Spring training

Red wine season transitions to craft beer season very quickly here! This 3-day weekend has been beautiful and I finally got a few runs in! I’m preparing for 3 races that are approaching a little too quickly for my liking (join me and say hi if you see me!):

  1. The Scrub Hare Run on 23 August, organized by My Road Less Traveled
  2. The Spring Break Trail Run on 13 September, my first official 10km trail run (and close to home)
  3. The Rhino Run on 20 September, a 12km which I spent a lot of money on (I’m getting the shirt!) and will be held at Hedianga, home of the Beast Run
  4. There’s also the final Rabbit Trail Series race, the Rock Rabbit Run, on 11 October. But I’m not even thinking about that one right now.

Photo by Alka

So I really need to get back into a set training schedule because I’ve been sleeping in a lot lately and eating lots of carbs I don’t need. Tabata training (twice weekly for all those uphill climbs- it’s super effective), yoga, and hopefully getting up to at least 15km/week again.

And my new secret weapon has arrived: my UltraVesta from Ultimate Direction! I’m very excited about this (ladies) hydration vest and will be writing a complete review of it in the very near future. I just want to get some more kms on it before I do. But I’m happy that I’ll be prepared if any race changes from a 8km to a 12km again.

I’m also testing the Meow hip pack as well. UD makes really great gear that I hope Mindful Runner will start stocking in the near future. There are a couple packs and hip belts for demoing so stop in and see what’s there to try out.


Red Wine Season

Every Sunday for the past two weeks Webyogi and I have woken up (albeit a little later than usual), put on our running clothes, and competed in a Winter Spur Trail Series event. Every Sunday when I pick up Webyogi we agree that we were insane to have signed up for these races at all, what were we thinking, and we’d really rather be gaming and drinking red wine, both in large quantities. Because winter.


Sweet, sweet nectar!

For those of you who think South Africa experiences a perpetual summer (because it is on the continent of Africa?), think again. It hovers around 0oC at night in the highveld, and is only getting up to almost 10oC by the time we hit the trail running on a Sunday. (For those of you in America that’s 32oF at night and into the mid-40s during the day.) To add to that, June, July and August might get one day of rain each. Essentially, it’s hat and mitten weather these days. So it is difficult to stand in your running tights and short sleeves waiting for your batch to leave, we all jockey for a patch of sun in the line up.

To compensate, South Africa makes the best red wine on the planet, which is what I’ve been doing lately- compensating. In large quantities. And I feel pretty good about it because I have spent the last six months getting off my butt and running. So for these three frigid months, I’m going to enjoy my winter drink and not worry about where I’m placing these days in the series.

And by the way, the Spur Trail Series is very well organized and I’m loving the new terrain we’re running through every Sunday. So I’ll overlook the fact (for now) that Spur is a meat-based semi-fast food chain with few vegetarian options. I will however suggest/beg that they make their soya burger available at these events along with the beef burgers they’re serving up because when I finish running I am super hungry but the smell of charred meat really puts me off.

Two more trail events and I’m done with this series. I’m curious to see where I place as they are giving out prizes to the veterans for a change, but it doesn’t make me want to put down the wine glass at all.

impromptu trail race = UltrAspire Astral review

So last Wednesday I had one too many glasses of red wine and agreed to run an 8km trail race on the weekend. I was told that it was a “small field”, and I was intending to run 8km on Sunday anyway (though I highly doubt I would have had I not agreed to the race). So on Sunday I was up at the crack of sparrows to drive to Hartbeespoort to run further than I’ve ever run before. I made it through the Vivobarefoot Nature’s Way 8km Run coordinated by My Road Less Travelled, unfortunately not in my vivobarefoots (more on that later). It was a wonderful, quiet course, definitely flatter than last week’s Beast, and I did get through all 8kms without dying, puking, or crawling across the finish line. Official time was 01:04:41, 36th overall (out of 56) and 5th female veteran. Also, I won a hat from Windpomp that conveniently matches my watch.

But the real reason to run was to demo the new women’s race vest from UltrAspire: the Astral. I don’t usually run with a pack; I try to run for as short a time possible so I don’t have to carry water. But after last weekend’s Beast I realized that I might want to entertain the notion of carrying water in a feminine, light-weight running vest. Also, some races require you to carry stuff, like water, and a cell phone, and a space blanket, and trail mix.

Unlike the happy, go-lucky models on the UltrAspire Astral website, I am 173 cm (5’8″) and a 36C, so not built like any trail runner I’ve seen so far. I was carrying 1L of water, my blackberry, my inhaler, a small container of yogurt covered dates, a space blanket, my car keys, and tissues. But there was space for a ton more- like a wind breaker and a first aid kit, and also more food and water! I liked the layer of padding between the bladder and my back, providing a cushion that prevented me from getting too chilled by the reservoir, or too hot when I warmed up. The construction of the harness actually felt like wearing nothing at all, literally there was no pressure on my shoulders and the pack hung well around my (ample) chest. The front pockets (I used one for clean tissues and one for dirty ones) weren’t poofy (they sort of look that way in the pictures) and didn’t get in the way of my arms. And boy are those front pockets roomy! Another cool feature: pockets on the shoulder straps allowing easy access to little things like lip balm or pain killers. And there’s this very cool bungee at the top (which I noticed after the race) that allows you to hang the whole pack from a rope or tree branch while you fill the bladder with more fluids, or use your required cell phone to check in on Facebook.


Kinga is modeling my very first hydration system- a Camelbak, purchased for mountain biking circa 1995. He is also illustrating how uncomfortable it is.

I don’t have much experience with race vests, but I do with packs for hiking and commuting. I have always hated the chest strap/waist strap combo, which creates a big squeeze on the top of the breasts and squishes everything together into one giant uniboob. At first I was skeptical of the Astral’s front bungee cords holding the pack across the rib cage because they hit right at the diaphragm line. The last thing I wanted was to free the ladies, but restrict my breathing. I didn’t have to worry at all- the suspension system over the shoulders and back, combined with the bungees, actually allow for plenty of breathing room across the chest while still holding the whole kit securely in place with no chafing or rubbing anywhere! It was a really wonderful first race pack experience and I’m sure I’ll be spoiled from now on. These beauties will be retailing at Mindful Runner mid-March and you can get in line after me!

For reference, I’ve included a picture of my loyal companion wearing my first hydration system. The Astral leaves this pack way back in the closet under the stairs from where I dug it out just for this picture.

Also, lesson learned- at first I thought this pack was so noisy! But then I heard other runners with packs passing me and I realized there was a lot of clattering from carrying too much gear. So pad all your hard items for a quieter run.

Birthday girl

Today is my 44th birthday and I’m going to run a sub-35 minute 5km. It being a Thursday, Mindful Runner is having it’s evening timed 5km run and I’m going to run fast!

Many of my runs start this way, with a preconceived notion of how I’m going to do. And in many cases, this intention fails. Not because it’s unattainable,  but because it’s still a bit premature. That being said it was a scorcher! I usually run this loop around 5:45pm when it’s cooled off a bit, but since I was preparing for a party I started running at about 5pm. Every time the African setting sun hit me I felt sapped of all energy. But I kept moving and was very happy with my 36:17 time over 4.7kms. My previous effort on this course was 37:37 (that one was a 5.1km) on 29 Jan.

After that it was really good red wine and vegan raw pomegranate pie for all!


This is not the actual raw pomegranate tart from Greenside Cafe, but it’s close.


Leafy Greens Trail Run



I had been planning to do the Leafy Greens trail run for some time now and actually got the courage to enter when Fred and I stopped by for a post-beer brunch after the race last weekend. It’s a beautiful course and my running buddy joined me!

Official time: 41:33 for ~5.5kms. 7th woman and 1st female Veteran, 17th overall out of 64 runners and walkers. It was a small field, but friendly. I really hope they continue to do this on a regular basis. The food and smoothies and juices were amazing and there was a great atmosphere!

Also, I won a moon cup, but wasn’t there to receive it, so an appointed person who was there got it instead. Yay! I won something! Running buddy got a R150 gift certificate to Leafy Greens. Awesome time had by all.

I do have to admit though that no yoga was done this week, mostly due to “ladies holiday”, which isn’t so much a holiday for ladies as it is a holiday from practice. Also, for some reason I decided to do an “easy” 5km run in the botanical gardens on Saturday before the Sunday race and my feet now ache!

skinny yogini? the truth about yoga and weight loss

i get irked when yoga is touted as a mechanism for weight loss. sometimes it’s the first thing a yoga website lists as a ‘benefit’. sometimes it’s the first thing new students ask me (as they eye my current physique). i tell them that by practicing yoga asana i lost ~15kgs over 10 months; over my 2-month yoga teacher training i lost a kilogram a week for 5 consecutive weeks, and i’ve kept it off. but before you jump into yoga hoping your kilos will float away on wafts of incense, let me tell you my story.

how does one lose weight?

there’s only one rule: output must exceed input. the bare bones of it is you need to put less in your mouth or move around a helluvalot more. it’s that simple. yoga is perceived as pretty low impact (read: easy) compared to say, boot-camps or gym-ing, so of course someone seeking an ‘easier’ weight loss routine will run (or more likely walk, or probably drive) to a yoga class that claims to help you lose weight. by the way, i have no problem with people who drive to yoga class, i do it every day.

how did I lose weight?

when i chose yoga as my ‘fitness plan’ i definitely had some kilos to lose. i didn’t fit into any of my clothes, i was losing my waistline, i had trouble carrying groceries, climbing up flights of stairs, etc. i complained a lot about everything. i was in a really crappy space mentally and physically. so i decided to get off my ass and do something about it. the key was that i chose something i had always loved to do and that i could see myself doing over time.

this was my simple formula:

ashtanga vinyasa yoga (output) + sattvic vegetarian diet (input) = (net loss) 14kgs over 10 mos (duration)

‘ashtanga vinyasa yoga’ means: practicing ashtanga vinyasa yoga for ~1.5-2 hours a day, almost every day. if you don’t know what ashtanga vinyasa yoga is, come and take one of my classes. as far as i’m concerned it is the purest, most challenging style of yoga asana/pranayama practice you will find. when approached with dedication and a positive attitude the rewards are infinite.

‘sattvic vegetarian diet’ means: No meat (including fish and eggs), salt, pepper, sugar, onions, garlic, yeast, nightshades (eggplants, peppers, tomatoes), things that grow underground (mushrooms, potatoes, peanuts), or anything out of bottle, can or jar (no preservatives or other chemicals). this includes things like jams/nut butters, anything fermented (soy sauce, vinegar), alcohol, canned veggies or fruits, medicines, etc. You are allowed to eat as much as you want of the following: milk products (that don’t contain salt or sugar), honey and molasses, fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, and herbs.

note: a sattvic diet over more than a few months can be pretty devastating to your social life. you start to obsess over your food and you become very boring. remember ‘healthy’ encompasses more than just your eating choices, and yoga seeks to balance your life. i wasn’t sattvic for the entire 10 months, and i’m not entirely vegetarian now, but I will maintain there’s no better way to get lean than a veg diet. and it’s also better for the planet!

so…any takers? c’mon it’s so easy! it’s just yoga, and you can eat as many fruits and veggies and grains and beans as you want!

judging from the number of ashtanga practitioners i know personally, this formula isn’t as wildly popular as you would think. in fact, i can count the number of people I know who follow the above regimen on both hands. ok, maybe only one hand. hmmm…actually, maybe no one, not even myself. wait…there is one.

when it comes down to it, yoga is a lot harder than people think. like any other form of exercise or diet plan discipline is the key ingredient and it’s not a quick or easy fix. i have followed this lifestyle over months, and now years. i have seen very few people during that time who have been able to make the sustained commitment required to adopt a yoga practice that enabled them to lose weight.

but don’t despair!

the coolest thing about yoga is that it never works the way you want it to. my simple decision about a ‘fitness plan’ didn’t just change my body, it changed my entire perspective on life! it turned me into a yoga practitioner and a person passionate enough to take on teaching yoga to others. i created Ekam Yoga because of my commitment to the practice. in addition, because of all the internal changes that took place, and are still happening as i continue to practice, i don’t really mind so much about what my outward appearance may be, which takes a load off!

practicing any form of yoga will make you happier and healthier from the inside out. if you’re seeking to bring yoga into your life consider the real benefits: a more positive outlook, increased happiness, health and longevity, greater awareness and compassion, greater resilience to the ups and downs that we all experience. you receive these whether you lose weight or not. the true benefit of yoga isn’t something as finite or transient as weight loss, it’s the resolution of the schism between body and the mind so that peace can enter and prevail.

PK/FR makes me hungry!

i’m having a hard time adjusting my diet to increased physical training and muscle building. i need PROTEIN!

as a yogi i am officially a vegetarian, and my cravings for anything from the animal kingdom have dropped off over the last few years to almost nil. i’m just not interested in meat of any flavor. protein cravings are the worst because I can’t identify what I’m craving. meat-eaters will crave steak, but when i’m in a craving mood my brain tells me to chew through a giant pile of almonds, which is totally unappetizing as you can imagine.

almonds actually have more protein/100g than steak (according to this site), but apparently i need about 40g of protein/meal. so if i were only getting my protein from almonds, i would need to eat 600g of almonds/day, which, besides being expensive is kind of gross (and fattening). i need to find some good lentil recipes (23g protein/100g). and btw: whey protein tastes like the malt in malted milk balls! i love malt, but i can’t eat enough of it at one sitting to make 40g of protein (that’s about 1/3 of a bag- or over 1 cup of whey powder- bleagh!).

but i need to eat more anyway, which is one of the reasons i choose to take on parkour in the first place. i was wasting away as a yogi. practicing ashtanga can be an appetite suppressant, and ashtangis build our lives around making our bodies light and strong. so yesterday i ate like a yogi (1/2 a salad and 3 pieces of veggie pizza) and as a result had no energy for parkour practice. lesson learned.

last night was quiet at the gym. as many Ekam practitioners are aware, in small classes you get more personal attention so, even in my light-headed, under-proteined state i learned a lot, both practicing and observing. my mind is beginning to see how to apply new movements, techniques, and tricks in an urban environment. now when i see a wall, or a bench, or a railing in some public place i think of how to move around it, over it, through it. it’s a new awareness, a new way of seeing, and will grow with time. i excited about this new vision of space!

it’s like when yoga becomes more than an asana practice on your mat, and you begin to apply breathing practices, discipline and concentration to your daily life. leaps forward in your practice can be lateral, like learning a new posture, technique or trick, or vertical, like a experiencing a deeper awareness in a posture, or applying a technique in a completely different way. mostly we play in the lateral plane, but every so often we have those vertical ‘a-ha’ moments, where our practice deepens, without fear, into completely new territory.

i must add, that practicing with all of the guys (and gals) at TUKS is totally awesome! it’s intimidating to learn something new, especially when you see what others are doing and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to manage anything close. you all create a supportive environment for everyone, where any level of practitioner is accepted, and where people are encouraging and challenging rather than competitive. when imagining a room full of 20-something males i feared the worst, but you all make it positive and fun. and special props to DeVille and Jaco, as one teacher to another, you guys are awesome!



 Last night’s training was FABULOUS (more on that later) thanks to a little help from my BFF Advil, and its supporting partner Aleve. Two liqui-gels and an aleve tab before i got in my truck for the drive to Pretoria and when i arrived my quads were walkable, dare i say jumpable. The advil gets the jump on the inflammation and the aleve kicks in a bit later to knock any resistant pain out of the park.

The general feeling (i won’t say consensus because yogis can never agree on anything, but we all like to feel) is that practitioners of yoga are beyond medicating themselves, considering it an altered state and therefore not true seeing/knowing. I say if it hurts and it’s not going away, it’s time to medicate because, honestly, there’s enough suffering in the world. Life is too short to be brought down with menstrual cramps, joint pain, muscle pulls, headaches, etc. If you feel bad, how can you do the world any good? I don’t dose before i practice yoga (though i did once and it was amazing!) because it does dull awareness in the body, which could lead to increased injury. The inflammatory response has it’s place in the healing process, but modern medicine allows us to choose to what extent we need to endure it. Anyway, advil + aleve is my cocktail. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

And as for modern medicine being ‘unyogic’? You can’t convince me that modern medicine is any worse (or unnatural) than what those yogis did out in the forest. Some of the practices outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for cleansing and purification are, frankly, medieval. And since it was written in the 15th century, i guess i’m not too far off my use of the word medieval.

Shameful plug for supplements…

A few years back my physio told me that if i’m over 35, active and into extreme activities (ashtanga vinyasa yoga being on the extreme end of the activity scale, or the way i practice it anyway) i should probably be on a joint supplement. So if you’re looking for a range of supplements for daily living try The Real Thing, and they’re made here in South Africa! I take Joint Revolution and Anti-X and they do really help me get out of bed the next morning after my more grueling practice sessions. I find that i do heal a bit faster and can maintain a high level of activity longer with the Anti-X particularly. I’ve also had their Green Powder and, though it stinks like low tide, it does what green powder is supposed to do (mmmm…’nutritious sea vegetable’ the website says). I recommend mixing it with frozen banana, chocolate ice cream/cocoa nibs and organic peanut butter with some water or rice milk in a blender. Note: mango does not have the same effect on the smell as banana.