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From Unfit to CrossFit, and life along the way

Week seven has commenced on the calorie restricted, low-carb diet, and I couldn’t be happier.  In between my “real” job and light workouts at a 24 hour gym, I’ve found solace coaching the occasional class at CrossFit Helena. Last week I completed two of the workouts prescribed to the athletes I got to coach, and I was pleasantly surprised at the work capacity I’ve been able to maintain.

Twenty pounds lighter and leaner than ever, I’m closing in on that “elite” body fat percentage I’ve been shooting for over the last month and half.  While some of my PRs have declined in the weightlifting department, I’m happy and confident that with a smaller frame I’ll be able to get back in the ring and start swinging in no time; bringing about new PRs and gains in strength.

The trade-off of intensity for focus on a strict diet has piqued the curiosity and interest of many in and out of the gym. Everyday Globo-gym goers have noticed that even a scaled back workout comes across “pretty intense.”  It always feels good to be approached in that kind of setting because what you’re doing is so “unusual” to those who show up to the gym for no more than a few sets of isomeric reps and a mile run on the elliptical.  I’ve shared my new venture with people at CrossFit Helena, and there’s been nothing but positive feedback.

Most people who’ve done CrossFit for more than a year realize that you can’t maintain that fire-breathing intensity for long….not without  plateauing, getting injured, or simple burning out.  Sure, there are the lucky few who are able to keep the “lean” in “clean” when it comes to dieting, but most of the people I’ve talked to struggle more with their diet than anything.  That…my friends…is the story of my life.

Starting this blog was a way for me to journal not only new strengths and accomplishments, but also to reveal very real and hopefully relate-able struggles and set-backs.  Sadly, my biggest weakness has been the inability to control what I shove into my pie hole.  Sure, I’ve had periods of perfectly paleo prosperity, or spot-on Zone weeks, but nothing’s lasted longer than a couple of months before a major slip.

Focusing on diet primarily, not just for 30 days or even 2 months, but for at least a solid 12 weeks, will give my mind and body the opportunity to adapt to smaller portions, healthier shopping, and just the right amount of deprivation.  Deprivation….not exactly a word you associate with health necessarily, but “dieting” is tough.  Leading a lifestyle, though, of healthy eating is even harder; it’s permanent.

With excuses like holidays, get-togethers with friends, eating out, and being busy, it’s incredibly easy to slump into periods of sheer gluttony.  Believe me, I’ve been there…a lot!  But I’m sick of it.  I’m sick of the ups and downs and ready to live the rest of my life with a healthy, thoughtful, even-keel diet.  The best part of all?  Dropping the fat.

Extra fat acts like dead weight baggage that makes everything in life more difficult.  It’s the cause of plenty of insecurity, discomfort, and unhappiness for some.  But when you look good you feel good, and essentially, you perform better in everything you do.

This post contains no information I haven’t already written about, but at the end of the day, it seems to be the topic most easy to write about.

I would challenge and encourage any athlete, CrossFit or otherwise, to take a look at their program.  What can you change or do differently in the gym?  What about outside the gym?  I’m sacrificing, for the first time, my heavy-duty CrossFit regimen for a diet that I hope to maintain for the rest of my life.  CrossFit’s going nowhere…and even though the majority of my workouts are done in another gym, I’m able to stay connected to CrossFit as a trainer.

Is it hypocritical to be training CrossFit while working out at another gym?  Maybe.  But when I do show up to a CrossFit class, scale the workout back and give it a go, people get that I’m still the same CrossFitter I ever was….I’ve just re-prioritized what’s important and necessary to be the best trainer AND athlete that I can be.  I’m flattered that most of my conversations about diet with other CrossFitters have led them to question whether or not they might be willing to embark on a similar journey.

You can only show up to the gym as long as you’re engine will get you there.  What are you fueling up with?

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Well, it’s not every day I tell a guy…”I’ll wear leggings next time so you can measure my thighs,” but that phrase did escape my lips a few weeks ago.  That guy wasn’t just any guy, but the doctor helping to keep me on track with my fat loss goals.  I say “fat loss” because I’m more concerned about watching my  fat percentage decrease than I am fixated on reaching a desired weight.

Women and food are funny…and maybe it’s really everyone who’s funny, but I notice food faux pas much more with my girlfriends and other gals.  What is it that separates men and women in terms of food?

First of all, men seem to be able to eat more and gain less, or at least less rapidly than women.  Similarly, it’s like they can go on a diet for a week and lose what a woman would take a month to lose.  So what gives?  Well, there is actually a very scientific explanation as to why this occurs, but that’s far less interesting than the differences in the relationships men and women have with food.

I know….a little weird to follow up a blog post on food porn with one about relationships with food….but bear with me.

Maybe its the recovering addict in me, but I’ve always battled much more with my diet than I have with intense workouts.  Delicious food is referred to as “comfort food” for a reason.  Food serves as a the focal point for many a get-together.  In many other countries, dinners and luncheons can last upwards of 2-3 hours.  But for on the go Americans, fast food was an expected addition to our culture and lifestyle, and has been the cause of countless health problems.  Just think about it…anything worth having is worth waiting for, but when there rarely seems to be enough hours in the day, how can anyone make the necessary time it takes to make a wholesome and healthy meal?

It can be tough to eat well, especially if you’re single and don’t have anyone else to cook for.  I can’t speak for busy moms and dads who most likely have an equally trying time planning their family’s meals, but I do know that I enjoy cooking much more when I have others to cook for.

I’ve written about all kinds of quick snacks and foods on the go, but the best tip of all for eating healthy is to plan, and plan early!  Here’s one thing I’ve noticed women being much better at.  I’m sure there are men who will make the time, I just haven’t met many.  Heck, I can’t hardly get my boyfriend to pack his own lunch when I shop and pre-cook food for him!

I’ve been buying and preparing a week’s worth of food on the weekends, so that each day all I have to do is reach into the fridge, grab a bag, and head out. I’m fortunate enough to have a kitchen at work, and with this new diet, need only worry about the 2 cups of vegetables that accompany my pre-packaged soup mix for lunch.  Mornings and snacks have been easy with a ready-made hot chocolate protein mix for breakfast, and an afternoon low-carb cranberry bar.  But dinner takes a bit more creativity.

Just as important as mixing up your workout routine, you have to be creative with your meals.  I’m ok having the same breakfast, lunch, and snack while I continue on my fat loss journey, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than a home cooked meal.

Many might be bored with the idea of meat and veggies every night, but if you think outside the box, you can enjoy hundreds of different healthy variations, here are a few of my favorites:

Water chestnuts/asparagus wrapped in turkey bacon (low sodium)

elk steak with sauteed shrimp

grilled chicken salad with apple cider vinegar and mustard as a dressing

cucumber/apple cider vinegar, ground pepper salad

IP veggie chili with sauerkraut

grilled chicken or lean beef steak topped with pico de gallo (tomatoes, cilantro, red/yellow onions, white or cider vinegar and sea salt)

no-mayo tuna salad with chopped dill pickles (no sugar added) iceberg or green leaf lettuce (chopped), pepper, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, cucumbers; cut bell peppers and use them for dipping; make tuna lettuce wraps, or add to a larger bowl of lettuce for a salad–*I add mustard too.

mixed bell pepper & cucumber salad with vinegar, add meat, lettuce, or serve on its own

steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese and black pepper (add to soup or lean beef or flank steak)

sauteed sliced mushrooms with minced garlic, virgin olive oil, black pepper, sea salt (add to soup, chicken or steak dish)

grilled chicken with lemon juice, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, pepper, bell peppers, vinegar/hot sauce to taste

Clearly, there is a pattern here.  I use the same seasoning for just about every dish.  I love rich, rich food, as well as spicy food, so I always add hot sauce. Also, I try to stick to the lowest carb veggies possible, and just mix and match my arrangement of them into different meals.  Think of stuffed bell peppers, deer, bison, or elk steak, and don’t forget about seafood, which can be much lower in calories and fat.  Also, water chestnuts are great for texture and a little something different, and I love the acidic quality and flavor of sauerkraut; neither of which are veggies you hear much about.  Salads don’t have to be boring; just add spices!  My favorite dressings are an oil and vinegar (apple cider) with sea salt and pepper mix, with a little bit of flavorful hot sauce.  Plain mustard is good too!

Once you’ve got the meals handled, though, there are two major things you have to battle; social gatherings, and cravings!

I’ve found that as long as I stick to my plan before the planned get together, drink lots of water, and commit to myself beforehand that I’m not going to “cheat,” than I do ok.  Anymore, people respect and appreciate a healthy eater.  You can also count on fresh veggies or meat trays if it’s a party or reception you’re attending, but if you can bring your own dish, do it!  Drink a lot of water whenever you’re in a tempting situation. That’s about all I’ve found to really help curb my false appetite.  *A shot of apple cider vinegar is also known to boost metabolism and provide a sense of fullness, while also alleviating fatigue.  I’ve become kind of junkie for the stuff (2-4 tbs. daily).

If you’re lucky, you can find a friend so you don’t have to go it alone.  I know that my best friend, another perpetual dieter, is the first person I call when I’m thinking about splurging.  Kind of cheesy, but you’re less likely to do something like “cheat” if someone else knows or will find out about it.  Like my “diet coach.”  There’s no way I want to walk into his office with a food journal filled with sugary treats.

As for the sweet tooth….(siiiiigh) I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t having dreams about donuts, but I simply know how awful the guilt of giving in feels, and would rather avoid breaking a good streak if at all possible.  So, what do I turn to?  Hot tea.


Yes, it’s totally boring, but I’ve found a few favorites that seem to help a lot; Wild Berry Zinger and Stash’s Licorice Spice (taste’s like black licorice).  At night I like to have Sleepy Time tea too.  Hot things are more filling than cold, and when I’m having a good water day, I’m always freezing cold and in the bathroom half the day.  Oh the price we pay…..

Once you reach your desired goal, you can add  all kinds of healthy treats into the mix, but I dare not start fantasizing about those now….

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Yes, some of you have heard the term before, especially if you’ve attended a nutrition seminar with Todd Widman or Robb Wolf.    But the phrase has become quite clear to me recently, as I’ve finally caved and begun yet another strict diet regimen….only this time, I’m not going it alone.

A new “diet” gained popularity over the last year for the remarkably fast transformations it’s had on those invested in the program.  While I was one of many skeptical paleo gurus in the past, the science behind this particular diet is undeniably similar to the science preached in Paleo and Zone circles; lean protein (meats), veggies, little (or no) fruit, limited starches, no sugar, no dairy, no alcohol.  In addition to the food requirements and restrictions come prescribed supplements, such as calcium-magnesium, potassium, and a multi-vitamin, as well as a recommendation for fish oil and as much water as a person can almost stomach in a day.  To top it off, you have the weekly accountability of being weighed, measured, and scanned for body fat percentage.  Oh yea….and it costs about $500 bucks the first month, and $320 for every month afterwards, until your desired fat loss is reached.

Like many a brain-washed, one-regimen junkie….I figured I’d never give this new “fad” a whirl…but I should have known; never say never.

Monogamy’s great, just not when it comes to wellness, and especially not in terms of fitness.  What has made CrossFit and P90X so successful is the “constant variation” and “muscle confusion.”  In terms of dieting, I still believe there is no healthier or more common sense approach than the Paleo diet (think “caveman diet”).  But often times, there’s more than one way to trim the fat.  Whether you eat paleo with or without a springboard program like the one referred to above, it’s the end that justifies the means.

So…let’s get back to this tantalizingly tasty idea of “food porn.” No, I’m not talking about whipped cream bikinis or edible undies…good grief.  I’m referring to those oh-so-sweet preoccupations with forbidden food while adhering to a strictly “clean” diet.  Mine are the worst of the worst….the richer, the better.  I’m talking fudge, cream-filled donuts, and those sent-from-heaven cherry rolls covered in pure sugar frosting…….YUUUUUUUM!  Thank God for “cheat days,” because that’s the time a person can indulge in such inviting indiscretions.  Just remember…..carbs/sugars are the hooks your body hangs its fat on.

It’s been over a week now that I’ve successfully lowered my carb intake to a point sufficient of initiating ketosis; a point at which the body uses its own stored fat to burn for energy, rather than food sugars (carbohydrates).  This, in addition to a dramatically reduced caloric intake, and significantly subdued workouts, and I’m finally losing body fat which has stubbornly hung on even since I started regular CrossFit workouts two and half years ago.  And as for “cheat days”….well, I’m going to wait a while before allowing any of those into the routine.  (But let’s just say when the day(s) comes….I know exactly what I’ll be ordering up!)

Because I’ll always be a CrossFitter at heart, I’ve found a way to keep what I love while still being cautious not to over exert myself in the gym; I’ve scrapped the intensity (temporarily).  It was easy.  All I’ve done is eliminated the “for time” instruction on every CrossFit workout I choose each week.  Sure, I still do “Fran,” “Annie,” “Helen,” and even the occasional Hero workout, but instead of 3-10 minutes, I’ll spend close to 15-45 minutes working out.  I imagine this would be hard to do in a CrossFit gym, working out side-by-side with other CrossFitters, but in a 24 hr gym, without the push of people I know, it’s been a breeze.

Routines are great…at least for a person like me who respects predictability, but enjoys and appreciates a bit of spontaneity as well.  While the last year has been a total roller coaster in terms of dieting, dating, and doing what I love for money (working, that is) a balance seems to have finally been struck.  With most areas of life within my control under control, I can enjoy life even more.

Here’s to the past, the present, and to porn………FOOD porn, of course 🙂

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Holy turkey day am I jacked about Thanksgiving!  Sure, it’s probably the second biggest day of sheer gluttony right after the Super Bowl, but aside from the exquisite palette pleasing picks behind cornucopias of fake gourds, there’s so much more to be thankful for.

Breaking from the every day monotony of any routine can provide much-needed stress relief and the opportunity to re-group and set new goals.

With Thanksgiving on a Thursday, there’s no doubt going to be all kinds of  exceptions made as “dieters” break for the weekend to indulge in everything pumpkin-ey and pie-ey.  And in the grand scheme of things, why not snack a little sweetly during the holidays?  But can you do so without repercussions?  Maybe.  There’s always the risk of a gluten-induced gut ache or a dairy diarrhea  day despues de un dia of eating like there’s no tomorrow.  What else?

In my experience, it’s the mental and emotional damage that accompanies a period of reckless eating that’s almost worse than a few fatty pounds.  Sure, hit the gym, get your eating back on track, and losing weight can seem like a breeze if you have the right motivation and consistency.  But what happens if you don’t?

The task of finding time to workout every day may be daunting, but if you can muster a 4×4 foot space anywhere to knockout a routine of 10 reps for ten rounds of push-ups, v-ups (or sit ups), and squats,  then you’ll at least give your body enough of a little “hello there….you’re alive, remember?!” to boost your metabolism and self-esteem both.  The latter is especially important–to women in particular.

When I’m feeling crappy, it’s especially hard to muster the motivation to hit the gym.  Conversely, I feel the best after a workout.  But when time is tight and life on life’s terms makes it seem impossible to workout, the best possible thing you can do for your mind and body is avoid STUFFING yourself in between workouts.  True, your routine may vary due to changes in your work schedule, but so long as you keep abreast to the best food choices possible, you’ll avoid falling too far behind.

Gratitude is a subject I used to write about often, especially in conjunction with the Law Attraction which states that “what you THINK about and THANK about, you BRING about.  So think positively this holiday season, and be thankful for all the great goals you’ve already achieved and for all those you plan to tackle over the next year.

Here’s to cranberries in the can and tryptophan dreams of football and in-laws.


Last week I attended the 5th annual Americans for Prosperity Dream Summit at the Washington Convention Center in D.C.  The two-day conference featured a spending cut rally and numerous breakout sessions with some of the leading conservative operatives and commentators from around the United States.

Inside the walls of the convention center, hundreds of fed up U.S. tax payers participated in lectures on everything from exposing the liberal bias in the media, to informative “how to” seminars on testifying before a committee.  The sessions were also a place for attendees to  ask questions of the expert panelists like Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, who accompanied me and four others from Montana to lunch to discuss Montana’s economic future.

Featured speakers included 2012 presidential candidates Mitt Romney and crowd favorite, Herman Cain, as well as radio host Mark Levin and Andrew Breitbart.  Others present were former NY Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, author Jonah Goldberg,and NJ Judge, Andrew Napolitano, and Reagan author, Dinesh D’Souza to name a few.

Outside the convention center, though, wannabe rebels sang a much different tune, protesting capitalism cloaked in signs with mantras like “Human Beings not Human Resources,” and “Occupy Everything;” quite apropos, considering the efforts of the current socialist-leaning administration to work against the development of natural resources, thwarting local economies and nationwide energy independence, while occupying ever piece of land they can get their hands on, for conservation and other “off limits” designations.

Protesting not the overreaching government, but the corporate influence possessed by “1%” of the country, Occupants have deemed wealth holders the antagonists of freedom. These protestors now declaring anarchy represent a generation born into an era of entitlements.  But there is something wrong with their estimation of unhappy riot-ready protestors…. Not all of them side with the “party of the mob.”

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a nationwide organization whose faith in American ingenuity and work ethic foster the principles upon which this country was founded; economic freedom and the belief that ALL people have potential, that less government yields prosperity, and that every person is guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That more than a thousand Americans filled the convention center last week decisively implicates that an assault on the aforementioned rights has taken place, and few cheated investors in the American dream will go quietly or without a fight; I’m referring to those hardworking Americans who’ve been cheated out of the fruits of their labor by none other than an overreaching government.  I’m referring to those who showed up Saturday morning to participate in a plea to the federal government; “CUT SPENDING NOW!”

Among countless egregious acts of the current administration, including the forced passage of an unconstitutional health care bill now being challenged by half of the United States, the Federal Government has nearly spent this country out of existence; an existence as the first free Democratic Republic, the first free capitalist society in the world.

China now owns 1.2 trillion of America’s 14 trillion-dollar debt.  An environment of socialist ideals, Keynesian economics, and entitlement programs has been mandated onto Main Street from the White House and the Obama Administration.  And the results have been as disparaging as one could possibly imagine.

But the pseudo revolutionists aren’t protesting the Federal Government for intervening in the free market, for stripping Americans of their rights, or forcing the passage of blatantly unconstitutional legislation.  No.  Those now calling themselves “occupants” aren’t calling out the President and his pals for lying or bypassing congressional approval to further their liberal agenda.  No.  Their protests are a war cry from the left to undo what freedoms and opportunities we have left in this country, and why?  To be taken care of by the government.

There is a greater faith, however, in freedom and in people.  That same faith is responsible for motivating conservatives to rally together now more than ever to protect and defend our remaining rights as American citizens.

The Americans for Prosperity Dream Summit was imbued with this spirit, that of faith and trust in humanity and opportunity and freedom.  The message to the Fed rang loud and clear; “Cut Spending Now” and NEVER make apologies for this exceptional shining city on the hill, as Reagan notoriously referred to the United States of America.

We are on the brink of a revolution, and there are still many Americans who will fight for less government and more individual liberty, just as there have always been.

God bless ‘em all, and let us not forget the debt we owe to those who’ve given their lives for our sovereignty.

..and On Ramp….

*On Ramp is a beginners intro to CrossFit designed by Nicki Violetti, wife of Paleo pro and former CrossFit Nutrition lecturer Robb Wolf.

I started CrossFit July 6th, 2009.  By Feb. of 2010 I was competing in the Rx’d (advanced) class.  My last competition was June of this year, and just as in the other competitions, I was able to place in the top three.

There’s no doubt that CrossFit is an amazing sport to say the least, and most people who start up jump in with two feet, forcing the pedal to the floor and accelerating onto the freeway of intensity just as soon as their little motors will let them.  But what happens in the fast lane after a significant period of time?  Aren’t we all bound for obstacles which may slow us down?  Like running out of fuel, or even worse, the inevitable crash of a careless driver.

Well most people who know anything about CrossFit know about “drinking the Kool-Aid,” and we can all probably attest, then, to a little drunk driving.  I’m talking about the high you get during your first 6 months to a year of CrossFit; the amazing results in all areas of wellness, especially in how you look, feel, and perform.  And the competitions, whew….they take it to another level.  Pretty soon the carelessness and recklessness of the pursuit for greater intensity overwhelm any chance of being safe or effective in the gym, and that’s when injuries occur.

But more and more, and I’ve written about this before, I’m starting to have conversations with people who’ve hit a wall, plateaued, or just simply realized that CrossFit is not life, but rather, should fit into your life and not the other way around.  I’ve seen gym owners close down and move on.  I’ve watched former competitors and CrossFit enthusiasts find new interests.  And I’ve read countless articles about the burnout that seems to happen right around year 2 mark.

Unlike other workouts, CrossFit is very much a community-based regimen with a cult-like following.  I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, I mean that in a Big-Lebowski-cult-following sense.  Since I started a few years ago, I’ve met people all over MT involved with CrossFit, and the relationships I’ve formed with them are stronger than many other friendships.  It’s strange how the competition and the sheer suck-factor of most CrossFit workouts brings people together…but then again, you know what they say–“misery loves company.”

My journey took a bit of a turn at the beginning of the year when I started a new job on a different career path.  Nothing’s been the same since.  The firmly established routine I had of decent nutrition and working out turned into a totally sporadic at best attempt to stave off gaining everything I lost (fat!).

After my temporary job through the winter, I returned to Choteau and got back on track.  I fought in another 4th of July exhibition boxing match, and competed again in a CrossFit competition.   Then…another road trip.

The last three months have been sheer chaos, and I’m officially living out of my car and couch surfing as I await the next “big advance” at work.  Needless to say, working out has taken a back seat…along with, quite literally, the rest of my favorite things.

But it was beginning to drive me crazy not to have what keeps me sane; a regular routine of ass kicking workouts available at my fingertips.  So I changed that.  A couple of runs through the new town I’ve been hanging out in and I knew what I had to do.  I bit the bullet and got a new gym membership at probably one of the coolest gyms I’ve seen in a long time.  All weights, plates, and heavy bags open 24/7.  A true CrossFit-wannabe-boxer’s dream come true.  All the (dumb/bar/kettle) bells and whistles needed for just about any CrossFit workout and then some.

God if felt good getting back on track this morning after a sloppy sabbatical of apathy and laziness.  Sure…my workout was probably more On Ramp than Hero WOD, but I was soaked in sweat and am guaranteed to be (good)sore, so that’s something to be proud of.  I realize how off I am when I don’t get to workout, and even though things change, I realize I have to make working out a priority, no matter where I am, what’s available, or who I’m with.

Life’s a rollercoaster, so it should be no surprise to me that my workout routine may be too.  I can tell you I always perform better when I’m regular with my workouts…and I don’t just mean in the gym.  When we look good and feel good we perform well in all areas–work included.  There’s nothing like blowing off steam with some heavy lifting, or better yet, railin’ on a heavy bag… talk about stress relief.

So….it continues.  I’ll keep plugging along, always returning to this idea that physical wellness breeds mental, emotional, and even professional wellness.

A new gym, a new job, a new journey.

And though I’m prone to hit it full speed ahead, I’ve learned my limits the hard way and finally tuned up a bit.  Limits exist for good reason-but it’s ok to push them a bit from time to time.















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