Mrs. United States 2011 embraces paleo lifestyle

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Two years ago, Mrs. United States 2011 Shannon Ford was diagnosed with celiac disease, an intestinal disorder triggered by eating gluten. Since then, she has embraced "a paleo lifestyle" that includes eating lean meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts and doing CrossFit, which focuses on functional movements.

Ford, who was Miss Florida USA in 2002 and a Dolphins cheerleader in 2001, took part in the Miami Dolphins Cycling Challenge on Nov. 6. She trained for the event four times a week but didn't let that interfere with her daily workouts of jogging and doing CrossFit.

Why do you keep fit?

I feel better when I work out, and obviously looking good is part of it. When I was preparing for the pageant, my workouts increased.

Exercise has almost become an addiction and anchors my day. I start off the day working out, and if I miss a day, I feel something is missing. Even on our recent cruise, [my husband and I] worked out every day.

What's your workout routine?

I'm cycling about three times a week at night, and then a longer ride on the weekends. It's the same type of training I did … for the NYC Marathon.

I belong to CrossFit Vida Brickell, and my regular routine starts with waking up at 5:45 every morning. The [gym] is a mile from my home so I run to it, take the 6:30 class and run back.

The CrossFit workouts are hourlong. The basis is high-intensity, high-impact training. There's warmups, stretching, sometimes skill work as well. But the actual workout-of-the-day, or WOD, lasts 10 minutes to half an hour, and then you're finished. Today's time limit was 15 minutes and I finished in 11.

WOD is a prescribed certain number of moves, sometimes a lot of cardio, sometimes heavy lifting. That way your body doesn't get bored and assimilate to the movements.

Why do CrossFit?

I've done it for almost a year, and it's the first I've ever done [where] every day is hard, never gets easy. I did boot camp for a year and a half and hit a plateau, got bored.

In addition to CrossFit, I belong to the Sports Club/LA, where sometimes I'll take Zumba, Pilates, boxing, to mix it up. If it's something I enjoy, I don't feel I'm working out.

Do your exercises change before a pageant?

The four to six weeks before one, I'll focus more on cardio. I don't typically do a lot of cardio, except running to and from the gym and the occasional dance class. But before a competition, I'll increase.

You can tailor CrossFit to what your needs are. For the pageant, a lean model look was beneficial for me, so I wasn't focused on building muscle. It was more toning. I didn't necessarily increase my weights but stayed at what I hit. Now I've resumed trying to get stronger.

Does celiac disease affect your fitness?

CrossFit works really well with someone like me with celiac because we resort to a paleo lifestyle, and I have a paleo lifestyle of eating no gluten.

Before being diagnosed, I wasn't always physically fit. I always worked out here and there, but it was not part of my daily life. In 2009, I was diagnosed with it, and that went hand in hand with learning what to eat, how to become healthier. I learned about organic food and how all the additives are bad for you. I started getting more energy to work out and feel good.