Friday, September 19, 2014

RECIPE BOOK: Stuffed Zucchini

Thanks to my friend Katie, I bring you another recipe.  This time, the recipe comes in the heat of farmer's market season!  I love walking around the farmer's market looking at the various options they have.  Not only do you find some new items you've never seen before, but you find gigantic zucchini and bell peppers, onions with the stalks still on them, every color tomato you can think of, and peppers in more shapes and sizes than you've ever seen in the grocery store.  When you can find a knowledgeable staff member who isn't busy with customers, it's fun to pick their brain in asking what this or that might be used for, what the heck something is, or what the difference in taste might be between two similar items.  Sometimes, you may find you come up with a whole new recipe or side dish that you had never thought of before. 

This recipe at first came from Katie.  I'm not sure where she got it, but I can't take credit for the bulk of the idea.  However, after making it once, I decided that it needed some changes.  Thanks to my love of mushrooms and corn and the local farmer's market, I had plenty of inspiration!


1 large Zucchini, halved and hollowed out
1 Tomatoes, diced
1/2 Bell Peppper, diced
1/2 Yellow onion, diced
1 Portobello Mushrooms, diced
1 Corn on the cob, cut from the cob
1/4 cup Monterey cheese, shredded
Garlic, finely minced (or garlic powder)

The best part is that everything except the mushrooms came straight from the farmer's market.  What a difference fresh ingredients make!


Pre-heat the oven to 350o. 

Clean, halve, and hollow out one large zucchini.  I like to use the meat of the zucchini for a separate stir fry.  There's no use in wasting!  Fill a pot with water and boil the zucchini until it begins to be flexible to the touch.  We don’t want to fully cook it in the water.  Set aside in a baking dish.

Add onions, mushrooms, and uncooked corn to a large pan.  Sautee for 5 minutes or until the onions soften and the mushrooms become aromatic.  Add peppers and seasonings to taste and cook for 2 additional minutes.

Empty the pan into a bowl and add tomatoes and cheese.  Mix and spoon into zucchini.  Bake at 350o for 15 minutes or until peppers are cooked to your satisfaction. 

Top with additional cheese or seasonings if you so choose and enjoy!



1.  Do you visit a farmer's market or partake in community shared agriculture (CSA)?
I love visiting farmer's markets, but have not pulled the trigger on the CSA yet.

2.  Is there any specific item you love fresh versus from the grocery store?
I grew up eating nothing but local corn on the cob.  If it wasn't picked that day at the farm, it wasn't on our plate.  The difference, I found much later on, is incredible.  Now, in adulthood, I eat nothing but farm fresh tomatoes as well.  Again, the difference in taste is astronomical!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gym Pet Peeves

As many of you know, I work as a trainer at a gym.  Every once in awhile, to keep people's minds busy, I give them something to make a list of.  One of the best ones to date was "Songs you don't want to hear in the hospital" which included Quit Playing Games With My Heart by Backstreet Boys, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, and

This time, I asked them to list their pet peeves of the gym, the things they hate seeing people do while they're working out.  Here's what we came up with.

Gym Pet Peeves

I really can't stand it when a member...

  1. ...hangs onto the treadmill while walking at a high incline.  Get your hands off!!
  2. ...uses their cell phone during their workout (to text, call, browse FB, or play candy crush)
  3. ...when you can hear someone's feet hitting the treadmill but they're completely oblivious.
  4. ...thinks they're at Crossfit and drops their weights.
  5. ...does repetitions of only 25% of their range of motion (and does 100 of them).
  6. ...doesn't wipe down their profuse sweating.
  7. ...hogs a machine by "resting" on it for 2-5 minutes between sets.
  8. ...goes for an impressive weight while ignoring their form.
  9. ...does more and more and more crunches (and only crunches) in an attempt to get a six pack.
  10. ...sticks to their gender roles; guys in the free weight area, girls on the cardio equipment.
  11. in the gym for an hour without a single drop of sweat.
  12. ...comes to the gym with full makeup on and their hair done up.
  13. ...sounds like their constipated or trying to pass a kidney stone/give birth with every rep.
  14. ...can be smelled halfway across the gym 10 minutes after they have left.


1.  Are there any items that you can add to the list?

2.  Are you guilty of any of these?

3.  What have you seen in your gym?


Monday, September 15, 2014

Body Image Issues

Hi.  My name is Kurt and I have body image issues.

I have been an athlete almost all of my life.  I've never been overweight.  I've never had a doctor tell me I need to lose weight, stop a bad habit, or that I was anything other than perfectly healthy; even superiority healthy most of the time.  I am a swimmer turned triathlete.  I am a scientist turned fitness coach.  And ever since...  maybe junior high?, I've had body image issues.


As everyone seems to start these discussions, this is hard to put into words.  But it's not hard because I struggle emotionally with it.  It's hard to describe.  I'm not the stereotype, so I don't fall into a category that has already been hashed out half a million times this week alone.  I've never been overweight, so I don't fear that.  I've never been stricken by an eating disorder.  Heck, I've always eaten just about anything I wanted; even up through this past year of being a vegetarian.  I am symmetrical, so I can't blame malformations or physical oddities.  And I have some muscle, but nothing to stand in front of the mirror flexing with.

I am me.
But for many reasons, I've never fully accepted who that is visually.

Where to begin?!...

Why am I writing this?  Many people consider those with more prevalent issues - obesity, eating disorders, malformations, or even body builders - to have body image issues.  A part of me wants to tell you that that's only the Hallmark story, the majority and more apparent occurrences.  As a fitness trainer, I've come to realize that many many many many more people have or have had similar questions, thoughts, or troubling times.  This year, some things have happened that have helped me get over my issues.  I am by no means cured, but I have some tactics in place now that get me over any issue that comes up.  So I am writing this so that more people will be aware of how the people around them feel.  I don't want you to be 'more careful' about what you say because heaven knows we don't need to be more censored, but instead more supportive of one another and open to different perspectives. 

So...  let's dive right in. 

High school.  Ha!  You can't talk about any body image issue without going through the most grueling time in most people's lives for comparing themselves to others.  One classmate of mine shot up to 6 feet tall in 6th grade and as far as I could tell, never grew another inch.  Another friend of mine shot up 6 inches over one summer and his voice dropped about two octaves.  Girls start to get their curves.  We're all pretty awkward at that point in our lives and for some unspoken reason, we hold it against one another.  Why?  Beats me! 

My personal battle at the time was acne.

It's typical.  I had it on my face, chest, and a large portion of my back.  I still do today, but have somewhat outgrown it and/or learned how to deal with it.  But in my early teenage years, it bombed how I looked at myself.  I very much disliked going shirtless and because of how embarrassed I was, I let that filter into my self-worth.  In my mind, I wasn't the desirable jock or one of the cool kids (as very few of us ever really were).  I tried lifting for a time to counter my skin by building some muscle, but it never took.  I stayed just as scrawny as ever.  I figured I was bound to be second rate or worse even forever.

Having said that, I want to point out that I LOVED high school.  I had a great group of friends, loved learning, and until shortly after graduating, I would have chosen to rewind time and repeat high school any day!  I simply did not think highly of myself. 

Now, one key to this story is that there was one place where how I looked never crossed my mind.  The swimming pool. 

The pool.  That was my dominion, my safe haven, my no judgement zone.  I had been a swimmer well before getting to junior high and spent 7th through 12th grade living as a swimmer.  It's a funny comparison that taking off my shirt outdoors was absolutely out of the question at that time of my life, but walking around in a speedo while in the pool area didn't make me blink.  I never cared what I looked like.  I never had much muscle.  I didn't care what my skin looked like.  I could swim and my focus was not distracted once I walked through those doors.

In college, I didn't swim.  I realized that pinching skin off of your bod is normal.  It wasn't until my freshman year of college that I had ever been able to do that.  A part of me really wants to go back and get tested for body fat.  I was below 4% I know.  But overall, my feelings about how I looked remained the same during those years.  It also didn't bother me as often because I had plenty of other things (studying!) to keep me busy.

Fast forward again and I'm now in grad school.  I had started to feel like I had outgrown my acne.  I felt a liiiiiiittle more comfortable if I was to take my shirt off say, at the beach, but I still would avoid going shirtless under most circumstances.

I have gotten better since,
but I've never outgrown that insecurity.

Now, remember how I couldn't put muscle on in high school?  In grad school, I decided to really try and focus on that.  For whatever reason (I can't exactly remember what the trigger was), I wanted to improve how I looked.  I joined a gym.  Over 6 months or so, I leaned out a bit, put on about 5-10 lb of muscle, and began to be happy with the thought that I could end up where I wanted to be; happy with how I looked.  The problem was (and if you had asked me then I would have eventually admitted the same thing), I knew it was only a journey.  I would never truly be happy.

I see myself as my junior high self.
It will take a long time to overcome that ingrained identification.

Enter Triathlon.  When I started triathlon, it functioned just like swimming used to.  It was my domain.  I didn't care who was looking at me or what I was (or wasn't) wearing.  I was so focused on performance that nothing else mattered.  (*Cue Metallica*)  Maybe that's why I loved it so much and still do.  It brought back into my life a way to escape from the world for awhile as well as a focused goal to work towards.  I was addicted. 

Then, as I started to dream of getting better, I started looking around and naively tried to pick out who was better than me.  I wanted to emulate them, to pick apart how they train or race.  Whether I picked out the right people or not, I noticed that the fast athletes tended to look rather fit.  They weren't big and muscular, but they were lean and good looking.  My own insecurities crept right back in!

'How can I beat these guys?
I don't look anything like them.'

Fast forward 4 years.  I started triathlon in 2010.  I spent 2011, 2012, and 2013 with those thoughts in my mind as I sized up the competition.  I would do that REPEATEDLY.  Thankfully, since people jostle positions a lot during a triathlon and coming into the sport a strong swimmer, I tended to come out of the water towards the front and got a taste of glory.  That has helped keep my triathlon career alive and enjoyable. 

As of this year, my 5th year in the sport, I am starting to revert my way of thinking.  When I'm at a new race, I still look at my competition and think 'I don't look as good as he does.  There goes the podium,'  but I have the experience that no matter how I look, I've proven I can perform.  I regularly podium at the local sprint races.  I came in 6th at Rev3 Cedar Point.  Yes, there are still a lot of better athletes out there, but I recognize that this sport is visually deceiving; looks have nothing to do with rank.

Looks have nothing to do with rank in triathlon.

Now, shortly after triathlon entered the picture, I switched careers and instead of doing neuroscience research, I became a personal trainer.  It was because of triathlon that I'm in the career I'm in now and it's in large part because of triathlon that I remain here.

Personal Training.  Walk into any gym and you are often greeted by a staff that visually look very fit.  If you asked people to pick out someone in a line up that is a personal trainer, they'd probably pick out the most muscular person there.  It's a stereotype.  It has historical reference too, which keeps me from getting too upset about it, but if I'm going to be honest, there have been multiple times when I've dealt with people doubting my knowledge and ability as a trainer because of how I looked.  That goes both for potential clients as well as other trainers.  It can be frustrating.

Why do I have to look like a body builder
to help you lose weight or get in shape?

I admit that it's easy to think that if someone looks fit, "buff," or built, they must know how to get that way.  But there are plenty of people that have the knowledge and decide  not to put it to use on themselves.  I am a fit person, but line me up next to other 6 foot, 165 lb guys that might be regulars to a gym and I don't look much different.  Thankfully, my experience with triathlon has helped me brush off what people say about my professional abilities.  I like to think to myself 'Let me show you what I can do.  Then we'll see who's talking smack.'


Overall, No.  I will never be able to fully shake my own self-perceptions.  However, I can do my best to keep them from causing me any emotional grief.

I've never been happy with how my skin looks and am still embarrassed by it.  It has gotten better as I age through my 20s, but I doubt it will ever go away and the scars from the years that have gone by will always remain.

I've never been a muscular guy.  I never thought I got sucked into the social desire to be lean and muscular, but maybe I did along the way.  However, now I also don't want to be.  If I'm going to continue as a triathlete, the extra muscle will only slow me down.

Professionally, it will always be a struggle as a personal trainer.  I don't have the body that market's myself like I know some do.  However, if my triathlon career has to suffer for the sake of my professional career, then I'm good with struggling.  As long as I'm persistent enough, I know I can change people's opinions and hopefully their own perceptions.

I am who I am.
Thanks to athletics, I am learning to accept and enjoy who that is.


1.  Have you ever had issues with body image?

2.  Are you affected personally, socially, or professionally by a stereotype?
I do not "look the part" of a typical personal trainer and many potential clients as well as other trainers doubt my knowledge and abilities because of that.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

No More Apologies

It's that time of year when the triathlon season for those of us in the northeast US starts to wind down.  Many of us are already off on our "off season" shenanigans already.  And most of us have already started sketching out crude plans for 2015, thinking about how to adjust training, and what races we're going to do.

The off season is a time when a lot of us find time for that get together we've been putting off, for that trip we've always wanted to do but couldn't fit in, or simply for being lazy and having massive pancake breakfasts for no more of a reason than "it sounds great!"

In the past, I've been that person.  I've taken this time to catch up with friends, stay up later than normal, go out, eat things I couldn't before, and for all intensive purposes lead my alternate life.  I did that because come the new year, I knew that all of those things would be back up on the shelf as training began.  I'd be in bed early, RSVPing "no" to parties, being a stickler with what I ate, and the list goes on and on.  Every year, I either considered or actually did post a pre-emptive apology...

"If you're reading this, I want you to know that I am taking this year as my shot at some hefty triathlon goals and I want to take every step I can to complete them.  I apologize for not being able to make your parties, stay up late, eat anything outside of my diet, and the like.  So, in short, I'm sorry for the next 6-8 months."

That was something akin to what I sent out in 2011 when I started getting serious about triathlon.  I was doing my first 70.3 and then got a spot for the Ironman 70.3 WC in Vegas.  In 2012, I thought very hard about sending out another apology as I set myself up to tackle my first full iron-distance triathlon.  2013 just felt like an extension of 2012.  And this year, I hired my first coach to help me. 

Over those years, not only have I lost touch with a number of friends - and I do apologize for that to those who have suffered - but I've changed as a person.  I've taken triathlon on not just as a hobby, but as a lifestyle.  I don't dabble in a few every year.  My year is scheduled around my races.  My yearly vacations are taken so that I can travel to races.  I've adjusted my diet so many times that I've gone from eating frozen dinners to becoming a lover of farmer's markets and a vegetarian for over a year.  I've embraced my morning person attitude.  If I could be in bed by 9:30p every night so I'd be up at 5:30a every morning, I would!  I've gone from lab researcher to full time coach. 

Since 2011, I have changed.  I've changed a lot.  We all do.  I thought about that a lot as I was driving home from Rev3 Cedar Point last week and listening to Scott Jurek's book "Eat and Run."  In the end, I came to one very large conclusion.

I am no longer apologizing.

I am not sorry about missing late night parties. 
I am not sorry about skipping eating out.
I am not sorry about having to fit in my sometimes very long workouts.
I am not sorry for being tired and wanting to take a nap or stay home.
If you ask me "can you just not do or move that workout?," it does not phase me to tell you "No."
My socializing consists of pre/post-race, group OWSs on Fridays, track workouts, and meeting up for a long ride/run.

I very much enjoy how I've changed my life.  What started out as a new hobby and small ambition has morphed into a true focal point in my life and I refuse to apologize for that any longer. 

So as I move into my off season where I have more time, more flexibility, and less scheduled items on the to do list, I will continue to be in bed early, up early, cook at home, be a vegetarian, and be active.  If you have an issue with that, then that's too bad.  This is my life.  I'm going to live it the way I want to.



1.  Have you found that any particular hobby has altered your life?
Triathlon has COMPLETELY changed my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

2.  Do you take the off season to "let loose" or lead a somewhat alternative lifestyle?
I used to lead a different life in the off season. 

3.  Have you ever made an apology in order to maintain an athletic endeavor?
Yes, I have.  At first it was against my typical schedule, but at this point most people have come to assume that I have a workout, bedtime, or the like.  It's much easier now that I've been in this lifestyle for a number of years.