How much effort does it really take?

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Most of us have learned that you don’t get something for nothing. If you haven’t realized that yet I’m not sure how you tolerate being in the gym with us 😉

The more you want, the harder you have to work for it. This is definitely the case for workouts and skill development, we know that. But what we often overlook is how much effort it takes to really honestly take care of ourselves. When we aren’t doing a good job of this we look for reasons to explain why not. Time is the usual suspect for inhibiting our ability to take care of our bodies. There are a few common reasons that we hear regularly that you might be subject to:

1. “I work long hours.” That’s a hard one. We understand because so do we. It means you have to be even more efficient and plan ahead.
2. “I have kids.” Yes you do. So do most people. We don’t, so we can’t claim to understand how crazy this can get, but we can assure you that there are people out there who are making it work the best they can (have you noticed a common theme with us… suggesting that you do the best you can).
3. “I work long hours AND have kids”. Yep, that is hectic for sure. You are going to have to learn to be REALLY efficient.
4. Some other extreme circumstance that steals all of your free time. I still bet there is a creative way to increase your ability to take care of yourself.

For the next few minutes attempt to accept what your limitations are and try to see around them. You’ve often proven to yourself in the gym that you can accomplish more than you think you can.

I’m going to touch on two different categories of “taking care of ourselves”:

1. Food. Good food takes prep time. Not many people will claim that eating a solid paleo diet is fast or easy until you have it dialed. It also costs more $$$ than the easy to grab of the shelf stuff.
2. Stretching/body maintenance. Requires a reasonable bit of time and can sometimes cost $$$.

My suggestions are based on a) what we do, and b) what other people have told us work well for them. Most of us are fairly routine type people (and by fairly I mean you might fall apart if there isn’t a routine). So, really, what is critical in making a change is making it part of the routine. These suggestions are in no way the only way or the best way… they are merely pieces of a system that I have spent considerable time refining.

1. FOOD: The thing that has worked best for me is to accept that I’m already in the kitchen, whether I like it or not, in the morning (or night before if I’m teaching morning classes) and therefore I should do as much as humanly possible while in there e.g eggs cooking on the stove, whilst making a smoothie to go, chopping veggies for my famous salads (I think all my massage clients could name at least 5 unique ingredients from my between treatment salads), BBQing meat for the salad and possibly that night’s dinner too (if you’re firing up the BBQ you might as well fill it!). Unless your kitchen is at risk of blowing a fuse, get those appliances going. It gets a little crazy… but it does make the next 24 hours easier. I find the time between 9pm and 10pm particularly effective for this. I have also heard of people spending Sunday evening chopping all sorts of veggies and putting them in containers for fast salads throughout the week. Same works well for fresh fruit salads. Setting up marinades for meat for the next day that can then quickly be cooked is also a good call. I will also often make a HUGE smoothie and put it in two separate containers for 2 different days. Pick a time when you would otherwise be watching TV or something similar that really only requires part of your attention. e.g The Bachelorette ;). The exciting add on to this exercise is to see if you can get all the dishes done before you leave the kitchen. I personally find that dealing with dirty dishes prior to making food a major negative motivator in my desire to use the kitchen. In terms of leaving the house with food for the day, I find it helps to either cut the food into bite size pieces if you are someone that has to eat on the fly or snack constantly. I call them mini meals so that even if it’s just a snack I might have a couple of slices of chicken breast, a handful of nuts and a couple pieces of veggies or fruit. I find that the mini meal ties me over longer than just having some of one of those types of food alone. This is where the massive and diverse salad also comes in handy: meat of choice, greens of choice, fruit AND veggies, at least one veggie grilled, lots of avocado, topped with olive or avocado oil. No lack of flavor or nutritional content there and easy to snack away on).

This may sound like too much effort, but it’s really got to be done to some degree unless you have an unlimited budget to eat out, or are going to give in to the processed $%&*.

Cost. Yep, it’s more than the frozen or containered stuff, but SO worth it. When Jesse and I started eating paleo we accepted that it was worth cutting down on food out, and especially drinks, to offset the increased cost of organic and other good quality food. Take advantage of bulk orders of meat (I’m still sad about the summer bison shortage) and seasonal fruit that can be canned or frozen (see food blog). There are often really good deals on meats at Nesters. Balance your carbs, proteins and fats in each meal or snack to keep your hormones, and therefore hunger, in check. Never ever forget that this is the fuel that runs your system. It should sit very high on the priority list. Having new things to play with is fun, but feeling good and performing well because you are well fueled is priceless. I know I have talked to lots of you about this, and I have even shown some of you my training log book to make the point… the correlation between my PRs/training performance and my degree of paleoness is striking. Try making a general observation to see if you have a similar trend. Positive results are always a good motivation.

Post to comments if you have any other tricks to food management/prep that have worked for you, especially if you have kids. From what I have heard from other people, the art is in creating snacks that are healthy AND portable. Kat and CGB seem to be good sources for these ideas.

2. BODY MAINTENANCE: This is a biggy and I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about why we need to do this as it should be quite obvious by now (unless you are new and are about to find out all the fun range of motion restrictions that your body has been hiding on you for the last 30 years). The more you ask of your body, the more you have to take care of it. A sedentary person has aches and pains for sure that need to be managed, but the person who has and does play hard can develop even more IF they don’t keep their body in good condition. There is a reason that high level athletes have teams of rehab therapists at their disposal.

The issue again is time and money. In an ideal world you would all be stretching at least some part of your body every day. The nature of our activities and WODs is that something is always working, and something is getting sore and tight a good portion of the time. Keeping up with that can be hard. Most people stretch when they realize something is becoming a problem, not because they just want to maintain good range of motion and tissue health. Unfortunately this just isn’t enough. I demand enough from my body through training and working that I HAVE to stretch every day. Some days its just lower body, some days just pecs, etc. But this is the only way things stay under control. It takes a lot of time, we have a lot of body parts! I try to use the time right before bed to unwind, and I wake up way less creaky. In my mind, it’s not acceptable to put my body through 7 workouts a week (a couple of double days because of my running training) and not spend adequate time unwinding it. If you do more or less exercise than this, the stretching and mobility work should be proportional to it. Know your “spots”. If you don’t know what the root of your discomforts are have me or another practitioner assess you so you do know. Pay A LOT of attention to those spots. Try to do at least a couple of stretches before you leave the gym EVERY time you there… if you are that busy that you feel like you have to run out the door, the chances of you getting to it later are slim. If you want us to be on your case about it before you head out let us know… seems to be working out really well with Kale 😉 The other trick for fitting it in that I hear works well is rolling around on the lacrosse ball or foam roller on the living room floor while you are playing with your kids.

Cost. Sometimes things get away on you and you need some help from your practitioners. If you can afford this and you feel something developing beyond your own management, deal with it then. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to deal with. Giving something a few days to see if it’s going to settle is a good plan, but leaving it two weeks and still not dealing with it is just plain neglectful, especially if you have tried all the stretches and mobes you can think of. Again, this fits in to the category of priorities. I completely understand that some people can’t afford treatments, but if you are still able to go out for food and drinks and buy nice new toys, it might just be a matter of temporarily reorganizing priorities. For those of you whose budgets don’t allow extras, ask questions; there are so many of us around the gym who can give you some suggestions based on what you are experiencing. The ideal scenario is one in which you stretch regularly, and calculate what you can afford for treatments of various types for the year and divide it up into maintenance appointments. This is essentially what I do and I find that nothing really ever gets away on me. It also makes my treatments more productive because they aren’t often damage control based.

Side note (in case you are thinking that I cruise along with no body issues): I have a long history (since elementary school) of on and off foot pain with running. If I deal with my problem areas (terrible, and I swear genetic, range of motion in my posterior chain) the foot pain stays away. If I don’t, it comes back. I hate that it’s like that, but I also have a history prior to CrossFit of poor running mechanics, varied footwear, and questionable training methods that I pay the price for. All I have to do now is take care of myself and it’s manageable. When time is a crunched I hit only a few key spots with stretches or mobes a day, and if I have more time I try to be more thorough. I also get massage every week, and chiro, physio and acupuncture semi regularly. I’m running my first ultra this fall and I know that the only way this is going to be possible is to be as nice to my body as possible. The process that I have been in with my training for this over the last 6 months is forcing myself to really assess the weaknesses in my body and make them strong. I think this is the first goal I have ever had where I feel that if I leave my weaknesses unchecked the consequence will be a failed goal. My goal is not only to finish, but to go into it uninjured.

I hope that what you have gathered from this really really long post is that the answer to the title of the post is – A LOT. In part I wrote this to reminder you that you have a choice in how you feel and that you have the resources to make it happen. It might not be to the extent that you would like to execute things, but I hope that you can see that there are little things that can help quite a lot. I also wanted to give you guys a glimpse of how we/I take care of ourselves. I measure how well I’m doing by how I feel at the end of the day. When things are going well I am tired for sure, but in a good way, not in a beat down kind of way. When I’m taking good care of myself I feel energetic almost all day. The result of that is that I can execute the tasks of my day with more motivation and energy.

We talk about getting fit in the gym so that physical tasks outside the gym are easier. Taking care of your body and eating well makes everything else easier too.

Nobody said that it would be easy. The result is incredibly worth it.

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