Do It with a Friend

Years ago, I used to run with my boss, Ed. He would pop his head in my office around lunch time, and we’d brave the streets of Stamford, CT, at a brisk pace, talking about work and family when we weren’t huffing and puffing up a hill. One year our team had a huge project in Chicago. In the winter. When the temperatures on Lake Michigan were single digits. And the hawk (aka the wind) was out. Geez. Knowing that Ed would be waiting in the lobby of the hotel at 6 a.m. was all the motivation I needed to lace up my running shoes and put on gloves. I was not going to disappoint the boss.

RunwithCooper

Ready for a run.

Earlier this month I started running with Cooper. He seems to know the difference between my running shoes and my cross-trainers, which I wear when I join my DVD buddies Shaun T and Tony Horton for indoor workouts. Cooper wiggles his tail-less body in anticipation when he realizes a run is in his future. And although I don’t have the need to impress him the way I did Ed, his enthusiasm is enough to get me over the “should I go for a run?” hump.

Meanwhile, my friends Dede and Kiye have made the difference recently between my thinking about running a 5k and actually completing one. And as I look ahead to a NJ business trip this week, I know I can count on my colleague Lester to slow down enough to join me in a before-dark after-work run on a section of Princeton NJ’s beautiful towpath.

Just Ask

My email exchange with Lester went something like this: “Hey, I’ll be in the office Monday afternoon after the Philly meeting. Don’t know if I’ll stay over or not.” He replied, “I’ll bring my running stuff just in case.” Easy enough. If work hijacks the day, no harm no foul. But I’m hoping things aren’t too crazy so I can spend time with a colleague I don’t get to talk to a lot. Doing an activity we both enjoy.

So what do you like to do? Hike? Walk? Zumba? Cycle? What are you waiting for? Invite someone to join you. And although I like the accountability of making a date to exercise, I do appreciate the social aspect. Sometimes, it’s nice not to go solo. Share the experience. Your heart will benefit from cardio and your “heart” will benefit from connection.

Cook More.

One of my favorite messages from the recent Achieving Optimal Health Conference in DC was made by Georgetown University Professor Thomas Sherman: “Buy real food and cook it.” Some day, I’ll write another post inspired by one of his other comments that day: “Olive oil — pour it on like gravy.”

(c) BB&R Wellness Consultiing

(c) BB&R Wellness Consulting

You can read Dr. Sherman’s commentary on his speech, “Finding a Diet You Can Live With,” on the Georgetown Food Studies blog. There he summarizes how we ended up with an “all fat is bad” approach to what we eat and higher rates than ever of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. It’s definitely food for thought.

A few days after I heard Dr. Sherman speak, I had a conversation with my employer-provided health coach (yet another future post). I think we were probably talking about kale recipes, and she made the comment, “You would be surprised how many people just don’t cook.”

Why cook? Because you’re likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. You can also control what you’re putting into your body (and you don’t even have to be fanatical). And, let’s face it: Meals taste better when they don’t come out of a package.

Now I know some reasons not to make a meal from scratch: no time, no know-how, no one to share it with, and no interest. If you hate to cook, read the NY Times Opinion Pages from last spring to find a kindred (and very funny) spirit. Then find someone to cook for you so that you can enjoy the benefits of real food. 

If you are willing to “stand facing the stove” as Joy of Cooking author Irma Rombauer instructed, here are my suggestions.

Read cookbooks. 

Cooper likes Jamie at Home.

Cooper liked Jamie at Home a bit too much.

Flip through them, check out recipes, get inspired. Maybe I’m the only one who reads cookbooks in bed. It’s a cheap past-time because the library is full of cookbooks. Check some out. Flag some recipes to try. Or don’t. The more recipes you read, the more you will get the sense of how flavors and textures play together.

“Like” food blogs and “friend” friends who like to cook and eat.

Social media has made our dinners more interesting. I’m inspired by photos that our vegan friend Olga posts. Just the pictures will set me in a certain direction. Most of my friends are generous with their recipes. I’m sure yours will be, too. I also love having new recipes pop up in Facebook by bloggers I follow, like Louisa Shafia or Smitten Kitchen.

Make more than you need. Then eat the leftovers.

I just realized it’s 6pm and I need to practice what I’m preaching. I think dinner tonight will be inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.Something with chicken. And ginger. And chiles. And cumin. A lot of it, so we can have a fast lunch tomorrow.

Let me know what you’re cooking!

Postscript Sunday Night: Too hungry to wait for chicken to cook. Used Jaffrey’s Gujerati-style Cabbage with Carrots as the base and added a can of black-eyed peas for protein. Fast and yummy! Heat 3 T of oil (I used coconut), add a pinch of asafetida if you have it, then 1 T of mustard seeds, and some red pepper flakes (I didn’t have a dried chili). When seeds start to pop, watch out! Add shredded cabbage, grated or chopped carrots, and finely chopped jalepeno. Cook on medium heat. After 5-7 mins, add black-eyed peas, big handful of chopped cilantro, 1+ t salt, 1/2 t sugar…. let cook. Add 1+ T of lemon juice at the end. Serve with brown rice.

Why Yoga? Reason #2

Sunday is yoga day. I’ve written about how it helps me avoid the tin man syndrome.  Here’s another reason I include yoga in my regular fitness routine…

To Calm the Beast in Me

My family can tell you that I can be a bear, a bit on edge, even tightly wound. I blame it on a Masarech gene, passed down through the family, labeled a bit fondly as “street-angel-house-devil.”  The first time I heard Johnny Cash’s rendition of “The Beast in Me” (written for him by Nick Lowe) on the American Recordings album produced by Rick Rubin, I knew Johnny and I were soulmates. But I digress. Actually, his performance is a worthy digression.

Breathe…

Yoga centers me. It forces me to slow down and focus. It makes me breathe with purpose. It calms me. It helps stress melt away. I’m a nicer person when I do yoga. I should probably do it more often!upward_dog

And it’s not just me. One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine a few years ago found evidence that yoga has a more beneficial impact on mood than walking.

Body and Mind

A vibrant life requires more than a strong, healthy body. There’s also an emotional, attitudinal component. So don’t think you’re all set if you’re watching calories and doing regular cardio.

Try yoga if you need to to address the mind/heart part of your life. If you’re new to the practice, check out a local studio. A good teacher can really help you understand how to do the different postures correctly. You can also check out Living Green’s 15-minute awakening practice.

Yoga is the closest I get most weeks to meditation. It’s a topic I plan to explore more, after hearing Tara Brach speak about the benefits of meditation at last week’s Achieving Optimal Health Conference at Georgetown University and discovering Shirzad Chamine’s positive intelligence writings.

Stay tuned. And breathe.

October 18th update: I just came across this short post that I thought was worthy of sharing: MindBodyGreen’s “7 Reasons Why Yogis Are Happier People.