Monday, February 25, 2013

Eating Paleo in Japan

Before last month, Paleo was pretty much a foreign word to me.  I'd heard about it here and there, but never really had a clue what it was about.  Most people that do CrossFit (see my last blog entry) live a Paleo lifestyle.  The Paleo diet consists of eating the following:  fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts/seeds, fruits/vegetables and lean meats.  On Paleo, dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol, sugars and overly processed foods are not allowed.  Wow!  I wasn't sure if I could survive without cheese, bread and rice especially since I live in Japan where rice is such a staple food.

After giving this a lot of thought, on January 14th I decided to participate in the 30 day Paleo Challenge.  This was completely optional and nerve wracking because while I've dieted over the years, I'd never been on a program where I was eating clean.  Luckily, one of the requirements on this challenge was having a partner.  This was a complete lifesaver for me because I needed someone that would hold me accountable during these 30 days.

Extra Credit handstand outdoors!
Along with the nutritional aspect of the challenge, we were also supposed to keep a food journal, do a certain amount of workouts per week,  take before/after pictures, get our measurements taken, perform a baseline run/pull ups, and do extra credit.  Since most of these things were based on points, the team with the most points at the end of the challenge would win.  Since I do have a competitive side, I was bound and determined to not mess up during the challenge...but this was no easy feat.

The first week of the challenge would prove to be the toughest.  I seriously felt like I needed a sponsor.  Thank goodness for my partner, coach and other classmates (even the ones not participating in the challenge) who were such a great support network by providing recipes, tips, cheers, etc.   As the weeks went on, eating clean became easier.  I was sleeping better, had almost no headaches, lost a little weight, rarely felt famished (well maybe on a few days), was very hydrated, and was still able to exercise like mad.  Although I was feeling awesome on this diet, the one tricky part of the challenge was eating out.  Again, I live in Japan where noodles and rice are consumed at almost every meal.  Thankfully, Japanese eat a lot of meat and vegetables, so I was able to find something that was Paleo.

Paleo chicken curry (thank goodness for coconut milk) for dinner.

By week four, I was so used to doing the food journal, drinking 1/2 of my body weight of water, and really paying attention to what I was consuming, that this challenge became habit.  I liked how I felt and decided that I would continue Paleo or at least a modified version of it when it was over.  My team, along with two other teams came in 1st Place.  I was so proud of myself, my amazing, strong, funny, friend and partner, and of everyone else.  It is not easy to change or stick to a healthier lifestyle even if you know it is good for you.

Extra credit Fireman's Carry!
I also want to thank everyone outside of my CF group for cheering me on before/during/after the challenge.  Your positive comments, making me special Paleo food to eat, and your genuine inquiries as to how things were/are going for me were sincerely appreciated. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Last summer I met a lady at a going away party who was a CrossFit instructor.  She said that since it wasn't offered on base that she was interested in getting the program started here.  I told her I would love to try it out and left it at that.  Through the grapevine late last year, I'd heard that introductory classes were being offered.  Excited, I contacted the instructor and signed up for a class called Elements.

I had no idea what you do in Elements or in CrossFit for that matter.  I just knew I was up for another challenge since I'd been exercising regularly since last June.  I found out that you have to take Elements if you are not familiar with Olympic lifts.  Oh my....I had never really lifted anything more than a weighted bar, done a bench press once and tried a dead lift last spring.  While I was nervous and unsure of what I was doing, I ended up learning so many new things in this class.  I tried things like: back squats, front squats, cleans, the snatch, sumo dead lift high pull and many others.  We were shown proper form and how to lift safely.  One day after Elements we did something called a WOD.  The WOD had a name, was timed, and we did some crazy exercises (box jumps, rowing, lifts, plank, wall walks and wall balls), some of which I'd never done before.  When I was finished, I was beat, happy to have completed Elements and ready to try CrossFit classes.

CrossFit classes are held in a group setting and led by our amazing and strong coach.  There are multiple classes per day and the popularity has literally grown overnight here (I feel very lucky to have taken Elements when I did).  A typical class begins with a warmup (cardio, mobility exercises, lunges, push ups, sit ups, etc), strength exercise such as a certain type of lift or working on particular skill (hand stand push ups, ring dips, etc), and then the WOD or workout of the day which is timed. 

Here is an example of the WOD named "Angie" that we did this past Wednesday:

100 pull ups
100 push ups
100 sit ups
100 squats

This WOD was brutal and I finished last....but at least I finished.  CrossFit has shown me that I am stronger than I think I am and that I can push through even the hardest of workouts.  I love that no one can leave class until the last person is finished doing the WOD and that my coach and other classmates have done exercises alongside me to help me push through until the end.  This has been the most supportive group I have ever been a part of and I look forward to the CF journey of added weights, doing my first strict pull up without a band, and seeing how much stronger I will become this year.

We do a ton of Burpees in CrossFit.  



Friday, February 1, 2013

Busy Busy

I must apologize for my intermittent blog posts this past year.  I had every intention of blogging between 3-4 times per month while we are in Japan, but had more on my plate this past year (by choice) making it harder to come up with time to do weekly entries.  This year, I'm hoping to do 1 or 2 per month.  That being said, we are already at the end of January and here I am.  Well, there's always next month.

The New Year has been wonderful so far.  My brother rang in the New Year with us, we took a trip on The Shinkansen down south to Osaka and Nara, we went up skiing by Mt. Fuji, the kids are being normal pre-teens/teenagers, Justin's enjoying and progressing in his Aikido, my manager job at the base thrift store is rewarding beyond words (thanks to my co-workers and volunteers) and I've become more dedicated to my health and fitness.

We're off to a good start and I look forward to what this year brings.  I'm going to stop wishing and make things happen.
This is an awesome quote!