Those Who Seek, Find
For this summer’s road trip, we got the family in the car and headed down to Sterling, Illinois this past week to visit the grandparents in my hometown. Population: 14,000. The goal was to spend quality time with family and see if we could a continue our journey of training and healthy nutrition outside of our bubble. We made it our mission to see what’s available in small town middle america, in terms of healthy eating, farm life, and a place to work out. We visited some cool places and had a great time!
Every small town has a farm. I had heard about this farm and had wanted to visit it for some time. The Farmer was great and took the time to give us an in-depth tour. Free range eggs, heirloom tomatoes, and farm fresh chicken. Shoot! There were even Peacocks! But not for eating...
We found "Main squeeze" which was a great place to hang out with good food. They had organic juice, smoothies, organic coffee and hand made gluten free muffins, that were delicious. The place was stocked with kombucha and other healthy options.
We also visited the sports complex that I grew up next to. It’s like the lifetime fitness of any small town, packed with all kinds of strength and cardio equipment. We found barbells and bumper plates in the corner, and that’s all we really needed.
Our last stop on our way out of town was at the weekend Farmer’s Market. It was small but had plenty, from fresh fruit and vegetables to breakfast and paleo breakfast bars. I was most impressed with the grassfed beef stand, supplements of bone broth, and organic spices. So many resources here!
All in all, we realized that we can stay on our path of health and wellness even in Small Town, USA!
Guest Blog by Lucas Beyer
"Push Up Progression"
Every time the coaches get together to do a workout, I always look for two things: movements that I need to improve on and movements that I excel at! One of the movements that I feel I excel at is a very basic and functional one, a move we’ve all known since we were young. It’s the push up.
As basic a movement as it is, a lot of key components are often overlooked and there’s always room for improvement and refinement. Whether it’s engaging your midline, setting up your hand position, or strengthening your shoulder girdle, many different techniques can come into play.
Over the next few weeks, we will be incorporating short exercises after each workout to help you improve your push-up. Each exercise is meant to refine your own personal push-up progression, whether you max out at five or are working toward 100 push-ups, straight.
Here is what to expect! You will get stronger, you will improve on your push up, you will see an increase in core stabilization, and you will be challenged! Like with anything else, consistency will be important. You don’t have to be in every day; 2-4 times a week will work. The work might take an extra 5-10 minutes at the end of your session or, should you choose to come early, you could do it before class. Each day we will post on our front desk whiteboard what that day’s push up exercises are. The coaches will help with clarity and mechanics on the movements we assign for each day. Our push up program will follow a progression for 14 days, with each day getting a little tougher. The program isn’t just push ups. Variations of push ups and shoulder and midline stabilization drills are all part of what we will dose up.
At the end of your workout on Friday, July 28th, we would like each person to do a max rep push-up test as a baseline prior to our push-up series. Improving your push-up is always beneficial when it comes to competing against the clock or going for your personal best.
Guest Blog by Lisa Leventhal "My Fit Experience"
I have a guest blogger this week. My sister, Lisa, came up to not just train for a week, but she and her 2 beautiful daughters, did a full on deep dive into the Leventhal way of life. We cooked together, trained together, and talked health and nutrition. It was a 24/7 boot camp for her and her family. Please read on for her surprising experience in the gym and at our house.
See you in the gym,
Who would like to hear entertaining tales of Aaron’s adventurous youth? I’d be happy to tell you about his lackluster pencil collection or his “cool” mullet! Oh, the stories I could share! But first, a bit about myself (I am more interesting anyway…), my journey, and my 6-day experience training at Fit and living with the Leventhals.
I’m Aaron’s favorite (aka only) sister, Lisa. I live in Granger, Iowa, just outside of Des Moines, with my amazing husband, Rocky, our two lovely daughters, Jeri (11) and Madi (9), and our two cats. I am a Spanish teacher at a 9th grade only high school (and I LOVE it). I love to bake and cook and I have a great sense of humor. Honestly, I’m hilarious!
From an early age, I have been on a roller coaster ride of weight loss, mental health, and fitness with many ups and downs. I am coping with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. The most significant “down” came six years ago when I realized that I was an unhealthy, obese, 40-year-old mother of two precious girls under five. With Aaron’s help (cheesy, but true), I still have ups and downs, but they are much less drastic. It’s an exhausting but rewarding work in progress.
This spring, I was invited, nay, challenged to run the Des Moines half marathon in October (any joiners out there?). As you probably know, we Leventhals never back down from a challenge. So, in an effort to get some good training, my daughters and I invaded the Leventhal household for 6 days this July. I worked out at Fit Studio every day and we followed the Leventhal diet and lifestyle. The experience was inspiring, amazing, and exhausting!
Honestly, I was dreading attending classes at Fit Studio and I went into my first few classes feeling unfit and flabby. However, my experience at Fit was refreshingly unlike anything I had ever encountered in my many, many years of varied fitness classes (Piloxing Barre anyone?). The positive, inclusive, encouraging atmosphere was obvious as soon as I walked in the door as many people introduced themselves to me and welcomed me without even knowing my relation to Aaron. I was amazed how, during EVERY workout, the coaches cheered everyone on when it got tough, pushed us all to give our best effort, and continually monitored each person to make sure that we got the maximum benefit. I have NEVER experienced such personal attention in a group fitness class (and some of the coaches didn’t know I was Aaron’s sister).
I have to give a ROCKSTAR shout out to Connor, who came out of nowhere at just the right times and, with a smile no less, effortlessly modified my workout so, not only did I get a great workout, but I also left feeling capable and encouraged. I’m so proud of my brother for creating Fit Studio and its unique and encouraging vibe. I wish I lived closer so I could be a more active member of the Fit family.
Although I was unsure about my lack of fitness, my biggest concern was not about me, but about how my eldest daughter, Jeri, would cope with the changes involved in taking up temporary residence in Aaron’s basement so we could experience an organic, grain-free, dairy-free, low carb, super healthy Leventhal lifestyle. Jeri, in a nutshell, is a carb eating, picky, tall and lanky 11 year old who is a kind, very creative, slightly immature, easily overwhelmed, sweetheart who struggles with ADHD. Due to Jeri’s lack of appreciation for newness and change, she and I talked many times about what she could expect and strategies that we could use to be happy and healthy at Uncle Aaron’s house. I also prayed.
Are you still reading? Wow! That’s some stamina! Hang in there!
The most amazing thing happened. Not only did Jeri try a bunch of new foods, but she actually liked many of the non-carb loaded variety. She also adapted well to many of the other changes without too many issues. I was completely inspired by Jeri’s flexibility, not usually a characteristic she possess.
As this was happening, I was talking with Christine over coffee in the mornings. She explained the science behind their food choices and the benefits of probiotics, gut shots (F.Y.I. the purple one is not sweet), and kombucha. We talked about the GAPS diet and other research that she had done about the connection between gut health and mental health.
I realized that a lifestyle change for my family could make a world of difference in the lives of my children! Not wanting the opportunity to go to waste, I called my husband and told him everything that we had experienced and all that I had learned. We wanted to continue the changes and we decided to adopt this healthier lifestyle for our whole family. We are going organic, grain-free (for me), gluten-free (for the children and hubby), dairy-free, and low carb, BABY! Yeah!
So, before we left Minneapolis, I talked through my plans with Aaron & Christine. We took the girls to the Co-op so they could pick out a healthy, yummy snack for the road. On the way home, Jeri, Madi, and I talked about how good we felt, how tasty the food was, and how fun it was to be active with our cousins. We talked about how, even though it would be a challenge, we will all be happier and healthier and, most of all, we’d be in it together.
When we got home, we hit Whole Foods and the girls were excited to find some of the foods that they had enjoyed at their cousin’s house. The next day, we went through our kitchen as a family. We bagged up almost everything that didn’t fit our new lifestyle so we could donate it or give it away. We kept a few things because, first, we can’t afford to buy new, organic everything all at once (I’m a teacher, remember?), and second, we will allow an occasional treat. I cannot realistically say that we will NEVER eat a piece of candy again. Who says that? Ok, maybe Aaron says that...
I’m going into this knowing that this will NOT be easy, but it will be worth it. In the first few days, my husband and I have had many decisions to make which has led to a few intense discussions, but has also inspired us to make other changes for the better for our family. Jeri has shed many tears (she actually hugged her gluten filled bread loaf good-bye). But each time she struggles, I hug her, tell her that everything will be alright, and that I love her very much. Sometimes she is so mad that she doesn’t let me hug her right away, but I give her some space and eventually she is ok and we hug and discuss.
So, for those of you who are still with me (you should get a reward), I hope you enjoyed my tale. I’m excited to check in with you again as my family and I figure this out. And I hope to see you at Fit the next time I make the trek north.
Take and give care,
Lisa Leventhal Sobotka
We know that high intensity interval training is effective in a number of ways. It increases human growth hormone output, it decreases body fat, it increases aerobic and anaerobic performance, and it creates a spike in metabolism that is longer lasting than that of endurance training. The beautiful thing about HIIT is that it’s just that. It’s based on intervals: certain periods of work contrasted with rest periods to break up each work cycle. You have to know that the interval time, rest time, and the number of repetitions have meaning. They aren’t just randomly put together. A beautiful symphony of work, rest, and recovery has to occur to get a certain stimulus. If that balance is not specific, then the point, the work, the potency, and the benefits can easily be lost. What I’m saying is… don’t try to randomly create interval training on your own at home. It can be dangerous. Seek to understand and know the science. There are 3 things you should know about interval training:
Duration: The duration of the interval needs to match up with a certain amount of volume and recovery. We know from research that it doesn’t work to just haphazardly throw different time domains out there with a guess at volume (example: 1 minute work and 30 seconds rest for 5 efforts). The specifics have to be part of the prescribed workout. Here is what we know are the best combinations of time to work, time to rest, and number of efforts associated with each.
Effort: It has to be 95% to 100% effort! The only way these intervals work is at 95% to 100% of max heart rate. That means true max heart rate. Most of us have no idea what that really is, unless you have done a true stress test that has blood lactate and oxygen uptake associated with it, which are only done in a lab. So, this means that each interval should have a subjective response that looks and feels like… hands on legs, heart pounding, sweating, out of breath, and feeling very, very challenged!
Stimulus: The beauty is that you can do this anywhere, using anything: on a bike, on the running trail, in any gym, using body weight.
As we approach this week of training, many of us travel: heading to the cabin or out of town. Here is your week of training. Take the interval work, rest, and total efforts from above and apply any movement to it! Now, in the gym, we will have specific plans to touch on each one of these intervals.
Photo by Jennifer Burk
Photo by: Kuan Fang
Lunch, A Family Affair
A Guest Post by Christine Leventhal
Food. Aaron loves good food and, especially, nutritious food. I do love a good meal but, for me, I am more concerned that our four kids (ages 4, 8, 10, and 12) eat something they like and that’s nutritious. So we have the task of trying to appease Aaron’s appetite for the new and interesting while getting our kids to eat something wholesome without complaining. As a family of 6, you would think that the toughest part of family life would be bedtime, discipline, and keeping track of schedules. Not the case! The most challenging part of it is preparing meals and having snacks readily available. If you have had to pack a healthy lunch for a kid, you know my pain! Seven years into it, I definitely know a lot more but getting them to eat it is still hard!
We are a family that works diligently to figure out what is effective from a lifestyle point of view. We are constantly trying to find nourishing foods for our kids that not only support healthy bodies, but provide sustainable energy. When done right, we see that the food we give them has a strong impact on their ability to focus, feel good, and have a strong immune system.
I do most of the work when it comes to packing lunches for the kids. This can be tough because, like most anybody, the kids want variety. And, naturally, each of our kids is a bit different. Then, we add in the challenge that they need to be nutritious! Here’s how I plan a kid’s lunch:
Protein: This is the easiest place to start. I like to use leftovers or deli meat from the co-op. This might look like a chicken leg, cut up chicken breast, or thick cut turkey slices from the deli counter. We do our best to pick the least processed meats. Luckily, all our kids like meat!
Raw Vegetables: Since they all like carrots, that is something we always have on hand. We are constantly “trying” to get them exposed to more variety so we also throw in veggies like bell pepper, cucumber, or jicama.
Fruit: Apples or grapes are easy, go-to fruits. When the season allows, there is much more variation. But not everyone likes strawberries or blueberries (I can’t believe it, either!) so we tend to buy an assortment of fruits.
Fat: I like to add in a healthy fat. For that, we give them a variety of olives, individual sized guacamole, or sunbutter. They all like something different!
Gluten-free Carbohydrate: Somedays, but not every day, we have a gluten-free option to add a little more sustenance to their lunch. Now, I wish I could say they like leftover sweet potatoes and beets, but… yeah… no way. So, they can either take a slice of gluten free bread to make a sandwich or they can have some variety of gluten free crackers or potato chips.
Treat: They also get some form of a treat like gluten free cookies or fruit sticks, but, again, not every day.
The goal of our meals is to lay a foundation for what their bodies need for fuel and optimum health. I want them to understand what healthy forms and amounts of sugar, fat, and carbs are and what they feel like.
Now that we have eaten this way for a few years, the kids know what will happen if they stray too far from eating like this. I often remind them to make good choices when they are out with friends or at a party, but, ultimately, they have to figure it out. I can tell you that all of my kids have gone to a party and eaten what the other kids ate. Cupcakes AND pizza! It doesn’t end well. Their bodies no longer tolerate junk food. So, meals. It takes a lot of time and persistence to constantly come up with whole-food choices that my kids will eat. But the added work and long term benefits outweigh the negative outcomes that come with eating a poor diet, day in and day out. What challenges do you have when you plan a lunch? Do you have any good tips?
Photo By: Braden Cullum
Photo Credit: Audi Nissen