A few of my favorite paleo recipes!

It’s been 2 weeks since the end of the 30 Day a2achallenge and I wanted to share some of my favorite paleo recipes with you all!  I did some serious experimenting in the kitchen during those 30 days and I learned a lot!  If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve probably have already seen these, but I though I should post them here so we can all access them a little easier!  If you have questions about any of the recipes, you can leave a comment below or shoot us an email at average2athlete@gmail.com.

Chicken Marbella

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Ingredients:

  • 4-6 chicken breasts, cut in chunks
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted prune
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients above, cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes

Stuffed Peppers

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Ingredients:

  • 3 peppers (to stuff)
  • 2 peppers chopped
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup mushrooms chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3-5 garlic cloves

Directions:

  1. Cut pepper in half & place on baking sheet face down
  2. Bake peppers at 350 for 15-20minutes
  3. Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms & garlic in 1 pan
  4. Saute ground turkey in separate pan
  5. Combine turkey & veggie mix in one pan, add diced tomatoes & sauté together.
  6. Stuff peppers

Coconut Chicken

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Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken Breast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup #coconut flakes
  • coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Cut Chicken breast in chunks
  2. Beat 2 eggs
  3. Combine almond flour & coconut flakes in separate bowl
  4. Dip chicken in eggs, then in almond/coconut mix
  5. Cook in skillet w/coconut oil
  6. Served with Grilled Pineapple & Snap Peas

Spaghetti squash with ground turkey & side of bokchoy

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Ingredients:

  • 2 spaghetti squash
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 can marinara sauce
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms
  • 3-7 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 heads of bokchoy

Directions:

Spaghetti squash

  1. Cut in half length-wise
  2. Scoop out “guts”
  3. Place on baking sheet – Cut side down
  4. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes
  5. Scrape squash with fork

Meat/sauce & Bok Choy

  1. Slice Mushrooms
  2. Mince garlic
  3. Split garlic & mushroom mix in ½
  4. Sauté in olive oil in 2 separate pans
  5. Cook meat with mushroom & garlic in 1 pan
  6. Cook bokchoy in other pan for about 1-2minutes (as soon as leaves start to welt, take out!)

Chicken & Cashew Lettuce wraps

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Ingredients:

  • 2 peppers
  • ½ onion
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 head romaine lettuce leaves
  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • curry (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Dice peppers, onions & chicken
  2. Sauté together
  3. Once almost cooked, add raw cashews & sprinkle curry
  4. Serve on lettuce

Banana & Berry Fruitcake

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Ingredients:

  • 9 ripe bananas
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • Cinnamon (to taste)
  • Berries of choice

Directions:

  1. Mix/Blend banana, eggs, whites & Cinnamon
  2. Pour in greased baking tin
  3. Sprinkle mixed berries on top
  4. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes!

Cauliflower Mash

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1-3 Tbsp Oil (I used coconut oil)
  • ¼- ½  cup water
  • Salt/Pepper

Directions:

  1. Steam bundle of cauliflower (over cook)
  2. Add cooked cauliflower to blender
  3. Add water, oil & salt to taste
  4. Blend (Use blender or food processor)

Happy Cooking!

-Kayte

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Wonder Thighs and Bulging Bi’s (and banana muffins)

Howdy folks. Long time no chat. I’m sure y’all were sitting on the edge of your seats for the past 6 weeks, wondering, “OMGEEEEE WHEN IS AVERAGE2ATHLETE GOING TO WRITE ANOTHER BLOG POST?!?!?!” Well, not to worry because here it is!

It’s actually been a crazy month for me. A few weeks ago, I started as an Assistant Instructor at a place called The Fhitting Room, a boutique studio here in NYC that offers small group circuit training classes – think TRX, kettlebells, dumbbells, rowers, bodyweight exercises and burpees , lots of burpees.

Studio

I’ll go into the studio itself and all of the awesome people there in more detail in a later post, but basically I’m teaching anywhere from 5-10 classes/week – on top of my current job – before work, after work, on the weekends, you name it. I actually wasn’t sure how I would feel about teaching classes, but it turns out that I ABSOLUTELY love it. It’s exhausting, yes. You have to be completely on ALL THE TIME. Especially in such a small studio (classes are 12 people max), clients pick up on every little thing you do.

He changed the music too much, she looked out the window one time, he let the clock run for 50 seconds instead of 45. Woof.

I’m still trying to get the hang of my schedule – balancing 9+ hour days at work, teaching classes and finding time to fit in my own workouts. But when I’m in that room and class starts, that hour flies by and I somehow muster up every last drop of energy I have to scream and jump around. Plus I’m getting to work with some amazing instructors that I’m learning so much from already. It really is a blast. For anyone in the NYC area, I’ll be posting my class schedule here on a weekly basis in case you want to drop for some fun.

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It’s fun to torture train people other than myself.

Long story short, life has been busy. In a good way.

Ok, this is where this post is going to get a little random…this is what happens when I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about body image, and why we have it so engrained in our heads that we have to be so damn THIN. I know the whole mindset now is supposed to be, “strong is the new skinny,” but I still don’t think that the majority of thinking has shifted. And even if it has, when people say “strong” are they really thinking about the amount they can squat? Or are they really thinking “toned,” in which case, the issue is still about body image.

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Pretty sure there’s some airbrushing going on in this picture.

I get caught up in it myself. I preach about focusing on performance goals instead of weight or pant size, but at the same time, I have days where I hate my body, feel like my arms and legs are huge (even if they are muscle) and wish that I could fit into skinny jeans better. I look at pictures and feel like my arms look so much bigger than everyone else’s. I beg my legs to get more definition, my hips to get smaller, my abs to show more.

So what do I do when that happens? Do I hop on the treadmill or the elliptical for hours, trying to burn fat and consequentially burn off the muscle that I worked so hard to gain? Do I drastically cut calories in an effort to lose weight and inevitably screw up my metabolism?

The old me may have done that. But not now. No way. I take a step back, give myself a little slap in the face and tell myself to STOP ACTING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON! I remind myself why I train and why I love it. It’s not to see my legs get smaller or the number on the scale drop. It’s to squat heavier, to do more pull-ups, to jump higher, to run faster. Because those are the things that ultimately make me happy and have and will continue to make me a stronger, more confident person. What is not going to make me happy is trying to fit someone else’s unrealistic standards.

This post from Elisabeth Akinwale sums it up perfectly. She also references the book Bossy Pants, in which Tina Fey spouts out a list of attributes that every girl is supposed to have:

Caucasian blue eyes
Full Spanish lips
A classic button nose
Hairless Asian skin with a California tan
A Jamaican dance hall ass
Long Swedish legs
Small Japanese feet
The abs of a lesbian gym owner
The hips of a nine year old boy
The arms of Michelle Obama
And doll tits

We totally have all those things, right?!

Point is, no more trying to achieve and maintain a body type that is not meant for me. So my legs aren’t as long and lean as I’d like them to be, so what? They’ve gotten me through some tough ass workouts and races and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to show my “wonder thighs” some love! And as for my arms? Well I’ll take the ability to bang out pull-ups and push-ups with the big boys over skinny arms any day!

thighs

We all have those days where we look in the mirror and just don’t like what we see. It happens to everyone. So take a deep breathe and don’t get too caught up in the whole being skinny thing. There are bigger and better things to focus on that will make you a heck of a lot happier.

On that note, I’m going to leave you with a recipe so that you at least walk away feeling like you’ve gotten some useful information out of this post. I made these muffins a couple of weeks ago, thinking they would be a great on-the-go snack for when I need a quick energy fix in between work and teaching class. Well, I forget that when I post baked goods on Instagram, people ask to try them and I have a hard time saying no and the 12 muffins that I made were gone in a day. Needless to say, I’ll be making these again soon…and I will not be posting pictures!

Grain-free Banana Protein Muffins

Makes 12

2 (very) ripe medium bananas
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used Oxy-elite Vanilla Icecream)
1 tbsp chia seeds
4 eggs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (2%)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon/vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix wet ingredients in blender. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and pour in wet mixture.

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Spray muffin tin with coconut oil and pour batter into tin.

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Lick bowl.

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Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. I would remove these from the muffin pan before they cool all the way because otherwise they’ll continue baking in the pan and can get dried out.

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Note: Amazing when slathered in almond butter.

Enjoy!


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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…

Mary-Lou-Retton-9455941-2-402

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.

Cheerleading

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 🙂

Kenneth muscle up

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.

Mom

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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48″ box jump

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?

2-Em

32″ box jump!

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

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

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!

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!