• Vic’s Log, September 14: Yin and Yang

    Vic’s Log, September 14: Yin and Yang

    Thai cuisine is well known for its subtle flavors, always based on various sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy ingredients artfully combined to obtain a perfect dish. Too much peppercorn and your mouth becomes numb, too much fish sauce and you’re crying for water, too much coconut palm sugar and the dish tastes like a desert. It’s all about finding the right balance between those 5 flavors.

    It feels to me that balance is everything we should be looking for in life, in our personal, professional, physical, mental or spiritual life. It’s also what we should aim for in our training. But what does it mean exactly?

    Balance in our mental and emotional life

    This year seems to be like a giant experiment of how an emotional rollercoaster could impact our daily life: people have reached some unexpectedly high levels of stress because of external circumstances like a global pandemic, a concerning economical situation, recurring political/societal themes, alarming pollution levels, etc. Many have found ways to balance all this stress by practicing daily meditation, spending time in nature, sharing quality time with love ones, or simply watching comedies or funny videos. Never underestimate the power of laughing on a frequent basis.

    Balance in our daily life

    Routines are an easy way for our brain to run our life on auto-pilot. We wake up, eat without thinking about it, drive without paying too much attention to it, work without being extremely challenged or motivated, and the day goes by without really noticing it, disappearing in a blur as it feels the same as any other. It is our personal take on the “Groundhog Day” movie. Here again, balance is everything. Every day should have a “highlight of the day”, a particular activity that makes the day memorable, even if the rest of the day feels and looks the same as most other days. One day could be cooking a special meal or going to a special restaurant. Another day could be a special physical activity or a short hike exploring a place you’ve never been. The next day could be renting a movie that you’ve always wanted to watch but never did. The limit is your imagination.

    Balance in our physical life

    Our body always tends toward homeostasis, a state of dynamic equilibrium that guarantees optimal physiological functions. That’s how we balance action and recovery, stress and calm, heat and cold, fatigue and rest, etc. That’s also how we balance our diet, without an excess of carbs, fat or proteins. Living fast also means slowing down from time to time. Partying hard requires adequate recovery. Having a very big meal is intuitively followed by some kind of fasting or very light meals for awhile.

    Balance in our training

    As Robert Heinlein appropriately said, “Specialization is for insects”. Too much of a good thing is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to training. Balance is a sure way to avoid injuries and imbalances, as would confirm professional golfers or tennis players who incorporate a wide spectrum of training modalities in order to avoid the detrimental effects of their very asymmetrical sport. What works for them definitely works for us too. Instead of always doing the same work out, vary your training as much as you can. Don’t skip your GFE and mobility drills, incorporate some barbell work instead of just kettlebell, work on your bodyweight skills like pushups and pull-ups, and more than anything else, learn new kettlebell skills. Challenge yourself while working on new motor patterns. Move your body at different speeds, with different weights, in different planes, and at different times of the day.

    Training ideas for this week:

    • If you spend a lot of time seated every day, also spend a lot of time standing, walking, moving
    • Work on your actual balance: most of the things you do standing on both feet (cooking, brushing your teeth, etc) can be done balancing on one foot. Challenge your balance system in surprising and unusual ways throughout your day
    • Commit to feel-good activities, like a funny movie, watching stand-up comedy, spending time in a park, or reading a good book
    • Find a “Highlight of the Day” every single day. It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just a short activity that will make this day different from other days. If you feel like it, start a journal where you list and detail those highlights on a daily basis

    –Vic Verdier

    The BEST Thai Coconut Soup Recipe:

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

    1 stalk lemon grass, minced

    2 teaspoons red curry paste

    4 cups chicken broth

    3 tablespoons fish sauce

    1 tablespoon light brown sugar

    3 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk

    ½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

    1 pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined

    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

    1 pinch salt to taste

    ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

    Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the ginger, lemongrass, and curry paste in the heated oil for 1 minute. Slowly pour the chicken broth over the mixture, stirring continually. Stir in the fish sauce and brown sugar; simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and mushrooms; cook and stir until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp; cook until no longer translucent about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice; season with salt; garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!

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