Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Athlete's Garden

As I said in a previous post, I'm thinking a lot more lately about the ways in which optimal health is all tied together. Health for the community, health for the environment, health for the human body. For instance, if we walk more places, we see more of our neighbors, we shop more locally, we strengthen our local ties, we don't use fossil fuels, we increase the health of our air and our environment and the health of our body.

My Crossfit coach Jeremy passed on this interesting article about food shopping by Robb Wolf. If you're not familiar with Robb Wolf, you'll find he's a very opinionated wealth of information about the type of eating that many Crossfit athletes are embracing - a hybrid merging of Barry Sears' Zone Diet (tailored toward athletes and not toward caloric reduction or dieting) and an athletically-oriented paleolithic diet.

For me, this kind of eating dovetails very nicely with a community-oriented, earth-friendly, locavore kind of lifestyle. After all, a processed protein bar is synthesized from dozens of ingredients trucked to a factory in god-knows-where and merged into a shrink-wrapped blob which is then put into a box of other shrink-wrapped blobs to be trucked to your Costco where you will probably drive with a car to buy it. Not local, not community-strengthening, not environmentally friendly (even if some like Clif bars ARE made out of organic ingredients, they still have all the downsides described above) and not all that good for you either.

By contrast, a 4 oz. piece of locally-raised chicken breast coupled with some lettuce, a cucumber, and a few tomatoes from your garden, topped off with yogurt made from milk by some local cows and some blueberries you picked on Saturday, now that's a bit of protein, carbs, and fats that are totally good for you, good for your local community and farmers, and infinitely better for the larger earth around you as well. Now I'll grant you that it's harder to take with you in the back pocket of your cycling jersey. But I've found that I really don't need to have portable protein for anything under about 2 hours of riding or running. A lot of the time that we rely on protein bars it's for a quick before or after exercise snack (at least that's what I used to do) and I'm getting better now at making sure I have some raw almonds and dried fruit available for when I need something less messy than a salad or a handful of strawberries.

While I think Robb Wolf's article about how to shop is great, I'd go one step further. Plant an Athlete's Garden if you can. If you don't have a garden spot, a few buckets or containers will do. Throw in some dirt, some lettuce seeds, a couple of cucumber seeds or a tomato start. If you don't like those options, research what foods you do like and find ones that are easy to grow ih your area. Every climate has plants that tend to do really well there and others that are hard to grow. For instance, after several years I've given up hope of growing a decent melon in my own garden, they just don't do that well here. But I've got 7 blueberry bushes now that are doing just great and my tomatoes are busting off of the vines (I've picked 34 POUNDS so far and they're still producing!). Additionally, if you have any landscaping at all, consider gradually replacing it with foodscaping. There are evergreen berry bushes that make a nice replacement for landscaping shrubs - blueberries, huckleberries, and these nice ground-cover raspberries are just a few. Fruit and nut trees are a great replacement for just-for-show trees as well.

Believe me, I'm the world's worst green thumb, so if I can grow food from plants, anyone can!

1 comment:

cherelli said...

thanks - great post! we are loving our local farmers market this year - fresh, locally grown, organic food - delicious! look forward to the day we have a garden to grow some food. In the meantime I am planning on doing some kitchen "sprouting" - sprouts are just loaded with nutrients and you can sprout so many different things - alfalfa, broccoli, lentils, mung beans, wheatgrass, sunflower, soybeans to name a few....I hope your Olympic tri goes awesome!