Vani Mandyam

Ah, Vani. What could we say about her that isn’t already screen printed on a corny punny tank top? Behold:

Q: Why did you start CrossFit and why did you decide to stick with it? 

A: I had been boxing for a year before I decided to look for a new challenge. I had lost about 20 lbs with it and I felt like I had gotten everything I could out of it. It was time for a new challenge. Once I found CrossFit it was easy for me to stick with it. Two reasons for that; first, the community here is great. So much encouragement and genuine love among all the people here — it is so infectious. Second, and I can’t stress this enough, the coaches are AMAZING and that’s what keeps me coming back. The emphasis on correct form and technique that Crossfit Renew has, to me, become really important ‘cause it keeps me from getting hurt.

Q: What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since starting? 

A: I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I am not intimidated by CrossFit anymore. I show up and do things I never thought I could really ever do. That feeling is quite remarkable really.

Q: What is one fact about yourself that we would all be surprised to know?

A: I am a table tennis (or ping pong as it’s called here) pro. Played for my state In India (Karnataka). A little rusty now but I can give the best of them a good run for their money.  I was also a VJ on TV in India. 

Q: What is something in your life that you’re proud of? 

A: I mean if you meet me you’ll see why it’s hard to only brag about one thing buttttttt I will try… I am incredibly proud of the fact that I have been able to beat my depression. For years I was embarrassed about it. But I have now realized that it takes a great deal of strength to admit you need help. I know my symptoms and now I understand what it means and I am finally at a place where I know how to handle it. The stigma around mental health never let me speak about it but now I really think that If I can tell at least one person my story and it helps them, it will have all been worth it.  

Q: What is one thing in the next year that you are looking forward to? 

A: Looking forward to doing some single unders without losing my mind!!!!!! I never jumped rope before CrossFit. If I did, I obviously don’t remember it. I would like to string together 50 single unders in a row. Also run like a gazelle. Like all my fellow CrossFitters do. It’s my dream.

Okay, but, can we all agree that a TV video jockey slash ping pong professional is every stoner’s dream? We love you Vani! Never leave us. 

Deskercise is the new Jazzercise | Guest Post by Andi Lozano

Move aside, Jazzercise. Deskercise is where it’s at. 

Some people say that sitting is the new cancer, and although I think that might be a bit extreme, your butt should not be glued to a chair 9+ hours a day, that’s for damn sure. It’s not only the act of sitting, but the way you sit that impacts your musculature and becomes ~cancerous~.

For us folks who are active in the gym, repetitive patterns, poor posture, and staying in the same position for hours on end day after day will certainly affect the longevity of your training. Why? Because your muscles begin to compensate for the positions they spend a lot of time in. And guess what? Your hips aren’t in a passive flexed position in any movement we do at Crossfit Renew. Your shoulders weren’t meant to round forward into a floppy version of internal rotation.

And so, since we spend a third of our day in the workplace, let’s build healthy habits and patterns to remind ourselves that our muscles and joints were meant to move. Try out these desk exercises in between conference calls:

Seated Cat/Cow

From your undoubtedly ergonomic office chair, place your hands onto your knee caps. Pull your chest forward and gaze up to the ceiling on an inhale. Tuck your chin to your chest and round into your upper back on an exhale. Or, if you have no shame, get on all fours in the tabletop position and do this classic Cat/Cow style. 

You can also do these standing if you wanted to get out of your chair. Whatever position you choose — do 10-20 repetitions.

Spinal Twist

From a seated or standing position, keep your feet firmly planted. Twist your upper body to one side grabbing the back of your chair. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side. Try deeply exhaling as you twist to get a bit deeper.

Desk Pigeon

Take a break from “floating this to the top of your inbox” and stand up, bend your knee at 90 degrees, and plop it up on your desk. Your standing leg can scooch back as far as you’d like to get a stretch in the front of your hip. Hold for 30-45 seconds, then switch legs.

Cervical CARs

Pin your scapula into your back pockets. Tuck your ribs in and keep a soft bend in your knees. Now, using just the seven vertebrae in your cervical spine (your top-most area of your spine), take your chin to your chest, over to the right, gaze up, loop around to the left, and tuck your chin back to your chest. Repeat 10-20 times, alternating the initial movement between left and right.

Calf Stretch

Find a nearby wall, or use the legs of your desk and bring your toes in towards your shin. Lean forward a bit to bring the stretch up into your hamstring. Hold for 45-60 seconds, then switch.

Listen, I know it’s weird AF to be the person doing desk pilates in the middle of your workday, but our bodies were not made to be sitting, sedentary, scrolling and clicking endlessly throughout the day. So un-tuck that tukus and get to deskercising!


Refuel Recipes: Sweet Potato Muffins

Adapted from Feel Good Foodie!

Welcome back! Just to review, each month, we’re gonna focus on one key ingredient that’s both delicious and nutritious and teach you how to incorporate it into your diet in a realistic, sustainable, tasty way! 

This month: Sweet potatoes! ICYMI, this tuberous root vegetable (although for nutrition purposes we should consider it a starch) is packed with slow-burning carbohydrates, vitamins C, D, and tons of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They are wonderfully versatile and, when stored correctly, can stay good for weeks or even months. 

For a full recap, check out our first sweet potato recipe here

So far, we have seen sweet potatoes three different ways: cooked to perfection in the instant pot, as snackable and stackable rounds and atop a dreamy shepherd’s pie . We’re rounding out this month with a fourth & final freaking delicious recipe: Sweet potato muffins! Yes, you read that correctly. Super moist, nutritious, satisfying MUFFINS! They are also vegan and take less than 10 ingredients to whip up if we didn’t already have your undivided attention. 

Sweet Potato Muffins 

Serving size: 1 muffin | Number of servings: 12

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories – 85 | Fat – 3g | Carbs – 23g | Protein – 2g

Prep time: 10m | Cook time: 25m

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • ¾ cup coconut milk (carton, not canned)
  • ½  tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and prep muffin tin by greasing or adding liners
  2. Place cooked sweet potato, coconut milk and vanilla in a blender and blend until smooth
  3. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients 
  4. Transfer sweet potato mixture from the blender into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until combined
  5. Spoon batter into tins until all are filled to the top
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  7. Cool for 15-20 minutes before digging in. *This is going to be tough, but it’s important. We believe in you!*

Notes: 

  • Roasting the sweet potatoes is actually the most time consuming part of this recipe. All it takes in 45-50 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees or a quick trip in the instant pot
  • Feel free to customize with add-ins! Chopped nuts, dried fruit or dark chocolate chips are some of our favorites! Fold these ingredients in after step 4.
  • To make gluten free, use an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. Avoid using only almond/coconut flour.
  • Instead of coconut milk, you can use any other plant-based milks or regular milk.

Lauren Bratcher

Nutrition Coach

Lauren has been an athlete at Renew since 2018, and has been spearheading Refuel, Renew’s Nutrition Program, since 2019. When she’s not testing biometrics, meal prepping or sending enthusiastic, emoji-packed text messages to her nutrition clients — you can find her at a coffee shop sipping on an oat milk latte or running around Town Lake with her Australian Shepherd. As a former die-hard bootcamper, Lauren’s sweet spots in the gym include any bodyweight-centric movements: box jumps, running, double-unders — which explains why her all-time favorite benchmark workout is Angie. 

You don’t have to do it all, but you have to do something.

Let me tell you something that you already inherently know, but maybe don’t love admitting to yourself: 

There is only one person that can truly control your journey with fitness/nutrition, and that person is you. 

While I would hope that you would be able to receive that statement with your head held high in confidence, I know that for most of us, myself included, such an idea can quickly send us into a spiral of shame and negative self talk. 

“Why is it that I always make these lofty goals and can never follow through with them?”

“If I only had more discipline, I would have achieved my goals years ago.”

“I’ve been grinding for weeks now and I’m not seeing any progress. What’s the point of all this?”

If you find yourself walking down that path, stop. Take a deep breath and hear this: you do not have to do it all. In fact, you shouldn’t try and do it all. Going from 1 workout a week to 5 workouts a week, giving the middle finger to all processed sugar and shifting from never touching vegetables to consuming 5 cups of them a day is far from a setup for success. It’s much closer to a guarantee for failure. To put it succinctly, the “all or nothing” mentality rarely gets us “all” and it usually gets us “nothing”. 

Everything I’ve said above is true but it is only the first half of the story. No all. Not nothing. Always something. Instead of thinking of your fitness and nutrition efforts as having an “on” or “off” switch, think of them existing on a dial system. During different seasons or life, effort can be dialed up or dialed down. The key here is to never turn the dial off completely. Here are some examples of how this could play out as seasons of life change:

  • My husband and I just moved into a new home and we are spending a lot of our time remodeling. Because I can’t do my normal 5 days a week at the gym, I can dial down my fitness a little bit and commit to 3 30-minute workouts/week and a few extra walks with my dog. 
  • I’m on vacation with my family and don’t have the capability to meal prep like I normally would. I can dial down my nutrition a few notches and commit to having lean protein with each meal and veggies with at least 2 meals/day.
  • I’m traveling for a work conference, my hours are long and I don’t have any control over the food I’m given. I can dial down my fitness and commit to doing a 10-minute workout in my hotel room everyday. I can also commit to only consuming alcohol one night while I am at the conference. 
  • Or, you know, our city is under a mandatory quarantine because of a novel virus spreading like wildfire, and I won’t be able to make it to the gym or get everything I need for my usual meal prep. I can dial both down notches and commit to just moving my body around the house and making what I can with what I have — while keeping my water intake high. 

You get the picture. Perfection is not a part of normal life. If we wait for the “perfect time” to start or restart our nutrition and fitness journeys, we likely will forever be in a holding pattern. We have to do the best we can with what we have… whatever that may be. We are real humans living heckin’ messy human lives — that’s what we’re working with.

You do not have to do it all. 

But, you have to do something

Lauren Bratcher

Nutrition Coach

Lauren has been an athlete at Renew since 2018, and has been spearheading Refuel, Renew’s Nutrition Program, since 2019. When she’s not testing biometrics, meal prepping or sending enthusiastic, emoji-packed text messages to her nutrition clients — you can find her at a coffee shop sipping on an oat milk latte or running around Town Lake with her Australian Shepherd. As a former die-hard bootcamper, Lauren’s sweet spots in the gym include any bodyweight-centric movements: box jumps, running, double-unders — which explains why her all-time favorite benchmark workout is Angie. 

Refuel Recipes: Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Howdy y’all! 

In case you missed it, every month we’re picking a staple ingredient that’s both delicious and nutritious and teach you how to incorporate it into your diet in a realistic, sustainable, tasty way! This month we’re zeroing in on sweet potatoes. Not just for thanksgiving, my dudes! This tuberous root vegetable (although for nutrition purposes we should consider it a starch) is packed with slow-burning carbohydrates, vitamins C, D, B6, and tons of beneficial vitamins and minerals. The rich orange color of sweet potatoes indicates that they are jam packed full of beta-carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a natural immunity booster! I think we can all agree that’s a plus in a season such as this. Last, but not least, they are wonderfully versatile and, when stored correctly, can stay good for weeks or even months. 

For a full recap, check out our first sweet potato recipe here. 

This sweet potato recipe is hearty, satisfying and comes together in less than an hour. This meal is perfect for pleasing a picky family, prepping on a Sunday for the week ahead or delivering to a friend or family member in need of some home-cooked love & care. Feel free to customize as you, your fridge and your taste buds see fit. 

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

(Adapted from The Real Food RDs)

Serving size: ¼ of pan | Number of servings: 4

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories – 394 | Fat – 16g | Carbs – 40g | Protein – 26g

Prep time: 25m | Cook time: 20m

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef, turkey, bison or lamb
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium pepper (any color) chopped
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 C mushrooms, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Chili powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp dried thyme 
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ C water

Sweet Potato Topping

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil 
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the ground beef, all veggies and the minced garlic
  3. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until carrots begin to soften. Begin making topping while filling cooks
  4. Once the carrots are soft, stir in the water, tomato paste and all seasoning
  5. Steam or bake the cubed sweet potatoes until fork-tender. Then add all topping ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth
  6. Transfer the filling to a 9X9 inch casserole dish or a 10 inch cast-iron skillet and top with SP topping. Sprinkle chili powder and sea salt on top
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and enjoy!

Lauren Bratcher

Nutrition Coach

Lauren has been an athlete at Renew since 2018, and has been spearheading Refuel, Renew’s Nutrition Program, since 2019. When she’s not testing biometrics, meal prepping or sending enthusiastic, emoji-packed text messages to her nutrition clients — you can find her at a coffee shop sipping on an oat milk latte or running around Town Lake with her Australian Shepherd. As a former die-hard bootcamper, Lauren’s sweet spots in the gym include any bodyweight-centric movements: box jumps, running, double-unders — which explains why her all-time favorite benchmark workout is Angie. 

Training with Pain

Pain is many things; complex, multi-factorial, and most importantly — subjective. It’s not just a yes or no scenario, and subjectivity usually surrounds someone’s “tolerance” and the quality of their pain. I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say “I have a high pain tolerance,” to which I usually ask, “compared to what?” Let’s go ahead and have a little conversation about pain and go over some tools to use in understanding how hard you should push it. 

Rather than looking at pain as a tolerance, I’ve started looking at pain as more so a relationship. This is typically determined by a person’s history in sport/activity, as well as how much said sport/activity has beaten their body up. A novice mover, or more sedentary person, may find stretching painful simply because it is a novel stimulus that their nervous system has not experienced. Whereas, it is not uncommon for ultra marathon runners, folks who push their bodies to the limits every day, to try and run through stress fractures. 

Experience is our best teacher when it comes to understanding when to pause or push through pain. 

Measuring pain and knowing when (or not) to train

In healthcare, we use the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) to assign a general, objective marker to someone’s pain level. This is our typical 0-10 scale, with zero being no pain at all and 10 being the worst imaginable pain. In between that pendulum we will typically classify a 3-4/10 as “nagging” or “uncomfortable pain” — in other words, it doesn’t necessarily change how you go about your day but you’re definitely aware something is going on. A 6-7/10 on the pain scale is getting a little more intense, and will likely force you to adjust how you go about your day — as well as impact your mood and demeanor. 

Once a patient has identified their number on the pain scale, the next step is to determine when we should train, when we should slow down, and when we should prioritize rest. The stoplight analogy comes in handy here: 

  • Green Light = Your pain is from a 0-3; train like normal. Don’t worry about modifying movements or decreasing the intensity. 
  • Yellow Light = Your pain is 4-6; we should make some modifications. This might look like modifying movements or changing the volume (reps) or load (weight) of a workout. 
  • Red Light = You’re dealing with pain that is 7 or greater; your workout should be heavily modified, replaced with single mode aerobic work, or shut down completely. 

After a handful of ‘“yellow light” workouts, if improvement isn’t made or noticed, it may be time to call up your chiropractor, physical therapist, or massage therapist to get some trained eyes on you.

The stop light analogy is simple, but damn if it isn’t effective. If nothing else, it’s a great place to start in determining an appropriate training stimulus. There are two more considerations to make during and after your workout to hone in the skill of training with pain.

Be one with your feelings

Your quality of pain is another aspect that is heavily weighted in a healthcare setting. The quality of one’s pain is mostly just simple descriptors like ‘“achey”, “sharp”, “stabbing”, “dull”, “shooting”, “tight”, et cetera — being able to describe the quality of your pain helps me, as a healthcare provider, to understand the intensity of your pain. If you would describe your pain as sharp, stabbing, shooting, or are experiencing any numbness/tingling I would recommend you err on the side of caution and dial back a little more than the stop light may suggest. 

Lastly, after you train through or around your pain, how do you feel? Did the pain increase? For how long? Did it go away? Did it boomerang back? As corny as you may feel, these are the moments in which a training log or journal becomes incredibly helpful. Beyond just tracking your fitness and wellness progress, logging how you feel during, and how you feel after a workout from a pain management perspective is huge in developing a sound strategy for movement improvement. If post workout soreness/pain (not the soreness associated with those gainz) increases for more than 60-90 minutes it is advised to make changes to the next training session. Decreasing volume or load would be great modifications to following workouts.  

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m not sure a life without any pain at all is a realistic goal, especially if you are active. Having a good understanding of what pain means and when you should be concerned is an integral skill to develop in order to maintain your health and your fitness.  

Doctor of Chiropractic; FRCms; CF-L2

Colin joined the Renew Crew in February of 2020 as an athlete and a coach shortly after opening Move First – Performance Chiropractic within our very building. Colin is a chiropractor that focuses on movement quality and optimization and believes that well designed strength and conditioning programming paired with intentional recovery is what leads to a healthy, happy body. Colin was on Oklahoma State’s co-ed cheer team, and since has over 10 years of cheer and tumbling coaching, with 3 years of CrossFit coaching and Olympic Lifting and Strongman specialties sprinkled throughout his coaching tenure. His favorite benchmark workout is Grace – ‘cause barbells. 

Member Spotlight: Moises Carvajal Ruiz

Pictured above: Moises riding a Bird Scooter while supposed to be running a 5k.

Meet Moises: the most Deadpool-loving, twin girl dad-being, hard-working fruit vendor/Spanish coach you’ve ever met. Also if you’ve ever come to a class with him and you wonder why he creeps up on a coach to whisper “coach can I take a shower” after every single class it is because Sadie accidentally locked him in the gym while he was showering. Twice. 

Q:  Why did you start CrossFit and what is your favorite thing about it? 

A: I started CrossFit because I like the idea of group exercise. Going to the gym alone is so boring. My favorite thing about it is that I don’t have to think about what exercises to do that day (Yeah, I’m lazy) — I just go there and do exactly what the coaches say! It’s great.

Q: Please tell us about being a fruit vendor and how you got into that business!

A: I started my fruit truck business through my family! In 2017, I was visiting my family down in Houston and began working for them, and I really enjoyed it. I traveled to Mexico a bit but wound up back In Houston, where I worked for a couple more months before deciding to stay in Houston and continue working with my uncle. After a while, I saved up enough to get my own truck! I needed new customers, so I moved to Austin so I wouldn’t be competing with my Uncle and his current customers. 

Q: What is the best thing that you have in your truck? 

A: Hmmmm… the best thing… I really like the sweet bread! 

Q: Where did you live before you were in Austin?

A: I lived in Houston for 6 months, and before that, I lived in Veracruz, Mexico. 

Next time you’re at the 8a or 11:30a, or just need a hit of some fruit (or sweet bread!), say hello to Moises! We love you, Moises. We’re so glad you’re here! 

Refuel Recipes: Quick and Easy Sweet Potato Rounds

Picture from: http://bit.ly/32KouU7

Welcome back! Just to review, each month, we’re gonna focus on one key ingredient that’s both delicious and nutritious and teach you how to incorporate it into your diet in a realistic, sustainable, tasty way! 

This month: Sweet potatoes! ICYMI, this tuberous root vegetable (although for nutrition purposes we should consider it a starch) is packed with slow-burning carbohydrates, vitamins C, D, and tons of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They are wonderfully versatile and, when stored correctly, can stay good for weeks or even months. 

For a full recap, check out our first sweet potato recipe here. 

Our second recipe is so quick, so easy, and so dang versatile. Load ‘em up with your favorite meats, spread peanut butter, greek yogurt and granola for a balanced breakfast, or use them as chips for your favorite spreads. 

These little guys are perfect for any occasion, and only require three simple ingredients: Sweet potatoes, salt and your favorite cooking fat!

Quick and Easy Sweet Potato Rounds

Serving size: 4 rounds | Number of servings: 6-8, depending on size of potato 

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories – 85 | Fat – 0g | Carbs – 20g | Protein – 2g

Prep time: 5m | Cook time: 20m

Ingredients:

  • 3 Medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp cooking oil 
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Scrub potatoes until clean
  3. Cut sweet potatoes into thin rounds (about ⅓ – ¼ inches wide). You might need to use two pans
  4. Place rounds on a baking in one layer
  5. Top rounds with a small amount of oil and salt
  6. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes
  7. Top with all your fun and festive ingredients.

Happy snacking!

Lauren has been an athlete at Renew since 2018, and has been spearheading Refuel, Renew’s Nutrition Program, since 2019. When she’s not testing biometrics, meal prepping or sending enthusiastic, emoji-packed text messages to her nutrition clients — you can find her at a coffee shop sipping on an oat milk latte or running around Town Lake with her Australian Shepherd. As a former die-hard bootcamper, Lauren’s sweet spots in the gym include any bodyweight-centric movements: box jumps, running, double-unders — which explains why her all-time favorite benchmark workout is Angie. 

Refuel Recipes: The Perfect Instant Pot Sweet Potato

Picture from: http://bit.ly/2TemfVQ

Annnnnnnnd, we’re back with another round of Refuel Recipes! In case you’re new to the gym or to the fact that our gym also runs a sweet blog, each month we are focusing on one key ingredient that’s both delicious and nutritious and teaching you how to incorporate it into your diet in a realistic, sustainable way! 

This month: Sweet potatoes! If you’re only experienced with these tuberous (and tubular!) root vegetables is your great aunt’s thanksgiving sweet potato (but mostly marshmallow) casserole, we’re glad you’ve decided to join us on this culinary journey. Sweet Potatoes, just like their boring cousin, can be prepared in many ways: they can be baked, boiled, mashed, roasted, etc. Unlike their boring cousin, the sweet potato’s natural higher sugar content makes them an excellent component in baked goods and desserts! 

So, what’s so great about ‘em? Sweet potatoes are a killer carbohydrate source – around 40g per medium potato. Because they are high in fiber and low in sugar you get the fuel you need for life without any major crash risk (in other words, sweet potatoes are a “slow carb”). They also are a great source of Vitamins C, D, beta-carotene (good for eyes, skin and immunity), and minerals such as iron, potassium and magnesium. Additionally, sweet potatoes, when stored in a cool, dry and dark place can keep for weeks or even months! Lastly, they are cheap! 

Now for our first sweet potato recipe. We’re keeping it simple to start. Gotta air squat before you can overhead squat, you know? This week…

The Perfect Instant Pot Sweet Potato! Here are some great things about this recipe:

  1. You can make multiple perfect potatoes at a time.
  2. You can make multiple perfect potatoes at a time quickly.
  3. You can make multiple perfect potatoes at a time quickly without stabbing them all 1,000 times with a fork.

Need I say more?

The Perfect Instant Pot Sweet Potato

Serving size: 1 medium sweet potato  | Number of servings: as many as your Pot allows

Nutrition facts per serving: Calories – 150 | Fat – 0g | Carbs – 40g | Protein – 4g

Prep time: 5m | Cook time: 30m

Ingredients:

  • 5-7 medium Sweet Potatoes (number depends on your Instant Pot
  • 1 C water

Instructions:

  1. Prepare your Instant Pot by plugging it in and placing the steamer basket inside. 
  2. Prepare your sweet potatoes by scrubbing them until they are clean.
  3. Pour water into the Instant Pot.
  4. Place sweet potatoes inside/on top of your steamer basket.
  5. Secure the lid and make sure the valve is set to “seal”.
  6. Use the manual mode on your IP and set to pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.
  7. Once cook time is finished, let the pressure in release naturally until the pressure valve releases (this should take about 10 minutes).
  8. Remove the lid and enjoy your perfect sweet potatoes. They can also be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. 

Enjoy!

Lauren has been an athlete at Renew since 2018, and has been spearheading Refuel, Renew’s Nutrition Program, since 2019. When she’s not testing biometrics, meal prepping or sending enthusiastic, emoji-packed text messages to her nutrition clients — you can find her at a coffee shop sipping on an oat milk latte or running around Town Lake with her Australian Shepherd. As a former die-hard bootcamper, Lauren’s sweet spots in the gym include any bodyweight-centric movements: box jumps, running, double-unders — which explains why her all-time favorite benchmark workout is Angie. 

Is there anyone out there, ‘cause it’s getting harder and harder to breathe (Pelvic Floor Function 101, part 2)

If CrossFit teaches us anything, it’s that failure to manage your breathing patterns during one million thrusters or a lifetime supply of burpees is futile. Understanding how and when to breathe during high intensity exercises — not just during heavy lifts — helps to not only regulate your heart rate and achieve the intended workout stimulus, but it properly manages the pressure that builds in your abdomen (called “intra-abdominal pressure”) — creating core stability to keep you safe while you’re exerting yourself.

If you follow us on the interwebs, you know that our love for Dr. Aaron Horschig over at Squat University is loud and proud. In his article, How to Breathe When Squatting, Dr. Horschig elaborates on a lot of great points about core stability vs. strength — and I particularly loved this:

“Core stability is the synchronous action of the abdominal muscles along with the muscles of the back, hip, pelvic girdle, diaphragm and surrounding fascia. When working together they keep the spine in a safe and stable position while we move. Therefore, core stability has nothing to do with how many crunches you perform or hypers off the glute-ham machine. The essence of stability is based on two things: timing and coordinated recruitment. In order to recruit our core muscles prior to the squat the cue to “brace for a punch” is recommended.” 

But, he goes on, it’s not enough to only brace when we squat (or deadlift, or clean, or snatch), if we want to move weight safely we must also learn how to breathe. Check out his article for a more in-depth outline of how to do just that. 

So why am I talking so much about breathing — aren’t we supposed to be talking about pelvic floors and peeing? Well, symptoms of a weak pelvic floor can be exacerbated by improper intra-abdominal pressure management.

So how do I properly manage my intra-abdominal pressure?

There are many schools of thought for how to breathe/manage intra-abdominal pressure during movement — especially as a pregnant and postpartum person — but at the end of the day it’s all about mind-muscle connection, and appropriate timing of your breath. And if you’re a person who is pregnant or postpartum and symptomatic, this pressure management piece is critical in protecting — and even strengthening — your pelvic floor. If you’re experiencing major symptoms (leaking, prolapse, pain of any kind), or within 8 weeks of having a baby, then stop what you’re reading and go see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist over at Sullivan Physical Therapy. We can take the website abandonment. 

Anyway.

For continuity’s sake, let’s take the squat. While Dr. Horschig would advise an athlete in good health with a functioning midline and pelvic floor to “brace for a punch” before their squat, the demand that a braced core (or simply — a held breath) places on the pelvic floor after having a baby can be tremendous. The intra-abdominal pressure created during the “brace” naturally bears down on the pelvic floor. This is not ideal for someone experiencing pelvic floor weakness, or recovering from diastasis recti (abdominal separation), as that bear-down pressure then adds more stress on those weakened areas. Instead, we need to consider distributing the pressure created with our breath throughout our diaphragm, throughout the duration of a movement. 

Over at the Pregnant and Postpartum Athlete, Brianna Battles touches on this concept in her article, How Do I Change My Breathing During Pregnancy and Postpartum:

“When you inhale, your belly should expand/give way (making room for the diaphragm to go down), this reduces tension in the pelvic floor and abdominal wall. When you exhale, the diaphragm travels back up, and the pelvic floor gently recoils/contracts following the diaphragms lead. The transverse abdominals, creates a “force” across the midline. This does not “close” your abs, but it does help create tension in the linea alba from the intentional contraction.  The tension generated helps with generating strength and adaptation to the system.

This connection between your breath and the base of your core, aka your pelvic floor, and your abs matter. The breath helps facilitate coordination, intention, and awareness of tendencies. It’s not the end-all-be-all of healing and rehab, but it is a foundation to be in tune with because it’s how we add movement, improve/manage symptoms and overall familiarity with our postpartum body.” 

In relation to the squat, we want to inhale as described at the top, and then exhale as we move through the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement; controlling our exhale and allowing our transverse abdominals to create that “force” across our midline to help stabilize our core as we work our way through the squat. Or, from Brianna:

“While standing, shift your body weight so that it’s evenly distributed across your feet. Let your belly and glutes let go of any tension they are holding in standing, Inhale (feeling the expansion into your rib cage and stomach) and then gently exhale (feeling the gentle support from the bottom and around your center) and then begin to squat down.

Try to exhale through the full range of motion to generate the most support. When you return to standing, inhale and give your body a chance to reset, relaxing at the top. You do not need to squat low, and avoid your pelvis tipping under (referred to as butt wink), and squat to a controlled depth. When you stand up, finish in a neutral position, there’s no need to squeeze your glutes at the end range/top.”

If you’re struggling to feel the connection, check out her article, Your First 6 Weeks Postpartum, for more movement ideas, or that other article I linked up there for some more varied physical cues. 

The more we can learn and apply appropriate breathing patterns and core control to our training, the better we can manage our symptoms and tendencies as they relate to our pelvic floor health — aiding in a better, safer, maybe even faster, postpartum recovery process.

I think two is probably enough in this highly-anticipated blog series — but if you want more information about this topic, I’d love to chat! Let’s set up a time to meet and work through some strategies and exercises to ensure you’re taking care of that amazing body before, during, and after baby. Hit me up: [email protected].   

Sadie, who’s been coaching at Renew since 2016, is a former collegiate athlete with a penchant for power lifts. So, unsurprisingly, her favorite benchmark workout is the lovely Linda. As a new mom, Sadie is passionate about pregnant and postpartum fitness and wellness, and works hard to help women take care of their bodies before and after birth. When she’s not making jokes at your expense or forcing her 90s alternative music beliefs upon you, you can find Sadie outside somewhere with her husband, two dogs, and their chonky new baby.