Monthly Archives: February 2013
As I’ve said before, paleo isn’t just a diet – it’s a lifestyle. That means there are other factors involving your health that you need to pay attention to besides the way you eat. One of those factors that is so important it’s basically comparable to diet is sleep.
Sleeping is an absolutely essential part of overall health, yet it rarely receives the attention it deserves. If you’ve been researching paleo, you’ve heard all about the biological reasons we haven’t adapted to processed foods and grains, etc. But another huge aspect of this biological discussion is sleep. Guess what those same cavemen whose diet we’re trying to mimic had no access to? Besides automobiles and air conditioning and you know, all that stuff. Artificial light! They woke with the sunrise and slept when the sun set. Even in more modern centuries, sleep patterns were much different than they are today, since it wasn’t until the 19th century that the light bulb was introduced. Before that, of course there were alternative ways of creating light, but certainly not in the way we experience it today.
Robb Wolf makes a great analogy between artificial lighting and exercise:
“Indoor lighting is like chronic cardio relative to lifting weights and sprinting: not enough of an acute (hormetic) stimulus, too much of a chronic stress.”
Okay, so artificial lighting does weird things to us. It’s kind of complicated, but basically, our cortisol levels become elevated when we are exposed to artificial light. Our cortisol level is low at night while we’re sleeping. It should be, anyway. However, if we’re exposed to light when we’re trying to sleep, the level spikes. According to Mr. Wolf, “This can absolutely buggar sleep and crack open a host of problems with regards to body-fat levels, insulin resistance and systemic inflammation.”
Oh, no, there’s that inflammation thing AGAIN! Geez, these paleo people seem to be obsessed with the term. Yes, it does come up a lot in the research – for good reason. These problems with our diet and sleep pattern and exercise routine all seem to lead up to this same issue! And the reality of it is simply undeniable, when you look around and see what has become of much of the population.
So we’ve established that our bodies are not designed to function under artificial light. Now, of course we live in a world where there’s not very much we can do to change that. We all work in buildings with artificial light and stare at computer screens for eight hours a day. What we can control, however, are our sleep patterns and habits.
So let’s look at what you can do to do to ensure the best sleep possible:
1. Sleep in the dark! Because of the whole cortisol issue, you’ve got to sleep in a pitch dark room. Don’t have a little lamp on beside your bed, don’t have the curtains drawn so the street light can stream in. And definitely remember to turn off the computer monitor. Those things will prevent you from getting the deepest possible sleep, which is what your body needs to function optimally.
2. Get 8-10 hours. Yes, it’s a lot. You may have to record your favorite show and watch it in the morning, or read ten pages less of your book before bed. Do it. Otherwise nothing else you’re doing to better your health is going to matter much.
3. Establish a routine. Tuck the kids in, take a shower, do the dishes. Oh, it’s 10:00, that’s it for today. Seriously. Facebook stalking, reruns on Netflix or… whatever else you do late at night can wait.
4. Get up on your own. If you’re getting the eight hours you need, your body should eventually be able to wake itself up without an alarm clock. Try your best to get yourself to that point. Cause alarms… you guessed it – they’re not paleo.
I’m going to say something that’s going to make some of you cry a little bit inside, but hear me out. You cannot go to bed at 3 a.m. and wake up at 7 to start your day. You’re asking for trouble. Sleep deprivation is horrible for you – not just as someone trying to stay in great shape, but anyone concerned about overall health in general.
“Sleep deprivation mimics many elements of the aging process. One could make the argument that how you feel when you are sleep deprived is likely how you will feel if you are both diabetic and old (sleep deprivation dramatically impacts insulin sensitivity).” – Robb Wolf’s Blog
Don’t age yourself unnecessarily, guys. Sleep like a caveman. Report back here if it doesn’t change your life.
Can I just say… ow. I’m exhausted. CF Open WOD’s all week long. My body is crying. But happy at the same time, of course, because it loves working hard!
18 Min Amrap:
15 Box Jumps 20″ girls/24″ guys
12 Push Press 75 lb./115 lb.
9 Toe to bar
Result: 5 Rounds, 65 lb. push press
7 Min max rep…..BURPEES, to target
Result: 80 reps
10 Min Snatch Amrap
Result: 65 Reps w/ 30@35 lb., 30@55 lb., 5@75 lb.
(Just sayin’… I hate snatches. Owwwwwie. And this is scaled. The open progression for women is 45, 75, 100, 120. WHAAAAT.)
15 Min Amrap:
9 Deadlifts 100 lb. girls/155 guys
15 Box Jumps 20″/24″
Result: 7 Rounds + 9 ex. deadlifts, mod. w/ girl pushups
Really, I don’t even want to talk about Friday. My thighs are cringing at the memory. But okay.
12 Min Amrap:
150 Wallballs (AKA Karen – yeah, this is its own workout. It’s hard enough by itself.)
Result: Karen + 90 singles… Crying about my feet cramping/laughing at the prospect of having time to complete one whole rep. Really though, I should relegate myself to a daily wall-ball practice. I am the absolute WORST at these. My chin is always scraped up cause I can’t catch to save my life, I drop the ball out of clumsiness half the time instead of exhaustion like I should – it’s just a pitiful mess to watch. Um… tips? Places I can buy a good face mask? Help!
Also, my calluses seem to be spreading like the black death. Yuck. I mean, I know it’s part of it but they are just so ugly. I now have a small pocket to store things in my middle finger.
Ah, well, nothing a little bacon love can’t make right.
Introducing the newest addition to Functionally Fit – Wodcasts with my caveman, Jake!
This week is an introduction; feel free to comment with ideas, questions, concerns… anything you would like us to talk about in future weeks.
I’m going to be doing a post a week to document where I am on my personal Crossfit journey. Feel free to totally ignore these posts if you’re uninterested, or you can definitely leave comments or advice if you’d like. I’d also be interested in your WOD results and progress if you’d like to share!
On the minute for 20 minutes: 1 squat clean + jerk @ 85% of max
Result: 100 lbs.
“Helen” – 3 rounds for time:
Run 400 meters, 21 kettlebell swings @ 35 lbs., 12 pullups
Result: 12:18 (blue band for pullups)
Wednesday: No WOD, had to work 😦
Thursday: Co-Ed Couples WOD (with my wonderful boyfriend as my partner!)
14 rounds for time:
6 deadlifts (Men 225, Women 135)
8 kettlebell swings (Men 55, Women 35)
Then 1600 meter run
Result: 20:40 Rx
Friday: 3 rounds for time:
10 power snatches
10 box jumps
Result: 6:42, 65 lb. snatch, 20″ box
Then 3 rounds for time:
10 clean + jerk
Result: 8:43, 65 lb., blue band
Alright, here goes the crazy Paleo girl again, and now she’s trash-talking grains. What did bread ever do to you? Well, actually a number of things that are really damaging to the human body. In fact, one could compare the consumption of these havoc-wreaking foods to punching oneself in the face. Don’t believe me? Better keep reading! Let’s start by looking at the history of grains so we can tackle exactly why they are so damaging to our health.
Our bodies are not designed to process grains.
Humans have only been consuming grains since the beginning of agriculture. Before that, grains were not a part of our diet. Which means… ding ding ding, our bodies are not made to process them! In fact, the only animals really meant to eat grains are birds, whose bodies are adapted to eating them. Humans, not so much. We may eventually develop the adaptations needed to properly process them, but for now we have not. If you want to find out more about adaptation to grains please read this great article by The Paleo Mom.
So, sure, our bodies aren’t designed to eat grains from a biological standpoint. But what does that actually translate to when it comes to me actually consuming a piece of bread? Let’s break it down. Here are the ways grains are slowly taking a desctructive toll on your body:
1. A lectin… uh… like that thing we had in November to pick the president?
Not quite. Lectins are proteins that are present in basically every plant (usually the seed) and animal. Since grains and legumes are the seeds of their plants, they have a very high concentration of lectins. But what are they?! Lectins are a plant’s natural pesticide – so they exist mainly to protect the plant from invaders, as well as to aid in protein synthesis. Needless to say, when we consume them, it’s not so great for us.
Over time, lectins poke little holes in your intestines, which allows some not-so-nice stuff to leak out of them and into your bloodstream. So not only are these nature-made pesticides (which are very sticky and great at binding with your tissues) free to roam about your bloodstream, but they also bring with them harmful bacteria that is not meant to leave your intestines (E. coli anyone?). Now you have leaky gut.
So what happens after these little buggers start wandering about your bloodstream? Can’t be good, right? Your body fights back! Your body loves you and doesn’t want you to be attacked by these invaders. But despite your body’s efforts, it can’t change the fact that the lectins have attached themselves to your tissues. So fighting the lectins turns into fighting your own tissues. There’s a word for this, guys – autoimmune disease. As in… arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, etc. Hence, consuming lectins really is like punching yourself in the face. Told you it would make sense eventually.
Along the same lines as lectins is gliadin, the protein in wheat gluten. Now, in the past, the only people prescribed “gluten-free” diets were those with celiac disease. We are now finding that gluten is not just damaging to these individuals but also affects everyone to a different degree.
“In celiac disease the body will make antibodies to gliadin after it is digested by the intestinal enzyme tissue transglutaminase, resulting in severe autoimmune damage to the delicate, absorptive surfaces of the intestines. It does not, however, require full blown celiac disease to suffer from the adverse effects of this protein. In fact, it is likely that our intolerance to gliadin and related wheat proteins is a species-specific intolerance, applicable to all humans, with the difference being a matter of the degree to which it causes harm.” Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Eating This Can Tear Holes in Your Gut”
2. Grains are extremely acidic.
So in a pre-agricultural world, getting a balance of acidic and alkaline foods was pretty simple. Meat and eggs are acidic, whereas veggies and fruit are alkaline. What did hunter-gatherers eat? Exactly those things. So there wasn’t much room for complication in this area. Now enter grains, which are acidic. Grains offset the nice balance that the meat and veggies have created and make your body way more acidic than it was intended to be. And who takes the hit for this offense? Liver, kidneys, pancreas. Poor guys.
3. Phytic acid
Say what? Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in grains, legumes, corn, soy and some nuts and seeds. The nature of this acid is in its definition – it’s anti-nutritional. It binds to the vitamins in foods and deprives the body of critical nutrients. The result? Iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium deficiencies. So… anemia, weak bones, weakened immune system and possibly even infertility. No bueno.
Remember those nasty bacteria that were released into your bloodstream by that leaky gut? We’re not done with them yet. When they’re floating around your bloodstream, your body does what it does to the lectins – attacks. Your body’s immune response depends upon what exactly has seeped out of your gut. Some toxins will cause inflammation by releasing inflammatory cytokins and the liver will have to work hard to filter them out. But when your liver is on overdrive, the rest of the body builds up toxins (your liver is awesome but it isn’t Superman) and experiences inflammation. Now we’ve got inflammation-related health problems like asthma. Yikes.
5. Carb intake and elevated insulin
The main source of carbohydrates in most people’s diets are grains. Now you do need a certain amount of carbs in your diet to survive, of course, but these should come from vegetables and fruits. Start taking in too many carbohydrates from grains (which are much, much higher in carbs than veggies and fruits) and your insulin levels will spike. Insulin’s job is to lower your blood sugar levels after carb consumption. What happens when you’ve consumed more carbs (which are converted to sugar) than your body needs? They get stored as fat. What’s even worse is that when your insulin is constantly elevated – which it will be if you are consuming excessive amounts of carbs from grains – your pancreas has to work overtime to produce even more insulin to combat inflammation. Then, eventually, your cells are immune to the insulin your body produces. Now you’re diabetic.
I know this all sounds horrible, but there’s a solution, and it’s amazingly uncomplicated. Stop consuming so many grains! I guarantee that you will not only physically feel better once you start withdrawing from carbs, but you will also mentally feel better knowing you’re doing something easy and proactive to ensure your optimal health.
Here are some great resources for finding out more about grains and other Paleo questions you might have:
I’ve said it before but in light of watching this incredible video, it needs to be reiterated – anyone can do Crossfit. There is no physical barrier keeping anyone from taking their fitness to the next level; the barrier there is a mental one, and that’s the most difficult obstacle to overcome when it comes to Crossfit.
I highly recommend everyone watches this video from Crossfit Rubicon. If these people can wake up everyday inspired to hit the box, what’s your excuse for not being there?
Video belongs to Crossfit HQ.
Training shouldn’t be about the physical capacities you feel you do or do not have. It should be about your desire to make your life better. Wherever you’re coming from, whatever struggles you have experienced with your body – be it weight gain, injuries, surgeries, etc. – you can still do this. If a woman without most of her arm can strap a chain around a bar and do consecutive pull-ups, you can certainly get past your fear of sweat pants and come to the gym.
I love what the trainer says about being able-minded. It’s not about being able-bodied versus being handicapped. So many of these adaptive athletes are far more “able-bodied” than these sedentary people all over our country who don’t have so-called handicaps. It truly is about becoming “able-minded.” It’s about waking up in the morning knowing that you will accomplish something. It’s deeper than just “believing in yourself.” It’s refusing to accept the status quo, tossing out the preconceptions the world has placed on your forehead, and forging ahead regardless of what society says you can or can’t do. Society might say you’re an overweight diabetic, so you can’t run or you’ll pass out and die. Maybe it says since you have asthma you shouldn’t exert yourself or you’ll risk getting hurt. Maybe it says you’ve been out of shape so long there’s no point in trying now.
Maybe you should screw what society says, tell your brain who’s boss, and make a conscious decision to improve your life. Today, not tomorrow.
If you’ve transitioned to a Paleo lifestyle you’ve probably noticed a couple things about it – you’re hungry, like, all the time… and it can be kind of rough trying to find food you can eat.
The good thing about the first part of the problem is that Paleo doesn’t ask you to count your calories or restrict yourself to a certain amount of meals per day. If you’re hungry you don’t have to wait until a certain time to eat. That being said, you also can’t camp out in your kitchen all day cooking. So here are some tips on how to eat throughout the day.
1. When you have time to cook, try to make enough to last more than one meal.
This helps out especially if you have a job where you’re away from home all day. Just pack your delicious caveman cuisine into a Tupperware and save yourself that painful trip to the restaurant where you’ll have to harass the server with a million questions about each menu item.
2. Eat until you’re full!
Every meal, every time. Seriously. Otherwise, you’re going to be ravenous again in twenty minutes. Trust me, that gets old quickly. Of course, don’t gorge yourself till you can’t move, but you get the point.
3. Stock up on paleo snacks.
Your fridge should always be jam packed with fruits and vegetables. Other really good snacks to graze on throughout the day are almond butter, cashews/assorted nuts, dried fruits (try to find the kind without preservatives), hardboiled eggs, bacon, jerky (again without preservatives if you can help it), kale chips and anything coconut (they have roasted coconut chips, coconut strips, and of course coconut water). A lot of these things can be found at your local farmer’s market. Trader Joe’s and other natural food stores carry some as well. And you’d be surprised what you can find if you look hard enough at your regular grocery store. Today at Walmart, I found Crunchies dried fruits, which are all natural with no preservatives, nuts, Naked coconut water, cage-free organic eggs and almond flour. Not bad for your neighborhood superstore. You really just have to keep your eyes open and make a point to hunt these things down.
4. Protein powder.
Post-workout, I’m always starving and I usually am rushing off somewhere in a hurry, so this is an absolute necessity. I also use it if I just really have no time to make anything or go to the store.
5. Try quick and easy recipes.
I know there are a lot of awesome paleo recipes out there, but every meal doesn’t have to be a gourmet affair. Sometimes there just isn’t time or money for that. Easy and quick meals include avocado and tuna salad, chicken salad, rotisserie chicken with veggies, and Old Faithful – eggs and bacon.
I hope this is encouraging to those of you feeling the stress of trying to do this paleo thing right. I know it can seem difficult, but doing some of these things should make it a little bit easier on you. Please feel free to let me know if you have additional tips, questions, comments or pictures of your favorite paleo meal!
This week’s WOD’s:
Monday: “The Chief” – Max rounds in 3 minutes of
3 Power Cleans
Rest 1 minute, Repeat 5 cycles
Result: 80 lb. cleans, 17 total rounds + 7 extra cleans
Tuesday: Skill – 5×5 Front Squat
Result: 110 lbs.
WOD – For time:
Run 1200 M
Wednesday: No WOD
5×5 Back squat
Result: 145 lbs.
Thursday: For time:
21-15-9 reps of
Result: 6:43 (20” box, 75 lb. clean)
Friday: Had to skip snatch WOD because of rotator cuff problem 😦
5×5 overhead press @ 65 lbs.
Alright, ladies, this one’s for you.
Let me start off by saying I completely understand the apprehension you might feel about even the idea of starting a rigorous training program like Crossfit. Whether you’re intimidated by the heavy looking weights, the sweaty – often loud – men, or the women who look like they could beat you up, I understand your anxiety; I have been there. In fact, we’ve all been there, because we all had to start somewhere.
Before I started Crossfit, I had a million reasons why I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t like the idea of people watching me attempt to do things I thought my body was incapable of doing. I was afraid of hurting myself, of looking stupid, of doing something wrong, of breathing too hard and everybody hearing – of everything, basically. So I get it.
But if Crossfit has taught me anything it has been to question my assumptions – assumptions about myself and about other people. It has taught me that I can’t know my limits if I don’t test them. It has forced me to reevaluate my ideas about my own strength and my capability to improve, as well as challenged me to question my assumptions about the capability of others. Before Crossfit, when someone I’d never seen work out before would walk into the gym, I would look them up and down and make a quick judgment about what I figured they’d be capable of doing. Not anymore. In the box, we’re all equal. By that I don’t mean that we can are all capable of the same level of work. But we are all capable.
Now, I don’t expect to have won you all over with my attempt at being inspirational, so I’ll try to address some common concerns that seem to exist for most women nervous about starting Crossfit.
“I don’t want to get bulky.”
The truth is you most likely have years of training before you even have to think about becoming “too bulky.” What’s more, it’s basically genetically impossible for you to get unreasonably large without performance-enhancing drugs. You’re not going to look like a female body-builder unless you juice like one, or you’re a direct descendant of Goliath.
“I can’t lift that cause I’m a girl.”
Pish posh. You must lift that cause you’re a girl. That’s right – weight-resistant activity is essential for your health as a woman. It will improve your bone density, cardiac health, and – the best part – will help you lose weight because you will burn a greater amount of calories at rest. Women who lift greatly reduce their risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and even diabetes.
“I just want to be skinny.”
Unless you want to develop an eating disorder, this probably isn’t going to happen, nor should you want it to. Just dropping a lot of weight with a nasty calorie-counting fad diet and doing obscene amounts of cardio is not a healthy way to become fit. In fact, you are far more likely to gain the weight back if you try this because you’re depriving your body of nutrients, and you’re basically guaranteed to crash and burn after you quit. The art of fitness is making a change in your lifestyle, not cycling through various 30-day starvation diets. Don’t worry about being skinny; worry about being healthy, and you will see results. Your body will take care of you if you take care of it.
“I’ve had kids.”
Cool, me too. Next?
“I’m worried about people watching me work out.”
My number one problem before I joined Crossfit. I was the kind of girl who would hang out on the elliptical until the weight room was free because I just felt so uncomfortable knowing people could see me. And I think the main reason for this was because I thought they might think I was doing something wrong.
Crossfit eliminates this problem because it teaches you the right way to lift. You don’t have to worry about people thinking you don’t know what you’re doing, because you will be taught how to lift properly before your first class. As far as having other people watch you goes… yes, they will see you, but I can almost guarantee no one will be focused on watching you. Why? Because everyone is doing the same high intensity workout as you are. Do you really think that while they are busy trying to complete 150 wall-balls for time they are going to be assessing what you are doing? Yeah right. Most of them won’t be able to see you through the sweat dripping into their eyes.
I hope this is helpful to you ladies who are thinking about joining Crossfit. Just know that you are not alone in your anxiety, but also understand that we have all had to start from somewhere. As always, if you have other issues you would like me to address, questions, comments, pictures of you using your kid as a kettlebell, etc., please do not hesitate to respond.
Photo Credit: Greg Westfall, flickr
Like any up and coming phenomenon, Crossfit has its critics. And they can be loud.
Whether it’s from a lack of understanding, a different take on fitness, or what have you, lots of people seem to have a problem with Crossfit. Before I take on specific complaints that have been made about Crossfit, I’d like to point out a couple things in general. For one, if you seriously hate Crossfit – you think it’s stupid, dangerous, or that it just isn’t effective, then cool – don’t do it! Don’t watch the Games, don’t join a gym, don’t bring it up in conversation with your friends that are into it. This is just common sense for anything you disagree with people about. If you don’t like football, well, don’t play it or watch it. But lots of people love football, and there’s no need to rag on them for playing and watching it. Same rules apply here. Secondly, you are totally entitled to your own opinion when it comes to fitness. I will not jump down your throat if you think hopping on the elliptical is the best possible way for you to get in shape. I might tell you what I think is the best way to get fit, but I’m not going to rip on you and tell you how ineffective I think your workouts are and that you’re wasting your time and you’ll be out of shape forever. In the same respect, please don’t tell me that I’m crazy for doing what I’m doing (I might be, but hey, no need to point it out).
Here are three arguments from The Problem With Crossfit that I thought were the most relevant to a general discussion.
1. “It is generalist.” How can you get better at anything if you don’t specialize in anything?
The thing is, Crossfit isn’t about becoming great at one specific thing. If you want to be great at that one thing, you practice that one thing. So if you want to be an incredible swimmer… swim! Don’t do Crossfit! Or do Crossfit as a supplement to your “thing.” Crossfit doesn’t claim to make you the best at whatever your particular sport or activity is. It only claims to make you an all-around fitter person and better athlete. And it will. Yes, it is generalist – on purpose.
2. “You will get injured.”
Yes, you will (duh…?) Eventually in life you will get injured… unless you never move. And, yes, if you don’t understand your limits, you can hurt yourself doing Crossfit. Find a gym with people who are certified and really – really, really, really – know what they are talking about. If they don’t make you spend some time learning proper form, helping you understand your limitations and scaling things down to a reasonable starting level for you, then yes, you will get injured and you should turn right back around and look for another gym. But, hello, this goes for any physical activity. Crossfit may be more intense than a lot of other physical activity you’re used to, but it follows the same principles as everything else – you need a good trainer, and you need to take responsibility for your wellbeing by understanding what you can and cannot do. I am a dancer, and I have walked into a ballet class, looked around, and walked right back out because of the form I see being allowed in the class. Just be smart about how you train and who you train with. Minor injuries will probably happen – scratches on your face when you’re first learning wall-balls (or if you’re me… always), a sore joint here and there, maybe some bruises. But big injuries should only happen if you’re doing something wrong, so the idea that Crossfit will get you injured more than other physical activities will is pretty bogus.
3. “The whole ‘cult’ thing.”
Yeah, a lot of people think Crossfit is a cult. I’m sure every Crossfitter will admit that a) before they joined, Crossfitters annoyed them a little, and b) we do talk about what we do… a lot. But let’s think about this from a generic perspective. If you have something in common with someone that you both love, isn’t it a topic of conversation on a regular basis? If you and your buddy both love Dungeons and Dragons, isn’t it normal for you to see each other and be like, “Yeah, yesterday I got the to the Cave of Wonders and defeated the ultimate flesh-eating dragon, bro! What’s your flesh-eating dragon PR?” Or… something like that? What I’m saying is we all do the same thing, so we like to talk about it with each other. It’s not a cult; we don’t walk into the box and sign our name in blood on the whiteboard and do a chant to Greg Glassman. It’s a community of our friends that we work out with, and yeah, we’re probably going to talk about our workouts. And sure, to be fair, there are those bros that can’t ever change the subject and are super obnoxious about it, but they’re not exclusive to Crossfit – every sport has its bros.
I hope I adequately addressed some of these complaints about the Crossfit community and have put it into some kind of perspective. As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, ideas, awesome pictures of you doing handstand-pushups, or anything not overwhelmingly obnoxious to contribute to the conversation, please submit them here.