Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | December 7, 2014

Galapagos Getaway – Well, Hello, Gorgeous!

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Upward dog with sea lion – yoga Galapagos style

Hi guys, I’m just back from one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on – traveling around  the Galapagos Islands and cavorting eagerly and often with the residents. From kayaking, to snorkeling, scrambling across volcanic rocks, swimming, hiking across wind-swept beaches and daily doses of excellent Vinyasa yoga, we were in motion pretty much the whole time we were there, and somehow I still had time to pinch myself  as each new vista pretty much took my breath away. Well hello, Mother Nature, it is wonderful to see you!

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The “menu” for our day at Genovesa Island.

To be immersed in the wildlife, we toured the islands by a boat, The Majestic.  We sailed by night and hopped in the yacht’s dinghies by day, scouting, searching, snapping away. Erica and Francesco of Escape to Shape lead us, a group of 15 up-for-anything/inquisitive folks, and, as always, they were fantastic hosts. (I think I’m addicted to their trips as I’ve been to Laos, Istanbul, and Marrakech with them…) I’m happy to say, the Galapagos Islands are aggressively protected, so there were no crowds as we went from spot to spot. Yes, we were on a yacht but it wasn’t boom chacha chacha Puff Daddy style nor did any Carnival Cruise 4000 people monsters pull up next to us. We saw four other boats over the course of 5 days. Our guide, Billy, an Ecuadorean  naturalist with a number of masters degrees, plotted out our course with the Galapagos Parks system months in advance as space for each little island is limited and regulated (again, thank you!)  in order to protect the animals. We made sure to ABSOLUTELY leave nothing on the islands but footprints in the sand, taking care not to touch anything  as we could easily disrupt the delicate eco-system– which was really  tough, as the adorable baby sea lion pups clearly pleaded with me with their huge eyes, “Please please please,  put me in your pocket and take me home with you so we can be best friends forever! Let’s run around New York!” Editor’s note: Even though they are like tempting mini Sirens, and were so cute I was dying,  I resisted :) Temptation Island indeed!

The boat on the right gives a sense of scale. WOW. WE snorkeled through the channel -  sharks/turtles/rays/ridiculousness.

The boat on the right gives a sense of scale. WOW. We snorkeled through the channel –  the water was was loaded sharks/huge turtles/spotted rays/ridiculousness. My heart was in my throat-

Lots of things are breathtaking on Galapagos and will stay with me forever,  from swimming with a school of hammerhead sharks,  to kayaking, solo, in the wild ocean with starfish and sea turtles around me, and getting teary during evening yoga  on the top deck of The Majestic, when, relaxed and feeling groovy while lying on my back during Shavasana, I opened my eyes to the thickest brightest blanket of stars I’ve ever seen.  But there was one stand- out experience that I may never recover from: playing like a child in the water with the sea lions. The animals are friendly and unafraid of humans, and if they see you frolicking and loop-de-looping in the water, they’ll swim over and join you and you’ll, well, bob and weave and dance together. Just for fun. Just for the joy. (Again, I did not touch them, even when they came close –  we were  just a somersault-y tangle of flips and spirals and dives and it was, well, one of the highlights of my LIFE.)

Seal lion buddy system! Count off...

Seal lion buddy system.  Let’s play!

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Red-Footed boobies!

A trip to the Galapagos (at least for me) is a chance to say “later” to vestiges of city living – you’re in and out of the water so much, caring about your makeup and hair is fruitless (yes!) and the world’s ugliest shoes, Tevas, are the epitome of chic as they dry quickly and protect your toes from sharp rocks. Finally, there’s no internet so forget about waking up and checking your email. If you’re going to surf, it is on waves, period. Nature is the focus and the star, from morning to night.  If that’s not heaven, not sure what is… More pictures are below (thank you, Elise Rosenberg and Alison Calderara!)  If you have the opportunity to go, do it. Don’t hesitate – it’s magical. xxxooo StephIMG_0727IMG_0549 IMG_0640 IMG_0498

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | August 21, 2014

Delish & Nutrish: Super Easy Avocado Toast

Avocado toast

Super delicious and fool proof avocado toast.

Oh avocado toast, how did I live without you? Last summer, my friend, Rachna, introduced me to what would become my go-to quick/tasty/lovely/NUTRITIOUS snack, avocado toast.  It pretty much could not be easier to make and it’s satisfying and good for you. Boom. I eat it because it is straight up yummy. So without further ado, I am happy to pass along this miracle secret snack to you. Here’s the “recipe” – that word is a bit highfallutin’, as you’ll see. Seriously, how did I not eat this every day from college on?

Rachna’s Avocado Toast

  • Two pieces of interesting bread – I like Vermont Bread’s cinnamon raisin bread (it has  no added fructose)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • sea salt to taste
  • red pepper flakes to taste

Toast the bread. Cut the avocado in 1/2 and split between the two pieces of toast. With a fork or a wide knife, mash the avocado onto the toast. Add sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste.

This snack or breakfast has about 300 calories  (that’s assuming the avocado is medium sized), a ton of fiber, 20 vitamins and minerals and a nice supply of healthy fat.

That’s it! Change up the recipe as you like — some folks add lemon or lime, some add honey. I like it straight up. (Make that LOVE. ) What are you snacking on that’s easy and delish? Let me know! Happy trails, xxoo Steph

 

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | August 20, 2014

Feel The Grass Under Your Toes

My Happy Place: Frisbee in Central ParkIt’s been said before, but when you find working out to be a boring chore you’re going to lose interest. Same old, same old. Oatmeal. Zzzzzzzzz. You get the picture. This, my friends, is being stuck in a workout rut and it happens when people don’t vary their activities.
An important part of being or getting fit is having fun. Last week, I ran around Central Park’s Great Lawn, barefoot (*), tossing a frisbee with my friend, Ian, and I burned at least as many calories as if I hopped on a treadmill with a killer incline for 45 minutes. But that’s besides the point. The real benefit was that I had a blast and wanted to keep going and going. It’s getting lost in the moment like that – taking your eyes off the clock (when I am on the treadmill I feel like I have OCD, I look at my watch so often) -that is the place, the exact spot, where exercise becomes a side effect of simply enjoying yourself. And that same crossover moment is when you realize there’s a point to all of this sweat and striving: it’s being able to laugh on a hot summer’s day as you spaz out or toss winners that fly across a big grassy field, and you might even laugh harder as you go for it and leap for a catch, as you TAKE OFF, and feel like a little kid again. Free. You hit go and your body responds.
Yes. We. Can.

All of this from frisbee? Who knew? I’m so into it, next up is to find an Ultimate team. So think about it. What’s your rediscovered sport? What did you love playing or doing when you were young that you’ve dropped from your life? Remember the time before “sports” morphed into “cardio,” back when they were fun, and this weekend, maybe take your bike out for a spin or dust off your old softball or baseball mitt. People can forget that activities they do outside of the gym actually count as fitness. Take a look at this chart and you’ll see that from horseshoe-pitching to dog-washing, any time you get off the couch you’re burning calories and working your heart.
And now for a confession (there will be many to come as I get deeper into this blog.) Don’t think, for a second, that I am a vision of athletic grace out there on the field. I am so freakin’ bad, at times strangers reading on the grass nearby literally chuckle. Make that chuckle and take cover. The whole it’ll-come-back-to-you-like-riding-a-bike principle seems to have skipped over frisbee for me: I am starting from scratch. I have vague memories of being pretty good as a kid and, well, yeah, I’m not back there yet. In fact, the first time I picked it up again, I felt like i was throwing with my left hand when I am righty – truly, my coordination was sad, the muscle memory of the throwing movement totally gone.

That said, as I know I’m not going to be a professional frisbee player, I’m under no pressure to wow anyone. It’s okay to STINK, and from my lowly starting place I can see improvement every time I go out to play. The key is to go easy on yourself and to play with someone who is cool and non-judgmental, like my frisbee sensei, Ian, the King of Calm. He’s teaching me technique and I’m gobbling it up…and if I make a particularly lame toss, I sprint extra hard after the frisbee as it soars towards the branches of a tree as a kind of plebe penance (don’t want to keep Master Ian waiting…) We end our sessions with high-fives, smiles, and me winded and wiped out — all good things:) Simple pleasures are pretty fab.

*Just in case the thought of being barefoot in Central Park sends shudders up your spine, rest assured I was not tip-toeing through a syringe and broken glass-filled dustbowl. The Great Lawn is indeed great these days and the grass is amazingly lush. Seriously – it’s an overlooked treasure, “hidden” right under our noses, one of the nicer public spaces in NYC. Hope to see you out there!

Ian, aka Frisbee Yoda

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | August 20, 2014

Daytripper: Gertrude’s Nose Hike

Gertrude's Nose at Lake Minnewaska - Livin' on the Ledge

Gertrude’s Nose at Lake Minnewaska – Livin’ on the Ledge. Photo by the talented Rachna Bhasin

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Lake Minnewaska. The most gorgeous start/end point of a hike ever? Got my vote.

Hi people, Yeah, that speck is me. Today I took a great hike in New Paltz, NY – it may be my favorite hike within driving distance of NYC. Specifically, the trail I love is called Gertrude’s Nose in Minnewaska Park and it’s thrilling. After hiking up from a glacial lake, you end up following the rim of a large ledge hanging over a deep/steep ravine.  It’s a wee bit dangerous and my heart was pumping…and I was in heaven.  The rock looks like it was carved without any effort, and evidence of the power of the ice age is all around you. I felt like I was out West instead of in the North East. Round trip, the hike is about 7.5-8 miles, and we were in motion for around 4.5 hours so if you go, bring tons of water, food for energy and a rain jacket just in case…and for sure wear hiking boots. If ever you need good footing, it’s up here on Gerty’s Nose (I, for one, am a huge fan of old school Vasque leathers – such great old friends and they don’t slip.) If you have a hankering for mountain biking, there are trails for days. This park is a gem, and totally worth the $8 entrance fee and 2 hour drive from NYC. I’ve been spending time in the Hudson River area this summer so for me it; was a hop from my house. I’ll post more scouting reports soon. This area is loaded with great outdoor treats. Have fun! xxoo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | August 13, 2014

Broccoli and Quinoa Salad

Tasty/healthy start – and my recipe has more colors and flavors.  With my salads, more is more, baby!

As a certified Saladologist, I am so happy  TTO readers are trying the recipes I’ve posted and adding their own twists and improvements (Adam- apples in the Stephanie Salad? Nice!) A few people have asked for more recipes and I am happy to oblige – they’re speaking my language!

Here’s what’s on heavy rotation chez moi this week: a salad of steamed broccoli florets (and some other veggies) served with protein-rich quinoa and raw cashews. It is super healthy, of course, but it is also hearty and substantial.

Ingredients:

-1 – 1  1/2 cup of lightly steamed broccoli florets

-1 red pepper, diced

-2 scallions, diced

-1 carrot, diced

-1/2 carton of grape tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half.

-1/3 cup lemon juice

-2 cloves garlic, minced

- 1/4 cup olive oil

-I TBS white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

-sea salt/pepper

-red pepper flakes to taste

1/3 cup raw unsalted cashews

Quinoa:

-1 1/2C cup red or basic quinoa, uncooked and washed  (red is nuttier and my preference)

3C low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the box and until all of the chicken broth is absorbed – takes about 10-15 minutes. Lately I’ve been making quinoa in a rice cooker and it’s so easy-

Let cool – I put it in the freezer for say, 30 mins.

While it’s cooling,  cut the florets off of a head of broccoli and chop into bite-sized pieces. Steam until they are soft (not mushy) and still have a bright green color  and some crunch (don’t steam them to death or you’ll lose nutrients and flavor.) Run them under cold water to stop them from cooking when they’re done.

Dressing: Mince the garlic. Add the lemon juice, vinegar  and olive oil and wisk until combined. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.

In a large salad bowl, toss quinoa with broccoli, other vegetables and cashews. Add dressing and toss again. Add more salt and pepper to taste and if maybe also some fresh herbs. Let the flavors mix before serving.

Think of this as the bones of the recipe and throw in or substitute anything you want: add raisins, olives, feta cheese, replace broccoli with spinach or red leaf lettuce,  use almond slivers instead of cashews…the possibilities are endless. If you want to go all out with flavorful quinoa, try Mama Jo’s Crowd Pleaser recipe – loooove it.

I would love to hear from you. Please share your favorite healthy/tasty recipes here by adding a comment – and feel free to venture beyond salad :) Let’s keep this going! I’m talking to you Ashley, Alex, Elsa, Dori, Vikki, Rebecca, Zoe, Adam etc etc etc… Imagine the delicious possibilities if we put our heads together.  xxoo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | June 22, 2014

Inspiration: 90-year-old gym goers. Keep it moving!

Shirley Works it Out!17mrghana_show-slide-0QU5-superJumbo

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Hi everyone. A story on the cover of the NY Times today made me do a happy dance – check out this super-inspiring profile of a Ghanese-American bodybuilder who, with patience and kindness, trains folks in their 80’s and 90’s, and helps them regain mobility, strength, and a big ol’ sense of happiness. Nice work!

With his enormous muscles bulging beneath a small T-shirt, Martin Luther King Addo guided one of his most dedicated clients through a squat exercise inside his tiny Manhattan gym. “You can do it, Shirley,” he said.

Shirley Friedman, a silver-haired 90-year-old standing 4 feet 9 inches, shifted into another gear, bending at the knees for multiple repetitions.

“I never did this stuff before, but he gives you the confidence that you can do it, if you’re up to it,” Mrs. Friedman said afterward. “He’s not a phony. Got me?”

I want to be him when I’m older, seriously. Maybe I’ll be a gym volunteer!

Much has been said about exercise and aging, but it’s one of my favorite songs so I’ll hum a few bars: muscles and bones respond to exercise like a parched plant that has just been watered. They drink it up, and it’s never too late to get moving. NEVER. Check out this classic study from Tufts University – researchers introduced weight training to immobile patients at a retirement home and after a few months folks were up on their feet, dancing. Or look at my gal, Olga, who competes in track and field events at age 94. Amazing. On a more pragmatic note, if you want to fit in your skinny jeans for the long haul – and feel good in tank tops – work them muscles regularly. Nothing preserves muscle and health like exercise, and though you can rebound if you take say, a few years off, it’s always harder to come back than to maintain where you are. Keep exercising and you’ll stay strong throughout your life or put another way, get off the couch and you’ll stay off the couch.

Here’s a link to a touching video of Mr. Addo and Shirley. Love it.
http://nyti.ms/1pPRH8D

Gotta run – off to Zumba (of course!). What are you doing to get your heart beating today? xxooSteph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | April 3, 2014

Inspiring Video: We Will RUN

Okay, this one got to me. I’m sitting at my desk blinking rapidly pretending the high pollen count is what is making my eyes tear up. Still shocked, forever shocked, by the Boston bombing, but we’re all striding forward. Here’s to you, Boston runners. ‘Cause I love that dirty water….Boston that’s my home.

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | April 2, 2014

Inspiration: Shake It, Forever

This is what it’s all about and what I hope for us all — let’s be dancing and smiling throughout our lives, including our later years. #nostopping #stillgotit!

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | March 18, 2014

Shangri-Laos: South East Asian Heaven

IMG_0320Just back from Laos… 

The hair on an elephant’s head is beyond bristly. It’s sharp and needley, but that did not stop me from wrapping my arms around my new pachyderm friend, a rescued logging elephant who now spends her days doing far easier tasks with shorter hours, more medical attention and more food. I pretty much fell in love with her at first sight, and my heart was up with every powerful step she took. It’s a teary feeling to be that close to an elephant. The whole time I was with her I wanted her to be out in the wild, free, but that is not to be — Laos is a country where everyone, from the animals to the people, works hard. But amid the struggles and the emerging economy, there’s much to take it and much to savor, from intense and expansive natural beauty, to kind people, vivid flavors and a feeling of peacefulness and slowness all around. I returned from my trip there a month ago and I am doing my best to hold on to that essence, to those colors, to the richness.

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Laotian monks collecting their daily meals, donated by the community.

I was traveling with my pal, Erica Gragg, who runs a fantastic company, Escape to Shape, and once more she  put together an incredible itinerary – part culture, part sensory overload, part fitness,  and part simple fun. The food was light, freshfreshfresh and most dishes had a kick of red pepper heat. (Sticky rice and coconut milk helps to quiet the fire…) Erica is a curator and she pinpoints and delivers special experiences wherever she goes. (This is my third trip with her, including Istanbul and Marrakech – all amazing.) This time home base was the charming and historic UNESCO site and former French colonial city by the Mekong, Luang Prabang. Among the notable things we did was to line up on the side of a quiet residential road at 530 in the morning to give alms to the monks. The monks depend on local people to feed them and every day, they walk, smiling, silent, and barefoot, from their respective temples through town to receive offerings of food, their sustenance for the day. Often, this food will last for two meals only and they go to sleep hungry. We gave pieces of fruit and nuts to the monks, placing each element  in their bowls without talking to them, looking in their eyes or touching them, as per local custom. hard to explain, but we were all beaming -

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Happy group! The Kaung Si waterfall is followed by cascading pools that feed into each other like a long stack of cascading dominoes. The water is chilly but super refreshing and clean. Blue Lagoon remake, anyone?

Also traveling with us was the lovely and Jivamukti-trained yogi-extraodinaire, Kari Zabel. Kari lead our class  daily and once more I realized that nothing but time on the mat will elevate your practice. Our poses came in handy when we hiked through the  jungle to arrive at the stunning Kaung Si waterfall surrounded by cascading natural pools.  We hopped in and did our best tree poses amid the rushing  torrent of water, making Kari proud.

I think the pictures really tell the story best  so I’ll post more below. Thank you, Erica, and thank you too, friends who joined me. I loved every minute. Where’s next? xxoo Steph

The money shot - as in where we all spent our money. The night market in Luang Prabang is great for little gifts and keep sakes, especially textiles,  and we all went nuts for shockingly bright bags with pom poms (when in Rome...)

The money shot – as in where we all spent our money. The night market in Luang Prabang is great for little gifts and keep sakes, especially textiles, and we all went nuts for shockingly bright bags with pom poms (when in Rome…)

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Now that’s how to commute. These skiffs are the best way to travel up the Mekong – they are fast and light and have no depth to their hull so they glide in shallow water.

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The Pak Ou caves, a pilgrimage site on the Mekong, house thousands on Buddha statues.

At one of the billion outdoor cafes in Luang Prabang. Dinner was often by lantern light and the nights are warm.

At one of the billion outdoor cafes in Luang Prabang. Dinner was often by lantern light and the nights are warm. Crazy peacock-feather patterned pants courtesy of the night market :)

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | March 13, 2014

You’ll Find Me At the Bar: Pull-ups for Women

The New York Times published a story recently that had me scratching my head. It’s about why women can’t do pull-ups and chin ups. (The story is below and also linked to here. ) I love the writer who penned it,  and her research is always up to date. And so it made me feel a bit freaky to read her story when, well, I can do pull-ups, no problem. I’ll show you:  Click here:

And so, The Times piece:

Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups

By TARA PARKER-POPE
Ben Wiseman
While the pull-up has been used by everyone from middle-school gym teachers to Marine drill instructors to measure fitness, the fact is that many fit people, particularly women, can’t do even one. To perform a pull-up, you place your hands on a raised bar using an overhand grip, arms fully extended and feet off the floor. (The same exercise, performed with an underhand grip, is often called a chin-up.) Using the muscles in your arms and back, you pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. Then the body is lowered until the arms are straight, and the exercise is repeated. The Marines say a male recruit should be able to do at least 3 pull-ups or chin-ups, but women are not required to do them. In school, 14-year-old boys can earn the highest award on the government’s physical fitness test by doing 10 pull-ups or chin-ups: for 14-year-old girls, it’s 2.

To find out just how meaningful a fitness measure the pull-up really is, exercise researchers from the University of Dayton found 17 normal-weight women who could not do a single overhand pull-up. Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.

By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent and lowered their body fat by 2 percent. But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.

“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology and associate provost and dean at the University of Dayton, and an author of the study. But Vanderburgh said the study and other research has shown that performing a pull-up requires more than simple upper-body strength. Men and women who can do them tend to have a combination of strength, low body fat and shorter stature. During training, because women have lower levels of testosterone, they typically develop less muscle than men, Vanderburgh explained. In addition, they can’t lose as much fat. Men can conceivably get to 4 percent body fat; women typically bottom out at more than 10 percent.

So no matter how fit they are, women typically fare worse on pull-up tests. But Vanderburgh notes that some men struggle, too, particularly those who are taller or bigger generally or have long arms. This is related to an interesting phenomenon: if you compare a smaller athlete to an athlete who has the same exact build but is 30 percent bigger, the bigger athlete will be only about 20 percent stronger, even though he has to carry about 30 percent more weight.

“We’re a combination of levers; that’s how we move,” Vanderburgh said. “Generally speaking, the longer the limb, the more of a disadvantage in being able to do a pull-up. I look at a volleyball player and wouldn’t expect her to be able to do a pull-up, but I know she’s fit.” End –

Ha, so according to Tara Parker Pope, when it comes to pull-ups, good things come in small, fit, packages. Perhaps it’s just my genetic destiny that pull-ups and chin ups have never been a  big deal  to me – it’s like I never grew out of them from when I was a kid. Whatever the reason, I do dig ‘em – I like the feeling at the top of being way up there in the air, far closer to the gym’s ceiling than I usually hover –  even if I have to suffer stares and comments from guys at the gym who are somewhere between impressed and frightened when I do a few sets. Is it really such a spectacle to see a woman on the chin-up bar?
Bottom line, ladies, is this can be done, by you, too (Tara Parker Pope notwithstanding.)  There is an expectation of failure when it comes to women and upper body strength, and I’d like us all to think twice about this. Pullups and chin ups are amazing for your upper and lower back, lats, biceps, shoulders, abs and pectorals, and they’re a great part of a workout.  They get your heart rate up in 2 seconds and you’ll feel like Demi Moore as G.I. Jane. Or better – you’ll feel like Rocky. And you know that jiggly under-arm flab that tends to make women say no to tank tops and tees? Do these and  squishy arms will be not apply to you.
Start off slowly and focus on  doing one chin up and mix in some push ups to help you build those arms and upper back. Another solid technique is to leap up using your legs and arms simultaneously so your chin is above the bar and then lower your body down slowly as you fully extend. It’s a great muscle toner and wait til you see what this will do to your yoga practice as well as your waistline. Let me know how you’re doing – you can do it, and you may just enjoy the results. xxooS

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