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8 Feb 2011

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My yoga experience + tips for beginners

18 Oct 2010

I began Yoga in January of this year.  I initially used p90x since I had no idea where to begin.  I had been lifting weights and exercising very consistently for 4 years with the typical 5 min post-workout stretch you see many people attempting and an occasional weekly 20 or 30 minute stretching session.  Mostly I ended up just swinging my arms, leaning against a pole to stretch my chest, and doing a bouncy version of a hamstring stretch.  At the time I considered myself very fit, that is, until I gave yoga a shot.  I started with a close female friend of mine who loves yoga and recommended I try it.

The movements of yoga were foreign to me and the thought of calmness of mind did not register entirely.  I entered my first downward dog and instantly feared my muscle’s well-being.  Never had I felt the entire body stretch that resulted in my history of exercise.  The idea that I was supposed to show no pain or discomfort seemed impossible.  My female friend, who was much weaker than I, progressed through the movements with ease and confidence.  Needless to say, I only managed to complete the first 30 or 45 minutes the first two times I attempted it.

A few weeks later I found myself alone for a few hours so I turned out all the lights and fired up my old computer to give yoga one more try and make it all the way through.  This time I listened to the video instructor and entered the session with an open mind.  I managed to make it through the entire yoga session.  My reaction: phenomenal.  Since then I have been doing yoga as often as possible, typically about 2 times a week.  After following the video for a few months I ended up creating and doing my own version.

My purpose in writing this is to encourage you to incorporate yoga and stretching into your exercise schedules and also provide beginners with useful tips to focus on while doing yoga.  Since yoga, I have become a more centered and relaxed individual.  It has helped me deal with the stress of the fast paced 21st century lifestyle while providing much needed muscle stimulation and mental downtime.  The thought process it has evoked has translated into better performance in both sports and weightlifting.

  • Calm within the storm.  Although you may be uncomfortable, your face and mind remain calm.
  • You WILL be uncomfortable.
  • Know that the discomfort is ok.
  • Rather than resting the weight of your body on your pinky and outer palm, support yourself with locked triceps and channel the weight to your thumb and index fingers.
  • You are not the only one that is uncomfortable.
  • Do not hurry, if you feel you must then simply stretch.  The benefit is far less if your mind is occupied with reason why you must hurry.
  • It is ok to be a beginner; everyone was at some point in time.  Invest in a yoga DVD or book aimed at beginners.
  • Do not skip parts.  Yoga is best performed in a sequence and all portions must be completed to maximize the benefits.
  • Know the difference between pain and discomfort.  Yoga will test your strength and flexibility, but do not proceed if a pose is painful.
  • Control you breathing!  Rapid breathing creates a small sense of panic and will lead you to doubt yourself.
  • Guys, drop the ego.  I know many of us males think yoga is for women.  Give it a try though, it can’t hurt, and the reward is great.
  • Enter yoga with an open mind.  If you are going to try it, why not make the most of your time?

Author: Tyler

My Paleo Experiment, Part 4 of 4

17 Jul 2010

-by Elizabeth

As week four comes to an end, I am reaching the successful finish of my paleolithic experiment!

In the past four weeks, I have eaten fish and steak for breakfast, eaten a watermelon at a party instead of cupcakes, baked paleo key lime pie and paleo banana bread (mmm), spit out almond butter when I read “Organic cane syrup” in the ingredients, eaten homemade, dairy-free and sugar-free ice cream (coconut milk based), eaten eggs from my own chickens, eaten berries right out of the yard, and even picked and eaten a wild-growing mushroom (only a baby one, just in case. Paleo people also died at 30 for sudden reasons such as poisoning!).

Even though I never got around to trying bone marrow, pemmican, or an animal I killed with my bare hands, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job living like a cavewoman, at least in the modern world where my cave is air-conditioned.

Here’s what I conclude about the paleolithic diet. I think that ideally, this is a very pure way to go that can be very beneficial. I think it’s right on the money limiting artificial foods, added sugars, and grains.

If I were writing a book, then I would have just ruined any chance of sells by giving the ending away on the first page. Oh well…I know that some of you just want the bottom line and some of you might actually be interested in my quest to live like Grok. So for the latter, here’s all the juicy details:

  • The Good:

In these last two weeks, my workouts have been strong, my energy levels are steady, and my digestive system is running like a well-oiled machine. Examining before and after pictures, I realize that I’ve leaned up a lot more than I noticed. I feel great.

My dad, the patriarch of clanfit, and I have been doing P90X for these last two weeks of my paleo month. I unfortunately have not been able to create many caveman, outdoor workouts, so P90X has served as a great modern replacement.

It’s not always possible on a modern schedule to find a chance to workout, but since nutrition is such a big part of health (see Scott’s blog “Tailored to fit(ness), the 3 S’s”), the feeling of “Pre-workout Depression” as I call it can be avoided fairly well if you’re eating the right foods. This was my saving grace at times, and I rarely ever felt like I had to workout to counterbalance the guilt of any food decisions. I worked out because I felt good and exercising made me feel even better!

Simply put, all of the food choices on the paleolithic diet are good ones. All that you have to worry about is the intake amount of those choices. (Here is where I would insert a cheesy, clichéic line about how simple it is that a caveman could do it…)

  • The Bad:

How is it on sustainability? A big thumbs down. Honestly, to be 100% paleolithic is pretty darn hard in the modern day world. It’s expensive (local Bison is $16 dollars a pound), and it’s very limiting. There are very, very, very few restaurants where one can eat purely paleolithic (though to compensate for that, many paleo people are in a paleolithic club, which means when traveling, local paleolithic families will provide them with a meal), and the diet forces you to give up a large portion of the foods you use to eat, most of it being very popular in modern day society.

  • Final Conclusion (drum roll please…) and What Happens Next:

All in all, I think this is the ideal diet that we all should shoot for, and I believe the claim that the Paleolithic diet can be the cure for diabetes (see “My Paleolithic Experiment, Part 1 of 4”).

For those people who enjoy being 100% strict paleolithic all of the time, I salute you. I’m proud of you, I admire you, but I can’t be you, at least not all the time. It can be pretty constraining, and unless you’re in a community of others like yourself (having a buddy go paleolithic with me made it much easier), it can be no fun.

So where to now? After a few rebellious days and then a month of a French-style diet in Europe, I’m going to return to being “80% Paleo,” meaning no artificial foods or additives or anything I wrote about in “The Thorns in Nature’s Side,” and grains will only be eaten in certain social situations or as a rare treat, not as an everyday diet staple. I still haven’t become a full follower of giving up legumes and dairy, though I’m not completely against it. This is a gray area for me that I’m still in the process of investigating.

Final conclusion: I am a believer in the benefits that can come out of this diet, and I think this is an experiment that everyone should try.

My Paleo Experiment, Part 3 of 4

1 Jul 2010


5 Steps of Grief, Paleo style.

by Elizabeth

Cave life is no walk in the park.

Two weeks down in primal living, and I’m definitely not feeling at the top of my game. Now granted, I’ve not been a very good cavewoman so far – instead of running and jumping and playing outside all summer, I’ve been working full time and driving a lot (not a healthy paleo past-time).

As I suspected, the first two weeks of my gastronomic lifestyle change bring more inconveniences than payoffs, and my taste buds miss the old me. In their honor, I present my challenges as the five stages of grief, paleo style.

The five stages of grief:

1. Shock and Denial

My body experienced the shock, and me, the denial.

For the first two days of adjusting to much higher fiber levels, my stomach was so bloated it resembled a second trimester pregnancy, my “fiber baby” as I like to call it. (But a fiber baby is much better than a sugar/sodium bloated belly!)

My workouts are weaker–much weaker–partly because of less carbs but also because of my work schedule preventing me from working out much more than 3 times a week. So far, my body doesn’t appear any fitter than before. It’s still adjusting.

2-Anger-wanting to fight back or get even

The problem with fighting back is you have to have someone to fight, and this whole paleolithic experiment is self-inflicted. It’s not Grok’s fault that modern life has made me soft, so my only way of getting even in this stage of grief is by “trash talking” Grok and his funny diet a little bit.

The thing about being paleolithic is that it is very cost prohibitive and also inconvenient. Not only is it nearly impossible to eat out, but you must be very active in planning and preparing meals. As I’ve expressed, I’m all for mindful, conscious eating, but being paleolithic demands that you are constantly on your game and ready with recipes. One busy day of distractions can lead you straying off course. I suppose though, to be fair to poor Grok, that straying can be the case with any lifestyle, and at least with the paleo one you can’t stray much farther than an excessive amount of almonds and peaches.

At least initially while I’m getting used to it, I’ve noticed that leading a hunter-gatherer life can sometimes leave me, well, hunting and gathering. I’m looking for something to satisfy my cravings and appetite when my snack fare won’t cut it. I believe that, done right, paleo fare can be extremely filling. What isn’t completely satiating about a big, juicy steak? The only problem is that it requires a lot of money and effort to have a big, juicy (not to mention organic and local, which I’m all behind) steak a minimum of once a day. That just isn’t feasible for most modern day human beings.


Almond butter has become my guilty pleasure. The endearing thing about processed foods is that they are quick and an easily accessible dose of addictive sweetness. Although taste buds certainly adjust, it’s a bit harder to get that quick, immediate “yum” factor out of vegetables and meat without preparation. That’s where almond butter (raw, of course) comes in. Its sweetness has replaced all of my cravings for ice cream, bread, cereal, chocolate, etc. For a guilty pleasure, it’s a great choice for its low levels of saturated fats and high levels of ALA omega 3’s. Ideally, though, I should only have one serving of nuts a day (high in calories), but I haven’t quite gotten the gist of preparing primal food on a busy, nonstop modern schedule. Thus, for these first two weeks I’ve had a lot of “snack foods” (fruits, nuts, paleo-approved bars such as the tasty Larabars).

Oh, but there has been much more bargaining than just dessert compromises. I have literally stood staring at the ingredients of some of my favorite foods that are soo close to being okay (sun-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, dark chocolate, turkey sausage, and of course, almond butter) and gone tête-à-tête with my shoulder angels. “But there’s less than 2% sulfur dioxide…surely my body won’t know the difference! But the cane sugar is organic. It’s natural right?” Etcetera etcetera…and etcetera.

4. Depression-frustration and self-pity.

I’m working at a restaurant where I’m surrounded by the aroma of authentic homemade Italian food. As I present the hot, savory pizzas to the customers and watch the looks of pleasure that cross their faces with just one bite, I’m practically salivating. Once I get back home late, I consider skipping dinner and going to bed instead of cooking a meal. Eventually I decide that I need to eat (12 hours without eating lowers metabolic function by 50%), but instead of meticulously preparing a nice hunk of game meat like I probably should, I settle for some almond butter.

One night, exhausted from a busy shift, I sat down with a spoon and a jar of the night’s choice comfort food: organic unsweetened applesauce. At that moment a member of the Sherrill family entered the kitchen for a snack and pulled out my favorite organic dark chocolate with almonds…suddenly my comfort food wasn’t so comforting.


Well…I haven’t quite gotten here yet! However, I’m saying all of these negative things about the diet now when I’m on my long haul into the dark tunnel of being paleo. Right now I’m not happy about all that I have to give up, and I don’t feel significantly different yet to feel like this is worth it…but that’s how everyone is at the beginning, I’m sure. In a couple weeks I may be the strongest advocate of this diet out of anyone! I won’t make any definite conclusions until my mission is complete.

My Paleo Experiment, Part 2 of 4

1 Jul 2010


Something to Chew On…no Pun Intended

-by Elizabeth

Okay maybe a little pun intended

  • What do I think of the diet and its philosophy?

I love the idea behind the primal blueprint of connecting more to the earth and our ancestors and eating 100% natural as our body was intended to eat. I think this philosophy fits well with the idea of living in a sustainable way that is in harmony with the earth and its bounty.

However, I do have a problem with the reasoning behind certain food choices. I definitely understand and support the idea of cutting out enriched and refined grains and sugars. Those substances lose touch with nature and become processed, nutrition-lacking calorie bombs. However, there is much more that is limited than this.

Legumes, for example, are not allowed because they are toxic in raw form. Yes, our paleolithic ancestors may not have cooked them, but nowadays the foods that are allowed to be eaten raw are allowed to be cooked because our lifestyles and palates have adapted to that. Have they not also, then, adapted to cooking poisonous raw food and making it edible?

Same type thing with dairy. Our adult ancestors could not drink milk because there were no domesticated cows around (try milking a buffalo…), and therefore lactose wasn’t readily available. At one time, nearly all adults were lactose intolerant. However, over the years many of us have evolved to be lactose tolerant. Why? Because it was advantageous to be. It seems that it could be argued that natural selection was in favor of humans developing an acceptance of milk.

However, I understand that there is more involved in the philosophy beyond what was available. Glycemic index and the amount of nutrients versus antinutrients can also serve as good arguments against such things as legumes and milk. True, legumes are high in carbs. Yes, milk is naturally very sugary and is not the single best source of calcium as the milk ads have marketed, etc. Still, there are a few redeeming qualities to find in these foods, and this is one part of the philosophy that I feel may be too strict for my liking.

These exemplify the struggle I’m having with the paleolithic philosophy. Just because something was not available then, does that really necessarily make it bad? Shouldn’t the specifics on how food affects our bodies be more important than looking at whether this was available in the past? Going by that notion, vitamins, medicine, protein supplements, and the cure to the common cold were also not available. Something to consider!

My Paleo Experiment, Part 1 of 4

19 Jun 2010

by Elizabeth

Summer time is here, which means that I am now free from the overly salted, sugared, oiled, and processed foods of my university’s cafeteria, woo! As a way to stretch my dietary freedom, I have decided to team up with a friend and tackle following the paleolithic diet as strictly as possible for 4 weeks.

What is the paleolithic diet?

  • The main philosophy behind the paleolithic diet is eating how our ancestors did before the rise of the agricultural revolution. This means no grains, no dairy, no potatoes, no legumes, no added sugar except honey, no added salts, and especially no preservatives.
  • I chose what my stance would be on a few “hot topic” foods in the paleo world where no unanimous opinion reigns. I decided that I will allow myself to cook with balsamic vinegar, wine, and coarse sea salt (the least refined), and if on occasion something I eat has traces of corn (actual corn, not corn syrups or products), cashews, or canola oil, I won’t feel too badly about it. I am permitting sea salt because, as I am living at home this summer, this serves as a good compromise for being able to eat paleo without being too terribly high maintenance for anyone cooking dinner. Beyond these conditions, though, I am trying to follow this diet as closely as is possible in the modern world.

Why have I chosen to do this?

  • The paleolithic diet is successfully making a legitimate name for itself (Robert H. Lustig, MD, of UCSF says that the paleolithic diet would cure type II diabetes…in about a week!), and my family and I have been advocates behind the diet’s principles ever since reading Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint. We have been “80% followers” for a while now, limiting our sugars, preservatives, and grains, but can we really stand behind this diet so fully without having fully followed it ourselves?
  • There’s always vanity. I want to see how effectively this diet leans me down for bikini season. However, one disclaimer I make when people compare my diet choice to the likes of the Atkins diet and South Beach is that this is not a weight loss diet. This is a healthy lifestyle change. Losing weight is not the goal.
  • For the month of July I will be studying abroad in France, and I think it will be interesting to see how my body responds to being fully paleo then fully embracing the world of croissants and pastries.

What are my expectations?

  • To feel fitter, to work out harder, to run faster, to have a more constant energy level (no sugar spikes), and to feel and look leaner.
  • To feel awful for the first two weeks. In the book the Paleo Diet for Athletes, successful athletic trainer and coach Joe Friel switched to the paleo diet from a high-carb diet, and said that for the first two weeks, his runs were weak and he felt miserable. His body was craving the fast acting carbs it ran on before. Not until week 3 did his body adjust to the lack of sugar and begin performing better than before.
  • To improve my health gradually, not drastically. Even if my workouts improve, I won’t be able to lift cars or wash clothes on my abs. I already eat fairly healthy, and I’m only fully immersing myself into this lifestyle for a month. As with any lifestyle change, it has to be over the course of a lifetime, not a month.

"What would Grok do?"

I still have a few holdbacks with the details of the paleolithic philosophy (I’ll address those in the next blog), but for this month at least, I’m not going to question too much and am instead going to follow the commands given to me as best as possible so that I can tap into my inner cavewoman!

Here goes nothing!

Outside series – Outside in the zoo

18 Jun 2010

– by Scott

Yesterday’s post reminded me of something I initially struggled with upon moving to a city… the constant presence of others. Back home, when I worked out outside, I was in the woods and the only witnesses were the dogs and any squirrels they happened to tree.

However, when I go outside in the city there are people all around. That means that whatever I do will probably be watched by others.  Since I often do some strange workouts, whatever I do will always be watched by others.

This was initially disconcerting to me, and I felt very cognizant of others’ eyes on me. I felt like I was on display in a zoo… and I often hesitated to workout because of it.

After a while, however, I got used to it. It didn’t happen overnight, but perhaps my experiences can help you overcome the ‘zoo’ feeling faster than I did.

Most people are watching because they are interested. Our goal here at ClanFit is to spread information and to get more people to “sustainably make their body a better place to live.” When people see someone having so much fun outside, they become intrigued. In fact, I’ll often have other fitness enthusiasts come up to me and ask me what I’m doing because they want to enjoy themselves as much I enjoy myself.  These chats have become routine, and I meet many people this way.

In addition, people who are not necessarily fitness enthusiasts may become converts simply because they witnessed your workout. Even (perhaps especially) if you are a beginner, people want to learn. Being fit and happy is contagious, and you are someone else’s Patient Zero.

Work out with others. Humans are naturally social creatures and social groups tend to reinforce behaviors. I used to work out by myself because I felt like I got a better workout. One day a friend came to work out with me, and I realized that I was much more confident and less concerned about others when I already had a supporting social structure. Nowadays, I work out with a few good friends and my wife. We have a great time and push one another to work harder. More importantly, we no longer notice onlookers until they come talk to us.

Just like a ‘regular’ at a bar, there are ‘regulars’ at your workout spot.  Humans are also creatures of habit. Thus, when I alternate between my two favorite workout spots, I often see the same people. This includes dog owners who know my dog by name and various pickup sports teams. Even if many of them don’t know me by name yet, they wave and say hello. They know what I’m there to do, and they have grown comfortable with that. With enough time I predict that my workout spots will become like Cheers to me, where everybody knows my name.

If you have similar tips to overcome this feeling, email me or leave a comment.