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20 Minutes to Fit

17 Jun 2010

By: Tyler Sherrill

Summer is upon us, the sun is shining, and the little free time we had/have is not going to be spent driving to the gym and lifting, a very time-consuming process.  This past week, I found myself in this situation, so I threw together a quick bodyweight workout that does not require weights. This workout doesn’t even require a pull-up bar . . .  only 20 minutes and a small, clear area.  This workout is definitely not a beginner’s workout, but no worries, neither is it incredibly advanced. Regardless, you will be surprised with the effects despite its short duration.  It is a pleasant switch from weights and will test your functional strength.  Glance over it, give it a try, or keep in your back-up arsenal for those days when time is short or you are on the road.

The workout has 6 primary exercises that are done for 30 seconds, or as long as you can.  Upon completion of one set, rest 30 seconds and prepare yourself for the next exercise on the list.  Complete the first group of 3 exercises in order for 3 sets each, for a total of 9 sets with 30 seconds rests in between each set.  When you finish the first group, rest 30 seconds then do the same with the second group.  If you are up for it, there are 2 optional bodyweight exercises at the end.  Stretch afterwards;, even if you only have a few minutes, it is worth your while.


Jumping Jacks: 1:00    (perform these rather quickly)

Group 1

1. Spiderman pushups

2. Alternating jump lunge

3. Imaginary Shoulder Press

-Repeat for a total of 3 times each

Group 2

4. Rock get-up w/ jump

5. Cliff Skaters

6. Crab with alt. leg kicks

-Repeat for a total of 3 times each

Bikes: 1:00

-Optionals: Hand stand against wall

Body weight support

Spiderman pushups- Push up with knee to elbow

Alternating jump lunge- Lunge to jump, alternate legs in the air

Imaginary Shoulder Press – Stand against the wall w/ only upper back, elbows, and hands touching.  Shoulder press to full extension (tighten and focus on shoulders and traps)

Rock get-up w/ jump- Laying down on your back, rock from your upper back to your feet then jump.  If you can get to your feet without using your hands, do so.

Cliff Skaters- From a push up position, use your hands and “walk” three times to the side then perform a push up. Then “walk” three times back the other way and perform a pushup again. Repeat.

Crab walk with kick- while in the crab walk position, alternate kicking your legs at a quick pace.


Outside series – Outside in the city

17 Jun 2010

– by Scott

I’m from the country (and I like it that way).  Getting outside in the country is admittedly easy.  Green space is pretty much everywhere (that’s the definition of “the country”) and there are less people around to use it. This leaves a lot of “outside” per person.

But I live in a large city right now and so does about 60% of the U.S. population. In the city, truly getting outside becomes more of a challenge. In the city, all the pavement and stress and tall buildings obscuring the sun often make me feel as if I never left the inside of the building. In the city, it can almost be worse for your health to exercise outside due to pollution from the cars.

City-dwellers, do not lose hope! Getting outside in urban areas is just as easy as a rural area, and allows you to flex your creative muscles as well as your physical ones. The great thing about cities is that there are a lot of public spaces. Your taxes pay to maintain them; use them! Here are some of the best ways to get outside in a city:

Get to a park, if possible

The Charles River esplanade

This is the most obvious answer, but not one that everyone has access to. Luckily, I live in the city of Boston and the planners have done well in establishing great parks. There is almost always public green space within walking distance. If I go at the right times, I can take my dog and leave her off-leash while I work out. There is even an “adult playground” on the Charles River Esplanade, where residents can freely use pull-up bars and lots of other outdoor equipment. Check if your city has something similar.

If you do exercise on the pavement, use less-traveled streets

Not only is this safer, but it helps you to avoid toxic vehicle exhaust fumes. Do you usually run along a busy route? Then consider running a crosshatch pattern around the neighborhood instead. You run the same distance, you have less chance of getting hit by a speeding car, and you might even be able to connect with some of your neighbors. Triple benefits for one route change.

Use the “gym” of concrete and steel beams

Check out this video of Blair Morrison, Crossfit Games 2010 European regional qualifier. He makes use of everything that is available, turning an otherwise unused industrial area into his own personal gym in the concrete jungle.

He does use an anchor weight of 25kg., which was a lucky find in the concrete jungle. However, you don’t have to rely on lucky finds. If you really want weight like that, make your own Bulgarian bag or sand bag bring it with you. Or even fill an old backpack with school books or tightly pack it with old clothes. You would be surprised how much those can weigh. The walk down to your concrete “city gym” will be a workout in itself if you carry things with you.

The rest of Blair’s workout was really bodyweight. Given, he does some fairly advanced stuff (especially hard on the grip) but you can make your own variations. For example, substitute crabwalks for the spider climb. It is not an exact substitute, but it will still give you a great workout.

Close to my apartment, there is an I-beam spanning two buildings. The alleyway is public space, and it is really great to do a burpee-pullup complex using that I-beam. Get creative!

Revel in your city

Some sports developed in direct response to the concrete jungle. These sports, like parkour and free running, practically require a city to be at their best. Practically every major city has a social club or two based around these types of sports.

If city-specific sports are too much for you, take advantage of the closeness of your city. Walk/bike to work, to get groceries, or to enjoy an evening out. Make the best of your environment.

Explore your city – it may have more to offer than you originally thought.

Why are we fit?

14 Jun 2010

This is the first post by Beth, The Mom here at ClanFit.

I must admit that I am a bit challenged by the notion of writing a blog or writing at all something that more than my friends and family may want to read.  But once again, I find myself trying to keep pace with my type-A family and since they say we’re writing a blog, then we are and I am.

My challenge is to try to encapsulate 27 years of child-rearing into a few paragraphs, or a few posts, as the case may be as I try to ascertain how it is that I raised fit children. I realize there are many issues with which we parents are faced to the point of exhaustion. How do we navigate the landscape of early childhood development, schedules, early bedtime, homework, little league, and brushing teeth among so many other issues and still find time to create a fit atmosphere in the family home?  The pressure is on the parents to raise the very best children…. with what we have to work with, anyway.

How much of what we end up with happens quite by accident?  Maybe I didn’t have as much control over this crowd of mine as I’d like to think, and at times, I’m sure I had relatively little control and was at the mercy of total anarchy.  Perhaps my family took on a life of its own and collectively we developed a family code of ethics quite by accident.  Or maybe I found that I had to maintain a high level of fitness and health merely to stay ahead of the pack for many years, at least until testosterone kicked in with the teenagers and one child at a time, all chance of control was lost.

This is the challenge, perhaps a mission impossible, to figure out how I raised a fit clan or at least, what my role in the whole business is or has been.

Outside series – Can’t find motivation to work out? “Whitewash” your workout

13 Jun 2010

Tom Sawyer getting kids to whitewash fence

– by Scott

I love the fence whitewashing passage in Tom Sawyer. In the passage, Aunt Polly relegates Tom to whitewashing the front yard fence (ostensibly to instill a little discipline in the brat). However, Tom quickly grows bored of this work. Instead, Tom directs his charm towards beguiling passing children.

Tom convinced his fellow children that he did this work because it pleased him. The children suddenly viewed whitewashing to be a hobby; it was “work” done for fun. The end result? Tom laid in the shade while the children happily jostled for the chance to do Tom’s whitewashing.

So how did Tom do this? How did he morph “work” into “play”?

“[Tom] had discovered a great law of human action . . . . If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line . . . but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.”

Tom discovered the principle behind everything from hobbies to Wikipedia to the open-source movement: the principle of “work” being something that people do for fun.  Those who do this work do so based on an intrinsic motivation, not from an extrinsic source.

So how do you gain intrinsic motivation for fitness?

Instead of trying to convince yourself that a workout is play, why not actually PLAY? Go outside. Play a game of ultimate frisbee. Toss a football. DO AN OUTSIDE WORKOUT! You don’t even need equipment to work out – your body is a great workout tool (yes, even for you “hardcore bodybuilders”).

So get outside – make your friends jealous (the ones who are spending an hour on the treadmill inside on a sunny day) when you tell them that you are going to play.

My next post will be about the kinds of actually fun workouts you can do outside.

The outside series – 10 reasons why you need to stop reading this post and go outside

8 Jun 2010

– by Scott

Scott carrying Bulgarian bag overheadFriday afternoon I went to the park with my wife and a few friends. However, we didn’t go for a picnic – we went to work out! We took a couple homemade Bulgarian bags, my EFX rings, lots of water, and a 58-pound mutt. One hour later we were exhausted and happy.

Now, I love going to the gym. But I love being outside more. Hell, I begin work as early as possible so that I can escape before the sun sets. My love for being outside manifests year-round (see “Idiots cross-country skiing at midnight, in February, in high country New York”, below).


Me and my wife Tammy cross-country skiing at midnight in Lake Placid, NY in February

However, summer presents a special case for me, simultaneously existing as a curse and a blessing: I spend more of my time wishing I were outside, but at least the days are longer. Furthermore, June is one of summer’s best months; the temperature approaches “heavenly” on the thermometer and the sun is still too busy gearing up for its August beat-down to hammer too hard on my pale white back. However, my favorite part about June has to be that it removes every weather-related excuse my friends have when I ask them to get out with me.

So why do I love being outside so much? I’ve provided an utterly incomplete list below. I hope it will inspire to add your own reasons to this list.

  1. Get vitamin D
  2. Maintain a healthy glow (without that irritating pregnancy)
  3. Lower your chance of illness (mental & physical)
  4. Avoid the computer gamer’s fate
  5. Get a great workout
  6. Get back to your Primal roots
  7. Know nature, know yourself
  8. Breathe more than indoor recycled air
  9. Social interaction
  10. Multitask (e.g., combine chores like walking the dog or snow shoveling with all of the above)

“Outside” will be a frequent visitor to many of my posts. Nonetheless, for the next month I plan to feature the benefits of getting outside. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and those around you.

The Thorns in Nature’s Side, Part 2 of 2

4 Jun 2010

In my last post, I talked of the dangerous additives that have snuck their way into our food supply and have tainted our natural diets. Of course, no off-limits food list would be complete without the mother of all these sneaky additives. This clever villain finds its home in more than just a sugary coke or an icing-soaked dessert. It has successfully infiltrated the food world, at least in America, and you may consume much more of it than you realize. The sinister sweetener can be found contaminating nearly every grocery shelf, stealthily hiding in that “wholesome” fruit yogurt and those “home stewed” baked beans, hiding behind valiant labels such as “natural” and “diet”, and even masking itself innocently in the bright colors of children’s snack foods. Who is this perpetrator? The infamous High Fructose Corn Syrup, of course.

Also going by the aliases isoglucose in Europe and glucose-fructose in Canada (and chicory and inulin among many others), high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) constitutes more than 40 percent of the caloric sweeteners used in the United States, a number that was at a mere 1 percent in 1970, according to the USDA. In fact, Americans consume an average of 132 calories of the HFCS every day, and 63 pounds of the stuff per year! Those 63 pounds have to go somewhere…

There is a large campaign called “Sweet Surprise” which serves to defend HFCS and debunk the nasty rumors spread about it. The campaign claims that HFCS “plays a key role in the integrity of food and beverage products” and “has the same number of calories as sugar and is handled similarly by the body.” If it’s the same thing as sugar, only cheaper, then it can’t be bad, right? Not exactly.

Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, gave a fabulous lecture on the toxic nature of both HFCS and sugar in general. Lustig agrees that sugar and HFCS are handled similarly by the body, stating, “High Fructose Corn Syrup and sucrose are the same. They’re both equally bad. They’re both dangerous. They’re both poison!”

What is so poisonous about it? Chronic fructose exposure causes metabolic syndrome, a combination of obesity, type II diabetes, lipid problems, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. A study done with medical students showed that when put on a high fructose diet for 6 days, the students’ triglyceride levels doubled and free fatty acid levels doubled. Fructose is a carbohydrate that is metabolized like a fat.

“Fructose changes the way your brain recognizes energy, all in a negative fashion, so that…your brain gets the signal that its starving even though your fat cells are generating a signal (that your full).” This is why even when kids are slurping down sugary carbonated drinks at 300 calories a piece, they still are able to eat more than they would have otherwise. Their negative hunger feedback mechanism, leptin, is suppressed. We are becoming addicted to this sweet additive, and it’s being added to foods that one would never imagine needed sugar.

So why would food suppliers be allowed to feed our addiction to this poison? Here’s where things get shady. Though chronic fructose exposure leads to hypertension, myocardial infarction, dyslipidemia, pacreatitis, obesity, hepatic dysfunction, fetal insulin resistance, AND addiction, the FDA deems high fructose corn syrup as “safe” because there are no acute, immediate damages.

But wait a second. Let’s return to why monosodium glutamate is a “safe” additive. The FDA refers to MSG Symptom Complex, the acute reaction to MSG of headaches, nausea, and chest pain, as “short-term reactions”. These reactions are not considered dangerous enough to remove MSG from food because there is not enough research to verify that MSG causes long term damage. So what is being said here? The FDA confirms there are acute effects with MSG but that it is safe because of the lack of long term damage, yet…the lethal long term damage associated with high fructose corn syrup is not considered because there is no immediate effect? Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this?

I harbor more animosity for high fructose corn syrup more than all other food additives. Frankly, I think it’s what’s making America fat. I also think it’s doing a fine job of making it extremely difficult for the rest of the world to follow our most basic health guideline and eat natural foods in a convenient, second-nature kind of way. With HFCS on the market, one must go out of their way to find natural foods with natural ingredients at an affordable price. I see a major flaw in this, and if America really wants to defeat its war on obesity, there’s going to have to be a paradigm shift when it comes to how we view and value food.

But that’s enough of me on my soap box. If you’re not convinced to take up arms and fight the good fight, that’s perfectly okay, normal even! My whole purpose in these last two posts is not to rally up a string of irrational emotions, but to tell you what main nutritional guideline I strongly believe we must strive to follow and to list what additives I think can jeopardize this effort.

Hhhhhoooowweevveeerrr…..if by chance this blog post has impassioned you, there are plenty of quieter, yet significant contributions you can make to begin the steps towards a healthier America. Don’t worry. No pitch forks or war paint are involved. . . .

  • Jamie Oliver’s petition to improve school lunches:

  • Campaigns to building a more sustainable food system:

  • Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization:

The Thorns in Nature’s Side, Part 1 of 2

3 Jun 2010

-by Elizabeth

As my brother Scott explained in his post “The 3Ss, tailored to fit(ness)”, 75% of your health is dependent upon what you eat. Seventy-five percent. That means that no amount of crunches or push-ups will ever succeed in leading you to your healthiest body if you’re not consuming the right fuel for your body.

So how do you find the right fuel? The most basic, most sustainable nutrition guideline is painfully obvious, yet at times unfortunately overlooked. In order to be healthy, one must eat real, natural, unprocessed food.

This universal philosophy could be approached from by innumerable angles, but I specifically want to address what are, to me, the biggest problems that are making it so very difficult for the majority of the population to follow the most natural guideline to living one’s best life. There are around 14,000 food additives and chemicals used in our food system today (and no, I did not add too many zeros to that number, unfortunately), but for brevity’s sake, I will only address a small number of additives that are widely known to cause damage to the consumer.

Artificial colors/flavors and “Natural flavors”

With the ability to affect RNA and enzymes in the body, most artificial flavorings are derived from petroleum, and many have not been studied extensively for toxicity. If the FDA does recognize these flavorings as safe, they do not require that all these artificial ingredients be specifically listed.

Do you really want this in your food?

Potassium Bromate– used in breads to increase volume, the bromate it contains causes cancer in animals. This chemical has been banned throughout the world…except in Japan and the United States.

MSG, monosodium glutamate–Used to make such things as Asian take-out and beef jerky more flavorful, MSG is known to cause headaches, nausea, and even vomiting after consumption. Most people who are not affected by these acute side-effects do not feel a reason to be concerned, and I have encountered many people who feel that, because they are fit and healthy, consumption of something as trivial as MSG is not really a danger. However, according to author and neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock, food additives like MSG and artificial sweeteners cause excitotoxic damage, the killing of sensitive neurons. Studies show that there is a link between sudden cardiac death and excitotoxic damage particularly in athletes.

Since many people would prefer MSG to be omitted from their food, “clean labels” have been adapted. “Clean labels” do not necessarily mean that there is no MSG in the food. That would be wishful thinking. It means that MSG is not listed as such on the label but rather under pseudonyms such as hydrolyzed soy protein, calcium caseinate, yeast nutrient, and textured protein.

Looks like Zazzle apparel is on to something!

Aspartame-This sweetener has been found to cause brain tumors in rats as far back as the 1970s. Promoted for weight loss as an alternative to sugar, two Purdue University studies actually found that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to correctly interpret calorie intake and is correlated to obesity. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) lists aspartame as a possible neurotoxin and as a cancer risk.

Artificial Colors – Evidence shows that cancer, organ tumors, and amounts of carcinogens have been linked to Blue 1 and 2, Red 3 and 40, and Yellow 6. “Natural flavors” is a misleading term as it denotes that a flavor is derived from nature, but is not necessarily natural. In fact, some artificial flavors can actually be safer from the “natural” flavors since, as Gary Reineccius, a nutrition professor at the University of Minnesota states, “artificial flavors are simpler in composition and potentially safer because only safety-tested components are utilized.”

Hydrogenated oils / Trans Fat Nowadays, the importance of natural foods is often usurped by reduced costs and shelf life. This transition is accomplished by removing necessary, nutritional fiber and adding trans fatty acids.

Where trans fat is found

According to professor Robert H. Lustig, MD, in the past 50,000 years our ancestors consumed anywhere from 100 to 300 grams of fiber a day. Nowadays, the average individual consumes 12 grams of fiber…and more trans fat than is possibly healthy. How much trans fat is a healthy daily limit? Well, none at all, actually.

Created by injecting hydrogen gas into vegetable oil and altering the chemical make-up of a substance, trans fatty acid have been found to increase blood levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), lower levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), and increase risk of heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes and degeneration of joints and tendons.

A shopper must be very prudent and scrutinizing as many processed goods these days are claiming “zero grams trans fat!” on their labels. Check the ingredients. Does the food contain partially hydrogenated oils? Then whether listed or not, the food contains trans fat. As long as the amount of trans fat is below .5 grams, it is not required that the trans fat be listed. As minuscule as that amount sounds, that’s already more trans fat than should be ingested, and if you consume these hidden trans fat sources more than once daily, you’re writing a recipe for disaster, or at least heart disease.

I could continue to list chemical after chemical, and I had to cut many food chemicals out for the purpose of this blog, but information on all 14,000 chemicals can be found easily on the internet in an article entitled “Neurotoxicity: Identifying and Controlling Poisons of the Nervous System” (.pdf). The reason I chose to list a few of them was more to draw attention to what they represent. The biggest problem with this list is that they are in our food at all. Even though these numerous chemicals have been scientifically proven to harm our bodies and our health, they are still present and wide-spread, They are even being hidden from us under pseudonyms and left off completely due to technicalities (does .4 grams of trans fat really equal zero?).

A list of harmful chemicals would not be complete, though, without mentioning America’s favorite artificial sugar, and I have such strong feelings about the substance that I devoted an entire second blog to it, titled “The Thorns in Nature’s Side, Part 2”.