On Superman, CrossFit, and the Dreaded Fitness Plateau

Decisions. They’re the spice of life. As humans, we get to make a bunch of them every day.

Everything from the clothes we put on in the morning, whether or not we say hi to that stranger on the street, and what we eat for dinner. Many of the decisions we make are seemingly trivial. Some could even have an impact on our day (hopefully, for the better :-).

This post is about some of the more important decisions we make as humans; an ever-changing set of choices that governs our lives. This post is about priorities.

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16.3: Welcome to the Muscle Up Club

Each year, there is usually one workout that makes or breaks an athlete’s Open season. 16.3 was that workout.

Every year in the CrossFit Open, Dave Castro likes to weed out the great athletes, only leaving room for the exceptional. He’ll program a workout that contains an advanced skill, a heavy weight or some ridiculous combination of the two, such that only the elite will prevail.

With the 2nd new movement this year in the CrossFit Open, the bar muscle-up was this year’s separator.

For the everyday athlete in gyms all over the world, however, it was more of a motivator—just what people needed to get their first bar muscle-up… or die trying.

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Retesting Workouts in the CrossFit Open

I find the “retest” to be an interesting, yet common, phenomenon. Let’s explore the philosophy behind it.

Before CrossFit, I was an avid runner—10ks, marathons, ultras, and even a few triathlons. Upon finishing almost every race, the inevitable question is, “What’s next?”

“Are you going to do another one?” “Have you signed up for XYZ yet?”

Retesting Open workouts happens in much the same way.

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CrossFit Addict’s Journey to 16.1… And Beyond

So much to talk about, I’m not sure where to start.

This year marks my third consecutive CrossFit Open since starting at CrossFit Addict back in December 2013.

In 2014,

I had no idea what to expect. It was all new to me, but it became quite apparent that something special was happening during those 5 weeks. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

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Pick a Rabbit, Push a Rabbit

That’s Matt. He’s often my rabbit. I’d like to think we make each other better.

In case you’re not familiar with the term “rabbit” as it applies to competitive sport, let’s get that out of the way now.

The term “rabbit” is used to describe an athlete who is better than you, but only by a small margin. By chasing this rabbit, you push your limits and continue to get better.

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Moonlight Yoga on the Beach

I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not a beach guy. At all.

I don’t like the sand, the non-stop sun that you can never get away from, carrying chairs/coolers/etc. back and forth every day, the mysterious sea creatures…

And while a pescatarian might have a field day down here, being vegan is quite the task.

I come down to the beach for a few reasons, none of which have anything to do with the beach.

  1. To spend time with friends and (basically) family
  2. To get away from my routine back at home

True, I’d much rather escape to the mountains, but tonight, the beach had a lot to offer.

Moonlight Yoga

I’ve done yoga before. Fairly regularly. And continue to practice it informally.

Long walks on the beach? Who hasn’t?

Moonlight star-gazing? Of course.

But yoga… on the beach… under the moonlight? This was a first.

Give it a shot

I think everyone should try it. Even if you only know 2 yoga poses. Even if for only 10 minutes. It’s 100% worth it.

  • Bring a towel. You’ll still get sand on you, but it’s much more comfortable to perform on a towel.
  • Music (optional). The wind & the waves might be all you need to put your mind at ease, but I liked having some meditation background music.
  • Tune everything out. You’ll likely hear some kids playing, fishermen talking or passersby chatting. Ignore them. Let the rhythmic flow of the waves take over.

Wind & water. Arguably the two things we need most in this world to survive. Lucky for us, they do more than just keep us alive. They make us feel alive.

  • Take your time. Have no schedule. Let your mind wander. Come in when you’re ready, and not a second sooner.
  • Stare at the stars. At the end, lay on your back & look up at the stars. Don’t think. Just look. And breathe. That’s it.

Sometimes when you do nothing, you feel everything.

So, have you tried moonlight yoga on the beach? Please drop me a line to share your experience, or any tips you have for us rookies.


Vegan Protein Recovery Shake

I’ve had a few people ask me what I put into the recovery shake that I take post-workout. Especially since I’m vegan, the whole “where do you get your protein?” question is brought up frequently. And when talking about a protein recovery shake… it’s kind of an important question to answer.

I’ve got another article in the works on the various foods I eat, and how much protein they contain. While that’s cooking in the oven, let me give you the quick’n’dirty rundown on how I do post-workout recovery, and stay tied to my vegan roots.

I’ll start by briefly discussing the protein powders I use, and then top it off with how I get it to the point where one could drink it… and actually enjoy it.

Vegan Protein Powders

There are tons of them out there, so how do you choose which one is best? Well, that’s a loaded question. It depends on a few things:

  • why you are taking a protein supplement (benefit you are trying to achieve)
  • food allergies you might have
  • how much money you are willing to pay

Plant-based Protein Sources Include:

  • soy
  • rice
  • hemp
  • pea
  • chia
  • mushroom
  • pumpkin seed
  • …and many others. There are too many to list them all, but these are the most common.

For each type of plant-based protein powder, you will usually find:

  • a single-ingredient powder, with only the protein from that plant
  • a mixture of several plant-based proteins combined together
  • additional supplements added to the protein, like probiotics, vitamins, minerals, sweeteners, etc.

General Rule of Thumb

In my opinion, fewer ingredients is usually better. This applies to every food you eat, not just protein powder. It’s the best way to control exactly what’s going into your body. And at least half of the time, if not more often, you don’t need all the extras that are being added. If you’re already eating a well-balanced diet, you’re probably getting enough of them already.

A Note About Soy

Over the past few years, soy has become quite controversial for its potential side effects. Some people believe that consuming soy can throw your hormone levels off balance, particularly the hormone estrogen. There are studies on both sides (for & against this claim), so we won’t debate that here, but because there are so many other plant-based proteins readily available, I choose not to use soy protein powders.

My Preferred Plant-based Protein Powders

Brown Rice Protein Powder

Brown Rice Protein PowderWhen first searching for an alternative to whey & soy protein, I stumbled upon brown rice. The big appeal for this type of protein powder is that it’s easily absorbed and super-gentle on the stomach. Very few people have issues with digestion, and thus it’s known for being easy on the stomach.

I also like it because, unlike whey & several others, it contains a fair amount of carbohydrates in addition to protein. For any post-workout recovery shake, I think it’s important to ingest some carbohydrates alongside protein. Just like you need to help your muscles repair themselves with protein, you also need to help your body recover some of the energy it expended (which, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source).

Pea Protein Powder

Pea Protein PowderPea protein is fairly inexpensive, and it has a high protein-to-powder ratio. Where a similar-sized scoop of brown rice protein would yield 14g, pea protein yields 24g. It also contains a very smooth texture, and mixes well with other ingredients. I’ll dive into more details about the pros and cons in another article, but I recommend you give this one a try.

Proprietary Protein Blend

Proprietary Protein Powder BlendI most-often use a mixture of brown rice & pea protein, but I also buy a proprietary blend from a local market here in Richmond (Ellwood Thompson’s). This blend consists of:

  • rice, hemp, chia & mushroom protein powders
  • a probiotic blend with 4 different active cultures
  • an enzyme utilization blend with 5 different enzymes
  • Stevia
  • natural flavors

I like…

…the 4 different protein sources. I’m a big fan of variety, and think each one has something unique to help the body recover.

I’m indifferent about…

…the probiotic blend. I know some people swear by probiotics, but I’m not a huge believer. When dried out, grind up into a powder, packaged, shipped from here-to-there, and sitting on a shelf for X days… I’m not sure how anything is still “live” and “active.” But I also think they can’t hurt you at all, and maybe they do provide some benefit.

I’m unsure about…

…the enzyme utilization blend. My guess would be that these enzymes are supposed to help your body absorb the protein. However, to be honest, that’s just a hunch, and I really don’t know what this does.

I don’t like…

…the Stevia extract & “natural” flavors.

I suppose Stevia is likely not going to hurt anyone, but I’d much rather choose my own sweetener, if I’m going to choose one at all.

The natural flavors really strikes a nerve, though. If you don’t know by now, the word “natural” is so loosely regulated by the FDA that it’s almost a joke. Companies can say their products are “natural,” yet they can still contain GMOs. Not to mention we have no idea what a “natural flavor” actually is. But there is one thing we know for sure: it doesn’t naturally occur in nature. Not on this planet.

Time to Shake It Up!

So… what do I put into my post-workout recovery shake?

For protein…

I’ll do one of two things.

  • Create a 50/50 blend of brown rice protein & pea protein
  • Use the proprietary blend of rice, hemp, chia & mushroom

For the 50/50 blend: If each serving size of your protein powder recommends you add it to 8oz of liquid AND you are making an 8oz protein shake, you would use half-a-serving of each. Adjust accordingly so you’re using the proper ratio of liquid to powder.

For flavor…

I add 1 to 1.5 tbsp of baking cocoa per 8oz of liquid. You chocolate lovers out there might want to go heavy on the cocoa. Play around until you get the desired flavor.

For sweetness…

I add a splash of agave nectar. There are tons of sweeteners out on the market today, but I use agave because it’s relatively inexpensive, and it is one simple ingredient that was extracted from a plant. Plain & simple. No questions about its origin. No research/studies about potential negative side effects (that I’m aware of).

Agave nectar does have a lot of sugar (30+ grams per 2 tbsp) so only use a splash.

* Or just don’t use a sweetener at all. The choice is up to you. I don’t think 10-15g of natural sugar from the agave plant, taken post-workout, is really going to hurt you.

** If using a proprietary blend that contains Stevia, or another sweetener, than obviously you would leave this out.

For an anti-inflammatory effect…

…and just for bonus style points, you could add a splash of cinnamon.

Cinnamon is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent. When you workout, a lot of things inside your body swell up. That’s natural, and in most cases (aside from injury), it’s a good thing. But after an especially grueling workout where you probably pushed your body beyond where it wanted to go, cinnamon could help reduce some of the unnecessary swelling.


I hope to elaborate more on this in the future, as I continue to learn more about plant-based proteins, their benefits, and how it all plays into muscle recovery. Until then…

What do you put in your vegan protein recovery shake?