Monday, February 21, 2011


This week I would like to talk to you about the different types of stress and how they affect the body and mental state of an athlete.  When I (Chuck) was in college, I took a course call "Police Problems" in my senior year.  I loved this class because that's when I learned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Our group delivered a kick ass presentation that our professor loved on why managing stress in law enforcement is so important.  Sometime police officers are faced with single, traumatic events they have to manage during their day.   Other times there is an accumulation of experiences which affects the officers to points near or at depression.  Recovering from those experiences is nearly impossible without assistance from a mental health professional.  Let me tell you why I'm writing about this.

Although most of you are not law enforcement officers, each of you still has multiple stress factors in your lives in many forms including: CrossFit, daily commute to and from work, bills, gas station attendants, checking Facebook, updating status, checking email, managing employees, answering to your boss, project deadlines, creating spreadsheets, proof reading spreadsheets, waiting in the drive-thru at Starbucks and choosing black coffee or an extra hot, no foam, hazelnut latte, finding matching Tupperware containers & lids, LAUNDRY!,  diapers, story time, dinner, meal preparation, getting though the latest People magazine and finally - ME!  CHUCK!...I think that's enough.

These are common stress factors that most of us have in life.   How can CrossFit, known to be one of the most brutal strength & conditioning programs on the planet, help alleviate anything in your life?

The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Dr. Len Kravitz & Maria-Victoria Montes in the February 2011 Idea Fitness Journal.

The Buffering Effect of Exercise on Stress
The most comprehensive recent review on the health benefits of exercise and physical activity comes from the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, 2008 published that year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  This report concluded that physical activity can protect against feelings of distress, defend against symptoms of anxiety, guard against depressive symptoms and the development of major depressive disorder and enhance psychological well-being.  Additionally, exercise bouts of 30 minutes, but not longer than 60 minutes appear to have the best "stress-reducing" benefits (thank God for Fran and Fight Gone Bad!).  There does not appear to be a differential effect based on the type of exercise (e.g., running swimming, cycling, elliptical training, etc.).  As to exercise intensity, the Physical Activity Guidelines report indicates that moderate to vigorous physical activity (with regular participation) reduces stress better than low-intensity activity.   Yes to WODs!

There are definitely positive adaptations to a regular strength & conditioning program and I'm sure you've heard all of them.  The following stress management suggestions are from an article in IDEA by Melissa Stoppler, MD (2008), and can be found on  

1. Exercise.  Provides a distraction from stressful situations, as well as an outlet for frustration.  In many ways it acts as a buffer to the overflow of hormones that accumulate from daily stress.  There is little I can focus on when suffering through one of Dan or Lindsay's WODs, and I like it that way.    

2. Meditation. Stoppler suggests that in a medictactive state, deep centering occurs with a focusing on the core of our being; this allows for quieting of the mind and emotions, which helps relax tension in the body.  During meditation, the brain enters an area of functioning similar to sleep, but with added benefits that we cannot achieve in any other state such as the release of certain hormones that promote health.   Perfect advertising op for yoga at CFH - 5:45 AM Thursday.  

3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tightening and then releasing of the muscles in the body (in succession).  If one of us trainers has an extra minute or two, we'd be happy to give you a quick stretch in the hammies, shoulders and quad/hip flexors.  

4. Time Management.  One of the biggest causes of stress is poor time management.  Good organization of time is central to effective stress control.  By learning to prioritize tasks and avoid overcommitment, we avoid the stress of being over-scheduled, with too many responsibilities at work and in the family.  Stoppler recommends using a daily planner and calendar to prioritize tasks and stay focused on those at hand; identifying regular time-wasting activities (Facebook is NOT time-wasting!) and eliminating them; and banishing procrastination. 

5. Support Systems.  According to Stoppler, studies indicate that people with a positive and helpful social structure - consisting of friends, family, loved ones and pets (and CrossFitters!) - experience fewer stress related symptoms.  Where's Brad anyway?

6. Healthy Food & Drink.  Dehydration and hunger tend to provoke feeling of stress and anxiety (When I get hungry I get so angry, but when I'm dehydrated, I feel depressed.  Weird, I know). Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and eating a nutritious diet can help  reduce stress.  At least 100 ounces a day for most people.  

7. Posture Check.  Shelly has GREAT posture.  I have moderately accurate posture.  Shelly does a lot more yoga than I do too.  I've was actually diagnosed with juvenile scoliosis when I was 10.  Since then, I've had to work on standing straight and keeping my shoulder back, down and relaxed.  When I was little, I was really self conscious of my massively developed chest.  I would try to hide it by hunching over.  Now, I hunch over because I'm tired of people trying to touch it and grope me all the time (kidding).  However, poor standing and sitting posture lead to muscle tension, pain and increased stress.  Stress management strategies include checking posture regularly at work and during daily activities; avoiding stooping, slumping and repetitive-strain activities/movements; and developing healthily sitting, standing and working environments.   

8. Recharging.  Recharging means setting aside some time each day for energizing the mind.   This is hard for many because there is no extra time in the day.  Normally on my commute to work, I'll turn the radio off and find a way to just let my mind either wander (which isn't too hard) or meditate on one intention (which is actually very difficult for me).  I like to listen to audiobooks on my way to work which resonate with me.   

9. Speaking slowly.  Yea, who knew?  Speaking slowly can be helpful in stressful situations.  When we speak slowly, we think more clearly and often respond much more reasonably to a stressful situation.  Like my grandmother Degatano always said "Charlie, you always catch more bees with honey than vinegar."   

10. Visualization.  Gratifying or relaxing images calm the mind and body.  Visualizing a soothing setting (e.g., outdoors in a meadow, by the ocean, along a mountain stream) while breathing slow, controlled way brings about a state of calm and relaxation.  Like I always say, "The slower you go, the fast you'll get there." (I think I stole that from someone, but I don't remember who)

And if none of this is working for you, I'll always recommend my default stress reliever.

4 ounces Spicy V-8
4 ounces Monopolowa
Splash of Worcestershire
Dash of pepper
Celery stick
season rim to task

And 1 Ashton VsG cigar

Sounds good, doesn't it?


Kravitz, Len & Montes, Maria-Victoria. 2011. Unraveling the stress eating obesity knot.  IDEA Fitness Journal, 44-50 

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Sunshine Vitamin...A Hot Topic: What You Need to Know About Vitamin D, Part II

By Rosemary Barrow, B.S. Exercise Science, NASM Certified Personal Trainer

In the first part of this article, the focus points were on the significance and role of vitamin D as it pertains to human health and disease prevention, and how we can attain optimal levels in our bodies through adequate UVB sunlight exposure, consuming appropriate animal or animal-based food sources (i.e., salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oils, egg yolks, and some cheeses), and through supplementation. Lately it seems every other study published in health news is boasting the amazing breakthroughs in vitamin D research. The overwhelming amount of relative information in this area is deepening our understanding of this hormone's powerful effect on our ability not only to thrive but to survive, it seems—rather timely considering that roughly 60% of Americans have low levels of or are vitamin D deficient, according to a study published in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. In fact, vitamin D deficiency “may be the common denominator behind our most devastating modern degenerative diseases,” according to Mike Adams, editor of Natural News Network. Individuals suffering from kidney failure, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis are almost always universally deficient in the sunshine vitamin. 

Our health as a nation is disintegrating in a nasty downward spiral. Modern lifestyles lend themselves to behaviors and circumstances that reduce our potential for attaining ideal levels of vitamin D, among other health-giving factors. We spend more time indoors, whether it's work or play, thus reducing our sunlight exposure. When we are outside we slather on the sunscreen, once again reducing our chances of soaking up those necessary UVB rays that allow us to manufacture enough cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) in our skin. Our diets are severely lacking in both quality of content and in vitamin D-rich foods. To make things more interesting, there's a sea of misinformation in all forms of media as well as rampant over-medication and lack of quality healthcare. So in light of these latest findings, we could come to a few simple conclusions: Get more healthy sun exposure, exercise regularly, eat “real food” (you know, the kind that comes out of the ground, off of a tree, or from an animal that eats these same things), and then maybe we won't even need to supplement! While these are pretty clear-cut, well-founded conclusions, it's worth considering a few more details and asking a few more questions. If optimal vitamin D levels are so integral to our well-being, how then do we optimize this component of health?

There are many factors that determine your vitamin D status as well as your ability to make and properly utilize it. As mentioned in Part I of this article, age, weight, body fat percentage, latitude of where you live, skin coloration, season, use of sunscreen, and individual sun exposure are the major determinants. Here are some general rules of thumb that are easy to remember:

·      Older individuals need more vitamin D than younger individuals.
·      Big people need more than smaller people.
·      Heavier people need more than skinny people.
·      Individuals living in northern latitudes (above 35 N latitude—we're just above the 45 N latitude) need more than those in southern latitudes (below 35 N latitude & closer to the equator).
·      Darker complected people need more than fairer complected people.
·      Sunblock users need more than those who forgo the sunblock.
·      “Sunphobes” need more than sun worshipers.
·      Ill individuals need more than well individuals.

So how do you know if you're making or getting enough vitamin D? The most accurate and reliable way is through a blood test administered by your doctor or by obtaining a home test kit from ZRT Laboratories (available through that measures 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D. This tests for calcidiol in the blood, a pre-hormone and storage form of vitamin D in our bodies that's made in the liver. The Vitamin D Council states that optimal levels of 25(OH)D for health and disease prevention fall between 50-80 ng/ml (125-200 nM/L), and some estimates have been as high as 100 ng/ml. These are the values you want to look for when you receive your test results. According to the Vitamin D Council, about 20% of U.S. doctors order the wrong test. In this case they're measuring 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D which measures calcitriol, the most potent steroid in our bodies, and is more a measure of kidney function than an accurate reflection of vitamin D status. This particular pre-hormone is an adaptive hormone and fluctuates with calcium intake, so test results of this could show normal or even high levels but a vitamin D deficiency could still exist.

Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council suggests taking 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight for eight weeks and then testing. At that point, depending on your results, you can adjust accordingly for any variable (i.e., sun exposure, food sources, supplementation) that affects vitamin D levels. Dr. Cannell estimates that “each 1,000 IU increase in supplemental vitamin D will generally produce a 10 ng/ml increase in the vitamin D blood level.” These are general recommendations so it's important to note that we all differ somewhat physiologically and in our vitamin D receptor (VDR) capabilities. When using supplements, be sure to test blood levels every several months to monitor your status.

Making and consuming enough vitamin D may be essential to our ability to thrive and survive, as suggested by researchers at Oregon State University in the conclusion to a study they published in August 2009. They discovered a vitamin D-mediated immune response encoded and conserved in the genome of “every primate species ever examined for its presence, ...and did not disappear long ago through evolutionary variation and mutation.”  This genetic marker is “shared only by primates, including humans – but no other known animal species” and the fact that it “is still found in species ranging from squirrel monkeys to baboons and humans, suggests that it must be critical to their survival...” the researchers said.

We have an “innate immune response” that occurs immediately, as with a cut or infection, as well as an “adaptive immune response” associated with the exposure to new pathogens whereby antibodies are formed and retained for future defense. The OSU researchers are studying a specific type of genetic material which composes over 90% of the human genome and “is believed to play a major role in the proper function of the "innate" immune system in primates” in that it “allows vitamin D to boost [this response] by turning on an antimicrobial protein. The overall effect may help to prevent the immune system from overreacting.” Another study led by Professor Carsten Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen, also discovered that vitamin D “activates the immune system by 'arming' T cells to fight off infections” and without vitamin D, these cells “remain dormant.” This has very important implications in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune and degenerative diseases.

Another characteristic of this system that sets it apart from other steroid hormones is its potential to prevent and fight cancer cells. When cholecalciferol/D3 is produced in the skin there are two initial  pathways it takes—first, conversion to calcidiol in the liver (storage from of vitamin D) and then to calcitriol in the kidneys (to regulate calcium in the blood). If enough cholecalciferol has been made to satisfy the requirements for both pathways, any excess calcitriol is sent to other tissues (i.e., organ, organ systems) that can continue independently making more of it in order to fight cancer cells. No other steroid hormone system works this way. To ease any concern regarding vitamin D toxicity, it should be added that this is an extremely rare occurrence. To read more on this topic, visit the Vitamin D Council's website at

So what all this means is you may have some “vitamin D homework” to do, and now that you're a more informed consumer, it's time to get outside more this year to enjoy the beautiful Oregon spring and summer weather!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Sunshine Vitamin...A Hot Topic: What You Need to Know About Vitamin D, Part I

By Rosemary Barrow, B.S. Exercise Science, NASM Certified Personal Trainer

I think you might dispense with half your doctors if you would only consult Dr. Sun more. 
~Henry Ward Beecher

If you've been tuning in at all to the latest buzz in both conventional and alternative medicine, you've probably noticed the newest research involving vitamin D has elevated “the sunshine vitamin” to star status in the health and medical communities. Though technically not a vitamin but a group of five fat-soluble steroid hormones (D1-D5), more specifically hormone precursors known collectively as calciferol, maintenance of an optimal vitamin D level in the body is now more than ever being identified as a cornerstone in the foundations of disease prevention and treatment, as well as in overall well-being. Go figure right? It doesn't take a panel of scientists and doctors or a slew of research to tell us being in the sun makes us feel better. But what these most recent findings reveal are some insight as to why we are so naturally drawn to sunlight; why it fosters a sense of well-being. The fact that there is a vitamin D receptor (VDR) in virtually every cell of our bodies should attest to the integral role this hormone, most readily produced through UVB sunlight exposure, plays in influencing health status.

What does vitamin D do in our bodies?
Adequate vitamin D must be present in order for calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, to be converted into its ionized (usable) form. It's long been known that its presence is also necessary for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, and for the re-absorption of calcium by the kidneys, all processes that determine proper bone mineralization and muscle contraction. Once bio-available calcium from food enters the small intestine, it interacts with vitamin D and calcium-binding proteins and is then absorbed through the intestine wall for use in the body—99% of which is directed to the bones and the remaining 1% to the blood. It's important to note that this 1% entering the blood is a crucial component in the bio-electric activity of every single cell in the body. Given that we are essentially bio-electromagnetic beings, the significance of 1% is pretty profound! Calcium inside cells determines ideal pH levels that, together with extracellular fluid pH, create a voltage that allows for the appropriate uptake of nutrients and expulsion of waste through cell walls—the most basic operations of our cells.

So, if optimal vitamin D levels are lacking and not enough calcium can be absorbed, the body enters into an increasingly acidic state paving the way for disease to set in. In this way, vitamin D is a key factor in the prevention of certain kinds of cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure), types 1 and 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, depression, osteoporosis, and inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and arthritis. It is also fundamental to the regulation of the immune system and gene activity.  When calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D in the body, binds to a VDR this pairing determines DNA expression (the turning “on” and “off” of genes) affecting over 2,000 genes, accounting for 10% of the human genome and thus directing the activity of hundreds of enzymes and proteins—and this is just one action involving vitamin D!

How do we get vitamin D?
If this wonder vitamin is so critical to our health and wellness how, you may ask, do we attain optimal levels in our bodies? There are three ways in which we can harness the power of this potent steroid hormone. The first and easiest (and free!) way is by getting adequate sun exposure, more specifically, enough exposure to UVB rays which are required for the formation of cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3 (vitamin D in our skin). In mid-day summer sun exposure for 20-30 minutes (an ideal situation) it is possible to produce approximately 10,000-50,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D3/cholecalciferol in the skin. The minimum amount indicated here is 50 times the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 200 IU! Ironically, the very time frame we've been strongly advised to avoid (mid-day 10am-3pm) is the ideal time for maximum UVB exposure and minimal UVA exposure, the type of UV light associated with melanoma (the deadliest skin cancer). It's also been advised that we constantly slather on the sunscreen during this window of mid-day sun but doing so blocks up to 95% of vitamin D-producing UVB rays. This is not to say that sunscreen use should be avoided for prolonged periods of time spent in the sun, but then again prolonged exposure isn't recommended in general. Several factors are key in determining more precisely how much vitamin D each of us requires to reap its health-giving benefits. These include age, body weight, body fat percentage, skin coloration, current season of the year, latitude of where one resides, use of sunscreen, and of course individual sun exposure. This is a topic that will be expounded upon in Part II of this article.

The second way we can get vitamin D is through our diets. Cholecalciferol (D3) and ergocalciferol (D2), to a lesser extent, are the most important forms for humans. As a general rule vitamin D2 is found mainly in plants (i.e., mushrooms) and, as stated, vitamin D3 is made in our skin or obtained through eating certain animal and animal-based foods, such as fatty fish (i.e., salmon, tuna, mackerel), fish liver oils (best sources), and in lesser amounts, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Many foods in our modern diet are fortified with vitamin D but this does not guarantee the proper absorption and assimilation of this precious nutrient when taken out of its natural context. When you consider that a vast majority of calories in the American diet are from processed foods, by which the very nature of their manufacturing implies the depletion of inherent nutritional value, there is cause for question as to the efficacy of fortified foods including those fortified with vitamin D. If it must be synthetically added to a food source not found in nature, to what extent and how well can it be utilized by our bodies?

This leads us to the third and final source of vitamin D: supplementation. For individuals who do not receive adequate sun exposure or regularly consume vitamin D-rich food sources, supplementation is an alternative and often necessary way of obtaining its health and disease-preventing properties. The Vitamin D Council's recommendation states that “healthy children under the age of 1 year should take 1,000 IU per day—over the age of 1, 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight per day” and “well adults and adolescents should take 5,000 IU per day.”

For now, it's important to remember that the preferred and superior sources for the manufacturing of vitamin D in humans, respectively, are through adequate exposure to UVB rays in sunlight and via the appropriate animal or animal-based food sources previously mentioned. Part II will also highlight how vitamin D in the body contributes to disease prevention, how to test for healthy levels in the blood, as well as some surprising new information about this vital hormone that further validates its significance with regard to human health and survival.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Read THIS Before You Sign a Gym Membership

* What is the Pacific Personal Training/CrossFit Hillsboro difference? *
Not to be confused with a gym, our model is not and never will be an open gym concept. We are a personal training studio that emphasizes one-on-one sessions and small group personal training in the form of CrossFit classes.  We are the “anti-gym”. We do not compete against Bally’s, 24 Hour Fitness, or L.A. Fitness.  We have NO membership fees, initiation fees, or long term contracts.  Here, you will not find mirrors, juice bar, flat screens, or a sauna.
We only charge for training, because that’s all we do.  Whether you are in for a one-on-one session with your trainer or a CrossFit session, you are receiving world-class coaching, programming, motivation and accountability you would expect from a personal trainer.  We compete against personal trainers, not gyms. 
In speaking with one of our gals today about what it would take to get her into class more often, she revealed to me that she was holding onto her family membership at the gym, although her family rarely used it.  The monthly price was relatively inexpensive and it was convenient to take her son there for swimming lessons, but…(What she said next was the clincher)…She confessed that working out there was nothing like working out with us.  AND, that she is experiencing awesome results with us AND actually misses working out with us on the days she isn’t here!  Why is this a big deal, you may ask?  Well, let me ask you, why do you work out?  If you are like most people, you would say that it’s because you want to look great and feel great.  If you aren’t seeing results on your own, even if you are only paying $30-$50/month, is it worth it to you?  Everyone at the highest level of their game works with a trainer. That is where we come in. We provide elite level training and coaching for a very affordable price. The community support and camaraderie is just a very nice bonus.  In keeping our group classes small, we are better able to take care of each person’s individual needs, such as adjusting for modifications, pushing you a little bit harder, as well as ensuring your safety.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but your gym actually prefers that you don’t use your membership.  It costs them $ when you do!  They’ll still go on and debit your checking account each month regardless.  You won’t receive a phone call wondering where you’ve been and when you’re coming back.  They do not want to “awaken the sleeping giant” as they call it.  If you show up they actually have to work! 
WE don’t want your money unless you are reaping the benefits of your membership.  There’s no satisfaction in that for us.
Considering that the typical cost for a one hour personal training session can run anywhere between $50-$100, an unlimited monthly membership at CrossFit Hillsboro is an amazing bargain!  It breaks down to less than $10 per session, to be exact, if you are attending 4 classes per week. 
You get the best deal in town training at PPT/CH. We do not sell you any of these amenities and we never plan to. We only sell you the personal training. Come and get coached, break your previous records, have your friends push you beyond your limits. Everyone who trains at PPT/CH consistently surpasses all expectations they came in with. Everyone succeeds! There are no exceptions. If you do not want to make the commitment to training here every day, you can do both. Go to your regular gym and come to us 2x or 3x a week for your training. Come to PPT/CH for a monthly seminar, event, competition or Saturday workout. Come every day and be in the best possible shape of your life- GUARANTEED.  Contact us for your free 7-day pass and experience what you've been missing.