Got Water?

Hopefully it isn’t news to anyone that water is SUPER important to the optimal functioning of our bodies. We can not survive without water. I mean, come on, our bodies are made up mostly of water. But did you know that feeling thirsty means your body is already becoming dehydrated? 

Most of the time we think of dehydration as what happens when we are out in super high temperatures like in the desert and haven’t had any water allllll day and are about to get sick or collapse. When in fact we made be experiencing dehydration before we can even feel it. Not providing your body with enough water with wreck havoc on your health AND get in the way of any fitness, health, or weight loss goals you may have. Let’s take a little bit of a further look into this…  

 

Water is essential to your health and wellness is innumerable ways. However, I want to just touch upon some of the most prominent. Starting with your daily functioning…
 
Water is the single most vital source of energy that our body gets. Our bodies can only run the way they do if we have an adequate supply of H2O. Considering our brains are 75% water, to avoid feeling fatigued, tired, and unable to focus and thrive throughout the day, make sure you are waking up and drinking some water. Many people wake up and reach right for the pot of coffee without a single drop of water touching their lips. Now, I have to admit I am a coffee fiend myself and talking to me in the morning before I have a cup in my hand is probably a bad idea haha, BUT when I wake up the first thing I do is sit up and gulp down some of the water I keep next to my bed throughout the night. Your body needs to kick start it’s enzymatic activity and allow yourself to wake up and be fed before you start adding other substances that are stressful on your body and brain.
 
Next matter of business is any health, fitness, and especially weight loss goals you may have. Leaving your body, thirsting for water is the worst thing you can do when you are trying to lose weight. In fact, drinking cold water has been proven to increase metabolism. waaahhoo Dehydration can lead to weight gain and therefore undo any progress you are trying to make. Whenever your body feels as if it is going to be deprived or without something it will try to desperately cling on to any resources it is getting; which is also why not eating has adverse effects when trying to lose weight. Research has shown that drinking a glass or two of water before each meal that you consumer helps you to have better portion control and curb cravings. Many times we think our body is hungry when really it is just trying to signal to us that it is thirsty and in serious need of some good old fashioned water. So when you hydrate well and provide it will its most natural and vital source for survival, you are able to eat only what you actually need rather than filling up more than your body needs in a false sense of need. In fact, one study showed that people who increased their daily water intake by 1.5 liters were able to burn an extra 17,400 calories (which equates to approximately 5 lbs).
 
Now if you are extremely active and aren’t worried about weight loss so much as you are about your fitness goals, well you aren’t in the clear. Dehydration is one of the many sources of injury. The cartilage in your joints is made up so much of water that it relies on that for it’s proper function. For those of us who are extremely active, and especially doing activity that is taxing on our joints – i.e. running, aerobics, weightlifting, plyometric movements, gymnastics, etc., we need to hydrate properly in order to ensure our joints will recover. Dehydration leads to weakened cartilage in our joints which means after a hard workout our joint repair is slowed. This lends itself to pain, stiffness, discomfort, and injury. 
Regardless of what your fitness level is or your goals are, one thing we all have in common is a desire for overall health and wellness. Being healthy means having your body in its entirety function the way it was meant to. It means that you get and the necessary nutrients, the vitamins and minerals, to be well. Dehydration can cause and/or worsen a variety of digestive disorders, problems with vital organs such as your kidney and bladder, constipation, reactions to the environment (including asthma and allergies), high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

The general recommended amount of water intake a day is 8 – 8 Oz glasses. Of course this changes based on personal levels of health and activity levels (aka drink more if you are a gym rat or on certain diet and food regimes). Now you don’t need to drink a pool every day so don’t go overboard but do make sure you are getting an appropriate amount of H2O for your body and your goals… If this is something you continuously struggle with, maybe look into downloading one of the many amazing water recording apps. I currently use “Water Your Body” for Android… And remember drink before you snack! Stay thirsty my friends 😉
 


On Track On The Road

Ahhhh summer… A time of beach days, picnics, backyard BBQs, and amazing vacations. And while that is all a ton of fun, it also means test after test and detour after detour. Traveling has a tendency of leading to breaking down and consuming awful foods because eating out is easy, faster, and sometimes “more fun.” I am here to tell you that vacation does not HAVE to mean straying from that amazing path of healthy living you’ve been carving for yourself! Saaaayyy whaaattt. 

 

At the start of August my boyfriend and I embarked on an aggressive, long two day drive from my home in Northern New Jersey to his new home in Austin, Texas. After over a year of strict clean eating, my body cannot handle large amounts of crappy food. I seriously go into such a bad mood, my skin is a mess, and I just physically feel awful. I also honestly eat A LOT, like constantly haha. So I knew when I agreed to make this trek with him that food would be of high priority here. When you are already planning 14+ hour long drives, you really ideally want to avoid adding any other factor to make you feel anything less than the best as possible to conquer the road. It took me a couple days but I managed to put together a checklist and packet of everything we would need to keep ourselves going, hydrated, and in the best shape possible physically (and mentally). I am going to share with you some of the tips I have after completing this road trip for making sure you don’t get off track when making your own summer trip… Whether it’s too the beach or across the country…
1. Have a feel good beverage.

I would say start out with a shit ton of caffeine but I know a lot of people aren’t the caffeine type. I bleed coffee so my trip started with an extra large black hot coffee from Dunkin ❤ (aka heaven in a Styrofoam cup). We left New Jersey when I got out of work at around midnight, more like 12:30am but same difference. He was taking the first driving shift. However, starting a long journey with your co-pilot passed out asleep doesn't sound like a good time so I knew I had to do my best to stay up for a bit with him before I got my nap in and prepared for the switch. Over the next two days I will just say that we did our best to make sure there was a Dunkin or 7-11 at most of the gas and bathroom stops we made. We are both avid coffee drinkers (well mostly me but I corrupted him and lured him in with the draw of Dunkin iced coffee, oops). I know it is definitely mental but whether I am driving 1 hour or 14, having coffee by my side just brightens my mood and day and gets me through my typical road rage. Coffee may not be your thing but if say coconut water, or even POM with coconut water (which I also had with me), is then make sure you have some of that. Or maybe, like my boyfriend, you are one of those NUUN drinkers. Whatever it is, find that one drink that just instantly makes you feel better and you know will get you out of the HOLYSHITI'VEBEENINACARFORMORETHANHALFADAY mode.

2. Water Water Water

Now that you have your own personal “feel good” beverage to get you through mentally, let’s go to your body’s feel good need… Good ol’ H TWO OH. Iced coffee from Dunkin may make you smile but if you aren’t keeping yourself hydrated, especially on a trip to the beach or if you are driving across the middle of nowhere in Arkansas and the traffic is dead stopped and you are forbidden from turning to A/C on in the car and you’re sweating bullets, your body will begin to turn on you. Dehydration is not pretty and being stuck in a car for hours is not when you wanted to experience it. When you need your focus and concentration to be on point, you need to not get sick or develop killer headaches, that is when it is most important to stock the car with water. Trust me, when you make it to your destination and through your entire trip and did not feel an ounce of dehydration you will look beyond the 70 bathroom breaks (unless that is just people like me with the bladder of a 3 year old) and thank me.

3. Snack smart.

This means a variety of things. Snacking smart means making sure you pack yourself REAL foods, having the foods packed be things that will sustain you and not leading you down the dangerous path of munching for the entiiiireeee 14 hours, having things that are easy to eat and you don’t have to try to unwrap intricate packages while driving 70 down the highway, and knowing when to snack and when to stop to get a real full meal. I would recommend making a list of items and being realistic. Avoid overpacking but be sure not to under pack. Being hangry in a car on an overly long drive is THE WORST. Now, my boyfriend has a nut allergy snacking on handfuls of almonds is perfect for some but unfortunately we couldn’t go down that road. Here are some examples of things we packed for our drive:

– Hardboiled eggs
– Sunflower seeds
– Jerky (beef sticks from Steve’s PaleoGoods and all natural turkey and buffalo jerky from Trader Joe’s)
– Larabars (and/or Questbars, or other filling all-natural protein bars)
– Dried fruit
– Sweet potato chips … sometimes you need a little indulgence 😉

4. Don’t fear the meal breaks.

Whether it is being on a time crunch or just being hesitant of the greasy fried foods in the rest stops, sometimes people are weary of stopping for dinner and lunch on long drives. I am telling you not to be afraid to plan for a meal break on the road. However, again, be smart and PLAN PLAN PLAN. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail right? While doing our logistic planning I came across a godsend of a website. Road Now can be used for all things from rest stops to traffic to food. The beauty of it is that if you find the Interstate you’ll be driving down, the state you will be in while on it, and the direction, it will give you every restaurant and stop along the way. Now this isn’t just the McDonalds at the rest stop near exit 30. It is the diner and the Italian restaurant and this and that and everything within 5 miles off each exit. This means that you can find real good food and meals on your drive while avoiding the fast food. Winner winner chicken dinner … For real. We managed to find good restaurants, and with the beauty of smart phones, were able to get Yelp reviews on each one that peaked our interest so we knew what was worth it and what to skip.

Long road trips across the country do not have to be death sentences for your body or major detours for your weight loss or fitness journey. Of course, if you are looking for an indulgence galore you can certainly make this an excuse to do so. However, I am here to tell you that with a little planning, a little time, and a good dose of being real with yourself, you can ABSOLUTELY do a road trip the healthy way… Tell your digestive system I said you’re welcome.

5 Reasons to Set That Alarm

So you just signed up for a membership at your local gym … or CrossFit box 😉 … and you’re looking at class times. Yes, a 5:15am class would be possible since you go to work at 8am but could you really wake up at 4:30 in the morning to workout?! I mean you don’t even like having to part with your favorite piece of furniture at 6am to keep your job. Come on, if everyone slept in those jersey sheets with a body pillow bigger than them they wouldn’t want to either. So what it is that those pre-sunrise go getters know that you don’t?
1. They sleep better.
For starters, getting better sleep is only oh I don’t know somewhat conducive to waking up in the morning. Exercising in the morning can help your body regulate it’s internal clock and formulate a healthier schedule. In multiple studies, people who are morning exercisers have been found to have better, deeper sleep at night. At the same time, people who exercise late at night were found to stay up later and have trouble falling asleep.
2. They are able to avoid excuses or schedule conflicts.

Sometimes life can get extremely hectic, as we all know probably far too well. When you are waiting until the end of your busy day to head over to the gym there is a greater chance of excuses, distractions, responsibilities, or last minute things to pop up and deviate from your originally planned activities. Planning a workout for the morning rather than the end of the day allows you to use time that would not be otherwise used. Thus, avoiding any conflict and eliminating those pesky excuses… Nice try!

3. They have a better attitude!

We all know that exercise produces endorphins; reducing stress and improving mood. Getting that rush of healthy hormones at the start of your day can lead to keeping a better, more focused positive attitude throughout your day. You may also find that you are able to be more relaxed during the day, handle stress better, and achieve more. Which leads me to my next point…

4. They’re more productive.

24 hours can go by fast. People who work out in the morning tend to fit more into those short hours than people who don’t. Morning workouts are a fantastic way to wake yourself up and get you ready for the day. You are also more likely to be awake and able to concentrate during the day. You also start the day with a feeling of accomplishment. Success is a gigantic confidence booster. And, in turn, confident people are usually more successful and accomplish more. Working out in the morning also sets a good habit.

5. They burn more fat.
Exercise boosts your metabolism. By starting your day with a workout you are kick starting your metabolism as well as forcing your body to use extra energy to re-generate during the day. Exercise also improves your body’s resting metabolic rate. Meaning, your body burns more calories and is more efficient at breaking down food and fat even when at rest.
The above listed are just a handful of the reasons why morning workouts are AHH MAZING! Once I started the 5 and 6am CrossFit classes I immediately fell in love with them and the way they made me feel throughout the entire day. Even if you are not a morning person I would suggest you give the morning workout a try… It won’t kill you… Just one little try. Of course depending on your daily life and your fitness level an hour of intense cross training workouts, cardio, and olympic lifting at 5am may not be your starting point. Even a light morning run, quick 10 minute workout, stretch sesh, or yoga class would do the trick. So seriously, set that alarm (to go off as many times as needed) and give the mornings a chance to dazzle you! You might be surprised in how much you love leaving that bed before the sun rises.

One Year Later: Just Another Life Changed

At this point in the year, anyone and everyone who does CrossFit has either participated in or been witness to the 2014 Crossfit Open. A magical time where the entire CrossFit community near or far becomes one. We all go through 5 brutal weeks of leaving everything we have on the floor, challenging ourselves, and proving what we are made of. For me this was the very first, and hopefully not the last, time I got to experience what the Open really means…
 

Even when you’re just beginning CrossFit, you hear talk of the Open and the CrossFit Games constantly even when you are no where near February or March. People in all boxes everywhere throw around names like Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Samantha Briggs so often that eventually you just cannot take not knowing what this all means and you run home and google these people and are absolutely mesmerized by the multitude of YouTube videos you find. You are told these magical stories about the Open and how it changes people’s lives and you see everyone come alive. It seems fantastical. The idea that everyone no matter how short or long a time you have been crossfitting can compete for the chance to make it to the Games and go head to head with these people who you just watched do almost inhuman things in these YouTube videos?! Impossible. It just cannot be true. You don’t know if you can really believe it… Until you are smack dab in the middle of March and see first-hand truly how honestly magical and amazing the torturous 5 week long Open season really is.

It wasn’t until now that I actually realize just how lucky I was to venture into my box, and now second home, right in the mist of the 2013 Open. I attended my very first On Ramp beginners class sometime in the middle of March and all I remember is walking into the locker room hearing all the girls talk about how they did on this WOD and that WOD and reminding each other to go online and submit their scores before the end of the day. Now, it being my very first time walking into a CrossFit box and to be frank for a moment… I started CrossFit because I found a Groupon. A damn Groupon that happened to pop up in my email around the time I was looking for something to shake up and excite a lack luster and less than progressive exercise routine. I had NO CLUE what CrossFit even was. None. Needless to say I found out reaaaaal fast… I was overwhelmed, intimidated, terrified. Yet somehow there was something inside that said I should find out more about all this gibberish and code they were speaking. Why in the world was everyone SO FREAKIN EXCITED about working out?! I was intrigued. I was captivated right then and there. Day one and I am in. Committed. I wanted that fire and passion. Heck, I needed it.

I remember being told about the Open, about how it worked and why it was so much fun. I remember the environment and energy at my box being amazing on a daily basis. I did not attend any of the classes where they were doing the Open WODs themselves. Now I wish I had but at the time I was a newbie and I was still finding my place; and like I said before I was damn intimidated. But every morning I woke up just wanting to start my morning with the smiles and enthusiasm I knew I would find from the amazing CrossFit community I was becoming a part of. For some strange reason, 7:30am beginner classes didn’t seem to enthuse anyone in March 2013 because I was alone almost every single Tuesday and Thursday morning. But I learned a lot and I formed a bond with the two coaches that rotated days and did all my classes. A bond which I am very thankful for today because it pushes me to work hard day in and out. Somehow I was more motivated to workout now than I had ever been before in my entire life. The first time I did a “push up”, or my idea of one then, I’m pretty sure my coach actually laughed at me. I was surprised to find out I actually had NO IDEA what a REAL pushup was. I was dropped down to laydown getups… on my knees. It was such an unbelievable wake up call. I was slapped with a taste of reality immediately. I managed to survive the On Ramp classes and without thought or hesitation, showed up for my first “real deal” class at 6:30am on April 2nd. That is the time and day to which attribute my true start of the beauty that has been, and will continue to be, my CrossFit journey.

Going through this past year, the amount I have learned and the progress I have made both inside and outside of the gym is just incredible. They say that CrossFit, especially the Open, teaches us about ourselves. After these last 5 weeks and after this past year I could not agree more! Not only has my body changed in amazing ways but my entire life has changed over the past year. I have developed a confidence in myself that I have never had, nor had I even hoped to have, before. It doesn’t just stem from being happy with myself physically when I look in the mirror (because honestly I have just gone from “when will I get rid of this fat” to “come on you pesky abs show your definition already” haha) but I am just happy overall. My eating habits have changed completely and I can feel my body functioning better on an everyday basis. My mindset has also been seriously altered. I am stronger mentally; more focused and determined. These are all changes that I have noticed both as they happened gradually as well as when I stop to reflect on the last year of my life and do big picture. So come February when I knew I had the chance to actually participate in the Open for the very first time, I once again felt that same fear and intimidation but I looked that fear in the face and attacked. I JUMPED at the chance. I knew I absolutely had to do this. I owed it to myself. After all, isn’t the Open and the community and environment and energy that surrounds it the very thing that drew me into CrossFit to begin with?
 
When I tell you that participating in the Open was everything I imagined and more, I am not lying. Over these past 5 weeks, I have been able to prove to myself how far I have come. Sure I have seen myself change of the past 12 months and hit new PRs and do new movements I couldn’t even fathom last April. But to see it all add and all come together is more overwhelming than words could describe. Now I am definitely not saying I killed it or that I could hold a candle to half of the people doing CrossFit. But fitness after all is not about comparing yourself to others. Even during a competition time like this, the proud feeling after a WOD should come from knowing that you did the best YOU could and that your performance beat the performance you would’ve given a year ago or even a month ago. It’s about having the progress be clearly visible to yourself. I can think of three really good examples of this that made me insanely proud during the Open.

First of which being one word, snatches. As little as just a couple months ago I was still avoiding WODs with snatches because the movement SCARED THE BEEGEEBUS out of me. Recently, I had been pushing myself to work on them and just figure them out already so I can stop cowering from these WODs. When I saw them pop up in 14.1, I went in focused and determined. I did not at any point during the workout resort to any sort of clean and jerk sequence. I wouldn’t let myself. I maintained my mindset and told myself that I felt strong, and I did. The WOD ended and I was proud of every single time I touched the bar that day. The next moment of pride came with the end of 14.4. Finishing with 152 reps felt almost like a dream. Toes to bar was one of those movements that evaded me for so long and that I still do not have down to a science. I saw this workout announced and it was like a stab in the heart. I had no clue how this was gonna go. Upon finishing my wall balls, I looked at the clock with just 1 minute left and knew I just had to get under that bar. At least once. Now, until December, I had sat comfortably at a 75# clean, power, squat or otherwise. That was until my coach called me out for not challenging myself and finding my true strength. I started working up, but kept it at a slow comfortable pace. 95# is only a weight I had dared to touch about twice and both times being squat cleans. So I knew that if I was going to make it happen it was going to be a squat clean. It had to be. Well I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or what but I walked over to that bar, tightened everything, and went for it. Next thing I know I was standing straight up, no squat involved, holding the 95# barbell on my shoulders. I had done it. Power cleaned it. HOLY. SHIT. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. I got the bar up for one more rough squat clean rep before the buzzer sounded and I collapsed with the biggest smile on my face. This was the BEST moment I have had in CrossFit thus far. My coach looked over and said, “It’s amazing what you can do when you have worked so hard learning the right form in a movement.” My head was spinning in the best way possible.

Yes, the Open exposed a lot of weaknesses for me also. In doing that, though it helped me be able to set some real concrete and possible goals for both the short term and long term. It has shown me a good picture of just where I stand in my CrossFit journey and how much further I want to go. It served to re-ignite that fire and passion that I had when I started CrossFit just one year ago. All I can say is thank you… Thank you to CrossFit for encompassing everything that working out should be from the community, coaching, and energy to the unbelievable combination of gymnastics, weight training, and cardio endurance. Thank you to everyone at Maxability for being such an inspiring group of people and pushing me to work harder than I ever have before and surprise and challenge myself every single day I walk into the gym. Thank you to my family for supporting me and all the crazy changes I have instilled and for following in my footsteps and changing your own lives alongside me. Thank you to my friends for letting me ramble on about CrossFit and never getting sick of me. Thank you to my boyfriend who is my biggest fan and cheerleader as well as a way I can keep accountable; mostly by striving to never let him one up me in his own CrossFitting. Sorry darling haha. And last but not least, thank you to myself for buying that Groupon in the first place and for making the effort to stick with it and progress and become the best version of myself.

Here I am just another living breathing example of how CrossFit really is for everyone and anyone. I am just another life changed completely by what all our haters call an exercise “fad”. 

7 Ways Apple Cider Vinegar is the Clark Kent of Your Kitchen Products

If you have not yet heard of the miraculous powers of apple cider vinegar you’re SERIOUSLY missing you. Like seriously…

Apple Cider Vinegar. 
Vinegar made by fermenting pulverized apples.
Sounds… odd. I know. Yet it makes you just need to know more doesn’t it? You’re intrigued just by my uttering those three words. Well look no further I am about to explain to you just what it is about those three little words that draws you in so.

Apple cider vinegar is my new best friend. The first time I heard of the existence of this amazing little substance was when I was just starting out on my health food journey and I was exploring and experimenting with some new baking recipes. I found in this baking research that apple cider vinegar has a ton of cooking uses and is an awesome nutritious supplement in lots of clean baking scenarios. After making my first recipe with apple cider vinegar, I was left with a GIGANTIC bottle of this strange orange liquid and knew I need to find more ways to use this stuff up… Well… Turns out not only is this unique vinegar good in the kitchen but it’s a regular health superhero! I call him Kitchen Clark. Saving the day one health and beauty remedy at a time.
1. Toner/Skin Remedy: Apple cider vinegar is insanely beneficial in calming and balancing your skin. It’s uses can span over various skin problems including acne, rashes, age spots, psoriasis, etc. Apply a few drops onto a cotton ball and rub gently over your face, or other problem area. Use only on clean, just washed skin. Rinse face after vinegar has dried or absorbed into skin. For added benefits, apply to skin at night and leave on overnight. 
  • For example: Most recently I had a reaction to amoxicillin that I was taking after a dental procedure. I developed a miserable looking rash across my chest. I applied apple cider vinegar directly to my rash in the morning after shower and before going to bed each night. After 3 days, my chest was completely clear! =O Yupp, you read that right. It was like my little miracle in a bottle! 
2. Mouthwash: Apple cider vinegar is known to help remove stains on your teeth as well as breakdown plaque! It’s an awesome, more organic substitute for your usual harsh mouthwash or just as an aid to your tooth care regime. Add 2 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part water and use as a pre-brush mouthwash. Or rub directly on stained teeth, pre or post-brush, and rinse.
3. Sunburn Relief: Lord knows that us Irish folk need this one! My favorite little vinegar friend also helps your skin by soothing and calming sunburn. Of course, being that vinegar is naturally rough and drying, when using it for sunburn you absolutely want to make sure dilute it in water for this solution. Apply a washcloth soaked with an equal part apple cider vinegar and water solution to the burnt area. Or… bath in it…
4. Bath Solution: Other than calming sunburn, apple cider vinegar can also be used to help draw toxins out of the body and aid in relaxation. Add 1 cup of vinegar to bath and soak at least 10 minutes.
5. Hair Rinse: Apple cider vinegar has proven effects on your hair also! Gosh this stuff is unreal! Apple cider vinegar has been shown to make hair shiner, reduce frizz, add body, seal cuticles, rejuvenate your scalp, and promote hair growth. Ummm yeah. Use in conjunction with baking soda as an all-natural shampoo alternative. Or mix 1 tablespoon with 2 cups of cold water and rinse through your hair AFTER shampoo-ing.
6. Weight loss/Detox: Just as it does with the pH of your skin, apple cider vinegar balances the pH within your entire body. A sustained daily intake of acetic acid, which is the main ingredient in the vinegar, is known to stimulate your cardiovascular circulation and help in the detox of your liver. Mix 2 teaspoons to a 16oz glass of water and sip throughout the day.  
7. Foot Soak: Apple cider vinegar is also useful to soothe swollen and achy feet. I mean who doesn’t like having their own at home foot spa?! Heehee. Soak feet in equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water.

If you don’t now fully see why it is I am so in love with this miracle in a bottle then I am at a loss. Like anything, use apple cider vinegar on a regular basis for a certain period of time in order to see a difference in weight loss, detox, hair, skin, or teeth. Apple cider vinegar has shown results faster than most market products and it is NATURAL AND ORGANIC! Two in one! What more can you ask for?! So go out and buy a nice gigantic bottle for less than $2 at your local grocery store and give it a go!

To Juice or Not to Juice

Juicing… Everyone has heard of it but not many people really know much about it. 
Why do people juice? What are the health benefits? How do you do it properly?


Juicing is something that has always intrigued me. But before I get fully into my juicing experiment and some tips and tricks, let’s start with the most basic so you can really understand the core behind this “health nut fad”.

What IS juicing?
Juicing, whether it is something you do for one meal a day, something you use to cleanse your body long term, or something you do as a 2 to 20 day fast, is simply the practice of consuming foods in their liquid form. Of course this does not mean go buy a box of donuts and blend them up. If that was a thought of yours for a millisecond you need to reevaluate yourself and your life choices. Yes, I’m judging you. Good juices are made up of greens, veggies, and fruits; with of the nutrients you want coming from the greens and the fruit thrown in there for sugar energy and taste.

Why juice?

I think it’s safe to assume that a trend would not have gotten as big as this has without yielding some pretty noticeably substantial results. When you juice fruits and vegetables you are removing a lot of the fiber and other particles that take away from the quick absorption of the pure raw nutrients and vitamins. You are also eliminating the substances that are super tough on your digestive system. Thus, allowing those organs to take a break from over working themselves in the breakdown process and focus on rejuvenating themselves and cleaning out all the yucky toxins and crap (seriously). About 70% of our daily energy goes into digesting. Crazy right?! So it’s no wonder these organs that are already working constantly don’t have time to focus on themselves! And we all need a little “me” time, don’t we?
Of course to eliminate your body using up all its energy on digestion you could always just fast completely or do a water fast right? On a literal level, yes. But these kinds of things are not exactly ideal or recommended. By juicing, as I said you are getting just the pure essential vitamins and minerals, your body is able to fuel itself to have that same energy it usually does so it can but in the optimal effort in cleansing itself. Thus benefiting all digestive organs including your colon, kidneys, and bladder. It will also help to clear out your sinuses and lungs, renew your blood cells, and refresh and clear your skin! LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS OH MY! 

Also, if it wasn’t apparent, when your body expels things that may very well have been blocking up certain things from working properly AND it can quick utilize and burn nutrients and vitamins, you will in turn lose weight! Most of the weight you are going to drop will be water weight; stuff your body holds on to in order to counter those pesky toxins. For some, like my boyfriend, you can drop 6 lbs in 2 days. Unreal. I actually hate him. For others, like myself, you may not lose anything. That does not mean the fast did not work. It simply may mean your body doesn’t have the extra weight to drop. So actually, I win. (Just teasing) But then comes in the factor of making sure you are doing this properly so as to not completely send your body into starvation mode since starving your body is not condusive to long term weight loss. With that said, I would not advise a juice fast any longer than 3-5 days to anyone who has no experience with these things. Start off small, learn, experience, read, plan, and be confident before consider 2 week to 30 day cleanses and fasts. If you don’t set yourself up for success these things can get very tricky.

Juicing, specifically a juice fast, should be something you go into with the main intention of helping your body function at a healthier, cleaner level. Also, to learn a little about your food habits. If you are looking for long term weight loss this could be extremely helpful. When you are not eating solid foods and have a strict juice schedule that means you cannot just snack anytime you want to. Take notice of the times you get urges and think of if you are actually hunger or if there is something mental or emotional attached to this desire to eat. The answer may surprise you. 

Okay so now that we have a really basic description of the trend that is juicing let’s move along…


My Experiment:
Incorporating juicing into my lifestyle is something I’ve contemplated for some time now and just had never fully committed to before. (A feeling we all know far too well) So when the time for New Year’s resolutions came around, I decided that I was going to start to implement certain things I’ve been looking at into my fitness regime. One of those things being, you guessed it, JUICING. Juicing, that is, in the form of a “simple” two day juice fast one a month for the entire year of 2014. That means 12 juice fasts. 24 days of juicing. And to make this even juicer (heehee), I have the added benefit of having convinced my wonderful and supportive boyfriend to take this journey with me. Poor guy. Which is even more helpful for all of you because you are going to get feedback from two perspectives.

So being that it is now March 1st, I have, as I promised myself, successfully completed two juice fasts. After my first two fasts I can truly say I have already learned A TON. For everyone that has ever wanted to or been curious about juice fasts, let’s take a little walk into the world of my experiment….

I have spent the last year completely adapting my lifestyle. Doing so was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced, both physically and mentally, and I am a much tougher and more focused person because of it. I thoroughly enjoy challenges especially in the health and fitness world. The kick I get out of doing something insane that I would’ve never even dreamed of seeing myself do before is like nothing else. So my ability to push and motivate myself is something I think I can tend to take for granted. The first juice fast was another new experience, a new challenge. I embraced it and went in not really knowing what to expect but just simply wanting to see where I stood. At the start of our second juice fast, my boyfriend and I were both going in a little more ready. We had a conversation that sparked what I think is the most useful piece of advice I could possibly give anyone looking to take a juice fast challenge. 

PREPARE YOURSELF

Being fully prepared for your fast encompasses many many things. Firstly, this of course means making a grocery list, buying all your supplies the day before, having full juice recipes ready for each juice, and a juice schedule for each day. (I will share mine with you later on.) Organize yourself on the most basic level in order to avoid any careless mistakes or excuses. Running out of a veggie or fruit gives you the opportunity to throw yourself off. Not having a juice schedule prepared and leaving yourself without a plan adds even more pressure mentally and could allow you to become more overwhelmed or deviate from the fast. On that note, 
my boyfriend and I were talking about how our daily schedule and circumstances could really affect how easy or hard completing this fast could be. He brought up the idea of how much mentality really has to do with accomplishing a task such as this. Pr

eparing yourself also means developing the right mentality to tackle this type of challenge. Do not underestimate what you will be facing and at the same time do not look at it as a dark looming cloud.


Like I said I look at challenges dead in the eye and tell myself that I cannot and will not fail at this. Mostly because I am beyond tough on myself. But I realize that not everyone is like that. So how can you better mentally prepare to face a juice fast? 

1. Have an open mind to new experiences. Know that no matter what you will learn from this experience.

2. Find someone to do the fast with! Having my boyfriend go through each fast with me makes the two days that much easier because we can both distract and motivate each other. When everyone around us is telling us we are crazy haha and tempting us, we have one another to keep from giving in.

3. Tell yourself that this is not forever. Doing a fast for 2 days, 3 days, 7 days, means that you have a clear beginning and end. It is so much easier to do something difficult if you know that you only have to do it for a certain amount of time.

4. Remind yourself of all the health benefits!! Tell yourself constantly that the way you are going to feel after is more than worth the challenge.

5. Plan different ways to keep yourself busy. Sitting in your kitchen staring longingly at your cabinets and fridge is not going to make the 48 hours (or more) go any faster.

6. Have a reward for yourself. Think of your favorite, HEALTHY and simple (you cannot overwhelm your body coming out of the juice fast), breakfast. Decide that the morning you wake up after successfully having finished your fast you will eat those scrambled eggs and chicken sausage and it will be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

Doing these little things will help you to keep your mind focused and have the end and the goal in sight. A juice fast can be tough but if you go into knowing all the struggles you may face and knowing how you will deal with them, it is something anyone and everyone can do. 



A few more general tips for juice fasts:

– Ease yourself into it by eating lighter on the days leading up to the fast. Do not go from big banquets, binging, eating all fast food or junk and try to jump into a fast. It is NOT A CRASH DIET!

– Water water water water water water water. Drink it. Constantly. Consume one full bottle of water after each juice and continually throughout the day. It aids in the digestive healing and curbs your hunger.

– Your juices should not be purely fruits. I know it is tempting to have a good sugary drink. And, yes, a pink juice looks more appetizing than a green one. But you will get the majority of your nutrients from the veggies. So ignore the color, add the right fruits and the flavor will be there without needing an overwhelming amount. Stick to a 3:1 ratio of veggies to fruits. 

– If you need something a little more substantial or just something to add a little more flavor cause the water ain’t doin it for ya, add some herbal tea into your fasting schedule. Avoid black teas or artificial cause extra substances is exactly what we are trying to rid the body of but, for example, during my last juice fast I added one blackberry (superfood!) vanilla herbal tea each day that I had in between my snack juice and dinner juice.

– Minimize coffee consumption! This is especially hard for us addicts and because no one should ever deal with me on a caffeine-less day, I did a little research. Allow yourself one cup in the morning if you must but really try to limit your intake throughout the day. Caffeine is an extra toxin and substance that will leave behind a bit of trail, which we are trying to eliminate. But with one cup or two the affect is minimal at best… You’re welcome.

– Consume 4 (breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner) 16-20oz juices a day. As I mentioned earlier, make a schedule for yourself and STICK TO IT. Make sure you are having large juices so that your body is getting that fuel we talked about and you are not simply starving your body.  


All in all, juice fasts are a great way to help your body get healthy. The difference I have noticed in my skin and hair is insane. My nails are actually strong and growing. For the first time. Ever. In my life. I can feel my body working better, digesting better. Smaller amounts of food fill me up and I actually feel satisfied. We have 10 more fasts to go. Wish us luck and do not for a second doubt that I’ll be back for another juice fast update once we are a few more down. In the meantime, to all you brave healthy souls… HAPPY JUICING 🙂

Polar Vortex Got Ya Down?

Each year seasons toy with our emotions like a vicious cycle. Mother nature just laughing at us from behind her clouds. December hits, the days get darker, the temperature drops, and before we know it we are stuck in this sort of winter doldrums. And of course with the colder the months get, the further into this slum we seem to fall. For some the seasons have a greater affect than for others but on some level it changes the way each and every one of us lives our daily lives.

Have you ever woken up so cold you were just dreading getting out from under the covers? Has there ever been so much snow on the ground outside your door that you convinced yourself shoveling in order to make it to the gym was too much work or far too risky? Or maybe you use snowy days as an excuse to catch up on your favorite tv shows so you barely leave the couch… andddd make your way through your entire snack cabinet while you’re sitting there?

Don’t worry you aren’t the only one. Trust me.
We have all been there, done that, lived that life. We all STILL do it from time to time I’m sure.

I understand that battling the elements doesn’t seem ideal in the moment and sometimes it really just is not an option. However, it’s important to remember that these little rascally winter days should not be the cause of us losing control of our health and fitness! Excuses are excuses no matter how you dress them.

“No matter how you feel… Get up. Dress up. Show up. And NEVER GIVE UP.” 

The hardest thing about these “doldrums” is that it is the kind of place you can get stuck in and find yourself having to figure out a way to climb back out. It is like having a job and putting off paperwork for a day, then a week, and then next thing you know you are so deep in work it seems impossible to tackle and you have no idea how to even make a dent in it all. Losing a good habit is unfortunately much easier than establishing it. So the biggest thing to remember during these tough winter months is just to KEEP GOING. Keep moving. No matter what that means and no matter how small your feats are. Make sure you remain conscious of your goals and continue working towards them in any way possible every single day.
So okay I know, I get it, that’s easier said than done right? Let’s brainstorm some ways to make your goals seem a little more possible through the treacherous uphill battle that is winter…
Treat yourself! No I do not mean with snacks or alcohol, or anything you know you should not engage in. Set up little “to do list” type goals for each day or each week and when you accomplish them give yourself a little harmless indulgence; some time on your favorite gossip website, a Netflix night (sans popcorn, chocolate, nachos, or soda), or maybe just an extra hour of sleep over the weekend. Recognize that certain things are a little harder for you to accomplish during these months and congratulate yourself when you can conquer them anyways. It is more than fine to admit that you struggle more during these months. In fact I encouraged you to admit it. Once you do and you then accept that fact, THAT is when you can be honest with yourself and begin to make a real effort to change it and stop making excuses. 
Do NOT oversleep. You are not a bear. You do not need to hibernate through the winter. Like enough. Stop this bologna. I understand the cold makes it much less ideal to get out of bed, especially when getting out of bed means 5am and it is still dark out. When we oversleep our body never breaks out of that sleep cycle. You somehow wake up more tired than you were before you went to bed. It’s because your body gets stuck in this resting stage and we end up with this 24/7 groggy feeling. That is worst of all vicious cycles because you rationalize not working out due to being overly tired, sleep more, feel more tired, rationalize again, sleep more, still feel tired. BUT how do you feel when you workout? Do you leave the gym or end your workout and suddenly feel alive. You have this burst of energy. Yet you also sleep like a baby that night and I will you even wake up feeling like a million bucks (other than any possible soreness heehee). Weeeeirdddd. So how about we give this working out over sleeping the day away thing a try? Perfect.
Give the home workout thing a try. Some people only workout at home. If you are one of those people… OH MY GOD. You have no excuse. I am done with you… No but seriously. You can remain in the comfort (and warmth) of your own home and still keep working towards those fitness goals. What could be better? It is beyond easy to get in even just a quick 15 minute sweat sesh at home with less than nothing. Take some of your favorite movements or workouts and challenge yourself by timing them or setting a rep goal. To motivate yourself and avoid making excuses, pick a set time for your workout. The problem with at home workouts is that it is easy to put them off until somehow you run out of time in your day. When I know I am going to a CrossFit class I cannot put it off. They have set times, I sign up, and so I go. Make the same commitments at your home. 
Now, the biggest battle of all. FOOD. Winter somehow means we can get to eat sweets and carbs and fats? I’m not quite sure where this absurdity came from but it needs to end. This is a LIE. Again, you are not some furry animal… Well I hope not. I kid, I kid… You do not need to establish extra layers to make it through the winter. These “extra layers” should come in the form of clothing. Not fat. Don’t let these psychological down-in-the-dumps, snowed in, bored, tired cravings take you from salads and proteins to bread and bread and bread and chocolate and bread. We tend to want comfort foods in the winter but now we are past those dreaded indulgence holidays and even past that initial resolution stage. We are now fully into the committing to becoming a better self phase. This is the time that you can show and prove to yourself that you are serious about these health and fitness goals. Turn those resolutions into real life. So put down the pastries and heavy “warming” dishes and pick up those grilled chicken avocado salads you know that you should really be eating. You don’t need a 75 degree sunny day on a picnic or beach trip to pick up some pineapple, salad, or cucumber.
Ultimately, you are in control of whether you let the winter blues completely take you over or not. Yes, getting two feet of snow kind of inhibits a lot of things and puts a serious damper on your daily functioning. So go out and shovel that snow. Time yourself and tell me you don’t break a sweat. Then come back inside and have yourself some baked some chicken. You can heat up the house with the oven cranking and still eat something a little better than those cookies you would’ve baked instead. The affect the seasons have on our psychological and emotional state takes a toll on our entire being. But it is never a death sentence and the sooner you get it under control the better it is for you, your body, and your health and fitness in the long run. Good luck my little snowmen! 

14 Ways to Better Yourself in 2014

We all know that New Years is the time where we hear everyone and their mother make “NEW YEAR, NEW ME” statements. I will be the first to admit I’ve had a few of those posts myself; the goals I am going to crush and all the ways I will make 2014 even better than 2013. For everyone who says they are going to change something, improve something, reach a life goal, etc in the new year and actually means it more power to you! Let’s do this thing! However, with that said, we also all know that we tend to make these epic “New Years Resolutions”, grab the bull by the horns, go hard, anddddd then give up before the end of January. I am not here to deter you from making these declarations of change… I am here to propose that rather than jumping into freezing water without first dipping your toe in to test it out and then running screaming, we all should take the time to focus on all the little things we can do and change in our lives to help us reach these goals. Like really reach them. Crush them. Shatter them. Do even more than we ever thought. And never give up.

I’ve said it time and again that the only way to successfully make a big change or improvement and make it last is to implement it into your entire life. You can’t change one thing about yourself or your behaviors without it affecting other parts of your life. If you want to do something right and you really want a better you in the year 2014, it’s time to make some simple yet extremely effective lifestyle changes. So here is my list of 14 things you can easily do to lead you down the right path to a better, your best, you…
 
1. Write down your goals. 
Big or small. Write down everything you want to accomplish. Pick at least one thing you want to have before the end of the year. Maybe fitting into those jeans you are clinging to from ten years ago. Then write down your smaller goals that you can reach within a month or two; things that you can continuously update or check off. For me thats always new PRs I want to hit or gymnastic bodyweight movements I want to conquer. Don’t just write them down but then hang them up somewhere that you will be forced to see and read them. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The more you are reminded of the things you want the less likely you will be to give up on them.

2. Drink more water!
I cannot say this enough. To everyone… The most important thing you can consume during the day is water. Stop drinking a million cups of tea or coffee (guilty). Put down the juice. Walk away from the soda machine. When your body is hydrated you will feel a THOUSAND times better. Everything will function more optimally both inside and outside of the gym. Your brain works better, your body will love you and thank you. And as an added bonus for those of you on that weight loss journey, when your body has an adequate amount of water going in it will stop storing it and clinging to all that water weight you just can’t seem to shed.

3. Kick one bad habit.
It takes doing something for 6 months for it to truly be a “habit”. So no going to the gym for two weeks won’t engrain it into your life. It may still be a battle. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t easily force yourself to disengage in some bad habits either. You know those favorite cookies you always have on hand “just in case” you get a craving? I mean of course they aren’t part of your diet and you don’t eat them thaaaaat often. They are really only there for when you can’t sleep at 1am and need a fix. Well, STOP BUYING THEM. Your mind knows they are in the house and the more you keep them around and give in to those midnight cravings the harder it is to eliminate that stuff. You are more tempted when things are sitting in your house. Even if you “don’t eat them that much”. Of course this is just one example but find something you can make the decision to stop incorporating in your life and force yourself to do it. There is something, trust me. 

4. Try new exercise routines.
Sign up for Crossfit *wink wink* *nudge nudge*… Buy that CKO membership. Start Insanity (and actually finish it). Go try yoga. Ask someone to show you how to lift or use those machines in the gym that look like a death trap. Do something you may have read about or thought about but then decided nah I’ll just stick with my elliptical and crunches. New year, new you right? So actually try something NEW. If you are still trying to make a change or you didn’t quite stick with the resolution you made last year then maybe the old stuff isn’t working. 

 

5. Do something your afraid of!
Building off the last one… Step out of your comfort zone! Like far out. Way out. Like you can’t even see that warm little light in the center of it. The feeling of confronting the idea of something that absolutely terrifies you and just doing it anyways is the biggest adrenaline rush in the world. It doesn’t have to be something big at all. For example, I am terrified of the idea of being upside down I never had upper body strength and always felt like I was immediately going to fall and break my neck and die. Recently, I did handstand pushups… decently. It was an insane, thrilling, fulfilling moment. You will learn a whole new side of mental strength and develop an increasingly fantastic sense of self-confidence with every fear you take head on.

 
6. Learn how to cook.
You don’t have to become the next top chef. But you know all those cool healthy recipes you see on pinterest or read in all the fitness, men’s health (my personal favorite for recipes), or women’s health magazine? The ones you drool over but never attempt because you “can’t make that stuff” so you just order out. Try them! Practice makes perfect so give them a go, have them turn out horribly, and then try them again or try a different one. Trust me the more you can cook for yourself the happier you will be. Not only does a home cooked meal always taste better than take out but even though you are ordering from that salad place down the street you are probably not getting as healthy a meal as you would be had you made that salad yourself.

7. Do daily affirmations.
There is no better way to become your best you and reach those goals than by telling yourself how f**kin kick ass and amazing and strong and wonderful you are. Love yourself … and don’t just pretend to or think it, tell yourself that you love yourself… Look into the mirror every morning, smile, and tell yourself something positive and encouraging and that you are loved. There are apps for the phones that give you new daily affirmations to read each morning. There are millions of books with affirmations out there. Or just come up with something simple like how you are going to crush whatever is going on that day or how intelligent and charming and whatever you are. These will make a world of a difference in your attitude towards life and towards yourself. Change the energy you put out and you will change the things you get in.

 
8. Try new foods.
It will not kill you to eat those brussels sprouts or that asparagus that someone made for you… Unless of course you are like allergic or something weird like that then yeah don’t eat that shit… But there are so many foods out there that I know I have not tried and I intend to. The more foods you try the more you might surprise yourself about what you like. Then remember that diet your nutritionist put you on where you think you can only eat like plain grilled chicken and lettuce leaves? Yeah it will seem a LOT more interesting. Open your mind and open your mouth.

 
9. Do a mud run, color run, 5k, marathon, half marathon…
Seriously. Do it. You do not have to be the fittest person in the world or run a 6 minute mile to participate in these things. People walk them. And not like a few people like a lot of people. I ran a Warrior Dash I think a good chunk of the people in my heat did a slow jog and, by the end of the 5k, almost a crawl. It is just one of the most ridiculous and rewarding and hilarious and memorable things you will do. You will NOT regret it. It is one of those things you have to experience at least once. Cause come on man when will you ever again crawl through mud trenches and then get to eat a gigantic turkey leg and have a free beer after? Exactly.

 
10. Spend $$$$ on yourself!
You are the most important person in your world. Do not be afraid to spoil yourself. Especially when it comes to things relating to your health. Can I really afford the $2,000 a year I spend on Crossfit or the organic food I buy or the unbelievable amount of workout clothes I own? Not necessarily. Do I spend that money on myself anyways? Yes. Because trust me the universe will always provide for you. Somehow. Instead of spending money on that Chanel purse or 20 drinks at the club, go splurge at Whole Foods every other week. You will love yourself for it. You pay so much more in health when you eat the $2 box of poptarts than you will financially on the $5 loaf of flourless Ezekial bread (my personal fav). You deserve to put the best things into your body. Stop looking at the price tag and start thinking about how you will feel tomorrow, and next month, and in 5 years.
 

11. Get more sleep… Every night.
“Sleep when your dead” is the worst thing I have ever heard. Yes, we all have had those phases in life… Or I mean if you’ve had an enjoyable life you have… where we are too busy participating in shenanigans or getting into a mess of trouble to bother with sleep. And yes we will all have those nights every now and again. Like the one many of you are probably about to have or just had for New Years Eve. However, these nights are the exception. Obviously there is a fine line between sleeping through your alarm because your body is truly worn down and just being lazy making an excuse for why you can’t go to the gym. Life gets busy and sometimes we get busy but do not overwork yourself. A lack of sleep means that you will not function properly throughout the day, therefore sacrificing sleep to do more in your day may actually backfire and end up being more unproductive than just pushing something off to the next day. Also when you lack a sufficient amount of sleep your body cannot recover fully and that leads to a higher potential for injury when working out, especially if you are doing intensive workouts or anything consisting of heavy weights and difficult movements. 

 
12. Implement a superfood into your daily diet.
Super foods are labeled as such F O R.  A.  R E A S O N. All those foods that sound like something far too healthy to be delicious or things as simple as blueberries that you keep you’re going to buy but never do or do and then they sit in your fridge and go bad. Start paying those foods more attention. There are so many “super foods” that are unbelievably delicious! And you will be incredibly surprised at how fantastic they make you feel. It is also really really easy to sneak them into your daily meals. I have so many favorites I cannot even begin to list them all. Recently I just started using chia seeds. I put them in a smoothie or greek yogurt every day. They are the “super food of athletes” and I could not agree with that more. Do some research, shoot me a question or request for recommendation, and just start with one or two. This could even count as your trying new foods. Trust me you will be amazed with just how big of a difference eating good foods like these has on your body.
 

13. Stretch more.
No I’m not joking. It could be something as simple as that little reach for your toes stretch we all learn in middle school gym class. It could be doing hot yoga a couple times a week. Or anything in between. When you can move in a smooth manner and be more flexible you feel better on a regular basis. Roll out your muscles. Work on your mobility. It’s the best way to become physically more functional… like in life. Too many people who workout regularly and lift weights neglect a good stretch session. I know because I used to be one of them. Read any of the articles I have seen that talk just even about the relationship between yoga and crossfit and you will change your mind about the importance of stretching. Not only for the super athlete, the extremist, the weightlifters, the crossfitters… for everybody. It’s like getting a good massage. Each time you stretch you release a little tension and you feel refreshed. 

14. Make resolutions you can KEEP!
It is admirable for anyone to see and recognize the things that are wrong with their life. Even more so to decide that these are things they actually want and need to change. EVEN more than that to make any sort of action towards changing these things or reaching these goals. But before you decide to turn your world upside down and overwhelm yourself, sit down and really think about these “resolutions”. Decide on something that you want to do, a big goal you want to reach, and plan out small mountains you climb and feats you can conquer. Hitting little goals on the way to something big will make you feel amazing and give you the motivation to keep going on this journey. Make resolutions that you not only will keep but that you will absolutely conquer and will help you to continue a new amazing life being that “new you”.

6 Foods You Really SHOULD Be Eating

It is easy to get caught up and overwhelmed by all the nutrition facts and what we should or should not be eating that get thrown at us every day from every source under the sun. It is especially confusing because half the time studies are proven and disproven and we are dragged through this nutrition tug-of-war. I am here to provide you with a little bit of clarity.
 
Many a time, people avoid beginning their journey into this thing we call “clean eating” because honestly they just don’t know where to begin. When you are trying to start something new, something so vast, and you are given a million different directions it is much easier to just say “to hell with it all” then it is to actually devise a plan. So you start initially by, throwing out all your obvious crap foods. Where do you go from here? There are 6 foods that are staples in my own diet and should immediately make it to your new grocery lists…  

1. Quinoa: “IT’S A QUINO!” We have ALL seen that Bud Light Commercial… And if for some reason you live under a rock… I take pity on you because you must miss all the good commercials and like what else is there to live for. So here ya go (just because it makes me smile)

The unfortunate thing about this commercial is that it definitely does not make quinoa (which is pronounced KEEN-wah … get it together people) seem extremely appetizing. Except to those crazed sports super fans who went out and bought it just to see if it will help their team win. You know who you are. In reality, quinoa is both delicious AND nutritious. Win win. Quinoa is what nutritious call a “pseudo-grain”; it acts, and is used, like a grain but is really a seed. It does not have a strong flavor so it is a SUPERB replacement for things like rice, white or brown, and will pick up the flavor of whatever you cook it with. Quinoa is made up of slow-releasing carbs and is high in fiber so, especially for the people who claim they can’t diet because meals never fill them up, you will feel much fuller than expected and fight off hunger a lot longer. It also has about 10-18% protein so it one of the highest vegetarian sources of protein. Check out my recipe section for some neat ways to use quinoa (more will be coming soon too!).

2. Kale: Ahhhh the glorious “Queen of Greens“. I absolutely adore kale ❤ It is a nutritional POWERHOUSE. Just one cup of kale is only roughly 33 calories and contains 9% calcium, 134% vitamin C, 206% vitamin A, and a riiiiidiculous 684% vitamin K (based on percent daily values). OH MAH GAWD. Kale is also high in potassium, which for us lifters means it will help lessen muscle cramps, and is an insanely better every day option when compared to other high potassium choices like bananas. It is also high in iron and fiber which makes it, like quinoa, good in making any meal more filling…. Personal sidenote: I began substituting the spinach in my protein shakes/smoothies for kale and found that what used to barely satisfy me for breakfast now not only fills me up but keeps me full for hours!

3. Eggs: INCREDIBLE EDIBLE EGGS 😀 Remember that nutritional tug-of-war I was talking about? Unfortunately these wonderful little guys have been a sad victim of that for far FAR too long. Thankfully, nutritionists are spreading the good news about eggs more these days and I am here to do that same. Many people remember the times when we were all told that devils wereeee well basically the anti-diet food. They were terrible for us and we needed to stop eating them. Then all of a sudden it was okay to eat eggs but ONLY the egg whites. It was imperative though that we ditch the yolk. The delicious yellow center of my favorite friends were just not to be consumed. So wait a minute… You mean eggs raised our cholesterol sooo we could eat them but we had to throw out all the amino acids and nutrients? Yup that makes perfect sense… Stop listening to ridiculous lies about eggs. Eggs are 1- quality protein, 2- good fats, 3- antioxidants (specifically lutein and zeaxanthine). One whole large egg is just 77 calories and contains 5g of fat and 6g of protein as well as ALL 9 essential amino acids. As far as your cholesterol goes… Eggs raise HDL which if your GOOD cholesterol. Also the yolk of the egg is the part that contains the enzyme we need to breakdown cholesterol. It is actually recommended that we each 1 egg a day, some even say 1.3 egg yolks a day. So go ahead, indulge those fantasizes you didn’t think you could and EAT THE WHOLE FREAKIN EGG.

4. Coconut: Okay I want to admit this and get it out of the way immediately… I was never a fan of coconut anything. If it was coconut flavored I did not want it. BLECH! So if you hate coconut, I feel ya. Trust me though, you want to implement the two things I am about to tell you about into your regular diet andddd, here’s the kicker, you will start to really appreciate them. Coconut is a kickass source of many things that help our body run really awesomely. The best way to get these benefits are via coconut water and coconut oil. Coconut water for one tastes amazing and is filled with natural electrolytes. So ditch those post-workout or post-game sports drinks and pick up some coconut water! Thumbs up. It provides power and energy and keeps us running like a well oiled machine. Coconut oil now is my favorite product for baking and cooking and all that jazz. It is super high in medium-chain fatty acids that boost our immune system and balance blood sugar levels. It is also a good source of antioxidants, speeds up the metabolism, and aids in digestion. So feel 100% all around? You betcha!

5. Sweet Potatoes: Okay, guilty again, like coconut I was not sweet potatoes biggest fan when I first tried these fantastic carb options. Like they taste like syrup. I mean am I right?! But recently, I have been giving them more of a shot andddd so far so good. Sweet potatoes are proclaimed as one of the healthiest veggies! My Irish blood craves potatoes like nothing. It is not even normal. So if you are like me give these bad boys a try and ditch those other fakers that are no good for us. Sweet potatoes are also a staple for bodybuilders or people in weight training for multiple reasons. The complex carbs are awesome for a roughly 90 minute pre-workout snack or meal because you will maintain your energy longer. And remember that potassium trick I told you about with kale? Well sweet potatoes contain that same essential mineral in a more beneficial source. They also contain aminos that you find in many protein powders and supplements; tyrosine, valine, and isoleucine. In addition, a 200g serving has 7g of fiber, 700% vitamin A, and over 100% vitamin C. 

6. Tofu: Last but not least, one of the most infamous bad reps. Tofu often gets pointed out for being bland, boring, etc. BUT, like quinoa and just about every other plain and basic food that you guys eat, it takes on the flavor of anything you cook it with so it is SUPER versatile. Another question when it comes to tofu is whether it is actually a sufficient source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. It absolutely is a fantastic source of protein just not as densely. It about 290g of tofu to get the same amount of protein that you would get in 150g of lean meat. However, tofu has significantly lower cholesterol and fat that any meat. So it is definitely a good option to use as a protein source in your regular diet. Tofu is also rich in calcium, vitamin E, iron, and copper (which helps our bodies break down and utilize iron).

 
 
So there is my first edition of foods you NEED to start eating. Next time you are at your local grocery store, check them out. All 6 of them are super versatile, delicious, and supremely nutritious. I have been there and have been lost and unsure of how to fill the holes of the things I used to eat or how to make my daily meals a little different or more exciting. Try these 6 foods and start implementing them on a regular basis. You will FEEL the difference.   

STOP SLOUCHING!

From the time we are children through our entire lives we all hear about posture. Whether it’s during those school pictures where we are told to sit sooooo upright we think our shoulders are going into lift-off or at the dinner table during a nice family event when our parents yelled at us for our poor etiquette as we are slouching over our soup bowl (or maybe that was just me… damn Italian Christmas). Whatever the reason we got a lecture on posture was, we’ve still all gotten one at some point. Some of us have learned from these lectures, some of us are part of a Chiropractic family and have heard it so many times our ears bleed so its engrained and has become a habit that we are very grateful to have, and then there are the rest of us… The ones who never learned that lesson. The ones who are going to face a rouuuuugh adulthood if it goes unfixed. The ones who need to never follow Drake’s example of a deadlift. (I still cringe when I see that video -_- like come ooooon man)

 Luckily… I am here to save the day!

Or rather Dr. Kelly Starrett is saving you via my ranting heehee. In an effort to progress through some pretty solid goals I have set for myself in my CrossFit journey, I have began reading Dr. Starrett’s AHHHMAZING book. Becoming A Supple Leopard was sent from heaven to teach everyone some really solid techniques and ways to protect your body while optimizing performance. Having a father who is a chiropractor, the sensitivity and impact of the spinal cord is something I am no stranger to learning about. So reading Dr. Starrett’s description about midline stability was intriguing to me and something I felt I have enough experience to understand, judge, contemplate… You get it… I can tell you from where I am sitting he hits the nail on the head and his pointers are fantastically helpful. So without further ado, my sparknotes version of Dr. Kelly Starrett’s “Midline Stabilization and Organization”. In English, spinal mechanics…
Before we even get into how to fix your posture, I want to really quickly run through WHY keeping a proper spinal position in every aspect of your day and your life is so gosh darn important. Let’s address the obvious first, bad posture is a breeding ground for injury! I don’t care if you are deadlifting 200lbs, running a 5k, or sitting at your desk at work. Bad posture becomes habitually. So if you hunch over your keyboard you are more likely to pick up that barbell, or that super heavy box or that tv, with a rounded back. Injuries to your spine or your central nervous system are crippling. As Dr. Starrett puts it, “If you injure your meniscus in your knee, you can still soldier on – you can still run, still fight. It might not be all that pleasurable, but you can go on with your life. If you herniate a disk or injure a facet joint, on the other hand, it’s game over: The whole human mechanical system shuts down… And it is not a minor interruption; potential injuries to your spine are a hard bell to unring.” Basically, the way you take care of your spine affects how you are able to live your life. Anyone that has ever had even a sore low back or any back pains can attest to just how excruciating it is. Nothing you do, no way you move feels good. It is ALL bad.
Another important thing to point out, the reason why back injuries are so devastating to our overall functioning, is that our central nervous system controls every single other thing in our body. That also means that any other pain or tightness or soreness or lack of mobility/range of motion can be traced right back to our bad posture. A couple examples given by Dr. Starrett include tightness in muscles and pain in specific areas. Say your hamstrings are constantly tight and you seriously lack flexibility there. What is your initial reaction? To stretch them out. Did you ever stop to think that perhaps you should make sure you have a stable midline and good spinal position first? Probably not. However, in the words of Dr. S, ” … what often looks like tight muscularity is really just the body protecting the nervous system.” In the same way, how many of you have had, or currently have, shoulder or knee pain? I thought so. I can tell you I have experienced both. Sometimes they still act up and that’s when I know I gotta check myself and my positioning in workouts and lifts. Your ability to stabilize and properly control the movement, power, and functioning in your hips and shoulders is near impossible if your spine isn’t in good position… Leg bone is connected to the knee bone. Knee bone is connected to the thigh bone. Doin the skeleton dance… Stop judging me, you know you all song that shit as a child. Okay. Essentially, everything is connected. We need to remember that pain is not the problem is it the symptom. The problem may very well exist in an area greater than where we have pain. And “if your spine is out of whack you’re never going to fix the problem.”

On to the good stuff…. How do we begin to ensure that we are making the best efforts in keeping our spine in a good position? Dr. Starrett proposes what is referred to as the “bracing sequence”. The toughest part about all of this is that it needs to be a conscious effort for some time. Like anything we need to force ourselves to become more immediately aware of when we are slipping into a bad habit, pull ourselves out of it, and institute a good one in place of it. So it’s not just “stop doing that” it’s “do this instead”. I am going to tell you right off the bat that is was super hard for me at first. When you are used to standing or sitting or doing anything or everything with questionable positioning and posture, the first few days of forcing yourself to try to maintain good posture feels like torture. You feel like you are always in an awkward position. You may even feel like people are looking at you weird. And ya know what they darn well might be. Sadly, most people have less than perfect posture so when they see someone actually standing up straight with their spine braced they are like daaaaaa f*****ckkkk is wrong with them?! That’s their problem, and will be even more so in 20 years, not yours. Dr. Starrett goes into lots of specifics of how to maintain a braced spine and good positions in different movements, a captain morgan pose, a two hand test, breathing mechanics, other faults and tests, and all that jazz. If you want all this super helpful knowledge you can buy his book! (Highly recommend it. Find it cheap on Amazon. 400 pages of pure mind blowingly helpful tips.) For the purposes of this blog post, and because I can only captivate you for so long (a crazy thought I know), I am only going to explain to you his steps for keeping bracing your spine and little tips for keeping this active whether sitting or standing. 
Bracing Sequence
Step 1: Squeeze your butt as hard as you can.
You need to begin with setting your pelvis in a neutral position. Your glutes were made specifically for your pelvis and spine. So have your feet directly under your hips, plant your feet in the ground, and squeeze your butt. 

Step 2: Pull your ribcage down.
Next your pelvis and ribcage need to be aligned. No over-extending and no rounding of the back. Pull your lower ribs in and balance them over your pelvis.

Step 3: Get your belly tight.
Now, keep your pelvis and ribcage in place with your abdominals. While still squeezing your glutes, take a big breath of air and then exhale; engaging your abs as you let the air out.

Step 4: Set your head in a neutral position and screw your shoulders into a stable position.
Last, center your head over your shoulders and gaze forward. Draw your shoulders back, spreading your collarbones, and release them down. 

And there you go. You have now fully braced your spine and are in a neutral spinal position! Congrats you are officially on the road to better posture. Of course this may seem awkward at first but the more you make the conscious effort to brace your spine the sooner you will see it just because habitual. Now, whether you are sitting or standing always go through this same sequence. 
Of course it is harder to remain in this position over an extended period of standing time because naturally your muscles fatigue. An easy way to relieve this is, while remaining in the same braced position, either prop up your foot on something or, as a last resort, sit down. According to Dr. Starrett, the key to sitting is keeping around 20% tension in your abs. He talks about research that shows it is muscular endurance that dictates a loss of spinal position and therefore leave us liable for injury. Again, the longer you work on this the easy it will get. Similar to running. If you run constantly, eventually you will see that you can last a little longer and go a little further. It is that same the endurance that you need to build in your abs in order to maintain a good braced spinal position constantly.
So take these tips and start working on your posture! You will lessen your possibility for injury ten fold. Plus its soooooo much sexier to be in a good spinal position. 😉 
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