Tag Archives: vegan runner

What I’ve learned from 2 years of unicycling

Screenshot from 2018-02-01 13-03-32

Me juggling while idling on a unicycle, a very difficult skill to master

I’ve been unicycling now for over 2 years, and what an adventure it has been! Here are some things I’ve learned over these 2 years:


Most learning is subconscious

When learning a new skill(going backwards, idling, juggling while idling, etc), it’s critical to use the right technique or in the very least not do things that will impede your progress. While we all may use a different learning method, we should observe some general guidelines, especially early on.

As important as these guidelines are, they are not written in stone. Through trial and error we may occasionally find it helpful to ignore certain guidelines. It can be frustrating when we hit upon a technique variation that seems to work but later on doesn’t. If we’re persistent enough we improve, though we’re often not sure why. This is because so much of the learning is happening at a subconscious level, to the extent that it’s very difficult to describe or replicate what we are doing that is leading to success instead of failure. This is largely due to muscle memory and that practicing the same thing over and over again forces our body to do it more efficiently.

This isn’t all that unique to unicycling since it happens when learning just about anything. However, it’s because learning new unicycling skills is so bewilderingly difficult and complicated at first that every little improvement is celebrated as a victory. While we all have an innate sense of proprioception(the sense of where we are in space which helps with balance), unicycling will lead to a quantum leap improvement in this ability to the extent that we feel like we have acquired super-powers. This is why unicycling is so uniquely enjoyable.

Taking breaks can help you improve

This may seem counter-intuitive, but I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was going to be rusty after a break but instead got better. I am not saying you shouldn’t be persistent, but rather that after practicing on a consistent basis, a break of a few days to a week may be helpful, besides taking off one day a week(or whatever works for you).

Finding the magic formula to ensuring breaks will be helpful is interrelated with figuring out what is the ideal of amount of practice time. It varies from person to person, and more isn’t necessarily better. We probably all notice that there are diminishing returns to going beyond a certain amount of practice time, and that excessive practice can lead to burnout or extreme frustration.

This is why one day off a week from unicycling may be better than doing it 7 days a week, and anything more than a few hours of practice a day is unlikely to be helpful.

Besides providing rest, a day or a week off may help your brain and muscles properly assimilate what it has learned, and practicing excessively may interfere with this assimilation. This is why occasionally taking time off may be more helpful than detrimental to getting better at unicycling, or anything for that matter.

Variation is the key to improving

You practice the same thing every day, with the same unicycle at the same place at the same time and you’re noticing very little to no improvement. We all know the cliche that “practice makes perfect”, but some of us(myself included) get stuck on a learning plateau and we’re not sure why. Again, this is not unique to unicycling. Besides taking the occasional break, practicing subtle variations may help us improve.

What do I mean by variation? By playing around with tire pressure, or putting in different size cranks, or simply practicing with a different unicycle altogether. I’ve experimented with different tire pressures while learning to go backwards and would often notice significant improvements after a few days of variations. I’ve also tried carrying(not juggling) heavy balls to increase the challenge. Also changing locations can sometimes be helpful.

The reason this probably works is because these variations force our brains to discover the essence of a skill by feeding it unique data points it otherwise wouldn’t have access to if we practiced the same exact way every day. In this sense it is kind of related to cross-training.

Think of all the ways you can vary your routine. It doesn’t have to make learning much more difficult, but it should be different enough so that it feels new or a little awkward at first. One approach I’ve often found helpful is to warm up with a variation or something different, then I practice what I usually practice. Sometimes it’s a short trail ride with the municycle, then a long practice session juggling while idling with my freestyle unicycle.

*  *  *

Unicycling is not just a lot of fun, it offers so many different fitness benefits without breaking the bank. Like I’ve said before it’s great cross-training for runners and offers similar fitness benefits. It also forces you to pay close attention to your body and all its asymmetries and quirks, like yoga or dance. Besides this, taking up unicycling is a great way to learn about learning.


The Attraction of Unicycles: A Lesson for Learning Complex Skills

How to Unicycle Backwards





Veganism and multi-level marketing

Screenshot from 2018-01-05 14-47-51

It’s the new and improved veganism taking social media by storm. It’s no longer just about animals, or about health, it’s about riches beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is join the right team and watch the money start flowing like Niagara Falls into your bank account. And it only takes a tiny sign-up fee to get started! Or at least that’s what the “vegan” wealth gurus of social media want you to believe.

So a blog post about veganism and multi-level marketing(MLM) aka network marketing? What’s going on here? The two seem worlds apart but if you’re a vegan and you’ve been on social media lately you’ve likely encountered someone claiming to be a vegan pushing some product or an “amazing” MLM “business opportunity” that they can’t stop talking about. This used to be a rare occurrence for me, but much to my annoyance I have been experiencing a lot more of it over the past year; this is what inspired me to write this post. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MLM, it’s a business strategy that’s all about endlessly bothering everyone you know to either join the scheme or buy from you so they can bother everyone they know to join the scheme, ad infinitum.

It’s for good reason that MLMs are often considered pyramid schemes with better lawyers. Research shows that almost no one except those at the top of the pyramid make any money. These schemes often target the most desperate and vulnerable people with promises of riches, with representatives encouraged by up-lines to use a “fake it till you make it” approach, complete with fancy cars and lavish vacations to lure people in. Many people are so badly burned by these scams that they end up filing for bankruptcy. Besides this, they may end up feeling like failures because they believe they either didn’t do it right or they realize they’ve fallen for a scam and are too embarrassed to admit it. As if this wasn’t bad enough, MLM reps often become increasingly alienated from friends and family when they can no longer tolerate the non-stop scam promotion.

It’s disturbing witnessing people who claim to be vegan engaging in this sort of unethical, predatory behavior. This can damage our movement in myriad ways. Besides inflicting financial harm on individual vegans, it also hurts the credibility of the movement and has the potential to drive people out of it. And the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement is not just an online phenomenon, since MLM companies will often set up shop at vegan fests around the world. Our movement in general and our fests in particular need better quality control, lest the word “vegan” become utterly meaningless or a synonym for pseudo-science and chicanery(rampant pseudo-science in the vegan movement is something I’ve addressed before).

Vegans involved in animal activism and education know how difficult it can be to raise money to fund our efforts. Credibility is everything when it comes to activism and charity. People want to know where their money is going and how much of an impact it is making. It should go without saying that for activist groups to look like they have any kind of connection with a scam is a huge credibility killer(many MLMs will donate to charities to improve their reputation). Fortunately, this isn’t a big problem for most activist groups, at least not yet, but those of us concerned about the credibility of the vegan movement should be extra vigilant when it comes to MLMs trying to infiltrate it.

MLMs and other charlatans through their actions dilute the meaning of veganism, sometimes to the point that it’s only about healthy living, or for MLM-bots, healthy living + financial independence. Animal rights are pushed aside, or if they are considered at all, the “cruelty-free” label is similarly diluted. Some MLM cosmetics companies will even falsely claim their products are “cruelty-free” when they’re not: Presenters – You Need To Stop Telling Customers That Younique is Cruelty-Free, Now.

Screenshot from 2018-01-05 14-58-33

False health claims promising perfect health or increased energy are the typical siren songs of many MLM-bots, both vegan and non-vegan. Many vegans, fed up with mainstream medicine, are drawn to the MLM-bots and their “natural” cures. If they are struggling with their new vegan lifestyle, they may seek help from an MLM-bot out of desperation, instead of going to a qualified health professional. “Failure to thrive” is a lot more common among vegans than many vegan advocates care to admit, and is probably the main reason there are many ex-vegans out there. I believe a lot of this “failure to thrive” related attrition is due to the bad advice I see floating around on social media like thick smog around a large industrial city, which MLM-bots are big contributors to. Fortunately, critical thinking can help blow away some of this dense smog of misinformation.

This very toxic nexus of quackery, greed, and deception is radioactive to social networks. The damage it could do to the vegan community is incalculable. Just imagine you’re a non-vegan and you see this kind of thing. Especially if the non-vegan knows anything about science. Vegans are often scorned enough as it is by mainstream society, but add MLM to the mix and it looks positively nauseating. And I’ve barely touched upon the cult-like nature of many MLMs and the extremely tacky “look at all the money I’m making” videos and social media posts MLM-bots often make.

It’s time we do something about this infiltration before it thoroughly poisons our movement. Don’t buy MLM products, report MLM-bots on social media, alert charities if it looks like they are associated with an MLM or other scam, and get involved with the scam-buster and growing anti-MLM movement. Besides this, complain to vegan fest organizers if you notice MLM company representatives hawking their products at the event. Remember, for many attendees this may be their first time being exposed to veganism on a large scale. If they have a negative opinion of MLM as most people do, this may make them less likely to want to go vegan.

Just because someone says they are “vegan” and uses the #vegan hash-tag doesn’t mean they really are vegan or they are doing it for the right reasons. Fake friends are worse than obvious enemies. Don’t be misled into thinking that if so-called vegans are involved with an MLM company, it must be one of the “good” MLMs. We need to declare loud and clear that get-rich-quick schemes and supplement scams have no place in our community. As our movement continues to grow we need better quality control to ensure we’re all on the same page about what veganism really stands for. The credibility and potential of our movement is at stake and by extension the lives of millions of animals. Standing for ethics and good science shouldn’t be the exception, but should be the very foundation of our movement.

Have you had a negative experience with an MLM or a vegan MLM-bot in particular, or are you just concerned about the infiltration of MLM into the vegan movement? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Related articles:

Why I Hate Multi-Level Marketing

MLM and Social Media

Younique’s Animal Testing Statement; Not 100% Cruelty-Free

The Biggest Scam in the Fitness Industry

MLM and Appeal to Consequences Fallacy: If MLM is illegal, then why hasn’t it been shut down?

Vemma Agrees to Ban on Pyramid Scheme Practices to Settle FTC Charges

What do I do with hummus?

Going vegan can be bewildering for many people. You’re discovering all these enticing new foods, and you have no idea what to do with them. In particular, you’re seeing hummus everywhere but have no idea what to do with it.

Hummus is a spread or dip made from chickpeas, garlic and tahini that is a mainstay of Middle Eastern and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, and can be used in many different ways. There are countless varieties of hummus, some that are very lemony, some more garlicy, and some that are very spicy.

While many people just use it as a dip for chips or bread as an appetizer, you can make some delicious, more elaborate meals from it.

Here’s some suggestions.

Screenshot from 2017-11-08 08:16:34

A hummus-chickpea-arugula wrap: Just use a tortilla wrap or pita bread and stuff it with hummus, chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, tahini sauce, harissa(Tunisian hot pepper sauce), olives, fresh parsley, lemon juice and black pepper. The hummus is there, it just got buried under all the other ingredients. Not only is this very tangy and delicious, it’s also very nutritious.

Screenshot from 2017-11-08 08:15:50

Not in the mood for a wrap? Another suggestion is to make a hummus platter with stuffed grape leaves(dolma), tomatoes, romaine lettuce, tahini sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, and black pepper. Another delicious, easy to make(unless you make the dolma from scratch) Middle Eastern meal that’s totally vegan.

This barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with hummus, and Middle Eastern cuisine has so much to offer vegans. Have fun!

Paine to Pain 2017 Race Report

Screenshot from 2017-10-10 07-38-35

Nearly two weeks ago I completed the Paine to Pain trail half-marathon, my second official half-marathon. It wasn’t that much different from last year except that I didn’t juggle this time and it was warmer and it rained a little. Obviously, not juggling is part of the reason I completed the race in 1:50, 11 minutes faster than last year. However, I did juggle while training, and even did a little joggling while warming up before the race. It seems not juggling during this race disappointed some spectators who had expected me to juggle.

I really love this race. It’s so steeped in history and celebrates Thomas Paine, one of the few Founding Fathers strongly opposed to slavery, among other progressive stances. This was the 10th anniversary of the race, it has become something of a New Rochelle tradition.

So why didn’t I juggle this time? I was concerned about having a mishap on the narrow, rocky trail, but I also wanted to see how much faster I would be without juggling. Though I didn’t fall last year, I did drop the balls 4 times and came close to spraining my ankle. This year I did trip a few times but didn’t fall to the ground since I quickly regained my footing.

The race started at 9, but since most of this race takes place on a rocky, narrow trail there are different waves that start at different times. I was in wave 3. Much of mile 1 was on the street, but once you’re on the trail it is wickedly rocky and hilly. I took it easy for the first few miles, but after this started passing a lot of runners whenever the trail allowed for it.

Even when I’m not joggling, I’m joggling: My arms still automatically make a juggling motion while running because they’re so used to juggling while running. This is hardly a problem and fortunately nothing trains you to have perfect running form more than joggling. For this reason, adding joggling to your training regimen may prove beneficial even if you don’t plan on doing it at races. I’m not sure if all the unicycling I do helps with form or balance while running, but it probably helps push my cardiovascular fitness to the max without having to worry about a running overuse injury.

Several miles in, the crowd of runners thins out and I started picking up the pace. This big, rocky hill in Saxon woods slowed me down a little, but I continued to pass more runners. In some parts of the woods the summer greenery is holding out, but in others the dazzling reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn are working their magic.

Midway in I felt terrific. I was wet both from my sweat and from the drizzle, and I was still getting faster. Approaching Twin Lakes I was in very familiar territory, I could almost run it blindfolded. Then next thing we know, the finish line is only 2 miles away, and I grab my last cup of water from the aid station. I went all out until the end. My fastest mile was mile 12, a 6:56/mile pace; although my legs felt strong and I felt great otherwise, I felt a little nauseous running so fast. Average pace for the entire race was 8:13/mile.

It felt a little awkward crossing that finish line without juggling but what a glorious feeling it was. My recovery is going well so far. Representing Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

Screenshot from 2017-10-16 12-19-30


My Segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika

In case you missed my segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1NHYHNfloQ

My new 29 inch Nimbus unicycle

Screenshot from 2016-04-17 16:33:14

29″ Nimbus Road unicycle

As many of you already know, I purchased my first unicycle in late 2015 because it seemed like the next logical thing to learn after joggling for so many years. After a few months I was able to ride it for long distances and was satisfactory with most basic skills. Though the Club 24 inch unicycle was a perfect introductory model for someone completely new to the enigmatic world of unicycling, it’s far from ideal for going on long treks.

At most on long rides I could average 5.5 miles per hour on the 24″ unicycle. Little kids on their tiny bicycles in the park were often very impressed when they saw me on my unicycle until they realized they could go much faster than me. One minute they totally admire me, the next minute I get no respect! And so I began my search for a faster unicycle, which means a much larger wheel. Eventually it came down to 2 choices: a 36″ unicycle or a 29″ unicycle.

A 36″ unicycle can travel about 12 mph on a long ride, which is roughly equivalent to the average speed of a weekend bicyclist. The drawbacks of a 36″ unicycle are that it’s more difficult to maneuver, it’s a struggle to go up hills, and it takes up a lot of space and costs a lot more than a 29″. Like just about everything else in life, purchasing a unicycle is about making compromises.

A 29″ unicycle can travel at about 7 mph, it’s easier to maneuver and go up hills than with a 36″. Since I live in a hilly area, a 29″ was the obvious choice. So I recently purchased a Nimbus 29″ road unicycle with 125 mm cranks. So far I am loving it and the transition wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought it would be. Unfortunately, I still struggle a little with free-mounting it since the seat and pedals are a little higher than on the 24″.

On average, my speed is 6.5 mph on long rides, much faster than my 24″, but still not as fast as I had hoped(kids often zoom past me). I figure a little more training will improve my speed and my ability to climb steep hills. I was competent with idling on my 24″, but it seems impossible with the 29″(the larger the wheel, the harder it is to idle). So far, I haven’t tried juggling while riding the 29″ since I don’t feel comfortable enough with it yet.

Overall, the Nimbus 29″ feels much more solid than my 24″. The 24″ feels flimsy by comparison. The ride is also smoother on the 29″, handling certain bumpy areas better than the 24″. An oddity is that for some reason I’ve long struggled with right turns on the 24″, while left turning was always comparatively easy. With the 29″, it’s the opposite, but the issue isn’t as noticeable as with the 24″. I’ve long tried to find a defect with the 24″ and couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with it, so I’ve long considered that this discrepancy may be due to having a favored side. Having a favored side isn’t anything unusual, it’s similar to right or left-handedness. However, I still suspect a defect since it would be unusual for my favored side to change based on the unicycle I’m riding.

Even though this unicycle is primarily for road riding, I’ve found that it performs well enough on trails, so long as it’s mostly flat. It would likely be even easier riding trails if I replaced the tire with an off-road type of tire. Since I do very little trail riding, I don’t think I’ll be doing this any time soon.

So far, I am very pleased with the 29″ Nimbus road unicycle, and hope to do a 20 mile ride on it one of these days. I will still use the 24″ for skill development, but the 29″ will be used from now on for anything longer than a few miles.