Sunday, March 27, 2011

I’ve lost it . . .

. . . Fatty weight, some body fat percentage, an inch off the waist, that is … and more importantly, an addiction to rice in my meals (for this Filipino guy, that’s quite a feat!). It’s rare that you’ll ever hear me speak the words “I’m on a diet,” and, don’t worry, you still won’t (technically)! I work out regularly in the wee hours of the morning. I train/compete at running events throughout the year. Just today I rode my bike for an hour on an all uphill route. I consider myself in pretty good athletic shape, and I believe those who know me personally would agree. Probably because of my active lifestyle, but my metabolism has yet to slow down, as I can still eat various guilty pleasures and not gain weight, not work on a Santa belly, or even worry about counting calories. However, I knew I really should look at what my intake was, and be more aware of my food. This thinking prompted the beginning of one of my most non-scientific of real-life experiments, and just recently… I’ve decided to take it back to the roots of eating and take on the “Caveman Diet,” also referred to as the hunter-gatherer diet, the Paleolithic Diet, or simply paleo. I wouldn’t do this write-up justice if I didn’t credit the coaching/tips/recipes from my friend Erica Goldsmith to this new eating lifestyle that Ruth and I have made a commitment to work on. The almost two years prior to Erica being crowned Miss West Virginia USA 2010 she adopted the paleo lifestyle of eating, and she continues with paleo to date. Not that I have any desire to (or even have a chance of) winning a Miss USA title, but I figured a fellow TRX Training fitness junkie who can keep up with a full schedule, maintain a decent eating regimen, and still have high energy, well, her eating lifestyle just might fit into my similarly unorthodox schedule of activities. As with most dietary approaches, paleo has its critics, especially ones referring to it as a fad diet. Those who know me well know I’m the guy who will shop at Costco for bulk pricing on ribs, steak, pork chops, etc. I’m the guy who will admire the garnish, I mean the vegetables, at restaurant meals and who will leave them on the plate, except to perhaps sample them once in a while, or if Ruth asks me to set a good example to our kids by eating my veggies when our kids are present. So, paleo is a fad diet? I’m not so sure about that, at least not in my situation the past 30 days …and going forward, as this lifestyle is a part of me now. Here’s the skinny on paleo as I see experienced it: there is no strict measurement of food, or a time of day to eat, or a firm pattern of days to eat this or that, or fancy fluids or meals to purchase, or calories to count. Not that there’s anything wrong with those other diets (just my opinion), but we’re talking about a diehard carnivore, so this “unga bunga diet,” seemed right up my alley. I need to add the fact that in May I’m participating in my first OC Marathon (wearing combat boots from The Boot Campaign, in support our troops!). For me such training meant carbs, carbs, and more carbs equated to my energy for training. Erica shared some reference material on “paleo for athletes,” (as my go-to rice, potatoes, pasta, etc., aren't paleo) as I didn’t want my OC Marathon training to falter because my energy stores were low. Sure enough I’ve not complained about lost energy. In fact, I feel as though my energy level has gone up, probably since my body doesn’t have to waste energy burning off processed foods! I also need to add that I almost fell into analysis-paralysis of this lifestyle. It was the last full week of February and, as it sounded right, I told Erica that Ruth and I would start on March 1st. (It was neat that Ruth was going to go paleo with me as well; yay, for spousal support!) As we hit Friday, February 25th, Ruth and I decided that that Saturday we’d begin. Talk about a Filipino guy who eats four servings of starchy white rice (yummmmm) in three meals, and to start paleo on a weekend where temptations are all around? Geez, Louise! Shocking you out of your comfort zone usually works best, right? (Now we’ll make the rest of this just about me as I know females do not disclose their weight loss statistics. Just a smidgen, however: While Ruth didn't have weight loss issues before paleo, she lost weight during this time as well, loves the healthier cuisine/snacks that we eat … and a happy wife is a happy life!) In my first seven days of paleo, I shed six pounds and dropped three percentage points off my body fat percentage. My energy levels didn’t falter (even though I ditched my rice & breads), and I actually felt more energetic during my 5:30 AM workouts. Overall, by the end of this initial 30 days on March 26, I lost 9 pounds, ditched 6.5% body fat percentage, and gained self-awareness in my choice of food ingredients. I’ve lost craving for processed food, and gained more energy to fuel my workouts. Our kids love the "caveman" desserts and snacks (granted we're not forcing anything on them). At this point in their lives, they're growing kids. While Ruth and I have supreme rule over their diet, if they're 70% paleo with us out of their own curiosity, that's better than having 100% grumpy kids who'll find ways to secretly consume ice cream, hot dogs, rice, etc. Remember this eating lifestyle is supposed to make you enjoy life better, physically and mentally. Ruth and I would rather to have open communication with them on their likes, rather than force something on them. I digress ... What I like about this lifestyle is something Erica (and other paleo veterans) reminds me: you can’t be 100% paleo, 100% of the time. I know what I should avoid, and I enjoy what is recommended. I enjoy the results of this lifestyle, and this lifestyle lets me enjoy random non-paleo items, without damaging what I’ve set in motion this past month. The whole purpose was to have a better lifestyle; not for me to suffer (hence why I shun against the term “diet”). How could I have a better lifestyle if at a friend’s surprise luncheon I have to just watch others enjoy what’s served, while I preach about my new lifestyle as I eat a carrot stick? Hypocrite! LOL! One Saturday, a neighbor poured some beer in two steins and walked it over to me one weekend our kids played together. In our conversation of my upcoming races and training, the topic came up about my marathon training, which I briefly described my eating lifestyle as I finished the drink he poured. He felt so guilty that he handed me a beverage that didn’t meet the criteria. I laughed as told him that it was nothing to be bothered with, and this lifestyle gave me leeway. Now his interest was piqued, as we casually spoke about paleo more. Mission accomplished about getting the word out that this is NOT a diet. At home I’ll cook what’s scrumptious (paleo-style) for my family, but I’ll not restrict our kids’ craving for a bowl of ice cream, a batch of starchy steamed rice, or even alter our scheduled Daddy-Son lunches where they get to choose where to eat and talk, without Mommy around. So, again, what that it’s “only” 70 percent of the time that they’re our little caveboys? I’ll take that over 100% of haphazard eating that contributes to obesity. I love that they enjoy my caveman bread, my caveman cookies, etc., and even assist in making them since they prefer to snack on them! I love that they even joke about my caveman lifestyle and the usual quibbles about cavemen not owning iPhones, cavemen not wearing Oakleys, or cavemen not driving cars. Such as how casually Erica introduced this lifestyle to my family, I believe I’ve gotten the message across the next generation in my household just as subtly … and those messages/methods are the most effective ways to gain support. So a note to my friends who now know what my eating lifestyle is these days … PLEASE do not discount me for pot lucks, receptions, picnics, happy hours, etc. I can still throw down with the best when it comes to eating, and I can still whip up delicious food on the grill or in the kitchen! I'll still drink and do shots with you! LOL Just to make a point, the food I ate during these 30 days is not what most would consider “diet food,” and the following are a sample of these easy-to-prepare AND delicious caveman meals … unga bunga
BBQ pork ribs

Chicken, with peaches, almonds and raisins

Curry shrimp, with spinach

Grilled golden pompano w/ sea salt, ground black pepper, with Chinese broccoli

Blackened pork chops, w/ pompano/onion/bell pepper omelet (yes, this was a breakfast)

Steak (black/red peppers) and eggs (sea salt/paprika) (yup, for breakfast)

Cookies: almond meal, honey, cinnamon

Cookies: coconut, chocolate nibs

Caveman Brownies: pear, almond flour

Cookie sheet: almond flour, dark cocoa, raw agave

Oozing chocolate lava cake: dark chocolate, almond butter, almond flour

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I had to include the Oakleys in the pictures. BTW, I'll run out of Oakleys to put in the pictures, before I'll run out of paleo dishes and goodies to make! So now you see that this longtime carnivore (and STILL one!) didn’t have to starve himself the past 30 days. However, this caveman did: enjoy his delicious meals/portions, maintain his energy for the marathon training, learn new recipes along the way, drop some body fat percentage points, and lose & keep off some weight.

In summary ... Things I had to work on:

  • paying more attention to what "alternative" ingredients I could use in my cooking

  • browsing through new recipes and adding new cuisine to my palette

  • controlling myself in cooking ALL the delicious desserts that are paleo-friendly
Things I have found to be positive experiences:

  • maintaining a lower body fat percentage

  • maintaining a lighter body mass (good for running LOL)

  • powering through longer workouts due to increased energy

  • liking the more critical "chef's taste buds," as my taste buds are more aware

  • loving the fact that this is NOT strict when it comes to casual non-paleo eats/drinks

  • enjoying the fact that I still LOVE all the foods I eat

  • continuing to be happy that my family supports paleo (makes for easier kitchen duty)

  • (OK, I'll have to sneak this in here: increased libido, not that there were issues before)

I told Erica that should paleo become a lifestyle for me, I would love to share the paleo lifestyle with at least ten others, in order to continue to spread the word …and some of these ten have already hit me up, so I’m happy that I have intrigued interest along the way! You think you want to eat better choices, manage the weight/body fat statistics, curious about the food I shared above ...or just want to sample my oozing chocolate lava cakes? ...then hit me up! LOL

Life is short, and you should enjoy the fruit of your labor. Why settle to torture yourself over what you can or cannot eat? Opt for a lifestyle, instead of a restriction … and enjoy!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Life Lessons

(all photos in this blog entry were shot for The Boot Girls and The Boot Campaign, and are courtesy of professional photographer Scott Roeder of Scaughty Photography)

In 2005 I had a successful LASIK surgery. After wearing glasses or contact lenses since sixth grade, I became the poster child for LASIK, as I could see better than 20/20, I didn’t suffer from any “halo vision,” and my eyes did not dry up. It was neat to be able to purchase sunglasses and not have to pay the extra $200 - $300 to convert them into prescription sunglasses, or if a particular style could even be converted. Gone were the days I had one pair of prescription sunglasses, as my sixty-nine pairs of Oakley eyewear can tell you … I loved it! Then on October 16, 2010, I felt blind to the world around me.

My friends and I regularly participate in the Irvine Lake Mud Run (ILMR), a 5K muddy obstacle course along scenic Irvine Lake in Orange County, CA. Nothing like thousands of runners tackling hills, mud pits, walls, nets, and even more mud, all in the name of fun! On October 16 our Gavin’s Groupies team planned something special, with two runners who running blind: John Flores, Team Captain of the Gavin’s Groupies team, and model Heather Rene Smith, would wear specially designed goggles. These goggles were spray-painted so John and Heather would not be able to see. This was a way to experience how a little two year old, Gavin Stevens, experiences the world around him.

Gavin was born with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a very rare, genetic hereditary disorder that causes blindness in infants and children.

Not novices to the muddy fun at ILMR, it was always neat to see that at each race the ILMR organizers continued to top the previous race with more muddy surprises and challenges. However, imagine running a 5K muddy obstacle course blind! Imagine the day of a race you were to lose your sight. How would you find your way to just make it to the start line? How would you know what obstacle awaits you? How would you even take that first step? Would you even take that first step … and miss out on the fun others would have just taken for granted? John and Heather took that first step, in order to bring awareness to Gavin and the mission of the Gavin R. Stevens Foundation. As such with someone losing their sight, friends and family are around as support, and Jayson Nelson volunteered to be John’s guide and I was Heather’s guide. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
Heather and I didn’t practice the blind/guide coordination, and quickly we learned how it would be in real life should one be stricken with blindness out of nowhere. Let me just add to the equation that John, Jayson, Heather and I wore combat boots from The Boot Girls, to support our troops, as it made it that much more difficult to not step on each other’s feet when I’d say, “turn left,” and I really meant “turn right.” Come on, how many times has a sighted person had to verbally say such directions? It was quite humorous at first, but I think we were both using humor to hide the fear, the fear of uncertainty. Oh my goodness, what were we about to get into?

At the start of the Gavin’s Groupies wave, the organizers of ILMR asked Troy Stevens, Gavin’s dad, speak to the crowd about our Foundation, who the Gavin’s Groupies are, and what John, Jayson, Heather, and I were about to do. Whatever fears I had about tripping over Heather five steps into the race were slowly going away, as Troy spoke about all the Gavin’s Groupies teammates wearing orange, and how we were there to help find a cure for Gavin’s blindness … SOON. It was an emotional talk by Troy.

Around me I could see the sea of orange shirts and I could hear the cheers, and it was comforting. My strategy with Heather was to interlock our arms and I would turn her hand the direction we were to go, and provide verbal cues about hills, dips, mud pits, etc. Oh boy, easier said than done. Heather was blind before we got to the start line. I had to describe the hundred yard dash to her, as it led to a hill where we would have to hang left. She was already asking what we needed to do first, what was just ahead of us, how far away it was. Oh my… During Troy’s talk I felt calm. Now that Heather was asking me all these questions, I started imagining the running sound of the hundreds of runners in the wave we were in who were behind us, stampeding behind us as we charged across the field. The horn sounded and our wave took off!
I looked at John and Jayson to observe their stride, and they were fearless (Oh, did I mention the four of us did some friendly trash-talking among us before the race? Such grownups … who knew? LOL). I observe folks on a daily basis, looking at verbal, auditory, and kinesthetic cues, to see if they’re congruent or in conflict with each other. That start of the race had to be one of THE MOST classic example of congruency ever. There was no holding back from Heather that she was friggin’ shocked at this experience: squeezing my arms and hands, the haste in her tone of voice, and the words she used … yeah, no mixed signals there! Could it have been the sound of shoes pounding the pavement around her? Could it have been the uncertainty of the terrain her boots made contact with with each stride that she took? Or could it have been the misdirection of her guide (ahem) who had problems with his left/right directions, causing some minor crashes?

We made the first hill and turn relatively OK, and we were not trampled upon. As we reached a downhill slope Heather went at a lot faster pace than I would’ve expected. Considering we were interlocked at the arms, she went forward, I slowed down, she slowed down, and I went forward… we could’ve been a pair of bobble-heads filming a skit. What the heck? Couldn’t Heather read my mind?

It was at this point that it really clicked, “Reggie, she’s blind and you are her guide. You need to build trust, and trust is a two-way street.” I should no longer rely too much on mental telepathy. She should no longer rely on my cracking jokes when we ran into each other. We should experience our surroundings together. This was BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #1. (It was a much-needed epiphany for us to get through 5K of this.)
I found that while I tried being proactive and describe the layout way in advance, it didn’t matter too much. What was important was the here and now. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #2.

Aside from the fact that Heather was blind, she is quite a capable person. Know that she can handle herself; as long as I don’t steer her wrong, I should concern myself to focus on us moving forward. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #3.
When I sensed uncertainty from Heather, it was my job to recognize those signals and counter them with acts of confidence, so she could build trust in my judgment and direction. It was fun to crash into each other and into our surroundings, but it was more important to let her know that I knew what I was doing and that she could trust me. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #4.

At times I had to let go of our interlaced arms, place myself ahead of her, and face her, so I can test the terrain sliding down the muddy embankments. Doing so, Heather could just slide down against my arm, knowing I’d stop us both at the bottom. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #5.
At times I had to loosen my grip of death, when the path was flat, clear of rocks or hills, so she could enjoy as much of the surroundings as she could. It was neat to see her smile and actually run with some freedom. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #6.
This was the ILMR, where mud and fun mixed well together. Enjoy life, have some laughs … and dunk your friend in the mud, given the chance to do so! It’s pretty rewarding to enjoy some fun, especially as your goals are well at hand. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #7.
I’m not a swimmer and I don’t execute the best swimming strokes at all. Being so close to the edge of the lake at times, and with Heather crashing into me she didn’t know any better that it was too close for comfort for me running closest to the edge of the water. Face your fear, run along it, and it will just blend in the background with everything else. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #8

Folks would stare, point, and make comments, at our mishaps during the course. When they found out Heather was blind, their demeanor was open and helpful, and offering cheers of encouragement. Awareness of other people’s circumstances helps bring the inner Good Samaritan out of people. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #9
Over the course of various walls, hills, mud pits, tires, and rocks, I observed Heather’s transition from showing signs of excitement change to fear to confusion to trust and to accomplishment. Our official photographer for The Boot Girls expertly captured moments of our race, and as I look back at those pictures, each picture is definitely worth a thousand words. I consider Heather a close friend, but I found out even more about how she views life, from the interaction and conversations we had about the course, in addition to the casual interaction and conversations we had about random topics. Sometimes during the most obscure and challenging times is when you find out the most about the people you surround yourself with. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #10 … wait a second … these lessons don’t seem to apply to just BLIND MUD RUNS now. Wow.
This whole experience gave me a perspective of Gavin’s life, and others who do not have sight. Gavin relies on his family and friends to support him, but he also wants to experience life as he “sees” it. Gavin has trust in those who he has built a relationship of trust with. It’s not a matter of just verbal cues or physical cues, but a matter of his experiencing the world together with them. As a sighted individual, I felt blind to some of the emotions associated with walking, running, falling, and getting up. I was humbled by what I experienced that day. I was humbled by how two year old Gavin impacted me this way. I was humbled by how The Stevens Family opened their world to Gavin’s Groupies.

We walk around with blinders that we inadvertently place there, which hinder us from what we want to do, while those without sight live life blind to barriers as nothing could hinder them from what they desire to experience. I’m dedicated to helping find a cure for Gavin’s blindness, as I know Gavin will do amazing things. I hope you can help us? (check out our video on this page)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Bring On The Men!

I thought there simply was not a more fitting title for this blog.

My friends know I'm up for just about anything fitness-related. Whether it's a new series of fitness DVDs, an invitation to participate in a mud run, or more recently, an opportunity to work out with some fit folks at Pure Barre at their newest location in Mission Viejo. I heard about Pure Barre through friends, and I might add an important factor, my female friends. I accepted an invitation to Pure Barre's "Bring On The Men!" the weekend of June 19-20. Guys were encouraged by their female friends to experience 55 minutes of the Pure Barre Technique (PBT) that has the motto: Lift, Tone, and Burn!

My friend Ashley Affeldt (everyone say hi to Ashley, above) sponsored me for this unique opportunity, and, wow... let me tell you all about my day at Pure Barre...

WARM UP: As with any fitness program we started with a warm up. Granted I've not worked out in front of room full of mirrors in a while, I found it actually helped me see how my form was during this phase of the workout. It also gave me a chance to see all the guys and gals in my class, so there was that bonding experience going already.

As you can see I'm already out of sync, this whole reverse-image-in-the-mirror and following Monica Pommier (Instructor, Owner of the Mission Viejo & Newport Beach studios) movements, was confusing for me. How will I last the full 55 minutes? On the one hand my lack of coordination was saved by some floor exercises and some work with the weights. On the other hand, I soon realized this was the calm before the storm.
The competitive nature in me prompted me to sneak a peak in between sets at some of the other fellas and it looks like we were all on par with our female counterparts thus far.
CORE WORKOUT: Soon the core of the PBT began: Thigh, Seat, and Ab Work. I underestimated the intensity of the PBT as Monica led us through some of the most intense, but small, isometric movements combined in a class. If not for the high-energy music I would've been too focused on the burning feeling these movements created on key areas of my body.

About a month ago I suffered a crazy hip injury that knocked me out of my workout routine for three weeks, and at this point I wasn't sure if I should tell Ashley that this "Manly Man" may have to bow out. However, I found that the exercise movements of the PBT provided the burn, but since it did not involve any bouncing or jumping, I would have to find another excuse to not go through this intense program. Monica had to help adjust my stance a couple of times, but other than that, I continued with the program.
After various focused exercises my abs, hips, glutes, and arms were telling me in unison that THIS had to be one of the most intense 55 minutes I have ever worked out...yet my recently-recovered hip was still intact! I spoke with the other guys in the class and we all had the same sweaty, exhausted, and relieved look ... giving me some cue that I was not the only guy wondering how Ashley, Monica, and our female classmates could do this regularly and not smell of Icy Hot.

I'm very grateful for Pure Barre welcoming me and the other guys to "Bring On The Men" as guys very seldom get a chance to participate in fitness classes for females. Personally I like to try various programs and routines, as I'm usually asked by both guys and gals alike, "What would you recommend if I want to...?" I consider myself very well-versed in some of the innovative programs out there, but was not so much with the ones that especially focused on goals and areas on most females' checklists. I also consider myself a pretty fit individual and may have done a great job masking my pain. In the days that followed my abs, my thighs, and my glutes were STILL burning from ONE session at Pure Barre! I cannot make that statement about my previous or current programs.

I hear that Pure Barre invites us guys twice a year to experience how the PBT works out the body through zero- to low-impact movements, providing effective results in a short amount of time. You can be sure I'll have my guy friends check it out for themselves, if I haven't already flooded them with stories from my one day with Pure Barre. As for my female friends, you all are fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Pure Barre classes. It's no wonder talk about Pure Barre has caused more studios opening up. It works and more folks want to experience it. On Saturday, June 26 the Mission Viejo studio will have a Grand Opening Party. Please check it out for yourself and speak with Monica, other Pure Barre instructors, and the Pure Barre students!

Thank you, Monica (above) for inviting us guys to Pure Barre for "Bring On The Men!" It was quite a rewarding experience!