“Only Boxing Prepares You For Boxing”

Today I had my first training session after five weeks. Since I returned from my trips I have been practicing, working out, running, doing my jump ropes. But there is just nothing like actually boxing with someone. As my trainer said, “You can’t prepare for boxing. Only boxing prepares you for boxing.” From my experience, that is true. I work hard during the week before my session so I can make use of the training and so I don’t have to take breaks all the time to catch my breath. But having to respond to someone, moving around constantly, taking punches, keeping my hands up, paying attention, and most importantly relaxing, is just not something I can really prepare for. It is always so much more challenging than I can possibly imagine….

It takes a crazy commitment to box because it seems impossible in the moment. And like in life you can’t prepare yourself to live. I try to be authentic and real in my relationships and bring presence to what I am doing  – but life is always fresh in every moment and I have to jump in with “Beginner’s Mind”, like Suzki Roshi said, a great Zen Master, who brought Zen to America in 1959. I can’t prepare myself for life, but I can practice to meet every moment with openness and vulnerability. Actually listening, not assuming I know already, really considering the other person and daring to not know – as terrifying as that might be, and as bad as I might look bad!

Well, one moment of “jumping in” like that happened just recently, when I had forgotten to bring my boxing shirt. I had two choices – not train and go home, or, train in what I had. This happened to be a dress. So, I boxed in my dress. Yes. I tried to roll it up over my pants which resulted in a sausage-like ring around my waist. And of course it fell down every two minutes. I let it hang and kept on boxing. You just have to have priorities 🙂 . Luckily, nobody was around watching me, and if so, it wouldn’t have mattered. With my dress I was bringing a bit of the feminine to the rather masculine boxing world where either Eminem or the Rocky theme song were blasting in the background.

And today, coming back to “training” – my trainer had me put a thick rubber band around my hips that he was holding on to. We worked on “explosions”. That means we were working on strengthening the explosive power in legs and core. That was after 30 minutes of boxing. I had just started my period – yes, if you are reading this blog, you have to read it all – and so there were a lot of inner explosions going on… Physical and emotional.  But, that wasn’t what was of interest in that moment and so I put my mind on running as fast as I could while he was holding me back. Even if this is not preparing me for boxing it puts me in the condition where I can meet the challenge to box. With great explosion!

To freshen up your memory – The Rocky Theme Song!

Food-Roaming in Four Countries

Maybe you were wondering what happened to the tango-dancing boxer cooking delicious meals ? No word to be found from me for weeks. Well, I have been traveling, and since I love food, I have been roaming the countries I was visiting for delicious tastes.

Here is my short report for you. My German food highlight was a “Kalbsschnitzel”, fried veal with potatoes, eaten in a small outside restaurant in Frankfurt. Very delicious. Also I cannot leave out the great amounts of salami and cheeses that were consumed by me during my 10-day stay in good old Germany. And I haven’t even began to speak about the German bread and the cheesecake….

My second food highlight was of Swiss nature – an 8 ounce bar of Lindt milk chocolate with a contents of 45% whole hazelnuts, in the Zurich airport in Switzerland.

Swiss Milk Chocolate Hazelnuts l

As this chocolate is my favorite I had to buy it and managed to eat the entire 8 ounces all by my self on the flight from Zurich to Toronto. Even the fact that the woman in the seat to my right had sunken onto my tray in front of my chest for a deep and restful sleep did not disrupt my enjoyment. Since a good rest is important I let her sleep and continued with the chocolate bar.

The only memory I have of the Toronto airport where I landed after the transatlantic flight, were the computer screens I was starring at for a long time in order to find my name so I could make it through immigration. Otherwise, absolutely nothing. No memory. Maybe I found myself in a time warp outside of time and space. Or maybe, I had fallen into a chocolate induced food coma and therefore no memory, very possible. So I do not have a single Canadian food experience for you. Sorry.

Further-on I went to Boulder. And here, friends of mine had prepared a simple, wholesome, dinner. The legendary quinoa salad with lots of garlic, cilantro and cherry tomatoes that got talked about a lot afterwards. Also brown rice was served, with gomasio, roasted sunflower seeds, and green salad. Nothing else was needed. How wonderful to eat food that got prepared with care and attention. I felt completely fed by it and was grateful for the simplicity of it, especially after traveling for a long time. Tasting food in different places and restaurants is great, but at some point I usually start to long for clean and simple food, eaten in the sanctuary of good company.

 

Garden-greens Salad with Fennel, Roasted Walnuts and Peach Dressing

salad 2

My latest invention: Peach dressing. I love to come up with dressings that bring a salad out in a new and interesting way. Well, it is peach season! What is more obvious than adding half a peach to the dressing in my blender? The dressing is wonderfully orange, a bit sweet from the peach, a little spicy from the garlic and has a creamy consistency.

All in all, this is a great, fresh summer salad. You can use any kinds of greens you have in your garden, (or at your local farmer’s market or grocery store…) Arugula would be good as well, or spinach or any kind of lettuce. Just make sure you slice the fennel thinly. The garden greens are delicate in nature and if the fennel is too chunky they get buried but it.

Ingredients:

(For 4 people)

A handful of kale, washed, dried and sliced very thinly
A handful of sorrel, washed, dried and sliced thinly
A handful of beet greens, washed, dried and sliced thinly
½ a head of green leaf lettuce, washed, dried and torn into pieces
½ of a Fennel bulb, washed, dried and sliced very thinly
½ cup of dry roasted walnuts

Dressing:

The dressing will be enough to be used for other salads. Just put it in a jar and store in the refrigerator. If you make on Sunday, you will have your dressing for the whole week!

1 lemon, squeezed
1/2 peach
2 cloves of garlic, squeezed
2 cups of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 1/2 table spoons of honey

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend.

Arrange the different greens on a platter or in a bowl, put the fennel slices and walnuts on top and drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Combine with freshly grilled vegetables and or a slice of grilled fish and you will be good to go!

greens salad 1

Heaven on Earth – Smashburgers and Gleason’s Boxing Gym!

tshirt 1

After the very bumpy descending of the plane through a New York rainstorm and an extremely hard landing, (with passengers screaming – not me though…), which made me think for a moment that our plane had actually crashed, I had made my way to one of my favorite places. New York City.

I had come to a city with some of the best restaurants in the world. Given the fact that I am a great lover of food it was a bit funny that one of the highlights of this trip for me was the visit to “Smash-burgers” in New Jersey – an upscale fast-food burger place, where I ordered a burger with portobello mushrooms in truffle oil. It was so good that I did not stop talking about it. And even now, a few weeks later, I am still thinking about it. So, if you have the opportunity and want to make yourself happy, go to Smash-burgers!

But this was not the end of highlights. I had planned to visit a real, old time boxing gym where I could watch people train and box. It was just like in the movies. I am not exaggerating. I walked through the streets of Brooklyn, just underneath the Brooklyn bridge, past a Sushi bar and a Starbuck’s, up the stairs, through a door and stepped into the boxing world of Gleason’s Gym. The oldest boxing gym in the United States that produced over a hundred World Champions. I could tell there was history in this place. Muhammad Ali had boxed here… I could just feel the sweat that this place had seen.

There were two boxing rings set up, lots of heavy bags, double ends bags and speed bags for training. And people were everywhere, punching the heavy bags, doing jump ropes, shadowboxing, liftting weights, doing other cardio workouts….Training was happening all around me.

And right at the moment I walked in two women were taking turns sparring with a skinny, muscle machine trainer and sparring partner. The women kept taking turns and eventually they boxed with each other. How great to see that, as I had never see other women box live in front of me!

I had brought my two women friends and we were all standing around the ring, watching. We were squeaky clean and nice looking women and we did stand out a bit, I must say. It was amazing that there was no attitude whatsoever from the male boxers around us. Everybody was extremely friendly, curious and encouraging. The trainer repeatedly invited me into the ring, which I vehemently declined, telling him I wasn’t ready yet. “We definitely created a buzz”, as my friend commented.

Polenta Slices with Spicy Tomatoes

Polenta 1

I love Italian food and I love the idea of polenta, but the texture is often too smooth for my taste, too much like a breakfast cereal. A different way to eat polenta is to cook it first, spread it on a baking sheet and then bake it. In this version I made a spicy and thick tomato sauce with red chile and garlic that goes on top of the polenta. It actually reminds a bit of pizza. You can add fresh basil or oregano if you like, and of course whatever kind of cheese you like.

Also, as I promised, I didn’t wear my mouthguard in the kitchen…, so I could taste the tomato sauce to make sure it wasn’t too sour. A bit of honey takes the edge of the acidity of the tomatoes and it’s all good.

Ingredients:
Serves 4 people
Total preparation time: 1 1/2 hours

For the polenta:

1 cup polenta
4 cups water
1 1⁄2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon organic butter or olive oil

Add the salt and the butter or the olive oil to the water and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling stir in the polenta. Boil at medium to high temperature for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Then turn to low/medium heat, cover the pot partly, stir occasionally to keep from burning and cook for about 30 minutes until the polenta has a smooth consistency.

While the polenta is cooking prepare the tomato sauce.

Also preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

You need for the chunky tomatoes:

6 roma tomatoes
1 red chile
2 teaspoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, squeezed
½ tablespoon of honey
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of black pepper

Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half and then chop in 1/2 inch size pieces.

Wash the red chile, half it and seed it. Then chop finely.

Heat a cast iron skillet or frying pan with the olive oil. Once hot, add the tomatoes, garlic ad chili. Sauté at medium/high temperature for about 20 minuets, until the water of the tomatoes has cooked off. It should be thick and chunky at this point, not a runny tomato sauce. Add the salt, pepper and honey.

When the polenta is done, lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Pour the polenta onto the baking sheet and spread evenly with a rubber spatula.

Divide the tomatoes into 8 or more portions on top of the polenta, according to how many slices you would like to have at the end.

Stick the baking sheet into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. You can add grated parmesan cheese, which is nice, but not necessary.

Mouthguard Needed

mguard

I ordered a mouthguard last week. For anybody who is seriously boxing this is probably not a big deal as it is simply a piece of protection gear that is needed to keep yourself from punches against the jaw. I learned that it is the punches against the jaw that can easily knock you out because the nerves from the jaw go straight to the brain. This made me a tiny bit nervous ordering it, but committed to boxing, I went ahead…

I picked up the mouthguard from the mail on my way to my boxing lesson the other day. Then I sat in the car and tried to put it into my mouth. It looked like a monstrous device designed for aliens. Then, when I had finally successfully placed the black plastic thing where it is supposed to go I looked into the back mirror. My cheeks were strangely puffed up with a black airfilter between my teeth. I couldn’t help myself from thinking, “what did I get myself into with this?” When I  started drooling without control while people walked by left and right next to the car, my only thought was, “how am I supposed to carry this and box at the same time?”

I promise I will not use it in the kitchen during cooking, as it probably will prevent me from tasting the food. I will also not bring it with me for tango dancing as it might not contribute to great intimacy with my dancing partner, since I resemble a Star-trek character from an undiscovered planet when I wear it. But, I promise I keep you updated on how I will put it to use in the boxing ring.

Turkish Salad with Dates and Goat Cheese

turkish 3

One of my favorite cookbooks these days is the book “Plenty”by Yotam Ottolenghi. It has incredible, creative and unusual vegetarian recipes with a middle Eastern touch. I tried most of them and every single one has worked and tasted great. In general, the recipes are not hard, but a bit time consuming, because he is working with lots of different spices and fresh herbs, which often takes more time to prepare. This is a book that will definitely spice up your day and with every recipe you want to try the next one!

I made this Turkish Salad the other day and it was delicious. It is a wonderful combination of flavors. Highly recommended.

The recipe calls for Turkish sheep’s cheese, but since it is a bit hard to find here :), I just substituted it through soft goat cheese, which worked just fine.

For 4 people:

1 1/2 tablespoons of whole almonds (skin on)
6 large Medjool dates
2 1/2 cups of arugula
4 to 5 oz of soft goat cheese
a few leaves of dill
3/4 cup of mixed purple ands green basil leaves and red chard leaves
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper

Dry roast the almonds at medium heat in a skillet until they are brown.

Halve the dates lengthwise and remove and discard the pit. Cut each in half into four to six long slices.

Spread the arugula over the bottom of each serving dish. On top, build up dates, cheese, dill, basil and red chard, making sure you can clearly see all four elements.

Mix together well the olive oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper, and drizzle over the salad. Roughly chop up the almonds and sprinkle on top and serve.

turskish salad 2

turkish salad 1

Taking Both

MA 3 risk

I don’t think I ever mentioned this: I am not learning to box as a new interesting way to spend my time. My goal is to win a boxing fight. I don’t have a vision for how and where and when, but that is what I am training for. That is surely one of the biggest risks I have ever taken.

How is the training going? The running is getting a bit easier. I run now three times a week. I started at 0.75 when I first put my shoes on. That was the first time I ran since I was 15 years old. I stay with what I can do for a week and when I notice that I am getting used to a certain distance, I increase it by 0.25 miles. It has been four weeks now after I began doing this and I currently am at 2 miles. In “Girlfight”, one of the boxing movies I recently watched about a young woman training to become a boxer, her boxing trainer told her to run three miles three times a week. That is the goal right now and I am moving towards that.

I definitely notice a big difference in my endurance when I am boxing with my trainer. When I had to stop because I was running completely out of breath in training before I can keep going now for much longer.

Practice is definitely paying off. But I have to pay attention to take it a bit slower than I want to. I have been boxing five or six times a week to practice what I learn in my lessons and to get ready for the next one coming. I am getting much stronger and faster than even four weeks ago. But especially my shoulders and elbows have to keep up with the intense workouts. So, I am learning that I am not invincible. When I first got some aches and pains in my shoulder my mind wanted to get depressed and fearing that I have to stop boxing. But, nothing is ever “either or”. I can’t do this as a machine. I work out six times a week, running, jump ropes, weightlifting, core exercises, rowing machine, footwork exercises, but I have slowed down the actual boxing to 3 or 4 times week.

There is the progress, the strength and satisfaction that come from feeling more and more physically fit and strong. That of course translates into how I feel in general about myself. But that is just one side of the coin. It is about taking both – the positive things and the hard, challenging, painful things that come with it. It is about including and accepting any pain that comes along with it instead of getting all freaked out by it, worried and depressed. Now it has become more like the juggling of what is the right thing for each day, adjusting to what is needed and at the same time keeping the bar of training high.

Here we are at relaxation again. Since I remembered that there is never a linear way in anything – and surely no linear way in becoming a boxer –  I see that I am  in charge of my training, listening to what my body needs. And, I can relax again.

Grilled Summer Zucchini Salad

zuccini processed2
Zucchini can appear to be a boring vegetable, but how untrue that is! It depends all on how it is being prepared. If just cut into chunks and left to its own devices to be steamed, yes, it is the dish that mostly does not get eaten… Soggy, tasteless and a bit bland it can be. But oh, give it the right attention, cut it the way it wants to be cut, forget the steaming for a moment, and the zucchini’s true magic reveals itself.

I made this zucchini salad just recently as a side dish together with a French potato salad and greens beans – and it was gone within seconds. No kidding! Even the children at the table who usually do not ask for zucchini wanted more. For this salad the zucchini is grilled, which is a refreshening variation and brings out its nutty flavor that mostly stays hidden.

There is just something about simplicity. It is not the amount of fancy ingredients that make good food. (And that doesn’t mean I do not sit transported to other worlds if I eat, for example, amazing green asparagus in almond wasabi crust – as I once did in a Japanese restaurant in New York. That was 8 years ago and I am still thinking of it….) But let’s be honest, most of us have ordinary lives, with children that want to be fed, (just not with vegetables…). We have busy lives and big hearts that long for nurturing, delicious food. Well, this is for you.

Ingredients:

For 4 people
Preparation time: 40 minutes

4 medium size zucchini
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 big clove of garlic, squeezed
1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Carefully slice each zucchini lengthwise in thin slices. A different way to cut it can make all the difference!

Turn the grill on.

Add the squeezed garlic, the salt and the pepper to the olive oil. Brush the zucchini slices with the olive oil. And then, put them on the grill! It will only take a few minutes for each side. Make sure to not burn them, as they grill quite fast.

Take the slices off the grill, arrange on a platter and sprinkle with lemon juice. Sprinkle some more salt and pepper on it over the platter. Serve warm.

It is called “Road Kill” for a reason

During my last boxing session I boxed three rounds of two minutes each on the double end bag. It sounds like nothing, but two minutes can be a very long time… At the end I was so exhausted  my punches looked like I was drunk. I was simply trying to not quit before the time was over. At the end of the session my trainer commented: “Your hands and arms look better, but you have to work on your cardio…”

The next day I started running by an impulse that didn’t coming from my head, telling me I had to do this as a way to improve my endurance. It came straight from the body.  I said to my friends, “it is called ‘road kill’ for a reason!”, told them to pray for me and hit the dirt road.

It took only a few minutes until I noticed that my mind was producing thoughts like, “Oh my God, am I going to make it this long?” Fear immediately followed, hand in hand with tension. If I didn’t pay attention my stomach contracted. Not listening to my mind, I kept running and relaxing with every step, just like in boxing. When I have been able to bring my attention back to the very next step and relax into it hidden pockets of energy opened up.

I was running quiet nicely, even beginning to enjoy it and suddenly turned around the corner from where I could the see house. I was on the home stretch now and – isn’t it interesting? – immediately I could hardly breathe. So close to the end I allowed thoughts and emotions to come in again and take control. Staying vigilant to the end. There is no moment in time when I can lean back, just because I think I am on the home run and I have it made. Lack of attention and vigilance create road kill, not cars!

exhausted athletes