Been deep in the cave…

You’d think with all that’s been going on in my life related to health and fitness, I’d be busting at the seams with stuff to write about. And I am, I just haven’t been DOING it lately. Too busy? Maybe, I don’t know. Every once in a while — if you’ve ever followed any of my other blogs you know this already — I just dip out for a bit. I get bored with myself, sick of hearing my internal voice read back my words day after day and decide to just shut up for a while and experience life without documenting or trying to make blog-worthy every last piece of it.

I think I’m ready to start coming back to blogging about the whole health and fitness journey again. But so much has changed in my lifestyle during my hiatus that I need to do a quick catch-up before I can hit cruise-control again…

The Personal Trainer Thing:
In my time away, I spent 6 weeks in classes working to become certified as a personal fitness trainer. Health has become my obsession, and I think I’ve found a really good means of reaching and maintaining physical fitness and health, and I want to share that with as many people as possible. Losing fat, gaining muscle and flexibility, finding good nutrition and gaining such quality of life over the past couple of years has made me an immensely happier person, and if I can contribute even a little bit to somebody else getting the same satisfaction out of their life that I’m enjoying, I think I’ll find even more value in life.

I’ve taken my classes, taken my written and practical exams, and now am awaiting my results from the certifying body. If I find that I passed (I felt like I did), I’ll then need to become CPR/AED certified and complete a 30-hour internship which I already have lined up through my CrossFit coach at the Y. CrossFit? Oh yeah, I think that requires a new header.

CrossFit:
It’s magical. If you are my friend on facebook, you’ve probably seen about a thousand statuses with me reveling in the agony of CrossFit. I started Crossfitting in February, so I’ve been doing it pretty regularly for about 4 months. It’s the most intense physical activity I’ve ever voluntarily engaged in. I go Monday/Wednesday/Friday mornings at 6am to work out with a group where we do everything from sprints to olympic barbell lifts to kettlebell workouts to gymnastics. I also go some Saturdays.

I plan to become a CrossFit Level 1 certified trainer within the year, so I can confidently employ their methods into my own workout structure as it evolves. But that’s another blog.

The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, defines the basics in 100 words: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

This lifestyle has gotten me into the best cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and flexibility of my life. But as you can see from the very first words of Glassman’s synopsis up there, food is the cornerstone, if not the entire foundation and then some. Which leads me to the next header…

Primal/Paleo life is here to stay:
I did some writing on this before I checked out. I started eating primally, following the guidance I got from a book called “The Primal Blueprint,” by Mark Sisson. I read his blog daily, and have become nothing short of obsessed with primal/paleo nutrition. I think the reason behind that obsession is that since it’s so starkly contrary in some respects to what popular nutrition guidelines spout as absolution, I feel like I NEED to know every last bit of the thought process and research behind this stuff in order to A) defend it when people inevitably try to argue it’s validity, B) follow it safely and properly while maintaining a good balance and ensuring that it’s making me look, feel and perform my best, and C) recommend it to friends and potential clients as my basic nutritional guidelines for anyone from the casually active person trying to lean up a bit to elite athletes with specific performance goals.

I’ve been scouring the internet and taking in every bit of information I can to become as self-educated as possible in what many in the paleo research circles jokingly refer to as “pseudo-science” in reference to the way mainstream nutrition views the paleo lifestyle.

I’ve also migrated slightly away from Sisson’s sort of loose version of paleo, which he calls “primal,” and lean a little more toward a tighter version. In the tighter version of paleo, I love my menu, and I love the evolution of how I look, feel and perform. Tighter than primal to me basically means no dairy and less emphasis on fruit and nuts.

Though right now — side note — I’m on a kick to burn body fat, so even though I allow myself the occasional cheese either by choice or circumstance, I’m not indulging in dairy, fruit or nuts. My food is 95% in the realm of meat, eggs and veggies. I’m not being a nazi about it though. If something comes up and it’s kinda unavoidable, or if I’m on vacation or something, I’ll break and not kick myself for it. But for the most part, very tight paleo currently.

I’ll add nuts and seeds back to the mix, along with light amounts of fruit when I reach the leanness I’m looking for. I think dairy is gone as a staple for good though. But again, if it comes up and it’s hard to dodge, I don’t dodge.

Aaaaaaaanyway. That’s a rough wrap-up. I’m on my way to being a trainer, busting my ass in CrossFit, sorting out paleo nutrition.

I’m enjoying this souped-up fleshy vehicle my soul drives more and more every day.

And I hope to be back to tell you more, very soon.

TRAU

Chalking up a quitter’s “W”

Quitting grain wasn’t as hard as quitting smoking, but a lot of the same feelings are involved.

After 2 months with only accidental fractional amounts of grain reaching my belly, walking into a mall last night through the food court — past the S’barro’s, the Cinnabon, the Panda Express and so on — brought up almost the same sort of sensations as walking into a smoky bar did in the first months after quitting cigarettes.

I smelled hot bread baking. I recognized the mixed aromas from various vendors and could split their profiles in my head and single each one out. I may have closed my eyes, stood still and taken a deep long hit of it. And then all the negative mental associations I’ve created with those aromas slowly started to seep back into the forefront of my mind.

Like with cigarettes, I had to remind myself why I quit, remind myself how much better I feel without it, and move forward. To the vitamin store for my whey protein and vitamins. In and out, I don’t need to bum a piece of bread from anyone.

And like with cigarettes, I know it will get easier each time. I won’t stand there and relish the thought of a barely manageable slice of doughy New York style pizza. I won’t need to close my eyes and run a mental montage of sexy bread memories. I will eventually go straight to the negative, as I now do with vile, wicked cigarettes.

And chalk up a win for the quitter.

TRAU

Be picky! 4 Simple food-selection tips

As a former cheese-fry eating contest champion and probable record holder for most Lafayette Coney orders in single week, I certainly know what bad food tastes like. I lived it, man. For example, I promise you the following Taco Bell drive-thru order actually took place in my younger days. I still have friends that bring it up as legend over beers back home…

“I’ll take a nachos bell grande please, no tomatoes, no onions, but extra cheese. And I mean extra. I’ll pay for double or triple extra or whatever you feel up to charging me. I want it gross, man. Have fun with it.”

I think I got fatter just remembering that order… haha! When the guy came to the window, he was laughing. You could tell he felt guilty handing it to me, he said something about not being able to tell what was below the cheese as my friends and I all stared in awe at the plastic trough in front of me.

And I’m sure I used whatever spork or foon they put in the bag to get every last drop of that cheese. That, my friends, is how Old Trau rolled.

But as this blog is evidence of, those days are far behind me. These days I wouldn’t even be comfortable if some of that cheese sauce touched my skin, much less made it into my digestive tract.

Since giving up my Old Trau ways, I’ve become keenly observant of the awful, horrible things the good people around me consume on a regular basis. Some of it is blatantly bad for them, some is masked in healthy-looking packaging.

One of the most crucial elements of a healthy body is a picky, skeptical sense of appetite. I’ve come across some solid, no-bullshit guidelines that I think are a good starting point to help the person a bit stymied¬† by all the “healthy” food out there make better choices.

Suspicious Package Rule:
If it comes in a box, wrapper, can or bag, be skeptical. Don’t immediately discard it, but processed, chemical-laden foods come in packages. That’s how they roll. And if it has a package, it has nutrition facts. Read up. Focus on the ingredients more than the percentages. Some great foods come in packages, so I will emphasize that the point is to be skeptical, not dismissive. Only dismiss once you’ve considered the following rules…

Dawn’s Classic “Rule of Thumb”
Now I don’t know if my friend Dawn invented this herself, but she introduced it to me, so it’s hers as far as I’m concerned. The rule: On any packaging that lists nutrition facts, if you can lay your thumb horizontally over the ingredients list and still read some of the ingredients, that’s a bad sign. Read the list now. Granted, it could be something like a trail mix where the long list of ingredients are all whole foods and totally welcome in your belly… but is there anything in there you can’t pronounce? Let’s move on to the third rule…

Pronunciation vs. Digestion rule
So you’re reading an ingredients list, everything looks good for the first three, then you get to some collection of consonants and vowels that resembles a word… You’ve just stumbled upon a chemical. A sweetener, a thickener, a preservative. Sure, the good people at Whatever Co. deemed it safe enough to go into a food product, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you by a long shot. If you can’t pronounce it, who’s to say you can digest it?

Piece-by-piece rule
When you’re trying to cook up an alibi for the unpronounceable item in your packaged food, consider this: If all the ingredients in that list were separated and laid out on the counter in front of you, would you be comfortable taking an equal spoonful of each into your mouth? A heaping bite of partially hyrdogenated cottonseed oil perhaps? A shot of sodium pyrophosphate anyone? Hell no. If you wouldn’t eat it alone, or even stir it into a home-cooked recipe, don’t let those bastards at Whatever Co. slip it into your mouth either.

It takes a little practice to make all of these things habit, and maybe a bit more scrutiny than some folks can afford to devote to their diets. But for me, what I put into my mouth gets as much scrutiny — if not more — as anything I would be trying to put into any other orifice in my body. These tips aren’t guaranteed to make everything you purchase a healthy product, they are merely guidelines put into practice by an increasingly educated, recovering cheese-sauce-aholic.

So… how will you treat YOUR orifice today?

TRAU

Primal update: For ME, it’s a miracle cure

So I’m nearing the end of 3 full weeks living “primal.” Of the emerging benefits I’m finding, the most jaw-dropping to me is that it seems to have given me a brand new set of digestive organs. I feel like I went from an old jalopy to a finely-tuned sports car — gutwise.

I mentioned a couple weeks back I was adjusting my eating and lifestyle to fit in with a book I read called “The Primal Blueprint,” by Mark Sisson. The goal is to try as closely as rationally possible to mimic in modern life what day-to-day life would’ve been like for man in the paleolithic era. Taking into account the fact that we live in civilized society, we have jobs, and we most likely won’t be hunting down much if any of the meat we eat. Read a few entries back for more detail, or visit Sisson’s blog to get a better rundown.

I attribute most of the positive results here so far almost entirely to completely removing all types of grain from my diet — a food to which I think I am far more allergic than I ever realized. I am also keeping open a part of my mind that is ready to accept all of these positive results as somehow placebo effect or coincidence, seeing as how it’s only been a short time. It’s just too exciting not to document right now.

So here’s the rundown of what I’ve noticed so far:

My stomach is not upset on a daily basis. This is something I thought I just had to live with — the intermittent gurgles, pain, essentially feeling like I had a little active volcano in my stomach. Gone. Like, GONE gone.

I can eat eggs. For the past 5 or so years until about 3 days ago, I had been avoiding egg yolk like the plague. I realized over a plate of eggs benedict one fateful morning that the yolks would send me running. I tested it a couple times after to make sure it wasn’t just hollandaise or anything like that, and came to the conclusion it was yolk. I could eat egg whites, but not yolks. Almost as soon as I went primal, I started eating hard boiled eggs, and was able to easily digest them. It wasn’t until 3 days ago that I was talked into trying eggs over easy, with runny yolks — one of my all-time favorite breakfasts — that I realized I was cured. I had them again today just to check. Not a peep from my belly.

I may be better with pet allergies. My cousin’s girlfriend’s dog, Brie, caused me to have such an allergic reaction one day that I had to call in sick to work. And that’s just from being in the same room with it. Tuesday night, that dog was sitting in my lap as I incredulously breathed in and out repeatedly through my free, clear, open nostrils.

I’ve lost 10 pounds. High fat, high protein, lowER carb diet. Not crazy like Atkins, but omitting grain and getting all of your carbs from fruits and vegetables all while being satiated by lots of fat and protein has a naturally carb-lowering effect on your diet. If you want to get into the how and why, I’ll refer back to the link above, and let the author do the theory justice where I surely wouldn’t.

I have consistent energy to burn. Again, Sisson says it better, but most noteably after a meal, I am not tired or fatigued in any way. I feel energized and that lasts and lasts. I wake up with a spring and rarely flop down exhausted at the end of the day.

So that’s it… only 5 bold points, but to me, those 5 bold points carry a lot of weight when it comes to my overall enjoyment of life. Another biggie for me is being mildly lactose intolerant, but milk in the past has been like swallowing a lit stick of dynamite, and I just don’t like it that much anyway. So maybe someday, but it ain’t a priority to find out now.

Juuuuuuust keepin ya in the loop!

TRAU

Quick thought: serving sizes @ work

I went to lunch with a couple friends today and one of them mentioned how she often brings her lunch or dinner to work in the same plastic container. But then, “I poured my chili into a bowl I would eat out of at home, then poured it into my plastic container and couldn’t believe how it was only half full!”

That’s a good thing to keep in mind for those of us packing what we think are healthy lunches in the nice, sealable plastic containers that don’t LOOK huge. Compare them to what you eat out of at home — a tapered, rounded dish — and you could easily sneak double or triple the volume you might otherwise eat into your belly. Especially if you eat with one eye on your computer monitor or a lot of other distractions.

So anyway, my thought for the day: Try arranging your meal on a plate or bowl at home first, THEN put it into the container. You might be surprised!

TRAU

Me Trau. Me live like cave man.

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted … holidays, distractions, yada yada yada.

I’m now on my 4th day of this “primal” lifestyle that I’ve been hearing about for a while. It’s all about living/eating like paleolithic man would have, only adapted to a modern environment.

So no, I’m not hunting/gathering, but you translate what early man’s life would’ve been like on his body regarding exercise and and diet. So rather than doing “chronic cardio” which Mark Sisson, the author of “The Primal Blueprint” that I read, says leads to more injury and energy depletion, you do a few things:

Move frequently at a slow pace
… which means work out by walking, hiking, light jogging, biking, swimming — low heart rate stuff, for like 4-5 hours per week. This simulates for your body the long treks early man would’ve taken on foot.

Sprint once in a while
… like once a week or less, but never at regular intervals, to simulate the occasional and spontaneous need primal man would’ve had to chase something or run for his life. And then…

Lift heavy things
Again, not in regular intervals, and not too repetitive or time-consuming. But 30-minute max of heavy lifting sessions.

The big thing about diet: No grains. There wasn’t agriculture in the paleolithic era, so nothing that comes from grain. He sees it as a poison, and a big part of the diet is regulating your insulin, and lowering your body’s production of it through a low-carb, high protein and nutrient-rich diet. Your main foods are whole fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds in abundance — preferably organic, and meat of all kinds.

People I have talked to about it compare it to Atkins, but you still want to hit between 50-150 grams carbs per day to lose weight. Atkins ruled out fruit but this guy loves it. He also poo-poos chemicals or any processed foods. So you eat all whole, clean food with lots of nutrients. Atkins would allow for that weird no-carb chemical bread substitute crap, but not Sisson. It’s all natural.

Anyway, that’s like a sliver of what this book “The Primal Blueprint” covers, and I read it in 2 days and I’m hooked. I’ve heard all the tales of eczema that went away almost entirely after starting this diet, and some digestive issues too. Me, I can eat eggs again all of a sudden, and my stomach is feeling amazing and not gassy or IBS-like (which sorry to admit publicly, it has been almost constantly for a few years now). Just after 4 days! Sisson says by following his eating/exercise routine, you can lose 2 pounds a week. Then by staying in the 100-150 carb range, you can maintain and feel healthy for life. In 4 days I’m down 4 pounds. He said it can be rapid at first for some people.

It’s addictive … I’m giving it 30 days to see if it’s long-term sustainable for me. So far I love it. If you’re interested, check out marksdailyapple.com for the author’s blog. It’s pretty much where he wrote the book (and you can order it there), then he just collected a lot of it on to paper.

aaand here’s an article from the nytimes on similar lifestyle:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/fashion/10caveman.html

TRAU

I am hunting jungle cat

A panther has been terrorizing my tribe and overnight mauled my son within an inch of his life. My fellow tribesmen and I have taken to the jungle, hot on the path of the jungle cat, and we won’t return without it hoisted on our spears! This is how I will push through my next run.

I’ve taken to creating characters in my head at the beginning of my run — I spend that first agonizing mile creating a back story and a reason to run, and once I’m set, I dive deep into that character. So no longer am I running to get fit, or to hit 4 or 6 or 8 miles.

No, I am running from an angry village of cannibals after stealing the jewel they have guarded for as long as they’ve lived on this godforsaken uncharted island in the Pacific. What the — ?! Poison darts?! Better pick up the pace.


I’m stuck on these jungle themes because today I bought an album called “Drum Beats of the Pacific” that is a collection of all those intense jungle-escape rhythms from that scene in every movie ever.

How do I reconcile with the cold weather? Hmm… they’ve chased me from the rain forest into the mountains! That could help explain why I’m so inappropriately dressed…

Whatever the wacky scenario, it’s a good way to get your mind out of that “step-step-step-step, puff-puff-puff-puff” mentality. Get lost in your own little chase scene and before you know it, you’re back where you started, one workout in the bank.

Go slay a wooly mammoth or something. You’ve got to feed your family somehow.

TRAU

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