The Pacific Strength 2018 Challenge

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I considered calling this the “be nice to yourself” challenge. Or the “let’s get real with our goals & expectations” challenge. Or the “feel good, move more, and all is coming” challenge. But we’ll stick with the PS 2018 Challenge. Here’s how it works:

Step 1:

  • Write down your 2017 accomplishments
  • Write down positive changes you made in 2017

Step 2:

  • Write down how you want to feel in 2018
    • strong?
    • happy?
    • healthy?
  • Write down what you envision yourself doing so that you can feel how you want to feel.
    • focus on form & how you feel while you’re training
    • spend more time with people who make you smile
    • fuel your body with good & healthy food so that you feel your best

Step 3:

Join this challenge and focus on feeling good, doing more, and enjoying your training. See how that works for you! Below are the Important Dates & nitty-gritty of the Challenge:

Week of January 15th: Sign up for the Challenge (CLICK HERE) – $149
Week of January 22nd: 
  • 8-week Challenge Starts This Week!
  • Start your 2-3 extra days of swings & getups
    • Simple
      • 100 SA Swings (50 each arm)
      • 10 Getups (5 each arm)
    • Work toward Sinister
      • Swings in under 5-minutes
      • 1 minute rest
      • Getups in under 10-minutes
Week of February 12th:
Week of February 19th:
  • Get your halfway measurements & reassess
  • Want to work toward Sinister?
  • 8 weeks before TSC
  • Start TSC training
Week of March 26th
  • Final Measurements
  • Final Testing of SA Swing & Getup
Saturday, April 14th

This is just so me. I had to include it! You know I’m excited about the challenge & the TSC & the daily teachings. I’m excited about everything!


Happy 2018!

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The New Year is a great time to reflect: To look back on 2017 and give yourself a pat on the back for the many things you accomplished as well as look forward and consider what you’d like to come into your life in 2018.

I think we all get a little weird when talking about “Resolutions”. I hear things like, “Why wait for the calendar to turn to make a change for the better?” and “I don’t need a New Year’s Resolution: I try to be better every day” and while I agree with both of those things, I do like a communal opportunity for a new day. Another chance. Another opportunity to be better.

So maybe instead of thinking about your resolutions as goals, think about your 2018 resolutions as intentions. Don’t say “I’m going to swing kettlebells 3 x/week, every week, no matter what”. Make your intention to move deeper into your kettlebell practice. Learn more about what your body is doing while you’re training. Try to be better every day and learn as you go. Maybe you want to do a getup with a really heavy kettlebell. Cool! Have that in the back of your mind. But focus on your movement and on what you can do to improve your training every day, what you can do to learn more about that movement. Be less focused on the outcome and enjoy the journey a little more.

Which leads me to…

How I feel about Weight Loss Challenges


You know I hate them. They are anti-everything we do here. For many reasons.

  1. They don’t work.
    • well… maybe they do for a little bit. While you’re in the ‘challenge’. But then once the designated challenge is over, you’re back to your old routine.
    • and then the weight comes back.
  2. I hate the mindset of typical weight-loss challenges:
    • Lose that 10-lbs you packed on over the holidays
      • read: You are a horrible fat slob & shame on you for enjoying your time with your family and friends.
    • Get your beach body back before summer
      • read: You are only valuable if you can wear a bikini at the beach and you’re ready for the cover of sports illustrated.
    • New Year, New You!
      • read: The old you is no good.

I like the old you

Why can’t we be nicer to ourselves?

Enter the Pacific Strength 2018 Challenge


Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes – From Melissa!

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We all know we’re going to overeat on Thanksgiving. It’s inevitable. I love me some mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream & I make a mean Pecan Pie. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be unhealthy. Below are some great recipes from our friend and Registered Dietician, Melissa Mathes.


Pumpkin Soup

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 4 cups pumpkin purée (canned or fresh) (butternut squash may be substituted)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic


  1. In large pot over medium-high heat add 3 cups broth, pumpkin, onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer uncovered, about 30 minutes.
  2. Purée mixture until smooth, in small batches, using blender or food processor. Return to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes. Add remaining broth as desired. (Optional, stir in cream.)
  3. Pour into bowls. Garnish with parsley (or sprinkle of nutmeg) and serve.
Per serving(6 servings): 71 calories, 1 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 16 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 284 mg sodium


Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

  • 1 small sweet potato, about 8-oz, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (peeled parsnip may be substituted) 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 medium celery stalks, 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium beet, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1.5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In large bowl toss potatoes, carrot, onion, celery and beet with 1/2 tablespoon oil, coating well.
  3. Arrange vegetables in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast, stirring several times, until tender and beginning to brown, about 50 minutes.
  5. In mixing bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon with remaining oil and stir in parsley, cilantro and walnuts. Drizzle dressing over vegetables and gently toss.
  6. Top with crumbled feta. Serve warm or at room temperature.Makes 4 servings. Per 3/4 cup serving: 156 calories, 9 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 17 g carbohydrate, 3 protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 134 mg sodium.


Roasted Turkey Breast Porchetta-Style

  • 1 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (5-7 lb.) whole turkey breast, bone-in
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth*
  1. Combine coriander and fennel seeds in small, dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat until seeds are golden and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, shaking and moving pan in circular motion occasionally at first, then constantly. Transfer seeds to plate to cool.
  2. Make seasoning mixture in food processor by pulsing toasted coriander and fennel seeds with herbs and garlic until finely chopped. Add salt and pepper and whirl until all ingredients are very finely chopped, 30 seconds. With motor running, drizzle in oil. Set seasoning mixture aside for 15 minutes.
  3. While seasoning sits, use your fingers to gently separate skin from turkey breast meat, taking care not to tear skin. Using your hand, rub one third of seasoning mixture under skin on each side of breast and coat inside of breast with remaining mixture. Rub your oily hands over skin, coating it lightly. Seal breast in plastic wrap and set on a plate. Marinate breast in refrigerator for 4 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in large roasting pan. While oven heats, unwrap turkey and let sit on counter.
  5. Pour chicken broth into roasting pan. Set turkey breast on rack. Roast turkey, turning pan in oven every 20 minutes to help it brown evenly. Breast is done when instant read thermometer inserted into thickest point reads 165 degrees F., about 2 hours for a 6 pound breast (allowing 20 minutes per pound). Skin can be dark without meat being dry, but tent foil over breast if skin is getting too dark. Because of brining effect of seasoning paste, skin near bone may look pale pink.

Let breast rest for 20 minutes before carving. Strain juices to serve on the side.

* May use 4 cup combination of low-sodium chicken broth and water.

Makes 8 servings (6 lbs.).

Per serving: 183 calories, 8 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 2 g carbohydrate, 24 g protein,<1 g dietary fiber, 316 mg sodium.


Curriculum Changes – September 2017

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As many of you know, I take great pride in planning your daily torture training and I thoroughly enjoy it. I’ve been spending more time recently and I hope you’ve been liking what you’ve been doing!

When I sat back to think about it though, in the context of you all as our students & Gina, Sharon, & I as your teachers, I think we’ve been lacking in the area of learning. I know that we are awesome when it comes to correcting in class & getting the most out of all of you, but I think we can do better. We’ve done skills clinics in the past & while the people who attend get a lot of benefit; not everyone is able to because we all have busy lives, kids, jobs, etc.

So how do we get the skills training in without NEEDING a 90-minute clinic? Well, we’re going to try to add it to every class. This means that class may be a little longer than 45-min (I’m thinking an extra 10-min will do!) and my hope is to tear apart every movement and build them all back up so that you come away with a deeper understanding of what you’re doing in here. We’ll still teach skills clinics for those of you who prefer a dedicated time to one skill (please check your email for a survey on when to do those!).

It feels good to make this change because it’s in line with how we do everything at Pacific Strength. We’re not a typical gym. We don’t just come to “work out”. We come to Pacific Strength to train, to train smart, and to be Strong for Life! Thanks for training with us!


– Val

Summer Challenge – 2017

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Cost: $100

This challenge will work on a point system.

Starting June 1, you will get points for every swing, squat, clean, press, snatch, pullup, row, lunge, deadlift, & getup you do.

You’ll get points for attending classes & workshops.

You’ll get points for jumping rope, for every mile you walk or run, & for every 30min of “other cardio” you participate in.

You’ll get points for the training you do while you’re out of town. All you need to do is log your training & add up your points!

The summer challenge will end August 31. After that, we’ll add up all your points & for every 50, you’ll get a raffle ticket.

All of the raffle tickets will go in a jar & one lucky winner will get half the pot!

The more people who participate, the bigger the pot.

The more you do, the better chance you’ll have to win!

Point system is as follows:


We have a lot of competitive people at Pacific Strength & we LOVE that! Go out and get earn your points!

***NOTE: For the work you do outside of the gym, it’s on an honor system. That means, please report accurately & when you’re training at home, DO NOT RUSH THROUGH & PERFORM CRAPPY REPS just to get points. For instance:

  • Squats should look like what we perform in class (full range, slow, tight abs, etc)
  • Pullups & pushups need to be in their FULL range of motion
  •  0.8miles walked does not = 1 mile =)


Thank you!!! & we look forward to a really fun summer where we all get more fit & one lucky person will win a big chunk of $$$

Strength 101 – Summer 2017

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Summer Strength Training Program for Teens

Many teens are told by their coaches to hit the weight room. Some even have a program they’re supposed to follow over the summer – but many are not quite sure how to do it.

It’s amazing how much a base level of strength can help with athletic performance… yet so many high school programs lack proper instruction &/or guidance in strength training. 

What these kids need is a coach who understands how athletic gains are achieved. The coaches at Pacific Strength know how to teach young athletes the basics of strength training that translate to athletic success at game time.

We focus on form and technique so you get better at the basics while building strength. These skills are the foundation for sports-specific training. Think of your training like a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is basic strength training skills. The next level of the pyramid is plyometrics and agility training. The top of the pyramid is sports-specific training. You move on to the top of the pyramid only once you’ve mastered the first two levels. If the foundation isn’t strong, the structure will eventually crumble and you could end up with an injured athlete.

Pacific Strength has a track record of helping student athletes up their game. We’ve trained national-level youth athletes in volleyball & hockey & can meet your athlete where they’re at with their strength training.

Come to Pacific Strength this summer, learn the basics, get crazy strong, and beat your competition in the fall!


6-weeks of Strength Training:

  • 12 sessions for $240 OR $25 drop-in (must sign in 24-hours before class)

Mondays & Wednesdays @ 10:30am
Strength Training for Males 13-18y/o

  • June 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28
  • July 7 (Fri), 10, 12, 17, 19, 22 (Sat – Testing)

Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 10:30am
Strength Training for Females 13-18y/o

  • June 13, 15, 20, 22, 27, 29
  • July 6, 11, 13, 18, 20, 22 (Sat – Testing)

Get Strong This Summer at Pacific Strength

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s to Healthy Hops!

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Another great guest blog by Melissa Mathes, RDN, MPH, CSSD

Xanthohumol (XN) an anti-oxidant compound found in hops an ingredient in many beers, (spotlighting Guinness this month in honor of St. Patrick’s day), has shown to be a protectant against Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Other researchers at the University of Oregon found that XN can boost cognitive function. XN has also shown in studies to have heart protective properties, anti-clotting, and because it is an anti-oxidant helps reduce risk of cancer.

  • Another study from the Journal of Agriculture and Food and Chemistry in 2014 found another anti-oxidant polyphenols in hops called Bracts that may help fight cavities and gum disease.
  • Researchers published a study in Arthritis and Rheumatology, discussing the benefits of beer for staving rheumatoid arthritis. Beer is also a significant source of silicon, which is significant for boosting bone mineral density.

It is recommended to drink in moderation (1-12 oz./day for women & 2-12oz./day for men) IF you drink. Beware, the calories can add up quickly when drinking beer or any alcohol, be mindful of how much you consume. If you don’t drink beer, this article isn’t to encourage you to start, just to note there are some health benefits. You can get multiple health benefits from anti-oxidants by consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds amongst other foods.

Guinness Beer, high in XN and Bracts. Nutrition facts: serving size: 1 pint, calories 210, carbohydrates 18.2 grams, protein 2grams.


Thanks, Melissa! It’s always great to get the Registered Dietician’s side of the different things we consume… Another reason we love Melissa with Total Nutrition Counseling – she knows we’re human and she works with us! Shows us the positives and the possible negatives to what we’re choosing to put into our bodies & then WE make an informed decision.

I think I’ll have a Guinness on Friday. Cheers!


And because this month in the challenge, we’re focusing on strength…

Student Spotlight – March 2017

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The focus for March for the 2017 Challenge is Strength Training & our goal is to get at least 2 days of strength training in every week.

We have a lot of strong women to choose from, but I couldn’t think of a better person to highlight than Melissa Hill. Melissa has been really consistent with her strength training since she started at Pacific Strength back in 2009. She has made HUGE strength gains in that time & everyone loves when Melissa’s in class – she encourages everyone who trains with her to push it to the next level.

Here’s what Melissa had to say when I told her she was chosen for our Student Spotlight:

Melissa: Wow! What an honor!! I am thrilled – I’ve always wanted to be a student of the month!! Here is what I can say first before I answer your questions: it was when I met you and Katie Pike down at those surf lessons and watched you surf standing straight forward on your board (just the first few waves then your turned sideways) and riding the waves like you were a bullet, that is when I realized I wanted more. You were fearless out there, no matter the size of the wave or the force of the rip. I came to realize that your fearlessness and confidence came from your strength. I didn’t realize your strength until I saw you without your wetsuit and could see your strong back and shoulders. That’s when I knew that I wanted to be like Val. Being like Marilyn is awesome and I hope to be like Marilyn my entire life. I will always strive for her attitude, her strength and her mental sharpness. But, I know I just have a few years to Be Like Val. I want to have strength. I have always wanted muscles and you were and are my inspiration. You have never judged and have always encouraged to try more, do it again, lets try it this way. You have even have called me and asked me to come train when there wasn’t even a class. I have so appreciated the past 8 years and my 7 pull-ups are because of your encouragement and training. Thank you.

Thank You, Melissa! So, yes, Melissa & I met in a Surf Class for women, taught by two female professional surfers. I had no idea what I was doing. None whatsoever. And I was afraid of the ocean. Growing up in Buffalo, I didn’t have much (ok, any) experience with the ocean and it was really scary. BUT, I wanted to learn how to surf. The ocean is so beautiful & calming & people talk about how invigorating surfing is… I was something I needed to do. In those surf classes, I felt like a bumbling fool, just trying not to break my board. I don’t remember being fearless or confident. But I do remember admiring Melissa for her great attitude & positivity & for her ability to encourage others to do things they didn’t think they could do (and she is still doing that in class today). Funny what each of us remembers and how we see others v. what we see in ourselves… (but that’s probably for another blog post)

Back to Melissa & the Questions!

Pacific Strength: In our 2017 Challenge, March’s focus is on getting at least Two (2) Days of Strength Training every week. You’re a busy mom with 4 very active kids. Is it ever a challenge for you to get it in? 

Melissa: Getting into class used to be much more challenging than it is now. My kids are all in school and if I can get them out the door without forgotten lunches, instruments or projects, I know I can make it to class on time! I really enjoy the class so I try my best to organize my morning to ensure I can get to the 8:30 classes.

PS: You started at Pacific Strength back in 2009 & I remember clearly that if was difficult for you to squat without any extra weight. Now you can squat with double 20kgs (that’s 88bs!) & you’ve trained for a couple TSCs. I know for most people, those first few weeks or months of strength training are really tough. What made you push past that initial phase? And what kind of things are you able to do now that you may not have been able to do before you started strength training?

M: This is the big one and the reason I keep coming. I vividly remember the first week after my introductory class. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. I knew that I had to get back in there quickly or I’d never go back again. I went back 3 times that week and just tried to work out the soreness. I can now probably squat 20’s, maybe 22’s (almost 100lbs!), I’ve come a long way since that first crazy swing/squat ladder we did that I couldn’t squat with a bell at all! I have two favorite new things that I can do that I certainly could not do before training. The first is the Pistol Squat (one-legged squat). I never thought that would be possible and then I had it for awhile and then lost that ability. Not sure if it was strength or confidence that was missing, but now it has come back together and I can do the Pistol again. And my second favorite new strength is pullups. From the beginning I strived for 1 pull up and could never get past the sticky spot. It took me years but I just got the pullup for the October TSC and now I can do 7… hoping for 10 by April 8th!!!

PS: You came to kettlebells at my old gym after we met in a surfing class. I remember you having a great & infectious “I’ll try anything” attitude back then and in the years I’ve known you, that has not wained. Have you always had that? & what would you say to someone who is nervous about getting into strength training?

M: “I’ll try anything” is the only way to try something new. If I am taking the time and energy to do something, I have to do it like I mean it. I really don’t like wasting time and there is no point in trying something without jumping in with your whole body. Just go and give it all you’ve got. As far as telling hesitant friends, I try to emphasize the importance of strength training as we age and it will never be easier than it is now. It will only make us better in all aspects of our lives. There are no negatives to strength training, other than it’s hard and there will be a week where you won’t be able to sit, stand, walk or move, but it’s all worth it after that week!

OMG. See why we love Melissa?

PS: We’ve joked about you “bulking up” with all of the heavy weights you use… People can see in the picture, but you are tall and thin & I’m not sure we could do much in the gym that would change that. What has your experience been with lifting heavy?

M: I never knew how much I would enjoy lifting heavy weights! It has taken me a few years to get the confidence and the desire to lift heavy. I have always been quite lean and had skinny limbs. I love that with challenging myself in each class to do my best, I can see that I have muscles! At 44 years old (almost 45) I know that I am stronger now than I have ever been and I am thrilled.   

PS: Final thoughts?

M: The group of people down at Pacific Strength is what makes this place awesome. The workouts are killer but the people in the class are so encouraging. Val, you are the glue of everything and Gina and Sharon make us want to do more. I love being surrounded by strong, like-minded women (and men) that are doing everything they can to stay fit and make their lifestyle active and strong. I love this place and look forward to class everyday that I go.

Thanks Val!  It’s not often we get to sit back and take the time to think about the reasons behind things.  This has been quite a journey with KB and I love it!

And people like Melissa are why we do what we do. Truly. Helping people find their strength is so rewarding. Thank you, Melissa, for being a part of our journey!

February 2017 – Student Spotlight

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Marilyn is the reason we’re doing the 2017 Challenge… we all want to “Be Like Marilyn” & be Younger Next Year. So we asked her a couple of questions because we want you all to know some things YOU can do to be more like Marilyn, Pacific Strength’s Student Spotlight for February.

Pacific Strength: As you know, Marilyn, you’re the inspiration for this “Younger Next Year” challenge. Not only do you act younger (in a good way) than most people half your age, you have more energy too! What’s your secret?

Marilyn: Compulsivity. Like it or not I am a tightly wound ball of endless energy, not really accepting limits to what I can or should do.

PS: You brought me an article on the “Younger Next Year” book and then talked to me about it several times. You were so excited about it that I HAD to read it! Why do you think this book resonated with you so much?

M: The book and their subject just fits my psyche. It is how I have felt about exercise and food for quite some time but needed to see it written in a fantastic, intelligent, book format.  I have always needed to feel like I should exercise all the time but most of my friends and acquaintances would tell me I was “nuts”. I know that most food is full of preservatives and is poison to our bodies, (my favorite quote is “the whiter the bread the sooner you’re dead”) but when I would tell others they would roll their eyes and of course I would talk about the deadliness of white flour and sugar and on and on and on.  So with this book I feel somewhat normal. Along with my many quirks I am a compulsive overeater, white flour and sugar are a serious drug to me, I am a recovering alcoholic, sober 47 years. So I understand obsessive behavior, of which I possess.

PS: In our 2017 Challenge, February’s focus is on getting Exercise Six (6) days every week. In the book, he says that actually 7 is preferable, but they don’t want to scare people away. We know you have been committed to your exercise routine for a while now. How long have you been exercising 6-7 days/week? Is it ever a challenge to get it in? Or is it just your routine now?

M: Not sure how long, I have always been compulsively (there is that word again) active. Once I decided to enter the first LA Marathon in 1986, I was 47 yrs old at the time, never ever running, I walked and thought I would die, my feet were bleeding and I was a wreck, so I decided to run (jog slowly and walk quickly) 10 marathons by the time I turned 50, I did in fact I went on to do 7 more after turning 50. So daily exercise, if possible became a habit in my busy life, working full time and caring for my family and husband.

The total freedom to really dedicate myself to exercise every day happened when I retired from a full time job in Dec. 2016,  I know that doing this and eating correctly and less portions will carry me on to a very long lifetime.

PS: You started at Pacific Strength back in 2009. What has made you come back all these years and if I can quote you, “Actually pay for this kind of torture!?!”.

M: Val, Gina, Sharon & Gabby make me come back for MORE.  I have found a place where I fit in and belong and that is the secret of Pacific Strength. My children are grown and gone, my husband has gone, hopefully to heaven, my grandchildren and great children are mostly grown, so the family I have found at Pacific Strength makes me feel complete.  I am waiting to achieve more and more and possibly grow up with all of you.

PS: For someone who is intimidated by kettlebells or thinks our classes might be too challenging, what would you say to them?

M: There is no limit to what you can accomplish when you bring “strength training” into your lives, it is what will keep you fueled as you age (a word we don’t like) but so true.  Any age you enter into a strength training program is the right age!! I began at 70 . . . in April I will be 78 (good grief)


Marilyn is truly one of my favorite people on earth. I’m glad we asked her these questions and I hope you all picked up on her honesty and sense of humor. There are gems in there that I highlighted so that we don’t skip over them. To be like Marilyn:

  1. Do not accept limits.
  2. Do what you know you need to do to feel better and be stronger, no matter what other people say.
  3. Face your fears and challenges head on and don’t give up because it’s tough.
    After doing her first marathon at 47-years-old where she “walked and thought (she) would die, (her) feet were bleeding and (she) was a wreck”, she decided to run 9 more marathons in the next 3 years. She IS NUTS! But that’s why we love her. She doesn’t accept limits and no challenge is too difficult for her.
  4. Find something you care about and do it with people you care about. We are family here at Pacific Strength.
  5. Every age is a good age to start strength training!

Thank you, Marilyn! We love you!

Go Green in 2017

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Guest Blog by our friend, fellow-kettlebeller, & Registered Dietitian Melissa Mathes


Eat More Plant Foods for your Health

Your parents were right… “Eat Your Vegetables!”. It’s no surprise that eating more plant-derived foods in your diet like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, dried beans and grains are healthy for you.   Consuming a predominately plant based diet, or being a vegetarian (consumes plant derived foods, dairy and eggs and avoids animal flesh. Vegan is strict avoidance of any animal derived products), can improve your health substantially.


  • Springmann et al, found that eating fewer animal products could result in 5 million preventable deaths per year globally, while a vegetarian or vegan diet could prevent 7.3 -8.1 million deaths/year.
  • The long-term Seventh-day Adventists study shows that they remain healthier into an older age, in fact they tend to live 10 years longer than most Americans. This religious group practices age enhancing behaviors like, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and consuming a vegetarian diet and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
  • Research has shown that the therapeutic use of a vegetarian diet is effective for treating overweight and obesity in both the short term (< 1 year) and the long term (> 1 year), and may be a better alternative then an omnivore diet (not conclusive though, since eating fish has high health benefits). The range of weight loss ranged from 3.2%-9.3% at 12 months across several studies
  • Type 2 diabetes: A vegetarian diet has shown to decrease hemoglobin A1c as well or better than omnivore diets. A predominately plant based diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. In the Seventh-day Adventist vegetarians’ risk of developing diabetes was ½ the amount of non-vegetarians.
  • Cancer: Hundreds of studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, and there’s evidence that vegetarians have a lower incidence of cancer than non-vegetarians do. But the differences aren’t large. A vegetarian diet can make it easier to get the recommended minimum of five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but a purely vegetarian diet is not necessarily better than a plant-based diet that also includes fish or poultry. For example, in a pooled analysis of data from the Oxford Vegetarian Study and EPIC-Oxford study, a plant based diet with fish (pescetarian) had a lower risk of certain cancers than vegetarians.
  • Vegetarian and vegan diets are a valid therapeutic way to decrease total cholesterol and improve LDL (bad) cholesterol. In fact there is a 7.2% – 26.6% range decrease in total cholesterol and 8.7%-35% range improvement in LDL cholesterol. There is strong evidence of this.

Consume a diet that is predominately plant based for your overall health. You don’t have to become a vegetarian of vegan to reap some of the health benefits above. However, I haven’t listed all the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian diets have economic and environmental benefits as well. Nutritional deficiencies CAN be common in vegetarian diets, seek help from a registered dietitian to help you become educated about those nutrients and their food sources to alleviate those potential issues.

Fill your pantry and refrigerator with these convenient healthy plant derived staples:

1) Always choose ORGANIC when you can!

  • Nuts and seeds unsalted, raw organic put in jars so you can see them. Add to salads, oatmeal, or a snack. Use ¼ cup measuring cup to keep calories low
  • Canned beans, variety of types. Rinse them out of the can before you use them to get most of the sodium off. Quick and easy to add to salads, or as a side dish, or a main dish in burritos, etc.
  • Dried fruit in glass jars. Use in moderation because they are high in calories but packed full of iron, fiber, and other nutrients dependent on the type
  • Whole wheat or brown rice pastas
  • Fresh organic fruit, keep in a bowl on the counter to remind you to eat. Frozen fruit can be used in a healthy smoothie.
  • Whole grains: Brown rice, quinoa, millet, you can get these frozen for quick convenient use for meals. Instant plan oatmeal (you can get the rolled or steel cut, just using a convenient source), corn tortillas, rice chips, whole wheat crackers
  • Vegetables: Cut up pre bagged and washed fresh vegetables to have on hand. Frozen vegetables without sauces, steam quickly in a microwave or pan.
    • Pre bagged lettuces, arugula, spinach, kale, etc. place in bowl with some cherry tomatoes and already shredded carrots and you have an instant salad!
    • Buy low sodium V8 or some of the Green juices like Suja or Naked juice. Watch the calories!
  • Starchy vegetables: Sweet potatoes , quick cooking options below
    • Quick way to cook, is cut them vertically in ½ inch slices, place on a Panini grill, cooked in 15 mins.
    • Shred up, add and a beaten egg to bind and shape into hash brown pancakes, with a touch of olive oil in a fry pan, cook until golden brown and cooked through
    • Regular potatoes, boil and eat.
    • Corn, peas buy frozen organic and steam quickly
    • Squashes, like butternut, buy cut up in chunks for easy prep and cooking

Daily Goal for Plant derived foods:

  • At least 5 vegetable servings/day, you can always have more!
    • Get 2-3 at dinner, make ½ your plate veggies and a salad
    • Snack on veggies throughout the day to keep you full and get your servings in
    • Serving sizes: ½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw and 2 cups of greens all equal 1 serving
  • Fruit 3 servings/day (varies/individual if you are an athlete, more may be needed)
    • 1 serving= 1 tennis ball size, 4 oz. juice, ¼ cup dried fruit, 1 cup of chopped fruit, ½ cup of canned fruit (in it’s own juice!), 1 cup of berries, ¾ cup of blueberries, 1 ½ cup of strawberries
  • Whole grains and starchy vegetables
    • Keep it at about ¼ of your plate at all meals. Again this varies with individual, athletes who train almost daily will need almost a ½ plate!
  • Nuts, nut butters and seeds: servings /day 2-3
    • 1-2 tbsp. of nut butters
    • 1-2 tbsp. of seeds
    • ¼ cup of nuts unsalted
  • Legumes, dried beans 1-2/day
    • ½ cup of beans or legumes = 1 serving

Eat your greens in 2017! The rest of the rainbow as well! The high fiber content will keep you full and displace opportunities that you may take to eat junky food, thus you may see weight loss. Most people experience some without trying.

Melissa A. Mathes, MPH, RDN, CSSD

Am J Clin Nutr. Mortality in vegetarians and comparable non vegetarians in the United Kingdom, 2016 Jan;103(1):218-30. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.119461. Epub 2015 Dec 9

Harvard Womens Health Watch Newsletter Becoming a vegetarian updated March 18, 2016

National Institute of Health Newsletter Linked to lower mortality? June 2013

Obesity Review 2016 Nov;17(11):1067-1079. doi: 10.1111/obr.12439. Epub 2016 Jul 13.

Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials.

Eichelmann F1, Schwingshackl L2, Fedirko V3, Aleksandrova K4.