Breathe with weights
Photos by Jeff Skeirik
“Is only yoga doing it for me?” After a decade of dedicated yoga practice, I asked myself that question. In early 2015, I hit some form of yoga burnout. Unexpectedly, I wondered, “Is yoga the whole enchilada when it comes to helping me optimize my health?” Honestly, the answer for me was “no.” I found that I needed something to augment my consistent yoga practice. For years, I had toyed around with weight training in sporadic gym session, but I had never really committed to more than 90 days of consistent workouts. This time felt different, I wanted to apply the principles of overall mind body balance to the weight bench. I was ready to commit and develop a different type of strength.
Lucky for me, I befriended an awesome trainer and lifestyle coach named Damon Valley, also an ethical vegan and healthy living advocate. We started working together in early March to increase my functional strength and core power. What I noticed was very interesting: when it came to lifting really heavy weights with exercises like the deadlift and squats – I found myself employing the same breathing techniques, mental focus, balance and core strength that I developed with my yoga practice. This took me by surprise and I was delighted to feel the positive impact of those principles in the gym.
The BIG difference I experienced with weight training was getting strong. I mean, stronger than I’ve ever been before. Being able to deadlift nearly twice my body weight strong. Doing consistent body-weight-pull-ups strong. I have been exploring a much more primal and old-school side to my physical strength. The difference in my approach to my weight training this time includes both employing the breathing and balance techniques from yoga and focusing on functional strength that can be applied in everyday life. These are movements that encourage mobility, flexibility and explosive strength for when we need to perform activities like move a couch, run across the street to catch a light, or carry heavy groceries into the house. As much as I respect the art and science of bodybuilding – my most important motivation is to be able to handle any physical challenge that life may throw at me.
In addition to being functionally strong, I’ve also felt a significant increase in my confidence and mental clarity, as a result of consistent weight training. I feel more balanced and able to deal with stress. I feel it’s the perfect primal yang exercise to compliment my serene yin practices like morning meditation and yoga. In essence, I feel that it’s helped me access more of my masculine side and bring a state of balance into my life.
With all of the extra calories I’m burning (thanks to the awesome thermogenic effect of weight training), it’s been a big adjustment to make time to plan my meals and ensure that sure my nutritional intake is both dense and balanced. Some days, with all of the energy it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, it can be really tough. I’ve found that including specific herbs and superfoods with functional benefits has made a huge difference in my energy and recovery time.
Powerful plant-based superfoods for sports performance
The plant-based protein sources I consume most frequently include vegan protein powders (my favorite is Sunwarrior Classic Plus), tempeh, lentils, legumes, nuts, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.
My favorite energy-boosting foods (many of which I use in my pre-workout drink) include cordyceps mushrooms, ashwagandha, maca, guarana, ginseng, matcha green tea, coconut oil, and wheatgrass.
The best foods I’ve found for post-workout recovery are turmeric, MSM, reishi mushroom powder, and algae-based omega-3 fatty acids. These all have anti-inflammatory benefits and enhance the body’s repair processes, which are active after strenuous physical performance.
Deliciously easy protein-rich pancakes!
Pumpkin Protein Pancakes
(Gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free)
Makes about 10 to 12 4-inch pancakes
Pancakes are always a people pleaser. These pumpkin-infused puppies are not only delicious, they’re also packed with protein thanks to the Sunwarrior blend. They are easy to make and awesome as a pre-workout snack or post-workout recovery meal. Just like that famous potato chips tagline, “I bet you can’t eat just one!”
- 1 tablespoon ground golden flaxseed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons filtered water
- 1 1/2 cups Wholesome Chow gluten-free hi-protein pancake and baking mix
- 1 scoop Sunwarrior Classic Plus Vanilla protein
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil (plus a little more for the pan)
- 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
- 1/3 cup grade B organic maple syrup (reserved for plating)
- 1/4 cup extra-fine coconut shreds
To make the flax “egg,” add ground flaxseed and water to a small dish and stir. Let rest for five minutes to thicken. In a medium bowl, mix together the gluten-free baking mix, protein powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, coconut milk, flax egg, coconut oil, and coconut sugar until smooth and well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon to mix well. Heat a nonstick pan with a little dollop of coconut oil. Scoop the batter onto the pan using a ¼-cup measuring scoop. Cook until bubbles form and the edges are slightly golden brown, then flip and cook a little longer. Both sides should be nicely golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup and coconut shreds.
Get the balance right
Maintaining balance, flexibility and strength are fundamental to any workout regimen and are keys to longevity. Hybridizing my workout routine with a good mix of weight training and yoga feels like it could be my recipe for long-term fitness. Or, maybe it’s just the pancakes. They need their props, too!
Jason Wrobel is a graduate of the Living Light Culinary Institute and has enjoyed a vegan lifestyle for nearly 20 years. As the host of How to Live to 100 on Cooking Channel, he inspired a global audience to prepare deliciously easy and satisfying plant-based recipes. His popular YouTube channel, The J-Wro Show, features hundreds of vegan recipe videos and vibrant living vlogs: jasonwrobel.com.
Jeff Skeirik is a Los Angeles based photographer: rawtographer.com.
Location: Barbell Brigade, Los Angeles, barbellbrigade.com
Shirts: Iron Buddha 1979, ironbuddha1979.com