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Drink to your Health

Drink to your Health

Will Run for Wine

March 20, 2016
Girls Just Want to Run t-shirt and running shoes

When you write about wine, you end up drinking quite a bit of it—it’s kind of inevitable. Even if you spit at tastings, you’re likely still sipping a few glasses throughout the week and those calories add up. Include all the delicious things you can pair with wine and you pretty much have the recipe for weight gain and a whole host of other potential health problems.

Angels Gate Winery Pinot Gris is a wine worth running for!

A Niagara wine worth running for.

I’ve always believed if you’re going to drink wine or indulge in anything decadent, you have to take care of your body in other ways. I’ve chosen moderation in alcohol consumption (in so much as that’s possible when you write about wine) and cutting down on refined sugars (wine is sweet enough). I also exercise—a lot. If you follow me regularly on social media, you may have seen my #winetax tweets or one of my many, many running posts.

Running has changed my life. When I started, I hated it and thought I would make it through my first 5K race and go right back to the yoga and strength training programs I liked. But after running that first race, I signed up for another right away and I’ve run dozens more since the one I swore would be my first and last. Running has become my happy place—it’s where I think about new blog posts, work through issues or listen to podcasts. It’s been so good for my body and soul.

Then late last year, I suffered my first running injury and had to take a break. I started going to an amazing Yoga for Runners class, took up Pilates and went to dance classes, but mostly I thought about how much I missed running. I also started to wonder how much my wine writing was tied to it. I had always looked at running  as a way to compensate for those extra calories, but also as a great space to think—many a blog post or review has been written in my head during a run. I worried that my forced break would have an adverse affect on my blogging.

I’m far from the only wine scribe who runs, two of the wine writers I most admire, James Molesworth, Senior Editor for Wine Spectator Magazine, and John Szabo, Master Sommelier and Principal Critic for WineAlign.com, are both avid runners.

Like me, James sees running as a way to work off the excesses of this industry, “I run because it’s basically the easiest exercise possible—you don’t need a gym and it doesn’t matter where you are. Just bring your sneakers,” he says. “Though everyone is different, I find it one of the most effective exercises for shedding pounds, upping the metabolism and boosting energy—all of which are necessary when dealing with the vagaries of restaurant meals, jet lag and an above average level of wine consumption that is typical for our industry. I’m not sure how it’s affected my writing directly, other than to say feeling good physically makes work easier and more enjoyable.”

I can't wait to get back to running in the Mosel, Germany

I’m looking so forward to running in the Mosel soon.

James often posts about his runs on Instagram, which is especially inspiring when he runs through wine regions. “I’ve been lucky to get to a number of wine regions,” says James. “I’ve run through and around vineyards in Bordeaux, Sonoma, the Rhone Valley, South Africa and elsewhere. If there was one that stood out though, it’d be a trail run I made with a friend through the Jonkershoek Valley in South Africa’s Stellenbosch area back in 2013. It was difficult yet exhilarating—and it was just the kind of thing I would have thought crazy or impossible before I started running in earnest a few years ago.”

I hope to be recovered enough to run through the Mosel and California on my own wine adventures this summer, something I would have thought impossible myself not that long ago. I can only imagine the wine stories I’ll write in my head on days when I can run in such close proximity to the vines.

For John Szabo, running fits neatly into the life of a wine writer. “Physical activity is as much a part of my life as wine. Hardly a day goes by without both, it’s a natural and necessary as breathing. Running is perfect; whenever I have an hour, I throw on my shoes and go,” he says. “There’s no schedule, no special equipment, no parking, no restrictions to worry about. It’s complete freedom to find that critical balance in my life.”

Running medals on display

Racing burns calories and allows you to show off some pretty sweet bling.

I’ve slowly been making my way back to running over the last few months and have even run two really strong races since my return (I credit Yoga for Runners). I also find I’m more inspired to write since I have those long stretches to think and plan. Maybe not all runners think about winemaker interviews or Vidal reviews while they’re racking up the miles, but I can’t imagine running without wine on my mind.

If you’re interested in starting to run, there are lots of great training programs available—and maybe a run through wine country would entice you into getting started. In Ontario, Prince Edward County’s Terroir Run (where John has placed third in the past) is an intimate 10K run with just 100 participants. “We think that running and wine go well together,” says organizer Rebecca LeHeup of this May race. “It’s a great way to experience ‘sense of place.’” At the end of your run, you can enjoy local wine and a County meal, both well worth using the extra calories burned towards. Hurry—this year’s race is almost sold out!

In Niagara, the Beamsville Bench 5K and Run for the Grapes Half Marathon and 5K are part of the Subaru of Hamilton and Niagara Running Series. The Beamville 5K, on Saturday, July 16, starts and ends at Mike Weir Winery with lots of wine country running in between—and wine at the end, of course. On September 25, the Run for the Grapes takes place during the Niagara Wine Festival and involves running through local orchards.

Thanks to James and John for sharing their experiences! Read more of James Molesworth in Wine Spectator Magazine. You can read John Szabo’s work in several places, including WineAlign.com, or pick up his book, Pairing Food and Wine for Dummies.

How do you pay your #winetax? How do you stay healthy while maintaining your love of wine and the great food that goes with it? Share your thoughts in the comments and on social.

  • A previous version of this story said that John had won Terroir Run, but I remembered incorrectly – he placed third (which is still really, really awesome).
Book Reviews, Drink to your Health

Sadie Nardini’s 21-Day Yoga Body – Combining Wine and Wellness

April 1, 2015
Nardini2

Wait? Why am I reviewing a yoga book on a wine blog? Before you decide to click over to watch wine videos on YouTube instead, you should know that Nardini is very much a wine-lover and that her 21-Day Yoga Body book includes both wine pairings and cocktail recipes. And that’s just one of the many reasons I loved this book.

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is how to pair my love of wine with my desire to live a healthy lifestyle. It can be tough to strike the right balance (and I can’t say I always win), but I think it’s possible when you make a real effort to fill your body and soul with things that are good for you.

While I didn’t follow Nardini’s plan exactly as set out (I added some of her tips to own daily yoga practice and made a selection of the recipes rather than follow the exact diet), I did read it over 21 days and was impressed with her positive attitude and realistic expectations. I felt good reading this book and impressed by her attitude towards alcohol. She is not going to suggest you go out for a wine-soaked Friday evening, but if you want a glass of wine or a cocktail with your healthy meal? Have at it.

The wine pairing suggestions in the book make good sense, the recipes I made (OK, let’s be real, Shawn made) were delicious and fairly easy and the cocktail recipes were excellent. Shawn made Nardini’s margaritas for an Oscar watching treat and I loved them. As with all her recipes, these are made with real ingredients (usually organic), so you’re not adding refined sugars and unneeded chemicals to your libation.

For me, the daily motivations and tips for living well were inspiring and helpful and reading this book reminded me how important it is to keep on track “wine, body and soul.” So, obviously, this is the perfect book to feature on Upkeep. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your library too.

Drink to your Health

I Hate Running (But I Hate to Admit it)

July 30, 2012
When I started training for my upcoming 5Ks, I admit that I was nervous but hopeful. I figured there would be some tough periods, but that if I just kept at it I’d get better. So far, that hasn’t really been the case. Granted, I haven’t been running as much as I’ve meant to – partly because of my busy schedule, but partly because it tends to go so badly when I do try it. I have yet to crack 2K and I’ve been training for months. Oh, and that’s 2K of intervals, so I’m not even running the whole time at this stage.
I know that the weather is a factor. It’s been extremely hot in Toronto this summer and the heat and humidity are not great for running. I’ve also learned that my family has a history of difficulty running – asthma and other breathing conditions are common – and my mom is convinced this is part of the problem, especially with the humidity. I’m sure those things are factoring in, but I’ve also realized something else – I hate running.
I didn’t want to hate it – in fact, I wanted to love it. I wanted to be one of those people that gets an endorphin high when they run, someone you see jogging happily by and bouncing up and down at a stop light. I wanted to get pretty running outfits and meet other people for running dates. I pictured doing races with friends, joining a Running Room club, maybe getting a dog to run with at some point. I did not picture hating it. Or loathing it. Or wanting to never, ever, ever, run again.
But that’s sort of where I’m at. I have a few cute running outfits, but I hate putting them on. I hate knowing that I will come home a hot, sweaty mess no matter how short my run. I hate dodging pedestrians and I hate that they can hear me coming up behind them because I’m panting so loudly even I can hear myself over my iPod. I hate that feeling of burning in my chest, like I can’t breathe and I hate feeling like a failure when I walk by all those other people who are actually running.
I’ve listened to the continuing support of my amazing friends and family (including a huge cheering section on Twitter), I’ve spent time at the Running Room making sure I have the right shoes and equipment, I’ve experimented with playlists and running apps and all the things that have been recommended. And I’ve run. And run. And run. And I still hate it.
Maybe there’s a corner that I’ll turn at some point and I’ll realize that running really is the sport for me. But for now I feel like once these 5Ks are done I’m going back to the things I really love. I’ll be strength-training, dancing and doing yoga again. I’ll P90X on a more consistent basis, because I really love their kempo and plyo workouts, and I’ll walk a lot more. I don’t see a lot of running in my future, but you never know.
I think what I’ve learned from this is that not every sport is for everyone. I have so many friends and family members who love to run – and I will continue to support them in that. But to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, ‘baby, I wasn’t born to run.’
Drink to your Health

Iced Tea Instead

July 20, 2012
Takeya Flash Chiller
Having kicked the iced coffee addiction into high gear this summer, I’m actively trying to find alternative options that involve less caffeine, sugar and whatever else they put in those drinks. It’s working, to a degree.
One of my biggest allies in the fight has been my Takeya Flash Chiller, which I use to make brewed iced tea. I freely admit that it was an impulse purchase. Shawn was getting his hair cut and I wandered down the hall to the David’s Tea to get an iced tea. I chatted with the girl who waited on me and was fascinated by the iced tea brewing process they used. She said I could purchase one of my own – I nodded appreciatively and paid for my drink.
But the thought stuck with me. I like cold drinks and I tend to go a bit off the rails with my calories and chemicals when I vow to stick just to water. I get bored with that and end up having a diet soda or juice – not great health options. I’ve tried cutting my juice with sparkling water and just drinking sparkling water, but neither option really worked.
So when Shawn finished his haircut, I asked him to come with me to check out the Flash Chiller and see what he thought. Surprisingly, he was on board. It was $50, though, so he made me promise that I would actually use it. And I have – a lot.
These days, I brew a pitcher on the weekend to use throughout the week. I take a glass with me in the morning and then often have one in the evening. Sometimes I go through two pitchers in a week and that’s just fine too. David’s offers a range of fantastic flavours and I like the process of making tea in my chiller. We have an IKEA brew pot too, which I use for hot tea or making iced chai tea a la Oh She Glows, but I like the Takeya one best. It’s also BPA-free, which is a big bonus for me.
I even lugged it with me to the cottage this summer – and wished I had brought more tea because I ran out after just two days. Sadly, there isn’t a David’s in cottage country.
So was it worth the cost? I think so. It’s easy-to-use and easy to clean. I also like how it’s tall and thin so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in the fridge. I am willing to pay a little more for an item if it’s something that I will get value out of (and actually use). In this case my Takeya Flash Chiller fits the bill. Using David’s Tea, however, does make this a decadent purchase. I have spent more on tea in the last few months than ever before and because it takes about 20g to brew a pitcher it is a significant investment.
But I’ve decided that if paying extra for fancy tea means that I’m not putting diet soda or sugar-laden juice in my body then I’m OK with that. And I am hopeful that over time I’ll figure out what varieties I like the best and which ones are the most cost-effective, so I’ll make better purchases.
Do you brew your own iced tea? What are some of your favourites? Do you use a home brew system or just a regular tea pot?