The Incredible Edible Egg

eggWhat is better than a fried egg? Or a scramble with sausage, bell pepper and smoked gouda? Or a poached egg on a bed of mixed greens?

I could go on and on about the awesomeness that is the egg like Bubba does with shrimp. It is amazingly versatile and packed full of protein. Like the late 1970s ad said, it truly is “The Incredible, Edible Egg”.

And so this week I have turned to the egg to replace the Clif Builder’s protein bar in my lunch box. While the bar has 20 grams of protein, it also has 20 grams of sugar. It is far from being evil but my coach Peter is right in pointing out that there are much better ways to consume the same amount of protein everyday.

So I made a small supply of hard-boiled eggs this past Sunday night to bring to work. They take a bit more time and effort to prepare but two eggs deliver 12 grams of protein and only 1.2 grams of sugar.

Rather than boiling them, I tried baking them in the oven, which is a technique advocated by Alton Brown of Food Network fame and clearly explained on Family Fresh Meals. Here is the recipe:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325º Fahrenheit.
  • Place eggs in a muffin tin to prevent them from rolling around and easily clean-up in case one breaks.
  • Cook the eggs in the oven for 30 minutes at 325º.
  • After 30 minutes, remove them from the oven and immediately submerge them in cold water for 10 minutes.

The eggs come out pretty much perfect.  You may find there are one or two little brown spots but they don’t affect the taste at all. The eggs are also really easy to peel. If you are going to store them, dry off the eggs and keep them in their shells. They will stay good for a few days in your refrigerator. Pretty incredible, right?

# of days to Freeze Fest: 114

Losing – and Learning

My teammate Alice will hate to hear me say this, but I learned a bit of wisdom last year that changed my outlook on my CrossFit experience: there is great value in losing.

It was an Oprah-defined ah-ha moment that happened on a random Tuesday afternoon last September in a conference room with bright white tables, lime-green chairs and florescent lighting. I was sitting among my co-workers, who were uniformly dressed in business-casual khakis and blue-and-white button-down shirts.

chalk-board_losing_lessonsI was attending an internal company presentation on winning multi-market accounts. One of the senior executives was instructing the collected group of commercial real-estate brokers to not be disheartened by a loss during our pursuit of new business. Rather, he astutely recommended we treat each loss as an opportunity to learn.

Probably to his chagrin, my first thought was not how this applied to my day-to-day job. Instead I jotted the note down and drew a sharp arrow with a pen and scribbled “CrossFit.” It’s a timeless saying that you learn from your mistakes. It had been told to me in the past by my parents, teachers, coaches and friends. But in that moment, it was the exact thing I needed to hear in relation to my most recent CrossFit experience.

Feeling Like a Loser
Two days before I had found myself lying on the cold, tile floor of the tiny bathroom in my gym after finishing the WOD. After 14 months and over 100 workouts, I had never felt worse.

It had started off well enough with the buy-in. Every minute on the minute for 10 minutes, we did 3 hang power snatches, 3 snatch balances and 3 overhead squats with a PVC pipe. It was 11 a.m. on a beautiful Sunday morning and we had a good group of the usual suspects in class together. With a nice breeze coming in through the garage door and some good tunes playing, the 10 minutes flew by with little cause for concern.

Next up was the main WOD: 10 rounds of 10 kettlebell swings, 10 push-ups and 10 box jumps. We grabbed a light kettlebell, and our coach, Peter, reviewed the proper form for the swings. He went around the circle and observed everybody’s technique. Once he as satisfied, we grabbed the kettlebell we would use for the WOD and did a few more swings to make sure we felt comfortable with the weight for that many rounds.

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The WODs that defeat you are the ones that teach you.

Everyone set up his or her area and got psyched up to attack the WOD. I figured out where I would do my push-ups, set up my box and put on my gloves. I situated myself so I was facing away from everyone and able to get into the zone to focus on the work ahead.

A deep breath and I watched the clock as we counted down 10 seconds to begin. With the blare of the music and the ring of the clock, I was off.

The first two or three rounds went by without a hiccup. And then … .

My stomach started to turn with every box jump, sloshing and churning and knotting itself into a maelstrom. I was breathing heavily and sweating excessively. A stain in the shape of a heart began to form on my shirt. I looked like the Grinch after his heart grew three sizes.

Round 4 was worse than 3, and so on. I was resting between each round, and by Round 6, I was resting between the individual box jumps. I was not a happy camper and showing signs of distress. Peter checked in with me as I was giving the universal symbol of looking like I was going to vomit: a clenched fist raised to my lips.

With two rounds left, I was walking around in circles trying to breathe and ignore the puking feeling that had taken over. Coach Peter mercifully interfered and switched in a much lighter kettlebell. I did the 10 swings and grimaced through 10 push-ups. I knocked the top box off my stack so I hardly had to jump. Others cheered me on in the background, but their encouragement was muffled by the dizziness.

I hustled through the last round and went straight to the bathroom to stare into the toilet. I didn’t need to call time as everyone knew I was done. Thankfully, I didn’t throw up but I did end up lying on the tile floor, miserable at what could be deemed a “loss” at the gym.

Studying the Loss
What had happened? Why was I staring up at the shelves above the toilet with the packaged rolls of paper towels and tissue boxes?

The fact was I had treated my body poorly that weekend. On Friday, I had consumed an excessive amount of calories at the Minnesota State Fair — a cornucopia of corn dogs, deep-fried apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, thin crust pizza topped with corn and bacon, and Sweet Martha’s chocolate-chip cookies. And on Saturday I had drunk more tall boys than usual at a TTCF party that got extended many hours with trips to more bars and me singing Neil Diamond’s America during karaoke at the local VFW. As predicted, I also didn’t get a good amount of sleep either night. A cheat day had turned into a long cheat weekend.

While these may be seen as excuses or temporal conditions, I paid a heavy tuition that morning. I learned very clearly that I cannot expect to perform well in a WOD on any given day of the week just because I CrossFit. What I do outside the gym has a very real effect on how I do in the gym.

Forget this one bad weekend; the lesson remains that as an athlete, I need to be mindful of my nutrition, my sleep and my general well-being to derive the true benefit of CrossFit.

It’s an idea that Teddy, Peter and the rest of the coaches at TTCF preach every day, but I needed a real “loss” for it to sink in.

An Eternal Lesson
There are real lessons to be learned every time we perceive loss, whether inside or outside the gym. If we examine losses closely we can uncover our weaknesses and discover points of focus moving forward.

I am always annoyed with myself during a WOD that includes double-unders because I don’t string them together. But I have to realize that in that loss there is a lesson to be found. I need to correct my form and practice them much more regularly at open gym or on my own time if I want to start “winning.”

I can attend a clinic on kipping, but my losing record on the pull-up bar will continue if I don’t pay attention to why I am losing. Am I not driving with my hips? Am I not being aggressive enough on the bar? What can I take from the loss to better prepare for a victory?

Scholars, athletes, scientists, philosophers and more have known this eternal truth for centuries. Here’s just a sampling of what some have said on the topic of losing:

  • “Winners have to absorb losses.” —Ice T
  • “Losses have propelled me to even bigger places, so I understand the importance of losing.” —Venus Williams
  • “If anything, you know, I think losing makes me even more motivated.” —Serena Williams
  • “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” —Donald Trump
  • “That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had
  • before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.” —Richard Bach
  • “If you learn from a loss you have not lost.” —Austin O’Malley

That first year of CrossFit had been a series of triumphs as I improved my times in workouts, finished races in which I never thought I could complete and saw gains in my overall health and wellness. But I had experienced a bit of a plateau and saw that early winning streak come to an end, with that brutal Sunday-morning loss being the needed shot in the arm.

If I really wanted to win in the long run, I had to start learning from my losses.

# of days to Freeze Fest: 115

My Lunchbox

Over the last year or so, I have made a conscious effort to bring lunch to work. This daily habit helps me save money and eat healthier.

thundercatsFor better or for worse, in the months of August and September I got into a rut of not preparing anything ahead of time and just going to the cafeteria in my office building to get a wrap, which while accompanied by fresh veggies also usually led to the purchase of a cookie to round things off. (Shh, don’t tell my coach.) It was embarrassing to look at my credit card bill and see how many line items were charges at Isabella’s Cafe. And it was all money that could have been better well spent.

After a week out of the office on a business trip to Texas that was spent eating at Panera everyday, I decided that starting Monday, September 30th I was going to follow a simple rule: bring lunch everyday to work unless someone else buys it for you.

Today marked the start of week three and I have happily brought lunch into the office 9 of the past 11 work days and on the other two work picked up the tab.

So what does my lunch consist of? Well I prefer a simple cold lunch that is easy to put together in the morning and doesn’t require microwaves or a big production when I am in the office. I still haven’t got out of the mindset from grade school that lunch is a sandwich and some snacks.

Twenty years later, I find myself  bringing a lunch box to work again, though not as cool as the ones I had as a kid. And since I try to keep Paleo, the white bread and bologna has been cast aside. In its place are baby carrots, celery sticks, almonds, plantain chips and some main source of protein.

The last two weeks I have bought a package of chicken drumsticks as my protein. Here’s the simple recipe I follow to bake them:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Toss the drumsticks in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary.
  3. Arrange them in a lightly greased baking pan.
  4. Cook for 30 minutes at 400° F and then turn the drumsticks over and cook for another 30 minutes at 400° F.

They come out perfectly cooked and they have turned out to be really delicious when served cold. They could definitely be more elaborately prepared but I need to do more research into recipes for a sauce to marinate them in. Or perhaps there is some form of Paleo breadcrumbs?

My lunch box also contains a banana or apple as snack for later in the day. I am also on the hunt for additional ideas of what to pack as I was recently advised to ditch the protein bars in favor of more natural sources of protein.  This week I am bringing hard-boiled eggs but welcome recommendations.

# of days to Freeze Fest: 116

Introducing My Teammate

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While this online journal is focused on my own training, the fact is that I will be competing as part of a team at Freeze Fest in February and my teammate is a total BAMF. Her name is Alice and she is a mom, she is a wife, she is a lawyer and she just turned 40 years old this fall.  And the dirty little secret is that she could seriously kick my ass.

We met first via Facebook as Alice signed up to run the Tough Mudder with the team from our CrossFit gym, which I was helping organize. It took weeks after she registered for us to actually meet in class. The first thing I noticed was that she was that she had a huge smile as we introduced ourselves. I thought the smile was just because she was being nice, but since then I have never seen her not be smiling, whether having just finished a workout or randomly bumping into her in the skyway in downtown Minneapolis.

As the team prepared for Tough Mudder, we had a weekly trail run on Saturdays in Theo Wirth Park. Every week, Alice had to excuse herself due to her family obligations but she swore she was running on her own. And of course she was because I learned quickly that Alice works her butt off. She put so much time and dedication into the Tough Mudder and exponentially more to get ready for the Granite Games.  She arrives to class early so she can work on double-unders, she makes training fit into her hectic schedule and she never complains.

Watching her compete in the Granite Games was truly inspiring. She and her teammate Lara did awesome.  One of the workouts involved muscle-ups, a very advanced movement. Alice can’t do muscle-ups (yet). However, when it came time in to get on the rings, she did. It is one thing to attempt a muscle-up with the knowledge that you are most likely going to fail in front of two or three people at your gym. It is a whole different situation to attempt a muscle-up with over 1,000 people watching in the heat of the competition. But she did – multiple times. And while she wasn’t successful, she proved she had grit.

Alice is an absolutely amazing person. Her personal story is long and complex and I couldn’t do it justice nor is the proper forum to share it.  What I do know is that she is going to train hard and give it her all in the competition. She will persevere in the face of adversity and she is going to do it with a smile.

# of days to Freeze Fest: 118

Meeting with the Coach

This morning I met with my individual coach, Peter, at my CrossFit gym. It was a great time to check-in as training begins to kick into high gear. The coaches are putting together workouts for all of us who are competing in Freeze Fest, but my conversation with Peter was a way to focus on what I can do outside of the gym that would complement my training.

The main focus was my shoulders & hips. We went over some daily exercises that I could do to improve mobility and most importantly open up my hips, which would help with my squats and basically every movement in CrossFit.

The daily routine that he recommended was as follows:

1.) Couch Stretch – minimum of 2 minutes per side couch stretch
2.) Lunge Stretching – minimum of 2 minutes per side lunge
3.) Shoulder pass-through with Lacrosse Ball – laying on the ground, place the lacrosse ball under the shoulder and lift your arm slowly straight up overhead and back down. rogue-lacrosse-ball-4_1

We also discussed just hanging out in the squat position once per week for approximately 10 minutes would be really beneficial. The goal is to be able to comfortably sit in my squat. Other things we reviewed were laying down just before class and holding a 40# dumbbell straight overhead with one arm so that the shoulder locks into place. Peter recommended Mobility Wod as a great resource to learn more about all these movements.

We also went over the results of my Bod Pod body composition assessment that I did last month at the University of Minnesota. In short it tells you what percent of your body is fat and what percent is fat free mass. It also provides you with your estimated resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the amount of energy you naturally expend daily when at rest.  There is a lot of information provided and it can help you determine how many calories you need to consume based on activity level.

At a later point I will delve into how my overall diet fits into training. Peter’s key takeaway was that if I do feel run down or that I am not performing as well as I could in class, then I may need to be eating more. If what I am doing right now is working, then maintain that as I shouldn’t completely overhaul my whole diet just because of Freeze Fest. Stick with what works.

One change though he recommended was to ditch the protein bars as they are really just glorified candy bars under the guise of being a good source of daily protein.  Instead, I should find good, clean natural sources of protein to replace those 20 grams per day.

I clearly have a lot to work on and I am anxious to see what the coaching staff has programmed to help myself and all the other athletes from my gym prepare for the competition.  All in all, I believe it will only lead to positive changes.

# of days until Freeze Fest: 119