The CrossFit Fitness Standards

No new post today; I just want to share one the original CrossFit Journal posts, in case we all need a reminder as Regionals looms. 

"Fitness requires an ability to perform well at all tasks, even unfamiliar tasks, tasks combined in infinitely varying combinations.... It should be fairly clear that the fitness that CrossFit advocates and develops is deliberately broad, general, and inclusive."

https://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ-trial.pdf

 

 

How Powerlifting Can Help Break Your CrossFit Plateau

At some point, every CrossFit athlete hits a point in their training where they feel stuck. PRs are rare, benchmark WODs hurt more than usual, and your conditioning seems stuck.

This is known as a plateau (also called a rut). It’s not a fun place to be.

If you’re training smart, eating well, and getting adequate sleep, there are only a few places to look for the culprit. Maximal strength is one of them.

Maximal strength - meaning your overall power - is a limiting factor for a lot of athletes. If you’re worried that your raw output isn’t up to par, taking a few months to focus on powerlifting might be the key.

 

What is powerlifting and how can it help?

Powerlifting concentrates on three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. Building power in those movements will increase your strength reserves and help you move with more force. Since your overall strength goes up, your CrossFit workouts will be at a lower percentage of your max.

As a result, they’ll take up less energy. We can all rep out 60% for a lot longer, and a lot cleaner, than we can rep out 100%.

Greater maximal strength = deeper strength reserves = faster, lighter reps, with less energy output. Sound good?  

Here are a few suggestions for integrating raw strength building into your CrossFit routine.

 

1. Choose programming that translates well

Powerlifting programs, like any other type of training, can be incredibly varied. Look for a program that is strength-based, accompanied by accessory movements, and offers some level of freedom.

That freedom means you can choose the work that will best translate into your CrossFit movements. You'll work the three big lifts, of course, but your accessory movements are key.

For example, overhead press is directly transferrable to CrossFit. Plus, it builds your triceps, shoulders, and lockout strength - which all helps your bench. Including OHP as an accessory, or as a primary lift day, is a good idea.

Deadlifting and squatting offer obvious benefits to your WOD game. Building your posterior chain will improve everything from your rowing strength to your pull-ups. Increasing your squat will help you breeze through wall balls, thrusters, cleans and snatches... The list goes on.

Again, choose your accessories wisely. Include front squats, and movements that focus on the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Think about adding deficit and Romanian deadlifts - they’ll help with your initial pull, and the lockout, which tend to be the stickiest points in a clean rep.

 

2. know what to avoid

Be careful about any program that requires a lot of single-rep work. Test your one-rep max before you start a program, to establish your absolute capacity. Then translate that number into your working percentages.

Other than that, avoid single rep work until the end of your cycle. Max effort work is incredibly taxing on the central nervous system (CNS), and we stress that out enough during CrossFit.

Instead, choose a cycle like a 5x5. Progressive overload will concentrate on your top priority - building strength.

 

3. Don’t forget your conditioning

At the end of the day, you’re trying to improve your CrossFit. The goal isn’t to be a world-class powerlifter. Don’t forget about the importance of conditioning.

When incorporating a powerlifting split into CrossFit training, reduce your metcon work accordingly. Choose workouts that are short and explosive, but not heavily taxing on your CNS. Or, focus on long, sweaty workouts that build mental toughness and grit. I did a lot of two kilometre rows and running intervals (1:1 work to rest).

The goal is to keep up your aerobic capacity, without stressing your body to the point of injury.

Just be smart. Don’t do 21-15-9 heavy deadlifts and box jumps, right after a deadlift powerlifting session. Just don’t.  

 

3. Check in with your body to avoid overtraining

Whenever you include more work into your normal routine, you need to monitor your body to make sure it’s responding well. Powerlifting loads your joints differently than CrossFit. Give yourself the best chance for recovery.

Maybe that means finally shelling out for that ROMWOD subscription (so, so worth it). Maybe it means trying supplements, to help your body adapt to new stressors. Fish oil can prevent the synthesis of substances that cause inflammation; glucosamine can reduce collagen breakdown and help repair damaged cartilage.

At the end of the day, research shows that weightlifting isn’t any harder on your body than any other sport. Proper form and careful monitoring will keep you in good shape.

 

4. Track and test to measure your progress

Make sure you know your numbers going into your cycle, and test to stay on the right track. I’m not talking about weekly 1RM sessions - that helps no one - but have a goal in mind.

Your rate of improvement will vary based on your experience level. Beginner lifters can expect big jumps in numbers, and experienced CrossFitters might notice only slight, 1% improvements. That’s fine; you’re still closing the gaps in your training.

Don't judge all your progress by your 1RM. Even if that number refuses to budge, take note of how you feel working through higher percentages. If you’re more comfortable repping out 80% than you were when you started, you’re building muscular endurance. Well done.

Generally speaking, you should see positive improvements after eight weeks of consistency. If not, it may be time to change it up.

 

To sum it all up…

Building your maximal strength by improving your three big lifts - squat, deadlift, and bench - might be key to breaking through a CrossFit plateau. Choose a strength-based cycle, don’t neglect aerobic conditioning, and pay attention to rest and recovery. Supplement as necessary, then test and measure your progress.

Now, let the gains begin.

Tips for Using Your Leftover Produce

I always buy tons of fresh produce with the best intentions. Giant salads! Huge soups! Smoothies every morning! Vitamin-drunk must be a thing, and I think I’m a lightweight. That, or I’m just deathly afraid of getting scurvy.

We eat a ton of vegetables and fruit, so I don’t limit my produce-buying much. Still, dig into my fridge and you’ll often find a few sad-looking stalks of kale, a Tupperware of wimpy celery, or half a wrapped-up cucumber that’s lost its crunch a little.

So, what do we do with all the forgotten nutrients? There are so many reasons to reduce the amount of food waste we create, and high up on the list is cost - throwing away food physically pains me right in the wallet. We buy local and organic; wasting food is wasting money. As a result, I’ve had to get creative with last-day vegetables and fruits. Here are some of my favourite ways to use up fridge odds and ends.

 

Soup it

This is kind of a no-brainer. This potato and kale soup is delicious, and perfect for add-ins like leftover spinach, chards, celery, mushrooms, or carrots. Produce that wouldn’t hold its own in a salad will still add great flavour to a nice broth.

 

Juice it

Okay, literally any produce is good in juice. Beets? Yes. Cucumbers, celery, cucumbers, spinach, parsley? Yes. Apples, lemons, oranges, limes… You get the picture.

As a general rule, pair your veggies with at least one fruit to make everything palatable. One of my favourites is pear, spinach, cucumber, celery, and mint. Very nice. Or, try apple, orange, lemon, fresh ginger, and turmeric. (Yes, I’ve given in to the turmeric craze.)

Pro tip - if you don’t have produce that’s about to go bad, check out the discount section in your market or grocery store. I’ll often find pineapples, melons, or berries that are just a little too ripe to be called “fresh” at half price. Those are at their sweetest, and work great in a juice.

Another pro tip - you don’t need a juicer. You do need a decent blender and a strainer or cheesecloth. I’ve also saved the pulp from these juices and used them in smoothies or later juices. Reuse and recycle, all day.  

 

Roast it

Drizzle coconut, olive, or avocado oil over your veggies and toss with paprika, sea salt, ground pepper, and fresh garlic. Then roast into submission in a hot oven - around 400 degrees. This is my go-to for elderly broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, eggplant, you name it.  

Roasted veggies are delicious, nutritious, and keep well; pair with an easy protein like chicken and you’ll have lunch for the next day ready, too.

 

Use Pantry Staples

Make use of all the other staples you have in your fridge and cupboards. A wild rice salad with a vinegar and citrus dressing will mask any lacking crisp in your grapes. Or, make a little broccoli and feta pasta with feta and kalamata olives (I’ve used leftover frozen edamame, green beans, and zucchini, too). Get creative with whatever else you have in your kitchen to bolster your veggies and fruit.

With a little attention and originality, you can make sure every piece of vegetation in your fridge gets used up instead of thrown out. You’ll save money and reduce waste - plus, you can shop the grocery sales freely without worrying what you’ll do with all those veggies. After all, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

 

On Burnout as an Opportunity

A few days ago, I had one of those soul-crushing workouts where you end up on the floor, dripping sweat, about five minutes after everyone else is finished. The WOD was 15-12-9 handstand pushups and box jump overs, two movements I usually enjoy.

For whatever reason, my shoulders weren’t up for the challenge that day. Halfway into my first set of HSPUs, I failed a rep, and then another rep.

I normally don’t have an issue with HSPUs, so I gave my coach a “WTF?” stare and asked for his help. He shrugged, raised his hands, and said, “Do doubles.” (Pro tip - two reps at a time.)

So, I did doubles. And then singles. Which meant I was still finishing up my round of 12 when everyone else was done and dusted.

It’s called burnout, and it happens more often than I’d like. It happens in the gym, and in the office. Luckily, I’ve learned some valuable lessons as I slog through the ashes.

Whether you’re dealing with creative block or a training cycle that just isn’t clicking, use moments of burnout as a learning opportunity, a coaching opportunity, and a chance to do things differently next time.

 

Burnout is a chance to show what you’re made of

Remember when I talked about training objectively? The way you handle moments of adversity defines your approach to training. When you hit that level of muscle fatigue, where you just can’t do another rep, you have a few options.

The smartest one is to take a breath, shake out your arms and legs, and reevaluate your plan. If you thought you’d do sets of ten, cut it down to fives or triples. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting on the spot; in fact, your ability to do so makes you a more flexible, and better athlete.

 

Recognize the opportunity

I’m definitely guilty of getting worked up in the middle of a tough workout - I’ve even cried in a competition (#thestruggleisreal). As I quickly learned... That solves nothing.

For me, that emotional outburst didn’t stem from fatigue or physical pain. It came from embarrassment.

I didn’t want to “lose” the workout. I didn’t want to be last. I’m a coach now, and as I struggled through my single HSPUs, I started feeling like a failure for not being as fast and as strong as I want to be.

In that same moment, though, I realized that this was a both a learning opportunity, and a coaching opportunity.

Learning opportunity: Don’t give in to frustration or embarrassment. Put your head down and do the work, for however long it takes you.

Then, analyze - objectively. Why did my shoulders give out? Well, I had overloaded on clean and jerks the day before, and worked on push presses immediately prior to the WOD. Of course my shoulders were tired. I should’ve started with smaller sets, and quick breaks. Now I know - so I let it go, and moved on.

Coaching opportunity: What kind of example would I set if I quit the workout, or cried, or made a big deal out of having a hard day? No one can be amazing at every workout. It’s okay to be last and it’s okay to have weaknesses. CrossFit is about virtuosity; it’s not about perfection.

Plus, I got to experience this really cool moment of having all my peers around me cheering me on, helping me finish the WOD. It reminded me how wonderful the community aspect of CrossFit is. And it reminded me that we’re all in this together - no one left the gym before I finished every rep.

 

Fundamentally, CrossFit teaches you to show up and put in the work. As long as we’re doing that, we’re not failing - whether we’re first to finish or not.



 

Extreme Grocery-List Makeover: Immune System Edition

 It’s happening. The days are getting shorter, the mornings chillier, and the PSL is back. It isn’t officially autumn yet - that happens on my birthday, September 22 - but it’s close.

Since Damien and I already battled one nasty cold in the last month (note my lack of posting recently), I’ve been thinking about how to best keep us healthy as the colder seasons roll around.

Luckily, I have the immune system of an ox (oxes don't get sick, right?) and rarely get ill. Damien, though, battles nearly chronic colds. As a personal trainer and CrossFit coach, he's at a disadvantage; between interacting with clients, handling equipment, and working out himself, his immune system is constantly under stress. 

I'm of the old-school camp that medication comes second to a smart, healthy diet and lifestyle. So I’m going to try and help out our natural defence systems a little more by healthifying our kitchen. That means shopping for ingredients that are focussed on overall wellness, incorporating disease-fighting fruits and vegetables wherever possible, and integrating immune-boosting supplements with our normal diet.  

 

Health-Boosting Grocery List

Berries: Full of antioxidants and Vitamin C, which triggers the production of antibodies.

Oranges & Grapefruits: Again, high levels of Vitamin C. Keeping your Vitamin C high will also help your body absorb iron; plus, any excess will be urinated out.  

Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes (and carrots) are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A. That helps keep your immune system strong and protect you from infectious disease.

Carrots: Vitamin A also strengthens your mucosal lining and your skin, preventing bacteria and viruses from taking hold. 

Kale & Red Pepper: Vitamins A and C.

Spinach, Arugula, & Swiss Chard: Spinach, especially, provides all the fibre. Plus, leafy greens may boost your body’s white blood cell count, which helps prevent disease. They’re also full of zinc, which helps prevent inflammation and stops the growth of bacteria and viruses.

Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitakes contain lentinan, which may have anticancer properties. All mushrooms contain potassium, B vitamins, and fibre.

Fennel: This liquorice-like veggie (wait, fruit?) can help clear congestion and soothe a cough. It’s best as a tea, but can be eaten raw or roasted, as well.

Onions & Garlic: Both have antiviral effects. Garlic contains allicin, which has antioxidant effects when it breaks down. It’s best eaten raw to prevent colds… But luckily, retains many beneficial qualities when cooked.

Lean Ground Beef: We don’t eat much beef, but we may start. It’s stocked with zinc, iron, and B-12. Iron keeps your red blood cells healthy by providing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your cells. B-12 also helps with hemoglobin creation, neurological function, and fat and protein synthesis.

Salmon, Tuna, & Mackerel: Omega-3s, which can help reduce chronic inflammation by helping your immune system get back up to speed.

Beans & Lentils: Lots of zinc, and added proteins.

Flaxseed: Especially ground flaxseed, to help get enough omega-3s.

Almonds: Full of Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

Almond & Peanut Butter: Both offer magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E.  

Kefir: Probiotic that helps with gut health by replenishing strains of healthy bacteria, promoting stomach health but also lowering the risk of respiratory tract infection.

Oats: High in beta-glucan, which helps reduce cholesterol and boost white blood cell count.

 

This is by no means exclusive; there are tons are other foods that are also packed with superhero qualities. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, coconut oil, the list goes on…. And you should include them all. I chose these because their benefits are conducive to long-term health, and they’re easily accessible and affordable.

Keep in mind, normal grocery trips will also still include things like almond milk, lots of eggs and egg whites, apples, cooking vegetables like eggplant/zucchini/broccoli, chicken, wild rice, whole grain pasta, herbs, etc.

 

Recipe Plan

  • Chili with lean ground beef, beans, dark leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potato

  • Fish coconut milk curry with red peppers, chopped kale, mushrooms, onions, and garlic

  • Salad with braised kale, raw shaved fennel, orange segments, almond slivers, and diluted apple cider vinegar dressing

  • Smoothies with apples, almond butter, flaxseed, cinnamon, kefir, and protein powder for sweetness

  • Overnight oats with berries, kefir, almond butter, chia seeds, and chopped nuts as a topping

  • Baked sweet potatoes filled with tuna, avocado-oil mayo, chopped veggies, onions, and garlic

  • Homemade nut-based granola bars, without added sugar.

 

Yes, I already make variations of these recipes… And we still get sick. However, the goal is to consciously combine immunity-boosting foods, and provide backup for our natural protective systems.

Plus, those combinations just sound delicious. I’m all about the smoothies. Yes.

Don’t worry, details will be on the blog as soon as this goes into effect (starting with the weekly grocery shop on Saturday). I’ll keep you updated!


In the meantime, are there any habits or tricks you guys use to stay healthy during flu season?

Think Like a Coach: Train Objectively, Not Emotionally

Over the last two years, I've met a lot of athletes who celebrate everyone else's progress, but find it difficult to recognize their own. I've been thinking about that a lot lately.  

Do you ever find yourself empathizing with a friend who can’t hit a squat PR, but beating yourself up when you hit the same plateau? Do you accept that your gym buddy needs to take a week off when they’re sick, but don’t allow yourself to do the same?

(PS - The irony of me getting sick right after writing this post does not escape me. Funny, life. Funny.)

If you’re anything like me, you’re harder on yourself than anyone else. It’s easy to internalize the culture of no excuses, no pain no gain, don’t give up 'til you’re on the floor. But is that the most productive way to train?

Lately, I’ve been trying to emphasize the importance of training objectively rather than emotionally.

That means talking to yourself like a coach, respecting the process, and remembering your long-term goals.

 

Separate the emotional effect from the source of the problem

Have you ever thrown the bar down after failing to hit a snatch or a clean and jerk, or whipped your rope across the gym when their double-unders aren’t cooperating?

It might help relieve your frustration, but I'm willing to bet that little tantrum didn't help you nail the movement on your next attempt.

Giving in to the anger you feel in that moment is the CrossFit equivalent of going down the rabbit hole. It’s not helping you, it’s not solving the problem, and it’s probably making you look like a tired five-year-old. (Real talk.)

CrossFit is about mental fortitude as well as physical strength. Instead of giving in to all the feelings you’re feeling, take a deep breath and try to objectively identify the source of the problem. You know, the way your coach would.

Maybe you’re pulling too early in the snatch, or your hands sneaking farther and farther away from your sides in your double-unders. Maybe you need to keep the bar in closer, or calm your breathing. If you’re too busy trying to collect your bar or your rope after throwing it away from you, you’re not noticing (and fixing) the issue.

 

Start acknowledging your own hard work

Putting time and effort into your sessions, whether they happen three or five or ten times a week, means you’re getting better.

Remember, CrossFit is measurable. It’s not about your emotions. Even if you don’t think you’re improving in the exact ways you want to, you’re probably moving in the right direction - because you’re moving.

Don’t forget the fact that your 400m run time has gone down just because you’re still struggling with your 500m row. Progress isn’t linear, and it isn’t always easy to see. Give yourself a break. Acknowledge the work you put in.

I’m not just saying that to make you feel better (remember, this whole post is about how much you shouldn’t listen to your feelings). The fact is, establishing consistency is a key building block in the CrossFit journey.

 

Approach training systematically, not reactively

CrossFit includes elements of weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, and more. Your programming is (hopefully) constantly varied, to maintain general proficiency, combined with specific sessions focussing on unique weaknesses.

That’s why you need to resist the urge to totally change your programming because of a single poor session. If you’re generally strong at squatting, but you have an off day, take it as an off day. Don’t incorporate a squat cycle on a whim.

That’s what it means to train systematically instead of reactively.

It’s about trusting the process. Continue developing your base movements, and putting in the work to make sure you’re technically proficient. The rest will follow.

After all, the magic is in the movements - the art is in the programming.

We already know to leave our egos at the door when we step into the box. Try leaving your negative emotions there, too. View your training the way your coach does - with objectivity, rationality, and support.

Why I Always Eat Breakfast, No Matter What

“I only eat when I’m hungry. I don’t get hungry in the morning.” - Me, sometime in 2009
“I wake up too early to make breakfast, and I don’t want to make unhealthy choices at school.” - Also me, probably in 2013
“Intermittent fasting is the best way to lean out. Seriously, I looked it up.” - Still me, in 2014

Guys. I was so wrong.

The positive effects of eating breakfast are well documented. Breakfast is associated with improved attention and energy levels, lowered risk of heart disease, improved metabolism, and a reduced risk of diabetes (among other benefits). Most of these are associated with the fact that breakfast eaters are less likely to be obese.

Still, for years I wasn't sold on the idea. I never woke up hungry, and while I dabbled in breakfast here and there, I never noticed the benefits. Then, all of a sudden, I did.

Instead of throwing statistics at you, I’ll just share my own experience. Here’s why I evolved from a breakfast-skipper to a breakfast-lover.

 

I didn’t think breakfast gave me an energy boost because I wasn’t eating enough of it.

On the days that I did eat breakfast, I had a granola bar, or piece of toast with a bit of jam or peanut butter, or a smoothie. Something quick and easy.

Those options are all extremely low calorie. I was eating a sub-200 calorie snack and calling it a meal.

When I started educating myself about nutrition and weight lifting, I realized how much more volume I needed to eat in order to keep up with my training. That meant bigger breakfasts.

It wasn’t until I was eating 400-600 calories in the morning that I started to notice the difference. I became more alert, and able to focus for longer periods of time. I also stopped feeling jittery and distracted after my morning coffee (thankfully, because we all know I can’t give that up).

 

I didn’t think I needed help with my metabolism

The thing is, I’ve never been particularly concerned about my metabolism. Even at my least fit, I wasn’t overweight, and could eat a lot of food without noticeable weight gain.

However, my hunger levels (and my weight) were constantly unstable. Irregular eating habits had screwed with my natural hunger cues. I rarely felt truly hungry, but also had a hard time determining when I was full. I would forget to eat for hours during the day, then have huge meals before bed.

I was also constantly fluctuating between 130 and 140 pounds. Since I’m relatively tall, the weight gain (and loss) wasn’t visually noticeable. Still, I could feel the toll it took on my body. When I began getting more serious about CrossFit, I knew that the inconsistency was making it hard to see the sort of progress I could otherwise be making.

When I made the decision to start eating breakfast, I made sure to include a balanced meal of all my favourite things so I’d actually stick with it. That meant (still means) scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and a few pieces of toast with almond butter and banana or strawberries (or, oats with fruit on the side).

Eating that variety of protein, carbohydrates, and fat encourages your body to initiate thermogenesis. That’s the metabolic process of digesting food and using it for energy, not fat storage. It stabilizes your blood sugar and provides your body with fuel to use throughout your morning.

For me, it also began to normalize my appetite and natural hunger cues. A full breakfast kickstarted my metabolism, so I could more easily tell when I needed to eat again. It provided the base layer for a consistent, healthier diet. As a result, my weight is much more stable - almost always within a pound or two.

 

I didn't believe breakfast would help my performance

When you first start CrossFit, everything is a PR. You get stronger and fitter, quickly. For me, that lasted almost throughout my first year (with the exception of when I broke my wrist).

After that period of newbie gains, my progress was tapering off. How frustrating is that?!

Since I train at 6:00am, I wasn’t in the practice of eating before my workout. I wanted to compete, though, so I knew I needed to dial in all of the external factors - like rest, mobility, nutrition - that I’d be ignoring.

Incorporating a protein shake with a cup of coconut water before my workout (as well as the big breakfast after) provided me with a longevity that I didn’t have before. I could access energy reserves that I couldn’t on an empty stomach.

Plus, I was building lean muscle faster. Whether that can be attributed to the fact that I had increased my overall protein intake, or the pre- and post-workout nature of my protein intake, I’m not sure. I just know that my strength went up as my protein intake went up, and my energy skyrockets when I get in a good dose of simple carbs and protein before I train.

(That said, I’m generally in the camp that believes post-workout protein is important. It just makes sense to ensure your body has enough protein available for protein synthesis to occur, so it doesn’t fall behind breakdown. After all, muscle growth relies on protein synthesis being greater than muscle breakdown.)

 

You don’t know what works until you try

At the end of the day, eating breakfast may or may not work for you. Until I gave it the good old college try, I thought I was doing fine. It took committing to breakfast (for better or worse, in sickness or health, etc. etc.) to realize all of its benefits.

Do your research. (Be careful, though; don't trust studies like this, which is commissioned by Kellogg's and actually encourages frozen waffles and orange juice for breakfast. Don’t do that.) Figure out what your body likes, and stick to it. Simple.

If you need me, I'll be eating my bacon and eggs. 

 

4 Ways Hiring an Expert Changed My Nutrition

After years of experimentation, I only have a few hard and fast rules left about the way I eat.

  1. Eat whole foods and avoid packaging.
  2. Eat foods that make my body and my mind feel good.
  3. Eat enough to fuel my training.
  4. Eat well and practically.

Usually, that ends up including a lot of fruits and vegetables; little to no dairy; lean meat with every meal; complex carbohydrates; and a lot of healthy fats (avocados, oils, salmon, chocolate, ice cream… wait, what?).

Eating should do several things. You should feel satiated after meals. Your body should regulates itself at a comfortable weight, even with a healthy amount of indulgence (in my case, that means meals out and/or desserts). Your sleep should be consistent and uninterrupted by hunger pangs or discomfort. Your hair, skin, and nails should be healthy.

All those things mean you’re doing something right. 

I can tick most of the boxes, but I still felt the need to change it up. Why?

 

Why I hired a nutritionist

You guys know that I train a lot. I lift heavy. I condition. And I feel like I should be improving faster than I am.

While a big part of CrossFit is trusting the process, it’s important to recognize when professional advice can be a game-changer.

I wanted to do a little experiment to see how changing up my diet would affect my training. So I enlisted the help of a nutritionist I knew through a friend of a friend. 

After asking about my body, goals, training, and habits, she had me track my normal intake for a few days. Then, she put together a plan that changed up the way I was getting my nutrition.

To make a long story short, I’ve bumped up my protein and slightly reduced my fat intake. My carbohydrates are high, but my sugar intake (which I had never even looked at) is limited.

I’m committed to this plan for four weeks. After that, I’ll take note of how my training is feeling, how my body is adapting, and I’ll put together an update.

I’m two weeks in and I’ve already learned a few lessons: Follow along:

 

Sugar is Everywhere

Maybe everyone in the entire world knew this except me, but it is super hard to get a lot of carbs into your system without also ingesting a lot of the Thing of Evil (sugar). I’m not a fan of processed food, so most of my carbohydrates previously came from fruit. Fruit is great - lots of micronutrients, etc. - but it’s also loaded with sugar, which your body treats as any other source of fructose. While I’m by no means cutting out fruit (the micronutrients!), I am being more careful about how much I eat.

 

It’s Not Hard to get Enough Protein

Anytime I’ve shared the exact number of grams of protein I’m eating per day, I get the same response: “Oh, there’s no way I could eat that much protein. It’s just not possible."

Guess what? I felt the same way. And it is possible. It’s not even that hard.

Granted, I bent my rule about processed foods to include protein powder, but it’s clean protein without a ton of additives that tastes good. Combined with 3.5-4.0 oz of lean protein at every meal, it’s been easy to hit my protein goal.

 

Change the Foods, Not the Amount

I’m eating slightly less than I was before, despite my goals of building lean muscle. However, because the ratios are so different, I’m already noticing muscle gains and I just PR’d my deadlift. Clearly, the strength isn’t going anywhere.

Whether you’re looking to drop body fat or increase muscle mass, think about the proportions of your food before doing anything drastic to the quantity. Are you constantly falling below your fat requirements? Are you including enough carbohydrates, especially around your training? Work on that first.

 

Measuring Food is No Big Deal

One of the reasons I was procrastinating enlisting a nutritionist was, in a word, laziness. I knew that I’d have to start portioning and weighing my food and I just didn’t want to.

Newsflash: it’s easy.

Since I cook simple, wholesome foods, it’s no big deal to keep a scale on the kitchen counter and simply weigh out portions onto my plate right before I eat. Any more extensive recipes get calculated in MyFitnessPal first, and then weighed onto my plate.

My experience has been positive so far. My only concern is a slight weight drop, which is not my goal. The scale isn’t a great indicator of anything, though, so I’m not worrying too much quite yet.


The bottom line? When you feel stuck, take a good long look at the areas you can improve or change. You already know them: training, nutrition, and recovery. What needs dialling in? Can a professional help you make those changes? Sometimes, asking for help is the best step you can take.

You Have The Time You Make

You’ve heard this before. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day; if you don’t have time for something, it’s not a priority; if the CEO/mother of ten/business owner/PhD student can find time for a spin class before work, why can’t you?

Part of that is true. There’s no getting around the fact that you have to prioritize your fitness and allocate the necessary time. 

Still, that doesn't make it easy. Family is a priority, and work, and the other 3000 things that build a healthy and happy lifestyle.

It's true that even one hour of training, several days a week, will bring you pretty good general health (coupled with nutrition and healthy habits, of course). Still, few competitive CrossFitters are satisfied with that. We all want more.  

Luckily, there are a number of ways to make the time you spend in the gym - whether that’s forty-five minutes, an hour, or three - the most valuable it can be. Here are a few.

 

1. Plan your workouts

If you’re joining in with the classes consistently, you’re home free with this one. Getting the most out of your WOD can be as simple as chatting to whoever is responsible for programming. Chances are, they’ve got a larger plan in place; if you’re only able to come to three or four classes a week, ask which days will provide the most beneficial balance of strength, conditioning, and gymnastic work. Make sure your plan aligns with your coach’s vision for that cycle.

If you’re following your own programming, you have a bit more work to do. Still, the most important part is knowing the plan when you walk into the gym. Don’t waste time deciding on your rep scheme when you’re warming up.

 

2. Reduce rest

If you have a lot of volume to get through in a short amount of time, consider cutting back on your rest. That might mean working at a lower percentage of your overall output so you can adequately recover in a shorter time slot. Is it ideal? No. But neither is not finishing your programmed workload.

 

3. Use extra time wisely

Make two lists: one of all your strengths, and one of all your weaknesses. If you’re anything like me, your list of strengths is going to include movements you enjoy; your weaknesses are probably movements you would rather never do again (looking at you, burpees).

Whenever you have spare time that you can spend in the gym, choose two of your weaknesses and one strength.

My last one looked like this:

21-15-9
Toes to bar (weakness)
Push-ups (weakness)
Wall balls (strength)

Quick, simple, and a good starting point to helping you become a better-rounded athlete.

(If you’re hardcore, pick all weaknesses. I get too frustrated by workouts like that, and prefer to throw in a movement I love.)

If you’re really stuck, head over to Crossfit HQ or Competitor’s Training. Both post daily WODs, and might provide a spark of inspiration.  

 

4. Remember the big picture

Keep in mind that improvements are made in the gym, in the kitchen, and in your downtime. You have to eat, so make sure your nutrition is geared towards your goals. Recovery is vital for proper training, so do everything you can to get 6-9 hours of uninterrupted rest.

Muscle building, weight loss, injury rehabilitation, anything - it’s all dependent on your overall lifestyle. It’s not just about the volume.

Train smart. Use your gym time carefully, stay on track with nutrition, and rest as necessary. Results will follow.

 

4 Ways to Train Through an Injury (Safely)

This post was first published by BoxRox Magazine. Find it here.

My first (and only) CrossFit injury is a classic story. I was six months into training and completely in love with it. I was getting fitter fast, PR’ing daily, and felt invincible.

Then, I decided to test my 1RM clean. I hit #135, and it felt great. #145 felt easy, too. So I went for #155. Wouldn’t you?

To make a long story short, my slow elbows caught up with me and I broke my wrist. I also managed to dislocate it, chip it, and damage my tendons in the process. After reconstructive surgery to add in a plate and screws, I was fit with a cast for 8-12 weeks. No lifting with my left arm for at least six months.

I’ll admit, I had a minor (major) meltdown. I immediately saw my whole budding CrossFit life going up in flames.

When you get injured, you’re faced with a choice.

  1. Call it a loss and write off the recovery time.
  2.  Ignore the doctor’s orders and do whatever you can physically do, as soon as possible.
  3. Figure out a way to keep training, safely, in a productive and efficient way.

(I wanted to do #2 so badly. So, so badly.)

Instead, I made a plan. Here are my tips for stay fit - and sane - during recovery.

 

Step 1: Adjust your goals and your program

About a week before the accident, I’d written a list of goals on the whiteboard. It included butterfly pullups, a 30-second handstand hold, a 105-lb snatch, and toes to bar. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be ticking those off the board anytime soon.

So I made new goals.

Then, my partner and I created a program. I still wanted to train 4-5 days a week, so we figured out which movements I could do to best maintain overall fitness.

My advice? Start from your injury and work outwards. I had broken my left wrist, but I still had two shoulders, a core, and perfectly fine legs. That meant a lot of lunges and squats (bodyweight, with a weighted vest, or in the front rack with my arms crossed). It also meant single-arm kettlebell and dumbbell work, and core every day.

As a result, my lower body strength and aerobic fitness didn’t suffer a whole lot during my recovery. Work with what you have, and don’t be afraid to get creative.

 

Step 2: Take care of yourself

While you chip away at new goals, remember to assess how your body feels. Your training will be different; be careful, and be conscious of the fact that you’re trying to heal. Don’t overload your system.

That means more mobility, and a lot of stretching. Focus specifically on muscles that may be compensating for the ones you can’t use.

For example, my right shoulder was working overtime (even outside the gym, like while I carried groceries). That meant extra rest and attention so I didn’t open the door to other injuries.

Remember, too, to take care of your mental state. It can be incredibly frustrating to watch your friends train while you feel stuck. If you just can’t stand the thought of modifying another workout, take a break. Go for a run, or a hike, or an Epsom bath with a giant glass of wine.

Not all improvements happen in the gym. Your goal is to come back stronger than ever, mentally and physically. Do what you need to achieve that.

 

Step 3: Don’t forget about CrossFit

We all know that CrossFit isn’t all about lifting heavy, moving fast, and getting jacked. It’s also about the community. You’ve probably made friends and training partners who care about you, so don’t avoid them just because your training has changed.

Even if you’re getting your workouts in during Open Gym, keep showing up to box events. Cheer your friends on during their WODs. Celebrate their PRs as if they’re your own. It’ll make your recovery time pass by way faster.

Plus, those people are your support system. They understand how much getting injured sucks, and they’ll do whatever they can to make it easier on you.

They’re also a valuable resource. One of the coaches at my box came up with the idea of using resistance bands to work my left side. We rigged up bands that I could wrap around my cast and use to do gentle lateral raises, rows, and even overhead presses. I would’ve never thought of that on my own.

 

Step 4: Learn from your experience

Some injuries are freak accidents. Others are lessons.

I had done hundreds of successful cleans (measure of success: not breaking any bones). Still, Olympic lifts are tough and technically complex. I knew that I had gaps in my skill set, but I was excited, and I tried a lift that was a lot heavier than anything I’d ever done.

Now, I go into 1RM sessions with a goal in mind. If I hit that number, I stop.

The key is knowing the line between pushing yourself and behaving recklessly. Put your ego on the sidelines and analyze whatever you were doing when you were hurt. Is there a pivotal moment that you would change next time?

Go into each session with goals that are ambitious, but achievable. Be realistic about what you can do, and what you can’t do yet.

It all comes down to knowing your body. That applies to your recovery, too. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

My plan for myself was taking my doctor’s advice, and pushing it just a little bit. If he told me not to anything that would make me sweat, I did easy intervals on the bike and cooled down in front of a fan. When my cast came off, he told me not to lift anything over 2.5lbs… So I lifted 5lbs.

It wasn't disregard for my doctor’s expertise - it was calculated, careful assessment of what my body could do. As a result, I was very close to 100% mobility and strength at the six-month mark of my cast coming off. My doctor didn’t think I’d be at 60%.

 

With that being said…

Long-term health and wellbeing is the most important. Always listen to your coaches, your body, and most importantly - your doctor. They know what they’re talking about.

There will always be bigger numbers to hit, and we have a lifetime to train. Let’s make sure our bodies are up for the challenge.  










 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

It's been a while since I did one of these! I was pretty lazy with our meal prep for a few weeks, which means we had a lot of tuna salads and leftovers (it happens, what can I say). 

Luckily, I was a little more organized this week. This meal prep is one my favourites. It covers all the bases; it's nutritionally dense, easy to prepare, satisfying, and very tasty. Win-win-win-win. 

 

Greek Skewers & Salad Bowls

1 package Greek Skoulakis Pork skewers (I'm not a huge fun of preseasoned meats, but the portions on these are so perfect that, in a pinch, I'll use them). 

2 cups white jasmine rice (literally any rice that you like to eat) 

1 large cucumber 

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

1/2 red onion 

1 head iceberg lettuce (I just love this for crunch and volume. I know traditional Greek salads don't include lettuce. Sue me.) 

Several tablespoons black olives 

Several tablespoons feta cheese 

Avocado oil 

Dried basil & oregano 

Salt & pepper 

Preheat your broiler. Get the rice cooking. 

Toss the skewers on a sheet pan, and get them under the broiler for 9-10 minutes per side. (COULD THIS GET EASIER?!) 

In the meantime, chop up all your veggies. 

In terms of Tupperwaring these for lunches during the week, I like to pack the meat and rice separately from the salads. Then I can heat up one Tupperware and mix it in with the cold, crunchy salad. So good. 

I drizzle about half a tablespoon of avocado oil in the bottom of the salad containers, then fill them with veggies. Each portion gets a handful of black olives. Mine are topped with 1 tbsp of feta cheese; Damien's are topped with 2 tablespoons, for some extra fats. 

As for meat and rice: my lunches get one skewer and about 3/4 cups of cooked rice. Damien's get 1.5 skewers and the remaining rice (about a cup and a half. 

These lunches keep well and provide a good hit of protein, carbs, and fat. Plus - so many veggies. All the micronutrients. Between this and the morning shakes I make us (protein powder, mixed berries, kale/spinach, ice), I think we're covering the veggie bases pretty well. 

To go alongside, we've got tons of fruit (mandarins, fresh strawberries, apples). Damien's client gave us some KIND bars awhile back, so we're still working through those. We have Babybells, too. 

I'm still not totally on top of the snack game, so let me know if you have favourites! 

 

 

 

 

New Month, New Me (Sort Of)

Okay, not quite a new me. Still, the same me is entering her second full week at our new gym, Studeo55. That means new coaches, fresh programming, and a different routine. 

Not long ago, I wrote about making the switch to morning sessions. That, at least, has stayed the same. The switch to 6:00am training went smoothly, and I decided to keep it up at the new gym. Morning sessions lets me start my day in my favourite way, keeps my schedule synced up with Damien's, and frees up time if I want a second workout later on. Win-win. 

(I'm also staying consistent with morning nutrition. A half-scoop of protein and a few cups of coconut water break the fast well for me. I'm satiated enough to get through the workout, but not stuffed or uncomfortable.) 

Everything else, though, has changed. 

I followed Ben Bergeron's Comp Train programming at the gym I previously trained at, and I had no complaints. I love his programming; the workouts were challenging and it was a perfect mix of gymnastics, strength, and conditioning. 

The only downside? I was training alone. That was fine when I already knew everyone at my gym, and had the space to do so. Studeo is a different story. 

I'm a big believe in the community aspect of CrossFit, but it's hard to get to know people when you're hiding in a corner doing your own workout. There's no better way to make a friend than to suffer alongside them in a tough WOD. 

Which is exactly why I decided to try the Studeo programming, and join in the classes - at least for a few weeks. 

Good, good decision. Studeo's programming has been fantastic so far. My aerobic capacity and endurance are already improving; even the warmup is making me fitter (I'm a sweaty mess by the time we're 10 minutes in). 

I think I'll eventually supplement the programming with a few strength sessions per week, but that's just my own desire to work the weaknesses. Overall, my experience with Studeo has been really positive. 

(Plus, they have fancy change rooms and showers and water-bottle service. Water bottle service, guys.

Yes, change can be hard. I miss the people at my old box. I miss the space (Studeo's classes are packed). I miss the comfort that comes from growing with a place, and becoming a part of the family there. 

Whenever I'm feeling nostalgic about Tactix, I just remind myself that new challenges are good for growth. After all, CrossFit teaches you to be prepared for the Unknown and Unknowable. 

That's exactly what this change will do for me. It's a chance to freshen up my training and refocus. After all, you can't get better if you're always staying the same. 

Source: http://www.studeo55crossfit.com/

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

Between visiting family, soaking up the rare Vancouver sun, and training, meal prep was seriously neglected this weekend. I’ve got two ~~recipes~~ (loosely termed) for you. These are our lunches for the next few days. 

 

Slow Cooker Salsa Pulled Chicken

5 chicken breasts

1 can organic salsa (I use black bean and corn, mild)  

1 can pineapple chunks

Turn slow cooker on high. Add salsa and chicken breasts, and turn to coat.

Cook for 3.5 hours, then remove chicken breasts. Pull apart with two forks. Return to slow cooker, add pineapples, and let sit for another thirty minutes.

That’s honestly it. See why I said this wasn’t really a recipe?

Just to make myself feel fancier, I sprinkled this with some fresh cilantro when it was done. I plated (read: Tupperware’d) it on top of….

Roasted Cauli + Sweet Potato 

1 head cauliflower

2 large sweet potato

Coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400. Chop the potatoes and cauliflower, toss in coconut oil with salt and pepper, and roast for ~45 minutes or until nice and soft and brown. I didn't flip or shake or do anything to these while they were cooking, and they ended up really beautifully caramelized on the bottoms. 

These were the only two vegetable-like things I had in the house, so that’s what I used. The pineapple salsa pulled chicken went on top, and ta-da! Meal prep for the next three days was sorted.

Snacks for the week include KIND bars (which Damien’s client gave us), apples, mango, Babybell cheeses, and lots of strawberry-mango-spinach smoothies.

To be honest, I was kind of embarrassed to post this meal prep. It’s basically just me cooking the leftover ingredients I had in my fridge.

Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of making fancy dinners and Instagram-worthy lunches. Recipes like this are how I stay on track.

 

Making the Switch to Morning Training

In the two years I’ve been CrossFitting, I’ve done everything from religiously attending the 6:00am classes, to multi-session Ben Bergeron programming in the middle of my day, to powerlifting in the evenings. No set routine has lasted longer than a few months, because I’m 24 and life moves fast and what can you do.

It’s been all over the place – and it’s all been great.

A few factors have changed recently, though, as they have a tendency to do. That means my training is changing, too.

 

Change #1

I started working a full-time, real-life, 8:00-4:30 type of job. On the upside, I feel like I’ve found my career and I love my work.

On the downside, I spend less time in the gym. I’m there after work for an hour to an hour and a half, and I generally only do one two-a-day per week.

Luckily, this doesn’t seem to have affected my progression very much. I’ve PR’d, competed, and finally figured out butterfly pull-ups. So, no big deal.

 

Change #2

Because of those PRs, competitions, and pull-ups, I’ve also narrowed in on what I need to work on. Powerlifting has helped hugely in terms of my overall strength. Now, it’s time to get back to technique, upper-body strength, and gymnastics stuff. Sticking to Competitor Training (can you say #BuiltByBergeron?) is the best move for me right now.

If it’s good enough for Katrin, it’s good enough for me. Rules to live by.

 

Change #3

A few months ago, the gym I’ve been going to since I started training changed ownership. It’s now focused primarily on Olympic lifting, which means there’s a lot more people and a very different feel.

As a result, I’m switching my training to 6:00am across the board. It’s quieter in the morning, I know all the regulars, and I’ll have space to do my thing.

Still, switching to morning training is already taking a physical toll. I am noticeably weaker in the morning, and my energy levels are significantly lower. While I remember training fasted with no issues when I started, I now find myself getting hungry before I’m done my warmup.

I’m in a trial and error phase at the moment. Failing lifts at 75% is no fun, so obviously I need a new approach.

 

How I’ll Keep From Dying

To figure out how to make my morning sessions as effective as possible, I made a list of all the important things that go along with training. Yes, I love lists. Yes, I am a nerd.

 

Nutrition

Obviously, this is a big one. Weight training while fasted isn’t recommended, especially since I’m not trying to lose weight (if anything, fasted training can contribute to muscle breakdown). While the jury’s out on whether protein is a beneficial pre-workout, getting some simple carbohydrates into your system before a session is a good idea. Food with a low glycemic index - like fruit, juice, cereal, etc. - digests quickly. That means your body can access those carbohydrates and easily use them as fuel.

Like most people, I can’t stomach a full meal right when I wake up and go to train. I’m currently experimenting with mixing about a cup of iced coffee (hello caffeine), two cups of coconut water (which rehydrates the body and provides simple carbohydrates), and a half-scoop of protein powder (because I’m secretly a bro and want a little protein always).

 

Sleep

 If I’m training at 6:00am, I’m up by around 5:15am. Sleep is a crucial component to safe and efficient training, which means I need to commit to being in bed by around 9:30pm. I’m a notoriously light and difficult sleeper, so I’m also committing to turning my phone off by 8:00pm and taking Rescue Remedy as needed.

Since I’m secretly 90 years old, I was already going to bed around 10 and waking up by 6. Hopefully, this won’t be a drastic change.

 

Warming up

I’m so bad about warming up - I love to just jump into whatever training I have to do that day. Our bodies are stiffer and colder after sleeping for eight hours, though - that means we’re also more prone to injury. I need to spend more time properly mobilizing and warming up before I get into my lifts. Ugh.

 

Flexibility

No, not in the Russian gymnast sense of the word. Since I’ll be training in the morning before work, I need to be both time-efficient and forgiving to myself if I have to change things up. Today, for example, I modified the RX weight in the programming so I could complete the necessary reps before having to rush home and change.

Is that ideal? No. Is the world going to end? Also no.

One day, I’ll have all the time in the world to kill myself with relatively heavy deadlifts in unbroken sets of 20 (THANKS BEN BERGERON). Until then, I need to be okay with doing as much as I can do, when I can.

Sure, I saw the switch in training to mornings as a bump in the road. I wasn’t particularly excited about it. But instead of being cranky, I decided to take this as an opportunity to reevaluate where I can dial in my attention.

So. Food, sleep, warm ups, mental game on point. Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself about the basics. Now, all that’s left is the execution.

Wish me luck.  

 

Training and Travelling: Finding the Balance

If you’ve been looking around the blog recently, you’ll remember this post about the trip Damien and I took to Victoria for our anniversary. In it, I talked about the three different CrossFit boxes that we dropped into. I mentioned how much I appreciated the people we met, the workouts we did, and the shared love we have for the sport. All true – and all reasons I love exploring new boxes when I’m away.

Sometimes, though, travel isn’t about training. When you’re on the road for a special event, or a short amount of time, or solely to catch up on some R&R, training might have to take a backseat to allow you to get to most out of your experience.

So when’s the right time to pack up your Nanos, and when should you take a gym vacation?

 

1) When your trip isn’t about you

This past weekend, I flew to Nashville, Tennessee for a good friend’s bachelorette party. I would have loved to check out a box while I was in Tennessee (hello, Rich Froning is from there).

The problem? I was only in Nashville for two days, the trip was planned and organized by the bride-to-be, and I rarely get to spend time with her (or our other friends). I know my friends would have completely understood if I took a few hours off to go train - they even would’ve encouraged me.

And yet, I would have been sacrificing those hours of quality time with important people to serve self-interested ends. Which is ultimately why I decided it wasn’t worth it, and I’m glad I did.

It can be tough to stay away.  Still, I don’t regret it for a minute. I know that I made memories with my friends that I would have missed by sweating it out at the box.

 

2) When your trip is all about you

If you feel a burnout creeping up on you and you book a few days away to recharge, consider taking the time off training as well. Exercising can be amazing stress-relief (all the endorphins), but you know as well as I do that training can be mentally and physically draining.

If even one or two of the workouts you programmed into your trip don’t go well, you’re cutting into your R&R. That means you’re limiting yourself.

Everyone needs a break – there’s no shame in that. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’ll come back to the box stronger for it.

 

3) If your trip is super-short

Yes, in an ideal world, training doesn’t suffer when you have to take whirlwind work trips or overnighters to visit family. You fit in the programming, you get it done, and you feel better for it.

In the real world, taking very short trips (that still include travel time, sleeping in a different bed, and time away from your kitchen) can be incredibly draining.

Forcing yourself to smash through your normal workload while your system is under duress won’t help you. Good workouts are only good if they’re accompanied by adequate sleep and sufficient nutrition.

My suggestion? If you know you’ll need to be away for one, two, or three days, adjust your programming (or ask your coach to). Double up on sessions in the preceding days so you can use your travelling days as rest days. Or, go the active recovery route and switch out your weightlifting work for swimming, a light run, or a long romwod. Just don’t break down your muscles without planning to rebuild them.

Like I said, sometimes travelling and training go hand in hand. Normal vacations, work trips, and holidays are no reason to skip your programming. It’s about assessing the areas of your life that are strong, and those that are lacking, to maintain balance.

 

Don’t sacrifice your mental or health, and don’t throw away valuable family time, for your physical goals. Life’s too short.

 

 

 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

Chicken Taco Salad

3 medium yams 

6 chicken breasts 

3-4 tablespoons avocado oil 

1 large head lettuce 

1 large bell pepper (I prefer orange or yellow) 

2 avocados 

1 small can black olives

1 can black beans 

1 package taco seasoning 

1 lime

Cilantro, for garnish

This is one of my favourite recipes to meal prep, mainly because it's super simple - and as you guys know, I'm generally a sloth on Sundays. I've made this with shrimp, ground turkey, ground beef, and chicken. It's always turned out great. 

First things first: preheat the oven to 425. Chop your sweet potatoes to similar sized small pieces, toss with half the avocado oil and salt and pepper. Spread 'em on a baking sheet and get them in the oven. I like mine just soft for this recipe, no crisp, so I usually aim to have them in for 30 minutes.  

Get a pan on the stovetop and add the rest of the avocado oil. If you don't use non-stick pans, you may need a bit more. Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper, and make sure the pan's hot; then add them in and leave them for 4-6 minutes (depending on thickness) before you flip 'em. 

In the meantime, roughly chop your lettuce and vegetables (leave the avocados, for now). I usually start assembling the salads in Tupperware at this point. Lettuce goes on the bottom, then peppers, olives, and black beans. I add 1/4 avocado to my three portions (and 1/2 an avocado to Damien's) then make sure I squeeze lime juice over everything. 

When the chicken is just about cooked, I add the taco seasoning. That's because the brand I use asks you to mix it with water and then pour it over the meat. I like to do that as the last step so that it's all nice and hot, bring it to a nice bubble and then reduce the heat for the last few minutes of cooking. 

I recommend letting the sweet potatoes and chicken cool before adding them to your salads. This'll just help keep all your veggies nice and crunchy. 

Occasionally, I'll skip the sweet potatoes and use rice instead. Totally depends on what we have available, and how carbed up I want to be. 

Paleo chipotle mayo is a great topper for this recipe. Drizzle a little bit on right before you dig in, and you'll be a happy camper. 

PS - This makes 3 large man-adult-sized portions and 3 medium girl-adult-sized portions. I generally give us both a similar main protein portion (because gainz), but Damien gets more sweet potatoes, beans, and everything else. 

 

Creamy Rice Pudding

1/2 cup arborio rice

4 cups Almond Milk 

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt 

Cinnamon 

Vanilla 

1/2 raisins, cranberries, or other dried fruit. 

Damien's been asking for rice pudding for close to six months now, so I bit the bullet and made us some for this week's meal prep. There's nothing fancy about this recipe. It's an old favourite of my Mom's - and considering she's literally the best cook I've ever met, I figured I would trust it. 

In the interest of ~health and fitness~, I subbed out whole milk for Almond Milk. I avoid dairy, but feel free to use whatever substitute suits you best. 

Add rice, sugar, salt, and milk to a saucepan over high heat. Bring to just a boil (keep an eye on the heat and a wooden spoon in the pot, because this will overflow quickly) then reduce heat. Stir in cranberries or raisins or whatever the heck you're using. Simmer very gently like so gently it's barely bubbling, for 50 minutes. 

Take off heat, stir in vanilla, and let sit. Top with cinnamon. 

I'm just keeping this in a giant glass container in the fridge, and we're portioning it out as we see fit; I know that if I actually store it in my little jars, I'll just eat them because they look so cute. Yes, I am easily manipulated by cute food. 

I also made us some Kodiak protein banana bread, but I'm not sharing that with you guys for awhile as it turned out a bit dense. The mix is for muffins, not bread, and I don't think I cooked it long enough (impatient, sorry not sorry). It tastes great, but the center was a bit pudding-esque and so has cooled to be very dense. Also, the middle fell. #BakingFail. Oh well, at least it's filling! 

Along with these snacks, we're having apples, BabyBells, pears, and hardboiled eggs. Allllll the snacks, all the time. 

Happy Monday, guys! 

 

Work, Work, Work, Work

You guys know I’m a writer in my everyday life, right? I’m also a powerlifter, and a CrossFitter, but I don’t make a living off fitness – I’m a copywriter, and I’m trying to write a children’s book.

I’m often surprised at how the two areas overlap. Lulls in inspiration coincide with weeks of tough workouts. Challenges in one aspect of my life are mirrored by challenges in the other. Luckily, solutions can often be applied across the board as well.

Anne Lamott – who I kind of idolize, I admit – recently tweeted that “The proportion of drudgery to inspiration, for me, is roughly 3.5 weeks of plain old hard writing, to 7 minutes inspiration.”

This was part of a series of tweets about the importance of just putting in the work: locking yourself to your desk and getting the words onto the page. There’s no secret formula and no tricks. You just have to keep doing it, over and over, even when you don't want to. Especially when you don't want to. 

Sound familiar to any CrossFitters out there?

One of the cardinal rules of CrossFit is that you have to just show up. Consistency is everything.

The moment after a PR is an amazing one. You feel accomplished, proud, animated, validated.

It’s also fleeting. It’s over before you even realize it.

Those PRs are probably the reason you keep coming back to the box, day after day. Improvement isn’t defined by those moments, though.

You get better in every other session. Every minute of just pure, grinding, put-your-head-down-and-do-it work.

That kind of grunt work usually isn't sexy, and it isn't always fun. But it's necessary. And it's character building. 

I've learned that if you're looking for a distraction, you'll find one. There will always be a new Instagram feed to scroll back through, or a new BuzzFeed article to gawk over. The thing is, there won't always be time for you to achieve the things you want to. You should probably get started. 

Believe me - I'm a master procrastinator and the queen of working under pressure. Anyone can change. I have faith in you. 

The pain of taking the first step will be far outweighed by the pleasure of the reward. I promise. 

 

The WOD Diaries

GZCL Week 3

Day 1: SQUAT

4x3 @ 87% (205lbs)

2x5 @ 75% (175lbs)

2x5 front squats @ 75% (145lbs)

2x8 reverse lunges @ 135lbs

2x8 OH squats w/ 25lb plate

 

 

Day 2: OHP

4x3@ 85% (75lbs)

2x8 push press @ 75lbs  

2x8 push jerks @ 95lbs

3x8 barbell row @ 95lbs

3x8 lateral raises w/ 20lb dumbbells

 

Day 3: DEADLIFT

4x3 @ 245lbs

4x5 @ 185lbs


WOD

Back squats 7 @ 65%, 5 @ 75%, 3 @ 85%

4 rounds:

200m run

10 shoulder to overhead, 65lbs

10 pullups

10 wallballs, 20/14

 

Day 4: BENCH

4x3 @ 95lbs

4x5 @ 80lbs

3x8 closegrip bench @ 75lbs

2x8 barbell row @ 85lbs

2x8 KB strict press w/ 8kgs

 

Day 5: EVERYTHING

Power snatch work: 3x1 @ 85%

Clean and jerk work @ 70%

Back squats: 3x3@ 80%

 

CANWEST GAMES QUALIFIER

7 Rounds for Reps

6’ 25m shuttle runs

Snatches x Max Effort
This was an interval workout: athletes had one minute to complete 150m in shuttle runs, then complete as many snatches as possible in the time remaining. During a two minute rest, the athlete added weight to the bar. The athlete continued until they reached an interval that they couldn’t complete a single snatch.

Stay tuned for a full breakdown of how this workout turned out! (Spoiler alert: I’m currently in third, but that may change.)

The WOD Diaries

GZCL Week 2

DAY 1: OHP

4x3 @ 90% (75lbs lol my poverty press numbers)

2x8 @ 75% (65lbs)

2x8 @ 70% push press (95lbs, percentage based off jerk 1RM)

3x6 HSPUs

3x10 barbell rows w/ 75lbs

3x6 dumbbell press w/ 20lbs

 

DAY 2: SQUAT

4x3 @ 85% (200lb)

2x8 @ 70% (165lb)

2x8 @ 70% front squats (135)

2x8 reverse lunges @ 135lbs

CrossFit class

 15-12-9-6-3

Burpees

C2B

Front Squats

C2B

 

DAY 3: BENCH

4x3 @ 85% (95lbs)

2x8 @ 70% (75lbs)

2x8 @ 60% close-grip bench (65lbs)

3x10 barbell row w/ 75lbs

3x10 dumbbell push press w/ 20lbs

2x10 tricep extensions w/ 15lb plate

 

DAY 4: DEADLIFT

1x3 @ 240 (85%)

3X3 @ 245 (87%)

Worked up to a heavy (for me) 1RM clean afterwards at 145lbs.

Session 2

For time:

100 double-unders

80 air squats

60 box jump step downs

40 cleans @ 85lbs

60 burpees over the bar

80 air squats

100 double unders

In 19:00.

 

DAY 5: SQUAT

I was not feeling it by day 5 this week – all sorts of DOMS and tweaks, so I  did some squats and then dropped in to the Olympic lifting class.

3x3 @ 185 (75%)

3X3 Push jerks from the split position

3X3 Jerk dips

 

DAY 6:

40 minute EMOM

Min 1: 50 double-unders

Min 2: 5 burpee pullups

Min 3: 10 calorie row

Min 4: 15 wall balls (14lbs, 9 foot)

Min 5:  rest