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 | February 2, 2014

Life Secrets of a 94-Year-Old Track Star

How cute is Olga??? Can I have a hug? The gal of the hour, right, after winning 100 yard dash.

How cute is Olga??? To the victor go the SMILES? The gal of the hour (right) after winning 100 yard dash, Masters Division. Photo: Ken Stone

I was so happy to read this story last week on WBUR.com  about my hero,  track star Olga Kotelko. I’ve written about her  before and I’d describe her as, wow, what are the words here?,  let’s go with this — THE definition of fabulous.  She is 94, winning races, seizing the day, and literally and figuratively going strong. I’ll say it – I want to be her in say, 50 or so years . After all,  what’s cooler than a fearless, bright-eyed and involved in life old lady? Georgia O’Keefe, I think I have a friend for you.

The WBUR piece was an interview with Bruce Grierson, who just wrote a book about Olga, What Makes Olga Run.  In it she shares her wisdom about living a long and HAPPY life. So is her secret genetics or being a health nut? Says Grierson, “The rule of thumb is that longevity is two-thirds nurture and one-third nature – only a third of it is our genes and the rest is how we lived, and what we’ve been through, and our habits and our thoughts, and what we’ve done with the hand that we’ve been dealt.” She has played that hand amazingly –

Here are her rules:

  • Look forward to each birthday! Celebrate!
  • ENJOY the ride. Olga’s mantra is “laugh at yourself.” Lighten up and remember to play. Working out, specifically, should not be drudgery. Olga jokes around on the track and zips about like a kid would, jumping, running, throwing. If you’re going to stick with fitness for the long haul, it has to be fun, so mix it up and keep discovering new be moves and sports.  (Zumba, anyone????)
  • Talk about “Just Do It” — Olga lives this. We know that when it comes to aging, “use it or lose it” applies — muscles that aren’t used will decay at an alarming rate. Olga proves that by staying active, mobility and quality of life are extended. This gal is going places, instead of being wheel-chair bound and inactive. Motion begets motion –
  • To stay strong and mobile, Olga keeps up her resistance training and incorporates planks and weights into her workouts, instead of focusing on long slow aerobic workouts, like running.  Intervals, baby. They do a body good.
  • Olga started track at age 77. Yes, 77. It interested her and she gave it whirl…and she was NOT a star when she first laced up her sneakers. In fact, it took her  seven or eight years to get really good at track. Says Grierson, “She was pretty good right out of the gate, but it was in her mid-80s that she really went for it and got a really powerful training regime going.  It took her seven or eight years to hit her stride. And that’s what they say about anyone learning a new skill, it’s supposed to take about that long. And that made me think, ‘Wow, OK, so that’s eight years out of your life to become a new person and do a new thing and have this new life. What if we chopped our own lives up into eight-year segments, then we each get 10 lives. You could do something totally different every eight years and get really good at it…’ The inspiring idea is to ask, ‘Where are my opportunities to grow?’ She asks that still, even in her mid-90s: ‘What are the opportunities here?'”

And this last idea, my friends,  stopped me cold and really got to me. That’s a really big idea, and it rather hit me over the head, perhaps because it reminded me of another inspirational woman, one I was very close with, my Grandma Ethel. Grandma was a rare individual who was a wonderful combination of curiosity, energy and confidence – if something interested her, it didn’t occur to her not to try it. Why not? I don’t think she ever questioned if she dared to eat the peach – she just did, and savored, and enjoyed. My Uncle Jerry really nailed when he described her journey in life as walking into a room and assuming people would like her. What freedom! And they did! Grandma ran the family business, raised her kids, and on the side took up pottery in her 40’s, rallied her Boston area Jewish community to build neighborhood temple (with her partner in crime, Michael Bloomberg’s mom, Charlotte), volunteered and fund-raised for charities, and continued to try new things and be engaged in life to the very end. She thought sculpting would be fun and learned to carve marble in her 60’s and in her 70’s  and 80’s was  belting out tunes as the lead in her retirement community’s musicals. What I’m trying to say is, whatever it was,  she went for it. Wow. Love.

And so, in that spirit, I just signed up for a music theory class so I can finally really learn to read music and upgrade my sight reading skills. It’s going to take a while – let’s hope less than 8 years – until I can really read scores  (instead of faking it!) but  I love singing and I miss it in my life so let’s do this! Instead of moping about how competitive NYC choruses are, I’m making moves.  If Olga can start track at 70 something I should be able to step up and learn this language.  In fact, according to her example, I should be able to learn a number of life enriching skills before this ride ends.  Maybe painting, maybe Spanish, maybe learning to compete in rodeo – who cares! Let’s strive to keep life long and interesting, shall we? It is certainly not too late. No way, no day. What’s your passion? What makes you feel alive? I’d love to hear.xxoo Steph

An example of Ethel Tuck's sculpture. Every member of her family received a piece. A treasure -

An example of Ethel Tuck’s sculpture. All of her kids and grandchildren received a piece, and we all have them displayed. We all consider them to be treasures-

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | January 8, 2014

News flash! Magic weightloss products don’t work!

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Sensa claims a lil’ sprinkle will create insta-gym body. Pretty to think so…

I was happy to read a story in the New York Times today that FINALLY a number of companies making ridiculous weight loss claims are being charged with FRAUD. Look, truth be told I’m a little sad that a cream one rubs on one’s thighs won’t make me fit more comfortably in my skinny jeans, and lying on my couch eating ice cream sprinkled with certain supplements while going on a Bravo TV binge will not get me bikini-ready for spring. WAAAAA! If only these come-ons were true, how nice and sparkly life would be (I wonder if these powders, creams and pills also signal the Tooth Fairy and Santa that it would be so lovely if they visit?)

The accused companies are Sensa Products, LeanSpa, L’Occitane (for their “slimming” Almond Cream) and HCG Diet Direct, and they have agreed to pay $34 million to refund consumers (though they have not admitted wrongdoing.)  Among the frauds they are being accused of perpetrating are having paid and scripted testimonials instead of authentic ones (you know, those incredible “real person”, from zero to hero “It worked for me!” stories that pull me in to their narrative in about 2 seconds.) Sham. Sham. Sham.  And though I applaud the FTC for going after these scoundrels, the sad part of this story is these sanctions will probably not make a dent in the “hope in a bottle” diet industry because even though we know this stuff is bunk we WANT to believe. After all, who doesn’t love a shortcut?Who would not choose super easy over hard?

Getting and staying fit and slim is not an overnight process – it takes a lot of work and it can  feel like it takes forever. Just use your common sense – if something sounds too good to be true, trust your internal radar. There’s no magic wand you can wave to look and feel great – when it comes to fitness, you gotta move it or lose it, and I think by now we all know that. The secret, if there is one, is to find stuff you love doing, such as classes and sports that inspire you and feel far more like fun than work (for me, that would be ZUMBA, tennis, cycling, yoga with great music to get lost in, hiking...) and finding nutritious foods you actually ENJOY. So skip the spells and incantations and lace up those gym shoes. See you at Equinox! xxoo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | December 31, 2013

Life changer: What do YOU desire?

Alan Watts https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RyvYSV41t8

This video stopped me cold in my tracks. Take a look (subscribers — click enable links at the top of the email to see the video link…and watch!)  It’s narrated by the popular Eastern philosopher and writer Alan Watts and, at least with me, it strikes a huge chord. As Watts says, “It’s so important to consider this question: ‘What Do I Desire?'” And so…what is your answer to that question? Are you living where you’d like to live? Is your work interesting? Is there a solid dose of happiness in your life? As my mom likes to say, “You only have one life – what are you going to do with it?” These are the questions that are easy to forget to ask as we all get caught up in the daily scramble. That’s one reason I love to “take off” and travel to remote and sometimes wild spots – away from the subways and traffic and deadlines of NYC I have a moment to breathe and the space to think. These trips, even the simplest change of environment,  are so important as they can offer a feeling of sharpness and clarity. Watching this video I am reminded how my publishing mentor Martha Nelson told me to always travel, to always write of my adventures, as I had the ability to inspire. How easy it is to forget one’s spark, how easy it is to forgo passions for quotidian life. And so, this video, and to Alan and Martha and to all who inspire me, thank you for your insight and your kindness and thank you for the reminder.  It’s my pleasure to pass it along. Happy New Year, everyone!     As for me, next big trip will be Laos. How about you???? xxxooo Steph

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | December 12, 2013

Nutrish and Delish: Mayan Chocolate Health Nut Truffles

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Replenishing your body with the right food after working out helps your muscles to recover and rebuild more quickly, but who knew refueling could include mind-blowingly delicious and protein-packed chocolate truffles? On a recent fabulous trip in Hudson New York — a seven-day retreat packed with tons of hiking, yoga, boot camp classes, and super-clean food — I had the pleasure of discovering these treats. Later I was able to make them at home and happily re-achieved chocolate nirvana.

Resident Escape to Shape nutritionist and chef Nicole Gimmillaro created these wonders — sans butter, cream, or sugar — and I’m happy to share them with you. They will easily give you the incentive to run that last mile, and are low in calories while high in nutrients. These truffles prove that eating well extends far beyond quinoa and smoothies. After all, don’t athletes earn their just desserts?

Mayan Chocolate Health Nut Truffles
Makes about 15 1-inch truffles

Ingredients:

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for rolling
2 tbsp. ground flax meal
6 tbsp. chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped dates
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
¼ cup cacao nibs or carob chips
1½ tsp. honey or agave syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp. orange extract or 1 tbsp. orange juice
zest of 1 orange
¼ tsp. sea salt

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse to form a sticky paste. If mixture is too dry to hold together, add 1 or 2 tablespoons orange juice. Pinch off small pieces of the mixture and form into truffles. Roll in cocoa powder to coat. These will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month. Enjoy!

Serving size: One truffle
Calories: 52
Protein 1.5 grams
Fiber 1.28 grams
Fat: 3 grams

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | December 8, 2013

Nutrish and Delish: Four O’Clock Fuel-Up, Chia Oatmeal

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Oatmeal is not just for breakfast any more. When you add extras such as chia seeds, raspberries, and almonds, you have the perfect 4 p.m. power food.

This may be the most nutrient-dense snack on the planet and it hits all the high notes you’ll need to feel like Rocky running up the Phillie Art Museum steps, arms in the air, sound track blaring and ready to take on Apollo Creed. Bam. 

Think of it this way: the energy required to work out, especially when weight training, is analogous to building a roaring bonfire, and this recipe contains all the elements you need to complete that task:

– The simple sugars in the raspberries are quick energy your body will access fast — the twigs, the kindling, if you will.

– The complex carbs in the oatmeal are more slow-burning — the branches.

– The omega-3 and other fats in the chia seeds are healthy fats that burn even longer — this will provide the logs, the basis of your fire.

– The almonds deliver muscle-protecting protein — the oxygen you need to keep the fire burning.

Trust that this snack is easy to whip up, super-complete, tasty, and trainer-approved.

Ingredients:
½ cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup water (or vanilla flavored almond milk for a slightly sweeter taste)
1 tablespoon

Toppings:
½ cup raspberries
½ oz. almonds (about 12 almonds)
1 teaspoon agave syrup

Put base ingredients into microwave-safe bowl and microwave at full power for 1½ minutes. Stir, and microwave for another minute. Mix in raspberries, almonds and agave syrup. Enjoy!

Calories 460
Fiber:    18 g
Protein:  23 g
Tons of omega-3 fatty acids from the chia seeds: chia has 8 times more omega-3 than salmon.

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | November 17, 2013

The Perfect Body? Athletes Come in All Shapes and Sizes

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Check out this super cool photo essay. It’s  part of a book, “Athlete,” by Howard Schatz, and it illustrates  the various shapes and body types of the world’s best athletes. Such an eye opener. Of course major amounts of skill/magic/training are involved in being a top athlete –  the folks captured by Schatz are Olympians, in fact – but Schatz’s pictures also score a few points for nature in the nature/nurture debate (and perhaps explains just a bit why I’ll never dunk a basketball…) Wow.    It is inspiring to see so many gorgeous, fit bodies that are all so incredibly different.  There’s  no  standard or template or mandate – they all, gigantic or peanut-sized,  laden with ropes of muscles or whippet-thin, are literally – and beautifully- at the top of their game.  Love it.  To see more of Schatz’s incredible images, click here.  Gotta run – off to Zumba to shake what my momma gave me 🙂  xxooo Steph

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Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | October 11, 2013

Nutrish and Delish: Baked Sweet Potato Chips

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Here’s another post I wrote for Archetypes, a great site my (fabulous) pal Lisa Gabor runs that you should check out (great info, from travel to fitness to great reads.) Anyway, I’m writing about EASY and nutritious snacks and meals for them. Here’s a taste:
4 P.M. Fuel-Up: Easy Sweet Potato Chips

Got a potato chip craving? Swap out the spuds for sweet potatoes and you’ll get a nutritional boost in your snack.

It’s not exactly a news flash that potato chips are tasty. Thanks to their addictive crunch and salty savoriness, they’re probably one of the most bingeable foods — open a bag and you’ll soon find you’ve munched your way to the bottom with nary a thought. Pause to consider the fat, empty calories, and all-around lack of nutrients, however, and the good time is over.

But you don’t need to give up chips in the pursuit of health. As it turns out, making chips at home is incredibly easy, and by using sweet potatoes and baking them instead of deep-frying, you’ve got a snack fit for a bikini model. In contrast to simple-starch-rich spuds, sweet potatoes are loaded with immune-system-boosting vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.

These chips are best eaten immediately but they reheat well, and regain their crispness in a toaster oven. Don’t microwave them, as you’ll end up with a soggy mess. This makes one large serving you can easily split and still feel sated. Happy munching!

Spicy Sweet Potato Chips

Makes one large serving

1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced thinly and uniformly
dash coarse sea salt
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
dash chipotle powder
dash curry powder
dash pepper
dash rosemary

Heat oven to 400 degrees. On two baking sheets lined with aluminum foil, toss sweet potato slices with oil and season with chipotle powder, curry powder, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Arrange in single layers and bake, flipping halfway, until crisp and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Nutrition:
Calories: 330
Fiber: 6 g.
Protein: 3.6 g.
Carbs: 37 g.
Fat: 20 g.

Posted by: Stephanie Tuck | October 6, 2013

Great New York Cycling Club with Excellent Rides

1276690_10151571093961364_851980457_oWe’re still smiling. The perma-grin  my cycling buddy, Abby Ellin, and I shared were in full effect miles 1-65 of the Escape New York Ride recently. The ride is  an annual event put on by NYCC (the New York Cycle Club) but you don’t have to be a member to participate. I LOVED IT. I am getting more adept at these long organized rides (just did the Montauk Century and the New York Century) and this one was my favorite.  Not only was everyone super nice and helpful ( to the guy who explained how to maneuver  the lock on the air valve on my tires — thank you! Who knew???) but clearly Abby and I stumbled into a community of fellow sporty spices who share the same idea of fun:  a mix of speed, nature, endurance endorphins and chocolate chip cookies. Sign us up. Done.

This ride, which went to Nyack and back via back roads and winding, scenic tangents, was a winner because there was hardly any traffic and the well-marked route was seriously gorgeous.  It was also super low-tech – no train needed, no car, just bike to Grant’s Tomb, sign in and get your map, and go. I may want to move to Piermont or Nyack — both towns are funky gems on the Hudson with an artsy  flavor, and they are both biker favorites.

The New York Cycle Club is only $30/year, and they offer  a range of  rides with leaders every weekend.  In the spring they do a 10 week training course I’m seriously considering – they teach you how to ride with a team, cycling techniques, some light repair tips and on. They test your pace on the first day and group with folks who are the same speed. I hear you need cold weather gear for March but by graduation you’re a warrior.

Have you done any great rides or know of a fab cycling group? Let us know!  xxooSteph

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