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Fitness Inspiration: Do Not Fear What You Can Become- Mickel’s story

Mickel is a fellow Spartan who continues to inspire me and many others.  He not only inspires with his words, he inspires with his actions. He strives to push his limits to see what he can achieve, and this is exactly what being a Beast is all about. Here is his story:

So I made a challenge for myself on July 7, 2011 to get into the form I wanted and needed to drop into before Oct 29th.  For the first time, I signed myself up for a course-filled race called the Men’s Health Urbanathlon.  It’s an obstacle course within a 11.5 mile run.  It was brought to my attention by a friend two years ago and although it was his wish to join it, I jumped in any ways.  He was always adamant about joining it, even flying to Chicago to join.  Last year it happened to be in NYC.  So it was either do or do not.  So he told me and although I hesitated, I said “Why not?”  I overcame back to back injuries that year, and doing the race was just a testing ground of what I can push my body to do.  We live such a congested life that any breathing space seems unorthodox.  Well I created room.  I was always in fear of obstacles and any competitive sports because I lack the confidence and drive.  Well not anymore.  I am going at this like a wolf in search of his cub.  Although with a chaotic schedule during July due to my job as well as training GTfit members and my husband and fatherly duties, I managed to awaken the beast within and started reformatting myself.  Having two jobs truly takes a lot of work and makes for an easy excuse.  When I first dropped from 275 lbs to 165-170 lbs in 2008 it was quick and I used a lot of supplements and pills (see photos of before and after).

I was a size 44 pants, 275lbs, size xl-xxl shirt.

It took me nine months to drop all the weight.  I got my first set of a 4-pack then or what I thought was a flatter stomach.  This time around I decided to do it the normal way.  Cut out processed meat, steak and pork, and stick with natural and healthy foods (ie. veggies, fruits, legumes) with more vitamins and minerals.  The result was a juggernaut weight drop and lean muscle build up.  Utilizing all my knowledge in mixed martial arts training, Crossfit, bio mechanics, and nutrition I put together a simple regimen that had complex results.  I dropped from a size 35 waist to a 32 waist and I dropped from 205 lbs to now up to date 176 lbs.  Never did I think I could achieve this physique or even see my abs forming.  I hardly did any sit-ups but mainly concentrated on my nutrition, calisthenics, and running.  The nutrition was the key factor.  I revised my eating plan completely.  I use to do small portions and eat throughout the day.  I found that inefficient because who has the time to pack small foods? When I have hunger pains it’s already too late.  My body is already performing catabolism and burning my muscles.  I started eating cleaner food with higher contents of omega-3 and fiber.  These were the main factors of my quick weight drop.  I feel lighter, faster, and stronger.  So during the Open the same friend throws out a mud run challenge coming up before Oct 29th.  I saw the hunger in his eyes and without hesitation this time I say why not?  It was my birthday gift for myself.  Let’s get down and dirty!

We live in a society that believes in what they see.  They think if it can happen to someone it can happen to them.  But wait? It’s not a miracle.  You don’t lose the pounds or gain my energy by standing next to me.  You must move with me and challenge yourself.  I train smart and efficiently.  Working smart is the key to having a nicely fit body and eating healthy is what’s going to maintain this physique.  Be realistic with yourself and take on a baby step challenge.  During the US Open this year I put out two challenges.  The first one consisted of 5,000 push-ups in seven days. The second consisted of 16,000 movements and one hour of plank.  For those that did it, kudos.  For those who stopped or did not finish, ask yourself why didn’t I “just finish?” You didn’t have to do it within the time frame.  All you had to do was just finish.  When I train I set out to do what I say I will do.  Regardless of the pain and fatigue.  I am who I say I am.  I go big or I go home, simple as that.  A lot of people are always sticklers when it comes to deadlines and if they know they can’t make it they sabotage themselves and not even try.  Why put yourself in a cage with open doors and be afraid to explore or enjoy what’s outside? Find motivation within so you will never have to rely on others for strength.  In the moment of truth we all need a source of energy and push, why can’t it be you? We are our worst enemy but did you ever think, “why can’t I be my best push?”.  Do not fear what you can become.  Your true potential lies within you.  It’s dormant, you need to awaken what you hide and shelter.  Sometimes it’s okay to go beyond and past your comfort zone.  This will unleash a part of you that you thought did not exist.  I have done this multiple times and as I get older, embracing these challenges becomes easier.  I might not be getting younger but at least in my heart I know I am embracing what I can while I still can move.  If you need motivation, look at people you know who are always positive and get insight on how they do it.  We all need someone but try to find it in yourself as well.  People in your life will come and go.  Those who inspire you, keep them close and try to understand why they are who they are.  They embraced the notion that lines were meant to be crossed, limits were meant to be broken, norms were meant to be defied.  We all live in a society that just makes us slow and lazy.  We are easy targets.  So to simplify my life I decided to go faster, move more, and LIFT!

So today or tomorrow find a challenge.  Find something that will take you out of your comfort zone and just embrace it.  Also, for all those people who want to stay fit remember, “Eat to Train, not Train to eat”, abs are not made in the gym they are carved in the kitchen.  Be mindful of what you eat.  It tastes good but is it good for you? Think about that next time you have a midnight snack of chips or cookies – is it worth it?  There is no “I’ll burn it off tomorrow” because tomorrow you already stored it as fat.  Tomorrow your metabolism slows down.  I am not saying to be strict but if you want the body then you respect it and you live the lifestyle.  Don’t be a part time athlete or bodybuilder, or fitness junkie.  Live it! The choices we make today affects our tomorrow – so eating bacon for breakfast is not bad as long as you know your doing a heavy duty WOD.  Eating a nice juice shake is also as good, but eating pancakes with bacon and some milk chocolate and expecting to get ripped is unrealistic.  Fuel your body right and your body will show you what it can really do.

“Fear Not Of Growing Slowly; But of Standing Still” – LIFT (live inspire fight Triumph).  Are you ready to take on a challenge? Why not join GT and see what animal you were meant to unleash!

Check out GTfit here for more info on what Mickel does to stay beastly!

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Weekly Challenge: Processed Foods

Challenge: Eat clean for a week.

This challenge will be very difficult for some people, and fairly easy for others.  I previously wrote a post about what constitutes a “Clean” diet.  For this challenge, I am going to set a few simple guidelines to make things easier.  This is the first Beast challenge, so this is not only a learning experience for you, but for me as well.

Guidelines:

  1. No white breads, rice or white sugar. Eat whole grains.
  2. Limit your grocery shopping to mostly the perimeter of the store.  The only foods you should be getting from the aisles are whole grains (brown rice, wild rice, plain oats, etc.), natural nut butters, plain or raw nuts/seeds, vinegars and dry spices.
  3. Buy lean meats, and use turkey bacon and turkey burgers in place for their high fat cousins.
  4. If you drink coffee, drink it black, or use a natural sweetener such as honey, agave, or stevia.  Use low fat milk, or try almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk (the carton type).
  5. If you eat eggs, use only egg whites.
  6. No oil.  Instead cook with water, broth or vinegar.  If baking, use unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas in it’s place.
  7. Drink a lot of water.
  8. No juice.  Instead eat a whole piece of fruit instead.
  9. No canned foods.
  10. Frozen fruits and vegetables must have no additives such as salt, sauces or sugars.  Should be 100% fruit or vegetables.
  11. Limit the foods that have labels.  If you must eat something with a label such as yogurt or cheese, make sure the ingredient is short and you can recognize the ingredients.  Try greek yogurt and cottage cheese.

Is this tough? Hell yes it is.  But I know you can do this.  Think of this not just as a challenge, but as a learning experience.  I am sure you will be surprised at how many foods you eat that are highly processed and have an ingredient list longer than Tina Turner’s legs.  I always know that I’ve had a healthy and clean shopping experience when I only have to go in the aisles for a couple of items, usually nuts or seeds and most of the foods are foods that came from the earth.  I will do my best to post the foods that I eat on my facebook page, I will also provide links to some great pages with wonderful recipes.

I encourage you to share your own experience with this, whether good or bad because your experience might help someone else.  Feel free to post your meals, pictures and your thoughts on this.  Please be respectful and supportive however, I will not tolerate hateful language.

Websites:

http://www.skinnytaste.com/

http://www.littlebshealthyhabits.com/

http://www.thecleaneatingmama.com/

http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/

http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/

http://cleancuisineandmore.com/

http://www.eatcleandiet.com

http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-eason-livefit-recipes-main-page.html

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Cleaning up your diet

Let’s be honest here, we live in a world where we are surrounded by fast food and twinkies.  We are constantly looking for the most convenient, fastest and easiest way for everything.  It’s human nature to want the easiest way.  The fact of the matter is that if you want to see results and accomplish goals, you are going to have to go against the grain and work hard at it.  If it were easy then we wouldn’t have such an obesity problem.

So what does it mean to eat clean?  Well, in all honesty it means something different to everyone, but the overall idea for most clean eating diets (and what I personally agree with) is trying to eat foods as natural and unprocessed as possible.  Stick to fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats and stay away from foods that come with labels.   For many, this is an extremely hard thing to wrap their heads around.  Not because the concept itself is difficult to grasp, because I’m sure most people will agree with it.  It’s hard because many people grew up eating processed foods and foods that have a label with 50 ingredients, only 5 of which they actually recognize. It’s hard because the processed and unhealthy foods are the cheapest and we are still in some economically hard times.  Trying to drastically change the way you eat when that is all you have known is definitely hard, even if you know it’s good for you.

Personally, it has taken me years to understand what healthy food is, and how to better incorporate it into my diet, and I’m still learning. When it comes to making healthy changes to their diet, some people have the “go big or go home” mentality, which is fine.  But it’s not that easy for everyone.  I think a good way for people to get healthier and make long-lasting healthy habits is to slowly incorporate them into their daily lives.  Ever wonder why your friends never stick to their crazy diets? It’s because they go all out on a super strict diet that no sane person can withstand for long periods of time.  So they stay on the diet (if they’re lucky) until they lose the weight, then they gain the weight back once they go back to their regular diets.  These diets are short term, made to get you fast results, but not lasting results.  Instead, start incorporating healthier options instead of cutting everything bad out all at once.  To go completely clean with no processed foods can take time and a lot of preparation, and definitely worth trying.  But, I would rather see people work their way to that point, by first trying to make healthy switches to adjust to the lifestyle than go all out and quit. Because this is a lifestyle, not some short term fad diet.

Clean eating tips:

  • Switch from white bread to whole grain bread (try finding bread with the least amount of ingredients or buy from a bakery)
  • Switch from white rice/pasta switch to brown rice or whole grain pasta
  • Stick to the perimeter of your grocery store, most foods within the aisles are processed and unhealthy. Exceptions are whole grains, oats, nuts(unsalted of course) and frozen fruits/veggies.
  • Instead of cooking with oil, try cooking with water, chicken/veggie/beef broth.
  • Make your meals as colorful as possible, incorporating different colored veggies/fruit
  • Items that are easily made at home…make them.(It’s surprisingly easy to make your own nut butters )
  • Eat breakfast ALWAYS.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Cut out sugar (as much as you think you do, you don’t need it)
  • Instead of drinking juice eat the whole fruit instead.
  • Try cooking your own beans instead of canned
  • If you must used canned, wash the beans several times to get the juice off them
  • When buying frozen fruits/veggies make sure they don’t have any additions like sauces or salt.  The only ingredient should be the fruit/veggie itself.
  • Switch water and tea for soda
  • Use vinegar (there are so many kinds) on your salads instead of store-bought dressing
  • Use clean cheese (ingredients should list things like milk, salt, enzymes, rennet) -found this on a great website
  • Add fresh and dried spices to food for added flavor

I will be posting a week challenge Sunday night or Monday to see if people can eat clean for the week.  Please feel free to post any more tips below.  I will try and include some recipe ideas with the challenge, as well as on my Facebook page.

Some great articles:

Clean Eating – Starting Out – The Nice and Easy Approach

10 Week Guide to a Healthier You

Building a Healthy Pantry

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The Beast List

Call it what you will, but it’s basically a goal list.  What you hope to accomplish in the near future or maybe even in the not so near future.  A “Beast” list is taking it to another level.  It’s still a goal list, but it’s more ambitious than that.  It needs to include some items that will be hard and that may even lead to failure.  It also needs to push your self out of your comfort zone a little.

By all means, include all your goals little and large, but make sure your large items are almost inconceivably large.  I say “almost” because it does have to be in the realm of reality (even if it is just short of absurd).  My own list is still in the beginning stages, and this list is an ever evolving, ever changing list.  You add to it once you complete something, or maybe you failed at something and realized it wasn’t the right goal for you.  You can see that I have a few items that are common, and ones that are very doable.  But to illustrate what I mean by “almost inconceivable”, I have “become an American Gladiator” as one of my list items.  Absurd right?  Well is it?  Let’s face it, it’s just plain fun to imagine myself being a gladiator.  However, it is somewhat possible, with hard work and dedication I could definitely become fit enough to be on the show (that’s considering they are even still on tv).  And even if I don’t get on the show, I would have still accomplished a lot.

The idea is to dream big, and even if you fail, that in itself is an accomplishment because you will have learned something in the process.

I want  you to make your own list.  Feel free to share it, or not.  But I want you to create this list with absolutely no self control.  Don’t hold back.  Put down everything you want to accomplish, big, small and everything in between.  Write even the embarrassing ones down (I told you about my gladiator dream so how bad can yours be?).  Spend some time on this, you can always edit it and take out what you won’t even consider working towards.

I want you to GO HARD OR GO HOME, because the truth is you are stronger than you think you are.  Once you realize that, you will be surprised what you can really achieve.

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Fitness Inspiration: Natalie Shares Her Story

Weight loss and getting in shape is a common theme in many people’s lives.  Some people spend their whole lives dieting and trying different fitness fads while others struggle with their weight after reaching a certain age, having kids or coping with a tragedy.  Fortunately, there are some reliable and effective tools and programs out there that work, though it may take some time to find them. 
One of these programs is called LiveFit and was created by Jamie Eason on the bodybuilding.com website.  This is a program I use and one that has helped Natalie. Here is her story:

I am a SAHM of 2: a 9 month old and a 2½ year old. I have never before in my life been more than 5 pounds over my ideal weight but when having kids, I gained 25 pounds with my first — lost every bit of that weight within 10 months and then got pregnant in my 11th month post-pregnancy — gained 50 pounds with that second pregnancy.  I tell ya, it’s been so very hard to lose this second round of weight gain due to sleep deprivation and the very long days I’m keeping with keeping up with and raising our two children.  It was easier to just eat snack foods and microwavable meals because they were quick, when tending to the demands of the kids. I joined a gym back in August 2011 in hopes to start getting some of this weight off, as it was affecting me mentally and physically.  But it wasn’t until I started the LiveFit program with the clean eating and workout routines that the weight started falling off me.  I had not lost but 2 pounds since August and put those on plus a few more over the holidays but within 20 days of being on the LiveFit program, I lost nearly 10 pounds, I dropped a couple dress sizes and I am finally seeing muscle to my form.  Not only this but my energy level is where I can actually go all day and not feel like I want to take a nap throughout the day.  I’m able to keep up with my kids, which has made me a better mom and wife and my husband calls me Super Woman now with all the things I’m getting done around the house (cooking, cleaning and projects getting completed) along with how he sees me interacting with the kids.  I don’t feel depressed anymore, my husband and I are actually becoming intimate again and my confidence is back.

At the beginning of Jamie Eason's program.

With learning the clean eating aspect, I have learned to like foods that I never did before: onions, celery, baby greens, vinaigrette, turkey, chicken, spices and spicy foods.  Keep in mind, I have been a vegetarian all my life so the foods like turkey and chicken were never in my meals plans before.  I am venturing out with new foods which has gotten my husband excited, as he has always wanted me to try new foods and to be able to enjoy these meals with him.

Before kids picture, and current motivation.

With the workout routines, I have learned an array of new exercises that I have never seen before or would have thought to do until now.  I have always enjoyed working out but now I crave it because I love learning new things and I am actually seeing rapid results from this.  I am still amazed that Jamie Eason didn’t at least charge people $20 a head for this program but instead, the humble generous person that she is has gone and done this completely free for the betterment of the public, from the goodness of her sweet heart and goes to show that public figures aren’t all greedy individuals.  She is a gem and one of a kind!  I hope to meet her one day to personally thank her for what she is doing for me and my family.  Because of her hard earned knowledge and research, she is helping my family to live a long and healthy life away from the cancer causing processed foods. Thank you, Jamie Eason!

 

 To check out Jamie Eason’s LiveFit program, click here.

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To Beast or Not to Beast…That is the Question

“Among all living creatures studied thus far by modern scientists, only human beings can be said with absolute certainty to have been endowed with the ability to make deliberate choices about the direction of their lives, and to discern whether those choices will lead them through the valley of transitory happiness or into a realm of a lasting peace and well-being…”

What is a beast?

Being a beast is not just about training hard and pushing your body’s limits.  It is also a lifestyle and a frame of mind.

It’s pushing yourself in all parts of your life.  It’s challenging your health, your diet, your mind, your body and your social interactions.

How do I become a beast?

Find your limits and push past them.  Find your comfort zone, and go beyond it.  Find your weaknesses and strengthen them.  All greatness in life, all successes  are products of hard work and failures.  They come from discomfort and struggle.  That is the journey you have to set yourself on if you want to see results.  Our struggles and hardships make us appreciate our successes all the more.

Whenever you hear “You can’t”, whether it comes from someone or from yourself, you have to say “watch me.”  That my friends is the Beast.

And I’m here to help it emerge.