A renewal

Sometimes, our greatest moments of clarity arise from our times of greatest disorder.

Over the last few months I’d found my motivation to train a little lacking. Don’t get me wrong – I was still showing up to karate twice a week, and occasionally I’d head to the gym for a workout, but I’d lost that burning desire to really challenge and push myself the way I usually would. A strained muscle in my back put me out of action for a week, and as I sat on the couch reading books and eating my body weight in chips, I finally found something that pulled me out of my rut.

It was a looking glass. Not the kind that reflects your image, but the one that lets you see into the world of others. In short, my lack of motivation was not cured by refocusing on my goals and aspirations, but by turning my gaze to the hidden world of people that I have never met. The book Half the Sky, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sherlyn WuDunn, details the oppression of women and girls in the 20th and 21st centuries. As I read, each page ceased to be just paper and ink, instead morphing instead into a window into another world. The panes of glass were cloudy and dark to begin with, but with each statistic and every story the glass slowly lost its opacity and was suddenly – startlingly – clear.

  • Girls in India aged 1-5 are 50% more likely to die than boys.
  • More girls are missing on the planet today than all the men killed on the battlefields in the 20th
  • And then there were the personal stories, like that of Abbas Be:

“Money was tight in her family, so when she was about 14 she arranged to take a job as a maid in the capital, New Delhi. Instead, she was locked up in a brothel, beaten with a cricket bat, gang-raped and told that she would have to cater to customers. Three days after she arrived, Abbas and all 70 girls in the brothel were made to gather round and watch as the pimps made an example of one teenage girl who had fought customers. The troublesome girl was stripped naked, hogtied, humiliated and mocked, beaten savagely and then stabbed in the stomach until she bled to death in front of Abbas and the others.”

My own story quickly seemed very self-absorbed, extremely self-indulgent. I was eaten up by these moments and the fact that I had been so oblivious to the suffering of others. I wanted to do something about it – but what? Nothing seemed big enough – important enough – to warrant action, until I realised that ANY action was better than none. So, with the help of my karate dojo, we launched a fundraiser. We are going to participate in Bridge to Brisbane, a well-known local running race that takes place in August every year. We have set up a fundraising page at https://b2b2017.everydayhero.com/au/brisbane-goju-karate and all the funds raised go directly to United Nations Women National Committee Australia, an organisation dedicated to the prevention of violence against women. And just like that, my motivation was reborn.

Since that moment all I can think about is running plans, relevant cross training, diet choices… For someone who is a terrible runner, I’m really looking forward to putting myself through the training to come. The members of my team are all faster runners than me, so it will be a great motivator and challenge to improve my fitness and running ability over the next four months. It will also be a good reason to keep blogging, and share our stories along the way. If you have any tips or hints for my upcoming running journey please feel free to leave them in the comments!

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Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

This is a delicious recipe that I found on p.13 of Recipes magazine, November edition. With a delicate combination of flavours, it is a great way to incorporate vegetables into a summer dish. Give it a try and let me know what you think of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

  • 500g cauliflower
  • 500g broccoli
  • 2x 420g chickpeas
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large avocado
  • ½ small bunch mint
  • ½ small bunch coriander
  • ⅓ cup sultanas
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds
  • 2 tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbs red wine vinegar
  • chicken (if desired)

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees fan forced.

2. Combine cauliflower, broccoli, chickpeas, oil, dried herbs, and garlic in a bowl. Place on trays and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway.

3. Combine vegetable mixture, tomatoes, avocado, mint, coriander, sultanas, almonds and pumpkin seeds in a bowl.

4. Serve with chicken, drizzle with vinegar.

Happiness is our choice

It had been a long day. My alarm went off after just four hours of sleep and I couldn’t bring myself to drag myself out of bed and go to the gym. At 6am I rolled out of bed feeling guilty for missing my workout, got ready and left for work; my day already had a sense of running behind schedule. I felt harried and under pressure at work, my responsibilities clawing their way savagely across my desk one by one. As the day drew to a close I sighed – relieved – only to find my way home barred by a long, slow train of traffic. The kilometres crawled by. Traffic lights cruelly delayed my journey; stop signs gloated as they paused my passage; pedestrians dawdled over the crossings.

And then it all slipped away.

I walked through the door of my house and he looked at me and smiled. As he folded me into his arms, nothing else mattered. Not the late morning, not my hectic day, not even the ever present aching behind my eyes. It came to me as I laid on the couch that my bad day was very much a product of my perception. As soon as I shifted my focus to the positive elements in my life I could feel the physical symptoms of stress and discomfort melting away. Suddenly everything seemed just a little more manageable. It was a comforting reminder to me that so many problems in our lives can be improved simply by changing our outlook. That isn’t to say that these issues are imaginary or aren’t important – just that by shifting our focus we can change what our picture looks like.

Now as I write this blog I have a choice. I could be thinking about the marking that I have to do, stressing over the planning I need to complete for an international work trip, complaining about needing to wake up early tomorrow. Or I can bring myself back to the present moment. That means feeling grateful for being able to relax on the couch with my amazing man, appreciating the delicious meal we cooked for dinner, being thankful for the great night’s sleep I’m about to have in my comfortable bed, and looking forward to working with some wonderful people at my job tomorrow. It’s all about our focus.

So what are you focusing on right now? Is it everything that went awry today? Or all of the wonderful moments you shared with people; the small acts of kindness; the times that made you laugh? The choice is ours – we just need to make the right one.

 

 

All Things Fresh

 

When life seems to become a little dull, boring or tired, sometimes the way to improve it is not change what we do, but rather change how we think about it. It’s all about taking a fresh approach!

This month I’ve decided to start using a habit tracker. I like this one, which I found at http://www.clementinecreative.co.za/reach-goals-free-printable-habit-tracker/

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 7.19.15 PM.pngIt’s a great way to motivate you to get around to those everyday tasks, chores or goals. I enjoy the sense of satisfaction I get from ticking each item off my list. Get up at 4:30am? No sugar diet? Exercise every day? It’s a little easier to find motivation if I get a bit of satisfaction from seeing my progress and evidence of my dedication over the course of the month.

The fresh approach also applies to food. Make sure you make the most of your fresh vegetables by not letting them go to waste! At the end of the week take out those leftover vegetables and cook them in a large frying pan with a sauce of your choice. It’s super healthy, prevents needless waste and will help to make you feel more energised.

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Lastly, freshen up your attitude! It sounds cheesy, but it’s all about your mindset. Pick an upbeat playlist to play when you get up in the morning, set aside time in the morning for an activity you enjoy, make a deliberate decision to have a good day. So much of our lives are influenced by our perception and our choices, so make good decisions and keep it fresh!

Sweet Potato Salmon

I love salmon. It’s an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe is one of my favourite post-training meals as it can be prepared before I go to karate. Once I get home all I need to do is pop it in the oven to bake, and by the time my gi is in the wash, I’m showered and dressed, dinner is ready! You can also substitute the sweet potato and capsicum for asparagus, which takes away the need to pre-grill any ingredients. When I do this I like to swap the sun dried tomato pesto for regular basil pesto. Equally delicious!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless salmon fillets
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sun dried tomato pesto
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  2. Toss sweet potato and capsicum with 2 tsp of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Grill sweet potato for 5-10 minutes or until just tender. Divide into servings and lay in the centre of the foil. Top with capsicum
  4. Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper. Lay over the capsicum and top with pesto.
  5. Drizzle 1 tsp of lemon juice over each fillet.
  6. Toss tomatoes with olive oil and salt. Spread over each salmon fillet.
  7. Wrap the sides of the foil in and crimp to seal and wrap upwards.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on size and desired degree of cooking.

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Poached chicken and kale salad

I made this salad for the first time tonight and it was delicious. Tasty and filling, it is a balanced post-training dinner that is healthy and nutritious.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup brown rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 400g chicken breast fillets
  • 200g baby kale
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 3 green onions
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium avocado

Method:

  1. Combine rice and water in a saucepan. Boil for 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add chicken, return to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer covered for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate for five minutes, then shred.
  3. Blanch the asparagus and kale, then move to a bowl of ice water to refresh.
  4. Combine oil, vinegar, juice, garlic, mustard, salt and dill in a small bowl for the dressing.
  5. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Top with dressing and serve.

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**I found this recipe in the ‘Recipes’ magazine in our local supermarket. They also have a great app that you can download.

You Cannot Prepare For Your Nemesis

How do you train for an unbeatable opponent?

How do you plan for the unknown?

How do you prepare for a battle that you simply cannot win?

The sun rises on a cool, clear Saturday morning. The Scout hall has been opened early to prepare for the day’s grading: the floor is being mopped by one of the students; chairs are set up along the sides of the hall; hard concrete tiles and crisp black gis have been hidden out of sight. All that is left to do is wait. And for our 3 karateka who are testing today, the waiting is finally over. As they walk through the doors we can see a mix of emotions on their faces. Excitement, trepidation, anticipation…fear.

For three months these men have been training hard to prepare for a grading that will test their fitness, technique, strength, perseverance and ultimately their courage. They know they will have to perform every technique they have learned at karate in a variety of combinations; they just don’t know which ones. They know that they will need to perform all the kata they have studied in training; but they don’t know when. They know that they will need to spar the men who have gone before them – our current black gis, fresh opponents for every round; but they have no idea how many rounds. And so they walk through the doors of the grading hall knowing they have done every preparation possible, but that it can never be enough for the test they are about to face.

The next three hours are testament to the indomitable spirit of these students. They work and they sweat and they bleed. They fall to the ground. They are knocked to the ground. They get back up. They are kicked and punched and thrown. They throw everything they have into it and when they begin to falter and fade they are reminded that it is not enough. It is not good enough to quit. It is not good enough coast. And they get back up to their feet and find a reserve that they didn’t know they had and they battle forward against unwinnable odds.

I saw so many special moments of courage and spirit that day. I saw Nathan knocked out, only to get back up and complete all 25 rounds of brutal kumite. I watched Nick get taken to the ground, only to submit his bigger, fresher opponent against all odds. I witness Dan receive punishing leg kicks that he took in his stride. The crowd went on this journey too. Their cries and their shouts echoed throughout the hall as they encouraged and coached these men through the crucible that is the black gi grading. Their tears were hastily wiped away as they realised that no matter how loud they called, no matter what encouragement they gave, they could not ease the burden or take away the pain of those testing. It was theirs alone.

All of this pain, all of this anguish, all of this punishment – what was it for? This fire forged ties between these men that are unbreakable. It took them to the edge of everything that they thought they were capable of and pushed them off the precipice, only for them to realise that they were capable of something far greater than they ever could have imagined. I am so humbled by their courage and strength. I want to be better than what I am today because of them. I am encouraged to work harder because I know that I can. And I am inspired because although you cannot prepare for your nemesis, you can certainly give it your best shot.

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Winter warmer

Now that the cold weather has finally arrived it is time to bring out some of those favourite winter recipes! This ratatouille dish is so simple and easy, but full of flavour. It’s a meal that will cook itself in the background while you pass your time with more important pursuits.
Ingredients:

410g tomato puree

2 zucchini

1 onion

2 capsicum (red and green)

810g whole tomatoes

3 tbs tomato paste

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 vegetable stock cube

¼ cup hot water

salt and pepper

Method:

This is the easy part! Simply mix all ingredients in a large pot, bring to the boil and then simmer until tender and the tomatoes have broken apart. I normally let it simmer for around an hour, though you can cook to your preference. Easy and delicious – enjoy!

Why so sorry?

  1. Assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated-unconscious person
  2. Penetration of an intoxicated person
  3. Penetration of an unconscious person

This week I have found my news feeds flooded with news of the Stanford sexual assault case, Brock Turner, and his subsequent conviction. Of six months. From a possible 14 years. The victim’s haunting letter that was read aloud to her attacker has gone viral on social media and after reading it I felt compelled to write about it.

When I decided to tackle the topic in my writing, what horrified me was that my first reaction to this idea – the first line that I felt compelled to write – was ‘I’m sorry’. Not because I was sorry for the victim, or sorry for the travesty of justice (though I am truly sorry and horrified by the actions that took place), but because I felt the need to apologise for talking about it.  A flood of explanations and justification came rolling on in: I’m sorry to bring up such a delicate topic…I know it’s not what I normally write about…Yes, this is normally a blog about health and fitness, but… I appreciate most men aren’t like this… Then I thought about it for a moment longer, and demanded of myself: “Why are you so sorry?”

I am sorry that in Australia 20% of women will experience some kind of sexual assault in their lifetime.

I am sorry that 70% of these attacks will be committed by someone known to the victim.

I am sorry that fewer that 1 in 5 women will report their attack to the police.

I am sorry that we ask the questions “What was she wearing?” “Why was she out so late by herself?” “How did she think it was going to end?”

I am sorry that we always read the sentence “She is a rape victim”, and never: “He raped her”. Even our grammar has evolved to minimise the role of the rapist.

I am sorry for the women who walk without headphones; park their cars under street lights; feel the need to accept unwanted touches, lascivious looks and an unbridled sense of male entitlement.

I am sorry that young girls are the victims of assault then told that to pursue a conviction would be selfish. After all, think about how hard it would be for his family.

I am sorry that good men are tarred with the same brush as those who commit sexual assults – but also realise that 93% of offenders are male, and the overwhelming majority of victims are female.

I am sorry that globally 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence.

I am sorry that in all of these crimes, it is the victim who pays the greatest price. It is the survivor of the assault who is sorry.

I am not sorry for wanting to speak out when justice clearly fails. I am grateful that I have a wonderful boyfriend who is equally outraged not just by this case, but by the injustice of all violence against women. I am fortunate to study karate and train with a group of strong, protective men who all treat the women in their lives with love and respect. I appreciate that I live in a country that is much safer than many others in the world. And I understand that through the nature of the world, history and simple biology, women live in men’s grace. When it all works according to plan, we are loved, protected and cherished by the wonderful men in our lives.

But when it all goes wrong, I will not be made to feel sorry for pointing it out.

Recipe: chicken noodle salad

This is a great recipe for a filling salad that is hearty enough to be used for dinner, but can double as lunch the next day. It is simple to make, which is good for those times when I get home late at night after training.

Ingredients:

  • 200g rice vermicelli noodles
  • 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken (for an easy option, I buy the cooked BBQ chicken from the supermarket)
  • 1 carrot (chopped into matchsticks)
  • 4 tbs lemon juice
  • 100g snow peas
  • 1 red onion
  • 60g baby spinach
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 4 tsp fish sauce
  • lemon (to serve)
  • fried shallots (to taste)

 

Method:

  1. Soak noodles and snow peas in boiling water for 3 minutes. Stir, drain and refresh under cold water. Cut the noodle strands into shorter pieces.
  2. Add chicken, onion, carrot and spinach.
  3. Whisk oil, juice and fish sauce in a bowl. Drizzle over the salad. Serve with lemon and shallots.

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