Personal Stories← Older posts October 19, 2015
Name Joey Andalora, 21 years old.
Years doing crossfit: 9 Months
How many times/week do you come? Just upgraded to Unlimited. 12:00 class
Athletic Background: Swimming, Track, Football, Lacrosse are some of my favorites.
Most frustrating part of CrossFit when you first started: Starting and staying at low weights when I was learning the technique of all the movements. I came into crossfit so use to being natural at everything I did involving sports.
I had a hard time easing into the sport and taking it slow. Looking back, I am glad I did take the time to learn and I am appreciative of all the coaching and time the instructors put into me.
One movement that you used to hate, but now you love: Clean and jerks. I have always envied Olympic lifters because of how cool all the lifts looked. I had never tried cleans or snatches before in my life until I started crossfit.
About 4 or so months into being at Aspire, I came to a 12:00 class on a Friday that Marisa was coaching. The strength part of class was EMOM Clean and Jerk. I think I was using 95 pounds which I though was heavy at the time. In middle of the EMOM, Marisa told me to hold her dog as she proceeded to use my weight as an example to show someone something. I made it my goal from that point on, that the next time clean and jerks were the strength, that Marisa wouldn’t be able to destroy my bar (with such ease and no warm up while I was holding her dog) as an example again. Thank you for the little push of motivation!
Favorite metcon (or type of metcon): Adderall (Minutes 0-10, 1 mile run & max rep clean and jerk 135. Rest 3 minutes. Minutes 13-21, 800 meter run & max rep snatches 115. Rest 3 minutes. Minutes 24-30, 400 meter run & max rep thruster 95)
One movement that you still struggle with the most: Overhead squat. When I first started I couldn’t overhead squat a PVC pole. I have upgraded to a regular bar and put weight on it but there’s still room for more improvement on the mobility side.
What are you concentrating on now? (getting stronger, squats, etc): Squats. I have track legs (long, skinny and weak). I need to come weekly to squat day for sure.
What’s your fitness goal for this time next year? My biggest goal is really to just improve in every aspect of CrossFit. When I get serious about something, I want to dominate it and do the best I can. I guess that would ultimately be to have no weaknesses in crossfit and see what happens from there.
You’ve competed in Test Your Metal and the Rookie Rumble. Tell us about those, and what you learned about competing, fitness and about yourself, as a result. From the age of 6- 18, I competed every season in multiple sports. Test Your Metal was the first thing I competed in, in that 2 years since I graduated high school. I didn’t realize how much I missed competition. CrossFit is such a diverse sport and each comp is a makeup of multiple movements. Every other sport is the same thing for a whole game. Or the same movement for a whole race. The way you strategize in your head before a workout is like no other sport. Its as fun as it is challenging and that’s what I love about CrossFit. Both competitions were so much fun. Hanging out with your teammates and the people you workout with is an awesome time.
Whats your favorite type of music to listen to when you work out? Remixes. Anything that’s loud and catchy. I love when a remix to a song I like comes on because it takes my mind off the physical pain im in for a split second and that’s all I need at the time.
What’s your favorite way to warm up or whats your favorite stretch? I love walking in and getting on the foam roller and just losing up and cracking my back. Runners stretch is my go to stretch. And obviously a solid 400 meter jog is always nice.
How do you get pumped up for a workout or a lift? I usually look around at the people im working out with to get me pumped up because I just love to compete.
How has CrossFit helped you in your regular life outside of the gym? CrossFit has helped me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. My confidence has skyrocketed since I started just because of my overall fitness. Im in the best overall shape of my life witch is a total confidence boost.
It sounds cliché, but it’s the one stress free hour of my day. The one hour where I can just turn my phone off and be at peace while im there. Looking forward to a workout after class or work, definitely helps move the day along.
What are your hobbies, besides CrossFit? My hobbies are sports. I coach two swim teams year round so swimming is for sure one of my hobbies. Im obsessed with football and the NFL and other than that, I love to watch documentaries, mostly sport documentaries but ill watch anything if it’s a true story. I like to hang out with friends and go out. If eating counts than I guess that would be a hobby too.
What would you tell someone to get them to try CrossFit? I would tell them exactly how I got into CrossFit. Start by searching “The CrossFit Games” on YouTube and watch every video of every pro competitor from there. They’d be hooked in no time.Posted in News & Events, Personal Stories | Leave a comment July 24, 2015
Congratulations to Andrea Duncan, Aspire’s August Member of the month! Andrea came to our gym two years ago with her fiance. She was there for support and because she thought it would be a fun departure from her regular routine. She has always paid particular attention to form, and has been a great listener when it comes to taking tips from coaches.
Within the last year, however, she has gone from the quiet girl in class to one of our fastest improving women at the gym! Not only is she super speedy and great at the endurance workouts, she has really made some impressive progress to her lifts and her focus in the gym. You can catch her doing the extra credit or working on her goals while she isn’t killing it in the metcons! Congratulations, Andrea. Well deserved! We can’t wait to see your progress over the next year!
NAME Andrea Duncan
YEARS doing CrossFit Almost 2 years
Why did you first start CrossFit? I heard about Crossfit from a friend and wanted to buy a month for my fiancé as a birthday present. I went with him to a free class to check it out and really liked it. I’ve always been active…with running and dancing…and had been on a belly dance team before I moved to South Jersey two years ago, but couldn’t find a dance class or team that had what I wanted down here. I really wanted something to keep me fit. I think Crossfit is perfect because I love the intensity, the mix of strength and cardio, and really need the structure of attending classes to keep me motivated.
What were your favorite movements when you first started? Have they changed over time? When I first started, I really loved back squats because I understood the concept of them and didn’t need to think too much about what I was doing. I hated any technical lifts that required speed and using momentum. Now, I have learned to enjoy lifts like cleans and jerks a lot better than when I first started. I still have a lot to learn, but enjoy the feeling when I have executed the movement correctly…it feels like a real accomplishment.
Which types of workouts are you favorite/best? I love any workouts that involve a lot of cardio…runs, burpees, wallballs, box jumps, etc. I also love/hate the crazy long metcons like 12 Days of Christmas and Filthy Fifty. They are so awful, but there’s something great about feeling completely exhausted when you’re done.
You are a really fast runner. What do you attribute that to? I learned how to run in high school on the track and cross country teams. I’ve continued running since, but never on a team again…just on my own or with friends. I think it’s just something I have to keep doing so my body never forgets how to pace itself and breathe. The inhaler also helps.
Tell us about your strength gains/focus over time. When/why did you start to push yourself harder and make strength gains? Compared to how I was when I first started Crossfit, I am lifting weights and doing things I never thought I could have done strength-wise. I have come a long way not only with how much weight I can lift, but also with paying attention to good form. I attribute all that to the coaches here…everyone is so awesome and dedicated to making every one of us improve, while still doing so safely.
What type of music do you like to listen to while you are running or doing CrossFit? I usually don’t listen to music when I run only because I get so distracted by earbuds always falling out of my ears! I like a lot of the music that’s playing at the gym, but love Fall Out Boy’s “The Phoenix”…I think that’s my jam.
What’s your favorite warm up to do? There’s nothing like a little 400m run and some stretching.
If you could do a WOD with one celebrity or character from a TV show/movie, who would it be? Thor, for sure.
What do you like to do in your spare time, other than CrossFit? I like to paint and draw. I’m kind of a granny and knit/crochet a lot. Also, when I get the chance, I volunteer at a cat shelter.
How has CrossFit helped you in other aspects of you life? It’s given me a lot of confidence. It’s really addicting and I feel like the rush you get after a workout is always motivating me to want to do other activities and improve myself in other ways, too.
What advice would you give to a beginner who has never done any weight lifting before? Two years ago, I was apprehensive about weight lifting…I had definitely never done it before (other than my little 5 lb. dumbbells in the comfort of my living room with my workout DVD playing). I remember the night I went to inquire about joining and seeing lots of women lifting barbells full of weights. I was so impressed and wanted to learn how to be strong like that! Crossfit has been perfect for that. The coaches will make sure that you learn at a pace that is good for you and will never put you in a position where you can get hurt. You will find that if you put in the time and want to improve, you will.
Posted in News & Events, Personal Stories | Leave a comment April 17, 2015
When did you first start Crossfit? I first started Crossfit last summer
(Summer 2014) right when I moved to NJ.
What is your athletic background? I have played a little bit of every
sport under the sun. Baseball, football, and basketball were my high
school days and golf from high school on. It wasn’t until late in
college, however, when I discovered
The school’s fitness center where I started basic lifting and the rare
What was your number one hesitation in starting? High intensity training
for speed and strength did not sound like my cup of tea. I was afraid I
would start too many workouts and not have the physical or mental
capacity to finish. That fear I perpetuated within myself was quickly
You’ve made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. Which movements
or areas of fitness do you feel made the most improvements? Olympic
lifting for sure. The clean & jerk and the snatch are so difficult for me
and I have put in a lot of time and work to improve efficiency and
How many times per week do you come to the gym? I try and come every
weekday for at least a class.
Ol has your diet changed since starting Crossfit? When I started
Crossfit, I wanted to maximize my experience both in the gym and in the
kitchen, starting to change my diet into a more Paleo basis. Since, I
have discovered that for me, it was more important to follow the idea of
Paleo as opposed to living by the book. Eating more of the
right foods on a daily basis like lean poultry, grassfed beef, greens,
natural carbs, and the good fats were more consistent with feeling good
and proving results than strict dieting day in and out. I have also tried
to cut down on the craft brews, so that helps too.
You recently got your first muscle up. Tell us about that! It was a
surreal moment for me. I was in between squat sets and I had been close
on a few recent muscle up attempts. I figured I would just jump on the
rings and not think about the components that make up the movement except
“hips”. I remember grabbing the rings then the next thing I know, I am holding myself at the top of the muscle up and not knowing how the heck I got up there. It was
invigorating and I was proud. The scariest part of the success, however,
was trying to figure out how to get down from up there.
What other skills are you trying to master? More consistent muscle-ups!
It is such a technical movement that challenges me to the brink of
my sanity. Some days they can be strung together and somedays I can’t
get over the rings. But more practice daily makes it more comfortable.
How has CrossFit affected you in your everyday life? I feel more
confident and capable. That is for certain. But most importantly,
Crossfit has influenced me to be more committed to achieving my goals. I
am committed to coming to the gym every day I can possibly make it in, to
getting one more rep or being one second faster, and to pushing myself
toward achieving my goals outside of the gym in my business life and
What is your favorite music to work out to? Whatever is on the Marvin
Tan playlist. I never knew that listening to “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit
on repeat could be PR fuel, but it is.
What are your favorite ( and non favorite) lifts and why? My favorite
lifts are the Olympic lifts. The clean & jerk and the snatch just feel
right when you hit all the positions, and the feeling reminds me of a
well-struck golf shot. Non favorite? Thrusters. Thrusters are my
nightmare. I have literally had nightmares about Thrusters.
What is your #1 goal in the gym for 2015? To PR all of benchmark workouts
we come across this summer and to prove to myself that I am stronger and
faster than last year when I first started.
What would you tell people who are interested, but apprehensive about
starting Crossfit? Just do it. I was so nervous on my first ride to
Crossfit Aspire for class that I almost turned around. But after that
first hour, I just wanted to get back for tomorrow’s workout. Then the
next day, I left with that same feeling. After a while, I noticed that
the urge for tomorrow¹s workout wasn¹t going away. I got hooked on the
lifts, the metcons, the community, and the coaches. You are going to get
hooked, too. You just need to give it a try.
Click here to see Chris in our community video for Aspire!Posted in News & Events, Personal Stories | Leave a comment February 18, 2015
Years with CrossFit (and CrossFit Aspire) 2 years total, all at Aspire
Prior fitness experiences: Initially a cross country runner logging 50-60 miles a week circa year 2000. Post highschool was conventional globo gym lifting and “cardio”
Hobbies (other than CrossFit, which is the only hobby that matters): Traveling, eating, and drinking beer in every corner of the world.
What made you get into CrossFit? I got pretty bored of conventional lifting and running, lost motivation, and the results, or lack of, came to a stand still. I was looking for that perfect combination of strength as well as endurance and CrossFit seemed to be the answer. 2 years later im still here and I feel like my overall fitness is more well rounded and continues to improve.
What was one of your earliest memories from the gym? Not sure exactly how early it was, but most painful may have been Justins infamous programming of Venom II followed the next day with Bear Complex.
What are your favorite and least favorite movements? Im in a love hate relationship with snatching. It involves alot of technical skill, as well as strength and mobility and i love the way it looks and feels when done properly. I think its the best overall single lift to test these skills. That being said, Im lacking a little on the technical side and have some shoulder mobility issues in the overhead position that have gotten much better but still not where i need them to be.
Have any of your least favorites become your favorites? Yes, hated cleans but eventually it clicked and they’re getting much better. Still hate power cleans
What is your favorite workout song right now? F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit – Jay Z and Rick Ross
Who do you ‘chase’ in the gym? When it comes to Metcons I chase Chris L, he’s quick and keeps it moving. Recently though, its been Casey, dude has some strong lifts and even though i havent worked out with him in a while, i always like to see what Brad Stadler is up to.
What gets your motivated in class? Good music, attentive coaching and advice, as well as the constant drive and motivation to be better than I was last week. When i feel like a coach is fully invested in what im doing it pushes me to perform. All of these items can be found at Aspire
What is your “goat” ( the one movement that is your biggest weakness) and what are you plans for improving it in 2015? See love-hate relationship above. I plan on working on my technical skills, paying more attention to the nuanced movements that can make or break a certain lift.
You love to cook, and your Food Swap meals are always a favorite! Explain your experience with cooking, learning to cooking, and seeking/making new things? When i began CrossFit i was focused on getting the best results possible, and as we are all aware, eating the proper food plays perhaps the biggest role in getting the results we want. I always thought i was eating the “right” foods i.e chicken breast, whole wheat, and of course the low fat version of everything. I was getting nowhere fast with conventional exercising as well as conventional diet. With the inclusion of CrossFit I started getting results again; looking better, feeling better, and getting stronger. I got very focused on the nutrition aspect of fitness and proper fueling for performance and health. With conventional exercise in my rear view mirror i left my conventional diet and found Paleo/ Primal. Over about 18 months of using the Paleo/Primal template i’ve learned not to be dogmatic about it and to eat what works for me. For example, white rice is my post workout savior where sweet potatoes just didnt do the trick (simple starch vs complex carb). All of these things led to my desire to control exactly what i was eating in order to get the results i desire, even if it is the occasional doughnuts and pizza, haha. What initially started as work is now routine. Im always trying to make new things in order to keep it interesting, sometimes to the point where i make more food than i need but i want to try a new recipe.
What are the most significant changes that you’ve seen since starting to eat Paleo/Primal? Results; I can see and feel the results of proper nutrition. My athletic performance has improved and i feel healthier than ever. I dont feel hungry all the time and maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day, no more riding the blood sugar rollercoaster.
What would you say to a person who wants to ‘get in shape’ before starting CrossFit? I would ask them if they “get in shape” for football by playing tennis. Point being, you get better at a sport by performing that specific sport and associated movements. There is nothing wrong with cross training, in fact its great, but CrossFit is scalable for every age and ability level so there is no reason to “get in shape” prior to starting because “getting in shape” is an inherent characteristic of CrossFit. Plus its nice to look back at where you started and see how far you’ve come.Posted in News & Events, Personal Stories | Leave a comment April 8, 2014
Our goal at CrossFit Aspire is to help you find your inner superhero. For some of you, this comes pretty easily and quickly. For others, it’s a months or years-long process that requires a lot of self-reflection, failure & recovery, practice, and a slow build up of confidence.
There are some of you at the gym who have been putting forth extra effort to let your inner superhero come out, and this segment is for YOU. Every 3 months or so, we will recognize a male and female “Gym Superhero” who has been setting a good example through their practice, their help with new members, or their attitude or progress in general.
The Gym Superhero will be recognized with a blog post and a high five from as many members as possible. We MIGHT even have some sweet red capes for them to don for a special picture. Who knows…
The first Gym Superheroes are
Jess Schulz and Ryan DeBonis!
These two have been quietly and steadily making some AMAZING progress in the gym. Here are their stories:
First, an homage to Ryan, from his 5:30am management crew:
“Ryan is the Dark Horse. One day he was the quiet guy in the back learning how to do snatches, then all of a sudden he’s the quiet guy in the back who’s using the 30-pound wallball and the 30-inch box and has Jason Keesal’s eye on him during the MetCons. Coaches love Ryan because he asks questions, listens, and soaks it in. The rest of us at 05:30 love him because he says please and thank you and brings in muffins (Paleo) his grandmother makes. It’s impressive how much stronger and faster he gets every time he comes to class, and the gold stars show no signs of stopping! He works hard, stays humble, and brings his A-game every day! No, seriously. Every single day. All of us at 05:30 are very proud of Ryan and are happy to call him one of our own.”
BEGAN CROSSFIT: 6/2013 AGE:33 PROFESSION: Grocery Merchandising
ATHLETIC BACKGROUND: Played baseball until I was 17 and just started running long distance about a year ago and have completed 2 half marathons since November.
WHY I STARTED DOING CROSSFIT: Because of the variety and the change it has day to day. As well as working out and training with others and learning from them as much as I can.
FAVORITE MOVEMENT: Squats either back or front. But especially back squats
FAVORITE WORKOUT (or type of workout): One that has box jumps and or wall balls in it but also has something for overhead lifting.
2014 GOALS (in the gym): I really don’t have set goals in mind. But I like to see where I’ve been and previous weights or times and just keep improving on them. As well as learning something new all the time
UPCOMING COMPETITIONS/RACES: Broad Street Run 10 miles and Spring Lake 5 miles
FAVORITE WORKOUT SONG (or type of music): Anything Kanye West, Wale and, Jay-Z.
WHAT’S ONE OF YOUR GUILTY PLEASURES?: I’m addicted to sneakers, all different types for different things. I have roughly 30 pairs and the collection keeps growing.
MY FAVORITE DAY IN THE GYM WAS: Few weeks ago went head to head with Jason Keesal with heavy Clean and Jerks and Wall Balls and was surprised I was able to keep up with him.
First, a note from Alycia:
“I LOVE JESS SCHULZ. There, I said it. It feels good to get that out. Jess is the ultimate representation of a certain group of people within the community. A group that most coaches (at least most coaches at Aspire) LOVE to have in their class. Those with the most to gain from CrossFit. The self-proclaimed “weak and sooo out of shape”. The ones who can’t complete an entire CrossFit class….at first. And then, somewhere along the way – it might be after a PR, or after some time off the gym, or after a whisper from a fellow member – things start to turn around for them. They gradually ease off the modifications, find the energy to complete the metcon without stopping, start eating better and eventually see improvements their strength. This is Jess to a tee, and in case you haven’t noticed, that girl is ON FIRE right now. Her quest to do precisely 1.2 billion burpees before Festivus and her ever-increasing strength numbers are a perfect example of how results match the amount of work and focus are put in.
BEGAN CROSSFIT (month/year): Well I technically signed up in Aug 2012 but I didn’t really commit to it wholeheartedly until June 2013 (meaning I probably came like twice a month between Aug 2012-May 2013).
AGE: 24. PROFESSION: PhD student.
ATHLETIC BACKGROUND: Ha none really. Played softball as a kid. Did field hockey for two years in high school and threw shot/disc for one year.
WHY I STARTED DOING CROSSFIT: Liz Earle asked me to go for the Groupon and when I almost died during the warm up and Justin had to pull me aside so I didn’t throw up, I realized okay I should probably be doing this.
FAVORITE MOVEMENT: Only one!?! Deadlifts, power cleans, push jerk, back squat…can you tell there’s a no cardio piece to this?
FAVORITE WORKOUT (or type of workout): Uh..I sadly like Cindy. Grace. Rowing? Kb swings. A grinder. Like 20 mins. Some type of ground to overhead? Throw burpees in there too. I hate them but they’ll make me better. AMRAP? I think I have ADD.
2014 GOALS (in the gym): To RX Grace. To not be last in a metcon. To actually run during a metcon that includes running. To actually have a band-assisted pull up. To not die during burpees. 200# back squat. 300# deadlift.
UPCOMING COMPETITIONS/RACES: Festivus April 19th. Hopefully training with Melissa for a 5k soon.
FAVORITE WORKOUT SONG (or type of music): It’s weird. I fluctuate between Justin’s headbanging rock to Bonnie up in da club. But Monster by Kanye West etc.
WHAT’S ONE OF YOUR GUILTY PLEASURES: Uhhh…actually spending time with friends and not feeling guilty about it because I should be working on my research? Is that sad. Yes, that’s sad. Or spending an entire day in NYC without any plans, just doing whatever. Or lining up like 7 concerts to go to in the span of two months.
MY FAVORITE DAY IN THE GYM WAS:
Festivus in Oct 2013. That last workout with the deadlifts and the run. I still have it go through my mind at times when I’m dying during a metcon. To hear that many people cheering me on felt so cool. Like…okay you’re obviously not the best but fuck you’re just out here trying to get better. And to not be lame, but every day in the gym is my favorite. I’ve never met a more diverse, awesome group of people who are so encouraging and helpful. Thanks for cultivating that wonderful environment. You guys keep me going.
In life, and in the gym, opportunities are abound.
Do you take them ALL? Probably not – that would be overwhelming.
Do you ignore most of them? Maybe. I don’t blame you – being content is easy and requires no work. Perhaps the most important question is,
Do you even know they exist? Well, they might not exist until you create them. You make your own opportunities, of course. Yes, some of us were born into a privileged life, just as some of us have great genetics and are naturally strong or lean.
After that, what happens in our lives, and in the gym, is completely up to us.
Being a victim of circumstance is easy. Just sit back and state the obvious and unfortunate situation to whoever will listen. Repeat.
“I hate my job.” “I’m not happy in my relationship.” “I don’t have time/money.”
“My front squat sucks.” “I can’t climb a rope.” “My hips are too tight.” “I can’t do pull ups.”
“SO I’M GOING TO….”
Bam. There it is. Your opportunity.
You CAN change an unfortunate situation into an opportunity to get better.
Take your #1 complaint about your gym performance right now…
and add “so I’m going to…” to the end of it, and watch your opportunities come to life.
Here are some quick ideas for how to get better at some of the more elusive skills at the gym:
Double Unders: Buy a rope, cut it to your size, and practice single and double jumps every single day at home.
Pull Ups: Pick an assistance level (banded, unassisted, or weighted) that you can do 5 reps at. Now do 10 sets of 1 with a 60-90sec rest in between sets. Do that 2-3 times/week for a week, maybe two. Then move to 8 sets of 2 when you can, then 7×3, 6×4, 5×5, 4×6, 3×7, 2×8…or skip right to a whole set of 10 whenever you can! Repeat at a lower resistance.
Olympic Lifting: Come to Olympic Lifting class on Wednesdays at 7pm for at least one month. Work on technique with light weight every time you are in the gym (before or after your class). Do 5 sets of 5 front squats when you have the time throughout the week.
Muscle Ups: Do all of your pull ups on the rings, concentrating on those last few inches at the top. Do 5×5 ring dips often, do transition drills from your knees.
Toes to Bar: Warm up your shoulders and hop on the bar for 5 sets of 5 kipping swings. Push your chest forward and kick back slightly, then reverse your body position so that your head, chest and shoulders are behind the bar and push down hard with straight arms.
Conditioning in general: Come to Run Club on Sundays at 10am. Throughout the week, run 4-6 rounds of 400m or 800m repeats with 2-3 min rest in between. Do 3 sets of 10-20 burpees whenever you have a free 5-10 minutes at home.
Reduce body fat and keep muscle: Eat LOTS of real food. Eliminate all sugar, grains, dairy and alcohol from your diet ASAP. Your meals should all consist of meat/fish and/or some type of vegetable.
BONUS life advice:
Job: Find a new position within the company or make your own position (find things you actually WANT to do and do more of them at your job). If that won’t work, update your resume and go on interviews even if the job descriptions aren’t a perfect fit. See what’s actually out there before you leave your ‘terrible’ job.
Relationship: If the person isn’t helping you become better or happier, and/or you don’t care much about their success or happiness either, then it’s time to move on.
Time/Money: No clue. Call me when you figure that one out…Posted in News & Events, Personal Stories | 1 Comment April 27, 2012
Before I started CrossFit, I was a competitive bodybuilder. There are few enterprises that require such meticulous attention to food and nutrition. I had weighed and measured foods for weeks preparing for competitions. Each meal was on a rigid time schedule with macronutrients spread out in a very specific manner throughout the day and around my workout. Such precise detail was not required year-round, but I stuck with the general parameters all the time. You may not be surprised that a bodybuilding diet is what is considered “healthy” but the American public: low-fat foods, no pork and little red meat, starches in the morning and greens in the evening, no egg yolks, no refined sugar and lots of supplements. I ate this way for years. Every magazine, TV show or doctor I had ever met or heard advocated such a diet. Even advertisements and commercials reinforced the belief that what I was doing was the best thing for my body.
I began to hear about Paleolithic eating as soon as I joined Crossfit Aspire in January of 2011. Initially, I dismissed it. After all, wasn’t I already doing everything right? I had no desire to participate in some new fad diet that would likely vanish in a year or two — one that claimed eating bacon was acceptable! After a few months and several conversations about Paleo, I decided that I would investigate the science behind it. I thought that learning about Paleo would be a waste of time, though it could serve to cement my certainty that I was eating just as I should have been all along.
In May of 2011 I started reading articles about Paleo. The first few did little to change my attitude. As I read more, I felt a disturbing dread creeping into my nutritional thoughts. For some reason, the science behind the Paleo diet made sense. I found that I could not immediately dismiss it as junk science or a fad. The more I read, the more I felt that maybe, just maybe, I could try it. However, doing so would conflict with years of nutritional training and experience, not to mention the entirety of the American culture that advocates low-fat, whole grain and white meat only. Still hesitant, I continued reading.
What tipped the balance for me was reading the personal testimonials from our own members that were posted on the Crossfit Aspire nutrition page. Of course Justin and Alycia related their own experiences, as well as Jill Fisher, Laurie Denton, Beth Walker, Jason Holonia, Dave Hampton, Steve Kirsch, and Jamie DePolo. After I read through the transformations experienced by people I knew, I came to a realization. The purpose of my disciplined eating had been to continually improve my performance. However, my performance was not where I wanted it to be, where I knew it could and should be. If so many people could drastically improve performance in such a short time by eating Paleo, what would it do for me?
Still hesitant, I switched to Paleo in late May of 2011. Within a week I noticed that I had lost 4 or 5 pounds of fat. My clothes fit differently. More than that, I began sleeping better. I had always been a very light sleeper, never able to sleep a night through without waking up several times. After I started eating Paleo, I could get solid, unbroken sleep. Those two facts alone were enough for me to continue long enough to notice something more. I found that on the occasions when I could not exercise for several days (such as when I had the flu), I didn’t gain any fat. In the past, if I missed three days at the gym, I would add a few pounds of bad weight. After I got back into the gym, the fat would vanish. But eating Paleo added no extra weight, no extra fat, when I couldn’t exercise. Regardless, let’s hope that doesn’t happen much.
And as for performance, I have to say that I didn’t notice much improvement. Let me say that again: I didn’t notice much improvement. At least for a while. You see, I still came in, worked as hard as I could and collapsed on the floor after each WoD. Since we don’t repeat workouts often (constantly varied, right?), I just judged things based on how I felt. Since I still felt exhausted every day, I figured there wasn’t much going on in the improved performance department. However, on 16 August 2011 a WoD was posted that we had done before: 5 rounds, 5 deadlift and 10 burpees, 3, 2, 1, go. When we finished, I collapsed on the floor until I recovered. When I could breathe again I logged my time, as I always did, in my exercise journal. I wasn’t sure what my time was the last time I did that WoD and wanted to compare. It was almost three months of Paleo eating and four months of training in between. I found the previous entry on 18 April 2011 and checked my time – 8:37. Then I looked at the clock and my book once more for 16 August and saw the time – 4:01. I had to look at it a few times to be sure I was reading the right WoD. Yes, it was the right one, and I used the same weight, too.
When I pointed this out to Justin, his comment was, “It’s nice when it just kind of smacks you in the face ilke that.” I have to agree. Although I know some of the improvement was due to continued training, and Justin is an awesome coach, I think he’ll agree that it takes much more than good programming to become literally more than twice as fast in a mere four months. Finally, I had my proof. Paleo improves performance. A lot.
Now, as Alycia will confirm, I don’t consider myself to be participating in the 30 day challenge. That’s because I eat that way all the time. It’s not really a challenge when you just keep doing what you’re doing every day, is it? I’ll be participating in the sense that I’m doing it too, of course. I’ll check the message boards every day and add advice and encouragement if Steve and Jamie haven’t beaten me to it already (or maybe even if they have). I’ll be eating the same things and not eating the same things as everyone else involved, but I don’t really find it a challenge. Paleo is just the way it is for me. Kind of like the way Monday night means football in some houses.
For anyone who is still on the fence about Paleo or struggling with it, all I can say is stay with it. You’ll be happy you did. I’m here, and so are many others, to offer whatever support I can, so feel free to ask me anything or e-mail me with anything. If I don’t know, I’ll find the answer (I want to know, too). Maybe after 30 days you’ll find, like I did, that too many important things in your life have changed because you started eating only real food. Perhaps when you experience the kind of improvements that so many others have you won’t want to go back to your old habits, to the old you. You’ll be too busy eating bacon to look back, anyway.Posted in Personal Stories | Leave a comment November 18, 2011
The Fall 2011 Nutrition Challenge was a major success!
We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome – from major weight loss to disappearance of daily symptoms to a new perspective on food, everyone gained something valuable from this challenge. And it is our hope that you take what you learn and continue to cook, eat and nourish yourself properly going forward.
Without further ado, we are proud to announce the WINNERS….yes, multiple people won this challenge!
As this challenge went on, and especially after seeing the numbers (weight loss and improvement in the workout), it became apparent that with so many factors contributing to ‘success’ in this challenge, there was no way to choose just one person as the winner. We found it impossible to choose just one person who encompassed everything.
The WINNERS of the Fall 2011 CrossFit Aspire Nutrition Challenge are:
BY THE NUMBERS: This person’s combined weight loss (7%) and workout improvement (39%) was most impressive out of all of the participants.This person is DOREEN!
Doreen not only lost weight and drastically improved her workout time, she also actively sought out recipes and tips to help her through this transition into eating well. She was one of very few to request that we extend the challenge out to 60 days since she was having such great success on it. We wish Doreen much luck in the future and we’re here to support her for an extra 30 days or a lifetime. Congratulations, Doreen!
MOST VOCAL/HELPFUL: This power-couple was the most influential and informative throughout the entire challenge, acting as a comment moderator, question answerer, blog writer, encouragement giver, and all-around knowledgeable duo. This couple is STEVE and JAMIE. ( I tried to make you guys into a “Bennifer” -type name, but it didn’t work…Stamie or Jeve just sound silly, sorry!). They didn’t have weight to lose, but they had plenty of knowledge to give. They will continue to be a great resource within the gym in the future. Thanks guys!
The total amount contributed by members was $340, which will be split evenly between the two winning groups. See Alycia or Justin to claim your prize money. I’m ASSUMING you’ll be spending it on grassfed beef and fancy ingredients! But honestly, spend it however you want. Treat yourselves to a massage at the least – you deserve it!
In addition to the winners, there were MANY people who actively contributed to the success of the challenge. In no particular order, they are:
Most Well Documented: Kate Eckert, who kept up her blog, Kate vs Food, for the entire challenge. She has some great stories and recipes that will be used as a resource for future challenges.
Most Visual: Shamus submitted a photo every day of the challenge. I still have a stockpile that I intend to use at some point. His pictures were drool-worthy, funny, enormous, and downright delicious looking.
Most Questions Asked during the first 48 hours of the Challenge: Ameet! This guy travels and has a high stress life – he had a lot to ask about! (This was done behind the scenes in emails.)
Most Impressive Before/After Pic: Mike Ferguson. (See below). Holy abs, Batman! Mike is a chef, and stopped grazing during work while on the challenge. Looks like it helped a little
Most Enthusiastic: Jill Fisher. This was not her first challenge, but it proved to be the most successful one. She learned how to cook, and made some very significant life-long changes. Her stories and revelations are in the comments section of the posts on the Nutrition page.
Most Hands On: Melissa G.! She hosted a mini cooking clinic at our house, where she taught us a bunch of simple tips on choosing proper cutlery, and how to shop veggies and fresh herbs. Thank you, Melissa!
Best Meatloaf: Laura. Seriously Laura. I ate it with my hands, out of a tupperware container, while at a red light in the car. Maybe that just shows that I’m a pig, but it was really, really, really good. Thanks for the huge portion!
Most Successful Newbies: Liz and Jesse. They are new to CrossFit, and to eating healthy, and they did a fantastic job of keeping strict and losing a bunch of weight (20 lbs between the two of them!). Keep it up!
Most impressive gym performance: Sharon. She came out of nowhere during this challenge and set a bunch of PRs, not letting anything stand in her way. She also reduced her “Garage” time by half! Watch out – don’t get in her way or she’ll power clean you.
Most Impressive Body Composition Change: Peggy. Justin won’t stop talking about how good Peggy looks. Should I be worried? Peggy also should win for ‘funniest comments on the blog’. She’s a riot.
BEFORE & AFTER PICS:
In 30 days, we weren’t looking for an obese-to-thin picture comparison. That just isn’t possible in that amount of time. What we did expect, and we did see, is our members go from ‘average’ to ‘significantly more awesome looking’ in just a few short weeks. Here are the four brave souls who let me post their pictures for all of the internet to see.
*If you have a Before/After that you want to send me, please do, and I’ll add it here. Consider it your contribution to the Spring 2012 Nutrition Challenge, where you’ll serve as a hopeful illustration of what can happen.
Lastly, we received a lot of great feedback from the survey. It looks like you all enjoyed success during the challenge, and were grateful for the support. It’s the people who did the challenge with you, especially the winners and honorable mentions, that provided the bulk of the support. You all were such an important factor in one another’s success, and I hope you realize that you can now go forward, armed with knowledge and a group of people behind you, and start to live healthy and help others.
We’ll catch up at the Spring 2011 Nutrition Challenge! Look for more blog posts/nutrition discussions before then. Congratulations again!Posted in 30 Day Challenge, Personal Stories | 10 Comments November 14, 2011
Today is Day 30! Last day of the challenge. That wasn’t so bad, now was it? In fact, it was kinda good. Kinda really good.
Here are some of your quotes from throughout the challenge. Whenever you’re having a bad food day, or you realized that you’ve strayed a little too far from the real-food diet, come back here and read this post to remind yourself of how great you feel when you are eating real foods.
With pride and great hopes fore the future, we say congratulations and good luck! Go ahead, eat or drink something tomorrow that you’ve missed throughout the challenge. Then try to stay as close to 100% real foods as possible. Your body will thank you.
“This time I wanted to really make a lifestyle change. I wanted to come out the other side significantly different in how I viewed food and my ability to know what is good for me and make those choices regularly. And, with only a week left, I am pleased to say that it HAS become a way of life. I learned more this time (thanks to all your posts and recipes and Q and A!), and I feel equipped to face the highly processed culture out there with a lot more self control and, frankly, joy! Life is not about all the things we avoid, but all the things we enjoy. And man oh man, paleo style food is straight up enjoyable.”
“My response to “Oh, you’re on that low carb Atkins thing” is “No, I’m on that ‘Eat Only What’s Good For You’ thing.”
“I did ok with eating before but no sugar or dairy has been different. Headaches are gone and I am feeling less tired. I did notice I took an apple in my lunch today and it tasted soooooo good! Guess that would be the sweet tooth being replaced with different tastes! My 30 days are up when I am going to my friends wedding…I was really looking forward to eating and drinking whatever but I must say…I am having less of a desire to “ruin” what I have already done, even when the 30 days is up.”
“This challenge has really opened my eyes to how not Paleo I was eating over the last 6 months which probably contributed to my freak out of gaining weight. I was not understanding why I was gaining weight but when I really look back at my diet I cheated everyday and those cheats add up.”
“This challenge has really straight up just gotten me to the point where I am ready to embrace this lifestyle on a more full-time basis.”
“Since I can remember I’ve always had stomach/digestive issues since college and it has progressively gotten worse through the years. I’ve been to Dr.s and specialists who have told me that I have IBS and that I need to figure out what foods are causing my symptoms – I’ve even been given medicine to help and that didn’t work. So the last few years I”ve self diagnosed myself as lactose intolerant, I know that eating rice makes me bloated and few other things. But b/c i love all the bad stuff, I chose to deal with the pain convincing myself I’m just screwed for life b/c no one really knows what’s actually wrong.
We are on day 17 of the challenge and I have had no issues, no IBS symptoms or bloating, and my body is functioning as normal as can be. I feel great! I don’t worry anymore about how bad I will feel after every meal because I don’t have any problems anymore!!!!! The 30 day challenge was a wake up call, and made me realize that what I was putting in my body was negatively affecting my life. “
“Although I have been eating mostly paleo since January, it wasn’t until this challenge that I have adopted the concept cooking large quantities of meat in a crock pot to last me through the week. It has saved me so much time in food preparation during the week and [so far] the experiments have been tasty and successful.”
“Anyway last time I did the diet I failed from the drinking part. I couldnt do it for 30 days. But now I’m much more comfortable going to a bar and asking for a club soda with a ton of limes. As long as I have something to sip on it didn’t really phase me to much. I also think its a maturity thing as well. You grow up and realize its OK to not drink even though everyone else is.”
“Before this challenge I was cold ALL THE TIME. I used to sit at my desk and just freeze I would drink loads of hot water and my nails would still be blue from cold. That’s totally vanished in the last few weeks. Even my husband has noticed, saying that my nose and cheeks aren’t cold to the touch.”
“So because we had a wedding to go to my husband and I started early. Today is our last day (although I feel fabulous and will continue to eat this way…. plus a little liquor). Survey says….30 days Paleo…..minus 14 lbs. I am pretty freakin’ proud of myself. I did not enter to win but just felt like I wanted to share with people who know that this was a super healthy way to lose…I have been met with lots of “you are looking great but are you sure cutting all that out is healthy” comments! Keep up the great work everyone!!! It does pay off!”
“Top 11 things I thought would never happen and did during the challenge
1. I cooked.
2. I drink my coffee black
3. I gave up Splenda (yes I know that should have been gone years ago)
4. Mike ate the food I cooked
5. I went grocery shopping multiple times
6. I spend most of my day on Sunday looking at recipes
7. I didn’t cheat on the diet
8. I didnt drink
9. I now enjoy cooking
10. I now truly embrace Paleo as a lifetime way of eating.
11.Mike did the entire challenge didn’t cheat, didn’t drink, and lost mad weight!”
“I’ve definitely given up gluten for good and learned when I’m actually hungry versus when I’m just craving sugars/random foods (if extra breakfast/lunch/dinner is not appetizing, I’m not really hungry).”
“I am now feeling like it’s a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Even when I’m craving bad foods, I know I won’t go near them because of how negatively my body reacts to them.”
“I’ve cooked more in the last two weeks than I’ve cooked in my entire life. Need a vacation from this. Know of any Paleo cruises?”
“I have always been into cooking and good food so I started to change my diet slowly in preparation for the challenge and started reading all of the nutritional information that has been posted on the website. Oh boy what an eye opener! I was aware of some of the obvious stuff, but the toxic affect of gluten, the genetic modifications to food we eat and the long term affects of a wheat infused diet are really frightening. This experience is definitely a life changer for me. Not to say I will never cheat and eat ice cream or drink wine, but it will be with my eyes open and knowing that 90% of the time I am on the right track. One of the hardest things for me has been incorporating so much red meat into my diet. I am a big fish eater but now I am eating bacon – my dogs are thrilled – and all kinds of meat and I am feeling great! Some of the benefits for me are:
I am sleeping better than I have in years
I feel really rested when I wake up – but I still love my coffee
I have much more energy throughout the day
I am not hungry at night so I am not snacking after dinner
I am getting leaner and stronger – last night I increased my front squat weight by 50 lbs!
Actually I am never hungry anymore and I haven’t really been too full – except Sat night when all of the different food was so awesome!
My clothes are fitting better and I don’t feel so bloated
I also feel more clear headed and focused.”
“I used to be plagued with headaches and migraines…usually they would start at 3 in the afternoon and last until after dinner time. They would be so bad i was sensitive to light, nauseous, would have to laydown in the dark and take pills to knock me out. Once I started changing my diet a year ago I started getting fewer headaches. I got a headache the first 2 days on the challenge but that’s it. Nothing since then. I know the headaches were related to my diet. My body is very sensitive to sugar, I get really bad highs and lows from it. My crashes usually were when I would get my headache and then I would feed my headache and so the cycle continued…this last year I’ve ended that cycle and I feel better. When I occasionally eat sugar I feel like I wake up with a slight hangover, groggy, sluggish etc. “
“The other thing I’ve noticed about eating this way, it’s a mood stabilizer for me. Usually the highs and lows that I got from eating sugar also affected my mood, I got angry, tired, depressed, giddy. Now I feel I don’t have as bad of mood swings.”
“Like many in my family, I have dealt with anxiety over the past several years and was even on anti-depressants for a while there. Even before I found crossfit, I was feeling relief through my attempts at better diet and exercise and weight loss.”
“This 30-day challenge (and crossfit workout) have definitely contributed to additional improvements. I’m way more relaxed, in the moment, calm, clear headed, confident. Anxiety was also a cause of my over eating. I’m no longer likely to hunt for snacks and eat just for the sake of eating. I’m finally breaking the vicious cycle!”30 Day Challenge, Personal Stories | 6 Comments September 29, 2010
Trying to eat Paleo, but find yourself reaching for a ‘quick snack’ during the day because real food isn’t available?
Read, or re-read these articles. You might need a refresher!
Hopefully (especially if you’re a member of our gym!) you’ve adopted some of the suggestions that were provided to help you transition into 100% clean eating. For most, you probably had a few ‘take aways’ from the articles, but you surely didn’t implement all of the tactics for eating well. After all, that would include a ton of COOKING….and who has time for THAT?
Don’t believe me?
Take a look at my Monday night. I cooked all of my food for the week between 6pm and 7pm while Justin coached a single CrossFit workout. I knew that the week would be VERY hectic, and rather than set myself up for bad decision making later in the week, I decided to go on a cooking rampage and just cook everything in my fridge at once!
6pm - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap a Trader Joe’s Cabernet Pot Roast, plop it on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Remove 5 marinated chicken legs (free range chicken from Reading Terminal Market) from the fridge (these were marinated in Newman’s Own olive oil and vinegar dressing) and put them in an oven safe dish and cover with foil.
6:05 - Put the meats in the oven and set the timer for 1 hour.
6:10- Rinse and chop fresh arugula, garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers ( all from Haddonfield Farmer’s Market). Dress with olive oil and cracked black pepper.
6:15 – Put a pot of water on the stove with high heat. Peel and cube a sweet potato.
6:20 – Chop a 1/2 of a yellow squash into rounds and sautee in a large pan ( try to have a single layer of rounds) on medium heat in some Kerrygold pure butter.
6:25 – Put the sweet potatoes in the water. Flip the squash rounds. Rinse and chop some kale.
6:30 – Cut an acorn squash in half, scoop out the stringy part and seeds. Score the inside of each half. Set open sides up on a baking sheet. Put a pat of Kerrygold butter and a few shakes of allspice in the scooped out portion of each. Put that in the oven with the meats.
6:35 – Remove the yellow squash rounds from the heat and set aside. Put 2 small pork loins ( or one large one) in a crock pot and set it on high for 4 hours. Add a little olive oil to the bottom of the crock pot, and a small amount of water, just to make sure the meat doesn’t stick to the bottom. Don’t worry about seasoning. You’ll do that later when the meat comes out.
6:40 – Drain the water from the sweet potatoes, and add the squash rounds to this pot. Mix in some Trader Joe’s Everyday seasoning and mash together slightly until it looks like chunky mashed potatoes. Put 3 slices of bacon in a small frying pan and cook on medium, occasionally draining the bacon fat into a larger sautee pan (large enough to cook kale in).
6:45 - Slice 6 small apples (organic, from the Haddonfield Farmer’s Market) into thin slices and put them in a pot on the stove with a small amount of water. Cook covered on medium for 15 minutes.
7:00 - Remove the meats ( leave the acorn squash in there) from the oven and check for doneness. If they are done, set them aside to reach their optimal level of tenderness. If they need more time, stick them back in the oven! Don’t let the bacon burn. Take it off the stove when it’s done and chop into small squares when it’s cool.
7:03- Drain the water from the apples, and add in a handful of raisins and about 1/4 cup of almond meal. Continue to cook on low heat for about 3-5 more minutes. Remove the acorn squash from the oven ( don’t undercook – the whole thing should be soft, and pliable when touched).
7:06 – Toss the kale into the sautee pan with the leftover bacon fat. Coat the kale, cook for a few minutes until it wilts and gets smaller. Toss in the the bacon squares.
Later, when the pork is done, remove it from the crock pot and shred into small pieces with two forks. Store in the fridge with the liquid from the crock pot ( should be water + fat from the meat). When you’re ready to eat it during the week, add some minimally processed BBQ sauce, or make your own to put on it. You can also mix this with chopped raw veggies and olive oil, and eat cold ( a la chicken salad).
To recap, here’s what I made:
Arugula salad with local vegetables (2 servings)
Pot Roast with spices from Trader Joes ( 4 servings)
Pulled Pork ( 6 servings)
Baked Chicken ( 3-4 servings)
Sweet potato and squash mash ( 5 servings)
Apples, raisins and nuts ( 5-6 servings)
Kale with Bacon ( 4 servings)
Baked Acorn Squash ( 4 servings)
Depending on the size of your family, or how much you eat at one time, this could easily keep you fed and happy for the rest of the week. Simply cook some more green veggies to add to the plate each time you sit down to eat. These meals were prepared in about 1 hour, will feed Justin and I for an entire week, and the total approximate cost of everything was about $50!
My plan for the week:
Breakfasts: Chop up one of the meats into tiny pieces and add to eggs for an omelette.
Lunches: Meat + one of the squash dishes, and whatever greens are left/available.
Dinners: Meat, a little of one of the squashes/sweet potatoes, and cook more greens to accompany.
Snacks: Nuts, high quality lunch meats, and some of the apple/raisin/nut dish.
And there you have it. My hectic schedule seems less hectic now that all I have to do is cook some eggs or greens, and re-heat good, clean food.
Still think you don’t have time to cook?
Try this out next week and let me know how it goes!30 Day Challenge, Nutrition Articles, Personal Stories, Recipes | Leave a comment ← Older posts