Hi. We are Darryle and Dawn Owens and we have been coming to Fit for the past 5 years. We just finished the 21 day low-carb challenge. While we have participated in our fair share of Fit Challenges, we both found this latest one to be very effective, often in ways we did not expect. So, since we have done many challenges before, Aaron asked us to share our most recent experience.
The challenge came at a very good time for us - we were both needing a “pick-me-up”. Clothes were not fitting so well, and workouts were less consistent due to work demands, kid stuff and injuries. We were eating a lot of those delicious Whole Foods tortilla chips and drinking lots of margaritas.
We discovered quite a few things about ourselves, our fitness and our eating habits during this challenge. Here are a few things we learned:
On the Nutrition Front
- We learned that there are a ton of carbs in the foods we eat every day and that eating “sort of” healthy is not that healthy.
- We learned that limiting carbs was not that hard, and one of us (not Darryle) could be satisfied on 50 carbs a day.
- We loved feeling more energetic after we acclimated to our new “diet”.
- We discovered the joy of the Rocket Fuel Latte from the Keto Diet Cookbook. (See recipe below.)
- We learned a lot of great recipes that are new to us. Our favorite is Mia’s Pizza. Maybe she can share the recipe in her next video or blog.
- We learned that eating fat doesn’t make you fat… Really.
On the Fitness Front
- We learned the benefits of recovery and that we can work out 21 days in a row and not feel wasted and tired.
- We learned that 35 people can work out at the same time, with heavy weights, without head injuries (from someone else).
- We learned that it’s a lot easier to wake up for a 5 am class if you haven’t had a cocktail or three the night before. We don’t know if this is a fitness, nutrition or just plain common sense insight, but we thought it worth sharing none-the-less.
- We were surprised how much less stiff and sore we were than usual.
- We loved finding our abs again.
Our Fit Community
- We were reminded of the great people we have in our Fit community. We come in all shapes, sizes, fitness levels, ages, etc, but the support and encouragement that is a part of who we are as a community shines brightest during these challenges.
- Finally, a big shout out to the coaches. The talents and encouragement of the Fit coaches was tremendous and getting a glimpse into their homes through the low-carb recipe videos was cool.
The trick will be how to take all this and build it into our day-to-day routine. We’ll start by incorporating moderate (prep) days, all-out game days and recovery days into our workout plans, just like we did during the challenge. We expect it’ll be somewhat challenging because we won’t always be on the same schedule as the person next to us. We’ll also consciously dial down the carbs. While it was hard to give up bananas and KitchFix Paleo Granola and our daily cocktails, it was worth it. We feel better and have definitely seen an improvement in our fitness.
See you at the gym!
Rocket Fuel Latte, The Keto Diet
- 1 ¾ cups (415 ml) hot brewed coffee (regular or decaf) or tea
- 1 tablespoon MCT oil or coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon cacao butter
- 1 tablespoon hulled hemp seeds
- 2 to 4 drops liquid stevia (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
- Pinch of finely ground Himalayan rock salt (optional)
- 1 tablespoon collagen peptides or protein powder
- Pinch of ground cinnamon, for garnish
- Place the hot coffee, oil, cacao butter, hemp seeds, stevia (if using), vanilla, and salt in a high-powered blender. Blend on high speed for 1 minute, or until the hemp seeds are pulverized.
- During the last 10 seconds, add the collagen and continue to blend.
- Transfer to a mug, sprinkle with cinnamon, and enjoy.
Photo Credit: Tim Gouw
Why I Feel 105 Years Old When I Wake Up
First thing in the morning can be the worst time of day for stiffness, soreness, and inflammation. Sure, some of it can be attributed to what you did the day before: a tough workout, a ton of yard work, a long run or bike. When the body builds up acidity, like the byproduct of lactic acid, we get soreness in the muscles and tissues associated with that work. This is a good thing because it shows that the work you did was intense enough to cause a reaction in your body. When you work hard enough to get this reaction, you are forcing growth hormone to rise and repair tissue, in turn metabolism increases and we see the cycle of fitness and reverse-aging begin. That said, there are some tips I have that can help you not wake up feeling like you are 105 years old and having every joint and muscle feel stiff.
The reason you feel stiff first thing in the morning is because movement is the best tool we have to clear acidity and inflammation, so it makes sense that we are more sore after not moving for 6-8 hours while we sleep. Any movement starts to fire up the lymphatic system which will be the primary aid in clearing this stiffness and inflammation.
Tip #1: Adopt a mobility practice before you go to bed each night for 10-15 minutes. Not only will it help you fall asleep, but it will also help get rid of morning stiffness.
Tip #2: Stop eating foods that are processed. Our diet, in general, plays a huge part in our level of systemic inflammation. The more inflammation we have, the more stiff we are going to feel in the morning. A whole foods diet is more abundant in bioavailable nutrients and much more dense in vitamins and minerals, which will help keep inflammation down. The additives and stabilizers in processed foods have a large inflammatory response when consumed. Try to eat foods that are found around the perimeter of the grocery store. Foods that come directly from the earth, sea, and sky are best!
Tip #3 - Eat disease fighting foods. There are certain foods that you should include in your diet that aren’t just good to help get rid of morning stiffness because they are anti inflammatory, but they also help fight disease. Include these foods as often as you can with any meal or take them in supplement form. These include ginger, turmeric, green, leafy vegetables, beets, blueberries, and pineapple, just to name a few.
Tip # 4- Drink water. Just water. Preferably filtered water. I recommend you drink your body weight in ounces of water every day. Hydration is really important in general, but when it comes to stiffness, it’s a big one. Our tissue needs water in order for the lymphatic system to really work efficiently.
Tip #5 - Get a foam roller to keep at home! This doesn’t have to be painful, just light rolling when you wake up. I call this re-hydrating tissue. Nothing heavy, just a bit of quick rolling and compression with hydrated tissue that might be matted down or sticky from not moving overnight. Thirty seconds at various parts of the body that are stiff can go a long way. I do this every morning and it takes some getting used to, but I notice a difference if I don’t do it.
Tip #6 - Take one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar daily. It has nutrients that help the body become more PH neutral and not as acidic which is what leads to inflammation, stiffness, and not feeling good. I take a tablespoon diluted in 6-8 ounces of water.
An Opportunity To Change
The number one reason why people don’t participate in some kind of movement practice or tinker around with nutrition is simple. They are afraid. Honestly, since the entire fitness industry is unregulated, I can’t say that I blame them. It’s not like there is an FDA organic stamp of approval for nutrition and fitness. We are forced to figure it out on our own. We have to look at the science and create an N=1 experiment using our own body.
I believe the best point of view to take on finding what works for you is to tinker around. It just so happens that, in the gym, we are tinkering with carb intake as an approach to nutrition over the course of the next 21 days. The science shows us that low carb intake can help support a healthier lifestyle, including weight loss, increased metabolism, better performance, and a balanced daily level of hormones. We know that the average American consumes 320 grams per day of carbs. Insidious weight gain starts around 300 grams per day. For us to maintain a healthy weight, we need 150 grams per day of carbs. The sweet spot for weight loss is at about 50 grams of carbs per day.
In order to figure out what works for you individually, we have to balance lifestyle and health. Here is what it should look like.
Spend a few days tracking total carbs. Remember, carbs are in everything from vegetables to processed food. I like to just ask siri on my iphone how many carbs are in “________” fill in the blank and she will know. This gives you a baseline for where you are.
Once you know where you are with carb intake on a daily basis, you are going to have to experiment. Start a bit higher on your carb intake for a week. Maybe between 100-200 grams a day. Then each week drop it so that by the last week of the 21 days you are at 50 grams or less.
Track body weight, energy, and mood daily. You will find your balance over the course of 21 days. You might be able to lose weight quickly at 50 grams but your workouts might suffer and you might be in a bad mood. This is not a place you want to live. Whereas, at 75 grams, you may find you can still train hard and are in a better mood, but weight loss isn’t as rapid, but it's more manageable for your lifestyle. Then you get to decide what works for you to move forward.
Here is how to eat: Limit carbs to 200-50 grams a day slowly working your way down. Eat one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, and fill the rest in with healthy fats until you are satisfied but not full.
I believe this N=1 scaled approach can work as you tinker around with what works for you individually.
As a kid in my house, nobody ever went on a diet. I can’t recall a single time that I heard my parents talk about a special diet they were on. Never. There was no Weight Watchers or anything like that. We didn’t have any weight loss supplements around the house. I do, however, remember my mom always tinkering around with how different cultures approached nutrition and eating. Of course, we would do a 24 hour fast a few times a year. One would be for Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of repentance. I remember we didn’t eat any meat for a couple weeks as part of observing another religious group’s traditions. When we hosted a couple of Japanese exchange students in high school, we followed a vegan diet in honor of their buddhist traditions. We soaked and sprouted most grains as part of my mom’s food preparations that she picked up from her mother who was born in Poland. My point is that, as I look back on all of these traditions that we tested, tinkered with, and observed, I began to understand why it’s so important to not just stick with a single way of eating.
Some say the healthiest diet in the world is the mediterranean diet. It’s been commercialized into books and food pyramids. Honestly, the truly healthy part of the mediterranean diet is the dense variety in traditions that so many different cultural groups keep around food and food preparations. Everything from fasting at certain times of the year, to fasting for certain parts of the day, to soaking and sprouting grains, and restricting certain foods for certain amounts of time during the year.
My recommendation is to try and avoid a single diet or approach when it comes to food and lifestyle. Rather, tinker around with many different ways of preparing food and restricting food types and consumption.
Here are some that I have tried and recommend you try.
Intermittent fasting: 1-3 time per week, don’t eat for 14-16 hours. I usually do this overnight and skip breakfast the next morning. The studies show that this type of fasting can boost Human Growth Hormone by up to 771%.
Give up meat for 2 weeks a few times a year. I find that doing this helps re-focus on the fact that a plant based diet is healthy, nourishing, and it forces us to prepare vegan and vegetarian options that can be delicious.
Change your grain routine. If you don’t ever have any grains, then try soaking and sprouting grains overnight and use them for a meal the next day. Grains offer some wonderful micronutrients like vitamin B, fiber, and iron. If you are currently consuming grains, try 7-10 days of no grains at all, this includes gluten-free grains like rice. Grains that aren’t soaked are anti-nutrients, meaning the vitamins and minerals in a grain that isn’t sprouted or soaked is not able to be absorbed by the body. The lectins in unsoaked grains not only block the uptake of the nutrients but they can cause gut issues and inflammation.
Get rid of all added sugar! The average american consumes between 85 grams and 111 grams of added sugar per day. Most countries that have a significantly lower obesity rate than our country's 69% obesity rate consume less than 10 grams of added sugar per day. Spend 2 weeks with zero added sugar. Read labels. Avoid anything that ends in -ose (sucralose, fructose, etc), corn syrup, cane juice, all sugars!
Take 3 weeks or a month and cut down your carb intake. Americans consume on average 320 grams of carbs a day. Insidious weight gain starts at 350 grams a day. Weight management is usually between 150 grams to 100 grams daily. We see the sweet spot of weight loss take place at about 50 grams a day. Take a waterfall approach to this, as it can sometimes be a shock to the system. Start your first week by just tracking, then start to cut down the second week, and continue to cut down each week, until you are at a place where energy levels and weight loss are optimal for you.
Top Five: Healthy Lifestyle Must-Haves
There are certain things that we make sure to have around the house in an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here are the top 5 things that I think everyone should have on hand.
#1A fresh vegetable that you can eat raw without peeling: We love carrots. They are simple for the kids to grab and eat plain or dip in sunbutter. It’s important to eat them raw and unpeeled for 2 reasons. A lot of the nutrient is in the outer layer of the carrot. The raw carrot is much more dense with beta carotene than the cooked carrot. Lastly, and I know this sounds wrong, but don’t wash the carrots. Some of the soil that is still on the carrot, as long as it’s organic, provides healthy bacteria for the gut.
#2 Fermented food and probiotics: These are one of the best defenses we have against disease, weight gain, depression, and anxiety. They help add new and healthy bacteria to the gut. We have a few go to’s when it comes to fermented foods and probiotics: kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, Gut Shots, and a bottle of shelf-stable probiotics. The probiotics you see in the pic are special ones for taking post-antibiotics, but, in general, we try and switch our probiotic up every 4-6 weeks so we can keep our gut microbiome diverse.
#3Fish Oil and Cod Liver Oil: We keep a Fish Oil and Cod Liver oil in the fridge. Many studies show that omega 3’s help reduce inflammation and decrease the incidence of disease. We take 2000 mg daily for us and the kids! Plus, nothing helps us recover after a hard workout more than Fish Oil. Again, the inflammation we get from a tough workout is what causes soreness and the Fish Oil or Cod Liver oil is a great way to help get the inflammation out.
#4Vitamin C: This is always on hand. We use the Radiant Life brand because it’s derived from real berries as opposed to a chemical source. Vitamin C is key for us year round for healthy skin, a robust immune system, and it’s a very potent antioxidant. Read your labels on this. It should be made from only berries. Anything else doesn’t get absorbed by your body. We take 250 mg every morning. During flu season we take 250 mg in the morning and 250 mg in the evening.
#5Mobility Tools: Every single day we dig into this basket of mobility goodness. Whether it’s a lacrosse ball, wrapping with a band, using the foam roller, or just mobilizing using body weight, we make sure to spend 15 minutes every single day on mobility and compression. At our age, there is no way we can get away with training hard and not doing this. For us, we usually take time before bed and dig in.
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