Editor’s Note: The next several weeks will feature guest writers from the community who are filling in as Shelly Rankin is on maternity leave. Thanks, Sam, for filling in this week!
It’s 3:07 a.m., and Sam Collins’ alarm clock is ringing out its shrill wake-up call. The 40-year-old mother of four doesn’t hit snooze, instead she bounds out of bed long before the sun rises and gets ready for an early morning workout with her husband Tim at the Diamond Trail Fitness Center (DTFC). The husband-and-wife team work out until 5:15 a.m. before going home to “start” their day. Sam makes breakfast, which usually consists of roasted sweet potatoes, bacon, and eggs, before she leaves again at 6:35 a.m. for work as a Lynnville-Sully School bus driver and at-risk associate. After a full day of school, Sam makes a quick trip home to change clothes, grab a snack, and head to the next activity any of her four kids, ranging from ages 11-18, are involved in. “We usually fall into bed around 10 p.m. and do the same thing the next day,” said Sam.
The full day with the early start is not for everyone, but it’s a routine Sam and her husband have embraced and thrived with. Sam’s journey to fitness started in 2010 when she hooked up with Tashia Ehresman, now DTFC Manager who taught fitness classes at the time. Ehresman’s guidance and encouragement fostered a love of fitness and healthy eating for Sam, who lost 40 pounds. After some time, Sam gained some of the weight back and knew she had to make a change.
For the last three years, Sam has been a faithful follower of CrossFit, a program that incorporates elements from high-intensity interval training, powerlifting, and plyometrics, among other exercises, in workouts of the day (WODs). She and her husband follow the programming of CrossFit Pella but work out at the DTFC in Sully. If a free Saturday exists in the busy couple’s schedule or a competition is nearing, Sam and Tim work out in Pella. “I don’t see an end in sight,” said Sam regarding her CrossFit routine. “I really enjoy what it has done for me. My body has changed, but more importantly, my mind has changed too.”
It was a weekend CrossFit Open Regional competition with ladies from Crossfit Pella that really opened Sam’s eyes to a different eating lifestyle. Sam was already on board with the fitness element, but hadn’t made the jump to clean eating. Instead of thinking where they were going to eat their next meal, Sam’s CrossFit friends were finding interesting ways to exercise using the hotel staircase and weights they had packed. Eating “out” consisted of going to Whole Foods to fuel their bodies with healthy foods. “I was intrigued by this new lifestyle,” admitted Sam. “These ladies thought ahead, prepared, and ate to live. They didn’t live to eat. I knew I had to try something different.”
With her mind made up, Sam contacted her friend, Andi Vanderhoff from CrossFit Pella, and was introduced to the Whole30® lifestyle. In a nutshell, Whole30® requires participants to cut out all the “psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, in-flammatory food groups for a full 30 days.” The program claims to change your life, and Sam can attest to this. The combination of eating only whole foods and being passionate about CrossFit has made a huge impact on Sam and her family. “I felt like I needed to try something drastic, and Whole30® worked for me,” said Sam. “I truly have an addiction to food, and Whole30® gave me parameters, which I knew I had to stay in in order to stay on track.”
Through commitment and determination, Sam is now down 50 pounds and has completed five Whole30® cycles since her first one in June, and Tim has maintained the Whole30 lifestyle.
Sam admits the couple used to live on pop and chips and salsa. Now, cashews and apples are go-to snacks. As the main grocery shopper, Sam doesn’t keep many sweets around; pop is only purchased for special occasions, and she keeps the fridge stocked with roasted veggies and grilled meat.
Even the couple’s four children have changed their eating habits. “The kids aren’t real Whole30® eaters, but we have changed the way they eat just by what I buy or don’t buy.” At the grocery store, Sam’s tip is to shop from the outside edges of the store, a trick learned from Ehresman. Collins is also a big fan of Aldi’s, where she can buy great produce at amazing prices. Even though an Aldi’s trip means a longer drive to Des Moines, Marshalltown, or Iowa City, it’s miles Sam will gladly log. “Their produce is super cheap, and it is amazing!” said Sam. “Convenience is cheap, and when you put cheap food with cheap ingredients in your body, your body will act accordingly.”
Preparation is Key
A free night in Sam and Tim’s household is rare since the couple’s four children are heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. This means Sam and her husband often spend evenings and weekends on the road and in a gym at ball games, speech events, or concerts. “Part of the challenge in eating clean is our crazy schedule. Tim and I rarely eat out so it’s all about being prepared,” said Sam.
Sam sets aside time on Sundays to prepare meats and vegetables for the remainder of the week. Cauliflower, broccoli, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, and brussel sprouts are a few menu staples. For quick snacks, Sam keeps Lara or RX bars on hand, and there is always a bowl of apples on the table ready to grab and go.
Just Do It
Sam and Tim have fully embraced the CrossFit and Whole30® lifestyle, reaping the benefits of their work. While some may look at their efforts and think it is impossible to make such a change, Sam assures everyone it is not hard and anyone can do it.
“When you see a tough workout, you tend to freak out, but I DO IT. I don’t complain, and I don’t quit, I just DO IT,” said Sam.
That determined focus gained from CrossFit has transferred to the couple’s Whole30® lifestyle. “You can’t have cheese? Too bad, just DO IT. It’s not going to kill you to go without it for 30 days, or 60 days, or two days,” affirmed Sam. “Life is hard, but it’s what you make it, and it’s about how you decide to live it.”
Give one of these Whole30®-inspired recipes a try!
Sam’s note: I’m not a measurer or recipe follower so please bear with me!
Brussel Sprout Bacon Apple Salad
This is delicious! Remember, eight months ago, I didn’t even know what a brussel sprout tasted like!
- 4-6 slices bacon
- 1 onion, diced
- 3-4 peppers, diced (green, yellow, red, or orange – I use whatever I have)
- brussel sprouts (if frozen, use a whole bag; if fresh, cut enough to fill pan)
- 1 whole apple, shredded
- Cut raw bacon into little chunks and fry in a pan. I like to cut it in chunks first so I don’t have to crumble the bacon while it’s hot.
- While bacon is frying, shred or cut up the brussel sprouts.
- Add diced onion, peppers, and shredded brussel sprouts to the fried bacon and all of the grease.
- Cook until tender. At the last moment, add a shredded apple.
Guacamole and Homemade Sweet Potato Chips
- 1 ripe avocado, mashed
- 1 onion
- peppers (preferably red, yellow, or orange)
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced with seeds
- tomatoes, diced
- 1 sweet potato, sliced thin
- Mash up an avocado, set aside.
- Dice the vegetables and add onion, peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and tomato to mashed avocado.
- Very thinly slice a sweet potato and place on a sprayed cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake sweet potato slices at 350 degrees until golden, turning once.
- Dip sweet potato chips in guacamole mix.
- blood orange balsamic vinaigrette
- pomegranate olive oil
- box of currents
- sunflower seeds
I usually use a whole head of cabbage and broccoli and a whole bag of carrots – throw it in until it looks good! You can buy the vinaigrette and olive oil at the Allspice store in Des Moines.
- In a food processor, cut up the broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and onion to a very fine mix.
- Add blood orange balsamic vinaigrette and pomegranate olive oil to taste.
- Add the box of currents and mix well.
- Add just enough sunflower seeds for the amount you will be eating/serving.