Friday, March 20, 2015

Middle Age Parkour Ladies Are the New Black

I had my last parkour class last Wednesday night, Class #8.  We started off with the same timed obstacle course we did on the first day of class.  I was a bit nervous on the start line, this course had been quite terrifying to me on the first day, especially climbing the wall.  I fell on my ass trying to jump from one floor rail to the other and skinned and bruised my knees pretty badly trying to get up the wall.  This time however it was mostly a piece of cake.  I still don't have the balance and jumping skills to go from rail to rail so I just put a foot down and took the fault for that part rather than possible hurt myself falling again.  And the wall?  No problemo, scampered up that thing like it was nothing.  I did forget and very lightly and briefly put weight my knees to get up a different wall but a lot of other people forgot too.  My time was around 2:30 mins. on the first day and went down to 1:30 or so on the last day.  But best of all the course was no problem (except for the rail jumping which is a pretty advanced skill if you've not done it much).

Tonight's class was the start of the flashy stuff - flips and spins.  We started off with the wall spin, which looks like this:

Now it's important to point out that I was working on a much easier progression of this with a padded wall and padded mat to land on and putting one hand on the ground, one on the wall (see the video at 2:18).  Of course I was much better in one direction than the other, even the instructor noticed.  I have an even greater respect for dogs that struggle with jumping and turning to their off side.

The we worked on the Palm Spin which is a wall spin but on a flat surface.  By this time my head was spinning a bit and I struggled with the mechanics of it.  We had another substitute instructor who I once again couldn't quite follow as easily as our regular instructor.  He wasn't bad and most of the rest of the class got it, I just need this sort of stuff broken down and explained a little more.  It was o.k. though, I'll work on it on my own.  It's not a skill I'm passionate about having anyway.

Then some work on the bars that was way beyond me.  It was mostly various ways to get up into a muscle up position.  For those unfamiliar with the muscle up, well, it's hard, it can take strong athletic guys up to 6 months to learn and it was way beyond my strength capability.

This is a pure muscle up.

And this is a progression using momentum to make it easier.  But I'm not even at this level yet.  Not even close.  It looks easy but I double dog dare you to give it a try.

So I had to pretty much sit this part out.  I'd say maybe only a third of the class was able to do these.

Next we were on to flips on the trampoline and into the foam pit.  Those of us like me who were unfamiliar with flipping could start off with easy  progressions of the front flip on the trampoline.  Those with more experience did front and side and maybe even back flips into the foam pit.  I was happy enough to stay out of the foam pit.  I saw it swallow up the other small woman who was my size and it was very hard for her to get out.  Never mind the grossness.  I don't even want to think about what was festering in there.

Anyway, the trampoline was very bouncy, way more bouncy than any regular trampoline I've ever been on.  Very VERY fun!!!  I never quite got to a full front flip but I got to maybe 3/4 of the way and landed on my butt/back.  I could only do maybe 3-4 reps at a time then I'd have to get off and let the room stop spinning for a while.  I started having problems with this sort of thing in my 20's so I can't even blame my age.  I get super dizzy with any kind of spinning motion for too long.  I can do it, just not over and over.  I have low blood pressure and it may be something to do with that.  I sometimes even have problems getting up from the couch or sitting for a long time and I'll sometimes almost black out and I've passed out a few times in the past few years under various circumstances.  So I don't know how much flipping is in my future but it sure was fun to do it for a little bit and I was glad I had the nerve to give it a go.  At some point during that last class the other woman in the class turned to me and said, 'It's funny all the things I've discovered that I'm afraid of because of this class' and yet she seemed pretty brave to me throughout the class.  She did a great job of hiding and/or getting over her fears in any case.

And me too.  I have to say after that first class I would have some building dread before class each week and I knew it was silly and that I'd be fine but there was always some point where I debated not going, especially on those couple nights when the roads were snowy/icy and it was snowing.  But I made it through all 8 classes and once I got there I had a great time at every single class.  The stuff in these classes was well outside my comfort zone on many levels and I'm SO glad I went and learned this stuff and overcame my fears each week.  What an awesomely amazing experience it was!  And I have a huge list of skills to work on and movements to perfect and super fun strength training exercises that will be so much more fun than boring old hand weights.  I've already made up a huge list of things I want to work on, can't wait to get started.

On a funny note, I was in the sauna today after masters swim practice and coincidentally we'd been working on dives off the blocks.  I was yammering to this guy from the masters workout about parkour class and the front flips on the trampoline and I wondered if it would be fun/possible to try a front flip off the diving blocks.  A woman caught my attention and said, 'You were at parkour on Wednesday?  I was there too working on flips into the foam pit.'  Now what are the chances of that?  And she's 42.  Middle Age Parkour Ladies are the New Black, in Boulder anyway.

She was there for the next level class above mine and the stuff they do is pretty impressive.  And scary.  I had already decided that if I take more classes next fall after triathlon season that I'd just repeat the intro. class because Level One looked too intimidating.  But she said you work up to it and you get used to it and you can do a drop-in class while taking the intro. class again if you want.  These classes are way smaller and you get a lot more personal attention.  So I don't know but maybe she's inspired me to maybe think about it.  Or at least consider one of the other types of classes like a tricks class that would be learning flips and similar type stuff.  I noticed they had a break dancing class too, now THAT would be funny.  But it'll have to wait until fall because I'm thinking I may start up with my coach for triathlon next month.  Can't believe I have a race in 9 weeks and I done hardly any running and almost no biking.  Better dust off the heart rate monitor and try to get my interval legs back.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cult of Personality

Most, if not all, sports have their icons and innovators.  Some of these folks get put on a pedestal and turned into gurus whether they like and intend it or not.  Some people are drawn to the magnetism of these personalities while others are repelled.  And I don't know, maybe it's the old school 'kill rock stars' punk rocker in me but I'm typically repelled by these characters.  Sort of.  Because I also have the philosophy of 'learn all you can from anybody that has something interesting to say, even if they are a narcissistic asshat'.  We had such a person from the agility world come to Colorado and when I asked the dog people about her I was warned repeatedly about her bad attitude.  I went to the seminar and they were all absolutely right.  But the seminar was reasonably priced and for the $$$ I learned some good stuff.  The atmosphere there was unpleasant and stifling and creepily cult-like so I didn't go back when this person returned but I was glad I went the one time.

On the other hand we had another agility guru come to town and when I heard the price of the seminar I rolled my eyes and said, 'Chyeah right'.  I'd seen video of this person teaching and it was almost painful to listen to her never mind the way she was treating some people (never mind the way she'd treated me online).  I had a really good instructor teaching me this person's methods at a fraction of the cost and attitude.  I gave the seminar a miss and found out it was absolutely horrible.  The instructor barely gave any feedback and was terrible about giving people reasonably equal amounts of time and attention among other things.  One thing I learned a long time ago from the punk rock/music world is that once a band gets good enough to play a big venue and charge a bunch of money they're likely not worth seeing anymore because they've lost their edge, their creativity, their hunger, their energy.  They no longer have to prove anything to pay the bills.  In all the 25 years I've lived in Colorado I've never been to Red Rocks because by the time a band is big enough to get booked at Red Rocks they're so bloated, boring and musically insignificant that it's not even worth the 50 minute drive down there let alone the $$$ and hassle with the traffic and crowds.  Plus that atmosphere of hero worship, glassy eyed people waving fists in the air.  Icky.  Disturbing.  So not my thing.

So when I got an email from the local Crossfit gym announcing that the rock star movement instructor Ido Portal was coming to Boulder for a weekend seminar I was excited, sort of, until I saw the price.  $695 for 2 days??!!  Chyeah right, roll eyes.  I've missed the window on Ido, he's already beyond playing Red Rocks.  He's also got some personality issues similar to the insufferable dog agility lady.  And I would have looked beyond that.  I'm a big girl, I'm not made of sugar and I'm not going to go crying into the corner just because some guy with a big ego gives me some criticism.  I'm there to learn and I can take it.  I grew up back in the day when teachers, instructors, coaches, etc. did not coddle children or worry about damaging their fragile egos.  I had a riding instructor who didn't feel like she'd done her job if she didn't send at least one 10 year old home in tears each week.  Now I'm not saying this is good, she was a terrible instructor who by her own admission hated children and was only there to make money for college and frankly couldn't wait until summer was over and she could get back to school.  You could say things like that out loud back then.  Today not so much.  And that's not a good thing either.  I don't like instructors with big egos and attitudes but I also don't think instructors should have to tiptoe around telling you that you're doing something wrong.  In my mind the best instructors are those who aren't afraid to tell you what you're doing wrong and how to do it right without a bunch of ego and attitude and creating some weird cultish atmosphere.

Which brings me back to the upcoming Ido Portal seminar.  Because Ido has taken the whole cult of personality one step further by not even bothering to show up for his own seminars.  That's right kids, $695 and Ido is not likely to be there.  And the only reason I know this is because I googled his seminar to see what you get for $695 and if people thought it was worth it and I found out he doesn't even show up.  I called the Crossfit gym to verify whether or not Ido would be there and they told me they didn't know for sure but probably, most likely not.  Now that's fine if the seminar is advertised as having Ido's instructors and is priced appropriately but this is the ad for the seminar and nowhere does it state that you're going to be taught by his instructors and not him.  To add to the confusion, the following sentence was in the email I got from the gym, 'Ido's Rocky Mountain visit was so highly anticipated that we've already sold out over 50% of the capacity, with multiple folks coming in from out of state.'  I hate to argue semantics but this strongly implies that Ido will actually be there as does the ad as does the $695 price tag.  I can tell you I'd be pretty furious I flew in from out of state for this and Ido wasn't even there.  Heck I'd be furious if I spent that kind of entry fee and only drove the 10 minutes to the gym.

I guess I'll always be going to the dive bars, enjoying the hungry bands with something to prove and paying a measly cover charge.  You take your chances but more often than not it's worth it.  And it's a pretty good bet that the band on the flyer actually is going to be there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Every Broth You Take

I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to have a tan, wasps landing on me and a craving for ice cream in the middle of March.  Two days in a row of 79 degree temps. is hardly broth brewing weather but nonetheless after 72 hours of bubbling bones I have broth.  And lots of leftover meat for the dogs.

This is what it looked like after I strained it.

Here it is the next day after spending a night in the fridge.  The white stuff is a nice layer of tallow that I can use for cooking fat.

 I scooped it off the top and ended up with a nice haul.

I'm excited about this because yikes, grass fed tallow is spendy, $24 including shipping for 14 oz.  Not sure how much I have there because I didn't compact it but that alone probably comes close to almost sort of covering the cost of the bones.  Plus I have all the broth which probably more than makes up the cost, at least compared to what it costs in New York City ($4.75 for an 8 oz cup, $7 for 12 oz).  Maybe I could go into business here in Boulder.

I heated up a bowl for myself.

And the verdict is . . . hmmm, not quite sure yet.  It isn't awful, but I can't say that it's mmmmmm, amazingly delectable either.  Part of it is that I'm still not used to meat and the oxtail is a very strong smell and flavor.  Will take some getting used to but I'm optimistic that I can do it.  Also I can use it for stock in other things though it is a very overpowering flavor so I can't use it in just anything.

Of course I shared with the dogs.  They give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.  Plus this is a great way to keep Strummer occupied for at least a few minutes.

I did make one big mistake and that was not paying attention while I was straining the broth.  I didn't notice that the  bowl I was straining into was overflowing so I lost some precious broth down the sink and then lost some more when I poured the overflow into another bowl.  I know I lost some fat because here's a photo of the broth from the crock pot before I overfilled the bowl.

The layer of fat is almost twice the layer from the photo at the top of the post that was taken after I'd lost the overflow.  Next time I'll pay closer attention.

The other thing I'd do differently is use lime juice rather than apple cider vinegar but that's a personal thing, I hated the smell of the vinegar but I like lime juice.

Also I'd add the onions much later, maybe 12 hours before I was going to be done.  The onions turned black and carmelized the first day and made for a sticky slimy mess.  Plus I'm sure that's not healthy.

Otherwise I don't think I'd do anything all that much differently.  Would like to try some different types of bones, that oxtail is so strong.  But this will require some research into local farms because the grocery stores don't seem to carry anything else.

I froze a small portion of the broth but left a big bowl that I'll hopefully use this week.  Jonny won't eat it but the dogs will share it with me.  Now to find some recipes!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dem Bones Dem Bones

This is a very exciting weekend for me because I'm attempting to make my first bone broth.

Here are my bones, all roasted and ready to go.

They're marrow bones and oxtail bones, supposedly grass fed though I have my suspicions about that.  Ideally I'd have more joint bones - knees, shoulders, etc.-but even the Boulder Mega Whole Foods doesn't carry them.  In fact Whole Foods had zero grass fed bones and told me to call back in a couple of days, maybe they'd get some in, maybe not.  I got these bones from Lucky's which is my local grocery store and way more awesome than Whole Foods.  Though I'm not entirely sure I believe these bones are grass fed.  Anyway, Google informs me that there are loads of ranches in Boulder County selling grass fed beef, bones, organ meat, etc.  I'll have to do some calling around for the next batch but these will do for my first attempt.

I've got a pot on the stove and a crock pot going.  You're supposed to simmer the bones for anywhere from 24-72 hours and since I spent an asston of money on these bones, I'm going for 72 hours to get the maximum nutrients out of them.  Here's what the crock pot looks like today.  We'll see what it looks like in 3 days.

I was concerned that the smell of the bones cooking would be nauseous making but it's actually the smell of the apple cider vinegar that's setting my stomach to queasy.  I hate the smell of both vinegar and fermenting apples so this is a special sort of hell for me but thankfully it's warm enough to open some windows and hopefully the smell will calm down in a bit.  Will have to think of something particularly good smelling to cook for dinner.

The internets are full of videos and blogs about bone broth and how to make it but I never saw any tips for keeping dogs out of it.  This was my technique for the crock pot when I went to masters swim practice but I hadn't plugged it in yet so I'm not sure what to do for the rest of the weekend. 

The other pot went on top of the fridge.  I'll have to figure out a way to block off the entire kitchen.  Because Naughty Dogs.  I do not want to come home to Strummer wearing a stock pot's worth of bone broth and onions.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Climbing the Walls

I've had 2 more parkour classes and these were mostly about climbing walls.  Class #6 started off with a return to vaulting with a couple of vaults in a row and then a little obstacle course, sort of like how you start sequencing obstacles in agility.  Very fun but challenging since the vault boxes were higher than the one I'd been on the week before.

Then we moved on to 'wall run ups'.  Basically you run towards the wall, hit it with one foot and push yourself up as high as you can with that foot while reaching up.  This is what it looks like.

I was not reaching anywhere near the height of those guys. It's a little harder than it looks, even if you're not going very high, the challenge being that it's tricky to figure out where to hit the wall with your foot so that you can get enough traction to push yourself up the wall.  The idea is to use this move to run up a wall and grab the top.

Here's what it looks like in practice.

I never quite made it to the top of the higher walls but the angled wall from the obstacle course the first day that I needed help to get up?  Got up it easily.  Or at least I got up it enough to grip the top.  Hoisting myself on top of the wall was another not so graceful matter but the getting on top of the wall part was a week away.

Next we moved on to Tic Tacs, which are super fun.  I was actually doing fairly well at this, at least pushing off on one side.  Pushing off on the other side not so much.  A Tic Tac is kind of hard to descibe.  You run at the wall on an angle, push off with one leg, hit the wall with the other leg and push off.  It looks like this.

There is math and physics involved here so maybe that's why I could do these, at least on the one side.

We worked on precision, ie jumping onto a small square and height, ie jumping over a pool noodle.  Eventually you could go over a fence that was next to the wall.  In theory.  I could maybe do that if zombies were chasing me.  Which is funny because the other night I dreamt that vampires or zombies or some such undead creatures of the night were chasing me and I used a parkour move in my dream to get away.  Bring on the Zombie Apocalypse.

I twisted my ankle a bit on a landing after jumping on my off side but I was o.k. and 2 days later I ran with no problems at an agility trial, had completely forgotten about it.

Would be fun to eventually do Tic Tacs off of trees.  Need a lot more practice on nice smooth walls first though.

Class #7 was last night and it was Cat Leaps, Cat Hangs and Climb Ups.  I was pretty sure that I'd end up sitting out most of this class because a Cat Leap involves taking a running leap at the wall, jumping up, hitting the wall with both feet and grabbing the top of the wall.  Like this.

Does that look like something crazy middle aged dog agility ladies with bad knees and many orthopedic surgeries should/could be doing?  Well, the answer is yes!  And the wall in the video is the wall we used but we used the side with the grip tape which made it much easier.  I was very surprised but I was able to do it.  In fact I was the second person in the class to make it to the top of the wall after the Cat Leap though I did not do the Level 4 climb up in the video.  The first person to make it up was the other woman in the class who is also small like me.  Weight to strength ratio is important when you're doing these body weight type movements and being small helps.  It took the guys a try or two to get up the wall.  Now I did not do the super smooth climb up in the video but rather did a Level 1 Climb Up which is basically get your ass up the wall however you can.  There's an example in the video below except I did not put my knees down on the top of the wall but rather got a foot up on the wall and used my arms and the foot to push up.  One very cool thing about the parkour philosophy of these particular classes is that you never ever put weight on your knee.  Like ever.  On the first day the instructor told us that if he saw us touching our knees to any equipment that we'd have to drop and do 20 push ups.  So the instructor reminded up not to use our knees even in a Level 1 Climb Up and using my foot worked just fine.

I'm not sure how much I'll use or practice these techniques.  Climbing walls was not one of my goals in taking this course.  But it's kind of fun and surprisingly do-able so we'll see.  I've learned so much and I still have one more class.  I'm glad I've put it in the blog so I can go back and remember all the things I've learned and maybe it'll inspire someone out there to try it.

We also did some swinging from a high bar with 180 degree then 360 degree turns in the air and then landing on a cushy mat.  Very fun.  Definitely not something I'll do on the monkey bars in real life.  I guess it was more of a safety/bail out exercise for more advanced bar swinging.  Fun to try though I had to climb up a short wall to reach the bar it was so high for me. I watch the more advanced classes walking on top of these high bars, jumping from bar to bar and it makes me queasy so I don't think those are skills I'll aspire too.  But the swinging was fun.

And holy crap, this week I was able to easily do a cartwheel on my good side and I'd had no practice at all this past week.  Guess latent learning applies to muscle memory as well.

Next week is the last class and we're doing more sequences and short courses as well as the timed course we did on the first day.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Taking Control of Your Health

Health is such a huge topic, easily zillions of blog posts.  So many aspects to health.  I write about my own experiments with nutrition and exercise and my own health on this blog but today's focus is about the importance of taking control of your own health and steps you can take to do it.  And by that I mean doing research whether it's going to and reading studies or watching lectures on YouTube or reading blogs and books.  Such a wealth of information out there.  Too much information out there.  How do you know what to believe?  I'm pretty sure those folks telling us to eat 30 bananas a day are off their heads but what about the rest of the information out there?  And no I'm not making it up about the 30 bananas a day.  I so wish I was.

Then there's that study that shows that we believe studies and research that support our beliefs and reject those that don't.  So there's that.

So many questions regarding health and so few good, solid scientifically backed answers.  Health and nutrition science and research is appalling, that topic alone could be a nice meaty blog post.  Part of the problem is the sheer number of studies being funded by the food industry and their lackeys.  Such a powerful lobby.  Scary powerful.  The mere mention of Monsanto raises the hairs on the back of my neck.  Just ask Vani Hari, the Food Babe, who fights the food industry.  She gets death threats on a daily basis.  Death threats.  Such a big scary wealthy powerful industry.  And there's the problem of how difficult and expensive it is to run a truly good study.  Many of them rely on people self-reporting what they ate and that right there is a problem.  A long term study that confines people to a metabolic ward and strictly controls their diet is hugely expensive and problematic.  And probably reductionist.  The human body is not so much a system as it is a system of systems.  Hard to get the science right.  Is it accurate to isolate certain things like diet and exercise without looking at other things like exposure to environmental toxins, stress levels and the way people cope with them, emotional well being, and of course the gut microbiome?

Ah the mighty gut microbiome.  It's what all the cool kids are talking about these days.  Hundreds of trillions of bacteria living in our gut.  The implications to health and nutrition are staggering never mind the existential crisis of are we humans carting around a gut full of bacteria or are the bacteria carting around a sack full of human skin and bones?  Who's really running the show?  Do the answers to treating obesity and chronic diseases and dementia lie in the gut?  So much we don't know.

But as humans living more in a zoo than a natural environment we need to be aware of these things, we need to try to understand all we can about the food we eat, the types of exercise and activities we do, the ways we manage stress and emotions.  All of these things have a profound effect on our health and well being and the approach of going to the doctor and taking a pill for every possible malady with little or no changes to lifestyle is failing.  Miserably.  And I'm not at all anti-drug/modern medicine.  I take a prescription drug to treat the symptoms of a chronic condition and it works beautifully for me, so far.  The drug even helps prevent certain cancers (though may make me susceptible to others).  It has given me my life back.  Some of my lifestyle changes have made the condition far less severe and easier to deal with but I experimented with going off the drug last month and it didn't go well.  Drugs have their place.  Some drugs keep people alive.  But they aren't the answer to many chronic conditions and often make the conditions worse, especially if people continue with the unhealthy lifestyle choices that have brought the condition about in the first place.  It takes 17 years for research to make its way to the doctor's office.  Do you have 17 years to wait for the doctors to change their outdated advice and protocols?  The other day I learned that the brain degeneration that leads to Alzheimer's/dementia starts in your twenties and thirties.  The cupcakes and pizza you eat as a 25 year old make a huge difference to your future health.  I wish I knew back then what I know now about Alzheimer's and diet.  Hopefully at 50 it's not too late to turn things around.

So whatever health issue you struggle with I urge you to do your own research, be your own advocate, question your doctor, don't just let him or her give you the latest drug, pat you on the ass and send you on your way.  Experiment with things, figure out what works for you.  Functional medicine is a great place to start for chronic health conditions, weight loss, hormone issues.  Getting your nutrition right is crucial.  If what you're doing isn't working, question what you think you know about nutrition.  Is 'Calories In = Calories Out' a realistic, effective strategy for weight loss?  Is saturated fat bad for you?  Is fruit juice good for you?  Get your Google and your YouTube on.  Sometimes moderation isn't always the answer.  This is a great lecture by Denise Minger who shows that the research seems to point to life on the extremes of diet being the best.  Or at least our current perception of what is extreme.  Despite the title of the video this is not promoting veganism, it was a talk given at a paleo conference.  I'm not a vegan myself.  But I found some of these research reports fascinating.

Question, research, be your own advocate and keep an open mind.  But not so open that you let the 30 Bananas a Day people in because Yikes. Most important of all don't just sit there, get off your butt, realize that you need to make some changes.  It's not enough to figure out what changes you need to make, you have to actually make the changes.  And keep them.  Not just for a week or a month but forever.  Or at least until you decide to experiment with something else.  Maybe veganism is just the thing to help turn your heart disease around but once you're healthy again you can add meat and dairy back in, like Clinton did.

Here are some of my favorite voices out there.  I encourage you to go find yours.

Peter Attia, M.D., The Eating Academy (by far my favorite voice out there)

David Perlmutter, M.D., neurologist and author of 'Grain Brain'

Sara Gottfried, M.D., everything you ever wanted to know about hacking your hormones

Tom O'Bryan, everything you ever wanted to know about gluten

Alesio Fasano, M.D., the godfather of gluten

Jeff Volek, PhD and Stephen Phinney, PhD, kings of ketosis for health and performance

Dominic D'Agostino, PhD, using ketosis to help treat cancer

Denise Minger, a journalist but I love how she digests research

Nina Teicholz, author of 'The Big Fat Surprise'

Stephan Guyenet, PhD, obesity researcher, great blog that dissects current research on nutrition

Some fun Podcasts on health and nutrition

Fat Burning Man

Bulletproof Radio 

IHMC- Not a podcast but they have some great video lectures on health

A great resource for finding out what is in your food, shampoo, and other consumer products is the Environmental Working Group.  Asstons of great information on that site, definitely worth a click.

Everything I've said here goes for dog health and nutrition as well.  I'm a big fan of real, whole foods for dogs.  Not a fan of kibble, especially grain free kibble for the same reason I'm not a fan of gluten free processed food.  First of all its processed food and second of all, the binders that they use instead of grain/gluten are usually cheaper, worse quality, more unhealthy stuff than the grains and gluten.  Read the labels, do the research, know what's in their food and yours.  The quality of our lives depends on it.

This post is a part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day.  To read more posts on the topic of 'Health and Well Being' click here.