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Archive for November, 2011

Efficient Gear Set Up

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Yesterday the workout consisted of jumping squats with a bar, running and push-ups.  Jimmy Miranda was trying to finish in under 14:00 and he failed to do so by 8 seconds.  We’ve all had a workout that didn’t go quite as well

How would you move efficiently through a workout here?

How would you move efficiently through a workout here?

as we wanted, or missed a goal by just a little bit.  It’s one thing when you miss your goal and there was really nothing you could have done about it, but it’s an entirely different thing when you miss your goals because of inefficiency.  In Jimmy’s case, his bar was on the far side of the gym, about 40 feet from the door.  So when he left for the run and came back from it, he had to walk across the gym before he could start the next round.

One or two seconds might seem like a drop in the bucket, but they add up.  One second is often the difference between a new PR and can make or break the gym record.

Of course, if you’re not particularly interested in competition or setting new Personal Records, there’s still something to be said for having an efficient set-up for your equipment.  For one thing, you’ll spend less time resting between stations if they’re right next to each other.  And for another, you will reduce the chances of getting in other people’s way or of getting a bar dropped on you.

When you’re setting up your equipment, consider the stations that can’t move– running, pull-ups, etc.– and try to get the stations that can move, such as plyo boxes and kettlebells, as close as reasonable.  Obviously, in large classes, you might have to sacrifice some efficiency for the safety of your fellow CrossFitters.

Go set some PRs!

Gymnastics Videos - Preparation For Meet Season

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

So I am going to drag some of you to local gymnastics meets this season. Seeing top level gymnasts do their thing live is a totally different experience than watching it on TV. Here’s a couple videos to whet your appetite. The first is just 5 crazy skills being worked on in practice. The first and last are at Stanford. I’ve spent a bit of time on that very bar in the video. Just think of the gymnastics you have done and relate. The second video is the Stanford women preparing for this season. Lets head out this year and show some support.

Strength is Temporary - Technique Is Forever

Saturday, November 26th, 2011
Stretched Takatchev

Stretched Takatchev

There are generally two approaches to acquiring new skills and abilities. One is through strength, the other is through technique (deliberately leaving out mobility for the sake of this discussion). Generally both are required to varying degrees dependent on the particular skill. We’re going to discuss persistence a bit here. Strength and technique have wildly varying levels of persistence.

In college I was a bit of a “muscle it” gymnast. I didn’t have the extensive gymnastics backgrounds of most of my competitors and my technique was lacking in many areas. I discovered that if I got strong enough I could muscle my way through some fairly difficult skills. This allowed me to compete to some degree, but was a pretty ineffective approach to the sport in the long run.

You see this in many individuals in our gym. Some are able to just get through skills and workouts on strength alone. I can be frustrating to watch someone handle loads you simply can’t, even when their technique is poor in comparison. Rest assured, a focus on technique, in the long run is the best option.

It has been concluded that it takes about three years for an untrained individual to reach their genetic maximal strength. This is assuming a dedicated focus on purely strength training. Also, there are some indications that once this “maximum” is reached, continued strength training continues to lead  to strength gains, though these gains are small. Now, if we took this individual that has attained maximal strength and took them off strength training we are going to see atrophy. Their strength gains will ebb in time. In most cases they won’t reach the same minimum strength state they were in before they started strength training, indicating there is some permanence in the strength, but they will loose a great deal of that strength. In order to regain the strength they will need to repeat the strength training process. The next time around it will come back faster than it was to build it in the first place, but a big piece of this permanence is neurological, not physiological.

With technique there really isn’t any “maximal” state. With most skills refinement can be continued for years. Personally there are some gymnastics elements that I can perform with more technical accuracy now than I did when I was in college. This comes out of just having more years of practicing the skills, and a better understanding of the mechanics. So lets for the sake of this discussion look at a 3 year period. If we take someone through a rigorous technical training program for 3 years on some skill or set of skills we would see dramatic increases in ability in that area. If we then removed them from the skill set and tested them a significant time later their technique would be a bit “rusty”, but they would maintain a high degree of competency in that skill. We see this all the time when new people come into the gym which is why we want to know their sport background clear back to when they were a child. These skill sets are maintained for decades in some cases.

This is why we stress technical proficiency so much. Particularly in how we train children. If we are able to develop solid mechanics in a young athlete it doesn’t matter if they walk away from sport for a long time, those movements will aid them for the rest of their lives.

This isn’t to say strength isn’t important. If it wasn’t important we wouldn’t work on it so darned much. It is just to clarify the differences in persistence. Now, when you have an athlete that has both a high degree of strength, and technical proficiency is when you have a champion.

What Doodad to get this Holiday Shopping season?

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

So after having a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house in the City on Thursday I was driving back up to Marin and decided to stop by the Marin City Best Buy shortly before they were opening up at midnight.  The line wrapped around the building as the Best Buy retail associates were handing out “tickets” that entitled certain customers to be able to take advantage of a limited number of “doorbuster” deals.  After grabbing the Black Friday Best Buy weekly ad and flipping through the pages of tablets, smartphones, TV’s, MP3 Players and other doodads that I could buy for myself as well as my family and friends, I realized just how not excited I was about any of these things and how much more fun it is to collect skills that you get to keep with you for the long term and that don’t go obsolete in just a short while.  Now I’m sure that I will eventually get some gadget that will make some task or chore easier and provide some form of entertainment I would have otherwise done without but at that moment I was thinking to myself “With such a cool and awesome gym that we have and so much stuff to work on, why would I really want any of this crap?!”  This is just what was going through my head at the time and I don’t think that other people should necessarily feel the same way, but at the moment I was left with a strong impression that it’s easy to clutter our lives with materialistic things and often take for granted the other things that can enrich our lives more or important moments that we could share with others that are the real highlights of our time here.  Please feel free to comment, criticize, or otherwise leave a tangent thought in the comments.  (Hopefully the comments section is working again.)  All that being said, I still do have a couple of coupons for Macy’s that I could use to buy a new pair of sweatpants so I don’t freeze to death in the gym!

Thanksgiving Recipes (part 3 of 3)

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

It’s late wednesday night, and I just got back from another supermarket run for that one item I forgot but just can’t do without. My son loves my Paleo truffles, and dates are key as these are otherwise completely sugarless, yet – as my son can attest – very yummy! These and a pumpkin custard are tomorrow’s sweet fare, but only after everyone eats their veggies which shouldn’t be difficult with the following:

Pan Fried Swiss Chard with Lemon and Bacon

  • 6 to 8 slices bacon, chopped (half-inch dice)
  • 2 T butter, ghee or olive oil
  • 6 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard, washed, large portion of stems separated and chopped in a small dice; leaves cut into 1 inch pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until just browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add butter, lemon juice and chard. Continue to cook until the leaves begin to wilt. Place cover on skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Let cook another 4 minutes. Uncover, stir, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Paleo Chocolate Truffles (as previously posted)

Pumpkin Custard with Sherry Roasted Pears

This is a three-part dessert: custard, pear topping and whipped coconut milk. Follow this link for the whipped coconut milk topping; rest as follows:

Pumpkin Custard

  • 1   1/4 cups coconut milk (light is okay)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (use 1/2 cup if not including pear topping)
  • ¾ cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°; at same time boil a large pot of water. Set 8 small ramekins inside of a large baking dish lined with a towel or a couple hand towels to prevent ramekins from slipping. Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over low heat until it is steaming but not boiling. Next, whisk eggs in a large bowl, added syrup and mix well. Very gradually add the egg mixture to the coconut milk, mixing vigorously the whole time. After this is done, add the pumpkin, spices, vanilla, and salt and mix thoroughly. Ladle mixture into ramekins. Next pour boiling water into the baking dish until it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Carefully place into the oven. Bake custard for about 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into them comes out clean and they are still slightly jiggly in the middle. Cool and set aside.

Sherry Roasted Pear Topping

  • 3 large Bosc pears, peeled, cored and halved
  • 1/3 cup Oloroso sherry (a dry, yeast-suppressed sherry)
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 425°. Place pears cut-side down into an 8 or 9 inch baking pan. Pour sherry over pears, drizzle with honey, and dot with butter. Split vanilla bean and cut into half-inch sections and spread throughout liquid portion of pan. Bake until pears are tender, about 10 minutes for riper pears, longer for harder pears. Remove from heat and let chill a couple hours or overnight. Discard syrup. Slice pears to top custard, add a dollop of whipped coconut cream and serve.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Recipes (part 2 of 3)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Somehow word got out to my guests that I’m cooking Paleo fare for TG this year. I half expected a canceled flight or two, or someone to offer to take everyone out for Chinese food. But to my surprise and delight, the opposite happened; the reaction was quite positive and everyone is looking forward to a healthy feast this year! So with confidence, I’ll blog on with soup, stuffing and sweet potatoes today.


Easy and delicious, I’m making a double batch of Deb’s Carrot Ginger Soup which I posted a few weeks back. Follow this link.


(This serves about 8 as a dressing, but double to stuff a 16 lb turkey)

  • 6 almond-bread muffins, diced and oven dried
  • 2 T butter (for strict Paleo, use ghee or EVOO)
  • 4 oz smoked sausage, small dice
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 T minced fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add sausage and pan fry until lightly browned. Add onion, leek and celery; sauté until soft and translucent. Add garlic and thyme and cook for a minute longer. Turn heat off. Stir in almond-bread croutons and parsley. In a separate bowl, beat egg and chicken broth together. Pour this into bread/veggie mixture. At this point it really helps to mix everything with your hands, squeezing and crumbling the bread cubes to make sure they soak up plenty of liquid. Transfer to a well-greased 8″x8″ baking pan and bake, uncovered, for about a half hour or until the top is browned and crisp. (Adapted from Stuff I Make My Husband.)

Coconut Milk Whipped Yams

  • 4 lbs/6 large sweet potatoes (garnet and diane are very sweet varieties)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 T butter or ghee
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and fork-jab potatoes; bake for 1 hour or until very soft when skewered. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375°. When potatoes have cooled, scoop out insides and place in a mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients. With an electric mixer, mix together until combined to a consistency of your liking. Transfer mixture to a baking dish and back for 20 to 30 minutes or until heated through. (Note: you can do everything up to this step a day or two in advance, refrigerate and heat before serving.) This can also be topped with sautéed apples (3 T unsalted butter; 3 cored, peeled, sliced apples, 3 T brown sugar sautéed over medium-high heat until browned) and/or roasted, chopped pecans. (Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Smashed Sweet Potatoes.)

Thanksgiving Recipes (part 1 of 3)

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Here is the first installment of my All Paleo Thanksgiving recipes. Today I’ll share appetizers, cranberry relish, and the “bread” – which needs to be made in advance – for the grain and gluten-free stuffing.


For appetizers, I’m making muhammara for which I posted the recipe previously; just jump to this link to check it out. I always get tons of complements on this, and even if it doesn’t peak your interest for TG, it’s really worth giving a try sometime! For a gluten and grain free cracker on which to spread this or any other dip, see my earlier post for almond crackers. And as long as I’m roasting large bell peppers for the muhammara, I throw in a couple dozen baby bells to roast at the same time. Once roasted, these can be eaten whole: seeds, skin, and all save the stem which is left on to grab them with. They go fast!

Stuffing, part 1

The stuffing I’m making this year is a two-part process as I’m using grain-free almond muffins in place of traditional bread. For this you need:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 4 T butter (ghee for strict Paleo)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T water

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 6 muffin tins. Mix dry ingredients together well then add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Fill tins 1/2 to 2/3 full and bake for about 20 minutes. When these are done and have cooled, cut into 1/2″ cubes, spread evenly on a baking sheet and return to the oven to dry out for 1 hour at 250°. Store in an airtight container to be used later in stuffing.

Cranberry Relish

I should not have made this so far in advance because I can’t stop stealing spoonfuls of it! It’s the first cranberry sauce I’ve made that doesn’t have gobs of sugar. In fact it has no sugar at all, the apple and raisins giving a sweetness that marries the tart cranberries in a sublime union that’s hard to stop nibbling on. (I’ll just have to make another batch.)

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 T water (or more if needed)
  • 2 cups of a sweet variety of apple – such as fuji – peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 cup celery, small dice
  • 1 T grated orange zest
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1 cup raisins or currants
  • 1 rounded tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 5 whole cloves

Place cranberries and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes mashing cranberries against the side of the pot as they open. Add rest of ingredients. Set heat to medium-low and cook stirring frequently another 30 minutes or until celery is tender. Turn heat off, cover and let cool to thicken. Best made a day ahead as the flavors blend beautifully overnight in the fridge.

Tomorrow soup, stuffing, and sweet potatoes.

Family Eats Paleo This Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

In five days a dozen friends and relatives will be filling my house as they do each year with laughter, excitement and big expectations for a delicious blow-out meal. I’m excited, but also a little scared because this is the first Thanksgiving that I’m cooking practically 100% Paleo to a Fast Food loving crowd, and if I’m not careful, I may end up being what’s Paleo on the menu! So I’ve painstakingly reviewed and tried dozens of recipes and have come up with a menu that I’ll be sharing here over the next four days that should hopefully please even the most cheeseburger-&-shake loving relative.

To start with, here’s an overview of the menu, when I’ll be making each item and posting the recipe, and my shopping list:


Damien Walters 2011

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

So Damien Walters is a gymnast, acrobat, traceur and stuntman. He’s put out an annual show reel for the last several years. Now, we all know Russ as our resident kinesthetic genius. Meaning he can pick up and learn movements easily, make himself do very odd movements and just overall moves well with less effort than the rest of us normal folks. Well (sorry Russ) Damien Walters puts him to shame. Watch the reel and just pay attention to the positions, timing and simply just odd movements that he does. There are few in the world like Damien.

Free Zumba Class in the Cave on Saturday @ 10:15-10:45am

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Hey Cavers,

We’re having a free 1/2 hour Zumba class on Saturday at 10:15am with our guest instructor Syleena Adams.  The dance studio only fits around a dozen people, so please be sure to sign up with Jasmin at the front desk on Friday evening (Nov 18th) if you want to secure a spot and be here ten minutes early for the class.  Why are we hosting a Zumba class in a place that’s as raw as The Cave?  Well, because we want you to move around, loosen up, be more coordinated, and most importantly, as always, have Fun!  Since rumor has it that Zumba classes can help with all of the above, we would like to try to get these going on a regular basis if  logistics allow.  In the mean time, I’ll leave you with this enlightening video: