need more. I had to be positive and realize the amazing challenges (opportunities) ahead of me. Now, not all that I read was depressing, scary, and down right upsetting. I found solace in a few people's experiences and especially appreciated the smile I got every time I read the unapologetic posts of Patagonia sponsored climber, Kelly Cordes. Now this man is absolutely hilarious and just refuses to quit. I love that about him. He is a climber, he doesn't do climbing. It's a part of him, so it's unacceptable to him to think that after each one of his injuries that he wont be back out in the mountains some day. There is no if, just when. This is how I feel. I refuse to allow anyone to tell me that I can't do something. I know it's going to be a lot of hard work. Hell, it's already a lot of work.... I look forward to the new challenges ahead of me. Bring it on!

I'm grateful that I can tie my shoes again, that I can walk my dog & bend down and pet or feed her, that I can walk as far as I want, that I can sit for longer than 30 minutes, that I can pick something up off the floor, that I can walk to the grocery store and carry more than 10# of food home... I look forward to lifting heavy again, doing pull ups, sit ups, squats, & burpees(?!??!), to going hiking & trail running, to riding my motorcycle, to picking up my 60#+ dog and giving her a big hug...

To be continued...

April 9, 2011

Coconut Yogurt! Mmmm...

Do you really need to find a reason to eat more coconut milk?!? Of course you do! I tried my first attempt at making coconut yogurt. How fun! It gave me an excuse to use my food dehydrator while fulfilling my hankering for a tart, creamy treat.
Oh coconut, I think you're swell.
The fat content of coconut milk used to deter me from even looking at a can of coconut milk let alone cook, bake, or straight up spoon it into my mouth. I'm now (mostly) over my fear of fat, a struggle I endured for many 'a years with much failed results. Note, abstaining from fat doesn't make you a strong, lean, fighting machine. In fact, it does quite the opposite. Fat is at the very core of your existence, it holds your little cells together! Without good cell health, you can repair! If you can't repair, you can't get stronger! See, good quality fat is GOOD for you! Yes, FAT is GOOD. 
I want to take a moment to thank the USDA, FDA, AMA, American advertising, etc. for filling my head with a bunch of nonsense about the dangers of fat and the promotion of a low-fat diet. Nonsense. I'm currently reading Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories to gather more information on how we turned from a fat-eating society to a grain-based, higher carb diet. It's time to hear the other side of the story. 
On to the delicious coconut yogurt! This is based on a recipe from Mark's Daily Apple cookbook, The Primal Blueprint. Now this cookbook is full of relatively easy recipes but I have to say the pictures are absolutely atrocious. I love cookbooks. There are really two requirements for them. They need to have great recipes (a given), and if it has pictures they need to be damn gorgeous. This cookbook, not so much. However, if you pick it up don't be deterred by the pictures. Buy it and give a try. I think you'll be pleased. I also consulted Small Footprint Family . This is a cute little blog I just stumbled upon. The auther suggests making your own coconut milk, but at this stage in my life (commute, schedule, obligations, new to Paleo), I'm taking it as a sheer miracle that I'm making homemade yogurt in the first place. If you have the time or inkling to make it from scratch, go on with your bad self! 
Coconut Yogurt:
2 14-oz. cans full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup non-dairy/coconut yogurt (from previous batch or store bought. I actually used coconut kefir for this first attempt)
1 Tbsp honey, agave, or natural maple syrup
Candy or other thermometer.
Place the coconut milk in a small pot and affix the thermometer to the side. Bring the coconut milk to approximately 125 degrees over low-med heat, stirring often. Pull off the burner and allow the milk to cool to approximately 105/100 degrees. Place 1/4 cup of already made coconut yogurt in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the slightly cooled coconut milk and stir. Stir in the sweetener and return to the rest of the cooled coconut milk and stir. Please note that you need a little bit of sugar in order for the good bacteria to grow. The sugar, like in kombucha, should be mostly eaten by the bacteria leaving a deliciously tart yogurt. Place coconut mixture into sterile glass jars and place in the dehydrator between 105 - 115 degrees and leave alone for at least 24 hrs. I left mine in for approximately 29 hrs because it was still a bit sweet for me at 24. This could have been due to the kefir I used or the temperature. Basically, if you taste if and like the taste, it's ready!
Please note that both MDA and SFF suggested using GIProStart yogurt culture starter from GI ProHealth if you're looking for a non-dairy based culture. I may give this a shot next time. 
Off to enjoy some homemade coconut yogurt/kefir over apple chunks and cinnamon!