CMC 101: What is it and why should I care?

WHAT THE HECK IS THE CIVILIAN MILITARY COMBINE?

So, you’re thinking about joining our team for the Civilian Military Combine, but you’re still not quite sure what it entails. Well, beyond encouraging you to visit the CMC website and watch their awesome pump up video, we figured it was about time we wrote a post about it.

To give you the quick and dirty version, the CMC is a combination of a short, high intensity workout, known as “the Pit”, immediately followed by a 4+ mile race packed with military-inspired obstacles – climbing walls, crawling through mud, pushing sleds – that kind of stuff. The race was co-founded in 2010 by Matt Keller and Sean Rogers, two former college roommates. As mud races gained popularity, they participated in their fair share, and while they had a blast doing them, they felt there was an element missing. They wanted to add a piece that would require athletes not only to excel in speed and endurance, but also strength and power – enter: The Pit. Moreover, Matt and Sean both have close military ties, and they wanted a way to bring both civilians and military together to raise awareness and honor those who have or are currently serving. Thus, the Civilian Military Combine was born.

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HOW IS THE CMC DIFFERENT FROM ALL THESE OTHER MUD RACES THAT I HEAR ABOUT? 

Two words: The Pit. The Pit is the revolutionary piece that is completely unique to CMC. No other race has anything like it. The combination of the Pit and obstacle course has attracted thousands of hybrid athletes that do not specialize in one aspect of fitness, but aim to excel across the board – from power and strength to endurance, agility and speed. In other words, being well-rounded instead of specialized works to your advantage here.

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Another cool thing about the CMC is that 80% of participants register as part of a team. This doesn’t mean that you have to remain with your team throughout the entire race (yes, I know some of you are super competitive), but you all enter the Pit in the same heat and start the race together, and let me tell you that knowing you’re surrounded by a team of your biggest supporters as you walk into the Pit is HUGE!

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WHERE DOES A2A/POWERCAKES COME INTO THE PICTURE? 

Having participated in a couple of CMCs in the past, we were beyond AMPED and honored when Sean contacted us about creating a team and having a presence at the race this year. So we met with him (over a workout, of course), and were immediately blown away by his energy. Those who have run the CMC before might recognize him as “the guy on the mic.”

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His enthusiasm for CMC was infectious, and we could tell right away that this is going to be a huge year for them, and that we wanted to be a part of it. As we began putting a game plan together and reaching out to people about joining our team, we thought of our good friend, Kasey, AKA of Powercakes, and thought, why not team up with another fitness powerhouse, create a super team and race the CMC together?!

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HAVE YOU RACED A CMC BEFORE? WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

We were introduced to the CMC a year ago, by our good friend and trainer, Dennys, and signed up for our very first race in New York City last April. We weren’t really sure how to train, so we just continued working out like we normally do and threw in a “Pit Practice” once a week. It was a FREEZING cold spring morning and 7 minutes of the Pit left everyone sounding like avid smokers, but we powered through, pain faces included.

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The obstacle race for this one was short and sweet, just like we like it! A prowler push immediately followed by a sandbag carry up a gazillion flight of stairs, a few walls, farmers carry, cargo net rolls, and BOOM, we were done!

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Once we finished the race, all we could think about was signing up for the next event in September, which we did immediately (after a little post-race celebration…)

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September rolled around and we were stronger, faster and ready to rock. It was a much nicer day, and the atmosphere at the venue was infectious. There were dozens of teams getting amped up to compete – from gyms, Crossfit boxes, and random groups of friends. The energy was pretty incredible. As they called our team into the Pit, we each jogged to our stations, where our judges introduced themselves and reviewed each of the movement standards with us. As the countdown began – 3, 2, 1…GO!, the butterflies in our stomaches were in full force, and we once again why the heck we signed up for this. Once we started though, adrenaline kicked in, we found our own grooves and we kept pushing. Each time we wanted to stop and just lay there on the ground and catch our breath, we told ourselves, it’s only 7 minutes! You can do anything for 7 minutes! Plus, our judges were super encouraging and kept telling us what a great pace we were keeping, which helped a ton. Julia ended up going well beyond her expectations, outperforming her April performance by a long shot with 161 reps! Kayte rock in with 153 – a solid performance by average2athlete and our entire team!

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We then had about 2 minutes to recover before we were sent off into the obstacle race. The beginning was a nice jog, which most of us used as active recovery as we were still coming down from the Pit. We were then faced with about 3 miles of obstacles, from hopping over walls to crawling through mud, climbing cargo nets and pushing heavy sleds. It seemed to fly by because we were having so much fun. Even though our entire team got separated during the course, we were surrounded the entire time by athletes who were in the same boat, facing one obstacle at a time, helping each other over walls and coaching each other along the way.

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Crossing the finish line was a great feeling, especially knowing we had a cold beer waiting for us, but the best part was watching the other athletes coming through and seeing the combined look of pride, relief, and exuberance on each and every person’s face. Pretty awesome.

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We can’t wait to race again this year – not to compete, but to run alongside our teammates as they get to take part in this same incredible experience.

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And of course, to enjoy a post-race beer with a bunch of awesome athletes!

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OK, I THINK I’M INTERESTED…BUT WILL I BE ABLE TO HANDLE IT? HOW DO I TRAIN?

Don’t worry, we have you covered! To start, this year’s Pit includes 4 different variations of increasing difficulty, so that any athlete can participate, regardless of their fitness level or limitations.

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The folks at CMC will be posting videos with the movement standards for Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta very soon, so stay tuned.

As far as training, there are several things that you can do, and we’ll be helping you along the way:

  1. a2aWOW: Those of you who follow us on Instagram may have noticed that for the past several weeks, we’ve been posting workouts that people can do at home, requiring little to no equipment. These are typically meant to increase “metabolic conditioning” – aka get you read for the Pit. So take a look and start doing these if you haven’t already.
  2. Training Program: Taking the a2aWOW a step further, we’re going to be creating a training program for you guys. We’ll put together a calendar that will most likely include a day for the a2aWOW, a day to practice the Pit, a day of strength exercises (designed to increase your pulling strength for things like climbing over walls) and an endurance day, to help you conquer the obstacle course. Be on the lookout for this to appear mid-March!
  3. CMC Meet-ups: CMC will be hosting a series of meet-ups throughout the New York area, which will give participants the opportunity to practice the Pit and meet others who are doing the race. We will be attending several of these, and will let you know the exact dates and times.
  4. a2a-Powercakes Team Meet-ups: We will also be hosting our own meet-ups and will keep you informed via social media on dates/times.
  5. High Intensity Training – Learning how to push your body to maximum capacity and increasing that threshold is going to be the biggest factor in training for the CMC. Whether you are following our workouts, training on your own or with a trainer, taking classes or CrossFitting, high intensity training is key.

THIS BLOG POST WAS SO CONVINCING, I’M IN! WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

It’s pretty simple – all you have to do is follow this link to our team page and SIGN UP!!! Use the code CMC20 for $20 off. And stay tuned for more updates!

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I Work Out Because __________ .

Why do you exercise?

Is it because you feel like you have to or because you actually enjoy it? Do you have goals? What are they? Aesthetic goals? Health goals? Performance goals?

The reason I ask, other than my general nosiness curiosity, is because the reasons that you choose to exercise can play a huge role in whether or not you stick with it in the long run, and ultimately, it can either prevent you from or enable you to reach your goals.

I’ll start by describing the two types of motivation that continue to drive people to the gym, track, box, studio, garage, or wherever their exercise venue of choice may be.

Motivation Hierarchy

The first is extrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is all about external goals and can include rewards, guilt, coercion and health and social benefits. It is doing things because we feel like we have to in order to achieve some sort of physical or social benefit.

Most people (including myself) begin to exercise because of extrinsic motivation – you want to lose weight for the summer, fit into your jeans, become more attractive, be thin, get abs. Your doctor may have told you that you needed to start exercising for the sake of your health. You may like the fact that exercising allows you to eat more of what you want and not feel guilty. Maybe there’s a cute guy or girl at the gym that you enjoy staring at and hope to have the courage to talk to one day. The list goes on.

You may be thinking, ok, at least I’m getting my butt to the gym. Why does the motivation part matter?

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Unfortunately, extrinsic motivation does not always persist in the long-run. It may get you to the gym, for a bit, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing anything worthwhile during your time there and you may not see the results you want. Or maybe you did get results, but then the summer comes to an end, and somehow your schedule is suddenly too busy to make it to the gym anymore. The fact of the matter is that you’re much more likely to stay motivated and reach your goals if you truly love what you’re doing.

Enter: intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is based on internal goals. It is the desire to do things because we want to, not because we feel we have to. We exercise because we truly love and enjoy it. Intrinsic motivation is usually tied to a performance goal, like mastering a skill or sport.

But how do you find it? Well, you need to find some form of exercise you actually want to do. A skill or sport that you want to master. You may not know what it is right now, but try a few things out. Work with a trainer. Try out a Crossfit box. Sign up for a Spartan Race or a half marathon or anything that requires you to train for it.

Trust me, I didn’t hop out of bed one day thinking, I want to lift heavy weights! And do double unders and handstand pushups and pull-ups and…no. I just wanted to look good and after doing a ton of cardio and not seeing any sort of change in my body, I was fortunate enough to start working with a trainer who changed my entire outlook on things by making fitness fun and literally introducing me to a whole new world. And that’s when I knew there was no turning back. I was hooked.

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For the first time, a new level of intensity was brought to my workouts, and soon I wasn’t able to settle for anything less. I became motivated to work harder on my own. I wanted to learn new skills and to get stronger because I finally had goals. And those goals were not tied to a number on the scale or a pant size. They were performance goals. And I reached those goals. And I set new ones. And the more I continue to learn about this whole world of fitness and all of the different things I have to learn, the more excited I get to step into the gym each day.

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Why do you think people are so obsessed with Crossfit? Think about it, there are always new skills to learn. New PRs (personal records) to hit. And once you hit those, you set new goals for yourself, and you go after those. You focus on your performance. And guess what? Combined with a little healthy eating, your body changes and you forget about the scale. You’re focused on your goals and one day you look in the mirror and think, “holy crap, where did these muscles come from?!”

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Ok, that was a little bit of an exaggeration. Apologies for the shameless selfie.

But really, I encourage you to find what you love. It might take some exploring, but you’ll never know until you try. I can’t tell you how many people think they could never be into fitness until they’re introduced to it in the right setting and with the right attitude, and then they couldn’t get enough. I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone in my life that has made it fun for me and been a key factor in finding my intrinsic motivation. And there are people, or activities, out there that could do the same for you. You just have to go out there and find them. That’s the first step. The hardest and scariest step. The rest is easy 😉

The Home Stretch – Tips for AFTER the a2a Challenge

If you have been doing the 25 Day a2a challenge with us, we are in the home stretch!  Only 2 more days left! This challenge means different things to everyone and no matter what your reasons were for starting the challenge, we are glad you joined us! So now, what’s next?  Well, we have some tips and suggestions for AFTER the challenge. Hopefully these will help you continue on the healthy path you have been on these past few weeks!

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1.) Evaluate how you feel and Recognize how far you have come.  Take notes about any changes that you’ve noticed with your weight, body comp, energy levels or allergies/irritation from food.  You may find that you love this way of eating!

2.) Don’t jump back into your old eating habits all at once – If you decide to add back dairy, grains, processed sugars etc, don’t add it back all at once.  Try adding one thing at a time and evaluate how you feel.  You may find that dairy or processed sugar really makes you feel crummy!  But if you add it all back at the same time, you won’t be able to identify what it is that makes you feel that way.

This goes for alcohol too!  With the Holiday weekend approaching, it’s important to remember that you haven’t been drinking for almost a month!  Definitely enjoy yourself, but take it easy…moderation is key!  Don’t let one Holiday weekend sabotage all of your hard work!

3.) Avoid the “because I can” mentality – To Piggy back off the last tip, try to avoid eating something just because you haven’t had it for 25 days.  If it’s something you have been craving the whole time, then go ahead and allow yourself a meal or 2 to indulge…but DON’T have it just for the sake of having it.  Before you splurge, evaluate and make sure its something you really want!

We have noticed that it’s become much easier to stay away from some of our old favorite cheats…the cravings have pretty much disappeared!  Before you allow yourself to return to an old unhealthy favorite, take a minute to think back about how much harder it was in the beginning of the challenge to eliminate these foods.  Now that your body has changed and craves healthier foods, do you really want to return to your pre-challenge habits?

4.) Make a plan – We have said it before and we will say it again, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!”  This applies to how and when you will reintroduce food, how you want to eat going forward and when/if you will have your cheat meals! If you have a plan for all of these things, you will be less likely to slide down that slippery slope.

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5.) Set Goals for the long-term and short term – Having something to work towards, even small goals, will help to keep you on track! Write them down and keep them somewhere you will see every day!

6.) Maintain the Support of family and friends – Make sure they know that this new way of eating is important to you.  Who knows, it might even rub off on them!

We hope that you have noticed some great changes over the past few weeks! We love how this challenge has made us feel and plan to continue with the idea of eating Paleo 80% of the time and non-paleo 20% of the time.  If you decide to adopt this idea, figure out how many meals/days a week that is for you and plan ahead! The occasional cheat meal can be an important part to staying on track and keeping your sanity, but there are a few things to keep in mind!

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Keep us posted on your progress this week!  If you took before and after pics, send them our way!  Let us know your weight loss, body fat % loss or just improvements in how you are feeling!  If you have a blog or want to share your story, send us the post or entry and we may feature it here!  Leave a comment, shoot us an email or just tag us on instagram @average2athlete.

If you haven’t seen on Facebook or Instagram, we are doing a giveaway this week for the best challenge recipe.  Share your favorite a2achallenge recipe on your social media page before Thursday at noon and tag us @average2athlete, the challenge #a2achallenge, and the giveaway #a2agiveaway for your chance to win! (More details on out Facebook & Instagram.)

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-Kayte & Julia

Let’s get personal. Then eat some meatloaf.

The other day someone asked me, How long did it take you to get into the shape you’re in now?

Well, I wasn’t really sure how to answer that. I guess I had never really thought about it that way. For me, getting “in shape” is a continuous journey with no clear end in sight. I can always be faster, get stronger, jump higher. But I know this hasn’t always been my way of thinking. I’ve gone through several different mindsets when it comes to fitness. And several ups and downs.

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So how did I get to where I am today? When did working out stop becoming a chore and start becoming something I look forward to each day? Well, to answer that,  I’m going to tell you a little story about a few key influencers that have shaped me (pun intended) into the person that I am today.

Apologies in advance for such a lengthy post…

Influencer #1: The Gymnast

I honestly don’t even remember how I got into gymnastics. I always just assumed that cartwheeling and flipping and jumping around was just something that every little kid did. And I was obsessed with Mary Lou Retton. I wrote every report on her in elementary school. Dressed up like her on “Famous Person’s Day.” I wanted to train with Béla Károlyi one day. You get the picture…

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Every day after school, I would put on my leotard and be carted off to the gym for practice, which consisted of about 3 hours of stretching, skill work and conditioning. Then on Saturday morning I was back in the gym for more practice. When I went on vacation, I was given conditioning lists so that I could stay in shape while I was gone, which I obviously hated. Ironically, those lists look very similar to the types of workouts I do today – push-ups, jumps, squats, lunges, handstand push-ups, sit-ups, planks.

Needless to say, by the time I got to middle school, I was pretty burnt out and decided it was time to throw in the towel. I obviously wasn’t going to make it to the Olympics, and I wanted whatever social life I was missing out on as a 12 year old. Had I known what was about to happen to my body, I may have reconsidered that decision. The year that I quit, I grew four inches and gained at least 25 pounds. For the first time in my life, I hated my body. I felt short, stalky and chubby, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

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8th Grade Cheerleading

I wish I had better pictures from these days but unfortunately they are all stuffed away in boxes in Houston. Next time I’m home, I will dig them up and post a few, I promise…

Influencer #2: The Rugby Player

Luckily, I was still playing sports – volleyball, soccer and cheerleading – so I eventually adjusted to my new body. However, after quitting organized sports for good my sophomore year of high school, I noticed myself gaining some weight and joined a gym for the first time. I went through the usual introductory session with a trainer, learned how to use the elliptical and the weight machines, and while I rarely touch the weight machines today, this period served as my introduction to weight lifting. I noticed myself developing some muscle tone and losing some weight. However, I started to get bored with my little weight circuit and noticed myself starting to plateau.

It wasn’t until I joined a new gym and met Kenneth, who showed me a different way of working out – using free weights, the Bosu, medicine balls and interval training – that I really began to notice a difference in my body. Moreover, this way of exercising was way more fun than sitting mindlessly on the weight machines repeating rep after rep. I began incorporating what he taught me into my own workouts, and I also started reading magazines and coming up with my own exercises and routines. This is when I realized how much I loved fitness (and some might say, when I started to become a “gym rat”). I will always have Kenneth to think for that 🙂

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Kenneth conquering the muscle up

Influencer #3: The Sergeant

The summer before going off to college, I did my first Bootcamp. A friend of mine had done it as part of his preparation before going off to the Naval Academy and knew it would be something I’d love. Just to clarify, we’re not talking Barry’s Bootcamp with air conditioning, music and a peppy dude with a headset leading the class. Think muddy field, 5:30am, dark, 95+ degree temperatures and 100% humidity (Houston in July). There was a lot of yelling, a lot of mud and a lot of pain. Bootcamp was led by a former Army Sargeant  named Jay, who screamed more than anyone I’ve ever met. There was no equipment necessary – just pushups, sit-ups, burpees, jumping jacks, sprints – you get the picture. At the end of Bootcamp, we completed the Army Physical Fitness Test to measure our progress: as many push-ups as possible in 90 seconds, as many sit-ups as possible in 90 seconds and a timed 2-mile run. I was very proud to score a 300, the highest possible score! I was shocked with my progress. There was no going back now.

Influencer #4: The Runn

Then I went to college. While I did continue my workout regime, I fell victim to the temptations of the unlimited Freshman meal plan as well as binge drinking and the late night and hungover junk food that comes along with it. I came home the summer after Freshman year very upset with myself about the weight I had gained and immediately put myself on a restricted diet. I lost weight, was back to my normal fit size by the time I returned sophomore year, only to repeat the process all over again. It wasn’t until my junior year of college, when I lived in my own apartment and was able to make my own food that I finally felt in control of my health.

However, I still felt that I needed some sort of fitness goal to work towards. Growing up, I watched my mom run every day, whether she was training for a marathon or just going for a jog to get away from the rest of us. I knew it must be great for you because my mom was in amazing shape, but I just thought it was torture. Maybe because it is used as a form of torture when you’re playing sports. Or maybe because Houston is just so damn hot that doing anything outside just seems insane.

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Mom after hitting a new PR during the 10k Turkey Trot in Houston

Well to my surprise, and thanks to the beautiful backdrop of North Carolina and the Duke campus, I started to enjoy running once I got to college. So at the end of junior year, a few friends and I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for our first half marathon senior year of college in Virginia Beach, VA. I trained all summer long and when the big day came I had a great run and was hooked. I finally knew what my mom had been raving about all these years. This was the first time since quitting sports at 15 that I had a goal to work towards and I loved it. I decided to sign up for the Houston half marathon the following January. And two more after that.

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After the 2010 Houston Half Marathon

Influencer #5: The Fighter

Please excuse me for getting sentimental in these next two sections. Feel free to scroll to the recipe at the bottom if I get to mushy for you…

While I still loved running, I started to get bored, particularly after I moved to NYC and found that the places to run were limited and repetitive. I also started to suffer from some nagging injuries, most likely due to the same repetitive movement of running. I still lifted weights in the gym, but I felt like I was in a rut. I was plateauing. I was always tired. I was overtraining. I needed to set some new goals.

That’s when I met Dennys. I was apprehensive to start training with him at first, mostly because if you’ve ever seen the cost of a personal trainer in NYC, you know it’s insanely expensive. But, I knew I needed that extra motivation to pull me out of my rut, so I decided that there were probably a few things in my life I could sacrifice for the sake of fitness (little did I know this would become my motto in life). Plus, how could I not be motivated by this?!

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For the sake of not turning this blog post into a novel, I’ll try to keep the rest of this short. Since I began training with Dennys over 2 years ago, he’s taught me how to be a badass. In other words, he taught me to stop training like a little girl and start lifting like a boss. I learned all about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), how to use kettlebells, TRX training, Olympic lifting and so much more.

And the best part was, not only did he just tell me what to do each session, he told me why we were doing it. He wanted me to learn. For the first time, I felt accountable and I wanted to make the most out of my time with Dennys. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was working towards at the time, I just knew I wanted to get faster and stronger. Basically, I knew I wanted to be as awesome as him.

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If it weren’t for Dennys, you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now. His outlook on life and drive to positively impact the lives of others, inspires me to strive to do the same each and every day. And I am forever grateful for that.

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Influencer #6: The Girls

Finally, there are my “swollmates.”

First, there’s Kayte, my blogger-in-crime. Without her, I would not have had the motivation to actually get my butt in gear and start this blog. She has also inspired me to get back into gymnastics.

Then there’s Nicole. Dennys introduced me to Nicole as another one of his clients. I immediately recognized how awesome she was and knew I needed to befriend her. She’s an allstar athlete (Penn State Women’s bball star!) and one of the strongest and most positive people I’ve ever met. And a great workout partner!

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Last but not least, there’s Emily. I also met Emily through Dennys (like I said, I don’t know where I would be without that guy!), and I am so thankful for that introduction. She is incredibly supportive and always willing to listen to my “problems”, regardless of how silly they may be. She also won’t hesitate to put me in my place if I’m being a twit, which happens often. Oh, and did I mention she’s a total beast?

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It is so important to surround yourself with people who support you in reaching your goals, and these girls have done just that. They motivate me to get my butt into gear each and every day!

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Back to the Present

So I guess that was a long-winded answer to a simple question, but I feel like it paints a pretty good picture of how I got to where I am today. Working out is no longer a chore, it’s something I enjoy. Not only because it relieves stress and gives me energy, but because each workout is an opportunity to become stronger, faster and hone my skills. In a way, I feel like I’m back where I was as a 6 year old gymnast because my training actually has a purpose. I can’t stress how much focusing my goals around performance has totally changed my outlook on fitness. As soon as I stopped focusing my fitness goals around my body image and more around athletic performance (combined with clean eating, of course), the physical appearance part took care of itself.

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If you’ve made it to the end of this post, I think you deserve a recipe. So I give you turkey meatloaf.

Turkey Meatloaf

Recipe adapted from paleOMG and Fed & Fit.

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Loaf:

1 lb ground turkey

1 small yellow onion, chopped

½ bell pepper, chopped

½ cup fresh tomato, chopped

¼ cup almond meal/coconut flour (optional)

1 egg

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt/pepper/any other seasonings of choice to taste

Sauce:

½ jar Rao’s Homeade Marinara Sauce or other organic tomato sauce

½ can tomato paste

3 tbsp grainy/spicy mustard

2 tbps balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Combine all loaf ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix (use your hands!) until well combined. Add mixture into 2 mini loaf pans, 1 large loaf pan or form a loaf on a turkey roasting pan. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix all ingredients for the sauce together. After the loaf is done baking, remove from oven and turn the heat up to 450. “Ice” the loaf with the tomato sauce mixture, covering all sides (or just the top if you’re using a loaf pan). Once the oven has reached 450, place the loaf back in the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When finished, the tomato sauce should form a thick “icing” on top of the loaf.

Let cool for a few minutes, then dig in! Great for leftovers too 🙂

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Have a great weekend, y’all!

Julia

Dining out and Getting back to Human

I love food. Especially eating out. And living in NYC, there are ENDLESS places that I want to try. Part of the reason that I eat clean most of the time is so that when I do choose to treat myself to a meal out, which usually happens about once or twice a week, I can order whatever I desire and not feel guilty about it. Let’s face it, I’ve never been the girl to go to a famous burger joint, and order a salad. That’s just boring.

That’s why I follow the 80/20 rule, for the most part. Eat 100% clean 80% of the time, and use the other 20% to treat myself. (Except during the a2a 25 day challenge, of course).

That being said, I also hate the feeling of leaving a restaurant feeling so full that you can’t even walk, or worse, having to put up with a stomach ache for the rest of the night. So lately, I’ve been trying to make some healthier choices. Or at least work on portion control…

One of the new places that I tried today was Hu’s Kitchen. Here’s what they’re all about:

We started with the question, “how should humans eat?” The more we studied and experimented, the more we came to understand that we are primitive bodies living in modern times, that getting back to a pre-industrial way of eating was the best thing we could do for our health. But we knew we wouldn’t be satisfied until we figured out how to make our food not just nutritionally superior but also genuinely delicious.

Seriously, why don’t more places like this exist? Everything is gluten free, grassfed, organic, and their prices were very reasonable! Still not convinced? Check out their pillars.

Today I went with two eggs over easy, sweet potato hash and grass fed bacon. Everything is cooked in coconut or olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. My meal even came with a biscuit made from veggies, flaxseed and olive oil – how cool is that?

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And I ate every last bite, obviously.

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I will definitely be going back once the a2a challenge has ended to check out their Jordy cakes, juices and sample some of their sweet treats! Check out ChekMark Eats review for more on Hu Kitchen.

Ok, back to the main event. Although for me eating out is a semi-rare occasion, I know that many people eat out much more often than I do, either because they don’t like to cook, they travel a lot, they have to take clients out for work, or they lead a way cooler life than I do. Regardless of the reason, we’ve had a few requests for tips on making healthier choices at restaurants, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

1. Play an active role in restaurant selection. If your friends are deciding where to go for brunch on Sunday, do some research yourself and suggest a few places where you know you can find something on the menu for you. If your suggestions get shot down, well hey, at least you tried.

2. Stalk the menu before you go. If you check out the menu ahead of time, you’ll be able to select something healthy and be less likely to make an impulsive, unhealthy decision at the restaurant.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. You might feel awkward for the two seconds that you’re asking your waiter what type of oil they cook their vegetables in, but your stomach will be happier later.  If you’re trying to eat gluten free, order your sandwich or burger without the bun rather than having it sit on your plate staring you in the face while you try not to eat it. If the chicken in the dish that you want is fried, ask if they can substitute grilled. If your dish comes with fries, ask for a side salad instead. There are tons of tiny modifications that can make the unhealthiest of meals clean!

4. Split meals. Ask your friend if they want to share something with you. Not only will you feel less guilty later after not polishing off an entire plate of french toast by yourself, your wallet will thank you too.

5. Order a salad to start. This will help fill you up before your meal arrives and also keeps you from munching on the bread in the middle of the table.

6. Choose a main dish with protein and veggies. These tend to be less processed with less hidden ingredients.

7. Stop eating when you’re full. You don’t have to clean your plate! You can take the rest home with you. Or in most cases, there is someone else at the table that will be willing to clean your plate for you.

8. ENJOY! Yes, it’s important to eat healthy. And yes, we all feel better when we do. But sometimes you just have to indulge. There are just too many foods out there to eat protein and veggies 100% of the time. Life is too short, live a little!

Finally, moving away from restaurants and back to cooking your own food, I’m going to walk you through my meal prep from last week to show you my lunch that was a2a challenge approved.

Julia’s Power Lunch

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– Sauteed kale – grease skillet with olive or coconut oil, add kale, sautee until starts to turn brown and crispy

– Roasted sweet potatoes – cut sweet potato into cubes, toss in olive oil, place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

– Roasted portobello mushrooms (from NomNom Paleo)

– Grape tomatoes (raw)

– Turkey meatballs – Combine 1/2 diced onion with 1 lb of lean ground turkey, roll into balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until thoroughly cooked

I portioned everything out into 4 tupperware containers and ate them for lunch Tuesday-Friday. As a “dressing” I used a very ripe avocado that I could mash up and stir into the mix.

Enjoy your week everyone!

– Julia

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.

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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

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?

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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