For the first time in a long time — longer than I’d like to admit — I went to the gym.
I used to be addicted to the gym, addicted to sports, addicted to exercise. Three hours at the gym was nothing; skipping a day’s worth of exercise was unthinkable. But over the years, exercise became more and more sporadic, until I eliminated it completely from my life. If you were a college athlete, then you know how hard it is to transition from 25 hours of exercise a week to only 4. Psychologically, it’s almost impossible, and I opted for (my) path of least resistance: complete bodily stasis.
I found ways to incorporate movement in a more natural way (biking for hours every day; going on long walks; sporadic yoga; pick-up sports with friends; trips skiing). But it’s clear that if I’d like to keep eating this, this, or this, joining a gym is really a crucial imperative. (Wine critic Robert Parker once said that the “only” reason why he exercises is so he can “eat whatever he wants.” Too true).
So I woke up at 8am, went to the gym, ran a few miles, and felt great. Then I hopped on the dreaded ergometer, and tried my very hardest to hold a 2:20 steady state for 30 minutes (for those of you that are rowers, or have been rowers, you know this is deeply pathetic). I finished with a power 10, and was sure that I was going to barf all over myself. (I didn’t). So I stretched, felt great, bought a coffee and a mango, and went home. And didn’t eat breakfast. Or anything at all. And — shocker — had a head-splitting migraine for the rest of the day.
So many mistakes were made! But the biggest, we can agree, is not eating the proper refuel meal directly after the gym. What was I thinking?
I wish I had prepared this lunch that I made recently. It would have been the perfect post-gym meal. It’s a simple cannellini bean and mushroom ragu, made with tomato paste, bacon, onions, bell peppers, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and thickened with butter and some starchy pasta water. Tossed with fresh pasta, a few cups of arugula, and plenty of lemon juice and Pecorino to finish, it was delicious, filling, healthy, and packed with protein and carbs.
But I also don’t want to waste precious post-workout minutes trying frantically to assemble a healthy lunch. This would have been even easier, and just as filling: a simple four-egg omelet (divided between two), with a potato-leek and broccoli rabe hash (all creatively reinterpreted leftovers), and toasted baguette with Brie. Comforting, cozy and super satisfying, and would have prevented the crazy day-long headache I suffered.
I’m pretty sure I forgot all of the nutrition knowledge I picked up during my years spent as a rower at Cornell, but I think this would be an acceptable post-workout snack, for those of you that prefer to exercise in the afternoon or evenings. I made a quick tabbouleh, or parsley salad (bulghur wheat, diced cucumbers, diced red onion, lemon juice, and minced parsley), and ate that with torn pita and a rough white bean dip, made with soaked cannellini beans that I boiled until just fork tender. The beans are then sauteed with thyme, red onion, olive oil and garlic, and mashed up with a wooden spoon (I added a few tablespoons of homemade chicken broth so it wouldn’t get too dried out). Perfect snack for any circumstance, really.