Category: Healthy Living

Amanda Allen – Proving Fitness and Well-Being Can Begin At Any Age

What things come to mind when you think of the fittest people in the world?  I would bet that a 43 woman would not be in that list and that’s because you haven’t met Amanda Allen.  Amanda has won the CrossFit Games Masters Division (40-44) for two consecutive years and is here to prove that fitness and well-being can begin at any age.

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Amanda’s story isn’t that of a typical athlete.  After years of struggling with alcohol addiction and depression, she decided it was time to make a change at the age of 34. Amanda dove head first into a new adventure and became a World title triathlete.  From there, she took on the sport of Kneeling Canoeing which had recently become an Olympic event.  She devoted herself to the sport with the hopes of making the Olympic Team and turned CrossFit while training as a way to increase her strength.  She did not make the cut, but the story doesn’t end there.  At the age of 41 with only six months of training under her belt, Amanda qualified for the CrossFit Games and placed 19th among the fittest women in the world, some of which were half her age.  AMAZING.

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Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Amanda has continued to get stronger and better at the sport.  Not only has she won the Women’s 40-44 Masters Division at the CrossFit Games in 2013 and 2014, she signed with the National Professional Grid League team the Philly Founders, which has brought her to the States from Australia for an extended stay.  Since the coach of the Founders is also the Owner and Head Coach at my gym, CrossFit Milford, we have been lucky enough to have had her training here for the past few months.  

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Amanda was awesome enough to sit down with some of the female athletes at CFM to talk about training, nutrition, and overall mental health one Saturday afternoon and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear what she had to say.  She shared her journey to the CrossFit games, training techniques and nutrition regimens.  She talked about the “controlling the controllables” which are basically nutrition, hydration, sleep, recovery and perception.  We learned how to best fuel for workouts, new recovery techniques such as floating, how tracking your menstrual cycle can help improve performance and a ton of other useful information specific to women athletes.

While all of this information was wonderful and what I had expected out of the seminar, I found that what resonated with me the most was Amanda’s outlook on self empowerment and positivity.  We have 100% control over our mindset and how we choose to live our lives, so why not choose a positive outlook.  She reinforced that being selfish isn’t a bad thing and that in order to become successful and truly happy we need to empower ourselves.  We should strive to find inspiration everyday and in turn inspire others.  She has even begun her own “Positivity Project” by writing down 3 positive aspects of her life every morning to get her in the right mindset everyday.  

None of this would have been possible without CrossFit.  Amanda says that it is the most empowering thing she has ever done and sees how it changes lives around the world.  I know it has changed mine.  It has helped Amanda become mentally, emotionally, spiritually and overall physically stronger everyday, and I couldn’t agree more!  

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

What a privilege to chat with a professional athlete and feed off of her energy for an afternoon.  While much of her nutrition and competitive training advice was a bit extreme for my goals, her advice on self empowerment and positivity is something that I can start working on right away that will make a HUGE difference in my life.  I am making an effort to fill my life with positive people and to cut out all of the negative shit.  Coming to the realization that being selfish isn’t a bad thing can be difficult to embrace and for others to understand, but you can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself first.  Setting priorities and goals are what got Amanda to the top of her game and if I can harness a fraction of that determination, who knows where I can go!         

To learn more about Amanda Allen, visit her website and her Facebook page.  She also has two books that are on my must read list for the near future: Eat, Perform, Win and The Time of My Life.  But right now, you should check out this great video of Amanda in action as she trains for the 2013 CrossFit Games…

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Functional Fitness and A Ton of Weight

Functional Fitness.  It is becoming more popular in the health and fitness world and is also the basis of all CrossFit programs.  CrossFit can actually be defined as “a regimen of constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity in a communal environment leading to health and fitness.”  

I know there are many skeptics out there who like to debate this and preach that CrossFit is a very dangerous sport.  My brother-in-law actually said to me recently that CrossFit is the “sport of injury.”  Well all of that is just basic ignorance in my opinion and comments like this generally come from those who have never even tried the sport or have an understanding of what is actually being accomplished everyday.  Yes, what we do may look chaotic and “unsafe” but it really is quite the opposite.  All the workouts (WODs) are strategically planned by our head coach and all the classes are highly monitored.  I can’t tell you how many times my form has been corrected during a WOD.  

If we look past what you actually see athletes doing during a CrossFit WOD and get down into WHY we are doing these movements, we will see a different picture begin to emerge.  Not only are we working out to be healthy and feel good, we are doing this to prepare us for life.  It’s done to carry those heavy bags of groceries, to change a flat tire, to take your child out of a carseat, to do laundry…you know, everyday things.  And not just do these things, but do them efficiently and without injury.  Sounds interesting right?

Last week this was dropped off in my driveway:

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That would be 100 40-pound bags of wood pellets.  It gets COLD here in CT in the winter and if you couldn’t tell from all my bitching this past winter…I HATE the cold!  So to keep the house nice and toasty, we have a pellet stove.  I love this thing…

Pellet Stove

However, pellet stoves need fuel and that’s where these bags come in.  We do not have a garage to store the bags in so they need to be moved down to the basement…one by one.  Our basement does not have an entrance from the outside, so we must walk from the driveway, around the back of the house, through the living room and down a flight of stairs.  It’s only about 50-75 feet, but making that trip 25 times while carrying 80 pounds of weight can get tiring.  And that’s just what B and I did.  We each moved a ton (literally) of pellets.

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When we first moved into this house 5 years ago, I didn’t help with this task.  B’s brothers would come up from NY and help him.  About 2 years ago (2 months after starting CrossFit), we got a delivery of 1 ton.  I decided to help B that time and I remember it being difficult.  He would put two bags on my shoulders and I would carry them down.  I remember being sore afterwards.  This year was a different story.

Not only was I able to lift and carry two bags on my own, but I did it quickly and without injury or any soreness the next day.  Knowing how to properly squat and clean weight up to my shoulders saved my back from injury.  Having a stronger core, kept my body more properly aligned while carrying 40 pounds on one shoulder and another in front of me. It’s pretty clear that my training has come a long way.

So while I might not look like the epitome of health and fitness on the outside, like the sport of CrossFit, I tell a different story on the inside.  Practicing functional fitness has prepared me for all the different things life will throw at me.  I wonder what will come next…  

How are you prepared?

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A Walk in the Wepawaug Conservation Area

As the weather has been getting warmer, I’ve been feeling the need to get out and walk around in the woods.  This is something I’ve loved since I was a kid when my Mom and I would take our dogs for long hikes.  There is something so calming and peaceful about being out in the woods.  It’s a great place to reflect and gather your thoughts, all while getting some exercise.     

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Last weekend after I learned of Lee’s passing I needed to get out of the house and I knew a good walk in the woods would help to clear my head.  So I headed to the Wepawaug Conservation Area in Orange, CT to walk the Orange Triangle Trail.  This is a small nature preserve with a few miles of easy hiking trails.

Wepawaug-Conservation-Area-Orange-CT-Trail-MapIt is an absolutely gorgeous area for an walk, an easy trail run or even some fishing.

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Wepawaug-Conservation-Area-Orange-CT-6After about a mile of walking, I found a log and sat for a while watching the Wepawaug River pass by.  And there were ducks…I love ducks ๐Ÿ™‚

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After some reflection (and a good cry), I headed out along another trail and passed a woman who was out walking her 3 yellow Labs.  They were SO EXCITED to be running in the woods.  They were even running in and out of the river!  It reminded me so much of my black lab Butch from when I was a kid.  I really think a Lab might be in our future.

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Wepawaug-Conservation-Area-Orange-CT-Labs-2After another mile or so I headed back.  Throughout my walk I saw a father and son doing some fly fishing in the river and they were walking back to their car.  So cute…

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I’m so lucky to have a place like this close to my house and I can’t wait to come back throughout the summer when the trees fill in.  I’m definitely going to add hiking into my exercise routine!  A great local hiking area is Sleeping Giant State Park where there are over 30 miles of trails, some of which are very difficult.  I haven’t been there for quite some time, but I will be tackling that giant soon.

Do you like hiking in the woods?  What are some of your favorite trails?

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And Then I Slept…

We all know sleep is important, right?  In fact, it’s one of the MOST important aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  It’s the time our bodies regenerate and we allow ourselves to fully heal.  It’s crucial for physical health, mental well-being and our overall functionality during the day.  Cats get..why don’t we?

Sleep

This past weekend I had another whirlwind adventure in Walt Disney World for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler race weekend.  Not only did I run a 10-mile race, but I also trekked around Epcot for 3 days exploring the International Food & Wine Festival.  Tough, but someone had to taste test all that food!  I only averaged about 5 hours of sleep for the 4 nights that I spent there and by the time I got home yesterday I was completely exhausted.  I basically dropped my bags and passed out with the cats for 2 hours.  I woke up to eat dinner with B and then was back in bed by 9:00 pm, sleeping for close to 9 hours.  I can’t say I woke up refreshed, but damn that felt good. 

So given that we know how important sleep is, why do we continually push ourselves to complete exhaustion?  Why is sleep NEVER a priority?  I fall victim to this all the time.  There is always something that is keeping me from going to bed on time or getting that much needed 8 hours of sleep.  My next blog post, bills to pay, food to prep, laundry to do.  But really, what is more important than my health?!  

This weekend was an extreme example of not getting enough sleep.  With the race starting at 10:00 pm, your sleep schedule gets completely thrown out of whack.  Plus, we all know when you’re in Walt Disney World you’re just too excited to sleep, right?!?!  But coming back from a weekend like that really takes a toll on your everyday life.  I still feel drained and I’m sure I will not perform well at the gym tonight.  My diet has been suffering because I’m too tired to prep meals for the week.  And so on and so on.  

This week I am committed to getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night.  I need to get my body back to a healthy state so I can focus on all of the other things that are important to me.  Will you make the commitment and get 8 hours of sleep per night with me???       

How much sleep do you get per night?  How do you recuperate from an exhausting few days?

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Listening to My Body – Hydration

It’s easy to give other people advice.  Don’t eat those artificial foods!  Make sure to stretch before AND after exercise!  Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep!  STAY HYDRATED!  But listening to my own advice and my body’s warning signs seems to be a difficult task.

I thought that I’ve been pretty careful about staying hydrated and fueling these past few weeks…hmmm maybe not.  Today I woke up with the same headache that I had when I went to bed last night . But on top of that, I felt slightly dizzy, lightheaded and my fingertips were very dry.  I also still felt incredibly tired after having just slept for 8 hours and I was very thirsty.

Fitbit Flex Sleep Tracker

Fitbit Flex Sleep Tracker

Now I’ve been drinking close to 100 oz of water a day for the past few weeks because it’s been so hot, which I thought was plenty, but I think that on days that I’m exercising that might not be enough.  I sweat A LOT…I mean A LOT!  I am often sweating buckets after a warm up while other people still look refreshed and clean.  Lovely.  Add in the heat and humidity I’m just a hot mess….literally.  Knowing this, should I have been drinking more than 100 oz?    

Water Water Water!

Water Water Water!

Earlier this week I was drinking coconut water prior to my workouts in an attempt for better hydration and to get natural electrolytes in my system.  Coconut water is said to have four times the amount of potassium as a banana and easy to digest carbohydrates, so obviously many athletes swear by it.  I’m really not fond of the taste of coconut water, so it was a bit of a struggle to get it down, but I did it to help with my hydration.  But maybe I should’ve been drinking it post-workout instead of beforehand to replenish my system.           

Coconut Water

Coconut Water

Well obviously I’ve been doing something wrong after waking up feeling like I was in a daze.  Also, during the WOD yesterday, I had a HORRIBLE cramp on my left calf that stopped me in my tracks while running.  This has never happened to me before, not even during my marathon!  So clearly I was/am dehydrated, but I’m also wondering if I haven’t been providing my system with enough fuel to get through tough workouts in extreme heat.  For the past month, I’ve really been focusing on clean eating and avoiding grains, dairy and sugar to help with my colitis, and thankfully it’s been working wonders!  However, because of this I’m thinking I’m not getting enough carbohydrates to fuel my exercise, which is leading to dehydration and exhaustion.  Hmmm….always a dilemma.    

I’ve been trying to avoid sports drinks for hydration because it is full of sugar and artificial ingredients that I’ve been trying to avoid, but today I broke down and got some Gatorade.  

Gatorade

Almost immediately, I started feeling better.  My energy was restored!  Instead of wanting to take a nap, I wanted to head to the gym to workout! (I decided to skip class tonight due to my dizziness.)  Maybe there is something to be said about these highly artificial sports drinks.  Even though the ingredients aren’t the best for you, when your body is craving hydration, electrolytes and sodium, this seems to be the best way to replenish your system.  

Looking back on the past week or so, there were warning signs of my imminent dehydration, but I chose to ignore them and keep pushing myself.  This is par for the course for me…I tend to have difficulty finding my limits.  Only child issues at their finest ๐Ÿ™‚  

So the goal for the next few days is fluids, fluids, fluids!  I’m going to take tomorrow off from exercise as well and hopefully get myself back to normal for a kickass WOD on Friday. 

Do you listen to your body or ignore the warning signs of a problem?

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