Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rainbow Falls Hike, NC

I finally went on a new hike!

Rainbow Falls - 150 ft falls
I really enjoy hiking but sometimes it's hard to find new places to hike within driving distance to my house. Last weekend, my mom and I took a little trip to Asheville, NC. We started our day with paddle boarding on the French Broad River which I highly recommend. The river was peaceful and it was so much fun! After paddle boarding, we decided to go for a hike! We quickly took to Google to find a relatively close hike. The tricky thing is, if you google hikes near Asheville, websites list hikes up to 100 miles away! Um, no thank you, Google.

However, we found a hike about 50 minutes away which is doable! The hike was Rainbow Falls! I love a good waterfall hike. This actually had two sets of waterfalls!

Rainbow Falls is the larger set of falls, about 1.5 miles from the parking area at Gorges State Park. The hike is mostly downhill and stays pretty close to the Horsepasture River. There are a lot of places you could probably get down to the river and sneak a peek at the falls or a dip in the river.

When you arrive at a platform, you have a great view of the falls and we felt a much-needed mist! We took our selfie and moved on to the smaller, second set of falls.

Turtleback Falls is the second set of waterfalls, about .25 miles further. This portion is mostly uphill but nothing too hard. People slide down the falls and jump into the swimming area below. It looked really fun but we weren't equipped for that. I would recommend taking water shoes, a towel, and wearing a bathing suit. You could even bring some snacks or picnic to relax because there are a lot of places to sit and swim.

Turtleback Falls and Swimming Area
Since the way there was mostly downhill, the return is mostly uphill. There are only a few stairs in the whole hike and I didn't think it was crazy difficult anywhere, although I certainly worked up a sweat.

Overall, I would definitely do this hike again and hopefully remember swim shoes!

Do you like hiking? Would you slide down those falls?

Just watching today!

Between the Falls
 P.S. I didn't see a rainbow. :(
Check out this site for directions and details about this hike: https://www.romanticasheville.com/rainbow_falls.htm

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tips and Tricks for Awesome Daytrips!

I absolutely love just taking off for a day trip! I often don't have the time or money to spend the night and make a whole vacation out of a trip but that doesn't mean I can't explore new places and travel often.

I have the benefit of living in the Piedmont region of North Carolina so the coast is 3-4 hours away and mountains are 2-4 hours away so both options are feasible for day trips! I also enjoy visiting different urban cities! You'll find them to be full of culture, cuisine, entertainment and sometimes, history!

So just how do I prepare for successful day trips? Well, my mom and I have it down to a science! Here are a few tips and tricks for your next day trip, whether it be spontaneous or more planned out:

1. Pick your location based off of weather and your main activity.

This can be tricky because the weather can change on a whim but try to avoid massive disappointment if at all possible. Choosing based off of main activity is fairly obvious but if I want to hike, we head for the mountains, if I want to soak up the sun, maybe the beach. If I want to explore and shop, maybe a city! But you have to pick one! Sometimes, trying to be spontaneous, we can't decide where we want to go and we waste time. Be decisive! It may also be helpful to review directions beforehand in case of bad signal for your GPS.

2. Check public parking, entry fees, etc. 

It's nice to know where you can park, what the cost is, where the most central location is, etc. It's also good to know the fees of places you may go to such as state parks. Keep in mind that these places may have seasonal rates and may only accept cash. 

3. Pack food and water!

Jerky, dried fruit, nuts, and protein bars make great on the go snacks. Fresh fruit and cheese sticks, etc are great snacks if you're bringing a cooler (recommended). Be sure to also pack plenty of water and any other drinks you may want. Gas stations have a hefty price tag for convenience so be prepared. Also, you will need to decide if you want to take meals, eat out, or try to be there and back with no meals, just snacks! We often visit a chain sandwich shop for dinner on our day trips because it's a fairly quick and inexpensive option. If we leave before lunch, I'll typically take something to eat in the car. Don't overthink it or you'll waste precious time!

4. Bug sprays, sunblock, first aid, etc. 

Be prepared for anything! We go hiking often so we have these basic items stored in our hiking backpack. Use your judgment what things like these will be applicable to your destination. For instance, I wouldn't take bug spray to explore a city!

5. Pack spare clothes and think of places to change. 

Weather can change on a dime. You can get sweaty as all get out. The crusty swimsuit can start to chafe. I ALWAYS bring an extra set of clothes. Maybe I want to wear something nicer to dinner or perhaps I want to be more comfortable on the ride home. Spare clothes come in handy. I also usually bring extra layers (i.e. jackets, flannels, hats, gloves, etc.), especially in the winter just in case I should feel cold! On the same note, you don't need to pack for a week. It will be a pain to lug around unnecessary baggage so be moderate but be prepared. 

6. Have a basic plan. Check hours. Have fun!

Overall, just have some sort of plan as to where you're going and why. If you plan to visit a specific park, specific thrift shop, a specific restaurant, etc. make sure to check their hours. Nothing is worse than planning on going somewhere, driving several hours only to find out they are closed for repairs. Most importantly, have fun! Relax, ride the roller coaster of the unknown, be it getting lost or getting rained on. The fun is in the journey. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you're sure to make lasting memories and experiences!

Do you like to take day trips? What tips do you have?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

China Grove Main Street Challenge 5K

Will Run for Pizza and Donuts!

The China Grove 5K is one of my favorite 5K races!

  • It's in my town, just down the street!
  • It has a fun post-race spread of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Pizza Hut pizza and fresh watermelon!
  • The atmosphere is fun and family friendly!
  • It's at 9pm at night which I think is pretty fun!
  • Flat course! This means people come from far and wide to set PRs and it's very competitive!
Photo by Aaron Cress - Facebook The China Grove 5K Main St. Challenge 
This was my first race since my diagnosis of iron deficient anemic which had really affected my running - in fact, that's what prompted me to go to the doctor! My running got so bad that I couldn't even run half a mile at a ten-minute pace! I've now been taking prescription iron supplements for about two and a half months and have seen much improvement, however, I'm still not at my all time fastest, so I was very apprehensive about this race!

Thankfully, my age group is very small so I had a fighting chance. The weather was fantastic - about 70 degrees! I had some freeze dried fruit, an energy drink and endless amounts of anxious adrenaline to fuel my run. I started at the front of the crowd but many people passed me in the beginning as they always do. I particularly had my eye on one girl because I thought she may be in my age group and she looked like a runner! I gave it my all and about halfway through, I was cruising past a lot of people who didn't properly pace themselves (including my competition). I began sprinting when I felt the end was near but that was a little too soon! The cheers of the crowd actually really encouraged me! I couldn't slow down that close to the Finish line! 

I was SO EXCITED for a pace of 7:07 - my fastest by far since my issues with iron. My finish time was 22:05 and I was first in my age group. I love bettering myself and there's just some sort of adrenaline rush I get from running in 5ks and it's something my mom and I enjoy doing together!

Have you ever run a 5K? Would you run for pizza or doughnuts?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How I Survived a Week Without Sugar

One week, Seven days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds

Without sugar.

Wait, that's too easy. The internets tell me I must eliminate ALL sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, and yes, even stevia) to really change habits, curb cravings and discover how my body reacts.

So I tried this once before but I crashed and burned! I made it one day and I felt miserable all day. What was wrong? Maybe I was just having a bad day anyway but I simply felt irritated all day and that was not fair to the people around me lol! So I quit.

However, about a week or so later, a #healthspo account on Instagram did it and I regained my motivation and determination. This time, though, I had a new mindset! I focused on the fact that this was my personal choice. I am in control. I am choosing not to consume these things because I want to be kind to my body. I want to see if I will feel any different/better. I choose not to consume these things versus I can't, I'm not allowed, etc. This shift in mindset seemed to make all the difference.

Some of the biggest changes I had to make:

Breakfast was: oatmeal with loads of stevia and nut butter that was sweetened

Breakfast became: eggs with potatoes, eggs with fruit, eggs with cheese and spinach, plain rice cakes with cream cheese and smoked salmon

I honestly didn't mind switching up my breakfast but I did find that having a few strawberries at the end made me that much more satisfied. It was like a breakfast dessert lol! I also discovered that smoked salmon (at least the brand I purchased) has sugar in it, however on the nutrition facts, it reads 0g sugar, so it must be a trivial amount. Since I had already eaten it, I let it slide. These breakfasts were perfectly satiating to get me to lunch.

Caffeine was: coffee with stevia, Monster energy drinks, diet soda
Caffeine became: cold brew coffee black

Well black coffee is not my favorite thing in the world, I much prefer the flavor of the cold brew. It did the job of giving me my daily dose of caffeine!

Snacks were: protein bars, protein ice cream, beef jerky which had sugar in the ingredients, yogurt with sweeteners in the ingredients, etc.

Snacks became: sweet potatoes with no sugar added sunbutter or peanut butter, popcorn, rice cakes with tuna, protein smoothies (fruit, coconut milk and protein powder with no sweeteners), natural almonds (watch out for added sugar in smoked or roasted varieties), larabars, kind pressed fruit bars and fruits and veggies

This was a bit of an adjustment but I actually found it easier as I went out of town for the weekend because I only brought appropriate snacks and didn't snack as much. I enjoyed getting to eat more fruits and veggies and larabars which I haven't had in a while. The smoothie was a little disappointing because it was far less sweet than my protein fluff but I guess that's the point lol!

Unsweetened Smoothie Bowl topped with Unsweetened Coconut, NSA Sunbutter and Cinnamon
Supplements were: creatine, protein, BCAAs and pre workout all sweetened with stevia or sucralose
Supplements became: NADA, yeah I just drank water at the gym!

Takeaway: I honestly do not regret doing this because I didn't notice any negative effects. I felt much better about myself knowing I was eating more vegetables and Whole Foods. It also really affected my habits, at least for now. I used to DUMP stevia in my oatmeal. I haven't had oatmeal yet but I'm hoping now, I will be able to be more moderate.  I'm not sure how many long-term studies have been done on stevia but too much of anything is too much. Also, during this time, I didn't notice any headaches which I get if I drink too many monster energy drinks or diet sodas in a row. I also drank a lot more water and I think this may have benefited my regularity in bowel movements. (TMI? Lol!) Besides that, I didn't notice too much of a physical effect. I'm hoping now I can find a happy balance. That's always the goal, right?

What do you think about added sugar and sweeteners and doing a "detox"? How insane is your sweet tooth?

Disclaimer: I don't think that this is something you need to do, it was simply an experiment I wanted to do to see how my body reacted. Eat yo sugar if you like!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Finds!

Hey there! I've decided to share a few products, services, podcasts, etc. that I've been enjoying lately!

First up is a practical one: Yes to Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes (can be found at Target)

I don't know about you, but when I go to the gym (especially if I hit the StairMaster or bike!), I get SWEATY. I had bought some cheap facial cleansing wipes from the Dollar Tree but they just weren't cutting it. I felt like I might as well be using a dampened paper towel. I've also recently been breaking out in little bumps on my face so I decided to try something different. I haven't been using these long but they feel really good on my skin. They have cucumber, aloe vera, and other natural ingredients to cleanse and nourish your skin. I'm hoping the breakouts will stop!

Workout Apparel: Kitty Gains

Who here is addicted to buying workout clothes? I'm guilty. I just recently got a Kitty Gains crop top to workout in. It says "Purrfect Form". They have a ton of fun tops with different sayings and other cute apparel as well. Check them out: Kitty Gains

Next up is a new-to-me podcast: Girls Gone WOD Podcast

I've been listening to the Mind Pump Podcast for a while now and they recently did an episode featuring Joy and Claire from the Girls Gone WOD Podcast. I started listening and I might be hooked. They are very down to earth, relatable, fun and easy to listen to. They do Crossfit (thus, the WOD) but you don't have to do Crossfit to enjoy listening to them. They tackle real life subjects like anxiety, nutrition, and more. Give them a listen! Girls Gone WOD Podcast


Healthy Helper's Savory Banana Flour Breakfast Bread

I saw this originally on Instagram and was immediately intrigued. You may already know my love of NuNaturals products, and this recipe utilizes their Banana Flour. It's a flour made from green starchy bananas (i.e. not sweet). It's high in Prebiotic R2 Resistant Starch which helps grow probiotics. It's gluten free, has 3g of fiber per serving and 330mg of potassium. I happen to have some on hand so I'm excited to try this savory bread recipe! I need to get my hands on that Everything Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joe's! I think this bread would be great with some cream cheese spread on top! Yum!

What are your current obsessions, interests, and finds?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fit Frozen Faceoff!

Have the countless posts on social media of this healthy ice cream and that healthy ice cream left you scratching your head wondering which (if any of them) are worth the hefty price tag? Maybe with summer temperatures on the way, you want to know which frozen treat is best! I'm here to help! Here are some pros and cons of several "healthy" frozen dessert options!

Enlightened Ice Cream is probably one of the more scarce options. Thankfully, a grocery store near me recently started stocking the pints! You can also order online at icecreamsource.com and submit product request forms to your local stores. I really like this brand - they have a lot of great flavor options and when they say they have swirls they're not kidding. I have been told that the company has made arrangements with retailers that if the product has been damaged (ever open up a half filled pint?), you can return it to the point of purchase!

 Arctic Zero - ah, some love it, some love to hate it. I've even heard it referred to as frozen toilet water. It definitely has a much more subtle flavor and is not super sweet. I, however, do enjoy Arctic Zero. I don't think of it as ice cream, though. The brand refers to it as a fit frozen dessert, so they don't claim to be ice cream. I enjoy Arctic Zero for a cold, sweet snack and I think they've improved in both taste and texture over the years. Many people enjoy the chunky pints (300 calories) more. These are a great option if you are lactose intolerant!

Halo Top - my first protein ice cream love. It typically has a good ice cream texture and very rich flavors. I personally like their vanilla flavor better than the Enlightened Vanilla. I have experienced a pint or two with a bit of iciness but you win some, you lose some. Overall, I love Halo Top and would choose this or Enlightened if I wanted ice cream. Another bonus is that they are now sold at Walmart!

Edy's Slow Churned has long been hailed as the "macro friendly" dessert option in the fitness community. It's very inexpensive in comparison to Halo Top, Arctic Zero and Enlightened - typically costing loss for a carton than for a pint of the others. If you're looking for protein, this has a bit less than Halo and Enlightened. Another downside is the ingredients list. It's higher in sugar and if you opt sugar-free, it utilizes sucralose which has been said to alter gut flora. Honestly, though, sucralose is in so many things, I'd say this a great budget friendly, "macro-friendly" option for once in a while. 

Breyer's No Sugar Added is another cheaper option. It has the ice cream texture you'd expect from Breyer's Ice Cream. The No Sugar Added Vanilla clocks in at only 90 calories per serving. However, this brand utilizes aspartame as their zero calorie sweetener so I would use this option sparingly as I try to avoid aspartame. They also make fat free and 1/2 fat varieties if you want to explore those options as well.

Last but certainly not least is Protein Fluff. I make this so often! You choose the protein powder so you can choose the flavor, how much protein, and what sweetener is used. I most often use Slap Nutrition which is sweetened with stevia. The only other ingredients are a banana, ice and xanthan gum. I bought a jar of xanthan gum for about $5 and it is lasting forever. Bananas are very inexpensive so this is another inexpensive option. The only downsides are that it takes time and effort (clean up) and you need a blender. Also, this is certainly not an ice cream substitute but it is voluminous, cold, and sweet!

When I want ice cream, my top choices are Enlightened and Halo Top. When I want cheap, I typically go with Protein Fluff. When I'm just feeling it, I go with Arctic Zero lol! When I'm craving ice cream but also on a budget - Edy's or Breyers. I hope this helps some of you to decide which option is right for you!

Have you tried any of these? Which is your favorite? I still need to try ProYo's new pints!

Graphics created with the Canva app. https://www.canva.com/ Photos from their respective owners. 
Breyers: http://www.breyers.com/product/detail/113881/vanilla
Edys: https://www.edys.com/
Enlightened: https://www.eatenlightened.com/pages/store-locator
Halo Top:https://www.halotop.com/where-to-buy/
Arctic Zero:https://www.arcticzero.com/e-products

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Is This Legal? A Jerky Review

I'm a jerky lover. Who's with me?

It's such a convenient snack that I like to take on hikes or on trips! It lasts a long time and I personally think it tastes delicious.

I first tried Lawless Jerky from SnackNation, and I have to say it seemed a bit dry. I know it's dried meat but this was a bit tough. The company told me this was not right and they sent me a new batch!
It was mailed from the company and it was noticeably better! It was chewy and tender and so delicious! I love the fun flavors they have. They have:

Sweet Sriracha Beef Jerky - this one is pretty spicy, true to it's name!

Aloha Teriyaki Beef Jerky - tastes like your typical teriyaki flavor, a classic.

BBQ Spare Rib Pork Jerky - okay, this one is so delicious! It really tastes like it's namesake and it was so tender!

Mango Habanero Beef Jerky - This one is probably one of my favorites because I love how the sweetness perfectly balances out the spiciness. (They have a heat rating on their website if you're interested or sensitive to spicy things - I have high spicy tolerance! lawlessjerky.com)

Pho Beef Jerky - I have yet to try this flavor but it says it has herbs (cilantro, mint, basil) and spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves and the kick of jalapeno) for Pho on the go. I've never had Pho either but this certainly sounds delicious.

Honey Chipotle Beef Jerky - The final flavor offering is another I have yet to try. This Mexican - inspired flavor is another sweer-meets-spicy flavor that sounds delicious. It has ingredients like smoked chiles, paprika, garlic and honey!

Why Lawless? It's called Lawless because it was founded by an attorney who left his practice to pursue his passion for crafting delicious jerky for people's enjoyment. Lawless breaks the "laws" of jerky by using no added chemicals and tasting like real meat!

Lawless Jerky is:

  1. 100% grass fed beef and hormone free, antibiotic free pork
  2. No added nitrites/nitrates, MSGs or corn syrup 
  3. Made with quality ingredients and made in small batches 
  4. Convenient 
  5. Delicious
  6. Great source of protein and iron (important to me as I'm iron deficient anemic)
Which flavor sounds best to you? Do you like jerky?