The Log Bog

One aspect of Crossfit that very much appeals to me is fitness tracking. Crossfit was one of the first programs to clearly define “fitness” in a meaningful and measurable way – the degree to which a person can exhibit an “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains,” (source). But what does that mean, and how can I make sure that I’m accurately measuring, assessing, and improving my own personal fitness?

The definition of “work capacity” summons flashbacks to high school physics class *shudder**hashtag**ohpleasemakeitstop*. To practice getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, let’s examine the concept of work as it applies to Crossfit.

In the physics world, physical work (W) equals force (F) times distance (D). Power (P), then, is the amount of work done divided by the time (t) it takes to do that work.

P = (F x D) ÷ t

Your average Power illustrates your work capacity, and your fitness is your ability to demonstrate increased work capacity in as many domains as possible. What is a domain? For the purposes of Crossfit, domains are just a large variety of activities. Vigilante Crossfit describes domains as “sprinting, running a marathon, maximum weight squat, maximum number of body weight squats in 5 minutes, throwing a ball, shoveling dirt, riding a bike, swimming….” You get the idea. Domains are activities you encounter in your day-to-day life, be it through sports or everyday actions.

This is all to say that the most fit person is someone that can capably perform a wide range of activities, over short or long periods of time, at a variety of intensities. It’s the notion that you are ready and able to take on whatever life happens to throw at you.

Sounds great, right? But let’s be honest. I’m sure as heck not going to sit around after every workout tinkering with equations to figure out if my power is increasing. Luckily, there are apps to take care of that kind of number crunching, if you’re interested. Or, for the mere mortals amongst us, a basic workout log may be plenty to demonstrate improvement and facilitate goal setting and achievement tracking.

I enjoy tracking stats. I use a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch when I run to track my distance, pace, cadence, and heart rate. I use a Garmin Swim watch in the pool to track my strokes, laps, and times. I wear a FitBit to count my daily steps. I keep spreadsheets full of running race data and personal records. I track what I eat, and track what I weigh. I track body composition and measurements. I like having numbers to illustrate my progress. While no single number means everything, good sets of data can tell you a lot about yourself.

Unfortunately for my love of numbers and gadgets, there’s no magic device to track my Crossfit progress. I can’t just clip on a bit or slap on a watch. So, where will I get my numbers? How will I know I’m on the right track?

My first instinct was to find an app that I could use to track my WODs (workouts of the day) and personal records (max weights, reps, etc). There are quite a few iPhone and Android apps out there for logging WODs. I found this article on the top 10 Crossfit apps, and tried a few. I found the process of inputting WODs to be cumbersome at best, partly because my gym does not post their WODs in an RSS format that these apps can automatically import. Hand-typing WOD details while still shaky and sweaty from an intense workout resulted in a lot of wasted time yelling at Siri and her awful autocorrects.

I started researching WOD log books – the old pen-and-paper kind. Stone age, right? I searched Amazon and read a bunch of forum posts and wasn’t really thrilled by the results. One name did pop up over and over – the Sport Journals WODBook. It sounded pretty great, so I ordered the Beginner version and received a confirmation email that it would ship out via priority mail next-business day. The communication was fairly awful and non-specific, and it took over a week for my WODBook to arrive, but I was still very much looking forward to receiving it. The front of the book is jam-packed with instruction on the most common Crossfit movements and workouts. It’s got some great reference materials for beginners. The back portion of the book is the daily workout log, and… womp womp. It’s essentially just blank space to write stuff. There are sleep and nutrition prompts, but nothing to simplify the logging of actual workouts.

Sport Journals WODBook

Sport Journals WODBook

Bummer, indeed! I was disappointed. I expected the log portion of the book to be specifically geared toward WODs. It is, after all, called a “WODBook.” Alas, this was not to be the log book of my dreams.

Next, I started searching for spreadsheets and printable logs. There are quite a few out there, many of which look really good. Crossfit KOP in King of Prussia, PA has a nice Crossfit progress log (link to PDF). There are quite a few people out there sharing their own spreadsheet creations, like Jason’s Crossfit PR log and Al’s Crossfit WOD log. WOD@Home has a nice log as well, but none were exactly what I was looking for. Close, but not quite.

So, I made my own. It is bare-bones, but has the inputs laid out the way I want them. I added a %-of-max chart and list of named WODs in the back, and sent it off to Staples to be printed in a spiral bound notebook. It’s bigger than I’d like (8 1/2 x 11″ letter sized… I would prefer a smaller 5×8 book, but that wasn’t something I could easily order from Staples online), but at $9 (52 log pages, plus 5 pages of %-max and WOD charts, plus vinyl front and back covers), I think it will do. I’ll post an update when I get the actual book in my hands to report how it’s working.

WOD Log, epicorganic.net style

WOD Log, epicorganic.net style

There’s a big downside to pen-and-paper logging, though: the difficulties in searching through the data. For example, when a throwback workout shows up on the whiteboard, searching through a log book to find the last time I completed that workout will be a pain. One of the benefits of logging is that data becomes comparable, and you can look back at past workouts and compare them to present to note improvements. Paper log books are just not good for quick data recall.

To account for that, I would need some sort of digital input. I prefer apps that are attached to a web site, so that I can enter data from my desktop or from my mobile device. In that arena, there aren’t too many Crossfit apps to choose from. The biggest name out there appears to be Beyond the Whiteboard. It has a nice data input interface and also does some great data analysis (including calculations of Power and comparisons of your fitness scores to the thousands of users of the site). The downside: it is not free. It costs $5/month or $50/year to subscribe to Beyond the Whiteboard. On the upside, it does offer a free 30 day trial. You have to input payment information to register, but if you cancel before the month is up (and the registration page tells you exactly what day that will be), you won’t be charged.

I decided to try Beyond the Whiteboard. I will use my pen-and-paper WOD log book at the gym to scribble down my workouts, and once a week or so when it’s convenient, I will enter them into Beyond the Whiteboard via the app or the web site. I’ve entered my first few workouts via the web site, and I do like the interface. I’ve got the 30-day deadline on my calendar, in case I decide to cancel the subscription when the free trial runs out, but so far, I like it. I just wish my gym posted WODs in a way that worked with these apps. (They do post each WOD the night before, but it’s in a standard blog post, so the RSS feed contains the full text of the post and not just the WOD).

And so goes my experiences in figuring out the best way for me to log my Crossfit workouts and PRs. What’s your approach to logging workouts? Favorite apps or log books? Please share!

Photo credit, workout log notebook: Angela

Luna Bars

What do you eat when you’re on the run and don’t want to eat frankenfoods from a drive-thru or convenience store?

Luna bars! (Or Clif bars, if the thought of eating a whole nutrition bar made for women freaks you out).

NutritionFix.com sent me some of the Chocolate Dipped Coconut flavor Luna bars (made by Clif) to try out. From the label:

Luna The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women is proud to make bars that are entirely natural and 70% organic. Ingredients like real toasted coconut, organic cocoa, organic almonds, organic oats, and organic flaxmeal are fortified with 24 vitamins and minerals, like antioxidants and folate. Only 190 calories, this sweet treat is no sacrifice.

Benefits of Clif’s Luna The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women:

  • Entirely natural
  • 70% organic ingredients
  • 190 calories
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 9 grams protein

Another plus: Luna bars contain no hydrogenated oils and no genetically engineered ingredients (no GMO’s).

But, are they any good? That’s a tall tasting order for someone that isn’t crazy about coconuts. I’m happy to report that the coconut flavor is natural and mild and very well balanced with the cocoa and almond butter flavors.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit these past couple weeks, and these Luna bars have been a lifesaver. Try them out, and visit NutritionFix.com for more sports and fitness nutrition and supplements. You can also find them on Facebook. Enjoy!

Look at this tofu!!

Local Tofu and a New Wheat Meat

Yeah, I know – that title will turn away all but the most devout herbivores!

How about: Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Garlic Toast. Better?

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce, Field Roast Italian Sausage (vegan), and Twin Oaks Tofu

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce, Field Roast Italian Sausage (vegan), and Twin Oaks Tofu

Let’s start Vegan MoFo Week 2, shall we?

Spaghetti is my comfort food. It reminds me of my dad, which is comforting. After last week’s sad news of the passing of Steve Jobs, I needed some comforting. Since my dad is now hanging out with Steve (asking how he ever managed to corrupt his daughter into drinking the Kool Aid), well, spaghetti it is.

I tried out two new products in this meal – both discovered via a couple of my favorite food bloggers. First up, Twin Oaks Tofu (which I discovered via Kath Eats). First of all, Twin Oaks is a cooperative, worker-owned farm. Second, they make local tofu – the farm is about 60 miles from where I live in Virginia. Third, it’s organic, non-GMO tofu, and it gets rave reviews from everybody I know that has tried it.

That makes plenty of reasons for me to take a stab at it! I grabbed a package of their Italian Herb tofu from the Friendly City Food Co-Op:

Twin Oaks Italian Herb Tofu

Twin Oaks Italian Herb Tofu

Now, word on the street was that this tofu didn’t have to be pressed. Now, it took me a LONG time to finally “figure out” tofu – and only now that I have a handy dandy Tofu XPress tofu press do I truly appreciate it as a meal option. So, a tofu that wouldn’t require a day sitting in a medieval torture device? Interesting.

I figured I would put it to the test of all tests, and try baking it, straight up – no pressing whatsoever. Sliced up, straight out of the package. (I did add a bit of garlic powder to get the garlic toast thing going on).

The other new product in this meal was Field Roast Italian Sausage – a “grain meat” that I discovered via Emily over at Daily Garnish. She had discovered Field Roast veggie dogs at her local market in Seattle, and they sounded better than most of the “fake” meats I’ve tried. I’m not much of a fan of fake meats – but I was never much of a meat fan even when I was eating meat, so it’s not surprising.

Grain or “wheat meats” are usually based on some form of a recipe for seitan, or wheat gluten. Seasoned properly, these “meats” – when prepared properly – can be nearly indistinguishable from “the real thing.” Texture is usually the hardest part to replicate, even if the flavors are spot-on.

I sliced up 2 links of the Italian sausage and sauteed it for just a few minutes until browned, then added a jar of organic tomato basil sauce and simmered for a bit.

I served the sauce and sausage over whole wheat noodles topped with a little ‘nooch Parmesan, and a few garlic tofu slabs on the side.

All I have to say is… look at this tofu!!

Look at this tofu!!

Look at this tofu!!

Seriously, people. Best tofu I’ve ever had. It baked up wonderfully chewy with a nice little crunch on the outside. So flavorful. So easy!

And with regard to the sausages, I have to agree with Emily. Field Roast is top notch in the vegan meats department. I even enjoyed a sausage plain on a giant roll the other day, and it had fantastic flavor and texture. I wish I could find more of their products locally here.

From my plate to yours, here’s to delicious food that makes you feel good!

Oatmeal with Sneaky Cinnamon Peanut Butter

A New Peanut Butter in Town

I’m a self-proclaimed peanut butter junkie (and more recently, a self-proclaimed nut butter junkie in general). I loves me some good PB. I’m also a daily reader of Kath’s blog, Kath Eats Real Food. KERF has been responsible for quite a few of my healthy eating habits, as well as my how-did-I-exist-before-this habit of eating homemade whipped banana oatmeal with a blob of nut butter on top.

Via KERF, I came across a new peanut butter option – Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter. As we’ve already established, I’m a sucker for a good nut butter. I’m also a sucker for a good story!

Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter was founded by two college students in Eugene, Oregon. They love peanut butter, and started making their own, mixing in all kinds of different flavors and add-in’s. There’s Spazzy Squirrel, with dark chocolate chunks, raisins, cinnamon, and coconut. Or Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed, with coffee and dark chocolate. Nutty Buddy combines peanut butter with honey and sunflower seeds.

They had me at Squirrel. I had to try some of this peanut butter!

I ordered:

Sneaky Cinnamon – peanuts, cinnamon, raisins, agave nectar, salt

Pretzel Pizazz – peanuts, honey, pretzels, cinnamon, salt

Unfortunately for my taste buds, I ordered over spring break, and had to wait until the squirrels returned to campus to get my peanut butter – but their communication was great and I was informed up-front about the delay.

Shipping seemed expensive. It was $10 for one jar! However, it was still $10 even for 2 jars, and I later saw they use the medium sized flat rate Priority Mail box from the USPS ($10.95 flat rate). So my suggestion to anybody buying Flying Squirrel PB is to buy as many jars as you can for that $10 shipping! I bought two. I bet 4 could fit in that box.

The peanut butters are currently $4 for an 8 oz. jar. My initial impression was that the jars are small, but indeed they are 8 oz. I’m just used to seeing larger peanut butter jars. It took me a while to figure out that the lids twist off instead of pop off. (Maybe I’m just slow!)

But enough of the shipping and logistics. How is the peanut butter?

DELICIOUS!!

Oatmeal with Sneaky Cinnamon Peanut Butter

Oatmeal with Sneaky Cinnamon Peanut Butter

Here’s my morning oatmeal, starring Sneaky Cinnamon peanut butter. Perfect texture, perfect flavor – just as the name says. Just a touch of cinnamon that sneaks up on you!

Sneaky Cinnamon from Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter

Sneaky Cinnamon

Sneaky Cinnamon is a very spreadable peanut butter. My favorite texture.

But the flavor hit of the week, for me, has been Pretzel Pizazz. The combination of salty pretzel bits right in my peanut butter? Irresistible! I’ve been known to say out loud, after each bite while devouring PB&J sandwiches this week, “OMG, this is SO good!” Lots of crunchy chew. Oddly, I don’t really like “crunchy” style peanut butter, but it’s a whole different story when the crunch comes from pretzels!

Pretzel Pizazz from Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter

Pretzel Pizazz

Pretzel Pizazz is a dry peanut butter. It’s not just chunky – it’s actually dry, as in, it doesn’t spread very well on bread. So I just lob a few blobs on there and smash ’em down, then smother in jelly and nom. (As you can tell, I’ve already nom’d a good portion of this jar!)

These peanut butters are delicious. I love the story behind the company. I love the initiative that these girls have taken to share their peanut butter passion with the world. I love the creativity of the flavor combinations, and the logo is adorable. (Hey, I love squirrels too!)

Check out the Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter flavors and buy a few jars. They’re definitely a treat!

Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter

Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter

Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer, and a Pineapple

Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer

OK. So I’m a bit like Gollum. I’m pretty good at deadlocking onto shiny preciouses and proceeding with precision focus until the precious is mine. (It’s a blessing and a curse). I do have an affinity for gadgets, but I can usually sniff out the gimmicky ones and avoid them.

Enter: the Vacu Vin Pineapple Easy Slicer. Between it and its plastic siblings, this little gadget has nearly a gazillion positive reviews. Yet, my “gimmicky” radar was going off like Spidey Sense.

Aside from a vacation in Honolulu, I’ve never had fresh pineapple. It’s my favorite fruit, but being the clutz that I am, I deemed it much too dangerous to attempt chopping a pineapple myself. With visions of warm sea breezes and sweet, sweet pineapple nectar of the gods dancing in my head, I rolled the dice on this gadget. I went with the stainless steel version, hoping for some durability if in fact it worked. (Oh, who am I kidding? I just like how stainless stuff looks).

I ordered the slicer on Amazon, and then bought a pineapple in anticipation. An observation on pineapples: they are an angry fruit! Wow! I couldn’t figure out how to pick the thing up and carry it without drawing blood! I eventually wrapped my hands in my hoodie sleeves to pick the darn thing up.

Several reviews of the slicer mentioned that if the pineapple is too large, fruit will be left on the inside – so I tried to get one of the smaller pineapples of the bunch. I’ve since learned that this “medium” sized slicer is good for pineapples in the 3-5 pound range.

I took the pineapple slicer for a test drive this morning.

Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer, and a Pineapple

Vacu Vin Pineapple Slicer, and a Pineapple

The slicer did not come with instructions (gah!!) but thankfully the Amazon product page had a video demonstration, so I knew in a roundabout way what to do.

First, slice off the top of the pineapple.

Cut the top off the pineapple

Cut the top off the pineapple

Then, center the slicer on top of the pineapple and screw it in, clockwise. The teeth on the bottom of the slicer cut into the fruit with no problems.

Center the slicer on top of the pineapple and screw in

Center the slicer on top of the pineapple and screw in

Continue to turn the slicer handle clockwise until it reaches the bottom of the pineapple. The only tricky part here is holding the pineapple in place, because – like I said – it’s an angry fruit! I ended up putting an oven mitt on my left hand while turning the slicer with my right, to prevent the pineapple skin from tearing my hand up. It was much easier to turn the slicer than I’d expected. I didn’t really have to use any force at all.

Twist the slicer into the pineapple until it hits bottom

Twist the slicer into the pineapple until it hits bottom

Once you’ve hit bottom, pull the fruit out of the shell of the pineapple. It helped to twist it a bit while I pulled.

Pull the fruit out of the pineapple shell

Pull the fruit out of the pineapple shell

Tada! A sliced and cored pineapple! I can see where a larger pineapple would leave more fruit in the shell.

Tada! A sliced and cored pineapple

Tada! A sliced and cored pineapple

Press the buttons on the side of the slicer handle to remove the handle, then slide the round pineapple slices off of the slicer. Serve as rings or cut into wedges. Yum!

Round pineapple slices

Round pineapple slices

The way this slicer works, most of the juice is retained inside the pineapple shell. I poured the juice into a glass and got about 4 oz. from it. You could also use the remaining pineapple shell as a fruit bowl – nice party trick!

This little gadget, in my opinion, is genius. It’s brilliantly easy to use, and there’s very little risk of me losing any digits this way. If you’ve got a Bed Bath & Beyond store locally, the plastic version of this tool is on clearance for $6 (at least around the Chicago area), and it’s also available on Amazon ($8-ish for the plastic one, $16-ish for the stainless one).

Bravo! Fresh pineapple for everyone!

Peapod Grocery Delivery

I just received my first grocery delivery from Peapod, a grocery delivery service serving parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, DC, and the Chicagoland area (including parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana).

My mom used Peapod back in the mid-1990’s, when they operated out of our local Jewel grocery stores in the Chicago suburbs. I remember installing their software off of floppy disks onto the computer, and listening to the dial-up modem groan and wheeze as it connected to the internet. My, how far we’ve come!

In my quest to find organic products at grocery stores that are at least somewhat convenient to me, I stumbled upon Peapod. Why, yes! Peapod! I was shocked, quite honestly, at their selection of organics. I could order everything from organic meats to produce to prepared foods, all for home delivery.

Morning Smoothie

I’m a smoothie kind of girl. No, not with my pickup lines… with my breakfasts. This is mostly a side effect of also being a sleep-in kind of girl. I rarely wake up early enough to have sufficient time to prepare a good breakfast. And, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I try not to skip it.

The solution that allows me to both sleep in and have a nutritious breakfast: smoothies.Nature's Way Alive Soy Protein Shake

Throw some stuff in the blender, cover my ears for a few seconds, and voila. Morning goodness.

I’ve been making smoothies for years. It’s the one healthy thing I’ve managed to continue doing for myself, even when other habits haven’t been so healthy.

Today’s smoothie is based on the Nature’s Way Alive! Soy Protein shake mix, vanilla flavor. I got this mix at Whole Foods Market for around $18. It contains non-GMO soy and is more than just a soy protein shake, but a whole foods shake, including nutrients from 24 different fruits and vegetables.