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      News — health

      Started at the Bottom, Now We're Here - Written by Camzin Martin

      Started at the Bottom, Now We're Here - Written by Camzin Martin

      Started at the Bottom, Now We’re Here
      Written by Camzin Martin

       

      Before I was overweight I always wondered how people could let themselves get that big. Which sounds mean, but I just didn’t understand, until I became overweight. Because it happened slowly. It started with the freshmen 15 (which was normal, right?) and ended with me being 205#. My friends reflected my lifestyle so we all “grew” together and none of us noticed, and if we did, we all were polite and pretended not to. I was lucky and took a trip out of my paradigm to where I grew up (South Africa) and got to visit all my childhood friends, who had made different lifestyle choices and were not overweight, as I had become, and all of a sudden I realized that I wasn’t healthy.

      It was like someone had turned on the light in a dark room. All of a sudden it was clear as day, where before my perception was clouded by social norms, polite niceties, and common trends. But I was stuck in addiction to delicious foods (and had been trying to eat “healthy” to no avail for years only to watch my weight climb and my drive and motivation to work out plummet) and stuck in an environment that perpetuated the poor health. I felt lost and didn’t know what to do. After all, after your teens it was just a slow decline where we fight to slow the freefall.

      Fast forward to today and I’m healthier and fitter than I have ever been. If you had asked me back then if I would ever be where I am today - I would have laughed at your face. In fact, I probably would have said something like, “But I love food and hate working out” (half of which is still very true). Now I’m the girl that overweight-me hated. The girl that “obviously didn’t have to work at it”, or who “could eat whatever they want and not gain weight”, the one I would judge at restaurants and envy while they ate their cake and looked great in jeans and I choked down the blandest salad I could find.

      But if you’re reading this now and believing this photo is the result of some really spiffy photoshop skills, or that I took something somewhere along the way, or maybe it just worked for me – fortunately none of that is true. Hopefully sharing some of my early moments in this journey will shed light on your path ahead, and hopefully we’ll all continue to surprise ourselves and redefine what we thought was possible.

      Start where you can, I started Paleo because my friend promised to shut up about it if I just tried it. And while I do not believe Paleo is the right diet protocol for everyone (nor do I restrict carbs as much as it recommended at this point in my training), Paleo taught me to cook, and that food could taste good without being a) covered in bread/bread product or b) doused in sugar. Paleo taught me to like vegetables and to see food in a new light; but committing to one whole month of pure Paleo was all I could handle at the time. I did some light jogging and tried to get into rock climbing over the first six months of changing my diet, but that was about it. If you’re like me and one big life change is enough at a time, then choose your big change and make it successful, don’t try to do all things at once.

      Celebrate your successes; trust your journey. When I actually started CrossFit I had lost all the way down to 135# (the picture on the right) and gaining muscle meant gaining weight, which was really disheartening. And while the number on the scale still haunts me every once in a while, my gym family kept reminding me that it wasn’t about the number on the scale, it is about how you feel, how your clothes fit, what you can do, and your health. If any of those things are improving, celebrate them. Take your before photos and hold on to them for when you forget how far you’ve come. This is a journey of very many small steps, sometimes we need to look at the map to remember where we came from and where we’re going. Just keep going, you’re worth it.

      For my entire first year I thought about quitting probably every month. Eating differently meant I didn’t get invited to the same things any more. Working out meant my social life had to change to accommodate getting enough sleep. My old friends didn’t understand. My new friends looked like magazine models and I was struggling not to compare. I came last in almost every workout in embarrassing fashion. To say that sometimes I finished the WOD feeling demoralized would be an understatement. But the thing that kept me coming back was that I knew that I was better than the day before, healthier, on the right path – and I’m glad I kept on it. You will be too.

      When Did Eating Become So Complicated? - Written by Jenn Jones

      When Did Eating Become So Complicated? - Written by Jenn Jones

      When Did Eating Become So Complicated?
      Written by: Jenn Jones
      Photo Credit: Robert Gonda

       

      Trends seem to come and go and over the last decade we have seen several dieting trends - being solely calorie focused, not allowing carbohydrates, fats, dairy, processed foods, and pretty much any combination you can think of.  If the given diet is then supported by a large enough marketing campaign, there you have it, the next best fad.

       

      CrossFitters typically promote two diets, Paleo and Zone, while, the newest meal planning guides are pushing for Macro Counting.  What does all of this mean?

       

      What we know:  Your body is a vastly complex system within systems that helps you break down what you put into your mouth, change it into components that your body can use and conversely excrete the components you don’t need.  Your body recognizes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins as true molecules that can be broken down, absorbed, and then used by the body for many different processes that happen automatically in order to keep you alive.

       

      Carbohydrates are used for energy.  They promote healthy brain activity, functioning muscles, which includes your intestinal lining as well as your heart beating.  For the avid exerciser, the carbohydrates you eat serve as the energy sources to keep you feeling spunky through your workout and giving you enough energy for the day.   If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, your body has a natural ability to store them so they can be utilized later as needed.

       

      Proteins are the building blocks of your body. Your cells are made of them.  Your hair and nails are made of them.  Your muscles are made of them.  Proteins build and repair tissues as well as make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.  The body DOES NOT have the ability to store protein in a similar fashion to that of carbohydrates, therefore there is no reserve to draw from when your body needs to recover. This is why it’s so important to make sure to eat enough protein each day. If you’re like most athletes, in order to provide our bodies with adequate protein, we rely heavily on convenient whey protein sources, preferably lean (nothing excess – gums, fillers, added carbs), clean (made in the USA – no heavy metals), and fortified with added BCAAS (the amino acids that promote muscle tissue repair and growth.

       

      Fats are a common word that the general population tries to steer clear from.  Not all fats are created equal, and you NEED some fat in your diet in order to sustain life.   Your body is INCAPABLE of producing essential fatty acids.  Fats in a nut shell, store energy, insulate us, and protect our vital organs. They act as messengers, helping proteins do their jobs. They also start chemical reactions that help control growth, immune function, reproduction and other aspects of basic metabolism.

       

      Each of these (carbs, protein, fats) are considered Macro-nutrients.  You need relatively a lot of them in order to be adequately nourished and function properly; however, anything in excess is not a good thing.

      Too much fat, specifically triglycerides, in your bloodstream raise the risk of clogged arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.  Too much protein will simply convert most of those calories to sugars and then store them as fats.  Excess protein, gets converted to nitrogen waste, has to be excreted out of the body by the kidneys, which is more taxing on them, and coupled with dehydration can lead to kidney damage over time. Carbohydrates are the most well-known macronutrient to be detrimental to your health if eating too many.  They have the most drastic effect on your blood sugar, as they get broken down into sugars in the body to be used, or stored.

       

      Most any of the new age meal plans are taking into account keeping all things in balance.  “Zone” accounts for body type and energy expenditure to what you are eating. “Paleo” focuses more on sticking with eating natural, unaltered food (meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar or dairy) to ensure that you are getting the quality macros to have optimal health and function.  I know I don’t want my eating to be too complicated, so I just try to stick to unprocessed foods that I cook myself.  There are a lot of factors that contribute to the perfect diet plan, but if you are looking for a place to start, balancing your meals is a good stepping stone. As far as my favorite whey protein source, you are on the website (AmericanGainz.com).

      Crossfit - Being a Big Girl - Written by Camzin Martin

      Crossfit - Being a Big Girl - Written by Camzin Martin

      Photo by: Hannah Hayworth

       

      Crossfit – Being a Big Girl

      Written by Camzin Martin

       

      A few years ago now, my husband and I were sitting down to dinner with some work colleagues from within the CrossFit world when I noticed one of my esteemed coworkers looking at me with brow furrowed and deep concentration lurking behind his eyes. Because I’m the straightforward type, that type of look evokes a rather blunt, “what?” from me. He began to form his question and then paused awkwardly a few times before finally asking, “Have you always been a… bigger, girl?”

      The answer is yes. I come from a family of solidly built, really tall people. I’m actually the shortest person in my family by quite a margin, but am taller than the average female by a few inches and certainly outweigh the majority of women who are trying to be fit or have the appearance of being fit. When I played sports as a child I was always the bigger kid, and when I did acro yoga in college I was always the base (typically the male role) and not the flier. I’m not petite, and I don’t think I’ve ever been described as delicate. I was actually overweight for a few years across high school and college, but was rather lean at the time the question was posed.

      Fortunately, the time when that questioned was asked, I was already at a place in my life where I wasn’t bothered by how big or how small I am. I answered affirmatively, laughed, and the conversation moved on. I had found CrossFit and loved that my self-image was increasingly shaped by what my body could do rather than how it looked or how much it weighed.

      That being said, in CrossFit our bodyweight certainly affects our performance in our sport, and in the sport of weightlifting or powerlifting it determines the category we compete in. Considering these are three sports I participate in, knowing and managing my bodyweight has become important as it relates to my performance in my sports of choice. Today, 14 months after the birth of my wonderful daughter, I got my weight and body fat tested in one of those water immersion tanks. I was a little nervous. I weigh five pounds more day-to-day now than I did before I got pregnant and going into the Open (where typically being light is an advantage) I was concerned that this may not be productive weight. I was pleased to find that at 165lbs I have 147lbs of lean mass which puts me at 10.8% body fat, aka, the vast majority of the weight on my frame is productive. I may be going into the Open heavy, but I’m going in strong.

      Of course, diet and exercise play a huge role in keeping me lean. My genetics predispose me to be otherwise, so I’m very careful about what I eat. Don’t get me wrong, fantastic cheat meals are part of my diet, but my staple day-in-day-out diet is very meticulous. I work closely with a nutritionist and I am very careful with supplementation and actually supplement very little. I take magnesium before bed, fish oil twice a day, and an American Gainz – Tactical Recovery shake with some creatine mixed in. Before using American Gainz protein I had to take vegan protein powder to maintain my weight, which if you aren’t actually vegan, tastes horribly (I can only imagine vegans find it more palatable). It is my hope that someday being a “big girl” might not be considered a bad thing at all, and that my colleague asking that question wouldn’t have to be considered insensitive. I think of the Olympic Lifter affectionately known as the “Pocket Hercules”, Naim Süleymanoğlu. Naim measured up at 4 foot 10 inches and weighed in at a colossal 137lbs. Despite being small Naim clean and jerked 190kgs, which in ‘Merica totals up to 419lbs. “Have you always been a small guy?” Yes, but apparently freakishly strong.

      It is my hope in that pursuing the limits of my capacities I set an example for my daughter that it’s not how you look, what you weigh, how close to normal you appear, it’s about what you can do – about challenging yourself and striving to be better. I hope if she, or her peers, ever gets asked a question like the one that opened this blog, they might be able to answer proudly. She is rather petite now, so her answer might be, “No, but thank you for noticing my gainz!”

      Training with Your Partner - Written by Jenn Jones

      Training with Your Partner - Written by Jenn Jones

      Photo by Sierra Prime

      Training with Your Partner

      ~ Written by Jenn Jones

       

      Your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your number one supporter….Is training together good for your relationship?

      There are many dynamic components to a good training environment and I think there are pros and cons to incorporating that into an activity you and your SO (significant other) do together.  You need to take a step back and do some self evaluating prior to jumping into this.

       

      1. If you met in the gym I think you are off to a great start.  This shows that you both have a passion and interest in fitness and can appreciate the goals that your SO may have.

       

      1. What type of motivation do you need?  Do you need someone to be in your face yelling?  Do you want gym partners to always be a little better than you so you are constantly striving to get better?  Do you just need a fun atmosphere and someone to go through the motions with you?  Understanding how you need support in a “stressful” environment, such as the middle of your WOD, can deflect a lot of unwanted stress down the line.

       

      1. Do you know how to take criticism? Is your SO someone who has more knowledge than you? Always being told how to do something, or that you are doing something wrong can be tiring, even if the tips and tricks are coming from a loving place. 

       

      1. Tensions are slightly higher when you are doing something less than comfortable like working out, or trying to be the best version of yourself you can be.  There needs to be a mental divide.  Know that what happens in the gym stays in the gym.  If you had a bad work out, and bad day, couldn't hit 60% of your best lift, when you go home you no longer have to dwell on it.  

       

      I’ve had partners that have tried to be supportive to me while we were training together and I literally just wanted to throw my dumbbell at them, but I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum where they don't want to be in the gym at all.  Bottom line is the choices that you make with your SO should build the relationship that you have with one another.  If it’s putting more stress on the relationship, then you need to reevaluate your priorities, or reevaluate your partner choice. 

       

      Mental Toughness in Crossfit - Written by Jared Astle

      Mental Toughness in Crossfit - Written by Jared Astle

       Mental Toughness in Crossfit

      Written by Jared Astle

       

      In my experience as a competitive athlete in both gymnastics & Crossfit, I have found a common thread that proves to be critical for success in both, that is mental toughness.

      I have always felt that there are 6 proven keys to mental toughness. These keys can be broken down into smaller categories and therefore some sources may refer to 7 or 8, however for me, focusing on 6 has been the most effective.

       

      1)  Create SMART Goals - If I tell you to get from point A to point B but fail to properly define what and where point B is exactly, chances are you will never get there, after all, where is “there”? 

      This concept of defining goals needs to be applied to your mental game. If you don’t have a defined destination you are never going to feel successful or accomplished and at that point any progress towards your mental fortitude goes out the window. When making goals, ensure they are SMART;
        • Specific - What exactly do I want to achieve, “I want to place in the top 5 at Regionals”. Very Specific.
        • Measurable – Stating that you want to get “better” at HSPU is great, but how is that measured, what does “better” mean? A measurable goal would be, I want to be able to do 30 strict HSPU in 3 minutes.
        • Attainable - Being able to deadlift 800 pounds is probably not going to happen anytime soon. Now if I said, I “I would like to increase my deadlift by 10% in the next month”, now that is attainable. I want to be able to see myself as worthy of these goals, and develop the traits and personality that allow me to possess them.
        • Realistic - To be realistic, I strive to make my goals represent an objective toward which I am both willing and able to work towards. Being the strongest woman in the world is a tough one. Now you are the only one who can decide just how high to set your goal, I say as long as it represent progress, it’s a good goal.
        • Timely – A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency, and then can easily be lost.

        2)  Be Consistent - To be mentally tough you have to be consistently mentally tough. This may not seem like a measure of mental toughness, but look at it this way:You are in the gym and your workout calls for 10 reps. You are exhausted from the long day, you are 20 minutes in and you get done with 9 reps and say to yourself, “Oh that is good enough for today”, we all do it. It’s just one rep right? So the next day you walk into the gym and you see Joe finish the WOD in 4:35, there is no way Joe got that time, or that you are going to let him beat you. So you cut off a few reps here and you shorten your ROM there. You get a 4:33. Way to go. You beat Joe. You are the winner of the day at Crossfit Schmuckatelli. So if this behavior continues, what do you think the result is 1 year down the road? Well, assuming you only skip one rep a day on each movement you would have skipped a total of:   

         4 (avg. movements a day) * 260 (5 days/week) = 1,040 Reps

        1,040 reps! If those reps were a 250lb back squat, you missed out on 260,000 lbs of work.

        Now let’s talk about the mental damage you just caused yourself. This can occur one of two ways.

        • You consistently cut your ROM and shorted reps, when competition time comes you do the same thing but you are "no rep’d" and you end up stuck in the workout wondering why you suck so much. That thought is not mental toughness, but rather self destructive.
        • You MENTALLY realize you don’t have the capacity to finish the workout. Every time you quit on the last rep bears down on you. Yeah it was only the last rep, but guess what, you still quit, just without ever recognizing your action as quitting. So now you enter a judged competition and act like something must be wrong with you, because you never quit, lol.

        Bottom line, shortening your reps or cutting reps has the SAME MENTAL EFFECT AND FATIGUE AS QUITTING.

        3)  Acknowledge the Small Victories - Some would refer to these as ‘mini-goals’, I however prefer to call them “small victories”, for the simple reason, these are not your goals, but rather progress towards your goals. An example of this would be recognizing that being consistently mentally tough, and not quitting, is worth treating as a small victory and then should be celebrated! The human brain is a funny thing and it is hard to control. It doesn’t like adversity. It will find the fastest and easiest way out. That is human nature, we are lazy. So every time you force yourself to conquer over 100,000 years of heritage that is your victory, so celebrate it and reward yourself, eventually it will become second nature. 

        4)  Concentrate on You - Someone who is mentally tough does not worry about the people around them or how good they are. When someone who is training around you is in the zone and killing it, celebrate in their success, they deserve it. I often hear, “but you always PR, I want to PR”, my response, “So go do it”.  Don’t get fooled into thinking that PRs are flying around the gym like the golden snitch in a quiditch match and that you’re just too unlucky to snag it up that day. Be accountable and responsible in obtaining your goals.

        5)  Be Positive - Negativity is a cancer and it will spread through your mind within seconds. Bad reps and bad days occur; recognize them as such and move on. When those bad days happen, you have to find the few positives to learn from and then refocus. Even on bad training days, small victories do exist so think, if you can accomplish positives on a bad training day, think of what you can do on a good training day?

        6)  Focus on What You Can Control - You can’t change the plates being used, you can’t change the stupid standards, you can’t change the bearings on the bar. Focus on what you can control and the rest will take care of itself. Things outside of your control do happen; beating yourself up over it will not strengthen your mental game. Don’t let them deter you, learn from it, and learn what you can do in the future to overcome.

        Success is 85% mental, 10% Physical, and 5% uncontrollable or outside influence.