There are few things I love more than a hot, steaming bowl of spicy, Sichuan Mapo Tofu. I always knew when my dad was making mapo tofu because the smell of fresh popping peppercorns would cause a coughing fit in our household. Mapo tofu is a Chinese comfort food composed primarily of ground pork, soft tofu, and lots of Sichuan spices. Served over a bowl of rice and you have a perfect senses-clearing meal. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
Check out the latest SF Burger Examiner post on organic, natural, grass-fed burgers. I lay out the difference between the terminology and where to find these types of patties in SF. Just click the link below for the full article.
I’ll be taking a bit of a vaca for the next week to Kauai, and more specifically to the Napali Coast and Hanalei. Despite living on Oahu for three years as a kid, I never took a trip to any of the other islands so I’m excited!
SF Tao of Pao will be taking a break till I get back but I will definitely be keeping up the Pao Fit, Pao Sip, and Pao Chow while there.
My travel buddy and I will start off the trip backpacking the Napali Coast (think Jurassic Park meets Lost). The Napali Coast is a 12 mile brutal up and down hill backpack but it has probably one of the most beautiful coastal and mountainous backdrops that you’ll find anywhere. Hiking in is the only way you can arrive at a pristine beach, unless you flag down a boat and get dropped off. My 35 pound pack is stuffed to the brim with a tent, sleep mat, sleeping bag, headlamp and snacks. I’ve got a pair of hiking sticks to help us navigate across slippery muddy areas and streams we may encounter. Am pumped to get outdoors, cut off from the internet, the phone and any other modern day distractions, and get Pao Fit with the locals and nature.
We’ll camp a couple nights and then backpack out the 12 miles, then hitch on back to Hanalei where we’ve rented a condo on the water. I am a person who enjoys both roughing it and also lapping it up in a bit of pampering luxury:)
Over the next couple days am planning on a couple tank dives at Poipu beach where I hope to interact with large sea turtles, colorful tropical fish, hopefully a few sharks and lots of vibrant coral. We’re also in discussions to kayak down the Wailua river to a secret set of waterfalls, do some hiking, maybe a zipline through a canyon ravine and of course…RELAX and kick back, getting some suntans on our Bay area bodies. I would not be surprised if we Pao Chow on the local fair like crispy skin kalua pork, poi, more poke than you care to think about.
Till next week ALOHA!
For my non-Spanish speakers, allow me to translate the title of today’s post: Puerto Rican Food Feast without Salt? Yes, You Can! You may remember an entry I put up a week or so ago (http://sftaoofpao.com/2010/03/03/fiesta-de-comida-recetas-puertorriquenas-sin-sal) detailing a Puerto Rican dinner challenge I was going to have with fellow food celebrator, Jessica Goldman, writer of http://sodiumgirl.wordpress.com. Our feat for the evening? Cook a multi-course Puerto Rican dinner without any added sodium and make sure not to sacrifice on the flavour front. I was a bit skeptical of the outcome. I cannot imagine anything more LTI (Less Than Impressive – learn it, love it, use it) than spending a couple hours on a large feast, only to have it…lacking. Would my taste buds end the evening satisfied? After all, I identify as a salt, meat and savory lover. In the middle of the night I do not crave donuts or ice cream. I yearn for pickles, cured bacon, chips and salsa, Salt and Pepper Kettle chips or eggs. My salt-centric nature stems from growing up in a Chinese household, where sodium was never used sparingly as an ingredient in the kitchen. Yet despite this proclivity for salt, I trusted Jessica’s expertise in the area and set forth determined. We were not just going to accomplish our goal for the evening; we were knocking it out of the park, or in this case, the kitchen.
This was definitely a team challenge. As a lover of Puerto Rican food (I’m actually heading to San Rafael gem Sol Food this week for round 2), I proposed the initial menu for the evening. Jessica reviewed it for potential salt issues and made some innovative substitutions, not to mention completely owning the ceviche portion of the night. Then we got to work for two to three hours of chopping, searing, stewing, blending and of course, eating. The final menu is listed below, along with recipes in case you want to recreate any of the dishes on your own:
1) Pork Butt Sofrito:
Sofrito is a popular Puerto Rican base that blends chopped peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and spices. We opted to substitute pork butt for pigs feet given that pigs feet are often cured or pickled, which is code for large amounts of sodium. The pork butt is a smart substitute given the fattier nature of the cut, and if you read my other posts, you know that I’m never a girl to say no to pork fat, or any fatty meat for that matter. Not only does the fat help bring out the flavour of the meat; for sofrito, rendered pork fat is often used to sauté the achiote seeds before adding them to the base. Normally sofrito calls for a ½ cup of olives with pimientos, but given the high salt content, Jessica whipped out her creative skills and made pickled grapes (see link below) in their place.
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 head of garlic (I recommend smashing the garlic before chopping to bring out the essence a bit more)
- 3 large onions (I like using one white onion and then two red onions for their acerbic quality)
- 3 red bell peppers
- 2 poblano peppers
- 2 tomatillos
- 2 jalapenos for a punch of spice
- ½ cup pickled red grapes (http://sodiumgirl.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/hello-world/)
- 2 tbsp. crushed oregano
- 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (an optional and more untraditional addition)
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound of pork butt
1. Put 2 bell peppers, the poblanos, and the tomatillos (washed with outer leaves removed) into an oven-safe dish and broil on low for 10 minutes. Turn the peppers, poblanos, and tomatillos when one side has charred and broil for another ten minutes. Let them cool and remove the charred skin.
2. While you are waiting for the roasted peppers to cool, prepare the pork butt by cutting it into small 1/2-inch cubes. Leave most of the fat, it will add a nice flavor to the sofrito and will cook off by the time you eat the final dish.
3. In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and when ready, add the pork chunks. Sear both sides, about 8-10 minutes depending on your preference. You don’t need to cook them all the way through as they will sit on a simmer in the sofrito base for an hour.
4. Prepare the rest of the ingredients (garlic, onion, bell pepper, cilantro, pickled grapes, jalapeno) by roughly chopping them.
5. In a large pot, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and add garlic and onion. Saute until slightly browned, about 5 minutes, and then add the chopped roasted pepper, bell pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, and pickled grapes.
6. With an immersion blender, puree the ingredients until as smooth as you desire. For consistency comparison, the sofrito will resemble a chunkier salsa.
7. Add the pork butt and allow the stew to come to a boil.
8. Once it has begun to bubble, reduce to a simmer (medium heat) and cover pot. Cook for another hour until the meat is tender. Serve over rice – we flavored our white rice with fresh cilantro and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. My friend Kat’s Latin grandmother always added a bit of Safflower oil (and salt when diet restrictions are not a concern) to her rice for that made-at-home flavor.
2) Rock Cod Ceviche
Initially we were going to try and do a traditional Octopus salad (I’m a girl who loves her tentacles), but given the high sodium content of octopus, Jessica went back to the drawing board (or in this case cutting board) and opted for a rock cod ceviche. Ceviche is made by marinating fish or seafood in citrus juices; whereby the acidity of the juices cures or “cooks” the fish without using any heat. Ceviches vary depending on the country. The more typical Peruvian ceviches use leche de tigre, a lime juice marinade to cure the fish, and then incorporate sliced red onion, chili, salt, pepper and usually a bit of aji or spice. Popular accompaniments include corn on the cob and sweet potatoes. Ecuador doctors the ceviche up a bit by adding tomato sauce or even ketchup at times. Mexican ceviches tend to employ a bit of avocado, chopped tomatoes and cilantro. For our feast’s ceviche, Jessica opted more for a Peruvian type ceviche, adding a bit of the Goldman flair with fresh fruit complements and avocado. Whoever says girls in shiny black leggings and a purple cardigan can’t cook, have not met Jess. Just check out the ingredients and recipe below. Prepare to have your socks, or in this case calcetines, knocked off with the fresh, cool taste of the sea. I promise that you won’t miss salt in this dish. Heck, you might even want to spill the salt so you have an excuse to toss the entire salt shaker over your left shoulder. A little food fighting never hurts in my eyes…Nor does spontaneous kitchen break dancing.
- Fresh rock cod (does not have to be a lot since this is just an appetizer)
- Blood orange juice (more of the Jess Goldman personal touch with this substitution for lime or lemon juice)
- 3 large onions (I like using one white onion and then two red onions for their strong flavor)
- Finely diced green onions
This is the easy part for ceviche. You literally just ensure you have very fresh fish, chop it to the size of your liking, then drop it in the citrus juices for three hours to soak up the citric acid. If you have concerns over it being undercooked, you can do quick sear or poach. Finely chop up the green onions, garlic, avocado and nectarine then toss together. This will making for an inviting and colorful start to the meal.
3) Tostones de ajo (Garlic plantains)
I still remember the first time I saw a plantain. Mrs. Drorbaugh, my Spanish 4AP teacher, brought in bushels of them to class and demonstrated the proper way to not only hold a plantain (I know what you are thinking, there is a proper way to hold it?!), she then talked to us about the different methods you could prepare it. I, like any 17 year old teenager, was delighted to hear that you could fry up this family member of the banana. I will be venturing to Sol Food tomorrow after a night hike in the Headlands. I can think of nothing better after a night hike than filling my belly with a plate of Puerto Rican food, while Pao Sipping fresh Limeade. My planned meal for the evening? I’m debating between Pollo el Horno (Roasted chicken) or Chuletas Fritas (Fried pork chops). The one dish I have no trouble deciding upon is my side dish: Fried garlic plantains, or as they are referred to in Spanish; Tostones de ajo.
Since Tostones are an obvious “No Question” whenever I’m out ordering Puerto Rican food. I thought to myself, how hard can these fried puppies really be to make? The answer? Very easy. They take about 5 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook and make an exceptionally good partner to rock cod ceviche. Who needs tortilla chips when you have plantain chips?
- 5 tablespoons oil for frying
- 2 plantains, peeled and broken into chunks
- 3 cups cold water
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Place the plantains in the oil and fry on both sides until soft, approximately 5 minutes per side.
2. Remove the plantains from the pan and place on paper towel-lined plates.
3. Place the bottom of a heavy pan over the plantains then press down to flatten. Jess got a bit innovative here and mashed the plantains with a fork, then molded them into small plantain patties. This would be a good time to press in the garlic to the plantain.
4. Dip the plantains in water, then return them to the hot oil and fry 1 minute on each side.
The final result of our feast was a vibrant array of Puerto Rican recipes that revived our senses, tested our creativity and still managed to be healthy, and low in sodium. Oh, and did I mention we also had a ball? It’s not every day I meet a strong, sassy, fun-loving girl like Jess and I’m pumped for the next challenge. We plan on opening up the night to two other food enthusiasts: Jillian and Christina, the writers of organic, sustainable food resource, Farm and Frying pan (http://www.farmandafryingpan.com/). Right now we are considering Moroccan for the next theme. Hold onto your butts, grab a spoon to sample some turmeric-laced tagine, and get ready for next week’s post. Till then keep Pao Chowing.
My Path to Pilates
The last year I’ve integrated more yoga into my routine, doing 1-3 classes regularly per week. I’ve embraced vinyasa flow, power yoga, hatha yoga. I think I’m about 5 years past when it was “white hot” – you know the days I’m talking about. When classes were filled with 60 people, all the movie stars with their kabala bracelets, and people boasted about the amount of sweat they shed from a recent Bikram class. Yup, I’m generally one a bit late to trends.
Given this little fact, it should be no surprise that I’ve been one of the stragglers to jump on the pilates wagon. I have a number of friends who regularly do pilates; some of them 2-3 times a week. I never really understood the hype. Maybe it is those torture-looking devices (I’ve since learned their proper name is “Reformer) or that a private session is generally between $75 and $100 an hour. I don’t even belong to a gym anymore, and with my variety of interests, I find it hard to commit to a single activity, let alone one that requires me to shell out a substantial amount of moola per session. It might also have something to do with the fact that the last time I did pilates was when I was living in Chile. Imagine trying to understand an instructor’s commands about isolating your pelvis and abdominal muscles in Spanish when you’re not completely fluent? If you think that image is funny, don’t even get me started on doing Step classes in Spanish – Vuelta!
Let’s refocus back to the topic at hand though: Pilates. And not just any form of pilates; one-on-one focused sessions. I can say now with utmost confidence that I am a believer. My buddy Lauren recently introduced me to her good friend, Robyn, owner of Body Equations in Nob Hill. Lauren and I went to a regular mat pilates class at the studio. I remembered some of the exercises from Chilean pilates and even (gasp!) the Windsor pilates CD I had in college. However, I have to say, after an hour class, I was not sweating. My muscles were not hurting. I did not feel like I was strengthening anything really. I found myself thinking – is this it? But…I also was 99% sure that I was doing the entire class incorrectly – and let me say that I’ve since validated that suspicion. I think I went in with a bit of bravado, considering, “okay, how hard can this be? How different is this from my vinyasa flow or hatha yoga classes?” Let me tell you…very different.
After the class I talked to Robyn and we decided I should come back for a one-on-one hour session so I could really get the full experience. We set up a date for the following week. By the way, it ended up being about an hour and a half when said and done – Robyn does not rush and is thorough in her sessions.
Body Equations is centrally-located on Hyde and Pine, just down from the Nob Hill Grille (which I hear has fantastic brunch on Sundays). Parking is surprisingly not too bad, although I also have historically good parking karma, so don’t quote me on that. If you get there at 6PM or later you can park in some of the metered spots nearby. The studio is simple and multi-leveled, with three main rooms. The entire location has wide open glass windows, so I hope you’re not shy since passer-byers can see in. The mat pilates is done on the top level, equipped with wooden floors and full mirrors that extend the entire length of the wall – this is good for checking your form. The bottom right room houses a couple Reformer machines from Body Balance. The upstairs room is a bit more private and includes a contraption known as the “Cadillac.” There are also a variety of other tools that aide in sessions and strengthening exercises. Amenities include a private changing room, free Aeromats for mat pilates classes, and water to keep you hydrated through the workout.
Vibe & Inspiration
Before we get into the details, let’s discuss the overall vibe, personality and inspiration of Body Equations. The first time I went, I arrived a bit early and had a chance to wait and watch a couple other one-on-one sessions. The clientele was varied, there were younger people my age (late twenties), a woman in her mid forties or fifties and an older gentleman who I’d estimate at 65. Each of these different individuals looked focused, concentrating and pushing themselves to his/her own personal limit. The diverse client base speaks to the studio’s slogan: “Unique solutions for unique bodies.” When I spoke with Robyn about the inspiration behind Body Equations, her answer echoed not just the slogan, but also her experience with treating injuries.
Every body is different and you can’t always go “by the book.” Two people may have the same injury but need to do different exercises to rehab it. Or an area on your body that is giving you pain might really stem from poor alignment or a past injury of another body part.
This answer resonated with me, having experienced multiple injuries from running, dancing, snowboarding, many of which still affect me today. The one piece of information I’ve learned after spending thousands of dollars on physical therapy, doctors’ visits and MRIs is that an injury’s touch can go well-beyond what is initially anticipated if the source is not understood and treated comprehensively.
Another note about the clientele – everyone seemed to be smiling and enjoying themselves (as much as you can enjoy a pelvic tilt), which I think speaks to the laid-back and welcoming nature of Robyn and her staff. I witnessed the unintimidating nature of Body Equations, which is no accident. Robyn explained how she wanted to “develop a space where people were comfortable trying new things and going back to the drawing board if it didn’t work.”
Grace and Strength as a Foundation
Robyn’s training is extensive. She is a dancer by trade, majoring in Dance at Roger Williams for Dance and Performance. Pilates was a required part of the curriculum and that is where her passion was first incited. I was particularly excited about this experience as I was a dancer in high school and suffered my current hamstring tear/strain injury doing a hip hop class in the Mission. I knew that given Robyn’s training she would be able to understand and hopefully customize a session geared towards that injury.
After Robyn graduated, she pursued dance in Boston and for 3 ½ years studied Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian art form that incorporates dance, martial arts and music. She landed in San Francisco a bit later, and earned her certification in pilates. Robyn has taught at multiple studios in the city, and through that experience, discovered her knack for teaching and passion for learning about bodies. When she pulled the trigger on her own studio 2 years ago, several of her clients followed her.
Body Equations is well-respected in the pilates community, with regular instructional and training programs conducted at the facilities. Robyn is also an athlete. This past weekend she joined us for the Kaiser Half Marathon in preparation for her first Half Ironman, which she plans to take down later this year. Given this breadth of experience with different sports, she understands how important it is to customize a session to each person’s individual needs, goals and problems. Beyond all this though, I feel it necessary to touch on Robyn’s presence. The easiest way to describe her would be calm, light-hearted and caring. Right off the bat you can see her way with people. She instantly makes you feel comfortable, never patronizes you for your (or in this case my) lack of pilates knowledge. She asks pertinent questions about your athletic and medical history, and often times before I tell her what problem is bothering my body, she has already deciphered it from simple observation and adjustment.
Our one-on-one began with her asking me to slowly bend over and touch my toes. I did this probably 2-3 times and without any touch or adjustment (Body Equations is generally very hands-on, which I am all for!). When I stood up she commented on my hips’ uneven rotation, that I leaned on a certain part of my foot more than the other, and that the way I was bending over was straining my hamstrings. Let me tell you that every one of those deductions was true – as validated by my sports medicine doctor AND physical therapist – I over-rotate my hips, thus straining my already injured hamstring and I’ve had cases of plantar fasciitis. All this and she had not even laid a finger on me yet. The session had just begun and I was already impressed.
Next I had a 15-20 minute session on the Cadillac. The Cadillac is a cushioned table about waist-high with rectangular metal bars on the borders that extend upwards towards the ceiling. Straps and spring-like hand grips hang from all different sides of the Cadillac. The first exercise we did was to have me lie down and work on my pelvic tilt (which I’ve learned is much harder to do than anticipated). After I’d gotten the pelvic tilt we worked on using my core muscles to raise my body up slightly, while also pushing down on the springy hand grip. Let me tell you that I’ve never thought so much about so many different small muscles in my body. I was supposed to strengthen my core, tilt my pelvis, keep my shoulders back and down all while not straining my neck or activating my glutes. It’s harder than it looks, or in this case, reads. Yet, through it all Robyn was encouraging. We moved on to a hanging strap for my legs to work on Bridge exercises. This exercise was especially important for me because it activated my recovering hamstrings, which my body naturally tries to compensate for by using the glutes. Robyn knew to look out for this and helped me feel the difference between using my glutes, or releasing my pelvis and using my hamstrings to lift. When I’d finished the session on the Cadillac I felt like I’d just done a concentrated upper and core workout, followed by maybe a quick climb. Not bad for the first 15-20 minutes.
Next up was the Reformer. The Reformer is the torture device I was lovingly referring to earlier. It sits about 1-2 feet off the ground and has a shuttle characteristic (you can slide up and down) with straps attached to its sides. I have used a Reformer before at different physical therapy offices, but this was a wholly different experience. For one of the exercises, Robyn placed a large square pad on top of the sliders. I hoisted my stomach on top of this pad, had all fours down on the Reformer and rested my knees against what would regularly be the shoulder pads. Robyn then instructed me to use my abs to move this beast. I literally laughed at loud when she said this. I’m a runner/dancer/hiker so my legs can go forever; yet my lower core is pretty darn weak. Nevertheless, I concentrated all my energies into my abs, while trying to still keep my body in the proper position (thank goodness Robyn is there adjusting you the whole time), and moved that darn thing! Booyah! Okay, maybe the first time I moved it about an inch. But slowly it was as though some muscle deep in my core, that had probably been hibernating the last year or two, reawakened and I moved that shuttle with more determination. There may or may not have been a couple cheers.
The session did not stop there though. Robyn had a few other exercises up her sleeves. I tested my upper and lower body strength in one that required me to flip on my stomach and lift my upper body off the Reformer, while moving the whole machine with my arms, keeping my legs lifted and pinned together. I’m far from having a six-pack, or as it’s referred to on the Jersey Shore, “The Situation,” but I think with focused pilates and yoga I could be on my way to a two-pack or mini-situation.
I’ve thrown a lot of images at you, but what I hope to convey is that pilates teaches you use your body more efficiently, not just your larger muscles, which are easier to isolate, but those smaller important muscles that are often neglected or even forgotten. It also helps to develop a flexible spine, which is crucial to posture alignment and aides with injury prevention. I’ve made considerable financial investment going to an array of chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and sports medicine doctors. Honestly, I think pilates may be the missing piece to being injury-free. At the end of the session, I felt like I’d just given my body a massive strengthening workout. My body felt leaner, tighter, and elongated. And my hamstrings? For the next day I did not feel my usual persistent tightness. That was enough proof for me to decide to buy a 5 pack of one-on-one sessions.
That brings us to the final piece of information: Price. As I mentioned before, pilates is a more expensive exercise option than your traditional gym membership. However, Body Equations has competitive prices and offers a few great. One-on-one sessions are $75 for an hour. You can also purchase the Starter pack for $200, which includes 5 one-on-one sessions. If you have a friend interested in doing pilates and wanted to save a few bucks, you might want to opt for the semi-private sessions, which cost $55 a person. Mat classes are $15 for drop-in, or you can get a 10-pack for $120.
Tao of Pao Deal for You!
For any of you interested in checking out Body Equations, Robyn will be offering a special through end of March 2010 for all SF Tao of Pao readers! Just tell her that you heard about the studio through this site and you can receive 10% off a 5-pack Starter package ($25 savings) or 5% off a mat class!
So would I recommend Body Equations? Absolutely. If you’ve never done pilates before, or have only done mat pilates, I HIGHLY recommend investing in at least one focused session with Robyn. She’ll work you out, adjust your position so you’re doing it correctly and really help re-engage your body and muscles. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention one of the best parts. After a tough workout, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good stretch. Robyn assists with your stretch, gently pushing down on your muscles to really get you into it. I felt refreshed and enlivened after my workout and look forward to the next one. No doubt – Pao Wow for this Pao Fit pilates spot.
It’s 2010 and everyone is filled with the best of intentions: I will work out every day, and I will like it. I will be nicer to my sister. I will put all my effort into my work. I will surround myself with positive people and produce only optimism. Oh, and perhaps the most popular, I’ll eat better and lose that holiday weight.
The first couple months are always a bit daunting with all the resolutions we’ve promised ourselves, and then having to revisit those commitments and assess success.
My friend emailed me this past week asking, “What do you do to stay healthy?” I gave her a couple ideas and have thought on this topic a bit since our discussion. Instead of “resolutions”, how about a set of of healthy, simple tips? These are tips that I think are manageable and incorporate fairly smoothly into one’s daily life. Good luck to a healthy, productive and positive 2010. The only resolution I have for this year is to not settle for anything “LTI” or “Less Than Impressive” and I hope these tips help you do the same.
1) Eat your veggies (especially salad).
Yes, I love meat, but I also love salad. My parents made us eat a salad or vegetable at every sit-down dinner. At first I disliked this requirement, but now I cannot eat dinner or go out for a meal without having a salad to start. If I don’t have one I feel incomplete. Building a salad into your routine not only has health benefits (okay, maybe avoid the bleu cheese and dressing-soaked options with bacon on a regular basis), it also helps manage your appetite. I try to eat a serving of salad before each meal, so that way I fill up on healthy, nurtitious leafy greens and will be less likely to overindulge in the main course of meat or starch-filled dishes.
2) Limit soda and fruit juices
I’m going to make my parents sound like dictators, but we also were not allowed to have more than one soda per week. I remember enviously looking at all the other kids who regularly had a Coke before school, at lunch and after dance practice. Yet, nowadays, I do not even miss soda. I drink one once in a while, but by not establishing that unhealthy addition, I do not miss it. Sodas and fruit juices (ones that are not all natural) are loaded with tons of sugars and complex carbohydrates. Yes, there are Diet options, but I know a coworker from work who used to drink 3 Diet Cokes per day, thinking he was fine. When he decided to eliminate Diet Coke from his daily routine (no other change from his regular diet), he dropped 10 lbs.
3) Eat breakfast every day
The tip that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day” is not new news to anyone. Yet, I really believe in it. Breakfast does not have to be a complex ordeal. I recommend starting your day with something healthy: oatmeal is a hearty choice and will help manage your bodily cycles, while also keeping you full till lunch. Yogurt with fruit and granola is another good option (LOVE the yogurt & granola from Le Boulange!). My third common breakfast choice are two hard-boiled eggs – which allow a good amount of protein and salt to fuel you through the morning. I try to avoid anything too sweet in the morning, it just leads to further cravings. Breakfast gives you the energy you need to jumpstart your day and will help manage snacks before lunch time.
4) Satisy your cravings…in moderation
Yes, you read that correctly. I want you to satisfy your cravings. So many people I know make the mistake of declaring, “I’m going to completely cut xxx out of my diet.” One thing I’ve realized over time is that the more I try and avoid my craving, the more I will end up eating. What generally ends up happening is I try to substitute a less attractive option for what I really want. I eat that. Then I eat a few other substitutes. Then I eat what I was originally craving. The result? I’ve eaten probably twice what I would have from the start. Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying though. Yes, you should satisfy your cravings, but do so in moderation. Sure, I crave Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but I do not make a monster bowl of it with toppings on a regular basis. Sometimes just a couple spoonfuls is all I need. Take a small portion of your craving. Then wait 5-10 minutes and assess if you REALLY need anymore. Chances are, you won’t.
5) Cook at home.
Cooking at home not only allows you to explore your creative side, and (as in my case) can provide a relaxing break from the day where I can dive in and take control of the factors in my kitchen. It also helps with portion control. I read an article recently (and can validate with my own experiences) about how people eat 1.5 to 2 times more when they eat out vs. when they dine at home. Think about it, when you’re eating out, traditionally you don’t know all the tasty (and often fattier) ingredients that go into that beurre blanc sauce (lots of butter). All you know is that it tastes fantastic and you want to eat every last drop. Yet, when you eat at home you will probably cook less, cook healthier and can wrap up half of what you’ve cooked in tupperware. Does this mean you should stop going out? Absolutely not. I love going out to eat and will continue that pattern well into 2010. Just try and keep the balance. Your waistline and wallet will thank you in the end.
6) Have healthy snacks in the office
We’ve all been there. It’s 3PM, you have 2-3 hours left at work. Lunch is a distant memory and the hunger pains are tugging at your insides. What do yo do? Venture to the office stash of chips, cookies and sweets? That is a first class ticket to lovehandles, my friends. Instead, try and keep your own collection of healthy snacks at work. Ideas include: string cheese, fruit, nuts, veggies and dip, hard-boiled eggs (what can I say, I love eggs).
7) Avoid “crash diets”
I don’t diet. Period. I don’t believe in it and I never will believe in it. I’ve seen far too many examples of people “crash dieting”, yes ,they lose 10-20 lbs and then what happens? Three weeks later they’ve gained it all back and then some. I know a number of people who have done the “Master Cleanse” – that horrible idea of cayenne pepper, lemon juice and maple syrup being enough to subsist on for 10 days straight. I’ve even had people try to passionately convince me how well it works – I think they were just trying to convince themselves that the gnawing feeling inside was something other than starvation effects. You know what though? Every single one of those people gained it all back, about 5-10 more lbs and still struggle with their weight today. They are called “crash diets” for a reason: you CRASH. Instead, modify those cravings. Eat more vegetables. Eat less carbs. Yes, you can eat fat, but intermix it with other options. Oh, and of course, WORK OUT! I guarantee you will have healthier, longer-lasting effects.
8) Stay active.
This is probably one of the most important to being Pao Fit in 2010…Not just for losing weight, but for cardiovascular effects, mood management, and just overall healthiness. I don’t care what you do. Yoga, pilates, running, triathlons, hikes, walks, biking, climbing, spinning, lifting weights, hip hop classes, kickboxing. Really anything will help, you just have to find something you enjoy and commit to doing it or a variety of different activities a few times a week. This does not require you to be a gym rat, or to go run 2 hours. Honestly, if you can workout 3 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour, you’ll start to notice a slimmer, happier, healthier you! In talking with a number of people, this last tip, although so straightforward, it is also the most difficult to maintain. Generally I make a rule for myself – for those days that I’m DREADING going to workout – those are the most important days to drag yourself off the couch, out of bed, or away from the cookie jar and suck it up. I promise you’ll feel better and the next time it won’t be as daunting to motivate. Heck, you might even start to like it!
Have a positive and active 2010 and feel free to share any other must-have tips!
Run hard. I believe that wholeheartedly. I make a rule never to run less than 4 miles. I honestly think it’s a waste of time because usually my body is still ramping up between mile 3 and 4, so why stop then? I don’t believe you get the full benefit of a run unless you’re pushing yourself beyond a perceived limit. Many people ask why I like running, or rather, LOVE running. They’ve told me, “Anne, the only time I run is when I’m being chased or going after a ball.”
So why do it? Two words: “runner’s high.” I’ve also called this my “second wind.” I cannot imagine many things I enjoy more. The runner’s high comes at different times depending on what type of runner you are. For me, it arrives around miles 6-7. Suddenly my body breaks through whatever barrier it’s been pushing up against, my legs feel lighter, my strides pick up in speed and I feel energized. There are other feelings I could compare this to, but I’m not discussing that here. This is a PG blog, my friends. Behave yourselves.
I’ve been training for my fourth Kaiser Half Marathon (http://xnet.kp.org/sanfrancisco/) and did an 11 mile run today from the Marina Green to Fort Point and then over the GG Bridge and back. The longer run allowed for probably 1-2 of these second winds. I started to think about this feeling of euphoria and where it really comes from? What contributes to it? What heightens it? Biologically, there is the endorphin factor, whereby engaging in strenuous activity increases your body’s endorphin production, resulting in a state of well being or excitement. There is also a theory that “runner’s high” occurs after completing a challenge, or something that is mentally intimidating. It’s literally mind vs. body and you’re left with the choice: will I give up and let my body win? Or will I tough it out and push through? I found a quote from Yiannis Kourous (legendary Ultrarunner) about this concept that I think explains it perfectly:
”Some may ask why I am running such long distances. There are reasons. During the ultras I come to a point where my body is almost dead. My mind has to take leadership. When it is very hard there is a war going on between the body and the mind. If my body wins, I will have to give up; if my mind wins, I will continue. At that time I feel that I stay outside of my body. It is as if I see my body in front of me; my mind commands and my body follows. This is a very special feeling, which I like very much. . . It is a very beautiful feeling and the only time I experience my personality separate from my body, as two different things.”
I know what some of you are thinking: “I don’t want to run 11 miles. Heck, I don’t even want to run 7 miles!” That’s okay. Like I said before, to each his/her own. We all have our different challenges and limits and “runner’s high” will adjust to those. There are even a couple things you can do that I think will help increase your chance’s of a “runner’s high.”
1) Get outside. Yes, you can run on a treadmill but how much fun is that? You run the risk of tripping and falling off (yes, this has happened to me, pretty awesomely embarrassing). Not to mention that we live in San Francisco! Is there really any other place more beautiful to run? Take a jog down Embarcadero along the water. Or down Marina Green with the Golden Gate Bridge as your backdrop. Do a trail run in Marin. I guarantee the run will go faster when outdoors than if you’re in a concrete building on a treadmill watching “Jersey Shore” on MTV.
2) Integrate sprints or acceleration strides into your running. Yes, you can always run at a solid pace and just increase mileage, but to really get your body to another level, you’ve got to go anaerobic. I remember when I started running several years ago. I was probably at a 9-9:30 pace per mile. Over time, I gradually integrated sprints into my runs, and my heart rate peaked to a new level. I concurrently saw my pace quicken and now run between 7 to 7:30 per mile.
3) Make a great Running Playlist. This will depend on your taste and what type of run you’re doing. I know that when I’m out for distance and not speed, I have a more mellow group of songs with an even pace I can hold. If I’m prepping for a race, I want a compilation of songs with fast-paced beats the build over time. My friend Rob recently got back into running (he’s also going to do the Kaiser race) and asked me for some songs for his Running Playlist. I asked a few other friends for their recommendations and have listed items out below. You may even start to associate certain songs with running. For example, whenever I hear my favourite Muse song (Map of the Problematique) I instantly want to get my legs moving.
PaoFit Running Playlist:
1) “The Stars” by Moby
2) “Butterflies & Hurricanes” by Muse
3) “The Adventure” by Angels & Airwaves
4) “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay
5) “Aerodynamic” by Daft Punk
6) “Oil & Water” by Incubus
7) “Whine Up” by Kat de Luna & Elephant Man
8) “Bossy” by Kelis
9) “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse
10) “Map of the Problematique” by Muse (FAVORITE!)
11) “Natural Anthem” by The Postal Service
12) “Climbatize” by Prodigy
13) “Ready to Go” by Republica
14) “Diablo Rojo” by Rodrigo y Gabriela
15) “Breathe Me” by Sia
16) “Hit the Floor” by Twista & Pitbull
17) “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio
18) “Glorious” by Muse
19) “Ching-a-Ling” by Missy Elliot
20) “Da Funk” by Daft Punk
21) “Hearing Damage” by Thom Yorke
22) “Beatbox” by The Sounds
23) “1901” by Phoenix
24) “Sweet Disposition” by Temper Trap
Check them out, make a mix and put it on your IPOD. Then get outside and start running. And if anyone asks you what you’re running after or chasing? Tell them “Runner’s High.”
Like any San Francisco local, I often have a tough time balancing all the activities in a given day. There’s work, play and then you’re supposed to find time and motivation to try and stay Pao Fit and work out? Between the limited free-time in a 24 hour period and the infamous SF cold that is currently gracing us (I think this week’s 40 degree chill has made Indian Summer a thing of the past), motivating for a workout often times falls to the end of the list for me.
The Power of Power Yoga or Vinyasa Flow
I enjoy adrenaline sports. Heart-pumping, cardio-inducing, get-your-body-movin’ sports. Ones that push me to new limits, often times result in pep talks to muster through, or even the occasional grimace. Yup. That’s me. Call me determined, a glutton for punishment, or even the cliché of “A-Type.” I’m not going to fight you. When I’m not working, you can usually find me trail running, hiking, biking, doing races, attempting to play ball sports, and even taking the occasional hip hop class. But just like I crave firing into an anaerobic zone, I have come to really enjoy and appreciate the meditative, focused workout you get from yoga. And not just any yoga; Power Yoga or Vinyasa Flow, in particular.
I missed the initial yoga trend a few years ago, but then again I have come to realize I generally am a few beats late to trends (example – despite the huge MP3 craze in college I never once downloaded an illegal song from Napster. Yes, I was the one.)
When everyone was involving themselves in meditation, quitting their jobs in Finance or Biotech to pursue a private yoga practice, or purchasing Madonna kabala bracelets? Yeah, I was still trying to figure out what chavasana meant and why I had to take a 10 minute nap at the end of every class.
I remember the first time I came out of a Vinyasa Flow yoga class and felt so balanced. So relaxed. Like nothing could upset me, nothing could throw off my good vibes. I went into the class stressed, tight, unfocused, and came out serene and clear. My senses were heightened, but instead of feeling pumped to go climb a mountain like I often do after a long, hard run, I felt calm, grounded, like I could fall into a blissful sleep. It was a different sort of workout effect…and one I wanted more of. I went into the parking lot of the place I took yoga that day. I backed my car out of the spot. WHAM! I ran my car into a huge concrete pole on my right. One huge dent later I realized, okay, maybe I was a bit TOO relaxed for my own good. Clearly I had to get this “yoga effect” down. I did not have an insurance clause in my contract for “yoga-induced brain vacation.” But despite that rather brutal awakening back to reality in the parking lot, I was hooked.
I’ve been to a number of different yoga places in the city. My old gym, the San Francisco Bay Club. Yoga Tree in the Castro. Yogic Motion in Pacific Heights. Yet I never felt motivated enough by the classes to purchase a set from a single studio. Call me a non-committal yoga participant. I just could not do it. That is…until I stumbled upon The Pad Studios on Union Street in the Cow Hollow. The Pad caught my eye, not just because it was a neighborhood spot, but because of its décor. It has large glass windows that let passerbyers peek inside to see the open, clean, place with moss green and white colors complementing the smooth hardwood floors.
Creation and Inspiration
The Pad Studios was started by Leila Burrows and Lily Riesenfeld Horowitz back in January 2009. The young women grew up as childhood friends in the Bay area, then both spent time down in LA after college (Leila is a fellow UCLA grad – Go BRUINS!). Leila worked in luxury hotel management and also completed Yoga Works training on the side. Lily has a dance background which she incorporated into her Malibu pilates practice, The Lily Pad. The pair reconnected to open the Pad Studios, wanting to introduce a different sort of yoga experience to San Francisco. When you walk into the Pad, you are immediately struck by the chic design aspects. Crisp, white floor-to-ceiling curtains flank the right side of the room, and plush white and green chaise lounges and benches invite you to step in, relax, and take a seat. The combination of moss green and white continues through to the Jonathan Adler wallpaper that serves as a backdrop to the space. Unlike many different yoga spots I’ve been to, the Pad does not feel stuffy, sweaty or dirty, and there is a specific reason for that absence: Leila and Lily are committed to providing a studio that offers its patrons cleanliness without feeling cold or stale (even the yoga studio itself has a fireplace heater in the back to keep the room warm!). To say the Pad is inviting is an understatement. You honestly don’t want to leave! From the friendly staff (Leila greets most yoga participants by first name), to the comfortable, coordinated décor, to small, important details like fresh cold water and a tower of apples or oranges, you feel like a guest who’s been invited into a safe, peaceful retreat from the busyness of life in San Francisco. It makes sense that the emblem for the Pad is a lily pad – which, according to Leila, alludes to “growing from the ground to light or enlightenment.” The lily pad is a “symbol of transformation,” as noted on the studio’s website. The Pad reminds me of warm summer day spent outdoors in the sun and swimming in a cool lake, at the end of which you really do feel refreshed and transformed.
The Pad Experience
Aside from the space, what really separates the Pad from its competitors in the Bay area is the concentration on Power Yoga or Vinyasa Flow. Living on the west side after graduating from UCLA, I enjoyed taking classes at Bryan Kest’s well-known Santa Monica Power Yoga studio. The classes were always packed and promised a sweaty, exhausting, yet somehow exilhilarating workout. It’s no surprise to me that Leila frequented the same studio in her time down in LA, and has brought that familiarity to the Pad. The Pad experience is meant to be a detox that allows you to leave everything on the mat for an energetic hour and fifteen minutes. The classes are more upbeat and faster-paced than Hatha yoga, and there is an emphasis on having music that matches this mood at the Pad. I was happily surprised one day to have my yoga session end with my favorite song from instrumental band, “Explosions in the Sky.”
The yoga room itself is smaller, with space for about 25 mats total. I’ve been over 10 times and had classes filled wall-to-wall and then others where there were just 2-3 of us. The different instructors I’ve experienced at the Pad all have unique styles. The most recent set of classes I’ve been getting hooked on are Brad’s classes. Like all Pad instructors, Brad is well-trained in Power Yoga, but he also has significant Rusty Wells training (http://www.rustywells.com/), which focuses on Bhakti yoga. Brad’s classes are creative and highly energetic, but also balanced and peaceful. He starts each class asking everyone to focus on another individual to whom you will offer your efforts for the next hour and fifteen minutes. While you sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, you might be surprised (as I was the first time) when Brad begins a bit of call-to-response chanting. Do not worry, not all instructors at the Pad incorporate call-to-response chanting but I recommend giving it a try – you might like it! There is after all a reason Brad’s class is one of the most popular; I think the communal nature excites people. If that is not your cup of tea though, there are less participatory classes that focus more on the traditional aspects of Vinyasa Flow – moving from downward dog, through plank, to cobra or upward dog and into the other challenging poses that test your strength, balance and flexibility. Erin teaches throughout the week, and her calming persona encourages you to push yourself to a limit that will leave you blissfully worked and refreshed by the end. I’ve done yoga probably 40+ times total but it was Erin’s class that I finally figured out the trick to doing crow pose, and it was also her class that got me the closest do doing a handstand than ever before(it’s amazing how much freakier this is now that I am 5’9 than when I was a small 4’11 girl). One of the best things about the Pad are the other people who take the classes. There is no air. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been in those classes and seen the guy who’s doing 18 different poses while the rest of the class is still getting into their downward dogs. You might think that since the Pad focuses on Power Yoga and Vinyasa Flow it would be a tribute to the A-Type competitive showdown. Not the case at the Pad, and I appreciate that fact. Everyone is just there to enjoy a tough, refreshing workout, leave behind the stresses of their day, reach inner peace, and maybe make a new friend or two.
What about pricing? Yes, yoga can get quite expensive and drop-in classes are listed at $17 a pop. There are 5 class, 10 class, and 20 class packs also available. Aside from these standard prices there are always a number of deals being offered at the Pad. I recently purchased the $10 a class for 10 classes over 2 months. Very reasonable if you ask me. The Pad is also having a “Refer a Friend, Get a Free Class” special right now. There are usually about 7-9 classes a day during the week, starting as early as 6:30AM, with the last class at 7:30PM for fellow fans of later evening workouts. If you don’t have a mat, you can rent one for $2. Aside from yoga, the Pad also offers Pilates classes with reformer machines and Massage. I have not done either of these but I have a feeling one might be incorporated into another PaoFit entry.
Final Take: Pao Wow?
This does not have to be a long conclusion. It’s really a slam dunk. There are three things that matter to me when it comes to working out and the Pad delivers on all of them:
1) Ease of workout – low maintenance – with online sign-ups, friendly people and minimal equipment needed I can roll out to a Pad workout at last minute
2) Ambiance – If I’m not going to be working out in nature then the place I’m visiting better be clean and inviting – Pad accomplishes this down to the last detail
3) Last but by far the most important – I want a tough work out. If I’m going to invest an hour and fifteen minutes I want it to be worth it otherwise I can just go do a 10 mile run. The Power Yoga at the Pad is guaranteed to not only push my body, it also manages my flexibility which helps with other activities, all while leaving me feeling balanced and clear-headed
Definite Pao Wow.
I’m not a huge fan of doing stair workouts, but I will admit, a good one kicks your a** and is great for building up endurance, punching up your cardiovascular workout, or curing a hangover. Any person who lives in the Marina, Cow Hollow, or even Russian Hill has heard of the challenge/torture device known as Lyon Street Steps.
The approximate 290 steps of pure pain start out at the intersection of Lyon and Green St, just bordering the Presidio. Lyon St dead-ends at the base of the steps. As you peer up the steepest portion (get the worst part out of the way first I say) you’ll probably notice a line of people running/ walking/ panting up and down the stairs. There are usually also small groups of people, part of the ever-growing network of bootcamp programs.
Every couple weeks I lead an impromptu bootcamp class for my girlfriends and incorporate Lyon Street Steps into the workout. If you’re looking to get back into shape for the holidays (or to just offset the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie you’ll be inhaling), doing this workout 2 times a week will definitely help. It’s about 1 hour in total.
I always start a bootcamp out with a run to warm up the muscles. Recommend doing roughly a 2-3 miler down along Marina Green depending on your speed, I’d say try and get a good 20-30 minute run in prior to attempting the steps. Our running route begins at Union/Octavia – run down Octavia to Bay – take Bay to Laguna to Marina Green (daters’ Safeway will be on your left) - follow Marina Green to Lyon St and cut up through the Palace of Fine Arts until Lyon ends at the steps. Do a quick 5 minute stretch (runners stretch, hamstring stretch) to get ready for the stair workout.
You can do these steps as many times as your body can handle, but honestly our workout is usually three full sets (up and down) - anything beyond this and vomiting may be a potential option. I also intersperse circuit training or strengthening exercises between each set.
The first set of steps is the steepest, and I recommend taking them at a speed your body will be pushed at (we usually jog them to get going on the cardio), just don’t go overboard. I once had a slight muscle tear doing a stair workout on cold muscles after not running stairs for a year straight so be mindful of your level and body.
When you’ve reached the top of the steep section, you’ll be at Broadway. Catch your breath as you cross the street and make sure to take in the mansions that surround you. Welcome to the neighborhood of Pacific Heights - or as some jokingly call it “Specific Whites.” Someone actually told me that the mansion at the top of these steps (you pass in your ascent – say hello to the security guard) belongs to California State Senator, Dianne Feinstein, but I’m not sure I believe this urban legend.
After you cross Broadway, get ready for the second part of the workout. The next set of steps are not as steep, and are perfect for running up or taking two-at-a-time. When you get to the top at Pacific, turn around and take in the view, it is a spectacular reward for all your efforts – you can see the entire Bay and the cityscape of San Francisco.
Don’t let your body warm down too long (no more than a minute) because the circuit training/strengthening exercises are next.
1) Quad squats: 3 sets – all weight on heels, toes lifted, knees do not move, butt goes up and down, back arched to focus weight on quads – helps strengthen those muscles, good for runners
2) Mountain Climbers (Start on your hands and knees and get into in a sprinter’s start position. Keep your hands on the ground and push off with your feet so you alternate foor placement (run in place). Do 3 sets of 8. Be sure to keep your back straight, not arched.
3) Oblique turns – Lower into a squat and rotate your upper body side to side quickly (90 degrees to 90 degrees) for about 3 sets of 8, keeping your core muscles tight – add on to this exercise by working your arms, adding in punches for 3 sets of 8
4) Regular and Tricep push ups – 1 set each – 10 per set.
You can warm down on the descent. Be careful on the steep section, I always get a bit tripped out running this part and working with my depth perception so don’t go too quickly, it’s a LONG way down! When you reach the bottom, turn right back around for set 2 of the stairs.
For second set of circuit training/strengthening (same location – at Pacific), you can do the workout before or interchange any of these exercises:
1) Mountain climbers advanced: Start standing, squat down, pop out into push up, come back to a squat, stand up, jump, repeat. Note, this should be done quickly. Perform 10 of these.
2) Chair dips (or in this case, bench dips). This is a great tricep workout. Use one of the stone benches at the top of the steps and lower your body using your triceps. Note – maybe leave this out if you have shoulder issues.
3) Side to side squats – start with feet together. Step out to one side, squat, come back in together, step out to other side and squat. 3 sets of 8.
4) Regular push ups – one set
5) Jumping jacks – 3 sets of 8
Back to the 3rd set of stairs!
Last set of additional circuit training/strengthening exercises:
1) Jump Lunges: Start in the lunge position – one foot forward and one foot back. Bend your knees and then jump up high and switch leg positions. Try to do this quickly, but in a controlled manner
2) Plank: This is a great isometric workout that will target your core. Get into push up position on hands and toes, or on elbows and toes. Contract your abdominal muscles (and core). Keep your back straight (don’t collapse in the middle) and hold this position for a minute. If you want to push it, you can push up onto your hands at the end, then do a push up while you lift a foot off the ground, alternate feet.
3) Side Lunges/Dips: Lung to one side, start with the back leg straight and front leg bent. Drop down until your back leg is 1-2 inches off the ground. Come up. 3 sets of 8.
Once you finish that last set, give yourself a big pat on the back. Take in a couple sips of water and get ready for the run (or walk) home. I recommend a 10 minute post workout stretch – especially if this is your first time, you’ll probably have some sore muscles the next day.