Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Lay each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid"

I have noticed a change in my philosophy over the years, and especially within the last few months at CFW. When I first started CrossFit I didn't want to embarrass myself or be last. I went as fast as I possibly could but was sacrificing full range of motion and proper technique because my ego couldn't stand the thought of not being "good" at it. The result was a dramatic improvement on my times but in reality I was cheating myself a bit. In most cases we are our own worst enemy. We sabotage ourselves, we don't allow or want to give 100% into something in fear of failure. We often times are most focused on just getting through or finishing something that we forget to take a look at the quality of work we are doing.

"You don't set out to build a wall, you don't start there. You say, I am going to lay each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid... and if you do that everyday sooner or later you have a wall." - Will Smith

I made a conscious effort to start laying each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.... and in CrossFit terms that meant doing each rep as perfectly as a rep can be done. Of course we are all human and it is impossible to be perfect, but if you strive for perfection 100% of the time and end up at 80% you are still far better off than not striving for perfection at all. We are all works in progress and have unlimited potential. The only thing that limits us in this life is our own mind, our thoughts and our perception of ourselves. With goal setting it is important that you set two goals, one being the long term, big picture goal and the other being smaller goals and benchmarks along the way to make sure that you are on the right track and keeping motivated along the way through little victories that build confidence.

You can apply this to anything in life, especially nutrition. When overhauling your entire lifestyle it is important that you try to follow the same philosophy. "Paleo" might seem a little overwhelming at first, no one really likes change right? How overwhelming was CrossFit when you first started, how difficult was your first Hero WOD? You think you can't do something, but you surprise yourself every time if you just go for it. But you don't set out to build a wall. If you break down your 30 day challenge into weeks, then further break those weeks down into days and take those days and break them down into meals you will find you only have to worry about one meal at a time. Sooner or later you will be laying each brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid, or making every meal as nutritious as a meal can be made.

We are coming into the second week of the 30 day Challenge and you should start to feel a little more "normal". Your energy levels should start to level out, become consistent throughout the day and you should begin to notice some improvements on your WODs. Keep up the good work, the hardest part is behind you and the rewards are just around the corner.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything..."

I am a man of quotes, metaphors and analogies... that is how I understand life.

When starting the Paleo challenge keep in mind that there will be many obstacles, hurdles, road blocks and temptations. I think just like with anything else in life, it helps to have a set of guiding principles when it comes to nutrition. Paleo is exactly that for me. The more you "drink the kool-aid" the more positive you will be which will lead to you being successful in this challenge. Day one wasn't too bad was it?

I received a lot of questions regarding the food journal. Winning this portion of the contest aside, the food journal is meant to make you more aware of what you are eating. Typically if it has a label it isn't super Paleo, but we understand the hectic lives you have. It is all about accountability. Every action has a consequence whether it be impeding your performance at CrossFit or potentially risking disease, cancer or any of the other illnesses that the Pharmacutical companies have pills for :)
You can get creative with your food journal. There are so many options. You can either do the old-fashioned hand written journal, use your Beyond the Whiteboard account, or any other website that works best for you. Ultimately it is up to you to do a food journal, but I highly recommend you do it!

This also seems to be a great way to track everything.
Paleo Track

You are all going to do great! Just remember you become empowered with every good choice you make. On the flip side, every bad choice potentially leads to three bad choices and so on before you have completely fallen off of the wagon. I say this because I have been there... many many many times before. The thing I love about Paleo is it takes all of the variables out of the equation and takes the wasted energy on guilt and self control away (after you wean yourself off of the drugs, I mean grains and sugars)

By the way my seasonal allergies (which were awful) went away! I had horrible allergies for years (to the point where I was sneezing nonstop, could barely open my eyes and was in bed under the sheets because any light would irritate me more)! Turns out the research shows seasonal allergies are caused in part by inflammation, and guess what causes inflammation.... you got it! Grains, dairy and legumes. Ever since Paleo I haven't felt remotely allergic and in a time where everyone else is being affected by allergies, it just proves to me that your diet plays a big part in all of it. Paleo not only is the prevention to most things that ail us, but it can also reverse the damage already caused in most cases.

Read about Seasonal Allergies:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This is your mission if you choose to accept it!

The Crossfit Wilmette Paleo Challenge Lecture

(In case you were unable to make the Paleo seminar over the weekend, here's the video for you)

If you don't feel amazing all day everyday, have energy crashes throughout the day, hit a road block in your performance progress, want to lose fat and maintain muscle, want to feel and live healthier than you have ever done before or most importantly have any type of Auto-Immune diseases that are inflammation related I highly recommend you give Paleo a shot.

The prevention is the cure and the cure is the prevention!

The 30 Day Paleo Challenge will consist of:

· Best before and after picture
· Biggest percentage of bodyfat/weight lost (need picture time stamped)
· Best food journal
· Biggest improvement of Fight Gone Bad workout

This will start next Monday April 2.

Time to get FIT!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Crossfit - Paleo Experiment

** Blog is currently under construction **

My 6 Month Progress
"Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity" - Will Smith

As we get older we lose something in ourselves. We live in fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown. We have this idea that certain people are born great. That there are only a select few who are born with superior genetics. We have all at some point believed that greatness is reserved for a select few, but in reality we all have the same innate ability to be great. That golfer who may be better than you, or that singer who can belt those high notes isn’t necessarily better than you. But what they have done is spent more hours practicing their craft. Life never fails to show you that whatever you put in is exactly what you get out. The choice is ours, every day we choose to be average, to just get by, or to be great. I am not one to believe that success is tangible—it is a that never rests. That extra 10 lbs on the bar, that extra rep in a round, or even that extra phone call at work at the end of the day, all make a difference in the big picture. I'm a firm believer that when you commit to anything you give it 100%. I don't believe it does you or anyone else justice to give anything less than your all every day. One of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson is,

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate but that we are powerful beyond measure. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we our liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

A Little Bit About Me

I have been working out since I was 17 years old. I have tried nearly every type of workout, all types of cardio, and nearly every methodology of eating known to mankind. I was 190 lbs of pure muscle when I lifted weights heavily during my early 20s. In my mid 20s I found my way down to 155 lbs with barely any body fat by simply eating sweet potatoes, spinach and ground turkey for every meal. I was always able to find drastic ways to get the results I wanted, but of course they were all unsustainable (whether it is from wear and tear on my body or from pure boredom of eating the same foods every day).

When I turned 30, things in my life were all starting to come together. I was engaged to the love of my life, and my career just started to really take off. But there was something missing. I was working out more than 10 hours a week but was ironically in the worst shape of my life. I had come to accept that as you get older you’d have to resign to beer, beer bellies, and a happily average existence and that only the extreme and genetically gifted could maintain their lean physiques while the rest of us would resign to mediocrity. Something about that just did not sit right with me. I was working hard to get back “in shape” or at least look like I was, but was not able to produce any results other than getting a bit stronger and inching my mileage with running up to 10 miles every Saturday and 3 miles every day. I literally ran every morning and lifted weights every day at lunch for 6 months straight. Although I drank liquor, my diet was what conventional wisdom would deem “healthy”—oatmeal, whole grain rice, whole grain pasta, beans, lean chicken breast, and salads for the most part and a lot of protein shakes. All of my life I have been told that whole grains were good for you. What I didn’t realize is that conventional wisdom was absolutely wrong! My stomach was twisting and turning all of the time, I was “hangry” (hungry and angry) all of the time and I just did not feel right. But I kept at it because sooner or later I had to see results, right? Think again….

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Benjamin Frankin

I went to Miami for my bachelor party in August and thought with my running and conditioning I had made some improvements physically. When we got back from the trip and the pictures from the bachelor party were being posted on Facebook, I was in absolute shock at how big and out of shape I had gotten. There is nothing like the feeling of looking at a picture of yourself with your shirt off and having reality set in. I was 185 lbs, fat, out of shape, and, worst of all, absolutely disgusted with who I had become. Why weren’t all of those hours in the gym producing results? It was a month before my wedding on 9-10-11 when I made the commitment to give up liquor for good. I had given 10 good years of my life to it, had an amazing time, and don’t have too many regrets, but it was a lifestyle change I needed. I noticed my drive for liquor was becoming greater than my drive to succeed, get in shape, or do anything in life other than drink and have a good time.
We had an absolute blast on our wedding night, I woke up with the worst hangover I have ever had in my life, and was out of commission for the entire day after. Imagine how guilty I felt for not being able to talk about the wedding with my new wife the day after because I was that hungover. Two days later when I could finally move again, I knew I went out with a bang and was entering the beginning of the hardest time of my life to kick the habit I have had for 10 years. I had to learn how to have fun and be fun without it, which of course, according to my friends, isn’t socially acceptable; after all I was Brian the professional drinker, the fun guy that always had a drink in his hand. One thing I have learned about myself over the years is how I always want to be the best at everything and oddly enough that carried over to me drinking competitively, not with my friends, but against them… you know who you are ;). At that time I was still going through my normal routine with running in the morning and lifting weights at lunch and still was not seeing great results aside maybe a spike in motivation. I decided I needed to really switch things up. I had heard about CrossFit from friends in the past who had always hinted that they thought I would like it. But I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to put forth that much effort and break away from the routine I was already comfortable with. I thought that any month now would be my month, and I would see a tremendous breakthrough. Again…it never happened. I finally joined CrossFit Wilmette on September 24, 2011.

Starting CrossFit

When I got to CrossFit Wilmette I was a little nervous, intimidated, and in fear of the unknown. I know I kind of looked like I was in shape, but no one saw the layer of body fat I was hiding underneath my hoodie. The first workout was humbling to say the least, but I knew this was exactly what I had been looking for my whole life! It kicked my ass! I immediately cancelled our Lifetime Fitness memberships and committed to 6 days a week of CrossFit. After all I was going twice a day, 6 days a week at Lifetime. I should be able to handle CrossFit, right? Wrong again! I was incredibly sore every day for the first month, mentally and physically. It was the most demanding and challenging thing I have put myself through in a long time, but I loved every minute of it. About a month in, I started seeing some improvement in my conditioning and was working hard every day to get better. My diet at this time was still whole grains, rice, beans, chicken, etc., but I kept hearing about this thing called “Paleo.” It was intriguing because during my stint mentioned earlier at the age of 25 (when I dropped from 185 lbs to 155 lbs) I had inadvertently experimented with Paleo in its most limited form. Six meals a day of ground turkey, sweet potato, and spinach combinations. Imagine my wife (then girlfriend) having to put up with 6 meals a day of that, and me telling her that she wasn’t being healthy. Of course scheduled meals aren’t sustainable or realistic and neither was eating the same 3 foods for 6 months over and over again. My determination was in the right place, but any reasonable human being knows that you can’t do that forever. Diets fail because if you can’t do them forever you revert right back to your original state of being. Of course after the “crash diets” came the crash—my longing for other foods always took precedent, and since I had no variety in my diet I got bored and wasn’t able to stick with it. I went back to my whole grain thing, and wouldn’t you know it, 6 months later, I was back up to 180 lbs and fat.

My Venture into Paleo

It was the week before Thanksgiving when I decided I was going to dive in head first with Paleo. Everyone, including my family, thought I was nuts. The holiday season had arrived and my family and my wife’s are always known to put out button-bursting spreads complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, noodles, and anything else loaded with insulin-producing carbohydrates that you could think of. I made some cauliflower mashed potatoes with rosemary to bring to my parent’s house and I ate that along with a whole lot of turkey, and that was it. I was satisfied and content and I began to realize how good it felt to say no to all of the other food, and even better that I didn’t have the “food coma” or guilt afterwards. At some point I had realized that eating was just as much of a social thing as drinking. The typical Americans (even the ones who have good intentions) are simply not well-informed. Conventional wisdom says, “Eat your grains and limit your fats,” but after quite a bit of research from both reading and experimenting on myself over the past 10 years, this Paleo thing really began to make perfect sense! Its premise is that humans have evolved over millions of years to be adapted to a specific diet of fresh meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The advent of Agriculture had only arrived 10,000 years ago when cultivating grains for the masses had begun. In evolutionary terms, we are genetically equal to our hunter and gatherer ancestors, and 10,000 years is not nearly enough time for us to have adapted to this outside source of “nutrition” (grains—I will post some relevant links, books, and studies as well for those who would like to learn more). Our bodies were designed to burn fat as energy, not superficial sources of carbs (glucose) that we get from grains, legumes, and corn (three huge staples of the American diet). Too much insulin is what drives fat accumulation; eating fat does not cause the body to, by itself, store fat. Of course eating fat and eating grains are the worst of both worlds and most likely what 90 percent of Americans ingest daily.  The combination of saturated fats and elevated insulin levels is very dangerous. When you regularly ingest carbs, your body becomes accustomed to burning those carbs for energy instead of burning the stored fat. However, when you omit the carbs from your diet and instead just eat foods a little higher in fat along with fresh fruits and vegetables, your body instinctively goes straight to your stored body fat for energy.

My progress really began to take off as soon as I started doing Paleo in addition to 6 days/week of CrossFit in November 2011. I noticed that my times were getting better, I was getting stronger, and my energy levels throughout the day were very high and stable. I couldn’t believe it! I was excelling at work, CrossFit, and pretty much everything else I put my mind to, and I was shedding fat and was full of energy. I am now six months into CrossFit, and I feel I am a completely different person mentally, physically, and, I would venture to say even spiritually. CrossFit and Paleo have done so much to make me the person I am today. Finding this type of happiness has prompted me to share it with others so that they too can change their lives for the better. Even with the great results that I've seen, I feel I am still a work in progress but with unlimited potential—as we all are.

Most people are not completely happy with their lifestyle. They are out of shape or even worse think they are in shape but do not feel nor look healthy. I began coaching friends and family through Paleo, and all have seen amazing results both physically and mentally. My parents discontinued their ulcerative colitis, blood pressure, and cholesterol medications for the most part and should be able to wean off them completely in the coming months. This is simply the way we were designed to eat, and the best thing to do is to not take my word for it or even my results. Research it, try it, and feel for yourself what a difference it can make in your life. Many of you will probably say, “but we need grains in our diets… but this, but that….” And while I will provide data to prove otherwise, I ask again that you research it, don’t just follow conventional wisdom, or your family doctor and their food pyramid, or even me. While I have nothing but respect for doctors, I feel most don't know much about nutrition, but they do know a lot about medicine and that is where the problem lies. We focus so much on treatment that we forget about prevention, and it turns out that the prevention is actually the cure. Go figure. I won’t even get into how the FDA and USDA are married to Big Agriculture and Big Pharma industries and what a detrimental effect it would have on the US economy if the FDA recommended eating just fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, cage free chickens, and wild caught fish along with nuts and seeds. They have tricked the average American into making 80% of their diet consist of third world foods such as rice, beans, and cereal grains. They have cleverly marketed them to us as “healthy.” With millions of sick people, the pharmaceutical industry is making billions. There is a lot to be said here for anyone who wants to discuss it, but I will leave it at that….for now.

Brand New Mindset

So where does that bring us? Today is March 4, 2012; I went from being an unhappy, unmotivated, out of shape 30 year old in September 2011 to an extremely happy, highly motivated, and in the best-shape-I-have-ever-been (physically and mentally) 31 year old. CrossFit and Paleo changed my life for the better. I am in tune with my body 100%. I eat as much as I want every day with no measuring and no scheduled meals. Finding and trying new recipes has become a fun hobby for my wife and me. It has brought my family closer together as we are all striving to be healthy. I highly recommend that you give Paleo a try for 30 days if your energy levels are up and down, if you are groggy throughout the day, and/or if you aren’t seeing physical transformations nor performance breakthroughs but are busting your butt at the gym. I especially recommend looking into Paleo if you have health problems such as diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and infertility. Keep a journal of how you feel and how you look. Note your energy levels and see for yourself what a fog you have been living in your whole life (like I did). In a world full of shortcuts and "easy buttons" we have forgotten that sustainable results in anything in life only come from hard work, dedication and smart choices. Life is difficult enough. Do whatever you can to be your best every day. Food is fuel. You wouldn't put 87 grade gas in a Ferrari, would you? We are high performance machines that thrive on high performance fuel. What's in your gas tank?

Are you ready for your 30 day challenge?

The biggest hurdle you will face is people trying to bring you down to their level. They will make you feel crazy for wanting to make a positive change in your life and will do anything to make themselves feel better about the horrible life choices they make (including trying to talk you out of doing this). Stay strong and you will rise above the crap. Be and feel healthier than you have ever felt in your life and literally feel amazing from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed. The first couple of weeks will be the toughest as you are literally weaning yourself off of the most powerful drug on the market—Carbohydrates and Sugars. These big corporations are the biggest dealers in the world and they have billions of customers coming back for more every day just like the crackheads down the street. Don’t be a sheep; don’t follow the herd! And, of course I am here to help you through this and answer any questions you may have throughout your whole journey. All that I hope for is if you do decide to try Paleo and you see the positive changes in yourself both mentally and physically, to share your experience with family and friends and pay it forward.

If you are looking to give Paleo a try I recommend you give 100% for the first 30 days. Carbs are highly addictive physically and mentally. You need to cleanse your system and allow it to reset to its natural state. Cheating by having bread, rice, or any of the other bad carbs in the first 30 days would be the equivalent to a smoker trying to kick the habit (remember: carbs are more addictive than cocaine) who has a cigarette once or twice a week.