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.

Whole30-header

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

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

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!

listen-to-your-body

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!

A Holiday Weekend Full of Clean-Eats and At-Home Workouts

I arrived in Pittsburgh last night for the first time since Christmas and it’s true…there really is no place like home!! As much as I love the fast paced lifestyle of NYC, it’s so nice to come home, relax and spend time with my family…especially my 9 month old niece Lilly.

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My niece Lilly & my dog, Bella

My older sister Emily is getting married in June, and like most brides she wants to be in the best shape possible for the big day! My younger sister Laura had Lilly not too long ago and wants to lose the baby weight. The rest of the family, myself included, also hope to look our best for the June 22nd Wedding, especially for the photos that will be displayed on the mantel for the rest of our lives! We all decided to enter into a friendly, family version of the Biggest Loser that started February 1st and will last until the Wedding.

Since tomorrow holds a family holiday dinner, complete with dessert, we decided that it would be a great idea to get in a pre-Easter at-home workout! The timing seems perfect as we’ve had some inquiries about what exercises are good for a beginner, someone who is not very familiar with the gym or for someone who may be working out at home.

Check out the full-body strength workout that we did this morning!

Full-body at-home strength workout

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Laura & Mom doing lateral band walks

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Bird Dog & Tricep Dips

To finish off our active morning, after the workout we took advantage of the nice weather and went for a family walk around the neighborhood.

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Family walk 🙂

Aside from the workouts, my family has been trying to keep a clean diet. While lunch was being prepared, we snacked on vegi’s with a greek yogurt dip (greek yogurt mixed with french onion seasoning.)

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Vegi’s and Greek Yogurt Dip

For lunch, my mom found this Tuna Salad recipe for our post-workout meal!

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Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad with Laughing Cow
• 2 cans tuna, drain and rinse
• 3 wedges laughing cow
• 2 heaping tbsp minced red pepper
• 2 heaping tbsp minced celery

Serve on bed of lettuce or as lettuce wrap with sliced tomatoes.

To keep each other motivated in the Biggest Loser journey, we have been passing clean recipes back and forth. One of our favorites is a slight modification from a recipe that we found online at bodybuilding.com, Turkey Meatloaf Muffins. I am always looking for quick, flavorful recipes that are easy to eat on the go or between training clients. I double the batch and freeze them in individual baggies so I am never without clean meal options. I’ve noted the (modifications) that we made below, but left the original in case you want to try. I hope you enjoy!

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Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins
• 2 lbs ground turkey or chicken
• 3 egg whites
• 1 cup quick cooking oats
• 1/2 tsp ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp dried thyme
• 2 tsp dry yellow mustard
• 2 tsp black pepper
• 2 tsp chipotle pepper spice (Did not use)
• 1 tsp salt (Did not use)
• 2 tbsp garlic powder OR 2 cloves minced (I used 1/2 tbsp, but some might like the garlic…try both 🙂 )
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 2 celery stalks, finely chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Spray muffin pan with canola or olive oil.
Mix all your ingredients together in one large bowl.
Roll the mixture into balls and place in muffin pan.
Muffins should be about the size of aracquetball.
Bake for 40 minutes.

I hope you all enjoy these recipes! Have a great weekend and a Happy Easter!
-Kayte

A Tale of Two Athletes

Welcome to average2athlete! We’re Kayte and Julia, two friends who met at New York Sports Club and immediately bonded over our love of fitness and competitive nature. Hey, who ever said nothing good can come out of socializing at the gym?

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We found ourselves constantly sharing workout ideas and recipes, so we thought, why not create a site where we can share our fitness obsession with a larger audience? Thus, average2athlete was born.

Our goal is to provide a little bit of insight on how to make healthier choices in both fitness and health, regardless of budget, busy lifestyles or anything else that might get in the way. We’ll post a smorgasbord of health- and fitness-related things.

Including yummy, “clean” recipes.

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Gluten-free banana protein pancakes

Workouts and exercises.

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Random things we’re doing.

Katie clutch

NBA All-star Game, Fan Patrol Cheerleaders

And our favorite swag.

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Whether you’re an avid follower of every “fitfam” blog, a newbie just discovering the crazy world of health and fitness social media, or one of our friends that we blackmailed into following us so that we could feel loved, we hope you will find some value here. We don’t claim to be experts. Nor do we claim to have the answers to everything. But at the end of the day, we hope you walk away feeling slightly more informed, or at the very least entertained…

We’re here to show you that if you eat, train and think like an athlete, you will become an athlete!

Happy reading!

Kayte & Julia