Thursday, August 16, 2012

Out of the Running

In my last blog post, I commented on how I had a failed relationship with running that deserved its very own blog post. This is that blog post.

[Disclaimer] Before I begin, I would just like to say that I'm not attacking the lifestyle of anyone who enjoys running. I am merely stating a personal experience that may or may not resonate with others. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, but I'm not here to argue.

It all started the summer before my freshman year of college. I decided I didn't want to be fat and I thought running would be the solution. Running's healthy, right? Thin people run! Running will make me thin and healthy, right?

So I ran and ran and ran and ran. For a LONG time. I HATED it. Even when I pretended to like it, I still deeply hated it. I would run about 3-5 miles a day, about four to five days a week, sometimes more. I intended to eventually run in a 5k, so I always tried to accomplish that distance or greater. On top of it I would count calories, track the length of my run, and input my food intake into a nice little calculator. Everything was so neat and tidy. The nice little calculator even told me I would be X lbs. thinner by the end of the week. The results?

Gained 5 pounds?!

"I'm too tired to run from you!"

Remember my last post about working out in the gym? That was going on too. And my diet? The same thing. My body was also inflamed. I had pain in my feet, ankles, and knees, yet I still continued to run. And for what? So I would eventually balloon up to the heaviest I've ever been in my life?

Being heavy almost wasn't the worst part. I experienced adrenal fatigue from this lifestyle. I had no energy, which led to fewer hours in the practice room. I even had inflammation in my shoulder muscles which physical therapy didn't alleviate. It was easy to get depressed.

I was a victim of what Mark Sisson refers to as "Chronic Cardio."

The reason I became that way was because I followed conventional wisdom's path to hell(th) and never questioned it. I believed frequent running to be healthy, so I did it. I believed eating Kashi was healthy, so I did it. The truth is that nothing changed until I started challenging what I believed in.

For me, that ultimately meant getting back to roots of it all. Human beings were not designed for chronic cardio. Our bodies were built for walking, lifting, and occasionally having to sprint for our food or from being something else's food.

"Can't run! Ate too much Kashi!"
Now sprinting is something I can do. I like sprinting.

Sprinting is a terrific alternative to running. Because it's high-intensity, you can accomplish a full-blown workout in a terrifically reduced amount of time than endurance running. I personally like doing Tabata-interval sprints.

20 seconds - sprint
10 seconds - rest
x 8 sets

8 sets = 4 minutes

The sprint time means "maximum effort." If your sprints are slower in the later sets, that's fine. Just put in the most effort you can muster. For beginners, I recommend starting with four to six sets and allowing more rest time in-between. And remember to use your arms to propel you! Sprints are a form of full-body strength training.

And there you have it. Four minutes, which is probably a better workout than running for an hour will do and less overall stress on the joints.

Ultimately, the reason why I dislike running is not only because of my weight gain, or even joint pain, but because it lacks the same efficiency as training with kettlebells or doing bodyweight exercises. I never gained muscle when running, not even in my legs which were doing most of the work. I never experienced progress in the same way. My day-to-day life became easier with strength training; the opposite is true for running.

Still not sure how to sprint? Just consult your local Greybeards!

Maybe you've had a similar experience with running. Maybe I've stirred an interest in kettlebell training. Perhaps you want to ask some questions? Feel free to contact me personally! Also, visit the Dragon Door instructor database to find a responsible and qualified trainer in your area.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kettlebell Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Swing

Very recently, my husband decided to start training with me. By recently, I mean it's been about a week and we've had three training sessions together. I can't tell you how surprised I was by his interest, and how exciting it is to have him involved in doing workouts with me. It's just another way we spend time together, and it gives me an opportunity to hone my skills as a trainer. After his first session, his reaction was something along the lines of, "That was pretty fun. How long did we do that for? Only 25 minutes?" Next thing I knew, he's practicing kettlebell swings at home while I'm at work. This is big thing for my husband, since he's never really been into exercise.

His recent enthusiasm brought me back to a time long ago, before the rule of Emperor Titus Mede III*, to pre-kettlebell Katie; a time of confusion fraught with gym anxiety and college cafeteria food.

Pre-kettlebell me didn't like going to the gym, but did it anyway, though the visits followed a pattern of everyday for five days for an hour and a half, burnout, then coming back here and there for about three weeks. I didn't feel comfortable in a gym. Being overweight was the first reason, but was also my motivation for going to the gym. The second reason was because I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tools at my disposal; machines, bouncy balls, resistance bands, medicine balls, dumbells, elipticals, treadmills, and the list goes on! All of these resources were crammed together, with at least one person eying the machine I was using, waiting for their turn to curl their hamstrings while reading the latest Danielle Steele novel. I'm sure I got a wink and a smile from some weirdo who was thigh-blasting in the birthing stirrups.

One way to escape the gym was to go running, which I hated, despite the fact I pretended to like it. I even trained to run a race, which I didn't have the time, money, or motivation to do. My failed relationship with running might need it's own post.

Anyway, back to the gym. So you know all those resources I had at my disposal? I knew certain no-intensity to medium-intensity exercises that I could do that would target a certain group of muscles. I would do one exercise for shoulders, this one for triceps, another for quadriceps, another for glutes, another for thighs, another for my eyebrows...

I like to call this exercise the "Jack Nicholson."

Before you knew it, I was in the gym for two hours; sore, burnt out, and not much stronger. I can recall a few times that I felt better, at least until I ate at the cafeteria (I don't even need to go into detail).

So I was spending an hour and a half to two hours in a crowded space, doing repetitive motions, feeling uncomfortable because I had at least 30 pounds on the gal in short-shorts running at 20 mph on the treadmill next to me. I felt like I needed that huge amount of time to accomplish a full-body workout, and became attached to the idea that I needed that huge amount of time to work out if I was going to do it at all. I was also a full time undergrad music student. Would you be surprised if I eventually broke down and said the infamous words...


Of course, not having time is accompanied by the disappointment of not seeing any results from my short-lived hard work. My diet was not terrible in comparison to a dorm-dwelling college student, but I was definitely eating grains, way too many carbs, and way too much dairy. Not optimal by any stretch. And the self-hatred experienced by many overweight people in the pursuit of thinness? It was definitely raging. I would either maintain my weight or gain.

Oh yeah, then I was getting married so I didn't exercise at all, but lost weight and muscle mass and got super-crazy flabby. That also deserves it's own post!

Fast forward to post-graduation, when I discovered Adrienne Harvey (, to whom I owe my never-ending gratitude. Through Adrienne, I learned about kettlebells, an amazing tool for building strength. I was stunned by the philosophy of kettlebell training; simple tools, natural movements, optimum effectiveness. On top of that, she introduced me to bodyweight training. For the first time, working out felt focused. My mind and body were involved each other. Workouts are short and efficient. I can get an awesome workout in 30 minutes. Heck, I could get a workout in 10 minutes if I wanted. I continue to enjoy training. It's been over a year now. I've found something I can sustain.


Actually, that's not the best part. The best part is my body is strong and I continue to get stronger. My body composition continues to improve. I have muscle definition, which is something I had never seen until about 8 months ago.

I should also add that adopting a paleo diet has been just as important as exercise, and I am not diminishing its importance to my health. This blog is called Primal Homeskillet, right?

As you can see, it's been quite a journey and the journey continues. In January of this year, I became HKC certified, as a personal goal, but also to learn and thus be able to teach. My horrendous experience with the gym has shaped who I am as a trainer. I'm out to help other people who were like me, who feel that fitness had failed them.

Maybe you've had a similar experience with the gym. Maybe I've stirred an interest in kettlebell training. Visit the Dragon Door instructor database to find a responsible and qualified trainer in your area.

*Yes, I've fulfilled that Dark Brotherhood contract, for those of you who might be curious.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Did someone order the "23rd Birthday Special?"

Another year over! Today on July 7th, I celebrate my 23rd year of life on Nirn... I mean Gaia... I mean Tatooine... you know... the Third Rock from the Sun!

My mother flew in yesterday from Florida. It's her first time in California, so we've been giving her the Oakland treatment, which consists of lots of walking up and down hills. Sorry Mom.

I don't drink coffee very often and I don't keep it in the house, so we walked to Gaylord's Coffee on Piedmont Ave. so my mom could get her morning coffee. Her and my husband hung out in a nearby antique store while I got my hair cut. We then went to the Grand Lake Farmer's Market and ate Thai food, drank mango and strawberry lassi made with local yogurt, and bought lots of fresh produce for the week. We then took my mom to see my school, then went to Redwood Regional Park for a little hike through the redwood forest. After that, we came home and I did my "23rd Birthday Special" workout, which I will now share with you.

Joint mobility warm-up. I always start with this.

Now a workout based on the number 23*.

23 heavy swings
1 TGU each side

9 cleans and presses each side
5 double cleans and presses

Rows x 23 each side
Pushups x 23
Leg raises x 23
Pushups x 23
x 2

5 goblet squats
9 figure 8s in both directions

23 calf raises

Farmer's walk around my building
x 2

Joint mobility again, which how I always end my workout.

For dinner, we went out to Marica, where I ordered raw oysters, mussels, and a rare prime ribeye steak. Completely epic.

Then I came home to a Facebook that was chock-full of terrific birthday greetings!

Happy Birthday to me! What a great year! Moving to California, graduate school, becoming an HKC, and making music! I'm looking forward to what this coming year will bring!

*Ideas for this workout were adapted from "The 38 Special Birthday Workout" from

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Skyrim-Inspired Apple, Bacon, Cabbage Saute

I hope everyone had a terrific Fourth of July! I can't say I did much celebrating. My day consisted of working (time and a half!), 236 swings celebrating 236 years of independence, coconut chicken curry, a delicious local brew, and completing a couple of quests in Skyrim.

Get ready folks. I'm about to completely nerd out.

One of the recipes that you can make in Skyrim is Apple Cabbage Stew, which I happened to make last night while gaming at my "home" in Solitude. The ingredients are simply apple, cabbage, and a pile of salt. This magical combination, which must taste boring, restores 15 points of stamina and 10 points of magicka.

So I decided to cook up something at my home in Oakland, CA inspired by this magical recipe, and much less boring.

Servings: 2-4
1/2 lb of thick-sliced bacon or pancetta, cut into chunks (Trader Joe's Ends and Pieces will do)
2 small granny smith apples, cut into small chunks
1/2 medium head of cabbage, thinly sliced, heart removed
6 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional spicy kick, more if you're a badass)
Salt to taste

1. Saute bacon over medium high heat until somewhat crispy.
2. Add apples and saute until brown, then add cabbage and chicken broth. Side note: I make my own chicken broth and freeze it into ice cubes trays. I used four ice cubes for this recipe.
3. Once cabbage is soft, add spices.
4. Saute into Oblivion (haha, Elder Scrolls) until cabbage is quite soft and has melded with the spices, about 20 minutes. The apples should be caramelized and hard to distinguish from the bacon.

Serve with pork chops!

This recipes restores 30 points of health and 100 points of awesome.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Letting it get away/ Movement

Once again, I've let this blog get away from me. The reason I revisited it at all was because I had a good friend tell me how inspiring it was to see my fitness posts on Facebook. I've had others comment on my "food porn" posts as well.

With that being said, it seems this blog with take the position of a "training/food journal." I'm completely alright with this. It's good to be honest. Anyway, let's blog.

I recently performed with my Balinese gamelan troupe for the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. It was my first time playing for a dance festival, as well as my first time actually attending a dance festival. It was very inspiring to see such different interpretations of movement, all of which were so fluid and seemingly effortless, and yet presented a subject that was beautiful and emotional. I thought back to the earliest days of music, when our paleolithic ancestors would hear the beat of the drum or a phrase of vocal chant and the most natural of reactions was to feel it in the body and accompany it with movement.

I've always wanted to learn about dance, but as a fat, inflexible child, my body didn't lend itself well to any sort of movement without embarrassment. Even in my college movement class, I didn't move very well. My body, like my child body, was just as fat and inflamed.

Having spent more than the last year focusing on strength training and eating well, I've unlocked potential for movement. My body moves freely over a wide range without pain. I'll even practice the dances that I learned from watching the Balinese dancers my troupe accompanies. With having this freedom, I feel like I'm satisfying a primal need and it's very gratifying.

Now I just wish I could go back to my college movement class and save myself some embarrassment.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pan Fried Coconut Catfish

I'm taking a break from composing and kettlebell training to deliver a very special recipe; one that is near and dear to my Southern heart.


Despite the word COCONUT in the title of the recipe, this preparation is not particularly sweet - at least not like coconut shrimp. In fact, the sweetness is subtle and juxtaposed with the spicier paprika and black pepper. I intend to do some product placement in this post, so be forewarned.

Coconut oil - unrefined or refined will do. Refined is less sweet than unrefined.
Three large catfish fillets, about 1.25-1.50lbs
.5 cup of coconut flour - even the notoriously mediocre Bob's Red Mill CF works well in this case.
One lightly whipped egg white
Himalayan sea salt, about .25 teaspoon
Black pepper, a lot
Paprika, approximately .5 teaspoon - more if you're adventurous

This is where the "product placement" part comes in. The Tellicherry black pepper on the left and the pretty wood salt mill are from my new friends at the Oaktown Spice Shop on Grand Ave.

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in sauce pan or cast iron skillet.

Lightly whip the egg white with a fork so that it's foamy. Pour onto a flat plate. (There was supposed to be a picture of this, but it didn't take.)

Combine coconut flour, salt, pepper, and paprika. Pour onto a flat plate.

Not enough pepper. Add more.

Place fish fillet in egg wash. Flip to cover other side.

Place the egg-y fish in the coconut flour mixture. Make sure fish is COMPLETELY covered in the delicious flour mixture.

Let the browning beginning. Depending on the size of the fillet, you'll need to cook 5-8 minutes on each side. I had larger fillets, so I needed closer to 8 minutes.

Repeat the process of dredging and browning.

 More pepper.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have just made the world's finest coconut flour fried catfish! I highly recommend serving alongside sweet potato home fries, recipe courtesy of Adrienne Harvey of

Don't forget about a wedge of lemon and tar tar sauce! This isn't the midwest!

I was just joking about the midwest. I'm pretty sure no one eats fish in the midwest. Haha!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Acorn Squash Lasagna: Everything is better inside of something else

Someone had told me about a restaurant of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that stuffs lasagna into an acorn squash. I hadn't seen the episode for myself and I couldn't find any other information on it, but I thought the idea was amazing. Today, I improvised an acorn squash lasagna and it was wonderfully successful. Basically, it's an acorn squash divided in half, stuffed with thin slices of zucchini and eggplant, layered with tomato sauce and ground beef, and topped with goat cheese. It looks beautiful and tastes amazing. It would make a terrific side dish to roasted chicken or turkey breast or pretty much anything. It's also stupidly simple to make.

1 medium acorn squash
Jar of tomato sauce
1/4 - 1/2 pound of ground beef
1/2 small eggplant
1/2 small zucchini
Goat cheese

Serving size: 2 - one squash half per person

Cut the acorn squash in half. Discard seeds. On the side that has the "pointy" end, cut off the end so that the squash can stand up.

Put the squash in a roasting pan, flesh side down, with a centimeter of water. Roast the squash for 20-25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees (F).

While the squash is roasting, saute your ground beef until brown and thinly slice the veggies. The veggies will act as your lasagna sheets.

At this point, the squash may still be a little firm. That is okay. The squash will be in the oven again later, so it will soften more.

You may feel like you want to stuff the squash more than it will let you. Feel free to remove some of the flesh from the cavity.

Drop a dollop of tomato sauce at the bottom of the squash cavity. Layer with veggie slices and ground beef. I recommend having a close-able jar of tomato sauce, because you won't use very much sauce - about 1/4 cup per acorn squash half. Return squash to the oven on a dry roasting pan (just dump the water from earlier). Bake the squash for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees (F).

Now for the most important part. Remove the squashes from the oven and top with goat cheese. All the goat cheese you want. Because it's GOAT CHEESE!

You now have a very successful dish before you. Enjoy it.