Category Archives: Cross Fit

Grace & The Art of Beer…

On the verge of yet another unwanted birthday, I find myself taking inventory of my life.  It’s not easy growing older, but practice makes perfect, right?  Walking home from my cross fit session at Invictus this morning my thoughts were of the word grace.  I have no clue as to why.  It is such a simple word on the surface but it holds so many meanings that are relative in my life now.  I looked it up when I got home and here are a few of the many definitions that struck a chord:

  • elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action:  Synonyms: attractiveness, charm, gracefulness, comeliness, ease, lissomeness, fluidity.
  • a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
  • favor or goodwill. Synonyms: kindness, kindliness, love, benignity; condescension.
  • moral strength: the grace to perform a duty.
  • manifestation of favor, especially by a superior  Synonyms: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness.

It is really hard to maintain grace, especially given the pressure of a hectic life.  But I realize it is a very important thing for me to work on.  With every year that passes I have to try harder to maintain it under pressure and goodness knows there are times when I just flat-out fail!  I make heaps of mistakes but thankfully most around me are of the forgiving nature; another thing I need to improve about myself.  It’s tough right now and I need to find the courage and inspiration necessary to forge ahead each day while working my hardest to maintain grace.

This may sound silly to some but I find this courage and inspiration each & every time I walk in the front door of CrossFit Invictus.  I am not the fastest, the strongest or the most skilled in the workouts; but the community at Invictus makes me feel strong and determined.  Coach Nichole in particular is my inspirational rock.  I am forever in awe of this amazing young woman.  Through her coaching, I am learning to celebrate my accomplishments, regardless of how small they may be.  She reigns as the “Queen of High Fives” and praise from her is in limitless supply.  Nichole personifies the definitions of grace and she serves as a constant reminder of it’s importance in my personal journey.

I am honored to share my time with the folks that attend classes there also.  If I had a dollar for every time someone encourages me as I struggle, I would be the richest girl in the world.  There must be something in the water at Invictus because honestly every person there, staff and members included, exudes these qualities.  I derive a great sense of pride from being a part of “The Sea of Green”.  I feel so much stronger when I walk out of there.  If I had limitless funds, I would give every person I know the gift of experiencing this community.  Walking through that door for the first time in April was the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time.

I turn 52 on September 15th and I feel better than I have in a long time.   I will be spending my birthday up in Oakland with some people that are special to me and you can bet that some delicious craft beer will be shared.   I look forward to yet another year filled with good health, friends, travel and happiness.  I am thankful for all that I have and I will not dwell on what I lack.  I will try harder to forgive, even when I hurt the most.  And oh yes…I will try my hardest to maintain grace.


Diet and Osteoarthritis

My knees sound like the snap, crackle & pop of Rice Krispie’s when I bend them.  It’s been going on for so long I barely notice it anymore.  My right knee is the worst.  Years of skiing and running are the cause.  Sometimes they ache after I exercise and they can swell up if I strain them.  The cause is Osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, or joint inflammation, is the most common type of arthritis.  It is more likely to occur with age but it is really caused by broken bones, general wear and tear on joints and excess weight.  When cartilage breaks down in the joint, the bones rub together, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

We Are What We Eat!

According to Webster;  ” Food acts as medicine, to maintain, prevent, and treat disease.”  If we eat too much food, or food that is not nutritious, we can become overweight, undernourished, and at risk for the development of diseases like arthritis.  Some foods can trigger reactions in certain individuals and food allergies can also be a factor.   A healthy diet for osteoarthritis can be framed by looking at the foods that should be avoided or eliminated from the diet and by identifying food that can help to reduce inflammation and assist in the restoration of healthy joints.

Bad Food Choices for Osteoarthritis

Diets that are high in refined foods like white rice, white bread, sweets, white pasta, and laden with saturated and trans fats have been shown to contribute to the development or progression of osteoarthritis, according to (World’s Healthiest Foods), a website dedicated to nutrition education.  Foods that should be avoided include:

  • Fried foods
  • Partially hydrogenated trans fats – margarine, chips, baked goods
  • Saturated fats – such as animal fats (butter)
  • Sugar – white and raw sugar
  • White flour, rice and pasta
  • Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soy-based oils
  • Dairy Products
  • Salt
  • Nuts
  • Cranberries

Alcohol can definitely contribute to joint inflammation.  As with most things in life, moderate consumption is fine but the definition of moderation is a bit subjective these days.  The good thing about Craft Beer (In the World According to TheArtofBeer) is that the ingredients do tend to be natural and of high quality.  If you suffer from Osteoarthritis it is wise to look at the impact of alcohol on your symptoms however.  An elimination diet is the best way to test this.  You can Google the subject to find out how that works.  If you find your symptoms lesson during a period without alcohol,  you can definitely bet that laying off the beer could make sense.

Fast food and prepackaged food found in the aisles of the grocery store should be avoided.  When shopping at traditional grocery chains, the perimeter of the store is the best place to find healthy food.  Avoid foods containing ingredients that you cannot pronounce or that you have never heard of.  Look at the list of ingredients.  If the list is longer than 10 items, step away from the package!  Chemicals and preservatives used to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life are not good.  Eliminate artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and Sucralose.   Remember that natural is better.

Good Food Choices for Osteoarthritis

The antioxidant Vitamin C is important to developing normal cartilage.  It is possible that it can even reverse some cartilage damage.  Osteoarthritis patients who consume more vitamin c in their diet have a slower progression of the disease than patients who eat low levels of Vitamin C.

Foods that contain significant amounts of Vitamin C:

  • Papaya
  • Bell peppers (yellow, red and green)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwifruit
  • Cauliflower (boiled)
  • Kale (boiled)
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Raspberries

Osteoarthritis also progresses more slowly in patients who have plenty of Vitamin D in their diet.  Vitamin D has been linked to rebuilding cartilage and preventing the breakdown of cartilage.   Foods high in Vitamin D include wild-caught salmon, sardines, shrimp, cod, and eggs.  Vitamin D can be difficult to get through diet alone so supplements should be included in addition to a healthy diet are essential.

Beta-Carotene is a compound is an antioxidant that’s been shown to help protect joints and slow down osteoarthritis. Foods that contain high levels of beta-carotene are:

  • Carrots
  • Boiled spinach
  • Sweet potatoes with skin
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Winter squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli

Additionally, Vitamin B3 can assist with joint mobility and range of motion while Vitamin E helps to reduce joint destruction.

There are certain foods that can help reduce inflammation that causes the joint pain.  Foods with Omega 3 Fatty Acid like Wild-caught salmon, Walnuts and Flax seeds are inflammation fighters.  Inflammation fighting flavanoid, and quercetin are found in Apples, Asparagus, Cherries, Green Tea, Onions, Raspberries and Spinach.   Molecularly Distilled Omega 3 Fish Oil supports strong immune function and bone health.

Anti-inflammatory spices include Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Turmeric.  In addition to providing relief from nausea, ginger extract has been used in traditional medical practices to reduce inflammation. This herbal treatment for arthritis is recommended by many health care professionals arthritis and other health problems associated with inflammation. Ginger is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils. Fresh ginger root can also be purchased and prepared as a tea.

Periodic supervised fasting can be effective for osteoarthritis. Fasting clinics in Europe have successfully employed periodic juice fasting for managing arthritis. Fasting enhances the eliminative and cleansing capacity of the lungs, skin, liver, and kidneys. It also rests and restores the digestive system and helps to relax the nervous system and mind.

Reduce Stress and Lose Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight has a huge impact on osteoarthritis.  Eating a healthy diet and avoiding foods that aggravate the condition will contribute to weight loss.   A regular exercise program under the guidance of a fitness professional is recommended.   It is important to gradually increase the intensity of the exercise to avoid injury.  The right program can help to maintain flexibility, strengthen muscles (and thus lessen stress on joints), and improve overall fitness.  Reducing weight will relieve stress on the joints and improve quality of life.  A healthier diet will improve sleep and reduce stress, both factors in maintaining a healthy body weight and in promoting healthy joints.

This little homework assignment was a good exercise for me.  I am a very healthy eater but now I know the benefit that certain foods may have on my condition.  I’ll certainly be making an effort to eat more foods that help with joint inflammation.

To Good Health!

Cross Fit & TheArtofBeer!

While facing some health issues earlier this year, I decided to take better control of my health.  Genetics are something I cannot control but I realized there were a lot of things that I can control that would help my quality of life.  Since distance running is no longer a real option for me, I was looking for something that I could feel a similar passion toward.   I am not really sure how Cross Fit appeared on my radar, but it did.  I watched videos and researched Cross Fit gyms in my area.  I finally found one that struck a chord with me; the atmosphere intense but balanced with a sense of acceptance for newbie’s like me.  Cross Fit requires a significant financial and time commitment.  For whatever reason, it felt like the right thing to do.  I had to put my money where my mouth is and that is where my journey began.

Cross Fit is very difficult, painful and at times masochistic.  My first session left me deflated and full of self-doubt.  I could barely grasp the basics and my brain hurt trying to register all the components.  I felt awkward and uncoordinated.  What happened to the athlete in me?  What happened to the girl that could blast through an icy downhill course with no fear?  Didn’t I used to haul ass doing 30+ mph on my bike during road races?  What about all those years running 25-50 miles per week?  I felt like a whale in ballet slippers that first day…Try getting that vision out of your mind now!

I am not a quitter — I showed back up and faced the pain.  I grunted, huffed, puffed and suffered.  I hurt in places I did not even know existed.  On day three, I could barely get in and out of my car without wincing from the pain.  The lactic acid was pouring from every muscle in my body.  I was in the Hurt Locker.   When I showed up at my session I had tears in my eyes and I was honestly ready to admit defeat but my trainer recognized the pain.  He had seen it before and he knew what had to be done.  For the next hour we focused on using a foam roller to stretch out the major muscles.  It was hard but I started feeling better.  I realized that I could do this.  I just needed to stay focused on that fact.

I diligently log my workouts and my food intake.  I have to remind myself to stay focused and paying attention to proper form is critical to making healthy progress.  It’s the hardest thing I have ever done but I am in love! The more I hurt, the more determined I become.  The first two weeks were just BRUTAL, but now I am rolling into week four and I feel great.  Instead of beating myself up for what I can’t do, I stay firmly focused on celebrating my progress.  I am taking baby steps but I see progress with every session.

Bear Crawl

The first time I tried to do a backward bear crawl, I felt like the ballet-dancing whale, but now I can make it the length of the gym floor.  Do I execute this with grace and ease?  No Way!  It’s hard as hell but I feel invincible at the other side.   My biggest challenge is learning to do squats the right way.  My right knee is a mess but I am getting the hang of it quickly and the muscles supporting my knees are getting much stronger.    Week one I could barely do straight-arm sit ups – now I can do them with ease and I am ready to move up to more difficult abdominal work.  I am still doing girl push-ups but I can feel my arms getting stronger with each day that passes.  I am learning to jump rope.  I now know what dead lifts and bench presses are and I am learning to do them safely.  I grunt, groan and at times I roar!  I feel empowered and satisfied…How cool is that?

For the time being I am drinking very little alcohol.  I went four weeks completely without to break the habit.  I am a pretty moderate person but I did realize I was consuming some type of alcohol almost daily.  Even if it was just one beer, the amount of calories this added to my diet was really what made me realize I needed to cut back.  With my hectic work schedule, travel and age, it is hard enough to stay healthy.  Alcohol is not a bad thing but it is easy to get in a habit of drinking too much.  For now, I have stopped coming home from work and using a beer or a glass of wine as my reward after a hard day.  I am saving my alcohol consumption for social occasions right now.  Do I miss my beer and wine?  Yes I do – I love craft beer with every ounce of my being, but… I am sleeping better and my stress level is significantly reduced as a result of reduced alcohol consumption.   That is far more important to me.   I was taking anti-anxiety and depression meds to cope with the effects of menopause and some other serious health issues.  I stopped taking them by gradually reducing the frequency.  I am completely drug-free in just four weeks.  My feelings of hopelessness are subsiding and for the first time in over a year I feel as if I want to fight the illness that plagues me.

As I finish up this post I am looking forward to brunch and some good beer or wine with my good friend Laurie.  You may know her as @100Beers30Days.   Laurie and I share a passion for craft beer and for wine.   We get together on Sundays to explore the complexities of exceptional craft beer or fabulous wine and we talk about the journey that is called life.  Today I feel strong and determined.

I know that I can do this!


The Art of Beer