Monthly Archives: April 2013

Protect your skin while going wild

As great as outdoor exercise is, it does have its disadvantages. One of the biggest during the warmer months is the damaging effects of the sun’s rays. Whatever the risks of sunscreen may be, they are not as great as the risks going unprotected in the sun. So I believe it is better to wear sunscreen than to go without, especially if you have fair skin. Even fitness revolutionaries are not immune. This article by the New York Times has a lot of good advice – What to Look for in a Sunscreen Don’t worry, it won’t prevent vitamin D production.

In some parts of the world, skin cancer is an epidemic and sunlight is the primary culprit. Besides this, UV light can damage the skin and accelerate its ageing. Some 30 year olds can look like 40 due to too much sun exposure.

Besides avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, wearing clothing to protect your skin, and wearing sunscreen, did you know that what you eat can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight? For example, celery contains natural chemicals(psoralens) that make your skin more photosensitive. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, OH, Phytophotodermatitis from celery among grocery store workers:

These observations suggest that clinical phytophotodermatitis among grocery store workers may be caused by healthy celery and results from a complex interaction of exposure variables, including ultraviolet radiation from tanning salon use, frequency of handling celery, celery brand, and sporadic elevation of psoralen content from environmental stresses.

So if you are going to spend some time out in the sun, avoid celery. It isn’t one of the healthiest vegetables anyway. Other vegetables and fruits have natural chemicals that may help protect your skin from sunlight.

Vegan pizza with Daiya vegan cheese

It was pizza night last night, and I wanted to try something new. This is the first time I have ever used Daiya vegan cheese.

I used some pizza dough I got from the local Stew Leonard’s supermarket.

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I got the Daiya from the local health food store for $5.99, which is pricey so I won’t be getting this very often. The sauce I got was from the Stop and Shop supermarket, and I got the Stop and Shop brand(roasted garlic tomato sauce) which tastes very similar to the gourmet Rao’s brand pasta sauce, but less expensive than Rao’s.

IMG_1012I added a dash of cayenne pepper since I love it spicy and put it in the oven for 20 minutes. Here is how it turned out.

IMG_1014It was better than expected. Very yummy and filling. Vegan cheeses have come a long way over the years. Still, even some soy cheese alternatives often have added casein, a milk protein, which makes no sense. Daiya is 100% vegan, as well as soy and gluten free.

Stick to outdoor exercise to stay in shape

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As much as I love staying in shape, I have little use for gyms. In fact, I have never been a member of a gym. I am even trying to think of the last time I set foot in one with a friend or relative who was a member. I can’t remember.

While gyms can be useful for some people, especially if you need a lot of help and encouragement from a qualified fitness trainer, or like to accurately keep track of how you’re doing with machines, my idea of fitness has always been about outdoor adventure. Very long hikes, running through the woods, climbing steep hills or trees is my idea of fitness. I just don’t think I would be as fit if I were to use treadmills or most other fitness machines.

Without the fresh air, the sun, the elements, the mud, the animals, the unexpected, it just doesn’t feel right to me. Hence, the “wild” in “Wild Juggler”. One of the main purposes of this site is to encourage people to get fit by going into the wild. I hope my blog has been a valuable resource in this regard. Another excellent resource on outdoor fitness is the Outsidehealthandfitness site, run by Steve Stearns. When it comes to outdoor fitness, he does it all!

Whether it is hiking, cycling, skiing, or trail running, his site has some great advice for newbies and seasoned outdoor athletes. His approach to fitness is so similar to my own, though it doesn’t emphasize juggling(it doesn’t exclude it either). I highly recommend his site. He often does product reviews and has an interesting podcast.

It may not just be me, or Steve Stearns, who think outdoor exercise is better; science itself has shown some preliminary support for this idea. According to PenCLAHRC, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, in the study Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review:

This review has shown some promising effects on self-reported mental wellbeing immediately following exercise in nature which are not seen following the same exercise indoors.

This is so not surprising to me. So when in doubt, get out! You don’t need a gym membership to stay in shape. And if you don’t have a park or woods near you, go out anyway, practice Parkour if you can.

If you are in the northern northern hemisphere, the weather is no longer an excuse(not that it ever was a good excuse).

Visit to Mary Knoll Seminary on Easter

IMG_0996I am not a Catholic, or a religious person, but I thought it would be fun to visit the Mary Knoll Seminary/Museum in Ossining, New York on Easter, to see what was going on. I didn’t intend to take part in Easter mass or anything(it was over by the time I got there), but this place also has a museum and the building itself is an architectural marvel.

It is 38 miles north of New York City, located in picturesque countryside on a large hill overlooking the Hudson river. It’s built like a giant Chinese pagoda since this particular seminary’s original focus was on training priests to be missionaries in east Asia.

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Even the Biblical figures in their stained glass icons often have east Asian features.

IMG_0988The walls along this long corridor commemorates the many Catholic priests who died in the various wars and conflicts in east Asia in the early 20th century. It was interesting reading about all the Christian missionary activity in Pyongyang, which is now in North Korea. North Korea has one of the most atheistic and repressive governments in the world right now. All the efforts of Catholic and other Christian missionaries in North Korea have been effectively erased by the communist government. Its government is once again making threats; technically, North and South Korea are still at war, but it’s been a while since there’s been any violent flareups between the two. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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A belated Happy Easter! (Unless you happen to be Eastern Orthodox).

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Protecting your eyes from the sun

With the sun’s rays getting stronger and the days getting longer and warmer, the outdoors are calling out your name and telling you to come out and play. I believe that outdoor exercise is generally more beneficial than indoor, so this is a good thing.

However, one of the biggest downsides to outdoor exercise is the damaging effects of sunlight on the skin and eyes. Lack of proper eye protection can lead to permanent eye damage in the long-term, besides hindering athletic performance in the short-term. Luckily, all you need is a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes – with all the choices out there, choosing the right one can be difficult.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right glasses to maximize eye protection:

1) Make sure they cover up enough of your eyes. Very small circle sunglasses may look “hip” to some people, but they don’t block enough sunlight from the side or the top. Wrap-around sunglasses are your best choice, since they block sunlight from all directions.

2) Make sure they provide enough darkening for very bright sunlight. Polarized glasses may be better for reducing glare and seeing things in water when the sun is out, but they are not absolutely necessary. Brown-orange lenses are probably the best color, along with brown-red, and brown-yellow. Grayish lenses are good as well. Pure red, green, or blue lenses aren’t a good idea since they can distort your vision.

3) Make sure they provide 100% UV light protection. This is different from how dark the lenses make your vision. Even some dark lens sunglasses can provide poor UV protection while some lighter ones provide 100% UV protection. UV light can damage your eyes over time, leading to macular degeneration and other serious problems.

How can you tell if your sunglasses provide 100% UV protection? One important thing to keep in mind is that price is no guarantee of UV protection. I’ve tested very expensive sunglasses and realized they provided little UV protection(even though the labels claimed they provided 100%), while some relatively cheap ones($8 to $25 U.S dollars) provided 100% UV protection.

How could I tell? There is a relatively simple trick you can do if you have access to a UV flashlight. There are some inexpensive UV flashlights available online if you are really interested in testing your sunglasses. Or borrow one if you can(do not beam it into your eyes). Here is what you do:

Go into a dark room with the UV flashlight, the sunglasses, and with paper money and/or a credit card. Turn on the UV light and beam it on the paper money. You should notice all these mysterious symbols on the money(usually a line) or credit card(usually letters) you normally wouldn’t see in ordinary light. These are watermarks used by banks and government officials to detect counterfeit money – these lines and/or symbols are only noticeable in UV light. Don’t worry, you are not doing anything illegal!

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Now take the sunglasses you wish to test, and beam the UV light through one of its lenses and onto the money or credit card.

– If you still see the symbols on the money or credit card, your glasses do not provide 100% UV protection(the lenses are letting through the UV light and revealing the symbols).

– If you do not see the symbols, your glasses have passed the test and do provide 100% UV protection – the lens blocks the UV, hence you can’t see the symbols.

I’ve done this test many many times over the years, and discovered that many expensive sunglasses belonging to friends and family(so disappointed!) do not provide 100% UV protection while some inexpensive ones did provide 100% UV protection. Granted, many expensive ones do provide 100% UV protection, and some cheap ones do not, but do not let price be your guide. And unfortunately, there is little regulation of sunglasses and labelling can be dishonest.

If the glasses fail the test, make sure you return them and get a refund as quickly as possible. If it’s at all possible, see if you can even test sunglasses at the store.

Now get out and enjoy the early spring!