How-to make a Yam Bake

The yam bake is an excellent staple for the active paleo who wants to be able to fuel workouts and physical activity with carbohydrates. It’s a very affordable source of calories: yams and shredded coconut are very cheap ingredients, and this dish is one of the cheapest you can make on a paleo diet. You can make 8-12 servings from one dish, and preparation time is under 20 minutes, so it also has a very good prep time to food output ratio. It’s also a very portable food and tastes great cold or at room temperature, so it’s good when you are on the go or in the backcountry.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 small to medium yams, or you can try it with sweet potatoes – or both!
  • 3-6 eggs, or 3-6 tbsps coconut oil.
  • 1-2 cups shredded coconut
  • “breakfast spices”: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg.
  • Additional treats: coconut milk, almond flour, coconut flour, pecans, almonds, walnuts, blueberries, apple slices, turkey meat, bacon.

Preparation

Chop up the yams, then steam them for 20-30 minutes – the more chopped up they are, the faster they steam. Transfer yams to a mixing bowl and mash them up – I just use a fork for this. Add a bunch of eggs, maybe 3 or 4, but use more if you have lots of dry ingredients that you’ll be using as additional treats. You can also substitute with coconut oil for a more tropical flavour. Stir in the shredded coconut – use lots as it’s essential for giving the dish texture. If you get shredded coconut in the cooking section at a grocery store, it can be a bit pricey, but if you can find it in bulk packages, it’s really cheap.

Spices should start with a base of a large dose of cinnamon – this has an insulin-sensitivity boosting effect to work in conjunction with the high glucose content of the yams. You can also add allspice and nutmeg to taste. Nutmeg is pretty good, but it can be toxic to the liver in large doses, so don’t add more than one or two tablespoons. If you’re adding meat to the dish, you might want to use turmeric, pepper and ginger instead of allspice and nutmeg.

There is tonne of food that work well in yam bakes to give it variety. It’s a good dish for helping clean out your cupboard – or just add whatever you like the most! Nuts are a good staple, you can place a bed of pecans on the top of the casserole dish for presentation, or just stir them into the yam bake. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts will also work well. The yams already create a sweet dish, but if going for a dessert or high energy food, you can chop up some fruit, apples, bananas, blueberries, or go the other direction and add some steamed veggies and meat – a layer of kale and turkey forms a crude “paleo sandwich”. Salmon or other types of fish go really well with yams. You can create additional bulk and flavour to the meal with almond flour or coconut flour.

Cooking

Finally, after everything is stirred together, transfer the ingredients into a casserole dish and cook  at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes – if you garnished with nuts, then watch the time, as pecans tend to start getting burnt at about 23 minutes.

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Back on the Bells

Off for two weeks after tweaking my shoulder and neck muscles on the left side, then the week after that, off for two more weeks after tweaking my right shoulder, I finally got a chance to give the kettlebells a proper workout in my new home gym.

After helping my friends Craig and Karen move on the weekend, I was pretty dog tired for a couple days. They’ve got a lot of stuff! Still wasn’t quite feeling 100% up to snuff, and after nearly a five week hiatus from regular lifting, I had that feels-like-maybe-I-should-puke sensation mid-workout. Let’s see if I can stay uninjured long enough to get back into the swing of things.

Also got my GymBoss interval timer, so I was able to time the workout more easily. Quite handy when doing the top-of-the-minute rep workouts.

New Gym, Weak Shoulders Workout

  • 8 minutes of warm-ups: Shoulder Blade Wall Walk, Turkish Half-up, Turkish Get-up.
  • 6 minutes: One-leg Deadlift x 5 per leg, Table Top x 5.
  • 6 minutes of Shoulder work: RKC Shoulder Rotator, RKC Arm Bar. Just using a mini 4 kg kettlebell, as I’m still learning the form for these moves.
  • 6 mintues: Kettlebell Squats x 10 w/ 24 kg, Walking Plank x 6.
  • 12 minutes: Kettlebell Swings, doing 15 reps at the top of each minute.
  • Cool down: Rear Arch x 3, Scorpion x 10, assorted stretching. Shower!
Shoulder is feeling good post-workout. Still a little tight in the whole upper back area overall, and still not quite at 100%, so I’ll probably keep at the isometric shoulder exercises for at least another week and work on improving my shoulder awareness before kicking back into the military press.

Kettlebell Injury Blog

My first kettlebell injury took me out of lifting for ten days, but has healed up fine. On my very first set of my very first day of uninjured lifting, I injure myself. This time doing low rep, high weight military presses. I observed good form on my previously injured side, but then banged off really sloppy reps on the uninjured side – I wasn’t maintaining grip strength, nor following the proper press groove. I gave some tendons and muscles a small tweak, catching them in my shoulder. It felt better the next day though, so I lifted the day after. The muscles got even more cranky this time, so I went in for massage therapy and got my shoulder worked on. Got some good advice on how to move the shoulder with proper rotation throughout the military press – my shoulder on the right has a tendency to internally rotate since I use it for moving the mouse with the computer. Shoulder got loosened right up, it’s feeling better again, but I’m going to wait until the muscles are back to 100% strength before lifting again – probably lay off the bells for another week, then start back with turkish get-ups since they’re an isometric exercise for the shoulder.

Getting two injuries in a row made me wanting to proceed with more information, so I ordered “Secrets of the Shoulder” which has rave customer reviews, and “Resilient“, which gives you 19 drills for focusing on strengthing the weak links of the body from DragonDoor on DVD so I can work on my shoulder muscle flexibility and awareness, and also all around body flexibility – I don’t want to injure my knees or my hips like I’ve been tweaking my shoulders lately!

Earlier in the week, I also bought 12 feet by 8 feet of thick rubber mat from an old gym. This stuff weighs 130 lbs, so it’s really thick, and really does a good job of soaking up the sound of the workouts in the apartment, the only stuff that is noisy now is the jumping. It also works really well for workouts where you have to roll on your back. This makes the spare room a dedicated workout room, so it should make it really easy to maintain daily workouts in the 20-40 minute range. Below is my first workout for the room, and it’s naturally all squats and core work given I want to rest the shoulder.

I’ve been watching Steve Cotter’s Encyclopedia of Bodyweight Conditioning, which has a juicy 161 bodyweight exercises to work through. My first workout felt great, and I’m excited work my way through this series and really learn it so I have a really solid foundation of bodyweight workouts I can do.

Sore Shoulder Bodyweight Workout 1

40 reps of Hindu Squats. Using the rowing motion with the arms, a nice easy warm-up.

30 seconds on, 20 seconds off, 3 sets of Isometric leg raises, feet 12″ above the ground.

25 reps per side of Stationary lunges, without letting the dropping knee touch the ground.

30 reps of Lateral leg raises – the hands spread-eagled, drop legs to side, lift back with the obliques.

10 seconds per postion of two sets of Burning 4, where you hold the squat in four different positions, lowering, the raising, so a 70 second squat overall. This one is a killer for me, I have to do it again. I’d like to work up to be able to do it for at least 15 seconds.

30 on, 20 seconds off of four sets of Scissor kicks. I kept a pace of just under a rep per second.

40 times Plie squats, the “ballet dancer” squat. This one has a good stretching component in it, and opened up the hips a bit. I have to do more of these.

20 seconds on, 10 seconds off of 4 sets of Lateral scissor kicks. These got the core and the legs burning. Good high intensity workout, I just barely held it together for this one.

40 times Lateral squats. In preparation for learning The Pistol, I’m working on the squat strength in each leg individually.

Finish-off with a hip flexor stretch and a hamstring stretch. Took a little over thirty minutes, and was a fairly moderate intensity workout.

Kettlebells are a tool not a toy

I’m on the kettlebell injured list.

The first day I got my set, I lifted the bells a lot. Then, I lifted them a lot more. The next day I was pretty sore, but it was all good sore. The day after, I brought a one pood bell in to work to show to some folks, and strained my shoulder muscles doing presses. High-rep, high-weight presses without warming up first, while still quite sore from the previous day, not a good idea.

The sore shoulder muscles turned into a stiff neck, and I had a pretty broken up sleep that night. Neck was so stiff and sore, I couldn’t find a comfortable position on the pillow to sleep in. It really hurt. If I get the idea to overdo it with the kettlebells in the future, or to lift them casually in a “fun” manner, I hope to come back here and read this message for myself: it really hurt!

Yesterday, I got some gear to aid in the recovery. The best purchase was a couple of heat packs. Pop them in the microwave for a couple minutes, and you’ve got twenty minutes of heat to soak into the muscles and relax them. I should have gotten these a long time ago, as they’ll be great even when I’ve got just a bit of regular muscle sorenss. I bought some “Let Go Liniment” from Gaia Garden, which is a rub of infused oils of juniper and pokeroot in olive oil, tinctures of cramp bark and lobelia, and essential oils of ginger and black pepper. I also got some more Bone, Flesh and Cartilage tincture to aide the body in any healing. I’m not sure if this is necessary, as I don’t know if I caused any damage that requires significant healing, or if I’ve just made the shoulder muscles very cranky. I can use my injured shoulder without pain, but it certainly doesn’t want to try lifting anything heavy right now. However, I was out of the stuff, and it’s something I like to have around the house, as I do seem to be injury prone these last couple years.

I had massage therapy today, which was great, and really helped loosen up the shoulder so that it’s starting to feel more normal. The neck is still sore and weak, but at least it’s not complaining while at rest anymore. Hopefully I’ll be all mended in a few days, and nothing is torn or seriously damaged that’ll put me out for longer than that. The book Natural Flexibility has some good advice on sussing out if you’re ready to start easing back into fitness or not: you do a series of moves where you lightly engage a body part, 10 seconds lightly at first, then 30 seconds at a time with increasing pressure. With the shoulder this involves pressing and pulling with the hands together in various positions. If the pain feels less during these moves, then your good to go. Otherwise you need to hold back for longer. If the pain gets worse, then it’s probably quite serious and you should see a doctor. I’m definitely going to go at least a week without using the bells. The break will do me good, as I’ve been going at it three times a week for nine weeks in a row, and the body could use a chance to catch up.

But hopefully I will remember to respect the kettlebells in the future. They’re loads of fun to workout with, but they’re not something for just playing around with.

Enter the Kettlebell

What is a kettlebell? It’s used for weight lifting, and it comes in the shape of a big iron ball the shape of a bell, with a handle on the top. They come in varying weights, but because of their historical russian origin, the most common size is 16 kg, a unit of weight they call a “pood”. In certain russian cultures, it’s a sign of passage from boyhood to man, when a male can press a 32 kg bell over his head with one arm.

Why lift the kettlebells? Why not just weights? Kettlebells have several advantages over barbells and dumbells. Kettlebell lifts are fluid, dynamic movements and demand that your body maintain a technical form throughtout the movement. Rather than workout a single muscle group in isolation, kettlebells train you to mobilize whole sets of muscles in rapidly changing succession. This builds a very functional fitness, and develops the central nervous system much more than weight training.

The functional aspect of kettlebell training can dramatically improve your posture. By training your hip muscles to be flexible and powerful, it will give your spine a solid foundation to rest on, which has done wonders for my lower back. The dynamic movements done with kettlebells are a full body workout, every muscle in the body can be used in many moves. This is physically very demanding and kettlebell workouts have a higher caloric burn than almost any other form of exercise. This rewards you with excellent metabolic conditioning and does wonders for leaning out your physique.

Kettlebell lifting requires proper training. When moving heavy weights through dynamic movements, you can seriously injure yourself. Unlike a typical weight training injury where you might just have an arm or leg injury and be out for a few weeks, a kettlebell injury can be a spine injury which could result in permanent effects. While this sounds quite scary, correctly done kettlebell workouts will train the muscles and movements to improve your posture, improve how you lift anything, and give you long lasting back and spine health. Many people with back injuries take up kettlebell lifting and have great success at overcoming stubborn back problems. In training you will work with lighter weights usually for a few weeks until you can do every repitition as a perfect repitition, then gradually start incorporating heavier weights into your routine.

Kettlebells aren’t only unparalled in their capabilities as a fitness tool, they are really fun to workout with! The dynamic movements of a kettlebell will have you in complete focus of the individual repitition. Your mind won’t have any spare cycles to become bored when you’re swinging fifty pounds around. I’ve always found doing sit-ups and crunches a pretty boring part of a workout, and tend to skip those exercises. With the kettlebell swings, it’s such a joy to heft the bell to chest height, then hike-pass it between the legs, that you don’t even notice at the time that you’re also getting one hell of an ab-workout, all the while also getting a great leg and butt workout.

I’ve been taking kettlebell lessons three days a week for the last ten weeks (monday/wednesday/friday at 6:15 am). These classes are taught by Russian Kettlebell Certified (RKC) trainer Steve McMinn. Steve is an awesome trainer. He ensures our saftey by keeping a vigilant eye on the class to ensure to catch and correct our form as soon as we stray to poor form for even one repitition. For me, when I started out, never having ever done any kind of weight training before, I had terrible form (really terrible actually, most other people brand new to the sport seem to learn a bit quicker). It tooks weeks of corrections for me to learn to keep a straight back and keep the shoulders securely in the shoulder sockets. But every time I did a wrong repitition, the mistake was caught by Steve. We are always encouraged to slow-down and re-do the movement with good form. We were drilled in the mantra of “Reps mean nothing, only perfect form counts.”, and my technique was transformed so that today my muscle memory is becoming honed so that it feels unnatural to use bad form. On top of Steve’s great attention to detail in mastering the techniques, he’s also a really easy going guy, so the classes are fun and relaxed. Pretty much the perfect environment for learning kettlebells … except the 6:15 a.m. start.

Yesterday I purchased my own set of kettlebells, from local distributor Canadian Kettlebells. I now own one 12 kg bell, two 16 kg bells, and two 24 kg bells. Ten weeks ago, when I started with the bells, I was lifting only the 8 kg and the 12 kg bells, and was feeling brutalized by those lighter bells. When I started moving up to the 16 kg bell, I felt quite a bit of muscle soreness in my low back. I took it slowly though, and adjusted to the weight over time. A month later I went through the same process with the 24 kg bell. Today I can heft the 16 kg bell around with ease, and my back responds to this once daughnting weight with joy – no pain or soreness, just solid muscle and tendon satisfaction in hips and back. I’ve also packed on a lot of muscle, I barely recognize my arms or shoulder from just a couple months ago. I haven’t lost any weight, but I haven’t gained any either, and I’m certainly packing around a lot more muscle than I used to have. I do wear my belt one notch shorter than I used to and even that is starting to feel loose around the waist!

I took some photos of me and my new kettlebell set, which I’ve posted in a set on Flikcr. For some more inspirational watching on the wonders of kettlebells, check out these ones on YouTube: Kettlebell basics with Steve Cotter (the first kettlebell video I ever watched), Amber Dornfeld: Queen of Kettlebells, or just about any of the videos posted on the Dragon Door channel. Now get out there and lift, and feel good!

First Post

I have changed hosts for bud.ca. The last decade was hosted using a dedicated server. I was no longer really using the server enough to justify the costs anymore though, so I migrated to simple, cheap hosted blog at WordPress.

Recently I switched to a paleolithic diet – which is doing wonders for my health, physique, mood and energy levels. Given that in British Columbia it’s fairly easy to acquire buffalo meat, this has become a staple in my diet, and I’m no longer eating grains (not that the “Wheat” handle came from grains in the first place, it was just taken from a funny moment in Woody Allen’s “Love and Death”), so I’ve also taken to using “Buffalo” as a handle (or “buffalo360” when someone else has already registered just “buffalo”). So I’ve renamed my blog from “Blog of Wheat” to “Blog of Buffalo”.