Nourish Interview Series: Alex Konicke

In the Nourish Interview Series, I interview interesting individuals about their nutrition journeys and how they nourish to fuel themselves. Keeping with the spirit of the CrossFit Open, going on now, let’s meet another awesome North West Regionals CrossFit athlete and learn about their approach to nutrition in the second interview of the series (click here if you missed the first interview in the series). Meet Alex Konicke. My youngest daughter has said she loves Alex because he’s so smiley all the time, just like her, which makes her happy. It’s a pretty accurate description of Alex. He’s pretty much always got a smile on his face, he gives awesome hugs, and he’s one of the most motivating coaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of being coached by. Here’s more about Alex’s nutrition journey and goals.

Alex Konicke - Toys For Tots Bellevue Interbay  Throwdown 2014, Photo by Henry House
Alex Konicke – Toys For Tots Bellevue Interbay Throwdown 2014, Photo by Henry House

Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally/athletically?

I am a people person. I love being around people, being of service, and really just being available for those that need and appreciate me and what I do. I have been involved with sports since I knew what they were and stayed on my own path of what I wanted to do. My brother played baseball, but I wanted to try soccer and ballet. I ended up playing lots of baseball as well, but I am truly glad I became my own person and followed things I wanted to not what everyone else might have been doing. I played some high school soccer as well as Varsity Tennis. When the college years came, I wanted something new. Without looking too hard, Rugby fell into my lap and I loved every minute of the 4+ years playing. Towards the end of the college days, CrossFit was introduced to me. A very fit freshman friend of mine coaxed a few of us to try it with him and I was sold. Within the next year I had drank the Kool-Aid and was dedicated. CrossFit Nine was where my CrossFit future started (Dec. 2010). Dan Arvidson, owner of CrossFit Nine, swung me a deal I couldn’t pass up to join the gym. Within a couple months I had my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate and wanted to coach. It wasn’t until the end of 2011 that CrossFit Nine was in need of more coaches, so after a short hiatus I took to run a half and full Marathon, I was back in 100%. After 4 months, I unfortunately had a bulging disk that was giving me loads of grief for 8 months. To feel my pain, during this time I was daily dreading getting out of bed and out of the car, walking around like an old man. From this I learned to coach well with verbal cues but I was questioning my CrossFit future. I was back into good working ability with the help of physical therapists, sports rehab specialists and chiropractors. I am very motivated by the competition within CrossFit and I have goals to make it to the CrossFit Games in the near future, so I am avidly training for this.

After 2 years of solid coaching, I managed CrossFit Nine for the majority of 2014, when I left to open Reign City Fitness – CrossFit Downpour with a few others I had met on my journey. After 3 ½ Months in, we are well established with a quickly growing community of over 210 clients (110 CrossFit Clients).

Throughout college I attained a Bachelors in Business Marketing. I am currently certified in CrossFit Level 1+ 2 and USAW Weightlifting certified, and I don’t plan to stop there.

What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?

I am training for the CrossFit Games. The first step for me is to become a top caliber athlete in my region, then from there rank in the top of the NorthWest/Canada West division, leading up the making it to the CrossFit Games. I have my own personal coach that programs workouts for me weekly to attack my own personal weaknesses among the athletic ability that CrossFit tests (Strength, Endurance & Gymnastic ability)

What motivates you?

What motivates me is being the best at something. CrossFit is new, unique, different, and euphoric. From a daily workout, to competing at Regionals, CrossFit gives me the euphoria that I felt during my years of intense sports.

Alex Konicke
Alex Konicke – CrossFit Downpour NW/Canada West Team Invitational 2015, Photo by Henry House

Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.

I always resort to Paleo when eating. I have always been a chubby kid inside, wanting cheat meals more than I should. I have been eating 85% clean the past 2+ months after dialing in a healthy plan. My goal is 2-3 cheat meals a week, and no more consumption of alcohol over 4 drinks/week. This is great for me and I have seen great results from this certain plan. In the past I haven’t watched my diet too well, but from the past few months going forward it will be imperative to do so in order to reach my goals and have the fitness success that I am motivated by.

Along with the parameters of the cheats and drinks, my diet is to be gluten free and the majority of it is Paleo. I will eat some dairy here and there, but focus on eating as many vegetables and lean meat as possible and snacking on nuts and fruit.

How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?

If I didn’t hone in my nutrition, I wouldn’t be happy with my body type and I would be carrying around even more extra weight that I am now. This is bad for the mentality as well as on the competition floor. The heavier I am, the harder most CrossFit movements will be. They would be harder even more, if I am not burning the right fuel in my body. This will show up in worse mental drive, slower movements, and lack of energy, even body depressant with too much gluten.

I also have always wanted to be a model, so while training for CrossFit competitions, it is helping me lean out and look better. It will help out the physique side of my goals in this respect as well.

How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition?

I for sure wouldn’t be able to. Not having good nutrition just adds more variables that can hold you back. If I am burning off the doughnuts I ate before a workout and not broccoli, I will certainly notice a difference in how my body moves, recovers, operates, and feels.

Alex Konicke - Elysian Games 2014, Photo by Henry House
Alex Konicke – Elysian Games 2014, Photo by Henry House

Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?

I’ve done many cleanses and short diets. My favorite thing to do is juice fruits and vegetables. I will drink a freshly juiced drink (consisting of a majority of veggies) any day, any time. Convenience and price can get in the way of this easily but I am usually all over Evolution Fresh & Whole Foods in house juiced drinks.

How did you eat before finding what works for you? Did you pay attention to what you ate? How did that affect your training?

I ate what was convenient and may have seemed somewhat healthy (Subway) unless I had a strong craving, then the game was over. This is how I ate, very spontaneously. I did not pay much attention to what I ate. There were many times where I would try to track for a day or two then forget to track and lose…track, LOL. Eating this way would affect my training in a way that I may not have felt like working out that day. I might have had to take way more breaks than usual and be very confused why. In my college years I partied and drank a lot which had a serious impact on my ability to play rugby at my best.

What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule, when do you typically eat?

I shoot to eat every couple hours. I listen to my body for the most part and have food handy as needed. My diet can include anything from, bacon, turkey and eggs, to salads, broccoli and hummus. I keep apples and bananas around as well as Lara Bars and other gluten free protein bars laying around for snacks, though I try to keep away from processed foods as much as possible. I’ve lately gravitated towards “Amy’s Chilli” and gluten free soups, and steamed veggies in some form everyday.

Do you count macros? Why or why not?

I have never counted macros but I feel it is the next step for my goals and healthy eating.

Alex Konicke, CrossFit Downpour NW/Canada West Team Invitational 2015, Photo by Henry House
Alex Konicke, CrossFit Downpour NW/Canada West Team Invitational 2015, Photo by Henry House

What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?

I don’t necessarily have a pre or post workout snack. Coffee is a usual pre workout drink for me. I do try to cycle through other pre workout supplements once in a while as well to not be reliant on one certain caffeine source.

Do you plan your meals? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?

I plan them as much as possible. It can be hard to find the time, but I usually prep for a few days. I usually just make sure I am well stocked at work for healthy snacks. I do not measure out or count calories. My tip for those needing help planning is to make sure you keep track of your Tupperware lids, they get lost so easily! On a serious note, when meal planning, what I find best is to do it Sunday and Wednesday (at least a couple days apart). This way you aren’t spending ALL day/night cooking and you wont avoid your 3-4 day old planned meals that you end up throwing away.

What is your favorite treat meal?

I LOVE pizza (Zeeks) & doughnuts! I am an advocate for sweets for sure; anywhere from Cheese Danish to Cinnabon to Chocolate. Two of my top choices for desert cheats are Mousse and Crème brûlée though.

What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?

Start from scratch… Paleo. Make it your own but it’s so easy to start there. On top of this, you NEED to log your intake. Start a template of all of your meals and snacks and have your coach/trainer look at it and give you input. This is the best way to springboard onto a solid diet. This way you notice what foods you are actually eating, you can see what is good and isn’t good for you. You can identify if you should be eating different foods at different times. Lastly you can realize what foods help you lose weight, gain muscle etc., and learn which don’t.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Keep a workout regimen and diet in your daily goals. It is hard to keep on track, but keep trying things you haven’t tried before. Unhealthy and overweight issues are so treatable, if you can’t do it alone, please just put your trust into someone to help push you. Regarding diet and injuries, I always say, “the ONLY thing you can do is try things you haven’t tried yet.” Do your own trial and error. If they don’t work then great, you can now try something else and see if that works. If you keep trying the same thing over and over again you will literally go insane… “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result”.

Keep on developing yourself. We are here to learn, grow and experience. If you feel like you have stopped dead in your tracks and are unhappy, make a change.

“Do what makes you happiest”

Alex is an owner/general manager at Reign City Fitness/CrossFit Downpour in Bellevue, Washington. Reign City Fitness opened November 2014 in a gigantic 42,000 square foot facility. In addition to CrossFit, Reign City Fitness offers yoga, TRX classes, Zumba, Pilates, Barre, and more!

http://www.reigncityfitness.com

http://www.reigncityfitness.com/crossfitdownpour/

 


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Nourish Interview Series: Chelsea Nicholas

Feeding our bodies is one of the most important things we do every single day, multiple times a day. As important as this is, there isn’t one way to nourish ourselves that works for each individual. What works for one person may not work for another person. Although there are many basics nearly anyone can incorporate, it’s important for each of us to find our own path to how we best nourish to fuel. Taking into account many things, such as body composition, goals, athletic performance, allergies, food intolerances, health, you name it. Each journey is our own, but we can learn a lot from others and how they fuel their bodies. In the first of a new series, the “Nourish Interview Series”, I interviewed Chelsea Nicholas an Engineer, CrossFit NW Regionals Athlete, and awesome woman to welcome in the CrossFit 2015 Open and this exciting new series on how an individual uses nutrition to reach their goals! Over the course of the next couple weeks you’ll hear from other CrossFit regionals athletes (including one athlete who was just signed to the NPGL Grid league) as the series continues. 
Let’s get started and hear about Chelsea and her nutrition! 
Please introduce yourself. Who are you, what is your background professionally and athletically? 

My name is Chelsea Nicholas. I’m 27 years old. I grew up in Bothell, WA. I’ve always been busy with sports including gymnastics, cross-country and track and field. I earned a BS and MS in Civil Engineering at Washington State University, where I pole-vaulted on the Track and Field team for my first two years. After graduation I started working as a Structural Analysis Engineer at Boeing (December 2011). Right around this time I also found CrossFit.

Chelsea Nicholas - Cretus 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – Cretus 2014, Photo by Henry House

What are your current goals? Are you training for something specific or training in general?

After competing on a team at the North West Regionals CrossFit competition last year, I decided I wanted to start competing as an individual to see how far I can go with the sport. I hired a coach to design my programming and have been working with her the last 9 months or so putting in 15+ hours a week. I have countless goals that vary in magnitude and depth. The main goal I have been working towards this year is qualifying for regionals as an individual. Day to day I’m also chasing personal records (PRs) in various lifts and common workouts such as a 300 lb back squat. I like to have something to train for. CrossFit is an exciting sport to participate in because everything is measurable; you can literally track your fitness. I think that’s why a lot of people fall in love with it so quickly.

What motivates you?

Initially my motivation for getting to the gym was purely aesthetics; I wanted to look good. At some point I realized that everyone has a different idea of what it means to look good and you get a lot more satisfaction if you focus on performance. That’s when I stopped “working out” and started “training.” I try to be my own motivation. The only person you should worry about impressing is yourself.

Tell me about your diet/eating philosophy.

My perception of healthy eating has evolved so much over the years and I’m sure it will continue to change. It’s all about something you can sustain and enjoy every day that keeps you energized and fueled for training. Nutrition is very personal and you have to find what works for you.

Chelsea Nicholas - Toys For Tots 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – Toys For Tots 2014, Photo by Henry House

How are you using nutrition to help reach your goals?

I use nutrition to energize, recover, and heal. It absolutely affects performance and if I want to reach my goals I need to plan/track my nutrition (and sleep) very closely.   If you are eating right you will feel happier, healthier, stronger, more powerful, and ready to attack your workouts. This means eating enough of the right things at the right times.

How important do you feel nutrition is to getting you to your goals? Would you still be able to achieve your goals without paying attention to your nutrition?

Nutrition is essential to reaching my goals. If I want to maximize performance and uncover my full potential then I can’t ignore it. They go hand in hand.

Tell me about your nutrition journey. How did you find what works nutrition wise for you?

I started paying closer attention to nutrition about a year and a half ago. At the time I was still working out because I wanted to look good; I cared more about the weight of my body than the weight of my barbell. I started tracking my food to control calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) but was not as concerned about what foods I was eating. I set my goal numbers using a calorie distribution of 30/40/30 for protein/carbs/fat. Wanting to lose a few pounds I set daily calorie intake too low. This was effective for losing a little weight but it came at a price; I was not enjoying my time at the gym and it was completely exhausting! Ultimately it was not sustainable and at some point I stopped counting. From this initial food tracking experience I developed a concept of how many macros are in different foods. I learned that I tend to be low on protein and high on fat if I don’t pay attention. With this in mind I tried to consume more protein and continued eating what seemed healthy and training hard. When I hired my coach 9 months ago she set some new macros for me. They followed the same calorie distribution, but with protein set at my body weight which ends up being right around 2000 calories a day.   This was great for a while, my body weight stayed the same and I continued making gains in the gym. Several months later my workouts were getting longer and I reached a point where my muscles would fatigue before my lungs gave out. At this time we added an extra 100g of carbs post workout to ensure my muscles are properly nourished. I don’t eat the extra 100g of carbs every day, but I can tell if I am going to need them based on the types of workouts I see in my training week and how I am feeling. It’s nice to be in a place where you know your body and what it needs to perform at its best.

When it comes to what foods to eat and what foods to avoid I’m still experimenting. When I find things I like that are easy to prep for the week, I stick with them. I don’t have any food allergies so I was never too worried about cuttings things out of my diet. Then about two months ago I had a weightlifting accident…I won’t tell the full story because I don’t want anyone thinking CrossFit is careless or dangerous but I tore the ulnar collateral ligament in my right elbow more than 50%. Right after the injury my coach had me cut out all wheat, dairy, and sugar from my diet to help with inflammation. I also doubled my fish oil and started taking tart cherry concentrate. Cutting these things out of my diet was surprisingly easy with the mindset that it would speed up my recovery. It’s been a frustrating yet amazing process. Your body can be extremely resilient if you treat it right. I plan to continue with the new restrictions. The only thing I really miss is ice cream and that can still be a rare treat.

Chelsea Nicholas - CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House

How did you eat before finding what works for you? Did you pay attention to what you ate? How did that affect your training?

Everyone has their own notion of healthy eating and there are different levels. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who eats healthy, but my definition of the word is constantly evolving. Before I started tracking my food and reading labels I think my diet was probably low in protein and high in fat. I did not cut any food groups from my diet and I did not pay attention to the timing of my carbs. I am not the same athlete I was a year and a half ago. Knowing how to feed your body is a game changer.

What do you eat on a typical day? If you time your meals to a schedule, when do you typically eat?

Chelsea's Sample Meal PrepI will include a sample of my meals for one day but basically I try to hit 150g protein, 200g carbs and 60g fat each day. The only real timing rule I have is eating carbs immediately post workout. This is for recovery; I also try to put in more carbs at night after I train. I like to start my day with protein and fat because it keeps me feeling full longer; my favorite lately is 4oz ground bison with 2 eggs. It seems like most of my calorie intake is in the beginning of the day, but most of my carbs are consumed closer to the end of the day.

Do you count macros? Why or why not?

Yes I do. I developed an excel spreadsheet with a database of all the foods I like to eat so I can plan my meals. I have a scale in my kitchen to weigh out portions. It’s not every meal, every day, all the time, but enough to know I’m getting enough of the right things. When I don’t count I tend to fall short on protein and carbs and I pay for it at the gym.

What are your favorite pre and post workout snacks?

I always keep little packets of baby food in my gym bag. Mostly things like sweet potatoes and bananas. They are easy to eat, simple, and about 20g of carbs. After workouts I usually have some kind of post-workout drink like Progenex Recovery, Afterglow, or Revive Rx Recovery. These are all powders you mix with water and have roughly a 2/1 carb/protein ratio. This is all for ease and consistency. When I get home from the gym it’s always something like 150g sweet potatoes with more protein.

Do you plan your meals in advance? If so, how do you plan and what tips do you have for others who might need help planning their meals?

I do plan my meals, in a way. On Sundays I go grocery shopping and meal prep. By “meal prep” what I mean is I cook all the foods I bought so they are ready to portion out and eat through the week. I have all my meat and potatoes cooked and veggies chopped. It makes the week a lot easier and it still leaves room for some flexibility. I have an off day from the gym mid-week and this is an opportunity for me to try a new recipe or something different. I have it easy since the only person I’m planning meals for is myself. This method works great for my lifestyle. For others, try to sit down and outline what a perfect couple days would look like before you head to the grocery store then prepare food accordingly. It’s nothing fancy but it is efficient and effective.

What is your favorite treat meal?

On Sunday mornings I go to Whole Foods for breakfast with my sister. Usually we get bacon and eggs but every now and then we’ll get biscuits and gravy. This breaks a couple of my rules but that’s why it’s called a treat. I’m lucky to be one of those people who actually enjoy simple foods. When people ask me what my favorite meal is I always say steak salad. I’d pick that over biscuits and gravy any day.

Chelsea Nicholas - CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House
Chelsea Nicholas – CrossFit NW Regionals 2014, Photo by Henry House

What suggestions or advice would you give others who are trying to optimize their nutrition to nourish and fuel their bodies?

You have to find something that you can maintain and that means DO NOT starve yourself. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt because everyone is a little different. Find things you like to eat that fit your own personal guidelines for healthy eating and experiment to find what works best for you and your goals. A good starting point is to track your food for a week and find out about how many calories you consume in a day. From there you can try redistributing your macros to fit the 30/40/30 calorie distribution of protein/carbs/fat based on your current calorie intake. Make adjustments from there based on how you feel and how you weigh in.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We all have this vision of who we want to be and where we want to end up. But how do you know when you get there? What do you do IF you get there?? You’re not going to go back to your old ways and feel satisfied for the rest of your life; that would be completely unfulfilling. You have to learn to love the process because the process is your life.

Where can people follow you?

On Instagram @chelsnichs

 


 

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Nourish to Fuel Update August 2014

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In one week and one day I will have graduated with the degree that is step one in furthering goals I set out for myself at 16. I’m pretty excited to have reached this point. It has not been easy. I wanted to quit many times when I felt it was just too much. Thanks to the support from my husband, my Mom, and my girls telling me to just get my homework finished already, I kept at it. Now, once I get past finals week, I’ll have a little more than two months off before I set off on step two with the next degree.

While at times it feels I may forever be a student, the most important thing I’ve learned is to take everything one step at a time, one task at a time, one day at a time, keep going, and you will see progress. This has been applicable to everything in my life. From school, to work, to weight loss, to lifting heavy things and putting them back down. It’s the strategy I keep going back to the most. Also, don’t quit or stop because of one set back. There are many times I could have quit. It would have been easier to walk away, but I didn’t.

So what will I be doing during my break from school? Working, oly lifting, CrossFit, getting the girls ready for back-to-school, and working on some exciting updates for Nourish to Fuel. I asked you, the readers, on Nourish to Fuel’s Facebook page and my personal Facebook page, what you wanted to see here on the blog. As a result I have some great posts and website updates upcoming, that will give you the information you’ve asked for. I’ll also be learning and playing with a fancy new camera, my soon to arrive first DSLR, to improve the images on the website. I took photography classes back in the day (the 90’s) as a teen with my awesome 35mm Pentax. But have to re-learn how to use more than a point and shoot camera.

Thank you all for your early support and encouragement of the site and the work I’m sharing. It is greatly appreciated. Stay tuned for more amazing content as the website and Nourish to Fuel community grows.

Upcoming to Nourish to Fuel, because you asked for it:

  • More recipes!
  • Including more ways to cook vegetables, and some spicy veggie dishes.
  • Work and to-go lunch ideas
  • Which foods to eat for optimal nutrient density, instead of taking supplements
  • Natural Health and Beauty Tips
  • Morning stretches to get you moving
  • Beginning weight training
  • Beginner weight loss strategies
  • How to keep the weight off
  • Guest Posts

Dude, is my hair okay?

Barbell
photo credit: undergroundbastard via photopin cc

The big commercial gym I used to be a member of was much like every other big commercial gym, mirrors everywhere. I have a streak of vanity. After all, I was working out not just to be healthy but because I wanted to look good. Put me in front of a mirror or a dark reflective window and I’m going to check myself out, every time. I just can’t help it.

Running on the treadmill at the big commercial gym I would glance over and notice how I looked while I was running. It wasn’t pretty. I’d tug and rearrange my clothes trying to look ‘cute’ as I ran. Which is impossible, I’m not a cute runner. In the middle of a lift I’d catch a glance of my hair and become distracted. Between sets I’d have to fix my hair several times. If I happened to catch a glimpse of my lifting faces, that was never good. There was a good chance I’d fail a lift trying not to laugh at myself. Then there was the woman who took a photo of her behind in the mirror every single day. I’m sure she ended up with quite the collection of gym mirror behind photos. Or the guy doing bicep curls in front of the mirror who fixed his hair more than I did.

Once I made the change to a CrossFit box, that only had mirrors in the bathrooms and one very very small section of a wall in the front of the box, how was I supposed to know if my behind looked cute that day? How was I supposed to keep track of what I looked like when I was lifting? What if I made a funny lifting face and missed it? Because come on we all know those mirrors aren’t really there to check on your form. They are there to make the commercial gym look bigger and for the members to check themselves out constantly.

Without a hall of mirrors there to distract myself, I stopped caring what I looked like mid-workout. I stopped tugging at my clothes and fixing my hair. My focus changed to be where it should have been all along, on my workout. I don’t need a mirror to know if my form is suffering or wrong. My coach will tell me. I started to be able to FEEL when my form was wrong. I know when my back isn’t flat, I didn’t go below parallel, or my shoulders were to far back. Being able to feel and recognize my form improved it greatly. I don’t need to see it, because I can feel it.

Of course, now I get the lovely shock of my post work out red sweaty face, clothes amiss, and crazy frizzy hair post workout. And I love it since it means I put all of myself into it! I no longer care about how I look when I workout. I care about my form, the reps, and the weight. I get a laugh at seeing photos of myself mid lift with my crazy lifting faces, without stopping to laugh mid lift. If you took out all the mirrors at the big commercial gyms what would people do without being able to see every single thing they did? What would that woman do without the opportunity to publicly take a picture of her behind every day? How terrible would it be for bicep curl man to have a single hair out-of-place?

Really, it’s okay not to see what you look like when you workout. It’s probably even better not to see what you look like. It takes away the vanity portion so you can focus on what really matters in the moment, form. A funny thing then happens. You end up looking better outside the gym because you are performing well in the gym. Mirrors at the gym are only bad when they draw more focus to how you look than how you perform. Don’t go smashing mirrors at commercial gyms now, just try not to look.