Recovery Activities

See Part 1.

My exercise goals for the last couple months have been:

  • Prioritize recovery and stress reduction over building strength
  • Continue improving resilience (i.e., recover faster)
  • Learn what each workout zone and especially recovery feel like
  • If energy is good (judge by feel and HRV numbers), THEN alternate “long slow” and “strength/cardio” workouts. NO set frequency or schedule, to avoid overdoing it/guilt.
  • Work on posture and breathing to increase available energy

I take an HRV reading every morning and compare that with how I feel. I use a Polar 10 chest strap gadget and the Welltory, Elite HRV, and HRV4Training apps simultaneously (I know, I know…I’m comparing them…gimme a break) to determine my morning HRV.  If most signs point toward needing to take it easy, I rest or do a recovery activity in zone 1 (or low zone 2 since it’s often hard to stay in zone 1). If both are good, then I do exercise in zones 2-3. If I feel great, I aim for zones 3-4, but no more than 2x/week at this point.

I wear the Polar chest strap during my workouts (and sometimes just during regular activities, like canning or giving a presentation at work). Its app shows my heart rate AND the zone I’m in from moment to moment, then tallies up my time in each zone per workout and day/week/month. Here are some sample activities:

Zone

Function

HR range

Activities Aug. ’18

0

Total rest –

Feels stretchy

<88bpm

·        Sitting, sleeping

·        Seated yoga

1

Active Recovery –

Easy motion; often hard to stay this low

88-104

·        Gentle sun salutations; seated active yoga

·        Tai chi warm-up

·        Walk to meeting

2

Light – base fitness – feels like “I’m actually doing
exercise”

105-122

·      Flowy tai chi

·     1 flight stairs

·     “Taking a walk”

·     Giving Reflex

·     Weeding

·     Slowest elliptical

3

Steady state – improve aerobic – feels like I’m working hard

123-139

·     Brisk walk

·     Moderate elliptical

·     2 flights stairs

4

Tempo – speed/stamina – breathing very hard

140-157

·    Mowing flat

·    Cardio workout

5

Max – increase max performance – starting to worry

158-176

·     Mowing slope

Danger

Galloping heart

177+


 

 

If you want to try this at home, there are tons of gadgets and apps out there. You absolutely need something that can measure heart rate variability – most FitBits and whatnot don’t do this, even if they can track your heart rate. Welltory and I think HRV4Training can actually measure HRV using your phone – so that can be a good way to get started. I use the Welltory phone measurement about 15% of the time. It sometimes chokes for no apparent reason, but when it works, it seems to be pretty accurate. I have also wanted something on my wrist that would show HR zones, so I can use my phone to play my workout and let me see my HR zone on my wrist. However, I haven’t found a wrist tracker I like (I have tiiiiiiny wrists) and after a couple months, I’m pretty good at knowing by HR zone by feel. So I just watch the workout video and check my HR zone once in a while, or after I’m done.

I’m also going to give Morpheus a try. It seems to be geared exactly for what I’m trying to do. Might be overkill – but there’s a 60 day trial, so why not? It varies your zones day-to-day based on your current recovery state, which sounds more precise than just saying “zone 1 is always 88-105bpm.” I have days when chopping kale in the kitchen puts me in Zone 2 and days when I can’t get into Zone 2 by speed walking, so it would be nice to have something that knows what “recovery” should look like today. I’ll let you know how it goes when I’ve had it for a couple weeks.

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Active Recovery

The last three months or so, I’ve been reading about and doing a lot of “active recovery” activities. Between reconditioning after my long illness and just dealing with the day-to-day stress of the current administration’s assaults, I realized I really needed to develop my ability to bounce back without overdoing it and just making myself more tired. The two concepts I’ve found to be fruitful as I look into this are Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and Active Recovery .

I wanted to share some things I’ve found helpful. Maybe you will, too.

Background Concepts

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) refers to the amount of time between your heartbeats. If your resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute, that doesn’t mean your heart beats exactly one time per second. The time between the first two beats may be 1.00002 second, then .99998 second, then 1 second, etc. The amount of difference the time between your heart beats is your HRV. There are actually a bunch of different measurements that go into an HRV number, but that’s the basic idea.

Generally speaking, the higher your HRV is, the healthier you are. There are apps and devices that let you measure this easily at home. The apps also often have some indication of a “stress score,” based on other measurements taken at the same time. I’ve found looking at my HRV and stress scores to be very helpful in showing me how my body is doing, including:

  • What activities help me recover faster, and what activities wear me out
  • What type of activity I should pursue on a given day: rest, gentle exercise, or vigorous exercise
  • How to better tell how I’m doing from how I feel (it’s not always clear!)

I’ll go into more detail on these later.

Once I was able to get a handle on what I needed (rest/recovery/training), I needed to figure out activities for each of those needs. Rest is pretty easy – read soothing books and sleep a lot. The other two are harder, because they can overlap.

Enter “active recovery.” This is the idea that very gentle exercise can be more beneficial than straight rest in certain circumstances. I found a lot of work on active recovery coming from athletic trainers.  They are generally working with healthy people who are trying to take their performance from “very good” to “exceptional,” so I take their specific training regimens with a huge grain of salt. But their guidelines have been working well. The super-short version is, when you do active recovery, you want to keep your heart rate between 50-60% of your maximum heart rate (or “Zone 1”). For me, that’s between 88 and 105 beats per minute. (HR zone info here.) For other kinds of training, you aim for other zones. I use a heart rate tracker and app while I’m exercising so I can target the right zone. It’s actually pretty hard to stay in the recovery zone, because when I’m tired, sitting at my desk and going to meetings can put me in or above the recovery threshold! No wonder I was having trouble overdoing it…

The other piece of recovery training is that breathing is incredibly important. I’ve come to appreciate yogic breathing and meditation in a whole new way. Likewise, body alignment and energy flow activities have also been super helpful.

Tune in for tomorrow’s installment where I’ll go into agonizing detail about those. 🙂

Adrenal Fatigue Recovery Menu

For background, see Adrenal Recovery, Pt. 1

For the week, prepare:

Breakfasts

  • Meaty:
    • 2 meatballs
    • On a sprouted bun: 2-3 oz of burger, pork tenderloin, baked turkey breast, or chicken thigh
    • Grass-fed, no-nitrate beef hot dogs (Applegate natural)
    • Salt-n-garlic beans or steamed carrot sticks as a side
  • Veggie:
    • Calabaza queso on corn tortillas
    • Raw carrot
    • Eggs are great, if you can have them
  • Avocado toast + protein

Dinners

Soup, stew, etc.

Pan dinners

Baked/Pressure/Big Batch

Super Quick

To have on hand

  • Calabaza queso, Zucchini butter, or Baba ganouj
  • Triscuits
  • Nuts/Kind bars
  • Meatballs, Grilled chicken thighs, and/or hot dogs
  • Coconut bars (omit honey but keep choc chips – 1 g sugar per serving)
  • Sweet potato wedges
  • Praeger’s veg patties (check varieties)
    • Cali burger
    • Greens burger has some potato flakes mid-way down the list; lowest carb option
    • Asian burger has some potato flakes way down the list
    • Bibimbop burger has some potato flakes way down the list; higher carb
    • Others have too much white stuff and/or egg

Freezer-stocking meals

Dining Out

  • Japanese
    • Agedashi Tofu
    • Miso
    • Edamame
    • Yakitori (sauce on side)
    • Hand rolls and brown rice on rolls
    • Chicken Terriyaki w/o sauce
  • Chinese
    • Get brown rice or don’t eat rice at restaurant
    • Moo goo gai pan
    • Hunan chicken
    • Chicken and vegetables
  • Session Room
    • Sub corn tortilla for slider bun
    • Chicken tacos
  • Qdoba
    • Burrito with brown rice
    • Tacos
  • Great Plains
    • Burger, 1/2 wheat bun, sweet potato fries
  • Noodles & Co
    • Chicken Veracruz salad
    • They don’t have ww noodles anymore, and most stuff has a lot of sugar.

When NOT to use an Instant Pot

Look – I know you love your Instant Pot. I love mine, too, even more than the stovetop pressure cooker I had before (quieter and less mess). It lets me cook brown rice in about 30 minutes without watching (and failing to prevent) the boil-over mess I’d otherwise have. The pulled pork, turkey, and pot roast are divine. But at some point, we need to STOP THE INSANITY and quit using it for things that really don’t need it – or worse, that take longer and yield worse results than doing it stovetop.

Here’s your rule of thumb: If a recipe says it needs under 10 minutes at pressure, don’t use the Instant Pot for that recipe. Once you factor in the time to come up to pressure (even if you use a quick release), it’ll be faster cook cook it stovetop. Also, if your food needs to reduce or evaporate, don’t use the IP.

135BA8D7-84B2-4BED-90E5-3BE0D1EEFC31

Strawberry-rhubarb sauce – stovetop (top) vs. Instant Pot (bottom)

Case in point: strawberry-rhubarb jam. I found lots of recipes for strawberry jam in the IP online that all said “1 minute at pressure; release after 15 mins.” I had a big batch of strawberries and rhubarb thawing to be jammified, so I split the batch between the stove and the IP and turned both on at the same time. By the time the stovetop version was completely done, the IP hadn’t even come up to pressure. It took about 20 minutes longer in the IP. And of course, since it hadn’t been evaporating during cooking, it was still as runny as fruit juice – not a nice thick sauce – so then we had to bring it to a boil and simmer it for 10-15 minutes. Which is all it took on the stovetop to begin with.

Here’s my “why would you bother with the IP?” short list, with stovetop times listed (including heating up):

  • Quinoa (15 mins)
  • Couscous (5 mins)
  • Quick oats (2 mins in microwave, right in your bowl)
  • Asparagus (5 mins)
  • Green beans (7 mins)
  • Spinach (2 mins)
  • Brussels sprouts (7 mins, and ye gods why would you steam them, anyway, when you can pan-roast them?)

 

Adrenal Recovery, Pt. 1

tl;dr: link to recipes here

In 2016-17, I was pretty sick. It started with pneumonia and got worse from there. At some point, my doctor diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue – basically, I’d been stressed out for so long my adrenal glands couldn’t keep up their usual endocrine dance. Some people debate whether adrenal fatigue is  “real” diagnosis, and I’m not interested in arguing. I do know that by following these suggestions, I did feel better, and when I didn’t, I felt much, much worse. It took me about 2 years of alternating small improvements and plateaus to feel mostly healthy.

There’s a lot of material out there about the condition, and if you think you have it, I hope you’re working with a health care provider. What I want to do here is share the guidelines I followed and the recipes I relied on so if you are going through the same thing, you don’t have to expend your limited energy finding recipes.

My Guidelines

As always: your mileage may vary. Listen to your body and your health care provider. The guidelines my doc gave me were:

  • Reduce or eliminate the source of the stress.
  • Find something to smile about, laugh at, and enjoy every day.
  • In bed before 10pm and nap as much as you want (without disturbing nighttime sleep). 2x reclined rests during work day.
  • Gentle exercise only – don’t tire yourself.
  • Drink 2 liters salted water (a big pinch of real sea salt and maybe a squeeze of lime in a glass of water), rehydration solution, and/or broth daily
  • Don’t eat allergens (for me, dairy, eggs, and beans – luckily, soy and wheat are OK)
  • Don’t let blood sugar crash

That last one is where the recipes come in. For me, this is what it means to not let my blood sugar crash:

  • Have protein, fat, and complex carbs at every meal.
    • Aim for 20+g protein at breakfast.
    • Don’t go hog wild, but don’t fear carbs, either. You need that easy blood sugar.
  • Eat snacks as needed – including getting up in the night to eat if I wake up hungry.

I also figured out two years into this that I had a gut full of candida, which was making it very hard to keep my blood sugar steady and to sleep through the night. So, when treating that, I also added the usual anti-candida rules:

  • No white rice, white flour, white pasta, white potatoes, fruit, or sweeteners of any kind
  • …except a 5g sugar treat each day to keep me sane, e.g. 8 dark chocolate chips.

Method

Of course, it takes energy to feed yourself well, and that’s just what you don’t have. So having a plan help. When possible, I’d prep this stuff once a week:

  • A vegetable-heavy soup in good broth (usually eaten as mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack)
  • A big batch of turkey-beef meatballs or grilled chicken thighs (usually eaten at breakfast or middle of the night)
  • And if possible, a big batch of cooked vegetables or freezing some pre-made meals to have for lunches

And then dinners were from this list, which I keep adding to under the tag “good_carb”. I’m going to sort/link some specific recipes in my next post.

Big Batch Burrito Bowls (Freezer Meal)

Yields 6 portions

This seems like a lot of prep, but it actually comes together pretty quickly. The secret is that few of the individual parts need to be *cooked* before assembling the bowls in freezer containers…just mixed or lightly heated.

For the rice (cook the rice first; it’s the part that takes the longest and you can do other prep while it cooks):

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c minced cilantro

Cook the rice in your usual way. Allow to cool. Add lime juice, salt, and cilantro to taste. Mix well.

For the beans:

  • 2 cans black beans, mostly drained (leave a little juice to make it saucy)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbl dehydrated onion

Mix everything together in a bowl. No need to heat.

For the TVP:

  • 1.5 c textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 2 c water
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 mins or so. Note, if you don’t like TVP, you can omit, or sub more beans, or brown a pound of ground beef, turkey, or pork with the taco seasoning.

For the veggies:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced (you can also add hot peppers, if you like)
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 2 c corn kernels (cut from 4-5 cobs of corn, or frozen)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt

Sautee the onion and pepper in the olive oil until the onion starts to go translucent. Add remaining ingredients and cook until crisp-tender (a little undercooked).

To assemble:

Use 3 cup flat containers. Fill each corner with one of the dishes. Put a hefty dollop of salsa in the middle. Cool, seal, and freeze.

 

Starting your first garden

 

GardeningInfographicSM

Poster text by Emily Springfield and images by Victoria Zakrzewski. You may reuse it for non-commercial purposes if you attribute it to the authors.

Why do I need a root cellar?

I’ve been gardening for about 15 years now. I’ve gardened at home, at a neighbor’s house, at a community garden, in full sun, in half-shade, in the ground, in raised beds, in containers of all sizes, in a small greenhouse, on the windowsill, under lights, and in the weedy strip between two parking lots. I’ve gardened for joy, for science, for security, for reducing my carbon footprint, and for taste. I have explored all kinds of ways of extending the homegrown food season, from  lights to row covers to that greenhouse I mentioned.

And what is the #1 piece of equipment I recommend if you are serious about growing your own food? A cool storage space, like a root cellar.

Why? Root cellars:

  • allow you to eat locally-grown food pretty much all year long
  • are very low-maintenance – much less work than a greenhouse
  • are perfect storage for high-calorie, nutrient-dense crops like root vegetables
  • if you have a bad garden year, you can stock them with food from the market
  • unlike a greenhouse, they let you take the winter off from gardening
  • unlike canning, prepping food for the root cellar takes very little time and energy
  • zero ongoing energy costs for storage

Ways to do cold storage

Cool storage, for winter squash, sweet potatoes, and onions, can be up to 50 degrees, so a cool corner of a basement can work. But true cold storage, for root vegetables, apples, and cabbage, needs to be around 35-40 degrees, but can never freeze. This space will need to be vented to the outdoors (this assumes your winters get down to freezing). Some options include:

  • Large buckets or tubs layering crops between peat moss or wood shavings, stored in an attached garage or unheated breezeway
  • Wall off a corner of the basement that has a window that can be opened/closed as needed
  • Bury a fridge (with a vent installed) in a hillside – see instructions in Anna Hess’s book $10 Root Cellar along with some other DIY ideas!

 

Should I buy seeds or transplants?

I get asked this all the time, and I also see plants for sale at outrageous prices that people should really be planting as seeds.

Short list:

Always use transplants (either buy them or start indoors):

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Onions (plant the dry “sets” that look like baby onions, or plants that look like scallions)
  • Kale/collards
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Woody herbs, like rosemary, sage, and basil

Always plant as seeds directly in the garden:

  • Peas and beans
  • Lettuce
  • Corn
  • Root vegetables: carrots, radishes, parsnips, beets, turnips, rutabagas
  • Cilantro

Here’s my long answer – in visual form!

Seeds or transplants.jpg

What should I plant in my first garden?

Gardeners

Grow what you love.

This always holds true, but it’s especially important for your first garden. And notice – I didn’t say “grow what you love to eat” – just grow things that make you happy. Do zinnias remind you of your favorite grandmother? Be sure to include them. Do sunflowers make you smile? Grow those. Have you always wondered what peanut plants look like? Save a spot for them!

If you are really not sure what you like yet, some good “starter” garden vegetables are:

  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Zucchini
  • Snow peas
  • Potatoes

All of these are easy to grow, produce a reasonable amount of food in a small  space, and taste noticeably better than store-bought varieties. Obviously, don’t grow anything you know you won’t eat.

Explore pre-planned gardens

Gardener’s Supply Company has a GREAT free drag-and-drop garden planning tool, and also a gallery of garden plans for a couple different sizes of beds.

gardenPlanner

Screenshot of a pre-planned garden from Gardener’s Supply Co.

Don’t overextend yourself

If you’ve never gardened before, I recommend starting with one 4’x8′ raised bed. This is enough space to get appreciable harvests, but not so big as to overwhelm. I know this seems small, but the #1 reason I see that people abandon gardening after a year is that they take on too much the first year, and gardening becomes a chore instead of a delight. Once you get the first year under your belt, the steepest part of the learning curve is out of the way…and adding more beds the next year doesn’t feel like much more work.

 

 

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