I was coaching a group of my Steve’s Club Camden athletes on Monday when I noticed one holding his stomach. We were setting up for the workout, and Danny’s face kept no secrets. I asked him what was up.
“I had McDonald’s about an hour ago,” reported Danny. “And I knew I shouldn’t have, but I was starving and only had $10.”
Danny made it through the 13 minute AMRAP without throwing up—which was good because a few weeks earlier he was not so lucky after four pieces of pre-workout pizza. He’s a strong athlete both mentally and physically and dialing in the nutrition will make him even better. I think Danny knows this, he just needs to commit. We circled up after the WOD as we always do to talk.
Rather than giving a lecture, I asked the group what advice they would give Danny. Although $10 dollars is not a lot when you are on the move, it’s enough to cash consider making a better choice. Finances aren’t the only hurdle to consider for many of our children. We also have an accessibility problem in Camden. There’s a McDonald’s in town, but there’s no grocery store within the city limits. There are many family-owned corner stores or bodegas, but without a major retailer within walking distance to bring costs down and healthy options up, the hometown of our first Local Club is known as a “food desert.”
THE CORNER STORE
One of my younger athletes yelled out, “He could have went to the corner store! There’s fruit there!” I agreed, although I know the corner store produce section can be limited, expensive and possibly out of date. But still, a few bananas and possibly some nuts would have been a better pre-workout option for Danny.
For many Americans, the “corner store” offers a few decent options. I’ve seen hard boiled eggs, nuts, fruits and even salads at some of the major convenience chains. Look hard and don’t give up just because you are hungry! Many convenience stores feature whole sections of jerky and meat sticks, I just caution folks to read the ingredient deck before making a selection. Many of these brands have more sugar than candy bars and more preservatives than Danny’s Super-Sized Meal.
FOOD FAST, BUT NOT FAST FOOD
Time is always going to be tight. So making a game plan before you get busy is key. Kristen and I struggled with this for years, but I can say now we have it down to a science. We over cook portions a few nights a week so we can make and take. We also use a paleo meal service for a few lunches and snacks. When we find ourselves without something on-the-go, we are happy to supplement with PaleoGoods. We achieve balance without having to spend 5 hours on Sundays cooking—but if you have the time and the inspiration, that’s a wonderful option.
You don’t have to go for Pinterest perfection when meal prepping, just start somewhere and your future self will thank you later on in the week. With a well laid plan, one shopping trip, and some time in the kitchen, you could be prepped in just a few hours. You can bulk cook meats, veggies and sides and store them in large containers, mixing and matching your to go meals during the week. Or you could prep each meal with a protein-fat-carb and seal for a quick grab in the morning.
Had Danny thought about his future hungry self at the beginning of the week, he could have bought $10 worth of groceries—ground meat, veggies, sweet potatoes—and made himself 3-4 meals that to take on the go.
A BETTER CHOICE
Let’s say Danny’s friends kidnapped him and forced him to go to McDonalds with his $10 dollar bill. He could have found a better alternative to his Quarter Pounder Super Size Extra Value Meal. His fellow athletes suggested salads with protein at our little post-WOD pow-wow—or even grilled chicken sandwiches without the bun! That would have left Danny feeling much better while heading into the workout.
It’s hard to teach a teenager the connection between food and health, but that doesn’t mean we should not try. I often got teased when I was young, as I preferred oranges to potato chips and oatmeal to Captain Crunch. I’m not sure why—my parents certainly did not force me or even encourage us to eat healthy. It was a different time. The dangers of sugars and processed diets were not commonly known. As I look back, I just felt better when eating real food. It made me think more clearly and even sleep better. I splurged on occasion just like everyone else, which acted as a good reminder of why I chose a healthy diet to begin with.
It’s my goal to get my athletes to not feel deprived, but rather get them feeling proud about making better choices. Learning the hard way can sometimes be the best lesson. I can’t wait to 4pm to ask Danny what his pre-WOD fuel is today…. I’m hoping he made a better choice.