Cooking fitness

Moving is like eating. Regardless of conscious choice, you will do both of these things. So the only question is what will be the quality of your eating and moving life?

I think we can all agree…

Eating only processed crap is not healthy.

  1. Eating fewer processed products, more fresh produce, and well balanced meals is an important first step.
  2. Choosing to do it willingly without praise, fear, or bribery is great.
  3. Enjoying and seeking out fresh, real foods as an integrated part of your lifestyle is wonderful.
  4. Being able to create and cook these meals from scratch is excellent.

Having the knowledge to cook your meals from a variety of ingredients is a wonderfully liberating skill. It doesn’t mean you don’t buy shortcuts or grab-and-go foods. It doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy eating out. It means you have more freedom with more choices. It means you’ll be a more educated, appreciative consumer both in the grocery store and dining out.

I think we can all agree…

Moving only from bed to car to desk to couch is not healthy.

  1. Sitting less, moving more, and adding exercise is an important first step.
  2. Choosing to do it willingly without praise, fear, or bribery is great.
  3. Enjoying and seeking out activity in a variety of forms as part of your lifestyle is wonderful.
  4. Being able to create and do your own workout or training plan is excellent.

Let that sink in.

Having the knowledge and skill to craft your own workout or plan – to coach yourself – means you’ll have more freedom with more choices and be a more educated appreciative consumer and participant of the activities you do.

You don’t need to be a professionally trained chef to feel more competent in your own kitchen. You don’t need a certification to feel more independent in your athletic life.

You don’t need to go from peanut butter and jelly to creating a four course dinner party. You don’t need to go from follow-along videos to creating an annual multi-sport training plan.

Just because you can make a well balanced meal you love doesn’t mean you can’t ever have pizza for breakfast and ice cream for dinner or pay a restaurant to make you a meal you could have cooked yourself. Just because you can do the workout you wrote yourself doesn’t mean you became a fitness monster-robot who has no other interests. It doesn’t mean you can’t go to group workouts, have a trainer, or get coached. It just means you have more choices and are not entirely dependent on outside sources.

How do you learn to coach yourself without getting a professional certification?

That’s why I created Zest Ed. Learning to “cook your fitness” is what the Athletic Development Program is all about. It’s an investment in becoming more independent at crafting your own athletic life. It is experiential education – while you work towards your athletic goals you not only do the workouts but learn how and why they were written for you that way.

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Athletic Services

You can also read books, watch webinars, go to seminars, scour the internet, ask training partners, participate in online forums, and test things on yourself. Actually even if you were were in my Zest Ed Athletic Development Program, I’d still encourage you to be an active curious learner; you’d just be doing it with guidance.

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Use The Ladder

“If I can’t _______ then it’s not worth it.” Is one of the biggest pitfalls in sustaining a long athletic life.

It could be a certain pace, distance, weight, or time. But the thought is that if it’s not a certain something it doesn’t count or won’t be fun; so therefore it won’t be done.

But of course if it gets skipped because it’s not that certain thing, it certainly won’t get better.

I see this in adults all the time. And often they act as if there is no way out. It’s like I see them shrug and stare at this apparent wall. Or run into the wall over and over again.

Often that’s what a coach or trainer is for. There’s a ladder right there against the wall but because they can’t vault over it like they used to they refuse to see or use the ladder unless the coach insists on it. As if using the ladder is shameful and the only way they’ll be caught on it is if it’s clear they are being made to do it.

So they grudgingly use the ladder, and eventually they don’t need it and they are vaulting over the wall again. For a time things go so well they forget the wall is even there. Until something trips them up and suddenly the wall looms large and they start all over again. First just staring at the wall, refusing to even see the ladder as a way forward, then dismissing the ladder as undignified, before finally taking the first step.

Even elite athletes get knocked down and have to seemingly start all over again. The difference is that they don’t waste time resisting and resenting the ladder. They are actually pros at using whatever tools, whatever half-steps, will help them get back where they want to be.


My goal as a coach is not to make elite athletes but to help everyday athletes sustain a long healthy happy active life. I don’t want to just keep forcing people to use the ladder. I want to help people find and use ladders on their own.

As recreational athletes, it’s best if your love for your favorite activity isn’t so conditional. Find ways for it to be fun and “count” at any pace, distance, weight, or time. If there is a wider range of appreciation there is more likely to be the consistency that is required for improvement which will lend itself to more things to appreciate.

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Lamb in Wine and Figs

I get drooly just thinking about this meal we ate for a week.  Looking for something else, I stumbled upon this NYTimes Mark Bittman recipe. I’m so glad I did.

It’s so simple and easy. I made a some changes and I’m sharing them here, but you should really just check out his original recipe before making your own version. I served it with mashed potatoes and salad, but you could do it with couscous and green beans, or rice and broccoli, or bread and slaw, or anything that floats your boat.

Continue reading

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Handstand Breakthrough & 4 Keys to Being Coached

It’s magical!  Suddenly I’ve got a handstand!  That I can control!  That I can do again!

Well, ok, it’s really not magical.  Unless you count a ton of research, a bunch of handstand friends, 3 years of preparation, and 1 kick-ass handstand coach as magic.

7 weeks ago on September 24th I started Kirsty Grosart’s Garage Gym Girl 12 week online handstand course.  It’s always fun and challenging to be on the other end of the coaching relationship but it’s been a long time for me.  I wasn’t sure how it would go and I came to it without strong expectations or goals. It has been three long years of accepting agonizingly slow progress.  So this coaching felt surprisingly miraculously incredibly successful.

But as I know from being a coach – success does not come from a coach’s magic wand.

As I’ve been coached for these eight weeks, I’ve been reminded of four keys to being coached:

1. Trust and follow the program.
Week one and I was full of doubts and questions.  But if I actually knew better and could get to my goals myself, I wouldn’t have signed up. I chose this program and coach for a reason. It’s ok to ask “why do it this way?” But sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and ego and do what Coach says. Why? Because you already agreed to be coached! So let go of some control and be coachable!

2. Accountability only works when you really want it to.
Sometimes we talk about accountability as if it were magic. Add a dash of accountability and *poof* obstacle vanishes, hard thing done, ta-da! But all too often people say they’ll be accountable and then it just doesn’t happen. Having someone or something to be accountable to doesn’t magically make it easy to do the thing. You have to be ready to really want it to work. You have to want to report failure more than avoiding it.

3. Commit the time.
As long as I’ve made the choice to do the program, I might as well go all in and fully commit.  It’s a sacrifice to all my other training.  I’ve given up swimming entirely.  I run at most twice a week (and it’s suffering).  I’ve gone from training handstands three days to five. I stopped doing the drills and exercises I wanted to do.  I spend time reviewing her program instructions and logging and communicating in her method in addition to mine.  Why pay the money and ask for a coach’s time if I’m not ready to give all the time Coach asks of me?  It doesn’t work if my coach is more committed to the program and my success than I am. I will try to match and raise my coach’s commitment every time. It hasn’t always been easy, but I certainly don’t regret it.

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4. Participate in the coaching.
The less passive it is the better.  I’m not just going through the motions checking off the items.  Self-coach/assess as much as possible and SHARE.  It doesn’t mean I’m not getting what I paid for or letting my coach off the hook.  It means I am getting MORE because my coach has more information and can give me more accurate direction.  I’m constantly coaching myself as far as I’m able, which leaves my coach to unlock the one thing I didn’t see or understand.

I’m so excited for the last five weeks of coaching. It took years of patience to get here, but progress is addicting.

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Claiming the Hidden Wholeness

Client stories – guest post by Devon Anderson.

I do not come to the world of endurance sports training as an accomplished athlete, or as a fit and skinny 20-something.  Instead, I’m coming from the other side, from the second half of life – with retirement on the horizon, a mere decade away.

I’ve never been a team sports person.  I’ve never in my life considered myself athletic.  But the arrival of middle age presents certain splits in the road.  As we experience the first signs of aging, or, in women’s cases menopause, it seems we have a decision to make.  How will we take care of our physical selves?  Not to prevent aging (as if we could ever do that) or pretend it’s not happening.  But how can we live life fully, as whole people, and take care of ourselves so that we are around to enjoy our lives as long as possible?

I began cycling in my 50s. I love the outdoors, and cycling can be very meditative – focusing on breathing and paying attention to what’s around you – how the buds are beginning to open on trees, for example, or how the loons have come back from wintering in the south.  The year I turned 50, I worked with a trainer who helped me prepare for the Red Ribbon Ride, a 4-day, 300 mile ride that benefits 8 HIV/AIDS organizations.  The next year I found Kym Zest, through the Minneapolis YWCA, who built a training plan that would ready me for the RAGBRAI (a six-day ride across Iowa) the following summer.

Both rides were amazing, and I learned an incredible amount – about my capacity, about the building of strength and confidence, about the joy of a body that will work for me if I invest in it.  Even with those early accomplishments, though, I wanted to go both deeper and further.  I wanted to exercise my whole body – not only the muscles used to pedal a bike. I wanted to go deeper by incorporating additional components of physical wholeness – meditation, mindfulness, nutrition, balance and stretch.

I joined Zest Ed because it offered a piece of what I so deeply wanted — not just a service that would design a training plan, but a partnership.  It offered a relationship with an experienced, compassionate, knowledgeable professional who would not only help me train, but teach me components of training — like how to prevent injury, how and when to really rest, how training plans are designed (cycles within cycles) and how to challenge myself without ruining myself.  Zest Ed shifted my athletic training from a process of following, to a process of learning.

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In the end, as I live fully into the second half of life, what I want most is wholeness.  And, as Parker Palmer once wrote, “wholeness is always a choice.”  I choose wholeness in part by training for endurance events.  Not because I want to get a good score or race time, or lose weight (though that would be nice), or prove anything to anyone.  I want, in essence, balance — between work and family, rest and exercise, play and responsibility.  I want a body that feels good and strong and capable, that is up for adventure or the next opportunity around the corner.

The Trappist monk Thomas Merton claimed that “there is in all things…a hidden wholeness.”  That’s the funny thing about wholeness – it’s within us all along, down deep.  Training and exercise, preparing and learning is part of the process of uncovering the wholeness that is already there, bringing it forth, and living into it.

devon profileDevon Anderson has been an Episcopal priest for 21 years and is currently serving Trinity Church in Excelsior Minnesota.  She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and 15-year old son.  Her daughter attends Boston College.  Her family has two dogs, one very bad cat, and three chickens. You can also read Devon’s Zest Ed athlete bio and her “She Shoots! She Scores!” post.  

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She Shoots! She Scores!

Client stories – guest post by Devon Anderson.

I.  Hate. Running.

Well, I’m not sure I hate it, but I’ve never had what I think of as a “runner’s body.”  Running has never come easy to me, which was made even more plain when I married a runner in my 30s.  And not only a runner, but a New-York-Marathon-runner.  For years, no matter how badly I wanted it or how many “couch-potato-to-5-K” plans I tried, I just couldn’t do it.  I’d get too winded.  My feet hurt. My shins screamed for rest.  And I felt like a total idiot — flopping along the city lake paths with my bright red face, breathing like a buffalo, hoping to God no one would recognize me. Continue reading

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Four Lessons One Year In

It’s almost our one year anniversary from the launch of our dream business.  It was quite the journey to get to the starting line. It was two agonizing years of what often felt like going nowhere getting nothing done (Things Not Done – A Story of Progress). But the last 9 months have flown by and my project whiteboard tells the story.

January to March
This was a lot of catching up on the things that hadn’t gotten done before the launch.  And to keep with the theme, 22 things didn’t get done (but 13 of those did get done eventually!)

March to May
13 things got done and 4 more in progress! Continue reading

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