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Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

CRACK: or, Coconut Butter

In Food, Training, WOD on June 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Bad news, guys. I’ve discovered crack. Except it’s more delicious than crack. And a hell of a lot more expensive than crack. But it’s better. I promise. Try it– all the cool paleo kids are doing it:

Allow me to introduce you to coconut BUTTER:

This, my friends, is very different from coconut oil. Coconut oil makes things tasty when you fry/roast/otherwise cook with coconut oil. Coconut butter tastes like ecstasy on a spoon. As in I’ve been doing nothing but eating spoonfuls since I bought this thing…

I’ve been dying to try coconut butter since I learned of its existence, but it’s actually kind of hard to find in State College. The grocery stores carry coconut oil, but definitely not coconut butter. I finally ventured out to a specialty store called Nature’s Pantry, whereupon I balked at the $15 pricetag. Nevertheless, my curiosity got the better of me and….

totally worth it.

Seriously. Sell your car, sell your children. Buy coconut butter. Okay, maybe not your children. Well… do you really need more than one?

A warning: sometimes the oil will separate from the coconut flesh (this is what makes it coconut butter rather than just coconut oil)… it’s helpful to heat up the jar and give it a good stir before your first use. The oil is rather tasteless… the flesh is beautifully rich and has this delicate, ambrosial sweetness. Seriously, try it.

Actually, the taste reminds me a lot of Chinese bo lo buns (or pineapple buns). There’s no pineapple in them. The name comes from the look of the outer shell, which I suppose… if you squinted and tilted your head… might sort of kind of resemble a pineapple. But the variety I ate when I was a child always had a coconut filling. I assume it must have been made with coconut butter, though I didn’t know what it was at the time.

Let’s back up a few steps. I’ve mentioned that I’m still rather suspect of certain aspects of the paleo philosophy– and I am… and I’m very eager to reintroduce what I consider “real foods” back into my diet (like peanuts and other legumes) out of curiosity as to whether or not I’m actually intolerant of these foods. I like the principle behind “Paleo 2.0” better than “Paleo 1.0.” To the best of my understanding, Paleo 1.0, started by Dr. Cordain, is the Paleo lifestyle that coined the namesake “paleolithic”– Paleo 1.0 based a lot of its reasoning behind what our “paleolithic ancestors” ate in a time when mankind was untouched by modern disease. There are so… so many holes to poke in this argument– such as the technological developments we’ve made that have improved quality of life since then, the fact that a lot of even “paleo” foods don’t make sense in an imitation of the “paleo” lifestyle (how many cavemen went around raiding chickens’ nests for their 5-6 egg omelet every morning?). It seemingly operates under the assumption that we can’t actually develop things that are better for our health than what we were “built” to consume… and even then we’re not taking into account the huge variances of what individuals consumed based on locality, etc. Paleo 2.0 is more flexible and more or less releases its hold on ancestral roots and instead focuses on “anti-inflammatory” foods. It looks to maximize the nutrients you consume and your ability process them. That said, at Nature’s Pantry, my shopping buddy pointed out to me that most paleo individuals who consume enormous amounts of coconut products probably don’t hail from regions ripe with coconuts. But my ancestors do, so ha. Though I really don’t give a shit what paleolithic man ate and don’t think it should affect my diet in the slightest, it sort of entertains me that– in Taiwan, where almost my entire family still lives, the streets are lined with coconut trees. You can see workers sawing down and collecting the fruit from my aunt and uncles’ window. So… assuming my ancestors had the tools to crack open a coconut, they probably had a diet with coconut aplenty. And tons of tropical fruit. And heaping amounts of fresh seafood. Come to think of it, my ancestors had a badass dinner table.

Anyway, today I wound up at the gym at kind of an unusual time and there was apparently a special kid’s course going on, so I tried to make do with little space/equipment. Started with power cleans:

5 sets of 3 reps @ 75lbs. The first set was ugly. The others went better, which probably means inadequate warmup. I’m developing a weird tweak in my left forearm though that seizes up when I lower the bar… (which meant that I dropped it obnoxiously after every rep today)… I would try to roll it out except I literally don’t feel it unless I’m lowering the bar from my shoulders to below the hip– and only when it’s above 65lbs or so. I wonder if it’s a muscle problem at all?

Ring dips: 4,4,4,2,2

Then a few quick sprints to round out the day.

I wanted to do the box’s WOD for the day, but I suppose I’ll reserve it for another time:

4 rounds for time

400m run

5 power cleans (95/65)

10 shoulder-to-overhead (95/65).

Sounds like a fun time, right? But I didn’t feel right doing it with the kid’s class going on, and I probably shouldn’t aggravate my forearm anyway.

A friend’s in town and I’ve been forewarned of impending festivities so I should probably try to get some work done before then. Also, I have to collect a belated birthday gift from a friend– fillet mignon, not kidding. I love that I’m so predictable that my friends give me gifts in the form of animal flesh. Would you believe that I once dated a militant vegan and subsequently was vegetarian for a couple years of my life? Here’s a tip: don’t go vegan/vegetarian for your significant other. You will find yourself eating revenge burgers at In ‘n Out.

… or maybe that’s just me.

Catch you later. Don’t touch my coconut butter.

The Road Goes Ever On and On

In Food, General, Rhetoric, Training, WOD, Writing on June 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Well, I guess we’re on Day 9 of my “Whole 14” diet challenge. A strange hiccup. Sometime between yesterday and this morning, I experienced a resurge of my IBS symptoms… to be fair, they were milder than they usually are and I feel relatively safe now, but I can’t figure out what must have triggered it. I don’t think I ate anything different than what I have been eating for the other days of my paleo experiment, so… problematic. Ever since being diagnosed with IBS, I’ve worked to accept the fact that sometimes my body rebels and I can’t waste time trying to analyze what set it off or what I’m doing wrong because sometimes there’s no answer other than the fact that genetics dealt me a shitty hand. I guess I’d been a little too hopeful that this new way of eating might entirely cure me of my digestive woes.

Regardless, the fact that I still experience some symptoms (even at a lesser degree) will mean problematic things for when I reintroduce foods… how will I know what’s irritating my gut and what’s just my gut being a natural bitch?

As for the strength progression, I’m not sure how that’s going.

Back Squat 3×5. I failed on the third set of five today. Granted, they felt easier than when I failed last week, but this still means I should reset, which is disappointing. I mean, I’m squatting well over my former one rep max, so I should be happier than I am. I guess I’m being greedy. I’m going to try resetting by 3 weeks on Sunday and see where that takes me.

Press: 3×5. Managed to return to where I was before the vacation, but it did feel a little heavy. Nervous about next week.

Strict pull-ups: These are also returning to where they were before the vacation. Sets of 7, 7, 6. I’m not actually going to “absolute failure” on these anymore… Because I’m “greasing the groove” with shorter sets of pullups throughout the day, I just take these to when they’re difficult but not truly exhausting.

Afterwards, because I was pissed off about the squats, I went a few rounds with the prowler (remember Camille?). For anyone dealing with repressed, uncontrollable rage… (no one? Just me?), quality time with this bad boy is a pretty good aggression-killer.

I actually met an interesting guest at our box today. She’s been around for a little while, but I haven’t had a chance to speak with her until this morning. She’s the daughter of two English professors so I’m actually quite familiar with her parents, and my PhD adviser was apparently once her basketball coach (small world?). Nevertheless, she got my wheels spinning again– and we know how prone I am to overthinking. Sometime midway through my MFA, I experienced a serious lapse, wasn’t sure I’d ever finish my novel, and entertained the idea of dropping out of grad school to become a physical therapist. I was… deterred by the huge amount of course prerequisites I’d have to somehow fund, then the years’ worth of observation hours I would need to even qualify to apply for switching so entirely out of my field.

Apparently this girl has done just that. During graduate school, she discovered CrossFit, became a coach at her box and realized she’d much rather become a physical therapist than continue her deskbound hours in her own field. Bravo, really. I just… struggle constantly with the duality of my world. I can’t imagine a full career where I’m deskbound all day. I’m constantly frustrated by how much of my life requires me to be isolated inside my own head for prolonged periods of time. I love interacting with people. CrossFit has cultivated in me a fascination with the potential and limitations of the human body and the dream of a job as a physical therapist, I guess, would be the opportunity to actually practice that (whereas the niche I’ve found in English has been a convenient way of me bending the field over backwards so that I can talk about talking about it… it’s a sideways methodology of sneaking my outside interests into my research).

Of course, when I came home, I pulled up all the sites for the physical therapy graduate programs I’d been secretly oggling for a while. But the thing is, I’m even deeper into my English career now. And it’s not even that I don’t enjoy my English career. I’m fascinated by the niche I’ve found and I think… I hope… I believe I can make a dent in this field. I love teaching, and I don’t think I could ever give up writing. It just… doesn’t feel complete.

So… I sat down and had the “what are you goals, Jo?” conversation with myself again. And I remembered: write, find time to write, develop and enjoy my own fitness and well-being, help others discover their ability to do so. Sounds like a lot, right? I’m greedy. There are composition teachers that are CrossFit coaches. They exist! I read about one on CrossFit Journal. So… I think I can do it. Keep pushing? I suppose on days like this, I feel like my greediness makes it impossible for me to truly excel at any one thing. Even in the CrossFit microcosm– my strength is not skyrocketing because I like moving too much. I’m doing about 25% the amount of metcon-ing I used to… but I’d probably get stronger if I gave it up completely and just devoted myself to something blunt and linear like Starting Strength. On a larger scale, I’d probably be a much better English/Rhetoric student if I didn’t waste 70% of my days on CrossFit websites, reading up on exercise and nutrition theory. I can explain the difference between Greyskull Linear Progression, CrossFit Strength Bias, CrossFit Football, Westside Conjugate, and Starting Strength. I can tell you 7 different ways to stretch your hip. But I still have to Wikipedia Deleuze everytime he appears in one of my textbooks.

But I suppose we wouldn’t be interesting, unique human beings if we were monomaniacal robots who only focused on one interest…

I am a “wandering” Jomad because where I’d like to go seems so far away and will take so long to reach that I need to remind myself to embrace the journey. I will spend more time traveling than at my destination… so I must learn to live in the moment rather than for the future.

Ah well… I’ve now spent too much time blogging– time that’s better-spent reading, writing, researching… retaining the 200+ texts I’ll be tested on for my comps exam in a couple years…

The road goes ever on and on…

Recovery Confusion

In Food, Training, WOD on June 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Day 7 already? Woo.

Breakfast: Tuna + egg “patties” fried in avocado oil (lookit me, I’m fancy), 1/2 sweet potato with coconut oil, leftover roasted Brussels sprouts

Pre-WOD: Turkey + almond butter. Large spoonful of coconut flakes.

Post-WOD: Tuna + Sweet potato

Lunch: Turkey + homemade guacamole, roasted chestnuts, strawberries, more roasted Brussels sprouts.

Snacks: lots of coconut flakes, various spoonfuls of almond butter, carrots and guac…

For dinner, I’m going to tackle the grassfed ground beef  generously gifted to me by a friend. I intend on trying this recipe from the Lazy Caveman (I’ll admit the name of his blog appealed to me. I’m very much the lazy chef). Unfortunately, I don’t have any spaghetti squash, but I have zucchini and a julienne peeler, so I might go with that today… or I might be lazy and just eat the beef out of the pan. Ah the glamorous life of  a graduate student.

Honestly, my stomach is in a better condition than it’s been in years. Also, an unexpected benefit of my attempted “Whole 14” is that the insomnia I’ve experienced regularly since moving to State College has actually disappeared. This is the first time I’ve slept through the night in years… and I’ve been doing it consistently since day 2. Also, probably related to my IBS discomfort, I had a weird relationship with hunger. I would often feel “mentally” but not physically hungry– as in I would crave food, but my body would feel too full to ingest it. That’s vanished since starting my Whole 30 journey as well.

Unfortunately, I’m still not thrilled about my recovery. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect or if I’m screwing up something in my post-workout nutrition, but I’m just more sore than I used to be before attempting the Whole 30. Also, what confuses me more is this post from Stronger, Faster, Healthier. What’s really curious is that the folks at Whole 9 endorse SFH, and recommend their products in their book. But they also discourage the use of whey protein and insist that real food is more effective (and push the post-workout carbs, of course). SFH, however, argues against the post-workout carbohydrate and promotes (obviously) their powdered supplement (looks like mostly whey).

Anyway… since I have a health-related reason for starting this whole experiment, I will stubbornly stick with it for another 7 days until the “toxins” clear my system. On day 15, I really want to reintroduce peanuts… not all legumes, just peanuts because I’m curious if that actually irritates my system, and I’d kind of love it if I could keep peanut butter in my life. Day 16, though will be the reintroduction of the protein shake… because I want to solve this recovery mystery… also I’m sick of feeling sore. I’d gotten to a point where I could plan my days and weeks fairly well without ever feeling too beat up. Then… *knocks on wood* provided those two aren’t actually my dietary triggers, I’ll slowly experiment with other legumes, gluten, etc until I figure out what’s triggering my IBS (hopefully).

Today’s WOD:

Snatch technique. Basically, I load the bar until the lift is do-able but somewhat difficult, and do 20 reps (in a mix of triples, doubles, and singles), focusing on form rather than trying to hit a PR….

Clean technique. 10 reps… all at a relatively low weight, just working on full extension from the high hang and catching it in a full squat.

Front Squats: This is something I borrowed from an O-lift blog (the Iron Samurai)– where he recommended just loading the bar in tiny increments until you could barely squeeze out the last rep. The purpose of this is to practice lifting quickly… to really drive your weight in your heels. The weight should nearly fly off your shoulders at the beginning. However, I may drop this from my routine… I didn’t find it particularly helpful and didn’t feel like it contributed to my workout.

Then 4x500m rowing sprints.

This is a workout I’ve done before… and back in the recovery drink days, I always felt fine afterwards. But my legs have been aching all day…

Foodstuffs and Linear Progressions

In Food, Training, WOD on June 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Welcome to Day 5 of my “Whole 14” challenge. Breakfast is served:

I’ve found that a really easy, convenient breakfast is to mix canned seafood (today, crab… yesterday, salmon; the day before, tuna…) with an egg and fry it in a pan with some olive oil. It turns into something between an omelet and a burger patty. You can also play around with seasonings. Today, there was oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Yesterday I went with something spicier– chipotle and paprika. Also reheated leftover veggies from last night, and whipped up a quick paleo mousse for the hell of it. I didn’t use the maple syrup since it’s not “whole 30 compliant,” and I added coconut oil as well as… wait for it… mashed cauliflower. I know it sounds weird, but I had leftover, unseasoned cauliflower and it’s utterly tasteless when you blend it in, I promise. It just tastes like coconutty chocolatey goodness. … really.

Stop judging me.

I may have licked the food processor.

And the food processor blades.

I also only used 2 TBSP cocoa powder, which is why it’s a lighter color than the one on the recipe’s website. Personally, I thought it tasted plenty sweet without the maple syrup, but if some of you are trying to stay Whole 30 compliant and need the touch of sweetness, I imagine dried fruit (dates? figs?) could do the trick– or maybe some applesauce or 100% fruit juice of some kind.

I also still wanted something starchy, so I ate a 1/2 microwaved sweet potato. I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m going to eat more starches than most people on the Whole 30.

I had a pre-WOD snack of turkey + almond butter (yes, I combine deli meats with nut butters… I actually didn’t think this was strange until I started telling people this), then the gym.

Today, I managed to pull 1.75x bodyweight for 5reps for my Deadlift, but I know my form was hideous before the end, so I’m actually going to stay at this weight and repeat it next week, hopefully for better form. I did some more research on linear progressions, particularly the CrossFit football template (since I’m doing the 70’s Big S&C Program and the two are very similar). According to the CFFootball experts, most of their athletes require a reset by week 12. They recommend that you then take the lift back to where it was 3 weeks ago and start back up. Most linear progressions peter out around 20 weeks, when all the lifts stall out.

I’m actually creeping up on week 12, so it makes sense that my lifts are starting to feel a little wobbly. I hope to push this for at least another month or two. My press has already been reset once… my clean is getting wobbly, and we know I have concerns about my squat. However, I hope to still see gains on my bench. They recommend that you ride the linear progression until all lifts stall out, which I intend to do . After that, I hope to look into another strength-focused program, but probably one less linear (I mentioned before that I really like CrossFit Strength Bias).

Anyway, after the deadlifts, I did 3 sets of pull-ups, and actually participated in the box’s WOD today. It’s been a while since I’ve done a more traditional CrossFit workout and I’ve been missing them. Besides, today looked quick and like it would clock in well below my 15 minute time cap:


50 Double-Unders

40 American Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1pd)

30 Walking Lunges with plate overhead (45lbs/25lbs)

20 Med Ball Cleans (20lbs/14lbs)

10 Squat Clean Thrusters (95lbs/65lbs).

A quick, fun chipper.

After the WOD, I repeated the post-WOD snack of a hard-boiled egg and a nuked sweet potato:

Confession: I’m a sucker for oddly-shaped produce…

Then shower and lunch. Still feeling more sore than usual. I don’t actually miss or crave the taste of my recovery shakes anymore, but I’d still like to reintroduce them after the Whole 30 to see if there were actually helping with my recovery… otherwise I can’t explain the increased achiness of my past couple of days.

Anyway… yesterday was actually a surprisingly productive flurry of writing for me. Let’s hope today I can maintain some of that momentum. Happy Monday, folks.


In Training, WOD on June 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Hello, my name is Jo and I’m afraid of squats. Well, not the actual movement… but of being stuck beneath more than my weight in steel and rubber and being slowly, awkwardly, painfully pressed to the Earth– or worse, losing my grip on the bar and having it all clatter down my spine on the way to the ground. Of course, lifting is a mind game. The moment you get such thoughts in your head, you’ve already fucked up your lift. I need to stop.

My squat stalled for the first time today. I’m not sure whether to blame it on my experimental Whole 14 and its dietary restrictions (and the lack of my go-to recovery drink). I made it through the first two sets of five and then could not get the last one. Also, I had to bail from beneath the second set and try again… so really it went like this:

Set 1: 5 reps

Set 2: 1 rep, fail and scramble out from beneath 1.2xbodyweight as it crashes to the ground– okay, 1.17x or something like that. Wait five minutes to get my courage back up. 5 reps

Set 3: 2 reps. Lose my nerve, know I can’t get back up… rack the bar… wait three minutes… get spotters… fail after another rep and a half.

It was a bad morning for squatting. Also, something I’ve noticed (and was pointed out to me again this morning) I’ve begun taking longer and longer pauses between reps when I squat, allowing myself the opportunity to psych myself out more. However, if I go again too quickly, I usually end up failing… not sure how to fix this.

I’m also not sure if this is an actual stall in muscle growth or just my head freaking out now that my sets of 5 reps are above my former one rep max. For example, my 3 sets of 5 for the bench press today actually felt light. However, I carbloaded like crazy when I got back from the gym just in case… Again, I miss my recovery drink. I know the argument that real food is supposed to be better and more efficient, but at least my recovery drink was designed by someone who did his research and knew what he was doing (by the way, Chris Mason at At Large Nutrition is a rather nice guy and will answer questions you have about supplements/lifting/life… though I don’t guarantee his wisdom on the last one). I’ve been following the recommendation in It Starts With Food to consume a fist-sized portion of starchy carbs postworkout along with a 1/2-meal-sized portion of protein. Ah well… we’ll see what the rest of these two weeks bring. I keep reminding myself– it’s only 14 days, this experiment of mine.

Though I was pretty pissed off about the squats, I felt better after my bench presses, and then I played one of my favorite training tools: the prowler.

… no, not this prowler

this one:

… I think my blog just stopped being “family-friendly”…

I’ll give you a moment to stop oggling Camille.




My favorite thing about the prowler is that it’s idiot-proof. I know “safety” is not exactly the cool term in fitness these days– especially with a lot of CrossFitter fettishes for high-risk activities. But… for me, a lot of the enjoyment of being in-shape is… being able to utilize that fitness, which I can’t do with an injury.  The prowler is an awesome strength and conditioning tool, which you can make stupid-hard, but still low-risk… I suppose the greatest risk at our box is being run over by one of the drivers that speeds through the alleyway. Also, the alleyway was still covered in loose gravel today, so avoiding all the rough spots was a little tricky. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a nice, simple finisher after my lifts. I loaded the prowler with 50lbs in plates and just pushed it back and forth 10 times… roughly 50 yards for each run, I’d guess, with just enough rest to recover my breath in between. It’s an awesome full-body beatdown. I was surprised to even feel it in my abs.

Friends and Food

In Food, General on June 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

It’s good to have good friends. It’s even better to have awesome friends that hook you up with grassfed ground beef and duck eggs. Apparently people in State College farm ducks. And those duck lay eggs. And those egg make for a delicious breakfast. Despite my culinary weirdness, I don’t think I’ve actually had duck eggs before. For those of you as not-in-the-know as I was, ducks lay large eggs. Their eggs are also… meatier than chicken eggs. Because I wasn’t sure how I’d prefer them, I tried them two different ways this morning: over-medium, and scrambled:

You all will have to forgive my food photography; I simply can’t be bothered making these things look pretty. There’s plenty of paleo food-porn websites out there anyway, written by far more culinarily gifted individuals than I. Anyway… I ended up piercing the yolk of the over-medium egg and letting it bleed over everything (the scrambled egg + leftover sauteed kale/tomatoes/green chiles)–  satiating, and delicious. I’ve also hardboiled a few for quick, post-wod snacks.

Speaking of WODs, I skipped the box today– disappointingly, as it was a partner WOD day and we know how I enjoy those. Instead, I played volleyball for the first time ever… it appears that my natural discoordination carries over to all ball sports, volleyball included, though my teammates were thankfully very patient with me. Afterwards, I encountered another first: bouldering. Who knew that was a verb? To boulder. Now, bouldering is probably the least suitable activity for an uncoordinated, awkward Asian girl with no body awareness and a lingering fear of heights (slowly ebbing with time). But it was a blast. Firstly, I always enjoy hiking and there was a good walk to both climbing sites that we visited. But I also realize that, for as hard as I’ve trained to be “in shape,” I haven’t explore the many real-world applications of my hard-earned “functional fitness.” I wrote a post before about how CrossFit teaches you to trust your body– to trust that you can stand with the bar so you can drop under your clean. I think I’m still working on that part. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I fell a lot as a kid. I remember distinctly an age where I was shocked to no longer be covered in bruises and scrapes everyday– not actually because I stopped being clumsy, just because I stopped running around outside. Today, scrambling over rocks, hanging by my fingers and toes, trying to keep my balance on pockmarked cliff faces with nothing but open air between me and a 60 foot drop… what tentative trust I’ve built through CrossFit (yes, Ican land that box jump) disappeared pretty damn quickly. In terms of physical activity, I tend to waver between two mindsets. I either start too stubborn and brash (and end up with a footlong scar along my shin), or I’m too tentative. I have yet to find that balance of boldly conscientious… or I have yet to achieve the competence with which I can be bold? Either way, today was an enlightening experience. In our group, there were clearly veteran boulder-ers (try that out loud:…er…er…s…) and firsttimers. It was interesting to watch the other newbies (and myself) venture past gaps or over walls they thought they couldn’t cross. It’s certainly something I’d like to be better at… and something I feel like I should be decent at if I can stomach my fear of heights and approach this with a level head. I mean… what’s the point of doing all these strict pull-ups if I can’t translate that into getting myself up a rock wall? But it’s yet another level of comfort I need to develop, another way of learning my body, of knowing what it can and can’t do…

And of course, I’m reminded of why I always love hiking. The reward at the top:

I know I gripe about State College a lot, but this landscape is truly beautiful. I could’ve spent an afternoon just sitting up here enjoying the breeze, the woods, the freakishly large spiders– okay, probably not the last one.

Anyway. After that, I can home and tried a quick spinach and avocado dip recipe from fastpaleo. I think it turned out delicious, though the entire process was far too painstaking. I need a real food processor rather than my pathetic “Ninja” blender. I had to stop the damn thing every five seconds to shove the spinach back down and re-blend.

Day 4 of my “Whole 14.” Sugar cravings are deifnitely diminishing. Caffeine-withdrawal headache almost undetectable. Could there be a light at the end of this tunnel? Perhaps too soon to tell.


In Food, Training, WOD on June 22, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Okay, so I realize I’m way behind the bandwagon on this, but did you know you could microwave sweet potatoes? I mean, yes, I’ve known for a while, but I assumed the micro-method would be so tragically incomparable to actually roasting them that I’ve never actually tried it. Then I saw that the culinarily gifted Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo still nukes her sweet potatoes now and again, despite the otherwise mindboggling feats she performs in the kitchen (she is also the reason that a sous vide machine is on the top of my wishlist for life). At any rate, Nom Nom’s microwaved sweet potato methodology proved solid today and provided me with a quick post-workout starch. I just stabbed one medium-sized sweet potato all over with a knife, stuck it in a bowl, covered with a damp paper towel, and microwaved on high for five minutes. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and ate it alongside grassfed roast beef for a postworkout snack. Not bad at all (though I still miss my protein shakes, admittedly).

Today’s workout:

Power cleans: 5 sets of 3 reps

Rings dips: 5 sets to failure (It’s supposed to be 3 sets, but my numbers on ring dips are so low right now, I’m trying five in an attempt to build that strength…)

Afterwards, I meant to run 6x400m with 2 minutes rest in between, but I only made it through 4 laps before construction workers began throwing gravel into the alleyway behind our building. I have no idea what the purpose was… except that my inov-8s are probably bound to take a worse beating next time I try to run out there. I finished out with some skill work– easy kettlebell swings at 1.5pd (Russian). I’m going to try American swings next time. I’d like to acclimate myself to moving the heavier weight on a regular basis so that 1) the standard 1pd swings will feel comparably easy, and 2) hopefully this will translate into my explosive power in my other movements (particularly cleans and snatches).

Tummy update: Feeling frickin’ amazing. Seriously, to be able to digest things and feel hunger like a normal person again is incredible.

Head update: Still a little fuzzy… I’m guessing from lack of caffeine and sugar… but definitely better than the last two days

My slight reservation is that I woke up this morning feeling significantly more sore than I have in the past two months. Yeah, I worked a little heavy yesterday, but not anything that would have made me anticipate this degree of soreness. Honestly, I’ve been relying on my post-workout protein shake to help with recovery. I assume whole foods work just as well (some say better), but the soreness seems to indicate otherwise. Today, I upped the protein portion and the amount of sweet potato to see if that would help… however, today’s workout definitely wasn’t as demanding as yesterday’s, so I suppose this won’t give me a clear indicator of whether or not I’m consuming the right things for recovery. We’ll see.

Also, I’m continuing to make delightful little food discoveries (amazing how you have to learn to deal with real food when you can no longer eat things that come out of a package…) I found out that mixing canned salmon (oops, guess that’s packed) with an egg makes for a really quick “burger” of sorts that one can make for breakfast (and top with homemade guacamole). Also, strawberries coated in shredded coconut with some almond butter? Delicious.

Day 2: I’m still alive

In Food, Training, WOD on June 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Whole 30-approved cauliflower mash*

*Perhaps the best thing emerging from my attempt at “eating clean”– I’m finally learning how to cook rather than opening cans and microwaving shit. The above concoction is delicious. Recipe here (I used avocado oil instead of butter)

No caffeine, no sugar, no protein supplements, no legumes (how I miss thee, peanut butter-coffee-protein shakes…).

But squats. There was squatting.

Despite the mental fog, I got myself down to the gym. I’ve been expecting my performance to suffer a bit, actually as I deal with my withdrawal symptoms– and it still might as I go through this week, but this morning I hit a new 5rm PR. I also reset my press (remember how it weakened after my vacation?), so hopefully that’ll see some progress soon. My strict pull-up numbers are going up and feeling increasingly stronger as well, so I’m rather happy about that.

Also, my cravings were at least significantly more bearable today. I still feel cloudybrained and heavyheaded, but I no longer want to slaughter the next thing with a heartbeat that crosses my path (yes that’s how unpleasant I am without caffeine. It’s like Dr. Jekyll (Jo-kyll?) and Mr. Hyde except backwards… I’m saner with the happyjuice).

As for the workout, our box has introduced gymnastics-based classes on Thursdays, so I got to attend that this evening. It’s definitely different. It’s also an awesome opportunity to focus on a particular aspect of CrossFit. This sport borrows so liberally from so many different specializations– to which other athletes devote entire lifetimes (and probably why CrossFit has earned its share of critics over time) that it seems a good idea for CrossFit hopefuls to slow down and focus on some of the minutiae that we skip over in our haste to tackle each WOD. And in fact, all serious CrossFit athletes that I know of do. I’ve noticed that most athletes competing in regionals attend specific O-lift classes and/or gymnastics classes at gyms that actually specialize in those sports.

Today was my second gymnastics class, but I enjoy the slower pace of these days– how we focus on getting movements right rather than fast or “heavy” (also, is anyone surprised that I enjoy the bodyweight-based nature of gymnastics?). There’s also a lot… a lot of core work, which I hope will translate into more strength and stability in all CrossFit movements.

Similarly, the WOD focused on form rather than time… a grueling 4 rounds of:

10 ring dips

10 hollow rocks

10 ring push-ups

10 wall-balls

I never thought I’d consider wall-balls a nice “breather,” but they definitely were for this workout.

Anyway… day two of my (at least) Whole “14” done. This is going to be the world’s longest two weeks…


In Food on June 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Well… hopefully I won’t spend too much time talking about food, but that last post opened up a whole can of worms for me. I read The Paleo Solution in a single afternoon, and then It Starts With Food in another sitting the day after. There’s some sketchy science in there, I think– particularly when it comes to things like legumes (“many of the damaging properties disappear when boiled/heated, and no legumes are served raw… but we still don’t like them… but pod-based legumes are okay… sometimes…”) as well as dairy (“it’s a great source of nutrients! But it’s not. We should eat it! Sometimes”*). Also, though Robb Wolf is clearly a very intelligent guy who’s done his research, I think the reason he’s so vehement about the paleo diet is because he clearly has either celiac disease or something damn close. Just because his system couldn’t handle grains doesn’t mean that others share the same biological vulnerability or couldn’t benefit nutritionally from grains in their diet.

Regardless… I am clearly sensitive to/ suffering from something that I’m ingesting… so… because the paleo diet eliminates so many irritants, it’s my new goal to go “Whole 30” (or at least Whole 14ish– I’m estimating that it takes 2ish weeks for pollutants to clear your system…) and then introduce contaminants to see what’s upsetting my stomach. Oh, for those of you unfamiliar with the basic tenants of this “lifestyle change” (as they term it), basically:

– No sweeteners (real, artificial, or otherwise)

– No grains

– No dairy (sometimes, mostly. Some butter. Maybe? God knows)

– Lots of fat (animal, coconut, avocado, some nuts…)

– Moderate protein

(from Robb Wolf: “1. It needs a face.
2. It needs a soul.
3. You need to kill it, and bring its essence into your being.
4. Really.”)

– No legumes (I really need to learn to cook without soy sauce)

This is not a low calorie diet, nor one intended to help you lose weight, but rather one for “optimal health.” Which is technically what I’m looking for.

Now… reading The Paleo Solution and It Starts With Food is pretty easy. They present shiny, lovely, delicious sounding recipes. They terrify you with all the potentially poisonous substances you’re ingesting, they laud the effectiveness of their thirty-day programs (Robb Wolf mentored Dallas and Melissa Hartwig so Wolf’s 30 day challenge bears many similarities to the Whole 30). They present happy, shiny, rainbow-laced stories of people who followed their program and experienced more energy! Better performance! More happiness! Clear skin! Miracle cures for their allergies, depression, etc! Even better sex! (I kid you not)

Well… great.

So… technically, two days ago I decided I’d start “eating cleaner” without following their rules very strictly. I made it to last night pretty obediently, whereupon I somehow ingested several gluten bombs, a very large amount of soy, quite a bit of real and artificial sweeteners… and I spent the night in misery (which I won’t detail here for your imaginative pleasure– you’re welcome).

So… I woke up this morning determined to do it right. I looked at my pitiful savings account, took a deep breath, and went to Wegman’s and filled a cart/basket with grass-fed beef, vegetables (I will not drench in soy sauce. I will not season with sriracha. I will not use soy sauce…), sweet potatoes, and coconut products. I made a lovely breakfast of salmon and veggies cooked in coconut oil, mashed sweet potato, made a “dessert” of berries in almond milk and coconut flakes… still caved and took a few spoonfuls of almond butter (they say nuts should be consumed “in moderation…” but… we’ll call that moderate compared to what I’ve been doing up until this point)

This afternoon I was feeling good, so I had roast beef, an avocado, salsa , roasted chestnuts, more veggies, more coconut, more almond butter…

My stomach feels amazing. Actually in the last three days (discounting the miserable 10 hours following my binge), my gut has felt so, so much better than it has in years. What’s most incredible to me is that I can feel hunger again… the problem with my IBS is that I’m usually just so bloated and uncomfortable that I’ve lost all contact with my hunger signals and I just learned to eat regardless of discomfort.

So, stomach = happy.

But… what Robb and Dallas and Melissa don’t tell you is that your brain will want to fuck you up. Yeah, my stomach feels lovely, but my head has been alternately in a fog or whirring and inexplicably furious. I should add that I’ve also cut out coffee, even though both Robb and the Whole 30 folks find it acceptable. I just know that caffeine’s another possible irritant for IBS and… as long as I’m putting myself through hell… might as well find out if it’s among the things that’s damaging my digestive system.

By 2pm this afternoon, I hit FULL BLOWN caffeine and sugar withdrawal. Thankfully, I’ve never been a drug or alcohol person, but if I had to envision withdrawal from hard drugs… it would’ve looked something like this. I was a sweaty, shaking mess between blankets, my head was screaming, I just wanted my fucking cup of coffee and my fucking peanut butter, and a fucking protein bar (it’s weird that this is a big “cheat” for me, but I became so dependent on them as easy fuel and they’re packed with artificial sweeteners and probably a host of other unsavory ingredients)

Anyway… I was drawn from my miserable malaise by the Scotchness who brightened my day with a visit… I think the key to surviving this may be leaving my apartment and human contact :p. Afterwards… I decided confronting the caffeine and sugar/gluten/legume/etc demons all at the same time might be a bit much. So I made tea.

Here’s my lifelong journey with tea:

As a kid: EW That’s gross! Why would anyone drink that???

As a teen: Milk tea? Okay. Lots of sugar with a splash of tea? Okay. Real tea? No thanks.

As an adult: I’d still prefer coffee, but since it’s served in every Taiwanese restaurant as the traditional drink, since my family and family friends congregate around it so often as a social activity… fine.


Anyway… I felt guilty about giving in, but I do feel better with a tad of caffeine in me and my stomach doesn’t seem too angry, so… *knock on wood* I hope that’s all right. I’m also desperately, desperately hoping that this will get easier as time progresses. I mean… yes, my IBS is/was bad enough that I’m willing to do this to figure out what the hell I’m actually intolerant of… But if I’ve simply traded one misery for another… well, I’d rather be miserable with peanut butter and hazelnut soy cappuccinos.

Until then… if I sound like a raging, manic depressive bitch going through withdrawal, either hit me or hug me. Or both.


*Regardless of the paleo attitude towards dairy, it napalms my innards so… the Jo rule is to avoid with extreme prejudice.

To Paleo, or not to Paleo… Also, PRs!!!!

In Food, Training, WOD on June 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm


Let’s talk food. I’ve been avoiding the topic of nutrition even though it comes up in a lot of fitness blogs because… I haven’t the slightest clue what I’m doing. But perhaps just as this blog provides a (hopefully somewhat) interesting perspective of a fitness amateur, I can offer my own little baby steps towards figuring out proper nutrition. Ironically, my mother’s a dietitian. But perhaps that’s the root of my confusion. The problem with nutrition is that so much of it is theoretical, so much data is case-dependent or just not at all properly researched (strangely, nutritional studies aren’t well-funded), and there’s just so much conflicting information out there. Just as a simple example, my own mother adheres to a rather conventional, conservative nutritional approach and counsels me to ingest .6g of protein per pound of bodyweight– which is drastically lower than the 1g/lb we see around most powerlifting websites, and then entirely on the opposite end of the spectrum from some “advice” I see on the CrossFit forums, which insist that you really can’t get “too much” protein. Besides, if I only ate .6g of protein per pound of bodyweight, I think I’d have difficulty reaching enough calories to sustain my activity…

Compound that with my family’s terrible digestive history. My father has an awful case of IBS (as do several members of my extended family). I remember numerous nights growing up when my parents woke me because one or the other had to be taken to the hospital. Both my mom and dad have been hospitalized for procedures on their digestive system. So it’s a almost a little natural that I assumed digestive discomfort was a part of life. However, my problems really struck after I graduated college. Living in New York City, I was working 18 hour days, not making nearly enough money, and more stressed than I was willing to admit. On a daily basis, I had a hard time keeping food down and I was pretty much uncomfortable for six months straight. That condition, coupled with the fact that my meals were consumed almost entirely on the go or between/during waitressing shifts, composed of the cheapest items at the bagel shop down the block from the restaurant where I worked… I went from “overweight” (so my doctors told me) to significantly underweight, losing possibly over 30lbs in fourish months. I eventually had to fly home to see a gastroenterologist where I was scoped and diagnosed with IBS as well as treated for a digestive infection.

Then came my first year of graduate school. I was taking 3-4 prescription-strength pills a day just to feel normal, and even then I couldn’t quite sit through all my seminars without a lot of abdominal pain. I started “cleaning up” my diet with fewer and fewer processed foods, cooking most of what I ate, and eating lots of small meals rather than structured large ones. Finally, I got to a point around six or seven months ago when I started going pill-free! Even so, about one week out of every four, I experience flare-ups. And even though every day’s significantly more bearable than they used to be, none of them are what I’d characterize as “normal.”

My doctors have suggested several possibilities including fructose malabsorption and gluten intolerance (though I tested negative for celiac, thank god)… they’ve suggested elimination diets to find my actual “trigger” foods, but I’ve stubbornly avoided this because, already with my lactose intolerance and the growing list of things I know give me trouble, I hate the idea of cutting more things from my diet. But… I’ve finally reached a point where I’ve decided that this isn’t a normal existence and regardless of expense and convenience, I’d rather go through 30 days of truly “clean” eating and figure out if I can live without so much discomfort. (I should note that by… “IBS” and “discomfort” I don’t mean a little bit of tummy trouble… I mean tummy disasters…)

So… even though I roll my eyes a lot a lot a lot at the paleo diet (particularly some of the assumptions of “ancestral” health as if we were incapable of evolving or developing/discovering better ways to survive than our natural state…), something it does do is eliminate a lot of typical gut irritants. And… let’s face it, my gut is irritated. Actually, it’s downright pissed. Okay, it’s a flaming, raging bitch.

My problem is actually that I’ve tried going Paleo before (and did feel significantly better, digestive-wise), but I must have done it wrong because I wasn’t gaining strength. I finally started seeing strength gains when I introduced cereal to my diet but I’ve cut it again because it was tearing my digestive system apart (and since replaced it with sweet potatoes and roasted chestnuts and the strength is still going up so yay!). Anyway… I intend to be smart about it this time (hopefully). I’ve borrowed The Paleo Solution from a friend, and a copy of It Starts With Food is on its way to my apartment. I spent several days tracking my calories (which I’ve also been too lazy to do up until now) partially out of curiosity and partially because I know I want to sustain that intake even as I drop food groups because I’ve been seeing solid strength gains with the amount I’ve been eating. In the past three days, my lowest day was ~2150 cals, my highest around 2760. What’s entertaining is, if you use a standard weight-loss tracker to calculate your daily intake, it asks for your height and weight, and then it yells at you for eating way over maintenance calories :p.

Anyway… I also actually buy food in bulk, so I’ll still have lots of non-paleo things to finish off (waste-not!)– particularly three jars of peanut butter and significant amounts of garbanzos… soy… tofu… but I’ll try to moderate it and won’t buy more once I finish… Also I’m not sure if I’m going rigidly “whole paleo”– whatever that is (I suppose I’ll find out once I read those books…), but I’m going to pay significantly more attention to what’s in my food and try to eat mostly whole foods. If I don’t feel better, I’ll be even more strict about it, if I still don’t feel better then I’ll go back to eating the crap I want to eat because it doesn’t matter… if (*knock on wood*) I feel miraculously better, I’ll start experimenting with “contaminants” one at a time to figure out what’s actually irritating my gut so I know what to avoid and hopefully won’t have to keep myself on such a limited diet for the rest of existence.

Anyway… there’s your TMI briefing on my whole digestive history. Now about the lifting heavy things! New squat 5-rep-max yesterday, new deadlift 5-rep-max today (1.7x bodyweight for five… my goal is to have a 2xbodyweight 1rm soon…) Despite the fact that my strict pull-ups and ring dips numbers went down after the vacation, they’re coming back very quickly, so I’m relieved that seems to be a temporary drop. Today’s WOD was a fun one, so I thought I’d share:

15 min AMRAP:

10 Handstand Push-Ups

10 Sumo Deadlift High Pulls

100m sprint.

As much as I hate to admit, the 1pd is starting to feel too light for SDHP. I hate admitting this because it means soon I should go up to 1.5… ;p.

Also, I hit a snatch PR on Sunday. Gettin’ beastly. Somewhat. Maybe a mini-beast? 🙂