Gluten, Mindfulness + The Beer Mile: A 2014 Lookback
There are lots of things from 2014 I’ll remember on a personal level — the fun our team had competing in the Great Urban Race national championships in Vancouver, an epic Levi’s Gran Fondo ride with two dear friends, foggy trail runs with my husband, and the beaming smile on my daughter’s face when she learned to ride her bike. These are the moments…the days…the make up the years that make up our lives. And the end of each year gives us a beautiful pause to remember the small moments and the big ones.
Beyond the personal moments, 2014 was a memorable year in the heath and fitness world. Here are a few of the stories and trends that stood out for me this year and are likely to stretch into the year ahead.
The Great Debate: Gluten
Gluten continued to capture the media spotlight this year, as the debate about how harmful it is (or isn’t) raged on. The New York Times covered both the health discussion and the business upside of the gluten-free craze, and Outside published a short and easy-to-read piece about FODMAPs, the sugars that may be reeking more havoc on our bodies than gluten is. The best piece I saw on the gluten debate was published in the New Yorker last month: “What’s So Bad About Gluten?” After reading all of this, my take is pretty simple. If you don’t have celiac disease, gluten may not be the biggest culprit impacting your diet and overall well-being. It’s important to look at everything we’re putting into our bodies, not just the media darling, as we figure out the plan that works best for each of us. That being said, if you legitimately feel better without gluten in your diet, there is no hurt in listening to your body.
Food Fad Worth Paying Attention To: Real Food
“Real food” was not a new fad in 2014, but it officially hit the mainstream when the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook hit shelves in August. I posted about real food early in the days of starting this blog, and it’s my foundational guiding principle as I make food choices day in and day out. The family behind 100 Days of Real Food has done an incredible job of bringing attention to the importance and value of adopting an unprocessed, “clean” diet. This fad is officially no longer a fad — it will undoubtedly stand the test of time. If you’d like to commit to a Real Food diet in the near year, considering taking the 100 Days of Real Food or 10 Days of Real Food pledge.
Food Fad I’m Not So Sure About: Bulletproof Coffee
Butter (grassfed, unsalted butter, that is) in my coffee? I’m just not sure. Despite the hype about Bulletproof Coffee, and more recently, the Bullletproof lifestyle, I’m not sold. Even if it does indeed skyrocket my energy and reprogram my body, there is some pleasure that comes with eating a bowl of Bircher Muesli or a perfectly poached egg that a cup of buttery coffee simply can’t replace. What do you think? Have you gone Bulletproof?
Science to Watch: Gut Science
Ignited by a 2013 NY Times Magazine cover story entitled, “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs,” the impact of our guts’ microbial communities on our health continued to get media attention this year. Scientists speculate that the diversity of bacteria in our stomachs can keep us well, cautioning against widespread use of antibiotics. And good news for us fitness lovers, one study (published in a journal appropriately titled, Gut) indicated that physically fit people have more diversity in their stomachs. Overall, my layperson’s opinion on all of this is that this is very emergent science, and until we know more, it’s important to consider it within the broader context of factors impacting health. I liked this author’s take: “We cling to the desire for simple panaceas that will bestow good health with minimal effort. But biology is rarely that charitable. So we need to learn how tweaking our diets, lifestyles and environments can nudge and shape the ecosystems in our bodies….our microbes are truly part of us, and just as we are vast in our variety, so, too, are they. We must embrace this complexity if we hope to benefit from it.” I’m eager to see this one continue to unfold in the coming year. And in the meantime, I’ll keep slurping kombucha just to be safe.
New Workout Likely to Stick: Fitwall
My new workout favorite snuck in just before the end of 2014. A few days before Christmas, I tried a Fitwall class in Solana Beach, CA. Fitwall is a new fitness concept, centered around a ladder with resistance bands attached to the sides. In just 40 minutes, trainers take the class through a series of high-intensity exercises and focused periods of recovery. Because much of the class is done on the Fitwall (ladder), it steadily works the difficult-to-target shoulders and upper back, alongside a full body workout as you move through the exercises. Fitwall only has three locations in California now, but is selling franchises and has plans to expand. I predict the concept will succeed because it’s fast, fun, and as I realized when I got out of bed the next morning, extremely effective (ouch). To learn more, watch this video, or read Fast Company’s article from earlier this year.
Workout Trend Staying Strong: HIIT
People continue to be more focused on workout quality than quantity, as high-impact training stays popular. Be it a 7-minute app or a 40-minute class like the one I covered above, efficiency continues to be a big selling point for workouts. What we’re learning though, and what my Saturday morning bootcamp teacher reminds us every week however, is that high-intensity training needs to be tempered with the longer, slower workouts that help us recover. For a good read on this, check out the 80/20 Rule. Maybe 2015 will be the year of balance…
Gear Worth Springing For: Featherweight, Windproof Vest
You know when you buy a piece of gear that you’re not sure how you ever lived without? Mine from 2014: a super lightweight cycling vest. Tired of freezing on descents and/or feeling like I had a diaper in my jersey pocket when I took off my older vests, I treated myself to a windproof vest that works for cycling and running. Mine is made by Castelli, but lots of companies make them. I can now keep my mind on the road and not on my plunging temperature. If you’ve been holding off on springing for a piece of gear you’re ogling — seize the day and snatch it in 2015. You won’t regret it.
Most Amazing Record Broken: The Beer Mile
If by any chance you missed this big news from Runner’s World, I thought it was important to re-cap here. Earlier this year, 44-year-old mother of six, Chris Kimbrough, shattered the beer mile record this year when she drank four beers and ran a mile in 6:28. The beer mile works as you’d expect – drink a beer, run a lap…repeat 4X. Notably, Chris didn’t just fire up her legs for this one beer mile – it was her 13th of the day (albeit the only one involving beer). How’s that for motivation next time you’re staring down a set of treadmill intervals?
From Behind the Scenes to Mainstream: Mindfulness
Anderson Cooper did a feature on mindfulness for 60 Minutes this month, saying that he went in a skeptic and came out a convert. And The New York Times ran a story about the networking happening ironically, over meditation. Mindfulness is officially mainstream – a change I hope will change home lives and work lives around the globe in the years to come.
Words to Warm the Heart: Modern Love
I’ve been reading the Sunday New York Times methodically for nearly 20 years – Styles section first, followed by Travel, Business, Week in Review, and the front page. The first read in the Styles section is always the Modern Love column, a column that over the years, has made me laugh, sob, and think differently about my own life, relationships, and now marriage. The Times recently ran a column with the 10 Best Modern Love Columns Ever – tales of growing apart and staying together, and everything in between. Worth a read as you think about the role love plays in your life and in the world.
Thanks for reading this year and being part of this community. As we close out 2014 and prepare for all that awaits in the year ahead, I wish you all healthy bodies, adventurous lives, and a peaceful world. And don’t forget to take your messy, beautiful self everywhere you go.