Kvass, Sour Life-Giving Ambrosia of Political Prisoners and Gods

Part 6 on the physical culture teachings of Alexey Faleev. See here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

 

Faleev treats recovery almost as a religion. Sleep is sacred, he writes, and any athlete must make it a top priority.

Visit the Russian bath once a week. (I guess most of us will have to make do with a steam room.)

Like every Russian physical culturist, he likes “tempering” with cold water. Traditionally this is done by standing outside, with bare feet on bare earth, and pouring a bucket of ice water over oneself. I’ve done this before and it really does feel great. But he insists that you begin and end with heat, either a steam room, a sauna, or a hot shower. (A simpler alternative is the “contrast shower”: hot water, then cold, then hot and cold and hot again. It’s very invigorating.)

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You can make kvass with almost anything. Most commonly it’s rye bread, but here at Dog HQ, gluten is not on the menu, so we often use oats and berries.

And no ice-cold beverages. Go for hot drinks instead. He also strongly recommends pickled and fermented foods, pine nuts, raw honey, and—my favorite!—kvass.

Faleev praises kvass for its vitamin content and effect on our gut biome, and he claims it speeds recovery from exertion and even has saved the lives of many a zek (prisoner) in the death traps that are Russian prisons:

“We all have heard what Russian prisons are like. The reality is that our prisons are not aimed at reforming people but mainly at destroying them. … Death in prison can be violent, of course, but more often it comes from exhaustion, lack of vitamins, and disease … The zeki are beaten and use any tiny opportunity to stay alive. The most experienced zeki make kvass in secret and thus are able to maintain their health. They get a spoonful of sugar and a piece of bread daily, and they can scrounge a jar [to hold the sugar, bread, and water] and bury it so that no one will inform the authorities. In ten days, the kvass is ready. If there is no bread, they make it with tree bark, especially aspen bark. Kvass lets you ward off sickness and maintain strength.”

As Faleev notes, you can make kvass from most any vegetable matter: traditional kvasses include those made from rye bread, berries, watermelon rinds, or beets. For athletes he particularly recommends kvass made with herbs, including sage, foxglove, lily of the valley, eucalyptus, and pine needles.

Zeks
These guys were deliberately worked to death in Arctic lumber camps and uranium mines. Faleev figures, if kvass kept them alive through that, maybe you should consider some too.

 

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