Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | October 14, 2020

Anchored Down In Anchorage


Pinup pose in a vintage Wolverine art piece, hand sown by Alaska Natives. I went from cold to toasty in 20 seconds…


Greetings from the great state of Alaska, where the vistas don’t stop and the scale of the nature is big big BIG.  I’m anchored down in Anchorage and thinking – who knew – I may have found my place.  Stranger things have happened during the COVID era, and it helps that  one of my dearest friends grew up here and is a terrific host.

Howdy neighbor.

         WHAT. A. PLACE.

The top of Flattop mountain, a heart pounding hike adjacent to Anchorage

10 minutes from downtown Anchorage…for real

 I’ve needed to make a few adjustments as Anchorage does not mirror my New York life: Walks here  include bear spray and moose  sightings. Weather can change in a  moment, dramatically.  The sun (when it’s out)  is extremely powerful and sunblock is crucial. The air is so clear my lungs practically giggle when I jog.  We eat salmon we or someone we know caught (take that, Fairway.)   But what really takes  my breath away, again and again like I’m a character in Groundhog Day, are the ever-present views of majestic snow-capped mountains.  They are huge. Bigly.  They make my  New England  scrambles look like pebbles.  Sarah Palin may see Russia from her house but I see Denali, and  Fouraker and Sleeping Lady and more. As Cole Porter would sing, “They’re the top…”  How did I get so lucky?

May your vistas leave you breathless. xxSteph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | September 16, 2020

Almost Heaven : Denali

Little plane that could

“Live it up,” was what a friend said when I told him recently that I was going to Alaska, and his words have stayed with me.

Live. It. Up.

Simple and sweet and pretty darn smart. If 2020 has taught us anything, this astonishing year of epic, biblical plagues, it is to seek (and guard) your pleasures whenever and wherever you can. Gather ye rosebuds. And for me, in this moment, happiness means crisp air,  outrageous natural beauty, and few to no people (ha!).  And  so…Denali, beautiful Denali, auspiciously named “The Great One,” the highest mountain in North America.

Sometimes a change of scenes is just what the doctor ordered and I am all in for grand gestures.

Permafrost meets perma grin

I am here to clear my head and ponder next moves far far from my New York City home.  It is the age of COVID, so I am not alone in this search and this migration – institutions that seemed permanent are crumbling, security as we knew it is gone,  and universally families and friends are scattered. So much has changed so radically from life as we knew it I wonder if I will be able to go home again. And to what? It’s time to make new paths, forge new directions. It’s time to question and see with fresh eyes. It can be hard to think amid the boogie woogie taxi tangle. And so, Denali. And ice and snow and sun.

The pandemic has one pleasant side effect here: the park is closed to climbers so our little plane (our pilot tells us, proudly, it was built in 1965!) is alone on the makeshift landing strip at base camp. There is no one here, no footprints, no noise, no discarded gear. It is pristine and REMARKABLE.  The world here is two tone, just snow and sky. We deplane and stand silently, hearing only the wind whistle in our ears. What a priceless gift.  All is startling brightness.

And so I ask myself, as you, dear reader, must ask yourself as well: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  This central question by poet Mary Oliver, is the puzzle that I am parsing while here. Let’s see where I – where we – will go…


Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | November 4, 2018

A memory in honor of the Tree of Life

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 6.36.09 PMWhen I was in 5h grade,  my mom asked me to put on a skirt and took me to a church one weekend morning. That was unusual. And so was (to me) the large group of nervous kids fidgeting next to their parents in the pews.  Turns out, she had brought me to an audition for Youth Pro Musica, a Boston-wide singing group for kids who wanted to roll up their sleeves with serious music. Alrighty. Not having warning was actually a great strategy and a relief – it spared me many minutes of anxiety. Like a Band-Aid being removed my name was called – I sang the notes back to the tough cookie music director, lalala, it was kind of fun – and I was in. Soprano 1 reporting for duty.

I was super into chorus as an elementary kid. We sang fun songs like The Night Chicago Died and Luck Be A Lady and our entire grade participated, whether you could hold a tune or not. These were pre-cool years and we just had unselfconscious fun. We belted out show tunes and our parents came to concerts (concerts were exciting, as were school plays and all that stuff) and rehearsal period was something I looked forward to.  Singing felt like freedom and with my high voice I could soar on the top line. Soaring was something I sought as a kid, along with running fast, riding horses, shagging baseballs. They were all entwined. I wanted to see what I could do, to flex whatever power a young pre-pubescent girl could hold, to just gogogo.

Youth Pro Musica was different. The harmonies were complex. The music was way harder to learn. But the sound, the sound. It surprised me from time to time. What was that? What is this? I loved the feeling of resonance in my chest, I loved the vibration when we harmonized together, and the moments I could hear myself, then the group, then my voice. I was carried along in a stream of sound. I loved, really loved, singing every piece.

morphobutter-1I truly didn’t understand the alchemy and magic of music, though, until one special concert at the end of the season. On a warm spring night, we stood before the largest audience I’d ever faced.  We were singing the song cycle from I Never Saw Another Butterfly, poems written by children in the Terezin ghetto/ concentration camp that were put to music. The concert was at Temple Israel, my temple, and the largest temple in Boston. The atmosphere, though, was unlike our other concerts. There was far less chatter and excitement while we waited in the wings. The adults read the program so quietly. We walked in and they waited for us to settle into formation and begin. I was a little scared –

Truthfully, I never really paid attention to the words to anything I was singing. So often the words were in Latin or German or another foreign language – I had no idea and no interest in their meaning.   Who cares? Seriously.  On top of that, I had zero life experience at that point. My empathy threshold hovered around zero.  It was the sound, the tempo, the mix and the dynamics we, I, thought about. Our music director never uttered a word about the heart or hurt behind any score. We were puppies, after all, who knew nothing. Callow would be the word I’d use.

But the Butterfly songs, specifically, stayed with me when I rode my bike to school or to baseball practice. I loved the music – it was tough to learn at first and it had some aggressive sounds here and there – but once you really stepped into it was something. It simply settled into me; it was the soundtrack I hummed. And as the notes became mine I edged closer to the words…

So many of the songs had a hopeful quality to them. The young writers were writing poems about nature like I was in elementary school; they, too, were drawn to the colors of sunsets and the memories of flowers.  Their words began to unveil themselves to me but I did not venture far. I remained on the perimeter of this petrifying cauldron of the Holocaust, a topic I had not yet gotten near. And from the start it was clear – these kids were brave, far braver than I. I liked them.

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 6.13.46 PM

And so, that night, we sang. There we were, kids the same age as the poets who wrote the verses that were hidden away before they faced their deaths.  Their art was recovered after the war, a clear and specific last gasp.   We sang their beautiful songs and the few biting ones; we eased into the music and as usual I was absorbed into it. But when I looked out beyond my binder and past the baton of my music director, I saw that the large audience, filled with old people I did not recognize, was unusually serious.  They were so focused it looked like they were praying. Some had closed eyes; some, more, were crying.

This was not the reaction we, the cute kid singer posse, usually elicited.

Had we done something wrong? Was this too much? I had a queasy feeling making these grown-ups so upset. As I sang I had to look away. Too many tears were streaming down my face to see the score.

After the concert, a frail and elegant older woman and a stooped man with a button down white shirt  rolled up to his elbows, walked down the aisle together to where we remained standing in formation, in front of the congregation. The man had numbers tattooed on his forearm. With a familiar Eastern European accent that sounded like my great grandparents, he slowly shook his head and smiled.  “Thank you, children,” he said. “We thank you.”

Perhaps, to them, we were their sisters and brothers. Perhaps we were their daughters and sons. Perhaps we are.

I have never stopped singing.

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | October 9, 2016

Inca-redible Peru

Machu Picchu! We also climbed the tall peak behind it, Wayna Picchu.

Machu Picchu! We also climbed the tall peak behind it, Wayna Picchu.

Hi everyone. I’m recently back from a terrific hiking trip in Peru to Machu Picchu, The Sacred Valley and Cusco. AMAZING. I’ve traveled a lot and this was at the top of “wow” experiences.  Machu Picchu is nestled in or above the clouds a few thousand feet up in the eastern Andes, and when you descend you’ll find yourself in lush Land and of the Lost jungle. This makes for a palette of blue sky and green green vegetation, rather a Rothko-esque landscape of broad swaths of color. Machu Picchu is up HIGH – eagles and condors circle nearby and one truly does have the feeling of being at the top of the world.


Pardon me, have we met before? Calm and friendly llamas on Machu Picchu are the resident welcoming committee.

And of those Incas. They really blew me away. No one knows exactly what Machu Picchu was used for but some scholars feel it was a mountain-top haven for Incan nobility, about 300 people, and the architecture shows evidence of numerous temples, astronomical viewing chambers, gardens, plazas and super-clever irrigation and farming terraces. Machu Picchu was built around 1450 and abandoned a 120 years later when the (devilish) Spanish Conquistadores were attacking the Incan empire  and generally killing everyone in their path as they looted all gold.  The Spanish never found Machu Picchu so it was preserved (and hidden for centuries by jungle overgrowth) instead of destroyed. With 9 of 10 Incas killed by the invaders, and the culture decimated by murder and disease, be thankful for small blessings.


Inca salt pools. Built 500 years ago, these are still functioning today.

This all sounds quite depressing and it’s true, it’s hard to shake the feeling of what if, had the brilliant Inca culture had more of a chance to thrive. When one arrives at Machu Picchu it is impossible not to be humbled and awe-struck. And the hiking, if you want it to be, is rigorous. The Inca must have been in terrific shape because narrow and steep stairs lead up up up to the peaks of the surrounding mountains, leading to incredible vistas of the entire valley and perfect vantage points for spying approaching invaders. Smart.

Another super smart invention are the salt pools in the Sacred Valley. So cool! Incas found a rare underground salt water stream in the mountains and tapped it, creating channels that fill pool after pool on the side of a peak. You can see them behind me in the picture above. Once a pool is fill, the water is redirected to another pool, and the original pool is allowed to evaporate, revealing pure salt crystals you can put on your popcorn (I’ve tried it – delish.)

Machu Picchu is a 3 1/2 hour train ride from Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire, and another world heritage site. The sophisticated and charming city is laden with Spanish cathedrals, Incan culture museums, cobble stone streets and top-notch restaurants, reflecting the recent Peruvian  food renaissance.  After a week of dusty trails my friends and I thought we had entered a mirage when we checked in to the Belmond Hotel Monasterio – what a treat! Peru, I’ll be back. Where have you been lately that blew your mind? Let me know! xxooSteph


The gorgeous Hotel Monestario in Cusco is in a 500 year old Spanish monastery, complete with dark and evocative Spanish religious art that reminded me of the Prado. They served a wildly elaborate breakfast in this courtyard. We were giddy. Yes, please!

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | April 29, 2015

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

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
Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | March 29, 2015

Want to feel really good? Sing!

Moments after singing my first concert with Chameleonic! The kid is back. Photo by George Peng

There’s nothing like feeling great in your body, feeling your heart beat strongly and asking your muscles to say, do a set of pullups or get funky in Zumba class, and look at that, motion! There you are!  For me it’s a joy, and if you’re reading this blog (hello! and thank you), I’m assuming we’re sympatico.  But over the years, with all of this focus on fitness, it really started to gnaw at me that I was neglecting a big part of my core,  and a major muscle was moving past being simply flabby to becoming atrophied: my singing voice. My voice practically had cobwebs, my range was shot, and that feeling of over-the-top joy of letting loose  and being part of making music was getting farther and farther away in my rear mirror.

I’m a big advocate that if you use it you won’t lose it – study after study shows that staying active and keeping one’s muscles engaged slows the decline usually associated with aging.  Inactivity is what leads to problems.  And problems came… Singing  It’s pretty much my best self, my inner voice made outer.  Singing calms and comforts me and it is the perfect  company if I need a friend, stat. I love its  familiar sound and the vibration in my chest, the resonance, is almost like a massage.  My soprano voice is a shadow I could always count on being right next to me, in lockstep with me through my life.  I never really knew where it came from and I could always tap into it, so maybe that’s why I was careless. Time went by.  I would sing another time, another time. Life got in the way.  I  was like the callow kid in The Giving Tree, and, well,  over time, carelessly, I turned voice into a stump. And when two friends, Alex McKay and Julie Holland, from my college a cappella group, Counterparts, came over one night and we started to harmonize, just like old times, it was painful.  I wasn’t soaring, lightly and effortlessly. I was cracking, I was dry, sharp. I was not the same singer anymore. Oh. No.

How is this relevant to a fitness and wellness blog,  you may be wondering? Why should you care? I suppose it’s just that I’ve come to realize there’s more than one kind of health.  Yes, singing has great stress-busting benefits – check out this recent NYTimes story. And I’ve learned that “balance” is about more than being able to do a dip on one foot. All of us, everyone, is under pressure and it’s so easy to lose the pieces of ourselves we really love but may feel we don’t have time for – I’m talking about the stuff that brings us joy, like cooking a great meal,  playing an instrument, writing a beautiful phrase, dancing, taking photos, even simply pausing to deeply remember moments when you travel or truly connecting with another human being. I suppose what I’m saying is that we each have an art, an expression, that speaks  directly and uniquely to us  – that place that feels like your truer nature. It’s as individual as a fingerprint.  And there’s no practical value to it, nothing you may think you need in the course of your day…but we, I,  do need it.  For me, the art speaks to me it’s music, always has been.  It gets me between the eyes and it has the power to makes me cry in two seconds. *

And so, painful as it was at first, tentatively, slowly, I started to sing again. I took a refresher course in reading music. I dusted off my guitar. And most importantly, I was kind to myself and took the long view. Vocal chords are delicate and need to be trained to do what you want them to do — singing again felt like that gnarly first day of spring running when you venture back outside and can’t breathe after 2 miles.  I suppose with my fitness experience I had a feeling I’d get back on track instead of being depressed and discouraged.  Singing in the shower and on road trips was full on. I started to get my mojo back and I’m thrilled to say, as of January, I auditioned and became am a member of a fabulous chorus, Chameleonic, part of Choral Chameleon.  Wooooot! Love it. These folks are really talented – many are professional singers and I’m hanging on for dear life trying to keep up, but hey, I show up, I’m learning tons, and I’m getting better every day.  The kid is back:)  If there’s a morale to this story, it’s that it’s never too late. Get back in the saddle, people. You won’t regret it.  Come and hear us sing at Symphony Space on June 14!  We’ll be singing (our version of) the song below, Earth Song by Frank Ticheli – so gorgeous.  I literally burst into tears when hearing it for the first time. It’s a cappella! My people! xxxooooSteph

*Hi again – I’m laughing a bit at myself with this burst-into-tears reaction but it’s true. Here’s a partial and random list of songs or pieces that rocked my world on first listen.  No rhyme or reason, just emotion. What gets to you? I’d love to hear!

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | December 7, 2014

Galapagos Getaway – Well, Hello, Gorgeous!

photo(11) - Version 2

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!


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!


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


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

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