Friday, February 27, 2009

The D Report: Not a Cure All

Too bad there aren't any studies out there saying that vitamin D is a cure-all for what ails you. While I've upped the D intake, even resorting to the multivitamins when I think I'm falling short the natural way, I still haven't noticed any visible perks. And this week, I even think that I've regressed backward in the eat your vitamins it'll make you feel better category. Maybe it was the weather and the gloom that's hovered over the Windy City for most of the week, but I've felt in a mental funk and have been slogging around all week. OK so part of that goes back to the sleep dare, but one would think that adding some vitamins to the mix might help--or at least that's one claim I remember drilling into my head.

So aside from my dragging, I've been sticking to the D diet as best I can. I think I do need that added boost from sunshine to get the full recommended value because it's tough to keep drinking milk and yogurt throughout the day (if I had to eat ice cream for the D fix I'd be hooked) and I'm constantly eating salmon but even that gets old after a while. Egg yolk is another good source of D, but to be honest, that's my least favorite part of the egg. I could trick myself into eating the entire egg by adding it to a brownie batch but that obviously wouldn't be good for the rest of the system.

My glimmer of hope for sticking to eating D involves another shout-out to my mom (she helped inspire my grapefruit post). She's crediting her careful monitoring of more calcium and vitamin D--she was starting to enjoy basking in the sunlight on the deck as much as her plants this summer--since her last doctor's visit for her more positive bone scan results. Last time she was on the brink of having osteoporosis in multiple spots across her body and now her numbers show less weakness. Studies show that good levels of vitamin D in the system can help the body absorb more calcium.

Even for me and my sluggishness, especially in the beginning of the week when I really paid attention to my D intake, there is a bright side. I'd love to approach my later years with healthy bone scans in part due to the habits I picked up now. Photo grabbed from Loren Sztajer at flickr. Posted by Kate

Banish Boredom On Your Indoor Rides

I logged about 60 minutes on my trainer last night and was happy to have the Tuesday and Wednesday eps of The Biggest Loser DVRed to help pass the time (how fitting that this week's challenge was a 24-hour ride on a bike trainer). Side note: I love you, Bob! It was painful watching your heart break when your boyz and girlz got sent to the black team! You get so invested in your clients, it's beautiful to watch. Okay, end of side note. But I don't always have good stuff in my DVR queue, which is why I was thrilled to learn about a cycling site in the comments of a LifeHacker post. Dave over at (named after the pain cyclists willingly endure on their trainers through the winter to stay in shape for those glorious spring and summer rides) makes video podcasts that help pass the time on your indoor ride. Sweeeet! I can't wait to download some of his rides off iTunes. He also posts every few days, waxing poetic about the plight of riding indoors. One of our brethren, for sure. Photo grabbed from sirwiseowl at flickr. Posted by Liz

May the Force Be With You

Consider trading yoga for Yoda during your next workout. Pick up your lightsaber, tie your hair in Princess Leia-style buns, don a brown cloak and get ready to learn the teachings of Yoda and the way of the Jedi. Not to prep you for an audition to be an extra in the final three Star Wars episodes should George Lucas decide to finish out the series, but so you can apply that fanaticism to fitness.

The Jedi workout is the latest craze hitting the fitness floor, calling out to Star Wars fans, gym-shy peeps and anyone who's dreamt of playing with a lightsaber (haven't we all at one point or another?). Developed in 2005 by a Star Wars enthusiast who goes by Master Flynn, the workout consists of moves you'd see one of the episodes' fight scenes--the Rebound, Follow-through and the Lock.

The kicker? Flynn says that he never intended for it to be a workout. "The class was originally about appreciating swordsmanship and performance," he says. But those who visited his classes found the moves appealing and in practice, managed to shed some pounds. Swinging around a lightsaber in a combination of martial arts moves and stage combat know-how harnesses an upper and lower body workout plus cardio. And for classes that run two hours a pop, that beats any strength session in the gym.

Flynn orginally started a forum on his website that had people worldwide sharing saber moves and skills. By 2006, he was teaching a class in lightsaber battling in New York City. It has become so popular that he has partners teaching in Los Angeles and running a site

Even if you're not living in the Big Apple or the City of Angels, you can practice and learn at home by checking out You don't even need a lightsaber--a broomstick, a massage stick or even a stickball bat would do the trick.

Just think of how pleased Yoda and the Jedi Force would be. Photo grabbed from xddorox at flickr. Posted by Kate

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 2/27

I can't believe it's already Friday, this was one of those weeks that simply flew by. Over some lunch al desko (leftie Salmon Vindaloo!), here's what I'm digging today.
  • One airline is contemplating charging passengers to use the loo. Man, times really are rough.
  • The news that no diet emerges as "the best" from a recent study broke earlier this week, but the comments on the NYT's Well Blog suggest there's more to the research than meets the eye.
  • A reminder that the Kona IM lottery closes on February 28 for all of you on-the-fencers. Click here to register.
  • For those of you in Chicago, obsessed with the weather like we are, the forecast calls for 15 days straight of clouds. C'mon, Mother Nature, throw us a bone!

The Awesomeness of Peppers: Spicing Things Up

Last night my husband left me to do the dinner cooking for once. He'd been cooped up inside all day and wanted to meet friends for a quick beer in the evening. I'm the sous chef in our kitchen--like navigating new cities, cooking is one of those things I'm meant to assist with, not lead the charge. The dish? Salmon Vindaloo*, a dinner we concocted months ago out of leftovers, and which has stayed in rotation ever since. He scribbled out the directions, grabbed the food out of the fridge and--poof--he was off to the pub. No prob!, I thought to myself, I've totally got this covered. And I did, until I discovered he'd left me a looooot of chili peppers and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to use all of them, or some of them, or what. We both like our food spicy, but the sheer number of peppers--eight, I think--seemed excessive.

I brooded about it for a bit, then remembered an article I'd read a day earlier in Bon Appetit called "The Spice of Life." The piece looks at all of the awesome body benefits we get from eating spices, including increased satiety, a rev-ed up metabolism, a boost in nutrients, and disease prevention. (Check out the article for the full litany of health benefits.) I went for it: I chopped 'em all up and put them all in the dish. And even though I broke a little sweat from the heat, I was glad I did. Posted by Liz

*Matt & Liz's Salmon Vindaloo

1. Chop the peppers, onions and potato.
2. Season with salt and pepper and cook the potatoes for about 5 minutes in a tablespoon of oil. 3. Add the peppers and onions and another tablespoon of oil and cook for a few more minutes. 4. Set aside the veggies.
5. Cook the salmon for a few minutes on each side in the same pan.
6. Add the veggies.
7. Spoon in 2 tablespoons curry paste and a can of crushed tomatoes.
8. Simmer until thick. Then serve over Basmati rice.

Photo grabbed from zrim at flickr.

Carpe Recession!

Love this post by the Merry over at Cranky Fitness, about living every day as if you've already been laid off. In other words, do the stuff now that you think you'd only have time for if you were unemployed. Knowing my worry wart–personality, losing my job would cause a freak-out so big I'd never have the time or desire to do anything except frantically try to drum up new work from the confines of my apartment. But here's what I'd like to think I would do if my schedule suddenly "opened up" (and FYI: I really hope it doesn't!!!!!!)....

1. Make my own headboard.
I'm 29 years old, married and my bed still looks like it belongs in a college dorm room! I don't have the pennies to spend on a fancy one you find at a furniture store, but I think I could make my own.

2. Do yoga.
There's a yoga DVD on my living room shelf, and every time I catch site of that poor dusty box, I think about how good it would be for me--body, spirit, etc--to strengthen and stretch with some daily asanas.

3. Swim more often.
I'm always* battling other swimmers for lanes at the busy UChicago pool. With the ability to make my own schedule I'd go at non-busy lunchtime hours.
4. Get to know my bike. I've wanted to get my bike adjusted to my body and form for more than a year. But I find a zillion other more important things to do every weekend, so my bike doesn't fit me too well. Bonus points: Learning how to change a tire and take the bike apart.

*Once a week, on a good week. Posted by Liz

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 2/26

I've been inundated with links in my inbox the past few days, but finally set aside some time this morning to clear them out and hunt for some noteworthy news. Here are some favorites I've stumbled upon.
  • Need a new exercise for working the core? My hips, in dire need of strengthening, perked up when my eyes spotted this side plank at FitSugar.
  • Ever since my mom confessed she needed to shed her growing buddha belly, I've been telling her that she has to exercise in addition to watching her caloric intake. Now I have proof to back it up: A study released on Tuesday says that more exercise and fewer calories matter more than the type of diet you're on when it comes to weight loss. And she didn't trust me when I said the gym was her friend.
  • My day wouldn't be complete without a little online shopping especially when it involves savings. Skirtsports has a sale on some of its tri gear through midnight on Feb. 27. Get tanks, shorts and skirts for race day and training at prices up to 70 percent off. I'm wishing I didn't replenish my wardrobe in October.
  • Check out Rudy Project's free gear deal where you can score more than $250 of stuff.
  • Today is National Chili Day. Treat your stomach to a ski resort favorite that's hearty and relatively healthy (especially if you omit some of the butter) with this recipe for Deer Valley Turkey Chili.
Photo grabbed from Marchissimo on Flickr.

Food, Fun and Fitness...with a Rocky Mountain Slant

There was no Hootie Hoo celebration Wednesday night after the celebration of Top Chef (sob). While Liz's wishes for Carla to be named the Season 5 winner of Bravo's Top Chef didn't come true, Hosea Rosenberg's win made me have Boulder on my mind. I'm addicted to food as much as I'm addicted to fitness so I was trying to devise a way to tie them together--and create an excuse for a vacation at the same time. So here's the idea: Have your fun with fitness, and eat it too by planning an active Colorado adventure.

I'm heading out to Colorado next week for a ski trip and am currently plotting a way to make it to the restaurant Hosea works at in Boulder, Jax Fish House. Boulder embodies the endurance lifestyle as many of us probably know, and many of us in the Chicago flatlands probably wish that we could visit--or even better move--there for both key training and catching glimpses of our favorite endurance athletes (I know I wouldn't be opposed to having Cam Widoff or the Reeds leave me in the dust at a Stroke n Stride). And with flights readily available from Chicago to Denver--and at falling prices--now's as good a time as any to head to the Rockies. Well with the exception of Hosea's new-found fame possibly affecting the crowds at his stomping grounds, Jax.

Here's a list of fitness options, with an endurance athlete focus at hear, in the Rockies, plus a dining spot to refuel afterward:

  • Backcountry skiing. Want a taste of the backcountry experience without needing the avalance knowledge and equipment to actually venture out? Reserve a spot at Keystone's KAT Skiing adventure where you can take secluded runs all day in a snowcat transporting you up the Independence Bowl. Talk about fresh powder and quad burn. Best part is the refueling is built into the package: You lunch at a yurt in the bowl. Soup and sandwiches elevated to gourmet style plus enough dessert (cheesecake when I was there last year) to stop any stomach growls.
  • Snowshoeing. Prepare for the running season ahead by tackling a snowy field on snowshoes. Not only are you exploring trails but you're elevating the heart rate. And if you can time it right to be within driving distance of the Keystone Nordic Center during a full moon, you can sign up for the Full Moon Snowshoe where you take an evening tour of the trails (without missing a ski day) then head back to the lodge for a filling soup dinner. Help yourself to endless bowls of homemade soups, plenty of bread and top it off with homemade cookies and ice cream. If Top Chef was solely a soup competition, these guys would be the victors.
  • Kayaking. If you have even a few hours to spare in Denver, beeline to the REI flagship store downtown and rent a kayak. You can put-in from the store and take a paddle down Cherry Creek and back. Who said a metropolis couldn't have an assortment of active pursuits? To refuel, I'm going to divert to a list of Denver hot spots Rachael Ray shared on Tasty Travels. I can't locate a buffalo tourist trap I went to years ago and my brother-in-law jokingly recommends a Mexican themed sideshow Casa Bonita, neither of which would be deemed Top Chef worthy.
  • Mountain biking. Take to the trails in and around Boulder for this activity that will keep many a Coloradoan pedaling unless there's a massive snowfall. Not to mention, Boulder is a bike-friendly city so you won't feel like you're doing something wrong by choosing two wheels over four. After a day-long battle with the singletrack, head to Jax Fish House to check out Top Chef winner Hosea's culinary expertise. If you got to dine at Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard's place Scylla (in Wicker Park/Bucktown) before it closed, then you know you'll be pleasing your tastebuds and your tummy. And if it's too crowded at Jax, check out other Season 5 contestant Melissa Harrison at her Boulder locale: Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace.
  • Hiking. I don't know if it's the best, but Rocky Mountain National Park certainly has some of my favorite hikes west of the Mississippi. And with the elevation creeping up to 13,000 feet on some of the peaks, it kicks your metabolism into high gear while adding super strength to your legs. Totally worth the drive into the Boulder area, refuel with fine dining at the Flagstaff House. It's received acclaim from Road Tasted on the Food Network and in Bon Appetit magazine.
  • Skiing. It's still winter and the ski season is in full swing so why not head to Vail, the largest ski area in Colorado, topping 5,000 skiable acres. You can ski miles to give your legs a full workout and burn more than 2,000 calories a day. And being in the Vail Valley, you have fine dining and an array of cuisines at your fingertips. I'm a fan of seafood spot Montauk in Lionshead, Bully Ranch tucked away in the Sonnenalp and Blu's along Gore Creek. But there's so much to choose from--including fine dining spots like Sweet Basil and Left Bank--you can splurge or go cheap and feed that hunger either way.

Well, I've made myself hungry and yearning for a workout after writing this list. Not to mention, I'm really yearning to ski right about now. Too many hours on a spin bike and the elliptical due to cold, snow and a lack of motivation to go running have had me living in a gym since December. I'm ready to log some endurance miles somewhere else. Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Contest for Outdoor Cash

We're all a little strapped for cash these days. But if you're part of an outdoor organization looking for a little extra help, or any help for that matter, listen up. You and your organization could be the recipient of a $50,000 grant and national ad campaign courtesy of Redwood Creek wines. But you only have until March 1 to add your org to the list of worthy warriors.

Known for its wines and involvement in the outdoor community, Redwood Creek established the Greater Outdoors Project, which recognizes and supports nonprofits that share the company's commitment to preserve, protect and provide access to America's great outdoors. Now the company is partnering with Planet Green, a 24-hour eco-lifestyle network and the first of its kind, to help improve America's outdoors. All an organization has to do is apply online at for a chance of receiving a $50,000 grant that can then be used to fund an outdoor project for that group. And the winning organization also will be featured in a Redwood Creek ad campaign that will appear in outdoor magazines in 2009 to help the organization drum up awareness about its mission and project.

And any project that shows dedication to outdoors improvement is eligible. Think projects like cleaning up the Great Lakes or collecting litter off the Appalachian Trail. For example, the first $50,000 grant was awarded to the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited to fund the Camp Creek Restoration Project. Camp Creek, near Madison, Wis., needed some water quality improvements and increased fishing opportunities.

To apply for this year's Greater Outdoors Project grant, outdoor nonprofits have to submit an application online, which includes submitting a statement of purpose, budget, proposed timeline, a photographs of the project. And each proposed project needs to be complete by Dec. 2010. Then a judging panel comprised of those active in the outdoor community, including Redwood Creek winemaker Cal Dennision, will sit down to review the applications before voting opens to the public. Beginning April 1 through May 31, any outdoor enthusiast can vote for their favorite applicant online or via text message. The number of votes helps determine the eventual winner.

I'm curious as to how creative some of these organizations can get. And apparently so is Cal Dennison at Redwood Creek who says the company has benefited from snowmelt irrigation in the Sierra Nevadas. "We are proud to reward those who are taking a stand to preserve the environment and are watching over America's precious lands."

Photo grabbed from ecokate. Posted by Kate

Hootie! Here's Hoping For A Carla Victory on Tonight's Top Chef Finale

Hello, fellow Top Chef fans. I'm all a-flutter in anticipation of tonight's finale. Will arrogant, over-it, trash-talking Stefan continue his snoozeville reign? Will I-kissed-Leah-and-still-feel-weird-about-it Hosea man up and be the seafood maestro his food has lately hinted he could be? Or, will the awesomely-lovable, crazy-haired, I-put-love-in-the-food-and-it-tastes-awesome-too Carla win the judges over with a final meal that tastes out of this world? I guess you can tell who I'm rooting for. Go Carla! FYI: If you're a Top Chef addict like Kate and I, you should surf over to TOC's site tonight for some live blogging by a crew of very funny and talented food writers. Photo courtesy of RealityTVMagazine. Posted by Liz

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 2/25

I'm a little giddy this morning because my best friend from high school just got engaged and I heard all the happy deets last night. Exciting!!! Anyway, now that I'm finally finishing up my second mug of coffee, and here's what's grabbed my attention so far this morning. Photo grabbed from Marchissimo on Flickr.
  • Not good news if you like a glass of vino at the end of a long day. All the major news orgs broke the news from a Britain study that finds drinking alcohol significantly raises a woman's risk of cancer. The WashPost sorts out the deets.
  • Erin over at FitBottomedGirls gives a new workout, called Jyze, a go.
  • Shape Magazine attempts to answer the eternal Q: Why do we continue to diet?
  • It's baaaack! The SELF Challenge, the mag's annual kick-butt, body-toning, pound-melting plan promises to get you fit in just three months.

This Just In: Stressed? Your Sweat Session May Suffer

Interesting news from the American Physiological Society. You're less like to perform well in a workout if your mind's whirring. How the study worked: A group of 16 people rode a stationary bike with at least 60 revolutions per minute in two different bouts on different days, with the same amount of sleep and pre-workout food and drink. Before one session, each group member did an exhausting mental task that required close attention, memory and a quick reaction. After undergoing this session, participants reported feeling tired and lacking energy. The control session consisted of watching neutral documentaries for 90 minutes and was not mentally fatiguing. Here are more deets from the press release:
  • The participants stopped exercising 15% earlier, on average, when they were mentally fatigued.

  • The participants stopped at the same perceived effort level in both the fatigued and non-fatigued trial. However, mentally fatigued participants started at a higher level of perceived effort and reached the endpoint sooner.

  • The cardio-respiratory and musculo-energetic measurements did not vary between the two trials when compared at specific points in time (in other words, the mentally taxed folks showed no physical, muscular differences--it was all mental). However, because the non-fatigued trials went longer, heart rate and blood lactate levels were higher at the end of those trials.

  • Motivation was the same in both trials and was not a factor.

Next up, the scientists want to look at whether mental fatigue lowers the brain's inhibition against quitting, or if mentally fatigue affects dopamine, a brain chemical that plays a role in motivation and effort. And here I thought hitting the gym was the best way to say sayanora to stress?! I think, personally, that this is the take away: If a workout is your stress-buster of choice, by all means, stick with it. Just keep the taxing work and personal life stuff to a minimum before a big race or crucial training session, because it could make it a little tougher to perform to your best potential. Posted by Liz

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bring Back My Peanut Butter, Part 2

When I first freaked out over the peanut butter recall, I never expected it to reach the heights that it has. Last week I was still catching news about either peanut butter, salmonella or the Peanut Corporation of America, and I'm still seeing signs at the grocery store about which products are missing on the shelves and why.

While I flipped out over not being able to eat Clif and Luna bars for snacktime, then Balance bars and an assortment of other nutrition bar products, it turns out that not all bars are banned. PowerBar, through thick and thin, is still safe to consume. And with a selection of flavors and styles, there's enough variety to please anyone's palate.

The best news of all comes from the company itself. PowerBar asserts that none of their products are affected by the salmonella traced to peanut butter and peanut paste ingredients traced to the Peanut Corporation of America. Not to mention, none of their ingredients are sourced by or purchased from PCA. Double yay, no pulling products off the shelves for all the bars out there.

Don't know where to start with snacking? Try a PowerBar Plus...I went home with a handful after the Chicago Marathon one year and had to hide them in the kitchen so I wouldn't eat them so quickly. And they're perfect for keeping you full during long hikes or bike rides. Check out the selection at PowerBar. And for more risky foods that can lead to food-born illness, check out this story I ran across recently at Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

Change One Thing and Spark a Healthy Chain Reaction

Throughout the month of February, Kate and I have embarked on a few "fit-dares." We've been having a lot of fun learning more about ourselves and making new habits as we've tried changing one part of our lives at a time: logging eight hours of sleep, meditating for ten minutes a day, and, most recently, eating the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D.

It's amazing how one little change can influence other, seemingly-unrelated parts of your life. While I was trying to amp up my hours of shut-eye, I found myself turning off the TV earlier each night and cutting out caffeine after my morning coffee. Those are random side effects, but such good ones. While I've been improving my intake of D, I've found myself eating more fish (instead of pizza) at dinnertime and snacking on yogurt instead of vending machine Chex Mix during the day.

Recenlty, I wrote a story for SELF Magazine about some real women who changed one thing in their diets (the article appears in the March issue that hit stands this week). Each woman found that one thing was the spark they needed to cause a healthy chain reaction. One woman simply started to pre-plan her meals and snacks and ended up losing 130 pounds, getting into exercise and finding the confidence to join an Improv class. Another woman decided to stop eating out of boxes and found that she threw away less trash, improved her bone density.
Totally inspiring stuff! Photo grabbed from Snelvis on Flickr. Posted by Liz

The D Report: New Study Says Vitamin D Prevents Colds and The Flu

Like Kate, I've been trying to amp up my D intake this past week. I've been pouring more glasses of milk. I've been making salmon vindaloo. Last night I cooked up Gordon Ramsay's cod and tomato dish (yum). What I've learned: It is a little harder to get D than I thought it would be. I like milk just fine, but I don't drink it regularly. I could use more of it. Ditto for other sources, such as fish. I came across a study released in today's Archives of Internal Medicine that will bolster my resolve in making D a daily thing. We all think of Vitamin C when it comes to quelling a cold, but new research suggests D is king for fighting the flu. Below, the dealio, gleaned from a press release and Photo grabbed from Posted by Liz
  • Circumstantial evidence has implicated the wintertime deficiency of vitamin D, which the body produces in response to sunlight, in the seasonal increase in colds and flu; and small studies have suggested an association between low blood levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of respiratory infections.
  • In the largest and most nationally representative study of the association between vitamin D and respiratory infections, people with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu.
  • Study participants with the lowest vitamin D blood levels – less than 10 ng per milliliter of blood – were about 40 percent more likely to report having a recent respiratory infection than were those with vitamin D levels of 30 or higher.

The Daily Feed: Sites We're Surfing on 2/24

Since Kate and I spend most of our lives in front of our computers, I thought folks might be interested to see a few of the sites and stories that give us pause each day. Enjoy! Photo grabbed from Marchissimo on Flickr.

Weird But True Sarah Jio of Glamour Magazine's Vitamin G blog dishes on how the celebs got toned and trim for Oscar night.

The Big Birthday Fit Chick Selene Yeager waxes poetic on how it feels to turn 40 on her Bicycling Magazine blog. Since I will turn, gulp, 30 in a month and a half, this one hit home for me.

Outdoor Flavor to an Indoor Workout Vicki Hallett of the WashPost's MisFits health blog does a test run on the RealRyder, an indoor bike that simulates outdoor cylcing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lusting After Ironman

Every once in a while I get on tangents where I'm obsessed with various fitness finds. You already caught me on my skiing trip (be warned that may start again when I head to Colorado next week), but I've been known to dig deep for Olympic trivia, talk about spinning like I live on the bike (OK, in the winter I sort of do to keep in shape), lament about marathon woes and drone on about Ironman. I think I've behaved up to this point in the Ironman department, not talking too much about the sport, if at all. But with an important deadline approaching, the temptation to post was too hard to resist.

If you've ever considered racing an Ironman triathlon and either need some prodding to make it to the start line or consistently miss out by the races filling faster than you can sign up (OK, maybe not that fast but close), the Ironman lottery might be your ticket. And to the start line in Hawaii at the Ironman World Championships no less. Maybe you missed out on registering for one of the other 2009 North American races--Ironman Wisconsin, Coeur d'Alene, Lake Placid, Arizona, Florida and Louisville still have community spots open but the others in Canada and Cozumel are listed as closed--you can still snag a chance at reaching an Ironman finish line in 2009. But you have to act fast because the Ironman lottery closes on February 28.

For $35--nominal if you tally the $525 to enter the race plus the fees for getting and staying in Hawaii--you can give yourself a slight chance of gaining entry to the Ironman World Championships to be held in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island Oct. 10, 2009. The lottery will fill 150 spots for U.S. citizens--100 of which are reserved for Ironman Passport Club members--and 50 for international competitors. The odds of winning may not be high, but hey some chance is better than no chance.

Time is running out to nab even that slight chance of making it to the Big Island this October. The lottery registration closes at 11:59 p.m. PST on Feb. 28 with the lottery winners names to be announced on April 15. And while it might sound like it's impossible to have your name selected for one of 150 spots, 50 if you're an international racer or not in the Passport Club, it is possible.

A friend got lucky in 2007 and won a spot to the coveted race. She entered on a whim just before the deadline then found out a few months later that she could race in Kona. Talk about something too hard to pass up. It gets even better: She had 30 seconds of fame on TV, too. I'd post the video clip except the file seems to be corrupt, but she finished just ahead of Brian Boyle who was a feature story on the NBC broadcast of the race. Who says luck doesn't strike twice?

If you want a chance to race with some of the best triathletes at the Ironman distance, it's worth a shot to register. Just like me and my near-Ironman registrations for 2009 (I sat on the computer debating a sign-up for IM Florida and IM Louisville before talking myself out of it) I'm contemplating the chance to head to Hawaii. It might be the only chance I get on the famed course. Photo grabbed from talesfrom30b. Posted by Kate

Recession Bites: Do Lean Times Mean Leaner Bodies?

In the early days of my first magazine job, an older, wiser, much-more-senior editor told me the story of her early days as an editorial assistant. She was skinnnnny, she said, because she had so little money to spend on food. "I would buy a pretzel from the guy on the street and that was my breakfast and lunch," she lamented. (Side note: Yikes.) Well, it wasn't like I was making a mint myself, but I guess the salary had improved over the decades because I could afford more than a pretzel for lunch each day.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how the current blah economy is influencing our food intake and spending habits. Are we all on our way to becoming skinny-minnies since we're all in penny-pinching mode? Certainly, super-pricey restaurants like Alinea must be feeling the pinch. But if that's the case, then are super-cheapo spots, especially fast food restuarants, rolling in the moolah? And if they are, aren't we on our way to becoming even
more overweight as a nation, since eating at places like the Golden Arches tends to be highly caloric and uber fatty? Friends, I do not know the answer, but I found a few articles that look into the topic. Photo grabbed from kmrphotography on Flickr. Posted by Liz
  • Fast food nation: The sequel, in The Guardian, says fast food joints are kicking some butt in the sales department.
  • Huff Post's Paula Crossfield looks at how the bottom lines of these chains are changing how we eat.
  • Funny post on Gizmodo about how to compute when you'll literally have to tighten your belt.
  • Probably the first time the phrase Recession Diet was coined, the NYT looks at how rising food costs influence our waistlines.

A Reason To Organize Your Race Stuff

It never fails that the night before a race, I'm scrambling to find the gear I need. Night before Accenture 2008? Totally couldn't find my neoprene ankle strap for my chip. Night before the downpour that was the Chicago Half Marathon? The hat I wear in the rain was nowhere to be found. I have a few "spots" where I tend to put stuff, but there's no method to the madness. My goggles and swim caps go in the top drawer in the cabinet in my foyer. My gels and race snacks go in a bowl in a random kitchen cabinet. My hair rubberbands and heart rate monitor strap go in a little box in my study. My bike tools (mini pump, netting thing for my aerobar bottle, etc) are split between a drawer in my bathroom, a box in my study and a linen closet. So...yeah, I guess it makes sense I can never find anything when I need it! To the rescue: The Container Store announced this morning that it's offering a 20% discount on ALL of their merch through March 1. I'm coveting this drawer set ($30 on sale), which would roll neatly into a closet and easily hold and organize all of my random race stuff. Photo grabbed from AngieSix at flickr. Posted by Liz

Jessica Biel: That Oscar Gown Didn't Do Your Rockin' Bod Justice

Not to go all Fashion Police on last night's red carpet, but I have to admit I was quite disappointed with Jessica Biel's gown. Why should I care? Well, she's one of my favorite rock hard celeb bodies. She's my fit-inspiration.

I love how she's always captured in her workout clothes in the pages of US Weekly...she's got the most enviably toned arms in all of Hollywood--only Lost's Evangeline Lily and Madonna give her a run for the money, in my book. (FYI, Fitsugar wrote about her workout a ways back.) Anway, this dress did nothing to showcase her smokin' hot, ripped-yet-feminine, athletic bod. In fact, the weird ribbon/bow fold cascading down the front of the dress actually made her look a little thick in the middle--which is pretty much like defying gravity. And her hair...what happened there? It looked all stringy and greasy. My guess: She got into her workout groove yesterday and was so busy logging extra lunges and triceps dips at the gym that she didn't have time to properly primp. Photo grabbed from Maggiejumps at flickr. Posted by Liz

The D Report: Kate's Day Three and Four

Without the sunlight to keep my daily D in check, I think I'm forever screwed in meeting my recommended values. More because it's not as easy to find the vitamin as I initially thought. I already had problems finding amounts on my favorite breakfast, and a trip to the grocery store only reinforced the difficulties with getting D. I figured I'd try to get more D by scouting out the cereal aisle, only to learn that Cheerios and Total, cereals I thought might be fortified enough to be loaded down with D hardly offered even a fraction of the daily recommended value (drv). I thought Total would be a shoo-in since it has 100 percent of the other vitamins and minerals. Disappointed I left the cereals on the shelf.

But there were two glimmers of hope from my shopping expeditions. Yoplait yogurt does list vitamin D on its label, so if I switch to eating that this week, I know I'll be getting 20 percent of my drv. And Trader Joe's surprised me with a rare treat in the frozen section: cod. Not only could I now try Chef Ramsay's hake recipe Liz shared, but hopefully the relationship between cod liver oil (rich in vitamin D) and cod was strong enough to give me some D so I wouldn't be stuck eating salmon all week. According to, cod does offer between 15 and 20 percent--better than nothing. And grilled with a little sweet onion marinade, the fish tasted pretty good too. But I still have to work on adding more dairy, and especially egg yolks to the mix so I don't have to resort to using a supplement. Posted by Kate

PS In the meantime, does anyone know about any cereals that might have more vitamin D than Cheerios and Total?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fit-Fact: U.S. Hockey Team Wins Gold

Regardless of the sport, anything relating to the Olympics excites me. And while you might be wondering how this relates to Fit-Ink, this is one Olympic fact that I didn't realize occurred on this day. And it's one that year after year keeps its notoriety among the sports annals. Now the drumroll for today's Fit-Fact...

The Miracle on Ice happened 29 years ago today. On Feb. 22, 1980, the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviets in Lake Placid at the Olympics Games to come one step closer to winning the gold medal. The Soviet team was considered to be the best amateur team of the time and the U.S. team barely skated by, 4-3.

Thanks to The New York Times for sharing this bit of Olympic trivia--I spotted this while perusing my e-mail newsletter from the paper. Photo grabbed from Mr. T in DC at flickr. Posted by Kate

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The D Report: Kate's Day One and Two

Day One: I seem to be off to a good start with this vitamin D challenge--I hope. I'm always poking my nose in the refrigerator so this week I'll have a target for something to grab when I go digging. And I'm a label-looker too, so I'll just have to pay more attention to the percentages below the grams of protein on those food labels.

As for how I got my D fix, I started off the day with some yogurt, forced myself to drink milk and when I suggested my husband snack on nachos (just tortilla chips sprinkled with 2% cheddar jack cheese) I snagged a few. And dinner included a salad tossed with goat cheese and a salmon fillet. Granted I didn't use a calculator to figure out the exact amounts, but at least I had some foods that are supposedly high in D. Still, without the sun, it's not easy to get more than 20% of the recommended amount in a single serving.

Day Two: Uh oh, I'm starting to have doubts about this challenge. When it comes to labels, I'm learning that finding information on vitamin D isn't always readily available. My first roadblock came this morning while preparing my yogurt parfait breakfast. I've been on a kick eating Trader Joe's Greek-style yogurt with fresh fruit, and the whole time I'm thinking I've got vitamin D in the bag. Well now I'm not so sure because the packaging doesn't list vitamin D on its nutrition label; there's vitamin A, calcium and iron, but no vitamin D.

To be on the safe side (and note: cheating) I took two Gummy Vites just in case. Good thing too because never got to eat my salmon plus risotto with cheese dinner as planned. Late afternoon I was surprised with a Hot Doug's Chicago dog and duck fat fries (so good they were worth the splurge) which left me so full that after a workout I accidentally conked out on the couch until the middle of the night. Posted by Kate

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ole, Ole: A Lighter Guacamole

No lies, I'm a huge fan of guacamole. Chipotle, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, making my own. And I eat way too much of it, far exceeding one serving on a Sunday afternoon. So when I saw this recipe as a dish to prepare for this weekend's Oscar parties, I'm all for giving it a shot when I have my weekend craving. Try making this version to lighten up your plate; it comes in at 65 calories per serving and only 3 grams of fat.

1 can (15 to 19 ounces) white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon (or to taste) lime juice
1 jalapeno chile, seeded
1/2 cup loosely pack cilantro leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped sweet onion (try Vidalia or Maui)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
2 plum tomatoes
Baked tortilla chips or fresh veggies

To prepare:
  • Puree the beans and lime juice in a food processor (using the knife blade attachment) until smooth. Place in a medium-sized serving bowl.
  • Add the jalapeno, cilantro, onion and salt to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture is juicy and thick.
  • Scoop the avocado from the peel and add to the beans in a bowl. Use a fork to mash the mixture until blended with some chunks remaining.
  • Cut the tomatoes in half, squeeze the halves to remove the juice and seeds; coarsely chop the tomatoes and add to the onion mixture. Then add this mixture to the avocado and beans until blended. Stir in more lime juice to taste if you're looking for more zip
  • Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to one hour.
I'm sold, and I'll let you know how it tastes (minus the tomatoes because I've never like them even after repeated tries) after I make it this weekend. And I'll add a photo too. Posted by Kate

Tips To Meditate More Often

As you all know, I really blew it with my self-imposed challenge to find 10 tiny minutes a day for a week to devote to just, well, chilling. Bummed with my performance, but knowing the minutes I did manage to meditate boosted my mood and productivity, I reached out to an expert for help making this habit stick. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., is an author, clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I recently interviewed him for a New Year's Resolution story in TOC, but hit him up for some advice of my own. "Realize that meditation is a skill," Klapow says, "So reset your goals." Here's what he recommended....

1. Don't shoot for perfection. "You can't get better if you don't actually practice so don't shoot for perfection on the quality of the meditation," Klapow says. In other words, instead of beating myself up when my mind wanders to my to-do list, I should accept that I'm doing the best I can with my meditation.

2. Arrange for success.
"Look at your calender--what can you do to make it happen?" Klapow asks. "Get up 15 min earlier daily to start your day with meditation? Go to bed 15 min earlier or later to do it at the very end of the day?" Yep and yep. Or, possibly, I should force myself to leave my desk for 15 minutes around lunch time and pop into the bookstore across the street for a quiet 10 minutes to myself.

3. Back off the frequency.
I wasn't expecting this advice, but Klapow says success isn't necessarily perfection. He suggests I aim for three days a week instead of seven as a goal. "Then each week add one day," he says. That sounds a lot more manageable.

Klapow's parting words: "Remember- first carve the time, then increase the frequency, then the quality will happen automatically." I'm breahing a big sigh of relief and feeling like less of a failure after hearing his thoughts. And better yet, I feel like with these tips, meditating will be a lot more manageable in my busy life. Photo grabbed from BJ Graf on Flickr. Posted by Liz

The Lent Diet: Is It Weird?

After Kate's awesome Fat Tuesday post below (yum), I've got some food-related content of a different flavor. My sophomore year of college, I lived in a pink-hued house on-campus with eight other women. All but one of my housemates was a varsity athlete. We represented the lacrosse, soccer, ice hockey, field hockey, golf, cross-country, water polo and tennis (well, that was me, and it was JV) teams. It was a sweet house and an awesome, active group of women.

Two of my housemates, who were devout church-goers, Bible-studiers and members of Athletes In Action, decided that when Lent rolled around that spring they would be super hardcore in their zeal for "giving up" things. They gave up candy, chips, fried food and pretty much everything else remotely fun to eat--they even fasted some days despite rigorous off-season training schedules. They were concerned about their weight in the off-season and were on a diet disguised as a religious gesture. These girls were my good friends, but it weirded me out.

I hadn't thought much about their religious-sanctioned restrictive eating behavior until this week, when I noticed a weight loss thread on a message board where several runners mentioned they will start their "Lent Diet" next week so they can be leaner and faster for their spring marathons. (This year, Lent starts on Febraury 25th (Ash Wednesday), and lasts through Saturday, April 11.)

On the one hand, weird--there it is again. On the other hand, at least these message board posters are honest about their intentions and the fact that they're using a religious tradition as a means to lose weight.
I'm totally cool with religious traditions. I'm perfectly accepting of tweaking eating behavior to lose a few pounds. But something about merging the two seems off to me. Maybe I'm just over-reacting, so set me straight: Does this wierd anyone else out? Photo of the Princeton Chapel grabbed from nickjohnson on Posted by Liz

Fat Tuesday Fitness Fix

So you wanna have yourself a paczki or two this Fat Tuesday? You don't have to be Polish to enjoy these rich and sumptuous treats that roll out once a year. But unlike your average jelly or custard-filled doughnut, these paczki can wreak havoc on your waistline. Unless of course you try to balance your paczki intake with calorie-burning activities.

The average paczki--traditionally loaded with baking riches like butter, sugar and eggs that go into hiding during the 40 days of Lent--can cost you roughly 420 calories each. Not to mention having at least 25 grams of fat per 5-ounce treat. And it's hard to eat only one.

Before your belly is bulging and you're wondering where you went wrong, plan some activities into your Fat Tuesday to get you moving. Not only will you be less likely to crave a second or third sweet treat (and I didn't even get to the New Orleans favorite King Cake) but you'll be burning calories to stave off a glut that could weigh down your gut.

Here are a few activities and their per hour calorie counts to help you gauge how much you can put in versus put out come Fat Tuesday. These are based on a 130 pound female and computed at
  • Aerobics, high impact--437 calories
  • Bicycling, stationary, vigorous--655 calories
  • Rowing, stationary, vigorous--530 calories
  • Stair step machine--374 calories
  • Weight lifiting, general--187 calories
  • Hiking--374 calories
  • Rockclimbing, ascending--686 calories and descending--499 calories
  • Running, 8 min/mile--780 9 min/mile--686 calories
  • Cross-country skiing--499 calories
  • Downhill skiing--374 calories
  • Snowshoeing--499 calories
  • Swimming--374 calories
  • Walking, 15 min/mile--281 calories
There are tons of other calorie burn calculators out there, some showing varied results for activities (Check out the calorie calculator at Discovery Health, for example). But either way, you might be spending all day at the gym on Wednesday to recover from your Fat Tuesday. At least that's how I'm suspecting my Fat Tuesday might go down--the Polish side in me comes out in full force. Photo grabbed from Kodamakitty at flickr. Posted by Kate

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lance Is Lucky

Admit it: A stolen bike or bike parts has happened to you or someone you know at least once. But more often than not, you can file all the missing bike reports in the world and never see your bike again. Especially if it's one with a hefty price tag (I've always wondered who'd really want my beat-up, run-down Costco special anyway). Unless of course you're Lance Armstrong.

I read the news about his time-trial bike being stolen earlier in the week as part of the Tour de California newsreels. "That's a shame," was all I could lament, half thinking that as a sponsored athlete, Armstrong could just as easily get another bike. Granted it might not hold the same personal attachment as the missing Trek Livestrong 1274, but it'd be pretty similar to the original after a few tweaks and adjustments.

The good news is that Armstrong's bike was found and recovered intact on Wednesday. Talk about lucky. I've had a seat and a wheel stolen, only to be replaced by a seat and post that didn't fit and a wheel with a flat tire; someone unbolted my husband's seat and ran off with that, and a friend lost his bike when someone cut the U-lock outside the gym. But as for any of those items turning up, not a thing.

Armstrong also had a pretty good search army looking for his bike. Sure, Cycling News called it the biggest bike theft in history (his bike is valued at $10,000), but the recovery got the general public involved too. According to Fox Sports, a Facebook group "1 Million Citizens Looking for Lance Armstrong's Stolen Bike" has more than 900 members enlisted. Locals were on the prowl too, as the bike was turned into police by a local resident. In Chicago, you can fill out a report with the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry in hopes that your bike is spotted and then returned. As for the parts? Those are almost always gone for good. But at least there's the thought of good faith that something will turn up. And sometimes it does. Photo grabbed from jonlesser at flickr. Posted by Kate

Garmin Forerunners Now Mac Compatible

If you're a regular reader, you know I'm eyeing the new Garmin FR6--a fitness watch that links wirelessly to fitness equipment as well as heart-rate monitor, foot pod and cadence sensor--that comes out in a couple of months. I think Garmin is purposely trying to amp up my obsession, because the company announced today that the FR60 plus its Forerunner 405 and 50 are now Mac compatible, meaning I can transfer, save and play with workout data on my computer after each sweat session. Woo hoo! I use a Mac laptop at home and desktop at work, so this is music to my ears. Now I just need the actual product....! Posted by Liz

Bookmark This Food Site

Chicago Magazine's weekly Dish newsletter tipped me off to The Local Beet, a new Chicago-based site that's all about organic food, CSAs and restaurants around town that serve up locally-grown fare. Recent articles include an essay on enduring the winter doldrums (the author grows produce and cannot wait for the snow to melt--totally one of our brethren, even if his weather woes are planting-related instead of can't-cycle-or-run-outdoors related!), a discussion board topic on food joints for fresh, local dishes (they rec Frontera, which I loooove) and a blog reacting to local food news. It's a smart, info-packed site--I already bookmarked him. Photo grabbed from catchesthelight on flickr. Posted by Liz

Change One Thing Challenge: Down with D

So we tried sleeping more and adding meditation to our daily routines, now it's time for a new challenge. This time we thought we'd venture into the kitchen and explore our daily diets. Nope we're not turning into Iron Chefs or performing quickfire challenges a la Top Chef, but we're planning to pay more attention to the vitamins and minerals we're feeding our systems, specifically vitamin D.

Why? Because we're living among a D-deficient population and recent studies show that it's hurting our health. And the downfall is that it's a hard vitamin to get--we can pick up the daily recommended amount from sunlight soaking into the skin, but for those of us piling on the layers in the winter, living above 35 degrees latitude, we miss out all winter. Vitamin D helps calcium absorb into the body and maintain the proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood stream. It can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast and colon cancer while staving off depression by stimulating serotonin production and keeping muscle function in check.

After a winter bundled up in Chicago I'm beginning to think that a lack of vitamin D might be contributing to my lethargic bouts. I'm not exactly planning any trips to the Caribbean any time soon, so sparking my system through sunlight is out. Time to turn to the grocery store to stock my shelves with D-fortified foods--with few ways to naturally find D in foods, some products are fortified with it. Some top choices: salmon, sardines, tuna (canned in oil), milk, fortified cereal, fortified orange juice, egg yolk, cheeses and yogurt. The Department of Agriculture states that an adequate intake value for vitamin D for people up to 50 years old is 200 IUs, a number that even several of these recommended foods don't approach in a single serving.

I have a fridge stocked with milk, yogurt and eggs, and a medicine cabinet with a stash of Gummy Vites multivitamins--and 100 percent of the D daily value--as a fail-safe. Time to check those D levels. Who's with us? Ready, set, go! Photo grabbed from iprole at stock.xchng. Posted by Kate

Liz's Meditation Report: The Whole Week

Hello, hello! I've been a crap blogger lately. But I have an excuse! I've been skiing at Purgatory--the mountain resort just outside of Durango, Colorado--and landed back in Chicago in the middle of frosty, rainy Tuesday night.

Although I had hopes as high as the Colorado mountains for meditating every day....sigh....other stuff kept getting in the way. In the mornings, I tried to squeeze in a mini jog so my legs wouldn't forget how to run (Boston is only eight weeks away, after all). Inevitably, I pressed snooze so many times that I barely managed to fit in a few miles before swooping back into the condo like a tornado to change into ski gear and hit the lifts by opening time. After a full day on the slopes, all my sore body could manage was twisting the cap off a bottle of Durango Amber Ale, propping up my legs, and chatting with my family. So...yeah, not much meditating. Double sigh.

But I think my one saving grace, despite my utter failure in this challenge, is that riding the lift is a unique version of meditation. With breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and parka-clad skiers gliding down the slopes, riding the lift is like a dose of Zen. I'm going to keep trying the daily meditation in Chicago, and now I'm armed with beautifully serene and special memories of the snowy Durango mountains. And stay tuned for some expert tips on fitting in the daily chill-out session. I know I need them. Photo grabbed from JTPics on Flickr. Posted by Liz

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Total Body Workout

On last night's The Biggest Loser, Bob Harper put a tree to the test when he made it serve as a piece of gym equipment. Well, with some special suspension straps attached, that is. Trainer Bob introduced his gym-banned group to TRX training--a way to give yourself a total body workout using your body weight and two straps hanging from the sky.

I read about TRX earlier in the year at, but thought it was one of those classes where I'd to go to a specific gym or find a trainer who worked with TRX. Now it turns out, I can just as easily buy the system and set it up at home, or on the go. And at $200 for the set, over the long haul, that beats any gym membership or set of training sessions. Score for anyone not living in the Bay Area: the location for the TRX Training Center.

Imagine how low you can get your body into a squat if you have something to pull up with. Or lunges and leg lifts (I saw Sione lifting his leg as he squatted back, something that would send me toppling over without supports). Think about all of those core muscles firing, the abs going into overdrive, your biceps and triceps flexing and relaxing. TRX can work the entire body through a combination of moves both in familiar and uncharted territory. And for someone who needs to work her core, it's a winner.

It was developed by the U.S. Navy SEALs and used as part of the military's functional training tools. With their strong reputation, it has to be a strength-builder. I'm willing to give it a shot, especially after checking out this video by Vision Quest Coaching owner and former U.S. Postal Team cyclist Robbie Ventura that talks about the benefits of functional strength training. Photo grabbed from Be Sportier. Posted by Kate

The Meditation Report: Kate's Day Six and Seven

Day 6: Relaxation, calm, serenity. The minute I hit send to turn in an assignment and without meditation, I felt free as a bird. But that also meant packing my evening with a busy--and exhausting--workout at the gym and at Vision Quest. That bird-like feeling persisted when I arrived home from Taste at VQ--lots of core work apparently fueled my system and I needed something to calm me down. I resorted back to the bed to perch and meditate--this time have far greater success than on day one although that could have been from the workout high. I tried focusing on a word and maybe I started daydreaming while meditating but it worked. I wound down and even thought I still had to lay in bed and watch TV, I was no longer feeling like the Energizer Bunny. Liz was right: I would start thinking about skiing.

Day 7: I sound like a record on repeat over here with all these plans and then not 100 percent following through. Here's another (although it has a happy ending): I had to save myself a bike for a packed spinning class at the gym, so I planned to arrive early enough to snag the bike and meditate before class time. Well, I got to the gym early but a friend was there so we were talking about insoles, bike fit and running gait, and I had to save my meditation until later. Much later because I was watching The Biggest Loser and eating dinner. But after a segment on the BL when Tara asked for a five-second breather (and thinking there's someone who needs to relax and meditate), I knew I would be doing my time even if it was five minutes before bed.

I'm a fan of the word meditation: I tried it again tonight and it seems to be working, keeping my mind from wandering in a million different directions. And while the week of meditation is almost up, I might not meditate daily, but when I'm feeling the need to chill out, which is pretty frequent, I'll give myself those 10 minutes to shut out the rest of the world. It helps refocus my energy and I feel more productive in the long run. Posted by Kate

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fit-Fact: First Family Fitness

After a weekend in Chicago, news of dinner at Table 52, and a friend on Facebook status updating to say he waved to Mr. Pres and he waved back, I've got Obama on my mind.

But I'm not talking about stimulus bills and politics. When Michelle Obama was announced as the latest First Lady to grace the cover of Vogue, Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb commented that she had great arms and must work her upper body. At inauguration time, a photo circulated through my e-mail linking to a photo of Obama riding through Hyde Park on a bike. OK, that seemed to poke fun at our Chief of State, but he is known for shooting hoops. Hence the announcement that daughter Sasha would be joining a basketball team at her new school. So with all of these active Obamas, it didn't surprise me in the least when a few weeks ago my guilty pleasure reading on uncovered dirt on the Granny-in-Chief, Michelle's mother.

Turns out that the woman many media outlets have started calling the First Granny, Marian Robinson, loves doing yoga.

And she's not the only one in the family getting limber. Robinson's yoga partner is Sasha and Malia's godmother, Eleanor "Mama Kaye" Wilson. Robinson's younger brother, Stephen Shields, serves as their yoga instructor.

I'm still wondering how Michelle's getting those svelte arms (can I steal some secrets?), but I'm loving the athletic chops of this family. And not just Grandma and the immediate family. Maybe Grandma was a star athlete who never met her true calling, because there's something in the genes of that family. Michelle's brother Craig can hold his chops on the basketball court and played college ball at Princeton. He's currently the men's basketball head coach at Oregon State University and previously coached at Brown University. Any one-on-one action between in-laws? Photo grabbed from Posted by Kate

PS Apologies for any lackluster posts by me the past few days, I feel like I've been in a mental fog. Hope to snap out soon!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Meditation Report: Kate's Day Four and Five

Day 4: Ellie Krieger of Food Network fame saved me today. I recently started subscribing to her newsletter and each day in my inbox comes a new tip for healthy living. And the timing couldn't be better because the latest suggested three ways to meditate. I've been focusing on the breathing method--breathing slowly, counting to four as you inhale and exhale, and if your thoughts drift concentrate hard on nothing but breathing. The newsletter also suggested two other methods: word and heartbeat meditation.

I should have tried word meditation, repeating a word or phrase to keep my mind from wandering, when I trying my meditate-at-the-gym method again--I wasn't as successful this time having to listen to the whoops, scuffles and whistles happening on the basketball court below. I have a hard enough time finding my heartbeat and counting it during a workout so I'm not sure how well I'd track it during heartbeat meditation.

My other lesson learned: "Remember, you're not being graded on your performance — you're simply exploring a new way to achieve greater serenity. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to slip into a deeply relaxed, meditative state." I like that thought.

Day Five: I could have used meditation the most today and unfortunately I didn't give myself those 10 minutes when I should have. Knowing a deadline was looming and spending a Sunday afternoon working on it didn't help and I passed on my opportunity to work out and meditate after. My plan was to go to Circular Strength Training at Equinox, which include a 5- to 10-minute cooldown of Prasara yoga at the end of class, then either find a quiet spot at the gym or head home and log those strictly meditation minutes. Sorry to disappoint today. Posted by Kate


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