60 Days of Crossfit – A Skeptic’s Review

Woman and Bar

CrossFit. Saying the word evokes two kinds of responses. One is the wide-eyed stare of awe accompanied by OMG, I heard that is SO hard! The other is the sneering sort of disdain where they roll their eyes and insist CrossFit is a cult for meat-heads. There’s even a phrase for the latter referring to its cultish following: Drinking the Crossfit Kool-Aid.

I fell somewhere in between the two responses above. Clients often asked me what I thought of it and I always replied that I heard it was good but that everyone I know who tried it had also been injured. I wrote it off as another fad and intended to stick safely within the comfort zone of my typical (ineffective) workout.

So how then did I talk myself into trying CrossFit?

I mentioned in a previous post how I fell off the fitness wagon for about 18 months.

Fast forward through the general stresses of life like moving back and forth across town a few times, a couple of breakups, a nearly empty summer client schedule, dwindling funds, and lack of exercise, and I have to admit I put on a few pounds. Well, ok, more than a few. Even worse, my energy was lacking, my strength was waning, and the depression demons were starting to eye my growing discontent greedily.

Determined to get my body and my health back, I tried a few things. Group-based tabata training was fun for a while but the repetitive plyometrics on a concrete floor led to an injury that still bothers me nearly a year later. Personal training and group fitness through my gym was good at first, but I quickly plateaued and got bored. A co-worker suggested I give CrossFit a try. I even did the thing where I rolled my eyes and spouted a few excuses. “Yeah, but it leads to injury. Yeah, but they do gymnastics and stuff and I can’t do that. Yeah, but I don’t want to work out with a bunch of over-zealous meat-heads.” The truth is, I had no experience with CrossFit and was basing these opinions entirely on hearsay.

Haters gonna hate

Haters gonna hate

I justified starting not for myself, but because I would then have an honest opinion to give those who asked me about it. I researched a few gyms (they call them boxes) and put out some inquiries. Voodoo CrossFit 512 in northwest Austin was the first to respond in a timely manner so I begrudgingly went to check it out.

Join me at Voodoo!

Join me at Voodoo!

I’m not going to lie. I was scared. I was afraid I was too out of shape, that I would embarrass myself attempting to do olympic lifts, handstands and ring dips. Within two weeks though, I was hooked. Here’s why.

1. Every workout (WOD – workout of the day) is different. Boom! No more boredom!

2. Every day you look at the WOD with shifty eyes and think there’s no way you can get through it. An hour later you leave feeling elated because you DID do it!

3. You become more competent and confident in what your body can achieve every week.

4. You work out your brain too as you assimilate new technique and form. Neuroplasticity y’all. It keeps you young.

5. It inspires a healthier diet. You will begin to notice how your food affects your workout. Indulging will make you feel sluggish, bloaty and nauseated while eating well allows you to conquer your workout and still have energy left over to complete your day.

6. You instantly gain a new family. The community aspect of CrossFit is always talked up and I’m learning that it’s truth. Turn to anyone to ask for help and it is given, take motivation and strength as people cheer you on to finish, gain renewed energy when, dripping with sweat and barely able to stand, someone offers you a high five with a beaming smile and tells you what a great job you did. Plus, this is a huge bonus when you need strong people to help you move.

Voodoo Dolls April & Jenny help each other out at a competition.

Voodoo Dolls April & Jenny help each other out at a competition.

7. You gain a dozen new role models. I thought everyone would be chiseled and intimidating but you walk in and see men and women of all different shapes and sizes totally kicking ass. It erases the stigma that you have to have a flawless body and 8-pack abs to be strong and fit. These are ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.

Starting to sound pretty good right? Not as scary as you thought? To be fair, it’s not all sunshine and roses and there is a flip-side.

1. You MUST know your limits. Body awareness is a key factor so that you can identify when you may be lifting too heavy, your form isn’t quite right, or you are teetering on the edge of overexertion. Someone new to exercise may not know the difference and could be more prone to injury.

Crossfit Fail

What I fear will happen every time I pick up the bar

2. You will doubt yourself. Staring at the bar thinking holy shit how am I going to manage this? is your opportunity to overcome. All movements can be scaled and as long as you don’t quit, you win!

3. There is a learning curve. Besides a whole new vocabulary (AMRAP, EMOM, WOD, WTF?), it takes time and repetition to learn these highly technical skills. Ask for help, again and again, and again, and again some more (sorry, Scott!).

4. It’s hot. There’s no A/C in the box so if you are prone to heat exhaustion this may be a limiting factor for you. Get used to sweat dripping from your nose, your hair, and down the crack of your butt. Take comfort in the fact that everyone is as dewey and glowing as you are.

5. It’s expensive. It is a chunk of change, but you are paying for accountability, community, self-confidence, and results. If it’s at all within your budget, it’s totally worth it.

6. Calluses, bruises, marks and scars. CrossFit is a sport, and stuff happens sometimes but no one complains and they often wear their wounds like a badge of honor.

7. Hunger. After a few weeks you will want to eat everything. Many an overheard conversation in the box starts like this “You know what sounds so good right now?”

But wait, what about the results? Oh, that’s what you’ve stuck around for? To hear my amazing transformation story? Well, I don’t have one…yet. I haven’t lost any weight, but I’d say in the past two weeks or so I am starting to notice my muscles feeling denser and more firm and my hunger is ramping up (yay, metabolism!). I err on the side of caution with my lifts so I don’t aggravate any of my previous injuries, but as my technique and strength improves I think I will develop the confidence to go heavier and harder. Many of the people I have met do have amazing transformation stories though, and it inspires me to be patient when you see what they have achieved within a year. In the meantime, I am actually enjoying my workouts and I’m happier than I have been in years.

You may love it, you may hate it, but I hope that if you have never tried it that this post inspires you to give CrossFit a shot. I still remain a bit cautious. Instead of gulping the Crossfit Kool-Aid, I’m savoring it in sips.

Titanic Crossfit

 

NatureBox Snack Service – A Review

NatureBox helps you eat healthier without needing to change your eating habits. We focus on snacks because that’s the easiest habit to change.”

This is from the NatureBox Mission Statement. Their goal, to make you healthier one snack at a time. Since starting back at a desk job, I don’t have the convenience of running to the refrigerator every time I get hungry. When I came across their ad on Facebook (damn you, Facebook ads!) I decided I would give it a shot.

NatureBox

I eagerly awaited my first order, which arrived approximately a week later in a tidy rectangular box. Your first order is a sample box with 5 bags of assorted goodies left to the discretion of the Gods of Packaged Snacking. So when I opened my box I was a little let down that 4 out of the 5 snacks were…vegan. GASP! 2 of them were corn products…seriously? Well, ok, but at least they are from non-GMO corn. And another was a granola product. So, coming from a mostly paleo diet, 80% of my snacks didn’t jive with me. Luckily, I am not a purist and have no allergies that would send me running to the bathroom or reaching for the Benadryl, so I tore everything open and began to sample. My first box contained:

  • Cherry Berry Bonanza
  • Vanilla Macaroon Granola
  • Masa/Flax Crisps
  • Toasted Corn Kernels
  • Pistachio Power Clusters

The vanilla macaroon granola was heaven in my mouth, but it was pretty much dessert in a bag. The pistacho power clusters were also very sweet, as well as the cherry berry bonanza. The masa/flax crisps (think healthy Fritos) were so salty I couldn’t even finish them and the toasted corn kernels (like Corn Nuts) were ok, but you’d better have strong teeth to chow down on those puppies. First impressions on flavor…not so hot, but these snacks are Nutritionist Approved!, so I took a look at the back of the bags.

Let’s examine the Cherry Berry Bonanza for a moment.

Berry Label

The second ingredient is sugar and if you look at the the total carbohydrates it is 33 grams per serving. You know what else has 33 grams of carbohydrates per serving? A full size Snickers bar. Yep. At least a Snickers bar has 4 grams of protein with all that sugar (not that I’m condoning snacking on a candy bar…step away from the vending machine). Not sure how this one  became Nutritionist Approved. The other snacks were a little better but still not in my ideal realm of nutrient composition and many of their products contain soy ingredients. No bueno.

The second month of service you can log in to your account and choose your own snacks. I picked out the following:

  • Plantain Chips
  • Dark Chocolate Almonds
  • Peanut Butter Nom Noms
  • Smokey BBQ Peas
  • Dark Chocolate Cherry Trail Mix

Much happier with this second round so far. The peanut butter nom noms and chocolate almonds were still too sweet, but had sugars under 11 grams per serving. The plantain chips are amazing. Light, crispy and just salty enough. I think they are my favorite of the snacks. The trail mix and BBQ peas are tasty too and much more acceptable with the sweet/salty factor than the first order of snacks.

My opinion of NatureBox is that it is a good transition for people who tend to snack on vending machine food looking to improve their food choices. It’s a good start. There are many options to choose from and their selection varies from month to month so you can always find new things to try. For $20/month, it’s not a bad way to ensure you will have some moderately healthy snacks around when you need them; especially if it keeps you from eating the donuts in the break room. Many of the products are high in sugar or sodium, and contain soy or vegetable oils, which I prefer to stay away from. If you are looking for a gentle push towards eating better then give NatureBox a try, but if you are a purist you’re better off seeking your own snacks where labels can be read meticulously before purchase, or just make your own from scratch.

“I See A Healthy Me” Children’s Book

I See A Healthy Me!

I’m so excited because my mom, Lois DiMari, has just published her first children’s book!

The book, titled “I See A Healthy Me” is about teaching young children the value of building healthy habits from a young age. Adorable illustrations and fun, easy to read text make this a great book you can share with the little ones in your life.

This would make a perfect Christmas gift for under $10! Available in softcover or Kindle editions.

Please check it out at Balboa Press or on Amazon, spread the word, and encourage children to be healthy for life!

Primal Deodorants – A Review

As a holistic-minded individual, I am always seeking healthful alternatives to chemical-laden products that have become ubiquitous in our lives. Today, we are talking about deodorants. I won’t go into the lengthy debate of whether they may or may not cause cancer; I’m sure you have heard enough over the years to make the decision on whether or not you are willing to use commercial deodorants.

Here’s a secret I’m a little ashamed of….I do. Here’s why….because I have tried a dozen different natural deodorants and none of them work. Still, when my friend Sandra Brougher over at Renew Whole Health sent me some samples, I was excited to try them out. My results were pleasantly surprising.

Primal Pit Paste – (Baking soda, coconut oil, shea butter, arrowroot powder, lavender)

Primal Pit Paste comes in a jar with a consistency sort of like cookie dough. You are provided a mini-popsicle stick as an applicator and you rub a pea-sized amount into your pits like a gritty lotion. Here’s the deal: I hiked in Texas summer heat, I ran in Texas summer heat, I wore a polyester uniform shirt all day long and this stuff held up like a champ. No need for reapplication and it kept the stink away for literally two days straight (don’t ask why I didn’t shower for two days).

I was worried the coconut oil would stain my clothes, but it didn’t. The baking soda can leave a very light residue, but it’s still less than the “invisible” deodorants and washes out easily. If you plan to travel with this stuff, stick it in a baggie though, the box it arrived in was stained with oil that leaked out of the jar.

Unfortunately, I began to notice after about a week that my arm pits were becoming red and I had some painful clogged pores. I switched back to my old anti-perspirant and it cleared up right away. Their FAQ does warn that irritation may occur but usually clears up after consistent use. They even mention it may be necessary to go through a detox period from the chemical build-up of aluminum deodorants. I really like the product and will continue to use it as often as I can.

Pros: OMG, it works!, smells nice, doesn’t stain, lasts forever, only $8.95, comes in regular, strong or even kids varieties, various scents, sticks now available (contains beeswax)

Cons: May cause irritation, jar can leak oil during transport in hot weather

Image

Primal Pit Stick from Paleo Life Organics – (Coconut oil, baking soda, beeswax)

Similiar to the Primal Pit Paste, Primal Pit Stick deodorant comes in a more convenient stick applicator. I didn’t experiment with this one as much because though it was unscented, it smelled strongly of beeswax which I find very unpleasant. I passed it on to another friend who didn’t mind the smell as much. It seemed to work equally as well as the Primal Pit Paste though just a bit stickier due to the beeswax. I just discovered they have a Sensitive version that contains arrowroot powder in place of baking soda and does come in scented varieties. If I can’t overcome the irritation of Primal Pit Paste I may give this a try instead.

Pros: Seemed to hold up well, though testing was limited, baking-soda free available, convenient applicator

Cons: Strong beeswax smell, slightly sticky, a little more expensive at $12 per stick

Review: Fitday.com

What’s nice upon first entering Fitday.com is how easy it is to navigate. Everything is clearly laid out on a separate tab with no overwhelming colors and flashing advertisements.
You have some fabulous options for tracking, such as foods, activites, weight, journal, and moods. I thought the mood tracker was pretty awesome. Sometimes we may not realize how foods affect our emotions until we really pay attention. This is an easy way to do that.

Unfortunately, this site suffers the same search engine problems that NutritionData.com did. A search for bell peppers brings up items from Taco Bell rather than the vegetable. I didn’t see an option to eliminate fast food from the search results like NutritionData. When you can find the food item you are looking for, one of the features I really like is that you can customize that food. So if your peanut butter is low sodium, you can just change the sodium content instead of inputting all the data from scratch. I found that modifying foods this way and also creating my own custom foods was the most accurate way to go since I rarely found my food in their database without clicking through endless search results.

Another nice thing about the site is it includes vitamin and mineral content, so you can quickly see if you are not getting enough calcium or vitamin A in your diet. You can also customize nutrition goals. Say you want to increase your protein and decrease your sodium, you input those goals and it will let you know if you are doing a good job meeting them. And the best part…charts! and graphs! There are lots of options for reports that give you easy to view data in a graphic presentation. I love this.

Also available is an activity tracker. This was pretty standard and it was relatively easy to find the appropriate activity to log. You can also input your body measurements and track those over time to see if you are gaining or losing weight depending on your goal.

Pros: Tons of options for tracking data, easy to navigate, clutter free, charts! and graphs!
Cons: Bothersome search engine. May have to input custom foods to build your own database.

Review: Nutritiondata.com


Nutritiondata.com registration is free, but make sure to check NO on all the email notification options.

The site is a little busy looking, but it offers in depth nutritional analysis of each food, including all vitamins and minerals, glycemic load, and also gives a score on whether or not a food promotes inflammation.

Searching for your food is more difficult than it should be. Results come up alphabetically instead of by relevance. I searched for apple, and couldn’t find raw apple in the list. Just variations of apple juice, baked apples, fried apples, etc. But when I typed in raw apple, it came up. When entering scrambled egg in the food diary I had to scroll through a lengthy list to find it. When you click on it they assume perhaps you cook your eggs in margarine because it claims it has trans-fats. Um, no it doesn’t. So I settled for the raw egg option instead. You have to be persistent and think smarter than their search engine.

One of the features that attracted me to trying this website is the Analyze Recipe function. Here, you have the option of inputting the ingredients to your recipe and it will analyze the nutrition for you. This seems like a great idea, however, once again the search engine was so problematic I couldn’t even find the ingredients. Bell peppers seem not to exist, a search for honey took me three tries, and forget anything even slightly exotic like cacao nibs. I had to abandon this feature out of frustration before I even discovered if it was useful or accurate.

They do offer a custom entry tool, which is invaluable. You can also compare foods side by side to see the differences in nutrition, this could be especially handy for diets with specific goals. Something I’ve struggled with over and over in food entry is measurement conversions. Nutritiondata.com offers a measurement conversion widget on the sidebar which is really helpful.

I almost abandoned the site when I hit the Holy Grail jackpot. You can customize the search terms! I unchecked all the fast food options, and similar options for foods I never eat and this greatly improved the chances of finding the item I was looking for, although bell peppers are still mysteriously absent. While an improvement, it still wasn’t easy. I think this site could be really great if it were more user friendly. Maybe people who are more patient that I am have reaped the benefits this site can offer.

Pros: Useful features such as detailed nutrient analysis, conversion widget, glycemic load score and recipe analysis.
Cons: Painfully difficult search engine. Visually busy and confusing to navigate.

Sidenote: I tried to get some screenshots in here for you guys but they come out so blurry you can’t really read them. Anyone have some tricks for this?

I’m Back!

Yeah, I know. I promised to write after my ACE exam and I didn’t. So sue me. The good news is that I passed, and I even did better than I expected.
Business cards should be going to print this week and then comes the hard part of, you know, actually promoting myself.

Grumpator recently did a review on her Talking Tech column of several sites that help you track fitness and nutrition. It supplied the perfect incentive for me to start writing again. I thought I would review several of these sites in detail and post them here. Hopefully I can gain a good understanding of which sites are user friendly for future clients, blog readers, and myself!

Let me know if you have heard of a site you would like me to try. On the list for review are:
Nutrition Data (should be posted momentarily)
Livestrong
Sparkpeople
Fitday
Foodsel
Dailyburn
Traineo