Happy Healthy Coachella

Coachella can be an incredibly memorable experience full of dope art installations, beautiful people, and some of the best musical performances you'll ever see (Beyoncé).

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But it can also leave you drained and calling off of work Tuesday with a fake excuse.

These were the strategies that I used to make the most of my Coachella experience, by making sure my vessel was well taken care of. Remember you didn’t pay that much for your ticket to be sick or too tired to enjoy your experience! 

Huyen’s Essentials Packing List

These are the items I used the most or would’ve been really sad not to have.

  • Non aluminum water bottle. They will take away metal bottles.
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Baby wipes
  • Earplugs
  • Underwear 
  • Emergency feminine products

Those items in addition to the standard list of materials (scroll to "Coachella camping checklist" if you're camping) were critical for me to maintain my energy levels and avoid getting sick. Here are the tips I leveraged a lot of those items in: 

Huyen's Tips

Hydrate 

You are in the desert. I repeat, you are in the desert.

On top of that, you’re moving around a lot and hopefully dancing. So, breaking a sweat is just about guaranteed. Have a water bottle or CamelBak. Don’t let long water refill or bathroom lines deter you from drinking water. This is even more crucial if you’re drinking alcohol. In addition to the potentially dangerous dehydration, you’ll simply not enjoy the shows as much if you’re tired and the sun has sucked out all of your energy.

Speaking of sweating, if you tend to feel sticky or break out when you sweat to much- baby wipes are key!

Use Sunscreen Liberally

Walking through the festival, I saw a girl with obviously sunburnt skin but a perfectly circular patch of fair skin in the center of her chest. It wasn’t cute like the sun tattoos you may have seen, and looked more like her statement necklace made a longer statement then she intended it to. 

The Coachella sun is not forgiving and you can’t depend on the potential of clouds or existing melanin in your skin to protect from long term UV damage. If skin cancer doesn’t freak you out, consider how much less cute your IG pics will be with a sunburn 😞 Most people are going to be well protected with SPF 30, as long as you reapply throughout the day. I used this convenient little Sun Bum stick on my face and body.

 

Be Mindful of Food

The Coachella food line up is almost as impressive as the music artists. You’ll find everything from pretzels and popsicles to ramen and açaí bowls. I’m not going to front like I didn’t get nachos, but anything that’s super fried or dry will likely leave you wanting to chug a bottle of water or buying a smoothie/ fruit on top of your meal to quench your thirst. You may end up eating more than you intended if you opt for the junkier options. 

You may end up spending more, too. Meals range from $10-$17, with some cheaper snacks like fries or ice cream. Get food that satisfies your tastebuds and potentially your thirst so that you don’t end up having to get more than you normally would.

Pack it and snack it. To help you save time standing in lines and money, pack some healthy snacks! I made myself baked oatmeal muffins to have each day for breakfast, and little oranges were the perfect, refreshingly juicy snack to keep in my fanny pack.

Move Smart 

The amount of walking and hopefully dancing that you do should make you worry less about not strictly sticking to your workout plan. However, if you do want to get it in on top of the Coachella festivities- make sure you time it properly. The sun is significantly less intense in the early mornings and evenings- so protect yourself from dehydration by working out when the sun is not at peak. 

Sleep 

I know this one doesn’t sound realistic, but if you can sleep as much as possible- your Day 3 self will thank you. Even if you stay up all night at the silent disco or goofing around at the camp site, all of the acts start later in the day, so take advantage of that schedule to sleep in. If you’re camping or staying with a lot of people, and you’re sensitive to noise or light- bring along earplugs and/or an eye mask! 

 

It’s a 3-day festival so even if you do everything “right,” you’re still likely to need some time to rest after. But I’m confident following these tips will help you not only be able to jump back into your routine more smoothly after the weekend, but also enjoy the incredible weekend itself even more! 

Buddhism and Being Plant-based

Happy Year of the Dog! This year I wasn’t with my family for the Lunar New Year, and instead celebrated with my girls and this delicious bowl of eggplant vermicelli at Au Lac in LA

Garlic Basil Noodles (Top), Eggplant Vermicelli (Bottom)

Garlic Basil Noodles (Top), Eggplant Vermicelli (Bottom)

After removing my chopsticks and soup spoon to drink my bowl dry, I realized that Lunar New Year would be one of the times during the year where I wasn’t the only family member not indulging in the roasted duck. It made me want to investigate more on why this was the case, and share my findings on what a plant-based lifestyle means from the Vietnamese side of my identity- from a cultural, spiritual, and philosophical perspective. 

Lemongrass Fish.

Lemongrass Fish.

Growing up, I would be at family gatherings and occasionally see my “uncles and aunts” avoid dishes because they were “ăn chay”- or eating vegetarian for different reasons. The reasons would range, whether it be out of respect for the death of a loved one, during a time of great hardship, or when they were hoping for something positive to happen- like a child to come back home from the military. Many of them also ate vegetarian before and after the Lunar New Year. I would be confused when I saw them eating meat weeks later, though, because I was interpreting “ăn chay” in the common American sense, which implies a more long-term diet. But Vietnamese kids are repeatedly told not to question the wisdom of their elders- so I met their inconsistencies with a Kanye Shrug. 

Typical Vietnamese party spread.

Typical Vietnamese party spread.

Recently, my uncle reached out to me. He had started practicing frequent deep meditation, visiting temples in order to learn from monks more extensively, and even more recently- became a long-term vegetarian. My uncle told me that I should fly home from San Francisco and meet a famous monk that was coming to town. He said that because I was a “long-term vegetarian” and that I “có duyên” (which google translate will define as “grace”, “cute”, or “engaging”) -I’ll take them all, I would be in luck for a great blessing from the monk.

It all made vegetarianism seem related to accruing positive energy and karma somehow, and as a child I didn’t fully understand how being vegetarian related to all this. As an adult, I hadn’t done any research, but it began to make sense logically to me. Since being vegetarian is often associated with being more pure, and being pure was a common spiritual aim, it made sense that the people I saw being vegetarian around critical times wanted to be as pure as possible when they were facing hardship or uncertainty- in order to be as spiritually righteous as possible, and to come out of these tough situations in a favorable fashion. 

I could’ve asked my uncle for more details on vegetarianism and Buddhism, but I’m a second generation Vietnamese speaker and he rambles - so instead I turned to the internet. After some research, I now understand that it is part of a popular Buddhist belief that living a plant-based lifestyle is necessary in order to abide by the First Precept of Buddhism, which is to abstain from taking life, or murdering anything that lives. Buddhaghosa describes taking life as “the will to kill anything that one perceives as having life, to act so as to terminate the life-force in it, in so far as the will finds expression in bodily action or in speech.” This confirmed my rationale that people were trying to follow their buddhist beliefs way more closely than trying to avoid eating meat.

So if it was so favorable and well-aligned with the first precept to be vegetarian, which the inconstancy? Why not aim to be vegetarian all the time or at least the majority of the time?

I found a great explanation from monk Ap Tich of Vinh Nghiem pagoda in District 3. In the Vietnamese culture, the Vietnamese word ‘chay’ means to not eat meat, this simple translation “fails to communicate the spiritual undertone of the word. The Vietnamese perception of chay is loose and can either mean a long-term commitment or an intermittent bid to a spiritual and religious discipline.” Hence, why I would see grilled pork chops on my family’s plates one week and tofu on them another.

Ap Tich goes further to explain that “‘chay’ is the common term used more loosely, but extending from the concept of ‘trai’ or ‘trai tinh,’ a transcription of the Sanskrit word ‘Upavasatha.’ Upavasatha means to keep oneself pure and clean from worldly taints.” 

To keep oneself from taints does not merely mean to not eat fish or meat, but a true and complete restraint of self indulgences concerning food and drinks… to undergo trai tinh is to create as little harm and waste to the world as possible… to seek to sympathize and act with mercy towards all... It is the slow path to enlightenment.
— Ap Tich

While this research has me feeling like I’m poppin’ on the road to enlightenment - I definitely am not fully embodying trai tinh, even as I plan to be plant-based for the rest of my life. Buddhist undergoing trai tinh also “abstain from extravagant meals, sweet pastries, wine and spirits of any kind. Their meals are reduced to only two or in some cases one per day and the portion is just enough to sustain the body.”

👀👀👀👀

The motivation behind my plant-based life can definitely be summarized as wanting to “create as little harm and waste to the world as possible,” but I know I have a ways to go. I am still struggling with self-control when there’s guacamole at parties and buffet lines at work events. Nonetheless, it’s still dope to understand the significance of growing up plant-based in my culture and the spiritual implications surrounding it. 

If you’re curious about plant-based lifestyles, I encourage using a cultural, spiritual and philosophical lens when doing your research in additional to scientific one (please don’t just rely solely on Netflix documentaries). The documentaries may get your foot through the veggie door, but maybe the journey to enlightenment may make you stay.

Exploring Pole Fitness at SF Dance & Pole

When you’re all about fitness and exploration- you don’t turn down an invite from the owner of SF Fitness and Pole asking you to come try the class. The bruises the balanced out by the pride of completing a front hook spin going into a back hook spin- and appreciation for the athleticism of our instructor Max, aka Climax, who added a boot camp flare to the class. 

If you come to  Maxine’s Intro to Pole class, don’t be late because that was definitely Chantal doing a burpee for every minute she was not on time.

I had been to pole classes in Atlanta before, that were largely choreography based, and required choosing a stripper name before beginning the lesson. Climax on the other hand, had us do stripper push ups, ab exercises, stretches, and some body rolls (to get us in the mood) before starting.

The facility made great use of its space, with about 10 poles for us to use, some large rings for their Lyra class, and a private room where some lady was tearing.it. UP! Since there were more than 10 of us, a couple of us doubled-up at the same pole. Climax would walk us through the steps of a move.

Coming in with shin splints, I struggled a bit wrapping my leg around to grip the pole, and definitely ended up with bruising on my shin and foot. Neither Ana or Chanti had bruises any where near as painful, so I suspect my technique or shin splints were to blame.

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Overall, I had a fun experience, and really appreciate Amy for reaching out! I'd love to return for a class reminiscent of the ones I did in Atlanta. Booty and Boudior perhaps?

Check SF Dance & Pole out for 50% off your first class!

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls, But First... Some Hiking Tips

I got to live out my Halloween dreams of dressing up as TLC by chasing waterfalls at Yosemite National Park. We were missing the silk pajamas, but this was still pretty fulfilling.

During our short trip, we were able to see Vernal, Nevada, and Yosemite Falls. I know TLC recommended against it, but I put together some tips for you to use before you go chasing waterfalls that I think they’d approve of.

Get in Chasing Shape

You don’t have to do months of training before going on a hike, but being somewhat conditioned will prepare your body for walking up hills for extended periods of time. My friend Ashley organized the trip, and her dad was my hiking buddy for Mist Trail. He had a tall, strong build, and despite not working out regularly- he said he began doing some light running and weight training about 2 weeks prior to the trip. Being proactive about making sure your body is conditioned will help you get to the waterfalls, or wherever your destination is, faster and feeling less out of breath. Some activities I’d recommend doing before you go on a hiking trip.

  • Incline walking (preferably outdoors, but treadmill or elliptical otherwise.)
  • Running (slow, steady-state will simulate the intensity of the hikes, but high intensity sprints will still increase your aerobic capacity)
  • Get your legs and core strong with:
    • Squats
    • Step ups
    • Lunges
    • Elevated Calve Raises (the eccentric motion of walking downhill will likely leave you sore no matter what, but training them and having them somewhat adjusted to the eccentric motion, will leave you less sore than your hiking buddies)
    • Core Cable Twist

Power the Trek with Food

Make sure to eat a breakfast that will give you long-lasting energy, as opposed to leaving you feeling sluggish. High-fiber foods like oatmeal will keep you fuller longer. I opted for overnight oats with fruit and peanut butter.

Thoroughly satisfied with oats in a plastic bag. Don't forget your spoon.

Thoroughly satisfied with oats in a plastic bag. Don't forget your spoon.

Depending on the length of your hike, you may need to pause for snacks. In any case, it’s nice to stop and enjoy the view with food once you get to the top. Some of the snacks I brought were a mix of healthy carbs and protein:

  • Fruit 
  • Zing Bars (I try to avoid processed foods but these are too delicious)
  • Dried Edamame
  • WATER. You should be hydrating well everyday, but make sure you do so before and during your hike. 

Pack Appropriately

The trip organizer put together an extremely comprehensive list of items to pack, so I’ll share it with you! 

 On the hike, make sure to bring along:

  • Water 
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Personal care items (A visit from Aunt Flo in the woods with no back-up is no bueno.)
  • Dry socks (Because wet socks are awful and make you wart-prone.)
  • Snacks

Use these tips, and you can feel at ease going against TLC’s word. Chase all the waterfalls you want.

 

Accessibility

Because of my privilege, I've never had to give accessibility much thought outside of appreciating “spacious” bathroom stalls, and wishing I could park in the spots near the entrance at Lenox Mall on Saturdays. I was participating in ableism.

It wasn't until I had to push my mom and her wheelchair through those stalls, that they didn’t feel that spacious anymore, and when I had to unpack a wheelchair from the trunk that I started checking to see if cars parked in handicap spots actually had passes.

Without being disabled or having someone close to you who is, accessibility may never be an issue for you because our world has been built for people without disabilities (physical, sensory, or mental). 

All places, especially places meant for people to optimize their health, should be inclusive of everyone. My mom used to go to the gym at least 5 days a week, so getting her a gym membership after she ran out of physical therapy sessions was a natural next step. However, with full strength in only the right side of her body, it was difficult finding a gym where she could use equipment effectively or comfortably outside of the treadmill. 

Even when I brought my mom to Atlanta’s Google office, and wanted her to get some exercise in while I worked out- the building’s elevators only went down to the second floor, while the gym was on the first. The only way to the gym was down 2 very long flights of stairs, or to go around the building to an alternate entrance. Not anticipating that she would need to walk for any extensive distances that day, we did not pack my mom’s wheelchair, and the building did not provide any. My friend and I pushed my mom around the building to the alternate door in a rolling office chair in good spirits, but the blatant barrier for people with disabilities and lack of accommodations for disabled trying to access the gym was disappointing, especially for a building hosting Google, a company that prides itself on bias busting.

Her first time back on a bicycle at LA Fitness.

Her first time back on a bicycle at LA Fitness.

These are things to take into consideration when we navigate our surroundings, before consistently choosing the handicaps stalls, or parking in the handicap spots to run into the store for a few minutes. Since many of my friends are aspiring entrepreneurs- this is especially important when designing your business to ensure that your store or facility is accessible. Ableism and accessibility take many forms though, not just in the physical capacity. You can read more about this often invisible bias here.

 

American Lung Associations Fight for Air Climb

This Saturday I joined my Fitness SF Team for the American Lung Association's Fight for Air Climb.

I didn’t know much about the event besides that:

  • As a key sponsor, Fitness SF subsidized my fees.
  • I had to get up 48 flights of stairs
  • There were snacks at the top.

Once I finished the race, I ended up feeling inclined to learn a lot more thanks to a stranger that was generous in more ways than one.

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I ran a little over 2.5 miles to get to the event, and was nervous that this would come back to haunt me when I started the climb. The camaraderie of my fellow trainers at the starting line helped. People were joking, doing flagpoles using the nearest bus-sign pole for fun, and cheering each person on as they took their turn entering the stairwell.

(Not a lot of people knew me, but in my head they would’ve cheered me on too.)

I finished in about 10 minutes. Faster than I expected it to take to climb 48 flights! Despite the short burst of physical exertion- I was ravenous, and set out to find the snacks. 

I saw a buffet table of croissants, muffins, fried chicken- and my eyes lit up when I saw fresh berries and granola. But, my stomach sunk as I got to the front of the line and saw that there was barely any left.

Knowing the few strawberries and 3 baby carrots I had on my plate were not going to cut it- I asked the two gentlemen at the Charles Schwab donor table if I could have some of theirs.

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Thankfully, Edwin was willing to share not only his berries, but also a bit of his story.

This was Edwin’s 11th Air climb, and I was thoroughly curious about the motivation behind him coming back to this event for over a decade. 

It turned out that for the Air Climb- the cause of supporting lung cancer research was an added bonus. Edwin just genuinely enjoys activities that are primarily intense, short bursts.

A cause that he was particularly passionate about was Alzheimer’s, as both of his grandparents had been affected. He pointed out that causes like lung cancer and Alzheimer's are disproportionately underfunded when compared to causes like breast cancer.

“If you ask 9 out of 10 people on the street- how do you get lung cancer, they’ll say from smoking. This negative association leads people to support causes like lung cancer research less, because they imagine that everyone who had it, has it because of a lifestyle choice. Which isn’t the case.”
“Alzheimer’s on the other hand... there’s not really a group of survivors that can advocate for themselves, and the people who would advocated on their behalf, are typically taking care of them.”

Edwin’s points reminded me of this infographic I saw a while back.

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/09/05/infographic-compares-donations-to-disease-and-finds-big-disparities/

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2014/09/05/infographic-compares-donations-to-disease-and-finds-big-disparities/

He also made me very curious. Curious about the role of marketing in health research, about the basis of how government funding for health research is allocated, and about disparities in health overall

I’ve linked some of the articles I checked out initially on the matters, and would love recommendations from you all on resources to learn more!

Red Rock Canyon

Overdue photos from our Red Rock Canyon Climb; Corny Reflections on the Adventure; and a Call to Action to Have Your Own (National Parks Week - Free Entry!)

Even planned adventures will be unpredictable. Have your expectations ever truly been met 100%? That's what makes an adventure what it is, though, right? That's why I should've known better than to expect a casual stroll through some scenic geological structures, laughing at Rahkeen's jokes, munching on goji berries. Instead I ended up scaling the entire face of a canyon... laughing at Rahkeen's jokes, and munching on goji berries. 

The power of the mind on a mission. Whether I'm telling myself I'm going to do 10 sprints, or run 5 miles- it's hard to stop at 5 sprints or 2.5 miles, because I know where the finish line is, and I'm already halfway there.

*The same applied on this hike, except I just thought I was halfway there. 

The first time Rahkeen asked if I wanted to stop, I took a glimpse of the canyon peak and said- "Let's get to the top!" Each time he asked me again, I'd look up and say- "It's right there!"

Now after the many times I had to reassure us both that, "We're so close! ...Right?", I realized that we weren't as close as I thought we were. But, the mere sight of my end goal and the thought of wasting the progress I'd made (we can talk sunk costs another time)- kept me going. I've always considered myself mission-driven, and this climb felt like an example of that trait manifesting itself. It's also not as cool a story to say you that you climbed half a mountain.

My "I think I need to take another route face."

My "I think I need to take another route face."

Comfort in being a leader and follower.  It's straightforward, but often people have more knowledge and experience than you, and those are instances when you shouldn't feel obligated to assert yourself as a leader, and be a learner instead.  Rahkeen had more experience and knowledge about climbing, so I was comfortable following his lead... for the most part (see photo above). 

Other times your leadership skills are needed to keep the journey going, i.e. My competitiveness made us keep continue when Rahkeen was ready to sit down and eat goji berries.

The view is always better when you earn it. The view is technically the same for a person who's able to pay for an easy way to get to the top, versus a person who had to take a hard climb. We see the same red rocks and blue sky. But in the same way TV parents say "you have to earn your own money before you can understand the value of a dollar", working hard to get to the top makes you feel more inclined to take in every detail of the beauty of that view you've earned the privilege of seeing. It makes you want to immerse yourself into the present moment that was made possible by a difficult journey- making your reds more vibrant and your blues more brilliant.

Before, During, and After replenishing with snacks Goji Berries.

Presence and gratitude.Being thousands of miles away from your responsibilities doesn't make them go away, but they can't be weighing on you 24/7 either. I had to be reminded, and continuously remind myself to just be there and appreciate where I was. "Be at, where ya feet at".

Similar to work out rest days, moments of meditation provide mental rejuvenation. Your mental health is key to you tending to those responsibilities and your own wellbeing. 

You don't have to take a road trip to have your own adventure! It is Part II of National Parks Week- so do take advantage of the free entry if you can get to one. Otherwise- adventures are what you make them, so try something new or get to know someone new!

Rally HealthFest: Hopes for the Future of Family Fun

Battered deep fried hot dogs, corn hole, and clowns.

Or fruit smoothies, sack races, and perky fit people.

I won’t condemn the All-American funnel cake, or the thrill of collapsable rollercoasters- but Rally HealthFest was my kind of Festival!

 

I arrived at Rally HealthFest and could feel the energy before I even found the registration check in table. The location in Justin Herman Plaza complemented the open, welcoming atmosphere- with palm trees, blue skies and sea gulls from the San Francisco pier serving as a backdrop to the family affair.

Core tenets of the HealthFest were clear from the beginning- with each participant receiving a rewards card to collect stickers earned from activities centered around four simple values: Move, Care, Eat, and Feel. 

 

Utilizing everything from games, a dance stage, and high energy instructors- the “Move" options were robust. Kids did football drills, sack races, and had access to the classic bouncy house. Meanwhile spin classes, yoga, and boot camps were in session throughout the day. 

At the main stage you could see (and hear) Boss Everline, Kevin Hart’s right hand trainer + philanthropist + entreprenuer, shouting through his microphone- encouraging mothers, fathers, sisters, and friends to move along with the dance instructor, or challenge themselves with one of his partner exercises. There on stage and popping in on some of the other activities, you could also find Kevin Hart himself, along with fellow celebrity ambassadors Melissa Menounos and Melvin Gordan.

 

If you wanted a break from the physical activity, you could write your future self a motivating note, play brain games, or share what you’re grateful for with colorful chalk on a big black board. 

You could also replenish with smoothies! Recipes were named after the 3 celebrity ambassadors- giving the option of Maria’s Mojo, which incorporated green veggies, Melvin’s berrylicious Marvel, and Hart’s Hustle. I… had 2 Mojo’s.

Seeing everyone dancing, laughing, and learning- genuinely made my heart warm. With every activity there was a takeaway about nutrition, physical, mental, or emotional health- and not a strand of cotton candy in sight!

Obviously in my zone.

Obviously in my zone.

It’s all a part of Rally’s mission. I admittedly hadn’t heard of Rally until I saw Kevin Hart’s face behind one of their logos at a bus stop. But I’ve since learned that in addition to hosting events like the HealthFest, they have a platform of apps that help people make smarter decisions about their health- whether that be finding a doctor, comparing health plan benefits, or making positive changes to your daily routine like reducing stress. 

Our culture has given joy and happiness such a strong tie to refined sugars, deep fryers, and sedentariness. Events like Rally HealthFest help unravel this association by bringing the same joy, except with movement, healthy nourishment, and thoughtfulness at the core. My hope is that the wellness trend continues to make strides in normalizing healthy habits across our communities. 

I also hope that I’ll be able to contribute to the cause/

If anyone has used, or plans to use a product from the Rally suite- I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you're in Atlanta looking for similar events, Rally has done events in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but you can follow their site to look out for future initiatives.

You can also check out local events like Atlanta Streets Alive Festival coming up in April (streets closed off for hearth-healthy, family activity) and Gospel Fest in August (providing health screenings in addition to music and networking). Or do a simple Google search and find something you and your friends can enjoy :)

On the post, Rally- your thoughts are appreciated!