12.09.2013

Discomfort, growth, and the 3 types of fun

I've been thinking a lot this year thinking about my goals and the experiences I want to have, and one thing that I've been thinking about a lot is redefining my relationship with discomfort. A few months back I wrote a post about how my training in Brazilian jiu jitsu is consistently very difficult and uncomfortable, but whenever I get done with a class or with sparring I feel this exhilaration and almost joy-like state of motivation to continue training and improving my skills. It was after recognizing this experience that I started to realize how discomfort wasn't something to be avoided at all, but was instead an integral part of some of life's greatest experiences.

In the following months I've come back to this idea again and again until recently I discovered something called the "Fun Scale." I found an article about it on the blog of rock climber Kelly Cordes. Being a serious climber, Kelly was relating the idea of the fun scale to his climbing experiences, but I found it applied just as much to Brazilian jiu jitsu, learning to play an instrument, working out or doing CrossFit, reading philosophy, or really doing any other challenging activity.

As with any good-bad, satisfied-unsatisfied, would recommend-would not recommend scale, the Fun Scale ranges from extremely fun to not fun at all.

The Fun Scale

Type 1 Fun:

This is the kind of fun that is immediate and easy; instant gratification at its finest. A delicious meal, talking with friends, watching a movie, reading novels, listening to music, sex, etc. Type 1 fun is fun right when you're doing it and there's no threshold to cross before it feels good. I also associate this type of fun with the selfish, Freudian id, only concerned with immediate gratification of a base desire. It's fun, but it's not particularly meaningful or long-lasting, and if you only spend your time doing Type 1 fun, you won't ever really progress or achieve anything more meaningful.

Type 2 Fun:

This is the interesting step in the middle that is added by the Fun Scale. Type 2 Fun happens when you're engaged in an activity is not enjoyable when you're doing it, but produces rewards after the fact. It's hard, it hurts, it's pushing you beyond what you think you can do, but upon completion you experience an exhilarated, motivated feeling and you might even feel more in touch with yourself and the world around you. Brazilian jiu jitsu has done this for me, but it equally applies to anything that's hard but extremely rewarding in the longer term. Hunting, rock climbing, public speaking, or doing tough mental tasks can bring this on. Recognizing this level of the Fun Scale idea reflects the fact that in order to truly get really good at anything you have to push through some roadblocks and embrace the discomfort.

My Instagram--it looks fun, but it's also really hard!

Type 3 Fun:

At the end of the scale, Type 3 experiences are not fun at all. No matter how much perspective you get it's not enjoyable or pleasant. It sucks while you're doing it and after.

We all tend to think of fun as a simple dichotomy: Either something is fun or not fun. What this scale proposes is a more nuanced understanding of the types of experiences we all have, and it shows us that something doesn't have to be immediately, obviously fun on the surface to be valuable. In fact, some of the most rewarding experiences come out of the most difficult challenges. People fall short and give up when they forget that everyone who ever got good anything started out being terrible. We all started out sucking at many things we've done, and that's not a fun feeling. We end up having to get good at certain difficult things because of circumstance (jobs, parenting, health issues), but what if we could intentionally put ourselves into challenging situations with the knowledge that Type 2 Fun is possible?

Follow-up

Not everybody will experience this the same way. People's subjective experiences of the different kinds of fun will vary, and different activities will produce different feelings. However, the point of thinking of enjoyment this way is to realize that the idea of trying to avoid discomfort at all costs will hurt us in the long run, when we never push through anything tough and reap the rewards after the fact. It's simply a difference between instant or delayed gratification, and in my experience the latter holds the real happiness. Learning to embrace discomfort may seem paradoxical, but I feel that it's one of the most important life skills you can have because it will give you the ability to base your actions and decisions on what you truly want and who you want to be--rather than on the lowest common denominator version of yourself whose only goal is to avoid pain. Does it suck? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!

A mental and physical example

As I mentioned, challenging yourself in a workout is a great example of a satisfying, but not always 100% fun, activity. When my wife and I were trying CrossFit we went to a bunch of free intro classes at different gyms to try them out, and something interested happened. I started out feeling very nervous and intimidated by all the really fit people and the atmosphere, but as I went to more gyms I started to get good at going in, introducing myself, and just going with the flow. It was cool because I was getting a workout and learning new things about fitness, like everybody does, but because we kept going to different new gyms I was also forcing myself to get good at going into an unknown place with complete strangers and getting comfortable, which is a skill I've struggled with. When I told my mom about my experience she said, "Well, maybe you can just start being comfortable everywhere, and not just CrossFit gyms." So now I've taken that initial, uncomfortable experience and turned it into a skill that I'm developing. I just try to embrace the discomfort with the knowledge that it probably isn't as big of a deal as my mind is building it up to be. (And by experiencing what I thought was Type 2 Fun in the workout, I was also developing a non-physical skill with some of the same delayed benefits.)

11.22.2013

We made bacon!

We recently bought half a hog from a local farm, Heritage Farms Northwest. We've bought cow shares before and purchased a whole lamb over the summer, but a hog was new territory. We got 137 pounds of pork (the farm does pastured Red Wattle hogs, a critically endangered species, and is one of the largest breeders of them in the US), including tens of pounds of fat (for rendering), bones (for making bone broth), and organ meats (for experimenting with when we feel brave). It filled two huge coolers and stuffed our freezers at home. Here's the farmers' market stand where we picked it up.

We had given cutting instructions to the butcher for our half beforehand, and got to choose the thickness of the pork chops, size of the roasts, etc. We chose not to have any of the meat cured; rather, we asked to have the belly cut into several manageable pieces so we could cure and smoke it ourselves and make our own bacon. We got three 5 lb pork belly cuts.

We'd read the recipe for making your own bacon (and smoker) in Beyond Bacon and had been wanting to try for a while. We tracked down "pink salt" (curing salt--this one is Instacure #1, sodium nitrate) at a food supply/equipment store in Portland. We used coconut palm sugar for sweetener, and a couple cups of regular sea salt for the rest of the salt. And some pepper. Followed the recipe!

We cured the pork belly for 5 days in the fridge. Then we took it over to my parents' place; they have a big charcoal BBQ with a thermometer on the outside and several rack position options. My mom figured out how to set up the grill the right way using this thorough tutorial.) We smoked it at about 200 degrees (had to keep adding a coal or two, adding more hickory chips) for 4 hours because it was so large (the book said about 3 hours, for a 2 lb belly). Pretty intense, right?

We sliced off the first slices when it was still pretty warm, and cooked it up for everyone to try. It was SO rich and delicious!

Then we froze the whole thing. We figured it'd be easier to cut all the slices if it was mostly frozen. To cut the rest of it, we took it out of the freezer, let it sit out and warm up for a few minutes, and tried to slice it with a serrated knife.

Slicing it was the hardest part! It's so hard to cut straight and keep each piece relatively even so it will cook evenly. And the pork belly was so loooong, so hard to stand it straight up. So we ended up cutting it in half in the middle first, and slicing each half separately. Not ideal, but it worked. We want to order an electric knife for next time. (Anyone have an experience or tips?)

It's seriously so good. We've had it for weekend breakfast a few times now, and it's great.

Better than any bacon I've ever had! And we know it's made with high quality ingredients!

11.15.2013

Why I eat white rice instead of brown

Been thinking lately about rice, and wanted to share about my experience with white vs. brown rice.

When we went Paleo in December of 2012, I didn't cut rice out of my diet entirely. We never make it at home, but I have no issue eating it with sushi or at Thai restaurants. I used to always order brown rice when possible when dining out, because I thought that brown rice, with the fiber and husk, was a "healthy whole grain" and was slightly healthier than white.

But I've learned a lot since then about white and brown rice, and there are several factors that have contributed to me choosing white rice instead, for health reasons!

White rice is healthier than brown?


What the heck, you might ask. We've been taught in recent years that whole grains are better than white.

First, why are brown (whole) grains harmful?


We don't eat grains and legumes as part of our "Paleo"-based diet. (Mark's Daily Apple has a great post on why grains in general are often harmful; so does The Paleo Mom.) In summary, there are a few reasons for this.

  • Grains contain proteins called lectins, which are the plant's defense mechanism and so can cause autoimmune reactions in the gut, as well as cause leptin resistance (leading to fat storage). 
  • Grains also contain phytates (phytic acid, the main storage form of phosphorus in bran and seeds), which irritate the gut and can block nutrient absorption. This is why removing grains on a raw vegan diet temporarily cured my wife's digestive issues, and why grain-free diets often help people with IBS issues. (Legumes and seeds also contain phytic acid; hence beans being called the "musical fruit"--the gas reaction is due to irritation in the gut lining, and is not a good thing!)
Many people on standard American diets, with grains at nearly every meal, can develop leaky gut for this reason. (Side note: just read a great summary post about healing leaky gut. Intro to leaky gut here.) Our guts do not have the enzymes needed to break down these proteins and acids.

  • Phytates also block the absorption of essential minerals because they bind to the magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron we are digesting and take it out of our bodies. Many people are deficient in these micronutrients, if they're not eating enough vegetables and nutrient-dense animal products, so removing them can have a huge range of negative effects depending on what you're already low on.
But some grains are worse offenders than others!

What about rice bran?


Rice is often considered the least offending grain, and most people can digest it fairly easily. So, a lot of people on Paleo and real foods diets eat it. Dental health and nutrition expert Ramiel Nagel wrote this intense piece about phytic acid; as he explains, the phytates are stored in the bran and germ of grains, so white rice and white bread are lower in phytates than brown.

  • Brown rice: 12,509 mg of phytic acid per 100 g
  • White rice: 11.5 - 66 mg of phytic acid per 100 g


Yes, brown rice and whole grains are much higher in phytic acid than white rice, making it much harder to digest, contributing to digestive and calcium issues. Also contained in the rice bran are polyunsaturated oils (unstable, go rancid easily). Unstable fats are inflammatory and can lead to another range of health problems. (I've also heard about arsenic in brown rice, but I don't know much about that issue.)

What about the benefits of whole grains for fiber and blood sugar regulation?


Yes, it's true that the glycemic index of whole grains is lower than that of white, shelled ones (meaning, they digest slower than white). But on a real food, Paleo/primal or Bulletproof Diet, where healthy fat is not the enemy, we simply add a lot of grassfed butter or coconut oil to carb-heavy foods like rice or squash or sweet potatoes, which dramatically slows down the digestive process and improves absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. (Even better: Cook white rice in homemade bone broth from pastured animals, rather than water! Great way to get even more nutrients into a meal!)

Easy, delicious, healthier


Indeed, it's taken quite the mental shift for us to think of a white grain as being healthier than a whole grain. But I feel good when I eat it, I know I'm absorbing more micronutrients, and I've still lost 40 pounds in the past year eating a higher-fat, processed food-free, grain-free (except the rice) diet. It's been a good shift!

As I wrote this post, I found this article on the same topic--check it out if you want more reasons!

11.08.2013

Carbs = Sugar (WHAT???)

A Glucose molecule
A simple explanation of why non-sugary carbs act like sugars in our bodies. I just recently grasped this concept, thanks to a biology class I'm taking.

News flash! Carbohydrates = Sugars. Simply put, there's no difference between a sugar and a carbohydrate. In fact, carbohydrates, by definition, are various groupings of sugar molecules. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

“The term(carbohydrate) is most common in biochemistry, where it is a synonym of saccharide. The carbohydrates (saccharides) are divided into four chemical groupings: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. In general, the monosaccharides and disaccharides, which are smaller (lower molecular weight) carbohydrates, are commonly referred to as sugars.” source

This is really interesting to me because in the popular consciousness there’s a definite distinction between the idea of limiting your sugar intake and limiting your carbohydrate intake. Not eating too much sugar is widely regarded as an obvious necessity for optimal health, while low carbohydrate diets are controversial. Sugar is considered a junk food, while carbs are considered diet staples.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t eat any of this stuff. Some amount of carbohydrate in your diet is absolutely essential. However, let’s not forget that our body is breaking down those big molecules into sugar, and the quicker it can do that the worse it is for you. If eating table sugar causes a massive spike in blood sugar, then eating a slightly more complicated molecule, like the ones found in refined carbohydrates, will only be marginally slower in digesting and producing a blood sugar response. So many of the carbs that people even consider health foods fall into this category (I’m looking at you whole grains!) Having a latte and a scone for breakfast? That’s glucose and or fructose in the sweetener, lactose in the milk (if you can digest it at all) and simple carbs in the scone. All I see there is that you’re having sugar, mixed with sugar to go with your sugar. SUGAR!

And now for a rant on potatoes.

The Potato

Potatoes are made up of almost entirely of a carbohydrate called starch. Starch is the energy storage molecule for plants, meaning that when photosynthesis is taking place, the plant is using the suns energy to produce glucose, and if it reaches a point where it has more glucose than it needs for its immediate energy requirements it will begin to take those extra glucose molecules and bind them together to form starch, which will then be kept for a rainy day. Potatoes are very good at this, and when the plant starts producing starch it sends it down to its roots for safekeeping. Over time the potatoes get big and then an enterprising human comes along and takes the energy-rich payload for their own purposes.

Now, animals have their own versions of these energy storage processes, and we even have our own version of starch. It’s called glycogen.
A schematic showing the structure of glycogen being composed of several glucose molecules.

Glycogen is a molecule that we build up and store in our bodies for use whenever we run out of the immediate energy that comes from carbs. In order for us to be the robust, stable, working and living beings that we are, we need to have enough energy on hand in order to do whatever it is we need to do. If we didn’t have glycogen and could only use immediately available glucose for energy you might find yourself needing to run from a lion and passing out cold after a few, high-energy steps. Glycogen burning turns on when you go to a state that requires higher energy, like running or lifting or really anything physical. Glycogen is essential and we need to eat some carbs in order to replenish those stores. However, if you eat tons of carbs every day and don’t move your body enough, your glycogen stores will never be depleted; instead, your body will turn on the mechanism for long-term energy storage (the accumulation of body fat).

From an evolutionary perspective you wanted to get as much energy into your body as possible so that it could be stored as fat to be used later during a time of scarcity, however, in order to survive every day you need to have energy on hand to fight for your life, gather food, or hunt so we have carbs and glycogen stores to take care of that. What we want is fat production because that gives us a long term level of security, but the immediate needs take precedent. Now fast forward to the modern day where we have a huge abundance of carbohydrates available to us all the time, and a low level of outside pressure to move our bodies, fight lions or work hard to gather our own food. Our ancestors were playing out a careful, risky game of trying to get more energy from the foods they ate than it took to procure those foods, but we have lowered the requirements of survival so much that the average person almost never has to move.

Conclusion:

Because of this process, I try to eat a limited amount of simple carbs and a whole bunch of the more complex carbs like those in green vegetables. I eat more carbs on days I work out. This helps replenish my glycogen stores after a day of activity, and gives my body the energy I need to perform well. If you have issues with weight regulation, limiting simple carb intake will help: the lower your "sugar" intake, the less excess energy your body has lying around, the less likely you are to overload your glycogen stores and go into fat accumulation mode.

This is not a Paleo principle, nor any specialized diet principle. This is not about gluten-free mania, fasting, high fat intake, Crossfit, or any of the other stuff I've talked about on this blog. It's a fundamental principle of molecular biology. Just understand the effects of the macronutrients and it makes sense!

10.14.2013

Have You Heard? Debunking Bad Arguments and Searching for the Truth in the Paleo Movement

There are a lot of good arguments and counterarguments out there--you've probably heard some pretty interesting points, as well as totally opposite views that also seem valid. I've learned so much in the past year or so, from all different sources, and I know I need some clarity. So I wanted to bring together some resources that have been shaping my thinking recently. I call it: Have You Heard?

1. Have you heard that raising livestock causes huge environmental damage and should be stopped? You'll definitely want to watch this video:



2. Have you heard of the China Study, and how it "proves" that meat consumption will lead you to an early grave? The response by Denise Minger on her site Raw Food SOS will knock your socks off. It's an in-depth look at the problems with the argument made in the China Study and it's been widely cited throughout the Paleo community for its balanced approach and thorough argumentation. It's a long read, but well worth it.

3. Have you heard that you should be worried about "good" and "bad" cholesterol, and that your cholesterol level is a primary marker of your cardiovascular health? There's a lot of great stuff out there for this one, including this awesome book Cholesterol Clarity: What The HDL Is Wrong With My Numbers? by Jimmy Moore. Moore is an amazing guy who lost almost 200 lbs following low-carb and Paleo principles and he writes the blog Livin' La Vida Low Carb. He's super knowledgeable and has been on a ton of podcasts as well. I'd recommend checking him out the Fat Burning Man podcast for a good intro.

4. Have you heard that the Paleo diet is just an unrealistic fad? Here's a popular presentation of that idea that lays out a bunch of arguments against the Paleo Diet that I think everyone should see:



And here's a follow-up article by Robb Wolf responding to this presentation. Don't worry, it's not about bashing the presentation. She said a LOT of good things, and I think it's great to get perspectives from both sides. In fact, when I watched this I found that I agreed, in principle, with a lot of the things she was saying--I just didn't agree with the presentation because she left out so many important things. It seemed like she was trying to debunk the popular conception of what the Paleo Diet is, and not what it really is at its core. The paleo community is one of the most balanced I've ever come across in that there is always spirited internal debate going on and people are constantly challenging each other.

So, when you get "debunking" counter arguments against the whole foods, nutrient-dense diet we know of as the Paleo Diet, they usually bring up points that have been known and addressed by those within the Paleo community for a long time. For example, the idea that there was no one "Paleo" diet that all the people of the paleolithic era ate is something that has been talked about in the Paleo community for a long time, but then it's brought up in this presentation as though it's a brand new argument. (Personally, I like Chris Kresser's idea of using Paleo principles as a template in which to experiment and find what works best for each individual. There's a great article on Chris's website here.)

So now you've heard! A little of both sides!

9.24.2013

Making raw sauerkraut (inspired by Balanced Bites and Chris Kresser)


Homemade Raw Sauerkraut



It's gut rockin', probiotic supreme raw sauerkraut time! I'm really stoked that I finally got to this because I've wanted to make it for months, but it took until last weekend to finally get up the motivation. This stuff  is great for you and it's delicious. Trust me, if you've only ever had the pre-packaged, cooked, store-bought kind you don't know what you're missing. Raw sauerkraut is really really tasty, easy to make at home, and helps promote the right balance of intestinal flora that is SO important to our overall health. Adding a little bit of this to your diet every day is a great way to foster the natural production of healthy gut bacteria and digestive balance. And it's huge in vitamin A, B, and C. So, huge health benefits for your gastrointestinal health and immune system!

Check out this post on the benefits of sauerkraut and other vegetable-based probiotic foods on Balanced Bites (includes a short video). She also has a recipe for roasted jalapeno and garlic sauerkraut, with some variations, which is what I followed to make mine. Also be sure to read Chris Kresser's post about Becoming a Fermentation Ninja (credits to this recipe on Nourished Kitchen).

I'll follow up on this post once it's ready to eat in 2 weeks! Have you ever tried making your own sauerkraut??

9.13.2013

CrossFit Style At-Home Workout #1

I designed and completed this workout this morning and even though it's simple, it kicked my ass! Here's what I did:

The WOD:

20 min. AMRAP (As Many Reps (or rounds) As Possible) of

400m run
13 push-ups with elbows tucked (or personal max)
50 single unders on jump rope
15 box jumps (I did mine on a convenient ledge)

Here's a few pics from my crappy iPad camera : )

Not perfect form, but I'm workin' on it!

Flat back!

I made it sets of 13 push-ups because I'm slowly increasing my rep count on push-ups. About a month ago I could only do a max set of 7 and I've worked it up to doing sets of 13, so I did as many as I can in the workout (which definitely made it harder!).

How I did:

In 20 minutes I completed 4 rounds + 125 extra single unders. I knew I only had a few seconds left at the end so I just powered the single unders as fast as I could. It was sweet. I finally got my jump rope to the perfect length so it wasn't catching on my feet and I just hit my stride. I've also noticed huge improvements with this. I could barely do 20 SU when I started and now I can do 125 SU straight! Also my double unders (DU) are really coming along. My record is 3 in a row, but I couldn't even do 1 when I started. The workout felt good and was a good challenge.

The Next Level:

My goal would is to increase the difficulty of the workouts I do and then work up to doing the same number of reps/rounds as I was doing on the easier ones. Here's an example of an increased difficulty version of this workout

400m run
25 push-ups
50 double unders (or 100 single unders)
25 box jumps.

If I could get to a point where I could complete 4 rounds of this in 20 minutes it would be amazing. So far I can't even do a 25 push-up set, and after 15 box jumps I was quite tired, but I'll work towards this as my goal. I'll come back and do this workout in a while and see how I'm progressing!

Now it's time to to fuel up with some whey protein and a veggie stir fry!

 Also, 90's Ryan Gosling because that's hilarious:

Have you done any great short duration workouts or seen progress?

9.10.2013

Local food week: 1 week of entirely local food dinners

A challenge! We decided to see if we could eat only local foods for dinner for a whole week.

To follow up to my post last week about our CSA share and recent whole lamb purchase I'd like to share what we've been doing with all those delicious veggies and grassfed meat. We decided to do a local food challenge, just for a week, and focused mostly on dinners. (Our lunches are almost always left overs of dinner, anyway, and breakfast is normally just Bulletproof Coffee (with Kerrygold grassfed butter from Ireland and MCT oil, not local!) and sometimes homemade bone broth from local beef, pork, lamb, and chicken bones.

It was challenging to look at all the foods we eat and actually ask, where did they come from? We knew the main ingredients came from local sources (CSA, meat shares) but there were a lot of things we had to basically not count because it would be practically impossible to make the recipes we wanted without using some things that aren't grown in Oregon.

Things that we didn't count:
  • Salt (we could have used Oregon salt like Jacobsen's, but it's spendy! Our salt is pink Mediterranean sea salt.)
  • Pepper
  • Other spices like chili powder, cumin, paprika, etc.
  • Olive oil, but we used it sparingly
  • Lemons and limes
We used lard we've rendered ourselves instead of olive oil or butter where possible. It's a very stable fat and is delicious! And ours is from grassfed cows so it's full of vitamins A, D, and K.


So here goes, [a little more than] 1 week of Paleo dinners of entirely local foods.

Sunday night:

Slow cooker beef roast with beets (from The Paleo Slow Cooker)
Green beans

Monday night:

Ground lamb with leeks and bell peppers, topped with fresh basil from our porch
Lightly cooked zucchini

Tuesday night:

Lemon rosemary broiled salmon (from Practical Paleo)

Wednesday night:

Cilantro and lime marinated round steak
Heirloom and white mashed potatoes (not by-the-book "Paleo," but I tolerate them well and eat them occasionally when they come in our CSA)
Steamed spinach from our front porch

Thursday night:

Lamb T-bones with rosemary
Purslane salad with grilled zucchini and cherry tomatoes (we grilled the zucchini in the oven in lard and sea salt--amazing!)

Friday night:

Fajita beef, cooked tomatillo salsa, and pico de gallo (recipes for all in this post)
Lightly sautéed zucchini

We did it!


All in all it was a really interesting experiment and put a lot of things in perspective. Our modern lifestyles are really dependent on the existence of a global food trade. Tropical fruits and spices are available all year. We can buy butter and cheese from Ireland, coffee from Guatemala, and rice from Asia, and these aren't even considered "exotic" purchases. Trying to eat as close to home as possible for a week really brought this thought to the forefront of our minds and put a lot of things in perspective. 

I started to think, if I only had access to the foods grown in Oregon, what would I use instead of olive or coconut oil? Lard works for cooking most things. But salad dressings? Most likely it would have to be fat from animals or nuts, but the idea of going without those things I'm used to having sounds really hard. Unfortunately, until they come up with carbon neutral freight, the environmental cost of bringing all these faraway foods to our grocery stores is, in my opinion, too high. I know that bananas are delicious, but I think wanting fresh ones, in January, in the Pacific Northwest is a bit ridiculous. And, having access to such sugary foods all year 'round isn't good for my insulin, anyway. *Steps off soapbox*

But this local food experiment was a great one to get us thinking about these things. And it's been delicious, easy, and fun with our CSA and meat share purchases. It would be a little harder in the winter, though!

Have you ever tried a local food challenge? How did you do it?

9.04.2013

CSA, Lamb Share, and Fridge Contents

One of the most awesome things about this summer has been the CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription that my wife and I signed up for. Every week we get a big box full of a variety of veggies that lasts us throughout the week. Here are some of the ways it's been awesome:
  • The produce is super fresh--which means it's tastier and actually has a much higher vitamin content. (This is seriously important. Check out Chris Kresser's podcast episode "Could 'Eating Wild' Be The Missing Link to Optimum Health?")
  • We're able to support a local, Oregon farm rather than a big grocery chain.
  • We get very high quality organic produce at a much lower price than we could at Whole Foods or another store.
  • We paid in one big amount at the beginning of the season and since haven't had to think about it. This, in combination with our meat shares, means that we hardly ever have to go to the grocery store!
  • We get a wide variety of stuff every week which has led us to try new and interesting foods/recipes.
  • It's a fun excuse to go down to the local farmers' market every weekend (which is where we arranged to pick up our box).
We've really had an awesome experience this year with our CSA box from Gathering Together Farm from Philomath, OR, and would definitely encourage everyone to check them out if you're in the Beaverton/Portland area. If not, look into CSA subscriptions in your area and weigh your options because in many places there are affordable options that go for a long time (ours is 22 weeks!) and have a nice variety of produce. (LocalHarvest.org is a great CSA finder.)


We love the trade box at our CSA pickup--we don't eat some of the things we get sometimes (corn, e.g.) so we can swap them for things we do eat!

We also recently bought an entire lamb from a local farmer we found at local farmers' market. We chose to pick that one up at the market, too--so my wife had to carry 50 lbs of lamb back to the car in the cooler! Here's a couple of pictures--this is a whole lamb in a cooler. We got all kinds of cuts, all for a really reasonable price. The meat has been fatty and delicious and we feel great when we eat it!

(Check out EatWild.com to find a local pastured meat source near you, and check out my post here with some tips!)

In the freezer... (more about our chest freezer here.)

Lastly on this journey through my summer food setup is the basic contents of my refrigerator. You'll notice that there aren't very many prepackaged foods, and that the drawers are stuffed with veggies.

Refrigerator Contents:
  • Eggs from coworker's pastured chickens
  • Coconut oil reserves
  • Kerrygold unsalted butter
  • Coconut milk
  • Leftovers!
  • Raw cashews
  • Bone broth
  • Homemade almond butter
  • Slow cooker roast leftovers

Yum!
It has been so great to live off local foods for so many of our meals! I highly recommend you check out a local CSA and local meat and egg sources if you’re looking to save money while eating a very nutrient-dense diet! What are your tips for local eating this time of year?

8.22.2013

A Typical Upgraded Paleo Day (Part 3): The Evening

Here's Part 3 of my series on a typical day in my "Upgraded Paleo"/modified Paleo/"Bulletproof" day! (Check out the other parts of this series:
Part 1: My "upgraded Paleo"/"Bulletproof" morning routine
Part 2: The middle of the day, and keeping energy up)

Evening Workout:

Since writing Part 2, I've been working full-time away from home, so nowadays I don't get home until 5:30 or so. A few days a week (up to 3!) my wife and I have been going to CrossFit classes that usually start at 5:30 or 6:30. This is a great time to work out because after a long day of sitting, looking at screens and papers, and focusing a lot, taking the time to use my muscles, get everything loosened up, and push myself really makes my body and mind feel good. I usually feel like I've cleared off some mental cobwebs and my body feels tired--in a pleasant way. I also have been getting a lot of mental satisfaction out of pushing myself during the workouts and completing things that seem really daunting at first.

Usually at the beginning of a workout its really intimidating and hard to imagine completing. But I've been learning to let go of any thoughts beyond the immediate, present moment and just focus on one rep at a time. I'm usually very tired by the end and feel like I've accomplished something I didn't know I could do. The strength increases have also felt really good. I just did my first, full pull-up a few days ago, which is something I could never do since I was a little kid. I lacked the shoulder strength, but thanks to losing weight and CrossFitting, I'm making progress! My goal now is to be able to do a set of 10 pull-ups with good form.

Nourishing, nutrient-dense dinner

After getting done with the workout I head home and have some dinner. I try to get tons of veggies, meat, and fat, and eat extra carbs on days after working out to help in my recovery. Our favorite go-to "safe carb" is sweet potato, so we eat a lot of those post-WOD. I also sometimes do a whey protein shake to help with recovery as well. I've been using whey isolate because it has fewer of the other milk proteins than concentrate, although I've been hearing some conflicting views on that recently (sounds like a future post!).

Salad and cucumbers from our CSA, augmented with
nori and Alaskan salmon a coworker caught
Making dinner right after CrossFit!

After Dinner:

After dinner I like to just relax and watch some TV or something, but I don't just sit on the couch! After these intense workouts I need to loosen up my muscles and joints or I'll get tight and sore the following day, so while I watch TV I'll do some mobility exercises and roll out my muscles on a foam roller. I'll usually focus on my hip flexors, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, and back. For the hip flexors I do an amazing technique demonstrated in this video by Kelly Starrett:


Then I'll spend some time on the foam roller finding tight/sore spots and working on them. It's painful like a deep tissue massage, but man, does it work! Often times I like to do mobilization stuff throughout the day at work and I find it helps a ton.
Source: Amazon


Evening supplements

At bed time I take my nighttime supplements:
All of these things are highly recommended and I feel they help me perform my best and keep my body and mind in great shape.

A balanced perspective

When all of the stuff I've talked about in this post comes together, I find that I feel the best and I continue to improve in strength and self confidence as well as building a positive mental outlook that I think is so important and hard for me to do sometimes. Making these changes with a critical eye to what is really helping me and what isn't and also finding what works for me as an individual has helped improve my life in a lot of ways. And I think everyone can benefit from the same type of exploration.

I hope that you see that these things aren't hard to understand or implement as long as you do them in your way, establishing your routines and finding what works for you. Good luck!

8.21.2013

Chiropractic Career Possibilities

In the last few months I've been considering a few different possibilities for a future career change. One that's really been sticking in my head is the idea of becoming a chiropractor, physical therapist, or trainer someday. Because of my passion for learning about these health issues and writing this blog, I feel like it's a sign that a health career might be in my future. In addition, my experiences with seeing a chiropractor this year have made me feel like that option might be a good fit for me.

(I saw a chiropractor for the first time over the winter, and was amazed at how much she understood about so many movement-related issues. I hadn't realized I had any alignment or core strength problems, but she talked to me about the relationship between my spinal structure and my headaches, jaw-grinding, and tight pectoral muscles, and I've seen a huge improvement after working with her off and on.)


Informational visit with a chiropractor


When I was in the San Francisco bay area a couple of weeks ago I got the chance to have lunch with my sister's long time friend and chiropractor Dr. Eric Smith. Talking to him was one of the best things I could have done to help me figure out if chiropractic is right for me, and what kind of school I should consider. He's been a chiropractor for more than 20 years and has a lot of strong opinions about the world of chiropractic, the way to be successful in that world, and the differing philosophies. He is what is called a "straight chiropractor," meaning that he sticks to a more strict definition of what a chiropractor is/does than other more generalized practitioners. The legal scope of practice for a chiropractor includes some massage work, nutrition guidance, and a bunch of various techniques for helping people. However, Dr. Smith feels strongly that a chiropractor should study and employ chiropractic methods, and if a patient needs massage, acupuncture, or nutrition help he will refer them to specialists in those respective fields. 

Straight vs. Meta-practor


The argument is, in essence, that by studying and employing a wide variety of techniques you dilute your overall effectiveness by not being really, really great at one thing. If someone needs chiropractic care they should go to the best chiropractor they can find, which will be the person who has specialized in and practiced that skill alone. I can see some ways that this argument can be countered, and their are certainly many people in the chiropractic field who do NOT feel the way Dr. Smith does, but it was really great to get his perspective and it had a big impact on me. Now I feel, at the very least, that I have a much better understanding of the sides of the debate and the playing field of the chiropractic profession, and I'm going to keep pursuing chiropractic as a strong option of a career I can imagine myself doing and enjoying.

Have you had experiences with a chiropractor, more general/holistic or very specialized? Which do you find more benefit from?

8.17.2013

Trip to San Francisco

I just got back from an awesome trip with my brother Cory to the San Francisco bay area! We drove down (10-12 hours) and stayed with my older sister Darcy who lives in Oakland. It was such a good time, and I managed to really cram in a lot of experiences and fun times!

Outside Lands:

We started our trip at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival that is held in Golden Gate Park every summer. I went to the first Outside Lands in 2008, mainly to see Radiohead, and I've wanted to go back ever since! This year I heard that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were going to be playing, and I knew it was time to go back. It was amazing. I saw so many great shows, and it was fun seeing all kinds of groups I hadn't heard before. I saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Zedd, Yeasayer, Jurassic 5, Fishbone and a bunch of others including the Chili Peppers, Paul McCartney and Nine Inch Nails, who were the headliners. The feeling of being in the crowd and experiencing the energy and excitement of everyone was an amazing experience and it made me feel more in touch with the amazing human creation that is music. People find unity and perspective when they hear specific tones all laid out and layered together. From the beginning of humanity we've had music, and it's one of the things that is almost universally loved by all people. The chance, in 2013, to be in the experience of seeing music live for 3 straight days and feel connected to the people around me through that experience is something special. Plus it was just tons of fun!
My IG
Of course, stuck at the festival inside Golden Gate Park all day, we were limited to the food choices from the vendors. There was actually some pretty good selection, though. I didn't stay 100% Paleo the whole time, but I was able to eat gluten-free and mostly grain-free, and got to try some nice lamb dishes from, a huge vendor who was butchering and cooking whole, locally raised lambs on site! They had several different stations of lamb dishes including paella, curry and lamb poutine with feta and herbs. Amazing!


CrossFit:

After the festival was done my bro and I were pretty wiped out but after a day of rest I was ready for what was a huge highlight of the trip! I signed up for a drop in class at San Francisco CrossFit where Kelly Starrett of mobilitywod.com and the book Becoming a Supple Leopard (which I got for my birthday!) coaches and practices his particular brand of physical therapy mixed with strength and conditioning.

Here's the book cover so you get a visual. Definitely check this out. It's brand new stuff and a compilation of all of Kelly's most important ideas about mobility, strength training, technique and the problems with our current understanding of how our bodies are designed to move.



I got to take a class taught by the man himself! We did a variety of mobility exercises that you can see in the image below (from the class after mine) and then spent most of the class working on squatting technique and doing jump rope and toes to bar as an AMRAP. He gave me some pointers on what shoes I should get (in his words Nike Free's are a "Great running shoe, terrible lifting shoe") and helped me with my squat form. He even signed my book (pics below). All in all it was an amazing trip and well worth the long drive. Getting to spend so much time with family, going to concerts and getting a good workout in makes for a pretty awesome trip. I hope the festival lineup for next year is awesome so that I have to go again!!

8.09.2013

Is "Just do it" a harmful mentality? Motivation in fitness and CrossFit communities


I want to talk today about a viewpoint I've heard about for years, and how I've come to realize it may not be as motivating and productive as I've been used to thinking.

The commonly held mentality of "just do it" has inspired people for years now, and I've seen it in action at gyms and on fitness writings so many times. Get through the reps, complete the set, run the whole distance, lift the prescribed weight, whatever. "You owe it to yourself to complete this workout and not wimp out." But is this can-do attitude helpful and motivating? Is "you can do it" an encouraging kind of pressure? Or is it just macho and extremist, and is it likely to result in injury and setbacks? What does it mean for me in my fitness goals?

The completionist attitude


What I think of as “the completionist attitude” is the common idea that you should do whatever it takes and push through any obstacle in order to achieve a goal. For exercise communities this is the push to finish the workout, push yourself beyond your limits, and beat your personal records. Which can be great! They're trying to encourage you to push against your limits because you only grow when you're uncomfortable and have to overcome some obstacle. Nike says it with their legendary slogan “Just do it”--which could imply, “get it done, no matter the cost.”

It’s great to motivate people to achieve personal fitness goals. But the “just do it” completionist attitude could be misguided. For optimal health and fitness, the goal shouldn't be just to complete the workout; it should be to complete the workout with perfect form and get the maximum benefit from it. If the goal becomes to complete the workout at all costs, at the sacrifice of form, in both the long and short term, people may underperform, hurt themselves, and have a hard-to-measure sense of progress.

For example--I saw a very buff guy at CrossFit yesterday with terrible double-under form. He could do them by timing it right, and so he could count off the numbers on the workout and get it done, but he was tucking his knees way up and no one was correcting him. I, being a beginner to CrossFit but an avid student of technique, was concerned about this lack of focus or proper coaching--the “just get it done” mentality at work. I know this issue from my music background, too: if a guitar player teaches himself and learns horrible technique, he might be able to learn the skill to a certain point, but at the high levels of performance he will fall short and not be able to do the same things the people with good technique can do. So will he run into problems when he tries to do too many reps or at too high intensity? (There is a thorough post about some dangers associated with CrossFit here.)

The potential problem with CrossFit


I’ve definitely heard the criticism that CrossFit, with its high intensity workouts and group class format, can lead to people pushing through the reps and doing exercises incorrectly, possibly getting hurt. [I imagine in some boxes more than others,] CrossFit has the “just do it” mentality built in. While the workouts are scaled to each person, the goal is to do them to do very high intensity (weights and reps), and push yourself to get through it and build strength. Unfortunately they don’t always add in the part, “But only if you’re doing it correctly every time”--we know it’s important to stop if you see your form going to shit, because it’ll be harmful to you in the long run to train incorrectly and ingrain a pattern of movement that will hurt your body. This more balanced approach is the reason leaders like Jason Sieb state that they do not teach “CrossFit” at their gyms (his philosophy here).

Form follows function, right?


Learning proper exercise form is so critical to our movements in and out of the gym. Everyone knows you can hurt yourself if you lift heavy weights wrong, so why don’t we focus more on proper form rather than pushing through the prescribed weights and reps? (And for that matter, why don’t we encourage proper form in all movement? We know from Kelly Starrett that 10,000 steps a day with duck feet (“10,000 insidious loads,” he says) will wear your knees out in 30 years instead of the 110 they were designed for. We can end up with flat feet because we walk wrong, something that can affect us our whole lives.) The main way to learn the correct technique for lifting heavy weighs is to practice it with lighter weights--so why aren’t we making sure CrossFitters and people who do other workouts learn the right form first?

Personal limits


In the end, does this mean that CrossFit is no good? No, no way. CrossFit can be awesome. The community and paradigm are strong; it’s great to practice real human movements in a formal exercise setting; and its popularity is bringing strength training, anti-inflammatory diets, and an alternative to steady-state cardio to the masses (Chris Kresser’s piece “Why you may need to exercise less” is great background on this). What this does mean is that in a CrossFit or any workout, we must recognize our individual responsibility to do our own personal best and know our limits. When I work out (alone or in a group) I am responsible for my own body and making sure I perform to the best of my ability and use correct form. No one can watch me all the time for perfect technique or tell me when I’ve done enough reps, and no one coach can be enforce all the time. Instead, you have to take the coaching, your previous experience, and your knowledge of your own body, and use those tools to know when to stop, thereby truly getting the most out of your workout. If you’re not sure you’re doing something right, stop. If you're not sure the coach is giving you correct advice, stop. If someone is telling you to do something in a way that doesn’t work for your body, don’t do it. If something is too hard, scale it down. You need to be educated about what is acceptable discomfort and what is unacceptable pain. You do that by pushing yourself to the point where you find your limits--not beyond at the expense of form. You are only answerable to yourself and you’re the only one who knows how to take best are of you.

So while I appreciate Nike’s slogan and motivation to achieve optimal fitness, it only works to a point. “Just do it” and completion for completion’s sake are not the motto I want to ascribe to. How about “Do my best” or something instead?

Do you have a fitness motto that works for you? Have you built up strength and made progress with a completionist or possibly more moderate mentality?

7.30.2013

We needed a chest freezer! Saving money and time with a nutrient-seeker investment

My wife and I live pretty simply, and keep no more than a week or so's vegetables, eggs, and meat in our fridge at most times. This summer, our produce has been coming from our CSA subscription--even simpler than usual! Sure, we have some bulk nuts and coconut oil in the fridge, and condiments, and some frozen berries and almond flour in our freezer.
Our first CSA box this summer

But until we started eating more meat last winter when we became Paleo, we didn't ever think we'd need more storage space than our large refrigerator. (After years of living in small apartments with old appliances, we are SO grateful for the freezer on the bottom, ice maker, and many shelf/door shelf options! And cubic feet!)

But, when we adopted the Bulletproof Diet/Paleo Diet, we realized that one essential part of the lifestyle for us was eating grassfed, local, free-range, hormone-free, quality meats. Meats from healthy animals, as they say!

"How do we buy meat?!?"

We had never bought and cooked meat before. My wife had been vegetarian since she was 14, and I didn't cook much. Luckily my mom had been buying cow and pig shares from a local farm, which took away the mystery of ordering directly from the farmer and buying meat in bulk. We got to try some of her beef and pork, and loved it. We were ready to order 1/8 cow for ourselves! (See my posts about Kookoolan Farms here.) That first 1/8 share was fine. We brought it home and filled our fridge's freezer. We were sold on buying grassfed meat in bulk, and paying a fantastic price for all those cuts!

Buying a freezer: Hardcore nutrient-seeking


We wanted to buy all our meat from local farms, and find sources for all the types we'd want. We wanted to take home the extra organ meats, fat, and bones the farm offers customers for free, but were worried we wouldn't have room to store them!

Then one day I picked up our share at the farm--1/4 cow this time, although we sold some of it to friends and family--and I also brought home quite a few pounds of fat, bones (both loosely packed in plastic bags), and organ meats. Everything was frozen, but when I got home I quickly realized we had nowhere to put all of this amazing, nutrient-rich, nourishing local food.

We are so grateful to those cows for converting grass into nutrients we need, we want to use every bit of them! And we want to get them directly from the farmer, so we know where our food comes from and how it is raised! And we love having lots of meat in the freezer, ready to be thawed whenever we need it! But all that meant we would need more ROOM to store it.

So, that very day, we checked out the local Fred Meyer store ad--they had a small deep freezer on sale for $150. We called them, asked them to hold it at the check stand, and bought it immediately.

We set it up in our garage, and there it sits--holding all the good stuff we don't have room for upstairs.

We also put our bulk Kerrygold grassfed cow butter cases in it! (We order it wholesale from Whole Foods and get 10% off.) And you can see the base of the ice cream maker--for our Bulletproof "Get Some" Ice Cream!

The freezer's looking a little empty, actually. We just ordered a whole lamb from another local farm we just found, so will soon have 50 or so pounds of meat plus bones and extras! We also have another cow share coming. Yessssss!!

Buy a freezer?


We love having the freezer, and are so grateful we were able to go out and buy it when we needed it. Maybe someday we'll get a bigger one, or an upright one, but for now we love our small one.

I know Craigslist can be a good place to shop for freezers, too. I bet you can find used ones pretty cheap! The small ones aren't too heavy, either, so they can be moved around in your garage or basement, or if you move.

Imagine... spend $50 - $150 now on a freezer and buy a cow share for $6/lb instead of $6 - $20/lb (for lesser quality meat, probably) at a nice grocery store. You save money in the long run!

What do you do to save time and money while buying high quality foods? Have you found a freezer or any other equipment helps you out??

7.25.2013

Review of Upgraded Coffee

We've been making buttery, MCT oil-blended "Bulletproof® Coffee" for many months now, using high quality coffee beans and unsalted Kerrygold grassfed butter. I love the way this healthy saturated fat-full frothy beverage makes me feel every morning (until about 2 every day, actually, after drinking it around 7), and I credit it to my 35+ pounds of weight loss since December 2012. I've learned a lot about the diet that works for me through Dave Asprey's Bulletproof® Diet, but I've also learned about coffee quality through seeing all the research he's done in creating his coffee.

Short story is, apparently most coffees grow a mold called mycotoxins and develop chemicals called biogenic amines (histamines)--both of these can make you feel jittery and cause inflammation. To reduce the chances of getting coffee with these issues, you can drink coffee from Central America grown at very high elevations (ideal growing conditions) and from a single origin (reduces the chance of contamination from other fields). But still, often beans are picked when they're not ripe and so go bad before they ripen, often they're old, often they're mixed together so you can't even detect where the problem is coming from. The USDA has acknowledged the presences of mycotoxins but says they can't begin to test for them in all Starbucks around the world, of course, and they don't have any regulatory influence.

But, Dave Asprey did a bunch of research and found a source in Central America where he can control where and when and how the beans are picked and roasted. He created Upgraded™ Coffee, which he also tests for mycotoxins and amines. Apparently this incredible toxin-free coffee makes you feel much better than the coffees we're used to drinking.

So of course I wanted to try it! It's a little more expensive than the local roasts we've been buying (ex: Happy Cup single-origin roasts), so I never ordered any. But then, I got a bag for my birthday earlier this month and was so excited to finally try it!

So, was it any better than other coffees?

We've been drinking the Upgraded™ Coffee for the past week, and I did notice some difference. It's roasted by a top quality roaster and the beans are clearly of a high quality, so the taste is of a really good, smooth, medium roast that comes out well with a drip, but is especially good with our French press. As far as the reported effects, the first day I drank it I felt a normal caffeine buzz after a few minutes, but as the morning continued I noticed a consistent, stable energy that carried me all the way until lunch. I also had noticeably less of an energy crash in the afternoon, which was a welcome and amazing feeling!

Overall, it wasn't a massive effect, but I think this has to do with the fact that I've been only drinking single origin, locally roasted beans for quite a while, so my mycotoxin intake was already pretty small compared to drinking Starbucks. I've had crappy coffee before that made me jittery and gave me a headache, but since I switched to all locally roasted, single origin beans last fall I've had that experience a lot less. So, I would definitely recommend this coffee because I do think that the guarantee against mycotoxins is well worth it, and I noticed a difference in my energy, the lack of crash, and the stable, non-jittery feeling it gave. (My wife tried some of the locally roasted organic coffee at her work this week and felt very jittery, something she hasn't felt with the Happy Cup or the Upgraded™ Coffee we've been drinking. There is a noticeable difference in both compared to MOST coffees!)

However, if you don't feel like you can afford the expense I would say you would be doing a really good job by finding a local roaster who roasts single origins in small batches, and buy in bulk from them. Single origin coffees are expensive on their own, but with the added cost of shipping the Upgraded™ Coffee it definitely costs more. (There is a 5-pound option that's a better deal, but still possibly more than a quality low-toxin option near you.) If you go the local roaster route and do the research, you'll be getting yourself most of the way there at less cost, and your chances of having mycotoxins in the beans will be limited. I can imagine a future where all coffee is tested for mycotoxins, and regulated to high degree, but at this point there's not enough understanding of these toxins or enough consumer awareness for the large roasters to make any changes to their system. Hopefully, one day, it'll be easy to walk into any corner coffee shop and guarantee that you are buying a clean cup of coffee that isn't slowly poisoning you, but for the time being we've got our local, single origin roasters to do part of the job, and Upgraded™ Coffee for a special treat!

7.19.2013

Mobility Experiments!

For the last several weeks my wife and I have been going to CrossFit classes at various gyms (called CrossFit boxes) around the Beaverton and Portland area to see the differences in each gym and find one that really fits our style/philosophy. I'm working on a post with information about all the gyms and comparisons of their class styles, but for today I want to talk about some of the cool mobility-related experiments that have come out of doing it.

Intense exercise, then recovery


CrossFit is very intense, and after completing a workout I'm usually quite sore the next day and I even have stiffness and some soreness for several days afterwards. Part of this is because it's an intense workout and part of it is that I'm new to it all, so my body isn't conditioned for all these movements yet--but either way, I've been really really sore. Now, with all the reading I've done on high intensity exercise and especially from reading Body by Science (more about my take from that here) I've gotten the message that it's better to exercise at a high intensity and then give yourself more time for recovery, so it's good that I'm sore because it means I'm pushing myself, but it's also good that I'm only doing a workout like that about once a week so that I get the time for my muscles to recover and build themselves back up (with the help of lots of healthy saturated fats and protein, of course!). This process of exercise and recovery creates an adaptive response in our bodies to the stress that its being put under, and you're muscles will grow and strength will increase to match that stress. Awesome!

Repairing tissues


The thing is, though, that you can take steps to speed up the recovery process and relieve soreness through smashing your tissues. This idea comes from people like Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD who say to stop doing static stretching and to start doing deep massage and other techniques to work out your stiff/sore bodies. Basically, if any tissue in your body hurts when you press on it, it's in a dysfunctional state and you need to work that out to feel your best, achieve optimal performance and speed recovery for workouts. The main method for doing this is with a lacrosse ball, foam roller, or band (great posts of how to use them on MobilityWOD here). (This blog also has a great summary of how to use balls and bands for mobility.)

And here’s a video of Kelly’s about using lacrosse balls to work out the scapula.



I've been rolling around with lacrosse balls and lacrosse balls are firm and provide enough resistance, but still have a little give to them. Basically you start by using the ball to massage any area that's sore and you try to relax and breathe through the pain. This is the pain associated with soreness, not with injury, so you're helping your muscle to relax and release that pain by smashing on it and reintroducing some mobility and separation of muscle fibers back into the area.

It works!


So, I've been doing this after workouts, and it's been really helpful, but last night I wanted to see how big of a difference it would actually make. When I'm in recovery mode from a workout I'm usually quite stiff in the mornings, so before I went to sleep I worked on my left shoulder and pec with the lacrosse ball and didn't do any work on the right side. It hurt like hell, but like a massage it was also satisfying and relaxing.

This morning I got up and tested both the soreness and mobility of my shoulders and felt an obvious difference between the two. My right shoulder was very stiff and felt tight like it didn't want to move. My left shoulder felt almost normal with some slight soreness, and when I did a shoulder extension stretch in a doorway I had a noticeable difference in range of motion between the two sides.

All in all it was a small experiment but it really served to show me the importance of working that soreness out of my body as part of my recovery routine, and I did it through a personal test where I could see the actual difference it made in my body. Don't take anybody's word for it! You are the final say in what works for your body and what doesn't!

 Now I've got to go smash my right side because it's still incredibly sore!
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