Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cubed.

^^After school snuggles!

M and I went to Sweethaus to pick up some buttercream frosting for our trip. You’ll have to wait and see what it’s for!

I mentioned packing cubes in my lunch post and got a few “what are packing cubes?” comments. Again these are the ones I got, and they arrived just in time for my trip! The set came with three cubes and 3 pouches for laundry or smaller items like underwear. Here is the contents of my carry-on suitcase. I am a huge overpacker, so this is only 3 night’s worth, but I have to fit in all the categories: daytime clothes, dressy clothes and shoes, layers if it’s cold, workout clothes (the WORST to pack with the shoes included), sleepwear, underwear, toiletries.

Here was my first attempt to pack them in:

Haha – look at how many didn’t make it! #fail

Attempt two went stacked instead of sideways, and I made lots of progress:

And then I realized I could go above the zipper because my suitcase expands.

Success! My suitcase is Jessica Simpson’s brand from TJ Maxx about 6 years ago. I love it!

Mazen played “airport attendant” for a good 30 minutes loading and unloading our suitcases into the trunk.

I said goodbye to him for the night when Matt came to pick him up for one last visit before we leave tomorrow morning.

Thomas and I went out to dinner to Tavola to celebrate his mom’s birthday!

We had mussels, and crusty bread, and white wine to drink.

I had the most AMAZING gorgonzola angel hair shrimp dish. Seriously, SO good!

And we shared a few desserts, including this delicious tiramisu and a flourless chocolate orange pie.

Hope you guys enjoyed a day of meals in real time! I really enjoyed it, and I hope to make this a weekly, or at the least bi-weekly, event. It’s nice to get back to the “what I ate” style! Stay tuned to tomorrow for a little “what I drank” review : )

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Lunch Bunch

I’m back!! This is fun!! Haha. Is this giving you guys deja vu?! After breakfast, we bike/walked to school. I love this 20 minute walk I do most mornings. We walk everyday unless it’s raining, and we braved the winter cold all season. It’s great to get in some movement before I start my day even if it’s not an official workout.

Mazen loves dandelions so much! He’s so excited they are popping up all over. But that does mean we have to stop ever 10 feet to blow them 🙂 Also that Spiderman jacket from ThredUP is our fashion MVP for this year. He wants to wear it everyday!

I split my time this morning packing for a trip we are taking this weekend (!!) and working on KERF and DTF. I am obsessed with packing cubes and lost one of mine in St. Lucia, so I just ordered this inexpensive set from Amazon to get a few more. They make packing so much more fun! I also bought this Sophia Joy cosmetic bag (seen on the right below) because it’s kind of shaped like a packing cube and I was tired of having 2-4 smaller bags for all my toiletries. I have been obsessed with cosmetic bags my whole life, and this is one of my favorites!

Editorial planning…hydrating…

For lunch I had Whole Foods prepared kale salad topped with leftovers from Downtown Grill that I brought home from a date night the other night. Steak, asparagus, shrimp, yum! Surf n turf salad.

We have a birthday dinner on the calendar for tonight, so I’m really excited to go out!

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The Plight of the Modern Foot: Conditions that Plague Us—and How to Avoid Them

Inline_Foot_ProblemsFor all the focus on hearts and arteries, brain tissue and muscle mass, we tend to neglect one critical part of the body with dramatic influence over how we fare in later decades. It’s little surprise really. Feet don’t exactly garner much attention, let alone media time. Yet, the stakes are big.

For example, research shows that foot conditions like hallux vagus (HV, a common forefoot deformity in older people commonly referred to as “bunions”) was directly associated with marked decreases in quality of life. Foot pain, reduced foot function, lowered social capacity, and even degraded general health. That sort of thing.

But that’s just one foot condition, right? Yes…and no. The picture of averages looks rather bleak.

A clinical assessment of 166 Hong Kong hospital outpatients over the age of 65 found that 70% of those patients had some sort of foot condition. In the U.S., things aren’t much better. While surveys have shown extensive variability in reports of foot problems (anywhere between 30% and 95%), other research points to more dramatic prevalence of what I’d consider significant problems. Large-scale, random epidemiological studies aren’t available without confounding factors that muddy the waters. Still, one extensive European study found that 78% of people over 65 suffered from kind of diagnosed foot issue. Even at the most conservative of estimates, that means a minimum of one third of all Americans over 65 will have some form of debilitating foot disorder. And the worst part? Many of the studies discovered that only a small percentage of these people actually report or complain about their foot problems. Apparently, for them it’s just a fact of life.

But most of us here choose differently for ourselves. We prefer to challenge that fatalist “come what may” approach to aging. Feet shouldn’t be an exception. In fact, given the statistics, they might well be a smart priority.

Common Foot Conditions to Avoid

The human foot is an anatomical masterpiece. Each one is made up of 42 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 50 ligaments and tendons. That’s more than a little impressive, but it also means that a lot that can go wrong…especially given their workload every day.

Gout

Gout targets the feet and particularly the big toe, causing intense pain and a whole lot of swelling. Unfortunately, many health care providers seem to take great pleasure in informing the Primal, paleo, or general whole food eater that their chances of gout have just skyrocketed on account of all those purines. Purines from organ meats, seafood and various other quintessentially Primal go-to’s.

I’ve talked about gout at length before, so there’s no need to delve back into it. Suffice to say that these kinds of “rich man’s” foods do elevate purines and therefore uric acid in the blood, but they’re also generally high in anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Research shows that systemic inflammation is a key catalyst for gout attacks, meaning high-quality Primal-friendly meats can actually reduce your risk of gout by lowering this causative inflammation. Hah!

I’d personally be more worried about fructose. In elevated doses from the likes of high fructose corn syrup and table sugar, fructose has been shown to promote excess uric acid production and prevent it’s excretion in urine. Alcoholic and smoking binges will have much the same effect.

Athlete’s Foot

As you’re probably well aware, athlete’s foot is the work of our good friend, fungus. Ideal conditions for this mildly repulsive affliction are the same as those for most fungi—warm, dark, moist environments. The same environment that you’re creating on your feet every time you slip on socks and shoes for the day… Look for signs of athlete’s foot between the toes or on the soles of the feet, indicated by inflamed skin or a white, scaly rash with a red undertone. Delicious.

And while most of us would file athlete’s foot under minor inconvenience, there’s sometimes more worth considering. The cause of athlete’s foot can morph from a fungal-derived condition at the early stages to a bacterial overgrowth-derived condition as the skin slowly but surely becomes more “macerated.” Athlete’s foot also has a strong association with cellulitis. Marathon runners have been identified as one of the most at-risk groups for developing athlete’s foot. (File it under obvious on account of having their feet shoved into hot, sweaty shoes for hours at a time.) Barefoot running, anyone?

Hammertoe

If your second, third, or fourth toe is crossed, bent in the middle of the toe joint, or just pointing at an odd angle, you may have a hammertoe. Hammertoes are the tip of the poor foot-health iceberg, and can pave the way for various other foot conditions. The number one cause of hammertoe? Ill-fitting shoes. This might seem straightforward, but, again, the picture gets more complicated than shoe design.

While adopting a Primal diet greatly diminishes your diabetes risk, it’s useful to know that people suffering from diabetes have a much higher likelihood of developing foot problems like hammertoe. In fact, of the 16 million or so Americans with diabetes, around a quarter of them will develop foot problems related to this disease. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, appear to play a role in the development of diabetic foot disorders like hammertoe. Diabetic neuropathy lowers one’s sensitivity to pain, meaning they’re more likely to develop foot-stressing gaits and wear ill-fitting shoes that can then lead to the development of hammertoe. Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and Cerebral Palsy or any other health problem that distorts the gait can put you more at risk.

Bunions (Hallux vagus)

Got a weird-looking joint on your big toe that forces it to turn into your smaller toes? You’ve probably got a bunion. Research has time and again identified shoes as the leading cause of bunions. As one study observed, “hallux vagus (the condition I mentioned earlier) occurs almost exclusively in shoe-wearing societies.” (Grok is nodding here….)

The more constrained the shoe, like heels or pointed dress shoes, the higher the risk. Safety footwear has also been identified as a common harbinger of bunions.

Women and anyone who is flat-footed might take special notice.

Corns and calluses

An oddly visual yin and yang of the hardened skin world. Corns look slightly cone-shaped and point inwards, while calluses cover a larger area and are more convex in nature. If you’ve got hard areas of skin forming where certain foot pressure points are rubbing on your shoes, you’ve probably got a corn or callus forming.

Corns and calluses can be the result of stresses imposed by ill-fitting footwear, foot deformity (and the subsequent mechanical abnormalities), as well as high activity levels. Essentially, corns and calluses are your skin’s attempt to protect itself from excessive friction. And I think you know where that friction is coming from.

Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissue between the ball of your foot and the heel becomes inflamed. Coming from experience, it feels like a perpetual bruise on the bottom of your foot. Heel spurs are bony growths at the heel base that often develop after you’ve had plantar fasciitis.

I’ve actually had plantar fasciitis before, and I can confirm that it’s no fun at all. My theory is that it developed by repeated jumping and high-impact exercises performed on a hard surface with no shoes. It wasn’t the lack of shoes that was the problem, it was the hard surface – repeated slamming of the feet (and perhaps not enough landing on the balls of my feet) on that surface was bound to result in bruising, and hence plantar fasciitis, eventually. This didn’t go away until I ditched my nearly every shoe I owned and spent more time on grass and sand than hard surfaces.

Using Primal Approaches to Promote Foot Health

As much impact (oh, the puns…) as foot health can have on mobility and quality of life, it’s really rooted in the basics of Primal well-being. The more your feet can emulate those of Grok, the more robust they’ll likely end up being. As always, we modify for the necessities of our immediate environments. Wood chopping barefoot? Heavy weightlifting barefoot? Strolling the urban jungle barefoot? I’d be inclined to opt for the “shoed” option in those scenarios.

I’ve written at length about bare footing and minimalist shoes. In the past, I’ve highlighted research showing that societies that have largely forgone the whole shoe craze were completely free of all the modern foot conditions I discussed in the previous section. I’ve reflected on the ways shoes have become a part of our psyche, and why switching to a shoeless way of life can ensure continuing foot health into the future.

So what are you to do when faced with a compulsory shoe scenario? This is where our conventional practitioners’ advice may finally be of some use. Unsurprisingly, research shows that folks who switch to wider, higher, “box-toed” shoes reduce their risk. Research also indicates that those who wear constrained shoes like heels or pointed dress shoes are at the greatest risk of developing foot problems. The take-away from this is self explanatory, really – give your feet room to move within their compulsory housing. Avoid shoes that taper in towards the end, that have a low ceiling, and that don’t allow your toes some lateral and vertical wiggle room. Free range toes, as it were.

LIkewise, it’s important to keep feet both dry and supple. This might seem like a bit of a conundrum, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. As soon as you get home from work, ditch both the shoes and the socks. If you have access to sunshine, whether through an open window or (preferably) on a sun drenched lawn, get those feet in it!

The benefit of this will be two-fold: first, research has shown that light therapy, whereby concentrated UV irradiation is used to treat fungal infections of the skin and nails, is an effective form of treatment. That sunshine is essentially providing your own light therapy, albeit at lower concentrations than in the lab. Second, you’re re-activating the small muscles of your feet that have essentially been in hibernation since you donned your shoes that morning.

Once you’ve immersed your feet in some healing sunshine, or perhaps just thrust them out in the general direction of a fireplace or heater, you’ve essentially fulfilled the “dry” requirement. Next, lock in the moisture by applying a natural hydrating product like coconut or avocado oil. Both have the added benefit of being anti-fungal and antibacterial, killing two pathogenic birds with one stone. Moisturizing your feet in this way should help to prevent the development of hardened skin layers, which as we know can lead to nasties like bunions, corns and calluses.

And why not give your feet a little care and attention? Therapeutic massage can soften clenched muscles in the feet, reduce inflammation, and remove adhesions between muscles and fascia tissue. All of which means the likelihood of developing muscular or bone-related disorders of the foot are further reduced. Consider it justification for frequent indulgence. It’s just possible that massage therapy may also alleviate the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, which can contribute to foot problems down the line. Post-oil application, use your knuckles and thumbs to knead the sole, arch and toe joints as you would a lump of (Primal) bread-dough. Mmmmm, dough.

On a side note, I know most people these days rip up any remaining carpet in their house and install hardwood floors, tiles, or even polished concrete. It may look sleek, but our feet weren’t designed to spend their days pounding perfectly flat, unforgiving surfaces. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a relatively recent development. Even post-Agricultural Revolution, most people would have lived in houses with either dirt floors or dirt floors covered in straw. I like the cleanliness of hard floors, but I keep plenty of rugs in the living areas and gel mats in the kitchen and workout room. If you have a standing workstation, consider it for there, too.

Beyond these simple daily steps, there are plenty of other pro-foot changes you can make:

  • Gut dysbiosis has often been linked to a greater risk of toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. Ditch the antibiotics, up the probiotics, and ease up (big time) on the sugar intake.
  • Up the anti-inflammatory ante. As I discussed earlier, foods that are high in omega-3s and low in omega-6s can help to reduce your risk of gout, but they can also reduce your risk of developing the likes of plantar fasciitis and any number of other arthritis-derived foot conditions.
  • Stretch those feet! Studies have shown that stretching is one of the most effective forms of both prevention and treatment for many muscular and tissue-based foot conditions.
  • Ample low level, low impact activity (e.g. biking, walking, swimming) can keep foot muscles and tendons in good shape, too.
  • If you’re suffering from recurrent fungal foot attacks, consider investing in a strong topical anti-microbial like tea tree oil. And apparently marigold therapy shows some promise for natural treatment of bunions, warts, and even plantar fasciitis. It’s not a sure thing, but it might be worth considering.

Thanks for reading, everybody. Have you dealt with any of the above issues? Have you found any particular Primal-friendly steps to be effective? Share your solutions (or questions) in the comment section. Take care.

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Old Skool KERF

Surprise! I figured I’d throw back to the old days and do a series of live blogs today! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner – hold on to your hats! Haha.

Mazen woke me up at 7, as he usually does, with snuggles in my bed. His latest thing is running across a room and saying “HUGGIE!” and today he did that and dove under the covers with me. It’s the best way to wake up! (Actually I was already awake and checking emails on my phone, but still : ) )

We were not alone though, because Thomas and Gus have moved in with us! After a long time of going back and forth, we decided to consolidate our lives here, and we are so happy <3 He is renting his house (which he owns and renovated), so that’s been a great financial bonus for him too.

Good morning Gussie!

Thomas’s full pot of delicious regular coffee has definitely had an impact on my caffeine adventures ; ) Full mug of regular – no more, no less – today.

I made banana pancakes for breakfast per Anne’s recipe:

We had mango on the side. The best way to cut a mango is to slice off each cheek and then cut those into thirds and eat them like you would orange slices.

Mazen and I shared the pancake, plus he had a little smoothie.

He’s been playing postman this morning, and he wrote me a love letter and delivered it. It was a jumble of letters, but I made out “From” and “Mama” in the mix.

I gotta run or we’ll be late for preschool!! See you for lunch!

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Why Every Rep In Training Should Be the Same

Written By: Kevin Cann

One of the things that has been ingrained into me since day 1 of my brief powerlifting career is that every rep should look the same. That means that when I squat with 50% of my 1RM it should be executed at the same speed as 100% of my 1RM.

This can run counterintuitive to the old adage that you should “move light weights as if they are heavy and heavy weights as if they are light.” The idea behind this saying is to encourage you to move fast with lighter weights because that is your intention with heavier weights, to move fast.

Moving fast with lighter weights has been shown to develop favorable motor unit recruitment, and also muscle fiber development for lifting heavy weights. This is why speed work is so popular in Westside Barbell templates. This is also why you see lighter and more explosive lifts in programs written for field and court athletes. Exercises like the Olympic lifts and medicine ball work are used to develop these qualities.

I am not saying that this thinking is wrong. If I did I would be an idiot, as there are many elite lifters who utilize this thinking. Research is pretty clear that it works as well. I am just going to introduce a different way of thinking. The focus in the above way of thinking is strength. When we are focusing on technique first, some things need to change.

I am not saying that we put getting stronger on the backburner. That would not work well for a strength athlete since the name of the game is lifting more weight. Moving light weights fast is not the only way to develop beneficial motor unit recruitment and muscle fiber type. Moving weights with maximal intent also provides us with the same outcomes.

As long as we do enough work with heavier weights we will develop the appropriate motor unit recruitment and muscle fiber type to put our best efforts out there on the platform. The problem we can run into when we treat light weights as if they are heavy is with our technique.

When we move light weights fast, our bar path can change drastically. With lighter weights on the squat, the bar will pop off of our back as we accelerate the bar to lockout. This will not happen with heavier weights, and over time may even lead to injury. On the deadlift, the bar can end up bouncing off of our thighs and getting pushed away from us. This also will not happen under heavier weights, and can increase injury risk. On the bench press, lifters tend to lose shoulder position in an attempt to accelerate the weight.

We want to prepare ourselves for that max effort attempt. This means we should be training the same motor pattern that we will use under maximal loads. This doesn’t mean that we do not want to practice accelerating weight. This is an important aspect to lifting heavier. The faster we can get that bar moving, the better chance we have of getting it past that sticking point in the lift.

One way we can work on accelerating weight while not sacrificing changes in technique is with accommodating resistance such as bands and chains. The accommodating resistance deloads at the bottom portion of the lift and increases in tension or weight through the concentric action. This increase in weight or tension requires the lifter to keep accelerating the weight to lockout. This is one way we can train maximal intent without crushing the athlete.

We can’t just lift heavy all of the time because we would not be able to fully recover. Bands and chains help us overload the top of the lift while decreasing weight at the bottom. This makes it easier to recover from. However, we need to strengthen the bottom portions of the lift as well.

One way that we can do that without increasing weight on the bar is with pauses. Pauses in the lift increase our time under tension. Increasing time under tension is a popular element used by bodybuilders to build bigger muscles. We can utilize pauses in the big 3 lifts to gain these hypertrophic properties while building strength in the weak spots of the lift.

When we pause in the lift at the weak positions, our tissues need to hold that position and then accelerate the weight from a dead stop. This helps to make us strong through the weak spots while building up tissue tolerance in these positions to make us more resilient to injury. To hold this position for 2-5 seconds and then be forced to accelerate the weight is another way in which we train intent.

We can also use pin squats at the squat sticking point, a board press, and blocks to deadlift off of at the sticking point with heavier weights. This forces the tissue to hold positions at heavier loads, making it more resilient to injury, and also forces the lifter to apply maximal intent to the weight to get it moving, developing the necessary motor unit recruitment and muscle fiber type without sacrificing technique.

Lastly, it requires the lifter to expend a lot of energy if they put 100% effort into lighter weights. Meet day is long, and saving energy for that third attempt deadlift is crucial to smashing PRs. There are some nice benefits to not creating max tension under lighter weights as well.

When we brace we affect our neural response. We should be able to squat to depth with an empty bar without the need to hold our breath. You will be surprised at how many people cannot accomplish a bodyweight squat to depth without holding their breath. When we hold our breath we elicit a response from our sympathetic nervous system. If we brace hard for everything we do, then we can run into a situation where our sympathetic nervous system becomes overactive. This can make recovery much more difficult, and it can actually alter our range of motion and increase our injury risk. This is why breathing through mobility work is very important, it changes our neural responses. We want to brace accordingly to the weight that we need to lift.

Applying these concepts mentioned above has led to lots of improvement in technique with myself as well as with clients. The goal in training is to make every rep look the same. That means executed with the same speed and bar path as our maximal effort attempts would be executed. If we pause, we approach the pause with the same speed we would if we were not pausing, and we attempt to lock it out at the same rate as well.

Moving lighter weights more quickly is effective at increasing strength, but may hinder technique. We can achieve those same motor unit and muscle fiber changes by applying maximal intent to weights. This is different than movement velocity. Ways that we can teach the lifter to achieve this without just lifting heavy all of the time is by using accommodating resistance, pauses, and dead stop starts from the weak spots of the lifts. This also comes with a benefit of making our tissues stronger in these positions to make us more resilient to injuries.

This is not to say that moving light weights fast is not productive. It surely is, but this is just another take where technique is placed as the most important aspect of training.



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What I’m Loving Lately 82

Hi, friends! Happy THURSDAY to you!

I’m publishing my usual What I’m Loving Lately post a day early because… well, I’m all messed up, time-wise. That red-eye really screwed me up. Haha! San Diego seems like ages ago, but I feel like I JUST got home. I have no idea what happened between Monday morning and today?! Anyway, it’s time for the next edition of What I’m Loving Lately!

Champion Women’s Fleece Full-Zip Hoodie ($22) – I’ve worn this hoodie non-stop since I bought it. It’s cozy, casual, and goes with just about anything. I’m always throwing it on over a tank or t-shirt after a workout or running errands around town. Love! FYI: It comes in 9 different colors!

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And I’m loving these Champion French Terry Jogger Pants ($14.99). They are truly the most comfortable EVER and priced right! Related: These Champion Joggers are pretty amazing too!

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I’m also loving my new top-siders x 2! The saga continues! Haha! Ok, so remember my gray top-sider “dilemma” from last week? I know, ridiculous… well, I blogged about it on CNC, but then I dillydallied when it came to actually purchasing a pair.

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In San Diego, I finally made a decision and was ready to buy, but then the Sperry’s were SOLD OUT. Ughhh. I thought maybe it was a sign that I should go with the Ralph Lauren pair, so I bought them. Well, two days later, I received an email from Zappos saying that the Sperry’s were back in stock, and, deep down, I really wanted that pair, soooooo I bought them too. Zappos is awesome with returns, so I figured I’d try them both on and then send one pair back.

I also FINALLY purchased a spring jacket! I went with this bomber and can’t wait for it to arrive! 🙂

Marathon & Half Marathon Race Day Checklist – Such a great resource to have on-hand for race day!

Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay – BEST RUNNING SONG EVER. Seriously. If you need a pick-me-up/pump-up song for your next race or run, download this baby. You will not be disappointed! Speaking of running…

Orangetheorgy workouts on Reddit – What, what?? Juli from Paleomg mentioned this on a recent podcast and it’s true! You can view workouts from just about every OTF class! Check it out: Tuesday, 3/28/17 OTF Workout. I tried a variation of this one at the gym on Wednesday, and it was awesome!

Another Paleomg recommendation that I can’t believe I haven’t told you guys about yet…

Vivant Skin Care Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Exfoliating Wash and Mandelic Acid 3-in-1 Serum, which are f-ing incredible. I’ve used them for about two months now and, my gosh, my skin has gotten so much better. My skin used to be super acne-prone as a teenager, which has gotten better with age, but I still get quite a bit of clogging. Even from my very first use, I noticed a difference with how smooth and even my skin looked. These two products together work so well! You definitely need to “work up” to using them on a regular basis (my skin got pretty dry when I first started), but it’s worth the effort for sure!

With April Fools Day coming up this weekend, I wanted to share this fun prank that my friends at General Mills (via Alpha Mom) shared with me: http://ift.tt/2nCo0w4.

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs – What a perfect treat for Easter!

Avocado Toast 12 Ways – Love these tasty ideas!

Question of the Day

What workout/running songs are you loving lately?

Have you made any purchases for spring? 

Do you decorate eggs for Easter? Well, what I really want to know is do you decorate eggs with your preschool-aged child and is there dye all of your child/house? 

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