Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Kick in the Mouth

Personally, I tend to associate corn with the sunnier, summer months of the year so perhaps it's due to the unseasonably warm winter we're experiencing up here in the City that I was inspired to try this super delicious- and equally easy to prepare- corn chowder. On those nights it does get a little chilly, this soup will warm you right up! Fair warning: It is on the spicy side!

                          Tangy Vegan Crockpot Corn Chowder

Gather your ingredients:
  • 2 (12 ounce) cans whole kernel corn
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 potatoes, diced (I used two sweet potatoes and one baking potato)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 red chile peppers, minced (I accidentally put three in mine! Whew!)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 3/4 cups soy milk
  • 1/4 cup margarine (I added one tablespoon of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!)
  • 1 lime, juiced

Chop your veggies and throw all ingredients (except the milk and butter) into your crockpot. Set it on "Low" for 7 hours. Carry on with your busy life in the meantime. ;)

After seven hours, transfer your soup into a blender and allow it to pulsate into creamy goodness. Return the soup to the crockpot and add the milk and butter. Stir and allow to continue heating for another hour.

Eat up! I put together a spinach salad w/ baby tomatoes, mozzarella cheese shavings, and apple slices to accompany this hearty soup.

The recipe I followed comes from the AllRecipe website. I followed it for the most part but I decided to use a little less butter in my own soup. No wonder my soup was so SPICY- I also added an extra red chili pepper by accident! Stick with one or two to be safe. Let me know what you think!

Also, here are a few fun facts about corn: 
- The high amount of fiber present in corn helps lower cholesterol levels and also reduces the risk of colon cancer. 
- Corn, if consumed in moderate quantities, has been seen to be beneficial for those suffering from diabetes. 
- Those suffering from anemia have shown positive effects after consuming corn. (This factoid is music to my borderline anemic ears!)
- Owing to the presence of thiamin, corn has been said to help in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
- Regular consumption of corn, in moderate quantities, has been associated with better cardiovascular health. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

6 Weeks of NO MEAT

Hey, all! Well, this post is prettttttttty straight-forward. Like the title up there says: I'm going straight vegetarian for the next six weeks. Well, the next five weeks and two days actually because I started this diet five days ago.

I've decided to do this for a few reasons but what really spawned the idea was watching a documentary called Vegucated. (Thank you, iTunes, for delivering on a less than exciting night in!)  For six weeks, Writer/Director/Editor and food activist Marisa M. Wolfson followed three NY-ers in an experiment in Veganism. She introduced them to the philosophy behind it, opened their eyes to the atrocities that happen in far too many animal plants around the country, and taught them about the exponential number of options they have in eating a non-carnivorous diet.

Now, I have seen plenty of documentaries that focus on the same topic, or one closely related to it. In fact, I will be reviewing a couple of them over the next six weeks right here! So often, I am turned off by the "holier- than- thou" tone of the creators. They sometimes act as if it isn't true that the taste of a perfectly fried slice of bacon in the morning is not delicious- PUH-LEASE. At that point, they lose all credibility with this girl.

In Vegucated, Marisa is much more open- minded to the idea that people probably won't want to give up all meat and animal products immediately. She "gets" that most of us grew up around kitchen tables where meat was the main course and that was that. Our food "choices" are really habits we've cultured since we were old enough to give up the bottle and for most of us- no matter how horrific the undercover footage of sadistic abuses against animals can be or how unhealthy we KNOW all of the greasy meat we consume is for us- are not going to give it up easily. Instead, all Marisa asks is that each of us learn the facts and make informed decisions about what we eat. Will we get it right all of the time? Probably not. Will we do better if we're willing to open up our minds and eat consciously? Most likely.

So, predictably, here I am feeling inspired and embarking on a vegetarian diet. I decided baby steps was the name of the game and not to try veganism just yet- Never say never, though! Over the next five weeks and two days, I'll share some of the vegetarian recipes I test, give a shout out to the NYC restaurants and cafes with great vegetarian selections, and share my general experience.... the "good", the "bad", and the "ugly", if you will. Maybe you'll be inspired to do this with me? Maybe you're a badass and can go full vegan (please share if you do!) and maybe you'll eat meat just one less time/week than you normally would. The goal here isn't to be competitive but simply to pay attention to your food choices and know what you're eating. After all, as my cousin so eloquently put it in her guest post a couple weeks ago, "one day my body will be a prison" and right now, I plan to treat it well and enjoy it to the utmost of my ability!
                                                                    Wish me luck!

                                             (Honestly, five days in, it has been 95% easy to stick to this new habit!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Club H is Kicking My Butt Into High Gear!

Hope you're all well and ready for a great weekend! I am psyched to be back in NYC- I've got the quintessential NYC weekend planned (you know, brunches in the afternoons, dancing all night, shopping and a spa trip with a friend, and sleeping in late!) but I also plan to visit my gym at least a couple times. Everything's about balance plus I've just really missed it while traveling! You may remember that this little blog all started last summer because I was moving from a building with a gym to one without. For awhile, I was just taking various classes around Manhattan and working out outside but I soon learned I prefer a "home base" so to speak to work out on my own. I need a place that I am familiar with, don't have to talk to talk to anyone in and can zone out for a bit, and where I have a routine. I found that fairly easy in a great NOHO gym called Blink Fitness but I know that it sometimes takes a little longer to find that perfect fitness home. 

With her energy and focus, it does not surprise me in the least that my good friend Rachael wanted to find just the right place to work on her health and fitness in 2012.  As you read in her last guest post, "A Detox for the Entrepreneur... Or Just a Super Busy Person Always On the Go!", Rachael first tackled the "nutrition" side of getting healthy and now she's ready to share her experience on the "fitness" aspect of the big picture. La Femme FITalle-ers, please enjoy another helpful blog post from Rachael.

FACT: Living in NYC when you are constantly on the go and you love food + chocolate with your entire heart doesn’t help when you are trying to get your body in shape. 

FACT: My body type is average; my metabolism is okay, and my motivation is poor. I literally keep a carton of rocky road ice cream in the freezer because I always get the craving for it. My husband has really had enough of me whining about my desperate need for chocolate and having to step out into the cold to get me some. I think it’s putting quite the strain on our marriage. ;)

Well, since I can’t kick my love of food and chocolate, and I can’t help that my work requires me to run around the city attending charity events for Lifestyle + Charity Magazine, it was time to face these "facts" and accept that I needed to work out.

So, I joined a gym. But here’s a little bit of history. Every time I join a gym, I am 150% in for about a week... and then I fall off the map. So, I’m paying X amount of dollars each month for no results. Great. I could use that money on clothes, but when I don’t feel good, then I don’t look good in the new clothes that I just bought. 

You know how that goes.

So Body 2.0 in 2012 is all about achieving a healthier and fit lifestyle. To kick it off, I joined Club H. It’s kind of a luxury gym, but so far after 2 weeks, I’m still going. Instead of being the loner that I usually am at the gym, I started taking some classes. What’s great about Club H’s classes is that they are really hard, fun, and you feel results right away. The second great aspect is that the class instructors cater to you; they talk to you during the workout, and they know what you are going through, while they push you. The third thing is that they blast the music. Since I love to dance and I love that high-energy scene, the louder the better because it pumps me up!
Not to be left out, the thing I really LOVE about Club H is its commitment to the community. They support over 30 charities in the NYC area. How's that for mind and body goodness?!

That’s just my experience at Club H, but here are some of the classes that are giving my body results:

SHOCK&AWE: 45 Nonstop minutes of 50% Core, 50% challenging pump. No lightweights allowed! Instructor Courtney Paul leaves no stone unturned when it comes to whipping your body back into shape in this class. Trust me.
Rebounding: An easy to follow, fun, flowing, non-impact (absorbing 80%) of the shock) cardio workout on mini-trampolines.
Kardio Kick: Kick and punch your way to a new physique with this fast paced, high energy class. Combines martial arts, boxing, and cardiovascular training to elevate your heart rate and boost metabolism.
LUNCH HOUR YOGA: Break up your day with a vibrant yoga hour crated to nourish your body & fill up your spirit. All levels.
PURE STRENGTH: Head to toe toning and body sculpting. Get ready to sweat and punish yourself to a stronger you.

Some tips before you go: wear a t-shirt (not a long-sleeved tee), bring Gatorade, and eat a healthy snack - banana, oatmeal, nuts, an egg - you’ll need it.

You can chat with me on Facebook (Facebook.com/RachaelLechliter) or Twitter (@Rach_Lechliter) for what I went through during the class. Some of it is quite hilarious. I leave you with #StrongerThanYesterday

“Socialize with those that make your heart sing.”
Rachael Lechliter
Co-Founder + Creative Director
Lifestyle + Charity Magazine

A Detox for the Entrepreneur... Or Just a Super Busy Person Always On the Go!

As the co-founder of an amazing company called Lifestyle + Charity, Rachael is an incredible go-getter. It isn't only her "Can do!" attitude that is inspiring but, more so, her focus on giving back in everything that she does. She works very hard and is a wonderful presence to be around and it is my pleasure to share her guest blog with you now here on LaFemmeFITalle. **************************************************************************************************************************************************
This year is going to be about Body 2.0! As an entrepreneur, philanthropic-party goer/host, and New York City business professional, I’m constantly putting my health on the back burner. When I don’t feel good, I’m not on my game, lack energy, and my skin suffers too. Here’s what a typical day looks like - I’m sure you share the same.

Asleep at 2 or 3AM. Wake-up between 7 and 9:30AM. When I wake up too late, then I lose the morning, which is when I try to get to the gym. So, I missed a workout that day, which sometimes happens 4 - 5 consecutive days in a row. Additionally, I have to get some emotional goodness, so I spend time reflecting on God and praying for my family, friends, and work day. I simply can’t leave this out because it keeps me grounded and focused on the important things in life. Then, the rest of the day is work, designing, organizing, writing....oh, and of course, constant communication: email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, clients, blog, instagram, and I have about 5 email accounts to manage. 

I’m not complaining, but I really need a regimen to keep my body and health in check because a big part of my job is covering events for Lifestyle + Charity and networking. I want to learn all that I can... and look good for the photos, of course! So, instead of dwelling on it, I went to a nutritionist friend for the answers. Lori Kaufman, Nutrition and Wellness Coach, who has also been published on LifestyleandCharity.com, put together a post-holiday detox kick-starter program. Before we get to the program, read about Lori and get to know someone who is so eager to help us all achieve health!

Lori Kaufman, MS R.D.H.H.C.
Lori is a Health Holistic Counselor for the Health Counseling program at the Institute for integrative Nutrition. This school is the only nutrition school integrating the 20 different dietary theories, combining the knowledge of the traditional philosophies with modern concepts like the USDA Food Pyramid, the glycemic index, the Zohe, and raw foods. Lori is also a vocalsupporter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and supports Autism Awareness.

Lori, what is your number one fitness passion?
My number one passion: Swimming. Swimming is not just about exercise for me, its about connecting with myself.  It allows me to think of what is going on in my life, and what will be going on.  It also allows me to come up with solutions for any issues I may be facing. 

What drives you to be healthy, and what are some of the obstacles you faced when you made the lifestyle change?
What drives me? Feeling good and being healthy. I love the way swimming clears my mind and makes me feel.  It also helps me focus on my day and what needs to be accomplished.

Of course, there are always a few obstacles. The major one was finding the time.  I found that once my day started, it was very difficult to get to a pool.  Now, I wake up earlier, swim and then start my day.  For me, getting up a little earlier was what helped.  It is definitely difficult in the Winter months, but I remind myself how I will feel after and just go. Plus, I pack my bag the night before!

Lori, what is a good post-holiday regimen to achieve a healthier lifestyle?
Without a doubt, the Blueprint or Organic Ave Detoxing system.

The holiday season may be over, but if you are left with a few extra pounds, cleansing or detoxing your body just may be the cure your looking for! Keep in mind that detoxing your body is not about starving.  It is about strengthening your organs that the body uses everyday to flush out the toxins that it encounters daily.  It is not just about weight loss, but it also provides your body a chance to repair itself. When you cleanse, you clear your mind, you increase your energy level, you reduce your stress and you do lose those extra pounds that you may have gained during the holiday season!

Contrary to popular belief, getting started on a detox plan does not have to be restrictive, and you can go on with your everyday lives.  It is can be short (3 days) or up to 21 days, but it should focus on eliminating toxins. If you chose to naturally detox at home to jumpstart your weight loss, here are a few simple tips you will want to follow:

1. At the start of each day, drink a glass of warm water with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.  It will help flush your kidneys, and it’s a great way to start the day. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

2. Eliminate all sugar, sugar substitutes, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol and refined carbohydrates.

3. Eat small frequent meals made up of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.  Also, be sure to limit your caloric intake to 1,200 calories a day.

4. Include raw herbs (ginger, milk thistle, lemon and fennel), which can be added to hot water to help eliminate excess toxins.

5. Increase your fiber! It will fill you up and help you have a regular bowel movement.

There are so many cleanses and detox plans available today that it is important to make sure you find the right one and always consult with your doctor or nutritionist before beginning any program. 

There you have it friends! Let’s detox and cleanse our bodies. I’ll be starting the program on January 5th. I’ll follow-up with my results. Keep me posted on yours by connecting with me on my Facebook Page!

“Socialize with those that make your heart sing.”
Rachael Lechliter
Co-Founder + Creative Director

Lifestyle + Charity Magazine


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Dreaded "R" Word- VAL

Hello, folks! How's everyone doing? I'm awake dark and early (4:15 AM) thanks to my circadian rhythm being completely out of whack! I returned home from my travels in Thailand yesterday and my body's telling me that it is 4:15 PM... Getting back on track is going to be FUN! The immediate effect is that I am wide-awake and counting down the minutes until I can head over to my gym for my first run in about a MONTH! I'm psyched- I've missed it terribly. 

Some of you may "get" what I'm saying and others think, perhaps, I should lie back down because I'm talking crazy. It's true- "running" tends to separate people into two categories: those who love it and those who loathe it. My next guest blogger, Val, is a runner. She's also a mom of four children, med student (almost med school graduate!), writer, wife, in the Army, and my cousin. She's incredibly busy and, interestingly enough, has evolved into a runner as she has become busier over the years. I find that to be no coincidence as I believe running, once you've established a routine, is one of the best practices you can do to relieve stress from everyday life and feel good about yourself. 
                                     LaFemmeFITalle readers, please enjoy Val's candid account on "the dreaded "R" word".......
This conversation took place between me and my husband a week ago after I had just walked in the door after a run at the park.

Husband:  How was your run?
Me:  Miserable as usual.  Thanks for asking.
Husband:  Welcome.
Me:  I’ve noticed you keep asking.  Do you expect that one of these days I’m going to suddenly like running?
Husband:  Well, I read that a lot of people hate it in the beginning but then grow to love it.
Me:  I’ve been running for four years now.  This isn’t the beginning.

It’s true.  I hate to run.  I force myself to run two miles every other day for various reasons, foremost of which is my desire to be fit and healthy, but I find the running itself to be miserable, on the whole.  On running days I dread it and will sometimes find a way to get the run over with early so that I don’t have it hanging over me all day long.  The aversion to running is so strong that I used to have mini anxiety attacks as I approached the track (or treadmill), so that my heart rate would be 100+ before I even started.

My husband doesn’t understand this at all.  He uses the word ‘enjoy’ with the word ‘running’ together in sentences quite often.  He actually likes the feeling of running.  He ran a 10K marathon the other day and wants to run another one soon.

It’s too late to change activities at this point.  I’ve become accustomed to running, to the particular sensations associated with it, to the particular track where I run—I even use the same songs every time and know where I should be on the track as each song ends.  To mix it up, to suggest an exercise bike, or pilates or something else at this point would be a further torture, as the adoption of these types of activities don’t come to easily to me.  Just to get me to switch from running on cement to running on a treadmill was a challenge of unexpected proportions undertaken by my best friend three years ago.  (I started out using the clip, until he said, “The only people in the gym I’ve ever seen wearing the clip are seventy-year-olds.” At which point I removed it.)

I appreciate the effects my efforts of course.  After a long break from running I started back a few months ago, and already my J. Crew pantsuit falls over my middle so much more smoothly—without any change on the bathroom scale.  Gotta love that part.  And I love shopping for running gear—my new pink Nike Therma-fit pullover is just gorgeous.  

And, likewise, I have great admiration for and appreciation of the human body itself.  The way it works, the ceaseless ten ounce pump pushing around the ten pints of blood, muscles of all shapes and sizes layered just so, the many nerves, some thick as stalk of asparagus, others not visible without a microscope, but each coursing on its path to supply something somewhere with sensation or movement.  Indeed I know a bit about this—gross anatomy my first year of medical school made sure of that. 

It’s just that most of the things I love to do don’t require arms or legs—or, for that matter, a torso.  I like to read, and write, and study, and think about things.  I like to memorize lines of poetry that strike my fancy and watch televised political debates.  I like to sip coffee and discuss things with other people like me.  Most of my life is lived inside my head.  I’ve never understood the pleasure people take in physical exertion, the sweat and searing lungs, the gasping and flailing about—it’s not for me.

And when it comes to the running, it’s not just those types of things--the burning lungs and aching chest and hip joint pain--that I hate.  I don’t like the way, when I run on cold nights, that my fourth toe on either foot turns completely white.  I don’t like how, when my elbows are bent at my sides in normal running position, the upper part of my arm sticks to the lower part once I’m sweating.  I don’t like how the shapes of my ears reject most earphones.  I don’t like how, if I’m trying to run while depressed (or while on my period) my legs feel like jello and my whole body feels weaker.  

It doesn’t help that low muscle tone seems to run in my family.  It’s not just that no one plays sports, is athletic, or even exercises, which is true.  But in addition to all of those things, there really does seem to be a genetic component to this tendency to be sedentary.  My mother refused to hold up her head until after she was seven months old, prompting my grandmother to have her examined by the pediatrician.  The pediatrician, after a quick exam, pronounced my seven-month-old mother ‘lazy’.  As for me, I didn’t walk until I was almost a year-and-a-half old, was late learning to ride a bike, and as a kid I struggled learn how to snap, whistle, or anything else requiring coordination.  Of course, my one attempt at team sports—JV soccer in high school—was a disaster.  

But, I’m going to keep running, I’ve decided.  For the obvious health and fitness benefits, of course, but also because, when I lecture patients about being active, I like being able to say that, despite my ultra-busy schedule and natural aversion to physical exertion, I manage to run two miles at least three days a week.  It feels good to not being a hypocrite.

For another thing, life goes by fast.  Working with sick people makes you think about this more than the average person.  One day I will wake up a wrinkled old bag, with bones like powder, crumbling joints, unreliable organs, etc.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, that day is coming for all of us, if we are fortunate to live into our eighties, nineties and beyond—it’s coming no matter how well we take care of ourselves today.  At some point the light will begin to flicker.  The mileage will add up.  

Knowing that day is coming, knowing that one day my body will be a prison, I don’t want to have regrets about not using my body back when I had the opportunity.  Running, as miserable as it is for me, does make me feel alive in a way that reading a book doesn’t.

I was running yesterday, and sometime just after the first mile, I began mentally attacking a problem with the book I’m working on.   A half mile passed before the sensation of sweaty elbow crevasse brought me back to reality.  I was surprised to find myself on the opposite side of the track already, with no memory of the last five minutes of suffering.  I found this to be an interesting, and promising, development.  

When my husband asked how my run was, I assured him it was miserable.  But then I revised my answer:  “Well, for a few minutes back there, it was okay.”  He raised his eyebrows and smiled.  

Yes, I suppose there’s hope for all of us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Enough Is Enough!

Hello again! Now that we are officially halfway through the first month of the new year, I know some people might be fading a bit on those goals they set a mere 16 days ago. Hopefully that isn't you but we can allllll use a reminder to stay the course. My next guest blogger, B, is someone you've all "met"once before her. She and I participated in the BlogSwap of Summer 2011 and had a chance to trade blogs for a day. It was a lot of fun and I am so happy to have her back to remind us just why it's so important to stay true to our fitness ambitions!
Hi La Femme Fit-alle readers! First I want to say “Thank you!” to Miss L for inviting me over to guest post again. When she emailed me asking if I would guest post I was thrilled. 

Then I realized that as a recent couch potato, I’d have to think of something to write about on a health and fitness blog! Let me start out by saying that I was not always this way. I did several sports in high school, and in college I worked as a manager at a major retail chain which had me on my feet, running all over, 40+ hours a week. I think I stayed skinny in law school via a mix of all night dance-a-thons and stress.  It was not at all a healthy weight or method of weight loss, and doctors often told me that. It was also unintentional. When I would get stressed out, I would simply forget to do important tasks. One of those was eating. I graduated from law school in 2010 at about the same weight as I was in high school – 105. 

Fast-forward a year, and a 25th (OK, and 26th) birthday later, and I’m finally feeling the pain of that slower metabolism everyone is talking about.  Not only that, my desk job has rid my life of any and all unintentional exercise that might take place.  The furthest I have to walk in a day is from our office elevator to the Starbucks inside of our building. If something needs to be moved, carried or brought to me, I call a runner. If something needs my signature, my secretary brings it to me.

Law school graduation, apparently practicing for a life of laziness behind a desk.

I am sure you can imagine the end result of that. Weight gain. I am now up to 120 pounds and to say I am out of shape would be a serious understatement.

You may be wondering what finally got my attention. Was it my tighter pants? Was it the scale haunting me every time I walked into my bathroom? Was it a co-worker telling me it looked like I had a baby bump (true story)? No (although the last one did make me cry). 

It was Black Friday shopping. I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my boyfriend’s family in Denver, CO.  His family has a tradition of Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving night. I was completely unaware of this tradition and did not find out about it until the moment I saw they were hoarding newspapers and mapping out the shopping plan based on an array of advertisements. 

All I had packed in the way of shoes were a pair of Bearpaws and a pair of Report booties. Who needs arch support when all I do is sit on my butt??? Let me tell you, there was no sitting that night! We started at 7:30, and drove 45 minutes to an outlet mall that was already crawling with people. In fact, some stores that were scheduled to open at 9:00 p.m. just decided to open early because there were so many people crowded at their doors. 

Now, let me clarify here, readers. This girl can shop. I can spend money exponentially faster than I can make it. I can find treasure in a outlet mall like a pirate looking for gold.

But Black Friday? I wanted to throw in the towel. I wanted to SIT. I was constantly on the hunt for a chair or bench when no one was looking. But no one would let me throw in that towel and we shopped until TWO IN THE MORNING. I wanted to cry. I was out-shopped by my boyfriend’s parents, brother and his partner. Out-shopped by a group of MEN!

Because they all had an advantage. They all work out or stay active somehow.  Not me. At least, not then. It got my attention.

The Boyfriend is on a different intramural team all year long. This is him playing his third softball game of the week that he wouldn’t even miss when I came to visit one weekend.
It mostly got my attention because I woke up Friday morning sore from head to toe.  It was like my body wanted to make sure there was no chance that I would move on from that night of tired feet, pained legs and exhausted body and go on with my life like it never happened. My calves were sore for two days. I realized then that something was wrong. I could not keep doing what I was doing. Now that I’m 26, the weight really isn’t going to fall off like it did before. And the longer I remain stationary all day, the longer it will take to get my muscles toned and in shape again.
So I decided enough was enough. I am getting back on track. I am trying to be more aware of how active (or inactive) I am being. I have started taking the stairs and saying “no whip” on my Starbucks if I absolutely have to have one. I have started doing sit-ups on my living room floor while I watch TV.

I am also trying to be more aware of what, and how much I am eating. I used to only ever eat until I was full, and then move on. Working at a desk all day is somehow really conducive to eating, and eating and eating. I have started substituting ingredients in my food (adding veggies, or buying non-fat creamer for my coffee). I have also started asking myself “Are you bored, or are you hungry?” when I’m standing in front of my fridge or cupboard, bemoaning how there is nothing to eat. 

and stopping ridiculous habits like drinking all of the champagne I can get my hands on at friends’ weddings.

They are only baby steps, but I am hoping that they are the beginning to getting back to a healthy lifestyle. My next step is to make use of the fabulous gyms in my apartment complex, starting off with some of L’s tips in this blog. 

For those of you who, like me, have been couch potatoes for too long, I just wanted to tell you to not get discouraged! I am busy and I have a habit of wanting to do everything 110% - leading to burn out in about a week.  I am trying to do this healthy-thing right.  I don’t have a lot of tips or tricks on this journey yet. I have never run a marathon like several of my work-friends just did this month. But I care about my health. You can get into shape and stay healthy.  If Crossfit or marathon training or an hour on the elliptical sound like torture, then stop thinking about them! Instead, take it all one step at a time. Twenty minutes of exercise is better than zero. And, from what everyone says, we’ll both be craving a full workout before we know it! If you are a work-out nut like the lovely Miss L, keep up the good work! I am likely totally jealous. 

I hope you guys had a great holiday season, and were able to shop a lot longer than I did until you dropped! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

REAL Rock. As in, Not the Plastic Kind.

Happy Thursday! We are in the homestretch of the week and I want to throw something a little different your way on LaFemmeFITalle today. I realize that my readers are at varying levels of fitness- not to mention have varying interests in topics- and this one is for the high adrenaline-seeking types who like to try new things and think outside the box when "working out". 

Today, Danielle will give you a glimpse at a type of sport that few people (that I know, anyway) take up. It can sound a little daunting and, if she wasn't my cousin and one of my very best friends in the world, I'm not sure I wouldn't write it off as "too hard!" But having watched her truly fall (not literally!) for the sport over the past couple of years really makes me more intrigued to give it a shot. Perhaps I will when I visit her across the Pond next time...

 I don't want to give anything away so, please, enjoy Danielle's guest blogging post!
From a former fitness enthusiast, now a climber: an
                        invitation to go outside.
Rock climbing is something  that most people have probably tried, ie. down at the climbing wall (every city has at least one) but that few have really tried—and by that I mean going to a crag and tying into a rope. Let me be honest: Pulling onto plastic rock, indoor rock—what an oxymoron—though it makes a cute(ish) photo op for Facebook, is not climbing. It is to climbing what the elliptical machine is to skiing. That is: Barely even related. 

When I first pulled onto real rock in 2009, it was on a friendly little route called Pillar Variant. I was there because climbing was something I’d always wanted to do, and I met a guy who was really into it and keen to take me out for a try (I’ve found out since that this is how so many female climbers begin…) My first route was a mere 40 meters high. They say the first route you climb is always terrifying, and indeed it was. It made anything I’d ever tried at the climbing wall seem like it happened in black and white, while this—real rock!—was in technicolor. The landscape, the adrenaline, my heart pounding … Nature is no gym. It is a million times better.
 Peak District, England

To be clear: I am not naturally athletic, strong, or brave. I am possibly the diametric opposite of all of those things. But, in the first weeks of trying climbing on for size, I found out it doesn’t take a traditional athlete to be a climber, nor does it take a lot of physical strength. Lots of people, especially women, are scared off it because they think you need to be strong; not true. 

Women, at a major disadvantage in terms of upper body strength, turn out to make some of the best climbers. (Check out Lynn Hill for one amazing example.) Our tiny fingers slip into cracks in the rock that guys can’t touch, and we’re smaller, which helps. Climbing, you’ll learn from your first time on real rock, isn’t about being strong. It’s about balance, poise, dynamic movements, timing … It’s surprisingly like dancing, as much an art form as it is a sport.
Muckross Head in Donegal, Ireland

I’m actually using “climbing”  to refer to a couple of different things. There’s sport climbing, which is where you tie into ropes, have a person belaying you from below, and you make your way up a rock face by clipping your rope into metal bolts that have been pre-placed into the rock. Sport climbing is pretty safe, as safe as climbing a route at the climbing wall. (If you’re competitive, sport climbing is a good way to channel that.)

Traditional climbing, or trad climbing, is about making your way up a rock face by placing gear into crevices and cracks that you find in the rock, and clipping your ropes into the gear you’ve placed yourself. If you have a technical/mechanical mind (ie. you like gadgets and machines), or if you’re especially independent, trad climbing is brilliant. If sport climbing is like driving an automatic, trad climbing is driving a manual: more control, more responsibility.

There’s also bouldering, which is about climbing rocks without ropes, on routes low to the ground, with mats placed on the ground below. Bouldering is about technical skill, and, for many people, the beauty of movement. I suggest trying every kind of climbing. I’m still a new climber, and have spent the past two years mostly bouldering with a bit of trad climbing and one adventure in deep water soloing (climbing on overhanging cliffs above the sea) all of which have their own charms and thrills. 

The best thing about climbing: It’s a zen thing, a teacher. Clinging to the side of a mountain with my left hand, unclipping a piece of gear from my harness with my right, I have been able to ignore the vast dimensions of space spreading out on all sides, and hone in on a tiny crack in the rock in front of me in order to correctly place that bit of gear and go on to the next move … and I can’t even throw a football.  Climbing forces you into the zone because—your body is telling you, regardless of the safety of ropes—this is life or death. And your mind responds by learning to handle stress in a different way, channeling it to help you get to the top.
Cliffs on the Mediterranean, near Olympos, Turkey 
The second best thing about climbing: It takes you to some amazing places. For me, so far, I’ve climbed over the ocean southern Turkey, in the desert in Texas, on mountains and rock faces all over Ireland, and England … And I’m just getting started. The key is to avoid convenience sometimes, to pass up the climbing wall (or the gym) in favor of something a little more primal. Your body and soul will know the difference.
Like I said, a bit on the intimidating side but I think the "pros" Danielle just listed here make it a challenge worth accepting! Have you ever tried climbing? Would you?