Try delicious Paleo Chocolate Brownie Bites

Paleo Chocolate Brownie Balls

This delicious Paleo Chocolate brownie recipe is a version of the one I found on Paleogrubs.com.
Where they used walnuts only, I decided to use mixed nuts. You can get a 250g or 500g bag of almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans from the supermarket.

For a dessert or sweet snack this is hard to beat. This chocolate brownie mix is easy to make, delicious and nutritious. You know exactly what’s in it. There are no additives or preservatives. The nuts provide a good source of protein and healthy fats. The raw cacao is high in antioxidants. The only trouble you’ll have with these brownies is having them last long!

Ingredients

  • 250g of raw mixed nuts
  • 100g of pitted dates
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/3 of a cup of raw cacao powder
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions

  • Add nuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the nuts are finely ground.
  • Add the dates, vanilla, and cacao powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined.
  • With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together.
  • Using a spatula, transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls, rolling in your palm.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

For other sweet deliciousness, please check out this Paleo Cheesecake recipe.

Technique Tuesday: Dave does a Power Clean

Here’s the first of our new regular feature, Technique Tuesday, in which Tim analyzes the technique and form of a particular lift. This week, the power clean as performed by Dave.

As always, we’re interested in your thoughts and comments, so please post them below!

Quad, Hamstring and Lower Back Mobility Video

Mobility Wod Quote

Here’s the inimitable Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD delivering a great lesson on how to improve mobility to hips and spine and flexibility to quad, hamstring and lower back.

Also check out an earlier post on thoracic spine and hip mobilization.

Check it out – and do it!

Also have a look at Kelly Starrett’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, for more great mobilization tips.

Pregnancy and exercise – a guide for training

pregnancy_exercise

Many people seem to treat pregnancy as an illness. Pregnant women do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool. While pregnancy does mean significant physiological changes, the expectant mother has not turned into an alien! [1][3] A sensible approach to pregnancy and exercise training can mean a happier, [9][11] healthier, [2][3][6][10] fitter [2][3][10] mum. This can lead to better recovery post-delivery [2][4][5] and better headspace [2][9][11] for dealing with sleepless nights!

If in any doubt at all consult your obstetrician. This is especially important if you have complications. Some of the things to discuss include:

  • The type of exercise you like to do
  • Your general fitness level
  • How much exercise you did before you conceived. [1][3]
  • Your desired intensity level [7]
  • Any complications with your pregnancy

Ultimately – see the conclusion below – especially number 5!
 

Some general benefits of exercise

  • You might actually (shock, horror!) enjoy exercise – or at least the social aspect [9].
  • A more efficient engine means more energy
  • Improve your posture [2] and circulation [10]
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Get stronger
  • Improve your work capacity (see work capacity below)
  •  

    Pregnancy specific benefits of exercise

    • Stronger back muscles – help alleviate back pain as your belly grows [2]
    • Stronger core muscles – help prevent incontinence [2][4][5]
    • Relieve stress [9][11]
    • Improve your sleep and ward off insomnia [11]
    • Ward off pregnancy-induced bone loss [6]
    • Prepare for the physical demands of labour (see work capacity below)
    • Improve your recovery after labour [2]
    • Initiate a faster return to pre-pregnancy fitness and weight [2]
    • Increase your ability to cope with the physical demands of motherhood (see work capacity below)

     

    Changes Cautions (things to be aware of)
    Increase in body weight Changes in Balance / Coordination due to increased weight and the distribution of the weight
    Loosening of all ligaments (Relaxin) The loosening of ligaments can make you more prone to sprains and other injuries
    Increase in resting heart rate Don’t use heart rate to guide intensity as it has increased – use Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
    Decrease in Blood Pressure (2nd Trimester) Avoid rapid changes in position due to decreased blood pressure
    Increase in Blood Volume, Haemoglobin and VO2 Max (First few weeks after birth) Improved performance!
    Abdominal separation (painless) Sit-ups or crunches may worsen this, and are ineffective.

     

    Things to avoid

    • Overheating has been linked to developmental problems for baby in animal studies
    • Lying on your back (from 4 months) can restrict circulation. Modify exercises to on your side.
    • Excessive intensity is thought to have effects on birth weight (3rd Trimester), though there is conflicting evidence and opinions, so this is still inconclusive [2][3][7][8]

    Avoid jolts or falls [3]. Unfortunately vigorous or extreme activities such as horse riding, skiing, mountain climbing are out. You should also avoid most contact sports, such as football, basketball and so on. In the later stages of pregnancy, avoid activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching (such as gymnastics).

    Pregnancy is not the right time to start any new intensive [7][8] exercise, but it is safe to continue with most types of exercise if you’re used to them.
     

    Limitations of Guidelines

    Public health recommendations by their very nature are designed to capture as many members of the public within their umbrella as possible. They are an excellent starting template. They often have current information and links to resources for further inquiry and should not be overlooked.

    A great example of sensible pregnancy and exercise recommendations can be found at:

    http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pregnancy_and_exercise

    The reason I particularly like these recommendations is their acknowledgement of relative capacity, which is often lacking in Public Health statements.
     

    Relative capacity

    If you haven’t exercised before becoming pregnant, you would approach the new activity pretty much the same way as if you weren’t pregnant. That is, you’d seek the help of a professional who can design a structured program with your particular goals and needs in mind. Gradual development of strength and fitness with incremental improvement over time.

    On the other hand, someone who’s been exercising for years, has built up a baseline of strength, endurance and other general physical skills is going to have greater physical capacity than someone who has not. This woman would be able to do much more than her previously inactive counterpart. Her loads and speed would be reduced compared to pre-pregnancy levels as a margin of safety, but she could still outperform others at her gym of lesser capacity.
     

    Pelvic floor exercises and pregnancy [4][5]

    Strong abdominal muscles support your spine. The internal core and pelvic floor abdominal muscles act as a natural ‘corset’ to protect the pelvis and lumbar spine.

    Your pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and during birth (vaginal delivery), so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of your pregnancy.

    Appropriate exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist or a personal trainer who has training and experience with pelvic floor. It is important to continue with these throughout your pregnancy and resume as soon as is comfortable after the birth.
     

    Warning signs when exercising during pregnancy [3]

    If you experience any of the following during or after physical activity, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness or feeling faint
    • Heart palpitations
    • Chest pain
    • Swelling of the face, hands or feet
    • Calf pain or swelling
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Contractions
    • Deep back or pubic pain
    • Cramping in the lower abdomen
    • Walking difficulties
    • An unusual change in your baby’s movements
    • Amniotic fluid leakage
    • Unusual shortness of breath
    • Decreased foetal movements

     

    Conclusion

    If the exercise you’re doing makes you feel strange or hurts in a non-working-muscle kind of way – stop! The best guide to whether something is working for you or not is how it feels. The rough guide can be summarised as follows:

    1. Get advice for your particular circumstances
    2. Every woman is different
    3. Try things out
    4. Listen to your body
    5. You can still work hard but don’t overdo it.

    Consider exercise during pregnancy an opportunity for ‘maintenance’ rather than for ‘improving performance’.

 

Further Reading

Victorian Government Better Health Channel Guidelines:
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pregnancy_and_exercise

Sports Medicine Australia FactSheet:
http://sma.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/WIS-ExPreg.pdf

The website babycenter has some useful articles, including:
http://www.babycenter.com.au/a622/tips-for-a-safe-workout
http://www.babycenter.com.au/a637/when-not-to-exercise
 

References

[1] Lokey, E. A., Tran, Z. V., Wells, C. L., Myers, B. C., & Tran, A. C. (1991). Effects of physical exercise on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analytic review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 23(11), 1234-1239.

[2] Nascimento, Simony L.; Surita, Fernanda G.; Cecatti, José G. (2012). Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology: December 2012 – Volume 24 – Issue 6 – p 387–394

[3] Horak, T. A., & Osman, A. (2012). Exercise in pregnancy: review. In Obstetrics and Gynaecology Forum (Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 13-16). Sabinet Online.

[4] Hay-Smith J, Mørkved S, Fairbrother KA, Herbison GP. (2008) Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD007471. DOI 10.1002/14651858.CD007471.

[5] Mørkved S, Bø K. (2014) Effect of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after childbirth on prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:299-310 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091758

[6] Brandao KL, Mottola MF, Gratton R, Maloni J. (2013) Bone status in activity-restricted pregnant women assessed using calcaneal quantitative ultrasound. Biol Res Nurs. 2013 Apr;15(2):205-12. doi: 10.1177/1099800411423807. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

[7] Salvesen KÅ, Hem E, Sundgot-Borgen J. (2012) Fetal wellbeing may be compromised during strenuous exercise among pregnant elite athletes. Br J Sports Med. 2012 Mar;46(4):279-83. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.080259. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

[8] Szymanski LM1, Satin AJ. (2012) Strenuous exercise during pregnancy: is there a limit? Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Sep;207(3):179.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2012.07.021. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

[9] Poudevigne MS, O’Connor PJ. (2006) A Review of Physical Activity Patterns in Pregnant Women and Their Relationship to Psychological Health. Sports Medicine – January 2006, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 19-38

[10] Kramer MS, McDonald SW. (2006) Aerobic exercise for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD000180. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000180.pub2.

[11] Goodwin, A., Astbury, J. and McMeeken, J. (2000), Body image and psychological well-being in pregnancy. A comparison of exercisers and non-exercisers. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40: 442–447. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2000.tb01178.x

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

crossfit

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

The motto of our gym is “Better than Yesterday”. Tied into this idea is that there’s no perfect system or perfect person – there’s always something to work on, always something that can be improved.

I first heard about Crossfit from a friend when in Japan in 2006. I remember I tried a ‘mainsite’ workout (scaled) with dumbbells and got through it – barely. At that stage I’d been doing Martial Arts regularly for about 5 years and considered myself reasonably fit for a 25 year old. I was so shot through the core that when I was getting into the shower afterwards I was unable to maintain my spine position and had to lie down. I felt like if I’d stayed standing I would have done myself some potentially serious damage.

finished-a-crossfit-wo-baby

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Scaling is good but is second choice after progression. (Also, learn what you’re getting yourself into and don’t push too hard at first!)

I did my Certificates III and IV in Fitness in 2008 and got my Crossfit Coach’s Certificate in 2009. Looking back I recognise how important the ‘mainstream’ skill set has been in terms of my understanding of simple anatomy and physiology. The Crossfit Certification has been instrumental in my growth as a Strength & Conditioning coach and the application of functional movements to the prescription of exercises to my clients.

Had I never encountered Crossfit I am fairly sure I wouldn’t be nearly as effective as a trainer as I feel I have become. That said, had I not had the grounding of the Cert III & IV, and just had the weekend Crossfit Coach Cert – I would be downright dangerous.

Let me be clear – I am not saying that all Crossfit coaches are dangerous. Most aren’t, some are. Some ‘mainstream’ coaches are dangerous. I’m just saying I feel I would have been a dangerous trainer without the conventional skills and experience to be my (and my client’s) seat-belt.

What does all this have to do with a love-hate relationship with Crossfit?

What-is-Crossfit-Infographic

The concept of Crossfit is great. I think the idea of constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements is fantastic. The implementation of that idea has evolved, for me, over time (Better than Yesterday). No longer do I program 20+ minute AMRAPs where at the end of the session you feel like you need to be scooped up with a trowel. The sledgehammer has been replaced with a scalpel. Clients who have been with me for the last 5 year would readily agree that the programming has changed – and for the better. A progressive overload strength program is now the bedrock. A strength-endurance or Olympic lifting progression is alternated cyclically. Constantly varied (within a thought-out pool of purpose-driven) Metcons of no more than 10 minutes duration rounds out the ‘cardio’.

Great results for clients (with very low injury rates) have been the result.

Many a coach seems to confuse ‘constantly varied’ with ‘random’. Random workouts is an easy out for the coach as they can just check the Crossfit main site or other Crossfit gyms WOD feed for ideas to pinch or modify. This method does the coach and the clients a disservice. Copying another coach’s programming without understanding the intended progression (if there is one) or appropriate scaling (if you must use scaling) means the workout will not be optimally challenging for the client(s) or fit their needs or goals.

‘High intensity’ is not the same as ‘wiped out’. If your client doesn’t walk out feeling better than when they walked in – this is a symptom of overloading them and can be steps down the path to adrenal fatigue – or unhappy clients who get sick of ‘punishment’ (especially if it is associated with eating habits). At the end of a workout the headspace should be ‘proud of my achievement of completing a tough workout’ not ‘I’m glad I survived and kind-of dread next time already.’

‘Functional Movements’ are hard to get wrong. You do need to remember to ask yourself “functional for what?” The movement you ask the client to perform should have some link to the things they want to be able to do in their everyday life, or specific sporting event or challenge they’d like to participate in. Doing a hard workout full of functional movements is good – and better than hard non-functional movements – but there needs to be a point. There needs to be a WHY this movement is good for you and how it applied to YOU.

There is huge variety in the quality of training in the fitness industry. There is huge variety in the quality of coaching in Crossfit. My major criticism of Crossfit is that (perhaps due to the prevalence of the competition aspect, bromances or macho vibe) people do things they shouldn’t. (Clapping Fran??? – see below) Often those things are cool TO BE ABLE to do – but can and should aren’t the same thing. I don’t think this was addressed in 2006, and I still think it hasn’t been adequately addressed in 2014.

Very, very keen to hear your thoughts.

Paleo Cheesecake Recipe

Paleo Cheesecake

This is a version of a Paleo “Cheesecake” Recipe I found at paleocupboard.com

This recipe is gluten and dairy free – and actually tastes really good. At Christmas I even got complimented on it’s tastiness from my mother in law!

A couple of major diversions from the original include using raspberries rather than blackberries (out of season) and using the actual raspberry ‘pulp’ as a topping, rather than the juice as a compote. You can freeze the juice to make popsicles if you have the equipment.

Ingredients Directions
CRUST TO MAKE THE CRUST
  • 1 1/2 cups raw almonds
  • 10 pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Blend the almonds for about 5 seconds. Add the dates and honey and blend until the dough sticks together. Take your pan and press the dough into the pan and along the sides. Place the crust in the refrigerator while you work on the other layers.
FILLING TO MAKE THE FILLING
  • 3 cups soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Blend the cashews for about 15 seconds. Add the remaining filling ingredients and blend until very smooth. Pour the filling into the crust, making sure the top is smooth, and return to the refrigerator.
TOPPING TO MAKE THE TOPPING
  • 2 1/2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1. Place the raspberries and water in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Allow the berries to cook down (about 15 minutes), stirring regularly. Add the raw honey and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Place the berry mixture in a fine mesh strainer held over a small bowl. Press the mixture with the back of a spoon in order to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Spoon the berry “pulp” over the top of the filling layer, making sure it is evenly distributed out to the crust layer. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

Paleo Cheesecake CrustPaleo Cheesecake Crust and FillingPaleo Cheesecake

New Year Resolutions: How to make them work

This is a special guest post from Lachlan Heasman.

New Year’s resolutions have the same reputation as pre-election promises. As early as the second of January you find yourself keeping the resolution that you actually made, rather than the one you might have liked to have made. Having these good intentions can sometimes be effective, but most of the time are not as our past behaviour is the strongest indicator of our future behaviour.

One simple way of to overcome this problem is to be specific and challenging in what you intend to achieve. For example having a resolution that you will “get fit this year”, is not as effective as “being able to do 50 push ups – in one go – by Easter”. Here you’ve moved from the vague to the specific and (maybe) challenging.

Specific Goals

Another simple way to stick with your resolutions is to make a simple plan. If the goal is 50 push ups, then the plan could be “whenever I go to turn the TV on I will do as many push ups as I can”. This plan has three important elements, 1 – you need to goal (specific and challenging), 2 – you need an action that will help you attain a goal, 3 – you need a situation that will trigger you to do the action. You then put your plan together like this: “When situation X arises, I will perform action!”.

Intentions

Intentions

For a reminder on SMART goal-setting, click here.

Of course this is not the panacea for keeping your resolutions. You need to actually care about goal you have set in your resolution, you also need to be committed to taking action, and the situation needs to be something appropriate and workable.

So here’s a test for you when kicking back in front of the cricket on the 2/1/2014. Ask yourself the following;

What do I want to achieve this year? Or this quarter?

How much do I care about this?

What am I going to do to make this happen?

What are the situations where I will be making this happen?

Recipe: You want Paleo Pizza? Hello Meatza!

Paleo Pizza, known as Meatza is delicious and nutritious.

When I went Paleo I missed pizza. Thankfully, there is something you can have that is even better.

Try it and you’ll see. It is at least as good as, if not better than, pizza.
This is a recipe suggestion. As with pizza tastes do vary considerably.
If there’s something on here you don’t like then by all means remove it or substitute something else. Better that than not trying meatza-goodness!

Try googling Meatza and see the variety.

Preparation Time: About 10 minutes
Cooking Time: About 40 minutes

Ingredients:

(For the base)
1 kg beef mince
1 egg
Herbs (chilli, basil and oregano)
Tomato paste or passata sauce

(Toppings)
Olives
Tinned Peas, Carrots and Corn
Tinned Asparagus
Tinned Pineapple
Fetta Cheese
Shredded tasty cheese

Cooking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Crack the egg into a large mixing bowl
Add herbs
Add mince
Mix thoroughly
Grab a flat baking tray with a decent lip as there is some meat juice
Flatten the mixture on to the baking tray about 1/2 cm thick
(You could make it square, circular or make multiple mini ‘pizzas’ at this point

When the oven is at temperature bake the base for 20 minutes

Take it out and drain the juice (you could keep it for stock)
Add tomato paste or passata sauce in a thin coat – leaving space at the edge for fingers!
Add olives, peas, carrots, corn, asparagus, pineapple and fetta.
Layer the tasty cheese over the top and put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Bon apetite!

Goal Setting: Planning to Succeed – this is really Important!

Do you know how to set a goal that will help you achieve what you want?

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore

Goal setting may be one of the most important skills you can learn.

In fitness, knowing what you want means you and your trainer can put together a plan to work towards your goals. Whether you want to lose ‘weight’, improve your strength, get leaner, improve your core strength, get more flexible/improve mobility, increase your cardiovascular or muscular endurance or have sport-specific goals has a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads.

In martial arts, knowing whether your true interest lies in MMA, fitness, kata (patterns), tournaments or street-realistic self defence can have a huge impact on the style you choose or the emphasis you want to put on different aspects of your training.

Start the process by choosing 1-3 targets. Limiting the number means you won’t get discouraged if you have lots of things you’d like to improve. Map them out – making sure they are SMART:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-based

Specific
This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific they must say exactly what is expected and why is it important.

A specific goal will usually answer five “W” questions:
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable
This stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if it is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether progress is being made toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to you stay on track, reach target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?

Achievable
This stresses the importance of realism and attainability. While an attainable goal may be a stretch to achieve, the goal is not extreme. That is, it is neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished?

S.M.A.R.T goalsGoals-mistakes

Relevant
This stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based, but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish it. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered relevant.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match my other efforts/needs?

Time-based
This emphasizes the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps efforts to be focussed on completion on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in life. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
When?
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?

Using these criteria – think hard about what you really want. Write it down. Start planning. Start achieving your goals!