May 7, 2012
Art Gutierrez, shown here before the start of the last year's
Editor’s Note: Art Gutierrez, a webmaster in the HHSC Office of Communications, is guest columnist for “Walk With Me” this week.
In my quest to stay healthy and fight that never-ending race with aging, I have diversified my workout routine beyond running to include bike riding, stair climbing, weight lifting and hard-core construction jobs. (I also accidentally incorporated a whole-food, plant-based diet into my family’s life — but more about that later.)
The good thing about doing a variety of activities is that each works a different muscle.
Painting a house — especially when you have to climb up and down a ladder several times — earns you a lot of Walk Across Texas mileage.
For example, nothing helps your gluteus maximus more than installing hardwood flooring, putting on a roof or taking on that tile job. After eight hours on a weekend, this type of activity is enough to bring anyone to their knees in pain. Makes you wonder why people pay $500 to take a boot camp housed in an old, abandoned garage here in Austin.
Cycling, on the other hand, totally works your thighs and calves. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years but was inspired by two die-hard cyclists in my office who put miles on bikes like most of us put miles on cars. Geoff Wool and Russell Smith have been like brothers to me when it comes to cycling. They really inspired me to get back on my bike and get going.
My first long ride following my hiatus took me through the heart of Austin. I rode from the southern tip of Travis County in Manchaca, through downtown and up to the northern part of the Lakeway area. The sights were interesting. I felt good, the bike performed well. I logged a total of about 47 miles, according to my iPhone app that recorded the average speed and altitude and marked all my stops. Happy to say, there weren’t too many of them.
I only wish there were an app that would calculate the severity of pain I would suffer after that ambitious ride. Was I ever hurting the day after! My calves were cement and my thighs felt as if they had daggers in them. When I got to the office, I didn't mention anything to Geoff and Russell. Being significantly younger than those two, I did not want to let my generation down. It took all I had not to crawl into my cube and the safe haven of my chair. It was that bad. I prayed not to run into them when I went into the office. Luckily, I didn’t.
A salad becomes a main course when you add black beans, edamane and almonds, all of which are a great source of protein.
I knew the only way to get rid of the soreness was to get back on the bike. A few dabs of oil on the stiff joints, and I was off again. And, yes, the soreness goes away if you keep moving.
Changing a lifestyle for the better can be a lot of work. The average family already has a lot to juggle — work, kids, school, dinner, shopping, cleaning, laundry, coaching your son’s baseball team. Add to that two teenagers with vastly different dietary preferences, and life can get even more challenging.
One day, after a 45-mile bike ride, I saw a documentary called “Forks Over Knives” on cable. The film promotes the idea that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.
I have to say it totally changed the way I looked at food and nutrition.
I also was intrigued by how good the food looked in the documentary — yummy-looking salads and soups. But what about my kids? As a responsible parent, you want to teach your kids good eating habits. Although convenient, fast food is full of fat, tons of salts, sugars and many unpronounceable processed ingredients.
I wanted my kids to be healthy, but I also wanted to give them what they like.
So I started with something they both love: beans. In the “Forks Over Knives” book I bought after watching the film, I found a recipe for a black bean soup that was to die for! After I made it, I had my kids try it — first my daughter, the vegetarian, and then my son, the 14-year-old, 6-foot, 218-pound defensive end. Guess what? They loved it!
Nowadays, I’m using ingredients I never knew existed. The book puts together menus and just the right combination of spices so you don’t miss the butter, starch or fat that usually makes food taste good. My daughter wants me to admit that I have joined the “vegetarian tribe," but that wouldn’t be necessarily true. I enjoy a good chicken breast every now and again — but I can certainly live without it and, more important, I don’t really miss it all that much.
I had never used kale in a recipe, let alone knew what it was, until recently. While raw kale kind of tastes like St. Augustine grass, cook it with a little onion, garlic and cilantro and you have a delicious soup. And I have found that many of the recipes keep a lot longer than many leftovers — probably because they contain little or no fat — and that means less time in the kitchen for me and more time to run, bike, climb stairs and do construction projects.
Let me close by saying, before you know it, your body becomes acclimated to eating healthy. Really. After one of my son’s baseball games, the team went to the local burger joint to eat. The smell of the food was tantalizing. The two of us ordered a regular burger with fries and both felt like we had eaten an 80-pound bag of cement.
I never thought I’d hear these words from my son, but he said, “Dad, we should have eaten a salad!”
I rest my case.
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Notes from All Over
Rachael Ybarra of the DFPS Ridgepoint Drive office in Austin wrote to tell us that Team Oper8ion (that's how they spell it) had completed 1,092 miles halfway through the Walk Across Texas challenge.
“We are so excited to have completed this much so far and look forward to doubling those miles and maybe even more,” Ybarra said. “Our team’s activities include ranch work, kickboxing, elliptical, walking, circuit training, yard work and jogging/running.”
She added that the team, which also includes Gregg Orr, Laura Telford, Scott Silverthorne, Cheryl Nimmo, Michael Kline, Corrie Franco and Jessica Young, is “highly motivated and energized by all our members!”
For the second year, DFPS’ Shearn Moody Steppers — a team named for the building where its eight members work in Galveston — is racking up the miles for Walk Across Texas. “We walked more than 1,300 miles last year,” Calvin James wrote us. “As of now, we have 1,016 miles. Our primary motivation is to go after the strong teams in Travis and Tarrant counties. We would like to be listed in the top 10 in the state.”
James added that Shearn Moody was a member of the Moody family, which made Galveston famous for cotton exports. “This building is where the famous Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad home office was located for numerous decades.”
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Writers Block Update
The HHS Office of Communications’ eight-person team, the Writers Block, has posted a total of 1,575.37 miles on the Walk Across Texas website. When we checked Friday morning, we still were No. 1 in Travis County and No. 1 among all HHSC teams.
Second in Travis County is DFPS’ Team Oper8ion, mentioned above in “Notes from All Over.”
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