Sunday, January 30, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect?

We had a workout last week that involved Burpees. 100 of them in fact (5 rounds of 20 with some running and lifting mixed in). I think I have posted about Burpee's before, but in case you don't tune in everyday, or don't remember, here is what a Burpee is:

I just liked the song that went with that video.

Anyway...I SUCK at Burpees. I can do one, maybe two like the guy in the video, and then I find myself moving slowly, and instead of jumping my legs out when I fall, I walk them, and instead of jumping my legs back under me before I stand, I walk up. I always jump at the end. Don't get me wrong, this is still very taxing on my body, and for sure gets my heart rate going. Try some.

I was reading a Paleo/crossfit blog somewhere, and I remember a woman who decided to partake in a Burpee challenge. For 100 days, she performed Burpee(s). On day one, you do one. On day two, you do two, and so on and so forth until day 100. I figure this is an excellent way for me to get better at my dreaded nemisis. I began yesterday with one Burpee, and am about to head to the family room for two Burpees today. Sure, I'm all confident now, but by day 40, I think I'm going to start panicking.

Just out of curiosity, I totaled up how many Burpee's that would amount to if I followed the program 100% for 100 days. Are you ready for this? 5,050. FIVE THOUSAND BURPEES. FIVE THOUSAND FIFTY!!!!! I better be a Burpee rock star on May 8th (the end of my 100 days).

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Education, Part 3. The "Exercise" Myth

Is the primary reason why you exercise to maintain your lean figure, or to one day (hopefully) obtain a lean figure? What if I said exercise has absolutely nothing to do with weight (fat) loss, and by exercising alone as a tool to "control" your weight, you will only make yourself fatter and weaker?

Pretty crazy, huh? Yeah, until about 7 months ago, I thought exercise was totally necessary in order to lose weight. I thought that I could balance the crap I ate by exercising more, by following the laws of thermodynamics (calories in - calories out = fat lost or gained). NOT TRUE, as we learned in An Education, Part 2, hormones are responsible for fat storage.

So when we exercise, (specifically long bouts of cardio only) what is actually getting lost? Lean muscle tissue is the first thing to get used by the body since its more readily available to convert to energy, as the body tends to hold onto fat for survival. This is how eating less and exercising more makes you fatter and weaker. Losing lean muscle tissue is a tricky bastard. As you lose lean muscle, your body requires less calories to maintain itself. So, you have to keep eating less calories to maintain your losses. Its a horrible place to be...depending on the number on the scale to dictate success rather than the percentage of fat in your body, or how your clothes fit.

Taking the information from An Education Part 1, we know that fat does not make us fat, and that fat is a dietary necessity. Taking the information from An Education Part 2, we know that hormones are responsible for fat storage and fat loss. Now, we know that exercise plays no part in fat where does that leave us?

What goes into our mouths is the most important factor in losing weight (fat). The best things to put into our mouths are items that do not cause a spike in blood sugar, and therefore a release in insulin, elevating insulin levels. Eating fat is more important then eating carbohydrates.

Much information for this post was taken from this article:

See also:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two-Hours in Traffic Workout

I love irony. Perhaps because I fall victim to so many ironic situations. Take today for instance. What a perfect Friday it started out to be! I was getting stuff done...big stuff! Like I called the copy machine fix it guy to fix a problem that has been happening since my first day three weeks ago. I'm not the only one that uses the copier with the issue, but apparently I was the only one that cared enough to call. You know what happened when he showed up? After he was done fixing the machine I called him for, swarms of people from all parts of my gargantuan office came out of the woodwork to have him fix machines by them! Really?????

Then, I get an e-mail from the boss saying to leave at 2pm (YAY) because they are testing the fire alarms in the building, and I don't want to be there. I was so excited! I could make it to the 3pm CrossFit and then have SO much time!

At 11:30, the power went out. We have a generator (of course we do). The generator just took care of the lights, and no one's computer worked except for mine. Really???

So I leave work at 2pm, so excited. No traffic, thinking about a chill Friday night of pork shoulder tacos. Then I see a of those large signs they have to warn you of upcoming traffic issues. I see it says ALL LANES CLOSED AHEAD. USE ALTERNATE ROUTES. Bah! Says me. If everyone goes alternate routes, I should be fine! Besides, I knew of another traffic sign up ahead, and I would make a decision what to do once I saw that sign. The second sign says MAJOR ACCIDENT, THREE LANES CLOSED. Things are improving! By the time I get there, should be cleared up! No traffic, no traffic....I make the decision to continue on, and realize even if I get stuck, I can still make the 4pm class.

Then I came to a screeching halt. 2 hours later, I found myself at the gym. I get out of work two hours early, only to sit in traffic for two hours. Really???

But, I discovered that I have a new way of quantifying things. How badly do I want to work out? Bad enough to sit in traffic for two hours. I definitely would NEVER wait in traffic for two hours for a free donut! And I kicked the workout in the ass, BTW.

So, how many hours are you willing to sit in traffic for your workout?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blown Away

Over the past 13 months, I've written many times about my Seattle benchmark workout. Greenlake. Greenlake is a popular park here with runners, walkers, kids, strollers, rollerbladers, cyclists, pretty much everyone. In fact, on a sunny day, its as if the entire population of the greater Seattle ares finds themselves at Greenlake.

Because I have written many times about Greenlake, I have some pretty cool data that I can go back and look at. Posts where I couldn't wait to come home and write about how I kicked so much ass. I really broke things down in my last post about Greenlake, on Sunday, September 19, 2010 (here). That's right, the last time I ran Greenlake was exactly 17 weeks ago.

I haven't been running at all really since starting CrossFit. Occasionally our workouts include running, but not distances like 5K's. So, to be able to go out an run a 5K as if I've never stopped running regularly is amazing. And then to BEAT MY TIME BY MORE THAN 3 MINUTES is even more amazing. One year ago, I don't think I could have run all the way around the lake without stopping, and it would have taken me 39 minutes or so? I remember in February or March running it in 35:41, and being SO happy. Then in September, running it in 33:33. And today, 30:23.

I don't even know what to say. I haven't run Greenlake as fast as I did today in 8 years? 9 years? I was SO CLOSE (24 seconds) away from having a sub-30 minute 5K. It was really windy, so next time I'll get it for sure.

An Education, Part 2. Hormones, the key to weight loss.

In my last post, I talked about necessity of fat, and attempted to dispel the greatest fat myth facing persons interested in nutrition today. I say attempted because I really want people to do their own research on the subject. I'm just planting a seed that suggests we shouldn't believe everything we hear, even if its mainstream. Read Gary Taubes blog. Read his book; Good Calories, Bad Calories. Check out blogs by Mark Sisson and Rob Wolfe.

So, picking up from the last post, if fat isn't making us fat, and we need fat, then why, why, why? Are so many of us having issues with weightloss, and specifically fatloss?

Hormones. Hormones are responsible for us keeping and/or losing fat. Insulin (a hormone) in particular is responsible for fat and nutrient storage. Insulin is released after a spike in blood sugar. Repeated and abuse of insulin release breaks the system, and insulin resistance results. The most telling symptom of insulin resistance is fat around the middle.

The solution? Regulate insulin. Eat foods that don't cause spikes in insulin. In order from affecting insulin least to greatest, the list looks like this: fat, protein, carbs. A diet low in carbohydrates is not going to cause the highs and lows in blood sugar, and therefore won't cause a roller coaster of insulin released.

Hormones being responsible for weight loss are precisely the reason why you can do everything right one week...exercise, eat a calorie deficit that should equal a two pound loss, and yet NOTHING changes on the scale, or you see a gain. It has been shown over and over (and by how many long term success stories there are for people that lose weight) dieting only makes you fatter and weaker.

How does eating less and exercising more lead you astray? Stay tuned for Part 3: The exercise "more" myth.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Education, Part 1. Fat does not make you fat.

On Saturday I was invited by a friend to attend a Paleo nutrition seminar at her CrossFit gym. I jumped at the chance because I'm a sucker for learning, and because I really enjoy being around people who are interested in the Paleo lifestyle. Most of the information in the talk was stuff I knew or had been practicing for months now, but a few things really hit home. I'm going to break down the big concepts I picked up into a few blog posts, hence the "Part 1."

First off, to give a little background on the instructor: the class was taught by Dave Werner, who opened the first CrossFit affiliate here in Seattle. According to my gym's owner/trainer, he is and ex Navy Seal who was wheelchair bound before finding CrossFit. Now, he is anything but wheelchair bound. He was so knowledgeable, and believed in this diet all the way to his core. I think he could have spoke on the subject for days on end. Luckily, we only had 3 hours!

Second off, I'm not a doctor, nor do I have any sort of formal training in diets or medicine. I am however smart, and capable of understanding complex concepts that don't necessarily follow mainstream views. Back in the day, I would have had NO problem believing the world was round, or that we evolved from monkeys. We laugh at those things now, just as I imagine in a few decades, we will be laughing at calorie counting, elliptical machines, and Jillian Michaels.

Eating fat does not make you fat. Do you need me to say that again? Eating fat does not make you fat. The body is perfectly capable of making fat on its own, from foods that contain no fat (grapes, carrots, just to name a few) therefore eating foods that contain fat are not what is making you (or will make you) fat.

Fat is entirely essential in order for the body to function. A human eating nothing but lean meat will suffer and eventually die in short order, some say faster than if he/she was eating nothing at all. This phenomenon is known as "rabbit starvation." Google it when you get a moment.

So, fat is essential, and eating fat does not make you fat. What does? Stay tuned for Part 2: Hormones, a dieters worst enemy.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Boy Push-Ups? Me?

One of the great things about CrossFit, is that it is entirely scaleable to your fitness level/needs. Any age/sex/weight/breathing individual can participate, just some of the moves might require modification. Probably one of the most familiar modifications people think of is performing push-ups on your knees if you can not do them on your toes.

I've never been able to do push-ups on my toes. I've gotten quite good at doing them on my knees. On Friday, after learning the workout, we were figuring out how or if we would be scaling the workout. There is always a "prescribed" (Rx) workout, and if the trainers don't think you should attempt that, they give you lesser weight to move. The workout of the day included push-ups. I went to go grab an ab-mat to cushion my knees, and my trainer stopped me and said "you will be doing push-ups on your toes today, fully prescribed." I had a slight heart attack. I didn't know if I could do a push-up on my toes.

My trainer says, "this is what I want you to do: get into push-up position, and just fall to the ground (he demonstrates with a rush of air and a thud as his chest and body hit the ground) then push yourself up. Repeat."

"But" I say. "What about lowering myself down? Isn't that part of it?" He says, "the goal is to get from having your chest on the ground to full extension in your arms. It doesn't matter how you get down, either by lowering or dropping, but since we do these workouts for time, I suggest dropping since gravity is doing the work."

Still not sure I could push myself up onto my toes from lying on the floor, I tried. I DID IT. It felt way to easy. I couldn't believe that counted as a push up. So I asked, "what about when people say to do 'negative' push ups to build up for on the toes push-ups?" My trainer laughed and said "don't even bother. You are using the wrong type of muscle movement (slow, few tissues) and it's just not effective." What is effective is fast, explosive movements. So, the burst from going from the floor to pushing myself up on my toes is WAY more effective then trying to focus on lowering myself to the floor. And, since gravity will ensure I get to the floor faster, its better to just drop anyway.

So yeah. I do push-ups on my toes now. Just one more exercise I DON'T have to scale. That makes me feel like a rockstar.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hmmm, Cauliflower or Pizza?

With nearly one week under my belt at the new job, I feel confident enough to say, OMG this place is SO much better then my old job! Let me count the ways:
1) Someone empties my desk garbage and recycling EVERY night.
2) There is hot coffee in the kitchen all day long. Three kinds! (strong, medium, and decaf)
3) We have a kitchen
4) My boss wears cowboy boots to work everyday (I don't know what this means, but I like it)
5) I have everything I need, or a way to get what I need easily.
6) I have a cubicle
7) I like working so close to downtown- much closer to fun things
8) My commute is easy, either by car or bus

I discovered one major challenge today. Having a kitchen and working in a big office for a big company means food in the kitchen for employees all day long. This morning, when I went into get some coffee, there was some sort of berry tart. The kind of thing that I would have gobbled up in seconds prior to my Paleo days, and not really even enjoyed it. Just ate it because it was there, and I could. It didn't even look that great. So, off I went with the rest of my day.

This week I prepared all my lunches on Sunday, and froze them into pre-packaged little baggies. So, all I do is grab one meat bag (grass fed hamburger this week) and one veggie bag (roasted cauliflower)and bring those along. Eating the same thing everyday for lunch isn't a problem for me, it actually works pretty well. Most of the time. I walk into the kitchen toting my baggies of meat and veg, and on the counter was the biggest pizza box I've seen, containing a huge pizza. And not just cheapo pizza, high quality pizza from a really good place! There was also a huge bowl of salad next to the pizza.

I've been waking up earlier to adjust to my new schedule, and that means I eat breakfast about 2 hours earlier then I'm used to. I start to get really hungry around 11:30 or so, and that's when I've been taking my lunch break. It was so hard to continue with my plan to eat my brought lunch, and not find a way to justify a slice or two of pizza. As my burger and cauliflower was heating up, a genius plan struck me. I could dish up some of that salad, put my burger and cauliflower on top, and add some dressing, and BAM! A whole new lunch to break the monotony. And that is exactly what I did. Pizza what? I didn't even miss it.

That is how you turn lemons into lemonade. Except it was pizza, and pizzade would be gross...but you know what I mean. Taking a tough situation and making it into the best!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Love My Gym

I've tried lots of things to motivate me/make me exercise. I blame it on my parents, because for as long as I can remember, they have been encouraging (read: making) me exercise since I was at least 10. So, at 31, to say I have tried everything is not far from the truth.

The first incident that I remember was my mom's obsession with climbing half-dome in Yosemite. Its a 16 mile round trip hike, very difficult, and the last half mile involves scaling precarious cables up the granite rock! So, for nearly a year, we walked every night, a minimum of 3 miles. On the weekends we went for one or two hikes on the local mountain. We made camping reservations and set a day to make the hike. We were in good shape. I remember how rock hard my calves were. I swear they have never reached that point since. When we arrived at Yosemite, we learned the cables weren't up so we couldn't make it to the top. The nightly walks and hikes ended upon our return home.

Next came various after school sports; soccer, tennis, etc. I wasn't very good at these so lost interest quick.

When I started high school I joined the crew team. I remained on the team for 3 years. It was interesting, and I learned a lot about pushing my body to new limits, but alas, I wasn't very good at it and lost interest quick.

In college I was on the sailing team, but I was (am?) pretty good at that, so I stuck with it, however its not that much of a workout. At least on the collegiate level, a lot of drinking is involved. Olympic sailors are hardcore. In addition to sailing in college, I worked out at the University fitness center and spent quality time on the elliptical. I also discovered running, and by my junior year, I was running 20 miles per week. I liked running a whole bunch, but hated how hard it was to get back into it after a seemingly short break.

After college, I tried to avoid joining a gym and would sporadically take up running. I would get to the point where it was easy/fun again, and then I would stop. Then I would kick myself for letting my fitness slide each time I took it up again. This pattern happened more then I would like to count/admit.

A few years of this on again off again running, and began working at a gym by my house. I figured if I was working at a gym, then I had no excuse to not workout. Well, actually working at a gym had the OPPOSITE effect, as when I was done with my shift, the last thing I wanted to do was workout. I didn't want to go to the gym when I didn't have to go there for work, and I certainly didn't want to go there on my days off! membership that I hardly used!

Next came various different gym memberships (that I was paying for) and more attempts at trying to get back to running like I was in college, and workout videos, and Wii Fit. Nothing really stuck. Obviously. I always ended up dreading working out. I never understood the whole "find something you love." In my book, it all sucked!

Until CrossFit. Never in a million years would I've thought I would drive 40 minutes out of my way to get the ass kicking of my life, everyday. Never would I have thought that I wouldn't get sick of a gym. Never would I have thought I could improve so much in so little time. Never would I have thought that an individual workout could be such a group effort. This is what its all about.

Never wanting to miss a day. Feeling amazing after a workout. Having a strong, knowledgeable support group. Doing whatever it takes to fit my workout in. Giving it my all everyday. I love my gym. Do you feel the same way about your gym/exercise routine?

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Job, New Routine

Today was day one of my new job, and day one of my ambitious plan to drive to the park and ride, take the bus to work, work, ride the bus back, and immediately hop in my car for the 15 mile (with traffic) drive to the gym.

Things that went my way today:
My timing (luck?) was impeccable. I never had to wait more than 2 minutes for a bus.
I made it to the gym an entire hour earlier then I planned.
My prepared meals worked great.
Since I was training, and that meant a lot of listening, I got to drink plenty of water.

Things that did not go my way today:
I'm 89% sure I sat in bum pee on the bus.
The lady training me today had the worst cold ever. I can't believe she was even at work. Hoping I don't catch it...but with all the key board switching etc., I'm nervous.
I got my last pay check from the old They f-ed me royally. It's taking all I've got to be the bigger person and not send the e-mail/make the phone call I want to make.

First days are hard. I had the usual nerves to power me through waking up 2 hours earlier then normal, and getting myself to work on time. About noon or so, the mass amounts of information were starting to take their toll, and I began toying with the idea of skipping CrossFit (its my first day of a new job...its so far to drive...etc, etc.) I quickly put an end to that chatter in my brain, and before I knew it, it was 4pm. Everyone was gone. Oh, so this is what its like to work 8 hours! I left at 4:30, and with my aforementioned bus luck, I got to my car by 5:10, and was at the gym by 5:40. The workout was hard.

I felt SO much better after working out, I can't even believe I had one single fleeting thought about no going.

My routine and commute can be improved on I feel, so tomorrow I'm going to try driving to work and see how that goes. If I drive instead of bus, I'll get there a little earlier, and can leave earlier, missing the major traffic on the way to the gym. I'll figure it out eventually. Its only day 2!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

60 Day Challenge Results

I bet you thought I gave up on that whole 60 day challenge thingy I was so gung-ho about November 1, 2010? In some ways I did, and in some ways I did not. Since November 1st, I went to Crossfit 4-5 days (some weeks 6 days) a week. My eating however, suffered some major difficulties after Thanksgiving.

That being said, I am SO happy that I decided to take measurements for this challenge. I said back in November that I am happy about my 40 pound loss for this year, although during this challenge, I was hoping to lose a few more pounds. My poor eating choices ensured that did not happen. I didn't weight myself this morning, but I'm pretty sure I damn near close to the weight I was November 1st.

After a night of partying and alcohol and poor food choices, I'm not feeling my best today. I feel bloated and fat and like I haven't changed one bit in 2 months.

In walk the measurements. I made a goal for myself of how I would like my measurements to change over the past two months. Here are the results:

Goal (reduction)

Calf 1"
Thigh 1.5"
Hips 3"
Waist 3"
Forearm 0.5"
Upper arm 1.5"

Measurements (1/1/11)

Calf: -1 inch (GOAL MET!)
Thigh: -2 inches (GOAL MET!)
Hips: no change
Waist: -0.5 inches
Forearm: -0.5 (GOAL MET!)
Upper arm: -1.5 inches (GOAL MET!)


I'm pretty excited about this. Just to beat the dead horse a little more: 1) the scale is full of shit, and 2) Crossfit is amazing shit. The measurements speak for themselves.

Today I took myself out for a New Year's Day run, and it was awesome. I really do miss running, and the weather was so amazing today, there was no way I could NOT go run.

Happy New Year! Let's make this year better than last!