Life Is A Highway

 

 

So, you're at a point in your life where something needs to be different. You decide it's time to check out a new place, to venture out on a road trip, to try something different. How do you approach this process?

  1. You evaluate if it's truly the right time to take a road trip. Are you smack in the middle of the busy season at work? Is your family situation crazy? Can you afford to prioritize travel financially? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, it doesn't mean you can't travel, but you need to consider a few things. Perhaps you'll have to answer a few emails on the road. Perhaps you simply can't drive as far away as you initially hoped, because you really need take care of your kids. Maybe you realize that there will never really be an ideal time to prioritize this road trip, so it's up to you to make the space in your life to do it. None of these conclusions would be wrong, no matter how much the people around you might holler. At the end of the day, it's your life!
  2. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Of course, get your oil changed and rotate your tires, but also get things cleared by your mechanic. You don't want to be in the middle of the desert and lose your water pump or air conditioning.
  3. Plan your route! When you map out a road trip, you need to know where you're beginning, where you want to end up, and how long you have to get there. With any of these pieces missing, you'd be pretty hard pressed to make measureable progress. Once you know all of this you can accomplish a number of helpful things: You can adjust your timeline or your expectation to ensure they're realistic (it'd be almost impossible to make it from Portland to New York in two days, you could do it with some aggressive focus in four, but if you actually want to relax, enjoy the process, maybe stop to see some stuff along the way, you may need a full week). You can make sure you have enough supplies. You can make a really sweet playlist.
  4. ....or DON'T plan! Maybe crazy structure makes you feel pressured and stressed, and that's totally fine! You could absolutely reach your destination by simply deciding you're going to drive for a certain number of hours each day, or head in the general direction of your destination and hope for the best. The common ground here is that you still need to pay attention and be consistent, or you'll never get where you want to go. 
  5. Pace yourself appropriately. Drive pedal to the metal constantly and you run the risk of burning out too quickly or doing permanent damage to your car. Likewise, drive too slowly and it'll take you way longer then necessary to get where you want to go. 
  6. Keep your tank filled, literally and figuratively. If you're not stopping to refuel AND taking breaks to stretch your body, you'll get nowhere fast and you won't feel very awesome throughout. 
  7. Don't get thrown by roadblocks! If you hit traffic or construction, don't turn around and go home. Look at your map and find a way to navigate around it.
  8. Keep your perspective. Road trips are fun and worthwhile, but that doesn't mean every mile will be enjoyable. If you get tired, stressed, or bored, remember where you want to arrive. Remember that, at the end of the day, YOU made the choice to embark on this journey and only you can control your reaction. 
  9. Your vehicle is your own. It might not perform like the cars around you on the highway and sure, it's easy to get frustrated with your dented Camry when Maseratis seem to be passing you constantly. Keep your eyes on the road - comparing your situation to those around you won't help you get where you want to go. What it takes for you to drive a Maserati may or may not be realistic in the context of the rest of your life, and being overly focused on the fact that you're NOT in one means you're missing out, not only on taking care of your own car, but on a lot of awesome scenery along the way. 
  10. Ask for help from someone who knows more than you. Is your engine making a funny noise or running hot? Go to a mechanic (and hey, if you happen to be a mechanic yourself, there's no shame in stopping by a garage for a second opinion! Sometimes it takes an outside pair of eyes to gauge what's wrong.) Feel like you're driving in circles? Pull over and check your map OR ask someone who lives in the area for directions. 
  11. Find a buddy to join you. Car trips are way more enjoyable with a companion! Whether they're manning the playlist to keep you entertained, helping you out when you're tired, or just keeping you accountable to the distance you need to go before you rest for the night, most of us are stronger together than we are apart. 
  12. DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE. Sure, enjoy the views, but if you're not staying focused on the road and mindful of the journey you're headed for disaster.
  13. Know yourself. A million experts and Google maps may shout at you that the highway is the "correct way" for you to get where you're going, and it's stupid to take the winding back roads, but if you hate traffic and big roads, you'll be miserable every single day of your trip. Do your research and ask for advice but ultimately you need to go your own way.

Finally - know that there's absolutely no rush or obligation to embark on a trip like this. Just because your best friend got back from a cross-country jaunt and can't shut up about it, or you follow a really awesome Instagram account that proclaims that you MUST go on a trip to be fulfilled in life doesn't mean that it's right for you right now. 

If you feel super overwhelmed or intimidated by the distance, the first step is to simply get comfortable driving in the first place. Practice foundational skills like accelerating, braking, using your turn signal, changing a tire, until you're totally confident you can manage something more challenging. And above all, you need to find peace with yourself because whether you're here or there or somewhere in betweeen, you are still you. And the you you are is pretty valuable, and awesome, and capable of anything you want to accomplish - whether it's a three thousand mile road trip, or a three hundred pound deadlift, or a thirty year journey to find confidence in the skin you're in*. 

*This wasn't really about a road trip. But hopefully you've figured that out already. 

  

17 Things In 2017

Dusting off the blog this year in an effort to make sure my life is well-rounded and full of adventure! I'm sure business-y people would caution me to keep this space reserved for fitness and nutrition articles only but hey, I think it's important to be transparent and, well, normal. I do what I do to help people live fuller and richer lives, and I think my personal voice is relevant. Here's to 2017 and what I'd like to accomplish in the next year! I'll be posting and blogging with updates as I check things off on my list - with the goal of getting through at least 17 in 2017 (see what I did there?) Cheers!
 

  1. Paddleboard on Lake Union.
  2. Get a tattoo.
  3. See a whale.
  4. Pursue continuing education.
  5. Try a new sport/ physical activity that I've never done.
  6. Go on an overnight retreat alone.
  7. Write 32 blog posts.
  8. Climb to John Muir basecamp on Rainier.
  9. Visit a new city.
  10. Read 100 books.
  11. Get a guest post or article published.
  12. Find a volunteer opportunity that speaks to me.
  13. Night tubing in Snoqualmie.
  14. Visit the Hoh Rainforest.
  15. Cook 32 new recipes.
  16. Compete in a powerlifting meet. 
  17. Pull a double bodyweight deadlift.
  18. Drive across the country.
  19. Complete Dan John's 10,000 swing challenge. 
  20. Compete in a weightlifting meet.
  21. Re-climb the Chief , this time without pain.
  22. Do 10 pull-ups, strict.  


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Musings on mindset.

Mindset shift:


What if, instead of feeling guilt over the fact that you're a human adult who likes to eat and drink certain things that may or may not be "healthy", you objectively looked at how those things could be a part of your diet without being the hinge upon which you're "on plan" or "off plan?"


Pay attention for a single day. What rituals/habits do you participate in that bring you a real sense of satisfaction? This doesn't have to be food-related, and it doesn't have to be Pinterest-y and woo-woo, either. Maybe it's your morning cup of coffee. Maybe it's the feeling of hopping into the shower after a long workday. Maybe it's a square of chocolate and a cup of tea before bed. Where could you create moments like this if you don't have any? What mindless habit could you work on giving up that would make space (be it time, energy, calories, money) for a moment of peace and clarity?


What if you could find a non-food-related response to success achieved, hard day ended, tragedy survived? What might that look like?


Most of us have a specific vision in mind when we consider our goal achieved - whether it's a way our body will be shaped or a task we'll be able to accomplish. Think about how you'll feel when you've achieved it? Will the method you took to get there be one you can maintain?


What if you designed your nutrition to fit your life instead of forcing your life to fit your nutrition?

"I was able to make a real and permanent switch in my eating habits."

Brit's Story: 

When I first met you at the FUELhouse nutrition seminar, I was skeptical to say the least. Not because of anything you said, simply because I felt like I had tried everything and done a reasonably good job of educating myself and was seeing absolutely no results. Also, because I wasn’t coming into [Recharge] eating a bag of cheeseburgers every day, I was really unsure of how what seemed like small changes would really help. What I loved about what you were saying was that it seemed so simple – but that also make me hesitant. I had always felt like the only way that I’d make big changes was if I made BIG changes and tortured myself on a strict plan like every other cleanse/diet/regimen that I’d followed. Funny that they didn’t work, but I still thought that there was some magic formula and if you ate one extra apple (ok…being honest I probably mean cookie here) on a day with no carbs, you’d explode. You suggested a simple formula to think about at every meal and made it okay not to follow it strictly. I loved the idea that you presented immediately that it was your goal that at the end of 60 days, we didn’t feel like falling face first into a pizza, because that is how I’ve always felt when gutting it out at the end of a cleanse. One of my favorite parts of the experience was realizing that I didn’t actually know if we were just starting week 8 or if it was “over” because I’d already decided that there was no such thing as “over”.

[Since I started working with you and training at FUELhouse] I've lost 13 lbs and 5 inches around my waist, a pretty amazing start! But more specifically, I feel like I’ve made a gigantic step in the way I look at meals – especially when it comes to protein. It was certainly not the first time that I’d heard that I needed to eat more protein, but when I calculated how much protein you suggested I eat (2/3 my body weight in grams/day), I saw that number and thought there was no way I’d get there – especially not every day. So making that first shift was definitely the hardest. Thinking about figuring out how to get to that number, especially without eating mammals, was daunting. But once I realized I could do it and started seeing my body change, it got easier. Now I feel very much like it’s a part of how I eat without thinking about it. I look at every meal and menu differently and realize that just because I was not an “unhealthy” eater before, I am now eating in a way that is healthy and fuels me to accomplish my goals.

I loved the idea that you presented immediately that it was your goal that at the end of 60 days, we didn’t feel like falling face first into a pizza, because that is how I’ve always felt when gutting it out at the end of a cleanse. One of my favorite parts of the experience was realizing that I didn’t actually know if we were just starting week 8 or if it was “over” because I’d already decided that there was no such thing as “over”.

I love that you met me where I was at, even though that was a tough place. I basically told you that I’d give it a shot, but that I was doubtful that I’d see any great results based on my past trials and failures. I recognize that I was a tough cookie, because I felt like I had been doing most things right when it came to eating and working out, but that for whatever reason, my body was immune to my efforts. You asked me to trust you, but didn’t force anything on me. You were so incredibly supportive about every aspect of my journey. Instead of just telling me to start eating more meat for protein, you worked with me to find protein sources that I felt okay about making a regular part of my life. Instead of telling me to stop eating dessert, you helped me figure out that 3 squares of really delicious dark chocolate would help me more than hurt me and you made it ok for that to be a part of my life on a regular basis. You never pushed anything to the extreme and I never felt deprived. With your suggestions, there was always room to have a glass of wine or celebrate a special occasion with a few bites of really amazing desert. You gave me some flexibility to live a normal life, to still go out to eat and not have to tell people I was on some weird cleanse and having that was a huge part of the reason I felt what you taught was sustainable. The fact that I didn’t have to follow a strict plan is the primary reason that I felt like I was able to make a real and permanent switch in my eating habits. Now when I hear people tell me they are miserable because they’re on a diet, I feel sorry for them because I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I never once felt like I was on a “diet” – I only felt like you were trying to gently help me change my whole perspective…and you did.

Brit and Winston, loving life!

Brit and Winston, loving life!

Now - I am so grateful for your ongoing support. Even just being able to bounce my struggles with the Scandinavian Swimmers (ed. note LOL!!!!) that my boyfriend refuses to stop buying has been a great source of support. I really appreciate that you know my issues and my struggles and are willing to help me to still adjust things to continue to be successful.

I’d honestly recommend you to anyone – whether it was someone who had never even thought about trying to change or whether it was someone who felt they’d tried everything and had no success. Since I was in the second category, I know that you were able to help me there, but your approach is simple enough that I think anyone with an honest desire to change their eating habits would benefit from work with you. I think that the most important thing people should know is that you’re not going to tell them exactly what they can and can’t do. You’re not going to tell them exactly what to eat for every meal for 2 weeks and then just expect them to be “fixed”. You are going to meet them where they are and help them figure out how to make sustainable and long term changes and tweaks that will change the way they eat forever, but it’s not a “diet” and they shouldn’t expect that.

In the past, what I think I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to eat and figured there was a magic formula. But that didn’t work because I can’t always cook and sometimes I don’t have time to go to the grocery store – so your method allowed me to continue living my normal life but also making big changes in the types of foods I was choosing. It also allowed me to keep from “failing” – and not feeling like I was failing kept me from giving up. I would want to tell anyone that worked with you to TRUST YOU…that was hard for me, especially because I didn’t really see how eating so much more protein would actually help me to lose weight and inches, but you totally nailed it.

 I am eternally grateful for not only the change that you and FUELhouse have brought in me, but for your patience and kindness during the process. I was so dubious that I would see real results – I’m still kind of shocked – so you had an uphill battle. Thank you for sticking with me, for encouraging me and for continuing to help me change. You absolutely and totally came into my life when I needed you most and I’m so very grateful to know you!

"Whatever You Look For, You'll Find." #OneThing About Mastering Your Mind

Subtitled: When a large man in a kilt stands in front of you and bends a full size wrench in half with his bare hands....you generally listen to what he has to say.

Meet Iron Tamer Dave Whitley, wearer of the kilt, bender of the iron, breaker of chains, lifter of the (maybe/probably Hammer of Thor), and welcome to part 5 of my #OneThing series, in which I reflect on the amazing weekend I spent learning from the best and brightest in San Diego at the Strength Matters Summit. The topic of Dave's conversation? Unleashing Your Superhuman Self...a topic that felt especially near and dear to my heart as I spent a good part of the weekend contemplating how the hell I would pull a 10,000 pound truck the weekend AFTER at California's Strongest Woman. 

The clarity with which we define something determines its usefulness.
— Tony Blauer

When we set out to make a change in our lives, why do we succeed? Why do we fail? What makes us take action in the first place, and what happens in our brains in that perilous first few weeks when we, for whatever reason, stop doing the shiny new thing? 

YOU MUST DEFINE SUCCESS:

What is the current situation? Have an honest conversation with yourself (hint: this is where a coach can be REALLY useful in compassionately helping you sort out how to break down your goals in a manageable way, and if you're prone to falling victim to your own bullshit we can gently help you out there as well). If you suspect that your nutrition could use some work, this is a great opportunity to spend a couple of days journaling your hunger and food intake to see what's really happening. Feeling plateaued in your fitness? Assess the past few months. Are you a serial program jumper? If you've stuck religiously to a program, is the best fit for what you're actually trying to accomplish? 

What does success look like? Get detailed and descriptive. How will your success carry over into other areas of your life? Do you see yourself leaner and stronger? Do you see you and your family enjoying homemade pizza night together once a week instead of mindlessly zoning out in front of tv with delivery? Do you see yourself closer to being out of debt because of the money you've saved? Do you see yourself sleeping more soundly and waking up more refreshed?  Write it down. Repeat it when things are going well AND when they aren't. 

Define your WHY. A HUGE gap when it comes to most nutrition and fitness programs. I use the 5 Why's to help my clients really start to attach their goals to their values. It's easy to say "I'm gonna stop eating sugar" or "I'm going to run more," but when you start to dig into the real reasons you're pursuing this new activity it helps with keeping you motivated when things get hard. If we tease out the fact that you're cutting back on pizza BECAUSE you want to lose weight BECAUSE you want to be healthier BECAUSE your father passed away of a heart attack at a young age AND you want to be healthier for your kids, that will feel a lot different than cutting back on a pizza habit BECAUSE you know you spend way too much money on takeout food and BECAUSE you want to get your finances under control. Overall, it becomes a lot easier to "remember the long game," as OPT says, and keep you motivated for the long haul. 

Change your attitude. Dave pointed out that the primary cause for success or failure is our own self-image. When we talk about our future selves using the language we've always used in the past, we set ourselves up for failure. If you embark on a new journey counting the minutes until you get a sugar craving and fail, because that's what you've always done, that's what you'll continue to do. Using that image of success you wrote down earlier, reaffirm that you're ALREADY THAT PERSON using actions rather than outcomes.

Example: "I've always struggled with cravings and have battled my weight for years. I'm doomed to be overweight forever. I may as well just order pizza tonight. I'm so tired." 

Instead, try this: "I'm a person who exercises regularly, and who eats vegetables and protein with each meal. I model healthy behaviors so my kids will develop a good relationship with food as they grow up. I'm mindful of my intake of foods like pizza because  I know they're delicious but don't leave me with a lot of energy to play with my kids." 

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
— Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

 

Build in compassion. Most of us have spent our lives idealizing a future in which our perfect self shows up for business, day after day, with nothing ever going wrong. Kids don't get sick, the landlord doesn't suddenly raise the rent, the car doesn't get broken into, you get the big promotion and continue to be Wonder-Person, cooking freshly prepared perfectly balanced meals every day for your eager family. You Have Your Shit Together. And when that inevitably doesn't happen, we throw up our hands, declare that it's too difficult, and promise to start again on Monday (which of course means I will TOTALLY order cheese fries tonight, because hey! #DietStartsMonday!) 

What if your path to achievement included compassion for yourself? 

What if you talked to yourself the way you'd talk to your kid? Or your puppy? Or your friend? 

What if, instead of demanding perfection and failing, you started small and worked on consistency? 

What if you made it easier on yourself rather than harder? 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail; and what could you accomplish if you set yourself up to be successful? 

"Leave One Bite." #OneThing About #OneHabit That Clicked

Welcome to part 3 of the continuing series "One Thing," in which I do my best to process the Niagara Falls-like amount of information I took in at the Strength Matters Summit I recently attended in San Diego. We got to sit in on about 30 hours of lectures over three days, delivered by some of the most notable individuals in the health and fitness industry - in order to keep us focused and not-overwhelmed (hah!) our hosts suggested that after each presentation we go back to our notes and circle One Thing that stood out or particularly resonated with us. 

One of the reasons I was most excited to attend the summit was to hear Josh Hillis and Georgie Fear speak about habit coaching. I've been following them both for awhile now (they're both masters of using the psychology of behavior to help people dial in their nutrition) and anyone who has worked with me in the past year or so knows that habit-based nutritional practices have pretty much become my M.O. for helping clients develop plans to achieve their health/body composition goals in a way that's sane and sustainable. 

As a group, we worked through a sample Nutrition Assessment form (a basic intake form that's a way to assess the quality of your current diet. Caveat - there's really no way that's perfect, but a questionnaire that asks about general food frequency combined with a dietary record paints a pretty good picture of where someone might be struggling/lacking and where they're already successful. The first set of questions were pretty generic:

"How frequently do you eat orange veggies/pasta/chicken/eggs/bread/cheese/etc?" (Options for answering ranged from "Never/less than once per week" to "more than once per day." 

Easy stuff, especially if you're like me and are pretty in tune with thinking about what you're eating (for better or worse). 

So what resonated particularly? 

Assessing BEHAVIORS. And one in particular...

Quick side note. Behavior change, I think, is one of the key aspects that's missing from the education of most coaches, nutrition or fitness or otherwise. It's one of the things that originally drew me to certify through Precision Nutrition - half of my Level 1 course addressed science and physiology but the entirety of the second half discussed the psychology of coaching and behavior change. (My NSCA book spent a whopping half chapter on it.) God knows there are plenty of terrible coaches out there who assume that a lack of results can be attributed to laziness or a refusal to just eat the right things (Disclosure: I totally used to be this way too.)

Recognizing the need for behavioral overhaul has been a game changer for my coaching business, and for my own nutritional practices as well. Because in the end, it's really not about simply providing my people with the perfect list of "good/clean food" and "bad/dirty food," and, in all actuality, continuing to chase this perfect list usually means people end up on a rollercoaster of poor adherence and therefore, bad results. After all, it's pretty easy to Paleofy cake and ice cream these days. And even if you have a medical reason to be avoiding certain foods (gluten, for example), you cannot eat an entire gluten free pizza or a pan of paleo brownies in one sitting on a regular basis and expect to feel, look, and perform your best. 

I think we're all in agreement here, right? Right. 

So, what was the #OneThing that resonated with this portion of Josh and Georgie's respective talks? It was actually kind of obscure. One little question on one little page of that sample Nutrition Assessment: 

How often do you stop eating, even if food is left on the plate?

 

For some reason, this question stuck out to me. I was intrigued. So, for the last few weeks, I decided to start paying attention and note a few reactions that popped into my head. Here are a few that I jotted down.

  1. -------------- (This means, I didn't have a reaction because I wasn't paying attention. Probably because I was hoovering my lunch between clients, while answering emails and checking Facebook. Or eating hummus while watching a movie. Ahem).
  2. "I'm still hungry...." but only because I rushed through my meal and didn't give my brain time to catch up to my stomach.
  3. "I'm still hungry..." because I was actually still hungry, maybe because I'd under-eaten in some form or another earlier (note: this usually happens when I don't have my act together in the AM and train fasted, or come in low on protein. Not the case for everyone, but it's something I know about me).
  4. "This is too good, I don't want to stop eating it." 
  5. "But this is the last time I'll get to eat (special dish) at (special restaurant) in (special city I'm never coming back to)!"
  6. "I need to eat all of this so it doesn't go to waste."
  7. "Seriously, it's just one bite, how could it possibly matter?"
  8. "But I need these carbs/fat/protein, I'm supposed to eat x number of grams, today was a training day." 

Clearly, there's a lot to unpack here (and I'm the professional!) So, why can something as simple and seemingly inane as simply leaving a bite or two behind at each meal help you lose fat/weight, maintain your current weight, or simply develop a healthier relationship with food?

  1. It helps create a caloric deficit. The mack daddy of fat loss, is, of course, burning more calories than you take in. The trouble with planning to restrict calories is that it usually doesn't work, or it works and then stops working. Most of us usually attempt too big a deficit, which can lead to reactionary binging (sound familiar, hello weekend warriors!) OR, react to the mere suggestion that something is limited by promptly craving it more. It seems so small, but if your weight and/or body composition has remained stable for more than a few weeks, you're eating at caloric maintenance. Simply shaving a few bites off of each meal (stuff adds up!) can tip you into enough of a caloric deficit to start seeing changes again. And you can do it while still eating foods you enjoy.*** Hey, the Okinawans have been using this practice (hari hachi bu - eating til 80% full) for centuries, and it seems to be working pretty well for them. 
  2. It helps you fight the lure of the Scarcity Mentality. The Scarcity Mentality is your brain, still stuck in the caveman days, convinced that food is scarce and when you find it, you better eat it all to stock up for the inevitable coming famine. The trouble is, these days, there isn't any coming famine, and the calorically dense "treats" have become commonplace, whether you live in a great food/beer city like Seattle, or work in an office that celebrates birthdays seemingly weekly. It's true that, in some cases, we might be better off abstaining from certain foods entirely, but I think a much more reasonable approach is to learn that the food is just food. It can be enjoyed, without having emotional power over us. And the practice of leaving one bite behind is a really good place to start. 
  3. It's applicable under any circumstances, anywhere, no matter what you're eating/drinking. You can leave a few bites on the plate whether you're at home or at a restaurant. You can leave bites of chicken and broccoli, McDonald's french fries, movie popcorn, pizza, nut butter, or hummus and, unless you're really vocal about it, no one will even notice that you're doing it. Which means you don't have to feel alienated at the table. You don't have to turn down dinner with friends or social events. You don't have to turn down Grandma's pumpkin pie or the Christmas cookies you get once a year. You just have to eat with intention.
  4. It forces you to think beyond "perfection" and, in turn, helps to break the cycle of "on the wagon, off the wagon" dieting. You're not failing, because no matter how far from your plan you deviate, you're still coming right back to the practice of leaving something behind. If you've struggled with going "off plan" from a highly restrictive diet in the past and had that moment where you've said "fuck it, I may as well polish off the pizza/cookies/nut butter/chips and restart on Monday"? This stops the cycle in its tracks.
  5. You can keep scaling it at your own pace until you find the "sweet spot." Consistently leaving one bite at each meal and still not seeing progress? Cool. Can you leave two bites? How about three? Which brings me to my next point....
  6. ***It forces you to slow down and pay attention, both in the moment and during the rest of the day. Yep, you don't have to restrict the types of foods/food groups you eat HOWEVER, what you'll probably notice as you start noticing this is that it becomes harder or easier depending on how your meals are constructed. If you're eating nothing but a bagel for a snack, leaving a bite behind will probably leave you a bit...unsatisfied (if not immediately, definitely a few hours later). If you eat a breakfast that combines a good source of dense protein, healthy carbs, and greens or fruit for volume, you may notice that your hunger between meals becomes much less of an emergency and much more manageable. If you find that you're starving within an hour after walking away from the table, you might need to up your protein or fat by just a little bit. You might notice that a morning workout means it's a lot harder to walk away from your lunch without gobbling up every bite. You might notice that certain foods are a LOT harder to walk away from than others (hint: they're probably manufactured like that on purpose). While you're feeling this out, a food journal can be helpful in connecting input to output, but as you become more attuned to your hunger signals from day to day, there's no need to keep meticulous track unless you feel like you've plateaued. 

CHALLENGE: Over the next couple of days, explore this for yourself. Don't even worry so much about actually leaving the bite behind, just pay attention/jot down how you feel about it. Does it make you feel stressed? Defensive? Do you roll your eyes because it feels stupid and pointless? Cool. Because I felt all of those feelings, too. Or maybe you've done this your whole life and it comes naturally to you. That's cool too! If you try it for yourself, what do you notice about the results? I'd love to hear your insights. Shoot me an email at meg@ironandspice.com or comment below with what you learned.

 

"Can You Go?" #OneThing About Keeping Your Cool

I don't need to tell you guys how much of a privilege it was to hear renowned Coach Dan John speak at the Strength Matters summit. I even got to actually hang out with the man (like, have a drink, shoot the shit, laugh at Eddie Izzard - he's my people).  I don't know that I'll ever have it in me to earn a DJBB (Dan John Black Belt), but I certainly took away a ton when it came to the practice of assessing and training athletes not only for competition, but for life. 

Dan covered a LOT in his talks and dispersed the kind of wisdom you can only get from someone that's been in the game for a hell of a long time. 

My own upcoming competition (California's Strongest Woman) was on my mind throughout the weekend. I'm pretty open about the fact that I'm less than physically prepared for this one. I feel pretty confident about my ability to put up at score in most of the events, and a few are a complete wildcard. What can I say? For a beer city, it's really hard to find a keg to throw overhead in Seattle.  Honestly, I signed up on a passionate whim and just kind of rolled with it when it came to training. I've had lots on my plate over the past couple of months, coupled with being coach-less and team-less for the first time in my training life. Lesson learned - wandering-nomad style training doesn't suit me, I need a training partner, and I REALLY need to outsource my own programming to someone else. That said, I'm still planning to go in hard, leave it all on the platform, and have a freaking kick-ass time. 

So, how does Dan John's talk relate to my competition? On a practical note, he spoke a lot about maintaining your mental relaxation when you're on the contest floor by controlling your emotional arousal while you're in training. His words: "I always smile when I throw the discus."

My usual M.O of heading into contests for the enjoyment of them means that I'm RARELY in my own head. Sure, I've failed a snatch behind me at a meet because I didn't know where to look, lights in my face and lots of humans staring at me. But I rarely get "too" hyped. In fact, I could argue that I'm a little TOO calm - that I need to learn to dig deep and find that passion inside me that drives me to perform best as well as find that desire to want to do better than the competitor next to me. 

Quiet the mind, sling the stone.

Quiet the mind, sling the stone.

He offered some practical ways to control your tension and relaxation levels both on the practice platform and on the field of play. 

How to Relax? 
Shake it out
Wiggle the jaw
SMILE.
Count your breaths
Heat

On the flip side, sometimes you need to get a little fired up:
Planks
Isometric holds
Cold water
Have your friend/coach give you some friendly face/butt slaps (not weird)

And I know that this phrase has so many layers of meaning that he wrote a whole book about it, but when I'm sitting in the parking lot at Santa Cruz Strength and my head is spinning with all the ways I could possibly fail my next event, I'll hear Dan's voice in my head asking: 

Can you go?
Save the Xena Warrior Princess aggression for when it counts. 

Save the Xena Warrior Princess aggression for when it counts. 


Psssst. There are more than 65 women competing at California's Strongest Woman this weekend! Each of them embody strength, power and passion for the sport and prove that strongman is indeed for EVERYONE, regardless of size or shape. I'm so proud to be competing next to them. 

Want to watch? The live stream is here.
Want to know exactly what's going on? The rules and events are all detailed here. 
 

"Honor the Long Game." #OneThing About Longevity in Fitness

Recently, I was privileged to be able to attend the Strength Matters Summit in San Diego thanks in part to my wonderful friend, mentor, and partner in crime, Molly Kieland of FUELhouse. After three days of listening to some brilliant speakers and meeting amazing people, I left with a full heart, a melting brain, and tons of information to use not only with clients, but in my own practices as well.

Throughout the weekend, we were encouraged to take a moment after each presentation to reflect on "one thing" that resonated in our minds. If you know me, you know I struggle with information overload. I love learning, I love talking about the things I've learned, and oftentimes I get so caught up in the acquisition that I forget about the actual PRACTICE. Oooops. So, instead of taking two years to write a super detailed outline of the whole weekend, (because honestly, everyone should go to the next Summit. Just do it. Really), here are the things that spoke to me the most throughout each day. 

"OH HAI OPT."

"OH HAI OPT."

The whole weekend I marveled, for lack of a better word, at the intimacy of the whole summit. I've been to conferences with hundreds of attendees, multiple learning tracks, and while I took home a ton of information, there's something pretty cool about chilling on the floor 20 feet in front of someone you've admired in the industry for years and basically getting to have a four hour chat with cool, strong friends about how to make your people into better humans. 

OPT's first talk was a four hour behemoth on effective metabolic conditioning. I've always respected his message of finding the appropriate intensity over, essentially, beating people into the ground with 45 minute metcons every day. I know good CrossFit. I come from a great CrossFit facility that's doing it right, and I'm not quiet about that (and OPT's work is a big part of why my CrossFit home was a good one) . He went in to a ton of detail on the physiology and logistics of this and we had the opportunity to test our own capacities (Yep, there were airdynes. Come to a Strength Matters Summit, they said. It'll be fun, they said. Right.) 

I  managed to hold a pace on the airdyne that was 65% of my peak work output for a solid two minutes before "feeling the burn" which was actually a pleasant surprise given that I've been training for strongman for the last couple of months, and I'd gotten about 7 seconds of sleep the night before. 

So, I have this data. I have fancy charts for how to time intervals and pacing and rest. I have ways to test stuff now. But what was my One Thing? 

Honor the long game.
— OPT

It may be surprising to people who aren't deeply involved in the world of good CrossFit to hear someone like OPT talking so passionately about longevity. Not just with elite athletes, but with "normals." 

Data is cool. Numbers are awesome. Intensity has a purpose. But if you haven't helped to mold a client into a person that loves fitness for the sake of FOREVER fitness, you haven't done your job. If you don't balance your high intensity intervals/heavy strength stuff with low intensity aerobic work, you're creating clients that depend on adrenaline and cortisol to function. And eventually, that'll come back to bite them - whether they consider themselves to be competitive in a sport or are simply training to feel good and maintain a healthy body composition.

So, what does it mean? It doesn't mean intensity is bad, or that pursuing elite levels of fitness is stupid and worthless. It means that we have to correct the extreme approach and find that less-sexy middle ground (sound familiar? It'll be a repeated theme over the next few posts.) Even elite athletes need to work at lower intensities within their training week - "flirting with the edge" of their maximum capacity rather than hammering their bodies into the ground day after day.

And humans absolutely cannot speed up the process at which our bodies are designed (evolutionarily) to respond to stimuli. Any movement is better than NO movement, but there are no shortcuts to fitness. Honor the long game. Embrace movements that you'll be doing past the age of 90. This means: think beyond your next strongman competition, Meghan. Do some damn 20 minute true aerobic intervals sometimes. And instead of rolling my eyes or complaining that it's boring, learn to love it for the value it brings me.

My homework today is to go for a walk. Unplugged, unloaded, connected to the ground. 

Us: But, OPT, how many minutes of walking per week should we aim for? 

OPT: How long? As long as you can. 
 

There are no shortcuts. Walking is as important to health and longevity as lifting heavy weights. Improvement comes at the edge of your comfort zone, but don't neglect the middle in favor of the extremes.  #OneThing

Training, Day 2.

Jumped into Fuelhouse Friday tonight (or Fuckin' Fantastic Five Thirty Friday Fuel, as Sue says).  My biceps were a little sore from pulling yesterday, but I wanted to sling some kettlebells. 

Part 1:

3 half turkish getups (20kg) - to  a tall sit, 3 count at each position

3 kb floor presses (16kg)

30 second hardstyle plank

3 rounds for quality

Part 2: 

5 kettlebell clean and press (R) - 16kg/20kg

3 goblet squats (20kg)

5 kb c&p (L) 

3 goblet squats

5 rounds total.

Started with a 16kg bell, then jumped up to 20kg, which I wasn't able to strict press, so I push pressed it. Need to work on overhead strict volume.

Conditioning:

(1) EMOM, 5 minutes, 5kb snatches per side @ 16kg (did this for 2 rounds then belled up to 20kg)

(2) With Susannah - 3 rounds alternating 20 wallballs (8#) and lateral hops. 

Woof.



 

 

Training, Day 1.

I'm so excited for California's Strongest Woman. I'm not even sure yet that I'll be in shape to compete in the events, but I figured there's no better time to start training than right now. Given that I'm about to travel for 10 days, I'm going to get going on plain old foundational strength, just rebuilding my base of overhead pressing, pulling, squatting, deadlifting and carrying. When I get back from the holidays I'll re-evaluate and see what I can do at FUELhouse, even though we don't have too many implements to work with. Time to get creative and get STRONG again. 

 

Thursday, 12/17/15

Light Strict Presses, 5x35, 5x35, 3x45, 5x45, 5x55, 8x60

Between presses I did lots of activation work - bottoms up kb walks,  bird-dogs, etc

5 rounds NFT: 10 TRX rows, 5 ring dips (assisted with medium band, these felt great on my shoulders), 1 3-position snatch with 75#.

Strongman is for every(woman).

Strongman is for everyone and every body. Strongman COMPETITION is for anyone who can perform the events. If you're able, you should be allowed to show up and attempt - the field will decide the podium.

Thank you to Kalle Beck, Clay Edgin and Starting Strongman for putting together what's shaping up to be an amazing event, California's Strongest Woman. I will support this in every way I possibly can to show the world that inclusivity is what brings attention and dollars to this awesome sport. I'd encourage anyone I know that has a small business (or a large business) to do the same with their sponsorship budget for 2016.

So proud to witness change as it happens, and to be a part of this incredible strength community.

 

Holiday Survival, Iron & Spice Style

With just a tiny bit of intention, you too can enjoy the remainder of the holiday season without guilt. And I don't mean this in the way that suggests that my tips will involve gutting it out at every holiday party eating out of Tupperware, or turning down the snowman cookie made by your kid because you're afraid the gluten and sugar will make you fat, or working out like a mad person for 5 hours each day to offset your eggnog consumption (or not working out at all, because what's the point if you can only get to the gym twice this week anyway?)

I like to be reasonable. I like to help people design lives that make them feel confident and powerful. I like it when people can celebrate the holidays with good food, not a giant ball of stress and crazytown. The holidays don't have to be a free-for-all that leads into the saddest January, and they don't have to be filled with restriction. They can just be. And so can you.   

1) PRIORITIZE: I talk a lot about consistent good choices trumping perfection that's unsustainable. If you know that the next two weeks are stacked with parties and running around, take a second to set what's non-negotiable. Be realistic when you do this. Maybe you can't make it to the gym every day but you can make it 3 days a week - you can ramp this back up when things calm down in January, but it's much better to come in 3x per week then to throw up your hands because you can't get in here 5 times, say eff it, and stop altogether. Maintenance is real.

Also - fun science fact - around a hard workout your body is PRIMED to use dense carbohydrates the right way! This is in complete opposition to the idea that we all grew up with of "burning off" foods with endless hours on the elliptical, and WHOA NELLY - I'm not at all saying you have to
"earn your cookies."(Seriously, I will never say that.) But you can be strategic about using times of higher than normal carb intake to your advantage. Instead of berating yourself for sneaking an extra scoop of icing - try visualizing that sugar rush as fuel for your muscles to get stronger.  Snatch a heavier kettlebell or run a little faster! I love being strong and active every day, but especially at this time of year. 

2) BE CHOOSY: I said this about Halloween candy and I'll say it again. Just because it's in front of your face doesn't mean you have to eat it. You can say no to stuff that isn't that good (office fruitcake?) Instead, eat a few cookies that you made with your kids and drink your grandma's real, full-fat eggnog. Life is short.

3) PARTY SMART. I don't always love the tip of eating a healthy snack BEFORE the party because I find myself filling up a plate when I get there even if I'm not really hungry. What I do like to do is treat it much more like a normal meal - i.e. Let myself be just "ready to eat", not ravenous, fill my plate with protein or veggie based offerings, and then pick one or two treats to enjoy with purpose after i eat the other stuff. Keep the #5burpee rule in mind. And be mindful of your alcohol consumption, too. It's a lot harder to remember your "why" after 4 glasses of prosecco.

4) KNOW THYSELF and be honest: Continue to be mindful of what foods cause you to go apeshit. Gluten free treats are still very calorie dense treats! Maple syrup and date sweetened things are still sweetened. I love that we have ways to enjoy these things if the real versions make us sick but it's easy to put a golden halo of health over those alternative versions.

5) KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON: telling yourself something is forbidden is the best way to make yourself want it more. Enjoying a few extra treats with real joy, not guilt, won't reverse any progress you've made. I promise.

PSSST....I'm hosting Recharge, an eight week, habit based, group nutrition program at FUELHOUSE GYM, and it begins mid-January! This program is open to members and non-members alike (click here for registration details). If you're tired of dieting in a way that makes you feel restricted, tired , guilty and hungry, let's hang! We use a magical combination of group cameraderie, individualized support, and workouts that are fun as hell to make you ENJOY your journey to better health.  I'm kicking it off with a 90 minute NUTRITION SEMINAR and Q&A on Jan 9th at 10am (register HERE). 

How Have You Changed?

[Reposted with some tiny edits from the Iron & Spice Facebook page]

Resting a sandbag on my head at CrossFit Center City, circa 2009-ish. 

Resting a sandbag on my head at CrossFit Center City, circa 2009-ish. 

How have you changed since you picked up a barbell/kettlebell/dumbbell/strongman implement for the first time? 


I'm thinking aesthetic OR mental OR spiritual OR anything else you think has had an impact on your life. There's absolutely nothing wrong with lifting to change your physique, but I think we sometimes get a little too caught up in the outside (for better or worse) and forget all the other benefits we reap from throwing heavy stuff around, and I personally ALWAYS forget to note this kind of thing in my workout logs.

I'll begin.

1) I have a distinct memory as a young kid of seeing my thighs flatten out when I sat down and hating that (so sad). My legs are still not small, not even a little bit, but they're muscular and strong and I love them now!

2) I'm confident in the weight room at just about any gym I visit. I don't know how to do every movement perfectly (coaching will always be a good thing) but I know my way around and am not intimidated when I'm there.

3) I can do more stuff without worrying about "getting in shape" or "training" first. Like, I can run fun distances (sort of, let's not get carried away) and go on long, steep hikes, and lift the 50 pound bags of potatoes at work without hurting myself. This is going to make me a tough broad when I'm older (and everyone loves a tough old broad).

4) I love going to the gym, even on days when I don't love going to the gym (does that make sense?) Sure, sometimes I'm sleepy or sluggish or I'm just not feeling it, but overall it's not a grind. It's a joy. It's an excuse to accomplish awesome things.

How have you changed since you started lifting?