Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take a Hike!

A great way to stay active on a weekend or on vacation is by embarking on a hike!  Even better: hiking isn't just fun, it's good for you, too.  

Personally, I never really hiked growing up, except a few times while away at camp.  Then, in Israel, I learned how fun hiking can be!  I loved the rocks, the risk, and the reward.

Discovering how fun hiking can be

Since then, I've enjoyed hiking in other settings and even planned a whole trip around it!  Check out my old post on hiking the Sedona Red Rocks to see the awesome views that Arizona hiking can provide.

So let's get to it:

Health Benefits of Hikes: Hiking is a fun way to explore a new area, but it still comes with all the benefits of regular physical activity!
"We came from up there!"
  • Improved cardio-respiratory fitness
  • Improved muscular fitness and muscle tone (hiking engages many muscle groups) 
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Stress relief  
  • Reduced depression
  • Better quality sleep
  • Weight loss and maintenance
  • Healthy bone structure/reduced chance of osteoporosis
  • Increased levels of vitamin D 

Risks: Of course, all these benefits must be weighed against the risks.  Please make sure you are at the proper fitness level for the hike you plan on doing, wear appropriate shoes and attire, and know what to expect from this hike.  Do your research to know if there will be steep cliffs, dangerous animals, or other situations you might need to prepare or receive training for.   See safety tips below!! 

My reasons Hikes are Awesome: 
    Fake Reason #1: Great photo ops
  • Excitement: It can be exciting to take a little risk, to walk on the edge, to look down!  Just, you know... don't fall.
  • Beautiful views. 
  • Social exercise: Hiking is a fun group activity!!  It can be romantic if done with one partner, or a hilarious adventure with a group of friends. 
Hi ho, Hi ho... It's on a hike we go!
  • Reward: Nothing like reaching the top and taking in a breathtaking view.  You may be seeing a whole new place, or perhaps just getting a new perspective on your own home town.  Either way, the reward is great. 
Peace and Quiet
  • Animals: If you're lucky, you can discover some animals (not bugs. yuck) in their natural habitats!
  • Variety: No two trails are the same!  The path, the climb, the ambiance, the sounds (or lack thereof), the views, the nature... by doing hikes, you'll get an idea of what you like: flat or steep? rocks or woods? wet or dry?  Go on out and find your happy hike!
 <-- So many options! -->
  • Challenge: Each hike has its own challenges, but whatever your fitness level or hiking experience, you can find a hike to meet your needs and give you a real yet attainable challenge.  A hike can be flat and leisurely, or a hike can require careful stepping/climbing and cardio endurance.  One man's easy is another's challenge, and there's a hike out there for every mood and level.
    Weeeee are the Champions!

A few extra words on that last point: The diversity of difficulty! This is one of the best things about hiking as an outdoor activity.  Whether you're a pro or a beginner, there's a hike for you.

This past 4th of July, my friends and I hiked near a lake, and it was just about a 2-mile hike that kept mostly flat.  I wouldn't have known everyone's fitness levels or hiking experience, because it was a nice leisurely hike through nature.  Even near my family's suburban town, there are hikes through reservations and ponds to explore.  They may not heart-pumping cliff climbs, but they can be a beautiful, fun way to get active on a weekend.  So hey, why not?

Discovering the lake throughout our hike

Earlier this month, I visited Lake George, NY, which was, for the most part, a relaxing time away.  Eric and I stayed active by hiking up Prospect Mountain.  The hike was woodsier than I'd like (I prefer the rocks of Sedona to the woods--spiders! Ah!), but it was a fairly vigorous uphill climb (2,050 ft) to the peak, where we were rewarded with a 100-mile view of the trees and mountains.

Tips for New Hikers:
Snacking on a Questbar
  • Start with an "easy" or "beginner" hike.  Don't try to rush into climbing a mountain.  Find a flat, local hike you can begin with and gradually work your way up from there.  
  • Start early in the morning.  The earlier, the cooler, and the cooler, the better!  It'll be bright enough and you'll have all day, but won't have to deal with afternoon heat or the sun beating down on you. 
  • Drink water before, during, and after your hike. Hydration is key!
  • Pack wisely: Bring water, rain gear, a map/compass, GPS (your phone may do), sunscreen, and snacks as needed.
  • Use hills and/or uneven terrain to boost the intensity of your workout.  Get that heart rate up! 
  • Use poles: This one I haven't tried yet, but I read that propelling yourself forward can engage your upper body muscles and give a stronger cardio workout. 
  • Add weight: For extra burn, pack a backpack with some extra weight.  
  • Be careful!
    • As I said above, know what you're getting into.  Google the hike you plan on doing and see what other hikers--beginners and experts--have to say about it.  Know the map and terrain. 
    • Be sure you're properly conditioned for the physical demands of this hike. 
    • Dress appropriately. For some hikes this will mean layers, for others you'll be hot.  Some hikes may require you to keep your legs and arms covered to avoid certain plants or animals/ticks. Do your research to know what to wear.
    • Check the weather forecast, not only for rain, but also for extreme heat
    • Be aware of altitude changes, as these can cause lightheadedness, fatigue, and nausea if you live in an area at a very different altitude than your hike. 
    • Bring a friend or two!  Don't go it alone.  Always make sure someone knows where you're going and when you should be expected back. 

Hikes are better with friends :)

Where can you find a good hike near you?  The easiest way is to simply Google: "Hikes near..." your location, but you can also head over to...'s trail finder, for hikes near US Metropolitan areas, and for outdoor hiking, biking, and backpacking trails.  You can also track your hikes at to track your routes, hikes, activity, and food, as well as to find great hikes and to connect with other hikers.

What are you waiting for?  Dare you to round up a group of friends and plan a hike!  Summer may too soon be on its way out, but fall weather is perfect for a hike.  Get planning!

I want to know:
Do you enjoy hiking?  
What is your favorite type of hike? 
If you're a veteran hiker, what tips would you share with newbies?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lemon-Thyme Broiled Salmon with Blood Orange Salsa {The Paleo Approach Cookbook}

Remember last spring when I reviewed The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD?  I promised that a companion cookbook was forthcoming, and guess what?  It's here!

... is finally releasing tomorrow! (On shelves 8/26/14)  Here it is:

This is so much more than a simple collection of recipes.  The book--which is every bit as beautiful and heavy as the first book--includes:
  • Over 200 recipes, all of which use healing foods to help empower people with autoimmune diseases to reclaim their health by regulating their immune systems and heal their bodies
  • Hundreds of recipe variations to help you mix it up, along with tips, nutrient facts, and FODMAP alerts along the way 
  • Recipe Index to help you quickly find recipes and match ingredients
  • Meal Plans
    • Shopping guides
    • "Plan ahead" guides
  • Over 100 pages of information and resources
    • Summary of THe Paleo Approach diet
    • Food lists
    • Shopping guides
      • "How do I eat this way on a budget?"
      • Prioritized food-quality lists
      • Reading labels 
    • Cooking guides
    • Kitchen how-tos
      • Stocking the pantry
      • Storing common foods
      • Cooking tools
      • Meat cooking times and temperatures
      • Quick meals, planning ahead, leftovers
    • Time-saving tips
    • Budget tips
    • and more!
So in addition to recipes galore, you get tons of helpful information, tips, and planning guides to help you on your journey to health.

I've gotten started using this book and love it. Sarah's recipes are written so that anyone can follow the steps simply and correctly, and end up with a delicious meal.  Some recipes are a bit divergent from mainstream cooking (fritters that may replace pancakes, for example--awesome, btw), but the bulk of the recipes are simply good old-fashioned protein and vegetable combinations, stepped up with appetizing flavor combinations and subtle substitutions to keep autoimmune flares at bay.  For example, who wouldn't love salmon and salsa?  The author has kindly granted permission to share this special recipe with you!  So below, you can get a taste of how good The Paleo Approach can be:

Lemon and Thyme Broiled Salmon 
with Blood Orange (or Mango) Salsa
Reprinted with permission from The Paleo Approach Cookbook by Sarah Ballantyne

Fruit Salsa is a wonderful companion to fish or chicken.  This salmon is very simple to prepare and cook, but the resulting dish has a sophisticated flavor and beautiful colors on your plate. 

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 to 12 minutes
Servings: 4 to 8



  • 2 pounds blood oranges, segmented (see Tips)
  • Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced  {FODMAP Alert: Replace red onion with green onion (green part only) or chives or omit}
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 to 6 (6- to 8-ounce) salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine, fresh orange juice, or apple juice 


Salsa:  Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate until it's time to eat.

  1. Combine the lemon zest and juice, thyme, and wine in a small bowl.  Pour over the salmon fillets in a resealable bag or nonreactive container. Marinate 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack so that salmon will be 6 to 8 inches from the top element in the oven.  Preheat the broiler on high for 10 minutes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  3. Remove the salmon from the marinade and place on the pre-prepared baking sheet (if the fillets have skin, lay them skin side down).  Discard the remaining marinade. 
  4. Broil 10 to 12 minutes, until the salmon is opaque throughout and the segments flake apart easily. 
  5. Serve with the salsa.

TIPS: To segment an orange, use a sharp paring knife to cut off the top and bottom. Lay the orange on a cutting board and cut off the peel all the way around. Then, holding the orange in your hand, use the knife to carefully cut out each segment by cutting down one side of the segment close to the membrane and then twisting the knife to pry the segment off the membrane on the other side.

VARIATIONS: You can easily substitute just about any other type of fish in this recipe--trout, halibut, and amberjack work particularly well.
  • Mango Salsa. In place of the blood oranges, use 2 pounds mango, peeled, seeded, and diced.  Mango Salsa is a great accompaniment to chicken, pork, and beef. 
  • Actually, this salsa tastes delicious with many different types of fruits. Other fruits that work particularly well are papaya, pear, peach, apricot, orange, grapefruit, and strawberries.
  • Lemon and Thyme Baked Chicken.  Instead of using fish fillets, use chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders.  Bake at 375 for 20 to 40 minutes, until fully cooked.
  • Truffle Salt Broiled Salmon.  Want to skip the wine? Broiled salmon seasoned simply with a sprinkle of truffle salt is absolutely divine!

See?  Sarah leaves no stone unturned in explaining the how-tos in this recipe. Don't know how to "segment an orange"? Don't worry; just check the "Tip" at the bottom.  Afraid of blood oranges like me? No biggie--sub in mangos!  (That's my preference!)  Not a fan of fish?  That's fine; just use chicken!

Look good to you?  There are SO many more recipes to be made.
If you think your autoimmune disease could benefit from dietary changes or simply want to give paleo/real food a try, then this book is a great investment for yourself, or for a loved one.

I was not compensated for this post; just happy to share a tasty recipe and a useful cookbook!  Want MORE?  You can find more free information and recipes from Sarah Ballantyne at

Please let me know if you dare to try this recipe!  
What's your favorite salmon topping?  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Features


For fun: 21 Things You Should Never Say to People Who Are Actually Gluten-Free 

For health: 
-  Five Eczema Triggers to Avoid, by Mommypotamous
"What the Government Got Wrong About Nutrition -- And How It Can Fix It", via The Huffington Post

For food: 
Tomato Basil Vinaigrette, from my friend, the Little Chef Big Appetite
Eggs Benedict from The Paleo Mom (including nut-free Paleo English muffins and dairy-free Hollandaise Sauce!).  For more recipes from Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, get your hands on The Paleo Approach Cookbook:

For thought: 
- Christine asks, Why can't we own our PRs and accomplishments without always qualifying them?
- Carla asks Does closing comments turn blogging into lecturing?

For success: "Winners can tell you where they are going..."

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Streets: Run Recap

Holy cow, guess what I did?


This past weekend was the final Saturday of 2014's Summer Streets in New York City.  I laced up and made my way to Park Avenue, which was closed off to all car traffic, allowing only people on foot, bike, roller blade, and more.  Last year, I played the day away at the Reebok Fitness Zone rest stop, so I was excited to dedicate this year to the streets.

It was a gorgeous day, and SO many people were out for it!!!!  Way to go, NYC!

My plan was to run down to the bottom, and then find a Citi Bike and bicycle back up.  This was what I'd promised to Alec, with whom I was supposed to bike this Saturday before she found out she'd have to work.  After I confessed that I couldn't recall the last time I was on a bicycle, she dared me to do it!

So that was my intention. Run down, bike up. It started according to plan: I ran down Park Avenue among walkers, runners, cyclists, soaking in the sunshine and feeling thankful for the cooler weather that made the run enjoyable.


I made sure to pace myself, too, so I wouldn't need a break.  Started nice and slowly, and made sure to slow down if I noticed I was speeding up too much.  I found someone going my pace a ways ahead of me and consciously made sure to not go ahead of her.  This helped keep me around my general favorite pace of 10 mph, and kept me going!  No need to stop, rest, or walk.  Thank you, girl in pink shirt!  (At around my third mile, she turned off and stepped to the sidewalk, but I'd found my groove and kept up pace.)

First half of the plan accomplished--get in a nice long run as part of my training (just a month til my 10k!).

But then something happened: I didn't want to stop.  I arrived at the bottom and was shocked; I kept looking for where the road continued, but was at a loss.  There were people and cyclists everywhere, music coming from somewhere, and the Brooklyn bridge to my left.  I consulted my phone to check and confirm that this was, in fact, the end of the road (literally!) and thus it was time to head back up.

Hm... I wasn't ready to switch to a bike.  For the first time, I didn't feel like my run was over!!  It'd been about 3.5 miles, which is plenty, but it wasn't enough.  I had so much more run in me, so I ditched my plan and decided to run back up a bit before switching over to a bike.  

First, I thought, Okay, I'll get this to an even 4 miles, and then look for a Citi Bike.  An adjusted plan.  "Four miles, complete" rang in my ear too soon (the Nike+ Running App).   Hm... now what?  I resolved to keep going and complete five miles.  My legs still felt good, and the weather was just too perfect.  I wasn't too hot, I wasn't drenched in sweat, I was happy and wanted to keep going.

Five miles down.  By this point, my legs did begin to ache and I could have easily called it in, but I was breathing fine and didn't feel the need to stop.  And really, what was I going to do, run 5 and then just not do 6?  So silly!  At this point, I really may as well do 6 -- no! -- 6.2 for training!


My legs were tiring, but I remembered to slow down, not stop and I kept going.  I plugged along to complete a full 10k -- my farthest distance to date, and the goal distance for my upcoming Run 10 Feed 10 10k race in September.

I did it!

And my timing--not too bad either!!  Cut four minutes off the last (and only other) time I ever covered this distance by walking/running in the December air for a Virtual 10k.

So HEYYY look!  I can do it: I can run that 10k in a month!  Full honesty: I did have to stop every once in a while when car traffic was let to pass through, but those short stops were few and far between, and I kept my legs moving at 'em.  If I keep up my training, I'm feeling more confident that by my race, I just may be able to run this again in the absence of those traffic stops! Maybe :) 

My legs were certainly beat by the end, and with only an hour remaining of Summer Streets, renting a bike out didn't seem like the best idea.  Hope Alec can forgive me, but I will get on a bike again someday!!  Even though plans are great, it's important to remember to allow for changes!

Feelin' like a rock star, I returned home and, after showering, slipped on my compression recovery socks, hoping they'll help me still feel like a rock star tomorrow.  {Update: They did!}

Til the next run...

So once again, I dare you to make plans, but allow for changes!  And make sure you get out in the sunshine while summer's still here :)

What did you do this weekend for fun?  For fitness? 
New Yorkers: Did you get out into Summer Streets this month?? 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Drink Lemon Water... Or Not!

For a while this summer, I've been squeezing a little lemon juice into my glass of water.  Historically, I was never a flavored-water person (and still would not say that I am), but the sour lemon taste added an awakening feature to my standard chilled water.  In July's heat, it was very refreshing!

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti /

I previously wrote about the importance of hydration and was planning to write about the benefits of drinking lemon water.  After all, it's obviously healthy, right?  There must be many gains to be had by introducing the extra vitamins, right?

When I went to find some sources to back me up, I had a difficult time.  Sure, Googling "lemon water benefits" yields countless results claiming it results in improved digestion, glowing skin, disease prevention, weight loss, and even antibacterial properties.  The problem was, most of the claims were weakly supported, if at all.  Most weakly offered: "It's said that..." or "Some say..."

But ... who says?

I turned to to see what the doctors had to say on this subject, and their responses to questions on lemon water surprised me.  Most simply said, "No."

No, it doesn't have any measurable health benefits.   
No, there's no medical literature supporting this claim.   
Yes, lemons have vitamin C, a health antioxidant, but it is also acidic and can erode the teeth.    
No, you won't see weight loss from the lemons alone, but water--flavored or not--will help keep you hydrated and see the benefits of hydration.

Huh.  Interesting!  I'd expected lots of head nods, but got rebuffed.  I kept digging, but positive, science-based support was hard to find.  I did find a bit more support for the vitamin C benefits, and further research found that the citric acid in lemons can help protect against kidney stones.  While natural lemons juice and lime juice may be a better source of citric acid than store-bought juices, you'd have to drink the equivalent of a half a cup of pure lemon juice to get a medicinal effect.

So... not convinced!   Although lemons are great and all, you may need to drink a LOT to get any notable effects.

The main benefit of lemon water seems to be that, for those people who dislike plain water (these are people I will never understand), it adds flavor and encourages them to drink more water.  Drinking more water, then, keeps you properly hydrated and thus improves digestion, complexion, energy levels, and so forth.

On the other hand... it's also very possible that poor little lemons lack scientific support simply because they don't have Big Pharma funding research or clinical trials on their behalf. ($$$) Hm...

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Do I dare you to?  If you're so inclined, go ahead and squeeze juice from lemons, limes, or cucumbers into your water.  It won't be transformative magic juice, but if it tastes good or helps you to drink water, then enjoy!  That may be reason enough for plenty of people to add lemon to their water.

IF you drink lemon water very frequently, you can drink with a straw to minimize the citric acid's effects on your tooth enamel.  (But beware swallowing extra air through the straw! Ah!)  And Monica Reinagle, M.S., LD/N, reminds us not to brush our teeth immediately after consuming any acidic liquid.

So tell me: 

  • Am I missing something--have you found evidence for lemon water health benefits? 
  • Do you enjoy citrus-flavored water? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Visit Lake George

Good morning!  I'm just back from a lovely week at Lake George, NY.

It was my first time there, and I've got to say it was pretty nice!!  The lake views, the clear water, the tasty eats, and the unique landscape made for a nice little getaway.

Where else do the mountains come right down to the lakeshore?

Many of the hotels and motels have pools you can use, but you can also go ahead and get your vitamin D from one of the small public beaches.  Eric and I spent a bit of time dipping our feet in the lake at the "Million Dollar Beach" (supposedly so-named because it too $1 million in sand to make it), watching dogs frolic in and fear the water's small waves.

If you go, be sure to take a steamboat tour up and down the lake.   They have a variety of tours of varying lengths (one hour to three hours).  We did the "Paradise Bay Cruise" that took us from the southern tip to about halfway up the 32-mile long lake, passing some of the beautiful houses along the shore and weaving in and out of the islands and bays--highly recommended! Learn more here.

Paradise Bay

To stay active, we hiked up to Prospect Mountain's 2,030-foot summit and soaked in the sun and the 100-mile views.   It was definitely a workout!


After our hike, we got lunch (below) and hit the pool to read and unwind.

Eats?  I tried to snap photos when I remembered (inconsistently...), so here's a few dishes from where we ate, in chronological order:

Adirondack Pub & Brewery {Easy, casual - great lunch for when we just arrived}

The Boardwalk {Has restaurant seating downstairs but a casual deck for good food and a great view of the lake}

The White Lion {Breakfast}

The Saltwater Cowboy {Small little seafood shop in the Village - Nice and refreshing after our hike}

Grab a fork and it's sans wheat.

Nina's Sweet Shoppe {Exactly as it sounds}

Sushi Yoshi {Really awesome menu, delicious food, cool seating. Also have hibachi--need a reservation for that}

Le Roux  {#1 Restaurant in Lake George - definitely a classier (though still casual attire is okay) establishment. Very nice ambiance, oustanding food. I photographed our appetizers but forgot to snap the entrees (salmon for me, burger for him). All was delicious!}


And after spending our last morning at a water park, we ate lunch at Panera on the ride home :)

The Adirondack Winery has a fun "Tasting Room," where you can sip and sample seven different wines of your choice for only $5!  Pretty good deal, and includes the souvenir glass you get to keep.  The wines we tried weren't outstanding (there was only one I really wanted to have more of), but everyone's tastes are different!  Either way, it is a fun, short activity for those of age to participate.

Thursday nights in the summer, they have fireworks!  Lake George Village really filled up that evening.  {This is when my ice cream took place. Highly recommended pairing.}

There are many family-friendly activities, too, like miniature golf, Fort William Henry, Adirondack Outlet Mall, boat rentals, and parasailing. has endless activities listed if you're looking to visit!  That's where I began my research and it had plenty of information and links that helped us plan our trip.


That sums up our lovely, relaxing getaway in Lake George!

 Have you been to Lake George?  Other lakes to check out?
What lake activities do you enjoy or recommend?