A health and fitness blog: With an occasional food item

Monday, April 30, 2007

A hotbed of social rest

Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion was here last weekend, performing a live broadcast for Georgia Public Radio, and that's how he described our town. Pretty accurate.
What a magical evening. The article we ran today about the event captured it wonderfully, as reporter Alan Riquelmy compared Keillor to a ghost, with his floating off and on the stage--sort of unseen but at the same time putting his soft footprints everywhere. His actors and musicians, including homegrown guitarist Jake Fussell, were way above par; and the 2 hours zoomed past. We hated when the lights came back up.
After three visits, Keillor seems to have developed a genuine love for our town--he likes our hospitality and our honeysuckle, among other things--but I don't know how much he'd be charmed by us with three-four months straight of 90-percent humidity. Maybe we should all head to St. Paul this summer.
During the show, he told a crazy made-up tale of one Billy Winn "Causewood." Billy Winn, a close friend, is also homegrown; but didn't know about the story ahead of time. He liketa died, as we say down here.
A hilarious contrast Sunday, probably many hours after Keillor left town: While riding on the Riverwalk, I saw in the distance a couple who were either draped around one another in romantic bliss, or fighting. I couldn't tell. As I got closer, they were very clearly fighting, or at least the woman was hitting the man with her fists and yelling things I can't say here. She was about twice his size. Finally the guy took off running and he started screaming. She caught up to him, her arms and legs flailing. She accidentally kicked a metal pole. He started laughing, she was crying. Garrison Keillor, this is just some of local the color you missed. Come back soon, ya hear?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Commuting health

This piece in a recent issue of The New Yorker is about commutes, notably really long ones. Quite interesting. We're fascinated by commuting--we brag about our own (short or long); we dispense advice like aspirin. (Think Holly Hunter giving directions to the cabbies in "Broadcast News.") We rationalize when we choose to live 80 miles from work, and drive solo, only to enjoy maybe 30 minutes of silence a day beside a creek. Near the end of the article, several Atlantans describe their respective commutes. Our state capital seems to know no bounds, highway-wise, and unlike L.A., it has no natural impediments like an ocean or mountains.
Let me know what you think. How far is too far a commute for you? What exactly does quality of life mean in this context? After reading this piece, my little 15-minute drive to work seems very sweet.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thirsty Thursday

Good morning.
Today's topic is sports drinks. To me, here's the most interesting thing about them: You don't need one unless you're exercising for more than an hour at a stretch.
Here's a cool Web site.
Sometimes you need one after. It all has to do with electrolytes and carbs.
Then, just this morning, I picked bought a pack of something called True Lime (there's also True Lemon.)The drink's recommended for:
People who are tired of throwing away unused fresh lemons and limes;
Home chefs;
Professional chefs and caterers;
People on-the-go;
Campers, backpackers and hikers;
Runners and cyclists;
Extreme sports devotees;
Boaters and sailors;
Frequent travelers;
Those who want to increase their water consumption;
People avoiding artificial or natural sweeteners;
People looking to reduce sodium in their diet; and
People with diabetes, hypertension and other health-related conditions.
So, pretty much everybody.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


What's your threshold of risk? Not necessarily in the daredevil category--but what sort of boundaries would you push, such as something other people might question or warn you about? Buying a racey outfit? Laughing out loud in church, just for the heck of it? Just before my solo trek to the mountains, a friend at the gym said, "Tell someone exactly where you are, and buy some pepper spray." Now, my husband and my parents knew the phone number of the place I stayed, and I had my cell with me at all times. (Not that there was a signal in spots, but it provided some level of comfort.) Yet, no one who cares about me knew exactly where I was for those 48-plus hours--nor did I buy any pepper spray or a gun or what-not.
The only time I was iffy about my surroundings was Friday, when I went to a part of the trail I'd never hiked before. Granted, it was only .9 miles one way, but you have to drive about 10 miles off the main road to get to it. The last 5 miles or so is on a remote gravel road. So I told myself if I got a bad vibe about anything at the trailhead, I'd just turn around and drive back. Turns out, there were several cars in the parking area, and a guy started hiking in the same direction at the same time I was. (We both acknowledged it was weird to be hiking with someone we didn't know, but soon we passed other people; and eventually I found out he lives in Atlanta, he has a wife and kids; and then I just had to ask, "So, are you an ax murderer?" He said no. (Whew!) Not many ax murderers are married, probably, although there was that "normal" killer from--where was it, Kansas?--who hid in plain sight all those years and held down a job and went to church and on his off-hours chopped people up. (Oh, yeah, here he is.) But I digress.
The thing is, you and I are MUCH more likely to be killed while driving a car than hiking. Sure, there have been trail killings--by animals and by people-- but the comparative odds are almost laughable.
I do acknowledge feelings of fear/vulnerability while setting out on such treks. Yet the payoff for me is much greater than the fear: enjoying some alone time, some deeper connection with nature than my regular routine and environs allow; much time to think, read and sleep. All in all, a calculated risk. What are yours?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Conscious eating

Is your coffee "fairly traded"? Do you eat range-free eggs?
It seems that today's picky eaters come not just from those who are watching calories, and their waistline, but origins of certain foods--where it came from, are the farmers paid fairly? Today's college students are setting the trend.
“It’s changed totally from ‘You want chicken or fish?’ to a partnership between the chef, the nutritionist and the student,” says Jeff Gourley, executive chef at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J.
Read the entire article from the New York Times.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Back in the flats

Decided to come home today from north Georgia, and that was good because I missed my family--plus I have to work tomorrow--plus I got hellacious blisters on both feet after buying new shoes--but let me tell you, today was gorgeous up there. (Or "GO-jus' " as we Southern women say.) Friday was spent hiking around (and north of) Amicalola Falls State Park. Had a little day backpack with water and camera inside (the old-fashioned kind, with film) and I got to an overlook and had not yet put the film in. Argh. Continued on. Then drove about 5 miles up a Forest Service road to a spot along the Appalachian Trail, which led .9 miles south to the southern terminus, Springer Mountain. This was practically a religious experience for me, as I had always wanted to see it. (From there, the trail winds more than 2,000 miles north to Maine.) On the top of Springer, I met a guy named Roger Dunton, who's a ridge runner. These are people who camp out and hike around on the trail for days at a time, answering questions, providing advice and the like. He also writes down how many people he sees--who's day-hiking, who's on extended trips. Roger hiked the whole thing in '98 and his trail nickname is "Many Sleeps." With a long white beard, Many Sleeps said he's up there 10 days, off four. ...It felt like he was the welcome wagon on Springer, or maybe like the bouncer. "You can come up, but not you or you or you."
The guy on the left is Roger. The other guy hiked the trail in '06, and journaled about it, but I don't know him.
Friday ended with a great big meal of trout and rice in Dahlonega, which was also hosting a street festival. People were playing guitars and yes, banjos, in little groups all over the town square. Which was pretty cool.
More of the same for Saturday. Another clear day. Started off hiking at Neel's Gap, where I bought new boots. (Bad move in hindsight, trying to break them in the first day.) Headed south on the trail which means a healthy climb up Blood Mountain. (Funny T-shirt I saw: "Hike Faster. I hear banjos playing." A reference to "Deliverance." Unfair, perhaps, but funny.) Lots of hikers Saturday, including two fathers from Atlanta out with their sons. The boys, being teen-agers, obviously wanted to be away from their dads, but they also ventured off-trail a time or two by mistake or curiosity or both. We all had snacks on top of the rocks on Blood, which affords great views. Back down the mountain from the same direction, there were lots of cyclists who were riding some of the gaps, and stopped at one of my favorite haunts. (This is where I bought the boots.)
At least two of the cyclists live in Columbus and we chatted. Later, on the way back down the highway in my car, I recognized another cycling friend, pumping up the (very steep) road in the opposite direction. So I wheeled around, and met him back at the top. These friends were in the area partly to watch the pros ride in the Tour de Georgia mountain stage, which on Friday traveled 107 miles from Dalton to Brasstown Bald. Wow. (I get tired DRIVING up Brasstown Bald.) After about a six-mile hike Saturday, dinner consisted of copious amounts of bread, salad and chicken parmesan. ... If it wasn't nailed down, I ate it. Then soaked my blistered feet again in the tub.
At the place I stayed, (which comes highly recommended), some of us got into a discussion about hiking the A.T. Four of my friends have done it end-to-end. I love hiking it myself and, given the right conditions, could hike many days in a row. But, the older I get, the more I appreciate a soft bed, a shower and clean clothes at the end of the day; others around me appreciate that about me, too. Not to mention food that doesn't require preparation over a camp stove.
Another small-world story: Stopped by an Atlanta mall on the way home today and saw a friend who lives there (not at the mall, but in the city) and whose parents are missionaries from our church/diocese. So we got all caught up. A weekend of serendipity all around.

PS Giving credit where it's due: The top photo was shot by Joe Cook of Rome, Ga., who is one friend who thru-hiked. It's sunset from Springer.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Taking a hike

Tomorrow, I'm headed here
and here and here.
And I may even catch a glimpse of these people.
The woods are calling.
Hope everyone has a great weekend.
Signing off, for now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Appetite busters

Good morning.
Here are nine foods that will curb your appetite.

And, if you live in the Columbus area, and if you like to walk or run, here is something you might want to do Saturday:
The Midtown Classic, a one-mile walk and 5K run, the event is open to all ages. Top-three finishes in both races, and age categories, will be awarded. Cost is $10 for the one-mile and $20 for the 5K (approximately 3 miles). The walk gets underway at 8:30 a.m., followed by the run at 9 a.m. This is a benefit for the Wynnton Neighborhood Network, a social services ministry consisting of congregations in the Wynnton area. To register or for more information: 706-324-2424 or www.wynntonumc.org or www.active.com. Start and finish at Wynnton UMC: 2412 Wynnton Road, across from Chick-fil-A.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Workout addicts

It seems there's an addiction to most everything, and here we have exercise addiction, aka exercise bulemia. (It's true, some among us work out TOO much.) This Newsweek article focuses on a possible next phase: monitoring machines to see who's on them and for how long. The focus here is on college students, but certainly people older and younger can suffer from it. As far as monitoring people at the gym, the Privacy Police would say something like, "Wait a minute. You can't just have gym personnel coldly confronting someone on the treadmill. And is it really their business?" From my armchair view, a confrontation for such an addict would best be done by a person whom the addict trusts--or knows at least somewhat, as in the case of the professor and student described in the story.
Safe to say, someone who works out more than 2 hours a day, most days in a week, has an issue; (unless of course the person is an athlete or one in some type of training mode.) Instructors at my gym have said the benefits decrease exponentially the longer you work out (meaning more than 90 minutes in one session.) What do you think? And take this quiz:
If you answer 'yes' to more than three or four questions then it may be worth getting further information about exercise addiction.

Is your need to exercise increasing?
Do you spend time planning/manipulating to increase exercise 'opportunities'?
Do you fantasise about exercising when involved in other activities?
Having exercised do you feel relief/euphoria in anticipation of the next occasion?
Do you experience depression/anxiety/anger when prevented from exercising?
Can exercise take precedence over social life/family/ relationships/work/non exercise-associated leisure activities?
Has your need to prioritise exercise caused arguments?
Have you ever been dishonest/surreptitious about time spent exercising?
When you encounter a problem is your first impulse to exercise?
Is exercise becoming your prime means of coping with stress and tension?
Do you engage in inner 'dialogues' justifying/rationalising your need to exercise?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Disabled and able

An article came across my desk today from a faithful reader (OK, my husband). It's about people with disabilities who continue to work out despite their limitations. One guy featured is able to go to a gym, lift weights and, with the help of electrodes hooked up to his paralyzed legs, ride a bike. About 20 percent of the U.S. population are disabled. Granted, not everyone has such access--but it's worth exploring, given that, as this article states, the disabled are likely to be in worse health than the general population.
One of the most determined of these was my mother-in-law Sara, who died in 2005--but not before she proved her mettle. Despite having polio as a child, post-polio as an adult; cancer; mini-strokes in her later months; and other maladies related to all the above, she didn't complain. She lived, and into her 80s. She had limitations, naturally, but we all have those in some form; hers were just more obvious. Her humor shone through especially after her second mastectomy. Upon waking up from surgery, she said, "Well, they can't do that to me again."
Here's the complete story..
Let me know what you think. (Or as my friend Brad would say, "Holler.")

Sunday, April 15, 2007

False positive

If it's Sunday (and it is), it's News of the Weird:

Reuters (London) — The 47-year-old male pilot was on the flight deck of an Airbus A340-600 plane preparing to leave London's Heathrow Airport for New York when police boarded, having been tipped off by an airport worker.
"Virgin Atlantic can confirm that the pilot who was questioned by police on 31st March ... will not be charged with any offence," Virgin said in a statement on Tuesday. "It is believed that a diet being followed by the pilot caused the initial positive reading during a preliminary breath test," Virgin said. "Subsequent blood tests later confirmed that the amount of alcohol in his blood was the equivalent to that of a non-drinker." The pilot, whose name was withheld, is free to resume his duties immediately, Virgin said.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

You are so "sweat"

Remember how, in junior high (and hopefully not older), someone would sign your yearbook and write sweat instead of sweet?
Just a thought as the topic of sweat came up today after spin class. My friend Sam and I--as well as one of our instructors--sweat pretty heavily during class. The instructor, whom I'll call James, can wring out his shirt when he's done and there are always noticeable puddles on either side of his bike. Our teacher today, who is not James, said she heard that if you sweat a) a lot or b) not at all, then you're in good shape--but if only moderately, not so much.
So here's an article to explain some of this. And another.
Hope you are having a SWEATY/SWEET Saturday.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eat for healing

Confused about all the health-food books out there, diet tips and food pyramids? A new book, with an interview here with author Joy Bauer, makes a lot of sense. It's not so diet-centric as many others. Bauer herself admits going overboard on her favorite snacks and relies mostly on common sense to help herself and others maintain healthy weight and nutrition. Here are two tips: 1) Eat slowly and 2) Get enough sleep. Both affect weight. Confession: The first one is tough for me. Either I'm in a hurry and I eat quickly or I'm so hungry after exercising, I don't let much of anything get in my way of woofing down a meal. Sleep? I'm OK with that. Not to turn this into a personal diary, but lately, post-exercise, I munch on carrot sticks or fruit to curb the appetite. That seems to help with the intake.
Bauer also hits on a typical American view of food: Going to one extreme or the other. We're either hyper-vigilant about eating healthy, or getting discouraged when we fall off the wagon and we eat a whole bag of Cheetos. Just an example. Bauer suggests a "healing" approach to diet and exercise. What does your body need? Listen to it. It will tell you. (But you might want to ignore: "Feed me extra-cheese pizza three meals in a row.")
What are your ideas?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Here are some letters
in response to the heart attack story posted Tuesday. These are from the Times. They make salient points: Prevention is key (diet and exercise); taking your meds; going to the emergency room earlier than the guy in the story did. Yet it's also interesting, and a harsh reality, that many people won't seek treatment right away especially if they don't have health insurance--or if it's sub-par.
What do you say, Internet?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"The rule of halves"

Half of all heart patients get care, and half of those receive only adequate care, so says a report from Monday's New York Times. Keith Orr, a Boston man, was nearly in the no-care category, because of heart attack symptoms he initially waved off while exercising in a gym. Turns out, he got to the hospital just in time. The magic window of one hour is another marker doctors keep in mind--people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack have about an hour to get emergency treatment; if not, they may die or suffer extensive heart damage. About 16 million Americans have coronary heart disease. Read the full story here. Be careful out there. And hold hands while crossing the street.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Who is Zach Johnson?

He's the 2007 winner of the Masters. Married. New father to a son named Will. Age 31. Says he's a normal guy from Iowa. (So will next year's Champions Dinner have cornbread, corn-on-the-cob, corn fritters and corn chips? And beef, for which Iowa is also known? Not to pick on Iowa. Georgia has enough of its own interesting food--and lore--to keep us humble.) Today's final round was an interesting mix of the wheels coming off for some players; the weather didn't seem as much a factor as Saturday, but it seemed everyone was trying to hold on to what he had. Tiger Woods seemed to be in the hunt for awhile, with a eagle on 13, but even he couldn't top of the leader board at the end of the day. Mainly his putter seemed to fail him.
Johnson's tournament score of 289 (one over par) was last posted by Jack Burke in 1956 and Sam Snead before him in 1954. The relatively high numbers this week can be blamed mainly, I'd say, on the weather. (Added to that the usual course difficulty.) Otherwise, why would so many of the world's best not make par, or lower?
Way to go, Zach Johnson. Your phone will be ringing off the hook from now on.
For more on today's round, and all previous rounds, click here.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Just in time for Easter, here's a traditional recipe for egg salad.
7 hard boiled large eggs
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced sweet pickle
3 Tbs. mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
Slice eggs in half and take out 3 yolks, put them aside. In a medium bowl chop the rest of the eggs into small pieces. Add celery, sweet pickles, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, take the 3 yolks and mash them with a fork. Add mayonnaise and mix until creamy. Mix the dressing with the egg mixture. Serves 4.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The "toona-mint"

The first round of The Masters was today. What a great place, and a great golf venue, if you're lucky enough to have tickets, or know someone who does or work for some corporation that hands them out to execs. Or of course if you're one of the members. Justin Rose leads after today's round. Temps on the western side of the state have gotten chillier in the past few days, and presumably so in Augusta four hours east. Easter Sunday, the final round, promises to be on the chilly side as well. (At least by our Deep South standards.)
Favorite Augusta National memories: When I lived and worked in Augusta, my dad came over a couple of times and we went to the practice rounds. This was in the long-gone era when they didn't require tickets for practice rounds. You'd just walk up and pay $20 and get to enjoy one of sport's greatest stages, just like rich folks. But then the crowds on those days got OOC--Out Of Control--so they started a lottery on those too. One night while my dad was there, we went to a Kroger and who should we see but Bernard Langer and his coach. My father, being the joker that he is, walked up to Langer and said, "Excuse me, but do you know where we could find the German potato salad?" (If you don't know, Langer's from Germany. And it's not as obnoxious a moment as it sounds. I had interviewed Langer previously at the
TPC in Florida, and re-introduced myself, then introduced my dad. Then he hit him with the potato salad joke. Luckily, Langer has a sense of humor.) Another incident involved a wayward ball on a Saturday. While standing near a putting green with some friends, I heard someone yell, "Heads up!" So I kept my head up. Dumb. Only to be hit by a ball, sure 'nough. It was struck by a player named David Frost, whom I believe lives in Australia. So of course we all back up to clear the way and he figures out who got hit and says to me, "You all right?" And I nod and we go on with life. But then I got home, called my parents and hoped that made it on national television. No such luck. TV, as you may have noticed, prefers the perfect shot and the miraculous moments. Especially at Augusta National.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

This is your brain on ... God?

Because of my day job, this piece from CNN.com was of interest. It's about a new field of study called neurotheology. One Dr. Andrew Newberg, neuroscientist and author of "Why We Believe What We Believe," tracks how the human brain processes religion and spirituality. One part of the brain is used when we pray or meditate; one part is the seat of emotions; another is for sensory; and so on. He studied three groups: Franciscan nuns, Tibetan Buddhists and Pentecostals who speak in tongues. Their brain scans showed great similarity, which surprised him. Atheists, too, have an interpretation on the findings, as noted in the piece.
Internet, what do you think?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

'Idol' chatter

OK. Not that I am one of the Cool Kids anyway (the coveted 18-34-year-old demographic), but this will forever seal my fate: I just don't get "American Idol." (Duck now from flying tomato.) The (young) woman who sits next to me (who ate the 1.5-pound hamburger last week) has a blog about it. It gets about a million hits a week. And she goes on this local radio station every Wednesday morning to talk about the show and apparently does a really good job; I wouldn't know since I'm usually asleep or, if awake, staring into a cup of coffee. And she and her editor--who is also MY EDITOR--watch it every time it's on at said editor's house. (Boss to Allison next year: "What? You don't like American Idol?! What raise?")
Mainly, I don't get a) why so many people would want to go on national television and make a fool of themselves--when they can save their money and do that in real life, like the rest of us and b) why regular people in regular living rooms all across America find it entertaining.
Then here comes this story from the AP. (File this blog post under mental imbalance.)
Is it just me, or is all this normal? Please enlighten.

Monday, April 2, 2007

"A hint of spring"

"Besides his being kinda crazy, they call him the Smoking Loon 'cause he was he was so dam' efficient," Jake began, stubbing out his cigar. "He'd take care of business an' get in an' out before anybody'd see him comin' ... leavin' no trace 'cept the lingerin' sound of his eerie, loon-like cackle. No one was really sure who he was or who he worked for, but when word got out someone needed his services, the Smoking Loon just appeared on their doorstep, like outta thin air or somethin.' "
— Label on the back of Smoking Loon Merlot, Don Sebastian & Sons
I don't know what you do for dinner entertainment, but sometimes Michael and I read the descriptions on the back of wine bottles to one another. (It doesn't take much.) Wouldn't it be fun to write copy for these companies? Wonder how much they make? (And what exactly does this have to do with health and fitness, you ask? A glass of red wine can be good for your heart; not 12 but one.) This Smoking Loon one so far takes the creativity prize, but others run a close second, with lines such as " ... with a lingering hint of apple," or " ... a modest taste of cedar." (It might just be me and my palate, but the hint of cedar or spring or whatever has never materialized--yet, I guess it makes for some good, creative marketing.) We'll even sometimes buy a bottle of wine just because of its appealing name. Two winners: Red Truck. And Fat Bastard.
Send me your favorite wine names or wine copy. Maybe we can have a contest. Or you can come for dinner. As long as you bring the wine.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

No foolin'

Today is April Fool's Day. Make it a foolish one.
Hard to believe it's already April. And if the April showers thing holds true, we hope to get some much-needed rain today. We could use a real gully-washer to take away all the pollen, the counts of which have been in the billions. (A slight exaggeration?)
Found this cool article in Runner's World magazine. A great line: "You gotta be looking good when you pass the ex-girlfriends, that's like the number-one rule." That's from Peter Sagal, the subject of the story, referring to running a marathon and spotting his ex's. He's the host of NPR's "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me." What's inspiring about him is that he's a Regular Person like most of the rest of us: He isn't a natural-born athlete (by his own admission); he wasn't competitive at a young age and in fact he was overweight as a teen and young adult and decided to do something about it. Now he's training for the Boston Marathon. How cool is that?
Take our nifty quiz:
Have you ever run a marathon?
Run? Are you kidding?
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