Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Motivation: Chris Spealler - Passion

Need some motivation for this holiday season? Check this video out of Chris Spealler.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Why You Need GHEE in Your Life

Do you use ghee in your life? Do you love ghee as much as the next cave(wo)man-wannabe? Do you even know what ghee is? Are you tired of being asked questions? Are you my mommy?

Booyah! I mean, MOOyah
In a nutshell, ghee is one of the best things to cook things in. You probably have cooked with olive oil, canola oil (...:::gasp:::...pre-paleo?), and if you've been in the Paleo world, you've switched over to perhaps coconut oil and bacon grease. Ghee is related to butter, so the consistency and taste will be familiar to you (the taste is a little nuttier). Here are my top 5 reasons why you need ghee in your life:

Ghee is a highly saturated fat, so it has a high smoke point, thus making it better to cook with over olive oil. (and by now you definitely know better than to cook with canola or corn oil)

Ghee is clarified butter, meaning the milk solids, sugars, and water have been removed. So those sensitive to dairy can usually withstand ghee.

Since the milk solids, sugar, and water are eliminated, ghee is solid at room temperature and can be stored in a cabinet vs. your refrigerator. (although there's nothing wrong with the fridge)

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can make ghee at home. Ideally you'll use grass fed butter such as Kerry Gold. Here are instructions from Tribe of Five. (BTW, this is just a great site in general to check out if you are interested in all things paleo nutrition aka real food)

Yes, that's a word. Since ghee is clarified butter, it tastes a lot like butter. In other words, I'd rather have my asparagus and sweet potatoes cooked in ghee instead of coconut oil.

If your not the diy'er, or just want the convenience of buying a jar of ghee, you can find it in most Indian food stores, or head to the interwebs and grab it off Amazon. Here's a link to my Amazon store where you can find different sizes of ghee. The picture below is a smaller 13oz. jar, but in my experience, it's worth just saving money over the long haul and buying the big jar.

time to order a new jar!
Links you probably won't click, but you should:
Mark Sisson on "Cooking with Animal Fats"
Paleo Diet Lifestyle on Ghee

Thoughts on ghee? Have you heard of it or used it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Strength vs. Endurance

Tim from CF King of Prussia during Sectionals 2011

Strength: Harder to gain, but harder to lose. 
Endurance: Easier to gain, but easier to lose. 

Agree or disagree?

Nikki from CF West Chester at Central East Regionals 2010

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CrossFit Garage Gym: DIY Pull Up Bar

After hanging my Rogue gymnastic rings, the next project for the garage gym was to make my pull up bar. After doing eleventeen million hours of research on the best setup, I came down to three criteria that were important to me:
1. It had to be affordable (read: under $100)
2. It had to support at least two people (my wife and me)
3. It had to be off the ground so a car could park in the garage

completed pull up bar. BOOM!
After those three criteria were established, I realized buying a pull up setup from Rogue, Again Faster, or Stud bar was not going to be affordable (over $100 for just one pull up setup, plus I needed at least two). So once the prefabricated options were eliminated, then I had to decide how to use galvanized pipe. Our box has a great homemade setup (done by Aimee Lyons' dad) with pull up bars running from the ground up and over to the wall, but that would conflict with rule 3. (does anyone else feel like this is "I, Robot" with their Three Laws?) Since I liked the simplicity and design of what Aimee's dad did, I took it and turned it upside down. By lagging it into the ceiling joists, the pull up rig was off the ground, it could support three people, and it was under $100. Sweeeeet. 

"Before" picture. Bumpers are in place though. 
I won't go into the exact details because everyone's situation is going to be a little different, but here are my general specs, all of this can be bought and cut to size at Lowes or Home Depot (cutting was free):
1. I used 1.5" galvanized pipe and flanges from the ceiling down to have a more sturdy support. I probably could  have gotten away with 1" pipe, but I also wanted a thick bar pull up station (the middle lateral section). 

1.5" galvanized pipes from ceiling and across 
2. For the pipes running into the walls, those are 1" thick galvanized pipes and flanges. They are attached to the 1.5" connectors with the elbow, 5" nipple, and reducers shown below. These were each 36" long. Long enough for most people's grip on pull ups, but not too long to bump into the garage door opener. 

detailed view of 1.5" pipe, T connector, reducer, 5" nipple, elbow, and 1" pipe to wall
3. There are 3 sets of lag bolts (6 bolts total) into the ceiling because there are 3 ceiling joints running across the garage, spaced 24" apart. There are 4 sets of lag bolts (8 total) into the walls as there are 4 studs spaced 18" on center. 
4. I forget the exact size of the lag bolts, but I used two different sizes. One size was to connect the flanges to the 2x6 wood supports (about 3/8" x 1.5" long) and another size to bolt the 2x6s to the studs or joists (about 5/8" x 3.5" long)

detailed view of 1" pipe into flange, lag bolted into 2x6 which is lag bolted into wall studs
5. As noted in the How to Hang Rings post, other tools used were a stud finder, electric drill, wrenches, and elbow grease.
6. To give you sense of scale, the ceiling is 10ft. high and the width of the garage is 11ft. In the video at the bottom, I am 5'9" and if I'm on the bars, my feet are just off the ground. (this was planned in figuring out the dimensions of the pull up rig)

Weights are good for more than just lifting
I assembled the pull up bar on the ground, but then had the predicament of getting it up and bolted in. As you can see in the picture above, I had quite a time getting the whole contraption up to the ceiling. While I could have asked people to come over and hold it up as I bolted the assembly in, I am stubborn and like to do things myself. (my wife would agree with me) So I made a pulley system and pulled the 40lb+ system up to the first 2x6 bolted to the ceiling. It worked! 

After my experience, here are some things to take away from it, no matter what your situation:
1. If you have money to spend, or you only need one pull up bar, the Rogue/Again Faster/Stud bar options would be a very easy and reliable system to get. ESPECIALLY if you are not a DIYer. 
2. Doing a lot of research, you tend to run into both the good and bad of any topic. I ended up finding some people wary of using galvanized pipe, since the flanges MIGHT crack. The best way to do it if you can is to put pipe through a solid piece of wood, there are some good posts and pictures of this on the CrossFit boards. There wasn't going to be an easy or cheap way for me to do it, so while there could be some risk, there are a ton of folks who have fine experiences (including our box which has had 25+ people on the same system). 
3. If you can, go from the floor up. This will give you better peace of mind since much of the force would be directed down and into the ground, plus if you space it right, you can use the vertical bars as squat/bench racks. (we do this at CF King of Prussia. John had to drill through the pipes and find brackets strong enough to hold heavy bars, but it's extremely worth it and saves a ton of space). 
4. tape the threads so you don't cut your hands if they get placed over them. Also, if you get your pipes cut, the machine might create some sharp indentations in the pipe, so you might have to tape over those too
5. If you have the ability (or money) to use an impact wrench, it will help get those lag bolts into the studs. I had a heck of a time first using a 36V hammer drill (yeah, I thought that would be good enough too!) but it only got the screws in halfway. The rest had to be done with a manual socket wrench. (Good workout for the arms!)

After all of this, I have a new appreciation for people who have done their own pull up systems. Even though you might look at pictures and think it's easy, it's probably not! But in the end, I have the satisfaction of having a custom pull up bar that I made. Plus, it meets all of my Three Laws. 

Here is a quick video of me explaining the pull up bars and demonstrating the sturdiness.

If you have any questions, hit me up in comments! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's Your Namesake WOD?

Again Faster has been challenging people to compete in an online workout series called, "Beat the Team." Every ten day period since October, Again Faster has been posting a WOD that plays to the strengths of various Again Faster-sponsored athlete. For instance, "Lipson" had a moderate weight backsquat and kettlebell swing, but the bar had to be cleaned from the ground, a light weight for Dave Lipson. "Spencer" was max weight of 20 reps of overhead squats, clearly up Spencer Hendel's wheelhouse of oly lifting. And so on...

So, my question is this: If you had to have a namesake WOD like these firebreathers, what would yours be? It could either include things that are your strengths, or it just be movements that you love doing.

If I had to create a "Plentus" WOD, I'd play to my strength-to-bodyweight ratio and quickness. So it would be something like:

double unders
then, within 60 seconds, find a max deadlift. 

Subtract your time in seconds from your deadlift (e.g. 400lbs. deadlift - 360 seconds = 40) The highest number wins. 

-What would your namesake WOD be?

2009 Festivus's amazing what Santa shorts can do for you!

Get To Know: Laura Pappas - Health Coach

Laura Pappas is a health coach serving the greater Philadelphia area and a coach at CrossFit King of Prussia. She has completed a half Ironman, several sprint triathlons, many 5k races, and competed on CrossFit KoP's team at the 2010 CrossFit Games in California. Laura's specific focus is individualized nutrition and can work with clients ranging from your CrossFit firebreather to your former couch potato just looking to be healthy. Check out the interview below.

Q: How long have you been CrossFitting? How did you get into it?
Since July 2008 (sheesh!) a few months after Tim and I got married.  Before CrossFit, I was an avid runner but was always looking for new exercises to try to "tone up."  I found CrossFit at my "globo-gym" where Aimee Lyons was running a class called "CrossFit", advertised as a bootcamp like class - I tried it and loved it, and have been hooked ever since :)

Q: What was your athletic background before CrossFit?
I was an athlete in high school playing softball and soccer during the school year, and travel softball over the summers.  I didn't start "going to the gym" until college.  My gym routine included the elliptical, stair master, light weight training that my high school trainer taught me, and stuff from magazines like Shape.  When it was nice, (not humid or raining and between the temperatures of 45 adn 80 degrees), I'd run outside - always about 4 - 5 miles same pace usually.  I didn't have any idea about intervals or really how to train for running.  Sometimes I'd time myself and run to a specific landmark that I knew via driving was about 2 miles away.  Sometimes I'd just run for 20 minutes and then turn around.  Senior year of college I got more serious about running and by serious I mean I signed up for my first race.  I did my first 5K in May 2003 - The Breast Cancer Race for a Cure in Philly, and had a really good experience.  I started doing more races after that, and started to talk to my then boyfriend, now husband, about how to train for running.  I have now done lots of races, 5Ks, 5-milers, 10-milers, and Half Marathons.  In 2006 I completed my first Half Marathon, 2007 I completed my first Sprint Tri without any technical equipment - e.g., I rode my mountain bike, and 2010 I completed my first Olympic Tri.  This year (2011) I tackled 2 Half Ironman 70.3 distance races - the Pocono Mountains and Miami Ironman 70.3.  My training has really come a long way and includes CrossFit twice a week to support a longer run, longer ride, and some interval or tempo workouts running, riding, and swimming.  I'm not sure what my goal is going to be for next year yet!

Q: What are some physical accomplishments that CrossFit has helped you achieve? 
CrossFit has really helped me learn what pain is and how to push myself harder.  I learned more about intensity, how to reach it, how long I can push there, and what you can do when you commit to training at those higher levels of intensity.  After really committing to CrossFit in 2009 I've noticed that it has contributed to improvements in my overall work capacity.  All of my running races and tris are easier and my times are getting better with less time spent training overall, and I'm continuing to get stronger and faster.

Other things that CrossFit has helped me with - being able to do a pull up (from a huge band to kipping and even butterfly pull ups!), having the confidence to lift heavy stuff, knowing that I can do things I thought were not possible before and having more confidence in myself and my body.  Practically, CrossFit helped me complete an AMAZING hike in Zion National Park a few summers ago.  I am terrified of heights and the Angel's Landing trail has a large vertical drop on either side (think 1000ft on one side and 1200ft on the other) of a pretty narrow cliff.  Knowing that I can do rope climbs and support my body weight gave me the confidence to do the hike.  Rationally, I knew if I slipped, or the chain broke... that I could hold my bodyweight, that I had a strong grip, and that I could climb up the chain to save myself.  On a related note, the combination of CrossFit and Paleo has made dramatic improvements on my overall health and body composition too - more on that later :)

2007 - As Mark Sisson would say, that's a Big Ass Salad!
Q: What was your nutrition like before CF? What is it like now?
Oh before CrossFit it was your standard runners diet: high carb, low fat, no red meat, but still ate lots of fruits and veggies too since that is how I've grown up eating.  After going on vacation I distinctly remember coming home and asking for broccoli because I was craving vegetables!  I ate LOTS of cereal, bread, pasta a few times per week.  I would eat a loaf of bread a week on my own, lots of yogurt, and fat free "desserts" like frozen yogurt which were really easy to over-eat.  Compared to what I eat now, I was a completely different person!  When I starting to do CrossFit, I started thinking about adding more protein to my food, and I switched my toast with jelly to toast with peanut butter, but not too much else.  I didn't start to tweak my food until Feb 2009 and that was motivated by CrossFit through the first "No Sugar Challenge." The only reason I did it was because I didn't think I ate lots of sugar and thought I might have a chance to win the prize.

Now I'm pretty strict Paleo - I eat whole foods, vegetables, fruits, nuts and some seeds - I still include things like salt, vinegar, and wine in my diet and I don't really believe in the limiting of eggs either.  I am always working on tweaking something - doing my n=1 experiments on myself to see how things affect my mood, energy, performance, etc.  Right now I'm working on tweaking things like fruit, dried fruit, nuts, alcohol, caffeine, intermittent fasting, etc...  What I do eat as part of my "regular" diet (not just an occasional treat) that may surprise some people is dark chocolate (85% -90%) and wine - these aren't everyday foods for me, I try to make them weekend foods, but I do have them more often than the occasional Paleo treat which I may have every 4 weeks or so.   I've been doing a "Whole 30" program, which entails really strict, clean, Paleo eating about 1 - 2x per year to stay on track and remind my body how it feels to be super clean.  I am finding though that things like having some fruit, keeping wine in moderation in my diet, doesn't dramatically impact my body composition or level of performance - these are things that I enjoy and keep in my diet.

2008 - just after starting CrossFit
Q: What are some goals for the future, either athletically or nutritionally?
Future Goals - Athletically: To get a muscle up and handstand push up, to confidently deadlift 200+. (For me, this may not ever happen without my mystery back rounding); to clean my body weight; and run a mile with a time of 6 something (in a 5K)

Future Goals - Nutritionally: This may sound silly to some but to be less strict with my food sometimes and be able to have a few bites of cake or whatever the celebratory food is at events/family occasions. To keep eating higher quality foods - grassfed, pastured, high quality eggs, etc.  To reduce nuts in my diet, this is something I'm constantly working on! 

Q: How did health coaching come about?
Once I started the Kick the Sugar Challenge, I started to get really interested in nutrition.  Everything that I thought I knew was being debunked by science in the Paleo world.  I took a leap of faith and started changing my diet and started noticing GREAT improvements and wanted to tell everyone about it.  Now I went from being that person you didn't want to get stuck to talking to at a party because I'd talk your ear off about CrossFit to a person you REALLY didn't want to get stuck talking to at a party because I'd talk about CrossFit AND nutrition!  However, people were asking me questions, wanting to know about my experiences, etc so I decided to start a blog - one place I could share my story, ideas, and perspective and could direct people to one spot instead of writing a million different emails about my experience.  Once I started blogging, lots of people started to ask me questions, I started doing more research, and I wanted to really understand what I was doing to and for my health and make sure that what I was recommending to my loved ones - family and friends - was sound.
I realized the health and nutrition was my passion, my face lights up when I talk about this stuff, and I "geek out" listening to podcasts on mean everyone doesn't do that??  I started attending workshops and reading tons of blogs and books to learn more about Paleo eating, how to train smarter, how to be healthy for real.  Through my explorations I found a few people that were doing something that I thought was interesting and looked like something I could do to help people.  I was fortunately supported by my company - Vynamic - who wanted to help support my passion.  I was encouraged by Dan Calista, the founder and CEO of my healthcare industry management consulting company to enroll in the Integrative Institute for Nutrition (IIN) distance learning program - with my goal to help build my expertise in the wellness area.  I graduate from the program on December 9th and have learned so much about a ton of nutritional theories as well as key information on how to effectively help others and help them make positive choices to optimize their health.

2011 CrossFit Open Sectionals - I think I took this pic..yep, yep I did
Q: Who could use a health coach?
Well that's tricky, really anyone that wants to look and feel better.  You could have a specific goal in mind, like losing 10 pounds, trying to prevent a chronic disease like Type 2 diabetes, or wanting to have more energy and enjoy life more.  The type of health coaching I'm doing isn't necessarily teaching you how to eat a Paleo Diet - you can learn to do that on your own - it involves me working with you to understand what works for you, using the concept of bioindividuality - there is not one perfect diet that works for everyone, and what works for one person will not work for everyone.  I do truly believe a whole foods and minimally processed diet is ideal, there is so much uncertainty surrounding all of this "franken-food" that we have -we are eating so many things that are chemically altered.  Some foods, like margarine, are only a few chemical bonds different than plastic!  For my clients we work step by step to take a look at your food, workouts, stress, lifestyle, sleep, goals, relationships, etc and work on all of those things to help make you the best version of yourself.  My goal is that at the end of my program you are empowered and self sufficient and know what you need to do to be healthy and be the best version of you.

August 2011 - domination
Chris here: I might be biased, since Laura is a good friend of mine, but I have seen her journey from CrossFitter to CrossFit coach and health coach, and I can say that you won't find a more understanding, good listener who works with her clients patiently and efficiently. As a high school counselor, I tell my students to follow their passions and Laura is doing just that: following her passion for nutrition, healthy living, and helping others. Be sure to hit up her website, Laura Pappas Health, and subscribe to her free emails and newsletters. She has recently teamed up with Larry Palazzolo of ScrawnyWOD and coach from CrossFit Delaware Valley to present various nutrition and health seminars around the Philadelphia area. If you are a gym owner or someone that wants these two to come in and do a presentation, don't hesitate to get in touch. 

-If you have any questions for Laura, post them here or email her
-Do you want to see more interviews? Who else would you like to see or who can you recommend? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Power Yoga for CrossFit

A few weeks ago was my first foray into a yoga studio. Although our CrossFit gym has had yoga instructors come in to do classes at our box, I had never ventured into yogi territory before. After seeing a Google coupon for a Stillpoint Yoga Studio class package, I took the plunge and got a great deal. K and I ended up going to a "power yoga" session taught by Stillpoint's founder, Jack Forgosh. Besides sounding badd*ss, I didn't know what to expect from power yoga. Naturally, I googled it and found information on the reliable(?) site, "The term 'power yoga' came into common usage in themid 1990s, when several yoga teachers were looking for a way to make Ashtanga yoga more accessible to western students. Unlike Ashtanga, power yoga does not follow a series of poses. Therefore any power yoga class can vary widely from the next. What they have in common is an emphasis on strength and flexibility." Strength and flexibilty? Sign me up!

Shirt from Whole9.
The actual class had seven clients in a heated room that made for a steamroom effect that loosened us up like playdoh. (It also made for a sweaty, slippery mat; probably because I got it for $10 at Marshalls) The class lasted an hour, which is good because most other classes are 90 minutes and I'm not sure if I (or my slippery mat) could have lasted that long. Since I had a tiny bit of experience with some yoga moves, I caught on pretty quickly to the repeating movements. There were a few that I simply couldn't do "as prescribed" but I "scaled" by using a strap to hold on to my foot in order to get a good stretch. 

Lots of people think CrossFit is about strength, and while this may be true, I think it's about strength expressed through efficient movement. Correct positioning could make the difference between a failed lift and a PR. Therefore, the biggest reason I bought this package was for the opportunity to work on flexibilty. Much like our clients need the structure and supervision of CrossFit to workout, I wanted the structure and supervision of stretching. During the hour-long class, we moved quickly from positions like downward dog to warrior to eagle. Many positions involved stretching of the hamstrings (great for someone who sits at a desk during the day) and I found myself applying the yoga positions to CrossFit. Below are some examples:

Chair pose - lumbar curve engaged? SQUAT.

High plank to low plank poses - elbows in, slow lowering? PUSH UP.

Warrior pose - front knee over ankle? SPLIT JERK.

Corpse pose - laying down on ground? POST WOD COLLAPSE.

Some CrossFitters tend to beat down anything that isn't CrossFit, and while I don't see myself going to daily yoga classes, I do see the practicality on working out kinks and flexibility weaknesses. As much as I'd like to dedicate an hour each day to stretching, the reality is that very few people have the discipline to do that. Going once a week to power yoga won't work miracles, but it will keep me conscious of the fact that I have a lot to work on (namely shoulder, thoracic, and hip flexibility) and hopefully encourage me to create a routine. Jack is also great at giving verbal cues and making you realize what you should be feeling in each movement. If you're in the King of Prussia area, go check out Stillpoint.

Side note: Another great resource for stretching that's directly related to CrossFit is the MWOD (Mobility WOD) from Kelly Starrett. K-Star is the renowned CrossFit guru when it comes to all things PT and mobility related. If you are looking for a free resource for mobility and stretching, this is the site for you.

Is flexibility getting in the way of your CrossFitting?
What are your problem areas?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top 5 Questions (and Reactions) About Eating Paleo

As a CrossFit coach and nutrition nerd, it's sometimes hard to take a step back and look at things from an outsider's perspective. For instance, I had always heard of the infamous question from women "Won't lifting weights make me bulky?" but it wasn't until recently that I actually got that question. (the answer is a resounding NO) Similarly, I can sometimes take for granted questions about diet, nutrition, and paleo. There are some folks who know their stuff and others who simply have no clue what's going on. 

looks like pasta? nope, spaghetti squash

It can be confusing to hear about the Paleo diet since it goes against all conventional wisdom. And I'm not just talking about "magazine" conventional wisdom. I'm also talking about "stuff you hear from most doctors" conventional wisdom. However, through research and self-experimentation, we know that this stuff WORKS and this is why I cringe when I hear someone wants to lose weight, but is doing 5 metcons a week, restricting their calories, and sticking to whole grains and low-fat. NO BUENO! There have recently been a lot of discussions about nutrition at our box, so I thought I'd compile a "top 5" list of common questions from paleo newbies. Here we go:

1. What do you mean "calories don't matter?" I need to lose weight!
99% of clients that walk through our door want to "lose weight." I ask them to clarify that statement since I could theoretically cut my arm off and "lose weight." What they really mean is that they want to get rid of their excess body fat. So while a few people have come in wanting to improve performance, most priorities have to do with looking good naked. 
In order to do this, you need calories! Ok, I admit, if you have 6,000 calories a day, you will probably gain weight. But restricting your body to 1200 calories a day is just a bad idea. Your body doesn't realize what you WANT and all it KNOWS is that it's starving. So it preserves body fat as an emergency response. How many people do you know that have been on Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers for years? Fat loss should NOT be hard and definitely not take that long. Focus more on QUALITY of food and less quantity. If you eat real food that grows and dies (protein in the form of meat, fish, or fowl; fat in the form of meat, coconut, avocados or some nuts/seeds; and carbs in the form of vegetables or some fruit) then you are pretty good to go!

buy real food and 90% of your battle is won

2. Isn't fat bad? I don't want to get fat or have a heart attack!
This is probably my biggest pet peeve question when it comes to paleo/REAL food eating. It seriously disturbs me that there are millions of people out there that think eating fat will make them fat. Is fat calorically dense? Yes. Will eating a steak with fat in it make you fat? No way! Nor will it contribute to CVD (cardiovascular disease). You NEED fat and cholesterol for brain health, bone/joint functioning, and overall well being. It is hormonally NEUTRAL unlike sugar and carbohydrates which spike insulin levels which in turn signal the body to STORE excess sugar/carbs as fat. There is just too much to write about this, so check out these links for in-depth reasons how and why fat is not bad and in fact, it is GOOD for you: Mark Sisson on Saturated Fat; clip from Fat Head the movie

I love fat!

3. How do I get my calcium? I need strong bones!
 Similar to fat, dietary calcium is not always the same as bone calcium. Also true for calcium supplements. Studies have shown that supplements actually create calcium deposits in the bone in concentrated areas instead of the desired effect of spreading out along the bone. To get good bone health, eat calcium rich foods such as kale and more importantly, do load bearing exercises such as back squats and impact exercises such as box jumps. Get good vitamin D (either from the sun or supplement) and don't be so neurotic about your bones!

did I make it? what do you think??

4. But what do I do about breakfast? I need my cereal!
I think it's really funny when people find out about the paleo diet and comment that it doesn't give you a lot of choices, but then they eat the same cereal every single morning. What the...?! The biggest paradigm shift here is to think about breakfast as just another meal aka another lunch or dinner. If you love breakfast for dinner, how come you can't have dinner for breakfast? Steak and eggs are one of my favorite, or if I'm at work, I'll heat up some chicken sausage or leftover meat from the night before. Fruit is fine, but not too much. And depending on how compliant you are with the quality of food and body composition, intermittent fasting (IF) could be a great way to reset the body's insulin sensitivity (plus it's a sneaky way to restrict calories over time without the detriment of a program like Weight Watchers). If I were a politician, my campaign would be MEAT FOR BREAKFAST! .....or something like that.

breakfast, lunch, or dinner? if you can't tell, that's a good thing!

5. What about eating out/birthday parties/etc.? I need to let loose!
This is a sticky one, but for most people who can control themselves, eating a "non-paleo" item every once in awhile will not be the end of the world. I wrote about the 80/20 rule as one of my original posts, and for the most part, my stance has stayed the same. I think you should basically not PLAN a cheat day or cheat meal, but if it just happens to come up, then just don't go crazy and eat half a birthday cake. If you are going out to eat, don't eat the bread and order a slab of meat (steak is always a good go-to) and some veggies. Order a burger without the bun. I also think that as your body becomes accustomed to eating clean, it reacts worse when you go off the rails. This creates a natural aversion to ordering pasta for your dinner or having pizza and beer at a party. On the other hand, there are some people who just should NOT stray. Just like drug addicts or alcoholics, even just a bite of a cookie could send that person 100 steps backwards and create an avalanche of food disaster. You need to be the judge of how strict you want to be and what your goals are. Most people do fine with a 30 day challenge which allows them to see the full benefits of going Paleo. (fat loss, energy gain, better complexion, etc) Only after that would you maybe consider looser guidelines for your way of living. 

chicken, green beans, and apples with non-paleo glaze on them

What other common questions do people have when starting or learning about Paleo? 
How has your views of Paleo evolved over time?  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Robb Wolf: Fish Oil Revision

reversing direction on the fish oil
First, if you want the basics of fish oil, check out my first post on this topic: The Low Down on Fish Oil. Then read this.

With new data and studies coming out frequently, scientists and experts do the best they can with the information they have at that time. Back in the day, Robb Wolf and similar paleo enthusiasts recommended balancing the n-6:n-3 (omega 6 to omega 3 ratio) by loading up on n-3. That is, if you are inflamed, take a butt-load of fish oil as a catalyst to move your fatty acid profile to a cleaner ratio. Unfortunately this turned out to be an ineffective way to turn things around. In order to truly become healthier (lipid profile, exterior looks, etc) people need to cut down on their n-6 intake. Yes, this means cut down on those almonds you CrossFitting fiends! Fish oil is still fine to go with, but taking massive doses is not going to turn the boat around as nicely as nixing the nuts, nut oils, etc. One of the reasons I respect Robb's work is that he is the first to say when he needs to revise his stance on things. This goes for fish oil now, but also for dairy in the past. The following blog article is lengthy and can get sciency, but worth the read.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Questions for Chris: Eggs and A New Perspective

Q: How to hard boil eggs
A: I'm assuming you're asking "How do you hard boil eggs?" Well in that case, check out this post I did awhile back - At Home with Chris P. - Hardboiling Eggs

Q: Does eating a lot of eggs increase cholesterol or risk for heart disease?
A: No. First of all, dietary cholesterol is different than blood cholesterol. Secondly, even if it were, high blood cholesterol does not cause CVD (cardiovascular disease) and subsequently myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). If there IS a number to be concerned about about it, it would be your triglycerides, fasting blood sugar levels, and small dense LDL particles. These are more closely associated with the bad stuff.

Q: Hi Chris, I'm interested to hear your feedback on the article by Gillian Mounsey entitled "A New Perspective" that was posted on Aimee's blog with the 7/27 wod.  - Joe
A: For those that have not read the article, here it is: A New Perspective. Now, I'm not going to claim I know Gillian Mounsey very well. I do know she has been a "famous" CrossFitter in the past and I totally respect her athletic achievements. While her article can seem like CrossFit is bad for people, I think you need to read it with...perspective. 
This is a world class athlete with a clear need for competition and high standards. She grew up being a "natural" athlete and went through phases of gymnastics,  bodybuilding, CrossFit, and now strength training in the form of barbell lifts and olympic lifting. She paints a picture of CrossFit that is a program which runs people into the ground with high volume exercises where form is not the priority. Unfortunately I have to agree with her; but only to an extent. 
I do think that many people become addicted to CrossFit and the "unknown and unknowable" workouts stimulate that part of the brain that says "Yeah, let's do this crazy workout so I can look better naked AND tell my friends what I did." This is why I wrote my recent article on "Obsession with Epicness." It's not smart to run yourself into the ground day after day and expect to A.) get stronger and/or B.) think it's healthy. That's just fracking ridiculous logic.
The bottom line is that people need to be smart with training. And if you're not smart enough, then find a smart trainer. Like I said, I respect Gillian's accomplishments and her history, but a lot of the negative aspects of CrossFit were her own doing (or her coach's) If she didn't learn proper form, or decided to do a ridiculous workout with heavy weight and high reps, etc. then that was her decision. At the end of the day, no one forced her to Zone, lose form during Grace, or do 150 pull ups/150 burpees after a CrossFit hiatus. Those were her decisions. It's pretty clear that she either sets high expectations for herself or feels like others expect big things from her.
I think one of the benefits of CrossFit is that it introduces movements that normal people would never encounter. I see soccer moms deadlifting and backsquatting and this would have never happened if it weren't for CrossFit.  Gillian talks about the benefits of barbell squatting, pressing, etc. and I am confident that if it weren't for CrossFit, many women (and men) would not be doing these things at all. If CrossFit needs to be the gateway towards strength training, so be it.
If there is anything to take from her article, it's to focus on form first and not let your ego get in the way of smart training. Programming is important too. Instead of every day being a grind of 30 min+ workouts, you should be strength training and be ok with untimed workouts. Not everyone is looking to compete like Gillian. She needed a focus and she found it in olympic lifting meets. I think everyone will go through an evolution of training, but if you can establish a solid focus on form and strength training, everything else will fall into place. 

More reading: 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gluten Bell Curve and Why It's Better to Lie

bell curve.gif
You've probably heard of a bell curve. It's a figure used to explain that the majority of a population are "average" while there are a few outliers at opposite ends of the spectrum. You can use a bell curve to describe various things: grades in a math class, height of a group of people, etc. You could also use a bell curve to describe tolerance. Let's take the sun, for instance. The average person can tolerate a moderate amount of sunshine, while a few people can tolerate a great deal of sunlight (typically dark skinned people) and a few people can't tolerate much sunlight at all (very fair skinned people). This makes sense, but what's funny (actually, sad) is that when it comes to food and drink, people are generally more accepting of people at the EXTREME end of things. Allow me to explain. 

Have you ever been at a bar with people and decided not to drink? People look for a reason why. And more so, you might feel the need to give an excuse. "Oh, I have to get up early tomorrow," "I drank a lot last night,:" etc. even if you do, they look at you funny because it's socially expected to drink and not doing so is not "normal." However, if you said you were a recovering alcoholic, people back off and let you do your thing with your water and lemon. 

Same thing happens with bread, pasta, and other gluten-laden things. It's more acceptable to say you're celiac than it is to just say you don't want to eat bread, pasta. etc. To me, this is absolutely ridiculous. Knowing that gluten wrecks havoc on the human body, (whether you are diagnosed with celiac disease or not), why isn't it socially acceptable to just choose not to eat grains? 

Let's go back to the bell curve. I do think there is a spectrum of tolerance when it comes to gluten. Some folks simply cannot have it or else it sends them over the edge (think celiacs) while a small percentage of people can probably can tolerate a decent amount. What the middle of that bell curve (majority of people) doesn't realize is that gluten can affect and aggravate things such as ADHD, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, infertility, depression, and a plethora of other diseases. You might be saying, "Well, I don't have any of those things." Ok, tell that to a 14 year-old who smokes and says she doesn't have lung disease. Yet. In other words, just because there isn't an immediate reaction to gluten doesn't mean it's harmless. 

What's the end message? Try taking gluten out of your diet for 30 days. It's only a month! At the end of that 30 days, I bet you will have seen changes. (weight loss, less puffy face, less inflammation, less achy joints, etc) If you are truly itching for some gluten at the end of 30 days, go ahead and have it. I'll bet you have some adverse side effects (stomach ache, achy joints) Personally, if I have beer, even just a glass or two, I wake up with very swollen glands. You'll slowly, but surely realize that you're better off without it. 

And if you're in a situation where you just don't want to eat that birthday cake or dinner roll, maybe it's better to lie and just say you're celiac. You're 70 year-old self will thank you. 

P.S. All real food is gluten free, but not all gluten free food is real. 

Resources for the skeptics:
"Type 1 Diabetes: The Gut Connection" - (read this if you believe you believe non-celiac people are fine to eat gluten)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

CrossFit Home Gym: How to Hang Gymnastic Rings

In looking for a new house, one of the big criterion I was looking for was space for a home gym. Although I am a trainer at CrossFit KoP, there are days where it would just be easier to bang out a workout at home. Now that we have a great home with a spacious 1-car garage, my goal is to create a home gym with the ability to park the wife's car in the garage. 

The first thing I had to do was paint the garage. It came with the house unpainted, so I just got some Behr exterior semi-gloss white and got to work. It took just about 2.5 gallon cans to cover the whole garage (19'x10'x11'). 

a close up of one of the supports (resting on Rogue bumpers)
I had already bought a number of Rogue things: a Rogue barbell, Bella barbell, bumper plates, clips, and the rings. The rings offer more versatility than a pull up bar, so my priority was to get the rings up first. Researching different methods from people on the CrossFit forums revealed numerous options. (I tend to do a LOT of research). The best combination for me was to brace the rings through 2x8 pieces of wood that were lag bolted into the ceiling studs (joists). This method allowed me to distribute the load across multiple beams, making it safe and stable.  See the video below to check out the full setup. 

updated 1/3/12 - general list of tools and hardware

stud finder (get one that finds the center of the stud, it will save you time - you get what you pay for, mine was $45 but way better than the $10 one I had originally)
drill and drill bits (standard set includes a variety of diameters)
socket wrench for lag screws
saw (if cutting the wood for your needs)


2x6 piece of wood. I got an 8ft. length and cut it to size
lag screws/bolts - these grip the wood extremely well - you'll need 4 - 8 of these, depending on how many ceiling joists you have . Mine were 5/16ths of an inch in diameter and I used 8 total. They were 3.5" long
eye bolts - these are the circular things that hold the carabiners to the wood. 2 total and 3/8ths inch in diameter. Off the top of my head I forget how long, but just enough to go through the 2x8, so maybe 3 total inches including the eye
washers and nuts - get the same size as your eye bolts (mine were 3/8ths of an inch in diameter). these will distribute the load across the wood better. Use washers on your lag screws too. good idea is to get regular washers as well as "lock washers"
2 carabiners

something that you don't absolutely need but I did is to countersink holes in the wood so the nut and washer on top of the eye bolt was "in" the wood. For this you need special drill bits. Mine are "Ryobi forstner bits" from home depot.

there are a lot of great discussions on the CF forum, (mainpage) so check it out and do some searching around. Google is your friend!

For those with a crawl space above your garage, here is a solution for that setup:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Push Presses, Triple Extension, and Catapults

Yesterday I posted about jumping and how it relates to the olympic lifts. Peterson from CF KoP commented about doing push presses and having his heels come off the ground. I thought this topic was discussed enough to make it a separate post. First is Peterson's comment, then my response. 
Peterson said...
So I just talked to Aimee about confusion that I had over this very thing. For a push press, I was yelled at (not angrily or anything) for my heels coming off the ground. I don't get why this is an issue since when you jump, you jump from the balls of your feet, with the heal coming off of the ground first. Isn't it just natural that at lighter weights, your heels will be coming off of the ground? I'd guess that having your feet coming off of the ground would be wasting the momentum you built up in a way that isn't directly getting more weight overhead, and that if you are truly at your max, all of your effort goes towards getting that weight overhead without any of the waste seen in your heels coming off the ground...
Peterson, great observation. This is always debated, but my take on it is this: For strength-based (heavy) push presses, you should start with feet planted firmly and fairly even weight distribution with a slight bias towards the heel (but not so much as to wiggle your toes). You should not change the width of your feet AKA do not widen them in the middle of the movement. When driving through the push press, your heels may leave the floor momentarily as a result of the drive up, but it should not be the goal. Your ankles are first closing the angle between your shin and foot (dorsiflexion) and then extending (plantarflexion). As a result of this violent change (and your hip extension), your heels will most likely come off the floor, but if you can help it, try to keep them down.

The metcon (lighter) push press such as in FGB or other workouts is different. If you are cycling push presses at high repetitions, you will naturally be on your toes more as this offers the most athletic stance and most dynamic posture. However, since it is a lighter and more manageable weight, this is generally acceptable with the caveat of having your form dialed in before performing high rep push presses.

This all brings up a very debated topic: heels coming off the ground in triple extension during a clean or snatch. 

Lu Xiaojun - 2010 77kg World Champion
There seem to be two camps when it comes to triple extension. Those that say you should intentionally push off the ground and shrug UP to fully extend the hips, knees, and ankles (triple extension), and those that say the shrug is more of a transition to getting under the bar in triple extension. While I tend to agree more with the latter camp, I think the important thing to realize is that ankle extension (raising the heel) is a result of the hip extension and force imparted on the floor, much like the push press scenario described above. 

Aimee Anaya of Catalyst Athletics
Now, there is a misconception that the "catapult" technique originally coined by Don McCauley promotes flat footed triple extension (no ankle extension). There is a strongly worded blog entry by Sean Waxman about this here. I think what McCauley conveys is correct, but his message gets lost in translation. 

Casey Burgener, son of Mike Burgener
In the end, the extension of the ankles should not be on purpose, but it will just happen as a result of the 2nd pull (hip extension). Variety in anatomy and speed under the bar will change the angle of athletes such that a freeze frame may show one person look almost like a ballerina while others may look quite flat footed. Either way, their ankles are on the way to plantarflexion, but can be cut short by a fast pull under the bar. 

What are your thoughts on heels coming off the floor? 
Is this the first time you've heard of this debate? 
What do you think of the Waxman vs. McCauley debate?
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