Monthly Archives: March 2009

New Respect for Fit Mommas

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always had respect for fit mommas like MizFit and Workout Mommy who manage to rock both mommahood AND fitness at the same time.  But my respect has grown immeasurably over the last 24 hours. 

I’m in Colchester visiting a friend who had her first baby last November.  This is my first baby, too, at least in my sphere of “Friends Who Have Babies” (current membership: 1).  I’ve never spent a day with a baby before and I was pretty blown away by how much work it entails.

Here’s the view from someone who’s never been much of a baby person:

  • Babies don’t just sit around like a lump drooling all day.
  • Even when babies are just lumping out, you’ve gotta sing and talk to them or else they start crying.
  • Babies cry a lot.
  • Babies are a lot heavier than they look. 
  • Babies are a lot smarter than they look.
  • Baby time is a lot more fun when there’s some physical activity involved.

On that last point – and here is why my friend is a rockin’ momma, too – it’s way easier to care for a baby if you can actually do active things with the wee one.  Yesterday, the three of us spent the day walking pretty much.  We walked to the coffee shop, then to the supermarket, then around the park.  Half the time we were pushing the baby in a stroller; the rest we were carrying the baby because it seemed to want to cry otherwise (hence why babies are so heavy – you try lugging a 14lb wriggle work around town all day). 

It’s exhausting work – and I haven’t even mentioned the whole middle-of-the-night feedings.  I can see why some parents get totally wiped out by all this baby stuff and feel tempted to just plot their kids in front of the TV. So, it was cool to see my friend so engaged in her baby’s life beyond the playpen.  And her kid seems really happy for it, too.  In fact they both seem healthy and happy and full of energy.  It’s another one of life’s upward spirals, I guess – the more active and engaged you are in your baby’s life, the easier it is to STAY active and engaged in your baby’s life.

That’s all for now.  It’s St. Patrick’s Day and we are heading to the beach where we hope the English sun (a neglectful momma if there ever was one) will grace us with our presence.  No Guinness for baby though.

Highlights from a Week in Food

I’ve been too busy this week to post my daily food diaries, but I did want to share a couple of tasty highlights from last week’s food diary (updated regularly in my flickr stream).

Banana and Walnuts on Rye Toast

Tea and Toast

Bircher Muesli with Bananas, Tea, and Nick Hornby

Bircher Muesli

Mung Dal, Cauliflower with Ginger and Coriander, Salad and Toast

Leftover Dal and Cauliflower with Salad and Rye Toast

Toast and Avocado on Rye Bread

Tomato and Avocado on Rye

Fried Brown Rice

Fried Brown Rice

Smoky Grilled Tempeh

Smoky Grilled Tempeh

Tofu, Carrots and Hijiki with Swiss Chard and Shriracha Sauce

Tofu in a Swiss Chard Blanket - With Hot Sauce!

Wall Sits and Shin Splints

Not these Shins!


Before I enchant you with a quad-burning good time, a quick update on my shin splints.

Last September I wrote about some shin pain that put the kibosh on my 7km daily walks and eventually interfered with my swimming mojo. Seven months later, I still experience near constant pain localized in the area below my right kneecap.

The good news is, I did something about it and it’s getting better. I started seeing a physiotherapist and a podiatrist who’ve been able to isolate the problem to a few causes:

  1. My right leg is slightly shorter than my left leg. As a result, my muscles are imbalanced and one side of my body is constantly overcompensating for the other.
  2. My calves are extremely tight. This increases the strain on the muscle attachments in my lower leg.
  3. I have some inflammation in the bursa beneath my kneecap.

The one-sentence solution is to stretch and strengthen. That is, I need to stretch out my calf muscles and improve my balance through core strengthening exercises and orthopedic inserts. I’ve been wearing the inserts since December and they’ve helped considerably. Now I’m focused on the balancing bit. According to my physio, my quads, butt and abs need the most work, so I’m doing a series of daily exercises to rock my core and even things out.

Wall Sits

The exercise he’s given me to target my quads are called “wall sits”. Wall sits are exactly what they sound like. I’ll let FitSugar do the talking:


  • Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hips distance apart.
  • Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90 degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet further from the wall to create proper alignment. Don’t let your knees fall in on the midline of your body, or sway outwards.
  • Hold for one minute, do three reps.

FitSugar also points out that wall sits are great for runners who are especially prone to similar knee pain called patellofemoral pain syndrome (PPFS). The causes are eerily familiar:

While there can be many reasons for this annoying and common problem that most often strikes newbies, it is most often caused by tight hamstrings and calves (the muscles in the back of the leg) coupled with weak quads (the muscle at the front of the thigh).

So I’ve been doing wall sits every day and they burn. But not in the it-burns-when-I-pee kinda scary way. I like this burn, and it reminds me how much I used to love strength training during my gym-going days. I’ve been meaning to develop an equipment-free training routine I can do at home, but the plain simple fact is: I’ve been lazy. Now I feel like I’m suffering the consequences and it’s time to step up and put on some damn muscle.

My goal for this week is to come up with a full-body strength training routine I can do at home. Anyone out there have any suggestions?

What’s on Your Bookshelf?


I’ve been doing a lot of reading, lately and recently subscribed to GoodReads to keep track of my books. I’m totally hooked!

Among its many cool features, GoodReads let me create SmarterFitter bookshelf to keep track of all the books that make me wanna be, well, smarter and fitter. Classic favorites include David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual, Bob Anderson’s Book of Stretching, and Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.

This little exercise brought to mind how much more I rely on the Internet for fitness information rather than books. That’s kind of crazy, don’t you think? Sure, there are plenty of dubious books out there, but I’m definitely up for expanding my horizons with some literature that has at least been subject to some form of peer review.

So help me out here folks: what are your favorite health and fitness books?

I’m up for anything, and I’m super++ up for any books on strength training (without use of machines or fancy equipment), nutrition, swimming and cycling. And of course, if YOU’VE had a book published, let’s here about it. I invite you to pimp you’re warez in the comments!

And if you’re a GoodReads user, feel free to add me as a contact. See you in the stacks!

London Library

Totally Random Tuesdays

Maybe I’ll make “Totally Random Tuesdays” a regular theme. Maybe not. Either way, here’s a few totally unrelated links I’ve stumbled upon over the last few days that I thought were worth sharing.:

Fitness is not an overnight sensation [New York Times, via GetFitSlowly]

Plenty of people have dramatically changed their appearance through diet and exercise. But how long does it take? And with how much effort? Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, undertook a study to answer these questions. His conclusion:

“To make a change in how you look, you are talking about a significant period of training,” Dr. Kraemer said. “In our studies it takes six months to a year.” And, he added, that is with regular strength-training workouts, using the appropriate weights and with a carefully designed individualized program. “That is what the reality is,” he said.

Want to Live Better and Think Longer? Get a Hobby [Modern Forager]

The Mayo Clinic recently released a report that claims having a hobby delays memory loss. That may be true, but having a hobby (or two, or a gazillion like a lot of you multi-faceted folks) is good in so many ways. Modern Forager points out a few, such as a sense of accomplishment and stress relief…

I most certainly wouldn’t call myself a drummer…I’m just a guy with a drum set. But every time I sit behind my drum set, I pull off something that gave me fits the day before. And there’s no limit to how far I can go or how much I can learn. There’s always another song or another complex measure to learn. Or just simply teaching my feet to actually do as I say! The same sense of accomplishment comes with any hobby. You learn new words, work the impossible crossword puzzle, or chase down that elusive stamp.

VegOut, for your vegetarian dining needs [TUAW, via Tim]

Veggie heaven on your iPhone?

VegOut is powered by, an community aggregator for reviews and locations of vegan, vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants. VegOut provides location awareness, touch navigation and a great-looking front end for this very useful service. It provides ratings, contact info, maps and can filter by your specific vegan/vegetarian preferences. If you’re going out with a group of omnivores, or trying to please a vegan in the group but still keep the rest of the carnivores well-fed, VegOut can help. In addition to “current location” search, it can also search any location you specify.

Backwoods Home Magazine: Canning 101 [Backwoods Home Magazine, via Cheap Healthy Good]

I’ve always wanted to make my own pickles and jam. You, too? Jackie Clay shows us how – and why – canning is the bomb.

…for people of a self-reliant inclination—raising a good portion of their own wholesome, chemical-free food and establishing a storage method that is easy and results in tasty food, even years down the road—home canning is the way to go.

Bean Salads and Bircher – Am I Becoming a Bore?

I hope my food isn’t becoming too monotonous. First there was Bircher muesli, now there’s bean salad? I don’t think so. Stay tuned for variety, including smokey grilled tempeh and tofu wraps!

Diary for Monday, March 9, 2009


Bircher Muesli with Bananas

Bircher Muesli with Bananas


Lunch Salad with Avocado on Toast

Lunch Salad with Avocado on Toast

The salad: chickpeas, spinach, mixed leaves, carrots, red pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, mushrooms, alfalfa sprouts, cauliflower, oregano, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil.


Orange wedges



12-mile round trip to client meeting and back.


Pan-fried Tofu and Mushrooms with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Pan-fried Tofu and Mushrooms with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Bean Not Afraid of Bean Salad

71DDBFDB-280F-4069-8CA3-AEACB2B0113E.jpgI have bad memories of bean salad. I think the picture says it all. Those cans of sad, soggy, limp legumes in a putrid, sweet and tangy “vinaigrette” put bean salad to shame. For that reason, I rarely include beans in my salad. But this weekend I was in the mood for a light lunch that was heavy on the protein and raw veggies and light on preparation. Thus I rediscovered the beauty of a bean salad.

Lunch Salad pre-SproutsFor me, a bean salad needs to be more salad than bean. Case in point: Saturday’s lunch, featuring butter beans!

You’ll observe in the photo on the right that the butter beans are mostly hidden by glorious mounds of fresh veggies, including mixed leaves, broccoli, red onion, carrot, tomato, mushrooms, and avocado. I dressed it simply in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a little dash of oregano.

Chickpea Salad and FriendSunday brought another excuse for beans, when I made pizza for dinner. I wanted to round out the bready main dish with a little protein, so I took some inspiration from this Mediterranean Chickpea Salad from the New York Times and threw together some chickpeas, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onions, and kalamata olives with some lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. Delicious!

All of this has me in a bean salad mood. Do you have any tasty recipes to share?

Diary for Saturday, March 7, 2009


Knee was bugging me so swam with the buoy. 1200 meters.


Bircher Muesli with Bananas

Bircher Muesli with Bananas and TimeOut London


English Breakfast without all the Englishy Bits

Toast, grilled mushrooms and tomato, steamed spinach. Not shown: a little avocado for my toast.

Vegan English Breakfast





Tofu Scramble with Toast and Spring Greens

Tofu Scramble

Diary for Sunday, March 8, 2009


Still taking it easy on the ol’ knee. A mega easy slow and steady 600 meters.


Bircher Muesli

Basic Bircher


Butter Bean Salad

Lunch Salad


Pizza with Chickpea Salad

And a little raw spinach, tomato and onion for good measure. The pizza was topped with Tim’s tomato sauce, onion, broccoli, mushrooms, fresh red chilis, and buffalo mozzarella. I put WAY too much red chili on this… luckily all was not lost; I only put chili on a couple slices.

Pizza and Salads

Organic Pitfield’s Eco Warrior Beer

A treat! I love this stuff.

Eco Warrior

Small Glass of Campofiorin

It probably would have been a Large Glass if there had been more wine left from last week’s Italian meal.

Masi Campofiorin

Our Daily Bread: The Film

I just watched the film “Our Daily Bread” and am now having serious thoughts (again) about going vegan.

In no words at all, this German film gives an inside look at the world of industrial food production. I will forgo my review until my mind has finished reeling over the images, but I will say that I’m left feeling like mechanization has brought out the best and worst in humanity, the best being some amazing inventions and the worst being, well, animal farming in general. The movie’s not all about animal farming, mind you; fruit and veg production is given fair treatment, as well.

Here is a trailer and synopsis.

Film Synopsis:

Welcome to the world of industrial food production and high-tech farming! To the rhythm of conveyor belts and immense machines, the film looks without commenting into the places where food is produced in Europe: monumental spaces, surreal landscapes and bizarre sounds – a cool, industrial environment which leaves little space for individualism. People, animals, crops and machines play a supporting role in the logistics of this system which provides our society’s standard of living.

OUR DAILY BREAD is a wide-screen tableau of a feast which isn’t always easy to digest – and in which we all take part. A pure, meticulous and high-end film experience that enables the audience to form their own ideas.


SmellyAll it took was a good sleep and a nice swim to break me out of Thursday’s funk. In effect, I had achieved what I like to call defunkification (and I don’t mean the stinky stuff).

What is defunkification? Quite simply, it’s the process of breaking out of a funk, i.e. a depressed mood that keeps you from getting on with anything useful (the verb form being “defunkify”). For me, a funk usually means staring at the computer screen doing nothing useful even though I know I have tons to do. But I don’t know where to start, so I do nothing, and this idling puts me in a funk. Is there a way to break to cycle?

Coincidentally, this topic came up with my client later on Friday. He used the term “demoping”, which is essential the same thing. He had a fantastic defunking strategy:

Go outside and talk to a stranger.

This got us brainstorming other defunking techniques…

  • Go for a walk
  • Write in my journal
  • Go for a swim
  • Make the bed
  • Take a shower
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Tidy my desk
  • Just pick one thing you want to accomplish and set a time limit, usually 30-minutes or less

Some of these techniques may seem more like procrastination than defunkification, but does it really matter if it snaps you out of it?

What about you guys? How do you break out of a funk?

Diary for Friday, March 6, 2009


What a difference a solid sleep makes. Friday morning, I felt mostly recovered from Thursday’s funk so headed straight to the pool and swam a blissful 2000 meters. Nothing to challenging, just slow and steady, for about 50 minutes. By the end of my swim, I felt fully recovered and ready to take on the day.


Bircher Muesli with Bananas

Bircher Muesli with Bananas


Chana Masaledar with Cabbage Salad, Raw Veggies, and a Slice of No Knead Bread

Chana Masaledar


12-mile round trip ride to my client’s office and back.

Sandwiched between the ride was a long meeting at my client’s office. That makes my afternoon sound somewhat lame and boring, but in fact it was the opposite. My client is a small start-up company and I’m helping them design and develop a bit of software. The people who run the company are “idea people” and I really enjoying the creative process that working with a small group of motivated people affords. The gig is teaching me a lot about how to run my own business pursuits. Overall, it’s a bad way to pay the bills.


Apple and a few nuts. Consumed at the client’s, no camera alas!

Dinner – Rocket launch!

Penne pasta with the best arrabiatta sauce ever, prepared lovingly by Tim. Served with a rocket, cucumber and parmesan salad.

Rocket Launch

Thursday Funk

Do you ever have days that are just plain lousy? Sure, we all do. Thursday was one of those days. Nothing serious. Just a little physically run down and queesy. Very strange. Best not to dwell on it, and focus on the positive things, like some of the delicious food I comforted myself with throughout the day.

Diary for Thursday, March 5, 2009


Bircher Muesli with Bananas

And a little sprinkle of coconut.

Bircher Muesli with Bananas


Pink Grapefruit



Mediterranean Baked Beans with Salad, Avocado and Toast

How could I not feel better after this?

Mediterranean Baked Beans with Salad and Bread

Mediterranean Baked Beans with Salad and Bread


Blood orange

Not pictured. My disposition took a real turn for the worst in the late afternoon. A cold orange and some sparkling water was therapeutic, if only for the mind.


Scrambled Tofu with Brussels Sprouts, Avocado and Toast

Tofu Scramble with Brussels Sprouts, No Knead Bread and Avocado