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Posts Tagged ‘Paleo’

Nutrition and Self-Experimentation

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2013 at 11:20 am

As a child, I accused my mother a lot of hypochondria-by-proxy. She sent me to the doctor for every kind of test at every possible opportunity. Obviously, she was just a concerned parent– and with good reason; I was often sick and battled a myriad of chronic conditions. Everything runs in my family– heart trouble, high blood pressure, diabetes, morbid obesity, cancer… Both my parents have had cholesterol problems in the past few years.

I’ve also mentioned that my mother is a clinical dietitian. She’s actually a damn good one, and I’m very proud of her and what she has achieved in her practice. Her specialty, however, is dealing with the already unwell and prescribing palliative nutrition for those who require intravenous care. She does not specialize in everyday nutrition. So when it comes to how we should eat… as I’ve been seduced by the more paleo school of thought… we’ve disagreed with increased frequency. In order to remedy her high (LDL) cholesterol, my mom turned to whole-grains and a more vegetarian-based approach. She’s also warned me often about the dangers of the coconut milk I pour into my morning coffee. All my research and my mother’s advice have given me two conflicting ideologies that have made it difficult for me to commit to any methodology.

However, since I started working with a Coach, she took my nutrition out of my hands– which I needed. But it means that, for the past two months I’ve been consuming amounts of saturated fat that would make my mother faint. Egg yolks, bacon, and coconut oil every morning. About 7 tablespoons of coconut oil every day. Tons of red meat (over 1lb of meat a day…). For the months leading up to this, I’d been slowly ramping up to this style of eating– so I’d say it’s been about a good year that I’ve been trying a more fat-based diet… I just really threw myself in headfirst for the past couple months because I was sick of straddling the line, unsure of whether to believe all the new advice I got from the ancestral-based movement or to trust in the “tried-and-true” “whole-grains” type wisdom.

I want to make the caveat now that I think the way I’ve been eating for the past two months, specifically, is rather extreme… it’s completely designed for me to grow as a CrossFitter and not for much else. In the future, in life, when eating more for enjoyment, I will probably stop consuming raw coconut oil by the spoonful and just use it to cook delicious parts of cow. But ANYWAY… I decided to get a lipid panel to find out how my nutrition was affecting my insides. Externally, I’ve felt great. I’ve had more energy than I ever had (and reduced my caffeine consumption to 25% of what I used to have). I’ve recovered much faster and been getting stronger and have been putting on weight. Internally, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just clogging my arteries.

So… (drumroll please) my doctor messaged me this morning. My HDL (good cholesterol) is through the roof and my LDL (bad cholesterol) is well within the acceptable range. My HDL was so high that the note says :”verified by repeated testing, sent to Quest labs for verification”)… so I guess I puzzled them a bit. The doctor told me to keep doing what I’m doing; I chose not to mention that I’ve been on the steak-and-bacon-diet.

I don’t want to give nutritional recommendations to anyone. I’m positive that it’s a very personalized thing. I know fantastic athletes and just-plain-healthy individuals that are paleo, paleo-zone, vegan, vegetarian, carnivorous, or on the Nabisco eating plan. I just know that, at least for now, I’ve found what works for me. After having so many small but obnoxious health problems, I was relieved to hear the doctor use the term “healthy”… So, for you all, I encourage a bit of self-experimentation. And a bit of bacon.

Stay healthy!

Testing Maxes and Trash-talking

In General, Training on August 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

So, at the conclusion of my 70’s Big Strength and Conditioning Program, I’ve re-tested all my one rep maxes. Now at a body weight of 109lbs (107-110 depending on the scale and probably time of day), I have the following one rep maxes:

Back Squat: 140lbs

Shoulder Press: 67.5lbs

Deadlift: 225lbs (Reached my over 2xbodyweight goal!)

Bench: 100lbs (A bit unhappy about this one. It was ugly, and I feel like I should be able to press more, but my technique is very, very sloppy.)

Power Clean: 85lbs x2. Though I can do 85 for reps, I can’t go any higher– again, I think I’m limited by technique here.

I feel all right with where I am– though admittedly most of my lifts are just a tad shy of where I’d hoped to be by the end of the summer. I know I’m greedy though, and am trying to apply more patience to my strength training. I’m happy with my deadlift, but I’d like to improve my back squat, and I’d like to add another ten pounds to my bench and clean, and hopefully get my press up to 75. Eventually. Immediately, I want to work on my squat and clean and my explosive power. By the time of the Iron Lion powerlifting open in November, I’d like to be able to put up a 150 squat, a 110 bench, and a 235 dead… I have about six pounds of bodyweight to play with and stay within the 115lb weight class, so… fingers crossed.

I almost had a heartbreaking moment when testing my deadlift today. I failed once at 210 before trying again. Afterwards, 215 went up easily, 220 was rough but manageable, and 225 was a good stopping point because my form was giving. But what happened during that first 210 fail? It should have been easy– I’d managed 195×5, so 210 should have been a given. But I knew I wouldn’t make the lift before the bar even left the ground. Something in my setup didn’t feel right. As I gripped the bar, I saw myself failing. I should have backed off and restarted. I’ve experienced this before with all the different lifts– the moment I imagine myself screwing up, I inevitably will. I don’t know how to keep myself from doing this, but I do know that I should learn to shed the ego and back off rather than attempt the lift anyway. Everyone says it– the body is capable of more than the brain thinks it is… if you let that mental self-doubt sneak in, it can sabotage you well before you reach your potential. I’m a master of self-sabotage. I’m always inside my head, always second-guessing. always predicting the many ways that things could go wrong. Ironically, just this morning, I ran across a post by CrossFit Games competitor Katie Hogan about “how to prep for a max effort lift.” She recommends psyching yourself up– in whatever way works for you. I’ve been working on this lately… I have two approaches: either channeling something that gets me angry, or repeating Sgt. Powerlifter’s slogan: “I’m going to make this weight my b*tch.” It’s silly, but the words allow me to embody an attitude that I can’t quite own on a regular basis. And–even if just for those few vital seconds– it allows me to mime a confidence that then become real when I pull the bar. So… Katie Hogan stomps and curses out her weight plates, I mentally demoralize mine with questionably sexist trash-talking. But hey… find what works for you πŸ™‚

After testing my one rep maxes, I decided to participate in the box’s WOD. We could either run 3 miles or row 5k. Because I’d just maxed my deadlift, I felt more like a light jog than the prolonged torture of rowing… so I embarked on my three-miler, but foolishly slow. I missed the turn, and wound up probably running an extra mile or two after I got lost. Silly wandering Jomad. I didn’t mind the extra distance, but I’m regretting it a bit now since I’m not accustomed to endurance runs and the soreness is settling in. Mostly, I’m worried that I’ll be too sore to participate in tomorrow’s programmed “Nancy” WOD (sprints and overhead squats), but we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

Oh! It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned anything food-related, but I’ve been experimenting with paleo-esque barbecue sauces just for fun… partially because I bought a case of tomato paste from Sam’s Club and needed to discover new things to do with it. Here’s what I have right now:

(Mostly) Paleo BBQ Sauce:

6 oz can tomato paste
1 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar
3 TBSP Mustard
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
Splash of liquid smoke
Generous amounts of onion and garlic Powder and smoked paprika
3 TBSP water (to thin out the consistency)

Add honey, molasses, or apple juice if you prefer a sweeter flavor

Anyway. The new semester is only two weeks away and my professors have already sent out our first assignments… so my Friday evening’s about to be a blast. Happy weekend to you all.

Daily Foodstuffs and Swole Jo

In Food, Training, WOD on July 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Thank you to everyone who read my last, very emo post. I’m so grateful for all the supportive feedback I’ve received and reminded of how lucky I am to be part of such a wonderful community. Really, you guys rock… and I promise not to overrun you with the sappy stuff too often.

Did everyone catch the CrossFit Games this weekend? To be honest, I was a little disappointed to see last year’s heroes take first repeat their wins this year, but I admit that it’s unfair for me to begrudge them their hard work. My heroes this year, however are:

Matt Chan– the oldest competitor to take the podium, and this year’s second-place finisher.

Chris Spealler– the only competitor to participate in all six CrossFit games. At 5’5″ and 151lbs, he’s almost 60lbs smaller than a lot of the male competitors. The commentators loved that. But it was so inspiring just to watch him keep up with the other athletes. And never does he blame his performance on his size difference.

Talayna Fortunato– The women’s third place finisher. From my limited research, she seems to have burst out of nowhere. Just a spectator at last year’s games, she arrived full force this year. She discovered Rudy’s Outlaw Way programming via some other CrossFitter’s blog and began following it without knowing what it was. Eventually, she started making a splash in her region, and someone informed Rudy about it, whereupon he offered to coach her (distance coaching– lots of videos). Outlaw was already recruiting a small following before the Games. After Talayna’s incredible finish, and the success of many of their other athletes*, I expect it to explode soon.

[*Full list of Outlaw Games athletes:
Individuals –
-Talayna Fortunato – 3rd
-Elisabeth Akinwale – 7th
-Candace Hamilton Hester – 27th
-Candice Ruiz – 29th
-Alicia Gomes – 32nd
-Christen Wagner – 41st
-Rika Diederiks – 43rd

-Chad Mackay – 9th
-Patrick Burke –16th
-Justin Allen – 26th
-Austin Stack – 34th
-Kevin Simons – 37th
-Jason Hoggan – 38th
-Brandon Phillips – 42nd

-CrossFit Central – 13th
-CrossFit Champlain Valley – 18th
-Team Butchers Lab – 23rd
-CrossFit CDR – 24th
-CrossFit 7 Mile – 41st]

I was also crushed to see Kris Clever miss the podium by a single spot. She put up an incredible fight all the way through Fran, but couldn’t hang onto the bar for the last set of pull-ups. That’s where Talayna took the lead. I also find it interesting how strength seems to be the deciding factor for men (Chris Spealler, admirable as he is, just couldn’t keep up when the weights got heavy), but for the women the fight seems won or lost on gymnastics skills. All top three women were college gymnasts. Actually Annie (first place) and Julie (second place) were both gymnasts and pole vaulters. Some strange, magic combination there? Power, flexibility, body awareness…

As for my own training, the deadlift went well today. I actually had a revelation that I can drop the bar from the top of the lift and not guide it back down– thereby saving my strength for the next pull. I’ve probably been wasting energy this entire time doing it the other way. Anyway… I’m really aiming for a 200lb max before the end of August… fingers crossed. Not much more work today– just pull ups, a few rowing sprints, and some GHDs. I also played around with the reverse hyper, which made my lower back feel delightful. I need to look up some videos on proper usage though and make sure I’m not just flailing around on it like an idiot.

I’m also playing around with going to the gym later in the day. To be entirely (and again, all too) honest, I used to stick with the morning because 1) I’m obsessive and I like to check things off my “to-do” list ASAP… and even something as enjoyable as working out becomes part of that to-do list… but also 2) because my IBS used to be so awful that the morning was the only time I wasn’t in pain… Fortunately(!) eating mostly paleo has led to a major, major improvement in all of that. I suppose I haven’t given you an update since I started experimenting with the reintroduction of foods. Here’s what I’ve discovered thus far:

Dairy: OMG NO. … I knew I reacted poorly to dairy, but I’ve been on-and-off with yogurt for a while, so I decided to take a leap off the stupid cliff chance and try 1/3 a container of Greek Yogurt. That took about three days to fully recover. Never again. I was a big dairy fan as a kid so every now and then I have a lapse in judgment and think “maybe I can try just a little…” But really, if you see me ever thinking about reaching for something that comes from a cow-boobs again… slap me. Bad bad bad.

Wheat: Not great… some discomfort, but bearable… as in I don’t need to be crazy paranoid if there are wheat contaminants if I’m eating out, but still something I’ll avoid for my daily comfort.

Peanuts: Not an issue (HOORAY!)

Whey protein: Very much so depends on the brand. I’m guessing that some supplements have different percentages of lactose that may or may not upset my system. I’ve been very happy with Nitrean+ from AtLarge Nutrition. The owner, Chris Mason, is very active in the CrossFit community and answers all my obnoxious little questions about nutrition.

As for the other stuff… to be honest, once I eliminated it, I haven’t felt the need to bring it back– aka spend money on finding out whether I’ll feel horrible. I know that I react poorly to soybeans… I’m wondering if tofu will have the same effect on me (should be easier to digest, since it’s fermented), but I haven’t bothered to go out and buy tofu yet. Garbanzo beans seem acceptable. Not sure about other legumes.

I’ve also been caffeine-free for… what is it, almost a month now? I haven’t bothered to discover if it upsets my stomach because I don’t want to reintroduce the stimulant to my system. It’s pretty easy to stay off it now, but I’m pretty sure that if I had a taste, I’d go back to my cup a day. I may return to it once the semester starts up, but until then, I’m enjoy my days without energy crashes.

I’ve received a few emails asking about my daily foodstuffs, so I guess I’ll address that here. Keep in mind, I’m far from a nutritional expert, and what works for me might not work for you.

Breakfast: Usually an egg scramble of some sort (they used to be omelets, but I got lazy and stopped making them look pretty). Eggs, frozen veggies, and leftover meat. Roasted chestnuts.

Lunch: Turkey, homemade guacamole, and roasted or sauteed vegetables of some kind. Sweet potatoes.

Pre-workout: Deli meat wrapped around almond (or peanut) butter. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. Also, sometimes I have a few pieces of non-dairy cheese (not at all paleo, I know. But the soy additive doesn’t seem to bother me and I have a bunch left over from before I started the paleo experiment. Seems to be just the soybeans themselves that I shouldn’t have. I’m curious about soy sauce)

Post-workout: Nitrean+ shake, sweet potato

Dinner: Meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork… thinking about trying lamb sometime), veggies (roasted or sauteed in coconut oil), mashed sweet potato dressed in coconut oil and smoked paprika.

Dessert: Avocado Mousse… also peanut butter.

Snacks: I snack a lot, despite the common paleo advice not to… Usually spoonfuls of peanut/almond/coconut butter, slices of deli meat, veggies with guac, frozen berries, that sort of stuff. Also, reheated sweet potato fries. Or cold sweet potato fries. In front of the fridge, straight from the tupperware. I’m classy like that.

I also drink a lot of almond milk, which is supposedly not paleo because of some additive or another… and coconut milk, even the stuff with guar gum because I really can’t bring myself to care about minutiae like that. As long as I’m not crippled with stomach pains, it’s fine by me.

As for portion sizes, I usually go with 1.5 to double the protein recommendations per meal, unlimited leafy greens, fist-size for all starchy carbohydrates, and unlimited fats. Keep in mind, I’m also a bit of a physical weirdo so this is probably only useful to small women trying to get swole :). That said, the scale reads 109 today. That’s fucking incredible. Unfortunately, I’m not lifting quite as much as I’d hoped to be around this weight, but I’m hoping that will come with time. Also, disappointingly, this means that my 200lb max won’t quite be 2xbodyweight as I’d hoped, but let’s just count on those lifts continuing to rise…

Bottoms Up!

In Food, Training on July 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Are there any sights sadder than the bottom of a peanut butter jar?

Fortunately, I was consoled by this shipment of rich, buttery sweetness:

I’m a pretty huge fan of iHerb ( They carry a huge stock of supplement/hard to find “health foods,” their prices are almost always lower than actual stores, and they ship for free on orders over $20. Here, I found coconut butter for almost half the price that they were at our grocery store. Yes, I bought two. Don’t judge me. Also, if you’re a first-time customer, you can receive $5 off with the promo code: SOD407 . They also send you free samples of stuff with your shipment, which is how I discovered a pretty tasty, Whole 30-condoned hot cocoa called CocaoCeps (you can search for it on the site; wordpress won’t let me link it).

But enough about food. The training. I was actually very happy with today’s squats. I’ve received a lot of tips from lifters far more experienced than I about the importance of a full squat, but today was the first time that really clicked for me. I’m definitely squatting deeper than I ever used to, but sometimes I’m still a little high. I’m reaching the point where I can feel the difference though. When I hit the optimal depth, the lift feels significantly easier– as if there were 25 fewer pounds on my back. It’s funny… because my brain is afraid of dropping the full depth as if that would make the lift harder, but in actuality (as the Archeologist explained to me today), reaching that bottom position allows you to engage the proper muscle groups, which 1) propels you out of the hole faster/stronger, and 2) protects you from injury (aka tipping heavy, above-bodyweight loads onto smaller, ill-prepared muscles).

It’s a mind game. One I lose frequently. If I’m not “scared” before I lower myself into the lift, I can hit the bottom position just fine. If I psych myself out, I start back up too soon and end up making the lift harder on myself. As one of my favorite, curmudgeonly Marines reminds me, “Don’t be a pussy.” I think this means that I’m going to have to start asking for a spotter for all my work sets… It’s something I’ve avoided if I’m fairly confident that I can survive the load because usually people are busy with their own things at the gym… but having spotters there gives me the confidence to engage the full range of motion. So… apologies to people who might be around when I’m squatting now. πŸ™‚

Despite the good news on the squat, I’m ticked off about my press. I broke my plateau last week, managing 62.5 for 3 sets of 5. This week I failed after two reps with 65, and only managed four reps a set for 62.5. I know that women often struggle with the press… but this is now the third time I’ve stalled out at this weight, and I want to do something about it. I’m going to look into more supplementary work for shoulders and incorporating shoulder movements into my workouts… I just don’t want to overtrain the muscle group either.

Anyway… it’s a reminder that I’m nearing the end of this linear progression. My deadlifts are almost at my goal of 200lbs. I think my bench still has a tiny bit of room to grow, and we’ll see about those power cleans… but the squat and press are piddling out pretty damn quickly… though I’m hoping I’ll at least be able to break this old plateau. I’ll have to do something thinking about what comes next. For now though.. a trip to Wegman’s. One can’t live off coconut butter alone!

Unwired, Unwound

In Rhetoric, Training, WOD, Writing on July 9, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Hello, friends! I suppose I’m overdue for an update– on food, training, and life in general.

It’s officially been a week since I stopped by “Whole 14” cleanse in attempt to diagnose my “trigger foods” for my IBS symptoms. Thus far, I feel good. I’ve reintroduced my post-workout shake, and I’m happy to report that my recovery feels much better now. I was very worried on day one because my stomach rebelled after the protein shake. On day two, I had slightly lesser symptoms, and by day three, I was tolerating it all right. I’m also thrilled to announce that I’ve also reintegrated peanut butter (by the heaping spoonful) and regret nothing. The thing is… I can feel that my body operates less “smoothly” with these “irritants,” but they’re a mild evil compared to life before and I do limit myself to one protein shake a day– most of my protein should still come from whole food sources. In terms of other whole foods, I’m fairly certain that soybeans (as in the dried edamame beanpods on which I snacked by the cupful) give me notable distress, and I should cut those from my diet. I’m not sure about soy products though– such as soy sauce or soy additives in foods… I’ll have to experiment more there.

I’m a little puzzled by my strength development. The other day, the Mean Machine pulled up an old document that our gym started once-upon-a-time (when we were little more than a handful of members, two mismatched rowers, and an odd assortment of jury rigged pullup bars). I don’t even remember entering my numbers, but apparently at some point we documented our lifts. This must have been upwards of nine months ago. Since then, my deadlift has increased by 70 lbs, my press and bench both by about 20. My back squat, however, has only risen ten lbs. That’s… frustrating, to say the least– especially because the squat is so vital for just about everything we do in CrossFit. I know a lot of my limitations in the squat has to do with my hip mobility. I can feel that my left hip is dramatically tighter than my right and I rise unevenly from the bottom of the squat. I’ve been trying to stretch more, but it seems that imbalance follows me regardless of however much agonizing bendyness I force into my stiff little limbs.

I’ve looked up all the hip videos on mobility WOD… and I’ve tried to incorporate them into my days, but honestly my left hip just seems permanently inflexible. If anyone has any particularly creative suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

A thought on food intolerance though… I’m fairly certain that my stomach was reacting poorly to the protein shakes for the first couple of days and needed to remember how to digest whey in its concentrated form– or whatever other additives are in my chosen powder. Similarly, I’m not much of a drinker. The other night, we went out to commemorate a friend’s graduation/send her off to her new life in Kentucky. I had… more shots than I’m accustomed to, and I felt awful for the next two days. My headache has only just dissipated today. When I studied abroad in England, during my sophomore year in college, I could take eight shots a night and feel fine the next morning– granted, I was a slightly larger Jo (by about 30 lbs) back then, but still… I’m torn between the fact that… yes, our bodies operate better and “optimally” on these superclean diets, but unless you intend to eat so very strictly for the rest of your life, you’re not going to be able to avoid all these “contaminants” and you’ve perhaps made yourself more vulnerable in those moments. Though this may only apply to people with hypersensitive (e.g. bitchy) digestive systems such as myself.

Workouts these past few days have been good, but nothing worth reporting. I did, however, try a WOD this morning that I’d like to share. After working on Snatches (from the floor) and two-position squat cleans, I did “Lars”:

5 rounds for time:
1 round =
–Β  sandbag carry uphill 100 m
– 10 sandbag squats behind head
–Β  sandbag carry downhill 100m
– 10 burpees
our 100m path is not on a hill, but the workout was plenty hellish without. I was ambitious for the first two rounds and started with a 30lb sandbag. After 400m of awkward limping, though, I went to 20lbs. Though I’m thrilled that the box actually has sandbags now, our sandbags are filled with medballs rather than sand. They make for awkward carrying devices. If my shoulders were at all broader, I might be able to balance the bags across them, but my options are to either hold the bag against my back (and strain my triceps the whole way) or sling the ball over a single waifish shoulder. The latter option allows me to run faster, but those of us with girl-parts know that… weighted rubber items jouncing against those girl-parts as you run make for an unpleasant experience.*
[*I can’t imagine how that would feel for ladies with weighted items permanently implanted in their girl parts]**
[**No disrespect to said ladies– … though, ow]
Yesterday, I went on my first-ever tubing adventure. Very fortuitously, one of our gym members is a bit of a tubing… enthusiast? A tubiast? Anyway… he has a stash of inner tubes and has just about memorized all the dips and curves in the river’s current. It was a lovely… lovely time… just sitting outdoors, lazing down the river, chatting with friends. I whine about it a lot, so you’ll have to indulge me if you’ve heard this rant before: I love what I study… I love teaching, I believe in the potential of language, I’m invigorated by my research, and I could never live without the catharsis of my writing… but I loathe how much of it confines me to a desk (or, on lazy days, a couch), in front of a computer. It was unspeakably wonderful to be outside, in fantastic company, and unwired. What’s even better… after I returned home, I managed to fill in the scene in my novel*** with which I’ve been struggling for a while. I take this as a sign that “unplugging” ourselves from the world is actually beneficial to productivity and general mental well-being. One of my most frustrating traits (to myself and those around me) is that I feel like I should be working all the time… I feel obligated to work all the time. I very, very rarely just sit in front of the tv because I feel as if I’m wasting time. But time spent outside in the company of good friends feels so very worthwhile that it can even make my deadlines seem trivial. Thank you to good friends for reminding me to enjoy life.
[***About the novel: I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I finished my 260+ paged manuscript for my MFA thesis. However, the manuscript is still a few steps away from anything I’d term a “novel.” In addition to my independent study work for my English rhetoric PhD this summer, I hope to tweak my manuscript into something more worthwhile…]
Happy Monday everyone.

Whole 14: DONE

In Food, Training, Uncategorized, WOD on July 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Dear Whey Protein:

I know we’ve had our ups and downs since I first discovered you during my misguided P90x years. We’ve been on again and off again and on again. I’ve dabbled with at least 6 different brands until I at last found one that was 1) affordable and 2) gentle on my stomach. And after all that effort, I’ve abandoned you for the past two weeks in pursuit of my Whole 14. I’m so, so, so very sorry. Please come back to my life.



Okay, facetiousness aside… I’m done with my Whole 14! πŸ˜€ And, even though I said peanut butter would be the first thing on my reintroduction list, today I went straight for the protein shake. I know that’s not the wisest decision because whey powders contain a crapton* of ingredients, but I couldn’t resist.

[*Crapton: Approximately 2,000 crappounds or 100 cubic crapfeet.]

Also, I feel better after the protein shake. Part of it must be placebo-esque, but… whereas I’ve felt worn down a couple hours after each workout for the past two weeks, I felt fine with my usual recovery drink. Today’s workout, by the way, was lovely. It was definitely a long-and-slow day… I’m really starting to embrace these strength-focus days when I can just kind of move at my own pace and prepare myself before each lift.


Back Squat 3×5

Should Press 3×5 (PR!) I finally broke past that plateau with which I’ve been struggling for the past… forever

Pull ups, strict: 7, 7, 7 (Winner!)

And then a WOD that I took at my own pace…

7 Rounds:

100 ft Farmer’s walk (1.5 pd in each hand)

10 box jumps (20″)

10 burpees (I’m starting to get so slow at these after not doing them for a long time…)

Oh, I suppose if you’ve been paying extra close attention, you might notice that I just squatted on my “rest” day. I’m experimenting with resetting my schedule so that I squat on wednesdays and saturdays now because the box has the occasional gymnastics/striking class on Thursdays, and now we plan on playing CrossFit dodgeball (!!! πŸ˜€ !!!), so I’m hoping that this schedule might better accommodate more CrossFit extracurriculars πŸ™‚

Happy July 4th to all. I bitch about the problems in America as much as the next person, but honestly, I’ve seen what my parents went through to earn their citizenships here so that I could have opportunities they didn’t have in their home country. There’s a lot of dumb shit in the land of privilege, but how fortunate are we to have those privileges? And how absurd is it that we’re so protected, so safe, that so many of us can walk around ignorant of the men and women who’ve dedicated their lives to ensuring those privileges?

Happy Independence Day. Thank the brave for keeping us free. πŸ™‚

Homemade Sandbag!

In Food, Training, WOD on July 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm

So, I’ve reached the final day of my “Whole 14,” and I thank you all for bearing with me as I whined about my digestive dilemmas. The verdict? I’m glad I did it. There were some definite benefits to eating cleanly “paleo.” As I mentioned before, I slept better than I have in years. Though I still experienced (disappointingly) the occasional IBS symptoms, they were dramatically reduced and much more infrequent.Β  I didn’t experience sugar highs or crashes (at least not after those initial four days of awful withdrawal). Also, I felt satiated after meals. I stayed full for a lot longer, and when I felt hungry, my blood sugar didn’t swing (so no dizziness, no irritability– I’m usually irreducibly hAngry when I’m hungry… which is also usually too frequent). The downside is that my recovery never made it back up from what it used to be, which baffles me. If I feel so much better in so many other ways, why does my body struggle to repair itself now? Other inconveniences: I was never particularly handy in the kitchen to begin with, so I spend way too much of my time cooking. And, really, I don’t see this as a fully sustainable lifestyle for me. I’d like to be able to go out and have a few drinks with friends (though I know that alcohol aggravates my symptoms, but I make concessions anyway…); I’d like to enjoy meals out without worrying about all the ingredients, etc… I also need to be able to buy cheaper… not-grass-fed-everything. A grad student’s salary doesn’t quite support a paleo pantry. Nevertheless, there are a few things from this experiment that I would like to keep: 1) COCONUT BUTTER. 2) fewer sweetened things. I don’t think I’ll abandon sweeteners altogether, but I like not getting sugar cravings… and not being shaky when I’m hungry… but I wonder if I can keep the cravings at bay if I reintroduce a few sweetened things? I guess we’ll find out. 3) Less caffeine. I’m curious as to whether or not caffeine screws with my stomach… I intend to try something like a half-caff americano when I start back up to see… but I also like not needing that afternoon cup anymore.

Unfortunately, my strength progression has definitely slowed, and I’m hoping it will revive with the reintroduction of (hopefully) most foods. I’m hoping that I can find the worst triggers and eliminate those while not adhering to nearly so rigid a set of guidelines.

Anyway, yesterday’s deadlifts were a little shakey– 5 at 175lbs (~1.75x bodyweight). I’m going to bump it up another 5 for next week, but I’m nervous. My grip is actually my limiting factor on my deadlifts. With 175, by the time I stand, my hands are already half un-clenched, and from there it slips to the ground. I intend to incorporate more farmer’s walks into my supplementary work and hopefully that’ll help.

This morning, I woke with a bit of extra energy, so I played around with my new homemade sandbag:

1 duffel bag + rubber mulch bound in trashbags (and then in contractor trash bags– not pictured) + obscene amounts of duct tape.

The duffel bag is bigger than I’d like it to be, so I’ve ordered some rope from Amazon and I hope to tie off the extra fabric at the end so the garbage bags/mulch don’t slide around as much. To christen my new toy, I started this morning with Ross Training’s 25 Repetition Roulette:

1 burpee

clean sandbag to shoulders

press bag overhead

overhead lunge with each leg.

Repeat for 25 total reps. Quick and simple, but effective. I like the amorphousness of the bag and how it forces you to adapt to the shifting weight.

Afterwards, I also did ten reps of my own invented dumbbell complex. It’s basically a renegade row with a squat clean thruster afterwards. So the full movement is:

Push up (with hands on dumbbells– for me this was 25lbs)

“Row” (pull the dumbell up) with your left arm

Push up

Right-arm row


Squat clean the dumbbells to your shoulders

Thruster the weights overhead

That’s one rep. I only did ten, but that was enough for a quick morning workout.

In direct contrast to my stunning productivity yesterday, I have achieved close to nothing today. So… I should probably get on that before tonight’s activities. Happy Tuesday, all.

No Pain, No Pain

In Rhetoric, Training on July 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

The notorious “Uncle Rhabdo”

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m examining the gym as social/rhetorical space in my PhD work, and now and then I come across something I think worth sharing with my indulgent blog-readers. If this sounds like too much academic fluff, I apologize. What I’ll be looking at in my dissertation is the gym (particularly gyms that market “functional fitneess”– so CrossFit-esque though not necessarily strictly CrossFit) as a social space. And I want to examine how rhetorical practices (verbal and nonverbal) influence physical practices and vise versa, as well as how cultural context impacts all of the above. It’s all very muddled right now, but I’m excited about it because– not only is it something that fascinates me endlessly– it’s very unexamined territory right now, and thus an invigorating place to be in one’s studies. The gym’s such an interesting space because inhabits a borderland between “public” and “private,” and– even more interesting–it’s where we go to change our bodies, for whatever number of reasons… but those changes reflect and enact any number of personal and societal ideals.

Anyway, there’s very little work done on the gym as social space– particularly fitness facilities. Sports theory has focused largely on professional (or collegiate) sports… some of the material I’ve found has been entirely useless while others have presented fascinating kernels of insight without further exploration. One article I read, authored by an English professor/spinning instructor meditated on the vocabulary used by different fitness instructors in their training methodology. How the harsher, drill-instructor types seemed only to recruit already-fit clients. Anyway… she pointed out how much of fitness refers to itself as punishment– how many personal trainers tell you to “work off” the muffin you had this morning, or– even worse– to “earn” the pumpkin pie you’ll eat at Thanksgiving, as if you’re being castigated for a predicted crime. While I’m proud to say that CrossFit eschews much of this (I’ve heard no mention of burning off your morning donuts in the box), it has definitely embraced exercise-as-punishment– or rather, exercise should hurt. However facetiously, this is a sport that’s made a mascot out of rhabdomyolysis.

Another fascinating aspect of studying CrossFit for me is that it’s still an emergent sport. It’s still finding its footing, still in the process of becoming whatever it is it wants to be. I see a lot of CrossFit now taking steps towards caution– more advice about smarter programming, patient training, and fewer glamor shots of ripped hands. Nevertheless, we have many years of that “no pain, no gain” philosophy to counteract. A lot of what I see on the CrossFit forums these days is veteran, more experienced athletes counseling new enthusiasts about moderation. Not every day has to be a metcon, not every workout needs to leave you an incoherent puddle. But is anyone surprised that CrossFit has perpetuated this athletic masochism? We have t-shirts like “Fran Happened” — featuring bloodied palms from 4 minutes of delirious exertion. We’ve adopted slang such as “meeting pukie” as if exhausting yourself to the point that your body rebels is a rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love in intensity. I’ve written several odes to that meditative state you hit in a particularly grueling workout, but I’m glad CrossFit is beginning to draw the line between pushing your limits and brazenly crashing through them. CrossFit already attracts a certain type– people eager willing to throw themselves through strength programs followed by all-out-intensity rounds of box jumps and thrusters and wall balls. 5 days a week. Perhaps sometimes what we need to reinforce sometimes is not the “pain” but the healing. After all– that’s how we build our strength, right? You get stronger not when your muscles are torn apart, but as they repair.

There’s Jo’s thought of the day.

As for my “Whole 14” challenge, it’s going by quicker than I thought. Soon, I’ll be reintroducing peanuts, then soy, then protein powders and then eventually I work my way through the other banned ingredients to test my individual tolerance. As to how I feel? It’s day twelve and… meh. The sugar cravings are gone, which I appreciate, though I don’t doubt they’ll come back. I just don’t think I’ll avoid all sweeteners everywhere forever… they’re everywhere, and they’re tasty on occasion. My digestive disturbances are significantly fewer and further between. Unfortunately, they’re not altogether absent. I suppose it would’ve been too naive to hope for one of those paleo “transformation” stories where this lifestyle cured me of a lifetime of suffering. Not quite so much. I do feel better–much, much better, but I still have to accept the fact that my genetics suck and my digestive system may always hate me a little bit. But my recovery still sucks. I’m still sore-ish, and really before this I’d long moved past the perpetual soreness you feel upon starting a CrossFit regimen. The recovery drink is probably a crutch and my dependence on it might entirely be placebo effect… but at least it was working? I hope it’s not what was irritating my stomach, but I suppose we’ll found out later in the week.

No really excited WODs to post about today. Yesterday, I worked on O-lift technique– definitely light weights. Today, I did squats (3 week reset), bench (still going up– *knock on wood*), and then I tried an actually fun new exercise: lateral sled drag. Basically, you hook a sled up to your ankles and walk sideways to work your adductor/abductors (I never remember which one’s which). 6 x 20 yards.

Happy Sunday, folks!

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…