Monday, March 23, 2015

Meet Jess and Jim: CrossFit Power Couple

It's not every day you see two people with matching wedding bands working out together.... and sharing some witty banter about who did better in a workout.  Jim,  affectionately known as Jimmy, often screams the F word in the corner when he misses a lift,  while Jess cringes at his use of loud profanity.   Jess is fast,  Jimmy is strong--- Yang.

Meet Jessica and Jim Morrissey,  CrossFit Power Couple

Q:  Tell me what drove you to CrossFit.

Jim:  I used to think I was a pretty physically fit person.  I would get up at 5am and spend two hours a day in the gym doing more dumbbell curls, military presses, lat pull downs, and more than I could ever count.  I always felt “strong” but never really fit.  I avoided the squat rack and leg day for months because I hated the way it made me feel after.  Then we had kids, my workouts dropped from 5 days a week to maybe 2, then a few times a month, then to a waste of $50 for a gym membership that I never used.  Plain and simple I got fat, I got out of shape. I would get winded playing with my kids.  Something had to change.

Jess:  Like Jim, I feel like I fit the stereotype that non-crossfitters have; that all we do is talk about it, post about it on Facebook, and appear to be part of a cult. Quite honestly, I am totally ok with that. Hell, I embrace it. We started our CrossFit Solstice journey almost 2 years ago, and it has since permeated every inch of my life. CrossFit has made it easy to be dedicated to, easy to make a priority in my life, and has led me down a path of knowledge when it comes to health and fitness that has forever changed me. There are so many positive things that have resulted from joining CrossFit Solstice, I suppose I’ll start with the thing it has had the biggest impact on- which is my fitness and body acceptance, oh and shorts.

Q:  What were your thoughts when you first began CrossFit?

Jim: We finished our on ramp classes and started WODing 3x per week, that changed to 5x per week within a month.  We were both hooked.  People call CrossFit a cult and it is!  It’s a cult that promotes fitness and a community of likeminded individuals.  Jess and I are not religious people, but after joining CrossFit I often call the box our church and the members of the gym our congregation.  It really is a tight knit community and the people/coaches care about each other and want to see everyone succeed.  It’s a great feeling, one that we did not expect when we first joined almost two years ago.

I remember that first on ramp class like it was yesterday.  This young kid was showing us how to do a proper squat, what kipping was, and he introduced me to the dreaded burpee.  When we left that night Jessica and I were on a complete high about how much we loved it.  The next day stairs were our mortal enemy.  I don’t think my legs ever hurt more after a workout than they did that first class and we barely did a thing.  Here I was, this big tough guy who worked out all the time for a good portion of his life and some air squats, burpees and wall balls completely destroyed me?  I couldn’t believe it and at that point I knew Crossfit was for me.  Anything that can make you hurt like that during a trial workout has to work. 

Jess:   I have always worked out on and off (yoga, spinning, Body Pump, pilates) with the goal always being “to lose weight”. For all of my life I have wanted to look like those rail thin models Kate Moss made popular in the nineties. Throughout middle school and high school I had body image issues (ok, who doesn’t in high school?) and hated my thighs so much I never wore shorts, I mean never. It took 33 years and CrossFit to make me finally not care about what the scale says or about being “skinny”. I now want thicker legs, bigger muscles, and (gasp!) a bigger butt. I want people to be able to tell I lift just by looking at me. I love being surrounded with a group of people that value strength more than the size jeans you wear. I am more accepting of the body I was given and appreciate it more when I see what it can do given the proper training and time. I now own a drawer full of shorts.  

Q: How do you feel being a part of this community as a married couple who work out together?

Jim:  CrossFit has dominated the conversations in my house.  Jessica and I talk about our kids, work and CrossFit.  It’s awesome sharing the experience and the obsession with her.  I look at how strong Jessica has become and continues to become and it’s awesome.  I love sharing in her PR’s and rubbing it in her face when I beat her in a METCON.  Changing our diets and seeing how that has affected our overall fitness has been an amazing experience.  If we weren’t doing this together I doubt it would be even half as rewarding.  This is our obsession and we love it. 

Jess: Raising 2 young boys, trying to maintain a household, and balance an emotionally and mentally demanding job isn't easy. Finding time to get to the gym is an absolute priority, it has become a place for me to forget about the other stressors in life, if only for an hour. I love that our kids know how dedicated we are to fitness, I can only hope they grow up realizing how important exercise and nutrition are and make it a priority in their lives as well. Some of my closest friends, who I consider more like family, I have met at the box. I cannot imagine my life without them. The support of everyone at the gym, along with my closest friends, helped me through some of my toughest times last year.

Sharing this addiction with Jim makes it even better. The vocabulary, the pain, the competition, the community, and the fitness goals are that much better when you share it with someone who feels the same way you do and understands! I cannot imagine coming home and telling him about snatches, clean and jerks, PRs, wall balls, WODs, nanos, kipping, etc and having him not understand, it truly is a whole other language and I am thankful we share the obsession.

Q: What are your thoughts about how your nutrition has changed?

Jim:  I never thought I could love something as much as Latteria ice cream, but CrossFit has managed to weasel its way to the top of my obsession list.

Jess: It was during the first nutrition challenge in 2014 that we started eating clean and eliminated all processed foods and sugar. The changes were immediate and dramatic. We have continued this way of eating since then and I pride myself on cooking healthy, clean meals for our family. I truly believe that food is medicine and that many chronic ailments can be treated, if not cured, by changing what people put into their bodies. I have become so interested in this topic and read anything I can get my hands on about nutrition. Of course, I am still human, and will indulge in less healthy options from time to time (after all, I am married to Jim, and we all know how he feels about Latteria).

Q:  How has your feeling about CrossFit evolved over two years?

Jim:  I’m 35 years old and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I’m in the best shape of my life.  I do things in the gym that I never imagined.  I train in ways that used to scare the shit out of me.  I’m lifting weights and doing movements that seemed impossible before.  And I love every single second of it.  Joining CrossFit has been one of the best decisions we've made. 

Jess: I am not a naturally strong individual, it takes me a very long time to gain strength and put up higher numbers. After almost 2 years I still don’t often Rx Wods. The encouragement from the coaches and other athletes is unwavering. Patience is not my strong suit, but when it comes to building strength I now realize I have to give it time and it will happen. Small gains are still gains.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My name is Jeanine Rieck, and Pull Ups will not Defeat Me

Jeanine's story starts rather ordinarily.  It starts like most of ours did.   But,  I saw something in Jeanine.  She was willing to listen,  and she was willing to learn.  Jeanine never said "I can't" when I was yelling from below her while she hung on the pull up bar.  I've seen Jeanine PR,  and I've seen her fail.  But,  I've never seen her quit.  This is her story... 

In June of 2014 Jason Griscom reached out to my husband Rob, about having his lacrosse team sign up to do the kid’s CrossFit summer program.  Some of his players signed up, so my husband showed up for their first workout at CrossFit Solstice, and he ended up working out with them.  When he came home that afternoon, the first thing he said to me was “we have to do this, you will love it!” That next week we were signed up to do the On Ramp program
My stomach was in knots on the car ride to my first workout.  I was anxious and scared.  Honestly, I was scared I couldn't cut it. Upon arriving to CrossFit Solstice, everyone there was so welcoming.  The coaches and the people were encouraging and supportive my first day, which subsided all of my fears.  The first lift I learned there was the snatch, and I can remember trying to get the technique down with a PVC pipe thinking to myself “you want me to do what?” After I had finished the workout I was dripping sweat and my legs were having involuntary muscle spasms, but I was hooked. The next day when I woke up, I felt like I had been hit by a mac truck, but I couldn’t wait to do it again.  This along with many other workouts is what led me to my first CrossFit Open.

          I had watched the CrossFit Games on ESPN in the past while sitting on my couch, probably eating ice cream or drinking a beer, and thinking how amazing these athletes were, and how I could probably never to the “things” that they are doing.    I was very nervous going into 15.2, knowing that I have never done a pull up on my own, but I thought maybe today is the day. When I got there to warm up, Elyse was so helpful and supportive, and kept encouraging me. Dave and Justin were so helpful and patient with me as always, so I thought ok, maybe I can just “throw” my chin over that bar today.   I went in, banged out my 6 OHS without a problem, and then came the pull up. Well it was wishful thinking, and I wasn’t able to get that one pull up in.  I was frustrated and of course disappointed, but now I know that it is something I need to work on, and that eventually I will get it.  

        I was grateful that Justin had me work on them even after time was up.  Honestly, all of your encouragement from Dave and Justin have really helped me know “I will get this.”   I was so happy to hear that a lot of people (including my husband) PR their pull ups during 15.2. Yes as cheesy as it sounds, I was so excited that my husband got 7 pull-ups in and when he told me I was yelling in the car “Oh my god that is so awesome!” I must have high fived him like 5 times! 

I had been trying to lose weight and get in shape ever since I had given birth to my younger son. I could not find a program or lifestyle that worked long term, until I found CrossFit.  CrossFit has made me feel so much better about myself. I have lost weight and inches, but most importantly I have gained so much strength. I get excited purchasing nano’s, lifters, and Rouge attire now.  I am absolutely hooked.  Since completing the 28 day challenge, I love eating clean and seeing all of the amazing benefits it has on my performance and health!

 CrossFit has changed my life in the best possible way. I finally feel like an athlete again, and I love competing with myself.  I look forward to coming to the box, and seeing everyone there.  The people who work out at CrossFit Solstice are amazing, and I have never been a part of something where everyone there really wants you to do well.  Everyone cheers you on and motivates you and I love cheering my fellow “teammates” on as well. I can’t say enough great things about the people of CrossFit Solstice. My husband and I love when we can get a date night to work out together, and when I PR I can’t wait to rush home to tell him! 

All of the coaches at CrossFit Solstice are amazing.  They are so patient and supportive and truly want you to do your best and succeed.  Justin Vee and Kate Conneen have helped me tremendously! Their patience, knowledge, and encouragement have helped me more than words could express.  I could never thank them enough for all they have done for me. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Breathing Fire


    At my heaviest, 210, I hated myself.  I do not necessarily feel all people over weight must automatically hate themselves.  I think that some people are perfectly content to be overweight, and that is absolutely fine.  So if you are reading this with the intention of getting some body shaming out of me, you are not going to get it.  I feel everyone is beautiful in their own way, and if you feel beautiful you are beautiful.  The problem is...I never felt beautiful.  

210.  Wow.  What a number.  I don't even think I've ever admitted that number to anyone.  Not even my closest confidants, my sister and my mother.  So when they read this, they may be shocked. 210 was a long time ago.  But 210 was a symptom of a cycle of self-hate.  I can remember hating myself all the way back to middle school.  Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not fast enough, not funny enough, and ultimately, not likable. Not liking yourself becomes a cycle, which ultimately for me ended with food.

 In Education we often use the word Antecedent.

1.      1.
a thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another.

            I could make anything into a antecedent, logically.  I made antecedents out of thin air, for an excuse to binge eat.  I could put anything in my life into this cycle.  Bad night---> food.  Bad relationship ----> food.  No money---->food.  Tough day at work ---->food. General Tso chicken never told me I wasn't smart.  McDonalds never told me I wasn't fast enough.  Pizza never told me that I was unlikable. Realistically, no one ever told me that. However, my head said it often.   In my mind, I was not worthy of love.  Although many people loved me, and I played the part of the happy girl, I was truly never happy.   I played the part rather well, I think.  I was always the happy, funny girl.  No one has ever known in my life how I felt about myself inside. Self-hate became a daily routine starting with the scale in the morning and tears (sometimes) at night.  

It wasn't until I found CrossFit that I began to gain confidence.   Not in that way that in some cases it becomes someone's entire life.  Which is entirely fine, but it has never been like that for me.  I admittedly rarely watch the CrossFit Games, and have no favorite athlete that I follow on Instagram.  My life is about making money.  My dad has always called me a hustler.  And in the wise words of JayZ, I'm a hustler baby.  I can make dollars like nobody’s business.   Everything I have, and every success I've had in life is due to my hard work and perseverance.  Even that however, never made me happy.

          I've done every diet fad known to man.  I've spent approximately 1,000 dollars on fads.    I was like a yo-yo.  I'd be at the top feeling fantastic, and those thoughts of self-hate would bring me way back down to the bottom of the yo-yo.  Only, to find a new fad and be pulled back up again.  It was that self-hate inside of me, which wasn't necessarily because I was overweight that ultimately always drove me back down.  It was like trying to swim to the top of an ocean, when there are weights on your legs (in my case, the weight was in my mind).

I always dress to impress, my clothes are always on point, heels other girls want in their closet, and the smile on my face has been called contagious.  But inside, I sometimes thought what's the point of this life?  After 15 years of feeling inadequate, your brain starts to shut down on you.  Nothing anyone says matters, because your head says differently.  It wasn't until CrossFit that my eyes were opened.  I found there were some things I was good at.  I found, I was strong.  I found, I could do things I never imagined my body could do. And, the weight started to fall off.  10 pounds, 20 pounds, 30 pounds, and finally 40 pounds. Even when I lost almost 50 pounds, I never admitted it to anyone.  I didn't think I deserved to brag about success.  I didn't think I was worth of feeling good about myself.  Not until the day I found the fire.

By breathing fire I mean, I found that fire inside of myself.  I found that I could push way past what my mind was saying was capable.  I found that, if each day I stopped hating myself just a little bit, I could do it.  It wasn't like the book Learning to Breathe Fire either, because I've never read that book.  It was like something came over me.  My mind let me relax a little, and it let my body take charge.  In order to breathe fire into my life, I had to start fixing the way I felt about myself.  

    I started reading more inspirational writings, and I started to see a therapist last year.  Oh no, are we not allowed to admit sometimes we need someone else's help to dig ourselves out of the trenches?  Well I did, and I'll never regret making that choice.  She made me a rock one time, to this day I'm not really sure of the symbolism of this rock?  However, the rock says you are ENOUGH. Each morning I have that reminder that exactly how I am today,  is ENOUGH.  

I am not sure that even did it.  I literally had to stop pussy footing around.  I had to start breathing fire every day in everything I did.  I started waking up each morning, looking at my hectic work calendar, and planning how I would attack each appointment.  I would look at the workout the night before and I would stop saying "No, I can't do those things" and I started saying "today I will try to do those things I could not do before."

Now, I am not Buddha or the Dalai Lama.  Let's not get carried away.  I still struggle each day with new tasks which make me question my own psyche. I sometimes still approach things like I can't, but if I sit and think for a minute, the fire comes back.  The need to love myself comes back.   The need to be successful for my own self, comes back.   

I don't personally know how you feel about the number on the scale...but this is how I feel....

This number, no longer controls how I feel about myself.    The number is just that, a number.  It has no bearing on my feelings of self-worth or on the fire I feel inside

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Sauteed Asparagus and Fried Shallots

    I love veggies.  I tend to make a big batch of roasted veggies on a Sunday,  and eat them throughout the week.  They are good for a quick grab and go.  Some of my favorite combos are peppers and roasted red onion,  asparagus,  and brussel sprouts. 

    This is a great time of year for thin skinny Asparagus,  which sautes beautifully. In the summer the Asparagus tends to be thicker,  which is perfect for roasting. So saute in the winter,  roast in the summer.  

    This is a great side for a protein packed dinner,  or just as a grab and go.  Also,  you pee will stink---deal with it.   The shallots add a nice crunch and layer of flavor,  so you could make this without the shallots but I wouldn't recommend it.  If you are really daring,  add leeks.  You won't regret it.

Sauteed Asparagus and Fried Shallots
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Serves: 5

2 pounds of asparagus
5 large shallots
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1.  Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet.
2. While the olive oil is heating clean and remove the thick part of the stalk from the asparagus.
3.  Begin cooking half of the asparagus and season with salt and pepper.

4.  After 2 minutes,  flip the asparagus and season the second side with salt and pepper.
5.  Allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes,  but you want the asparagus to be bright green.  This cooks quickly so keep an eye on it.
6.  Remove to serving dish and continue the same process with the second half of the asparagus.
7.  While the asparagus is cooking cut and separate the shallots into inch thick rings (think mini onion rings).
8.  Move the rest of the asparagus to the serving dish,  and add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil to your cast iron skillet.
9.  Kick the heat on the skillet up to high and after 1 minutes throw in your shallot rings.
10.  Stir constantly so they don't burn.

11.  Once browned and crispy remove from cast iron with a slotted spoon.  Mix half into the asparagus and place second half on top of the asparagus for presentation purposes.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Beef Barbacoa with Black Beans

   This has been cooking all day,  and I'm not kidding the smell is redic.  It's addicting.  If I didn't have to go out and shovel so much today I would be camping out in front of the oven watching it cook. This could be certainly cooked in a crock pot, but I think this recipe looses something in a boring old crockpot.  I cooked this in my big green dutch oven.

   So, traditionally this is served in tacos.  I don't have tortillas,  nor can I go to the store during Snowmageddon.  In South Jersey right now,  we at least have 10 inches (that's what she said).  If you'd prefer to serve this amazing meat in tacos,  do so, just omit the black beans.  I used black beans to add carbs so the meal would be balanced.  

   So seriously,  make this.  You wont regret it. Your wasting time. The snow is falling fast.  The world is ending.  It's snowmageddon. There isn't time left. Would you take more seriously if this were the zombie apocalypse? GO GO GO GO.

Beef Barbacoa with Black Beans
Prep: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Serves: 6

3lb Chuck Roast
4 garlic cloves
Small White Onion, diced
3 Chiptoles in Adobo, plus 3 tbsp of sauce from can
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Lime Juice
1 cup Beef Broth
1 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
1 can Black Beans,  rinsed

1.  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat,  for about 3-5 minutes until searing.  

2.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

3.  Add 3lb chuck roast and brown on each side for 3-4 minutes.

3. While the chuck roast is browning,  add Chipoltes with adobe, 4 garlic gloves,  and 1 tbsp of tomato paste to a food processor.  Pulse all until a paste has formed.
5.   In a small bowl mix the paste you created, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, apple cider vinegar,  beef broth, and lime juice.  Whisk well.
6.   When the roast has browned on all sides, add diced onion to the dutch oven.
7.  Allow diced onions to cook until translucent stirring frequently for about 3 minutes.

8.  Add sauce you created to the pan and 3 bay leaves.

9.  Add lid to dutch oven and put into the oven.  Allow to cook for 3 1/2 hours at 300 degrees.

10. At around 3 1/2 hours rinse black beans well in a strainer.

11. After 3 1/2 hours remove from oven and remove lid.

12. Remove bay leaves and shred meat using two forks.  Stir shredded meat back into the sauce making sure all of the meat is coated.  

13.  Stir in black beans.
14.  Allow to cook for 30 more minutes uncovered.
15.  Serve :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Name is Scott Bornstein, and I AM a CrosFfit Athlete.

For most of us CrossFit is not about competing with Rich or Camille.  It’s about competing with the person we were the first day we walked in the door.  We walked in barley able to lift 45 pounds and not understanding words like Kip or Kettlebell, but today we are no longer our previous self.  A wise person once said “If you do not like where you are, then move, you are not a tree.”  This is Scott’s story about moving…

My Name is Scott Bornstein, and I AM a CrossFit athlete.

        Words I NEVER thought would come out of my mouth. But yet here I am just having completed my first Open workout and at 36 more reps than I had set as my goal.  I am sure you are asking yourself “Who is this guy and why should I care?"  I will admit I asked myself the same question when I was approached to write this but I guess it’s because I am not what you would consider an Athlete. Or at least I was not one.

       It was Oct 2014 and I had been trying everything to get into some semblance of a healthy routine. I had gone back to weight watchers again, I tried a  couch to 5K app thinking running might be good idea,  I would try home workout DVD’s and NOTHING was working. I hated all of it. 

     One day I did a search “Am I too fat and out of shape to do Crossfit?” Here is where I confess my “shape“. I am 5 feet 5 inches, 42 years old and the scale reads over 250 pounds. I am a Type II Diabetic, I have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not am not the picture of health by any means.   I did my research, I looked at testimonials, and I checked out my Local box, CrossFit Solstice.  One morning I woke up , turned to my girlfriend and said , “I have to tell you something, I have decided I am going to join a cult” She turned to me and said “Oh crap you are going to join CrossFit aren’t you!”  This was the first day in my fitness and health journey.

      I signed up for on ramp that day. I showed up scared out of my mind. I told my coach “I will be the fat bald kid in the corner curled up in a ball dying a slow death if you are looking for me at the end of the class.”   Little did I know that decision to just SHOW UP would change my life.

      I completed my On Ramp as fast as I could, 3 classes a week for 2 weeks , and as my 43rd Birthday present to myself I bought a one month unlimited membership. All the coaches told me to give it time so I started going every other day at 5:30 am and I would work out 3-4 times a week.  I cringed at each workout that they would post the night before, and I would look at it going okay what in this workout CAN I do.  My goal was to just SHOW UP. I laid out my entire month of November and went to every class.

    It was time to renew so I said okay one more month Scott.  Before I knew it I was going 4 days a week, excited to get up at 4:30 AM to get ready for my workout. I am stronger, I am jumping on 27 inch tall boxes, doing pull-ups, and I am lifting weights I had not been able to lift since college.

    Random people in class are cheering me on. WAIT WHAT?  Why are you cheering me? Why are you pushing me? Who are you people?  THAT became the biggest surprise, the community I was becoming a part of. I NEVER once felt judged, I never felt like I did not belong, if I could not do an exact movement, or workout, all ANYONE wanted me to do was try.  My coaches watched me carefully and they knew EXACTLY when to push me because they believed I could do more, even when I felt I could not.  I would tell them “If you believe in me, then I believe in me.” WORDS that would come back to bite me in the ass 6 weeks later.

    I kept signing up for unlimited classes in and I had moved to 5 days a week at the Box.  I was getting stronger and my endurance had become 10x what it was. I may not be able to RX my workouts but I was not stopping as much mid workout anymore.  I was walking taller and I felt energy I had not felt in years. I was not any lighter in terms of weight BUT MY BODY looked SO much different, my clothes fit different and my pants were falling off. The changes were amazing.  Then the time came for 2015 Open signup.

    My coaches all told me you have to sign up Scott, it’s going to be scaled you can do this. My immediate response came from my old self---“NO WAY, I am going to be in last place for every workout, I am not good enough, I am not strong enough, and I don’t want to embarrass myself and all of you guys who believe in me." All of my coaches said the same thing “NO one works as hard as you, you come every time and give your all, you owe it to yourself to do this.“  Basically the words I used earlier got me. They believed in me, so it was time I believed in me.

    When 15.1 and 15.1a workouts were announced I looked at it for a min and said “ok they will certainly have a scale for the Toes To Bar, but man the rest of this I can do. I know I can I have been training for months.  I had a goal set in my head-- 2 rounds (60 reps) and at least 80% of my previous 1 rep max C&J which was 115lbs. I signed up for my judging time and I showed up 30 min early to warm up . When the time came I was nervous as hell but I said to myself “Just meet your goal, you can do that, just meet your goal.”

   Well as I said, I CRUSHED my goal, 96 reps later and a 135lbs C&J later I stood tall  (as tall as my 5’5” frame allows me to stand ) and said “ I AM A CROSSFIT ATHLETE and I JUST proved it!"  I may not be what you picture in your mind but that’s okay because thanks to trainers, members, everyone and anyone who walks into CrossFit Solstice, I BELIEVE I AM now.