Student teaching, Paleo, Crossfit and how it all worked together

Sometimes when I talk about my story people look at me with a bit of disbelief when I talk about the fall of 2011.  Especially when I’m talking to other teachers that remember the stress of their own experiences in the classroom, and I understand their doubts.  Student teaching was a four month stretch of stress, feeling overwhelmed, and just trying to keep my head above water as I learned every lesson the hard way it seemed.  When I headed into the classroom in those first days of the semester I realized that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I had barely finished the On-Ramp class at Capital city, paid for my next 6 months of Crossfit and was still trying to figure out how Paleo was going to work for me day in and day out.  But there I was with nothing to do but charge ahead and I had my goal after all.  Lose the weight before the wedding in October.  I wanted to look better for the wedding and I wanted to feel better and be healthier than I was.  I look back now and question my planning on this decision.  Throughout the semester I had many challenges, I was teaching one subject that I was not very experienced in, still working part time as a Park Ranger, and trying to fit in Crossfit workouts and stay on track food wise.  Somehow I managed to make it work but I don’t know how, I guess you could say that the motivation to not fail was greater than the temptations to slack off.  My day was broken down into chunks of time that I felt I could manage.  I got up every morning and made breakfast, packed my lunch, got ready and headed out the door for the short walk to the school I was teaching at.   After arriving I generally had about 45 minutes before I had to teach my first class.  I made whatever copies I had to, checked in with both teachers I was working with.  Yes I had two different teachers evaluating me, just another stress to have to function within two systems and switch back and forth between what each expected of me.  And then get ready for my first hour seniors in Sociology.  I had three classes of Sociology and two of US History.  In all I never spent back to back hours in the same room, moving back and forth between two classrooms and a closet that I sometimes used as an office, and was doing three preps for the two subjects I was teaching.  When my day was over at 3:30 I was hitting the door to do the short walk home.   I had to get out the door so I could change and get out to Capital City for the first afternoon WOD at 4.  I loved getting into that afternoon workout, it was a great group to workout with and I knew that I had to get back home because there was always lots of stuff to do waiting on me.  After doing the WOD, hanging out for a few minutes and recovering a bit, it was back home for my evening block of work.  Every night I cooked a large meal so that I could take my lunch in with me the next day.  School lunches are not even remotely Paleo so I avoided that place like the plague.  Then I would set up the table with some coffee and some water and get to work.  Lesson planning, grading, creating the various materials that I would need, all my work needed to be done before I could head to bed. 

The system worked because I put structure to my day, and tried to focus on what was ahead of me without getting too focused on everything else that I couldn’t control.  I made time for the things that I felt were most important, student teaching and its required work came first, then Paleo and Crossfit, then any sort of social life.  I sacrificed lots of social interaction because I knew that if I was going to be successful I had to measure my time carefully.  By giving myself a plan and sticking to it, and also creating lots of lists of things that needed to be done I was able to make sure that my life didn’t go completely crazy while I was trying to get things done.  I took pride in my work and knew that while I was in the school I was there to teach and also to learn.  The students and I had a great relationship as we worked towards getting through the material.  I will admit that I loved all of the students that were a part of my classroom.  I have a few seniors that graduated and are at colleges but stay in contact.  I’m amazed at how such a simple system could work so well and keep me from going completely crazy during a time where it felt like I had a million things to do and no time to do them in.  The hour a day at Capital City was a savior.  During that time I got rid of all of the other cares in my day and could focus just on getting through that WOD.  Pushing myself harder and harder I was constantly getting better and on those days when I felt like the pressure was just too much.  The workout was the release valve and I came home ready to pick things back up and try again.   I wasn’t always the best at keeping everything going perfectly and I made one major sacrifice for those months, sleep.  I never got a full night’s sleep, and I wish that there would have been a way to include more sleep in my life, but I pushed through and in the end I was able to accomplish more than I ever thought possible when I started.



Today is Friday for most people but it’s my Wednesday.  Sometimes the life of a Park Ranger has its odd things that don’t generally get annoying but then there’s days that something will just bug you.  Today was that way for me, I was at work today and it was really slow and the few people that came in were focused on enjoying themselves and making some small talk at the desk.  They made it a point to talk about the weekend and what they were going to do.  All I could think of was that I was days away from my weekend, the idea of sleeping in tomorrow, and watching college football doesn’t happen for me.  I would love to sleep in a bit, hit the 9am WOD come home, cook on the grill and watch a full day of football but that’s not in the cards for me unless I use vacation time.  It’s a small thing but it made me think about how I used to do that every week.  The day seemed longer because of it.  It’s hard sometimes to refocus yourself when you find your mind set on one thing.  I try to focus my energy on positive things, and to concentrate on something that will benefit me in the long run.  But today that just wasn’t happening.  So I need a halftime, can I have a break, get a pep talk and then go back out on the field to finish strong? Life doesn’t offer a halftime, but I’m pushing through anyway.  Tomorrow is another day and I can work on making sure that I spend my time on things that I can change, or things that will make my life better not just being focused on things I can do nothing about.

This week is going to finish strong, tomorrow is my rest day, that means that after work I’m going to do something fun.  I’m thinking that I’ll finally make it to see Finding Nemo in 3D. I’m also pushing forward because this time next week I will be in NYC.  I’m excited for the trip and it should be a great time.  Also I got word that my boss is trying to keep me to Halloween.  So I get a few more weeks of employment out here.  Yay for paychecks so this Ranger can keep paying the bills. Afterwards I’m headed to see the family, man do I miss them a lot.

Pictures of my day:

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The importance of Goals

Sometimes when I think about the last year I get this vision in my head of Bill Murray from the movie “What About Bob” in that movie he has a ton of issues and the way that he overcomes them is to constantly tell himself “baby steps” as he does things.  

Starting where I did they amount of distance between myself and most of the workouts at Rx was vast.  I could not look at them and think that I would be there in any imaginable amount of time.  So I had to think of things in Baby Steps, I set goals and worked towards those.  Yes Fran is Rx at 95 pounds, but this time I’m doing it at 65, ok next time I want to do 75 and so on.  My life was a constant climb up a stairway of these small goals.  Sometimes today it is hard for me to visualize the workouts that I used to do, and the way that I struggled to get through them.  Things that I could not even do at the beginning I now think of as being part of warming up for a more intense WOD.  Walking into Capital City in July of 2011 I needed to set small goals, but I had one big goal.  I wanted to lose 50 pounds by the time of the wedding I was going to be in that fall.  I knew it would be hard but to get there I put up lots of smaller goals.  I wanted to be able to run the warm up 400 meters without stopping, that took me a month or so.  I wanted to be able to do 10 pushups unbroken, another few weeks.  I wanted to be able to learn various movements and each day I came in and took another “Baby Step” towards that goal.  The importance of setting these small goals was simple.  It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day when your finish line is far away.  Too easily we get discouraged by the distance between where we are and where we want to be.  If you walk into the gym never having done a pull up and say I want to do 21 unbroken pull ups as part of a WOD, you will have a long journey from here to there.  But if you break that up, set goals of moving from one color band to another, then getting your kip down.  After that getting one pull up without a band, getting a couple, and eventually you will get to 21, you won’t get discouraged when it takes a long time because you have victories all along the way.  In the last year I cannot count how many of these goals I have accomplished.  From learning movements, to running my fastest mile ever, then beating that by a minute, and then beating that time by over a minute.  Competing in the Open and doing things that I didn’t think I could do before the workouts were announced, wearing smaller clothes, lifting heavier weights, and becoming more flexible.  All of these areas needed goals that pushed me forward.  Today over a year into this incredible journey I still set goals for myself.  I am currently working on being able to do a strict Handstand Pushup to full depth, I’m still chasing that 400 lb back squat, and 300 lb front squat.  I’m close to both and working hard to get there before the new year.  I’m also getting better at double unders and have put together longer and longer sets unbroken.  Goals drive me forward, I try to have goals that are both grand in scale and goals that are broken up so I can celebrate the victories along the way.  More and more I find myself enjoying the moments of these new victories, I work hard for them and each accomplishment is a chance to celebrate the new life that I have created for myself.  These goals keep me going, they push my forward when things get tough and motivate me when I’m feeling down.  Sometimes the push towards a goal can be the difference between a good day and a bad one, even when I don’t accomplish it, just knowing that I’m one more “Baby Step” closer can be all that I need to lift my mood a bit.  So I’ll keep setting goals and you should too, write them down and take a look at them from time to time.  Share them with your friends and ask them about their goals, keep each other going and in the end you’ll find that you’ve gone further than you ever thought possible.  I did, and it’s all because I kept telling myself that it’s all about those baby steps.  Thanks Bill, couldn’t have done it without you.

Pushing forward and making changes

Today I got an email that I’ve been looking forward to since I sent one to the owner of the affiliate.  When I get back to Illinois I will be joining Crossfit DNA in Dyer, IN.  Looking forward to getting back into the routine of things with this great group of people.  I have visited there when I would go see the family and I feel like it really is a place that I can call home when I move back.  There’s still no word on when that will be but I have a group of people to sweat and suffer with and that makes the  transition much less intimidating.  Also as I said last night I’m going to keep the project going till I leave so in the upcoming weeks here’s what you can expect from me.

I am going to continue to try to post every night, but now I will go back to telling some stories from the last year as well as talking about the day in and day out of being a Park Ranger and keeping the challenge going.  I will also be allowing myself a little more coffee if I feel like having it, I’m having a third cup today after a brutal conditioning WOD I wanted some more and since I cut out tea I have a lower caffeine intake anyway.  I will continue to keep most of the other rules though, no boxed Almond/Coconut milk, nothing with any form of sugar in it, no Paleo Cheats, trying not to snack, drinking lots of water, and working out 6x week.  I’ll also try to keep the pictures of the progress going and hopefully have some new stories for everyone as the time goes by.  I wonder what I will look like to the people who haven’t seen me since May, how many things about me will have changed that I don’t notice but will seem major to someone outside of the transition phase.  I also wonder about the people who were a major part of my life before but now that I’ve been away for so long how will I come back into their lives.  We live in such a connected society yet I can count on one hand the number of people who have regularly contacted me outside of social media that aren’t a part of my family.  If you include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and this blog that number goes up but how many have I had a real conversation with?  The answer is very few.  Even the person that I spent years living with before I moved here has barely talked to me since I left.  What does that say for our society, my friendships in particular, and the people I allow into my life?  I don’t have an answer to that question but it bugs me, I’m sure that a major part of that blame is on me for getting focused on building a life here, but there are many times that I have texted people and never heard back.   I hope that when I return I can rebuild some of these friendships because they were some good friends that I would hate to lose.  Funny how we can be so close to each other yet always at arm’s length.  It’s the end of my weekend and tomorrow starts a week of work, officially it’s 10 days till I head to NYC, still looking for Paleo and Crossfit suggestions if you have any.  I have high hopes for the trip.

Pictures from today:

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Four weeks down, keeping it going

This project started as a four week effort to clean things up a bit as well as to have something to focus on while my life was up in the air with no details on how long my job is going to keep going.  I must admit that the results have been really good.  The progress from week one to today has been good.  Structure that the challenge put into my life gave me a focus that I needed.  The days have been filled with a lot of questions. I do not know how long I will be here, nor do I know what I will do when I get back.  I have no job lined up for when this one is over, and I wait on phone calls for interviews.  The questions of life are with me always, but I can choose to think about them or focus on something else.  The challenge has pushed me to think about the things that I eat, and why I buy what I do.  With the four weeks ending I have chosen to keep the project going.  So I will continue to write everyday, to eat clean and to think about how I treat my body.  The last week of the challenge was a special one.  I want to share some of the highlights.

-First get together for the folks that come to Sports Evolution Crossfit, as a new affiliate it’s great to see the group hanging out more and more.

-Driving to Pittsburgh for a Sunday of greatness, first church service since May, WOD at Crossfit Iron City, first Starbucks in over a month, and my first Paleo meetup.

-Nighttime drive home with the windows down and my thoughts as the Ipod is on shuffle.

-Working on the truck and seeing it progress as well.

It was a great week I did lots of fun things, I planned the trip to see Alex and Craig in NYC, I finished book 30, did my first book review for the blog, had some great WODs, met great people, and ate lots of Paleo Pumpkin Pie.

Here’s my pictures for the week:

Day 1








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My First book Review: Make it Paleo

It feels like I’ve made it somehow.  This is the first time that I’ve been offered the chance to review someone else’s work here on my blog and it couldn’t come from two more amazing people.  Bill Staley and Hayley Mason are the minds behind Primal Palate and their recipes are all over the internet.  If you have been around the Paleo/Primal community for any length of time I’m sure that you’ve found your way over there at least once.  They always put up good-looking food and since coming out here to Pennsylvania it has been a secret hope of mine that I would find a way to run into them at some point.  Alas that hasn’t happened but I did get the chance to write about their book here on the blog.  A few weeks ago a tweet came up on my stream about how the couple was looking for some people to write reviews of the book.  I jumped at the chance, but didn’t know if I had enough fame here on the internet to be selected.  Well last week I got the email, and this week the book showed up.  Let me tell you a bit about it.

The book is nearly 500 pages long; it’s big and heavy and looks awesome.   From the very first page I was drawn into the work by the great photography that is throughout the work.   Getting into the first few pages I was struck by how well-organized everything was, it was a simple setup to allow the real star of the book to shine, the food.  Every page had images of at least one of the dishes that you could find in the book.  Reading through the beginning pages I wanted to skip ahead, and see what it was that I was going to need to dive into when I got into the kitchen.  I took the time to read everything, and I’m happy I did.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the introduction that is given before you get into the nuts and bolts of Paleo.  Both Hayley and Bill tell their stories and it really connected me to the book, I understood where they were coming from and how they found Paleo and each other.  I was invested in the work; I wanted to know more about them and about the food that they are so passionate about.  Passing the story they tell they jump into a very clear idea of what they are saying when they talk about Paleo, they acknowledge that there are other definitions used by people, but they want to be clear what they are talking about.  I always want to know how people structure their own ancestral approach to eating.  Sometimes it’s very similar to mine, other times it’s different, I like to know that from the start. 

Moving forward you get into the practical side of things, first up is how to stock your kitchen.  If you’re going to make this food you are definitely going to need some stuff.  Again the instructions are clear on what you should get, why you should go with one product or another, and some of the uses that you will have for that ingredient.  I loved the way that the fats were discussed especially, not only covering what fats, but what they were good for, and what they were not good for.  Talking about the fats and how to use them is always good because when you go Paleo you’re leaving the one size fits all approach of cheap vegetable oil behind.  Again pictures were numerous and really helped me remember what I was reading as I worked through the book.  Now that you’ve got your stuff it’s time to make some food.  But where do you begin, the book has so many recipes that you could eat for weeks and not get through them all.  As with the book up to this point the pictures look great and really draw you in.  The instructions are clear, and make it so that each recipe seems easy enough for anyone to take on.  Some of the pages have a bit about a personal connection to the particular dish and that really helped me to remember the foods that connected me to people.  Remembering various memories of myself in the kitchen with family members, and special occasions I was reminded of how central food is to us.  One dish that did not have a connection to the authors but does to me is Chocolate pie, it is my Father’s favorite dessert and I’ve been looking for a way to make that into something that I can share with him again.  I’m looking forward to this Thanksgiving when I can make the version found in Make It Paleo and make new memories together.  Throughout each recipe it is clear that Bill and Hayley have a deep love for food and health and bringing the two together through eating Paleo.  I look forward to working my way through the various recipes that I have already tagged as must make soon, and then sharing those foods with my family and friends when they spend time with me.

Overall the book is a great addition to anyone’s collection of Paleo works.  I put it up there as a go to for someone like myself that has been doing this for a while and needs to spice it up a bit in the kitchen.  The work also works great as an introduction to Paleo, the explanations are clear and the process of making the dishes is explained well.  You do not have to be a trained chef to pull off these dishes; just have a love for food and a willingness to let your eyes draw you into the beautiful dishes that you can make.  I look forward to bringing this book back with me to Illinois and using it to produce great meals for the rest of my family as I try to get them onto the Paleo wagon with me.

Big weekend ahead

It’s been a slow day today, I actually almost didn’t write a post.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the basics of life and just think that there isn’t really anything that people might want to know about that happened that day.  Today I didn’t PR, didn’t finish my book, only had 40 visitors at the park, and did ok on the WOD but nothing special.  I didn’t cheat on the diet, and besides deciding to cut iced tea from my intake because I think I drink too much of it I didn’t do anything different.  So I guess you could call today the day of didn’t.  And I guess that’s worth mentioning.  It was a day where things went along, I did what I needed to, didn’t do anything I shouldn’t do and besides eating a huge dinner which may or may not have been more than I needed it was a day hardly worth noting.

This weekend however is looking to be a big deal.  Tomorrow night I had planned to go to see Finding Nemo, well that is going to have to be pushed back a day.  Because one of the couples at Sports Evolution Crossfit is having a get together at their house. So I’m going to be social instead.  Following that up on Sunday I’m headed to Pittsburgh for my first Paleo meet up.  and while I’m there I’ll hit up one more WOD at my favorite box in town, Crossfit Iron City.  Afterwards I’ll go ahead and see the movie.  I should maybe try to find a place to shower I guess.  That may turn into an issue since I don’t have any ideas where I could get cleaned up.  So if you live in Pittsburgh and you don’t mind a guy coming to shower at your place you should let me know.  Because I’ll be in need of a shower I’m sure.  During the afternoon I don’t have any plans so I’m thinking it will be a Nemo filled afternoon and then off to meet up with new Paleo friends.  Also I currently have three pies in the oven.  One for tomorrow, One for Sunday, and one as an experiment and because I love pumpkin pie.  Here’s a shot of the crusts, and of them headed into the oven.

Goal 1 accomplished

Mobility Day!

And like that one of my goals for the week is down.  I got my schedule for the next two weeks today.  I know getting a schedule on the Thursday before it starts on Sunday is short notice but such is life sometimes.  I had asked for time off for the NYC trip but was told that they didn’t know if I could have it.  Well on the schedule I have the leave.  So October 5-7 I’ll be in NYC.  If you’re in the city and have ideas on Paleo friendly restaurants I could use the tips, also if you have a Crossfit box that I should stop by I’d love to hear why I should go there.  I’ve visited Black Box when I was in the city last year.  So while I might be up for a return trip I was hoping to visit somewhere new.  If you want to meet up for a cup of coffee or something while I’m wandering the city I’m sure that could be arranged as well.  I’m staying in the Bronx with two friends of mine and we are just setting up the things that we will be doing while I’m there.  In other news on Sunday I’m headed to the first Paleo meet up that I’ve been to.  This one is for the group of Paleo eaters in Pittsburgh and I’m looking forward to meeting new people.  The next two weeks are looking pretty exciting.

Other things in my life are still going along, I have my schedule for two weeks but know nothing more than that.  I did sleep better last night, and work today was slow so I’m closing in on finishing Game of Thrones.  It’s been a long read but a good one.  It is officially my 30th book since I started this job.  Not quite as quick as I had hoped to do the 30 books of summer, but I did it.  I’m still feeling good.  Mobility day is always a good day and I enjoyed going in and working on my issues in a more relaxed fashion.  I’m also looking ahead to hitting it hard tomorrow and finishing up the week strong.  Saturday I’m taking myself to go see Finding Nemo in 3D.  You people can judge away, I love that movie and I’m going to enjoy it like a kid.  Thanks to the cold weather I can wear a sweatshirt and bring in a bottle of water to drink.  The only snack that I need for the movie.  I never understand how the theaters can expect someone to pay $4 for a bottle of water.  Oh well great day today, and looking forward to more good times.  Hopefully I will know more about my return to Illinois in the next week or so.



If you were to ask me to sum up my life right now in one word it would be waiting, or maybe better stated anticipation.  Yes, I like anticipation much better, I think it reflects my feelings more.  I am not simply waiting on what is going to happen next.  Instead I am not merely passive but actively looking forward to what comes next.  I spend my days applying for jobs that I find and constantly hunting for opportunities.  I also am looking forward to packing new experiences into these last few weeks here in Pennsylvania.  But there is a problem, I don’t know how much longer that I will be here.  Technically I’m only promised my job through the end of the week.  The next schedule could come out and my name not be on it.  I don’t expect that to happen but it could.  I could be given a couple more weeks and the first weekend of October be told that my job isn’t here anymore and I’m headed back to Illinois.  It is a stressful way to live.  Not having any control over that part of my future.  When I apply for jobs I pick a start date with no idea if I’ll be employed until that job begins or not.  I have a hard time planning things to do because I don’t know if I can commit to being around more than a couple weeks from now.  I want to set up the dates for the NYC trip with Alex.  I had a great time with him and Craig in January, those two are great and I really want to see them again.  I also would love to make it back down to DC and I need to plan my trip back home so I have a couple of days with my little brother at college.  But all of that is on hold.  I can’t make any decisions for the fall until I know how long I’ll have this job.  I’ve gone through many emotions about it.  I’ve been stressed, worried, excited, apathetic, and amused even.  But at this point I’m just nervous that I will not be given more than a week or so notice and I’ll have to scramble to get things together to go back and I won’t accomplish the things that I want to do here.  Because of this the structure of being strict has been a great distraction keeping my mind off of other things.  I can focus on making sure that I’m following the rules of my challenge and taking care of myself.  Also seeing the changes that It’s given me has been a great positive when it’s easy to get bogged down in all of the parts of life that aren’t so great.  I hope that at some point the powers that be realize that they are playing with my life here and let me have some sort of idea on my time here and how that it is going to continue or not continue into the fall.

Besides the waiting I’ve noticed something else lately.  I pee all the time, not even remotely what feels like a normal amount.  Last night I was up three times in the night to do it.  I know that I drink a lot of water but seriously body get on board here.  I’m sure that’s more about me than you wanted to know, but I felt like this post should contain something about the challenge in it.  Otherwise I’m still thinking of keeping this thing going until next month, maybe even longer.  Who knows I may rock the challenge until I get bored with it.  I would like to have more coffee in my day though.  If I go back to Starbucks that would be hard.

I slept until 10am and it was glorious

Some people might say that makes me a slacker, but I don’t care.  Having Tuesday as part of my weekend means that I can get stuff done and blah blah blah, but you know what today I decided it was time to sleep till whenever.  So I turned off the alarm when it went off this morning and just slept.  It was great to give my body extra time to rest.  When I did get up I made some food did the last of my batching and cleaning and then got myself ready to head into the gym.  On my days off I’m free to spend extra time there and not be rushed to get everything done in time.  So I went in about four, had my cup of coffee with me and did my workout.  Then hung around to help out as a second set of eyes on the skill work for the class and then to cheer them on as they took on their WOD.  Sometimes I take on whatever they are doing too but after a 35 minute effort in the conditioning tonight I was not up to it.  As far as working on my goals today I did well.  I applied for a couple of jobs and looked up what locations I might want to go back to at Starbucks when I head home.  I also looked at a teaching career fair that’s going to be held in October near the Parents’ house so I could go to that too.  Had breakfast in silence which I’m enjoying more and more.  It allows for some interesting thoughts to pass through my head but it also allows me to start the day with a clean slate.  I don’t have things invading my morning because I’ve given myself a break already.  Now I’m home and I’m going to enjoy one of my favorite shows on tv tonight, The League.  It’s hilarious and set in Chicago how could you not love it.  I’m rewatching  season 3 since next season will start-up next month.  I’m looking forward to taking on the rest of the week.  Only one picture today and it’s of God’s greatest gift, Bacon.

Yum, topping and condiment.