Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Blogger: A Festivus Miracle!

The following guest blogger has hit a home run in my humble opinion.  Katrina is a friend, mother, wife, writer.  You can find her latest book, Table for Six,  here if you wish and her website/blog here In the words of Simon Cowell...If I'm being honest....I originally thought, "Katrina is so well-written.  She will be a wonderful guest blogger because she has a great personal story to tell and DAMN!  That girl can write!"  

Well....Katrina, my friend...You have articulated what an aspiring health coach dreams his clients will come to realize.  I've highlighted those ah-ha's in your writing.  

When my youngest was eight and I was still 70 pounds overweight, I decided it was time to stop blaming my posterior on “The Baby.” And the “I had four kids in five years” excuse was getting a little old, too.

The truth? I liked Oreos. A lot.

Oh, and not just Oreos. I was an addict – a carb addict. Perhaps “Man doth not live on bread alone,” but I was fairly certain I could live exclusively on Noble Romans breadsticks, given that glorious opportunity.

As a former athlete, I was accustomed to eating anything I wanted… and never gaining an ounce. But age and Oreos caught up with me as they are wont to do. It was time to do something different, to see things through a new lens, to make a lifestyle change.

I’d dabbled in many diets over the years – from Weight Watchers to grapefruit to liquid only. I’d tried just about everything. And sure, I lost weight on all of them. But I always gained it back. And then I’d gain a few extra pounds just for good measure.

Why? Because they were temporary. Because I wasn’t learning anything about food, exercise, my body, and how those three entities work together.

My trusted doctor (and uncle) suggested I try the South Beach diet. When I realized I had to give up sugar for TWO WHOLE WEEKS, I was convinced I would probably die. Or kill someone. And I’ll admit, when those two weeks began, I was grumpy, irritable, and less than pleased. I didn’t kill anyone. I’m fairly certain, however, that I yelled a lot. I probably even cried. But when those two weeks were over, I’d lost twelve pounds and no longer craved sugar and carbs.

It was truly a Festivus miracle.

I am blessed with an incredibly supportive husband who also happens to be a great cook. He made this journey with me, and together we lost over 100 pounds within the course of a year. And here’s the thing… South Beach isn’t really about dieting. It’s about making better, more informed choices. It’s about choosing a sweet potato instead of a white potato. It’s about savoring a bite of good, rich, dark chocolate instead of a processed candy bar. It’s about enjoying a steaming cup of hot Zen tea instead of a McDonald’s Diet Coke. It’s about embracing the veggies. And we all need to give the veggies a little love, don’t we?

Once the pounds began to fall away, everything about my life changed. I know, I know – it sounds like a bad commercial, but it’s true. My energy returned, my motivation increased, my mood improved.

Mama got her groove back.

I’d always wanted to run a marathon by the time I turned 40, had always wanted to check that particular item off my bucket list. At age 40 (+ a few months), I completed the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. My husband and kids supported me through alternately grueling and rewarding months of training, my friends met me on my long runs with water and Gu and cheerleading in the streets. Long-distance friends sent motivational tapes and letters of encouragement. Marathon-running veterans offered me valuable words of advice. Apparently, it takes a village to run a marathon.

And I have never been more grateful for my village.

Crossing that finish line with my friends and kids (who ran the last quarter mile with me) was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. It taught me – and my children – what dedication is all about. It was a priceless lesson in setting a goal and seeing it through.

And I must admit that some of those early morning training runs were downright spiritual.

Health and fitness isn’t a cross-the-finish-line kind of event, though. It’s an ongoing process. There’s always more to learn, always something new to try. And are there times I give into the lure of the Oreo? You bet. Life is about living, after all. But a healthy body makes life a thousand times more enjoyable.

And strutting my skinnier, happier, healthier self in some “7 for all mankind” jeans? Not a bad bonus, either.





Thursday, September 29, 2011

Choosing My Attitude

This Jedi warrior's picture hangs in my office.  I work by day as a school counselor helping kids manage their stress/anxiety.  I assist with getting many of them organized, and I want them to realize that if they want to make change in their lives they must change themselves and the world around them will follow.  However, just the other day, I looked above my desk and I realized that the great wisdom of this creature often has gone forgotten and he has many lessons that can apply to any arena.  

Fast forward two days.  The phone rings.  There is one opening this weekend in Chicago for the LifeasRx Crossfit Competition.  

This is billed as a competition for all levels of Crossfit.  In other words, you dont' have to be like this...

So my answer was, "Let's do it."  

Am I nervous?  Sort of.  However, I'm looking at it like this:  A year ago I was 270 lbs.  I could not do a pull up, and I was far from fit and healthy.  Today, I'm as fit as I've ever been, but I am unsure about what I am working towards lately.  This is a great opportunity to go into something without knowing what lies ahead.    It's a great opportunity to learn from those around me, and see where I stack up and what I need to work on.  

If you've read The Fish Philosophy, you could say that I am "choosing my attitude".

If you are a real Star Wars geek like me, you would hear Yoda telling you to "unlearn what you have learned" and "Do!  Or do not!  There is not try."  

(watch this entire clip b/c the last two lines say it all!)

So what are you going to do in your life that is difficult, out of your comfort zone, and a challenge like none other?  
Stay tuned next week and I'll share my experience.  

Monday, September 26, 2011


In a previous post, I listed a few things that I could not do before I discovered Crossfit.  Recently, I thought of another. 


I've always been good at this type of squatting.
And for all practical reasons, squatting to do your business should be similar to the proper technique in any squat.  Here's what it should look like....

Before Crossfit, I was like anyone else who would say...

"Squatting hurts my back."
"Squatting hurts my knees."
"I hate squatting."

When first arriving CrossfitCarmel over a year ago, the above-mentioned statements were met with the following reply:

"Once you start squatting with correct form, you won't have that kind of pain."

Now, 14 months later, I understand that squatting is a glute, hamstring engagement.  Putting less weight on the bar and working on form over the past several months has been the best thing I've ever decided.  And as I look to work on my hamstring mobility, I can only hope that I am able to increase my squat numbers in the future.  

My knees don't hurt when I squat because I make sure my knees track over my toes.  

My back does not hurt when I squat because I make sure my chest is up.  If I can not keep my chest up, then I have too much weight on the bar.  

When I first started Crossfit, I could barely squat 135 lbs.

(let the sweaty jokes's the only pic I had!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

What You Have in Common With an Ironman (No Matter Who You Are)

I've always been in awe of people who can push themselves to extreme limits.  The climbers who tackle Everest, while completely out of their minds, fascinate me.  The first marathon I watched in person, left me in complete awe.  In high school, I remember needing at times to work my tail off to make up for my lack of athletic ability as I was not gifted with great speed or jumping ability, but I knew I could outwork people.  Perhaps that is why Crossfit is so appealing to me.  Each and every workout every time I go to the gym pushes me to my limits for the day.  

And so when I heard that a couple of they guys from Crossfit Carmel were running their first Ironman triathlon, I wanted to learn what I could from them.  I'm pretty sure I'll never tackle an Ironman, but I'm very certain I can learn from those who have.  For that reason, I asked Nick Smarrelli, now an official Ironman himself, to share his experiences here.  Specifically, I was interested in how he and Dave trained because it was fairly unorthodox to say the least.  I also asked him to touch upon his dietary and mental approach to this mind-bending and grueling experience.  It's my hope that no matter where you are with your fitness that you will be able to take lessons from Nick and Dave and apply to your fitness journey.  Enjoy!
Recently, after a grueling 12 hour day, I had the opportunity to complete my first Ironman distance triathlon race with my good friend Dave Juntgen.  The event has been deemed one of the most challenging endurance races in the world.  It certainly goes against the old mantra: everything in moderation – challenging the athlete to complete a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run in a single day.

I should also note that I keep the rest of my life in that state beyond “moderation”.   I am a part-owner of an IT firm based in St. Louis (which requires me to be commuting 50% of the time and work 7-days a week), I am a part-time trainer at CrossFit Carmel, I am married (and very much was still interested in being married after the Ironman) and am lucky to have a fairly active social life both here in Indy, but also across the country.   That said, with my life on permanent overdrive, adding the element of fitness and Ironman training meant compromise.  

Stubbornly, I refused and headed down a training path known as CrossFit Endurance.   As an active CrossFitter prior to this Ironman, I had only had limited interaction with CrossFit Endurance (hereafter known as “CFE”).  The basic premise said that an athlete can improve performance and endurance while eliminating the unnecessary volume of training generally associated with endurance training.  The focus shifts to intensity and recovery integrated seamlessly with the Olympic lifts, powerlifting, gymnastics movements, and mobility of CrossFit.  What does this mean in real terms?

An “Average” Triathlete’s Mileage for the Week:
Miles per week swimming: 7
Miles per week biking:  225
Miles per week running: 48

Dave and Nick’s Plan:
Miles per week swimming: 2                                  
Miles per week biking: 80
Miles per week running: 6

Keep in mind – I had days where I craved a casual long-distance jog instead of putting my recently eaten lunch at risk with grueling 400 meter repeats.  However, the ultimate output meant that I was training 15 hours/week versus 30+ hours a week as prescribed by the “norm”.  Dave and I spent the first few months diligently following the programming and found ourselves on Google nightly trying to find any anecdotes that helped validate this unique way of training.  The scientific data was easy to find, the anecdotes were not.  However, we persevered as a result of input from our two good friends who have been certified in this type of endurance training, but also because we had created a sustainable training schedule that also allowed us to live our lives outside of fitness.  We challenged ourselves to push ourselves hard in our workouts, but to always prioritize recovery as the key to our real improvement. 

In the course of the 8-9 months of training, we followed, about 90% of the time, the CFE and CrossFit lifestyle.  Dave and I both explored nutritional options – and naively demanded our bodies to give us immediate feedback on whether the changes in our diet were making us better athletes.  We attempted to eliminate gluten and 24 hours after isolating this element from our diet, started carefully at our watches wondering if we’d noticed an increase in performance.  The funny thing about nutrition, and training in and of itself, is that daily incremental gains aren’t easy to notice, it does take some time.  I did end up going gluten free for over 60 days and found marginal differences in performance.  As a result, I did go back to eating it, but always in moderate amounts. Dave and I challenged ourselves nutritionally to find what worked best for our bodies – and found that it was different for us both.   

As a tall skinny guy, I required more fat and protein than Dave – just to maintain my energy level and performance.   However, what was constant was the criticality for immediate nutrition post-training, and consistent nutrition during the day.  Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, the right carbs, and a healthy dose of protein remained constant – we just tinkered with the doses (give or take a few glasses of wine and a beer too, of course).

Lastly – why? Because I can.  Idleness is unacceptable when I have been given so much.  A body that functions, a mind that is reasonably sharp, and the support of a great family and friend network.   But – whatever effort I’ve put into training, it’s given back exponentially - I was rewarded daily with overcoming the challenge of a tough workout – to watch my body improve over the course of time – to be able to get away from a day’s work stress and be focused on a goal just 200m ahead of you.  It allowed me to gain discipline, focus, and time-management mastery.   And now I have a fun story to tell. 

My experience with the Ironman and CrossFit have taught me efficiency. If you eat the right foods – packed with nutrients, you don’t have to eat as much to reap all the rewards.  If you exercise right (for me, that’s CrossFit), you can actually spend less time at the gym, and still be healthier.  Done correctly, being healthy doesn’t require a radical compromise of the days priorities – just a little change in the execution.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


-Before Crossfit I could not do a pull up.
-Before Crossfit I ran a half marathon in 2:07 one year and 
2:23 the next.
-Before Crossfit my diet was inconsistent.
-Before Crossfit I was not confident about my strength 
or athletic ability.
-Before Crossfit I had no idea about Crossfit.

-I can do ten pull ups in a row.
-I understand what sound dietary habits mean.
-I found success rowing rather than pounding the pavement
-I am able to keep my weight consistent.


I'm stronger than I've ever been.  The other night the Workout of the Day at my Crossfit gym was titled "The Crossfit Football Total."  It entails a one rep max of your bench press, deadlift, clean/jerk, and back squat.  Why the "football" verbiage?  Good question!  

Usually, Crossfit gyms do not utilize the bench press as part of it's workouts largely (inserting opinion here) because it is often looked at as a movement that is not that functional.  Think about it.  How many times are you lying on your back pushing something in the air?  The lifting portion of Crossfit is often about functional movements that apply to life.  Click here to get an understand of what Crossfit really is.  And if you are into football or rugby, you can click here to see what Crossfit Football training is all about.  

My Crossfit Football Total
Clean and Jerk:  205 lbs.
Back Squat:  275 lbs.
Bench Press:  245 lbs.
Deadlift:  360 lbs.
My Crossfit Football Total = 1,085 lbs.

My weight as of today:  240 lbs

I share this today not to brag about anything.  Heck, a guy my size (6'2") ought to be squatting a lot more than that.  I am sharing my progress because not only has Crossfit changed my life, but it has brought form and mobility into the forefront of my fitness mind.  My hamstrings are as tight as fitted sheet and often prevent me from lifting (squatting, deadlifting, etc.) with heavier weight while maintaining sound and safe form.  So another thing Crossfit has done for me is expose me to personal coaching that teaches me to do things not just successfully but safe and sound.  And over time, by working on my mobility issues, my goal is to increase my strength exponentially.  

Before Crossfit, I had no athletic/dietary goals.
Today, I can't wait to reach them.

PS:  Follow me on Twitter!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Crossfit: The Sport

I started this blog as a way to keep myself accountable to me.  It was a way to lose weight and stay motivated.  I figured, if I kept posting, I'd keep disciplined in eating well, and I'd continue to work out.  Thirteen months ago I found Crossfit.  Quite frankly, it changed my life.  It has become my escape from the stressors of life.  It's a community of like-minded folks.  It's place I can go to and expect to get the workout of my life every time.  It's a place where I get individualized coaching and training.  When I first heard about Crossfit, I scoured the internet and thought, "This is for meatheads and lovers of heavy metal.  No way.  I'm not a weight lifter."  However, like most things on the internet, you need to dig to find the truth.  I was completely and utterly wrong.  

When I saw this video, I could not have been more thrilled.  Crossfit is not just a way to work out.  It's not just a gym.  Crossfit is a sport.  And this Fall, the world will find out by tuning into ESPN2, and I could not be more thrilled.

Crossfit is a rapidly evolving sport.  To see the list of Crossfit affiliate gyms around the country, click here.

Here are some other resources if you are interested:

Here's One Guy's Journey into Crossfit.  He's quite the exception, but it's very motivating!

And here's a more realistic Crossfit journey

And if that was not enough.....Check this one out!  Wow!

If Crossfit interests you, make sure you look at all of the information out there.  There are articles like this from the New York Times that state Crossfit athletes forgo technique and push themselves too far, hence injuries ensue.  This is a real issue to contend, however I contend that we all know our bodies and how far we can push ourselves, and a sound Crossfit coach is interested in your safety and your well-being....just like any good coach.  A good Crossfit coach won't allow you to lift weights that are too heavy because your technique is not sound.  

If you are stuck in a rut, not sure what to do for exercise, or just need a change of pace, I would urge you to check out Crossfit.  However, be warned:  It is guaranteed to be THE hardest thing you do EVERY time you step into the gym.  That's why I love it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Congratulations to Cindy W. for winning the $20 Trader Joe's giftcard.

Stay tuned for more giveaways to come in future posts.  


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...