Archive | December, 2011

Vacation Adaptation

31 Dec

I’ve been on vacation for the holidays now since December 23rd.  It’s been a great week spent at home with my family, enjoying time together.

It’s interesting how quickly though your body and mind adapt to the lifestyle that being off from work affords you.

My normal schedule means waking at about 5 AM and commuting to the office for a 9-10 hour workday and then a 1 hour commute home, followed by an evening spent preparing dinner and food for the next day at work.  Not so, since vacation started.

Outdoors Time

The weather in Atlanta over the past week has been excellent.  Atlanta never gets really cold like other parts of the US – it’s definitely colder than the summer and fall, but it’s still weather that you can enjoy outdoors time.

During vacation, I’ve been able to play pickup soccer, do some morning training with a Goalkeeper preparing for a tryout, get outside with my sons for soccer, work on building another garden bed, and take the family out to a Miniature Golf and Go-Kart park.


I think the lack of time in front of a computer, coupled with a lot of outdoors time has really helped regain a normal sleep cycle.  I’m tired in the evening and I can sleep until morning with only minor interruptions.  It’s gone a long way to making me feel normal and helping my body recover from some sickness and from the lack of rest during the last first half of December.


If there’s one area that I wish I could do more of while on this break – it’s exercise.  Getting to the gym is less convenient when I’m out of the office, and my days have been more consumed with the family and kids during the time off.  It’s probably been good to have a week off from lifting to allow my body to repair and recover.


I’ve stayed consistent with Paleo during vacation – and being home has allowed me to cycle more variety into my diet each day and vary my meal times and sizes according to my hunger more.


The Gateway Drug to Paleo: Food Smokers

28 Dec

Want to know what started me down the road to the Paleo lifestyle?  A Food Smoker.

Twelve months ago, my in-laws gave me a fantastic Christmas present: A Brinkmann Electric Smoker.  I had long coveted my father-in-law’s smoker and the fantastic meats it produced.  So for Christmas, I received my very own.

In the fifty-two weeks since, I’ve probably smoked food in about forty-five of those weeks.  At first, it was a few chickens, chicken parts and turkey breasts.  Over time, it became whatever cuts of poultry I could find on sale at my local supermarket chains.  Mid way through the year, I added an occasional pork shoulder (from Thompson Farms in Dixie, Georgia) and I still plan to make homemade bacon in it eventually.

So why is the smoker the gateway to Paleo for me?

First, it introduced regularly cooking with large cuts of meat instead of the boneless, skinless chicken so many of us are accustomed to.  I became familiar with cooking slowly, and cooking ahead.

Second, I removed deli meat as a primary dietary food from my life.  Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy deli meats and they are convenient, but it became easy to pass on Boar’s Head deli meats at $8-10 a pound when I bought whole chickens for less than $1 a pound.

Preparing more of my own food lead to more ingredient control – and out went the added sugars and any gluten-containing ingredients.

Paleo becomes easy to maintain when you have a plentiful source of fresh meat available to you.

The Right Gift

27 Dec

Since last Spring – or maybe even back to indoor last winter – Aidan has been noticing when he saw soccer jerseys at practices or out on the streets. I’ve been wanting to find the right shirt for him (and Evan) for a while.


During the Christmas season, I was able to find the England 2010 World Cup Away jersey (the beautiful red Umbro design) in Kitbag’s Outlet section. I knew they would be a hit for them both and well priced.

Christmas morning they were both excited when they opened them and put them on almost immediately.

I’m really a fan of Umbro’s designs and build quality. Rather than being a simple synthetic shirt in youth size, the Umbro shirts include their performance features like a mesh back. There’s also a lot of great tailoring on side panels and around the neck. Unlike so many sports jerseys for kids I see in the US, these fit very well.

Teaching Kids to Teach

27 Dec

One of my goals on the soccer pitch is to teach my sons (and their advanced teammates) to transfer their skills to their teammates,

It’s a difficult idea to convey, since at this age the advanced kid is more likely to do the job for them than to teach them how to do it. I’ve noticed this over the last two days with my sons and Lego.

Both of my sons have become fans of building Lego over the past year or two. As you would expect, Aidan at age 8 is a more advanced builder and capable of building sets beyond his recommended age. Evan is a good builder for five years old, but can be distracted at times or fail to pick up on the subtle bits of the instructions.

When they build together, I’ve asked Aidan to model how you do some of the basics of Lego building – how you match physical pieces to what’s shown in the instructions and determining where to place a piece by counting out the grid spacing. But it’s hard for him to do this sometimes as he becomes deeply involved in the actual building and forgets about teaching.

So how do we overcome this?

I think he will become a better teacher over time and practice. It helps when I can be there to ask a few insightful questions that will trigger him to how the how or why he does something.

Our Tae Kwon Do practice has done a lot in this arena – as kids will regularly work with higher belt “Leadership Team” children who help in the instruction of forms and maneuvers. It still helps to have a person present who might be able to ask the right question to provoke one more instruction that leads to understanding.

Courage to Face Failure

24 Dec

Both of my sons had belt testing at their Tae Kwon Do practice last night.  They were both testing for the high blue belt.

The testing has several phases.  The first is a “Form” (a choreographed series of hand, body, and leg movements that showcases some of the new techniques learned during the current belt), kicking, and sparring.  Sparring has been a recent addition for our kids.

The rules of sparring are simple – use the maneuvers learned in other parts of the class in 1v1 combat with an opponent of similar level.  Most often, the kids use one of several front kicks to try to strike their opponent on the protective equipment.

But I noticed Aidan several times attempt to use kicks that involve a full body rotation – a more recent instruction that the kids at this level learned.  The move required more skill (and was slower for the kids to perform) but obviously Aidan thought that if he performed it well, and landed it well, then it would place him at good advantage on his opponent (and earn the Master’s approval in the process.)

It didn’t work for him.  But in the process, it reminded me of what I saw on the soccer pitch this fall.

So often, we teach kids skills in practice that they could use in the course of games – specific turns and maneuvers with the ball – that if mastered to some degree would provide the player open space on the field and maintain possession of the ball.  But I think a lot of kids don’t use them in the course of a match because they fear the downside if they fail.

It’s an environment that has to be changed.  Failure, in these scenarios – is when the athlete fails to try.

1/4 Mile Intervals

23 Dec

Following up on last week’s 1/2 mile intervals, I cut the distance down to a 1/4 mile interval.  1/4 mile fast, 1/4 slow to recover.  How hard can that be?

I also planned to take the 1/4 mile a lot harder.

I completed seven “fast” intervals of about 1:10 to 1:40 (so the slowest would have been about a 6:40 mile pace) through my neighborhood.  The intervals done on the hills weren’t as much fun.  The total run was 3.18 miles, including 238 of climb.  The main hill shown below is about 60 feet of elevation change over 1/4 mile.  (“Cardiac Hill” during the Peachtree Road Race is 140 feet over 3/4 of a mile to help give perspective.

Note the Elevation and Pace Changes

25:00 in total, but it felt like I worked a lot harder than my average run.

Match The Label

22 Dec


One of my recent online discoveries is the blog of Bruce Bradley, a former food executive turned writer.  One of his recent posts was on the marketing of sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals directly to children.

In my home, I’m the only Paleo eater.  The rest of my family maintains a fairly standard American diet – like I did until almost four months ago.  So when I noticed a breakfast cereal and a cookie mix in the kitchen – I was wondering how similar they were.

Look – Honey Nut Chex is Gluten Free!


So which of these has a better nutritional breakdown?

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