To CrossFit or not to CrossFit?

crossfit_lols_16The year was 1981.  Jane Fonda  debuted the first ever “workout” video, Olivia Newton John was getting guys off the couch with her hit song,  Let’s Get Physical , and I purchased my first leotard.  I have been working out consistently ever since.  Over the years I have gotten into strength training, running, cycling, kickboxing, yoga, P90X (1,2 & 3), Insanity-and an array of other workouts and videos .  So, after 30 or so years of this, I considered myself to be fairly physically fit.  That was until I tried CrossFit.

My first experience with CrossFit was this past December.  My coworkers and I thought it would be fun to surprise our boss and show up at one of his CrossFit workouts.  He was thrilled (I’m sure) and the rest of us could not walk for a week.  As humbling as this experience was, I was compelled to go back.

CrossFit is known for its highly intense full body workouts that include speed training, Olympic- and power-style weight lifting, kettle bells, body weight exercises, gymnastics, endurance exercise and more.  CrossFit gyms (referred to as a “box”) are usually housed in a large warehouse or garage. The CrossFit philosophy holds that members train to enhance 10 key physical qualities: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.   CrossFit coaches develop their own daily workout or follow the “WOD”  (Workout of the Day) from the CrossFit website.  Total workouts start out with a high powered warmup (a workout in itself), skills training to work on form, and ends with the WOD which usually lasts anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes.

According to the CrossFit website: “CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.”

Some of the WOD are specially named after women or military heroes. A few examples are:

  • The Barbara involves five circuits of 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and 50 body weight-only squats performed in order, while only resting at the end of each circuit for a 3-minute period.
  • The Murph – a timed 1-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body weight squats, finished off by another 1-mile run.
  • The Jackie – 1,000 meter row, 50 thrusters with a selected weight, and 30 pull-ups: preferably performed without any rest between each exercise.

So why would one put themselves through this torture?

Eye of the Tiger rocky

There is a scene in the movie Rocky III where Apollo Creed takes Rocky to his old boxing gym back in LA.  Rocky had just gotten creamed by Mr. T and his manager, Mickey,  just dropped dead of a heart attack.  Rocky lost his mojo.  Walking into the gym filled with very intimidating men, Apollo said:

“You see that look in their eyes, Rock?  When we fought, I trained hard but I didn’t have that look.  You had it and you won.  Gotta get that look back, Rock.  Eye of the tiger, man”

The first time I walked into my Crossfit box I thought of that scene.  The members were fully present, focused and ready to kick butt (and more than slightly intimidating).   There is no hiding in back of the class at CrossFit.  Prepare to show up ready to give it your all.   When you are finished you will know that you really worked out.


At CrossFit, everyone is on the same mission-get in the best shape possible.  Exercises are done in group workouts where members encourage and support each other.  The camaraderie in CrossFit is part of what makes the experience so great.  CrossFit is about competing against yourself and not each other.  Even the people who finish last get a round of high-fives for pushing themselves as hard as they can.  Members log each workout on a community website called “Wodify”.  Members get to track progress, comment on each others results, and strengthen the sense of community.

Find out what you are made of

I will admit that I have a certain amount of trepidation prior to each CrossFit workout.  But I always leave feeling really energized with a great feeling of accomplishment.  So often we let our own self limiting beliefs keep us from moving forward or trying new things.  Getting past these mental blocks boosts self confidence that spills over to other areas of your life.

Even Grandma can do it

Well, maybe not everybody’s grandma.  But for as intense as CrossFit is, there are a wide variety of individuals participating.  Teens to baby boomers,  men & women, athletes to people who are working out for the first time in their life.  Even though the exercises are challenging, there are progressions for every fitness level.


Yes, Fun!  The variety, the team atmosphere, the adrenaline rush-it’s difficult to be bored at CrossFit.

So what is the down side?


As with any high-intensity workout, your likelihood of getting injured is greater.   It is easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush at CrossFit and push yourself too far.  Before attempting  any of the prescribed exercises it is important to learn proper form.  There is typically a series of “On Ramp” classes that guide your through the various exercises.  But it will take you a bit longer to perfect them.  It is important to listen to your body and increase your weights accordingly.    And be sure you schedule enough recovery time between workouts.   If you have a chronic injury, CrossFit may not the best option.

Not all CrossFit boxes are created equal

With no background in training or coaching  you can become a certified CrossFit Trainer by attending a two day certification and passing a test. Once you’ve been certified, you’re free to open up your own affiliate with no quality control enforcement.  That is why it is really important to do your research prior to  joining a CrossFit facility.  Set up a one-on-one training session with the coach.  Reach out to the members and ask  them about  their experience.  Try to get a trial membership (that includes training); this way you are not locked into anything.

My Verdict

I have only been doing CrossFit for a couple of months and I can see how easy it is to get hooked.   For now, I plan on incorporating it into the rest of my fitness routine a couple of days per week and will see where it goes from there.   If you are looking to amp up your fitness routine, I would encourage you to give CrossFit a shot.  Eye of the Tiger, man!




Crash Course in Paleo

ImageLately, I have had a good number of people ask me about the Paleo Diet.  This is probably because they have been hearing me yammer about it a lot (sorry, I tend to get excited about things that work).   Thinking that there may be others who are curious, I thought I would put together a blog post covering the basics.    The usual questions I hear are,  “Is it expensive?  Is it time consuming?  Is it difficult?  Is it worth it? ”  The answer is Yes and the answer is No.  It all depends on how you approach it.  Let’s look at these questions one by one.

Is it difficult?

For the most part, the Paleo diet is not difficult to follow. You do not count calories or carbs (although they are low by default).   But, if you approach the Paleo diet with a deprivation mindset, it will be harder.  You will be eliminating foods that are most likely staples in your diet and that you may be physically, psychologically, and emotionally  attached (addicted) to.  This includes all processed foods, sugar, grains (yes, even whole grains), dairy, soy & legumes.  The first week could be a bit rough because your body is detoxing and withdrawing from carbs and toxins.  But, within a week or so you will begin too feel great. To derive the full benefits, you need to adopt it as a long term lifestyle that also includes sensible exercise, good sleep habits and managing stress-all of which are crucial to overall wellness.  You should plan on sticking to it for at least 30 days to allow your body to fully detox and begin to heal itself.  After the 30 days you can decide what to add back, but hopefully you will feel the benefits of continuing the lifestyle.  I suggest you do some research to better understand the science behind this.  There is a ton of great information available;  I will add some resources at the end of this post.  Once you understand the “why” it will be easier to implement the “how”.

A lot of people get caught up in the whole Cave Man thing and like to make jokes or snide remarks.  Whether or not you buy into the fact that our genetic makeup has not changed much since our ancestors were hunting and foraging for their food, the whole concept still makes  sense.  Eat real, nutritionally dense food and stop putting toxins into your body.  This helps to lower chronic inflammation, normalize insulin levels, regulate your metabolism, ward off diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune issues, and helps to regulate mood disorders.   It’s about achieving optimal health, of which weight loss is a bi-product.  It should not be thought of as crash “diet” or a quick fix.

Is it time consuming?

Meal preparation does not have to be complicated.  I stock my fridge and pantry once a week and try to prep veggies and sauces in advance.  For the most part, I grill, bake, broil and make good use of my wok and crock pot.  But if you like to cook, there’s a plethora of recipe books and blogs available.  I like to use Pinterest to find, collect and share a lot of recipes.  There is a “paleo” version of just about every recipe known to man.  You can also find paleo convenience foods (mostly online).  Again, beware of ingredients that may be inferior.  Food companies and marketers like to hop on band wagons and don’t always have our best interests at heart.

What can I eat?

The majority of your diet will consist of :

  • Animal Protein (grass fed/wild/free range is best)-meat, chicken, fish, eggs etc.
  • Non Starchy Vegetables (organic if possible)
  • Healthy Fats-olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter, avocado (no vegetable oils)
  • Low glycemic fruits (1 to 2 per day)
  • Nuts and seeds (just be aware of portion sizes)
  • All kinds of spices
  • Treats-there are loads of recipes for “paleo” versions of baked goods using almond/coconut flour, honey, and dried fruit. Since these are still pretty high in sugar and carb content, you should indulge only on occasion. Especially if weight loss is a goal.

Some people do the 80/20 rule, allowing a few “cheat meals” per week.  Again, it depends on how quickly you want to see results.  I have a glass of red wine a few times per week and a couple of squares of dark (85%) chocolate just about every night.  Again, if weight loss is a goal, you may want to avoid these your first 30 days.

Is it expensive?

It is recommended that you buy organic, grass fed, wild, free range, and local products which can be more costly (but less costly than medical bills).  Conventionally grown and manufactured foods are full of toxins, hormones, pesticides, etc.  Not to mention the environmental and ethical issues.  If cost is an issue, just do your best within budget/availability.    You do save a lot of money on junk food :).

Is it worth it?

From where I stand, I say absolutely!   I have been following the Paleo lifestyle for 7 months and have never felt better.   I do not plan on reverting back to my old way of eating (which, by the way, was considered “healthy” by mainstream standards).  There are many, many people who have not only lost excess weight, but have also been able to reverse chronic illness and permanently go off of their medications.  Again, do the research, give it a go, and decide for yourself.

Here are some resources that have been really helpful to me:

Books that cover the science

The Paleo Diet, Dr. Loren Cordain

The Paleo Manifesto, John Durant

The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson

Primal Mind, Primal Body-Beyond the Paleo Diet, Nora Gedgaudas

The Paleo Coach, Jason Seib

Living Paleo for Dummies

Recipe Books

Everyday Paleo, Sarah Fragoso

Well Fed, Melissa Joulwman

Specialty Books

Grain Brain, Dr. David Perlmutter

Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis

The Calorie Myth, Jonathan Bailor

Websites & Blogs  

The Clothes Make the Girl

NomNom Paleo

Everyday Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness

Marks Daily Apple

Paleo Hacks


Most all of the authors and bloggers also have great podcasts.  You can find them on their websites.

This is just a start.  Enjoy!





Kick-Ass Coffee!!


Want to power through your day feeling bullet proof? Of course, who wouldn’t? Are you willing to put butter and oil into your morning cup of joe to make it happen? Of course not, that sounds crazy! What about the fat, the cholesterol, the calories!?? Well, that was my initial reaction when I first heard about Bulletproof Coffee. But I had been hearing so many great things about it that I had to check it out. So, along with a lot of research, I decided to give it a go.  I am over 3 weeks into this experiment and I must say that so far I am loving it!

“Bulletproof Coffee” was originated by tech entrepreneur and biohacker, Dave Asprey who was turned onto the idea after drinking Yak Butter Tea during a visit to the mountains of Tibet.  Its invigorating qualities encouraged him to do more research and create a recipe using coffee.  Because of its impressive impact on cognitive function and overall performance, it is now used by rock stars, world champion athletes, and some of the world’s top executives.

The combined high quality coffee and healthy fats  in Bulletproof Coffee promises to increase your energy, help you become hyper focused, keep hunger at bay, and even burn fat. Here is what this power packed combo can do:

MCT Oil (fats that are naturally found in coconut and palm kernel oil)

MCT’s are metabolized very quickly in the liver and are reported to encourage an increase in energy expenditure, while decreasing fat storage. Numerous studies suggest that substituting MCT Oil for other fats in a healthy diet may therefore help to support healthy weight and body composition. A groundbreaking 2004 study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that the administration of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), almost immediately improved cognitive function in older adults with memory disorders.

Grass Fed Butter

Grass Fed Butter has butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that possesses anti-inflammatory properties, and some research has shown it can promote brain function and gut health. Butter also has more vitamins, such as A, D, and K2, than cream and is lower in sugar.

High Grade Coffee

Why do I love coffee, let me count the ways…..

1-Coffee doesn’t just keep you awake, it may literally make you smarter as well.  Many controlled trials have examined the effects of caffeine on the brain, demonstrating that caffeine can improve mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance and general cognitive function.

2-Caffeine, partly due to its stimulant effect on the central nervous system, both raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids.

3-Caffeine can also improve athletic performance by several mechanisms, including by mobilizing fatty acids from the fat tissues.

4-Coffee is Loaded With Nutrients and Antioxidants.

Be sure to get high quality coffee.  Low quality coffee may contain micro toxins that will negatively impact the affects of the Bulletproof Coffee. You can learn more about Dave’s findings on coffee here.

The Recipe (for you braver folks, I recommend you go right to Dave’s recipe).  However, if you want to do a test run first:

  • 8 ounces of organic, high quality coffee (caffeine is a must)-check out your local coffee house (not Starbucks). I use organic, arabic beans from Simpatico.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of organic, grass fed butter-you can find this at your local health food store, Trader Joe’s, etc.
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of MCT Oil. You can also use Coconut Oil, but MCT Oil is more potent. (Warning-if your system is not used to quality fats, you may initially get some GI issues. This usually sorts itself out pretty quickly).
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • A little stevia (if you need it)

Whip it Up

Blend (in a blender) coffee, butter (not melted), and oil. Pour into cup, sprinkle cinnamon on top. Viola!

Begin the day  like Wonder Woman (or Superman)

I must say that I do feel very energized and focused on the days that I drink Bulletproof Coffee.  Tastes great too (well, I think so)!  Because it is not without its calories, I  have it in lieu of breakfast.  It’s high (healthy) fat content keeps me satiated through lunch.

So if you want to start your day energized, focused and ready to kick ass, try some Bulletproof Coffee today.

Sources and further reading

MCT Fats Found in Coconut Oil Boost Brain Function

BUTTER ME UP! 4 Reasons to Put (Grass-Fed) Butter Back on Your Plate

Should You Be Drinking Bulletproof Coffee?

7 Reasons Why Coffee is Good For You


Sleep Hacking

No, I did not just get cataract surgery. Nor is this my latest fashion statement. These glasses are part of my most recent quest to improve the quality of my sleep. Now there have been numerous reasons why a good glassesnight’s sleep has evaded me in recent years. One reason has been the incessant, borderline irrational chatter that enters my head around 9:00 every night (usually attributed to my boys’ latest antics). In the past I have tried to subdue this mind clutter with a nightly ritual of sleepytime tea. This helped me to fall asleep initially, however I would get up three times a night to pee. Another reason for my sleep disruption is my husband’s snoring, for which I have yet to find a cure. But my current muse has to do with synchronizing my circadian rhythm.

The rhythm dance

When was the last time you tucked in at sundown and jumped out of bed to the sound of chirping birds at sunrise?  This would be the sleep pattern of our ancestors, and what is known as our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in our environment.  Abnormal circadian rhythms and chronic sleep loss have been associated with obesity, diabetes, learning and memory problems, and mood disorders.  Personally, if I do not get a good nights sleep, just about every aspect of my daily performance suffers.  So, I have been on a mission to get myself in sync.

The melatonin fairy

Our brain naturally produces melatonin in the evenings as daylight wanes.  This hormone tells our brains and bodies that it is time to go to sleep.  But due to our crazy schedules, exposure to artificial light and attachment to our devices, our bodies suppress melatonin and our circadian rhythms are all out of whack.  Studies show that exposure to the blue light expressed by electronic devices in the evening hours results in a 25% reduction in melatonin production.  This melatonin suppression may result in difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty obtaining quality deep sleep.

Enter……the glasses

These amber lensed glasses are said to improve sleep quality, as well as mood, simply by blocking blue light and simulating physiologic darkness. This helps to normalize our melatonin production and circadian rhythms.  Much to my husbands dismay, I put them on at around 9:00 every night while watching TV or reading my Nook.  By 10:00 I am out for the count.

Bring back the lightgolite

The light that prevents us from falling asleep each night is the same light that signals our brains that it is time to wake up.  Since I do not have natural light cascading into my bedroom every morning, I have purchased a Philips Golite.  Studies show that regular exposure to blue light in the morning will prompt your body to spring into an awake mode more quickly.  I activate it as soon as I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock each morning and bask in its glow for about 10 minutes before getting up.  I later set it on my vanity while getting ready in the morning.  And viola-Alert and ready to Kick Butt.

Since embracing this routine of glasses before bed, blue light in the morning, I have succeeded in setting my circadian rhythms.  I am ready to crash at 10:00 like clockwork (which makes me a blast at parties) and wake up naturally at 5:00 each morning.  Now all I have to do is find a cure for my husband’s snoring.


Inside Life Science: How our Bodies Keep Time

How Artificial Light is Wrecking your Sleep and what to do about it



Can I have a side of Cholesterol with that?

For as long as I can remember, I have been avoiding fat and cholesterol like the plague.  Always opting for low-fat this and non-fat that, egg white omelets, skinny lattes, avoiding red meat, on and on-all in the name of being “healthy”.  Well lately, along with a lot of other misconceptions I have had over the years, this theory that fat is “bad” has been turned on its head.  Fat, I have learned, is not only healthy for you, it is necessary!

But First
Now, before I go on to explain, please note that we are not talking about trans fats. Trans fats are BAD. You will find them in many processed foods, used to add flavor, texture and extend shelf life.  Trans fats will clog your arteries and perhaps even kill you. But I think that is pretty common knowledge.

What I do not think is as well-known is the fact that vegetable and seed oils are bad for you as well.  This list includes soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, safflower and sunflower oils.  All are high in easily oxidized polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids.  This is bad because these oils can cause low-grade inflammation which is the cause of most chronic diseases.  They also contain age promoting free radicals, and who needs that.

The Yolks on You
Although this may be news to the mainstream, there is credible evidence that our bodies need fat (yes saturated) and cholesterol to thrive.  In his Huffington Post article, “The Cholesterol Myth that can be Harming your Health”, Dr. Joseph Mercola discusses how cholesterol is needed to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat.  Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function. “Lowering cholesterol too much increases one’s risk of dying.  Cholesterol is also a precursor to all of the steroid hormones. You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and a host of other vital hormones without cholesterol. There is also research that shows that reducing saturated fat and increasing carbohydrate intake significantly increases your risk of heart disease.”  Ironically, a low fat/high carb diet is exactly what the American Heart Association and our government have been recommending for decades.  I wonder if the big drug companies, agricultural and food industry lobbyist have anything to do with that.

Fat as Fuel
Health and fitness expert Mark Sisson  is the bestselling author of The Primal Blueprint and one of the leading voices of the Paleo Movement.  On his website, Marks Daily Apple, he explains his stance on fat. “The Fat Paradigm, under which the human species has thrived quite effectively for two and a half million years, recognizes that human metabolism is pre-programmed by evolution to be primarily fat-based (the real preferred fuel).  In other words, our genes expect us to function optimally when we consume fats and can easily access our stored fat.  A high fat diet increases insulin sensitivity, modulates energy and mood swings, and allows for a normal and healthy drop in hunger and cravings.”

So What to Eat?
Since adopting the Paleo lifestyle 6 months ago my diet primarily consists of animal protein (preferably grass-fed), fish (wild), eggs, vegetables (some fruit & nuts), and good fats (Omega-3).  I use olive oil and coconut oil to cook (I even add coconut oil to my coffee), and eat a whole avocado every day.  Since doing so I feel more clear headed and focused, my energy stays steady throughout the day, and my  good cholesterol is high (HDL) and my bad cholesterol is low (LDL).

So go enjoy some steak and eggs cooked in coconut oil with a side of avocado. Your brain and body will thank you :).

Sources and additional info on the benefits of Fat

Low-carb ketogenic diet prevents Alzheimer’s and ADHD, says Dr. David Perlmutter

Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom

A Metabolic Paradigm Shift, or Why Fat is the Preferred Fuel for Human Metabolism

The Cholesterol Myth That Could Be Harming Your Health


The Big D

vitamin DBaby oil-CHECK, tinfoil-CHECK, double album cover-CHECK. As a teenager, this was the routine that my friends and I had before going to bask, or should I say fry, out in the sun. In our continuous quest to become bronzed beauties, each summer we would religiously slather ourselves in baby oil and harness the suns spectacular rays with our reflective Led Zeppelin album covers. For many of my melanin enhanced friends this resulted in a beautiful San Tropes tan. But not for me. Each year I would go through my ritual of burn, blister and peel (repeat) in order to acquire my “base tan”. Well into my 20s I subjected myself with annual bouts of sun poisoning, causing untold damage for years to come. Although I’m happy to say I finally smartened up and have been diligently protecting myself from the harmful effects of the sun for the last 25 years, I had unknowingly subjected myself to a different issue-vitamin D deficiency. So why is this a problem?

You can find tons of research on the web regarding the perils of Vitamin D deficiency and they are all pretty much in agreement. But the most powerful information I found was from Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, author of the book “The Vitamin D Solution” and Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the book “Grain Brain”. They both agree that insufficient Vitamin D can contribute to:

Heart Disease
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease (Dr. Perlmutter really gets into this topic)
Depression & Insomnia
Joint pain, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Osteoporosis

As is the case with many people, I have had an on-off relationship with vitamins & supplements over the years. Every day you are told a different story-one day they are good for you, the next day they are bad. But having done the research, I can safely say that I do not want to trade wrinkles for debilitating disease. So the next time you see my pale self at the beach, you can bet that I took my daily dose of Vitamin D.