An Indoor Rock Climbing Adventure

I bought us tickets through Groupon for Rok Haus** in Lafayette last July and we finally got around to using them this weekend. I know, right? Takes us six months to do something that’s only an hour away? (And that’s already paid for, so essentially free entertainment.) Jeesh! 🙂

It was AWE-some!

Look at me! I’m “bouldering” in the area where you can climb without ropes.

(Sorry about the white dots in the photos. Without the flash we got blurry pics. With the flash, we see all the dust and chalk in the air. sigh)

It may look innocent and perhaps not that exciting, but let me tell you, it’s challenging, and totally fun. We were having such a good time we weren’t really focused on how much we were pushing ourselves. Definitely a good workout while playing and having a good time. I so wish we had one of these places locally so that we could go regularly.

Here I’m taking on one of the more challenging walls. I was not able to make it to the top on this one due to the pitch higher up but I was pleased I got as far as I did.

They have walls that pitched away from you for kids and beginners, walls that are vertical, walls that start out vertical and then pitch toward you halfway up (that’s what I’m on now), and then uber advanced walls that pitch toward you so much you’re upside down before you go vertical. They also have some mostly vertical walls with much smaller grips and toe holds that are for the more advanced user.

Here’s Don at the top of one of the more vertical walls. It might not seem that high but it is. I wouldn’t even go to the top on my very first try. I got nervous about the height. But by my second wall I got over that.

Friends met us and their kids gave the climbing a try too. That’s Claire in the striped shirt in the middle (same wall Don was just on.)

Every climber has to have someone spotting them below, it’s called belaying. Don is belaying for Claire. You can just see part of him in front of my blindingly yellow shirt. When the climber gets to the top, they let go with their hands, lean back in the harness and the belayer lowers them back to the ground. Even belaying was hard work in my opinion. At least when belaying for each other; the kids hardly weighed anything so they were pretty easy to belay.

That’s Olivia making it to the top, after much encouragement, on the wall just to the right of the one Claire was just on.

And there’s Claire at the top of the same wall. We were so proud of those two!

Don’s taking on another wall that’s more vertical with some smaller grips. Made it to the top!

The red line you keep seeing in the pictures is where bouldering is allowed without ropes. There were some folks that looked like regulars there with their own chalk climbing those lower areas.

This was my last climb. This wall was definitely the most challenging wall that I conquered. I think I might have done it two times all the way to the top, and a handful of unsuccessful attempts at first. You couldn’t go straight up on this one. I finally found a way up starting to the right of where I’m at and moving left as you go up, then straight up from where I’m at.

The colored tape is identifying routes by skill level. The bright green is the easiest and I think the pink was one of the easier colors. I don’t remember what the white and other colors were. I pretty much just knew if a wall didn’t have any green then I wasn’t going to have much chance. LOL

After this climb my arms were shaking and it was time to call it quits – after about 3 and 1/2 hours of playing.

So, how do we feel today? Not too bad. I am usually the most sore on the second day after a hard workout so I’m curious to see if I’ll be hurting tomorrow. But so far, not too beat up for how much strength it took to climb. I would totally suggest to anyone whose even slightly interested to try this someday. It’s so much fun. I don’t think you’ll catch us out on a mountainside climbing, we don’t have the urge for that. But indoor play is happily welcomed.

Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.
~ Stuart Brown, MD

**I was not compensated or otherwise for sharing our adventure at Rok Haus. We just had a blast and want to tell others how much fun it can be. 🙂

Food Philosophy – A Work In Progress

Don and I thought that it would be hard to ditch processed foods, grains, and sugar. It really wasn’t. Not physically. Mentally it was little  challenging at first. Like cliff diving for the first time (which we haven’t actually done but I imagine that first step off the cliff is daunting) or jumping off a platform hundreds of feet in the air and ziplining through a forest (we actually have done this at Whistler and stepping off that platform was always the hardest part.)

Having conquered that initial first step of breaking away from processed foods, we have not wanted for anything in terms of flavor or variety. It is hard for a lot of people to believe and it’s equally hard to explain. People misinterpret that we are on a “diet”. People are starting to notice that Don’s excess weight has been falling off with little to no effort on his part and he’s often asked, “What’s your secret?”

So I’m writing today to tell you – there’s no secret. No meal regimen. No red or blue pill. We stopped counting calories. We stopped buying low-fat or no fat products. (Fat is good people! Carbs and sugar are not.) We eliminated rice, bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, cereal, oatmeal, all condiments with high fructose corn syrup, and a slew of other things. We eat larger portions of meat, bacon and eggs, lots of veggies, fruits, and nuts.

It sounds plain doesn’t it? That’s why I say it’s so hard to explain to people. It’s not plain! There is still so much you can do to dress up your food, to make traditional dishes in a new way (like no noodle lasagna, primal pizza, and mashed squash.)

Courtesy of Wikipedia

One of the amazing results of making this change is that fruit has so much more flavor than it ever did before! We can really taste the sugar and sweetness of fruit (which is ok because the fruit provides its own counter to the sugar – fiber – to allow your body all the nutrients it needs to process the fruit in a positive way.) Before, fruit was something we tried to get a little of every day, based on the traditional food pyramid (2-4 servings) but it held little interest. Now, my goodness, fruit is like dessert. It’s a little piece of heaven and we’re not even indulging in anything truly sweet, like cake, or candy. It’s just fruit.

Let me back up because I wanted to tell a little about how we got here.

In the beginning, we thought we would use up the rest of what we had in the house that was processed and that over time we just would not replace those foods and that in this gradual way we would transition to more whole foods, less sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, etc.

This really wasn’t effective. For us anyway. After a few weeks of half-hearted commitment and trying to juggle smaller amounts of processed foods in our meals (but still eating them) we finally said let’s just get rid of it all. We gave it all away and immediately we felt better for it. We could really focus on making meals with only the things we wanted to be eating and we were ready to spread our wings.

I want to reiterate that we are not dieting.

Our food philosophy has fundamentally changed and we are simply eating differently. Take a look at our food pyramid.

Courtesy of the Primal Blueprint and Mark's Daily Apple

We strive for an 80/20 approach to our food – 80 percent primal, 20 percent traditional. Meaning, there are some things we still enjoy that some people might argue are not “healthy” or not in strict keeping with primal or paleo ideologies.

Um, so? That’s our right to choose. Don’t criticize our choices because you don’t understand or agree with them. Oh, sorry, that was me on my soapbox a little bit.

We do still enjoy a glass of wine or a mixed drink when we want to. We eat out with friends or family from time to time and might take that opportunity to enjoy foods we generally do not eat. We eat cheese and peanuts which for some primal or paleo folks are on their do not eat list. I still LOVE cake more than anything and I will have some for my birthday next week. 🙂  Bottom line, we are not following a prescribed food plan from a weight loss program that tells us what we can and cannot eat. We are making those choices ourselves, based on documentaries, articles, blogs, and other resources that we have studied. And we will continue to learn and our choices might change. It is all a work in progress.

For those that are interested in numbers, Don has lost about 25 pounds; I’ve shed a few extra as well (I didn’t think that was possible at this point.) I am weighing in at about 147 – a number I’ve never seen as an adult. And to top it off, we feel more energetic and fit. Personally I feel stronger than I ever have in my life. This was all possible by simply removing a few things from our meals and replacing them with larger portions of meat and more veggies. We do get a lot of regular exercise too but we don’t go to the gym and punish ourselves for hours on end with relentless cardio activities. Our exercise plan (if you must call it a plan) is simple: get up and move around. As a guideline we follow Mark Sisson’s fitness pyramid, which really isn’t that much different from what we were doing already.

Courtesy of the Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple

I will try to include more recipes or posts on what we are eating to help debunk the ideas that it’s too hard, too time-consuming, or just plain old boring. It’s not, I promise you. We don’t feel like we are missing out on anything and our meals are full of spicy kick, flavor, and nutrition.

And, get this, we aren’t hungry anymore! Did you know that carbs and sugar are processed by your body in such a way that it tricks you into feeling hungry when your body truly doesn’t need anything? Check out some of the things that started us on our journey if you’d like to know more. I can’t explain the science (I’ve probably gotten a few things wrong in my descriptions already.) But I can tell you, we feel amazing, we love to eat, and we enjoy the foods we are eating without a sense of loss for the things we are not.

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.
~ Julia Child

A New Way to Walk

It’s been a few weeks since we bought our Vibrams and I haven’t given very much of an update on them so here goes. I love these shoes! They are truly amazing. They are like wearing gloves on your feet. I was worried they would feel restrictive or tight but they don’t. You hardly feel them they are so light! It’s noticeably different from wearing traditional running or athletic shoes.

I want to stress that wearing Vibrams, or other minimalist footwear, is not just about wearing a different shoe. It’s about changing your biomechanics and walking or running in a totally different way. Minimalist footwear is designed to encourage forefoot or midfoot striking. When walking forefoot, the ball of your foot is the first to make contact with the ground and the muscles in your feet and lower legs support your body as your heel comes down after. Midfoot strike is landing flat footed. (Really, it’s not a bad thing.) Our greatest problem with shoes today is that they provide so much cushion and support that the muscles in our feet and lower legs are weakened by not having to do the work themselves.

Let me tell you, walking forefoot is awkward the first few times. I didn’t like it. I thought I probably looked weird and I felt like I wasn’t really walking for exercise because I couldn’t walk with the long stride that I’m accustomed to. But my legs and feet let me know it wasn’t a waste of time. My calves were sore for about a week after walking (more like strolling and stopping frequently) for a few hours. I think it was three or four miles we walked that day.

Your feet come down closer to your hips, almost underneath you if you walk midfoot or forefoot. After getting out a few more times and practicing, it’s coming more easily now. It still takes a lot of concentration for me to do but that’s ok. I know that eventually it will come naturally.

Running forefoot is much easier than walking. It feels very natural to run on the balls of your feet and not be striking your heel and jarring your body with each step. I have not had any trouble with that transition, but I have to remind myself to take it slow so my body can build up the muscles in my legs and feet.

If you’re thinking about trying barefoot walking or running, or minimalist footwear, keep in mind that it will take lots of work to re-program your body mechanics – don’t push too hard, too fast.  

Read more technical tips and information here. And check out a great video, it’s not long and is beautiful filming.

Also, if you’re brave, Your Day Without Shoes is coming up on June 11th. 🙂

Good walking leaves no track behind it.
~ Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

Food Matters Documentary

We watched another great documentary this week, Food Matters. It’s about food, pharmaceutical drugs, vitamins/supplements, and how all these things affect us and our bodies.
It was very thought-provoking. Definitely worth 80 minutes of your time (or more if you’re like us and like to stop the movie so you can talk about it. Took us about 2 and 1/2 hours to watch the whole thing. 🙂 )

Films like Food Matters, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, and FatHead, and websites like Mark’s Daily Apple, have really opened our eyes and made us see that we were walking through life blind. It’s a bit shocking. We always thought of ourselves as healthy and fit but we were missing SO MUCH. We thought we were eating pretty healthy (low-fat, whole grains, traditional food pyramid style). Throw in some major cardio sessions to burn those calories. But guess what? The concept of calories in-calories out is not truly accurate. And, I had no IDEA high fructose corn syrup was so freaking bad for us! Blind, blind, blind.

We feel like we are headed in the right direction now as we explore eating organic/natural foods and eliminate processed foods as much as possible. After about a month of making significant changes to our pantry and our cooking, we’ve both lost weight without any effort, and we feel amazing. We aren’t craving the foods we’ve given up, we aren’t counting calories, we aren’t constantly hungry like with traditional diets (which, just to be clear, we aren’t dieting, we are just eating differently, forever), we are having great fun exploring new flavors and new ways of preparing foods, and we don’t regret the choices we’ve made one bit.

A note to the skeptics/critics because I know what you’re thinking…just because we say we are not eating certain things anymore, it’s not like we never eat them. We are aiming for an 80/20 primal/conventional approach to our food and drink. We still enjoy a good cocktail, and we still enjoy an ear of corn, or a piece of cake from time to time. It’s all about balance and, truly, it’s been pretty easy to be 80/20 and and not feel like we’re missing out on anything.

We found Food Matters through Netflix but I’m sure that’s just one of many ways to view it. Take some time to check it out. I bet you’ll learn something new.

If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
~ Thomas Edison

Nature and Pizza

I’ve got so many things I could share from the past few days that it’s hard to pick a focus for this post. I’ve settled on two things, an update on our new Vibram shoes and a new recipe we tried last night.

Yesterday we went for a nature walk/hike. We have been wearing our new shoes for short intervals this past week as we get accustomed to them. Yesterday was the longest time we’ve worn them and definitely the most terrain we’ve experienced in them so far. They really are quite an experience. It feels like you are walking barefoot but with a little barrier to protect against sharp edges. It’s a lot easier to walk on uneven ground and you really feel the ground under your feet. It feels very natural.

If you’d like to know more about Vibram and why we are so excited about these shoes, read their “Five Reasons To Wear.”

After our walk, we hit the grocery store to buy a few essentials we needed for the new recipe we wanted to try. It’s going to sound funky, but let me tell you it was A-mazing! We made a Primal Pizza using “The Perfect Primal Pizza Crust.”

First things first, we had to buy a food processor. It’s become glaringly apparent that a lot of the new recipes we hope to try required a food processor. We’ve always avoided this additional kitchen appliance but decided it was time to get over our issues about storage space and ease of cleaning. As most of you with food processors already know, the ease and speed at which it handled the shredding of our ingredients was well worth the little bit of cleanup afterwards.

On to the pizza. There are two parts to this. First, making the crust and then adding toppings to complete the pizza. For the crust, you need 1 pound of eggplant (shredded), 1/2 cup almond flour, one egg white, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Yes, I said eggplant. This was the first time either of us has eaten eggplant. It was yummy. (We also added a tbsp of red pepper flakes to give it that little kick we like to see in our foods.)

For our toppings, we used tomato sauce, cheese (mozzarella and sharp cheddar), peperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, olives, and pineapple.

First we had to shred our eggplant. Then mix with the remaining crust ingredients.

Next, you use your hands to pat the mixture down into a crust shape about 1/4 inch think. (I do not advise using a silicone baking mat. The author of the recipe recommended parchment paper and we ended up switching to that partway through cooking because the silicone was too thick.)

After 15 minutes of baking at 450 degrees, you take the crust out and flip it, then return to the oven for another 5  minutes. We ended of flipping a third time due to our baking mat debacle and baking for closer to 30 minutes total.

Now it was time for toppings!

We baked for about 15 minutes at 350 and viola!

We cut it into fourths. We were worried that two pieces each might not be enough to fill us up, considering how much traditional pizza a person can pack away. Surprisingly, I could tell before I finished my first piece that it was plenty and that the two pieces were a perfect serving size. I cannot describe how wonderful it tasted. We were both beginning to worry just before it was finished baking that all the time and effort was going to yield something strange and inedible. We couldn’t have been more wrong. I didn’t miss the presence of traditional crust whatsoever. We could eat this weekly and we probably will!