Mark Tassi

Holistic Health the Way Nature Intended

Category: Fitness

Vibram Five Fingers: Yea or Nay

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Vibram recently for making claims about their Five Fingers barefoot shoes which, according to the plaintiff, simply ain’t so, or at least the claims are allegedly not backed up by science. So Vibram has settled and has “agreed to set aside $3.75 million to pay refunds of as much as $94 to anyone who had bought a pair since March 21, 2009, according to Runner’s World.”

What are we to make of this? Is it time to put the Five Fingers aside and apply for our refunds or is there a viable trend afoot?

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More Riding in LA

Cycling in LA is amazing. In this video we rode the Hollywood Hills across Mulholland Highway just under the Hollywood Sign. That area is a major tourist attraction. I see tourists there all the time. It seems that everybody wants a photo with the Hollywood Sign in the background. We also head down to the LA River Bike Path which runs all the way to Long Beach. Also there are more and bike lanes being installed around the city thanks to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Hats off to that great organization making riding and roads safer for cyclists throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

I also for forgot to mention that I put my Time mountain bike pedals on Mooney’s Gary Fisher mountain bike so that I could wear my Sidi mountain bike shoes.

Links:

Ascent to Mulholland Highway beneath the Hollywood Sign.
Descent from Mulholland Highway through Griffith Park back to Silver Lake.
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

Riding in LA

So I just uploaded the first YouTube video about the wonders of riding in LA. Check it out.

Woodstock 2013 – Another Great Success

This year’s fruit festival, Woodstock 2013, was a blast. Attended by 600 people, the festival has grown leaps and bounds and has gone from strength to strength facilitated by an able staff. In past years, the festival had gone through its growing pains, but this year, all the kinks and bugs had been worked out. I’m looking forward to Woodstock 2014 which will be held for two weeks as the festival has already outgrown the larger facility. Hope to see you there!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageodImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageoImagestoImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Woodstock 2012, A Great Success!

The Woodstock Fruit Festival 2012 was another great success. 380 fruit loving pilgrims from all over the world made their journey to Camp Walden in Diamond Point, NY by Lake George nestled in the Adirondack Mountains.

This year’s festival, as with last year, was replete with activities from morning ’til night. No less than three activities/lectures per time slot were running concurrently throughout the day.

The best part of the festival, of course, was the people. How often to we get to spend a week with 380 people living the fruity lifestyle. Count me in for next year!

Hats off to Michael, Victoria, Yuliya, Anne and the entire Woodstock Fruit Festival Team!

Harley and I Chat Bicycles

At our recent fruitluck in Santa Monica at the Palisades Park Totem Pole, we were lucky enough to have Harley Johnstone, aka Durianrider. Harley missed his connecting flight in LA due to a delay with his flight from NYC which delayed Harley in LA for 24 hours. It just so happened that we had our fruitluck on the same day, lucky for us, maybe not so lucky for him. Although, knowing Harley, he’s never one to miss an opportunity and in his book, opportunities are like ripe fruit, waiting to be found!

It’s always good to see Harley and he’s always generous and willing to lend a hand wherever he can. Check out the video at 3:05 where he makes some adjustments to my bike and goes over it with a fine tooth comb making sure that there are no cracks which could prove disastrous should the bike fail in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’d just ridden in from Silverlake, and while to the uninitiated, a 40 mile round trip ride may seem a bit excessive, to the hard core cyclist, it’s just business as usual!

Oh and there’s Sylvia Vale, the Vegan Ninja Bunny at 4:04 and that’s always a good thing. And look! There’s Robby Barbaro!

Hope to see you at our next Fruitluck as you never know who or what the wind may blow in.

Thanks Evan and Harley!

To your health,

M

Woodstock Fruit Festival 2012


I will be attending the Woodstock Fruit Festival again this year from August 20th to August 28th at Camp Walden in the southern Adirondack Mountains of New York, near Lake George.

Last year’s festival was an absolute blast with the general consensus being that it was simply the best event that any of us had ever attended. This year looks to be just as good, maybe even better with even more people attending.

If you’re like me and you like fruit, who doesn’t, and like to be around fellow fruitheads, this year’s festival is an event you won’t want to miss. There will be unlimited fruit and greens 24 hours per day for the entire event and so much more. Last year’s event was chock full of outdoor group activities, cutting edge lectures and dancing and campfires in the evenings.

There simply isn’t a more fun and informative event, for those living the lifestyle or those wishing to, around.

Hope to see you there!

Thanks Michael and Vic.

M

Hyponatremia

July 29, 2009 was an interesting day to say the least. It was the last day at my parents’ house in New Jersey before my return to Los Angeles. I cannot say that the trip was without incident. I spent a grueling two days of the two week trip brutally sick. I’d thought that I was going through a detoxification as I had done in a similar way in the past, but was to find out later that this wasn’t the case.

Just prior to the trip and more especially during the trip, I was struggling to get through routine bike rides. I’d been used to taking the heavier Gary Fisher mountain bike on brisk 30 mile rides in the high heat of summer when back at my parents’ in July. However, during this trip, that was not the case. I’d struggled to get through 20 mile rides and after would lay on the floor for 4 hours to recover. This was unheard of! Something was wrong but I didn’t realize quite yet how wrong.

That afternoon, preparing for my return, my father asked me why I’d missed so many spots shaving. I told him that I had a hard time holding my chin up. I kept feeling that I needed to eat greens and a lot of them. I would later find out why. It is amazing how the body knows what it needs when it needs it. I thought that when I got back to Los Angeles, I would eat greens by the pounds and I meant that night. However, as I was soon to find, it was too late for that, much too late.

By the time I had gotten on the plane and into the flight, I was beginning to lose my capacity for rational and cognitive thought. What was the problem? Maybe it was B12. As already mentioned, I definitely also thought that I needed more greens. My thought was to eat pounds of greens and take a B12 supplement when I returned.

By the time the flight touched down in Los Angeles, things went from bad to worse. While waiting for my bag, I had to sit. Standing required too much effort. When the bag finally came, lifting it was out of the question. I had to have my friend Greg, who picked me up, lift it.

When I got back, all thoughts of greens were off, although I did take a B12 supplement which did little good. My car was blocked in the driveway and at that point, I don’t think I could have driven it anyway. My thoughts were racing; they were weird, irrational and not ordered. Sleep did not come and in retrospect, I’m very glad that it didn’t. It was now 3:00 AM. My hands and feet were cold and very moist. I was getting desperate. It was time to do the unthinkable. I had to call 911.

By the time the ambulance arrived, I managed to walk out to meet them. I was hunched over, hands on knees to support my upper body. It was too much of an effort to stand upright. There we were, 3:30 in the morning, them trying to talk me out of going in, me trying to talk them in to taking me in.

“Are you sure you want to go? Wouldn’t you rather just stay at home and sleep in your own bed?”

“I have to go in.”

“They’re going to make you wait a few hours in the waiting room. It’s late. Are you sure you wouldn’t just rather stay at home and sleep in your bed?”

“I gotta go in.”

It’s a good thing that I didn’t listen to them. Had I taken their advice, I don’t know if I’d have made it through the night.

After the short ambulance ride and arriving at the hospital, it wasn’t long before I was attended to. The next thing I knew I was in a bathroom at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital trying to conjure a urine sample. I was having difficulty with this since I’d emptied my bladder not long before. While there in this, what seemed like an eternal laborious process, I remember thinking over and over again that “I cannot die tonight.” I remember thinking of my parents and how I could not leave them. I remembered the television show that we watched while I was at their house, A Thousand Ways to Die, and that I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t far from being one of those statistics and could be before the end of this eventful evening. This wasn’t melodrama, this was life or death!

I managed to conjure that sample and next found myself on a cot in the emergency room. I remember looking up at the bag hanging from the IV assembly with the tube running down into the IV in my arm thinking how it was helping me, how I seemed to feel slightly better already. I remember thinking much more, that this was some elixir from Divinity Itself. It is amazing the things we take for granted until those things are gone.

At some point, I spoke with a couple doctors. The first asked what my diet consisted of. I told him fruits and vegetables. The answer, with my present state as well as my slight build led this man to conclude that I was anorexic. Foolish assessment, but at the time, I said to him that I didn’t blame him for thinking that. But there I was, lean, fit, and despite my current compromised situation, strong. Just a month before, I had been in one of the fittest, strongest times in my life. I was lean and powerful and felt absolutely amazing. If it was over 100 degrees and I was due to ride 60 miles, I wouldn’t ride 60, I would ride 85. I felt invincible and I suppose that was my mistake. In fact, I know it was.

So there I was, laid out in the ER, fragile, feeling frailer then ever in my life.

I was to spend the next two days in the ICU diagnosed with hyponatremia. The first doctor that I spoke with in the emergency room told me that I was critically low in sodium. The second doctor said that I was fatally low. I was to find out later, that the second was closer to the truth.

Normal sodium levels are between the serum level 136 mEq/L to 145 mEq/L. Anything below 135 mEq/L is considered hyponatremia or low concentration sodium. A serum level of 125 mEq/L is considered severe hyponatremia. At 115 mEq/L the symptoms are coma and death. My serum level that night when I checked into the hospital was 109 mEq/L! I was indeed near death, beyond critical. Had I not gone into the hospital when I did, as mentioned previously, I may not have survived the night.

Six months later, I suffered hyponatremia again. This time, I had a serum level of 125 mEq/L by the time I checked myself into the ER after three days of trying my best to get that level up. My sodium blood level initially must have been even lower than that.

So how did this happen and how have I managed since?

First we need to go back to January 2009. This is when I embarked on a low fat raw vegan lifestyle according to natural hygienic principles. If you’ve read my About section, you’ve seen that I’d been through various experiences with diet ranging from vegetarian to vegan to raw vegan to “low fat” raw vegan for a number of years.

More significantly, this was the first time in my life that I’d restricted salt intake. This is not necessarily a problem except that the summer of 2009 was exceptionally hot and I was exceptionally active. Still, this is not necessarily a problem providing that one takes the correct dietary measures.

In 2009, I’d been strongly influenced by the camp that believes that as long as you’re getting enough calories from fresh fruit, you will get enough electrolytes, sodium, of course, being an essential electrolyte.

I have found that to be a dodgy practice at best. I have found that greens are one of the best sources of sodium except for lettuce. Lettuce is one of the greens that is relatively low in sodium. Melons are also an excellent source of sodium except for watermelon. Unfortunately, both times that I had hyponatremia, I had been eating mostly lettuce. When I went low in the summer of 2009, I was also eating large quantities of watermelon which actually had the effect of flushing sodium from the body. Had I eaten the equivalent of other melons instead, for instance, cantaloupe or honeydew, I doubt that I’d have ever had any trouble with sodium levels.

The second time I suffered with hyponatremia, I was eating largely bananas and lettuce. Again, had I been eating bananas and celery or bananas and spinach, I again doubt that I would have had this problem.

Now, in the summer, I focus on melons like cantaloupe and honeydew rather than having watermelon in massive quantities, which again, actually flushes sodium from the body. I also eat plenty of other greens like spinach, celery, chard, collards, rather than just focusing on lettuce. I still eat lettuce, but eat plenty of other greens as well.

Since making these simple adjustments, I am glad to say that I have not had any sodium issues since January 2010 despite the fact that I am cycling more miles now than I was then and also am having little or no added salt.

I present this story as an object lesson. If one wants to start this lifestyle or has already been at it, there are certain pitfalls to avoid; a lack of sodium, especially if you are highly active, is one of them.

This experience and what it entailed led me to another pitfall which I will deal with openly in another entry.

References:

Hyponatremia is an Epidemic in Sports Today by Michael Arnstein

Planting the Seed

In this blog, I will talk much about planting seeds and holding the visualization of that seed’s growth until it manifests.

An example of this in my life is represented in the journal entry reproduced below, originally posted on September 23, 2008, over 3 years ago.

At that time, I’d started kicking around the idea of using the bicycle to commute rather than using the bicycle exclusively as a training tool as it had been for the previous 25 years.

It may not seem like much, but the seed planted which resulted in the following post, written over 3 years ago, has now become manifest and a goal achieved in my life.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I now rely exclusively on the bicycle for transportation. This has been a great joy and freedom and something which I regard as an accomplishment in my life. What then seemed like perhaps an impractical proposal has now become reality and, oddly enough, worked out exactly as I wrote, 3 years ago, that it would.

I mention this as a small example demonstrating that if one plants a seed, no matter what that is, no matter how great or small, and tends it carefully with the right visualization and determination, it can manifest. And it’s not that this is such a fantastic example of what can be done, but that’s not really the point. For me, overcoming the “car addiction” and getting up yet another hour earlier in the morning in order to do it as well as working out some of the other hidden challenges attached was an achievenment. After all, how many people would give up their car or would even want to. So it’s not so much necessarily the size of the achievement that matters, but the achievement in and of itself, and that can be anything, from giving up Big Macs to giving up added salt, or anything else that you’ve been wanting to do.

Don’t listen to others telling you that you have to do it this way or that, or at this pace or that. Take it in your own way, in your own time.

What is time anyway, but a fake and existent only in our own minds. But the seed, planted, and watered with one’s own positive thought and aspiration, will last for as long as that thought and aspiration exists.


September 23, 2008

I am feeling the urge to stop driving the car. Many of the streets here have bike lanes, I have a $3000 bicycle and I know how to ride it. I’ve been cycling seriously for the past 25 years and was a runner 8 years before that. Lately, I’ve been riding 25 to 30 miles 6 to 7 days a week. In all the 25 years, however, I’ve not used a bicycle to commute.

There are challenges with cycling as a mode of transport here none of which have to do with the actual riding itself. These issues have to do with the nature of my job and location, which I won’t go into at the moment. Whether or not it will be feasible to entirely give up the car will remain to be seen. These challenges, are for the most part, safety issues because of city living and what that brings, but there are other challenges as well, but it is something that I have been giving much thought to and have been gearing myself for.

I’m not a particularly ambitious person per se. I don’t get an idea and then necessarily go head long into battle with it. I more or less get certain ideas and inspirations and visualize these allowing those concepts to imbue me until they manifest. At times, these manifestations have happened rather suddenly; at other times, it has been a more gradual process. For instance, I told my mother when I was 9 years old that I was going to be a fruitarian; however, a raw plant based regime didn’t become a reality until many years later.

It has always been rather strange to think of a thing and then at some point be engaged in the actual reality of that thing as it unfolds.

Often I think that I should be more ambitious. In my life, ambition has always been difficult to come by. I have always been far more enthusiastic about marked inner development. I can only attribute this temperament to the lives spent as a monk.


Since, writing that over 3 years ago, I’ve solved any of the concerns that I had with logistics. I was correct to have safety concerns in commuting, having been involved in a bicycle accident with a car just 4 weeks ago. However, I’m happy to say that I’m back on the bicycle and it’s business as usual.

To your health,

M

My Ride

It’s become much more than a beautiful exercise machine in these past few years. I still use it for that regularly but I’ve also been using it more and more to commute. And it is a joy! Granted, it’s more work; I have to leave earlier, get up earlier, sometimes a lot earlier, but that’s all part of the joy. Because nothing comes from nothing. Nothing can be gotten for nothing. Everything has to be worked for in life, especially freedom. That is obvious. And this is a great freedom. I don’t have to elaborate on that surely. Just think of all benefits of not having to rely on a car and what freedom it would be to not have to depend on that, having your vehicle be a machine that rides very fast, how fast depending on your own strength both physical and mental which only improve with practice, that you can pick up with one hand and store in your living room, there’s a certain novelty to that, uses no fossil fuels and increases your well being and fitness to boot.

Yeah, this is a no brainer!

If half the people that drive gave up their driving and rode a bike instead, or if all the people that drive gave up half their driving and rode half the time instead, what a different world it would be. Think about it! This is green. This is the future.

So gradually, I’ve been riding the bike more and more and driving less and less. I still haven’t entirely given up the 3000 pound hunk of inefficiency, but that has been the goal and that goal is gradually becoming reality. The big obstacle for me had been making the mental resolution to get up at 5:30am and head out into the dark brisk air at that time in the morning when I “should” be sleeping. But that’s just getting the feet wet. Once you’re heading down that street at 20mph and rolling under your own power and the ingenuity of your bike’s beautiful design, it’s all the more joy that you overcame that obstacle, that limitation. Limitations and obstacles are in the head. We overcome them all in the mind. And every time that we do is a step forward; we become that bit stronger and it is yet another “victory through experience”.

Tomorrow, I will cycle to work and back for a round trip of 60 miles. I’ve been doing that on Saturdays for the past three years. I’ll be bringing my beautiful BOB trailer as well because on the way back, I will stop at Tapia Brothers farm in Encino, CA for two flats of vine ripened tomatoes. These are some of the best farm fresh tomatoes that I’ve ever eaten, and here in Southern California, tomato pickin’ season goes until Thanksgiving. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that.

And if all this wasn’t inspiration enough for you to get peddlin’, check out my friend, Harley’s blog for tips on cycling, diet, lifestyle and health. Here’s a man who at the age of 34 has never owned a motorized vehicle, never even had a driver’s license and has gotten around exclusively on the bike. Now there’s an inspiration for you. He’s one of the fittest and best riders that I know. If anybody is the cycling commuting hero, that’d be Harley.

Burn fat, not fuel folks.

See you on the road.

M