Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 / 12 / 12

It's somebody's birthday today.  Normally I wouldn't bother saying as much, but Mama Aspen Paleo surprised me with a shirt idea that I made mention to before.

Hey, the truth is the truth.  You rock Mom ... thanks

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Purple Rice

Part of the rearrangement of my eating and workout schedule sees me eating some simple carbs and protein right after a workout in the evening.  Most Meat-heads recommend a shake for this, but I'm into whole foods.  Check out my coolio solution:

Rice and Eggs

Here's how this train wreck happened.  A couple of days ago I got some Okinawan yams from our store, which, as you might guess, have a meaty purple flesh.  Since they tend to turn out very dry when baked, I instead peeled and diced them, and then boiled em up in a pot.  When finished,  I didn't want to waste the water which undoubtedly had inherited some nutrients from the cooking process - so I saved it for later use.  That use turned out to be the water for cooking my white rice in the evening.  Genius!  It imparts a nice flavor to the rice if I do say so myself.  

There, my very own little contribution to the the culinary world.  You're welcome.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December ?

It's December here in Aspen (and probably somewhere else too) so what is one to do?  Why go golfing of course:

Yep, the flags and holes are still out for people to play.  And play they did ... plenty of people were out there today.  It's free to play by the way.  Has been for a couple of months now since it officially closed.  After the season, the golf pro shop turns into a nordic shop where they sell and tune cross country skis and the like.  Those ski guys are showing up to work every day, but I'm not sure what exactly they're doing in there.

I know today practically the whole country is having higher than normal temperatures, but as you can tell from the pic, we truly haven't even started winter here yet.  In fact, I even rode my bike up to Maroon Bells today.  My road bike.  On the 1st of DECEMBER!  That's just nuts kids.

Yesterday I rode my bike up to Aschcroft and on the way down I saw something I'd never seen before - an albino squirrel.  At first I thought it was a piece of paper blowing into the road, but then it stopped, saw me coming, turned tail and bolted back into the trees.  I was rapidly getting closer to it as I was going pretty fast, and no doubt about it, that there was an albino squirrel.  Got me to thinking about it too.  That poor squirrel is probably like the rest of the skiers in this town dying for some white stuff to fly from the sky.  Except in his case he wants it for camouflage.  I'll bet he's one tough cookie to spot in the winter all right.  And then I naturally thought about how he sticks out like a sore thumb right now and how that's got to be a big survival disadvantage.  But then it struck me ... if I thought he was a piece of paper, other critters probably mistake him for random stuff all of the time too.  Heck, let's say a falcon easily spotted him and started to swoop down for some eats, couldn't you just see the thought running through the back of the falcon's mind 'what the eff is that thing?  Maybe its got some disease or something.  I'm not that hungry man, I'm outta here.'  Or not.  Who knows.

Anyway, I'm still around, doing fine and reading lots as usual.  I would've thought by now that I might be getting tired of reading about nutrition and exercise, but I still dig it.  Just the other day I listened to Robb Wolf's podcast with guest John (DH) Kiefer.  I found it fascinating.  After digging around his site a bit and learning about what he calls Carb Backloading, I've decided to change the timing of my exercise (time of day) and when I eat certain nutrients.  My diet and exercise are pretty much going to remain the same, I'm just going to tinker with the timing.  And it's just to tinker really.  I've got no goals here other than to see if it affects how I look, feel and perform.  Maybe I'll expound on it in another post and report how it's going. 

PS  I just found this link to the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society .  Tell me right now you can't find everything on the internet.  Internet, I want to marry you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nephew Pressing

I've got a little helper with my exercises while on vacation here in Portland   Good thing too, because I've had cheesecake and custard for desserts so far.  Mmmmm custard. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rwanda 'Rising from Ashes'

I had the privilege of watching only the second full screening of the documentary Rising from Ashes last night.  It centers on the development of the Rwandan cycling team, but it's about so much more than just cycling.  As you know, my friend is a member of the board for the team and they have some ties here to Aspen.  As a matter of fact, their coach Jock Boyer, who is obviously a feature in the film, got married here yesterday.  Anyway, it's truly one of the best documentaries I've ever seen.  It reminds me that life is bigger than Paleo.

Rising From Ashes from T.C. Johnstone on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Quarter Buffalo

I picked up my quarter buffalo at the farmers market this morning.  As you can see from the inventory and pics it's quite the mix.  There are around 70 individual packages total. Unfortunately there was no kidney, actually, they dropped the ball on my offal request and just gave me some of what they had on hand (as you can see from the clear retail packaging on those).  She said they had been feeding that stuff to their dogs.  People just don't seem to realize that some of us treasure organ meats, hence my request.  They offered to have some for me next week, but I'm going on vacation to Portland so I had to pass.  Just a quibble really, because I did get heart, liver, soup bones, and one big honking tongue.  I started purchasing meat in bulk like this a couple of years ago and truly believe it's the way to go.  Now I have a supply of wonderfully nutritious and delicious meat for the entire winter.  Love it!

Ground   33
Just right
NY Steaks   2
Cubed round steak   4
Rump roast   1
Round roast    1
Tenderloin    1
Short ribs     4
Hanging tender   1
Chuck arm roast    2
Stew meat   4
Back ribs  1
Sirloin steak   4
Ribeye steak   2
Brisket    1 
Chuck Roast   2
English Roast   1
Flank  1 (tiny one)
Skirt    1 (also tiny)

Soup Bones 3

I had to look up English Roast.  It's a cut taken from the shoulder traditionally roasted for Sunday dinner in England.  Maybe I'll save that for Easter and get all fancy and stuff.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Altra Instinct shoe review

The Altra Instinct is sold as a running shoe.  I use it as a work shoe and will sprint in it this winter.  So if you want to know how it fares for cardio running, please go check the reviews on their website.

Zero drop
Okay, first a quick intro.  I've been searching for a good work shoe for a couple of years now.  One with the following criteria:

  • Flat (zero drop from heel to base)
  • Mondo room in the toe box 
  • Minimal to no arch

Of course my Vibrams fit this profile, but I can't use them at work.  I walk in them, and sprint in them in the summer, but unfortunately they ain't working shoes (at least not for my work).  Prior to getting Vibrams I'd just been working in old running shoes with the inserts ripped out.  My feet were cramped in those, and would be tired at the end of the day.  After experiencing how much better it is to have my feet in a more natural position, I went a looking for some shoes.  And looking, and looking.  I must've tried on a gazillion pairs of shoes the past couple of years.  Running shoes, soccer shoes, wrestling shoes (these were usually the closest) and of course the new wave of minamalist shoes out there.  Turns out a lot of companies are jumping on this bandwagon and trying to go minimal.  I say trying because they always screw something up.  Usually the arch and the toe box.  It's not too hard for them to go zero drop, but they just can't break out of the mold of regular shoes with the high arch and cramped toe box.

Last year, just doing my thing of trying on more shoes, I found the New Balance Minimus (MR10) running shoe.  It was the closest thing yet, so I grabbed a pair in a size 12.  That's more length than I need, but it gave me extra room in the toe box.  So the arch was really flat and the toe box nice and wide, but there was a 4mm drop from heel to toe.  Not horrible, but still there nonetheless.  

I knew that New Balance was coming out with a zero drop version of the Minimus in the spring and I was super excited.  In June, when I was in Portland, I went searching for them, eventually tried on a pair, and boy was I disappointed.  Should've been a no brainer right?  Not so much.  They totally pumped up the arch and narrowed the toe box.  Dang.  I got the scoop from an extremely knowledgeable salesman at the New Balance store who went into detail about how they managed to screw around with a fine shoe idea.  Great.  So now what.   

Now enter the Altra shoe company.  I can't remember where I first found out about them (they're maybe a year old now) but as soon as I heard their concept I headed on over to their website.  And then I did something I almost never do ... I ordered shoes without having tried them on first.  Now why would I go and do a thing like that?  Because from the 'about' section on their site I just knew they got it.  At least, they got what I wanted - zero drop, no arch (they call it foot shape) and a mondo toe box.  Sweet.  And I wasn't disappointed!

Fatty toe box
These shoes are what I've been looking for.  They are cushioned shoes, make no mistake about that, but that is fine by me for the way I use them (standing on hard surfaces for 40hrs a week).  They might be a bit much for running in if you're already used to very minimalist shoes, but they're probably perfect transition shoes for those wanting to go from regular running 'boots' to Vibrams or such. 

I was surprised at how much more comfortable it is having zero drop compared to even the 4mm that I had.  Really, this is the only major difference between this pair and my MR10's.  When you think about it, why do shoes even have 'drop' at all?  Why?  Just why?  To make us taller?  No really, I don't get why regular shoes have drop.  Drop makes it so you're standing on a friggin slope!  Makes no sense.  I do know this however, I'm never going back.  Zero drop from now on baby.

So this shoe totally fit the bill for me.  Nice and wide up front, no 'support' system anywhere,  and zero drop - all of which put my feet in a nice natural position.  They're very comfortable to be working in all day.  My only small complaint about the shoe is the height of the heel collars.  They're just too high.  I'm going to cut them down a bit.  I think with the whole foot being in a much more natural position, the need for tall heel collars goes away.

Overall, a thumbs up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Post

Me and Mom
Today I'm happy to share with you my first guest post - by none other than my mother!  I can't express to you how important it is to me having her on board with this lifestyle.  For her health of course, but also to have a family member to talk this stuff over with (she is my sounding board for a lot of ideas that end up here).

I read a lot in the paleoshpere about how people try to get loved ones started on this path, and how frustrating it can become.  My Mom didn't buy into this stuff right away, but I kept planting the seeds and eventually she read some Paleo books that tipped the scales for her.  It's extremely reassuring to know that she now has the interest and patience to pursue healthier lifestyle choices.  However, I also know the flip side of the coin as my brother and his wife (a standard RD) have no interest in this stuff.  Actually, they flat out just think we're nuts.  They 'tolerate' us eating differently than them when we go to visit.

Alright, enough of that, here is the guest post.  It's a bit short, which I think speaks more to my Mom's dearth of writing in the past years, because normally she is quite a bit more talkative than myself (although I am becoming better!).


                                                              I know better, BUT.......

Since Aaron encouraged me to join this "Paleo Lifestyle" I have learned a lot about my body and not all of it good!  I know that I'm an emotional eater and addicted to sweets.  What I didn't know is that I obviously have some kind of grain sensitivity.  Giving up grain was not extremely difficult for me but occasionally I'll "fall off the wagon" even though I know what the consequences will be.  A night of lousy sleep with digestive issues.  Because sleep does not come easily for me (thanks to a career of working the night shift) you would think that would be enough of an incentive for me to "be good".  Sometimes it might be social pressure -"can't you go off your diet once in a while" (why don't people understand that this is not a diet??), or maybe it's just that the pastry looks so darn good, but whatever - I suffer.  Needless to say, I'm then mad at myself.  SO, thank you son for encouraging and helping me with this wonderful lifestyle where I feel ever so much better.  BUT, can I please have some of your determination and willpower.....

Mama Aspen Paleo

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vitamin Cottage Paleo?

Is Vitamin Cottage Paleo?  Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is a regional chain that just had it's NYSE IPO in July and has plans to go national within the next couple of years.  More about their stores in a minute, but first I want to posit that they are secretly paleo.  They have a store 40 miles down the valley from here, and occasionally have their 'Health Hotline' insert in the Aspen Times newspaper.  It's a 20 page or so flyer that has their deals for the month in addition to several health articles, usually including a couple on vitamins and a couple on 'health' issues.  In this month's edition there are two articles titled Gut Health and Heal Your Gut.  These are flat out paleo articles people.  No joke.  I'm not talking about, oh, this part is paleo but not this part.  This is full on, grains and seed oils are bad, and just because you can't feel them doing harm doesn't mean they aren't damaging you.  Following the articles they give recipes for, get this, Bone Broth, Unpasteurized Sauerkraut, and Clarified Butter (Ghee).  Here's just a couple of sample quotes:
"The typical American breakfast tends to focus on sugar-laden, highly processed cereals and pastries that supply next to nothing in the way of nutrients. Even those breakfast cereals that claim to be high-fiber and high-protein are generally highly processed and heavy on sugar."
"We are constantly told to eat more whole grains for health, but in reality, grain-based foods (even whole grains) can be a major culprit in damaging the intestinal lining.  The gluten containing grains (wheat, spelt, rye, barley, kamut, and triticale) appear to be especially problematic, with wheat in the lead because it is so omnipresent in the American diet."
Now get up off the floor and let me explain to you why this is a big deal.  You see, this is a real live, brick and mortar business that is out to make a profit.  If they don't sell stuff, they don't survive.  They aren't some blog, book, or website that is waxing paleo, primal, or ancestral health and trying to inform and set a good example for others.  No, this is a ruthless company.  I know because they're a local Colorado based chain, and are one of our competitors.  I call these guys the 'little Wal-Mart' of the natural grocery world.  They are out looking for, no, demanding, deals and discounts and then passing them on to their customers.  They are known for their low prices.  They keep overhead down by not offering prepared foods, among other things.  They are more like a Trader Joe's than a Whole Foods, except they also have lots of vitamins and supplements.  And they already have over 60 stores in the Southwest and will be going national soon.  These guys have a plan, so watch out for them.

Now, I'm not implying that their stores are paleo or primal.  Nope, they sell pretty much all of your natural grocery lines, and they usually have a small produce and dairy section in addition to selling frozen grass fed meats.  What pops into my mind when trying to frame this company is that they're a natural grocer with a paleo philosophy, whereas Whole Foods is a natural grocer with a vegetarian philosophy.  They're both ultimately out to make a profit and will likely continue to sell products that run 'against' their philosophies, but it's a stark contrast to say the least.

Okay, so here's what I like about this.  Not anywhere in their literature, store, or website will you see Vitamin Cottage connecting themselves with Paleo or Primal.  It's obvious if you read between the lines, but your average Joe won't make the connection with our rapidly becoming infamous labels.  I think this is a good thing.  There certainly needs to be those of us out there promoting and informing others about our lifestyle, but there also needs to be this unattached, market driven front as well.  In a way, this is like someone trying to sneak some liver into their kids meals. 

Not all Aspen leaves turn golden
All of this good news aside, I don't want to make this sound like some love fest for Vitamin Cottage.  I'm on the inside of the natural grocery business and I can tell you that I hear things about various companies and they're no different.  They are first and foremost a business out to make a profit.  Absolutely nothing wrong with this of course, it's just my guess that one of the members of the Isley family (who owns Vitamin Cottage) is living Paleo/Primal.  The family has too much control of their business to be having some rogue nutritionist writing a couple of 'wacky' articles for them.  No, I'd bet my bottom dollar this is very much on purpose.  Cool.  Good for them, and ultimately good for all of us too.

Just your typical commute home from work!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Primal Eats

This would be a goat spine

Well kids, I certainly had the most primal meal of my life tonight.  Not the meat itself, but the 'cut' I guess you'd say.  In addition to being extremely nutritious and very delicious, I'm learning all about the anatomy of the goat I purchased in the spring.  The way this animal was processed was very different from the quarter buffalo and cow that I've previously had.  Those two were pretty much cut up and packaged much like you would see similar stuff for sale in a market or butchers shop.  The goat, however, was essentially just cut up and wrapped.  I guess that's a nice way of saying that there's bones, and cartilage, and ligaments, and skin, and fat everywhere.  And I've been diggin it! (This probably does explain why it was so much cheaper too).

Lots of bones and bits
So yesterday I thawed out a big hunkin chunk of meat labeled 'goat roast', and this morning at seven thirty I put salt and pepper on it, placed it in a cheap aluminum pan, covered it with aluminum, and set the oven at 225 F.  Ten and a half hours later I pulled that baby out and, voila, meat heaven.  Now, as you know, I'm not the food blogging type so I didn't get any before pics, or even any when it came out perfectly, pull of the bone(s), succulent.  I didn't get the idea to even write about it until I became fascinated while pulling all of the meat off.  One thing I've learned from having some pretty big hunks of this goat to deal with is to cook the whole thing low and slow, and take all of the meat off while its still nice and hot.  With the buffalo and cow, the cuts were so small that I would be thawing out meat for one, maybe two meals at a time.  I learned the hard way with the goat that I couldn't thaw big cuts of meat out and try to cut them up before I cooked them each day.  That is to say, it is much, much harder to get the meat off the bones this way.  Lesson learned.

Lots of meat from the 'roast'
Not much to say in the taste department.  It is delicious.  End of story.  But, as you can see from the pics, there is so much more than just meat there.  Tons of fat of course.  I keep a lot of the fat, but I found out the inconvenient way that I can overdue it on the goat fat (at one meal at least).  I had two chops the other night and ate all of the fat with them.  Oh boy, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep cause my gut was keeping my brain awake.  Not a 'sit like a rock' in my gut kind of feeling, just a - hey, buddy, you ate WAY too much fat there and you ain't digesting it all.  Not to worry, I eventually nodded off and slept in an extra hour to compensate.  Okay, where was I, oh right, much more than meat.  That reminds me, I guess I didn't really know that 'chops' were the meat right next to the spine until I had the 'full' chops from this goat.  In other words, the whole spinal disc from the goat was intact.  I can't wait to make broth from that stuff (and all of the goat bones really).  There was some white stuff right in the center of the spinal disc that I at too, kinda reminded me of bone marrow, only not as oily.  No idea what that stuff was, but hey, when you get the whole animal, might as well try it all.  Um, I got sidetracked again.  Right, anyway, the thing is that it's been way cool getting to eat the whole animal like this.  Even though I didn't hunt the animal down and all, it kind of makes me think more about what I'm actually eating, or make that, who I'm actually eating.  I have a friend or two who won't eat any of the goat with me because, well because it was a goat, but the way I look at it, it's the cycle of life.  And tearing apart the ribs that are still attached to the spine just makes the whole experience all the more grounding  - if that makes any sense.
Don't waste this stuff!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ute Trail

My double secret plan of taking some Thursdays off this Fall to get out and enjoy the mountains is working great.  Last week I walked up Sunnyside and then rode up to the Maroon Bells, and today I went up the Ute Trail.  It's been quite awhile since I've been up the Ute.  The trail, of course, is named after the Ute Indians who populated this area back 140 years ago.  That is, until the white man kicked them out and took this place for his own.  Someone at least had the heart to name a trail after the first inhabitants, and it's a very nice trail too!  Geeez.  (the Ute's did leave a curse for all future people living here though - read the Ute Curse at the bottom)

Anyway, the trail pretty much goes straight up (right Mom?) and heads to an outcroping of rocks that has an amazing view of Aspen.  I'll put the pics below.  At the beginning of the trail there is the usual Forest Service literature, but someone has also put up this piece of info (see pic) since the last time I've been.

It's titled:
Estimation of Energy Expenditure for the Ute Trail.

Oh boy.  Someone actually went through all of the trouble figuring this nonsense out.  Just plug in your time and your weight, and you can  figure out how many kcals you expend on the trail.

My guess is that this was put up by someone at the Aspen Club and Spa which is literally a stones throw away from the trail head.  That's just a guess though.

                                                     Short story short ... I fixed it once I got down:


There ... better.   I crack myself up.  When I was at the top looking about, a squirrel came up to me, got up onto my shoe, and stared me in the eyes.  I think that's a good omen.  Here's my little town:

One version of the Ute Curse goes something like this:  “though the white man may take this land, if he ever leaves this place he will only find sorrow"  Great, I'm stuck here!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Risk ?

I'm going to start this post with a disclaimer:  What follows is not advice, it's merely me tinkering with my health and fitness and writing about it.

Okay, now that the formalities are done, here's what happened ... I sprinted on Saturday morning.  Just like I said I was NOT going to do.  And to spoil it, everything went fine.

So, why would I do such a thing when my hamstring was sore and there was absolutely no need for me to even try?  Because I know something you don't know ... I'm not left handed*   Here's the deal, I've learned from prior experience that if I tweak or injure something I can often still perform exercises, even at full throttle, IF THE TWEAK DIDN'T OCCUR WHILE ACTUALLY DOING THAT EXERCISE.

KT Tape on my hamstring.  Love this stuff.
Case in point here is my sprinting yesterday.  I tweaked my hammy walking uphill on Thursday, but was able to go full blast sprinting on Saturday morning even though it was still sore rolling around on the Grid roller.  Most importantly though, is that it DID NOT hurt while sprinting.  That's the key.  Let me repeat that.  It DID NOT hurt while sprinting.  In my two warm up sprints I was feeling it out and ready to shut down in an instant and call off the sprints if it felt at all weird, BUT, I knew from past experience that there was a good chance that it would be fine.  Of course, there was also a chance that it wouldn't, but I would never know if I didn't try.  Five years ago I wouldn't have even considered sprinting with my hammy feeling tender like that,  I would've just thought it was a given that it would hurt.  However, time and again, I've found that more often than not, I can still perform my workouts pain free.

Right, I hear you ... but why even risk it?  Why not just do something else or take the extra rest.  Am I some kind of masochist?  Actually no, I'm a routinist.  I really, really enjoy my routines, that is to say, the way I have my days set up.  How I exercise, what and when I eat, etc, etc.  I'm hip to change once in awhile, but a chaotic life I could not lead.  One day years ago when I had a sore pectoral muscle from something or another I decided to try push ups anyway, and as you can guess, it went fine.  Better than fine, it didn't hurt at all.  So from then on, I check my 'oh for sure I can't do that' mentality at the door and usually try the sucker out.  If it does end up hurting then forget it, it's a no go, but surprisingly, it usually doesn't.

Why is it fine most of the time?  I don't know for sure.  I'll bet each tweak has it's limitations depending on how it came about and all, but that's not my point here.  Actually, I don't really have a good point, I'm just telling you what I've found out from some body hacking.  It works for me, but your mileage may vary.  Probably many people would look at a tweak as a chance to try something new or take some extra rest.  More power to them.  

Was what I did risky?  In my mind it wasn't.  Like I've said, if it hurt, game over.  Risk is relative though, as it certainly would've been less risky to sit on the couch and stare at the T.V. I just had disconnected.

Again, I'm not telling anyone to blast through their workouts when they have an injury.  Listen to your body. 

Speaking of hurting bodies, Aspen Ruggerfest was this weekend.  The Gentlemen of Aspen are in the red and black.

* a line from the movie The Princess Bride.  A truly classic flic.

PS  In reading this over, one could get the impression I get a lot of tweaks.  Truth is, I did get a few a couple of years ago when lifting heavy weights.  Now it's low and slow, and by golly, the tweaks are rare.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Odds and Ends III

Gave up the boob tube:   I ditched watching television this week.  I mean really ditched it - I returned the cable box.  I need a little break.  The news has become nothing but political bickering and I've seen my fill of foodie shows over the past few years as well.  It's cycling that I mostly watch, and that won't start up again until next spring.  I've probably gone about half of my adult life without a tele, but I've had one now for the past 7 years or so.  With the advent of the DVR and many more informational shows and channels these days, I don't dislike television as much as I once did.  That is to say, television can be used in a much more productive manner than has been possible before (no commercials, recording shows), although, I suppose, one could also just watch junk on it all day as well.  Same goes for the internet ... it is what you make of it.  I'll reevaluate early next year.

Hammy pull:  I have a slight hamstring strain from an uphill hike yesterday (I'm pretty sure that's what it's from).  I wore my vibrams and had to shorten my stride a little because of the rocky terrain (I do live in the middle of the ROCKY Mountains) and I think that's what tweaked it.  Although, I'm not positive because I didn't feel it until this morning.  Anyway, blah blah blah, my point is that I might not sprint tomorrow, and thinking about it, this will be the first time in 2 years that I might not sprint because of a tweak.  Yes, that's bragging.  No, I could give a toot about a 'streak' or anything like that.  It just made me realize how tweak/injury free I've been the past few years, and how this has mostly to do with my low risk approach to exercise.  As I've mentioned before on this blog, I would get tweaks often enough when I wore a backpack full of weights while doing explosive dips, pullups, or clapping pushups.  Luckily nothing serious, but the potential for injury was much, much higher.  If I can build the same strength in a much safer and efficient manner, why the heck wouldn't I?  Oh, right - I do.

Not sick:  I haven't been sick in over a year.  I don't consciously track things like this, but I recall having a sinus infection last year when I rode up Independence Pass to watch the Pro Cycling Challenge, and since that time, I've started gargling and swishing with salt water every morning and usually a couple of times after I get home.  I can't pin my non sickness solely on this habit of course, but I have a big hunch it has something to do with it.  If people are sick around me at work, I especially take care to gargle a couple of times throughout the day.  Call me lazy for not really caring enough to dig in and see if there's any research on this practice, I'm just running with it because it feels right.  Like it's sanitizing my throat, not to mention my teeth and gums - my toofies are sparkling white!

New shoes:  I just purchased a pair of Altra 'The Instinct' running shoes this week.  But I didn't get them for running.  I got them for work.  They're a new company making shoes with very wide toe boxes, no arch support and zero drop.  Yes, yes and yes.  They feel promising and I'll do a review on them here shortly.

Autumn is here and we're right smack dab in the middle of the changing colors.  This week and the next will be the best viewing and then it'll be on the down slope.  These things happen fast up at altitude. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Static Contraction Workout

I did my fist workout with my new toy today (see previous post).  I did a triceps extension, a upright barbell row and a front lateral raise all with the ez curl bar attached to the chain (and a static hold pull up without the chain).

To sum it up in a word - surprised.  I've been doing static hold/contractions with weighs recently and figured this would be similar.  Not so much.  It felt very different.  I had to chew on why this was for a bit until I figured it out.  Let me explain what I came up with by taking the same movement, let's say the triceps extension, and breaking it down for each of the methods.

First is the weighted triceps extension.  In this exercise I put 40 lbs on the bar, raise it into the maximum moment arm position (elbow at 90 degrees) and hold it there until my muscles fail and the bar lowers.  No matter how long it takes to get to failure, I'm always exerting 40 lbs of upward force on the bar in order to keep it still (I aim for a weight which causes failure in roughly 90 seconds).  

Weighted triceps extension
At the start of this exercise, I'm capable of exerting more than 40 lbs of force, but choose not to ... otherwise the bar would go up.  In this way, I bide my time knowing my muscles will find it increasingly difficult to hold the bar in place.  The end result, of course, is failure and the bar comes down.  Exactly what I'm aiming for.

Second is the chained triceps extension.  In this exercise I find the right chain length to put the bar in exactly the same position as the weighted extension and then pull upwards on it until my muscles fail and I can no longer exert upward force.  Let's assume that I also want to do this in roughly the same amount of time (90 seconds).  Unlike in the weighted extension where I have to exert exactly 40 lbs of force at all times in order to keep the bar from moving, in this situation I can vary how much force I exert while still pulling upwards.  The graph below shows you roughly how I felt the force distribution of my triceps extension played out today.  Now, mind you, other than the zero at the failure point, I'm just guessing as to the actual upward forces I exerted (and the time really).  What's important, though, is the very different curve that resulted.  After a slow build up of about 25 to 30 seconds, I tried with all of my might to rip that eye bolt out of the board, and because the force was so high at this point, I had much more room (in force lbs) to come down from.

Chained triceps extension
The difference you can see between the two graphs explains why it felt so different.  Although the end goal of failure was reached in both cases, I was used to applying a very consistent force throughout the entire static hold.  However, having a buildup followed by a sharp rise and a relatively rapid decline felt, well, different.

Was it better or worse?  I don't know.  I guess I hadn't really though all of this through before hand and it caught me by surprise.  In my next effort, I believe I'll try to more evenly distribute my force throughout the rep, but I don't think I'm going to necessarily try to emulate the constant force applied in the weighted exercises.  Perhaps I'll just try not to pull (or push) so hard right after the build up phase so I don't have so 'far to fall' on the other side of the curve.  It'll be fun to play around with this.

Another thought regarding this topic is that it's probably easier to teach somebody static holds to failure with weights rather than with immovable objects.  With the weights there can be no 'cheating'.  That is, in order to keep the bar at the same position, we KNOW what the force applied has to be.  In the chained case, you could actually bounce up and down with your applied force and still have the chain remain taught.  I could easily see a newbie tackling this backwards and try to chase a time under load rather than muscle failure.  It's probably more intuitive to hold a weight in place with all you've got until it drops.

And here's the super bonus thought for today.  If Work is defined as Force times Distance, then technically speaking, static hold/contraction exercises produce no Work since the Distance traveled by the weight is zero.  Thusly, we can correctly call this type of training the No Work Workout

Friday, September 7, 2012

D.I.Y. Static Contraction Device

Drew Baye had a post the other day about a homemade piece of equipment for static contraction hip belt squats that uses your own body weight against itself (post, pics and instructions are here).  I immediately recognized the potential for what he had built to be used for static contraction exercises for a bunch of other body parts/movements as well.  And like a little kid, I got all excited.  I've been using weights and a barbell for static contractions to good effect, but I really, really want something immovable I can push or pull against. 

Too bulky
So yesterday I headed to the hardware store and rounded up the pieces necessary to build this simple device. However, when I got home and merely stacked the wood in the proper position, I realized that it was going to be far too large and heavy for my liking.  If you have garage space or even an exercise room, I think it would be fine to make the thing via Drew's instructions, but having just a studio apartment, my wheels began spinning as to how to make a smaller and lighter version without compromising safety.  I believe I've come up with a hack that fits the bill nicely.

Instead of using three pieces of wood, as you can see in the pics, I'm only using one (I now have extra wood if anybody close by wants some).  The trick here is that I 'submerged' the nut and washer on the bottom side of the board so that it will be flush with the ground.  To do this I simply used a boring drill bit to make the necessary space.  As the board is a 2 by 12, I feel confident that there is plenty of 'depth' left for the eye bolt to screw into.  But just in case, I made sure to use a 1 1/2" diameter washer on both sides to spread out the forces over a greater surface area (look Mom I'm using my engineering degree!).  Theoretically, the larger the washer, the harder it will be to pull that eye bolt out, but I don't think they make washers much bigger for 1/4" diameter bolts and screws.  Anyway, if I do manage to rip that thing out, I'm signing up for the Worlds Strongest Man competition right away.
Top side with O ring and chain

Underside is flush (click to enlarge)

I plan on getting a hip/dip belt to use this thing like Drew shows in his post, and also for push ups (can you see how?) and dips, but for right now I just purchased about 7' of sturdy chain links.  With these, not only can I do biceps and triceps static holds, I can vary the angles just by selecting different chain lengths (via the O ring attached to the eye bolt).  With the long chain length I suppose I could also attach it to two dumbbells using a second carabiner.  The chain doesn't slide around the ez curl bar with the carabiner attached because there is a slight 'dip' in the center of the bar.  To make it even safer I could get an extra pair of stoppers and put them almost next to each other in the middle of the bar and then attach the carabiner in between them (see below).  I'm sure there are different ways to hook the chain up to your bar or device of choice, but safety must be a concern here as you don't want stuff slipping around under load.

Static contraction biceps curl

Static triceps extension

Attached to the ez curl bar

So there you have it.  A simple, and yet, very effective tool to play with.  I love little things like this.  I'll let you know soon how I'm getting along with my new toy.

By the way, from this pic here you can see that two years ago I was trying to do static contraction push ups at the playground using the structures.  This didn't work out so well as the bar 'dug' into my back too much.  At least the idea was there.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Muscle Focus

I've been preparing a post in my mind on the details of how I'm currently lifting and how much I'm enjoying it.  My current routine wonderfully combines efficiency, effectiveness, and safety.  So much so, that I don't even head to the playground to do my workouts anymore.  It takes me less time to complete my lifting than it would to actually get to the playground.  If I head there these days, it's to play.

I've been doing it this way for a few months now and kind of just drifted toward it as I refined my technique of muscle focus.  It wasn't some laid out program I found in one place.  It also didn't just pop into my head, I study this stuff a lot and it's been a natural progression as I learn more and more. 

Having said all of this, I just read a post by a personal trainer that spells out what is going on in this type of workout infinitely better than I ever could.  The trainer's name is Drew Baye and his post is here.  I highly recommend you read it, even if you don't plan on changing things (it's required reading for you Mom). 

I personally only do one or two reps with six different exercises, split between two workouts during the week.  As you will see in Drew's article, the number of reps, weight, and time under load are not the goals, they are a means to an end.  As he perfectly sums up:

Don’t think of exercise as using your muscles to do something to the weights – think of it as using the weights to do something to your muscles

In times past I would get a wee bit anxious right before workouts, trying to psyche myself up in order to lift heavy weights or get a certain number of reps.  Now all of that is behind me.  I only have to think about what exercise I'll be doing because I know damn well I'm going to hit muscle failure one way or another, and how many reps or what the weight is becomes irrelevant.  

    Mama Aspen Paleo lifts superslow BBS style once a week at her local fitness center and I couldn't be more proud.  It's not her fave, but for such a small investment of time she knows the benefits are well worth it.  Rock on Mom!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Tour in Aspen

Just a note:  this has nothing to do with Paleo, it's about my hobby of watching pro cycling

A circus in the form of a professional bicycle race rolled into town today.  Well, last night actually.  The USA Pro Cycling Challenge finished here today and also departs from Aspen in the morning.  We're the only town acting as both a finishing and starting point in this years race so it's making things a bit more interesting.

Looking West toward the finish line

First, town is almost unnavigable by car.  We don't have a very big town to begin with.  Actually, I'd say it's down right small.  So when you block off major sections of it, including most of Main St., well, things get gummed up in a hurry.  It started the night before as they needed to put barriers up in advance.  Check out the photos of Main St. I took earlier in the day.  It may be hard to see, but three quarters of it is blocked off (for 2 days).  Good thing I ride my bike into work :)

Looking East
Second, all of the riders and staff are staying in town tonight.  Last year they finished here, but started the next day in Vail, so they skedaddled out of town pretty quickly.  And that's exactly what they'll be doing in all of the other finishing towns in this years race as well.

Because of the overnight stay, this evening I rode into town to see if things were hopping.  Not so much.  There was live music in the park and a fair amount of people dining out, but downtown felt very eerie.  Especially the streets.  You see, they are still blocked off so there is no traffic, and all of the team vehicles and buses from the race are parked throughout the core.  But there is nothing going on right now.  All of the riders and staff are in the hotels eating, getting massages and turning in early.  Tomorrow morning should be a different story as I expect a beehive of activity as the teams get prepared for the days racing.  The riders will be warming up (it's uphill right off the bat) and meeting in the team buses to go over strategy.  The mechanics will be tuning up the bikes and prepping the cars.  The official start time isn't until 11:35 so I'll just take a break form work tp head up there and check it out.

Last year I rode up to the top of Independence Pass to see the race go by as they headed into town.  It was a blast and the atmosphere up there was a riot.  Hard to describe though.  Think along the lines of a great Halloween party.  Anyway, the weather turned sour just as the riders started the descent and the organizers were unable to provide pics or video of the race as it headed down the pass into town, which was a bummer for me because I know every inch of that road and was looking forward to seeing the pros take it on.  It was also a bummer because me and a thousand of my close cycling friends had to ride back down the pass in the rain.  Oh well.  This year, however, the weather held out and we got some great footage of the riders tackling Independence pass.

Chicks racing bikes ... yes please
So today I stayed in town to watch the race.  I totally missed all of the activity that preceded the finish last year ... like the pro women's criterium that started at noon thirty.  A criterium is a closed circuit race in a city center that finishes in a set amount of time (an hour in this case) as opposed to a point to point race.  The women just swooped around town at high speeds in a big loop.  It was fun to watch.

Also, there were a bunch of cycling related kiosks around with swag and gear to show off.  It was basically a mini carnival of sponsors that travel around with the race, setting up at each finishing town.

I do love to watch cycling and it's awesome that a pro race has come to us here in the middle of the Rocky Mountains twice now.  Who knows if we'll be on next years route, but either way it's fun to see cycling up close and personal.
Cadel Evans riding through town

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mixed Bag

I had a couple of encounters with veg heads again at work today.  One said she 'is trying to be vegan' while the other was a vegan for 12 years, 2 of which were raw.  I'll skip the commentary I've put up here before about how people are surprised I'm not in this camp and how I even think it's not best for one's health.  Same old story.

But pondering it a bit more, I believe it's a mixed bag.  On the one hand I genuinely want people to become healthier.  Healthy people potentially bring so much more to the table of Life.  Enjoying life, sharing it, exploring, singing, dancing, raising children, relaxing, loving ... you name it, it's all better and brighter when you're healthy. 

On the other hand, the more vegetarians and vegans there are, the more pastured meat there is for us Paleo folks ;)

Hmmmmmm.  Is it my fault they can't figure it out?

The many fires in the West right now make our skies hazy in the day.  And light up our sunsets.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Angry Bears

Isn't there a game called Angry Birds or something?  Well, forget that.  If you want to see some angry bears in real life, drop by the compost container outside of the market where I work tonight.   Should be a good time.

It all started when the city put a compost container next to our dumpster, oh, maybe a week and a half ago.  Great idea for our little place which also has two restaurants in the same building.  The compost will go to the dump and hopefully make its way back into the circle of life.  Anyway, we didn't give much thought into the safety of the thing as it did have chains and O rings securing the lids.  Well, the bears are apparently pretty hungry right now as the early season drought dried up a lot of the wild berries and such.  So to find food they make their way into town.  And last night they easily ripped open the top of our compost and had a feast.  They must've thought they had hit the jackpot ... I mean, usually they have to sift through the garbage, or if you're unlucky, through you're cabinets, to find some morsels of food.  At our little compost bin though, it was like a big buffet for them.

So the city dropped by and wanted to fine us this morning for not having a bear proof container (which is the law up here of course).  After nicely reminding them that this was their idea (and their container) they quickly made plans to switch it out.  So, quite the opposite of what we've come to expect from government these days, the compost bin was switched the same day!

As you can imagine, there are going to be some bears dropping by tonight with some high expectations.  Quite angry they will probably become.  Should be a hoot.   We'll see how 'bear proof' that bin really is.  I told our produce manager to hide in there and pop out 'jack in the box' style tonight when they stop by.  Now that would've been entertaining (or more likely, very gruesome).

On Sat. morning there was a big bear (450 lb) downtown during the day that, at one point, ran right through the Farmers Market.  I'll bet that scared some people.

Bears are a part of life here in the mountains.  Seeing them around reminds us that we are indeed just sharing the land.  I've had far too many encounters with them, three of which involved cubs and their mothers.  Staying cool and not gawking over them like they're zoo animals is important (I'm talking to you - tourists).   Well, the only tie into paleo I can think of here is that I hear bear meat tastes pretty awful.  Have you ever tasted it?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

O.I.A. V

I've been wrapped up in watching the Tour de France the past three weeks as usual, and I have a funny story to tell related to it.

There is a guy who works in the hardware store below the market who's become a friend as we occasionally have lunch out in the courtyard at the same time.  He actually enters chili contests and has qualified for the world championships in Tennessee this year (in green chili so far).  Anyway, he enjoys watching any kind of sports on the tele and knows I geek out on cycling, and the Tour de France in particular.  So, he's been watching the stages at night and the other day he came up to me while I was working in aisle 2 and asked a question.

It was after stage 17 where Valverde took the mountain top win and Froome and Wiggo were close behind.  He wanted to know why Froome had obviously waited for his team leader while it was clear he could've forged ahead and likely taken the stage win himself.  I glanced over my friends shoulder, noticing a Couple looking at some products, and then explained to him the answer about being a good teammate and all, and how Froome had already won a stage.  We got to discussing it and how it looked like the two riders were talking about the situation between themselves as they were racing.  I jokingly stated that Froome was probably asking Wiggo if he had forgotten to dope up that morning, and then my friend chimes in that maybe he was trying to offer him his water bottle with the 'good stuff' (I love watching cycling and always will, but I'm under no illusions about its rampant doping problems).  We had a chuckle about that and he headed off while I got back to work.

As I go by the Couple who were right behind us on the aisle the whole time, I notice that the dude is Barry Bonds.  Yes, that Barry Bonds!

Now, what are the odds of that?

I suppose it would've been slightly more ironic if it was Lance Armstrong.  But only slightly.  (I've sat next to L.A. at a restaurant in town before as he's a part time Aspenite these days)

Only in Aspen.

By the way, Bonds wife/girlfriend is smoking hot.  And he doesn't seem quite as big as he used to be ... hmmmm.  Maybe television does put on 10 pounds ;)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Exception to the Rule

Living the good life
This picture, and I suppose this whole blog in general, is my reply to today's comment of the week on Mark's Daily Apple - Weekend Link Love edition (essentially saying that health food store employees are wimpy veg. heads).

I've been managing the 'Health Food' store here in Aspen since 1998.  Never been a vegetarian let alone a vegan. I order whole goats and quarter buffaloes.  I sprint fast and lift intensely (and safely).   And I'm not even new to this party ... I recall picking up a  copy of The No Grain Diet in 04' and The Paleo Diet for Athletes in 05'

Booyah.  On my own unique path as usual!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th

In an ironic twist of weather, it clouded up and rained all afternoon here.  Which is good for the fire danger, but not so good for all of the people who piled into town to celebrate.  Ah well, at least it was fine for the parade which started at noon.  We always have a nice little hometown parade with firetrucks, veterans, kids on bikes, horses, dogs ... you know, the usual stuff.

And speaking of the parade, when I walked up to view a half hour or so of the fun during my lunch break as I do every year, there was a moment that had me in stitches laughing so hard that I just have to share.  Unfortunately, I have to use a stock photo of what happened as I don't have one of those fancy phones with a camera and everything.  As a matter of fact, I do believe I have one of the oldest working cell phones in the country.  I suppose I could go get a fancy new one, but I figure if the thing is going to keep on ticking, I might as well  honor it's durability.  Seriously, in cell phone years my phone is like 752.  Right, anyway, back to the story.  New in the parade this year was the gang from Bleeker Street gym.  This is a longtime 'meathead' gym here in town.  As in a bodybuilding gym - not a CrossFit type one (I do think we have one of those here now too, but it's not on my radar).  On their way down the parade route they had a few big dudes taking turns flipping a huge ass tire down the middle of the street. 

It was impressive in a tire flipping sort of way if you know what I mean, but what had me laughing so hard was when they passed by, one of the people in the crowd near me yelled   'Hey, it's a wheel ... just roll it!'

Exactly.  Why do we always have to make things so complicated anyway?

Happy Birthday America.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


We've been pretty lucky so far up here considering all of the fires going off around the state.  Occasionally there will be a smokey, hazy day, but that we can handle.  Lately I've been especially reminded of all that's happening by some spectacular colors at sunset caused by the fires.  Mother Nature can be cruel and beautiful all at once.

There is, of course, major fire bans/restrictions all over right now.  Our 4th of July fireworks display was cancelled weeks ago.  I'd be surprised if anyone in the state is allowed to have them at this point.  I suppose we'll just have to substitute with 'Sunset displays' instead.  Here's hoping for some rain soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paleo Restaurant Ideas

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to go into a restaurant where you know virtually everything on the menu is fair game for us Paleoheads.  You could be at ease reading the menu trying to decide what to eat rather than listing off what to avoid.   Instead, what we currently have is people reporting back on their experiences in restaurants picking out 'paleo friendly' menu items, trying to decipher which dishes might have things like gluten and dairy, or are cooked in seed oils (ubiquitous by the way). 

As there is no strict definition of what is truly Paleo and what is not, it would be impossible to have a one size fits all type establishment.  Having said that, I think that if you were to have a place that simply eschewed gluten and seed oils then you'd be taking a large step toward creating much healthier meals.  Sure, you could theoretically open a Paleo bakery while still avoiding the said two categories, but I think most of us would agree that stuff to be just a treat kind of thing.  What I'm talking about here is having a full on plate of food that fills your belly ... with maybe an optional treat for dessert if so desired.

There's obviously many different avenues one could take in trying to come up with a viable Paleo type restaurant.  Besides the actual menu itself, you would need to figure out what 'kind' of establishment to start.  From food cart all the way up to fine dining, with all of the options in between fair game as well.  There is no right or wrong way to go about it here, just different styles.

So as this is my blog, I'm going to tell you what I would like to personally start.  I guess I would call it a casual fast food paleo joint.  I'll bet there is a term for the type of place I have in mind, but I'm not familiar with it.  Actually, what I'm thinking of would be something like the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain of eateries.  A small menu where you choose different proteins (meats, seafood, eggs), veggies, and carbs (sweet potato's, rice) to mix and match.  Maybe some burgers and like I said possibly something desserty.  I'd try to keep it simple yet filling.  The meats and oils would ideally be sourced local and as best quality as possible, but ultimately it's a business so I would have to take cost into consideration.  If everything on the menu was overly expensive you would only get the dedicated Paleo crowd, and even then maybe just as an occasional splurge.   Instead,  I'd like to have a place where even someone who could care less about Paleo would find the food and prices good enough to come back for more.  Easier said than done no doubt, but I'm just floating ideas here so what the hay.  And the idea of mix and max isn't set in stone either, I could also see a small menu base (5-7 items) with some extras. Oh, and in case you're not familiar with Chipotle, you order in a cafeteria line deal and then find some seats - it's not a sit down with a menu restaurant.

Probably the biggest conundrum would be whether or not to be flexible with the menu.  Obvious pros and cons here.  If it's a set menu, you can purchase in bulk to keep the prices lower while also making it easier to duplicate in other locations.  Also, with a more fast food type of ambiance, people are going to drop by usually knowing what they want in advance, anticipating they can get some good grub in a hurry.  On the flip side, with a flexible menu, you can really take advantage of seasonal and specialty items.  It would also lend itself to potentially more exciting options, but prices could vary widely.

I do think there's a case to be made for a higher end type of Paleo restaurant as well.  In this realm it might be easier to get 'crossover' high end diners.  Possibly anyway.  And price wouldn't be such and issue.  Oh, and one more big thing - do you use Paleo in the name or not?  I'm leaning yes, but it could end up being a thorn in your side  (think news media).

I know lots of us folks prefer to cook for ourselves most of the time, but it sure would be nice to have some options out there.  And heck, maybe more people would see that Paleo isn't some raw meat eating, cave dwelling cult.  Soooo ... with all of this in mind, what kind of Paleo restaurant would you like to see?  Both personally and what you think ultimately would be the most likely to succeed.