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Running, Eating (Drinking), Thinking[1]

May 29, 2014

running“#running is #meditation for people who can’t sit still” – Tweet from a friend Dion Wise

Below is a brief summary of this week’s Torah Parsha Naso from

Completing the headcount of the Children of Israel taken in the Sinai Desert, a total of 8,580 Levite men between the ages of 30 and 50 are counted in a tally of those who will be doing the actual work of transporting the Tabernacle.

G‑d communicates to Moses the law of the sotah, the wayward wife suspected of unfaithfulness to her husband. Also given is the law of the nazir, who forswears wine, lets his or her hair grow long, and is forbidden to become contaminated through contact with a dead body. Aaron and his descendants, the kohanim, are instructed on how to bless the people of Israel.

The leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel each bring their offerings for the inauguration of the altar. Although their gifts are identical, each is brought on a different day and is individually described by the Torah.

I was not sure if I should do a Blog this week, but as I see, read and listen ideas come to mind, so I thought I would do a blog. My original thought was to talk about the Nazir and the vows he takes. The Nazir is a person who takes a vow to separate oneself from material pleasures. The Nazir may not drink wine or cut his hair. Wine has a deeper meaning and may represent worldly pleasures, behaviour, a state of mind, addictions or relationships. As an original thought, I thought that  I would talk about the effects of alcohol and coffee/ caffeine on sports training and performance and whether they should not be consumed. One of the great things of doing a Blog is that you are forced to learn more about the Parsha and various other subjects.  Through this learning/ reading and listening I have discovered there is more to the Nazir than I originally was aware of. I will try link these thoughts.

To answer this we turn to Maimonides[2], who championed the “golden mean”. “Don’t be overly tolerant, but also not short-tempered; don’t be overly miserly, but also not too generous; don’t be overly serious, but also not too carefree. Always opt for the middle of the road.[3]

Speaking of human predilections[4], however, Maimonides declared that once we indulge in an extreme, the solution is to turn to the opposite extreme for a while, till our system has been detoxified. We continue on this extreme path till we have regained our balance, and only then do we return to the middle path. The Lesson of the Nazir is that each of us should constantly strive to improve ourselves. Meshech Chachmah[5] suggests that this process is best executed through being as critical and ruthless with ourselves as we are with others. A corollary to this insight is that by engaging in this process of introspection and recognizing our own shortcomings, hopefully, we will become more forgiving of others and their failings.

Going back to weather you should drink alcohol/ caffeine training and how this links. I have read numerous articles and web posts on this topic. As I am no expert and not a nutritionist, I will share some of these articles below, but will not write on the topic. I would rather just talk about drinking caffeine – namely Coffee and Tea.

Clement CoffeeCoffee seems to be a staple of most professional triathletes – Belinda Granger – “crushed avocado, salt and pepper on real sourdough with a coffee on the side of course= heaven @ClandestinoRoas that bread is truly the best”. Chis MACCA McCormack – “Morning coffee at our local coffee shop here in Sedona. 4hrs on the bike next…..”

I as many of you know love to go for a coffee #lovegoodcoffee is my favourite hashtag. I am pretty selective in the choice of coffee shops. It often involves reviewing UrbanSpoon, The Age Good Café Guide, noticing places on the run and write-ups of new places.

I recently noticed a blog and the blogger said that she was a coffee snob. She said “Some may choose their coffee shops based on the standard of coffee.  And yes, this is a major factor (of course!).  However, I have to admit something – not only am I a coffee snob, but I am also a ‘cafe interiors’ snob.”[6]

I noticed the following Tweet that sums up drinking coffee – “@axilcoffee in Flinders Lane is incredible. Amazing service, amazing coffee & amazing interior = quintessential Melbourne coffee experience.” What is this coffee experience?

I decided to ask a coffee shop what they think makes a good coffee shop. The answer I got was that people want a nice looking place, they want good coffee, they want ambience, they want friendly staff and importantly wanted a place where they can feel relaxed. I suppose a place to be with friends or to think about life!! – What are your thoughts?

Recently I noticed an article 10 Uncommon Superfoods from an Ultra Endurance Athlete[7]. One of the “Superfoods” listed was Pu-erh Tea. This tea can be perhaps the most expensive in the world, with some cakes priced at $350K (for a 250g cake), its leaves derived from trees upwards of 1,700 years old. A post-fermented tea product produced in the Yunnan province of China and carefully aged, the harvesting, creation and ceremony of Pu-erh is an art steeped in preserved tradition dating back millennia. But what makes Pu-erh truly unique is the process by which the leaves are fermented by microbes after drying and then aged. It is believed that the microbial activity in the tea provides probiotic health benefits unique Pu-erh, such as reducing arterial plaque and LDL cholesterol levels as well as aiding in weight loss by reducing blood sugar levels and improving the body’s ability to metabolize fat.

way-tea2This week I listened to a Podcast[8] of a guy WuDe. He was born in the United States as Aaron Daniel Fisher, but has ended up as a Zen Buddhist living in Taiwan and is a Tea Master. Wude says – “Tea as medicine. Tea as healing. Tea as life.” He talks about Living Tea. These are tea trees that are not planted from cuttings and are not treated with pesticides. Living Tea embraces the aesthetic and spiritual harmony between nature and culture. By relating to tea as a Way or a Tao, we find principles derived from nature by which we guide our lives.

He then goes onto talk about a Tea Ceremony. This is something I have never heard about, but I am going to make enquiries if anyone does these in Melbourne. The tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea. The tea ceremony is understood and practiced to foster harmony in humanity, promote harmony with nature, discipline the mind, quiet the heart, and attain the purity of enlightenment. The art of tea becomes teaism. Within any tea ceremony, whether it is comprised of simple leaves in a bowl or antique teaware and formal practice, we find a way to focus on (these are the important words):

  • ourselves,
  • one another; and
  • nature.

Within this space of presence, the lines between the three become hazy and we return to the simple joy of living.

I recently noticed the following quote from First off the Bike – “Triathlon is all about exploration”[9] and noticed a new book “Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology” [Martin Rowe]. This book questions whether there are deeper connections between veganism and running, for example, that reach beyond attaining peak performance to other aspects of being vegan: such as living lightly on the land, caring for other-than-human life, and connecting to our animal bodies?

I think the message from the Nazir, Coffee, Tea, Running and Triathlon is that there is more to just taking a vow to abstain or drinking or fitness training. Taking a vow, drinking coffee or tea and exercise are means to reflect on ourselves and to try improve make improvements to ourselves and our relationships with others, while enjoying the experience or training.

Next week we celebrate the festival of Shavuot[10] (Festival of Weeks). I heard on the Daily Halacha Podcast ( the day before (Erev) Shavuot has special significance.

Just as Erev Rosh Hashanah is a time for a person to repent for all his sins, Erev Shavuot is a time to repent for the specific sin of failing to show proper respect to Torah, and neglecting its study. The holy books teach that on Shavuot we are judged with regard to our dedication to and respect for Torah, and thus on Erev Shavuot we must reflect upon commitment to learning and repent for not respecting it properly.

To end I noticed the following GCR Quote of the Day from @RunGaryCohen on Twitter – ‘Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.’ – Lao Tzu[11]

To all my friends (Hilton, Selwyn, Len, Ruth and Colin) doing the Comrades Marathon. Good luck. You will have lots to reflect on while running 90km!

Listed Below are a few Articles re Caffeine and training that may be of interest:

  1. Caffeine is something I do recommend but it is dependent upon the individual. I use caffeine from around halfway through the bike and I really find it helpful. It is something I would recommend to everyone to try during an event, and to test out in training. Read more at

I know that you promote caffeine for certain pre-workout and often pre-race nutrition.  But in terms of mental energy, you say it robs you of creativity and makes you a “linear” thinker.  Is there ever a time when you’d want to use caffeine for a specific mental purpose, the way you do for specific physical purposes?

Brendan: Yeah, but caffeine more-derived from either green tea or yerba mate.  Actually, green tea specifically is really good mentally to give you that calm alertness.  It’s not the jittery type of feeling you get from drinking coffee.  So yeah, really good for people who are trying to study lots or plow through a bunch of work and stuff.  And like I said, it’s just kind of a focused, good energy, not that jittery energy.

  1. I find also that before an athletic event it helps you focus; it helps you get into the “zone,” as a lot of athletes call it. Just that really good focus, where you’re not distracted by other things and you’re just really focused on the task at hand. – See more at:
  2. The Caffeine Effect – – Caffeine can be a benefit or drawback. Caffeine is a mild stimulant that occurs naturally in a variety of plant species. There are people who view caffeine as a useful stimulant that increases ones concentration and awareness as well as many other physical traits. The important thing to remember is that caffeine affects each and every individual very differently depending on the amount consumed, the frequency of consumption, and a person’s individual tolerance levels. …… Caffeine is mostly abused, reduce and treat it as a luxury more than a necessity and let it work for you not against you.

On the Side I thought I would mention some of my favourite coffee spots in Melbourne and would love feedback:

  • Clement Coffee – South Melbourne Market – I love sitting outside, with some breakfast post swim and watching people at the market
  • Market Lane – Prahran and Queen Vic Markets – Great places and great coffee
  • Dukes Coffee – Chapel Street – Brilliant coffee. This place is always so busy
  • Industry Beans – Brunswick – Brilliant coffee and Loren loved the tea experience
  • Monk Bodhi Dharma – Carlisle Street – Coffee is always good and always interesting clientele
  • St Ali – South Melbourne – Brilliant Coffee



[1] Title Based on a new book – “Running, Eating, Thinking: A Vegan Anthology” [Martin Rowe]

[2] Mosheh ben Maimon (משה בן מימון), called Moses Maimonides (/maɪˈmɒnɪdiːz/ my-MON-i-deez) and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn (Arabic: موسى بن ميمون‎), or RaMBaM (רמב”ם – Hebrew acronym for “Rabbeinu Mosheh Ben Maimon” – English translation: “Our Rabbi/Teacher Moses Son [of] Maimon”), was a preeminent medieval Spanish, Sephardic Jewish philosopher, astronomer[5] and one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars and physicians[6][7][8] of the Middle Ages. He was born in Córdoba (present-day Spain), Almoravid Empire on Passover Eve, 1138,[9][10] and died in Egypt on December 12, 1204.[11] According to most,[who?] he is buried in Tiberias. The Maimonides Heritage Center was established to commemorate his legacy. He was a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt.

[3] Mishneh Torah, ibid. 1:4.

[4] Definition – a preference or special liking for something; a bias in favour of something –

[5] A profound commentary on the Torah. A unique blend of Halakha, thought and commentary. In it Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen of Dvinsk (1843-1926) demonstrates the unity between the written and oral laws and presents strikingly original interpretations of both Biblical verses and Talmudic passages.



[8] WuDe on Zen & The Art & Importance of Living Tea –


[10] One of the Three Pilgrim Festivals. Celebrates the revelation of the Five Books of the Torah (or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible) by God to Moses and to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, 49 days (7 weeks) after the Exodus from Egypt. Commemorates the wheat harvesting in the Land of Israel. Culmination of the 49 days of the Counting of the Omer.

[11] Laozi was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions


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One Comment
  1. Mom permalink

    Wow lots of info & very interesting. Thanks for sharing xxx

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