Visiting CrossFit Reykjavik

img_8729Earlier this month I traveled around Iceland for ten days and had a memorable adventure seeing volcanoes, glaciers and lots of sheep. I bookended my trip by staying in Reykjavik and, as I’m  want to do, I visited a local CrossFit box.

The country is home to some of the strongest athletes in the world.  At the 2016 CrossFit Games, Iceland native Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir won first place and Ragnheiður Sara Sigmundsdóttir won third place in the women’s competition. What was in the water?  I had to witness the Icelandic advantage in person.

So on my first Sunday morning in Iceland, I decided to find CrossFit Reykjavik and attend class. Their website wasn’t working but I figured surely these tough sons and daughters of Vikings would be up and moving if I got there by 10am. With my trusty map of the city in hand, I walked 2.5 miles through the quiet residential streets to a shopping area where CrossFit Reykjavik had their box in the lower level of a plain concrete building that also housed a 66° North outlet store.

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Box is an understatement. This is a sweat factory. The space was huge and had more equipment than you could imagine. Rowers lined the central aisle along with tons of racks, rings and pull-ups bars throughout. There were so many areas where you could train and the amount of people coming through was awesome.

After paying a drop-in fee of 2,500 krona ($21.00), I signed up for the 11am class, which allowed me sometime to change and warm-up. The gym has a mobility space where the floor is a soft mat and that has shelves of foam rollers, lacrosse balls, ab mats, etc. There was also a TV setup and when I got there two members were just starting a ROMWOD, which I joined them for.

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Classes on Sundays were starting every 30-minutes. There was a warm-up and then the coach spent 15-20 minutes focused on skill work. The coach for my class spoke in Icelandic the whole time. I didn’t interrupt him to translate as I got the general gist through his gestures that he wanted everyone to focus on the hollow rock position while stringing together toes-to-bar. We practiced our kipping swing and he gave personal instruction. When he did help me, I quickly informed him that I only spoke English and he was happy to oblige.

Then as another dozen people shuffle in, the coach went over the WOD with my group. We were to set-up in an area of the gym and start when we were ready. It was a met-con with a 40-minute time cap:

  • 66 deadlift (50 kg / 35 kg)
  • 66 box jumps (60 cm / 50 cm)
  • 66 kettle bell swings ( 24 kg / 16 kg)
  • 66 knees to elbows
  • 66 sit-ups
  • 66 thrusters (25 kg / 17.5 kg)
  • 66 wall balls (20 lb / 14 lb)
  • 66 burpees
  • 66 double-unders

One guy in my group who helped me find all the necessary equipment explained that this was pretty typical for Sundays. No wonder these people are so strong if this is their casual Sunday workout. This was a lot of work and the clock ran out on me when I was half-way through the thrusters. I enjoyed afterwards going to a local pool to enjoy the hot tubs and steam.

I should mention that while there were about twenty of us doing the metcon, there were people doing their own workouts, lifting, rowing, running on TrueForm Runners, etc.  It looked like the warm-up area for the Granite Games – truly inspiring.

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This was exactly the same the following Sunday. I had just spent five days in a campervan driving the Ring Road around the entire country through heavy winds and rain. I needed to stretch my feet and move around so before I returned the vehicle I decided to make a pit stop at CrossFit Reykjavik.

Again, though with a different coach, we did a warm-up and then talked about the butterfly kip movement for pull-ups. Then it was time for another epic metcon. Another 40-minute time cap for the following:

  • Part A – 5 rounds of 12 wall balls (20 lb / 14 lb), 9 toes-to-bar, 6 power cleans (85 kg / 60 kg)
  • 5-minute rest
  • Part B – accumulate 800 meters of farmer’s carry with kettle bells (2 x 24 kg / 2 x 16 kg)
  • 5-minute rest
  • Part C – 21, 15, 9 overhead squats, handstand push-ups, burpee bar jump overs

Again, a ton of work, especially the farmer’s carry, which ate up a lot more time than I anticipated (or at least felt that way).  I extended the workout an additional 10-minutes and completed the 15 overhead squats and handstand push-ups.  Perhaps to be a true Icelandic warrior I should have finished, but I figured I am on vacation and could cut myself some slack.

With a small nation of only 315,000 people, it did feel like every 20-something and 30-something was at CrossFit Reykjavik. There were equal amount men and women at the gym and they all seemed very focused and dedicated. I found throughout my trip and during both visits to the gym that Icelandic people are not very friendly, but despite the lack of conversation and high-fives, it was a cool atmosphere to experience. I was there to do the work, sweat it out for an hour or so, and feel like a modern day Viking.

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Baked Black Bean Pasta

Typically white rice is my main source of carbs, but that 25 pound bag from Costco can sometimes feel bottomless and my meals monotonous. In search for an alternative, I came across a bag of black bean rotini at Trader Joe’s earlier this month. I decided that a twist on baked ziti would be a great way to put this pasta to the test.

The end result was awesome, probably because of all the sauce and cheese, and it yielded enough servings to feed me for a week’s worth of dinners.
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Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Black bean rotini pasta (12 oz.)
  • Bolognese sauce (25 oz)
  • Turkey meatballs (16 oz)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • Finely shredded Parmesan cheese (5 oz)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the pasta and meatballs according to the directions on the packages.
  2. Chop up the cooked turkey meatballs and then mix together with the drained pasta and bolognese sauce in a large pot or bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Pour 1/2 of of the mix and spread out to form the bottom layer. Evenly sprinkle 2/3rds of the shredded mozzarella cheese over it to create a second layer. Then pour the remaining mix and evenly spread out. Finally sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dish to create a top layer.
  5. Bake in oven uncovered for 30 minutes.

The dish yields 6 servings and each serving has the following macros:

Protein Fat Carbs Calories
47.8 25 51.2 621

I got the black bean rotini pasta, bolognese sauce, and frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s and the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese from Target. The total cost for the entire dish was under $25.00 and so each serving cost approximately $4.00.

You can cut back on the amount of cheese (not sure why you would) to lower the fat content or substitute grilled chicken to get more protein. Either way, this is a cheap and easy meal prep option.

Review: Ninjas United

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My nephews are obsessed with America Ninja Warrior, the unique competition series which airs every summer on NBC. When we go to the playground, the monkey bars and balance beams and slides become a ninja warrior training course.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of it all and I now dutifully watch the show each week at home. But just participating from the couch is no fun and so I decided to try out a class at Ninjas United in Edina. The gym opened in July and while it does host birthday parties and summer camps for kids, it also has classes for adults of all ability levels.

My friends (and 2015 Granite Games team members) Nick and Chris joined me, along with Chris’ friend Matt. We attended the 7:30pm class on Wednesday night, which was open to ages 12 and up. Thankfully there were no spry teenagers to put us to shame – maybe it was past their bedtime. Rather there were just two other classmates around our age.

Our coach, Hunter, is one of the local competitive ninja warrior athletes that regulars competes and actively trains year round in this new sport. He led our small group through a warm-up of running in place, wrist and ankle mobility and then hangs and pull-ups on the bar.

The gym has all the homemade makings of the professional course, including the salmon ladder and a climbing wall area. The space is not huge but they have it well set-up, especially for kids parties and other social gatherings.

Over the course of an hour, we worked on the warped wall, rings, rope swing, floating steps and balance. Hunter provided an overview of each element and advice. He is well versed and displayed his amazing athleticism; however, the structure of the class felt disjointed as we would talk about a movement and practice it together and then he would provide free time. More structured instruction would help, but this is a new sport to coach and I imagine some of those kinks will be worked out over time. The other issue was there was an obstacle course racing class going on and so our groups were bumping into each other a bit, which made it feel a bit more precarious.

Hunter did set-up a mini-course for us in which we had to run over a teeter-totter, do rope swings, go up the warped wall and utilize our balance. The gym has a fun scoreboard set-up that they were able to enter all our names and it provides a clock and countdown. They even have a buzzer for you to hit when you are done. I went last among the six of us in class and was able to learn from watching each person run the short course. I ended up coming in first place. We then had Hunter ran to show off his skills and he finished in half of the time as it took the rest of us.

Towards the end of our free time, I attempted the taller warped wall. I missed reaching the top and on the way back down the momentum led to a rather ugly dismount and me rolling my left ankle and falling flat on my face. Unfortunately, my ankle swelled to more than twice its normal size and I’ve been icing it, soaking it in Epsom salt baths and popping Ibuprofen to reduce the inflamation. Thankfully it doesn’t seem sprained or broken as I can walk on it and wiggle my toes.

My ninja warrior career seems short-lived. I might not be coordinated enough to handle the obstacles but it was fun to dive into that world for the night and Ninjas United provides a great playground. I believe with a few bit more time under their belt, the coaching staff will be able to better structure the classes and organize the space.

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What Does 3,000 Calories Look Like

For almost the past three months I have been working with Emily Field, a registered dietitian, and we have been focused on body composition, while at the same time fueling for performance.

From the beginning, Emily has prescribed daily macros (protein, fat, carbs). I was under-eating relative to my level of physical activity and so we started off just at 125 grams of protein, 60 grams of fat and 175 grams of carbs (1,750 calories).

Those numbers have been strategically increased every two weeks or so as my adapts to the larger caloric intake and metabolism has kicked into high gear. Now, my prescribed daily macros on active days is 200 grams of protein, 140 grams of fat and 250 grams of carbs (3,060 calories).

So what does 3,000 calories look like? Most would assume that is a easy number to hit courtesy of a few Big Macs and some Oreos. But the method behind the madness is that I am getting to the 3,000 calories by adhering to the specific ratio of protein, fat and carbs that Emily has assigned.

I’ll walk you through what I ate yesterday to provide illustration of how I hit my macros. Admittedly it is a bit short on greens and that can be improved. (I’ll note that Emily does not “count” non-starch vegetables to the daily macros, which means I could eat baby spinach to my heart’s content, but that just adds to the pile of food I am already consuming.) I welcome any comments and advice on recipes, alternative ideas or other useful tips.

BREAKFAST

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Eggs (2) 14 9 0 137
Cheddar Cheese (1/4 cup) 7 9 1 113
Rice (1/2 dry cup) 6 0 70 304
Olive oil (2 tbsp) 0 28 0 252
Chicken sausage (2) 12 6 0 102
Chocolate milk (1 cup) 8 8 29 220

Outside of the chocolate milk, all these other items get mixed into a big breakfast bowl of goodness. I have a Lekue Microwave Rice & Grain Cooker that cooks the rice in 12 minutes. I then mix in the olive oil, cheddar cheese, two fried eggs and cut up chicken sausages. This post-workout bowl is my go-to. I stated adding the olive oil last week to up my fat intake and the protein just rotates between chicken sausages and bacon.

LUNCH

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Grilled Chicken Burger 41 14 37 438
Coleslaw 1 19 19 251

A trip through the sky-way in downtown Minneapolis takes me to MyBurger, a recent staple once I discovered this grilled chicken burger. It is not award-winning but it offers a large, well cooked piece of chicken. The coleslaw as a side is a nice alternative to ordering fries. I should note that I don’t put any mayo, ketchup or mustard on my burger. While this sounds boring, it is tasty enough thanks to the cheese, lettuce and tomato. Ideally I would pack my lunch but when I fall short on my meal prep this definitely hits the spot.

MID-AFTERNOON

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
ProGainer 60 8 85 652

While I have a shaker in the picture to provide a sense of scale for this whopping scoop, I actually bring my ProGainer in a mason jar – better known as my “hipster shaker” (joke courtesy of a fellow Jeremy) – to work. It is the larget “cup” with a lid that I have that will fit both the whey and the water and leave room to shake. My coworker thinks it is hysterical. It is definitely not subtle but it has greatly helped me hit my prescribed protein and carbs. Previously, I was only having 3 big meals per day so this has also helped spread the love and feel more satiated.

DINNER

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Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Salame (2 oz) 16 16 0 208
Chicken breast (5.6 oz) 32.1 2.1 0 148
Mozarella (1/4 cup) 7 6 2 90
Brocolli slaw (1 cup) 2 0 5 28
Olive oil (1 tbsp) 0 14 0 126

Dinner is a typically a smorgasboard of various items in my refrigerator and involves grazing for an hour or two as I try to hit my macros. Again, the 3,000 calories is based on a specific ratio of protein to fat to carbs. I am tracking macros first and foremost. I am able to calculate my calories but I never have them in mind when I select what to eat. Rather, I am focused on whether each thing I eat gets me to my daily goal of protein, fats and carbs.

I prefer my plate be filled with clean simple ingredients instead of overly processed foods, but some days there are exceptions. I can’t live like a monk and simply exist on white rice and chicken. Some days I have a glass of red wine or a beer or a few cookies. However, I look at what I am eating the majority of the time and whether those are good choices.

The final tally is pretty dead on to my goal. Not all days are perfect, but consistency is key and the results are revealing themselves each week when I look in the mirror.

  Protein Fat Carbs Calories
GOAL 200 140 250 3,060
ACTUAL 206 139 248 3,069

Look for Inspiration, Not Comparison

running-man-inspirational-sunlight-photography-water-nature-1920x1200-wallpaper106204It’s 5:15 in the morning and I am my CrossFit gym for the first class of the day. As part of the workout we are all trying to establish a 1-rep max clean and jerk. Inevitably, as everyone is starting to throw weights on their bars, I am scanning the room to see how much. I’m ignoring their age, height, weight and countless other characteristics that distinguish them from me and making a superficial comparison. I take a deep breathe and remember to focus on myself and my own bar.

In the gym, especially in a group class setting like CrossFit, it is hard not to compare yourself to others, whether it be how much weight someone lifts, how many pull-ups they do in a row, or how many abs they have on display. Yet our tendency to make comparisons don’t cease when we leave the gym. We find ourselves examining every aspect of our lives, especially thanks to the more transparent world we live in via the internet and social media. Whether on purpose or not, we find ourselves comparing our lives to others via what they post on Facebook and Instagram. Vacations, parties, even lunches, are all ripe for envy when they are so accessible and in our face.

Over the last few months as I have focused heavily on my diet and nutrition, tracking macros and body metrics, I have learned that the best comparison is me to myself. It is not a revolutionary philosophy nor do I feel I am suddenly enlightened, but I have started to acknowledge that the comparisons to others are futile and undermine my own progress.

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.” – Zen Shiu

Recently I recommitted to doing a daily online Yin stretching program called ROMWOD. Each day there is a 20-minute video of 1-2 athletes doing the routine for you to follow along to. Some of the athletes are extremely flexible and have a wide range of motion. For example, in a seated forward fold their nose is touching their knees. Mine is far from it. However, I appreciate that the instructor emphasizes to not compare yourself to the people in the videos. They are where they are supposed to be for their bodies and you are where you are for yours. This mindset is echoed in yoga.

If I constantly compare is will lead to a world of disappointment. “The grass is always greener on somebody else’s front lawn. Somebody else’s weiner always has a lot more relish on.” The fact is there will always be people smarter, faster, stronger, younger, skinnier who make more money, more friends and have more Instagram likes. Dwelling on those adjectives and those “more than” and “less than” me thoughts will create a negative mindset. It undermines my own progress and success. I need to focus on the before versus after, rather than the him versus me.

“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain

In that vain, I am not going to stop looking around the room, but rather than looking for comparisons I’ll be looking for inspiration. Who can I learn from? Who can motivate me to do better? Who has aced their meal prep or improved their mobility?

With that in mind, here are some people of late who inspire me: