Two Quick and Easy Meal Prep Recipes for When You’re in a Jam

It’s Sunday night. You have a jam-packed week and haven’t even thought about meal prepping. Panic starts to set in as the minutes keep ticking away. But have no fear! These quick and easy recipes will save you from a week of drive-thrus and take-outs.

Taco Seasoning
3 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Teaspoons Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Combine all spices in a small container. Shake well and then add to the meat of your choice.

Crockpot Cashew Chicken
1 3/4 lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut into chunks)
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Peppers
2/3 Cup Cashews
Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
3 1/2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Honey
2 1/2 Tablespoons Ginger
4 Cloves of Garlic
1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

In a small bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the corn starch, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet until hot, then add the chicken mixture and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Transfer lightly-browned chicken to a slow cooker and then add the peppers and sauce. Cook on low for 2-3 hours or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle cashews on top when ready to serve.

Kipping it Real with Janelle!

Each month Overland Park CrossFit recognizes a member who exemplifies our values and motivates others in the gym to push themselves with encouraging words. December’s Athlete of the Month is Janelle Balarashti. Janelle was chosen because of her consistency and dedication to staying fit over quarantine this spring; she never lets an injury or soreness keep her from getting a workout in; she always comes to class with a positive attitude; she graciously accepts the coach’s feedback and implements it the best she can; and she is just an all-around super hard worker that is very inspiring! Her hard work is paying off and we love having Janelle as a part of our OPCF community! Learn more about Janelle below.

How long have you been working out at Overland Park CrossFit? 1.5 years

What were your thoughts after your first CrossFit workout? Do you remember what it was? “Oh my gosh, this is hard! Can’t wait to go back!”

What has been your favorite workout so far? No particular favorite but I like the RFT workouts best so that I know a specific number.

What is your favorite cheat meal? Tacos….all the tacos!

What did you want to be when you grew up and where do you work now? I always wanted to be a teacher. Now, I work for The Family Conservancy on our Early Care and Education team. I’m able to take my passion for children and families and use it with early care and education providers throughout the metro. 

What do you like to do outside of work? I love to go hiking, lose myself in a good book, and always like trying a new recipe out for yummy, healthy dinners.

What advice would you give a newbie just starting at OPCF? Just keep coming back. Leah and the other coaches always have scaling options for if something seems impossible.

What is your favorite/least favorite movement? Least favorite movement is overhead squat….definitely room for improvement there! Most favorite movement is probably deadlift.

What’s one CrossFit goal you have set for yourself to accomplish this next year? One CrossFit goal for this next year is to finally be able to get a strict pull-up.

What changes have you seen in yourself since starting at OPCF? I’m definitely more self-confident and have a higher self-esteem. As I’ve gotten more fit (still so far to go!), I’m more comfortable in my own skin and more willing to take on new challenges and those things that just seemed impossible before now.

What is your biggest improvement or proudest accomplishment thus far? My proudest accomplishment thus far is that I keep coming back, especially when I see a WOD and think “I’m going to be scaling every move, why bother”. Those are the days that I make myself go and feel so much better for doing it.

How do you fit working out into your weekly schedule? I deliberately block time off on my family and work calendars each day so that I make sure I am taking care of myself and my own self-care needs.

What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t yet? I’ve always wanted to do a family hike up Pike’s Peak, hopefully in the next couple of years.

What is a Refeed and Should You Try It?

CrossFitters are known for their near-insanity. They love to push their bodies to the breaking point, and then do it again, and then again. They are known for keeping an early bedtime, getting an exorbitant amount of sleep, and adhering to the strictest of diets. The results of these practices can be amazing, but they can also start to take their toll. It can be difficult to maintain this level of dedication in every aspect of their lives and often the first element to suffer is their diet. If you’ve been around the fitness world for any amount of time, then you are probably familiar with the term “cheat meal”. This term can often hold a negative connotation for many athletes, or it can be an athlete’s favorite time of the week. However, did you know that there is another approach to the “cheat meal” that might actually have some benefits?

A healthier alternative to the “cheat meal” is what’s called a “refeed”. There are several definitions for this term floating around in the fitness world, such as “a short-term, planned period of overfeeding—usually focusing on particular macronutrients”, or “a particular day of increased caloric intake to refuel the body after having been in a depleted state, due to either caloric restriction and/or increased physical activity”. Whichever definition you choose to embrace, they both communicate basically the same thing: a refeed is a meal or day where an athlete intentionally increases their caloric intake to sort of restart their metabolism. 

So, does a refeed day actually work? Although the idea behind it makes logical sense, unfortunately it is difficult to back up the idea with actual science because there are so many variables. However, with that being said, there may be some physiological and mental benefits of refeeding. For example, eating more food will require more energy to break that food down, which may increase the number of calories used that day. This may also increase the amount of energy you have that day, which could unintentionally lead to more movement. 

On the mental side of things, a refeed day can help ease the anxiety that often accompanies calorie or carb restrictive eating. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to maintain this type of eating for extended periods of time, so giving in to a “cheat day” can be a natural response. Therefore, a refeed day can be beneficial because it is a way to increase one’s calorie and carb intake without going to the opposite extreme and binge eating unhealthy foods. You can give yourself a little bit of a break while still staying on track with your health goals. 


Quick Tips for Efficient Outdoor Biking

CrossFitters have lots of experience on bikes – the Assault bike, which is known for leaving most athletes unable to walk or laying on the floor gasping for air, and the C2 bike, which requires a continuous source of energy output in order to accumulate any distance. But, how often do CrossFitters (besides the elite athletes, of course) spend time on a mountain bike, road bike, or hybrid bike? Each of these options is a little different than sitting on a stationary bike where there are no hills, no potholes, no downhills, etc. In order to be successful out on the trails/roads, here are several quick tips you can use to get the most out of your bike rides.

Being efficient on a bike all starts with the proper set up. If your bike isn’t fit for your needs, then you will not be able to use the appropriate muscles. One of the main, and probably most important, pieces that needs to be adjusted is the seat. When seated on your bike, you want to make sure that your leg is fully extended when the pedal is at the bottom of its rotation. Not making this adjustment can lead to an exaggerated bend in the knee when you pedal, which not only compromises the integrity of the knee joint but also sacrifices power, making for a less-efficient pedal stroke. 

One of the toughest parts of biking outside is the potential for changes in elevation. When it comes to biking uphill, there are several tips you can use to improve your efficiency during the climb. To get a “head start” on the climb, start accelerating at the base of the climb. This will allow inertia to carry you up the first part of the climb. Then, continue biking at a fast cadence to help get you through the rest of the climb. Try lightly resting your palms about 4 to 6 inches apart on the handlebars. This will help you relax and stay focused on establishing a rhythm. Finally, for climbs where there are occasional lulls or less-steep sections, try keeping your bike on a higher gear on the climb, instead of trying to re-shift multiple times. This saves time on the climb. 

Finally, having an efficient pedal stroke can go a long way in making a ride more enjoyable and decreasing the time it takes to cover more ground. If you watch an experienced rider, it looks like they are almost floating in space. Their legs fire like pistons and the stroke is perfectly circular, fluid, and rhythmic. This is because in order to maximize power, you have to minimize movement, develop a circular rhythm, and engage the pedal system with proper technique. To do this, you need to work with nature and use physics to support your movement.

To understand proper pedaling mechanics, think of the pedal stroke as a clock. To generate the most power, you want to strike into the pedal system at the power phase, which is at three or four o’clock. Many people believe that you should push down on one side of the pedal and then pull up on the opposite side. However, this is actually not the case. Using the clock analogy, you want to preload at about one o’clock, start engaging at about two o’clock, and then exert the most drive through three and four o’clock. You want to continue to drive down as you pass through the power phase, begin to ease off through five and six o’clock and then completely disengage at about seven o’clock. At this point, the opposite leg is starting its preload phase and the cycle is repeated on the other side.


Power, Speed, Endurance: A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training by Brian Mackenzie with Glen Cordoza

Transitioning from On-Ramp (Bootcamp) to CrossFit

So you’ve been doing On-Ramp classes (introductory CrossFit classes) for several weeks now and you’re wondering if you’re ready to transition over to the ‘big kid’ CrossFit classes. Chances are, if you’re even considering making the leap over to CrossFit then you’re probably ready to jump in feet first. With that being said, it can be intimidating to start working out with the big dogs, so here are some things to consider when making the transition. 

Larger Classes

This is a common theme at most CrossFit gyms – after you ‘graduate’ from the introductory class and start attending regular CrossFit classes, you will probably notice that the class sizes are larger. This can often be intimidating and you may feel like you are getting lost in the crowd. Try to avoid working out in the back corner where you can easily be missed by the coach. If there is something that you don’t understand for the workout or strength/accessory piece, make sure you ask questions. It can be difficult for the coach to make it around to every athlete, especially in a larger class, so you can’t be afraid to speak out. 

Faster-Paced Classes

The beauty of an introductory (On-Ramp or Bootcamp) program is that it is created to be a slower-paced class where there is a built-in instructional time to help newer athletes learn the basic movements and skills needed to be successful in CrossFit. However, oftentimes the regular CrossFit classes operate at a much faster pace because they often include both a strength and metcon portion to the class. Therefore, it is important to look at the wod information before class so that you know what movements are going to show up in class for that day, look up any percentages needed for weightlifting, etc. This will also help you know what’s coming next in class so that you are prepared to move quickly. 

More Technical Movements

The purpose of an introductory class is to teach individuals the basic, or foundational, movements of CrossFit. Therefore, more technical movements like muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, weightlifting complexes, etc. will most likely not be programmed. As you make the transition to regular CrossFit classes, be prepared to see more technical movements included in the daily wods. Don’t let this possibility scare you away – there are many different ways that these more complicated movements can be modified or scaled. 

Quick Guide to Olympic Lifting Terms

So your box has just started an Olympic lifting program and the coach is using a lot of terms that you are not familiar with, such as ‘hang’, ‘high pull’, and ‘muscle’. You’re trying your best to pay attention, but all the movements look the same and you can’t seem to remember which one is which. Have no fear! You are not alone. Here is a quick guide to some of the most common Olympic lifting terms:

“Hang” – this term refers to the starting position of the barbell in the clean or the snatch. If the metcon or strength wod does not specify what type of clean or snatch is to be performed then you can assume that you will be taking the barbell directly from the floor for every rep. However, if it is written as “hang” snatch or “hang” clean, then the barbell will be taken from anywhere above the knees. Therefore, before you start the first rep, you will have to deadlift the barbell from the floor and then you can begin your reps, keeping the barbell somewhere between your knees and hips at the start of each rep.

“Power” – this term refers to the depth that an athlete has to squat when performing a clean or snatch. Oftentimes, the daily wod will not specify ‘squat’ before the type of lift. When performing lifts for a strength portion, if it is written simply as ‘clean’ or ‘snatch’, it can be assumed that you are supposed to squat when performing these movements. However, when written the same for a metcon, you can then assume that no squat is required. The term ‘power’ is used in strength programming to describe squatting at or above parallel. Therefore, when ‘power’ precedes the terms ‘snatch’ or ‘clean’, the athlete knows that they are not supposed to squat below parallel.

“Muscle” – when performing a ‘muscle’ clean or snatch, the idea is that the athlete only uses the shoulder shrug and arm pull to get the bar to its finishing position. Once the bar is taken from the ground and the hips and legs fully extend, then the shoulders shrug with a big pull from the arms. The bar is pulled into the front rack position (for the clean) or overhead (for the snatch) with the legs staying straight. The most important thing to note on these movements is that the legs do not re-dip in the catch position.

“Pull” v. “High Pull” – practicing the pulling portion of the Olympic lifts is an excellent way to build strength and refine technique. However, it can often be confusing to know whether you are supposed to bend the arms, only shrug, actually pull the bar up higher with your arms, etc. There are two types of ‘pulls’ that are used when practicing the Olympic lifts – the high pull and the pull. When performing a ‘pull’, an athlete’s finishing position should simply be that they end with a shrug. When performing a ‘high pull’, the athlete finishes with their arms bent and their elbows high and to the outside (often referred to as the ‘scarecrow’ position). As both of these movements are being performed, the athlete should think about keeping the bar close to their body, keeping their chest up and shoulders over the bar until they reach full extension, and bringing their hips forward to meet the bar at full extension. These portions of the movement are the same for both types of pull. 

Kipping it Real with Cameron!

Each month Overland Park CrossFit recognizes a member who exemplifies our values and motivates others in the gym to push themselves with encouraging words. November’s Athlete of the Month is Cameron Osburn. Cameron was chosen because of his willingness to prioritize good movement patterns and technique over lifting heavier weights. His work ethic is very evident in the way that he continues to push through workouts even when it gets really hard. He never gives up and always tries his best. His hard work is paying off and we love having Cameron as a part of our OPCF community! Learn more about Cameron below.

How long have you been working out at Overland Park CrossFit? Since October 2019, I believe. I’d been talking to my former coworker/now boss about CrossFit for a few months before coming in. He used to coach at a CrossFit gym in Olathe. He spoke very highly of his experiences and so I finally decided to jump in.

What were your thoughts after your first CrossFit workout? Do you remember what it was? My first class was a Saturday bootcamp class. I’m fairly sure it was Leah and Cody coaching. I thought the first workout was tough, but it was what I was looking for as far as getting into CrossFit.

What has been your favorite workout so far? I enjoy any workout that has heavy lifting in it. Building to a 1RM, especially when I’ve been working on that particular lift for a few weeks, and then seeing the progress is usually a mental boost. Plus, I honestly like those lifts.

What is your favorite cheat meal? I don’t really have a cheat meal; more like cheat snacks. Graham Crackers or Nutty Bars are currently the cheat snacks of choice and I don’t keep those in the house unless I’ve done something good.

What did you want to be when you grew up and where do you work now? At one point, I really wanted to be a pharmacist. Then I got to college and figured out I didn’t like Chemistry that much. I work at Garmin in Olathe as an Industrial Engineer, supporting improvement projects and the warehouse systems in the Distribution Center.

What do you like to do outside of work? I’m a homebody (especially right now) so I spend most of my time outside work with my wife and children. I enjoy watching sports, cooking shows, and any bingeable streaming shows. Recently I’ve been into cooking Thai and Indian style food and always love a good cup of coffee and the occasional gaming session (Roonskie on Xbox and PSN).

What advice would you give a newbie just starting at OPCF? There are actually a lot of little things that helped me. I think my main bit of advice would be to just go to classes and trust the coaches. Don’t stress about times or max weight (but do track them so you can show where you started). Find the best class times for you, make a schedule you can commit to, then come in and do the workouts. Once you get into a good rhythm, you can start stacking things like nutrition and setting new goals, but building the base starts with getting in the door first. The coaches are there to help with form and every OPCF coach has been great with constructive criticism and motivation.

What is your favorite/least favorite movement? Favorite: Deadlift – I’ve always felt once I started deadlifts seriously that they were the best for multiple reasons. Lease Favorite – Any and all versions of Snatch lifts. They are the only lifts that I’ve done in CrossFit that scare me. I’ve been going lighter on those for this reason and also to make sure that I hammer home form to gain confidence. I want these to become a favorite instead of a least favorite.

What’s one CrossFit goal you have set for yourself to accomplish this next year? My goals: Bench/Deadlift/Squat 1RM total over 1000 again, and 1 strict pull-up with near perfect form.

What changes have you seen in yourself since starting at OPCF? Generally lifting and working out help me mentally and with everything going on, which has been the biggest change.

What is your biggest improvement or proudest accomplishment thus far? I feel like I’ve seen the biggest improvements in my conditioning and endurance when lifting and going into the metcon. I’ve gotten more confidence to go a bit heavier during the workout to where I’m not as worried about being gassed during the metcon.

How do you fit working out into your weekly schedule? For me, I had to shift my personal schedule to include the 5:30 AM class (Shoutout to the Zero Dark Thirty group!). This provided me with the best way to fit working out into my schedule while not negatively impacting how my wife and I balance our lives at home. Plus, working out first thing in the morning helps me feel more energetic through the rest of the day.

What is something you have always wanted to do but haven’t yet? I’ll answer this in 2 ways: for a long time I’ve wished I had some kind of higher level artistic skill like playing piano or painting. Otherwise, I haven’t traveled to England/Europe or Japan, and both of these are trips I’d like to take.

10-Minute Mobility Routine

A common trait that most of us share is our busyness. With ever-increasing technology that is supposed to make our lives easier and more efficient, it just seems like we are constantly finding ways to fill our time with other tasks or activities. The same goes for working out. Most CrossFit classes are one hour in length which conveniently fits into most of our busy schedules. However, when it comes to doing the extra stuff like accessory work, mobility, technique practice, etc., we often claim to be too busy to work on these things as well. But what if you just stayed for ten extra minutes after every class? It would add up to being several hours of extra practice in just a few short weeks. Oftentimes, the problem with this is that many athletes don’t know how to spend those ten extra minutes.

Take mobility for example: when most people hear the ‘term’ mobility they try to change the subject or quickly walk away from the conversation. Why? Because this word can often be intimidating and confusing at the same time. If you Google ‘mobility’ on the internet, hundreds of pages of answers will pop up, which makes it very difficult to know where to start. So, if you only have ten minutes to spare, what mobility drills will give you the most bang for your buck? Here are three mobility drills that every CrossFit athlete should be doing:

Deep Lunge with Rotation (aka Spiderman)

The first mobility exercise is one that is pretty common and is often used in general warm-ups, especially on a day where squats are involved. To complete this stretch, take a long lunge step with one leg so that your knee is up close to your shoulder. While keeping your front shin vertical, rotate your torso away from your knee so that your elbow (if left leg is out in front then left elbow) touches the ground (or gets as close to the ground as you can get it). Then, rotate your torso back towards your knee and reach your arm straight up in the air so that your shoulders are stacked over each other. Rotate back and forth between these two positions for several reps. Then switch legs and do the same thing on the other side. If one side feels tighter than the other, spend more time on the tighter side. 

Standing Hip CAR’s (Controlled Articular Rotations)

Start by standing by a post and facing sideways. Raise your outside leg (the one farthest from the post) so that you bring your knee up as high as you can. Then move your leg towards the outside of your body so that your knee is in line with your side (avoid rotating your entire torso). Then rotate your leg so that your quad is pointing forward and your leg is at a right angle. Then bring your leg back while slowly making an arc-like motion, finishing with your raised leg in front of you once again. 


Tabletop Bridge

This is a great exercise to work on shoulder extension, which helps improve the overhead position, as well as prime the glutes for your squats. It is also beneficial for opening up the front of the shoulder which is good when trying to get in positions such as the bottom dip portion of the muscle-up. In order to complete this movement, start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Your hands should be on the floor behind you with arms locked out. From here, drive your hips up and squeeze your glutes so that your stomach and hips make a flat surface that faces toward the ceiling. Hold this position for several seconds before returning back to the ground.


Types of Stretching and When You Should Do Them

We’ve all heard our coaches say it: “Make sure you stretch before you leave!” While this advice is well-intentioned, it can sometimes be frustrating for the athlete if they don’t know what exactly to stretch or how to stretch. Flexibility is one of CrossFit’s 10 general physical skills and is defined as “the ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.” Flexibility is important for overall health, improved strength, and better movement – all components of a healthier and more beneficial lifestyle. But the concept of flexibility can often be intimidating because of the different types of stretching and the questions of when you should stretch, how you should stretch, and what muscles to stretch.

It’s important for athletes to realize that there are several different types of stretching, such as dynamic stretching and joint rotations, static stretching, loaded stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching, and they each have their own time and purpose. Dynamic stretching and joint rotations refers to moving a joint through a full range of motion with minimal loading or stretching. These types of stretches are most effective when done before a workout or first thing in the morning. Static stretching is the most well known and it basically means holding a position for a period of time. It is usually most effective after a workout or when done in a dedicated stretching session and is used more as a recovery tool rather than to develop one’s range of motion. 

The other two types of stretching mentioned above, loaded and PNF stretching, are not very well known to most people. Loaded stretching involves working close to a joint’s end range of motion. Loading stretching can be done isometrically where the athlete uses an external object or gravity to enhance the stretch while they hold a position near their limits of flexibility, such as holding a narrow grip overhead squat with a pvc pipe or barbell. Loaded stretching can also be done while in-motion as well. This occurs when the athlete holds a position near their limits of flexibility and then contracts their muscles to come out of the stretch, and then goes deeper into the stretch. An example of this would be using a band to create dorsiflexion of the foot, then pointing the toes forward, and then moving deeper into dorsiflexion. 

PNF stretching can often be very intense. It involves using a partner or external object to move a joint close to its end range of motion before the athlete contracts against the resistance for about ten seconds. Once the contraction is complete, the athlete tries to relax and then move into a deeper stretch. PNF stretching and the two variations of loaded stretching can help to improve strength at the end range of motion, which is extremely beneficial for functional fitness. These types of stretches are best done after a workout when the athlete’s muscles are still warm. 


BFR Training: Using Lighter Loads to Increase Strength

CrossFit has many acronyms associated with the sport: wod, metcon, amrap, emom, and the list goes on. But one acronym that you might not be as familiar with is BFR, which stands for blood-flow restriction. This is a method of training that involves wrapping a device – such as a pressure cuff, KAATSU device, knee wraps, or voodoo floss – around the upper portion of a limb to restrict blood flow out of a working muscle. It was first discovered by Dr. Yoshiaki Sato when he was attending a Buddhist festival. As he was kneeling, he experienced a reduction of blood flow to his calves which resulted in a painful increase in pressure in his lower leg muscles. As Sato started to massage out his calves, he noticed that they looked more defined, similar to that of a ‘pump’ you receive after performing isolated movements, such as calf raises. After this experience, he has spent his professional career researching and perfecting his methods. Even though BFR training has been around for fifty plus years, it is still relatively new to the fitness world. 

In more recent years, BFR training has been introduced to professional sports teams, such as the Houston Texans and Houston Rockets, as a method of strength training. The Houston Texans’ staff decided to start implementing BFR training with several of their athletes because they realized the potential of minimizing early muscular strength deficits while protecting tissue that was trying to heal, such as after a major surgery. The Texans had several athletes who were recovering from surgeries (the article was written in 2015) who reported that overall the players felt better and their legs were getting stronger. The athletes seemed to be showing better muscle control and making further progress than expected (such as moving from double-leg exercises to single-leg exercises faster than expected). Although it’s difficult to draw straightforward conclusions from only small pieces of data, the improvements that were reported for numerous Texan athletes were very promising. 

Another example of the benefits of BFR training can be seen in the athletic career of basketball player Dwight Howard. He was first introduced to BFR training when he was with the Houston Rockets. He had suffered a cartilage injury in his right knee and was forced to miss a large number of games because of the injury. His team doctor introduced him to BFR training as a way to continue to build muscle and strength in his legs while protecting his knees from unnecessary heavy loading. Howard has since moved on from playing for the Rockets and has continued to have a successful career in the NBA. These are only a few examples of the perceived success of BFR training. 

It is important to note that even though research has been done on the subject of blood flow restriction, there is still a lot of data that needs to be collected. With that being said, it is important to do your own research and ask the advice of medical professionals before deciding to use BFR as a part of your training methodology.