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?
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