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What is your Spark?

9 May

Twice a year, all of our staff get together to read and dissect a book; these are usually not directly related to fitness, but instead subjects that will get us thinking.  At the end of the day, though, we DO become better trainers and coaches because the topics help us improve our skills as: goal managers, psychologists, motivators, and health promotors.  Last month we discussed the book, “SPARK: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” by Dr. John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman.

 

Generally speaking, Dr. Ratey discusses the connection between physical activity and cognition.  While very science forward, this is an approachable book that should be required reading for anyone who wants to think and reason clearly, and stave off the mental decay brought on by aging, mental disorders, and inactivity.

 

The biggest take-aways:

1 – All stress is not bad.  Proper stress – even at the cellular level – is actually beneficial.  It is what helps to stimulate the body.  Judicious and properly applied stressor will make us healthier and more able to handle dangerous and debilitating circumstances in our futures.  Miniscule amounts of toxins in the foods we eat actually make us more capable of fending off disease.

 

2 – Age is not a deterrent.  We can improve at the cellular level and increase brain size at any age.  Aging really at its most basic view is the body’s cessation of regeneration and growth.  By exercising, we are not only improving our muscular and cardiovascular systems, but increasing neural connections and positive hormonal and neurotransmitter levels in our brains.

 

3 – The same general principles apply to most of everything we do and how we can change, correct, or influence our circumstance and environment to improve our lives.  Whether it’s dementia, anxiety, depression, or addiction, exercise, both physical and mental, can help ameliorate and control these problems.

 

4 – Inactivity is the ultimate killer.  Lack of physical activity will rot not only our bodies, but also our brains and cognitive abilities.  Just like slowing aging, physical activity helps to (re)build pathways in our brains that make us more productive and improve focus and attention.

 

5 – Exercise is a great way to bolster our mental faculties, regardless of the task at hand.  The hormonal and neurotransmitter cascades that occur after exercise help to “grow” our brains and leave them in an environment more capable of learning and retaining information.

 

Now before you get intimidated by thinking that this means that you have to go out and train for a marathon or throw 1,000 pounds over your head, know this: a little is better than nothing, and every little bit more is beneficial.  Taking your current state, adding just 30 minutes of brisk walking daily is enough exercise to make improvements – in your physical health, but also in your thinking and mood.  Try a new sport, add an after-dinner walk with your spouse, or come in for an additional 30 minute session each week.  These will all help you on your path to improving your life and vitality.

The Power of Rest

1 May

Here at FIT, we are always encouraging clients to set goals to work towards.  In the busy world that we all live in, however, these goals are unfortunately often undermined by “life events” and other time constraints that derail us.  It’s amazing though, that sometimes these life events are just what we need to help push us over the edge in our performances and other goals.

Be it fat loss, a faster 10k time, or bigger numbers in the gym, it is important to set realistic and attainable goals.  All of us are familiar with the S.M.A.R.T method goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  We systematically help our clients work towards these goals with what we do in the gym, as well as guidance for the other 120+ hours per week outside of the gym (and sometimes even with homework).  Recently though, we had a client who took a three week vacation and still managed an incredible feat when she returned to her workouts: a 15% increase in her deadlift!

 

This client had just gotten back from a 3 week vacation overseas, with nothing more than the occasional run as her mode of exercise; along with lots of eating, drinking, and touring through western Europe.  What wasn’t astonishing was her admission that she her body weight hadn’t changed at all while gone – this is actually pretty common – but rather her performance that day.  She warned me that, “this is my first workout back, so be gentle on me.”  If any of you know me, you’ll know that I’m always looking for the best possible performance out of our clients (the best of what they’ve got that day).  We started slowly with the deadlift, but gradually she started to put more weight on the bar, and get closer to her prior 1 repetition max (1RM).  When all was said and done, she had surpassed her old 1RM of 100kg (210lb) and topped out at 120kg (242lb)!!  That’s an incredible improvement any day, but after being gone for three weeks?  That’s amazing.

 

This performance really got me thinking, and my response was, “That’s the power of rest.”  While that got a good chuckle out of the rest of the Crossfit class, it was very true.  While exercise enthusiasts often use exercise to “destress” from the daily bombardment of emails, errands, kids, etc., we coaches are keenly aware that exercise is itself a stressor.  Now, it can definitely be a beneficial form of stress, but as far as the body is concerned, stress is stress.  What this normally hardworking client didn’t totally recognize, was that by taking those 3 weeks off to relax, recharge, and divert her attention to other endeavors, she was lowering her total stress load.  What that meant was that upon returning to the gym, she was totally re-invigorated to workout, and her body was ready (and able) to take on the stimulus of a hard workout and make extraordinary progress.  In physiological terms, this is what is called super-compensation: resting after a period of intense training results in improvements beyond the previous trajectory from the training stimulus.  Translation: allowing one’s body to rest after continued bouts of hard training may result in even better results than expected.

This client definitely benefited from super-compensation, but there are other “feel good” reasons for her improvements: she was more enthusiastic to hit the ground running upon returning to the gym, and her body wasn’t stiff, sore, or tired from recent workouts.  It’s a common thread that I try to repeat to clients: you can’t just keep beating the body up and hoping for improvements.  Rest, recovery, relaxation; these are all important aspects to making gains (whether increases in weight lifted or decreases in pant size).  Our stress levels have a chance to return to normal, all our bodies’ aches and pains subside, and our enthusiasm to challenge ourselves increases.

 

So…next time you are sitting down with your coach to discuss your goals or upcoming plans, keep the power of rest in mind.  Good luck with your next challenge!

This food stuff is great!

19 Feb

We had a nice turnout on Sunday at the Mountain View Farmer’s Market (and apparently a couple near misses – sorry to those we didn’t get to chat with).  Kendra and I were there handing out recipes and answering questions, as well as getting awesome insights from other challengers.  While the morning started out kind of cold and foggy, we were blessed with nice sunny morning to walk around and pick up delicious produce other well-sourced foods.  For those that were present, what did you pick up?  Any new and exciting ingredients that you are looking forward to trying?  If so, please share those in the comments!  I bought two new foods that I am very excited to try – ground goat meat and yucca – stay tuned for pictures and recipe for how I prepared these.

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Additionally, we have had some great looking food pictures from clients near and far (we have a couple correspondent challengers from at least as far as Chicago!)  Without further delay, here are those great photos.  Hopefully they will get you thinking about other foods and combinations you can try.

How are we doing otherwise, everybody?  We are now a full 2 weeks into the challenge.  What has been the hardest part/easiest part?  Any foods you thought you “didn’t like” that you now can’t get enough of?  Any new favorite cooking methods?  Are we remembering to spice our dishes so that they are exciting and tasty?

Please add your thoughts and reflections to the comments below.

Clearing up a few questions regarding the Whole30 (60) Challenge

7 Feb

We’ve had great participation from many of you on the challenge so far; as well as some awesome success!

  • 4 pounds lost in the first 3 days
  • 7 pounds lost in the first 2 days
  • More awareness about food choices
  • Being more vigilant about reading food labels

There has also been some really good conversations that have led to questions that might help all of you:

Can I cook with wine, beer, etc?

When you cook with alcohol, the ethanol (what makes it boozy, and what we are avoiding) is burned off, so not present anymore.  With that said, beer and most spirits DO contain grains, so they should still be excluded.  For flavor, it is OK to cook with wine and grain-free spirits (tequila)

What if I don’t want to eat eggs every day for breakfast?

Eggs are a great option for breakfast – they are packed with protein, are quick, can be cooked in a number of different ways, and lend themselves to a vast number of different flavors.  With that said, though, they do not HAVE to be your food of choice for breakfast.  I often find myself eating leftover chili for breakfast, or sausages that I have grilled up the night before.  In essences, it is important to get away from the constructs of what “breakfast foods” should be.  They can be anything!  Play around with how you season your foods, and you might just find that your ideal breakfast is actually seared chicken thighs rubbed with cinnamon and coriander along with sauerkraut and avocado.

Maybe a little Salmon Hash instead of eggs for breakfast?

Maybe a little Salmon Hash instead of eggs for breakfast?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m really hungry.  Why isn’t this working?  You said I would be full.

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Often times when eliminating grains and legumes from our plates, we forget to refill that space with more vegetables, and possibly larger portions of protein.  Make sure that you are getting in AT LEAST 2 different vegetables at each meal (even breakfast).  What I always say is, “set your protein, and then FILL your plate with vegetables.”  This will add satisfying protein and fat to your meal, and physical bulk in the form of fibrous veggies to keep you full.

Why is my thirst “off”?

Since we have eliminated ALL processed foods, your sodium intake has probably dropped immensely.  Because of this, you might not be as thirsty as you were previously (salt craves water in the body).  What you CAN do, is salt your foods a little bit, as you’ll need a little anyways.  You are also taking in more vegetation, which also has a good amount of water inherently in its composition, possibly keeping your thirst down.  

You might also be MORE thirsty.  As the grains and starches have been removed from our plates, our bodies will naturally release water (partly responsible for the great early weight loss).  This will make us more thirsty as we try to recreate that internal hydration status that we have become accustomed to.

Keep the questions coming, and keep hammering those tasty Whole30 meals!  The pictures have been looking great, as well as all of the enthusiasm.  Please let us know if you have any questions along the journey.

We have some great cooks!

6 Feb

Way to go all!  We’re only at day 3, and already there are some great looking dishes from many of you.  Here is just a sampling of all of the delicious food so far.

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Tri-tip with Sweet Potato Hash

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Shrimp Fried (cauliflower) Rice

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Bratwursts with Broccoli Slaw

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Chicken Casserole

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Roasted Chicken, Cabbage Slaw, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato Coins

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Roasted Chicken, Asparagus, and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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Seared Hanger Steak with Roasted Crisphy Brussels Sprouts and Fennel

 

Introducing the Whole 30 (and 60) Day Challenges

31 Jan

There has been some chatter in the gym recently about a new version of the Whole30, and the cryptic post on our facebook page last week.  I am here to tell you that it is indeed upon us!  WE WILL BE STARTING MONDAY FEBRUARY 4TH.  This challenge will be more involved, as well as more life-changing than the last couple challenges that we have run.  Additionally, this one will be a true challenge, with winners awarded prizes at the 4 and 8 week marks!

As you can tell from the title, it will not only consist of a 30 day challenge, but also a 60 day challenge (4 weeks and 8 weeks).  Why are we adding a second 4 weeks you ask?  At FIT we preach not only healthy eating and lifestyle changes, but also making those changes sustainable and long-term.  This is your chance to take our encouragement and put it into practice.

While the general template for the eating strategy will follow the Whole30 of challenges past, this time around the goal is to see not just who can make the most improvements to their health, but also who can get the most aesthetic and physique change.  We are challenging all of you to commit to 2 months of clean eating, smart exercise, and healthy lifestyle changes and see who comes out on the other side looking better.

And now for the rules:

Eliminate the following foods:

Grains and grain like foods (including quinoa, couscous, etc)

Legumes (including soy and peanuts – shell beans like snap peas and green beans are ok)

Sugar and artificial sweeteners (Fruit juice is an acceptable sweetener, but nothing else)

Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter [ghee is ok])

Alcohol

 

What we are asking from all of you:

Pre, 4-week, and post-challenge progress photos.

These pictures should be taken in as LITTLE CLOTHING AS YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE.  This is important.  How else will you tell if you have made progress?

This is what I’m talking about

Take the picture without your head, so that we can judge them impartially

The pictures should be submitted to “challenge@focusedtrainers.com”.  The pictures will stay private and be used to judge the winners.

Contribute weekly to the FIT facebook page and/or blog at: blog.focusedtrainers.com

This can be in the form of pictures, recipes, reflections about how the challenge is going for you, or just simply questions.  Tracey and I will do our best to answer all questions the day they are asked.

You can also email your contributions to your trainer, and he or she can get it up on the blog for you.

The goal here is to get as much interaction between all of YOU so that you all get the most out of the challenge.

While you have to enter a name and email address to comment on the blog, the email address will not be public, and the name can simply be a first name (or middle name?) if you are concerned about posting anonymously.

Attend in-person meetings/meals throughout the challenge

We will be hosting events in and out of the gym with sample food throughout the 8 weeks.  This will be an opportunity for all of you to share – in person – recipes, trials and successes, as well as ask us questions directly and see how WE eat with recipes to try.

These meetings will be occurring every OTHER week, sometime during the weeks of:

2/11, 2/25, 3/11, and 3/25

We will be announcing the exact date, location, and format, at least a week in advance so people have time to add it into their schedules.

Submit $30 to the front desk at FIT

This small fee will be used to reward the winners.  We have set up a line item so we can bill you directly for it, or you can bring in cash or check for us.  Prizes will be announced once we know how many challengers we have.

 

OK I think I hit all of the major bullets.  Again, we are starting this coming Monday, February 4th, so get all of your off-limits foods out of the way while rooting for the 49ers.  We are excited to have you join us for this exciting new nutrition challenge.  As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask – either here on the blog, or directly to me at “matt@focusedtrainers.com”

 

Good luck to all of you!  I’m looking forward to hearing about all of your great progress!

#FITphoto Week 2 Update

16 Oct

We have had some great pictures submitted by clients this past week!  Keep up the good work.  And if you’re unfamiliar with how to use instagram or share your pictures on facebook, simply email your picture to your trainer and we’ll get it up on the site for you.

Special thanks this week to Inbal, Kim, Steve, and Vicky for submitting great photos!

#FITphoto Challenge

26 Sep

I am _____

A little bit ago, I challenged everyone to think about what picture came to mind for a particular word or phrase.  Now I want to more formally introduce the challenge.  This will be a 30-day challenge like no other we’ve done before!  There will be no restricting, limiting, ensuring you get enough!

All we are asking, is that for 30 days, you share your pictures with us.  This is a little experiment in using your creative muscles instead of just the muscles you’ve forged in the gym.  For each day of the month of October, there will be a new word or phrase; take one photo using that word/phrase as your inspiration (example, October 1st, take a picture of what “sweat” means to you).

Reflection

That’s the easy part.  We’ll give you a few ways to share the photo with the rest of your FIT family:

Post to the blog in the comments section of this post.

Add to the FIT facebook page

Email to your trainer, or to matt@focusedtrainers.com

We’ll be compiling the best pictures of the month and lining the hallway throughout November with our votes.

FIT Photo-a-Day Challenge

 

1: Sweat 17: Layered
2: Faith 18: In 5 Years
3: Gratitude 19: Center
4: Black & White 20: Pose
5: Reflection 21: Makes Me Smile
6: What’s for Dinner 22: I am _________
7: Focus 23: On the Run
8: Alma Mater 24: BHAG 

(Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

9: Powerful 25: Full
10: Curiosity 26: Set the Bar
11: Bright 27: Now Playing
12: Family 28: Serenity
13: In My Gym Bag 29: Cozy
14: Grace 30: Where I’m Going
15: Upside Down 31: Monster Mash
16: In My Shoes  

 

 

My experience as a Crossfit “athlete”

16 Sep

2 weeks ago, Jimmy, Danielle, Jenny Lewis, and myself competed in the 2012 edition of Moxie Madness, hosted by Crossfit Moxie in San Jose.  This was a 2-day even consisting of multiple timed workouts each day, similar to the format of the Crossfit Games, with each workout being scored separately.  The team with the fewest points across all of the workouts would be the winner.  The format was for 2 published workouts and a “floater” workout to be performed on Saturday, with an additional workout Sunday morning.  The top 10 teams from each division (Novice, Masters, Advanced) would compete in a final workout on Sunday to determine the winner…unfortunately Crossfit Los Altos didn’t get a chance to try this fifth workout.  But we DID get to try our hands at the following:

WORKOUT 1

For time (20 minute time cap)

12 Burpees 12 Front Squats (135lb/95lb)

12 Kettlebell Swings (32kg/24kg)

12 Box Jumps (30”/24”)

Suicide Sprints (~15/30/45′ each)

Team Crossfit Los Altos

Jenny and Danielle

WORKOUT 2

For Time:

25 yard prowler push for girl #1 @ 110lbs, guys run with them while holding 45lb plate

25 yards prowler push for girl #2, @ 110lbs, guy continue to run with them while holding 45lb plate

At the turn the guys will each put their 45lb plates on the prowler and take over.

25 yard prowler push for guy #1, @ 200lbs

25 yard prowler push for guy #2, @ 200lbs

Then…

300 double unders…. 2 guys, one guy working, switch as often as you want

75 Power Snatches @ 65lb ….2 girls, one girl working, switch as often as you want.

Cannot switch to next exercise until others are done! When guys have finished double unders and girls have finished power snatches they will switch exercises.

300 double unders…. 2 girls, one girl working, switch as often as you want

75 Power Snatches @ 95lb… 2 guys, one guy working, switch as often as you want

Then…

25 yard prowler push for guy #1 @ 200lbs

25 yards prowler push for guy #2, @ 200lbs

At the turn the guys will each remove their 45lb plates on the prowler and the girls will take over.

25 yard prowler push for girl #1, @ 110lbs, guy run with them while holding 45lb plate

25 yard prowler push for girl #2, @ 110lbs, guy run with them while holding 45lb plate

Danielle starting the prowler push

FLOATER WORKOUT

3000m team row

4 x 750m row, with a 5 yard sprint from the starting line to the rower.

SUNDAY WORKOUT (#4)

12min AMRAP for max reps

Hang Clean to Overhead anyway

x7 each RX @ 135lbs/85lbs

x5 each RX @ 165lbs/115lbs

MAX RX Alternating @ 205lbs/135lbs

To say that this was a lot of work to cover in 24 hours might be a bit of an understatement; even after the floater WOD – which we completed first – our legs and backs were a little tired and stiff.  Jimmy even felt a little twinge during the row, but powered through successfully for the rest of the weekend. The row did, though, act as a nice warm up for the other two workouts we would need to complete that day.  We were out on the field at Spartan Stadium – San Jose State’s football field – so it was incredibly hot and bright.  It’s quite a different experience working out in the middle of a turf field in the sun instead of indoors, with climate control, firm flooring, and no sun blaring down on you.  The nice thing about it was the crowd.  Having a couple hundred people cheering you on, music blaring, and a few dozen others competing all at the same time really gets the adrenaline going.  The weights seemed “heavy” during the warm ups, but once I heard “3-2-1 Go!” it was just time to start moving and race against the clock. We didn’t have the best scores, but that really wasn’t the point – we all worked hard and got out there to compete!  While Danielle is still actively competing in weightlifting, Jimmy plays basketball, and Jenny is an avid triathlete, this was my first time getting the competitive juices flowing in about 2 years (haven’t been able to get back into playing soccer).  It was great to feel the excitement and “in the zone” feeling of fighting for a win.  I don’t know about the rest of them, but it really instilled a desire to get back into competing – whether back at soccer, more Crossfit throwdowns, or possibly enter a weightlifting meet (as Rob keeps encouraging). We all workout for different reasons – lose body fat, increase muscle mass, stay “healthy”, relieve stress, and even to fulfill a sense of competition.  Whatever the reasons, it is a great feeling, as well as a wonderful exercise in motivation, to step out of one’s comfort zone and try something different (and maybe more difficult than you thought you were capable of).  What will your next physical challenge be?

FIT Photo Project Preview

11 Sep

For the month of October, FIT will be undergoing a photo project, and enlisting all of you – our friends and clients – to join us. Stay tuned for more information on ways to get involved, but for now, here are a couple examples to get your going from our very own Scott Kolasinski

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#sweat

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#focus

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#makesmesmile

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