Sunday, August 7, 2011

Portland times

What does a state of the art 21 century fitness facility, food carts, backyard gardens, nutrition planning, coffee houses, breweries, breath taking waterfalls and 5 day muscle soreness have in common? Portland.

portland, columbia river

I had heard a lot about it but it was only upon landing along the Columbia river that I realized why our friends Chris and Aya left Santa Monica and moved here. As soon as you land, you get overwhelmed by a feeling of freedom and you just want to kick off your shoes, order a local beer and spend a few days people watching. A place like Portland attracts a crowd we don't normally see - people on furry bikes, dog lovers, nature lovers, professional tie die shirt models, artists, an army of cyclists (not driving a car is a local pride), gardeners, hikers, musicians, and lovers of all that is green, sustainable and enduring.

We came to Portland for the grand opening of Elemental Fitness Lab - a place you need to experience for yourselves if you are ever up here. The owner, fitness revolutionary, and a great friend to us - Chris Bathke, has created a space that Lou Schuler described as the Future of the fitness industry and that about sums it up. The ropes, monkey bars, climbing routes, suspension stations, kettlebells, ropes, the vast and spacious stretching and relaxation area (which easily turns into the combat sport area), the warm bamboo floors and the eclectic music all transport you into a space that shapeshifts, depending on who is there, what they are training for and what drives them.

elemental fitness lab

Roland and I participated in the grand opening party, where we met some of the clients and the other presenters at the Saturday's Elemental Fitness Lab Clinic - an education event with all proceeds going to charity that was open to both fitness enthusiasts and trainers. That weekend we saw legendary coaches Robert Dos Remedios and Dewey Nielsen, as well as Chris Bathke, present and make us terribly sore for days and days to come. Roland and I were honored to be the first to present at the clinic, where we laid out our understanding and practice of what makes a successful nutrition plan. Then the pain started. Dewey Nielsen opened with an excellent hands on session on thoracic and hip mobility, offering many variations of movements to accelerate and decelerate for the advanced or the novice or injured client. He has a gift to adapt any movement and bring the most accurate cues to the table making patterns possible and achievable at any level. It was the first time I had ever seen him present and I am looking forward to hearing him speak again soon!

Chris followed with some basic kettlebell patterns, teaching us proper breathing technique and efficiency. He made a clear point for movement efficiency being the base for performance and the development of specific sport skills. An hour later we were tired enough to take a day break, but Robert Dos Remedios had some Docersice waiting for us. He opened with an overview of what cardio strength training is and laid out the basic structures he uses with his athletes. I didn't think he would actually make us go through ALL the main types of cardio conditioning workouts he uses, but being in a crowd of fit and focused individuals, I decided to push through the pain. Maybe you can see how sweaty we are in the pictures and if we look happy, it's mostly because we are relieved we survived. That doesn't stop us from looking forward to the next Elemental Fitness Lab Clinic and hope Chris schedules another educational event soon!

presenters at the elemental fitness lab clinic
From left: Roland, Dewey, Dos, Chris, me and Rick

Talking about training hard, it took some very very delicious meals to fuel and recover. Eating in Portland is a whole new adventure in itself, especially if you are coming from southern California, where we think we eat seasonal and fresh food. Turned out we don't hold a candle to the light of the food scene in that city. We shopped at natural food stores where the abundant choice of produce, dairy, meats and treats was there to please everyone from the most ascetic of vegans to the most strict of caveman style dieters. You could get dozens of types of local cheeses, fresh and crisp vegetables and fruits and a variety of natural fruit and nut bars like we had never seen. Even our favorite Pure bar was hidden between towering options of tens of other bars competing over taste and ingredients. I told Chris his clients have no excuse to eat processed food, especially after we saw the choices on the menus at a few restaurants. People DO care about what they put on your plate and we enjoyed tender roasts, thick and nurturing soups, fresh and delicious salads, and of course, great sushi.

Portland food court
Choose your food cart, then enjoy. I vote for Istanbul Delight - it was great!

When we had no time to sit down for a long meal, we ventured into one of the many Portland food courts, where the food cart revolution was in full bloom. Every time we went, the carts were different and you could have Mexican, Thai, Turkish or Italian, and even Guam cuisine right in the same place for a very very low price. The whole time in Portland I did not see one chain restaurant of coffee place. I am sure they exist somewhere, but we didn't see even one of them.

espresso from Blend cafe
not your ordinary espresso, thanks to BLEND CAFE
Walking around we saw that most restaurants and cafes had their own herb gardens. We soon discovered that almost every house had a small garden and people were growing everything from potatoes to chives and peppers, and herbs and spices were abundant and fragrant at every corner.

Portland backyard garden 
Walking around makes you want to start your own garden, right now, or at least move to Portland
We were in awe of the natural scenery - in one day you can ski or snowboard and then surf at the shore. The tall mount Hood rises above Portland and it makes you itch for ski boots and fun (it's kind of easy knowing you can go back down to summertime, right?). We did go hiking the last day and saw waterfalls, steep trails, ate sun kissed raspberries and stared in childlike wonder at the temperate rainforest.

Flying back out was hard, and saying goodbye to friends, an incredible professional experience, a dream training facility and heart stopping nature was the biggest effort we had to make that weekend, yet I was starting to miss waking up without my muscles screaming.

For those of you who enjoy photo stories, here is the whole picture album, including the incredible waterfalls!

Our night goodbye was a thrilling concert at the Portland Zoo, where we enjoyed the art and music of Bela Fleck, who has taken the banjo to cosmic levels. See?


  1. I saw the photos right after you posted them in FB. Chris has made a unique gym, indeed! I envy you for this wonderful experience, dear. Portland seems a really nice place for living.


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