HEALTH & WELLNESS

How a former pro beach volleyball athlete stays fit with... gardening

Courtney Guerra's lifestyle reflects the best of Southern California. A former professional beach volleyball player, the UC Santa Barbara grad picked up farming and cooking skills at Napa's legendary Meadowood resort and gardens before returning to the Los Angeles area. The Venice resident's latest project is FarmSuperba, a thriving, urban culinary garden and transformed community space she cultivates at restaurateur Paul Hibler's Superba Food + Bread on Lincoln Boulevard.

Why did you choose to settle in Venice?

I'm pretty sure Venice chooses you. It is such a powerful and magnetic community that embraces individual expression. Three years ago, after I finished culinary school in Napa, I was ready to start my own project geared to growing specialty produce for chefs. A friend of mine who lived in Venice had a back studio open up and said I could take it. I asked if he minded that I start growing produce and herbs on the property. Thankfully, he was totally supportive and that was the beginning of the magic.

What are some of your go-to places in L.A. for exercising, both indoors and outdoors?

I spent my childhood at beach camps, on hiking trails, and exploring all that this amazing city had to offer, and not much has changed. I still enjoy beach time or a weekend with my family who lives in Ojai for some epic hiking. I'm mostly an outdoor exerciser — that's why I love the Yoga on the Farm class we're offering at FarmSuperba.

As a former pro athlete, how do you now maintain a health and fitness regimen that's realistic without holding yourself to an unrealistic and unfair standard?

Full disclosure: This has been an evolving process for me. I had been playing volleyball at an elite level for 14 years, and learned to take my body to the limit. When I retired, I had a completely different relationship with my body. I could give myself the freedom to explore what my body was actually needing. So I listened.

I began eating more plant-based foods, and that was huge. It cut down on my inflammation and helped regulate my blood sugar. Once I started focusing on nutrient-dense foods, whether it be organic produce, high-quality dairy, or sustainably raised meats, my body began to regulate itself. Today, because of things like the introduction of coconut and avocado oils to my diet, and high-water-content vegetables that moisturize from the inside out, I've been able to see my body optimize itself even more than when I was playing. It's been pretty remarkable, really.

Any tips for how gardening activities can be maximized to double as exercise?

Learn to love weeding. I mean that literally and metaphorically. Weeding a garden is an excellent practice in squatting, bending and finger dexterity. And there is no way to get around weeding a garden. There are no shortcuts.

Do you have any suggestions of some simple steps Angelenos can take to make their daily routines and habits less sedentary?

Here's the thing. When it comes to the body, if you don't use it you lose it. Our bodies need to bear weight and our bones need to be slightly stressed in order to stay strong. Our muscles want to be used and respond well when tested incrementally over time. So whenever you have the opportunity, engage your body. Even if that means setting a goal of standing on one foot with your eyes closed for 10 seconds. Try it, it's harder than it sounds. But over time you'd figure it out. And that's the beauty of how the body works; it doesn't have to be all at once.

health@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 12, 2016, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "She's a pro at staying healthy - 5 QUESTIONS" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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