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Last week, clinical psychologist and UMass medical school professor Sherry Pagoto wrote a great thought piece in Psychology Today on the idea that we avoid exercise because we don’t like to be uncomfortable. I thought it made a lot of sense, and then I started thinking about how it could apply to nutrition: do we struggle with sticking to a plan because we’ve gotten so used to being “comfortable”? Think about it. We’re used to grabbing a piece of dark chocolate when we crave it, used to having a snack ready the moment we’re hungry, used to having too much food rather than to little. It occurred to me how bad I am at being hungry, which made me think of the Hunger Games, and how the people form District 12 could survive hardship because they “knew how to be hungry” (because sometimes I think about how I would do if the Hunger Games happened to me). And I thought about the concept of being “hangry” – the idea that it’s socially acceptable to be mean and angry just because you are hungry, reinforced by the hilarious Snickers commercials (linking you to the one with Manziel, you’re welcome). I think some people go the whole day without being hungry, and we’re taught this is a good strategy for losing or maintaining weight.

But what if it’s not? What if it’s good for us to notice our hunger. To get comfortable being uncomfortable for a little while.  And since I think some forms of intermittent fasting can be very helpful in rediscovering your hunger cues, I am re-sharing this post from last year. 

Fasting Plans 

IF comes in a variety of plans and structures. The most popular of these are:

Periodic Fasting – eat normally for 5 days of the week. For 2 non-consecutive days, reduce calorie intake, usually to 500-600 calories. You can spread out the calories into smaller snacks or eat one meal after 24 hours of fasting (so, say you started at 7 pm the night before, you could eat 500-600 calories at 7 pm the next day).

Restricted Eating Period – eat normally, but only for a set window during the day. Most people using this plan eat during an 8 hour window starting around 10 am – 12 pm and lasting until 6 – 8 pm. This essentially equates to skipping breakfast and making lunch your first meal.

Benefits of Fasting

Supporters of intermittent fasting have claimed a wide range of benefits from the practice, including

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Weight loss
  • Faster metabolism
  • Lower LDL and total cholesterol levels
  • Improved blood glucose and insulin levels
  • Protection against cardiovascular disease

Drawbacks

  • Sugar cravings. When you first start out fasting, the body will need to adjust between using carbs for fuel and using fat for fuel, during which time you may experience some cravings. However, this is common when starting any lower carbohydrate or reduced sugar diet.
  • Blanket Prescriptions. Most alternate day fasts prescribe 500 calories for women and 600 for men on fasting day. But what about differences in energy needs among different people? If I’m a small woman doing little exercise, 500 calories might be about 1/3 of my usual daily needs. But if I’m a larger man doing high intensity interval training (like CrossFit) 5 times a week, 600 calories might be less than ¼ of my usual daily needs.
  • Does It Make Sense? IF first reached the mainstream around 2003, when The Warrior Diet was published. The Warrior Diet basically prescribed fasting all day and eating one large meal at night because this is what Paleolithic man and Roman soldiers did. But just because Caesar’s army or Paleolithic man did something doesn’t mean we should be doing it. They ate the way they ate because it was all they had. Now we have the knowledge and ability to really optimize our diet. Let’s not waste it blindly copying our ancestors.
  • Is There a Ramadan Bias?  Many studies I found citing the benefits of fasting on health markers were based on studies conducted among observers of Ramadan, a religious fast during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. During Ramadan, observers do not eat or drink anything after sunrise and may eat again when the sun sets. However, many IF protocols look nothing like Ramadan. So, are the benefits the same?

The Research

 

After a brief review of PubMed (an extensive online research database), I came to the following conclusions:

A lot of the studies with drastic positive findings were conducted in animals – mostly mice, rats, and fur seals. While the physiological changes observed in these studies support the benefit claims, the findings have not been replicated on a large scale in humans.

A good portion of the human studies on intermittent fasting – especially in athletes – were conducted among people observing Ramadan. Research conducted as of 2012 indicates that the effects of Ramadan fasting are small if the athlete maintains energy and fluid intake during eating times, maintains a normal training schedule, and gets 8 hours of sleep. Studies have also shown that Ramadan fasting lead to decreased power and increased muscle fatigue in football players, decreased performance among middle distance runners, loss of sleep, and increase in subjective fatigue. In addition, most studies on Ramadan have been conducted when it took place during winter months – with shorter days and milder weather – and more research is needed for times when Ramadan falls in the summer.

As for the research on humans not observing Ramadan, the pickings were slim. One study found that both IF and continuous diet with energy restriction resulted in weight loss and improvements in insulin sensitivity, leptin, cholesterol and other health markers among obese women (Arqin et al 2012). Similar results were seen in obese, young women and men. (Harvie et al 2011). Another study found that calorie restricted IF, both with food and with liquid meals may help reduce CHD risk factors, although the IF with liquid meals resulted in greater results. It’s important to note, though, that the IF diet in this study was not compared to a similar continuous diet.

My Takeaway? Cutting out extra calories is a well-recognized strategy for losing weight and improving health overall. IF is just as good a strategy as a “normal” lower calorie diet for cutting back on calories.

So, Should You Try Fasting?

Cherry Tomatoes

I don’t think you SHOULD fast, but I think you COULD fast. I always tend to recommend a stable diet consisting of quality foods, with intake based on hunger cues. However, the what, why, when, and how of eating is different for everyone. So if you wanted to try fasting as a way to lower calorie intake, then I think it is a good strategy worth trying.

There is one situation in which I would recommend IF – if you have lost your hunger. It’s easy in our American culture of food availability and glorification of “busy” to stop eating for hunger and start eating for a bunch of other reasons. You eat breakfast because it’s 8 am and you need to leave for work. You eat lunch because your coworkers are all going to that new Mexican place at noon. You eat a snack at 4 because you’re bored. And so on. In a case like that, a week or two of intermittent fasting can help reset your awareness of hunger and recognize the difference between actual hunger and other types of hunger. A great read on this is a recent blog post by Robb Wolf’s RD Amy Kubal, “What Kind of Hungry Are You?

A few tips if you choose to fast:

  1. Make sure your “normal” diet is on track. Limited eating periods and non-fast days are NOT an excuse to eat whatever whenever. IF only works as a method for calorie restriction if you maintain healthy, moderate eating habits during non-fasting periods.
  2. Plan ahead. If you decide to do your long run or 2½ hour Olympic lifting class on a fast day, you might pay for it in the form of poor performance and fatigue.  Especially when you’re starting out, plan fast days to coincide with lighter training days.
  3.  Listen to your body. Don’t stick to IF because it’s supposed to have all these benefits if it doesn’t feel right for you. If you’re tired all the time, losing sleep, and not seeing results, it’s time to try a new strategy.

Photo 1 c/o Corey Seeman

18 Nov / 2014

CFB Holiday Party

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Complimentary bubbles, desserts, and your favorite CFB members, all dolled up. What more can you ask for? There are rumors of a pre-party at either Shake Shack or Tasty Burger in Harvard Square and an after-party at the Hong Kong.

CFB Holiday Party

Saturday, December 6th 2014

Daedalus • 6 – 9 PM

45.5 Mount Auburn Street

Cambridge, MA

RSVP HERE or by emailing me at [email protected]

Peace and bacon grease,

Mickey

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17 Nov / 2014

Mindful

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Being mindful, makes you powerful. In the sense, of connecting your mind to your body, to be mindful means to live in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness cultivates understanding, awareness, and  it restores the natural and empowering balance of the body, mind and spirit.

 

You are all becoming Mindful, starting to pay close attention within your body, what’s surrounding your body, and thinking to kinesthetic awareness that heightens your senses. You are learning ways to make yourself think of SMALL things that need to change , so you will become integrated, aligned, aware of  who you really are. 

 

Homework: 

I want everyone to practice being mindful. Everyday, I want you to take a minute or two, and feel through your body head to toe. I want you write it down what it is you feel, and have it on saturday!

There still is a Mobility Class on Wed. nights and Saturday mornings! 

 

Be there and be aware!! 

 

 

So I’m back to blogging regularly, and I want to address some things that have been both bothering me and causing me to reconsider my training. I’m hoping that you can learn from my experiences and not go down the same, winding road that I’ve taken. Let me start by saying that I’m beginning to realize that as I get older there are some things that need to change. And that’s precisely what this series is going to be about; things to consider as you age in regards to your fitness. 

 

This first post is relevant to EVERYONE who walks into a gym, not just the aging athlete. I’d like to re-address an issue that I see all too often that simply needs to change. Every single one of you are competitive to some degree. That’s part of what enticed you to try CrossFit. While competition is great, it’s not really the point of what we do here, or this post. But that internal motivation and drive is what makes us strive to be better than that other, less-fit/less-healthy version of ourselves. With that being said, I see a lot of potential and opportunity left at the door. Let me explain.

 

All too often athletes and beginners alike, roll in the door, sign-in (RIGHT?!), walk up to the whiteboard and wait for class to start. If they didn’t plan correctly, they might be about 3-4 minutes early. They then wander around until class starts picking up a jump rope for 1-2 minutes, play with a kettle-bell for a minute or two, or lay on a foam roller without much thought as to what they are doing. Some might even go for the good ol’ super front-rack or banded overhead distraction because they have been doing it for the past 2 years and they think that it constitutes pre-class mobility. Let me ask you a question: Do you have a plan for improving mobility so that you can finally get into a legitimate back squat or front-rack position? How about those Overhead Squats? Those are fun huh? For most people, achieving these take some dedicated mobility. Not just 3-4 minutes of “hoping” your mobility improves. 

 

Without a plan to improve mobility (let’s face it, almost everyone could stand to improve mobility in some way) you aren’t doing yourself justice. You are leaving potential and opportunity at the door. This is the biggest and greatest benefit you can afford yourself and your training. It is the most attributable factor to improved fitness and all those new PR’s you’ll be seeing. Get a mobility plan and aggressively attack your weaknesses and limiting ROM. 

 

This shouldn’t have to even be said, but as we age, appropriate warm-up/mobility can make or break your day in the gym. I am able to attribute “good days” in the gym to adequate/proper mobility and warmup, and “bad days” to times when I just don’t have the time to get in the necessary mobility. This wasn’t always the case though. I used to be able to walk into the gym and jump right into a working set of bench (because I abhorred back squat in the not too distant past). Was that the right move then even? Hell no! I would be in a much better place now if I had spent even a little bit of time on movement prep. I now try for at least a half hour of mobility/movement prep before even thinking about picking up a barbell. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back on track.

 

YES, mobility is necessary. Vital. Imperative even. Every person has areas that are specific to them that need to be addressed, so I can’t say “Do this” or “Do that.” But I know of a couple of coaches that might be able to help you out on that front. Jen has a mobility class 2x/week now. You have options. Exercise those options people! Here’s what I can do for you though. I can promise, no matter your age, you NEED to work on mobility. Give mobility a chance guys. It’s not going to hurt (too bad). But PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t be the guy/girl who walks in and jumps right into class. You can’t do that, and expect to have a good day in the gym. See what a legitimate mobility session pre-WOD can do for your training. It will open the doors to new PR’s all over. I promise. 

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Alex ringing the bell with his tickets after a 2k PR on Wednesday!

Alex ringing the bell with his tickets after a 2k PR on Wednesday!

How’s it going CFB!  Who’s ready for the weekend?  Let’s Fire it Up!!!

It’s been another solid week of training and congrats to those that PR’ed their 2k on Wednesday.  How was that Usher concert?  I hear Neal was giving out tickets to those Athletes that were really getting after it.

2 quick announcements, mobility and rowing!

1. Coach Jen has decided to offer her mobility class on Saturday mornings at 8am from now on!  If you’re banged up from getting after it this week be sure to get to her class at 8am and work out those kinks.

2. If you’d like to retest your 2k and try to better your performance throughout the winter, consider signing up and competing in the Renegade Rowing League!  The first race is next Saturday, November 22nd at 8am.  We’ll hook up 10 Ergs to a computer and projector and you can race head to head with the people next to you.  It’s a great way to stay motivated in your training and continually gauge your fitness throughout the Winter.  We’ll be hosting a 2k race like this every month.  Check out more info here and sign up on the Whiteboard!

Ok, now it’s time.  What’s in store for next week?  Before you take a look, I’d like you to think about the word POWER.  What does it mean?  How is it defined?  What variables are involved?  What does it look like?  Last week we saw power snatches at %60 of your 1Rm.  That is light for many people in the gym and it sounds like some of you felt you needed to go heavier.  This week you’ll have an opportunity to find a heavy power snatch, but then you’ll be asked to take some weight off and work at 80% of that weight.  One reason I’ve programmed the power snatches at 60% last week and %80 this week is to help you find more POWER!  (envision Neal doing an Arnold impression – We Need More Power!)  Power = Force x Distance / Time.  By fixing the Force and the Distance in the programming, I’m asking you to move the bar faster.  Get more Speed.  Be sharper in your movement.  Have a better setup.  Keep the bar in a straighter path.  Stick that landing deliberately with some gusto.  Leave no doubt to your coaches that you own the movement and are moving that bar as fast as humanly possible through the middle.  Alright, enough of that for now.  Move the bar faster and get after it!  Here’s the programming for the week.  Have Fun and Attack It!

11/15

1. Thruster

15min to find Heavy 3

 2. AMRAP15

50m Crab Walk

10 K2E

5 KB Snatch Each Arm (1.5/1)

5 Pistols Each Leg (Alternating)

*Rx+ (Pistol w/ KB)

*Scaling (Single Arm KB Swing, Reverse Lunge w/ KB)

 

11/16

Partner “Regatta Gone Mad”

(1 Person works at a time)

(Split up work as you see fit)

Complete For Time …

75 Deadlifts (95/65 lbs)

2k Row

50 Power Cleans (95/65 lbs)

2k Row

75 Push Ups

 

11/17

1. Power Clean

Work up to a 1 RM

 2. EMOM8

2 Power Cleans @80% (Touch and Go)

4 Barbell Roll Outs from Knees

*If you miss a round, complete 5 Burpees and rest until next round

 

11/18

1. 6RFT

8 Overhead Squats (95/65)

4 OH Walking Lunges (95/65)

200m Run

 2. 20 Strict Toes-2-Bar

*Every time you drop off the bar do 20 Double Unders

 

11/19

PR Wednesday

1. 12min to find 1RM Shoulder Press

 2. “Cindy“


AMRAP20

5 Pull-ups


10 Push-ups


15 Squats

OR

Mary“


AMRAP20

5 Handstand Push-ups


10 One legged squats, alternating


15 Pull-ups

 

11/20

1. 5 Sets to work up to something heavy of …

1a. 3 Power Snatch, 1:30 Rest

1b. 3 Thrusters @same weight, 1:30 Rest

2. AMRAP3

3 Power Snatch @80% of above weight

3 Push Ups

2min Rest 

AMRAP3

3 Thrusters

3 Pull Ups

2min Rest

AMRAP3

3 Power Snatch

3 Burpees Over The Bar

2min Rest

AMRAP3

3 Thrusters

3 Pull Ups

 

11/21

1. Push Press

5 reps @ 75%

1.1.1 strict muscle-ups, rest 1:00

3 reps @ 85%

1.1.1 strict muscle-ups, rest 1:00

1+ reps @ 95%

1.1.1 strict muscle-ups

2. 6RFT

6 Push Press @75%

200m Run

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It is easy to get caught up in the needs and wants of others. Your boss, family, clients, friends its easy to feel like you are being pulled in a thousand directions at one time. Its surprising that by the end of each day we are not all wanting to be hermits with no social engagement whatsoever. Pure isolation.

How do you manage this? When everything seems to be coming down to you and beginning to overwhelm you, what do you do? Some just stuff it deep down inside themselves until eventually one day it explodes! Not the best option, trust me. Others break down and sob. Not my idea of a good time either.

A practice that I have been working with and have challenged my staff to begin trying is called “Sacred Silence”. This is another drill lesson that Coach Divine uses in the Unbeatable Mind Academy. The beauty of this drill is in its simplicity and it doesn’t require a long commitment. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to practice it. Below I have written out the basic premise of Sacred Silence. Give it a go and post to comments your thoughts.

Sacred Silence

The task is to find a comfortable chair where you will be uninterrupted for 3 minutes. Not a terribly long time at all. Be sure to sit upright. Now close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Employ the box breathing technique: breathe in for 3-5 counts, hold for 3-5 counts, exhale for 3-5 counts, remain deflated for 3-5 counts. As you are breathing begin paying attention to your mind in action: what you hear, smell, and feel. If you a car driving by just repeat to yourself in your head “hearing, hearing”. If you feel something, “feeling, feeling.” If your mind strays, that’s ok. Note it and come back to your senses. This will allow you to help settle down, relax and unwind after a stressful meeting, day, etc.

tranquil water

 

 

 

Day in and day out it is very easy to get caught up in the activities necessary to just get through the day. Sometimes it seems we are operating on automation. Have you ever finished your day and sat for a moment and ask what did I really accomplish?

12 Nov / 2014

Tips for Healthy Travels

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I haven’t found a better way to completely fall off the healthy lifestyle wagon quite like traveling. Whether for work or vacation, extended time in an airport and hotels, and away from your kitchen and gym, provides numerous challenges to staying on track. This post outlines a few tips for keeping it together on the road.

1. Always be prepared with snacks. Pack nuts, trail mix, jerky, Lara bars, and other snacks to have in the airport, between work meetings (or sightseeing), and for late night cravings. Pack more than you think you’ll need, as healthy snacks can be hard to find in hotels and airports. 

2. BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast). Unless you fork over $20 for the sit down breakfast, most hotels offer a continental breakfast comprised of cold eggs, processed bacon, pastures, bagels, cereal, and canned fruit cocktail. If you’re lucky, the eggs will be hot and there will be fresh fruit. Either way, the safest bet is often having something in your room you can eat, saving you money and keeping you on track. When I’m traveling I like to have a banana with peanut butter or oatmeal (you can usually find hot water) with dried fruit and nuts or nut butter. In a pinch, oatmeal from Starbucks isn’t the worst, and hard boiled eggs are becoming easier to find.

3. Do your homework. Look up restaurants that are near where you are traveling, and read over their menus before you go. Most places will offer some sort of meat/potatoes dish, or salmon and green vegetable. If you read up ahead of time, you can identify a few places you know you can find a healthy meal, and a few meals at each place. I find that having my mind made up before I get there helps me avoid the temptation to order something less nutritious. 

4. Talk to your coworkers/travel mates. In the year 2014, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t at least one other person in your group who is trying to pay attention to health. I would say you are more likely to find other healthy eaters on a work trip, simply because on vacation people tend to care a little less about staying on the wagon (let’s just say when I traveled to Italy I was not worried about the pasta and gelato). For example, at my company there are at least 3-5 other people who are paleo or gluten free. I like going to eat with these people because I know they’ll be ordering something healthy, which encourages me to do the same. 

5. Keep up the exercise. Sometime when you’re traveling, there’s not getting around a less than desirable meal. Your salmon comes with more sauce than you thought. There’s no other food available in the meeting besides pasta salad and sandwiches. Et cetera, et cetera. (And I haven’t even mentioned the booze yet…). Exercise can not only negate some of that damage, it can also give you more energy and motivate you to stay on track while you’re away. I travel to California every year for work, and try to take advantage of the time difference to get up and go running at least one morning. I’m also lucky enough to work for the fitness industry, so our work trip includes morning group classes (last year I went to a Piloxing class, and I was more sore after than I care to admit). If running outside or group classes aren’t an option, take advantage of what is. Use the pool in your gym to swim some laps. Look up hotel CrossFit workouts (or ask a coach for some ideas). Try deck of cards WOD (via the, app, or an actual deck of cards) in your hotel room. There are lots of creative ways to get 20-30 minutes of movement in during some part of your day. If there’s really not, try walking or taking the stairs as much as possible. 

6. Go easy on the booze. Whether for work or play, traveling always seems to include healthy doses of adult beverages. When I travel for work, it’s cocktail hours with wine or open bar. When I travel it’s the booze of the land (bier in Germany, red wine in Italy…). Either way, try to aim for no more than one drink an hour, and mix in plenty of water between. Try to stick to one type of drink – wine, gin, beer, whatever. You can also order a vodka/gin and tonic for the first one, and quietly refill with just tonic or club soda the rest of the night. It’s important (at least at my work meetings) to appear social and participate in festivities, but I also need to have energy to get up and workout in the morning, so I aim for 1-2 drinks over the course of a five hour evening. 

Any great ideas I missed?

Photo c/o Nicolas Raymond

11 Nov / 2014

Baby Otters are Adorbs

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YidBK

11 Nov / 2014

CFB T-Shirt Design Contest!

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Hey Party People!

 

For the first time at CFB, we’ve got a t-shirt design contest and we want YOUR submissions! There are posts all over the gym with specific details, but in a nutshell, the designs must:

1. Feature CFB, CFBOS, CFB05, or CrossFit Boston

2. Be creative yet appropriate for public consumption

3. Be awesome!

The winning design will net the designer a free t-shirt AND a pair of tickets to KISS 108’s Jingle Ball, featuring lots of awesome bands, including 5 Seconds of Summer, OneRepublic, Iggy Azalea, Lil Jon, Magic!, Meghan Trainor, Charli XCX, Jessie J, Rixton, Kiesza, and Shawn Mendes!

This is going to be one bad-ass concert, so enter the contest!

That is all this week. I’ll likely be bad next week with some musings about politics, religion, and abortion…

 

Peace and bacon grease,

Mickey

10 Nov / 2014

Class time

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Hey Guys! 

 

SO…some exciting news! I will be offering a 8am class on Sats! Woo! BUT, here is the situation. I may be dropping Wed., and only have class on Sat. I will see how it goes, the next couple weeks. 

 

The class will be added to Zen Planner, so for there to be a Mobility class there has to be people signed up! I will keep you posted!

 

Remember BRING A LACROSSE BALL!! 

 

Always re-set your position, walking, standing, sitting, and never forget to always SMILE! 

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