Healthy is the New Skinny, Too?

I want to thank my friend Linda Gill for giving me some inspiration to write this morning. She had a thread going on Facebook talking about how important it is to buy and eat local organic food. This is something I’ve been passionate about for a long time and it really got me thinking (Those of you who know me, know I do that a lot, right Jodi?).

It got me thinking about what “Strong is the New Skinny” really comes down to. I think it comes down to HEALTHY. You have to be healthy to be strong. If you’re not healthy, you might be strong for a while, but it won’t last. And, if you’re like many of the wonderful women I’ve met through the “Strong is the New Skinny” movement, women like my great friend Marsha, being strong is about more than pushing or pulling big weight. It’s about staying strong and active and healthy in the long term. And, it’s about taking care of yourself so you have plenty of energy to give to all the people around you who you care about and who you make a difference for.

Why is Local and Organic Better?

I’m not the first one to say it, but I think EVERYONE who cares about their health and their family’s health should make it a point to buy and watch the movie Food, Inc. before the end of THIS weekend. If you can SERIOUSLY watch this video and not make REAL change in your life and how you eat, I don’t think I can say anything more to motivate you. This video is SERIOUSLY important and it’s a MUST WATCH.

What’s the REAL price?

Something that drives me NUTS is the price thing. I remember Paul Chek saying, years ago in his great CD set “You Are What You Eat,” that you can go to any McDonald’s and see $75,000 cars and SUVs going through the drive thru to get $1 hamburgers. It’s insane when you think about it that way. And isn’t price the whole argument we make as coaches when selling our services? We’re not the cheapest, we’re THE BEST. My friend Merle from CrossFit USA and CrossFit Relentless has been making that argument – and succeeding greatly – for a while now.

Something else that drives me nuts is the Walmart commercials where the mom BRAGS about how she can give her family of 5 “dinner” for less than $3. Are you SERIOUSLY bragging about that? You should be ashamed! 😛

I mean, seriously! How can you skimp on the stuff that you MAKE YOU out of? Do you really want your body or your family’s bodies to be made of processed corn and cheap processed meat? YUCK!

I’m not going to go too far off on a tangent here (we all know I NEVER do that :-)) but I think it’s also worth asking whether there’s a Spiritual impact from what you eat. Do you really think eating an animal that has led a terrible, tortured and science altered existence can be good for your higher self? How about corn from a seed that was created in a laboratory on the 22nd floor? To me, it’s scary…

And then we get to animal rights…

I’m so NOT going into this argument here, but look: We’re predators. We evolved on meat. The science is there. If you don’t believe me, there’s this thing called Google… If we MUST eat meat for our BEST health, doesn’t it make sense to eat meat from animals raised on beautiful farms and eating what they’re meant to eat and living how they’re meant to live. I love animals. You can ask my dog, five cats and two snakes. In a “perfect” world, maybe we wouldn’t eat them. But we NEED to eat them. If we’re going to eat them I think we owe it to them – and ourselves – to give them the best life we possibly can. As someone who’s saved many a kitty that ended up not living as long as it maybe should have, I believe making an animal as comfortable and happy as we can for the life it has is the best we can do sometimes.

Small is the New Big, Too…

Our economy is shifting in so many ways. It’s not a recession, it a MAJOR CHANGE in how things work. I’m not sure who coined the phrase “Small is the New Big” (Anyone care to enlighten me?), but we’re seeing a shift back to community and back to small and back to niche and back to CARING. Wouldn’t you rather support the small local farmer who CARES about what goes into the food that goes into your body and your family’s bodies? Do you think General Mills or Monsanto gives a flying crap about you or your family? Like they said in the trailer: You vote with your purchases EVERY DAY and if you demand good, real, wholesome food from our farmers they WILL deliver.

BTW, do you think it’s a coincidence that the major HUMAN pharmaceutical companies also happen to make most of the AGRICULTURAL chemicals that make us sick in the first place? That’s all I’m saying about that. You can do the math…

And, for you political types, how about GOOD FOOD instead of socialized National Health Care? What do YOU think is cheaper in the long run?

How ’bout it everyone? Buy and watch the video THIS WEEKEND and check out a local farmer’s market before they close down for the winter (if you’re in a Northern climate). Try Google. There are usually networks that promote farmer’s and farmer’s markets. Here’s one where I live:



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Labor Day WOD, Anyone?

Sometimes you see stuff that is just too cool and inspiring to keep to yourself.

I just “overheard” something between my friend Merle Mckenzie and one of his athletes from CrossFit Relentless, Brenda.

Merle posted two pics on Facebook with this message:

“Brenda I love you for what you have done to inspire women and men to change their lives. You are without a doubt 100% CrossFit and there is no finer example of what CrossFit and determination can do for someone.”

Here are the pics:

Brenda Starting CrossFit

Brenda Before CrossFit


Brenda After CrossFit

The “After” pic above is from this morning – Labor Day 2010. Merle and a bunch of his athletes decided to “work” this morning, so Merle took a bunch of rowers and kettlebells down to the Farmington, CT Reservoir for a little Labor Day WOD. AWESOME STUFF!

Keep doing what you’re doing BOTH OF YOU! You BOTH inspire me and you both ROCK!



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One more reason CrossFit and Kettlebells will rule the world…

I had a really interesting experience today.

I vaguely know someone who’s in the mainstream fitness and bodybuilding industry and I contacted this person about possibly talking to a friend of mine who is considering fitness modeling as a career choice. Now, my friend is still in High School and is looking into careers for herself. Anyway, mainstream fitness writes me back and says happy to talk to my friend but wants $50. “Can’t work for free.”

Are you fucking kidding me! You want money to talk to a girl in High School who has a few questions! WTF!

One more reason mainstream fitness is dying out and CrossFit and Kettlebells are taking over.

In the meantime, I emailed Becca Borowski, Program Director at CrossFit LA to ask her a question about a certification she had. She emailed me right back with a really nice response. She didn’t even ask me for money! LOL

Or, take my friend Merle McKenzie from CrossFit USA in Berlin, CT. Merle has helped me out so much in the 6 months or so I’ve known him. He’s given me training and business advice, introduced me to people, fed me. Now we have a good relationship where we help each other out.

I also have a good relationship with Ken Blackburn from IKFF.  Another great guy who likes helping people out.

Dr. Mark Cheng, RKC Team Leader is the same. Great guy and always happy to help out.

This “New” fitness community that’s forming around Kettlebells and CrossFit truly is “Open Source” like Coach Glassman says. People with a shared passion coming together and learning and sharing and growing – and becoming more and more successful because of it!

This truly is a New Economy Web 2.0 movement. And the Old School, Bricks and Mortar world can’t die out soon enough for me!

Now that I’m thinking about it, about a month ago I had a really shitty experience with the editor of a mainstream online bodybuilding and fitness magazine. This guy was the biggest douche I’ve talked to in a very long time. I had networked to him through a very high profile guy I know who his magazine had interviewed – so I was coming in with a solid reference – and I offered to write some content for the magazine on Kettlebells or CrossFit. The dude basically pissed all over me for a few emails and closed by saying “we’ve done about all we’re going to do on CrossFit and Kettlebells.” Yeah, wouldn’t want to lose space that could go toward another article about biceps curls or some useless supplement you have a 10,000% markup on…

I actually recall feeling violated when the interaction with this guy was over! LOL It really was THAT bad!

These guys are fossils and they don’t even know it yet… It reminds me of the guys who thought the “automobile” was a fad and kept making horse drawn carriages at the turn of the Twentieth Century. “Yeah, that Henry Ford guy is nuts…”

Old school fitness is dying – SEE YA!



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Kettlebells with Change EVERYTHING

Kettlebells will change everything in fitness and strength training. So will CrossFit. Mixed Martial Arts will forever change the martial arts landscape AND the fitness world. What’s going on here?

Adam Farrah Kettlebell Clean The Bulldog

“Old” fitness is dead. So are traditional martial arts. We’re in Web 2.0 and World 2.0. Everything is changing and growing and evolving. What works is in and what benefits the user rules. In business, cold calling is out and so is interruption marketing. In fitness, it’s the same thing. Glossy magazines promising impossible results from warmed-over routines and useless supplements are struggling and blogs and forums are jumping with activity.

Just like everything else in the 2.0 World, martial arts and fitness are changing and evolving to meet the needs of the user and be more real. The playing field is leveling. Why? Because things are changing too fast for anyone to be “established” for very long. If you have 20 years of experience doing anything now you’re a dinosaur. The playing field levels all the time. Daily. This creates an accessibility for new people coming into things that never really existed before. Things are evolving faster than a traditional power structure can be built around them. This is great stuff! And it’s why a 20 year old with a Mac can run a business out of a Starbuck’s better than GM can run itself anymore.

As the power has shifted away from traditional structures and toward the user and enthusiast, everything has changed. Flex magazine, Muscle and Fitness and the handful of smaller mags are no longer in charge of what we see and hear. The media can’t just broadcast what it wants. People are talking and sharing and finding out what really works and what REAL fitness is.

About 10 years ago, I worked in a Vitamin World store. This was way back at the beginning of that company when they only had two stores in Connecticut. I worked in the Westbrook store. Just about every Friday night, it would be me and the Store Manager, Russ. It was never too busy, so we stocked shelves and got ready for the weekend. Inevitably, one or two of the regulars would come in – bodybuilders – and we’d end up having an impromptu round table discussion. I learned more about training and nutrition and supplements (and steroids) those nights than I ever learned anywhere else. Why? Because real people were getting together and talking about what worked and what didn’t.

Those awesome summer nights I learned so much about the trial and error of training and body and health manipulation. And it stays with me to this day! But it was nothing I could learn from a book or a magazine. Because it was based on REAL people sharing REAL experience. Now, we can do the same thing on the web. And we do. And so does EVERYONE else.

That’s why what works spreads like a virus and what doesn’t work dies off in a few mouse clicks. And THIS is why Kettlebells, CrossFit and MMA are thriving. But how will they change everything? By actually working. By raising the bar. By setting expectations that the old stuff can never compete with.

I was a diehard devotee to bodybuilding and training. I loved it and I still do. But the old “weights and cardio” approach wasn’t really delivering the goods for me anymore. And, frankly, it was boring me to tears. I was getting really stale. Monday is Leg Day. Wednesday is Chest. Friday is… YUCK!

On top of that, I was training in traditional martial arts. I had weights, cardio, martial arts techniques, kata, sparring and stretching. Pretty much impossible to keep up with.

Now I do something different every day. 20 Rep Deadlifts. Long timed sets of Kettlebell Snatches. Kettlebell Get Ups. Rounds of Jiu-Jitsu with my training partners. Tire flips. CrossFIt workouts. Running. Muay Thai. As Coach Glassman says, “specialize in not specializing.” And my body fat is dropping, my testosterone is rising and I FEEL great!

On top of that, I train nearly EVERY DAY! I was never able to do that before!

Now, “success” isn’t determined by how big your muscles are or how many hours you log in the gym every week or how well you perform a choreographed set of movements. Now, fitness is about something REAL. Real strength. Real endurance. Real skill. And the REAL ability to beat a live opponent senseless.

I extrapolate REAL fitness to mean health as well. The old bodybuilding adage of “at least I’ll die huge” stopped working for me in my mid 20s. Now I want to ensure I can train well into my 40s and 50s and beyond. Being in great shape once in my 20s and being a wrecked pile of injuries and illness in my 30s isn’t what I want for myself. I want true, untouchable, real and robust health.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no fitness without health first. People who are “fit” and pound caffeine or live on Zone bars and “meal replacement” shakes aren’t healthy. Or they won’t be healthy for long. You just cannot sustain true health on processed foods and chemicals.

But, we’re learning this too. More and more I run into brave and intelligent people who have figured out how to eat in a way that works for their bodies and their individual – and universal – biology. The information is out there and more and more people are finding it.

To me, Kettlebells, CrossFit and MMA are indicators of the larger trend in our ever flattening world. The user is King and what works rules…



Originally posted on my site: []

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CrossFit and Benchmarking Fitness

Today turned out to be a landmark day for me in my pursuit of world class fitness. I took my best friend, Kate, to CrossFit USA in Berlin, CT for her first CrossFit workout.

I was planning to do the WOD (which was a bit intimidating) but Merle had another idea. In his infinite wisdom Merle suggested that I do the “first time” workout along with Kate both to lend her some support and to see how my fitness had come along in the month or so that I’ve been training with at CrossFit USA.

Now, this is the same workout I blogged about in my post CrossFIt will change EVERYTHING. The workout that had me laying on the floor in Merle’s bathroom for 30 minutes feeling like an adolescent who drank too much at a party.

Me After Crossfit

Up to now, I had no idea where my fitness stood other than I’ve been LOOKING a lot leaner and more muscular. While Kate was doing her warmup I went out and did the first part of the WOD Merle had posted for my warmup – Run 1 Mile wearing the 20lb weight vest.

I got back from my run and we got into it. Once again, the workout is deceptively simple:

Row 500 meters
40 Wall Squats
30 Sit Ups
20 Push Ups
10 Pull Ups

I got through this workout in 6:33 minutes. That’s less than half the time I did it in last time – and I did full kipping pull ups instead of the jumping pull ups I did last time.

So, lets summarize:

I added a 1 mile run WITH a weight vest and did full kipping pull ups and STILL got this WOD done in less than half the time it took to do it a month ago. AND I was completely fine after the WOD. In fact, I could have probably done a few more rounds!

Now that’s progress!



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Beaten with my own Kettlebells at CrossFit USA

Merle must have been feeling particularly sadistic today. Or, maybe he was just trying to offset the three-day weekend with an extra hard workout. Either way, Merle was administering some beatings!

I got in and walked over to the whiteboard to read the WOD. Before I could, I heard a voice from behind me say: “You should have stayed home, Adam!” I turned around to see Scott dripping with sweat and breathing hard. I looked back at the WOD. It was a Filthy Fifty Friday WOD. Merle had about 10 exercises on there for 50 reps each!

At first I didn’t see the ubiquitous 1 mile run on the board. Then I saw it off in the corner. I was happy because I like the run, but then I realized how much work was on tap for the day…

I was about to get started when Merle told me he had “something special” for me and to forget the WOD on the board. Scott had just finished his workout and he looked up and asked Merle: “What are you having him do?” Merle just laughed and said: “Grab some popcorn and watch. This is going to be fun..” “Great.” I thought…

What followed was essentially a full-body beatdown with a rower, kettlebells and whatever else Merle could think of.

Here’s the workout:

Run 1 mile
Row 500 meters
Walking lunge with TWO 25lb kettlebells – these started overhead, but quickly moved into the rack position
Back on the rower for 500 meters
Bench Press with 165lbs to failure
Run 1/4 mile
Back on the rower for 500 meters
10 Suitcase Deadlifts with TWO 80lb kettlebells
10 pull ups
Back to the Rower for 500 meters
50 pushups
10 suitcase deadlifts
Run 1 mile

I’m still not sure if I was better off with that workout or the Filthy Fifty…

I’m finding that I’m getting more and more used to the CrossFit workouts. They’re still brutal and I STILL have a slight sense of dread when it’s time to go to CrossFit USA, but they’re getting better. It’s like I’m getting more used to pushing myself through that pain barrier.

I’m also FEELING a lot better. I’m very certainly experiencing an increase in testosterone and my mood is more positive and optimistic. AND people are noticing that I look bigger and leaner already. That’s with only about 3 weeks in hitting it hard with CrossFit!

Killer workout, Merle! Thanks!

Here are some pics:

CloseUp Kettlebell Lunge Walk

Overhead Kettlebell Lunge

Suitcase Deadlifts Bottom Position

Suitcase Deadlifts

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Getting done by Merle and Jackie

I had another outstanding workout at CrossFit USA in Berlin, CT. I can’t say too many good things about Merle McKenzie or his box (that’s CrossFit slang for a gym – get your mind out of the gutter!)

Rowing at CrossFit USA

Pull Ups at CrossFit USA

It was an absolutely beautiful day outside. I walked in and checked out the WOD.

  • Run 1 Mile
  • Bench Press 3X3


  • Row 1000 meters
  • 50 Thrusters with 45lbs
  • 10 Pullups

My normal run is just over a mile, so this wasn’t too bad. But I never time my runs and I don’t usually push the pace on them. Merle started the timer and I took off on the route he told me to take.

As soon as I started running I thought to myself: “how many other gyms send you OUTSIDE on a beautiful day to run at the beginning of your workout?” No others that I’ve been too…  This is part of the magic if CrossFit and the way Merle runs his gym. Just ONE of the reasons CrossFit will rule the fitness world.

The run was doubly cool because the route took me by the Powerhouse Gym down the road. I’m sure that was a complete coincidence, right Merle? 😉 As I ran by Powerhouse I was thinking how happy I was to be doing what I was doing and not pumping away in a place like that on a boring, too-long routine making no progress. But more on that later…

I did the run in about 8.5 minutes. Not too bad. Once I got back, the real work started. (BTW, my new goal for end of summer is to run that mile in under 6 minutes.)

I got my bench presses done with Merle spotting. He had me warm up with a set of 10X135. I don’t have much of a bench press at the moment, so this was heavier than I would normally go on a warm up. After that one one warm up I went right into 3 work sets of 3X165. (Yeah, I know, that’s terrible…)

I found something interesting here:

While I would insist on another couple of warm up sets next time, I was surprised to find that I did fine with just that one. The run before training probably helped here, but I was still surprised that one set of ten was enough to get ready for the low rep sets. It would be interesting to see if I was more comfortable handling more weight or reps with a better warm up or if it wouldn’t even matter. Obviously, I’ll consider all this when I plan my powerlifting workouts and be sure to keep the warm up sets down to a reasonable number.

Once I finished the bench presses it was on to Jackie. That’s Jackie the workout not Jackie my favorite That 70’s Show character.

Jackie CrossFit Workout

Jackie is simple but brutal:

  • Row 1000 meters
  • 50 Thrusters with an empty Olympic bar
  • 10 pull ups

This was an absolutely miserable workout for me. I knew I was in trouble when I finished the rows and was struggling to walk over to the squat rack for the thrusters.  I got though the thrusters only with Merle’s incessant “encouragement.” At some point toward the middle of the set Merle swapped in some Van Halen on the sound system and cranked it up. That helped. I was barely aware of what was going on in the gym – all I really picked up on was the energy change when he did that.

Somewhere along the line Jenelle, CrossFit USA’s crack new intern, started shouting encouragement to me as well. It helped…

Exhausted at CrossFit USA

I got through Jackie and felt surprisingly good. I was wrecked, but I felt good. I was hanging out with Merle after and I could actually feel the “health” welling up inside me. I use “health” for lack of a better word. I was obviously experiencing a surge of “feel good” chemicals. One of my fascinations with CrossFit is that it produces this hormonal cascade and I’m curious to find out what the long-term effects of having a release of these hormones several times a week are. If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m becoming obsessed with the long-term health and hormonal effects of CrossFit workouts.

All in all, it was another great workout at CrossFit USA. Thanks Merle! Can’t wait to see what’s on tap for tomorrow!



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CrossFit will Change EVERYTHING

I’ve been friends with Merle McKenzie from Crossfit USA in Berlin, CT since December of 2009. I have a lot of respect for Merle and the conversations we’ve had have opened my eyes about Crossfit and the limitations of other types of training. It had been on my mind to get in with Merle and do some REAL Crossfit training with his expert guidance for a while.

Yesterday I went to his box and had him put me through a workout. All I can say is: WOW! Crossfit is the real deal!

I’ve been reading a lot about Crossfit on and I’ve come to really understand and respect the philosophy and methods. Now that I’ve trained Crossfit with high level coach I realize a lot of what’s been missing from my own training and most training methods in general.

Crossfit is absolutely INTENSE! The fatigue and aftershock I experienced from the workout I did is like nothing I’ve EVER experienced. Nothing. Not sparring for an hour with little rest, not rolling in BJJ class, not 20 rep squats, not 20 rep deadlifts, not even my IKFF Kettlebell Cert with 10 and 20 minute timed sets (as intense as that was) was as completely debilitating as this workout.

And, on paper, the workout wasn’t even that much! Here’s what I did:

  • 500 meters on the rower
  • 40 air squats
  • 30 situps
  • 20 pushups
  • 10 pullups

When Merle told me that’s what I was going to do, I thought to myself: “Is that going to be enough?” It was enough! LOL

I did the workout itself in less than 10 minutes – and spent over 20 minutes either hovering around the bathroom or in the bathroom “hanging out” (laying on the floor). I have never, ever felt that terrible from exercise in my life! I was absolutely debilitated!

pukie after crossfit workout

So, here’s what I learned from my first “Merle Brand” CrossFit workout:

The intensity I’ve been training at hasn’t been as high as I thought – nor ANYWHERE NEAR what I’m actually capable of. I don’t intend to feel as terrible as I did yesterday after any workout on a regular basis (not even CrossFit) but I now have an understanding of what an insane level of intensity feels (and looks) like. In Super Squats, Randall Strossen talks quite a bit about the intensity necessary to trigger a massive testosterone increase and the level of effort you need to put into your 20 rep squat set. I suspect it’s something like I got yesterday with Crossfit. It also makes me think of the 30 and 40 rep squat sets that Dr. Ken Leistner has mentioned. I expect that squatting 300-400lbs for 20-40 reps without racking the bar until the end would be as debilitating. What I’m not sure of is whether or not the average person can generate the intensity I got from CrossFit doing squats. What I did learn. though, is what that intensity FEELS like. Now I know it exists and I can seek it out.

There MUST be truth to the hormonal cascade that is supposed to be produced by CrossFit (and other super high intensity training). Like I said, I was absolutely HOSED UP after that workout. The only thing I can think of that comes close to describing the feeling I had is it’s like when you’ve had WAY too much to drink and all you can do is lay on the floor wait to feel better and/or vomit. It was that bad or worse. My thinking is there is no way to can cut into your body’s homestasis THAT hard and not experience a dramatic hormonal response.

One dimensional training is not enough! I am NOT out of shape. I’d admit that I’m not in my best shape ever, but I am by no means out of shape. The point is powerlifting, kettlebells, running, sparring, jiu jitsu and teaching kettlebell classes did not prepare me for even the most tame and basic CrossFit workout. Point made, Merle. Sign me up.

So, there are some of my thoughts on CrossFit. My experience yesterday makes me happy I decided to get a CrossFit Level I Cert in August and thrilled there is a great CrossFit gym right down the road from me!



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