5 Weeks of Torture. Now with Dumbbells!

Hungry? We’ve been using Home Chef three days a week and lemme tell you, it’s awesome.  If you want to try it shoot me an email and I’ll send you a coupon.


The CrossFit Open 2017 is over.  After a jolly 5 week ride on the Rollercoaster Of Ultimate Suffering I skidded back to the platform, hair askew, grip shot, mildly queasy, and wondering why giving these assholes my money ever seemed like a good idea in the first place.  CrossFitHQ seems to value customer service, and since we all paid for a round house kick to the privates we certainly got our money’s worth.  Also, since I reviewed last year’s CrossFit Open, let’s see how this one stacks up.

In summary:

cdf77f0a098419711447abe8e7f1311a-all-you-can-think-about-is-crawling-back-into-that-awesome-bed-of-your

This is only my second year of doing the CrossFit Open so it’s not like I have a long history of experience to draw from, but this year I felt progressively more decimated as each week concluded.  Last year I was all scaled.  This year I did three out of the five workouts RX! I know! I’m shocked, too!   Let’s scamper back down rhabdo lane, shall we?

17.1 Dumbbells and burpee box jumps is as stupid as it sounds.

Getting started on the list of Things I Don’t Like To Do early, 17.1 came out of the gate as a slobbering and angry Spaniard bull and I was the flimsy fool trying to run fast enough to avoid being gruesomely trampled.  It was a 20 minute dumbbell snatch and burpee box jump slog so I was all, hells yeah I’m doing it SCALED! I didn’t have a plan exactly, and I didn’t have a goal other than to finish and maybe that is where it went wrong.  Without a defined target I didn’t have a reason to knuckle in harder and work faster, and consequently at 20:00 I had one rep remaining.  ONE. REP. REMAINING.  I left the gym feeling embarrassed and frustrated and I may have sworn up a blue cloud in the car.

abandon-thread-dislike-do-not-want-hide-no-thank-you-run-away-walking-away-gif

Subsequently I learned that everyone else in the gym finished the scaled or RX version of the workout completely and under the time cap.  I hated myself for that all weekend long.  In the middle of my feverishly idiotic self loathing I came up with a plan: Do it again, but RX.  (I never said it was a good plan.)  If I wasn’t going to finish the workout I might as well not finish it with an RX tag on the end, I mean how bad could it be? So the following Monday I went back to the gym with a plan, and a target and two things happened.  1) I didn’t finish the workout, and 2) I didn’t fall on any of those box jumps! But more importantly a third thing happened: I hit my target.  Therefore, I called 17.1 a win and logged my score.

17.2 More Dumbbells But This Time With Other Stuff I Could Not Do.

It’s totally normal for there to be 1-5 workouts in the Open that require skills that I do not currently possess.  This week involved lunging about with dumbbells and conducting assorted activities from the pull up bars. For scaled it was hanging knee raises and then pull ups.  My goal was to get to the pull ups without looking like I was having some sort of hanging seizure.  While I made my goal I didn’t feel particularly proud of my accomplishment, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

giphy

I was comparing myself to everyone else.  Again.  I knew I didn’t do as well as many others with better cardio engines, but knowing there wasn’t a significant way to alter or improve my performance shrugged it off,  logged my score, and wrapped myself in a cocoon of self affirmations also known as pizza.

17.3 Apparently I won’t be going to the CF Games as a competitor

Reality has set in.  There will be no CrossFit Games, George Division.  This week we saw a fast-paced snatch ladder. Fast paced anything usually yields disaster, but I knew I could do much of this workout in the scaled category so I made my plan and set my goal. I wanted to get into the second time bracket and get working on the 65# snatches.  I got where I wanted to go and for the first time in this Open I felt genuinely happy with my results.

relieved

Before I left the gym I logged my score, and before I got home my view of the Open, it’s purpose, and my participation had transformed.  The last two weeks of feeling ashamed of my scores or embarrassed about my performance compared to others had been swept out the door like a dead spider to be eaten by tiny ants who desperately need the nutrition.  Now I’m in it for fun.  For curiosity.  For the pure heck of it.  And, for the broad opportunities to exercise trash talking, which, as it turns out, I’m quite adept at.

17.4 Death by Counts of 55 revisited

As soon as the words, “17 point…4…will be…16…point 4!” left Dave Castro’s smirking jerk face I was doing a happy dance.  Because GUESS WHAT?! I’m going to do this workout in both RX and Scaled.

bth

Last year my goal was to complete the row in the scaled version of the workout, which I did and managed to squeak out 5 push ups before the time cap.  This year I had the same goal, but in the RX category.  I didn’t make it, but that’s OK and I’ll tell you why.

Scaled: 95# dead lift, 10# wall ball
RX: 155# dead lift, 14# wall ball

That’s a 62% increase in dead lift weight, and a 71% increase in wall ball weight.  Those capacities were gained IN ONE YEAR OF WORK! I was absurdly proud of myself and logged my score almost immediately.

giphy1

But, you can’t compare apples and oranges and get an absolutely clear picture of one’s gainz, so I set out to do the workout again on Monday in the scaled ring to see how it stacked up to last year’s performance. I must say that it stacked up quite nicely.  I got through 24 of the hand release push ups before being time capped.  That’s a 19 rep increase from last year, with a rowing split time improvement of over one minute.  I call #kennyz and #gainz on that.

tumblr_lhzn7g4p9n1qcnhhzo1_500

 

17.5 Dave Castro hates us as much as we hate him, see WOD for proof. 

It’s been five weeks.

giphy2

I’m tired.

meerkat

I know what’s coming.

giphy4

Sitting down to watch the Open announcement was basically sitting down to hear not only that I will die but in excruciating detail HOW I will die.  The only question was if I would die with a barbell or dumbbells in my hands.  Lucky break! I’ll die with a barbell in my hands! 10 rounds of insufferable thrusters and double unders.

773c3005328b3f628e423075e0fabd23_phew-gif-phew-gif_498-278

Do it RX? Do it scaled? Go big or go home, right? RX it is.  A 40 minute time cap is more generous than I would have expected, but I figured I could close this one up in 25-27 minutes. HA! That wisp of hope died after the first round.  It was in the second round as I was whipping myself like a derelict plough horse during the DUs I realized that the only way to make enough time to continue the flagellations on schedule was if I kept the thrusters unbroken.  So I did.  And, I came crashing across the finish line at just over 36 minutes. I finished the CrossFit Open on an RX note and how cool is that? Lil George running with the RX dawgs for the first time.

All in all this Open was much more enlightening, much more entertaining, and much more challenging than last year.  I saw, for the first time, my progress being applied.  I felt, for the first time, my capacities being tested. I experienced, for the first time, what I’ve always advocated but have difficulty doing, and that was not to waste time comparing myself to others but to enjoy the process for my own sake.  I don’t celebrate my own accomplishments easily, but gosh darn it I did OK.  George isn’t the fastest, nor is she the strongest, nor is she the most efficient, but she’s getting there. I have the anchor of a good gym, good friends, and some of the best coaching I could have ever hoped to receive and I will express my gratitude the best way I know how: By working harder and making the investment of their encouragement and time worth it.  Except if it involves the Assault bike.  Anyone asks me to assault bike with them I’ll be all LOL,

giphy3

 

Advertisements

The Murph Hero Wod: A Visual Story

Hungry? My Super Husband (I’m not speaking in hyperbole or anything.) has been ordering two to three meals through Home Chef of late and I have to say they’ve all been quite nice, both in terms of taste and economics.


 

Memorial Day appears to be easily mistaken for Veterans Day.  As far as I know, everyone who reads my periodic rantings is fully aware of the distinct and specific differences, but if you are requiring elucidation then read here and here, oh, and here.  Of the veterans that I know personally, most of them are not judgmental against anyone on how they choose to spend their 3 day weekend, and for that I’m grateful. There is far too much judgement happening.  From What not to say to someone with curly hair to You’ve been cutting tomatoes wrong your whole life to Top 10 reasons people don’t like you, truly it’s exhausting to keep up with all the things I’m doing wrong.  Judgement and condemnation have taken live-and-let-live out into the street and beaten it to death and left its creme de carcass for the birds (who are, apparently, all assholes.) But, I digress.  For this day, Memorial Day, I am striving to teach my children love for their country, respect for their military, and honor for their family, and occasionally that includes revving up the grill and turning on the sprinklers to play in the water.

 

But, we all known I do CrossFit, too, and a Memorial Day CrossFit tradition is the hero WOD Murph.  To take your Murph workout to the absolute next level watch the documentary The Protector, and also The Lone Survivor.  (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen either of these films because I am an absolute chicken shit about watching movies were the events happened to very real people.  I think I may have an overactive empathy gland.) If you didn’t read the link, Murph is a simple but brutal workout, which if done 100% as written, includes wearing a 20 pound vest (I did not wear the vest since I consider the permanent attachment of ass and chest to equal about 20 disbursed pounds.). (Which reminds me, I should write about the 2014 genesis of the #kennyz hashtag.) (I think I’ll start writing exclusively in parentheses.  It feels like we’re having a secret conversation.)  Where was I? Awww yisss… Murph.

1 mile run + 100 pull ups + 200 push ups + 300 air squats + 1 mile run.

I’ve been doing CrossFit since 2013. I’ve been asked to complete Murph, or a scaled variant, each year.

2013 – “George, wanna do Murph?”

l2jjrldqt3j1oq3vy

2014 – “Hey, George, are you signed up fo-“

jj59hg2dgq2ys

2015 – “George, let’s do a partner Murph.”

r459x856iff6w

2016 – “George, you’re doing Murph.” 

ls6ahtmyhu760

I mean, let’s be honest here.  Since moving to NY I’ve been exercising more than I’ve really been doing anything else other than complaining and doing laundry, therefore approaching Murph solo should be well within the realm of actual reality.  Right? RIGHT?? Right.  Concordantly, I made a plan.

1) Get to the gym and exude confidence.  Shock and awe, man, shock and awe.

n2xz35dlkh5xq

2) Warm up the ankles, shoulders, and intercostal clavicle.  Stretch out the hamstrings and achilles.  Always be time for stretching.

gnhyg8i1e8kwy

3) Stake out my pull up bar and guard it with territorial simian fierceness.

l3ucvawxyutwrpemw

4) Pose up together with everyone else going in the 8am heat for a group picture.

DKNfefu

5) 3-2-1 Go! The plan called for an 00:11:30-00:12:00 first mile, which I accomplished (yay!). Then it was onto ten rounds of 10 pull ups, 20 push ups, and 30 air squats.  Nothing to do here but put your head down and knuckle in.

Big Pile of Shit - Jurassic Park (credit to uEditingAndLayout) - Imgur

 Small hiccup in the plan in round 8 when my palm started to tear on the pull ups. I waved my microscopic injury at Coach Phil who gave me his patented, “Really, George? Really?” look but still gave me a replacement scale for my already scaled pull ups: hollow rocks.  I threw the finger at the pull up bar and kept working.

osqqole0iyazm

6) I wanted to complete the 10 rounds before the clock hit the 60 minute time cap to get on that last mile run.  At 00:51:somethingorother I stood up my last air squat and Coach Phil, known for his effective motivational motivating, yelled at me, “GET OUT!!” which I did and it looked a lot like this:

3u9nnjtzkmuls

But about 20 yards later the rest of my run looked like this.

DWh39A7

7) I came skidding back into the gym where the clock read 65:40.

slippingpenguin

I had done it! I had completed a full Murph on my own!

JqxwRzm

And, when the negative side of my brain tried to diminish my efforts by telling myself, “Well, you scaled cuz you used a band on the pull ups and were on your knees for the push ups and everyone did it faster than you so you’re not exactly hot shit on a silver salver.” I told myself to STFU.

9E3VNXl

 It was a genuine accomplishment four years in the making.  So, I went back to victory mode.

5ph7fufafemdc

And, then I went into victory eating mode.

rqokbugky7f5u

And, then I went into victory napping mode.

decrqckein7iw

The View From The Top Of The Rope

Hungry?  Sorry.  I got nuthin.  Maybe try this?


I accomplished my first ever rope climb about a week ago.

itdbtecstfsvo

And, that got me to thinking (which in itself can be problematic) about “the view from the top of the rope,” as Coach Ben put it. Which then got me thinking about the entire process of accomplishment. Then I got wrapped up in second guessing what I wanted to say which ultimately ended up with me opining about nothing cohesive or actually useful.  I’d rather just shut up than accidentally sound like a David Wolfe meme.

inspirational-quote

But, back to the subject of success. When we moved from New Mexico to Texas I was grossly overweight and on antidepressant and anti anxiety medication.  Within a year of our move to Texas I discovered CrossFit, which is sort of only halfway true because Matthew had been CrossFitting for nearly two years by then and could do all the things. We all know the story. My time at CrossFit Toro Grande could best be described as teaching a person how to drive for the first time.  There’s a lot of fits and starts, stalls, shredded clutch bearings, confusion, whip lash, and frustration.  Basically, every workout looked like this.

rjlnphqxfrw7e

The progress and measurable gainz were steady and motivating and it dusted off an aspect of myself I’ve grown to really enjoy and identify with.  Now we live in New York and I workout at CrossFit Mount Kisco and the workout scenario still looks like that, only now I’m using more weight, and going faster!   All the work and all the time and all the foundation that was laid all those days in Texas combined with focus, intensity, and charisma of New York have coalesced in a rain of personal records unlike anything I had ever expected to see, all leading up to the surprise PR of 2016: The rope climb.

Moving to New York  jolted me into a new and refined focus for my body goals. When you have no social circle, you’re new to town, and the only thing you know how to do is clean toilets, cook food, and do CrossFit you quickly find oneself at a crossroads: Cloister myself at home and go back to a life of excuse-driven emotional eating and watch everything I worked for over the previous months disappear, OR get my ass back into a gym. Given the relative newness of my active lifestyle compared to the longer backstory of, y’know, not that, history favored eating.

tptvl9hzsrw6q

Consequently, it is of remarkable noteworthiness that Dignity intervened and with a hand on her hip and an annoyed look on her face said, “George.  Really?” to which I replied, “What?” all indignant and shit. Then Self said, “Listen to Dignity, George, she’s on to something here.” and I was all, “Why are you guys ganging up on me?” and that’s when Pride swaggered in rolling her eyes and barked, “Quit being a twit. You’re gonna get fat again.” Dignity shot Pride a frown and interjected, “What Pride means is all the work you put in over the last couple of years will be lost and I’d hate to see you start at level zero again.” And Pride backed it up with, “Oh for gawd’s sake put the ice cream down.” Now, like, no one takes my ice cream so I got all pissy, but that’s when Self Control stepped in and swatted the ice cream out of my hands and took a selfie with my phone.

Ursula_rising_to_power

“Is that what you want?” Pride asked, an insufferable know-it-all smirk on her ageless face. I chewed my lip and thought for a moment. “No,” I replied quietly. “I didn’t hear you, what was that?” asked Self, clearly enjoying herself.  “No,” I repeated more confidently. Self sat back and crossed her arms and gave Dignity a knowing look, “Finish her,” Self muttered to Dignity.  Dignity looked me dead in the eye and said, “It’s not me.  It’s you. Either you get back to the gym or I’m leaving you forever.” My eyes flicked open wide as I considered the implications of Dignity’s threat.  No Dignity? If Dignity moves out so does Pride cuz those bitches are tight. And Self Control will follow Pride and Dignity like a little sheep and if Self Control goes all the rest of the Sorority of Gamma George Gamma will depart for sunnier shores and all I’ll be left with are the freeloading hags Depression, Anxiety, and Excuses.  Uhhhhh…. No thank you.

lelrd773cy7sg

Success Step 1: Having enough dignity to stick to my goals, even in the midst of ultimate upheaval and change.  In fact, goals really are nothing more than change maps.  Goals cannot exist without change.  So, goals.

Success Step 2: Trusting in the process that has yet to fail.  The process of show up, do work, repeat.  Apply liberally to all areas wanting improvement, which, if you’re me, is in all the areas.

Success Step 3: Letting Pride be a source of motivation, but that’s it.  Pride can be duplicitous and cahoot about with Negative Self Talk who we all know is besties with Poor Self Image and seriously if they get to talking it’s like no one else can get a word in edgewise.   Don’t confuse Pride with Dignity.  Dignity is in this deal for the long haul physical and mental benefits.  Pride is in it for smaller pants as soon as possible.

Success Step 4: Try.  Try.  Try. Try.  Try the heavier weight.  Try the longer run.  Try the leaner meat. Try the sauteed kale.  Try to string one extra rep into that series of ten reps to get to eleven, then twelve, then thirteen and so on.  Try not putting the wall ball down. Try. Try the rope climb for the elevendieth time even though you’ve never done anything other than fail.  Failure is more indicative of success than the actual success is.  (Ugh.  I still sound like David Wolfe, don’t I.)

Success Step 5: Humble pie is my new favorite food.  See Success Step 3.

Success Step 6: Let your coach be critical and encouraging. If there’s nothing to criticize there’s nothing to improve on and if I can’t be receptive to criticism and correction then I’ve already failed completely.   Let your friends be encouraging. Be encouraging to your friends. Change, “Yeah, well I scaled” to “Yeah, I did the work.”  Be generous giving high fives and gracious when receiving them. Be truthful with your reps and with your scores! Not every day can be a Pollyanna romp through a daisy filled meadow, but what we are supposed to learn from Pollyanna isn’t that everything is joyfully perfect but that joy can be perfected in everything.  (Oh my, look at all the animated singing birds flyin around!)

r7jfr0adaczqa

What does the view look like from the top of the rope?  I can see all my goals laid out like a landscape, some are closer and some will take longer to get to.  That mountain way out in the distance? That’s Muscle Up Mountain, and one day I’ll get to summiting it.  For now, I’m navigating the Pull Up Foothills, which shares a border with the Valley of Unscaled Push Ups. Somewhere between the two I expect is the verdant glade of Double Unders.  Beyond the Crest of Chest To  Bar pull ups, before reaching the white water rapids of Strict Hand Stand Push Up River is the broad expansive plateau where RXville lives in peace and harmony with StrictMovementopolis.  And, all along the road I’ll be traveling I will be visiting the villages Cardiosskill, Endurancetown, and the federated municipalities of DontEatStupidCrap Castle.  It’s a pretty great view.  It’s a view that says I’ve got a long journey still ahead of me. The top of the rope isn’t the end of a climb, it’s just a new way to see where I’m going. So…. Off I go!

beautiful_view_from_the_hill_1680x1050

via openwalls.com

 

Close door. Drop Mic. Take a bow. It’s done.

Hungry?  I’ve been thinking about the good ol’ 505 lately, so I made red chile pork posole in my crock pot. My recipe comes from memory and a container of Bueno Red Chile, but you could use this.  It’s not necessarily paleo unless you adjust it some, but it will feed your soul and there’s a lot of benefit to that.


 

Welp, the Crossfit Games Open 2016 is over. I think I speak for many and most when I shout a hearty, “GOOD RIDDANCE!” Now, let’s talk about how it went.

In summary:

ygcr1flyxsv2w

In more specific detail:

16.1 – 20 Min AMRAP walking lunges and other stuff.

8vlnmmijjby7c

I tried hard, but perhaps a different strategy would have yielded better results.  It’s only in the last week I’ve figured out how to optimize jumping pull ups.  Data that would’ve been useful here.

16.2 – Increasing clock of stupid cardio crap and squat clean ladder.

The cardio parts pretty much looked like this the whole time (Thank you, jump rope).

pj99co0s8xm5i

But, the squat cleans had me feeling super swole.

nlyiwqswidfam

I set my eyes on a goal and when I got there I allowed myself to feel good about the effort.  Good enough to drink a vodka and soda that night, as I recall.

16.3 – 7 minute AMRAP of power snatch and bar muscle ups.  Or not.  Mostly Not.  

13gqdqyb4jiwic1

This workout left me feeling completely disrespected.How hard could a jumping chest to bar pull up be? Honestly, how hard? Oh, I see.  Impossible. And, just when I thought my day was done after 7 minutes the incredulous voice of my coach boomed across the gym saying, and I quote, “I would never program just a seven minute workout, that’s ridiculous.” Then he pointed at the board upon which was written a partner workout of 100 reps of all the things.  The whole day was one big NOPE.

16.4 – 13 minute AMRAP of death by counts of 55.

After the relative humiliation of the week prior I may have approached this with some excessive bravado.

uefhfdtg5ep8a

My goal was to finish the 55 calorie row, and I had no further aspirations.  So, when it became clear I was certainly going to finish the row, my coach came up behind me and yelled, and I quote, “FALL OFF THE ROWER AND GET TO YOUR PUSH UPS!” It was an effective motivator, and looked a lot like this:

3cjxhy5auodm4

I got five hand release push ups completed before the clock dinged.  To set a goal and meet that goal is, like, the most satisfying feeling EVER.

wegtqmarc0nju

This one was almost as validating as 16.2.  Almost.

16.5 – Repeat of 14.5 which no one ever asked for ever. 

There seemed to be two general reactions, judging by the Twitverse.  (Or is it Twitterverse? Or Twitsphere? I don’t know.)

 

There was no time cap.  Just giant endless carts supplying the thruster and burpee buffet.  Lucky for us at CrossFit Mount Kisco we’d tested this wod some months prior and the coach said, and I quote, “Lucky for us did this recently! We’ve got some times to beat!” Then he posted a picture of the results whiteboard from the previous time, the revelation of which yielded one of two general reactions.

Initially, I thought my previous time was near the 30 minute mark. But, it was 21:19. And, it was 10 pounds lighter.  How does one PR their weight AND time? By deciding to, evidently.  Or by accident.  I think a little of both is actually what happened.   Ultimately, I ended up with three PRs: 1) Used a 45# bar; 2) Finished under my 20 minute goal at 19:54; 3) Completed the first 21 thrusters unbroken.  UN. BROKEN.  UN. HEARD OF. Was I happy? Darn tootin’.

riq6aspiqo2k0

 

Epilogue. 

In the scaled individual women category I ended up in 1,499th place in my region, and a stellar 13,777th place worldwide and TAH-DAH!  It’s done. $20 well spent?  At a minimum it seems to have paid for my steerage class ticket on the bullet train to Gainztown, so I’m content.

pvhbiyprfbk92

16.1 and 16.2 plus Unicorn Dust

Hungry? Well, too bad.  It’s the Open.  All you should be eating is haunch of boar and the occasional brussels sprout.  Just kidding.  Try this.


 

The CrossFit Games Open is upon us and so far I’ve survived the first two workouts.  Mostly.  Since this is my first ever paid-for-a-seat-in-the-Open experience I thought it would be fun to review the experience.  I could be wrong, but let’s see where this goes.

16.1 (a.k.a., Ass Assasin)


The announcement played out much like you might have thought, with very fit people doing very fit things.  I think it may be possible that CrossFit HQ is reading my blog because low and behold they integrated average athletes into the actual aired and featured workout! That was wonderful.  You’re welcome, CFHQ.  You know where to find me if you need any other super marketable ideas.  After watching the WOD I mentally decided that my goal would be five rounds.  Five seemed doable.

If you didn’t watch the video, the workout was prescribed as follows:

25-ft. overhead walking lunge
8 bar-facing burpees
25-ft. overhead walking lunge
8 chest-to-bar pull-ups

Men lunge 95 lb.
Women lunge 65 lb.

That’s not what I did, though, because I’m firmly in the not-even-kidding-scaled-athlete camp, so that meant:

25-ft. front rack walking lunge
8 bar-facing burpees
25-ft. front rack walking lunge
8 jumping chin-over-bar pull-ups

Men lunge 45 lb.
Women lunge 35 lb.

Like 99.9999% of people signed up for the Open, I did the workout the next Friday. I walked into the gym and saw colored tape marking out lanes and looking eerily similar to a complex network of runways at a high volume airport.  I chose a rickety chalk lane in the far corner, and in terms of strategery this was a poor choice because it ticked rep-less time off the clock as I moved back and forth between my bar path and my jumping pull up station.   3-2-1 and GO gets called and I move off in a steady, although not spritely, pace averaging 8-9 lunges per 25 feet.  Burpees are, well, burpees.  Truthfully, by the time I get to about 20 burpees it starts to feel like I’m trying to fold an orange with all that bending. And jumping pull ups are what they are.  You jump and pull up.  Twenty minutes is a long workout, and of all the workouts that one could watch this was probably one of the most droningest boringest ones created since Cindy, so hats off to all you coaches who had to watch gawd knows how many iterations of that silliness.

54pad9dwt0go

At the end of 20 minutes, I had achieved my goal! Five founds plus 10 extra reps saw me come in with what I thought was a respectable 140 reps.  Then everyone else started callouchie-doging in their numbers and I realized that I must’ve been standing still, or lunging in slow motion, or standing still.  Mostly standing still, apparently.  So, while I did make my goal happen, it was clear that I hadn’t pushed myself nearly as hard as I should have or could have.  But, by the time I accepted this DOMS had settled into my cheekular muscles with alarming and focused intensity.  Like, my ass was on FIRE and not in a gaseously punitive way.

By Friday night, stairs stopped being stairs and became horrid abominations of torture.

2b6

So, understanding how I felt after five rounds I promptly entered my score into the Games website and called it good.   By Monday night at 9pm, I was ranked 10,977 in the Open for workout 16.1.

16.2 (a.k.a., Farewell, Grip. I hardly knew Thee.)

This workout was filmed in a home garage gym in North Carolina and judging by Castro’s arctic explorer outfit it must’ve been cold.  The workout was a ladder-style workout, well considered and well designed.  The scaled options are in italics.

Beginning on a 4-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
25 toes-to-bars (hanging knee raises)
50 double-unders (single unders)
15 squat cleans, 135 / 85 lb. (95/55)

If completed before 4 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 toes-to-bars (hanging knee raises)
50 double-unders (single unders)
13 squat cleans, 185 / 115 lb. (115/75)

If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 toes-to-bars (hanging knee raises)
50 double-unders (single unders)
11 squat cleans, 225 / 145 lb. (135/95)

If completed before 12 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 toes-to-bars (hanging knee raises)
50 double-unders (single unders)
9 squat cleans, 275 / 175 lb. (155/115)

If completed before 16 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
25 toes-to-bars (hanging knee raises)
50 double-unders (single unders)
7 squat cleans, 315 / 205 lb. (175/135)

Stop at 20 minutes.

I thought to myself, Self, this is really a workout you could enjoy! After all, who doesn’t like squat cleans? The rest of it was not exactly my favorite, but endurable to see how far I could get with them squat cleans.  I set my sights at three rounds.  I wanted to get at those 95lb bars.  I walked into the gym feeling all swole and shit, wearing my PR pants and everything.

dingwall-bodyguard

And, what do you suppose happens? Oh, just guess.  No?  OK.  Apparently you’re a sucker for happy endings.  I totally made it five reps into the 95lb squat cleans before the 12 minute cap. I felt elated, pumped, and nauseous all at the same time.  My last rep had me all like,

ugly-face-meme

This workout tempted me with the idea of a redo, but to be completely honest, it was unlikely I’d magically complete 11 reps at 95 pounds, so contentment settled in, a drink got poured, and I posted my score of 258 reps and a tie breaker time of 10:01.   As for coming in somewhere in the middle of the pack? I’m calling lower one third, but who’s counting.  Oh yeah, those database jerks at CrossFit. Well, drink that score in, database jerks.  Drink. It. In. Also, what’s CrossFit without a dose of humility with a heaping side of smashed ego? While I’m riding high on my little 5 rep accomplishment, there are a lot of folks  in the scaled division that almost finished or ACTUALLY DID FINISH this workout! Y’all are amazing .  AHHH-Mazing.

SO. Now, what does this all mean? Well, nothing if you’re not tracking the CrossFit Games Open or concerned in any way about my fitness levels and their relative increases or decreases.  Yet, from my own view as an active participant in CrossFit and shepherd to my gainz this has been nothing short of extraordinary.  While I’m not a full convert to the idea of paying money to enjoy the rewards of the Open I am suspicious that in doing so I have a more visceral investment for the outcome of each week.

  1. 95lb squat clean is 90% of my currently known 1 rep of 105lb
  2. I need longer legs if I’m going to participate in a lunge workout like that again.
  3. My grip strength is improving noticably, allowing me greater endurance on gymnastics movements, even if my knee raises looked more like hanging grand mal seizures.
  4. Having a great person counting reps, judging, and encouraging makes ALL the difference between making the goal like an EFFING MAN and just making the goal and wondering if I could have done better.
  5. Extra work pays off.  I’m going to keep on doing extra work.

6bc

Why I’m Not Signing Up For The CrossFit Open

Hungry? Start following SpunkySmash for healthy food prep tips, recipes, and ideas!


 

1. It takes money.  My money.  

January is the season of endless streams of commentary from the Shredded and Ripped camp of super mega athletes whose job it is to exercise.  Posts of their triple digit weight lifts, rope climbs, hand stand walks, and running across sandy beaches clenching a 2 pood kettle bell in their teeth explode all over Instagram and Twitter like shit out of a confetti cannon.  Their exploits are compiled into videos like these.

Darn it all if they aren’t all Shredded and Ripped. If you watch this closely, though, you’ll agree these are people who’ve lost touch with their basic survival instinct.

Now, little people like my self (where little is a euphemism for NOT a member of the Shredded and Ripped club) watch those videos and feel pumped up and motivated, right?  NO! These videos fail to excite, fail to motivate, fail to inspire.  They represent a level of commitment that is unrelatable, something I will most likely never experience, and I am absolutely OK with that.

But, Adventure Cooker, CrossFit is about competing against yourself and being the best athlete you can be.  You don’t have to be the strongest, or the fastest, you just have to try the hardest.

Agreed.  And, since that’s true, I don’t understand why I have to give someone $20 to compete against myself when I’m already paying my affiliate to do the same thing. What does that $20 buy me?

  • An athlete profile on their website
  • The opportunity to see myself ranked against the other athletes in my region, country, and the world at large.
  • The pride of completing The Open workouts.

Imuscles_funny_geek_shirt-reabaef828bb84cec9ea7f3f8569b933a_jyr6t_324ncidentally, completing The Open workouts is non optional anyway, as they are the required WOD in any gym the Friday after the workout is announced.  So, I’m paying to have my name put on a leader-board that no one looks at beyond checking to see where Rich Froning is in the standings and I’m paying to do workouts I’d be obligated to do anyway.  I’m pretty damn prideful for completing ANY workout, much less an Open workout.  (Also, CrossFit HQ doesn’t even mail out participation ribbons which is pretty lousy.)  What I want is an option to sign up for The Open in the scaled division where the registration money goes back to my affiliate.

 

2. Bringing down the team average

When you sign up for The Open you’re required to identify your affiliate, and also identify your “team” which, in my case, is also the name of my affiliate.   This suggests that the scores (or non scores) I put up in The Open also reflect against the large gym group as a whole. So, while the big dawgs roll all kinds of RX whilst and at the same time I will be scrambling along trying to meet the requirements of the scaled division.  It’s anxiety triggering to think that my performance could impact the chances of other people around me. Especially if those people have actual aspirations made of actual skill.

But, Adventure Cooker, CrossFit is all about community, and supporting each other, and doing our very best!

Let’s all remember that when y’all’re tempted to beat me with PVC pipes in the parking lot after I DNF another workout because it required some twist skill that I hadn’t anticipated like hand stand dead lifts or some weird shit they invent this year. suck-at-crossfit

There should be room at regionals for the last place finishers of The Open.  Imagine how insane the crowd would be rooting on the under dogs, for the people who’ve committed to change  and actually accomplished it! If we tout the community aspect of The Open then regionals should be similarly open to those people who’ve made it across the biggest hurdles.  Crossfit HQ is missing out on a stupendous opportunity.

 

3. CrossFit HQ doesn’t need my participation to find the Fittest On Earth

Seriously.  At no time will my being signed up for The Open in any way alter the outcome of the Shredded and Ripped gladiators convention.

kitteh-guns

 

4. Everyone gets a magical PR unicorn except me

2013 was my first year doing CrossFit and I wouldn’t have known about The Open if you held a gun to my head and told me to Google it.  2014 I knew what it was and enjoyed watching other people do it, given that this was before they offered a “scaled” option.  2015 I was in the throes of healing my back injury so even if I wanted to sign up (which I didn’t) I couldn’t. Every year there has been an avalanche of videos, and posts, and articles that bragged off (and rightfully so) the athletes who suddenly and inexplicably punched through walls and ceilings to achieve PR upon PR as if the stress of The Open allowed them to shed their human exoskeleton and release the beast within.  It was like all those weight loss programs and health drinks that show you the giant, unhappy, mud-clogged house hippo and then a flashing star swirls across the screen and says, “10 weeks later!!” and the hippo is now a svelt and sleek impala of the suburban Serengeti.  Show side by side comparison photos, talk about being your best self now for only eighty dollars a day and fade to black.  Does signing up for The Open gave you magical eagle powers?

tumblr_mt7ag5zpgy1s2tgozo1_250

Apparently, yes. While the PR scenario might be very real for certain people, I have felt grounded and confident that this house hippo was happy riding towards the rear of the Gainz Train understanding that the supernatural PR pixie dust is reserved for the front cars.

But, Adventure Cooker, you do have eagle powers! You just have to keep putting in the work! Your PRs are significant for you! And, minimizing your accomplishments with insanely witty self deprecation is unnecessary!

crossfit-oprah

 

5. I am a CrossFit atheist

Everyone who has been involved with CrossFit for a year or less already knows the three patron saints of CrossFit.

greg-glassman

Our Lord and Savior, Greg Glassman

 

dave-castro

St Castro of Dave, First of his name, prophet from the tribe of WOD Announcers, and Malevolent Giver of Zero Effs

 

rich-froning

The Archangel Froning, Smiter of Competitions and Wielder of Lats

 

kool-aid-man-crossfit

We have all knelt at the alter of functional fitness and drank the sacramental Kool-Aid, right? We have all been born again in a hail of sweat bullets leaving our sorry, excuse-riddled meat tubes behind going forth in salvation of gains everlasting, right? We are quick to defend the honor of our glorious CrossFit HQ living, except for St Castro of Dave whom we all agree has a well manicured douche-canoe public persona.  AND WOE TO THEE WHO CALLETH DOWN THE WRATH OF THE ARCHANGEL FRONING! FOR HE SHALL SMOTE YOUR RUIN UPON THE BLADCK MATS! AND THEN PROBABLY GO SHOOTETH SOME GUNS AND RIDETH HIS 4-WHEELER!

I don’t care if Mr Glassman touts the Open as a communal challenge between friends, or some sort of broader community building event.  Realistically, each time I get to the gym and see the people I work out with every day is how the communal community gets built.  It also gets built at happy hours.  But, at the end of the day, what Glassman and Castro are looking for are the biggest of all the big dawgs and people like myself are of low consequence to their program.

But, Adventure Cooker, that’s not true! Greg Glassman loves us all and accepts us all where we are! If it wasn’t for Greg Glassman none of us would be here! Greg Glassman just wants us all to be healthy! You’re hateful, Adventure Cooker! Talking about Greg Glassman like that… *ugly cries*

Mr Glassman is an exceedingly wealthy man thanks in large part to getting to a very thirsty market first and I’m sure he’s a lovely man.  Even so, again I go back to the question about why my $20 is so damn critical for The Open to be conducted.  It’s hype, and craze, and frenzy that drives this many people to sign up for an activity only 12 people per region per division will ever see benefits from.  I won’t diminish the zealot believer that CrossFit is the one true road, and The Open is the fitness version of Lent leading to the climactic end, but I remained reticent, and here’s why.

The Open ain’t shit if your coach turns into an enabling sack of garbage for five fridays in a row.  Duh, right? Stay with me here. During The Open a coach’s gym becomes a frothing pit of competitive hormones, and the wrong coach will let it go unchecked throughout the 5 weeks and end up with a whole pile of athletes that are broken.  A good coach will continue coaching across each workout whereas a bad coach will let you go all Tasmanian devil for the untenable hope of good scores.  A good coach will remind athletes to check their egos and to put on their invisible thinking caps to remember safety and form.  A good coach will look at The Open with pragmatic eyes, and their athletes with even keener attention.  The Open makes people go score mad, and a good coach can keep them from redlining straight into a preventable injury.  I am not blind to how fortunate I’ve been with my coaches.  So, I would rather laud them.

  • Coach Laurie, Conductor of the TX Gainz Train
  • Coach Ben, maker of Unicornz and provoker of #kennyz
  • Coach Mike, giver of first opportunities and tolerator of me
  • Coach Dave the Stoic and taker of no shit
  • Coach Gene, programmer of daily crucibles
  • Coach Phil, giver of work, gifter of PRs, distributor of sarcasm

Thank you for doing what you do.  You are who builds the community.  You are who creates communal connection.

6. I’m not doing it. I’m not signing up. 

In summary,

  • I don’t want to give them my money
  • I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s chances for glory
  • I don’t want to give them my money
  • I don’t want to give in to peer pressure
  • I don’t want to give them my money.
  • I don’t think Holy Trinity of CrossFit need my money

Well crap.  None of that sounds very convincing.

But, Adventure Cooker, it’ll be fun!

Really?!  Sweet!  Here’s my athlete profile.

fry-take-my-money

Because SALT

Hungry? Try Dave Wendel’s Flank Steak Roulade.  Because it’s really fun to say roulade. Rouuulaaaaade.


Guess what? No, really, guess.  Give up? The health benefits of sea salt compared to table/iodized salt are….. The same.  Sea salt can give you hypertension just as easily as table salt. Table salt lacks mineral value but sea salt doesn’t impart any in a valuable way. Why? you cry, wringing your hands and cradling your jars of artisan salts.  Because it’s ALL sodium chloride.  Dressing NaCl in a prom dress and taking it to the rodeo doesn’t suddenly make it something different, so whether your salt is mined or evaporated it’s still salt and a moderation-required commodity.  So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get on to talking about salt in deep, intellectual tones.

world-gourmet-sea-salt-sampler-6

From time to time I get asked about salt and most of my information is rather incomplete so I figured I’d get real with myself about salt.  The duh facts are that all salt is a mineral mostly comprised of sodium chloride (NaCl), and if you’re curious about the specifics of rock salt in its crystalline form read up on halite .  My curiosity revolves more around the types of commercially available salt, what are the mineral variances between salts, and why would those variances be beneficial.

Salt comes from mines or it comes from salt water. The process of salt mining is actually very interesting, but not terribly relevant to this conversation.  The world’s two largest mining salt producers are China and U.S.A, respectively.  I’m guessing China is in the lead mostly because they have fewer regulations and a considerably worse human rights record, but I digress. Salt water processing is equally interesting (and actually way more hipstery in some cases) involving  evaporation, patience, time, in some cases using only wooden tools, and in others using bamboo and mud.  On small scales it’s a beautiful process to watch.  On large scales it’s positively remarkable.

There are eight (8) common categories of salt: Fleur De Sel, Sel Gris, Flake Salt, Infused salt, Smoked Salt, Rock Salt, Traditional Salt, Shio Salt.  Within these categories there are hundreds of varieties each with distinct uniqueness.  Frankly, one’s head could explode trying to comprehend all of this; but, what a diverse and surprisingly deep subject salt can actually be! I’m not going to get hyper sophisticated with my salt conversation, so if you want details I suggest going over to The Meadow.    I’m going to stick to the most common salts I use.

Epsom Salt

It’s not meant to be edible.  Also, it’s a laxative.  Soooo….

Iodized Table Salt

Table salt is a highly processed mined rock salt purified to remove most of any preexisting trace minerals leaving behind 97-99% sodium chloride. To this they add iodine any one of a variety of non clumping agents, some of which could be argued as being of questionable safety. In essence, table salt is a concentrated version of unprocessed salt.

Everyone knows that the human body requires trace amounts of iodine, but why?

Most of the body’s iodine stores are in the thyroid gland, which requires the mineral for synthesis of the hormones it secretes. An iodine deficiency leads to an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), slowed metabolism, and weight gain, as well as other symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue and intolerance of cold, as well as neurological, gastrointestinal, and skin abnormalities. – Dr Weil

It’s common knowledge that iodine supplementation can come from non salt sources like salt water fish, kelp,  and sea vegetables, but also can be found in meat grazed on plants grown in iodine rich soil, and vegetables grown in similar soils. Iodine is available in a variety of places and, depending on your dietary plan, offers a lot of options for integrating it into your diet without having to resort to common iodized table salt.  The bottom line is that even though you’re giving your body the necessary iodine it needs you’re also adding a slew of anti caking agents that your body decidedly doesn’t need.  Incidentally, you can achieve clumping prevention by adding a few grains of white rice to your salt shaker and avoid all the man made versions.  To be clear, table salt isn’t the devil exactly but, it would seem that other salts might be more beneficial.

Kosher Salt

Kosher salt is just a coarse table salt that hasn’t been iodized.  An interesting distinction actually arises from this type of salt where it distinguishes between “kosher certified salt” and “koshering salt”. “Koshering salt” has the “small, flake-like form” useful in treating meat, whereas “kosher certified salt” is salt that has received its hechsher.  In all practicality, though, Kosher salt is really koshering salt, since it’s purpose is to draw blood from the meat in order to make the meat itself kosher.  Kosher salt is a good go to when a recipe calls for coarse grain salt. The folks at Cooks Illustrated did a weighing and measuring comparison if you find yourself in need of it.

1 teaspoon table salt (fine salt) =
1 1/2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt =
2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt  

Himalayan Pink Salt

Mined salts include the oh-so-popular Himalayan Pink Salt, but this one gets interesting very quickly.  What we call Himalayan Pink Salt is actually mined out of the Punjab region of Pakistan but because the foothills of the salt plain are of sufficient proximity it gets to claim Himalayan status. The Khewra Salt Mine is the world’s second largest and dates back to 320B.C. when the salt mine was discovered by Alexander The Great, and currently it produces 320,000 metric tonnes of 99% pure halite annually.  The mine is quarried using the room and pillar process which shoots a gaping hole in naturalists theory that the salt is quietly and peacefully extracted by hand and dynamite isn’t allowed.

In terms of use, Himalayan pink salt can be ground or crushed, used as a garnish, or as table lamps, so that’s fun.  You can also buy blocks carved into dishware, serving platters, and shot glasses.

Masjid_Khewra_Salt_Mine_zdwfo

For myself, I use Himalayan salt more topically on meat and eggs and less in soups, stews, gravies, broths, or baked items. Himalayan pink salt gets its pink color from the presence of iron oxide, and it is alleged that there are anywhere from 84-88 beneficial minerals present within the salt crystal, so the question naturally becomes, is that true? And, if true what are those minerals? Happily, The Meadow has posted a spectral analysis of the salt crystal, which is worth checking out.  (Seriously, The Meadow is a fascinating place.) Now you’ve probably skimmed right over all that stuff, but if you go back through it you find very faint traces of radioactive particles like plutoniums, uranium, radium, and polonium.  But, like, no duh, these levels are hardly worth mentioning in terms of the overall mineral benefits of the salt.  However, if you really want to mess with the ultra health guru who touts that Himalayan salt is the key to radiant health and total wellness and spiritual happiness and a fuller head of hair tell them it contains radioactive properties.  Moreover, the amount of minerals are described as PPM (parts per million) so the mineral gains are minuscule in true reality and can’t be counted on as sufficiently adequate in terms of useful supplementation.  I.e., don’t give up your multi vitamin in favor of chewing on chunks of Himalayan pink salt.

Sea Salt

Sea salt comes from evaporated sea water.  The mineral composition varies based on the location and the method of how the water is evaporated, but just like Himalayan salt, the mineral benefits are minimal and the prime distinctions actually come from flavor and intensity.  (Can you tell I’m learning that salt is more about flavor characteristics than about any touted mineral gains?)  Here are some of the salts I’ve used.

French Red Sea Salt
I’ve used a lot of French Red Sea Salt with Sea Vegetables in my broths and I’ve always been fond of the flavor it provides.  It gets its red color from algea which doesn’t dissipate in the evaporation process. And, what have we learned so far? That the sea vegetables add necessary iodine to the salt, so if I had to pick one salt to use forevermore it would be this one.  Now, if you dig under the surface of French Sea Salt you’ll find an increasingly complex variety of salts, including flake versus grain and levels of grain an on and on and on.

Brittany Coast Gray Sea Salt
Also known as Celtic Sea Salt, the one I had was a large, moist grain salt.  For this reason, I used this salt exclusively in broth making and felt like it added a nice briny tinge to my products.  The bottom of a french salt pan could be composed of clay, basalt, sand, concrete, or even tile, protecting the salt from coming into contact with the silt that develops as part of the evaporation process.  Gray salt is allowed to contact the bottom of the salt pan and therefore the silt contained therein. Incidentally, this trick works for other regional sea salts, not just the French ones.  More minerals? You ask, excitedly.  No, I say.

Atlantic Sea Salt
This is more of a flake salt, but it’s nice enough for all cooking purposes.  I love how these folks describe what they do.

“We hand-harvest seawater from the shores off of historic Gloucester, Massachusetts. Between the naturally high salinity of the North Atlantic, the strong tides, and the local shellfish that act as natural filters, we couldn’t have picked a better spot. After harvesting, we further filter the seawater to make sure it’s as clean as can be, and then we apply heat. The water evaporates, and the flakes remain, thanks to this simple, traditional process – magic!”

Seriously, I’m going to start describing washing underpants like this until everyone believes what I do is some sort of artisanal process handed down from the folks singers of antiquity.

We start with only the purest water, heated to the perfect temperature.  We add our fine grained cleansing agent when the moment is right to optimize the natural removal of stains, odors, and skid marks. Our process works, and is is aided by combining polyester with the most premium threads derived from the cotton fibers grown in the mineral packed red soils of the humidity rich southern states of America.

Red Clay Hawaiian Sea Salt
This is a deep sea salt that is treated with volcanic clay called ‘Alaea.  Yay MINERALS! Calm down.  It’s a neat idea and for sure adds a flavor profile that’s unique, but at the end of the day it’s still salt.

Black Hawaiian Sea Salt
Another deep sea salt that is combined with activated coconut shell charcoal called, Uhai. Here we can actually talk about benefits since activated charcoal is known as a digestive aide, but remember it’s coating a salt crystal, so any benefits you might hope to gain will be tempered by the natural consequences of salt ingestion.  But, it is awfully dramatic and pretty.

Chihuahuan Smoked Salt
I can’t find out if this is a rock salt or sea salt base so we’ll include it here with the sea salts, but what everyone agrees on is that it is smoked using mesquite wood from the Chihuahua region of Mexico.  The salt is smoked for up to 14 days and creates an intensity that has to be used with consideration.  Too much and your food tastes like a soggy cigarette.  Too little and you don’t taste it (obviously).  If you’re going to listen to the World Health Organization this salt will give you cancer because it’s got smoke and smoke is bad, you see?

Did you know….

There is such a thing as blue salt? Persian Blue salt is harvested from Iran, is a natural rock salt and is dotted with blue crystals which are salt crystals that have been highly compressed, causing them to turn blue. I’d totally want to get my hands on some of this to try it if I wasn’t so darn worried about sponsoring terrorism.

persian_blue_salt-alati_ble_persias

Icelandic Lava Flake Sea Salt is considered to be the only salt produced by geothermal power, the evaporation heat coming from natural geysers. The Meadow says,

The salt is produced in a small bay in the peninsula of Reykjanes (an aspiring Geopark applying for membership in the European Geopark network). The peninsula has an incredible diversity of volcanic and geothermal activity and is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is visible above sea level) and infused with activated charcoal.

We could keep going down the proverbial salt hole, but I think this is where I’m going to stop.  I’m as surprised as you to learn that mineral value in salt is overridden by its chief chemical makeup.  Even though I now have an intellectually basic understanding I’m still going to vary my salts because I can.  Because, ‘MURICA!

Here’s the summary of what we learned:

  1. All salt is sodium chloride and too much sodium is bad for you even if it’s soaked in algea, activated charcoal, or silt.
  2. There are a lot of kinds of salts, with varying methods of extraction.
  3. Deriving mineral benefits from regional salts is most likely in the vein of urban legends: awfully fun to talk about but not entirely true.
  4. Using a variety of salts CAN be fun, though, so have fun!

Time Flies When You’re Pretending Things Are Different

Hungry?  Get cooking with this new Paleo Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen.


You know how life likes to throw curveballs? And, how sometimes those curveballs are really fully ripened spiked durian fruits? And, those durians are being shot out of a rapid firing high velocity canon directly at the peace and tranquility of your delightfully comfortable life?  And, your only shield is a pair of cheap sunglasses and a gobsmacked look on your face?

main_durian284979

2015 was the year of the durian curveball.  I think it’s worth reviewing some of these for the purposes of being grateful things weren’t worse and to take time to make fun of it all since everything in hindsight can be laughed at.  Right?  Right.

That time when I hurt my back and said it was a post pregnancy issue. 

I was riding high on the Gainz Train in Small Group Training when the unexpected happened: I hurt myself.  For someone with such a highly developed sense of self preservation it seemed unlikely that I would ever be able to do that, but there it was.  I hit a box jump wrong and now my low back was right and thoroughly effed.  After roughly a week of trying to resolve the matter myself using liver-shriveling doses of ibuprofen and ice packs I went to a chiropractor.

Dr Chiropractor very cheerfully tried to fold me neatly into thirds, then into a concertina and then into a pentagram.  When he was unsuccessful he cheerfully went after me with a pronged electric hammer of some kind, stuttering it across my hip flexors, striking a series of previously unknown verbal triggers that caused me to spontaneously lash out in a sort of situational Tourettes.  While we gained perhaps a brief increase in range of motion it was offset by the spectacular pain that entombed me from floating ribs to lower ass cheeks.  Finally, Dr Chiropractor rubbed his chin and said something profound.

“Your psoas won’t release,” he said, smiling.

“CRAP! BALLS! *grimace* What, like it’s holding a grudge? SACK! SACK! SACK! *grimace* Or, it’s spasming like a toddler tossed into a shallow pool full of YooHoo and M&Ms? FUUUUUUUUUUDGECICLE ICE POP!!!” I replied through gritted teeth.  Here Dr Chiropractor stands up and points at one of many professional diagrams of the human body.

“This is your psoas,” he smiles, pointing.  I nod even though I can’t really focus my eyes.  “Normally it’s like this,” he laces his fingers together somewhat loosely indicating a supportive, though flexible muscle.  “Right now yours is like this,” he smashes his hands together into an angry fist.  This gives me my first visual queue explaining the source of the relentless, blinding discomfort.

“SSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIII-TUH!” I said, grimacing. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  How do we get it to unfist? YOW WOW OW COW!”

“Well, I think your L5/S1 is putting pressure on a nerve cluster and your psoas is taking a defensive response.  But, to be sure we need to get an MRI to make sure it’s not bulged disc before we start any adjustments.”

Bulged disc. Bulged disc?  How would a fairly healthy, if not slightly overweight, woman in her late 30s come across a bulged disc, you ask?  Well, as it happens, the gift of childbirth is a gift that, for some, can give well past the third trimester into an infinite timeframe of bodily adjustments known hereafter as the fourth trimester. I was in my 4th year of the fourth trimester and the consequences of my second pregnancy were still being discovered, much like one discovers a new dinosaur skeleton: Slowly, over the course of many years using a hand brush to whisk away layers of sediment (aka adipose) to reveal the skeleton trapped in rock (aka years of relative inactivity).

Flash forward two more weeks.  A five day taper of steroids got the psoas relaxed (and suspended all weight loss for 6 months), a change in diet, an MRI that I slept through, and orthopedic spinal surgeon consult yielded that not only was my disc not bulged, there were no other points of concern in the MRI to suggest anything other than a thoroughly pissed off L5/S1.  Add to this several more firing squad sessions with Dr Chiropractor and his pronged hand gun and I was ready to slowly get back to working out.  My coaches set the tone for my 2015 with one simple gesture: generosity.  My small group coach came up with 4 months of progressive rehab programming to rebuild my midline and stabilize the back.  My regular class coach and gym owner suspended my regular membership saving me several hundred dollars until I could re-enter general population again.  I wasn’t going to waste this precious opportunity so I worked out within the bounds of the programming and let me tell you, I was frankly shocked that such simple moves could yield such remarkable feedback.

obiwan-muscles

All I could think about when at the gym was getting back to Dr Chiropractor and his remarkable collapsing table.  When I was at the chiropractor I was thinking about getting back to the gym to keep moving forward, even if it meant routine visits with the Airdyne.

 airdyne

I’ll never ever forget retesting the WOD that I hurt myself on: an 8 minute AMRAP of ascending reps of power snatch and box jumps.  I have never experienced true heart pounding driven fear over an inanimate object like I felt jumping on that box.  Even now my relationship with the box is completely dysfunctional.  But I did it! And that four months was a complete blur.  It was now early May and second high velocity durian had been fired as was due to make landfall shortly.

That time my husband came home and said he accepted a new job.  In New York.  

There are conversations that fall under the category of “necessary but uncomfortable” and then there are others that fall under the category of “Oh, I thought you were kidding.”  The New York job conversation was of the latter sort.  When he first told me about the company’s interest I blew it off as a “Haha, good luck getting us out of Texas you godless yankees!” I hadn’t anticipated on the job being both interesting and profitable. Leaving Texas had never been part of my 2015 Consideration Paradigm, but that’s the funny thing about paradigms.  They tend to shift.  I didn’t say it was funny “haha”.

As a stay at home professional domesticateer I have taken the approach that if my man is happy then the family is happy, especially given that the lion’s share of sacrifices are born on his shoulders.  When he came home and said, “I’ve accepted the job.  We are moving to New York.  What do you think about that?” I admit I felt deflated like a mylar balloon in a cold car, but what I said was, “We are the barnacles on your career boat and we will happily motor into new waters with you.” And, I wasn’t lying.  But, seriously, wow. We were leaving Texas and that made me inexpressibly sad.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that happy Texans hardly see the offer of, “You can visit me in New York! We can go see the city!” as an actual enticement.  They have the whole state of Texas, for chrissake. Why do they need to see an overpopulated urban jungle that lacks queso and relies on public transportation?  Only one person was honest with their reply: Coach Gene.

Gene: Where are you moving?

Me: New York.

Gene: Why?

Me: Matthew’s income is pivotal for our survival.

Gene: How are you going to live in such a tiny fucking state?

Me: It’s not that tiny.  It has the Adirondacks.  Plus, you could come visit me.  We could go see the city!

Gene: No.

In the distance I could almost hear the next durian being shot.

That time I had to get the house ready to be put on the market by myself.

Matthew left to start his new job on Mother’s Day weekend.  I was busy trying to follow the guidelines for the Mystical Voodoo of House Staging in hopes of making our house marketable and appealing.  As if by some dark magic our kid-assaulted and glitter-infused furniture would look less crappy if I took all the family pictures off the wall and had the front door refinished.  In one of the most brilliant Mother’s Day coups of all time my selfless friends, Chuck, Ally, and Matt poured into my home and knocked out a laundry list of niggling little repairs. You know, those kinds of repairs that if we were still living in the house would probably still be undone, but because we were selling it I was 100% sure that someone looking at the house would notice the uneven nature of the seal on the shower door, or the slightly wiggly door knob.  That kind of stuff.   The biggest thing was our front door faced full west (which turned out to be a whole other issue) and the wear of heat, humidity, and sun had done a number on the finish.  Chuck, selfless, giving, caring Chuck sanded and refinished the front door.  This wasn’t no average 8 foot door, no it was a tall 10′ solid wood door positioned in full sun in May, which was high 90s, he stood there, enduring the heat and misery and refinished that door.  That will live in my memory as one of the most giving gestures I’ve ever personally experienced.

By whatever skin on my teeth was left we made our listing deadline, only to have our listing pictures get taken on a dreary, rainy day.  And, everybody knows that dreary rainy pictures make shitty furniture look exponentially more shitty. But there was nothing else to be done.

POW! Next durian!

That time I had to keep a house in show-ready condition with two kids still living in it.

This is a particular brand of hell on earth.  How do you scold your children for living in their own house? It’s very difficult to do it and still make sense.  How do you keep the yard in pristine manicured condition  while wondering what kind of Armageddon is taking place inside? You put on headphones and pretend that the laws of nature and entropy don’t apply to you.  How do you feed your children healthy nutritious meals when you don’t want to smudge up the cooktop?  You don’t.  You feed them a strict diet of Lunchables and Sonic until they plaintively ask when they’ll be getting some grapes and scrambled eggs.  How do you not start panicking when it seems like all the houses around you are selling in one day and yours has been on the market for two weeks? You make yourself a boil on your realtor’s ass until her only option is to drive by several times a day and throw Starbucks at you as a defensive gesture.  How do you survive imbecilic ideas like backyard renovations mere days before leaving for NY? You start bawling in front of one of your friends like a blubbering sack of sad and they offer to help finish the work. How do you deal with a giant black mulch fart stain all over the driveway? You ask your friend’s husband if you can borrow his power washer only to find out he’d rather do it himself because it’s “relaxing”.   How do you manage a moving company coming in and packing your entire world up into boxes loosely labeled “upstairs” and “downstairs” and “garage”? You send your children to the neighbor’s house and dart uselessly from room to room laughing nervously and trying not to chew your lower lip off from unfiltered anxiety.  How do you handle the moving company driving up two massive trucks and playing tetris with all your worldly possessions? You sit in a lawn chair destined for the garbage and slam Topo Chicos singing Talking Head’s Once In A Lifetime.  How do you handle that your house still hasn’t received an offer but it’s time to go? You walk through each room making sure no lights are on, choke back excitement and terror, and go. Bye, house!

4101 Charbray Ct WEB SIZE-2 4101 Charbray Ct WEB SIZE-40

BOOM! Durian!

That time I thought it’d be just as easy to drive to New York as fly and have the car shipped.

No one said I was good at ideas.  I’ve never claimed to be, so no one could point any fingers and say otherwise.  So, plotting a five day route from Texas to New York was fully in keeping with my talents of poor consideration.  We got to New York unscathed and my Texas bestie and co-pilot was still friends with me.

That time my last link to Texas flew home and I realized I had just moved to New York.

Now there’s a feeling.  She gets in the  car and drives to the airport and I go back inside and ugly cry.  There are trees and squirrels everywhere.  Nobody makes eye contact here.  It’s barely in the high 80s and everyone is acting like they’re living on the surface of the sun.  My children want to go out and have fun and I have no idea where to take them.  We are up to our eyeballs in boxes and need unpacking.  So, we started with the basics by finding to the grocery store which was a woeful uruk-hai breeding pit of Isengard compared to the ethereal elvish kingdom of all which is good known as H-E-B.  Salsa aisle? Nope.  BBQ aisle? Ha! Breathtaking stacks of meat? Not quite.  What are rainbow cookies? Oh Lawd, what the hell is espresso soda?  OMG!! THERE’S NO TOPO CHICO!! Add to that my grocery cart wheels were so gummed up with hair, bitterness, and broken spirits that it was incapable of making right turns, so my children and I circled the store making only left turns until it was time to give up and leave.

Next we tried out the neighborhood pool but found it was guarded by a little old Italian man whose only goal was to preserve the quiet, peaceful, non-kid aspect of the pool.  After a testy inquisition related to where we lived in the neighborhood specifically, and did we know the people who lived there before, and were we renting, and what did our landlords say about pool access he let us across the threshold.  My kids have only known our neighborhood pool in Texas which was a roiling octagon of children, families, and good times.  They grabbed their pool rings and jumped into the pool.  LOIM (Little old Italian man) jumped up and declared there was to be no jumping.  Next, they got out some diving toys.  LOIM jumped up and declared there was to be no toys at the pool.  They played and splashed around and LOIM was insistent that they stop that immediately because it was getting the pool deck wet.  For serious. LOIM was very frustrated with us and directed me to the list of rules that were posted on the clubhouse door – no less than 40 rules printed on a single 8×10 piece of paper using a small ass font.  Now, at that moment I came to a crossroads: Do I let mama bear out and maul the LOIM for being the physical manifest of every preconceived douchey notion of what a New Yorker is? Or, do I let it go and make a point of only going to the pool when he’s not there?  Choosing the latter, and most likely staving off potential assault charges, we took significant precautions to only go to the pool during the hours LOIM was off duty, which weren’t many.

Then there was that whole debacle related to trying to get my NY driver’s license and vehicle registration. Four trips to the DMV and spinning the malevolent Roulette Wheel of Arbitrary Requirements to get it done.  Four trips.  Four. The third trip was when I was supposed to get my driver’s license, but they decided I needed to get my marriage certificate to prove the link between my birth certificate name and my social security card name.  Standing there, looking at the DMV worker I realized we were both completely drained of hope.  I had already been there for close to two hours, stood in three separate lines, produced enough proof of identity that even I didn’t want to be me anymore and they wanted one more thing.

“You’re serious?” I whispered, closing my eyes.

“We have to be able to prove you are who you say you are,” She replied flatly.

“That will mean I have to come back here a fourth time,” I pointed out, the will to live leaking out of my pores.

“A fourth time? You’ve been here three times for this task alone?” She asked, her eyebrows arching ever so slightly to indicate an unexpected emotional response.

“This is my third trip. To try to get a driver’s license. Because I fucking live here now,” My voice stayed calmed as I pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes to keep them from bulging out of my skull from the pressure of repressed rage.

“Well, let me see what I can do,” She said, turning around, causing the entire line behind me to audibly groan.  She whispered to someone standing in a corner wearing a sweater vest who looked at me, looked at the papers, looked at me, shuffled the papers, said something quietly to the lady, looked at me and flipped through the papers some more, looked at me again and hit my papers with a random stamp and handed them back.

“Here,” said the DMV lady, with the barest hint of a smile, “Take these to that line over there to get this finalized.  Four trips is too many.”  What a relief to know that even the DMV had limits as to how far they’d torture the population.  Off to the line I went, finalizing my driver’s license process.  A fourth trip was still required to get the vehicles registered appropriately, but at least the massive hurtle related to initially getting into the system was, y’know, hurtled.

It was after this series of activities that it occurred to me that it was going to be my job to give my kids a good experience and that this  good experience wasn’t going to plop out of the sky like bird shit on an unsuspecting beach goer.  So, we shifted gears. We went to the Natural History Museum in the big city!

museumnaturalhistory

We rode a ferry and went to the north shore of Long Island!

ferryride northshore

We went to the south shore beach in Long Island!

Robertmosesbeach

We painted extensive works of art on the backyard table!

katherinepaints

We went hiking in our new town!

hiking

We visited historical farms and pumpkin patches, and found wild raspberries growing behind our new house.

pumpkins

  muscoot

Next durian, please

That time I found out my 4yo was expected to attend Kindergarten in the fall. 

Oh hell no.  She needed another year of preschool! She was my baby! They wanted me to send my tiny little 4yo to big bad kindergarten? Oh, the emotional turmoil and paperwork that came with this decision.  Nothing like choosing your pediatrician based on appointment availability, amiright? Of all the strange and unexpected things that had happened, this was one thing that got the most mental anguish when, in fact, it wasn’t necessary.  Granted, she’s led Beelzebub’s dark army on a rampage of poor choices, including grifting at lunchtime and a brazen B&E on a classmate’s backpack, but mostly she’s met the challenge with fortitude and determination.   She thrives, and continues to do so.  And, if it wasn’t for her in school I wouldn’t have met a couple of truly awesome women! So, yeah, that durian didn’t turn out to stink so bad!

IMG_20150902_082549

Final durian of 2015!

That time I found a new Crossfit home that was different than the one I thought it was going to be. 

Kids were in school.  Husband was a work.  House was unpacked.  I was getting fatter, and I could feel the vestiges of anxiety starting to take root again.  Now the decision matrix became whether or not I was going to go back to working out or start exploring the depths of ice cream sammich varieties and pharmacological solutions for anxiety.  I stopped by Crossfit Mount Kisco and was greeted by a clip board toting young lady more concerned with optimizing her cleavage than either coaching her crew or answering any of my questions.  So enraptured was she with her top and how much mileage she was going to show of her boob connection superhighway that I was almost compelled to offer suggestions, but instead I left feeling not terribly impressed.  I tried again a week later with even less luck getting information.  I assumed Crossfit Bedford Hills would end up being my workout home, so I toddled myself over to Crossfit Bedford Hills.  They were very very friendly, charged me $20, and then made me do terrible things.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 5.54.50 PM

That went about as well as could be expected.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 5.54.30 PM

But Crossfit Mount Kisco was just so darn close I couldn’t give up on the idea.  So I checked in again and met  Coach Phil.  Class was running like a machine, everyone was giving it their all, and Phil was holding an athlete’s baby so she could workout with full peace of mind.   Phil was very friendly, charged me $0, and then made me do terrible things.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 6.00.30 PM

I remember thinking that first week how fit, fast, and happy everyone was.  In that trifecta I was at least happy, so I figured this must be the place to be to become fit and fast.  This was a case where first impressions were so entirely overwhelmed with first experience and that durian sailed over the fence and landed somewhere entirely untroubling.  Crossfit Mount Kisco was home and that has turned out to be an unquestionably awesome decision.  They accept tolerate me with greater aplomb than is probably warranted.


2015 seemed to fly by as I dodged durians.  I found myself wishing for the end game, for when the situation would rectify or be different.  I lived 2015 always on the hope of tomorrow and not so much with the appreciation of today.  I can’t promise 2016 will be much different, but since we’ve made some very nice friends, found a gym packed with amazeballs, found our routine, discovered Fresh Direct grocery delivery service, have proper coats, and have each other my goal is that I’ll be more cognizant about being in the now, as it were.  Appreciating each day’s gifts, even when they are smelly and wilted.  Even when things are unexpected and frustrated,  crazy and coming off the rails our little family laughs more than it doesn’t and for that I’m very grateful.  Our first full year of living in New York will be great and I fully intend to do as Weird Al advises: Grab life by the lips and YANK!

Giddy up, y’all.

Nutrition Challenge: Level Zero

Hungry?  Try this: Chicken Tikka Masala.  I tweak it for paleo by exchanging chicken breast for boneless skinless chicken thighs, omit the yogurt, and trade the heavy cream for skimming the cream out of a can of organic unsweetened coconut milk.


 

I hurt my back.  One thing is for certain, my psoas is firmly locked in a spasm, and while I work through this issue safely with a very good doctor I am, for the time being, taking a forced break from CrossFit for an undefined period.  Instead of kicking around being miffed that I can’t go spend time at my happy place with all my happy friends doing happy lifts, I’m taking this opportunity to look at my eating as a CrossFit-esque workout.  Often times a workout written on the board looks ominous and impossible, and before I know it I’ve done the whole thing and I’m not dead.  So, even though being focused and particular with my eating looks difficult, if I pace myself, stabilize my midline, and BREAAATH I should prove victorious.

January is the penultimate season of nutrition and eating challenges.  People hunt for an accountability buddy, make goals, pick a diet program/idea/concept and go for it.  And, every February 1 profits at Dunkin’ and Shipley Donuts soar.  Make no mistake, I’ve participated in my fair share of these challenges, and they can be marvelous for any number of reasons.  If even only one person out of a thousand are successful, that’s one more person who has turned their life around for the better.  And, the other 999 get applause for trying.  Thanks to a fender bender turned insurance deductible payment any plans I had for joining in a nutrition challenge for 2015 have been sidelined so I have been watching from the outside and some thoughts have come unbidden into my head, which of course, means they have to be expressed.  Publicly, if possible.

Every challenge needs levels.  A scaling option, if you will.  Joe Bag O’ Donuts may never have had any real experience in “clean eating”, so the chances of him washing out of a nutrition challenge are higher than they are for Debbie McKnowitall who has a firm grasp of the produce department.  One doesn’t start CrossFit with a 250lb overhead walking lunge, so why would there be an expectation for one to go from eating a diet of beer and queso to sipping kombucha while shopping exclusively at a seasonally-varied, organic, and expensive farmer’s market?  From my perspective, nutrition challenges are really mental muscle building challenges, and to build a truly strong muscle takes time, practice, work, and effort.  If you want to see a nutrition challenge participant give up right before your very eyes start talking about the differences between grass fed beef versus grass finished beef. Or, try my other favorite about the horrifying dangers of bacon drippings from grain-fed production pig bacon compared to the peaceful safety of fats from pasture-raised organic pig bacon.  They will straight up cut you with eyeball lasers.

eye-ball-lasers

What about changing the nutrition challenge paradigm? What if a nutrition challenge offered true education into the why and why nots of food, starting with simple concepts and moving up through the varied levels of complexity into elite levels.  Just because a nutrition challenge can tell a person what to eat and why doesn’t truly educate that person on the HOW.

 

Level Zero: This is the person who has never considered the dangers of seed oils, considers gluten to probably be a craft supply, and, in general, doesn’t give a lot of thought about what they are eating.  This person is not dumb. This person is uneducated. This person maybe has started working out and is beginning to warm up to the idea that you can’t out-train a bad diet and they want sustainable gainz more than they want a cookie.  They’ve heard about the Paleo/Zone/Atkins/SouthBeach/Whole<insert number> diets so they’re gonna do that and they’re going start by joining a nutrition challenge.  But, how do you take a person who has habitually shopped on the inside aisles of the grocery store and change their habits? (Yes, yes, I know only that person can change their own habits, but on a simpler level they can be facilitated along with a little compassion and a little education.)  This  person should not get immediately tossed into the organic, locally sourced, label-reading macro-counting shark tank. My experience with converting to the Paleo eating style was gradual, and over time it matured and refined, and is still a work in fine-tuning progress.  Moving a person from the center of the grocery store to the outer edges will be the most difficult accomplishment for anyone who is changing the way they eat.  This is a significant shift in thinking that also addresses the pitfall of trying to validate desserts, pancakes, and breads because they are, technically, paleo or gluten free.  To truly change the way one eats one has to be willing to consider that replacing regular pancakes with a paleo pancake(which, honestly, is a CREPE for the sake of Cordain Almighty) doesn’t address the mental space of how to change the choice paradigm. This is where I learn to stop and ask myself the big question:

jamie-lee-curtis

Do I eat PANCAKES or do I eat PROTEINS and VEGETABLES?

As far as my unscientific observation can tell, eating the same exact way during a nutrition challenge as prior to its onset, only churched up because now it’s “healthy”, is as uselessly destructive as quitting half way in because it’s “not working.”  A Level Zero challenge would offer education into whys of adopting certain foods while eschewing others, even if only temporarily.  It does not put stress and pressure on buying organic, instead it puts the focus on learning how to shop, cook, and eat the whole food. It would offer skill building in menu planning, prep planning, meal execution, and how to manage the change to or how to establish a grocery budget.  Field trips to the grocery store would be a nice optional, um, option.  Most of all, it would provide a judgment free village of supporters while the individual fights for their freedom from processed foods and sugar addiction.

Level One: This is a person who has successfully changed their eating. They are confident in their eating spaces of what works and what doesn’t work.  They have a basic understanding of what food does to their bodies and how it affects their day-to-day performance.  They’ve broken their inside-aisle habits, only darting in for simple things like coffee, cooking oils, and spices.  This challenge is for shifting into a higher gear of nutritional enlightenment.  Now we talk about things like probiotics and gut healing, organic coffee, bullet-proofing coffee, the Dirty Dozen, grass fed and pasture raised animals, and making more hoity-toity choices with oils and fats. Now might be a good time to integrate bone broth and introduce the most basic idea of nutritional macros. Hey, even here one could talk about the occasional Paleo dessert treat!  This level also needs to continue to address the ongoing struggle and toils of budget and planning processes.  As many of us have come to learn, if there is no plan there is no success.  The goal of “eating right” will always be an un-hittable moving target without a plan.  This nutrition challenge puts some gas on the fire, and theoretically builds additional confidence and momentum to continue making refinements and improvements.  Here is where the biggest connection between fuel and performance is made.

crucial-produce-buy-confession-ecard-someecards

Level Super Elite Shiny Gold Star: This is Olympus.  This is the level where you give a whole lot of shits about pasture raised, organic, grass fed, humanely farmed, sustainable, GMO-free, pesticide free, and ethically harvested. This is where you may have a plate full of paleo pancakes (CREPES) and know exactly what you’re doing.  This is the level where you learn how to integrate MCT oils, and balance macros for optimal athletic and life performance. This is where you know how to use protein powder supplementation CORRECTLY!  This? This is nutrition nirvana – the state of highest enlightenment. It’s possible that you may develop dread locks and start lacto fermenting your own food for the coolest gut-bacteria farm on the block.  By the end of this challenge you’ll have this nutrition gig nailed down better than Kiss playing their greatest hits.

 

Only a very rare sort of individual has a Bugati for their very first car.  Most of us start with something closer to an impound reject and move up to nicer cars as opportunity and budget allow. Learning how to fuel the body isn’t any different.  One has to change and adapt their thinking from the old, grooved patterns.  I believe that success comes from building upon one small success at a time.  Today, I chose to drink bone broth first thing in the morning because I know it will help stem sugar cravings for the rest of the day.  Today I made a choice to focus on eliminating inflammation causing foods to help heal my back and psaos.  I could not have made these choices if I didn’t have several flights of stairs built out of prior success, education, and elucidation.

This is by no means a screed against nutrition challenges, either. They serve a vitally useful purpose for people who seek motivation, accountability, and instructions.  What I’m suggesting is to take the idea of a nutrition challenge and break into manageable, forgive the pun, bite-sized pieces.

clean-eating

So, It’s Been A While

Hungry? It’s going to be cold and inclement the next few days, so howzabout some soup? Try this: Chile Chicken Verde with optional Chicken Stock Cash Out 


It’s been a while since last I wrote. Not for a lack of topics, but more for a lack of focus, somewhat a lack of time, and frankly, a lack of laptop that works consistently.  My poor little MacBook Pro that was shiny and nubile in 2007 is now shuffling along with a tennis-ball-assisted walker, occasionally choosing to not wake up, occasionally losing stuff, occasionally crapping its pants. And yet, I cannot bring myself to ask for a new one because I’m cheap and until this one is dead in the ground I’ll ride this geriatric pony into the sunset.  But, I digress.

Cooking.  There has been so much cooking.  So very, very much cooking.  Enough cooking to make me line up to heartily agree with this article.  Not charming, sexy cooking like they do on TV shows where you take one bite, do an exaggerated eye roll, and mumble around your mouthful about how it’s SOOO GOOOOOD! at which point you take a cunning tray of food onto your trendy deck populated with trendy people all sipping trendy wine and blithering about how sharing food with friends is, like, the best thing EVER.  No, I was doing straight up nutritionally dense production line style cooking, and let me tell you, that takes a lot of sexy out of the process.  Fortunately, it didn’t take good flavors out. At least, I don’t think it did. I learned so much about making a single plan that could be tweaked for stricter Paleo, or Auto Immune Protocol, or loosened up for the joy of a brief cheat meal.  I also learned that I really don’t want to lose whole chunks of my life in the kitchen cooking for others, but would much rather spend that energy teaching others planning and prepping skills.

Most people know how to cook.  It’s not a testament to the quality of their cooking, so much as it is an acknowledgment that most people can boil water and cut themselves with a dull blade, given the opportunity.

Where most people struggle (myself included) is in the planning and prep phase of the cooking process.  All of those cunning books advertising the 10, 15, or 30 minute meals? They are LIARS.  Propagators of the worst myths in modern homemaking. Most times they a) fail to represent the amount of time required to prep for the actual cooking of the recipe and, b) assume everyone can efficiently mince an onion and know what “sauté” means.  Let’s be honest: Sauté is a euphemism for “high heat and a pound of lard” and nothing but awesome can come from that combo, amiright? But, back to the subject of planning.

January is the most exhilaratingly evil month of the calendar year (after February because of Valentine’s Day, and March and November because of the time change, and April because of taxes) because that’s when a huge portion of the developed world “recommit to a healthy lifestyle.” They crowd our gyms, our produce departments, our running trails, and feed our sense of superiority for not being “that guy.” Instead of feeling territorial and judgmental we really ought to be their greatest champions and cheerleaders.  Instead of grumbling because a de-conditioned ass clown forced us to slow down or move over or (god forbid!) share equipment, we should be doling out the high fives like rappers throwing around benjis in a strip joint. They are doing what we did at one point: Getting off our butts and getting moving.  They are trying, heaven bless them, they are trying. So, it is with this spirit of giving towards my fellow man that I offer my approach to menu planning, grocery budgeting, and getting every last possible mile out of your effort.  I don’t assert myself as being the best at the efficiency game, but my process works pretty well for my little microcosm, and it may resonate with enough to be helpful.  Also, it’s possible to get too efficient.  At least, I’m pretty sure that’s possible.  Just as nature abhors a vacuum, when I am diligently efficient in one area usually another area of my responsibilities buffet suffers (*cough*MOPPING*cough).  But, again, I digress.

Phase 1: The Plan

And, just like the Russians, a budget conscious person should not saunter any where near a grocery provider without a plan.  It’s the same principle as going to the store hungry: DON’T DO IT.  Without a plan, it’s easy to wander the aisles making plan-less choices, buying food at random, and getting home and wondering why the heck the grocery budget is always red lining.  A plan constitutes three (3) basic parts:

The Menu – a piece of paper onto which is written a list of food items to be consumed over the course of the day.  My menu typically covers the most common meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Other menus may only require breakfast and lunch or just dinner or just taquitos.  It just depends.  I know my weeks well enough in advance to know when I need to schedule a crock pot meal versus when I can put more effort into the meal process, and I use this intel to optimize my menu plan.

My menus typically are connected by ingredients to maximize both the mileage of those ingredients and also to minimize food waste as much as possible.  When I make my menu I consider the broader implications of my recipe choices as they relate to other meals.  If I’m buying spinach solely to use in a quiche (that’s an egg pie if you weren’t sure) then I’ll make sure to plan spinach into another meal to ensure that any available/extra spinach is used.  If I’m cooking bacon I’ll save the drippings to use as an optional fat content instead of butter or oils.  If I’m grilling a london broil steak there is a guarantee that steak caesar salad is for lunch the next day. Get the idea?

The Recipes – if you are a recipe follower, you need these lined up and ready to go.  When I’m following a recipe I’ll write the book and page number next to the menu item, or note that it’s bookmarked on one of our handheld devices. Anything that requires a recipe should be part of your prep process described below.  There’s nothing worse than getting home to cook that super fab looking recipe only to find out you were supposed to have marinated that piece of fish for the last 12 hours, or that it takes 45 minutes for the cauliflower to sweat.  Those are the moments when it becomes hugely tempting to give up and order pizza, but with the right prep to match the plan these incidents are greatly reduced.

The Grocery List – Duh, right? Without a list at the store it’s almost impossible to remember everything that’s needed for the forthcoming week’s menu, and multiple trips back to the store impact both the budget and the plan in unhelpful chocolatey ways.  My grocery lists fit nicely onto a standard 8.5″x11″ piece of paper and are organized by categories:

» Produce
» Meat
» Dairy
» Canned/Pantry
» Misc

Organizing my list this way allows for two things: First, I get through the grocery store quicker because I’m not pacing back and forth across its length as I go item by item down my list; Second, it allows me to hand my list to my spouse and send him to the store with reasonable expectation of having everything necessary come home, even if he adds several packages of beef jerky and an assortment of hot sauces to the bill.  Fifthly and lastly, it keeps me out of the middle of the store where all the prepackaged garbage lays in wait to wreck my clean eating prospects.

Phase 2: The Prep

julia-childs-knives

Prep work is what truly separates the successful from the slightly less successful.  If you can knuckle in and do the prep work your week of cooking will significantly simplify.  Based on my menu, I will chop the produce necessary for each meal and bag it up into ziplock bags, label it for the day of the week, and BOOM.  That 10 minute meal that looked so awesome? Yeah, NOW it’s a 10 minute meal.

Salads take work.  Salads are a PITA, as the kids say these days.  If salads take too much work they don’t get done.  And, I have yet to meet a person who finds their zen putting together a dinner salad each night.  My salads have five (5) general ingredients: greens, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, radish, and tomatoes.  If you chop lettuce too early it rusts, and while it’s still fine to eat it looks like ass and no one wants an ass salad.  Cucumbers can become ookey thanks to that lovely seeded center.  Radishes dry up and become dull when cut.  So, now what? I store my greens in ziplock bags lined with paper towels to help control humidity. That gives me a couple of extra days of life.  Cucumbers I cut lengthwise into quarters and cut out the seeds, and then chop into salad sized pieces, most often using the kitchen mandolin, and store in a plastic container. Bell peppers I cut/chop into a plastic container, and radishes get chopped and added to a container of cold water where they don’t dry out and get sad. Now when it’s salad time it’s just a matter of pulling out my mini buffet of produce and putting it all together.

If the meat I need is not currently in the freezer and gets bought fresh at the store, I will immediately freeze it – unless I’m using it within the next 24 hours.  Why, you ask? Because life happens. And, although I may have planned a lovely sweet potato pork chop skillet for Wednesday doesn’t mean that something might not happen to delay that menu item and potentially render the meat spoiled by exceeding its expiration dates.  Save the money, save the hassle.  Vegetables are cheaper to waste than meat, although wasting either is not ideal.

Prep work allows you the opportunity to get ahead.  While you’re already chopping all these veggies and portioning out meat, now is a good time to put together some crock pot meal kits and jam them into the freezer for that inevitable moment when you either run out of food or don’t have time time to cook that evening.  Thaw those kits the night before and start them cooking in the morning!

My big prep day tends to be on Sunday afternoons.  That’s my big 4-6 hour day of prepping and pre-cooking so that I’m not spending much more than an hour or less in the kitchen during the evening meal. It doesn’t work every single time flawlessly – this isn’t one of those absurd life hacks that you see on BuzzFeed – it’s a process that takes practice, and commitment, and willingness.

Phase 3: The Performance

 With a plan and prep work phases complete, this opens up the week to not be overwhelmed with cooking chores because if we were all honest with each other it’s not the cooking that everyone hates: it’s the cleaning up afterwards.  Maybe there’s a few weirdos who look at it inversely but I’m pretty sure they don’t read this blog.

This is just a highlights version of the bigger conversation.  With all these diet challenges and nutrition challenges and “new you” challenges I see everyone start out super pumped, running down to Whole Foods and buying up a list of “recommended foods” for the same price as a car payment, coming home, toasting their last bottle of wine before things “get serious tomorrow.” Then, they get up, look in the fridge full of food that has no plan, their shoulders slump with Frustrative Intense Nourishment Block Syndrome (F-IN-BS), and they slink off to Torchy’s for a taco and decide to “get serious tomorrow.”   You CAN do this! You CAN succeed with changing your eating! You CAN! Start with a plan, start practicing with prep, and start seeing how it works for your meal times and tweak accordingly.   If this topic is at all piquing your interest let me know and I’ll write up more detailed, um, details and we’ll make this a “thing” for January. February is reserved for celebrating The Spouse’s birthday and complaining about Valentine’s Day.