Monthly Archives: March 2011

Freestylin’

Tahoe: Take two. Last weekend we headed back to Northstar for the Oakley Progression Sessions. We would be joining about 50 other women, plus a few Olympic snowboarders and skiers, to progress our “skills” on the mountain. Seeing as how our “skills” were quite limited, we figured that this wouldn’t be such a difficult task. But little did we know, we’d actually be freestyle skiing, rather than just going down the slopes the same old fashioned way we’d finally (sort of) gotten used to. Ha!

The Progression Session is a two-day, on-snow camp for female riders who are looking to take their freestyle skills to the next level. Oakley sets up customized, private terrain parks in different locations (this year the Sessions were held at Loon Mountain, NH, Canyons, UT, Winter Park, CO and Northstar, Tahoe), complete with boxes, jumps, half-pipes, rails and moguls, so women can build skills without being intimidated by other people on the mountain. There are usually about 40 snowboarders and 10 skiers who are divided into groups based on skill level and what they wish to accomplish over the weekend. Each group is headed up by a professional snowboarder or skier who is there to teach a few of her favorite tricks. The coaches at our camp included Gretchen Bleiler, Dominique Vallee and Kristi Leskinen.

On day one we headed to the park with Kristi and learned how to slide down a box sideways on skis. Seriously. Who are we?!

Everyone gathered by the box. You feel like you've got the whole mountain to yourselves when you're in the terrain park, which is pretty incredible.

Our coach Kristi demos how to slide down the box (without hurting yourself:))

Everyone was so supportive and encouraged each other to grow as skiers and snowboarders. Whenever you did something positive, your teammates would click their ski poles together, as if giving you a powder-appropriate round of applause. While we were proud of our side slide down a box, a lot of the girls learned how to do 180s, jump through moguls and ride the half-pipe by weekend’s end. It was awesome to see people accomplish new goals in such a short period of time.

Off the mountain, there were yoga classes each morning, group lunches and apres-ski happy hours. You also got to design your own pair of Oakley goggles (sweet!) and received a cute gym bag filled with all kinds of fun stuff (a yoga mat, hat, gloves, sunglasses, etc.).

The Progression Sessions have ended for this season, but for $250 (includes two-day lift tickets, one-on-one sessions, discounted lodging, and everything else mentioned above), we might have to sign up for one next year. Plus, Oakley is also working on creating Progression Sessions for other sports, such as surfing and cycling, so stay tuned for more info on those.

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Natural Remedy

If you’ve ever been to the Gellert Baths in Budapest, you may have noticed that it’s not your typical spa crowd. That’s because, unlike spas in the states, which tend to cater to an elite crowd, the baths in Hungary are for everyone. In fact, many of the people who use them are there because their doctors have prescribed spa time. (Not a bad prescription, right?) The idea is that a lot of common ailments don’t necessarily need drugs. Sometimes something as simple as physical activity and good old-fashioned relaxing can do the trick.

Well, it looks like the same idea might finally be catching on in the U.S., thanks to a new program called Park Prescriptions. Launched by The Institute at the Golden Gate in Sausalito, CA, the program’s goal is to help tackle major health problems like obesity and diabetes by getting doctors to prescribe time in National Parks.

We love the thinking behind this. No diets, no weird surgeries, no scary pills—just plain old exercise in the great outdoors. One insurance company in California (SeeChange Health Insurance) has already started to reimburse patients for entry fees to 278 state parks. With any luck, more will jump on the bandwagon soon, and prescriptions to National Parks will become as common in the U.S. as prescriptions for spa time is in Hungary. Here’s hoping!

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One Track Mind

It’s official: We love the track. After years of running repeats on the treadmill at our gym (logic: we could set the pace and there wasn’t a super-safe alternative near our apartment), we’re sooooo happy to now have a solid track nearby (on 33rd & Powell, in Portland) that we can visit any time of day.

Nothing's better for 200- to 800-meter repeats than this guy

You will probably get bored running laps at the same pace for more than 20 minutes (or is that just us?), so if you’ve got a steady-paced run in your schedule, this is not your best bet. But if you’ve got some speedwork in your routine, head to the closest track and lap it out.

Need help finding one? Visit the Road Runners Club of America, search for track clubs in your area (or the area where you’ll be traveling), and then see if the local club’s site lists track locations. If not, email them for a few recommendations. Chances are, you’ll get some great feedback. You can also ask other runners for advice about where they go for repeats on MapMyRun.

At the track but not sure what to do now? Here are a few of our favorite lap-worthy workouts. These are designed to improve your cardio capacity, your speed and your overall running efficiency. Hint: each lap at a standard track is 400-meters.

  • 10- to 20-minute warm-up + 6 x 800m @5K pace, with 1.5-minute recovery between each + 10-minute cool-down
  • 10-minute warm-up + 1600m @10K pace, with 1-minute recovery between each + 10-minute cool-down
  • 10- to 20-minute warm-up + 1200m @goal race pace (GRP), 1000m @GRP, 800m @GRP, 600m @GRP and 400m @GRP, with 200m recovery between each + 10-minute cool-down
  • 10- to 20-minute warm-up + 10 x 400m @GRP, with 400m recovery between each + 10-minute cool-down

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A Super-Healthy Party Spread

When it comes to eating, parties are a lot like vacations. Even the healthiest among us suddenly become junk-food hounds, skipping right past the fruit platter to get to the fried chicken, reaching over the carrot sticks to get to the creamy cheese-y dip.

In the spirit of celebration, we’ve always just rolled with it—after all, a few greasy chicken wings aren’t going to kill you, right? But this weekend we were inspired by the spectacular baby shower Beth’s sister, Meaghan, threw for her. Taking inspiration from Beth’s pregnancy cravings (avocados and all things citrus), Meaghan, their mom, and a few friends put together a spread that was so delicious, no one even noticed it was also healthy. There was citrus-marinated shrimp, scrumptious guacamole, an incredible bean dip and a fruit salsa to go with blue-corn tortilla chips, and grilled chicken with fancy rice wrapped in banana leaves. Yum!

We thought about posting each and every recipe here but that seemed a little excessive, so we’re going with the shrimp. It’s crazy-simple to prepare, makes a perfect finger food for parties, and is super-versatile (we can’t wait to try it in salads, tacos, and on top of angel hair pasta).

Ok, so photographing food—particularly shrimp, for some reason—is tricky. This picture doesn't do this dish justice at all!

Citrus Marinated Shrimp Cocktail

1 cup orange juice

1 cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup ketchup (go with an organic version—too many of the big-name brands have high-fructose corn syrup)

1/3 cup vodka

¼ tsp hot pepper sauce—a little more if you like an extra kick

¼ cup olive oil

1 ½ lbs cooked, peeled large shrimp

1 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 ¾ cups) I used much less because the onion was so strong!

1 cup finely chopped cilantro

Combine juices, ketchup, vodka and hot pepper sauce in large bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Add shrimp, onion and cilantro and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours. Drain before serving.

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Happy Feet

It’s rare that you put shoes on your feet that are so insanely comfortable that you never want to take them off. But we just did. We recently became friends with the people over at Simple, and the other day they sent us a pair of their Flippee Microperf sandals to test out. Hellllooooo, happy feet! We seriously have not spent more than a few minutes without these cuties on since they arrived (inside the apartment anyway—it’s still too cold out for flip flops. Sigh.). In fact, we got back from an 18-mile run a little while ago, and all we could think about was kicking off our sneaks, and slipping on our sandals.

Meet the Flippee, our new favorite flops

You know those egg crate foam mattresses that you can buy to make your back feel better in bed? Well, the green microperf on these shoes serves the same purpose, but for your feet. The soft divots create a massage-like effect that we can’t get enough of. We also love that, like all Simple shoes, the Flippee is made in a very environmentally friendly fashion. The totally vegan flop has a biodegradable, recycled and natural rubber outsole, an eco-approved EVA foam midsole, a water- (rather than petroleum) based construction and divots made from post-consumer recycled paper.

Smart Traveler Bonus: These are super light, so you can toss ‘em in your bag and get immediate post-workout relief (or work relief or traveling relief) from the bottom, up, no matter where you are.

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Denali Dreams

One of the many things we love about living in the Pacific Northwest is easy access to so many amazingly beautiful spots. We’ve been taking full advantage of this in the past few months, with trips to Park City, Lake Tahoe, and Hawaii—just to name a few. One of the biggies on our list is Alaska. We’ve wanted to go for years, but it always seemed worlds away from New York. Now that we’re at least in the general vicinity, a visit is starting to feel a little less like a pipe dream and more like something that could actually happen in the next couple of years.

As of today, we know exactly what we want to do when, one day, we actually make it to Alaska: Hike Denali National Park. The park was already on our list of must-sees, and yes, we would have done some hiking on our own. But we just learned about three new guided hikes through the park offered by Denali Park Resorts, and they sound a whole lot cooler than anything we would have picked out of a guide book. A quick run-down of the new offerings:

  • Triple Lakes Trail, 4-miler: As you climb up the gradual but consistent slope, you get incredible views of the Nenana River and the Yanert Valley, carved out by a glacier. On the way down, you pass three alpine lakes—at which point the name of the hike makes perfect sense.
  • Triple Lakes Trail, 7.7-miler: If the 4-miler doesn’t sound challenging enough for you, try this one. It takes you onto a newly opened trail that passes through boreal forest and past those three alpine lakes. Keep your eyes out for bears and moose—wildlife sightings are par for the course here.
  • Sugarloaf Summit Adventure hike: Looking for something even tougher? This hike takes you along one of the steepest trails in the area (we’re talking a 1,600-foot vertical ascent) to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. In addition to the views of Denali, you’re likely to see at least a few Dall Sheep—they make their home up there above the treeline.

We love that these hikes give you not only an amazing way to experience the park, but also a serious workout at the same time. All three hikes are intended for experienced hikers, so if it’s been a while since you laced up those hiking boots, you might want to work in a few (or a bunch of) training treks before you sign up. See you on the trails!

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Boot it!

Tonight we got our butts kicked. Our friend Jennifer has been promoting her fabulous boot camp-style gym for months now, and we finally stepped inside, only to get our butts kicked. And our arms, and our legs, and our abs. And you know what? It felt good. Sometimes all you need is a total sweat-fest to improve your mood, boost your energy and spark some much-needed motivation. We’re also pretty sure that we burned a bunch of calories, which always makes you feel better about the world.

The first class at Fulcrum Fitness is free, and since we’d never been before, we opted to sign up for the Fundamentals class, which sets the scene for beginners. As in all of Fulcrum’s boot camp classes, this one is set up with a dynamic warm-up to start, a classic strength session, a cardio/strength conditioning session, and then a yoga-inspired stretch at the end. Each section is organized like a circuit, so you keep moving from one move to the next until time is up. We did walking planks, lunges with biceps curls, burpees with push-ups and rows and hopping pull-ups. We also got to play with kettlebells. We love those ‘lil guys, but we swung our hearts out, and now we’re tired, with no doubt that we’ll be sleeping well this evening.

So if you’re traveling somewhere and looking for similar, butt-kicking, sleep-inducing results, check out Adventure Boot Camps and see if any classes are offered near you. Or seek out a sports conditioning-style group fitness workout at a local gym. Either way, your body and mind will thank you.

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No tsunami can wipe out Hawaii’s aloha spirit!

We got back from Hawaii about a day and a half before the tsunami hit. We’re glad to have escaped all the drama—life-threatening waves aren’t exactly our idea of paradise—but we can’t stop thinking about all the people we met on our trip.

Kailua-Kona, the town where we spent the last three days, suffered the most serious damage of all the places we visited. Nothing like what Japan experienced, of course, but when your main source of revenue is tourism, any damage is serious damage. Tourists hear that an area has been affected and instead of looking into the extent of the damage, they often just decide to cancel their plans to visit, opting for “safer” locales instead.

The frustrating part is that lots of news outlets tend to sensationalize natural disasters (shocking, we know), which leads to a whole jumble of misinformation out there. On that first day of the tsunami, we heard all kinds of alarming—and, it turns out, completely wrong—reports: Kailua-Kona had been evacuated (no); all the businesses on Ali’i Drive were closed until further notice (no); it would be months before the area was ready for visitors (definitely no).

The truth is that yes, the Kailua-Kona took a hit. Ali’i Drive (the main strip) and the basements of some businesses flooded, a few beaches were littered with debris that washed up onshore with the waves, and murky waters meant no snorkeling or scuba diving for a few days. But people in Hawaii are a tenacious lot, so it didn’t surprise us at all that they began clean-up efforts pretty much immediately after the waters were calm again. We were especially happy to hear that two of our favorite stops have been getting some special attention. Volunteers and workers pitched in to clean up the flooded basement and damaged artifacts at Hulihe’e Palace, where Hawaiian royalty used to vacation, and a slew of people showed up to help the Kona Boys, our newest favorite crew of surf/canoe/stand-up paddle-board instructors, restore their beach and beach shack. They were back in business by Sunday—just two days after the damage was done!

So if you already had plans to visit the Big Island, by all means keep them! And if it’s been on your list 0f must-see places for a while, now could be the perfect time to book your ticket. Kaiula-Kona is up and running, ready to welcome you with open arms.

Our send-off sunset, taken on our last night in Hawaii.

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Be a Cooler Commuter

Today we had lunch with PDX royalty, Mia Birk, who basically transformed Portland into the cycling-friendly city that we know and love today. Her new book, Joyride: Pedaling toward a healthier planet, chronicles Mia’s 20-year struggle to initiate change and create a world in which active commuting is the norm.

She began working on the city’s bicycle program in the early 90s and now, through her current company, Alta Planning + Design, Mia helps improve communities all over the country. The firm plans and designs bike- and pedestrian-friendly spaces, as well as parks, trails, greenways and paths to make areas healthier for those who live there. Pure genius, if you ask us, especially since we’ve actually seen some of her changes in action (for example, riding down Lincoln or Salmon Street without any stop signs). And after enjoying a fun (and delicious) lunch at Produce Row Cafe with Mia, we have to admit that we’re pretty happy that she’s the one who’s fighting the good fight for us.

One of Mia’s tips was that you should start off by choosing a single activity every day that you could ride your bike to, rather than driving your car. For example, instead of driving to the grocery store at the end of the day, ride your bike to blow off some work steam. Or ride to work in the morning (Hint: Use it as an opportunity to unplug from your phone, your computer and the radio), and then take the bus home.  Soon enough, you’ll want to be riding more often and will start adding other activities on to your cycling schedule.

Another tip is to not worry about what you’re wearing. Tough, we know. But Spandex isn’t a necessary commuter tool. Phew! All you need is a pair of shoes that will stay on your feet and pants (or a dress or skirt) that won’t limit your leg movement while you ride. If you’re looking for something a little sportier (without getting all geeked up), we recommend checking out Keen, Athleta and Bontrager. Here’s one of our favorite new styles:

We love this Commuting WSD jacket from Bontrager!

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Big Fun on the Big Island

One of the coolest things about The Big Island is that, well, it’s so big. With the size comes diversity: Of the world’s 13 climate zones, the island of Hawaii has all but two of the most extreme, the Ice Cap and Ice Climate (and let’s be honest, if you’re going to lack two, those two are pretty good candidates).

The most striking difference is from east to west. On the east side, Hilo is lush and rainy—in fact, we spent our morning at the farmer’s market ducking between tents in a futile attempt to stay dry. On the west side, Kona is exactly the opposite: dry and nearly always sunny.

We spent our first full day in Kona on a little beach at Kamakahonu Bay, right at the edge of the main strip in Kailua-Kona. The beach itself is great—totally calm water and a nice stretch of sand—but the best part about it is the Kona Boys. They have a little shack set up right on the beach, and they offer all kinds of water-activity rentals and instruction. We kicked off the day with a ride in their newly acquired Wa’a, a six-person outrigger canoe that’s rumored to have been used by Duke Kahanamoku, Beth’s favorite old-time surfer (she’s such a fan that she and her husband named the first car they bought together after him).

Once we got the hang of paddling, we navigated our way around some nearby spots and listened to Kawika, our guide, as he told us all about the background of the area. If only every history class could be so amazing!

The Kona Boys also offer stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, diving, snorkeling and, of course, surfing, all at pretty incredible prices. We would have tried everything, but being six month’s preggo, we were content to swim around and watch the action from our beach chair.

The Kona Boys - Kawika, Dean, and "G."

That night we ate at Huggo’s, a cool family-owned restaurant that’s been around for 45 years. Our linguine with shrimp and local mushrooms was one of the best things we ate during the entire vacation, and the macadamia-nut pie with vanilla ice cream…well, let’s just say we’ll be trying to recreate that for many years to come.

The only thing better than the food at Huggo's? The incredible sunset from our beachside table.

The next day we set out bright and early for a dolphin and snorkeling adventure with Body Glove. A few bottlenose dolphins joined us on our way out, swimming alongside the boat and flipping over to show us their bellies. Adorable! After about 45 minutes, we arrived at our snorkel spot, a pristine protected cove that was teeming with all kinds of crazy-colored fish. We’ve snorkeled on other Hawaiian Islands before, but nothing has ever compared to this. The water was crystal clear, and we could see straight down to at least 30 feet. Truly incredible.

There are hundreds of cool tropical fish under the surface!

On the way back, at least 50 spinner dolphins played with us, jumping and diving in front of the boat.

If you look really closely and squint just a little, you can make out a little gray spot in the center of the photo. That's a spinner dolphin! Needless to say, it was cooler in real life.

That night there was more wildlife. We had drinks and pupus (Hawaiian for appetizers) at the Sheraton Keauhou, and then sat in on a Manta Ray talk. We’ll admit, we didn’t know much about Manta Rays before this, but we’re now officially obsessed. Even cooler, we got to see them in action. Six nights a week, the hotel shines bright lights down from the terrace to the ocean below. The light attracts plankton, which attract the Mantas. As we peered over the terrace, we could see the massive creatures (one of the “regulars” has a fin-span of 22 feet!) as they weaved around under the water, gulping down plankton along the way.

As far as The Fit Trip is concerned, Hawaii is pretty much the ultimate vacation. You can fill every day with physical activity without ever feeling like you’re slogging through a workout, and at night you can indulge in some pretty incredible cuisine. We flew home late last night, and we’re already trying to plan our next trip to the islands.

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