Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Get Comfortable

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
- 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Every now and then in life, we get comfortable. When we get comfortable, it means we aren't being challenged any longer. When we aren't being challenged, we likely aren't growing. As I stopped growing, I had less to write about.

When I first started writing this blog, it was about more than just an outlet for my writing. It was meant to do more than document my health and fitness journey. I started this blog to remain accountable to myself and to my readers. If I inspired a few people along the way, I would have exceeded my goal.

With that said, I am embarking on a new journey and breathing life into this blog once more...

Enter the Check Yo'Self Before You Wreck Yo-self challenge at CrossFit Lakas.


Over the next six weeks, I will be participating in a lifestyle challenge which requires precise dieting (your choice of paleo or zone), appropriate consumption of water and fish oil, ample sleep, and a lot of dedication.

Diet:
As I have become fairly comfortable with paleo over the last year and some change, I decided to challenge myself by checking out Dr. Barry Sears' Zone Diet. Based on the results of a body composition test completed on Saturday at the challenge kickoff, I will be eating 12 blocks of food per day: 3 block breakfast, 1 block snack, 3 block lunch, 1 block snack, 3 block dinner, and 1 block dessert.

If you are unfamiliar with the zone diet, a crash course will tell you 1 block of food consists of 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 1.5 grams of fat, assuming 1.5 grams of fat are included in the 7 grams of protein. Following this formula, you are able to obtain a hormonal balance that promotes maximum health.

Following this formula, however, requires lots of preparation, lots of planning, and lots of math. The first day of planning for this diet, I spent four hours in the kitchen with measuring cups, spoons, and a calculator.

Lifestyle Categories
Water:
The challenge requires drinking half your weight in ounces of water. Example: I weigh roughly 130 lbs. I drink 65 ounces of water a day. Simple.

Fish Oil:
Take 4000mg combined EPA/DHA daily. Good thing I have my beloved SFH. May I recommend the tangerine flavor?

Sleep:
If the hours of food prep don't do me in, surely the required 7 hours of sleep will. 7 hours is a luxury during the week, but I know I could use the extra sleep. This will likely be my favorite part of the challenge.

Body Composition and Baseline Workout Improvement:
I mentioned earlier we took body composition measurements for the kickoff of the challenge. Those measurements will be re-taken on the last day of the challenge. The improvement in body composition will be taken into account in the final scoring of the challenge.

Additionally, a baseline WOD was performed at the challenge kickoff. Improvement in rep score in the baseline WOD will be the final factor in the challenge score.

The challenge started Monday, Aug. 26 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 5, when we will retest our body composition and baseline WOD. What lies between today and the last day of the challenge remains to be seen. That's where you come in.

I plan to post my progress weekly to keep myself accountable and to share with you my struggles and victories. Hopefully, you will be kind enough to share some of your recipes, tips, and encouragement along the way.

Oh, and speaking of recipes. I'm sure I'll come up with plenty of those along the way, too, and will need a place to document and stash them!

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Check your pockets...

This is going to be a quick post, but I'm going to write it from atop my soap box. **ahem** Can everybody hear me down there? Okay, good...

Despite the fact that I've been living the Paleo lifestyle for just under a year now, I still get all the questions of why, and the accusations of being on a diet. First of all, I'm proud of my hard work and find it insulting to be told I am on a diet. Child please! Second, why wouldn't I live a lifestyle that makes me feel great, perform better, and improve my blood work?

I suppose better than answering their questions, I could pose the same question to them: Why do you eat the way you do?

Why do you eat processed foods high in sodium and preservatives?

Why do you eat genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

Why do you drink liquid filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and calories?

Why do you poison your body on a regular basis and inch closer towards modern, degenerative diseases which have been linked to your diet, such as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even cancer?

Seriously, HFCS is the primary sweetener in a high percentage of processed foods in the United States, and multiple studies in 2009 determined that more than half of the samples of commercial HFCS contained mercury. You wouldn't willingly crack open an old mercury thermometer and chug it down would you? A mercury thermometer typically contains about .5 grams of mercury. The average American consumes about 12 teaspoons of HFCS. How much mercury, I wonder, is consumed over the course of a lifetime unknowingly?

Rather than trying to defend myself any longer, I am going to start turning this question around on the unsuspecting accuser. Perhaps some forced mindfulness would do these people some good.

**climbs down off soapbox**

Phew. Now that I got that out of the way, enjoy this YouTube video which epitomizes my home life. ;)



On second thought, now that I've come down from the upper atmosphere and had a good laugh, I think the better response is to be humble. And certainly not argumentative.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. - Proverbs 29:11

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sweet Potato Linguine with Sage and Mushroom Chicken

Okay folks, here it is. The moment you've all been waiting for...


...it's recipe time!

Over the weekend I was experimenting with some new flavors. I have been trying to eat less red meat and more chicken and seafood to keep my triglycerides under control (I've determined red meat, egg yolks, and stress are the culprit of my higher-than-I-would-like triglycerides). But when you're accustomed to eating bacon every day, chicken is boring. There. I said it.

Live chickens would be much more fun, but I still haven't gotten hubby on board with letting me have a chicken coop in the backyard. Not sure how the neighbors or the HOA would feel about that either... but I digress...

I promise it tastes better than it looks.

Sweet Potato Linguine Topped with Grilled Chicken Smothered in Sage and Mushroom Sauce
(A working title)
Serves 4, or 2 with leftovers for lunch
Ingredients:
1 large Sweet Potato (or 2 medium), cleaned and peeled
4 tbsp organic Butter or Coconut Oil (1 tbsp separated)
1/2 cup chopped Onion
8-10 Mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 tsp chopped Parsley
2/3 cups Coconut Milk
2/3 cups Water
4 tbsp chopped Sage (1 tbsp separated)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 pounds of Chicken Breast, thinly sliced (should be 4 cutlets or more)
Iodized Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. If you have a mandolin, I'm jealous, this recipe will take you less time than it took me. Slice the sweet potato thinly with the mandolin and slice those slices into 1/4 inch strips, much like linguine noodles. (I don't have a mandolin, so I sliced it into 1/2 inch strips and then used a potato peeler to slice it thinly like noodles.) Set aside.
  2. Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute one minute before adding mushrooms and parsley. Saute until mushrooms brown (about 5 to 10 minutes).
  3. When your mushrooms are brown, add the coconut milk and water to the sauce pan. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it reduce (about 10 minutes). If you're in a hurry or the sauce isn't thickening, try stirring in 2 tsp of arrowroot powder, 1 tsp at a time.
  4. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a grill pan over medium heat. Add the chicken cutlets and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
  5. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. As it melts, add 1 tbsp of sage. Add sweet potato to the pan, tossing to coat with butter.
  6. Stir 2 to 3 minutes or until tender and warmed through, then prepare to plate.
  7. When the mushroom sauce has reduced to the desired thickness (should stick to a wooden spoon), add the remaining 3 tbsp of sage and blend it into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. When the chicken is cooked through, place on top of the sweet potato linguine and smother with the sage and mushroom sauce. Viola!
So this recipe jumps around a bit. There's a lot going on at once, so I tried to place it in a timeline that would lead to a successful meal. Take care not to overcook the sauce as it will separate if you leave it on the heat for too long. And sorry about the photos. I'm not an artist or a photographer, and it was all I could do not to eat it. You're lucky you get to see what it looks like at all! ;)

Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Girls Rule and Boys Drool!

Today was a magical day. I woke up to find the weather predictor live background of my phone snowing. I thought for sure I was still dreaming. But no. Snow was falling when I began my trek to work this morning.

I wish I would have snagged a picture of it, because now it looks like this:

Blehhhh.
A rainy Monday afternoon meant no outdoor activities for the Running Club. Four coaches and 20 some odd kids took over the school gymnasium for stretching, push-ups, crunches, and burpees! By choice, mind you. One of the young boys led the warm-up. I knew then he was a child after my own heart.

My future baby.
After the warm-up exercises, we moved onto some core exercises to include high knees and planks. The kids did NOT. Like. Planks. There was so much moaning and groaning I thought I was in a pregnancy ward. After our abs were burning, we decided to attack the thighs.

The kids lined up on the wall for wall sits. Yup. These little nine to eleven-year-old children do wall sits. They are that awesome. But here's the best part...

The only way to get the kids to focus on a single exercise for an extended period of time is to make it a competition. The schoolyard classic: Boys vs. girls.

Last Monday, the girls beat the boys in a relay when the girls overcame a major deficit in the second half of the race. The boys were in this one to win it.

I lined up on the wall alongside the kids to join the girls' team. That young boy, the one from above with the burpees, is to my left. He turns and looks up at me, and with the most eager eyes says to me, "But you can't be on the girls team. You like working out too much and you're too good at it!"

I think all the ice outside melted when he said it. I gave him a big smile and told him, "that just means you're going to have to work harder to win it for the boys!"

Flash forward 45 seconds. One of the coaches starts counting down the last 15 seconds of the wall sit. Students were dropping left and right. There were just a handful of us left against the wall. My legs were shaking. He turns to me again, "your legs are shaking." Thank you, Captain Obvious!

I just smiled and told him I was not going to give up.

5...4...3...2...1... time!

Everyone stands up. Everyone, that is, except for the boy to my left. Everyone else steps away from the wall and he jumps up victoriously, "I WIN! BOYS WIN" He was the last one in a wall sit. Well played, my boy. Well played.

I am not certain who is getting more out of these Monday afternoons with the Running Club, the kids or me. I am in love with them. I am glad I decided to sacrifice an evening at the gym to volunteer for this great group. I am only sad I waited so late in the season to join them.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is this the real life?

Holy cow! It's been nearly two months since I've made a blog post. That really shouldn't be allowed.

February, being the short month that it was, flew by. Then March came in like a lion.

Here are the highlights:

  • Began attending Academic Lectures for the Instructor Training Program (more on that here)
  • Registered for the CrossFit Games Open.
  • Celebrated Valentine's Day with Bacon-Covered Roses from my hubby
Which required a purchase from US Wellness Meats
  • Entertained a weekend with the in-laws and managed to stay WLC compliant
  • Dominated the CrossFit Games Open WOD 13.1 with a new PR
  • Experimented with new recipes...
How to poach the perfect egg
  • Started volunteering at a local elementary school's running club
  • Signed up to mentor an at-risk youth at a local high school
  • Dominated the CrossFit Games Open WOD 13.2

As of this posting, I'm currently sitting at 2240th place in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Not impressive, you say? Then go away. This blog isn't for you. I'm here to learn about personal growth and inspire others.

13.2 was a 10 minute AMRAP of five shoulder to overhead at 75 pounds, followed by 10 deadlifts at the same weight, and 15 box jumps on a 20-inch box.

For the elite athletes, this is considered a moderately light weight. Going in, I knew I would have to move the loads as quickly as possible. My strategy was two-fold: 1) don't rest in the overhead position (sounds obvious, I know, but I have a tendency to lock out overhead and rest there) 2) don't let go of the bar between the shoulder to overhead and the deadlifts. 

I went in with a goal of seven complete rounds. Had it not been for the two times I tripped on the box jumps, I might have had it! I was two box jumps shy of my goal. I'm super proud of my performance though. I gave it my all and left everything I had in the gym.

So far, I have successfully predicted more than 50% of the workout for each Open WOD. I had predicted burpees for 13.1 (burpees and snatch ladder) and deadlifts and box jumps for 13.2 (described above). For 13.3, I'm predicting rowing and wall balls or thrusters. We'll see if I can continue my prediction streak when the WOD is announced Wednesday.

In the meantime, I think I will be sharing some more recipes very soon. I made one this weekend of which I was particularly proud... grilled chicken smothered in mushroom and sage gravy over a bed of sweet potato linguine. Sound delicious? It was. Check back later this week for the recipe and photo.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Fish Fry

A Fish Fry is a meal which typically consists of a battered or breaded fish, french fries, coleslaw, hush puppies and dessert. Seeing as how I haven't tried any paleo hush puppy recipes yet (although now I'm determined to find one), my Sunday Fish Fry consisted of only the fish and fries with a side of sugar snap peas! Aw, snap!


The Fried Fish recipe is fairly similar to my fried chicken recipe, but with a few tweaks.

Fried Fish
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 pound cold water, wild caught fish (In this instance, I used Flounder)
1.5 cups of Blanched Almond Flour
2 tbsp Ground Lemon Pepper
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Parsley Flakes
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Iodized Sea Salt
1 Egg
Coconut Oil for frying
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl.
  3. Melt coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan).
  4. Dip the fish fillet in the egg, coating the fish.
  5. Lay the fish in the dry ingredients and toss to coat, flipping to ensure both sides are coated.
  6. Place the fish in the frying pan. Cook on each side about 4 minutes until brown and the fish is cooked through.
  7. Remove from the pan and serve hot!
Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4
Ingredients:
4 Sweet Potatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch thick strips
Pork Fat for coating
2 tbsp Cinnamon
4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
4 tsp Ground Pepper
2 tsp Iodized Sea Salt

  1. Toss potato strips in melted pork fat, just enough to coat.
  2. Sprinkle spices on potatoes and continue to toss to coat.
  3. Use pork fat to grease foil on a baking sheet.
  4. Spread the potatoes evenly on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees, keeping an eye on them to retrieve them at the desired crispiness.
As far as the sugar snap peas, I just boil those for about 5 minutes. Voila! You've got yourself a paleo-friendly fish fry!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Holisticly Speaking...

A lot more goes into maintaining a healthy lifestyle than working out regularly and eating your fruits and veggies, although that certainly helps.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. The Mayo Clinic presents five reasonably practical and predictable measures to prevent heart disease:
  1. Don't smoke or use tobacco. (check)
  2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. (check)
  3. Eat a heart-healthy diet. (check)
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. (check)
  5. Get regular health screenings. (check)
I prefer to take a more holistic approach to the issue.

More progressive resources recommend reducing or managing stress to prevent heart disease. Gaiam lists managing stress levels as one of the top ten ways to prevent heart disease for both men and women, recommending meditation, breathing exercises and yoga as methods to achieve less stress.

Here's a few of my favorite ways to reduce stress:

  • First and foremost, identify your sources of stress and eliminate them. If there is a person in your life who is poisonous and causes you nothing but trouble, cut them out. If your job causes undue stress, talk to your boss openly about the subject; let them know they are expecting too much of you or that you need to change your hours to better fit your activities outside of work. If worse comes to worse, change careers. A lifetime full of stress at a job you dislike will only shorten the time you spend doing things you enjoy. Finally, reduce visual clutter. Clutter can cause unnecessary stress. Live simply.
  • Get enough rest. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night. I know this isn't easy. I rarely get that much sleep myself. But try to make it a priority. Make it a goal to be in bed an hour before you need to be to get your eight hours. Read until you start to fall asleep. Talk to your companions (husband or fury ones) about your day. If you aim to be in bed well before it's time, you'll almost certainly achieve that goal.
  • Spend time with your furry loved ones. Speaking of furry companions, they are great stress reducers on their own. Try being sad when a ball of fluff cuddles up in your lap on the couch or greets you at the front door after a long, hard day at the office. Pets also make great listeners and they don't judge you, so go ahead and vent about the woman at work who thinks Zumba is the equivalent of an intense workout and thinks diet Coke is part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Be social and have fun. There's a certain truth to the old saying, "laughter is the best medicine." Laughter reduces stress. Having fun and being social with friends and family allows you to forget about the factors that cause stress. Live. Laugh. Love. A LOT.
  • Seek out alternative wellness options that focus on you. Taking time for yourself is important for achieving total health and wellness. Spending an hour a month on a massage table or with a reflexologist is a great way to focus on your qi. Detoxing your body, muscles and mind can do wonders to lift your mood and allow you to forget about stress.
I have always enjoyed a good massage and have talked to the hubster about making them regular occurrences. Thus far, massages have only happened regularly on my birthday or special occasions, including our honeymoon.

This weekend, however, I had my first ever reflexology appointment with essential oils. It was ah-maze-ing. As I laid on the table and rest my eyes, I could feel my entire being tingling. I felt radiant when I left, from my head to my peppermint and lavender-scented feet.

Some benefits of the practice of reflexology include enhanced sleep quality, greater energy, improved concentration,  and **ding ding ding** reduced stress!

Living a healthy lifestyle may require work, but you cannot forget about the end goal: a healthy, happy you. Remember to take time out for yourself and reduce stress.

You're too blessed to be stressed.