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Eugene Weekly : 2.8.07

Minding Your Body 2007

A Dose of Culture

A look at the Kombucha craze

A Long Run In Houston

Marathoner tells her story

Full Body Lift

Women in Eugene gain strength all over the city

Voting With Your Feet

Why the simplest exercise is more important than ever

Nutritional Feast

South students carry the burden of healthy choices

 

 

A Dose of Culture

A look at the Kombucha craze

By Amanda Burhop

You may have seen them in your local grocer's aisle: tall glass bottles filled with a colorful liquid. But it's not the liquid that attracts you; it's the mysterious gunk lingering at the bottom of the bottle. You check the seal; it's not broken, so it can't be backwash. You try shaking it up; maybe it just needs to be mixed. But it's no good; something is still in there, mocking you as it swims by.

This isn't just any mysterious gunk. These floaties are Kombucha cultures.

According to the American Cancer Society website, Kombucha tea originated in East Asia and was introduced in Germany at the turn of the century. Its origins and popularity can also be traced through Russia and the Western states.

Currently Kombucha is gaining media attention because of claims by producers and users that Kombucha beverages boost the body's immune system and can treat everything from arthritis to gout.

Simply, a Kombucha culture, according to Kombucha.org, is a symbiotic colony of yeast and the good kind of bacteria that, when allowed to ferment (yes, there is a small trace of alcohol, but it's less than one percent), produces active enzymes and antibiotics.

The Kombucha culture, which is generally mixed with black tea and sugar, is considered a "living, growing entity," according to the website of GT's Kombucha (www.gtskombucha.com).Because of this, the culture regenerates and creates new cultures with every batch. In fact, it's an indication that the product is still living and active.

GT's Kombucha claims, "Kombucha is not a supplement drug or medicine… it is simply a super healthy food that helps the body to find (or regain) its natural balance in the body, which promotes overall well-being." While many Kombucha products make this claim, the Food and Drug Administration is skeptical of its healing properties.

The FDA states: "The unconventional nature of the process used to make Kombucha has led to questions as to whether the product could become contaminated with potentially harmful microorganisms, such as mild Aspergillus." However, these same studies have found no evidence of any contamination, but the FDA remains unconvinced. So until further research is done, drink in moderation.

How you can get it: These three products were found at Market of Choice and Cappella, but they can be found at most natural food stores.

Synergy or GT's Kombucha: This cold beverage is generous in size and flavor. However, while there are varieties of flavors, in my experience most of them taste the same. Divine grape is a safe choice as it's slightly sweeter than the others. First timers: Don't take a big gulp of the drink! Your taste buds will freak out. Synergy is an acquired taste that tends to turn people off at first. Due to the fermentation process, the drink tastes acidic and like vinegar. And be aware that the product is carbonated, so an explosion of tiny bubbles sometimes occurs (trust me: They occurred all over my shirt once). If you can get past the initial funky flavor, Synergy becomes tastier with every sip.

Kombucha Wonder Drink: This way tasty drink comes in little 8.5 oz bottles with flavors like Asian pear ginger and jasmine Niagara grape. The Wonder Drink is a "Sparkling Himalayan Tonic" combined with natural flavors and tea. The result is a cider-like, sweet drink with a hint of champagne flavor, a yummy initiator for the Kombucha newbie.

Green Tea Kombucha: Yogi Tea offers a warmer way to get Kombucha. The benefit to Yogi's product is that it doesn't contain refined sugar or black tea. Instead it uses lemongrass, spearmint leaf and "Kombucha-Pure Extract." The result is a taste that's more bubblegum flavor than green tea. The sweet flavor, while tasty, isn't a stand-in for green tea or a cold Kombucha drink. It's in a league of its own. Plus, Yogi comes from a Eugene company, keeping your money local.

Make your own: Robin Leah started making her own Kombucha over a year ago once she realized how much money she was spending on it. Leah's ingredients include a Kombucha culture, sugar, tea and, like many recipes, a hefty dose of patience while it ferments. Kombuchacultures.com has a step-by-step recipe with photos included. Briefly, it involves boiling water and adding sugar and tea. Once the mixture is cooled, a Kombucha culture is added and allowed to ferment. All that's left is to strain and drink.

Like many looking for alternative ways to keep their body healthy, Leah has found a friend in Kombucha. "What I know for sure is that my body seems to have a daily craving for it and that I have not been sick once this cold season, although many people around me have," Leah says.

 

A Long Run In Houston

Marathoner tells her story

By Laurel Kincl

I started running years ago when I was in graduate school to stay in shape, to keep my sanity and to hang out with friends. Now running is a part of most days in my life and is still a social activity. My partner Kevin has done a lot of marathon training with me, skipping the really long runs on weekends but getting up with me at 6 am during the week to run.

Kelly Kincl, Laurel Kincl and Kevin Huck post marathon

My first marathon was the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, and I have run the Portland Marathon for the past three years. I was ready to think about a different one. My brother and most of my family live in the Houston or Austin area, and I have gone to watch the Houston Marathon for about five years because my brother runs it every year. I usually jump in with him at mile 18 and try to encourage him with jokes, pointing out things along the course to take his mind off the pain and just being next to him. He always has run a personal record when I accompany him at the end of his race. This year, after checking with my brother, I decided to run in Houston.

In Houston on Jan. 14, the sun was not quite up yet at the start. It was a foggy, muggy morning, so it was somehow surreal. I felt great as I got into my pace and tried to spend time observing my surroundings, taking in the spectators, other runners chatting, the street surface, the buildings and trees. I tried to be aware of my breathing and my legs and shoulders. Then I started feeling blisters about mile 9 or 10. I had not blistered at all during my training runs, but I was not surprised given Houston's humidity, so I ignored them. I also started feeling a bit nauseous, which was also unusual for me, but I decided to stick to water only at the aid stations. That helped.

The support on the race is amazing, and all the people who volunteer, including those who hand runners water, are saints. The miles passed amazingly fast. I did become more internal as the race progressed, and instead of focusing on my surroundings, I focused more on myself.

During the race, I was not running with anyone I knew, but everyone is certainly chatty on the course, and I enjoyed hearing all the Texas accents. I chatted with various people along the way and used other runners as rabbits (a runner in front of you with a bright shirt or other distinguishable trait; you try to keep up with or pass your rabbit). All the runners are encouraging to each other and often say, "You look awesome" or "You're doing great!" Some pat you on the back if they pass you, and it always boosts me to feel a friendly touch. I find it helps me to do that for other runners — you give out encouragement, which boosts you as well.

One thing that helped the miles pass was the anticipation of seeing my family. I saw them three times on the course, and I beamed every time I saw them. I could not wait to see them at the end. I also drew energy from the crowd. Occasionally I would hear my name in the cheering, and even though I knew it was printed on my bib, it lifted me every time.

But around mile 19, I began to hit the infamous wall. My legs were in pain, and the mental energy that had pushed me for the past miles was waning. I tried to focus on moving forward. I thought about all the time I had spent in training, all the people in my life who went out of their way to wish me well in so many ways and all my running friends through the years. All of this kept me running, at a slower pace, but moving forward nonetheless. In the last miles, it got bearable, which was at the point when I realized there were just a few miles left and I was going to finish soon. Then my calves started cramping.

I regretted only drinking water at the aid stations! The cramping made running impossible, and I had to walk and shake my legs to try to release the muscles. I was determined to not let my time slip, so I kept running as much as I could, knowing there was an end. Kevin ran the half, so after his run, he was at mile 26 cheering me in the crowd. When I passed the 26 mile marker and the end was in sight, I think I had a smile that radiated way past the finish. I did it!

I am not sure there is any way to describe putting my mind and body through such a trial or the emotions I feel when it is complete. Despite the cramps, I ran a 3:48. My brother ran a 3:36, so he was always ahead of me by a few minutes, and I never saw him until the finish. For three of my marathons I have run a 3:48, so it seems to be my time, although I keep trying to improve it!

For the post race celebration, I took my traditional ice bath and then headed with my family for chips and salsa and margaritas. I feel content and look forward to the Eugene Marathon to do it all again. Who knows, maybe this time I can run faster!

Editor's Note: Kincl adds, "Houston is very high tech and has the results graphically on the web. If you type my bib number, #672, you can see all sorts of data on my race at www.runpix4.com/hou07/ge.php

 

Full Body Lift

Women in Eugene gain strength all over the city

By Jes Burns

It's Tuesday night in downtown Eugene, and a small group of women are beginning to gather in a mirrored studio at the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC). They pull out pink and purple step aerobics platforms lined up against the wall and find their perfect spot. The cavernous room begins to feel a bit more crowded as more women arrive. This scenario looks like the beginnings of a typical cardio workout, but then the women begin retrieving four foot black barbells from the corner and placing pairs of circular weights on the ends. Each woman has different sizes and numbers of weights.

Roanne Bank and other Group Power participants. Photo Claudia Schouten.

As the women chat with each other, a techno version of the '80s hit "Heat of the Moment" begins to boom over the sound system. Kelly Reed, the group exercise director at the DAC, steps onto a platform at the front of the room and calls the class to order; the women grab their bars and place them on their shoulders behind their heads, and the warm-up begins.

Reed yells into her mic over the music as the women do squats, "You want to be safe. You want to be able to wiggle your toes." Her instruction on proper form suddenly turns stern, "If you can't wiggle them, your weight's not back enough!"

This is Group Power, a new class offered by the DAC. About 17 people are participating — and only two are men. This ratio is nearly the exact opposite of the actual weightlifting room of the club, where men overwhelmingly dominate. One of the men in the Group Power class is the husband of another participant, Roanne Bank, a CPA who works in Eugene. Bank has been lifting weights "on and off for a while, but never consistently."

Lifting weights or performing weight-bearing exercise is key for building strength, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, losing body fat and fighting off clinical depression, medical studies have found, but women like Bank often don't stick with it.

She says she just gets bored with it and usually quits, but then she found Group Power — and, so far, it has kept her interest. She enjoys the class because she can come here with her husband. Having him with her, combined with the regular class schedule, gives Bank the motivation to make weight-bearing exercise a regular part of her life.

"The accountability factor is huge," says Kebrhea Kendall, a personal trainer who works at Carpe Diem, a health, fitness and wellness center near Skinner's Butte. Carpe Diem offers individual and small group sessions with personal trainers. If you can afford one, personal trainers are perhaps the best enforcers of the fitness law; they're waiting for you to show up, and you're paying them to wait for you to show up. "They know I'm here," says Kendall. "That's the biggest thing in maintaining a program: coming when they're tired or have had a long day."

Working out with resistance exercises is an integral part of Carpe Diem's total fitness program. Kendall says the health benefits of resistance-based exercises are innumerable and unique. "What we do when we're lifting weights is we're placing a stress on the muscle, enough of a stress to force that muscle to adapt by building itself stronger."

In addition to the strength benefits, there's overall bone health. Kendall claims that weightlifting is perhaps the best thing a woman can do to prevent osteoporosis. Medical studies have found that weight training increases bone density, and this, combined with calcium, definitely reduces the risk of breaking bones as women age.

And as a bonus, the more muscle mass women have on their body, the higher their resting metabolism is going to be. Kendall says, "As we get older, our metabolism slows down. One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, is once we hit 30 we start losing a certain percentage of our muscle mass every year." Muscles use the most energy of any tissue in the body. Thus the less muscle mass women have, the fewer calories they burn per day. That's why many women experience a gradual weight gain as they get older.

Knowing the health benefits of doing weight-bearing exercises and being held accountable for a routine is one thing, but if a woman is not comfortable with the atmosphere where she works out, it could be a deal breaker. Privacy is a principal reason women choose to go the personal trainer route at Carpe Diem. And having access to a full service fitness center without being grouped with men is a reason many women choose a membership at Oakway Fitness Center.

Oakway started out as an all-male gym in the 1960s and eventually opened its membership to women. But the club never integrated completely. The general areas of the club are coed, but the pool (on alternating days) and fitness rooms remain same-sex. Kacey Miller is a personal trainer at Oakway Fitness Center, and she says the non-coed facility is a big selling point for women (who now make up a majority of members). She says women are looking to escape the meat market atmosphere of similar workout centers. Miller also feels women don't feel other sorts of anxiety there. "When people think of 'gym,' they think, 'I have to look a certain way or know what I'm doing.' We're a fitness center. They don't have to look a certain way. There's not a lot of pressure."

And much more so than at the DAC, the members of Oakway Fitness don't fit a body-type mold. People of all shapes and sizes work out there, and in the women's area right after work on a Wednesday, there are no fewer than seven women using the weight machines — many more, in fact, than are using the machines on the men's side. The women on the weight machines seem focused, not self-conscious in the least, and they're all breathing pretty hard. Only one of them is with a personal trainer; the others are making their way through the different machines independently.

Oakway Fitness Center may not feel as high-pressure as other gyms, but it feels like an Olympic training facility compared to the Curves located in downtown Eugene. Barbara Garner and Barbara Myers are work buddies who have been members of the all-woman workout center for nine months. They don't look or dress like the stereotypical gym attendee – they're here on their lunch break and are still wearing all their jewelry from work. Both are wearing shorts but no T-shirts or spandex. Instead, they don conservative knit shirts. Neither is wearing shoes.

Curves is an in-and-out gym in the most literal sense of the word. The "locker room" is nothing more than a cubicle shielded by a curtain, and there are no showers. Fast and convenient are the hallmarks of the business. "I like the idea of working your entire body in 30 minutes," says Myers, jogging frantically in place.

Curves is set up as a circuit, with hydraulic resistance machines and small, padded cardio platforms designed to work all parts of the body while keeping the heart rate up. The machines don't allow users to increase the resistance; instead, intensity is controlled by the speed, or "how hard," exercisers use the machine. Garner doesn't work quite as hard as Myers at each point in the circuit, and she hasn't had the same level of success. Myers is actually this Curves' "biggest loser." Through a weight loss program and working out five days a week, she's lost 68 pounds "and 40 inches" since starting, she boasts. "Forty and a half inches," corrects Garner. "You can't forget that half inch!"

On the quad machine, Myers says excitedly that she can actually see muscle definition in her legs. Curves has experienced huge popularity and has provided a workout atmosphere that seems to appeal to women who have been discouraged by more traditional gyms.

"No makeup, no mirrors, no men!" According to manager Deborah Writesman, that's their unofficial motto. The resistance machines are arranged in an inward-facing circle, and the atmosphere is extremely social. "Everybody talks," says Writesman. "The first thing we do when someone is new in the circuit is introduce them to everyone else."

She says that when everyone is chatting and having a good time, they don't notice how long they're working out. Writesman seems to know the name of every woman who steps in the door, and this adds to the overall sense of community and comfort. And, when an employee knows a customer's name, the customer knows the employee knows when she doesn't show up. That, in itself, is a level of accountability.

Editor's Note: Curves is owned by Gary Heavin, who, it has been extensively reported and documented, gives financial support to organizations and clinics that are either anti-choice or refuse to teach teens any methods of birth control other than abstinence. Curves is a franchise model business — and many (if not most) are owned by members of the communities they serve. This holds true for the Curves in downtown Eugene. That said, franchise owners reportedly have wide latitude in their own beliefs and community support options.

 

LOCAL GYMS AND THEIR WOMAN-FRIENDLY ATTRIBUTES:

Downtown Athletic ClubGroup weightlifting classesChild care provided (at additional cost)Resistance and Balance class geared to mature adultsPlush facilities

Oakway Fitness Mid cost rangeChild care provided (at additional cost)Non-coed workout facilitiesGroup weightlifting classes

Carpe DiemOne-on-one attentionSpa-like environmentNever a crowdSmall classes

Curves (See editor's note)Relatively inexpensiveAll-womenRelaxed, fun atmospherePrescribed, time-conscious program

The Eugene Family YRelatively inexpensiveChild care provided (at additional cost)Family-friendly atmosphere; kids welcomeReduced rates for low-income teens and families

 

Voting With Your Feet

Why the simplest exercise is more important than ever

Story and photos by Chuck Adams

Hiking in nature is a drag. By the time I check the weather website, pack my daypack, try to convince friends they want to come along, prepare a lunch, fill up my gas tank and drive the 50-100 miles to the trailhead, I'm a writhing ball of stress. Sure, the hike might loosen me up a little, help me reconnect to this so-called "nature," but usually all the benefits are lost when I turn the ignition and have to drive the 50-100 miles home, only to spend a half-day refilling my gas tank, restocking my fridge, washing my gear, putting it back in storage and flopping on my couch in front of a movie to "unwind" from my day of forested hiking. Screw that!

Why am I led to believe that the only acceptable walking I do out of a desire for a sound body and mind needs to take place on a trail laid out in a wooded expanse further than a day's walk from my apartment? Okay, suppose I walk the day's walk to get to the Golden Trail. Would all the walking I had done prior to arrival been nothing but mere travel? Now that I could begin my "hike" in earnest, would I suddenly start noticing the ferns, the bird calls, the inner voice of contemplation? Bollocks!

There is an urgent need to rediscover the art of walking as civic engagement. I'm not talking about social engagement (e.g. art walks, peace marches, prostitution), nor am I talking about fitness walking — or jogging, for that matter — since many of us perform exercise with waxy eyes and earphones firmly in place. To reconnect foot movement with the five senses without so much as burning one fossil fuel: Now there's some sound peace of mind.

Going for a walk fits into anyone's schedule. It is the 15 minutes after you finish lunch and before your afternoon shift. It is parking an extra eight blocks away from the Bijou — on purpose — before a show. It is the substitute for sitting through an average sitcom sandwiched between two extraordinary sitcoms. It is getting up, getting outside and taking deep breaths.

Start with the neighborhood right out your door.

But don't be foolish. Walk around your block too many times and get accused of criminal intent or "scoping." Stare at a house too long, and a curtain may fly open to reveal a half-naked, towel-wrapped beauty. All I recommend is keeping moving. Walking, unlike loitering, is still mostly legal in this country, so long as you stay in the public sphere. Whereas "admiring the architecture" is hard to discern from being a Peeping Tom, "enjoying a stroll" is still an acceptable excuse for browsing a neighborhood.

Living in a city affords an infinite number of potential walks, all of them unique. Take a left where you normally take a right; walk only on streets with the letters N or D in them; if you live in Santa Clara, walk to south Eugene; if you live in Glenwood, walk to Sheldon; be as spontaneous or as precise as you wish. The point is to avoid well-trodden bike/pedestrian paths, the high school track or the loop you've circled for the past three years; you may as well be on a treadmill, for the only muscles you're exercising are your calves.

Especially pay a visit to the ugly parts of town. Think of civic walking as a vote for a better, more people-friendly community. There's a reason certain parts of Eugene and Springfield (e.g. the most heavily trafficked) lack even a sidewalk. They were not built for the human body's ease of movement, much less its safety or protection. Nevertheless, like visiting a foreign country that still dumps raw sewage in the street, treading these noisy corridors provides perspective and humility, step by step.

Walking in the city is not without its inherent dangers. You might be cold, caught in a downpour, mugged, raped, kidnapped, run over, bitten by a dog, talked to. Anything can happen — but rarely does. Even so, for most women, walking alone is a freedom no longer taken for granted. Our gut reaction is to tell women that walking at night is asking for trouble — better bring Fido, or a stun gun — when we really should be saying, "Don't rape women, assholes, or else we'll strip you of your basic freedoms forever." But I digress.

Civic walking, reconnecting our bodies to the urban environment, appreciating the fine art of getting lost, confronting suburban blight with a heavy foot, these are all alternatives to the stress of a wilderness hike. Of course, walking along West 11th may produce plenty of tension, so then the solution will be to install sidewalks, make better choices about urban design, make everything more walkable, more livable. Our health, as they say, will follow.

For further reading, see Jim Earl's essay on walking in our July 14, 2004 issue: www.eugeneweekly.com/2005/07/14/coverstory.html

 

Nutritional Feast

South students carry the burden of healthy choices

By Xana McCrea

We know you want us to choose whole wheat over refined white bread. We know you'd like us to eat those carrots and drink that Genesis instead of those chips and that Coke. We really do know you know what's best. If truth were told, all of your wheat grass loving and Lactobacillus bulgaricus endorsement energy would be better spent chastising our school administration — because nutritional yeast isn't served in public schools. Nor is there an awful lot in the way of vegetables; the sadness of the lunch line is augmented with the solitary misery of floppy iceberg lettuce. And the last positive food change at South Eugene High School was relocating Pepsi's titanic retailing ass to the Safeway 100 yards north. In the words of an administrator, "At least the students would have to walk." So, like many problems society is facing and giving up on, this conundrum of fitness has been unwittingly taken into the hands of the youth. God, we just have to do everything. So here are some of our recent trends.

One: The Great Nalgene

For one or two years now, these rotund bottles have hung pregnant from the straining fingers of a growing number of students. They're heavy as hell when filled to the 500-ml mark, but no one doing the holding is going to say so. Brand matters much less these days; we've branched out into cooler, less spillable, more chic and more practical sizes and shapes. And despite trend status, Nalgenes don't actually signify social standing. All those lovely translucent bottles are simply gurgling, "Get hydrated and get over it!"

 

Two: Perennial Prepackaged Provisions

In the mid to late '90s, the infamous, total crap Kudos bar fell out of a hot air balloon destined for an extreme snowboarding/ spelunking trip in the Cascades, and we teens realized we needed something more hardy to fuel our rad lives. Thus, Clif and other excursion-oriented bars became the standard for a while, venturing to the top of snowy Mount Hood and surviving trips down the hypothermic white waters of the Rogue. These days, a new breed of health/energy bars has begun to invade: raw food bars. Lärabar MÄYA bars are 90 percent raw chocolate-fruit-nut-etc. concoctions, laced with mint, coffee or orange. They may sound truffle-esque, but these bars have a new-and-different appeal and hard-to-place tang that one can probably attribute to that whole "raw" feature.

 

Three: A Café for All Kinds

You know it. I know it. South Students so know it. "It" is Café Yumm and it is, as we would say, "the shit." This eatery of legend is a place where all cliques can come together in jazzy, beany goodness. Jocks eat at Café Yumm. Nerds eat at Café Yumm. Blondes, brunettes, chartreuse- and hot-pink-heads eat there. Sociopaths eat there, and so does everyone else. The food is full of fresh vegetables and complete proteins, but it doesn't really taste like it. Plus, the Yumm sauce is an addictive additive from which any food can benefit. Added bonus: The tangy, garlicky, succulent sauce contains, yes, nutritional yeast. We did it for you, parents. Now if we'd just do your taxes …

So what really is keeping teens fit, or, you know, breathing? Health trends, that's what. And maybe the threat of starvation. But really, we high schoolers are doing for ourselves what food-oriented legislation ought. We're drinking gallons (well, liters) of water. We're eating interesting, wholesome, great-tasting food. We're not trying to be healthy, however. Don't get that in your head. That would be lame.

 

 

Lunch on the Run

Charter school students bond with Burrito Boy

Students at the Network Charter School, which has locations downtown, in Whiteaker, at Alton Baker Park and at the Eugene Glass School, go from class to class during lunch, and they have to try to forage food along the way. Some get burritos from Burrito Boy, others get food from The Kiva and some brave the school lunches. When asked what they normally eat for lunch, a majority said that they usually eat a bean and cheese burrito from Burrito Boy because "It's cheap and close by."

Neah Kratzer, a freshman and the event coordinator on the student council, says that she usually eats the school lunch or a burrito from Burrito Boy because "That's what I can get." Another student says that she will usually get either the school lunch, a bagel from Bagel Sphere, a burrito or a slice of pizza from Pizza Pipeline because she "doesn't want to spend a lot of money."

Only one student and one teacher said that they eat foods that were nutritious, like a whole wheat roll, an orange, avocado and dried figs. When asked why they eat good foods, the student replied that the foods were "nutritious, delicious and can be mixed up a lot." The teacher said that he liked eating "whole foods" because he wanted to "live longer and healthier."

Most of the students rush through lunch, not noticing that some of the foods that they eat may be bad for them because they want to get something to fill their empty stomachs and get to class. Maybe it's because, as the student who eats burritos and pizza says, "There's nothing else to eat." — Aretta Boggs