Tag Archives: SF

Day 7: Working those calves on Bernal Hill

San Francisco loves a hill. And San Francisco adores a steep hill. So much so that my roommate Venessa specifically warned me that my calves were going to explode, hulk-style, as a result of walking around – pointing out her own monster calves as an example. (FYI they’re tiny, dainty little things). Risk of monster calves aside there’s no denying that a walk around your typical SF neighborhood will provide you with a satisfactory burn in the legs.

If Ryan's OK with it, then so am I

If it’s good enough for Ryan, it’s good enough for me

One of the hills near me is the beautiful Bernal Heights Hill. If you can believe it, I’ve lived in my house for 8 months now and I can see Bernal from our deck, but I’ve never actually made it up. Ridiculous! My new year’s resolution is to get outdoors more so I decided to take myself up there for a nice walk with my other roommate Lysbet.

The walk itself is very short – it probably only took us 15/20 minutes to get up to the top. But most of it is vertical with lots of stairs so you get a lot of bang for your buck. If I had been taking the outing seriously as a workout, I probably would have run it. As it was, I was just happy to get out in the warm, Californian sunshine and take in the view. My calves did burn though!! I’ll run it the next time…

The view from the summit is spectacular – on a clear day you get a 360 view of the city. It was fun trying to pick out our fave spots. One thing I also noticed was that there were so many more green areas that I didn’t even know existed. Plenty more exploring to be done obviously!

A lot of people had the same idea as we did – we were joined by a lot of dog walkers and couples having magic moments. Bernal Hill is an amazing place to either pledge your undying love to someone or decide to go your separate ways.

The walk home was fun as well. One thing I love about SF is that they put such effort into making public spaces pretty and interesting. There were so many cute little look-out points and even a slide in lieu of some stairs (see video!). A simple walk around the block can turn into a mini adventure.

It was a lovely day indeed and it’s made me realise that I need to get out exploring more. Any San Franciscans know of any other hills/green areas/fun places to explore in the city?

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Video of Lysbet and I going down the slide.

Such lovely views!

Such lovely views!

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Today was a good day. My one slight slip was another trip to Toast. I’m obsessed. My new favourite activity is to go early by myself and people watch. No major exercise – just the walk up Bernal. Great to get some fresh air though and to get your body moving.

Food and exercise

  • Breakfast: Scramble with bacon and avocado, fruit salad, half an English muffin
  • Exercise: Walk up Bernal Heights Hill
  • Lunch: Salad from Wholefoods with prawns
  • Dinner: Vegan Tamale
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Day 6: The importance of a work out buddy

Workout buddies – there to share the pain of your hill run, high five you after a new deadlift PB, compete with you on squat reps and most importantly…save you from your hangover.

Sometimes some tough love is needed

Sometimes some tough love is needed

Yes, the inevitable happened. After the excesses of Day 5’s night out at Zeitgeist I woke up with a hangover. I felt cheated! Surely that’s not supposed to happen when you only drink vodka soda(s x 3 large ones). As soon as I woke up and felt my head pounding I groaned into my pillow. Today was Barry’s Bootcamp day – the first one after the holidays and guaranteed to be horrendous even for normal-headed folks.

After lying there for a while, trying to assess the damage, I sent a message to Mags, my workout buddy, who had also been out with me the night before.

‘There’s a small family of leprechauns having an actual Ceili in my actual head. I don’t think I can do Barry’s today.’

Confident in the knowledge Mags would also be in the throes like me, I dragged myself down to my fave Noe Valley diner Toast for some consolatory eggs and smoked salmon. (Healthy.) Just as I was about to tuck in, a smug little smile on my face, squirming in my seat with happiness, Mags replied.

‘None of your guff, girly – I’m feeling amazing. Friends don’t let other friends skip Barry’s Bootcamp.’

(FYI – Mags is also Irish, hence the excessive Irish-ness of our conversation).

Goddammit, I thought. Fine, fine FINE! I’ll go. I’d never live it down if I skipped out. (How she managed to escape the damage of those three vodka sodas is beyond me. I’m convinced she’s a genetically superior human being).

So, we went to Barry’s, we ran, we lifted, we squatted, we crunched. I would lie if I said it was enjoyable at the time. It was disgusting. And I felt like puking. But the victory was in participating as far as I’m concerned. And as we walked out, with our skinny peanut butter protein shakes in hand, I had to admit- my workout buddy done good. Without her I would have certainly gone back to bed after Toast, followed by a day of unhealthiness and self-loathing.

Thanks Mags!

Trying to take a selfie at the Bay Bridge. 8 pictures, no bridge.

Trying to take a selfie at the Bay Bridge after the class. 8 pictures, no bridge. Well maybe a corner of a bridge

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On account of the hangover the day was probs not as healthy as it could have been. BUT I didn’t go mad. The unhealthy things were an English muffin and then sushi and more alcohol later on when I went out for Karaoke. Could have been worse though.

Food and exercise:

  • Breakfast: Lox scrambler from Toast, with an English muffin and fresh fruit
  • Exercise: 1 hour Barry’s Bootcamp
  • Snack: Skinny protein shake (unsweetened almond milk, no sugar peanut butter and vanilla protein powder)
  • Lunch: Sweet potato with a handful of pistachios (random I know)
  • Dinner: Split with Lysbet – edamame, miso soup, poki salad, 2 sushi rolls, sake
  • Drinks: 2 x glass of wine
  • Entertainment: Karaoke at Encore, a go of a friend’s massage chair and Super Mario (also random.)

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Day 4: Exhausted, but a healthy SF take out saves the day!

Day 4 and I’ve been slammed by a wave of exhaustion. Naively, I had convinced myself that I would be able to cheat jet lag, bounce and frolick my way back into a healthy, daily routine, go to my 8 exercise classes and cook balanced meals from scratch. Hah!

Turns out I’m not quite the super-food cooking superhero just yet.

Instead, I’m more like this.

I love this crazy looking creature.

I love this crazy looking creature.

I’ve gone through similar periods of exhaustion in the past, so I’m all too familiar with the havoc this can wreak upon a healthy living resolution. In an effort to simply keep your eyes open, all you want to do is to eat carby, sugary, starchy, fatty (DELICIOUS) food- and the last thing you want to do is to cook it. Inevitably, this leads to a stop at the local burrito place on the way home from work or a sneaky take out that usually involves pizza.

I am extraordinarily happy to report that good sense and and great health prevailed in this instance. Whilst I did order take-out it was of the very healthy variety. Actually, scratch that, it was of the very, very healthy variety. And it doesn’t get much better than very, very healthy.

Enter Thistle – the pioneers (in my mind – maybe there are others?) of genuinely healthy fast food. I’ve been using them for a while now. They have a variety of healthy, vegetarian dishes that you can order online and have delivered to your doorstep in 30 minutes (or less, more often than not). The dishes always provide a balance of veg, healthy carbs, fat and protein. Honestly speaking, I always feel 100% satisfied afterwards, and never want anything else after.

Jaysus, this sounds like it’s a commercial, but it’s not, I promise.

My dish of choice was the Power Bowl – steamed quinoa, marinated kale, mashed sweet potato, black beans, carrots, housemade kimchi, sunflower seeds, and tahini sauce. I also got the Snow drink (almond milk with peppermint) and I got the Verdance green juice for the following morning.

Thistle is great if you need a quick fix, but in the future I plan to have a freezer-load of healthy meals on hand, ready to defrost when the need hits.

But I’ll get to that when i’m less tired…

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Whilst I did a good job on the eating front, exercise failed miserably. I had signed up for two exercise classes, canceled them, asked some friends if they wanted to go for a walk, canceled that and then ended up on the couch for the night. But you know what – needs must and sometimes you just need to listen to your body.

Food and exercise:

  • Hot water with lemon
  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs (whole and whites), kale, two large coffees with milk
  • Lunch: Salad, with fresh veg, chicken and some fried plantain (healthy? Probs not…but only a small bit), sprinkle nuts and seeds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Chobani Greek yogurt and handful almonds
  • Dinner: See above
  • Exercise: channel surfing…

Day 3: Sweating the holidays out with Bikram Yoga in the Mission

During some kind of a jet-lagged fueled, manic episode I decided to sign up to no less than 8 exercise classes this week. One of these being Bikram Yoga. No better way to rid yourself of your holiday demons than sweating them out of you.

yoga meme

My friend Katie, suggested we check out the Bikram Yoga class at Mission Yoga in San Francisco. We managed to get an amazing deal on Groupon – 25 classes for $108. Score! (There’s also still time remaining to get the deal FYI).

This wasn’t my first time doing Bikram, thankfully. I used to do it quite regularly while living in Dublin and I loved it. I think if it had been my first time, I would have suffered even more than I did.

For those of you who refuse to call something a workout unless it involves lifting serious lbs or sprinting 5 miles – let me enlighten you. Bikram Yoga is not for wimps. It’s badass. I find that it gets my heart racing as much as a hill run or a round of wall balls . The class consists of a continuous flow of 26 postures in 40 °C (104 °F) heat with a humidity of 40% for 90 badass minutes. That’s right…badass.

More often than not it’s the heat and humidity that’s the most difficult part of the class. It gets hot! And the postures themselves can be pretty challenging. There’s contorting, squatting and oodles of balancing postures. For those of you who know me you’ll know I don’t do balancing that well. I sometimes fall down even when standing still.

This all being said, Bikram Yog is still totally do-able and accessible to everyone, regardless of fitness level. You’re encouraged to take it at your own speed and sit down whenever you want. I spent half of my first few classes sitting on the mat.

In addition to the physicality I find that there’s something that happens to you on an emotional level when you practice Bikram. Bear with me. My friend Marie used to tell me that she found it to be amazing for unlocking pent up emotions. Sure enough, at the end of the class as we were lying in the dark in the savasana pose I could feel the tears pricking my eyes for no reason at all. It wasn’t a bad thing necessarily – I felt like something had been dislodged, emotionally speaking. Strange…

Anyway, suffice to say I thought the class was great and I’ll definitely be going back again. I really want to get better at it! I want to be the teachers pet, and be the one to hear ‘You there in the back, that’s the best tree pose I’ve seen this side of India.’

Like I said – lofty goals this year.

In other yoga related news I just saw they’re running a weed-fueled yoga class in SOMA on Wednesdays. This is so San Francisco, it hurts! Something to put on the bucket list I think.

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Today was again quite a good day for healthy living. I managed to eat healthfully and do two exercise classes. I did have a brief moment though, as I was eating my raw vegetable snack, when I thought I couldn’t stomach any more veg. But I persevered! 3 good days so far – not bad!

Food and exercise

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  • Hot water with lemon
  • Snack: Small handful walnuts
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and Kale, 2 large coffees
  • Exercise: 1 hour PT
  • Lunch: Salad with veg, chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Raw veg with lemon hummus
  • Exercise: 90 (badass) mins of Bikram Yoga
  • Snack: Handful pecans
  • Dinner: White fish, green beans, half an avocado

 

Day 2: The post-holiday post-mortem and my new goals

Is there anything worse than getting on to the scales and having your body fat % tested, right after the holidays?

fat

For the record, there is definitely plenty worse in life than this.This comparison obviously only relates to other superficial events or occurrences that could befall a human being. Like having a skinny friend who eats toast and chocolate croissants every day. That features highly on my list of terrible things that could happen to someone. I’m looking at you Frenchie!

I know many of you are probably screaming at your computer, going ‘For the love of all that is good and holy, why the hell would you do that to yourself?!? Everyone knows that the only time to weigh yourself again is after a two week juicing cleanse, a round of colonics and a haircut. And only then if it’s first thing in the morning and you’re completely naked.’

You’re right…you’re right! That would typically be my way of thinking as well. Why put yourself through undue heartache and torture, cursing the day a mince pie ever crossed your path?

However, there’s no denying that on occasion you need a short, sharp shock to the system to jump-start change – and stepping on those scales and having your belly fat pinched is the best way to do it.

I actually had the remarkable foresight of anticipating my post-holiday excuses months ago, so I signed up in advance for a 10-week fitness and nutrition program in work- with a pre-evaluation on January 6th. Job done.

And so starts my tale of woe…

How much damage did the holidays do? A LOT! 7lbs worth of damage and a place in the overweight body fat % category (0.8% over healthy). I was actually shocked at how quickly I put on the lbs and body fat. However, when I stepped off the scales in a huff, wanting to cry and thought about it some more – it made sense. Whilst I didn’t go crazy and indulge as much as I wanted to, I had been pretty lax with my healthy eating for a good two months. It was slow and creeping and disastrous.

So now starts the epic challenge of reversing this and I’m hoping my 100HealthyDaysinSF program will help me.

For full disclosure I’m going to put down my new goals here. I hope to achieve these at the end of the 10 weeks of the fitness program I signed up to.

  • Lose 3% body fat
  • Be able to do 10 full push ups (I can do 3 now)
  • Reduce waist size by 3 inches
  • Be happy and healthy

Mx

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Today was a good day in terms of healthy living – all three of my meals were healthy and I started back exercising with a group exercise class. This was TOUGH going! I felt like I needed to explain myself to the strangers in my class as I was huffing, puffing and sweating after a round of jumping jacks. ‘First workout after the holidays, you know…’ It was tough, but I’m glad I did it. It was a win even turning up.

Food and exercise

Once again featuring the book light. Obsessed

Once again featuring the book light. Obsessed

  • Hot water with lemon
  • Breakfast: 1 cup of scrambled eggs (50% whites, 50% whole), chia seeds, steamed kale. (I MISSED KALE SO MUCH)
  • Lunch: Salad with lots of veg, edamame beans, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, olive oil and balsamic. Also a little bit of seaweed salad – which had SUGAR in it. Criminal, never again.
  • Snack: handful of almonds and raw veg
  • Exercise: 45 mins group exercise class
  • Dinner: White fish with green beans, cherry tomatoes and half an avocado
  • Lots of herbal tea

Day 41: Ode to Spaghetti Squash

Since moving to San Francisco, my new favourite thing in life* is spaghetti squash. This is, in my mind, the savior that will rid the world of the evils of processed carbs and gluten.

spaghetti squash

This baby deserves a fist pump for being so healthy

For those of you unfamiliar, spaghetti squash is not pasta made from or with squash. It’s actually a VEGETABLE, itself a member of the squash family, and looks like this:

I'm a spaghetti squash, not a melon

I’m a spaghetti squash, not a melon

And when you cook it, it kind of looks like this:

Pretty standard, nothing to write home about yet

Pretty standard, nothing to write home about yet

And, then, this is where the magic happens; when you take a fork and rake it down the flesh of the cooked spaghetti squash, you get this:

Here's one I made earlier.  The pic doesn't do it justice.

Here’s one I made earlier. The pic doesn’t do it justice.

In other words, long strands that look and act exactly like spaghetti!!

The sheer and utter beauty of the spaghetti squash, lies in the fact that you don’t even need to use any fancy gadget, like a spiralizer, to turn the flesh it into strands. IT DOES IT BY ITSELF! And, to top it all off, you can cook it in the microwave and it’s ready in 15 minutes.

The discovery of spaghetti squash has pretty much changed my life for the better.

I am a pasta-fiend. I grew up in an Italian/Irish(Canadian/Scottish) household and while all my Irish friends were chowing down on Irish stew, Shepherd’s Pie or other meat, veg and potato combos, I was twirling and slurping my way through parmesan laden pasta dishes. To me, it’s the ultimate comfort food and reminds me of home.

But, of course, pasta is not necessarily the healthiest of dishes. All that icky gluten can cause reactions, and too many carbs give you back-fat (scientific term), so it can’t really feature regularly in a healthy eating regime, except as a treat. Cue 😦

But this is where spaghetti squash comes in! You get the bulk and strand-like consistency of spaghetti and you can pair it with all of your fave pasta sauces. Well, maybe not the carbonara…

The sad news is, I haven’t seen this outside of the US. Certainly not in Ireland anyway. My advice is to do anything you can to import/smuggle this sucker in – ethically and sustainably, of course.

(*I actually have multiple new favourite things in life since moving to San Francisco – bridges, Mission graffiti, margaritas, people watching in Dolores Park, farmer’s markets…I’m loving this city more and more every day).

Food and Exercise

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, with goat’s cheese, avocado and smoked salmon
  • Lunch: Smoked salmon, tbsp hummus and avocado
  • Snack: Chia seed pudding (chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla essence) with stewed apple
  • Dinner: Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce, green salad, enochi mushrooms, 2x small pieces of bread with cheese, glass of wine (all homemade by Venessa – such a treat!)
  • Exercise: none – I was still to tired!!

 

Day 37: Veg-loading – my new strategy

Day 37 was all about veg-loading. Think carb-loading, but a lot less fun. Veg-loading is my new strategy for surviving nights out!

Pre-drinking is a thing of the past. It's all about the pre-vegging!

Pre-drinking is a thing of the past. It’s all about the pre-vegging!

Day 37’s night out was actually a date! As mentioned in a previous post I find it quite challenging to eat healthfully when going on a date – I get nervous, I forget to eat, I have some drinks and then I eat bold stuff when I get home.

This time around I was determined to keep it healthy. I figured the best way to do it was to stock up on vegetables and other good food throughout the day, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to eat when I got home.

Thankfully, this is really easy to do in work. I will always be extraordinarily grateful for the abundance of fresh fruit and veg we get. When you want to be healthy it’s so easy!

So, I had kale and crudites at breakfast with some eggs, crudites as a snack, a HUGE salad, with a variety of veg for lunch and then more crudites and hummus in the afternoon. I also worked out and drank a shed-load of water during the day. When I left to go out I felt satisfied and clear headed – not like the hungry, dehydrated wreck I was on the last date.

My huge salads

My huge salads

 

I’ve actually already made it a habit to eat a lot of vegetable at meals. I could never be the the type of person that just eats tiny portions – that’s why a conventional, calorie restricting diet would never work for me. I need something substantial in my belly or else I would be driven demented with hunger. So I eat loads and loads of veg.

It’s funny, I work with a lot of Frenchies, and whilst they’ve never said it, I think they are slightly appalled at the amount I put on my plate. The French, in my mind, have really mastered the art of eating – they take small amounts of fine, high quality food. My mountain of raw veg and chicken, with only lemon juice as a dressing, most likely seems barbaric to them.

‘IT’S GOOD FOR YOU!’ I feel like shouting sometimes, when I see them look over in my direction at lunch. ‘YOU’RE EATING A PASTRY! STUFFED WITH CHOCOLATE! I DON’T CARE IF IT’S ONE OF THE MINI ONES.’

I’m a little jealous of the French, clearly. They’ve probably never had to veg-load in their life.

On to the date – we went to The Royal Cuckoo in the Mission. This is a great spot for a date, especially mid-week. They’ve got a great drinks menu with lots of good cocktails. It’s all low lighting, fairy lights and cosy seats. They also played some live jazz as well. I’m not a huge jazz fan really, but it was fun.

So, happy to say I managed to keep it relatively healthy on a date day. I think veg-loading, or healthy-food loading is the way to go in the future!