a2a 25 Day Challenge!

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. We haaaaaaaate the word diet. In fact, you may often hear us preaching, “It’s a lifestyle, not a diet,” whenever people speak of such things.

However, sometimes you just need a little motivation to get your booty in gear.

Enter the Whole 30 Challenge, “a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits and relationships with food.

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This is not a juice cleanse nor is this some crazy diet that forces you to eat cabbage soup for every meal. It’s simply eliminating any of the foods that could be having a negative impact on your health or fitness. Even if you think you eat healthy already, sometimes you don’t even realize that certain foods are making you feel tired, giving you headaches or causing digestive problems until you strip them from your diet completely.

Well, we have decided to do our own challenge, which will last 25 days instead of 30 (because we’re not going to pretend for one second that anyone would stick to this over Memorial Day weekend), and we’re inviting you to join us. Want to start “eating clean” but don’t know where to start? Well, here’s your chance! Feel like you’ve been going a little overboard with the “cheats”? Time to hit the reset button!

The challenge will begin on Monday, April 29th and continue through Wednesday, May 23rd. The rules are simple. Eat real food. Lots of veggies. Lots of protein. Fruits. Healthy fats. Nothing processed. No toxins. No inflammatory foods.

Gram

More specifically, here is what you can eat:

LOTS of vegetables

Meat – beef, chicken, turkey, ham, etc.

Seafood

Fruits

Fats from oils, nuts and seeds (almond butter is allowed if it’s made from RAW almonds only!)

Legumes that are allowed – green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas

Clarified butter or ghee

Vinegar – white, balsamic, apple cider, red wine and white (just make sure there is no added sugar!)

And here is what you CANNOT eat:

No added sugar of any kind, real or fake. For realz, none.

No processed foods.

No alcohol (I know, we’re crying over here too.)

No grains. This includes wheat, rye, barley, millet, oats, corn, rice, sprouted grains, quinoa, bran germ, starch, etc.

No legumes. This includes all beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, peanutbutter and all forms of soy (soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc.)

No dairy. Yes, this means black coffee.

No white potatoes (sweet potatoes are ok!)

No “paleo” treats. This means no pancakes!

Now you’re thinking to yourself, “WTF am I supposed to eat? No bread?! NO PEANUT BUTTER?!?!”

Well, there are a million online resources where people have documented their Whole 30 meals. One of our favorites is Nom Nom Paleo, who documented her meals each day while completing the challenge.

We’ll also be posting our meals on Instagram (@average2athlete), and we’d love to see yours as well! Simply mupload your pictures to Instagram and tag #a2achallenge.

Ok, so you’re no longer afraid of starving, but now you’re thinking, “But it’s May and there are going to be so many fun happy hours I’m going to miss!”

 Unfortunately, there is NEVER going to be a good time to do something like this. There will ALWAYS be an excuse. It’s only 25 days. 25 DAYS! That’s seriously nothing. You got this.

And don’t worry, there are things that we’re going to miss too…

Julia sad

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Ok, enough embarrassing photos. Just join is. Pleeeeease? Misery loves company?

Oh, and we should probably also mention that this is NOT an excuse to stop eating altogether. That is absolutely not the point and please do not destroy your metabolism because you’d rather starve than eat your veggies. Enjoy this and eat up, knowing that everything you put in our mouth is GOOD for you!

Finally, we encourage you to take pictures of yourself (and calculate your body composition, if possible) before and after completing the challenge. However, during the challenge, just focus on eating right and think about how you feel. Trust us, if you stick to the plan, the physical results will come!

Questions? Let us know in the comments.

Good luck everyone!

~Julia and Kayte

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Keep Calm, Lift Heavy and Eat Turkey Burgers

In my previous post, I debunked a few of the myths around women and weight lifting. As a follow up, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the benefits of strength training and share a few tips on how to get started.

As you may have noticed from my workouts, Crossfit and HIIT (high intensity interval training) are my exercise forms of choice, and here’s why (on a completely personal level):

It feels pretty badass to be able to lift a barbell over my head while squatting, flip a tire that is 2x my body weight, jump onto a box that is more than half my height and hold my own on the pull-up bar, to name a few.

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It’s an awesome feeling to watch myself getting stronger. When I think about where I was 5 years, 1 year, even 6 months ago, I’m always amazed at how far I’ve come and what my body can do.

It puts me in “the zone.” While I’m doing a workout, I’m focused on counting my reps and nothing else. Unlike long distance running or any other form of steady state exercise, your mind doesn’t have time to wander. All other stress is temporarily forgotten because you’re 100% in the moment.

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I love efficiency. We’re all busy and no one has time to spend hours on end in the gym. Well, when you combine lifting heavy weights with sprints, rowing, jump roping and burpees, you don’t need to.

I love the feeling of being so wiped out that you’re not sure if you can even make it to the shower. You just don’t get that from anything else, in my opinion.

By setting goals for myself, I never get bored. Whether it’s a new PR on a certain lift, mastering handstand push-ups or increasing my max rep pull-ups, there’s always a new challenge to work towards.

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It’s not the worst thing in the world to have people stop you in the grocery store and ask, “Do you do Crossfit?”  Yes, this happened to me today.

I love muscles. I think it’s a sign of hard work and dedication. How can you not respect girls who looks like this?

Christmas rings

Or this?

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Despite my passion for Crossfit, I know it’s not the only form of effective strength training and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s the end all be all. Everyone has different goals and preferences, and it’s important to find a type of exercise that makes you happy.

However, I am going to continue to encourage all of you to strength train. Why? You’ll gain muscle and lose fat, among many other things. You’ll also reduce your risk of injury by strengthening your bones and joints and doing full body movements that compliment each other. Your metabolism will thank you as well. At rest, muscle burns more calories than fat, so by increasing your lean muscle mass, you’re increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories that you would burn if you were to lay down, without sleeping, for 24 hours. You’re also going to be more efficient when you workout and will not feel the need to spend at a time at the gym, sweating profusely but seeing minimal results.

To some, the thought of strength training may seem daunting because they don’t know where to begin. Well, everyone has to start somewhere. My first introduction to strength training was sitting on the weight machines and going through the prescribed circuit at my gym. I then started incorporating free weights and used magazines to learn other, more creative exercises. Finally, I was introduced to Crossfit.

So, here are a few tips I have for those new to the world of strength training:

Join a gym or create a space at home. If you are working out at home, purchase the correct equipment. I recommend Again Faster.

Know your body and be aware of any past injuries that you may have. However, don’t create an injury in your head and use it as an excuse for not doing certain exercises. Excuses will get you nowhere.

Start with the basics and learn proper form. Sign up for a few intro sessions with personal trainer, find out if your gym offers introductory kettlebell or TRX courses, take a fundamentals course at a Crossfit box or watch YouTube videos.

Start with the appropriate weight. When that becomes too easy, make it heavier. You should always feel challenged if you want to see progress. Just make sure that you’re not sacrificing your form for the heavier weight.

BREATHE.

When creating workouts, think about your full body. Create “circuits” that include legs, arms and core, rather than devoting your entire workout to one muscle group.

Don’t repeat the same thing every time you work out. Even though there are going to be some exercises that you like more than others, you will only see results if you challenge yourself. If you feel like you’re plateauing, consider changing things up.

Just remember, it doesn’t matter where you’re starting in your fitness journey. What matters is that you set goals and make a plan to reach them. Success doesn’t happen overnight, but consistently putting in the work and continuing to challenge yourself will lead to results. Just keep going!

And now and I will leave you with my turkey slider recipe…

Turkey Sliders

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1 lb lean ground turkey

1 cup spinach, chopped

½ onion

Garlic powder, pepper and rosemary to taste (sorry, I didn’t measure)

1-2 large sweet potatoes

Plain Greek yogurt

Chili pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400. Slice sweet potatoes into spheres. Line cookie sheet with foil and place potato spheres onto foil. Spray with coconut oil/olive oil or fat of choice. Place in the oven and let bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, make the sliders. Combine turkey, spinach, onion and seasonings in a bowl. Heat a greased skillet over medium heat. Form small patties with your hands and place onto skillet. Once turkey is browned on the bottom, flip. Once burger is cooked all the way through, remove. Continue until you’ve used up the turkey mixture.

Place turkey patty on sweet potato sphere. Mix plain Greek yogurt with chili pepper flakes to create a “sauce.” Spread sauce onto burger and top with a second sweet potato sphere.

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I paired mine with a small salad of spinach, grape tomatoes, avocado and olive tapenade.

Enjoy!

~ Julia

Counting Sheep

The other night, I shut down my computer at 11:00pm and already knew that with the alarm set for 4:30am, I was a far cry from getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep.  As I lay there and tried to will myself to sleep as quickly as possible, my mind took off!  I starting thinking of every little thing to put on my to-do list; ideas for new blog posts, workouts, client programs, vacation plans, bills etc…you name it!  I tried over and over to quiet my mind, but it was no use.  As I watched the clock roll past 11:30pm, 12:30am and finally 1:30am,  I became increasingly more panicked and obsessed with falling asleep! The longer I lay awake, the worse I knew the next day would be. I’m sure you all know the feeling…when you walk around half awake, groggy and delirious.   Sure enough, the following morning, there was no amount of coffee that would make me feel 100% with-it.

While 2.5 hours of sleep is an obvious deprivation, I often have the attitude that I can do without 8 hours and can make it through the day on a solid 5.5 or 6. However, running on less than 3 the other day got me thinking about how important sleep actually is to our health.

My niece Lilly, who fell asleep in the middle of dinner this week!!

My niece Lilly, who fell asleep in the middle of dinner this week!!

We are all so focused on our day-to-day tasks like work, errands, training and groceries that we often don’t give enough thought to the importance of sleep…turns out, sleep is actually the most important activity of our day! Sleep is the only time your body has to regenerate itself, rebuild muscle and strengthen bones. No matter where you are in your fitness journey or what your goals are, sleep is essential for muscle gain and fat loss! Said best by the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep Deprivation is the royal route to Obesity.”

After taking a closer look into the role that sleep plays for our body and health, I have a few key points to share.  Below you’ll find some possible side effects of prolonged sleep deprivation.

General Health possible side effects of Sleep Deprivation:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Heightened levels of Stress hormones
  • Weight gain

While overall health is obviously the goal, a lot of our readers are interested in reaching a higher level of performance and a lower body fat.  So, in order to make sure we don’t overload you with information, for this post we’ll zero in a little more on the last item and take a closer look at weight control & muscle growth. For more information on sleep and health concerns, check out the National Sleep Foundation.

Weight Control & Muscle Growth – Sleep deprivation can play a big part in weight control and muscle growth.  Lack of sleep can cause your metabolism to slow down and can limit muscle repair and growth.  Our bodies regulate hormones at night, especially those in charge of fat burning and appetite, particularly carb cravings!  When you don’t get enough deep sleep, your brain thinks that you have insufficient energy stores and then goes into a state of starvation, which ups your appetite.  In addition, Human Growth hormones, which stimulate the metabolism, are only produced in the hours of deep sleep.

So, How do you get more sleep?

Getting more sleep isn’t always just a product of just getting into bed a little earlier, (although that will probably help!)   So, what can you do if you are having problems falling or staying asleep?  Here are some tips:

  • Establish a routine  – Go to bed at the same time every night & get up at the same time every morning.
  • Don’t sleep more than your body needs – Oversleeping can cause you to be sluggish and may disturb your subsequent night sleep.
  • Exercise or move everyday, but NOT right before bed, your metabolism can take up to 6 hours to slow down after you exercise.
  • Make it dark, quiet & avoid electronics close to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol later in the day.
  • Have a light snack before bed (See below for my favorite before bed snack!)
  • Find a relaxation technique before bed.  To quiet my mind, I read and my husband mediates every night!
  • Make sure you are getting the proper nutrients throughout the day to help you sleep at night!  Sleeping problems can be caused by deficiencies in the diet.  Check out some foods that might help you sleep better, like B6, Calcium & Magnesium!  We’ve included a recipe below that incorporates some of these foods into one great meal!

I know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sleep, but I hope this helped by giving an idea of  how important it is to get some shut eye!

Sweet dreams!

Bedtime snack

Cottage Cheese & Bananas

Cottage Cheese & Bananas

Cottage Cheese & Bananas  – ¼ – ½ cup cottage cheese and ½ banana.

We love this snack, not only because of the sleep enhancing nutrients (calcium & B6,) but the banana is a great way to replace the potassium lost during a hard workout and cottage cheese is slow digesting and gives our body what it needs during the night!

Salmon, Kale & Orange Salad

Salmon

Ingredients

  • 2-3 salmon filets
  • 8-10 Kale leaves, washed, stemmed and cut into thin strips
  • 1 can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 oranges, squeezed (1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced olives
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon dried dill

Instructions

Add all ingredients (aside from the salmon) into a large bowl, stir and cover. Marinate in fridge for 1-24 hours (I’m impatient, so I only did 1 hour!)

Grill salmon and serve with clementine’s or mandarins oranges.

Additional Sources:

  1. “Fit & Well” by Thomas D. Fahey, Paul M. Insel & Walton T. Roth
  2. “The Eat Clean Diet” by Tosca Reno

Team Sparta: CMC Intrepid Recap

Last weekend, we competed as a team in the Civilian Military Combine (CMC) on the USS Intrepid. For those who are not familiar with the CMC, it’s an obstacle race that supports Operation Homefront and the Heroes of Tomorrow. While it’s similar to a Tough Mudder or a Spartan Race, there’s one additional element that is unique to the CMC, Hell The Pit. But before we go into the details of the race, we want to introduce Team Sparta.

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  Our team was made up of 12 awesome athletes, evenly split between ladies and gents. We all love to train, and we also love flexing.

 Ok, back to the Pit. The Pit is a workout that you complete before the obstacle course. For this event, the Pit was a 7 minute AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible) of:

 7 Push-press (45lbs, girls/75lbs, boys)

7 KB swings (26lbs, girls/40lbs, boys)

7 Box-jump over burpees (20” box, universal)

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  I’m pretty sure our faces say it all.

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 After 7 minutes of the Pit, it would be nice to lay down and take a little rest, right?. WRONG. You have 90 seconds to recover or grab a sip of water (if you can swallow in between gasps), before you’re “released” into the obstacle course.

Because the event was held on the Intrepid, the obstacle course was a half mile sprint, which consisted of a sled push, sandbag and water bucket carries, crawling through nets and lots and lots of climbing.

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  We were one of the only teams not from a Crossfit box, and we came in 18th out of 48. Not too shabby!

 We were pretty happy with our individual results as well 🙂

Pit Obstacle Course Rank
Kayte 144 reps 9:05 5/188 females (and first in her age group!)
Julia 142 reps 10:20 10/188 females

 And even happier to be finished!

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  The atmosphere on the Intrepid was incredible. Despite the freezing temperatures (ok, maybe it wasn’t that cold but it was on the water and some of us may not have worn enough clothing…), everyone was amped to be participating in such an exciting event. The judges were all super supportive as well, cheering on each and every athlete and encouraging them to get out every last rep. And it was cool to see people of various athletic backgrounds in all different stages of their training come together and give it a go.  Really goes to show that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it!

Since we each approached the race slightly differently, we thought we’d also give you a recap of the event from our individual perspectives…

Kayte

 I was a little apprehensive about this race.  For the last 2 months, I haven’t been training for power or working on upper body strength because of the pinched nerve in my neck.  I wasn’t even sure I would be able to participate until the doctor gave me the “OK” 1 week before.  On the Monday before CMC, I decided that I should go for a test run of “The Pit” in a closed environment.  I got through the whole 7 minutes at a moderate pace and didn’t feel any additional pain, so I made the decision to go for it!  My goal was to just get through the day without hurting myself.

Photo taken at 11:10 by www.nuvisionactionimage.com

The morning of, I was a little anxious, but as Team Sparta started to gather at the gym, I began to get more and more pumped!  We all seemed to feed off of each other’s energy, which is the great thing about doing these events with other like-minded, positive athletes who inspire you.

Although I hadn’t trained for this specific event, staying active and doing what I was able while injured, along with a solid base of power and strength that I have from years of training, allowed me to be able to complete the course at a competitive level.  The course involved a lot of climbing, and I’m pretty much a monkey with my gymnastics background, so I really felt comfortable with the obstacles.

Photo taken at 11:17 by www.nuvisionactionimage.com

 Despite being able to get through the course without serious preparation, I really felt the effects of it afterwards.  My shoulders were so sore and I couldn’t lift my arms up until Wednesday without being reminded of the CMC on Saturday!

Julia

Signing up for the CMC was an easy decision for me. I sort of have a hard time saying no to any type of physical challenge. Plus, a couple of my teammates did the CMC in Brooklyn last September and wouldn’t shut up about how awesome it was, so I knew there was no chance I was missing out on this one.

 As someone who always likes to be thoroughly prepared, upon signing up I immediately visited the CMC website and watched the Pit instructional videosso that I would know exactly what each element entailed (no way was I going to get a “no rep!”). I practiced the Pit once a week for about a month, and even though I knew exactly what to expect the day of, my stomach was still doing somersaults as we waited for the countdown to begin. There really is no other feeling like pre-race nerves!

 Photo taken at 11:18 by www.nuvisionactionimage.com

 My performance during the actual event was pretty much on par with my performance in practice. But it felt SO much harder. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t properly warmed up, or if I was just having a bad day, but by the time I was on round 3, I wanted to lay on the ground in the middle of my burpees and not get back up. Luckily, the screaming judges and rowdy crowd were enough to push me through, and the 7 minutes of torture finally ended.

Photo taken at 11:06 by www.nuvisionactionimage.com

  Even though I know my score was definitely above average, I was slightly disappointed because I had been hoping to do a little more with adrenaline kicking in and all. But, at least I know a couple of things that I’m going to do differently in my training next time: use heavier weight and practice lateral box jumps (that part really threw me for a loop). I’ll also be incorporating more running and climbing stairs with sandbags and medicine balls in preparation for a longer, more rugged obstacle course.

It was a pretty amazing day all around, and we could not be more proud of our team’s performance. Check out more pics of Team Sparta in action here.

 Oh, and the day obviously would not have been complete without a few post-race beverages.

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 So what’s next? Several members of Team Sparta have decided to sign up for the another CMC in Camelback, PA on May 18th. Follow our workouts on Instagram (@average2athlete) to see how we’re preparing, and let us know if you’ll be there too!

 Now, time to start training…

 Kayte & Julia

Strong is the New Skinny. And Oodles of Zoodles!

As anyone who follows us on Facebook or Instagram already knows, this past weekend, Kayte and I competed in the Civilian Military Combine in NYC on the US Intrepid. It was a truly awesome experience and we’ll be writing a full post on it later this week, but for now I couldn’t resist at least sharing a picture of our amazing team.

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Team Sparta!

One of the coolest things about this event was getting to see all of the kickass women out there. Out of 482 total participants, 188 were female. That’s about 40% – not too shabby! I think a lot of this can be contributed to the huge growth of Crossfit, which has been attracting more and more women over the past couple of years.

 However, despite this tremendous growth, there is still a lot of convincing to be done when it comes to getting women to even pick up and weight. And I don’t mean grabbing two 5-pound dumbbells and doing a few bicep curls and maybe a couple of lunges. I’m talking challenging weight. Weight that is actually hard.

But why? There are pictures of strong women with awesome physiques all over the media, and trust me, they did not get their bodies purely by doing cardio and starving themselves. I guarantee you that even your favorite spin instructor with the awesome bod did not get her “toned” arms from spinning alone. So why do women need so much convincing when it comes to lifting weights?

Well, I’ll begin with a couple of misconceptions that are unfortunately all too common and continue to keep women isolated to the cardio machines…

1.       Lifting weights will make you bulky.  This is simply not true. Women do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to bulk up. The bodybuilders that you see that look “manly” do not get that way from lifting weights alone. They are either taking some sort of supplements, or they are part of the 1% of the female population that is able to bulk up like men. Some women might say they naturally get bulky when they lift, but this is probably due more to diet and a higher percentage of body fat than it is to the amount of muscle they’re carrying.

 Often when I talk about wanting to get stronger or be able to lift heavier, people reply with, “but aren’t you afraid of getting bulky?” Well, I am currently stronger and can lift more than I’ve ever been able to in my life, and I would consider myself the “leanest” that I’ve ever been as well. Why? Because most of the extra “bulk” that I carried was actually fat, not muscle mass! And if you’re reading this and thinking that I’m bulky, then we can have a separate conversation about that later 😉

 I think Dwight sums it up best:

dwight

 2.       Cardio is the best way to burn fat. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is important. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up, build endurance and can burn a ton of calories while you’re actually doing it. And I’m really not saying to forget about it, I just think it’s overdone. Just because you are sweating bullets does not necessarily mean that you’re burning more fat. Anyone who has lifted weights at high intensity can tell you they felt just as fatigued, if not more, than they would have from doing cardio for that same amount of time.

 Unfortunately, many women get discouraged when they first start lifting because they notice their legs/shoulders/arms getting bigger and their weight going up, and they decide to throw in the towel and resort back to purely cardio. What they don’t realize is that their bodies have started building muscle (hence the weight gain), but they haven’t necessarily started to burn the fat on top of that muscle yet. However, as that lean muscle mass continues to increase, body fat will start to decrease (assuming they are also eating well) and that newly formed muscle will start to show!

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These next two aren’t as much misconceptions as they are additional comments that you often here in regards to weight lifting…

 3.      But I just want to tone my arms. Well, any decent trainer will tell you that you cannot target fat loss. You will lose fat wherever there is fat to lose. Just like people carry their fat in different places, people lose fat differently as well, and unfortunately, this is not something that you can control. So the only way that you’re going to “tone” any part of your body is going to be by lifting weights to build muscle, and simultaneously decreasing body fat so that your muscle will show. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to target certain muscle groups, but it won’t matter if you have fat on top of them.

 4. I don’t care about muscle, I just want to be skinny. We’ve all heard the term “skinny fat.” While I don’t think that anyone wants to think they fall into that bucket, there are always going to be people who are naturally skinny and don’t care about being strong or having muscle. Well, obviously everyone has different end goals when it comes to fitness, but there are several reasons beyond aesthetics that being “skinny fat” can ultimately be hazardous to one’s health. Rather than going into detail on the topic in this post, I’ll let the good people at Tabata Times do it for me.

 So, now that I’ve convinced you all to start lifting weights (right?), you’re wondering where to start. I would say second to being afraid of bulking up, simply not knowing what to do when it comes to weight is the next biggest deterrent to women. Well, stay tuned for an upcoming post on weight lifting tips for beginners!

 In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my “zoodle” recipe!

 Zoodles and Meatballs

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Zoodles

 1 zucchini

 1 Julienne peeler (I bought mine on Amazon to save a few bucks)

Nomnom Paleo (another awesome blog you should check out for yummy, clean recipes) explains zoodle preparation way better than I can.

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Zoodles

You can either pop them in the microwave or sautee them to get them warm. I like mine with a bit of a crunch to them.

Turkey Artichoke Meatballs

 1 lb lean ground turkey

1 can artichokes, chopped

½ onion, chopped

1 cup spinach, chopped

Seasoning of choice (I used garlic, basil and red pepper flakes)

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix chopped vegetables and turkey in a bowl. Roll turkey/veggie mixture into balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 30 minutes or until turkey is thoroughly cooked.

Marinara Sauce

 ½ jar of natural marinara sauce (ingredients should be tomatoes and seasonings, for the most part)

½ bell pepper, chopped

½ onion, chopped

Basil

Black pepper

 Grease skillet and add onion and bell pepper. Sautee until onions are translucent, then add sauce. Add basil and pepper and stir. Cover and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.

When sauce is finished, pour over zoodles and add a few meatballs. They even twist around a fork just like noodles!

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Have an awesome week!

 Julia

Performance Training, Plyometrics & Pizza

I’ve mentioned before that I love plyometrics. (Plyometrics, “Jump Training” or “Plyos” are explosive exercises that exert max force in a very short amount of time. For more info, check out this page.) I also love any kind of training that really gets my heart rate up, gets me breathing heavy and leaves me feeling like I might fall over or pass out! I guess it reminds me of conditioning for sports and makes me feel athletic…or maybe I’m just an adrenaline junky! Either way, any HIIT, circuits, cross-fit, sprints etc makes me feel amazing and yields results!

Some of my favorite plyometrics!

Some of my favorite plyometrics!

I mentioned last week that I had, on occasion, received flack from other trainers about all of the high-intensity jumping and plyometric training that I previous had in my program.  While most of the jabs were well intentioned, after a while I started to question myself and began to shy away from jump-training. Instead of listening to my body and training in a way that worked best for me, I was altering my program to fit other people’s expectations.  My body wasn’t responding as well as it previously had and I wasn’t feeling as accomplished post-workout.

Last week, I came across an article in oxygen magazine about the benefits of plyometrics, that got my wheels spinning. Some of the key notes from the article were that plyos;

  1. Improve athletic performance
  2. Encourage muscle change and adaptation
  3. Increase metabolism and post-workout calorie burn

While these statements certainly support my love of plyos, it was this quote from strength and conditioning coach, Molly Galbraith, that really hit home and got me thinking:

“Plyometrics teach you how to produce force, absorb impact on landing and enhance body control, all of which contribute to stronger joints, a reduced risk of injury, and better skills when playing sports.”

This really opened my eyes and I began to notice a correlation between my training and recent injuries. Over the last 6 months I have incurred 2 injuries that have completely halted my training.  I currently have a pinched nerve (possibly a herniated disk) that started as a sore neck the day before I left to cheer for the NBA All Star Games in February and worsened during the week while we performed.  In addition to that injury, I sprained my ankle in October at practice the day before leaving for a 2 week NBA cheerleading trip around the world.

I Spy!  Can you spot the air cast in all of these pics?

I Spy! Can you spot the air cast in all of these pics?

Before these incidents, I had never really been one to have injuries.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely a little reckless and careless in a bull-in-a-china-shop kind of way, but I’m also very “durable” as my husband would put it.  I’ve spent a fair share of time in the ER for stitches, concussions and the occasional broken finger, but I’ve never really had an injury that kept me “on the bench” so to speak.  Since Both injuries happened while cheerleading, I initially came to the most logical conclusion, Cheerleading = Injury.  I thought, “Maybe this is a sign that it’s time to hang up my pom-poms, because lets face it, 29 is a little old to still be cheering!”  And while age may play a little part, I’m thinking there may be more to it.

After taking another look at my training and injuries with the article in mind, I started thinking that maybe the correlation wasn’t directly caused by cheerleading (or age,) but by the change in my program.  Since I began working out in a gym 11 years ago, I was training for my sport….Cheerleading. Everything I did in the gym was geared towards becoming a better athlete.  And while I have always kept a well rounded program, we (the cheerleaders) definitely had more plyometrics and jumping than say, a marathon runner would…and for good reason, you practice what you will perform.  Maybe these injuries had occurred because I was no longer as conditioned to perform cheerleading skills as I had been in the past.  You need to train for your sport.  If I am going to jump and flip, I should continue to train to be able to jump and flip.

Jump & Flip

Jump & Flip

Moral of the story, listen to your body. You are the one who is ultimately responsible for your health and the one who has to live with your decisions.  When it comes to training, there is so much information out there…so learn all you can, apply what think you need and make the decisions that are best for you!

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I am so looking forward to returning to my normal, balanced training program, complete with plyometrics!  If you are looking for some plyometric moves to add to your routine, check out some exercises on our YouTube channel. My friend, college roommate, and kick-ass group fitness instructor, Caitlin McGowan and I videoed some of our favorite moves after her class yesterday.

Check out our YouTube channel here!

After Caitlin's class

After Caitlin’s class

As a final note, while working through these injuries, it has been especially important to keep my diet extra clean! Check out this Egg White “Pizza” that I tried this week!

Egg White Pizza

Egg White Pizza

Egg White Pizza

1.) Spray frying pan with oil, then cook egg white mixture (below) into omelette “crust.” Flip when fully cooked

  • 5 egg whites (Add 1 Tbsp water and pepper to taste)

2.) Mix the following together and spread onto cooked eggs

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano

3.) Add to following onto the tomato sauce until cheese melts

  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • sliced veggies (we chose mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese

*Recipe adapted from “Clean Eating Quick & Easy Meals”

Enjoy!

Julia’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Clean Eating…and Stuffed Bell Peppers!

“You are what you eat.” “Abs are made in the kitchen.” “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

You’ve all heard it in one form or another. And it’s true, unless you have an amazing metabolism (in which case I’m super jealous of you), you’re not going to reap the full benefits of your exercise program without eating well along with it. Plus, we like our bodies, right? So why not be nice to them and give them things that will make them happy?

So what does this mean? What should you eat? Should you eat less? More? High protein? Low carbs? No fat? With all of the diets and products out there, it’s no wonder everyone is confused…who wouldn’t be?

Well, in this post, I’m going to tell you what I eat. I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not saying that everyone should do as I do, but this is what works for me. And guess what, I feel good AND I enjoy what I’m eating. Isn’t that what really matters?

But before I get down to business, I have something VERY IMPORTANT to share. Ok, not really. I just needed an excuse to embarrass my friends by posting these pictures that I received via text on Saturday.


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Oh, yeah. That happened. Oh, and I’m supposed to be very clear about the fact that they are making fun of people who take “gym selfies.” Because apparently that makes this acceptable.

What’s a “gym selfie?” You know, those people who should be working out but instead are too busy taking pictures of themselves in the mirror. Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Well don’t worry, I took one of my own.

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 Not laughing yet? How about  now?

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Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can focus on the real subject of this post, which was…oh yes, eating. Ok, here goes. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post. If you’re just looking for the recipe, I’ve buried it all the way at the bottom so just keep scrolling.

I’m going to list a few (relatively) simple rules of thumb that guide my eating habits. I will probably link out to other articles, especially as it regards to more “scientific” subject matter, because I do not have a science background and would probably only confuse you (and myself) more.

Eat REAL food. What does this mean? Try to avoid anything that is processed. How can you tell if it’s processed? Well, first off, if you see a commercial for it on TV, it’s probably not natural. Check the ingredients. Is there a long list of things that you don’t understand? Is sugar an ingredient? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s most likely processed. Real foods include fruits, veggies, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, etc. Basically, if you stick to the perimeter of the  grocery store when you do your shopping, you’ll be able to avoid the processed things. I realize you can’t do this 100% of the time, but if you do it 80% of the time, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you feel. I promise.

Don’t fear the fat. This could be an entire post on it’s own. People think that in order to lose fat they need to eat fat free foods. This is simply not true. Fat plays several important roles in our diet from making us feel full to improving our mental states and energy levels. Fat is especially important if you’re on a low carb diet, because while protein will help to build muscle, your body needs something to run on for fuel! If you’re interested in reading more about this issue, I would recommend reading this.

Grain or no grain? Avoiding grains, particularly gluten, seems to be an emerging trend, and some may wonder whether or not they should jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Basically, gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body, even in those who do not have Celiac disease One of my favorite bloggers, the Petite Athleat, gives a great breakdown of the benefits of not eating gluten as well as a breakdown of the alternatives to wheat flour – almond vs. coconut – here. Well, I decided to give the whole gluten free diet a whirl and have been avoiding gluten, for the most part, for the past 3 months, and I can say I’ve never felt better. My digestive issues have gone away (that alone is enough for me to never eat wheat again), I have more energy and fewer cravings and as an added bonus, I’ve leaned out a bit. 

Drink more water. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s very important to stay hydrated. This will help keep you full, give you that youthful glow you try so desperately to achieve through bronzer and blush, keep your muscle energized and mostly importantly, keep you “regular.” Need I say more? For those stuck behind a desk like me, I recommend keeping a glass of water at your desk and getting up to refill each time it’s empty. This also serves as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs every once and a while.

Limit your alcohol intake. We all know that excessive alcohol consumption leads to weight gain. Remember the Freshman 15? Yeah. Obviously, if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out alcohol altogether would maximize your results. But we’re all human and after a long week, we need a drink. Or two. Or three… If we’re going to drink, why not choose something that has some health benefits? I actually stumbled upon a useful article the other day that outlines the health benefits (or lack of benefits) of each type of alcohol. All I can say is, bring on the red wine and whisky.

So now you’re thinking, that’s great and all, but what do I eat?!

Well, your grocery cart might look something like this.

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Ok, so what do I do with all this food? Won’t it go bad? Don’t you spend a lot of money on groceries? Have no fear! I have a solution!

Prep your meals in advance. This is crucial if you don’t want to waste food and money. I usually do my grocery shopping and prepare my lunches for the week on Sundays. I’ll cook all of the fresh food that I buy (because there’s nothing worse than wasting food), and then portion everything out into tupperware containers. Voila, 5 days of lunch! It can get a little boring eating the same thing every day, but I try to include a variety of veggies/proteins and change up the “dressings” that I use – alternating between avocado, hummus and salsa – to keep my taste buds happy.

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Freeze food. If you are afaid that something will go bad, just pop it in the freezer! No food wasted!

Portion out your snacks. This is a great way to avoid eating that entire container of mango that you bought in one sitting.

Trader Joe’s is a godsend. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but if it weren’t for TJs, I would be seriously broke. Their prices are absolutely unbeatable.

Get creative. There are TONS of easy recipes out there that you can make with just a few simple ingredients! Google is your friend people, use it. 

People often ask what I eat in a typical day. While food and nutrient intake is dependent on a million different factors (body mass index, basal metabolic rate, body composition, allergens) as well as your goals – do you want to lose fat, build muscle, maintain – here is what an average weekday of eating looks like for me. Keep in mind that I workout at 6:30am every morning (crossfit or HIIT) and then sit at a desk from 9am-6pm each day before walking the mile home to my apartment.

5:30am Pre-workout pancake + cup of coffee
8:00am Post-workout protein shake (1 banana, 1 scoop whey protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk/water)
9:30am 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 small sweet potato, 2 slices Applegate Farms turkey
11:00am String cheese
1:30pm Bowl of assorted roasted veggies (brussel sprouts, carrots, mushrooms) on bed of spinach or kale, 5 roasted sweet potato “chips”, 4 turkey meatballs (I make mine without the oats), topped with hummus/avocado/salsa
4:00pm Apple with almond butter
7:30pm Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms and goat cheese or pancakes topped with Greek yogurt and blueberries

And finallyyyyyyyy, a recipe!

Last Friday, I had a couple of friends over and we made stuffed bell peppers for dinner. They were absolutely amazing so I thought I would share this delicious recipe with you.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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You will need:

3 large red bell peppers

Filling:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

Splash of vinegar (white or balsamic both work)

Seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut bell peppers in half, lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Wrap in foil, place on baking sheet or in casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, cook ground turkey in skillet until browned. Remove from skillet and sautee onion, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil. Once veggies are cooked, combine with turkey. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to turkey/veggie mixture. Remove peppers from oven and stuff.

Place stuffed peppers back in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Enjoy!

I hope this was somewhat helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns!

Until next time,

Julia