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Trimarni is place where athletes and fitness enthusiasts receive motivation, inspiration, education, counseling and coaching in the areas of nutrition, fitness, health, sport nutrition, training and life.

We emphasize a real food diet and our coaching philosophy is simple: Train hard, recover harder. No junk miles but instead, respect for your amazing body. Every time you move your body you do so with a purpose. Our services are designed with your goals in mind so that you can live an active and healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Trimarni Blog

A blog dedicated to exercise, nutrition and my life

Filtering by Category: "Czech republic"

Czech trip Day 7 and 8: Happy vegetarian athlete - running, castles, hiking, wine, food, cycling, shopping

Marni Sumbal

I love waking up in the morning, excited to start the day. I find myself this way every day but in Czech, it is an adventure everyday!

The sun rises rather early in Czech and with no AC in the flat, we often wake up to the birds chirping outside of the open windows and the sun as our alarm clock. Regardless if we sleep to 8 or 5am, it all looks the same. We woke up around 6am which was usual for us and after our morning cup of fabulous coffee, along with some trigger point therapy (rolling on the ball) and active stretching/dynamic warming up, we were off for a 6-mile tour around Znojmo. I guess this was a workout as we were running but with Karel as my amazing tour guide, it was hard to think of this as a workout but instead, the best way to sight-see in a new country. Despite doing a morning run of around 2-4 miles every day since arriving to Czech, we had yet to cover the same route twice in Znojmo. Similar paths but always something new to see. I just couldn't take my eyes off the sights as Karel had me running on a trail, in a forest, on paths, by gardens, on cobblestones. Each place was familiar to Karel, new to me. 6 miles later, we were back at home for a yummy breakfast and then we got ourselves ready to officially start the day.

The day prior we had biked to see a castle that Karel was taken me to the next day. Well, today was the day and we were so happy that both Karel's mom and dad would be joining us.

After a 20 minute or so drive down the road, we parked at a parking lot and made a steep walk (about 1/2 mile) to the top of the hill to visit Vranov nad Dyjí which is a chateaux in the South Moravian region of Czech Republic,which lies on the Dyje (Thaya) river, 3 km north from the Austrian border close to Hardegg. We took a tour of the castle and Karel was my translator for the tour. The rooms were magnificent and so much beauty within each part of the castle. We had to put on slippers over our shoes and you could just smell the history.

After our tour, we hiked back down the steep road to the car and then headed back to Karel's mom's house (after dropping off his dad at his home a mile from his mom's) for lunch. A delicious lunch as usual.

After resting for an hour or so, we got ourselves ready to  meet with Karel's best friend and his girlfriend and their doggy (YIPPE) to tour an underground wine cellar and taste award winning wines. This was an amazing experience for me and although it was cold underground with mold everywhere (perfect humidity for wine), the tasting room was cozy and the wine was amazing! Although I do not drink very much (only wine as beer is not to my liking), I really enjoyed sampling all the white wines which were fantastic.

After our tour, we left with a few bottles of wine that were given to us and headed down the road for a hike with an amazing look-out point. One thing I must add is that this trip has been very special for me but it makes things so much better to have locals (including Karel) as my tour guides. Everything has run so smoothly and I feel like I am at home in another country.

The hike was amazing, with vineyards everywhere and a look out point that takes your breath away. Life just gets really good when I am outside as I just love connecting with nature.

After our hike, we had worked up an appetite as it was nearing 6:30pm (sun still shinning). We went back to Karel's mom's house to clean up and then we all met down the road to walk to the restaurant. Not a new trend as all we did in town was walk which was fantastic seeing that we love to use our bodies as much as possible.

As much as I was loving all the new foods that were served to me in Czech, Karel and I both thought it would be fun to check out something special in Czech that would make me extra happy - a vegetarian restaurant! I found Na Věčnosti online from Happycow.net which is a great website to locate vegetarian/vegan/healthy places to eat while traveling. I absolutely love trying new foods and when I have over a dozen selections to choose from on a menu, I am one happy plant strong athlete :)

Karel was also excited as he loves trying new things and will eat anything so it was nice to have some company with Karel's best friend and Girlfriend to join us for a very new experience. You can read more about our vegetarian dining experience with this link: Na Věčnosti.

After dinner, we chatted a bit more and walked around town and nearing 9:45pm, we made our way back to Karel's mom's house for a good night of rest.

The next morning we had a bike ride on the schedule but that was all! We laughed on Day 7 that for Wednesday, it would be our first unplanned, planned day. Every day was filled with something to do so we decided that for our last full day in Znojmo before heading to Prague, we would enjoy ourselves with a bike ride and then shopping around town to buy gifts for our friends and family and of course, lots of chocolate and coffee for us.

We woke up around 7am and although our first day of not running since arriving to Czech, we were both excited to just ride this day. We had a light breakfast to hold us over for our morning ride and then walked a mile to Karel's dad's house to get our bikes. No need to drive when the roads are made for walking.

We got our bikes and biked a mile or so down the road to the bike shop and picked up Karel's friend's who were joining us for a fun ride in Austria. Little did I know, my skills would be tested again on cobblestones in the town and then descending on switchbacks in Austria. Climbing is no thing for me - I just wish I never had to descend! But thankfully, Karel always gives me pointers and he knows my saying "I'd rather be a chicken than a dead duck." He knows I take my time and although hot brakes at times, I am getting much better at my descending with switchbacks. Karel makes it look so easy just flying down the hills/mountains but then again, after riding in his home, I see why he is so good at cycling. When you grow up in Europe, you have no choice but to learn good cycling skills.

Our bike ride was fantastic today. We left around 9:45 from the bike shop and although only around 35 miles, our 2.5 hours of riding and a few short picture stops was amazing. I am just having so much fun on my bike here in Czech - I fell in love with Karel on our bikes and now I am falling in love with another country on my bike. So many priceless memories.

After riding some long climbs and riding in Austria, crossing over to Czech, seeing the Iron Curtain (which brought back a lot of memories for Karel - he recalls when he was first allowed in Austria, he and his buddies couldn't wait to cycle on different roads) and riding in very gusty winds all the way back to town.

After our ride, it was early afternoon so we showered up at his dad's and then grabbed a coffee and a pastry for refueling, stopped by the bike shop to say good bye to his friend and left with more wine and a new local jersey for myself. People are so generous in Czech - we left with way too much alcohol (Karel says that's not a bad thing and thankfully - nothing broke on the way home).

We finally had some lunch and then rested about 45 minutes before heading out to see more sights (walking) and to shop around for some gifts for us and our family/friends. We finished the evening with a delicious meal and then Karel joined a few of his friends for one last beer at the pub. I decided to stay in as I wanted to give Karel a break from translating so he could just enjoy his time with his friends and just speak Czech. I caught up with my mom and Campy on Skype which was a nice way for me to end my evening.

I stayed up until Karel came home around 9pm and then we were off to bed soon after for we were excited and sad to pack up and head to Prague for day 9 and 10. Wow - I can't believe how time flies....only two more days until we have to return to the USA. Thankfully - I get to bring home lots of memories, pictures and an appreciation for a lifestyle that I have grown to love and hope to continue inspire others to live back in the states.

Czech trip Day 6: From Pribor to Znojmo. more cycling, food and beer

Marni Sumbal

After a quick morning run with Karel (around 4 miles) in the misty rain but on a great paved road, we cleaned up, enjoyed another delicious breakfast in Czech of eggs, mixed veggies, fresh yogurt w/ dried apples (homemade) and muesli, and a slice of bread with homemade cheese spread and Karel and I packed up to head back to Znojmo. It was sad to say good bye to his brothers family but we were looking forward to our last week in Znojmo as Karel still had so much more on our unplanned to do list. I can not believe how time is just flying by!

After our 2.5 hour drive (a bit faster than before due to beautiful weather!) we were back in Znojmo and Karel's mom had a delicious meal waiting for us (Slovakian-inspired) along with several desserts (she said she was in a baking mood the night before). All these treats are exciting but Karel and I typically share any treat that we are offered. There are certainly times for occasional treats but each time should be enjoyed and if you treat yourself day after day, it becomes less and less special. Certainly I do not feel like we are restricting ourselves from anything that is special here and can be consumed with enjoyment but we are not eating anything and everything just because we are in Czech. We have turned down a few treats and second helpings only because we are satisfied from a meal and I feel that is the most appropriate time to say no thank you as oppose to fearing food for calories, fat, sugar, salt, etc. I am really enjoying the fact that I can enjoy this city with Karel and we have both kept our great relationship with food here in Czech. We always feel better after we eat, than before. Just like at home in Florida, no low blood sugar levels, stomach issues, hunger pains, intense cravings, headaches or anything else that many people accept as normal when trying to eat "health"...we have lots of energy all day, sleep well, wake up rested and never use the words guilty, off limit, restricted, cleanse, detox, bad or any other popular fad diet word that brings attention to a style of eating that appeals to the masses.

After we rested for an hour, we headed over to Karel's dad's place to get our bikes from his basement and headed out for an awesome ride in Czech. Karel knows these roads like he road them yesterday for each ride we ride somewhere new, see beautiful scenery and Karel tells me stories of when he was racing/training here in Czech. We are not training here in Czech so we have no schedule or specific miles-time that we have to accomplish everyday. We are not exercising to "burn" calories so we can eat pastries or not feel guilty when eating. We are just enjoying our time here being active, which we love to do with our fueled bodies.

This ride was amazing because we rode in straight headwind and sidewind to a castle and well-worth the brutal conditions heading out there. There was a chill in the air so it was rather chilly while descending to the castle so we only went half way because the rain was coming. We took a pic and then, my favorite part - began climbing again to head back home. We had the most helpful tailwind coming back and we were flying! Karel extended our ride a little to show me some special scenery spots and then it was time to head back to his dad's to clean up.

We walked to Karel's first bike shop and first job to meet with his first boss. Since leaving Czech, Karel's boss turned the basement of the bike shop into a wine cellar where he has received many awards for his wines. We tasted a few wines (with white wine being very popular here due to the seasons and the production of white grapes) and then enjoyed the most amazing pizza ever. Karel told me that the pizza in Czech was out of this world and as a big lover of local pizza, I was so excited to try it! On the side, we had pizza dough (cooked) w/ garlic which was amazing as well. Wow - totally in love with the pizza here and after a long day, I was so happy about our early evening eats.

Since Karel hadn't seen all of his friends yet in Znojmo, Karel arranged a get-together at a pub (of course) for his old cycling teammates to get together and catch up. It was a bit overwhelming for Karel for he wasn't able to translate everything to me but that is ok - several of the guys had their dogs there which is a great thing for me as there are doggies everywhere in Czech so I get lots of doggy love (and it doesn't matter what language they speak) :)It has been very hard for Karel but I know he is gaining a lot more brain cells to extend his longevity as his brain is on 100% of the time, translatting for me all day. Sometimes he forgets to switch and talks English to others but overall, he is doing a very great job as my translator.

As Karel enjoyed a glass (or 3) of beer following our wine tasting, we ordered a light "dinner" at the pub since we had just had pizza. I had a delicious salad w/ a baguette and goat cheese with black walnuts (delicious!) and Karel had a steak tatar plate.

It was a late evening but a great one! Afterward, we walked home (a big trend which I am loving here - we walk miles and miles everyday, especially to and from eating) and it was time for a great night of sleep to begin another fun-filled day.

Stay tuned for Day 7: a run around Znojmo, touring a castle and an underground wine cellar, hiking and eating at the vegetarian restaurant.


















































Czech trip: Vegetarian restaurant

Marni Sumbal


 

As a vegetarian athlete, I find meal planning very easy and fun as I have a variety of fresh and whole foods to enjoy on a daily basis to keep me fueled, nourished and satisfied. But there's nothing more exciting to me than being inspired by new plant strong creations and enoying those creations with others. I'm grateful that I have a very open-minded hubby who loves to eat and is always open to good, fresh food. He knows that between us two, the only thing that differs is that I don't eat meat or fish. So in other words, there is a lot for us to enjoy together and I rarely feel "left out" at meal time. Sometimes, I have to get a little creative when eating outside the home so you can imagine, when a vegetarian restaurant is within my reach, Karel is excited to share it with me. There are not too many times when I am stumped as to what to order from the menu AND I can taste whatever Karel is eating as well.
 After a busy day of touring a castle, walking around town, visiting a wine cellar and taking a hike to an amazing look out point, Karel and I (and his best bud and cycling teammate growing up along with his girlfriend) enjoyed a delicious, satisfying and amazing meal at a vegetarian restaurant in Czech.
I found Na Věčnosti from the Happy Cow website and the reviews were great.
 
 
 Karel and I both thought it would be special to try this restaurant as we have been loving all of the local food here but this would be an extra treat for me and for all four of us!  I am happy about last evening so I wanted to share it with all my plant-strong lovers.
 

(yay - there was a menu in English!)


                                          




 












My dish! Couscous with dried plums and tofu with ginger, nuts and raisins


Karel's dish: Robi medallion with mushrooms in creamy sauce with potatoes (OMG - so delicious!)

 

Halusky with sheep cheese and roasted onions (girlfriend of Karel's friends' dish)

Karel's friends' dish: Creamy risotto in wine, saffron, capers and parmesan cheese

 
Dessert: Fresh rye bread (which I am LOVING here!) with Zlato Cheese - with hot pickled peppers, ketchup, jam and mustard

Czech trip Day 4 and 5: Pribor

Marni Sumbal


In 2004, I took a trip to the Philippines with a group of students at my University (Transylvania University in Lexington, KY – my hometown). We mostly stayed outside of Cebu for the reason for our trip was to serve others by helping to rebuild schools, bathrooms and to give school supplies. It was the best work-service trip for me for it really changed my life. No other trip has affected me like my trip to this third world country. Bucket showers, no running water, no electricity and food rationing.

When I came home from this trip, I really started to think about my own life. I remember crying when I went to a restaurant on our way home (in route home at Cheesecake factory in the airport) and saw so much food being wasted by people who were served large portions + a bread basket and were unable to finish a meal but yet, still had room for dessert. Thinking about how I would give anything to be able to properly nourish the children and individuals who appear to live such a happy and grateful life for what they have and what they are use to. I suppose that trip changed me because I do not feel comfortable with others serving me for I am not comfortable wasting food. I’d rather eat a little less than have too much food on my plate and have it thrown away. Karel knows this and he also knows my portions as I feel many of my food behaviors were first learned from observing others who have very little rather than from a dietetic textbook encouraging “calorie” control.

In Czech, I am reminded of my previous trip abroad as I have yet to read a food label, I do not know how much fat, calories, carbs, protein, sodium, etc is in the food I am eating and I am often served food. However, none of these things bother me as I am learning about a different lifestyle. Whereas in America, there is often little peace with food. We eat as if the food police are watching our every move and calories, carbs, fat, sodium and anything else with a number is on our mind. Of course, it is my job to know these things but I do not feel food facts should consume my life. Here in Czech, I find that the most appropriate word for our current eating style (in Europe for Karel and myself) is “energy”. We put in energy into our body and we expend it. We eat a meal, then we walk for a few miles….just like the locals, walking to and from work, to and from the grocery stores, to and from the parks to play, etc. Life isn’t about food reward or using food to numb emotions but instead, energy balance. Regardless of what you are eating, you expend energy after you consume energy. Sadly, many people in America would rather restrict food (often nourishing food) to “lose weight” rather than to properly energize the body and thus, move more. But as I mentioned before, the American lifestyle is not conducive to healthy living for it is much easier to drive 1-2 miles to the grocery store or walk down the hall to a vending machine than to walk to the grocery store or to take a break from working and enjoy a well-planned meal.

 

On Saturday afternoon, we drove ~3 hours to Karel’s brothers house in Pribor to visit his brother’s family (wife and 3 teenage kids). Although it was a bit cold and rainy out (~40-45degrees Fahrenheit), I couldn’t wait to spend time with Karel’s brother who is extremely active. They are not all athletes but they live a very active lifestyle. They take biking trips in the summer, both Karel’s brother and wife bike to work year round (A few miles down the road) and they bike to and from the grocery store. They have  a car but none of the kids need it for they all walk or take the bus. The kids (between the ages of 17-22) all cook for themselves – fresh food, nothing packaged – and drink tea and water, not sodas or energy drinks. They have a garden in the backyard  that is about to peak and they make jams, pickles, dried fruits, salads, soups and desserts from their selections of foods.

Sure, they are on the computer, they watch TV and they sit around…..so do Karel and I when we are at home. But their energy balance is a lot more beneficial for weight maintenance or even weight loss (without trying) as oppose to being in a positive energy balance for weight gain. Because it is natural to put on weight if you are not aware of your dietary and exercise choices, it is much harder to put on weight quickly in an active lifestyle as oppose to one that encourages large portions, easy snacking, little emphasis on meal time and real food and a sedentary lifestyle.

After a delicious lunch of homemade broccoli soup and vegetable patties we headed to
Štramberk which is a small town near Pribor, next to Kopřivnice. It was a long hike to the top of the hill where there was a cute festival going on and I couldn’t believe my eyes – I felt like I was in Disney World with all the cute timbered houses and cobblestone roads. The top of the hill is dominated by the Trúba castle tower. Stramberk is known for their “ears” which are from a tale that Barberians would eat the ears of others, thus Stramberk’s ears everywhere. I must say – as a 20-year vegetarian, those gingerbread like ears were the most delicious “body parts” I have ever eaten J Nearby there is the Šipka Cave where Neanderthal child bone remnants were found.

After our cold and rainy 3 hour walk/hike/visit to Stramberk, it was time to head back to the house to warm-up with a fire and enjoy dinner. I was tired from the day of activities which started with a quick 2 mile run with Karel (in the drizzling rain) so I headed to bed around 10pm as Karel stayed up with his brother for a little catching up.

On Sunday, Karel, his brother and nephew and I went for a rainy yet beautiful 3.75 mile run on the most amazing paved trails which Karel’s brother bikes on to and from work. It was great to get the blood flowing and to have some company for our morning run.

After a delicious breakfast, we stayed inside for the morning until the rain stopped and then had the most delicious lunch of tofu, rice and veggies prepared by Karel’s nice (who also enjoys tofu – actually 4 of us had the tofu creation and 4 others had goulash) and then we headed to a car museum all about Tetra - Tetra company

There was a special exhibit going on about Emil Zátopek who was a runner with an amazing repertoire.  Emil Zatopek

After spending much of the afternoon out, we headed back home to clean up (another cold/rainy day) and enjoy one last meal with the family. Karel’s niece prepared the meal again (whereas Karel’s nephew prepared the goulash) and it was chickpeas with veggies and couscous. So yummy!

We sat around, enjoyed a few small treats for dessert and it was such a great weekend with the family that we were sad to go to bed on Sun evening to head back to Znojmo on Monday.

I forgot to add, on our way to Karel’s brothers, we made a “fast food” stop at McDonald’s because Karel needed to prove to me that this wasn’t your normal McDonald’s….
 
.....pics to come soon.

 

 

Change can be good

Marni Sumbal



When I work with athletes and fitness enthusiasts during my lifestyle service (2 month program) it is my goal that by the end of our time together, the individual has a new or improved tool set to live a more balanced healthy and active lifestyle. It is not my job to tell a person how to live, eat or train/exercise as I don’t feel there is one best way of living. Certainly, there a tremendous amount of long-term research as to the most appropriate ways of living a healthy life but we are not a controlled science experiment in a laboratory and we all have different ways of describing a quality filled life. Although I feel many people have an impractical definition of a quality filled life, I believe that most people would like to live a disease-free, active lifestyle with a healthy body and mind. So, it is my hope that I can continue to inspire, educate and motivate others to live a lifestyle that feels balanced and moves you closer to personal life, diet and exercise related goals.

On the detailed questionnaire that I ask each individual to fill out for the 2 month program (additional questionnaires for each of my services) one of the questions is “
what are you least looking forward to during our time together?”


I sometimes receive the response “NOTHING! Can’t wait to get started” but generally I get the response of “I am afraid to give up my favorite foods” or “I am afraid of failing” or “I’m not good with change”.

Because I understand that we don’t go to visit the doctor when we are feeling 100%, but instead, pay  money for a professional opinion/advice when we need help and want to feel better, I welcome all responses. Because of that, I also ask the question of on a scale of 1-10, how motivated/excited are you to make changes for a more balanced lifestyle? Certainly, a person who is afraid to give up favorite foods but let’s me know that they are a 10 on the motivation/excitement scale, allows me to recognize that they are open to change. However, if someone ranks their excitement as 4, I know that the journey may move slowly and that is still OK. It’s all about making progress and moving forward as one of the most frustrating things in life for us all is wanting a change but being afraid to change and thus, finding yourself staying the same or worse, moving backward.

This has all been on my mind here in Czech because as I try new food creations and live a lifestyle that is out of my control, I am a firm believer that we can all change and change is not always as bad as we may think it may be. We can change our outlooks, our moods, our dietary choices/cravings, our activity routine and anything else that involves healthy living. The problem is that people don’t like change for it is uncomfortable and even more so, people have this false idea of the outcome of change which makes it easy to resist change. Sometimes change isn’t always good but how do you know if you don’t try?

I have given this example in my talks when I speak to women but I have expressed my thoughts on body composition as it seems to control many people (males included) in terms of how they live life. Not sure how we got to this in our society but it has been so great to be free from “Dr. Oz says not to eat this” and to not hear “new research says that eating this food will make you healthy” or what I hear the most “this food is so bad for you …..today.” Of course, diet and fitness is my profession and I am strong with my philosophy of food for fuel, nourishment and pleasure but being here in Czech has reminded me why I am so happy with the changes I have made in my lifestyle, although not all were easy and I had many doubts, it’s nice to be in a good place in my life for the past few years….especially with Karel in another country.  So, at 5 feet tall, I have told others that I could be 100 lbs. However, I choose not to be this “ideal” weight for my height because I don’t feel it would make me happy. I don’t need to see my veins and have my bones sticking out and I don’t need to sip ripped abs. My body is trained to performed so I expect it to be strong but I am not training for a fitness pageant, I need to use my body, not look “perfect” in a mirror. I have maintained my healthy weight for almost all my life due to exercise and a balanced diet. I have never been overweight but to be “skinny” I  would have to restrict food, I’d likely have a headache all the time due to low blood sugar, I would find myself being inconsistent with life, with every thought revolving around diet and exercise and I would not find myself energized like I am now with 10-14 more lbs on my body. I didn’t say that those extra lbs were disgusting fat or that I hate my blubber on my body. But unfortunately, when you think about a quality life when it comes to body composition, there’s this concept that if you gain weight to live a happier life, you are going to be unhappy and “fat” compared to others who are happy and skinny. Truth be told, it doesn’t have to be this way and life isn’t about a number on a scale. Sadly, I feel that when people eat, they are constantly fearing weight gain or have body image on their mind. Sadly, I feel those who are body composition focused (not in a “health conscious”, extreme way) are too focused on the outcomes of eating and exercise and thus, fear change when it comes improving daily living, possibly outside of your comfort zone.


As many people know, I love trail mix. It is part of my daily diet and my absolute favorite food. Back at home, I couldn’t imagine a day without nuts, raisins and cheerios. It makes me happy, feel energized and satisfied. But here in Czech, I have not had any trail mix for 5 days and I am surviving just fine. I don’t miss it, I don’t feel deprived and I don’t feel as if my life is over because I have “given up” my favorite food…for I didn’t give up anything and I have some with me in my travel bag but I have so many options here to enjoy for food choices that I am enjoying changing up my routine to discover new foods or a different way of eating. I am not on a diet here so it isn’t as if I have an off-limit food list as so many people do when it comes to wanting a change.
Here in Czech, aside from a few chocolates that Karel’s family have mailed to us over the holidays, I don’t have favorites. Karel shows me food in the grocery or shops and tells me stories “Oh! This was one of my favorites!” but if I have never had those foods, I can’t say that I am missing out on anything. It’s interesting because here in Czech, fruit is very seasonal. Like US, some of it is expensive if not seasonal but for the most part, fruit is not a big part of the diet here. I love fruit and certainly miss eating it like I do at home but I am surviving just fine. When I was in the Philippians, we ate very little veggies and ate a lot of fruit and it was all exotic and delicious!

 I feel this is one of the biggest issues with our society in that we have too many favorites and when we want a change, it because this horrible, guilt-obsessed feeling that “all is gone that is good” and everything has to be extreme for a new result. Perhaps not everyone is this way but in my experience in working with a variety of athletes and fitness enthusiasts, there are very few individuals who want to accept slow progress and are ok with change for a different, better or new way of living. As I said before, I don’t believe that there is an ideal way of living but instead, taking chances on making changes to see if there is a more balanced way of living to make you happier. Thanks to the media and food companies, everything is big, fast and “easy” in America. People want change yesterday.

When it comes to fitness enthusiasts or those who seek a more active lifestyle, I encourage you to start slow. 10 minutes a day is better than no minutes a day of walking. Not every workout has to be an hour or intense. I wore a pedometer on our travel day from Tampa to Prague and just in the airport alone, we walked 2.5 miles. Sure, for a “runner” that doesn’t sound like a lot but considering the amount of time we were sitting, every little movement added up and that was my point in wearing the pedometer in that I wanted to show that you have opportunities to move (or ‘burn’ calories) and it doesn’t have to be extreme or expensive with a gym membership.
When it comes to athletes, I encourage you to disassociate training from food rewarding. If you  ever think about your appetite while you are training intensely for an event compared to your appetite while you are taking some time off (or an injury), it is likely that you are much more hungry while you are training….and with good reason because your body is expending much more calories than just sitting around or walking. But regardless of the calories burned, there doesn’t have to be the thinking that if you don’t work out for x- minutes a day, you don’t deserve to eat or can’t eat carbs. On the flip side, just because you work out doesn’t mean that you get to “reward” yourself with anything and everything or because you want to indulge, you use exercise as your reason to do so. Sure, there may be times when you can treat yourself because of your activity level (and even without exercising) but I find that in America, there is such a bad relationship with food and the body from both athletes and fitness enthusiasts and I think it all comes down to the lifestyle that we choose to live. Sure, we can blame the food industry and preoccupation with the “perfect” body image but I feel for the most part, our society has no idea how to live a balanced lifestyle.

It’s not as if Karel and I can be in Czech and eat until we are stuffed. I find that we are not eating as large of portions as others around us and we have yet to finish a meal feeling stuffed. We still understand that a balanced diet is not a free-for-all but instead, recognizing the many things that promote a healthy lifestyle and not being obsessed with any one specific component.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts as I have been thinking a lot as I live life like a local in a different country. I can’t possibly get all my thoughts on to paper but Karel and I have really enjoyed an “active” lifestyle here in Czech, without feeling food-deprived from some of our favorite foods (albeit, we will be coming home with new favorites) and there has been no talk as to calories, bad food or diets. That is complete heaven to me for I don’t feel anyone should live a lifestyle of poor body image and a bad relationship with food. Here in Czech, it just feels so great to move our body and to eat around others without negative food/body talk.

When Karel came to the US in 2000, he had never tried peanut butter. It wasn’t until we met in 2006 that I introduced him to peanut butter. He enjoys it now but it isn’t as if his life would be over if he didn’t have it every day. When we met, we use to eat ice cream almost every night. Around 2008, I felt as if the ice cream treat after dinner was not enjoyed anymore like it once was – as a “treat”. I didn’t tell Karel that we were going on diet from ice cream or that ice cream was bad but since 2008, we have not had ice cream in our house, we don’t miss it and rarely do we even get it outside of the home. I find that this statement applies to many people who make favorable replacements in the diet, instead of just eliminating foods that they feel are “bad”. Replace, not eliminate. No ice cream means more room for fruit or perhaps, if ice cream wasn’t needed, an earlier night of rest. But with this concept, I welcome others to the idea that not all food is bad. Karel and I will never rid our diet of fresh bread. We feel so good with it, just like we do with dairy, legumes and any other proclaimed “bad” food that is “in” today (thankfully, we haven’t watched TV in over a week and I can’t speak the language here so I am not hearing about any diet trends/fads right now in the US”).

This trip has opened my eyes in many ways but  a good thing is that I came to Czech with a lifestyle that allowed me to function well in a new country. There will always be treats in life, indulgences and yes, even times when food is too good and you will say you ate too much. But to live your entire life the same, fearing change or being extreme in order to change is not the way to achieve a balanced, healthy and active lifestyle.

I feel my trip here has been enhanced because I am sharing it with Karel. Everything we do is meaningful here to Karel and we are around family who give unconditional love. I wish everyone could enjoy an opportunity like this whether internationally or just within your own state. Consider spending your next few days evaluating your lifestyle choices (wants, needs, can’ts, can’s – you have to make time, not find time) instead of wasting energy on the outcome of your lifestyle choices. For if you don’t work toward making small changes now, you may find yourself living the same, unhappy or monotonous lifestyle 10, 20 or 50 years from now.

 

CzechTrip Day 3: Austria, pastries, coffee and cycling

Marni Sumbal



 
 

You know that feeling in a workout when you think to yourself “It can’t get any better than that”, well, I am finding myself “wowing” my way through this trip. I hesitate using the word “vacation” because Karel and I aren’t use to vacationing Sitting around on the beach or being catered to at a resort is not our style....honestly, we'd be bored after a few hours
When we travel, it is typically for an event or race and we don't do well sitting around. Thus, every time we pack our bags for something, it is for a purpose and often includes some type of movement (or is related to our jobs which involve activity/fitness). This trip has many purposes but I am enjoying my time here in Czech making memories but also learning about a new culture that allows me to bring home new ways to live life as well as an appreciation of what I have back at home. With my blog posts and pictures, I only hope that I can inspire others to get comfortable being uncomfortable by trying new things and being open to new opportunities. I realize that traveling abroad is not for everyone and may not be practical for everyone (costs, timing, logistics, etc.) but I feel that many people take for granted the many opportunities they have in their own current life but just feel “stuck” either in a bubble of familiarity and fear change or are scared to make any changes and the “what if’s” keep you bored, stressed and overwhelmed in your current life.
This is my third trip abroad and although my last two trips were a while back in 2004 and 1995 to Philippines and Japan, respectively, I find myself constantly enjoying learning from others...particularly, the lifestyle.

Aside from the 7th day Adventists  and the Mediterranean style diet (which research consistently shows, long term, that both show high rates of quality of life and low risk for disease and improved health status by following a vegetarian or plant based diet), I've learned from those who live a high paced, wealthy lifestyle and from those who take bucket showers and have no electricity and seeing that each country may have staple foods and/or certain thoughts on exercise/fitness/sports, every village, town and city differs in terms of quality of life. Thus, to assume that there is one right way to live is absolutely wrong as it isn't about a right way of being healthy but rather, making sure your lifestyle makes you happy.


So, here is the blog post that was very hard to summarize for there were way too many wow’s and not enough brain power to put it all into words. Again, thank goodness for iPhones and photos to keep memories current and fresh.

Once again, the sun was shining early and I found myself awake at 5:20am thinking it was 9am. I was able to lay back down for a little but then around 6am I woke up to the smell of fresh European coffee.

Karel and I started our morning with a cup of coffee and headed out for a quick 2 mile run on new roads (for me) in Czech. For both Karel and myself, we love to stay active and exercise is a very important to both of us for both physical and mental benefits. But as I have repeated many times in my blog and in articles, you don’t have to be a triathlete or marathon runner to be “healthy”. I am a firm believer that you should get your heart rate up, don’t be afraid to sweat and don’t feel as if you have to conquer x-minutes, x-workouts, x-days a week. Just move whenever you can for however long feels “right.” I absolutely love our morning runs because 20-30 minutes of sight-seeing is the perfect way to start the day as it is only the beginning of a jam-packed day.

Throughout our morning run and breakfast (which was a simple meal of local yogurt, fresh fruit, egg and bread/pastries and water) Karel continued with stories of when he was growing up in Znojmo. I guess you could say that Karel is taking a lot of “runs” down memory lane.

After breakfast Karel and his dad had to run some personal errands so I joined along for the “experience” of living a day-to-day life in Czech.  Since we were in town for the errands, we stayed busy on our feet walking everywhere (which is typical for people in Znojmo as parking is tight, gas is pricey and streets are narrow and it is much easier to just walk/bike everywhere. Plus, since everyone buys local and fresh foods are so popular, most grocery stores are within walking distance so people just shop daily for small items as not many would buy packaged bread here or expect  fresh food to last a week). We visited a beautiful church as well as two of Karel’s old bike shops. It is so great to see people remember Karel as soon as they see him and although I can’t understand anything, I know they ‘re catching up and sharing great stories.

After the bike shop, it was time for a mid morning treat. Seeing that we have not snacked between meals since we have arrived in Czech, I was super excited for this opportunity to have a real espresso in Europe with a real pastry. Because I have relied on Karel to order everything for me (much easier than having him translate everything for me), he ordered me a delicious walnut pastry as well as 3 other pastries for us to share. I laughed at Karel when he told me that he would always pass a bakery on his way home from school when he was young and he would always get pastries before he came home. Now I know why my hubby has such a big sweet tooth! Although it may look like we are “treating” ourselves a lot, we have yet to feel gross or guilty after eating anything and although no scale and we aren’t very concerned with weight gain, neither one of us feel as if we have gained any weight. We do not ever use words like "I'm being bad, I shouldn't be doing this or I feel fat" as I don't believe those are beneficial words in a balanced lifestyle. Of course, we can not bring home this lifestyle to the US because it just wouldn’t work in our sedentary, fast paced society. As hard as I try to help others live a more balanced active and healthy lifestyle (and feel more confident doing so, thanks to this trip), I realize that what works in one country may not be ideal in another. In addition to the food here being prepared with fresh ingredients and not loaded with salt, high fructose corn syrup (Karel says they don't use it in processed food here that he knows of) and sugar, we are extremely active here just moving all the time. Whereas in America, for many of us, we seem to spend most of our day sitting and only get up to go and eat (often eating quickly or continuing our day while eating).
Here in Czeh, it is nice to sit down to eat with family/friends after walking around all day. Also, there is something to be said about the quality of food here. I have yet to put a preservative, food dye or artificial ingredient in my body since arriving to Europe (although I have food with me, I have not had any protein powder, KIND and Hammer bars or other “emergency” food from home for I have not felt like I needed it), food tastes so good that you don’t have to eat a lot of it to be satisfied…much different than in America where you think food tastes good and you can’t stop eating. Here in Europe, it’s hard to overeat for the food is just more delicious and meal time is a slow time. I have yet to see anyone eat in their car or behind a computer screen (although I am sure people do, but unlike America, it is not the norm). It’s really hard to explain the living and eating style here, especially because many people in America have such an unhealthy relationship with food and the body. I have a blog to write in the near future as I talked with Karel's niece about "diets" here in Czech as well as some other questions that I had in terms of the "lifestyle" here and relationship with food and the body and I found it all very interesting. To sum up one of her statements after I asked her what she thought about American culture (relating to food/bodies) after her recent trip to Miami and then a cruise, she said that yes, there are big Americans but also, way too many "skinny" Americans. When I asked her to describe "skinny" she basically described the body that I feel many athletic individuals are trying to achieve - toned, lean and not curvy. To her, it looked unhealthy.
Everything in the US from body image (too big to too small) and diets (from good food to bad/off-limit food) is so extreme and for some reason, we have this perception of what is “healthy” in terms of body image and diet (although the diet component changes daily, it seems) and thus, I feel our society is so far removed from a balanced lifestyle. People want to be healthy but they aren’t happy and their idea of "healthy" is not always a true defnition of health. Although I have been very adventurous in trying new things and being extremely “free” here, I don’t feel as if I am living a different life from what I try to do at home in Florida. I am so happy that I came to Czech with a strong relationship with food and a good one with my body that I am only continuing my balanced lifestyle rather than being shocked at any one thing here. It is a great feeling knowing that I can travel outside of my comfort zone in the US and still maintain my definition of a healthy and active lifestyle.
The only thing that is different here is that it IS the “norm” here to live a life of happiness, love and good, real food. Food is slow cooked, not fast. It is real, not processed. I do miss a few of my staple foods that I feel are healthy in my diet like nuts, seeds, tofu, lentils, peanut butter, beans and whole grains but I am functioning just fine here in Czech while maintaining my meat-free lifestyle (and Karel is enjoying his meat options here and enjoying the lifestyle just as much as me. Well, maybe a bit more since it has been many years for him to have enjoyed his mom's cooking). Sure, Karel and I are athletes and our bodies take care of themselves  because we “train” more than we “exercise” but if I have learned anything in the 3 short days that we have been here, it is that American’s waste so much energy on wanting to change the outcomes of unhealthy lifestyle choices when instead, it is not one food (or food group)  that needs to be eliminated but instead the overall lifestyle is what needs to be addressed. If you don't make time to cook real foods, you are only going to find yourself blaming carbs for weight gain for the rest of your life. It's not carbs, dairy or bread...it's the lifestyle and I can attest for that as I have eaten a diet here that tastes great and much of it is not my typical diet....but, I feel great, have not seen any negative change in body composition, both Karel and I have repeatedly said we feel very "clean" inside and we feel energized and satisfied. Let's not forget that a balanced lifestyle includes good sleep, stress management, slowing down to enjoy life, spending time with friends/family (and wanting to take care of others) and of course, real food…not too much, just enough to enjoy it, feel fueled and nourished and feel satisfied. It's not gluten-free, paleo or these others diets that Karel's niece had never heard of, but instead, it's the lifestyle of moving your body and feeling good about the food you put into your body (and not worrying about what others are doing or not doing).

 Sorry - I digress.

After our morning adventure, Karel and I went to his mom’s to change quickly for we were about to take a bike ride to Austria!!!

Karel’s old cycling buddy, Jirka, invited us for a ride on his “lunch break” since many of the business shut down for lunch. Another one of Jirka’s friends joined us and I was thrilled that he could speak a little English.

So excited for a bike ride of a lifetime, we rode ~10K and crossed the Austria border! It was around 12:30pm when we started but I’ve completely lost track of time here in Czech as Karel is keeping me incredibly busy and on my toes (love it!). And I thought Czech was beautiful, the scenery in Austria was gorgeous! I just couldn’t believe my eyes and I couldn’t stop taking pictures while riding. I am happy that my bike handling skills have improved over the years for this ride offered many new experiences for me such as riding through small towns with small roads and cars zipping buy (although they don’t seem to mind cyclists), signs which I couldn’t understand and thus had no idea where we were going, riding on cobblestones and riding on a few rollers (Very smooth roads outside of the towns).

When we arrived to Retz, Austria we took a few pics and then, why not…let’s have a cappuccino! Coffee drinking is much different than in America..it’s not coffee, it’s the culture of drinking coffee. Seeing that I normally have 1-2 cups a day (before and after my morning workout or in the morning), I don’t ever do “energy” drinks or afternoon coffee pick-me-ups. But here, there are no paper cups or weak coffee beans that require loads of sugar and sweeteners to provide flavor. It’s 2-3 ounces of strong coffee that must be consumed slowly and it is hard to not enjoy it. Of course, I am use to this because I have lived with a European in America for the past 6.5 years so it is something that I welcomed but had not yet appreciated until I came to Europe.

After coffee, we headed up a climb on cobblestones (nervous at first but I did just fine thanks to Karel giving me pointers as to not ride slow as I needed to keep my momentum riding up the climb) and then up a windy, smooth road to see a beautiful windmill on the top of a hill which overlooked the city. Talk about a priceless opportunity in life while doing what Karel and I love to do….and how we met, on our bikes!

After a few more pics, we climbed a bit more and then had  a fast, fun descend on a smooth open two lane road back to Retz and then we made our way back to Znojmo. Although the total ride was around 25 miles and the way there was rather casual, the guys picked it up on the way back and with the wind blowing strong in the open fields, I had a nice workout on the way home by drafting with the guys pulling away.

After the ride, it was nearing 2:45pm and we had yet to eat lunch so to no surprise, Karel’s mom had lunch ready for us (from earlier since we missed it)…fried cheese and homemade mashed potatoes! Karel had been telling me about the Smažak for a while and it reminded me of mozzarella sticks…but of course, so much better as it was prepared by Karel’s mom and served in the perfect portion as I could have eaten so much more but Karel and I always eat until we are satisfied (in other words, we could eat a few more bites but we stop before). And here in Czech, Karel keeps reminding me you don’t want to eat until you are full because you never know when someone will have more food for you J What a great thought as many people eat until they have eaten one too many bites and thus, feel uncomfortable and regret that last bite (or 5).

We rested for about an hour and then Karel’s niece (from his sister who passed away in 2001) and her husband came over to take us to a trip to Vienna!!

All new news to me, I was so super excited when she told me where we were going in the car. It was ~80K to Vienna from Karel’s home and when we pulled off the interstate to downtown Vienna, I “wow’d” once again. Oh wow – so beautiful!! You could just feel the history between the buildings and on the streets. Oh and those streets were super bike/runner friendly (and in-line skating). We had coffee at one of the most famous café’s in Vienna called Landtmann along with a pre dinner dessert. The atmosphere was amazing with people just socializing after work, drinking coffee, enjoying a small dessert, reading newspapers and just enjoying talking to one another (minimal cell phone use). After a once in a lifetime experience in Vienna, we drove around the city before heading to another small city about 80K away for dinner. Karel’s niece is a vegetarian as well and she was excited to take me to my first restaurant meal in Czech….well, not exactly a Czech meal.

The restaurant Schickh was in Austria so the menu was in German and the waitress also spoke German (and a little English). Nothing new, I relied on others to choose for me as Karel’s niece Jitka read the German menu, translated Czech to Karel (she also speaks English but it was much easier for Karel to find something for me as he knows what I like to eat and also he knows what I may like to try for something new) who then told me what I would be eating. Talk about a new experience on a whole new level!!

For starters, the beautiful bread basket came and seeing that it was around 8:15pm, we welcomed the variety of fresh bread along with the fresh veggies and chive dip that also came with the bread. We also got a bottle of white wine to share. For appetizers, I had a salad w/ fried goat cheese and Karel had a steak Tatar plate. For our entrée, the chef prepared a vegetarian item just for me which included boiled potatoes w/ parsley (no salt added by the chef, I didn’t even have to worry about salty potatoes as he didn’t even feel the need to salt them) along with a full plate of a variety of roasted veggies tossed in olive oil. Karel said that I never have to feel the need to finish my plate and you don’t ask for a “doggy bag” and it is OK to not finish your meal. I wasn’t able to finish my meal so I ate until I was satisfied and I felt really great after I finished (albeit, very tired from a long, busy day). Karel, no surprise, had Schnitzel with potatoes and he loved every bit of it.

As I mentioned before, it was a wow-type of day. All new to me and lots of memories made in Czech (and Austria). I am learning so much about the culture and I am so grateful that I have Karel as my tour guide and that we are staying with Karel’s family. I feel my life has already been changed from this trip and I can’t wait to get back to “work” (Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition) and to change more lifestyles when I return home from Europe. Although I have never been one to read “diet, fitness and health” books written by guru’s and professionals but instead get my knowledge from research and textbooks, I can honestly say that a lot can be said from the experiences you get by living a lifestyle in another country, learning from the locals and addressing the pros and cons in another country in relation to your own. Sometimes you have to be willing to make a change to feel a change and often, those changes can’t be read in a book but instead, through life experiences.
 
Stay tuned for pics from Day 3 as well as a recap of Day 4: traveling to Karel's brother's house in Příbor, CZ , checking out Stramberk and eating LOTS of awesome, delicious, fresh food!
 
Thanks for reading and enjoying the pics on Facebook. I'm happy we can share this journey with everyone in hopes that you can be inspired to live a more balanced healthy and active lifestyle.


Czech trip Day 2: First “official” day in Czech

Marni Sumbal


 

After one of the best sleeps ever, we both woke up to the sun shining, birds chirping and cars driving (window’s open – no AC, but the most perfect weather!). I figured it had to be well past 9am but Karel told me “it gets bright here early, it’s only 6am”.

Wheww….the day wasn’t wasted!

After we took our time with our morning coffee (always nice to slow down in life), we got ourselves ready for a run around Czech. Well, fast moving feet but a few stops for pictures. Karel shared stories with me here and there and we both enjoyed the ups and downs of running around the town, but primarily on running trails and bike paths. The terrain is absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect (around 60 degrees). We saw gardens, the hospital and several schools. All bringing back memories for Karel.

After 3.5 miles, we made it back to his mom’s and sure enough, Karel’s mom was already cooking us breakfast.

After showering in the bath tub, I got myself ready and enjoyed another delicious homecooked meal. Scrambled eggs with fresh chives, tomatoes and potatoes, served with a fresh roll and unsalted butter. Oh, and more coffee.

Breakfast hit the spot and I finally started to feel like I was on European time. Afterward, we picked up Karel’s dad (who doesn’t have a car) and with his mom, we all went to two commentary’s so Karel  could see his grandma and sister, who both passed away in the past 13 years while he was in the US and was unable to come back for their funerals. It was a happy but sad time as Karel never thought this day would come he would be back in Czech with his family. He misses the many years that he could have spent with his family but he knows that immigrating to the US was the right thing for him and I feel lucky that I can share all these experiences with him. Life is best enjoyed when it is shared with those who you love.

It was sad for Karel to see his sister’s grave, who passed away in 2001 (one year after Karel came to the US) when she was only 35 years old (a condition/illness that caused her brain to swell) and Karel was 24 years old and he said that he really appreciates the times that he can share with his family now as they are in their 70’s and getting older and he really loves being with them after being away for all these years.

 

After the cemetery visits, we needed to lighten the mood so it was time for a grocery store trip….MARNI in HAPPY LAND!


I was picture crazy with all the fresh foods and endless amount of beer and bread (two staples here in Czech) but both Karel and I wanted to try everything! He was telling me lots of stories of foods when he was younger “Oh, I use to LOVE this, and that, and that”….and I loved it!

I absolutely love being in a new country and living like a local so although no peanut butter in the Czech grocery stores and plenty of cereals, I refuse to eat “American” food. Although there are many similar items in Czech, I only want fresh, local and/or new foods. I welcome it all!! Well, I will save the meat for Karel as he is loving it all! I can't wait to talk about the European lifestyle in more detail but I will need to save that for another blog when I return.


After our grocery trip, it was nearing 12 pm local time and Karel said that lunch time is the “big” meal of the day where everyone comes together at a certain time to eat together. People don’t just eat when they feel like it but instead, come together at meal time and stop what they are doing. Love it!

Lunch was sautéed spinach with onions and garlic, stuffed inside homemade crepes. The texture of the spinach made me a little concerned but after one bite, I was yumming my way through lunch. Delicious! Dessert was chocolate, a fresh sliced orange and a crepe stuffed with homemade apricot jam. The great thing is that neither Karel and I feel stuffed and we don’t stop moving.

After lunch, we got our stuff ready and we headed over to Karel’s dad’s place for Karel to get our bikes ready for our first bike ride in Czech. Although Karel rode with his dad in 2008 when they came for our wedding, Karel said that his dad has been so excited to ride bikes with Karel here in Czech. Karel’s dad is 73 and doesn’t ride a lot anymore but still loves any opportunity to be on a bike and surrounds himself with cycling friends, likes to still work on bikes and often visits the local bike shop where Karel use to work while growing up. Yep – like father, like son. Karel Sr. showed me some of his trophies and awards from some of his Master’s races in the past few years, just smiling with pride.

Karel had to assemble his bike and “fit” my bike based on my measurements from my road bike at home (what a bonus being married to a bike mechanic, nonetheless, one from Europe) and about an hour later, Karel told me that one of his best childhood friends, Honza, was going to ride with us.

Around 3:30pm we headed out for a very casual ride…..nice and steady for Karel’s dad (who did amazing!), and conversational for Karel and Honza who chatted the entire time. As usual, Karel is most comfortable on or around bikes and I could just tell he was loving riding on his old training routes.

The ride was absolutely beautiful…I just couldn’t help but take pictures the entire way. Goats, horses, green terrain, bumpy roads, small towns….It was absolutely priceless. There were a few small climbs on the rolling terrain but other than that, the windy roads made for the most pleasant 25 mile, 2 hour ride and I just loved that I could share this with Karel, his friend and his dad. Again – super impressed with Karel’s dad…I’m happy that Karel has good riding genes in his family as I hope we can live the active lifestyle that we love so much, when we are in our 70’s and onward.

After a quick shower at Karel’s dad’s place, we headed back to his mom’s place and prepared our own dinner. Because lunch is the main meal of the day (which seems appropriate since we don’t do a lot of activity after dinner and in Czech much of the town “shuts down” around 6-7 for business’s), we decided we would keep dinner a bit simple since Karel’s mom has been cooking for us since we got here (but she loves it and refuses to let us make anything – she is happy when she is cooking and taking care of us). Karel’s mom was actually at her garden down the road when we came home so we decided to do a salad and a variety of bread for dinner w/ fresh cheeses and Karel had a little leftover pork with his dinner.

After dinner, we had a light dessert of fruit and homemade pastry and cookie and then we walked around downtown, historic Czech for around 90 minutes until it was too dark to see anything. I knew Czech was pretty from the pictures on the Internet and in books but I just couldn’t believe my eyes as Karel was taking me on the roads which he walked to school every day and again, sharing lots of stories with me of when he was growing up. To be honest, traveling with Karel has been the best blessing ever because there is something so very special to be with someone who can share memories with you as you both make memories together.


After our walk, I was ready for bed. Nearing 10pm local time, I couldn’t wait to go to bed to see what tomorrow would bring.
Pictures to come soon......

 

Czech trip Day 3: Cycling, pastries and Austria  


Czech trip Day 1: Traveling to Czech Republic

Marni Sumbal


Day 1: Traveling to Czech Republic

 

Tampa – Amsterdam – Prague

It was an early morning wake-up call for Karel and I to squeeze in one last sweat session on Tuesday morning at my parents house, before 16 hours of traveling. This wasn’t a “training” workout but rather, a workout to keep us feeling good for a long day ahead.

After many Campy kisses, we were ready to go. 
Although it didn’t feel real that we were traveling to Europe as we were driving to the airport with my mom,  once we pulled out our passports, checked our bags and made it through security, we finally realized we were heading overseas. What an amazing feeling to know that 13 years ago, Karel landed in the U.S. with only a back pack and now I get to travel to Czech with Karel, to reunite with his family and hometown for the first time in over a decade!

First flight was a quickie. Delta made it easy for us to laugh our way up North as we watched Tosh.0 on comedy channel for a good 90 minutes.  We had a long 3 hour layover in NY but after being bussed to the international terminal and grabbing a delicious late lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (black bean burger for me, steak burger for Karel), we had just enough time to stretch, roll on the trigger point ball and keep our phones charged before boarding the plane to the Netherlands.

Although it was our “long” flights, traveling 6.5 hours was a breeze with the KLM services being top-notch on board. The Dutch staff was incredibly nice and accomodating. We had our own TV’s with movies and TV shows but Karel and I had our Ipad with Season 5 of Breaking Bad so we started the flight with 2 new episodes (purchased on ITunes ahead of time). While watching, we were served a delicious dinner….vegetarian pasta for me, meat and mashed potatoes for Karel. Lucky for us, it was a packed flight but somehow we ended up with a row of 3 and only us to in it! We were also right near the bathroom in the middle of the plane and there was a water spot for drinking water and a nice area to stand up and stretch which helped us out for our long flight (along with compression socks).
Dessert was a carrot cake cobbler which was delicious (if you know me – you know I LOVE carrot cake!). We had plenty of snacks with us but with traveling through the night, we tried to catch a few hours of sleep (3-4) instead of keeping ourselves awake by snacking...but before we knew it, we woke up by another meal of yogurt, a muffin and orange juice. The yogurt was welcomed as I know our tummies do best with 1 serving of yogurt daily (probiotics) but we were a bit “off” seeing that we left NY at 6pm and after 6.5 hours of traveling, it was around 7am “local time” when we landed.

Surprisingly, we felt good but Starbucks coffee in Netherlands helped us out (our first Euro purchase – seeing that we used our credit card, I think that was the most expensive venti coffee we have ever shared).  Finding our way through the Netherlands airport was fun and thankfully we were able to get on free Wifi to connect with our family.

After our 2 hour layover and heading through customs (another passport and security check), we snacked to keep our body on the new time zone and at 9:30am, Karel finally started to realize that in less than 90 minutes, we would be in Czech.

 

Although our airline tickets were purchased on Delta, we were on Czech Airlines to Prague. With Karel being bilingual and Czech as his first language (he learned English by teaching himself after living in the US by himself), his brain automatically started to switch as everyone was speaking Czech on the plane. He finally felt at home. I always ask Karel if when he is around Czech people if he thinks in Czech or in English. Typically he says English since he is use to it but on the airplane, I think he switched to thinking in Czech.

After a 70 minute flight, we were both getting really excited and all of a sudden, touchdown in Prague!!

Although Vienna is a bit closer to Karel’s hometown of Znojmo, Karel wanted to fly in an out of Prague so that we could enjoy the drive to his town as see some smaller villages and sights and also spend our last 2 days in Prague. This trip is all about Karel spending time with his family so the focus wasn’t on touring around Europe so we will save that for another trip
J

After getting our luggage, getting the rental car and changing our money into Czech Crowns, we headed toward Znojmo for the next 3 hours.

Karel had fun driving a stick shift and with windows down (no AC), I really enjoyed Karel sharing stories with me as we made our way 220 Kilometers to his town. The speed limit changes frequently because of all the small towns and once we were off the highway (D1), the country roads were pleasant but hilly.

Sadly, I couldn’t enjoy all of it because my body was shutting down so I took a few naps as I was struggling to keep my eyes open and my brain was ready to shut off. I guess after traveling for 16 hours and only getting around 3-4 hours of on and off sleep (airplane sleep, that is), my body was pretty confused.

When we saw the sign for Znojmo, Karel started telling me stories of when he was biking there as a kid and teenager and everything started to come back. No maps, just a memory like it was yesterday that he was in Czech.

Karel said he didn’t remember his town being so small (ex. roads) when he was living there but to me, it all looked so big and amazing.

We arrived to his mom’s flat around 3:10pm local time (9:10am EST) and Karel finally got his moment that he had been dreaming of for the past 13 years. Hugging his mom at his home where he spent most of his teenage life.

Although only meeting Karel’s mom, dad and brother once in 2008 at our wedding, they are family to me as well. Although only Karel’s brother’s family speak English, you don’t need words when you can share love. I gave Karel’s mom a big hug and was introduced to her husband, Karel’s stepdad.

The fresh food was waiting and after cleaning up and letting my family know we had arrived, it was time for a meal. Not sure what time zone my body was on but I welcomed a delicious vegetarian meal of sautéed cauliflower, onions and eggs with boiled potatoes. Karel had pork with dumplings and gravy. We were both in Czech heaven and our bellies were happy for this “real” meal. We also enjoyed fresh pastries and a homemade dumpling stuffed with red currants and topped with melted farmers cheese and toasted bread crumbs and we knew this was the perfect start of a great 10 days in Czech.

After catching up with Karel’s mom and receiving phone calls (local phone) from his dad and brother, we both took a mini nap so that we could make it until the evening before going to bed. I took a solid 90 minute nap and finally felt a bit more normal.

Around 6:30pm local time, we walked over to Karel’s dad’s flat – about 1 mile away. Karel took me the long way so he could see some familiar sights. Once again, Karel was thrilled to see Karel Sr. (his dad) and so was I. Like father, like son. It didn’t take long for the bike talk to start and for Karel Sr. to show us his “bike room” (in the basement of the apartment building). Karel's friend in Czech got us road bikes from the local bike shop that Karel use to work out and Karel's dad had his Cervelo, which Karel gave to his dad (and shipped it) a few years ago. Karel's dad is 73 and raced until he was around 71. He still rides his bike but not competitively anymore.
Once again, we were entertained with stories and good food, with plenty of Marni-friendly appetizers and some good meats for Karel. We all enjoyed wine and then took an evening walk around 8pm around the town and visited his dad's gym....properly located next to one of the many pub's in Czech.

By 9:30, we were on the verge of exhaustion so we got ourselves ready for bed at his mom’s place (bunk beds – in Karel’s old room) and we were out!

 

Stay tuned for Day 2: Our first “official” day in Czech











 









 




 










(homemade bike wheel case)



 



We're going international!! 12 more days!

Marni Sumbal


I've had the pleasure of getting to know Karel for the past 6.5 years. As my best friend in life, I couldn't ask for a better person to spend forever with.
This pic was taken of Karel in Italy at the age of 20. Just a few years before taking a risk that would change his life.  

Although many people know Karel as a talented cyclist with a strong European accent who is a perfectionist that never gives up, I know Karel as a dreamer. Someone who wanted so much more out of his life and was willing to take chances to achieve a great life. 

When you mention the word immigrant, there are many thoughts that pop into your head (good and bad). 

Regardless of where you live, I think we all aspire for a quality filled life and perhaps appreciate the freedom we have in our life. Perhaps for many, the American Dream is what draws people to this United States but I believe that there are many amazing places in this world to live and countries filled with dreamers, doers and believers. 

What is it about life that we dream about? For many it is wealth and the ability to put forth hard work. Maybe the dream is less work and more play or for others, simplicity, health, laughter and happiness. Maybe it is a combination of things but I think we can all agree that the dream of living a great life isn't without obstacles and a lot of challenges thrown your way. 

When I met Karel I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into as I was "set-up" with him by our mutual friends who thought that we would make a cute couple. Of course, they caught my attention when they mentioned he had a cute accent and is very smart and active and I must say, meeting him on the bike for a group ride for the first time was a pleasure..there's something nice about a European in spandex who can ride a bicycle :)
Fast forward 6.5 years and I have learned a lot about Karel for he hasn't lived the life that so many people are accustomed to in the United States.

One day, I hope to share Karel's story of coming to the US with only a backpack and working up to 3 jobs a day to afford a safe place to sleep at night and enough food to feed himself for the day (often, at the Chinese buffet or pasta with tomato sauce). Karel and I have been through a lot together and with every low there was a high. Although not always timely in life, sometimes you just have to appreciate what you have when you have it and just keep staying positive and strong.

I always wanted to be with someone like Karel. Someone who could give me a different perspective on life, someone who could challenge me mentally and physically and someone who I could learn from. I also wanted to be with someone who accepted me for me and regardless of my strengths or weaknesses, he would love me for who I am and encourage me to stay strong with what I believe in. I also wanted someone who could make me laugh for I don't like to be sad and sometimes it is hard to smile all the time when things just aren't going your way.

For the past 6.5 years, I have acquired a new appreciation for many things in life and I have also seen myself grow with an open-mind. Seeing that I have traveled internationally to Japan and the Philippians in the past (at age 13 and 20 years of age) I have realized that with every experience in life, you have the ability to change for the better or appreciate what you have. 

Traveling to the Philippians changed my life when I was at an age to appreciate what I have and to not take things for granted. Running water, electricity, available food (everywhere)...just a few things I appreciate and certainly try to not take advantage of. But then there's Karel to share stories with me of his upbringing - rarely eating out, only on special occasions, eating foods from his mothers garden, having fresh bread daily, walking to school and watching 30 minutes of TV with the family daily in the evening.

What I have loved the most about having Karel in my life is being able to make memories from someone who is from a different country than my own. It doesn't only make for interesting conversations and different points of views but it also brings us closer. 

For the past few years, we have shared our story with our close friends and family and they all know that this announcement is a long time coming. For 13 years, Karel has not been back to Czech Republic. Within the past 13 years, Karel has seen his mom, dad and brother only once, at our wedding in 2008. Thank goodness for Skype and the postal service but nothing beats a homemade meal by your mom and a bike ride with your dad. 

I'm excited to share the news that on May 7th, 2013, we are heading to Czech Republic!!



Flying into Prague and making our way to Karel's hometown of Znojmo, Czech Republic. 


I don't think we will really believe that we are going until we start packing but for the past few months we have anticipated this day after the flights were booked and now the time is almost here!!

So what am I looking forward to?
-Spending 12 days with Karel, all day, every day!
-Meeting Karel's extended family and friends
-Spending time with Karel's family (his brother speaks English) in the homes where he grew up in.
-Trying new food, taking pictures of food, learning as much as I can about food in Czech!
-Possibly getting a bike at Karel's old bike shop in Czech (Karel has a bike for himself that he is borrowing, he is trying to find one my size)
-Enjoying new sights and visiting Prague and Karel's hometown
-Listening to Karel speak Czech for almost 10 days as oppose to only speaking Czech just a few times a year when he Skype's with his family.
-Creating memories with Karel

What am I not looking forward to?
-Leaving Campy :( But he will be staying with his grandparents at the "Resort" so he will get plenty of love and likely lots of people food. Maybe even a ride in the Corvette by my dad :)
-Karel explaining to people that I am a vegetarian and that someone actually chooses to not eat meat (should be interesting in a beer and meat loving country :)
-Long flights.......compression socks will come in handy and my Trigger Point set.
-Being away from my athletes (coaching and nutrition) and social media  - I am sure it will be nice to get away but I am not sure how well I will handle not being able to blog, FB or email like I do here at home. But, I will survive :) My athletes will not worry because they will have their workouts on training peaks so they can do their miles while I travel thousands of miles. My nutrition services will be on hold while I am gone so that means that I can look forward to lots of communication when I return from active bodies who are excited to change their lifestyle. 


Have you traveled to Prague, Czech or Europe? Any suggestions, tips or to-do's for traveling international?