Taking time for yourself

One of the hardest things about working out is making time for it. In my line of work, you can always justify a few more hours at the office. And more importantly, taking time off feels selfish.  But this study helps me remind myself that the extra hour a day is actually better for everyone around me too: Bosses Who Work Out Are Nicer. So now I can tell myself I'm not just doing it for me, I'm making myself a better person for everyone I work around.

Day 30

So, it's day 30 of the Whole 30, and I feel..... pretty much the same? I know, I know, it's supposed to be fantastic and wonderful. And it usually is. But apparently I've cleaned up my diet enough that a Whole 30 doesn't make me feel super stellar. Instead, it's the opposite--now I realize how bad I feel when I eat not-so-good food.

Which is why I'm excited about using this Whole 30 reset as a way to figure out which foods exactly cause me to feel poorly. This time, I'm going to be methodical about what I introduce back in and really note how they effect me. In particular, I want to note what they do to my mood, energy, recovery, sleep and digestion. 

So yeah, maybe my 4th Whole 30 isn't as shocking as the others, but that doesn't mean it won't be just as revelatory.


A warm cuppa

Winter has finally hit Wisconsin, and the snow and slush has me jonesing for a warm cuppa. I still drink coffee (we switched to decaf in our house), and we've re-started our tea collection, so that's awesome, but sometimes you just really want something different.  Enter this recipe from Dana Hsieh.

Cinnamon Hot Cocoa

1 tablespoon of pure cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
a pinch of sea salt

Put ingredients in cup. Pour hot water over top. Stir. Enjoy. 

Yeah, it's called hot cocoa, but I wouldn't advise you to think of it as hot chocolate. Without the milk, it's not rich enough at all, but it does make for a nice chocolate tea. If you're looking for something warm and cozy, check it out. And while you're at it, catch up on the Paleo Rodeo that Dana puts together, with great posts from around the web.


Get off my playlist, Britney!

It's pretty sad: my workout mix of music has pretty much been the same, with a few additions each year, since 2004. Yes, that's right, 2004. And I'll be damned if this year is not the year I relegate "Oops I did it again," to a party mix, and NOT my workout mix.

Thank G-d for NPR. You knew about their kickboxing workout mix, right? And their 80s music workout mix? (Salt-N-Pepa is already all over mine.) Now, in honor of the New Year, they've got the "ultimate workout mix."

Yesssss. That's a New Year's fitness resolution I can get behind: no more Britney AND I don't have to make the mix myself.

Don't worry, Britney, I won't ever completely forsake you. I promise.


A Quick Rant

It's January, which means everyone's out there working on their New Year Resolutions, i.e. everyone is trying to lose weight. The gyms are packed and everyone's bought new sneakers and everyone believes they will lose weight *for realz* this time and OMG IT IS MAKING ME SO ANGRY.  I'm sorry. I can't help it. Seriously people, if you want to lose weight, cardio isn't going to do it. Heck, lifting weights isn't even going to do it.  The fact of the matter is if you want to lose weight, you have to focus on nutrition.

As Brad Pilon points out, you can't out-train a bad diet.

And even if you could, cardio isn't the way to do it. Right now, my facebook is flooded with women (and a few men) signing up for marathons as if 1) the entry fee will be enough to make them move; 2) training for a marathon will actually make them lose weight; and 3) diet doesn't matter.  But the facts are your diet DOES matter, your diet is more than just calories (i.e. Fuck Calories), and cardio won't make you thin.

So seriously. Stop setting yourself up for failure. Stop focusing on these big things that you think will change your life, because in actuality, it's the small day-to-day habits that both make you who you are and determine your health. Signing up for a marathon isn't going to magically make you awesome. It's also not going to magically do the work for you. So find a first step, a small step, and do that. And then consistently do that step until you are consistently awesome.


You can't work you way out of bad nutrition...

and you can't work your way out of lack of sleep. You've heard it before: rest and recovery are important to maintaining a healthy body and mind, but in case you need just a little more proof, Science Daily offers this new report that Lack of Sleep Makes Your Brain Hungry. Full text below:

New research from Uppsala University shows that a specific brain region that contributes to a person's appetite sensation is more activated in response to food images after one night of sleep loss than after one night of normal sleep. Poor sleep habits can therefore affect people's risk of becoming overweight in the long run.
The findings are published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Researchers Christian Benedict and Helgi Schiöth, of the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University, showed in an earlier article, published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that a single night of total sleep loss in young normal weight men curbed the energy expenditure the next morning. This research also showed that subjects had increased levels of hunger, which indicates that an acute lack of sleep may affect human's food perception.
In a new study, Christian Benedict, together with Samantha Brooks, Helgi Schiöth and Elna-Marie Larsson from Uppsala University and researchers from other European universities, have now systematically examined which regions in the brain, involved in appetite sensation, are influenced by acute sleep loss. By means of magnetic imaging (fMRI) the researchers studied the brains of 12 normal-weight males while they viewed images of foods. The researchers compared the results after a night with normal sleep with those obtained after one night without sleep.
Christian Benedict explains: "After a night of total sleep loss, these males showed a high level of activation in an area of the brain that is involved in a desire to eat. Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people's risk to gain weight in the long run. It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight."

Going with your gut cont'd

The Wall Street Journal has another fascinating article on the relationship between your gut and the rest of your body, this time looking at its effects on mental health. First, they point out a correlation in gut and mental health problems.
Many people with psychiatric and brain conditions also report gastrointestinal issues. New research indicates problems in the gut may cause problems in the brain, just as a mental ailment, such as anxiety, can upset the stomach.
 More fascinating, they point out the role the gut plays in developing important neurotrasnsmitters.
Dr. Gershon, professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia, has been studying how the gut controls its behavior and that of other organs by investigating the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Low serotonin levels in the brain are known to affect mood and sleep. Several common antidepressants work by raising levels of serotonin in the brain.

Yet about 95% of the serotonin in the body is made in the gut, not in the brain, says Dr. Gershon. Serotonin and other neurotransmitters produced by gut neurons help the digestive track push food through the gut.
 Read the whole thing here


You are what's in your gut?

Conditioning Research has a fascinating post about gut flora and its relationship with obesity and body weight.
Researchers have already observed that obese and lean people have differences in their gut microbiome. What preliminary findings are still missing, according to Borenstein, is a comprehensive, system-level understanding of how these variations in the genetic makeup of the microbiome affect its organization and consequently its metabolic potential (energy production, use and storage) and its effects on the human host.
Basically, this new study shows that it may not be just WHAT you eat, but what's in your gut when you eat it. Go read the whole thing. Seriously intriguing. 

For the love of all that is cheesy

Today was my "active recovery" day for working out. So I walked the two miles home from work. It was brisk, dark, and lovely. My mind started wandering as I went, as it is wont to do. I was thinking about what other types of things I would do for active recovery. I wasn't coming up with much. And honestly, food was more on my mind than exercise.

Along with Tricia, I'm doing a Whole 30 this month to remind myself of good habits that I know how to practice. One of the things that was particularly hard to give up (which for me means that I was really over-dependent on it) was cheese. Brie cheese, sharp cheddar, feta, pecorino, aged gouda... Sigh. I love it all.

So tonight I sat down to do work, and don't even ask me how I got to this page, but I did.

See, doesn't this look fun? This is Jo Guest, the 2011 Gloucestershire Women's Cheese Rolling champion.

Now I have something to practice on active recovery days, a travel goal, and cheese is still a part of my life! Who is with me?




It's a big week for me. I have a big presentation at work today, am bench managing the Mad Wreckin' Dolls friends and family scrimmage on Thursday evening, and have my second bout as a real derby grrl on Saturday.

That pretty much means all my free time is spent getting pumped.  In case you need some pep this week too, I've been alternating between this song:

This song:

And this video:

What do you do to get the adrenaline going?


Keeping busy

Don't you fret--Meagan and I are still working hard at our perpetual quest to become generally badass. We've just been a little swamped with work, life, and equally important, working out, so haven't had much time to make it to the blogosphere.

Luckily, my work has been pretty quiet over the holidays because derby has definitely become my second job. In addition to being drafted to the Reservoir Dolls and making my rookie debut, I was also elected training manager of our local recreational roller derby league, the Mad Wreckin' Dolls.  These girls hit it hard and are keeping  me on my toes with requests for additional off-skates work outs and info on stretching and nutrition.  Between both leagues, I'm averaging around 6-7 derby practices a week plus another 3 crossfit workouts at Crossfit Sanctify when I'm lucky.  (If you want more detailed information on my workouts, you can follow me on Fitocracy.) Add in team meetings, strategy huddles, executive board meetings, and you've got one tired little lady.

Working out this much made me realize 1) that I hadn't been eating as cleanly as I would like; 2) I really need to make sure I'm getting enough of the right energy; and 3) I need more sleep.  Starting January 1, I've joined thousands of others around the country in doing a Whole 30.  It's my 4th time through and feels just as good as always. In order to fix my lack of energy,  I've also decided to up my carbs.  Even when I was eating chocolate and dairy, my carbs came in about 30-40 grams a day and that's just not going to cut it for a girl who works out this much. I've taken to eating sweet potato and winter squashes with abandon and am feeling much better for it.  I also finally read Lights Out, and am actively working on bettering my sleep. I was already sleeping in a blacked out room without electronics, but now I'm trying to finish up all computer use/television watching a full hour before bed and am shooting for 9 hours of sleep (which means I'll probably get 8) versus 8 (and getting 7.) This is great because it means I've built in at least an hour a day of reading time, which I'm using to try and work on the mental parts of being an athlete. (I just said I was an athlete! Oh how things change over time!) Right now I'm reading Drive and The Fighter's Mind with the goals of creating my own personal "be a better derby  girl" mental game plan.

Hopefully, all this mental prep will play off this weekend for our second bout of the season. Check out our promo ad (with some footage of me around the :13 mark!), and if you're in the area, come cheer us on.

What have y'all been up to?


Standing up for success

If you're determined to make a New Year's Resolution (not that we condone such things here), why not start small? Here's one great thing to focus on today.