Crossfit. Why I love to hate it.

I'm a runner. I have always hated the idea of "cross-training," dreaded doing anything else besides logging miles. I've tried lifting weights at the gym, but always looked confused and bored (because I was). Then I tried some "at home" workout videos, which just didn't do it for me either.  I mean seriously... I CAN'T JUMP AND DOWN IN MY LIVING ROOM by myself that many times.

About 2 1/2 years ago I was training for a marathon, and I wanted it to be "the one." The one where I officially qualified for the Boston Marathon. The problem was that running just wasn't cutting it anymore. I wasn't getting faster and I really didn't have much muscle. For the amount of time I was spending working out (running) you would think I would at least have some decent muscle mass, but besides my legs I really didn't have much definition (not to mention I could barely lift anything).

And lets face it, logging miles all the time can get a little boring. I tried going to the big box gym to lift, do squats and some cross-training...but once again that didn't work out. Going to a big box gym (even though its "only $10 a month") really doesn't give most people the support they need to be successful. Every time I walked in the only people who said hello were the employees. Why is that? Looking back on my visits to big gyms I realize that's one of the reasons why I love to hate cross fit.

So how was I going to get faster and improve my overall fitness level? I had heard of cross fit from the paleo community but it had always sounded so freaking scary. But I needed something. Something to get my butt moving and something to do besides running. So I googled to find some cross fit boxes in my area and luckily there was one close by, Black Swamp Crossfit. I was SO SCARED to call. I remember sitting in the kitchen with my sister calling to set up an appointment. The lady that answered the phone sounded terrifying, she was the owner (who I know now is absolutely the nicest, most welcoming person) and she was YELLING at people. What was I getting myself into...I hung up and was already scared.

So I showed up for my first initial meeting. I walked in to loud music and a bunch of sweaty people. Seriously sweaty people. They were currently doing their WOD (workout of the day) and I could tell they were in great shape. What the hell was I doing here? I didn't even know how to load weights on a bar, let alone lift it above my head while squatting. Abbey the owner greeted me and put me at ease, but she was still yelling at people. When those scary sweaty people were finished with their workout guess what they did? THEY ALL SAID HELLO. Every. Single. One.

I did my first cross fit workout that day. I was sore for almost a week.

I LOVED it. I loved knowing that I was using muscles that I normally didn't use. I was also excited that I got such an amazing workout in UNDER AN HOUR! Actually the workout was probably just 15 minutes.

I signed up. I figured I would give it 3 months and see how it went.

After having butterflies in my stomach EVERY time I went there, I started to feel more comfortable after the first 2 months. Don't let me fool you, I still ran most the time. Lucky for me there was a running endurance group that had started, so that got me out of doing regular WODs sometimes. But I still was getting more "non-running" workouts than every before, and on a fairly consistent basis.

It worked. I qualified. After 4 marathons and dozens of half marathons over the past 10 years, I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon. It was a great moment, one I have CrossFit to thank for. After doing CrossFit for JUST 5 MONTHS, I shaved almost 30 minutes off my time.

Here is my sister and I at the finish line of the Columbus Marathon. Finish time- 3 Hours 33 Minutes 23 seconds.

Almost 2 years later I'm still doing CrossFit. Here is the AMAZING box I go to, a little before and after shot. The owners are hardworking, friendly, inviting people that have turned a warehouse into a second home for so many.

  

And some of my favorite WODs...
  
 


This box can be what you want it to be (along with all the other CrossFit boxes out there). It can be a place you stop by to get a quick workout in, OR it can be a place you workout, make friends and have good conversations. THEN those friends PUSH you to do better. They are HAPPY for you when you run a faster mile, and you're SINCERELY HAPPY for them when they get a new 1 rep max back squat (I hope I'm saying that right).

I even have my own fancy jump rope now! Look closely and you'll see it has my name on it. This little string with handles has helped me to actually do Double Unders, something I didn't even think I cared about a couple years ago. I have one from Cyclone Speed Ropes, but some people at my box also recommend one from Rogue. Either way having your own rope is a game changer.


Sometimes we even have fantastic events where our friends and family come and participate! These are usually open to the public! Heres my sister (also a runner) thinking Im crazy for telling her to try and flip a tire. Check out Black Swamps Facebook page if you're in the area and want to know when we have things coming up! It's a great way to get involved in your community.

 Why am I posting this? Because I want people to not be intimidated to TRY SOMETHING NEW, even if its terrifying, it may CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Being physically active is SO important for your health. If you're skinny and don't exercise, you're still at risk for a lot of health issues. Its really all about being active and finding something you will do on a REGULAR BASIS.

If you don't enjoy watching TV while your on the elliptical for 45 minutes then why are you still doing it? If you hate running then stop. If you dread putting in that workout DVD then stop.

If you're in the Toledo are you should stop by! Check out their website for hours and trial information. Who wouldn't want to workout with these friendly faces?!


I weigh more now than I did when I started CrossFit, but I'm faster and can back squat a lot more than I weigh. My goal for this year is to be able to do pull-ups. Who would have thought....


I hate CrossFit because it makes me sore, it pushes me to do things I never cared to do. I love it because it makes me a better, stronger person. I also LOVE the fun stuff we do in addition to working out- like paleo challenges and the intramural games we having going on this summer. Sometimes I don't go for a week because I need to log some miles...then I realize I miss it. I miss the workouts and the people. The best part is when you walk in after not being there for a few days, you're welcomed with open arms and smiles. No joke- the owner gave me hug today when I showed up after missing a few days. I can't imagine not having this box in my life. I would probably still be dreading going to the big gym where no one says hello.

So go find an exercise that you ENJOY.

Watermelon Cake

Dessert is always the killer at parties. I watch people do soooo well during the meal- ordering something they won't regret later, loading their plate with veggies and making sure they don't overeat...and then the dessert options come along.

I know some people think fruit is a lame dessert, but seriously it's a sweet food and it CAN be dessert. Especially for those people that are trying to EAT CLEAN & AVOID ADDITIONAL SUGAR. I love being able to leave a party/get together/event knowing that I ate a healthy, nutrient dense meal.

Here's what I made Sunday to bring to a family gathering; it sat on a table next to 4 different sugary pies, but I'm happy to say that it was A LITTLE MORE THAN HALF gone. I love knowing that some people got in an extra serving of fruit and maybe stuck to their nutrition goals on a holiday.

finished-cake-from-top.jpg

 

 

Paleo/Gluten Free/Nutrient Packed Watermelon & Fruit "CAKE"

Ingredients:

1 whole watermelon

1-2 C strawberries & blackberries (or any of your favorites)

2 cans FULL FAT coconut milk *(put in the refrigerator a few hours before you plan on making the dish) **Before anyone gets scared of the term "full fat," coconut milk fat is GOOD for you.

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sweetener of your choice if you want :) (but you don't need it)

Let's get started...

1. Open up your COLD cans of FULL FAT coconut milk. There will be a solid portion on top and the coconut water portion on the bottom. CAREFULLY scoop out the full fat milk and place into a separate bowl; this is the portion that we will use for the "whipped topping." You can save the coconut water to drink later (YUM), or discard if you don't want it. I used this coconut milk this time...

coconut-milk.jpg

 

2. Take a whisk and start to whip your coconut milk into a "cream." Once you feel like it almost smooth, add in the vanilla and continue to whisk. You can try it now to see if you want to add a sweetener of your choice (but I would try to keep it clean). Place into the refrigerator until we are ready to frost.

3. "Skin" the watermelon (after you've washed it well) and cut into 2 "cake rounds." I was able to get 2 from a medium sized watermelon. This left a lot of leftovers from what I didn't need for the actual cake (even better for snacking later).

4. Wash off your berries of choice. I used organic strawberries and organic blackberries and they were DELICIOUS. Always try to get organic berries- remember they are on the Dirty Dozen list (check it out here), the most contaminated fruits/veggies when grown conventionally. Let them dry and cut them up as needed. You want to make sure they are dry before you place them on your cake.

5. Now it's time to make the cake. I would not frost and complete it until YOU ARE ALMOST READY TO SERVE. I frosted mine ~1 hour prior to service and it all held together well. Take your whipped coconut topping and frost your watermelon cake pieces. I would be careful, don't put it on too heavy. Then simply cover with your berries and serve!

 


You can see someone stole some coconut cream (it was an adult not a child). I would recommend not telling people this is watermelon and just let them cut it open to see for themselves ;)

I plan on making this all summer long! It's Paleo, Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free and HEALTHY.

Protein...the dangerous macronutrient?

Have you seen this? It’s just about impossible not to this week.

“Too much protein in middle age is as ‘bad as smoking.’” (source)

“Too much animal-based protein could lead to early death.” (source)

“Deli Dilemma: Meat and Cheese Linked to Earlier Death.” (source)

I sometimes wonder if these people actually look at the research they are reporting, because I do, and it’s really very disappointing. You would hope that something as significant as the statements above would hold some substantial truth to them- they’re BIG statements to broadcast; but unfortunately there are SO MANY HOLES in the research (probably something larger then holes….) that there should barely be a conclusion at all.

The general public is already terribly mystified about what the hell is happening at the grocery store, and now we’re telling them that eating chicken every night is the same as dragging off that cigarette?  Pleassseeee…..let me wake up from this nightmare.

  So what caused these headlines to pop up all over the place this week? This month there was a study published in the Journal of Cell Metabolism that sparked the flame. Here’s a play by play of what it entailed…

·           18 years ago a little over 6,000 participants filled out a 24-hour diet recall form. According to their answers/food intake on this form, they were spilt into 3 groups dependent on their protein intake (low/moderate/high) on that specific day.

·           18 years later (fast forward to the present), the causes of mortality were looked at for this group of people (that at one point filled out a 24-hour diet recall form). They looked at cardiovascular mortality, cancer mortality, diabetes mortality and all cause mortality.

·           A little over 2,000 of these participants had their insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) level tested, although the circumstances in which this happened were not reported.

·           Then….to follow up that study, they did one in mice. The researchers hypothesized that eating protein increased IGF-1 and examined if it would increase the rate of growth in already present tumors in mice.

 You can see the abstract here, but have to pay for access to the full article. If anything the pictures of the mice they included are a nice touch. The full article may come up here if your interested.

 A few of their conclusions:

  “Overall, our human and animal studies indicate that a low protein diet during middle age is likely to be beneficial for the prevention of cancer, overall mortality, and possible diabetes through a process that may involve, at least in part, regulation of circulating IGF-1 and possibly insulin levels.”

  “We also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid low protein intake and gradually adopt a moderate to high protein, preferably mostly plant based consumption to allow the maintenance of a healthy weight and protection from frailty.”

I know that was a lot to get through but this is why it’s important to QUESTION what the media to telling you. Here are my issues with this “research.”

  • I’m not a mouse. If there are any mice reading this please let me know, I’d like to talk to you about your protein intake. Mice traditionally eat a LOW protein diet; so yes when you feed them a high protein diet (that they naturally aren’t meant to be eating) there may be metabolic consequences. I’m not saying that humans were meant to eat high protein diets, but we can’t rely on mice to tell us otherwise.
  • Have you ever filled out a 24-hour dietary recall form? It’s really considered the CRAP way to get a good picture of someone’s overall dietary habits. Basically you would tell me right now everything you ate yesterday, that’s right- JUST ONE DAY. Based on what you told me you ate yesterday, I would then make conclusions 18 years from now about your diseases processes and mortality. I hope there wasn’t a barbeque, birthday party or buffet at work yesterday (that’s really going to put a damper on that conclusion). Dietitians are now taught other methods to get a better picture of someone’s overall dietary status; I don’t know anyone that still uses a one-day diet recall to assess someone nutritionally. Would you want what you ate for just ONE DAY to be used in substantial research about your mortality?
  • This is not a study that proves causation. It’s looking at a relationship, that the authors should comment on, but not make drastic conclusions from (like they have). Another type of study that would look at a RELATIONSHIP, but not a CAUSE, would be television viewing and rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If those who watched the most television had the highest rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, would that mean that the television was CAUSING the disease? Or would it possibly mean that those people who tend to watch more hours of television also tend to be less active and live less healthy lives compared to those individuals who watch less television? Topics like diet and lifestyle are multifactorial, you cannot draw drastic conclusions from one factor.
  • Do people who eat more meat tend to live less healthy lives? Possibly yes and no. I know people who eat a lot of animal protein…they also don’t exercise as much, drink more alcohol, eat LESS fruits and vegetables and MORE processed foods then I do. Does that mean that because I eat the same amount of animal protein as they do we are in the same risk category for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease? NO. NO. NO. None of these other factors were considered in this study and conclusions. You can see below what my "typical" protein intake is, ~20% of my usual caloric intake. This would place me in the "high protein" group, at the "highest risk" for cancer according to their research. Almost ALL my carbohydrates come from vegetables (some starchy) and fruit (organic), my fat from HEALTHY fats, and my proteins from lean sources (mostly free range/organic/grass fed)- I would consider myself at LOW risk when just looking at my food intake.


  • A HUGE problem with this type of research is that it was NOT initially created to look at the topic of protein. The researchers had to rely on the simple questions that were asked originally and missed MOST of the deaths (and a lot of other factors that may have had an impact). If you look at the facts provided in the supplemental data there were only 113 determinable deaths in the total cohort of 6,381 (that’s less then 2% of the people surveyed originally).  113 out of 6,381? Really?
  • Part of their conclusion is that higher levels of IGF-1 is what’s increasing our risk for cancer…what about other things that increase IGF-1? EXERCISE is the main one that comes to mind. The other culprit was circulating insulin, which your pancreas releases ANY TIME you eat carbohydrates.

A closing message from one of the researchers (who by the way has an equity interest in a large plant protein medical food company).

“We provide convincing evidence that a high-protein diet, particularly if the proteins are derived from animals, is nearly as bad as smoking,” says the University of Southern California's Dr Longo.

I still can’t believe he would say something like that; the damaging effects of smoking are well documented and substantial- this study proves no where near that.

I know that nutrition/food/vitamin/health studies are extremely hard to complete and do appropriately; but this doesn’t mean that we get to jump to conclusions with the ones that are done poorly.

Here’s what I take from this all this “protein = smoking” nonsense-

1.     As always, MOST your plate should be vegetables (organic, non-gmo when possible).

2.     If you want to eat animal protein- do it- but still eat a varied diet. If you don’t want to eat animal protein- don’t- but still eat a varied diet.

3.     I always recommend good quality animal proteins- grass fed, free range, organic (sometimes possible/sometimes not), etc. These types of animal protein have a different composition and nutrient value compared to conventionally raised animals.

4.     Don’t eat processed, cured meat. There’s nothing there for you except chemicals that you don’t need.

5. Don't SMOKE.

6.     Question nutrition news in the media. I'm not saying it's always wrong, but it's definitely worth looking at before you make any drastic changes in your diet/lifestyle.


Protein in the morning.

I need protein in the morning…and sometimes its not eggs.

Do you eat crap for breakfast? By crap I mean a load of sugar that comes in a wrapper or box. If you do, take my advice- get some protein in, your body (and maybe your boss) will thank you later.

Starting your day off right can make all the difference. When you eat concentrated sugary products first thing in the morning, with no protein and no real nutrients (let’s face it, your 90 calorie granola bar doesn’t have much to offer), you’re not reaching your optimal health.

Why you need protein in the morning-

1.     ALERTNESS. Who doesn't want to be alert? Protein provides amino acids that can directly influence the neurotransmitters in your brain. That’s right- WHAT YOU EAT HAS AN IMPACT ON YOUR BRAIN(1).  Getting in the amino acids that your brain needs to function optimally can help you to feel alert and awake; there are a TON of people I talk to in the morning that are clearly not getting in protein at breakfast.

2.     HUNGER. Are you hungry before snack time or lunch? The University of Missouri recently completed a study showing that eating a protein rich breakfast can reduce food cravings and keep you fuller longer(2). Eating a meal high in carbohydrates first thing in the morning can result in you being hungrier faster- carbs are digested more rapidly than both protein and fat.

3.     WAKE UP. WAKE UP. WAKE UP. Feel like your dragging? How was that bowl of cereal or plate of pancakes? Meals rich in carbohydrates can increase tryptophan levels, making you sleepy and relaxed; protein rich meals can increase tyrosine levels, which can increase energy(3). Which do you need in the morning- sleepy and relaxed or more energy and power?

4.     WEIGHT- Have some to loose? Protein rich meals in the morning may help.  Not only do they help with all of the above, but they were also found to help increase satiety throughout THE ENTIRE DAY(4). A high protein breakfast has been found to decrease levels of ghrelin- a “hunger hormone.”

Those of you that have followed me for a while know I’m a fan of EGGS (I’ll post about that later), but I don’t always have time to make them, or feel like eating them.

When I do, a vegetable almost ALWAYS is sitting by their side. I’m OBSESSED with giving some broccoli (or any other veggie) a quick stir fry with coconut oil, salt and pepper and then setting it by my pastured, organic gems (EGGS).

                         

I’ve also been known to bake them, especially if I’m in a rush. I just throw some already cut up veggies in a dish, with some lightly scrambled eggs on top. If I’m really getting crazy I’ll even sprinkle some cheddar on top when they're done.

 

If a day comes along and I’m not in the egg mood (which is rare)… I’ll get creative and be frantically looking for something else with protein. This last week I let some organic frozen berries set out to thaw a bit, I mixed some vanilla protein powder with unsweetened almond milk- and poured on top. It tasted like a dessert; trust me- better than pancakes (who decided frying cake was appropriate in the morning anyways).

 

I also love a banana covered in almond butter, almond milk, walnuts and unsweetened coconut. Fast, easy and healthy!