Back to Philly for a Day

Things are in kind of a weird state right now. Squash season is kind of over, because all of our team play is done, however about half of us are still training for this upcoming weekend’s individuals tournament. Nevertheless, having a weekend “off” from competitions this weekend left me feeling like I all of a sudden had all the time in the world! So what do you do when you suddenly have a life again? You do work! Well, kind of…

I had some school and thesis business to do in Philadelphia on Friday, so I drove down there Thursday night in order to get a full day’s of activities in. My friend, Nabilla was kind enough to let me crash with her (I stayed at her place for a couple weeks at the end of the summer, too!), and after chatting for about an hour or so, we decided to call it a night in order to get some rest for the busy day ahead!

Unite Fitness 7:30 am

Friday morning started bright and early with a 7:30 am Unite cross training class. As much as I hate it when people say things like, “the obsession is real”, or “the struggle is real”, that is the first sentence that comes to mind when I think of Unite. The obsession is so, so real.

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The pain cave

I went through a huge withdrawal at the beginning of the fall semester when I came back to campus, and the feeling was only reinforced when I got another small taste last Friday.

IMG_4109The workout focused on upper body, and I was still sore yesterday- a sign that I definitely need to get some upper body lifting (and lifting) back in my regimen. That’s a post-season project :).

Breakfast

Upon returning to Nabilla’s place, we made a quick breakfast before I had to rush off to my next appointment. On the menu?

Dark chocolate and cherry chunk toast, topped with almond butter.

IMG_6236And strawberry Greek yogurt, banana, and cashew butter.

IMG_6238Well fuelled for my busy day!

Penn Museum 10:30 am-1pm

Although Unite was probably one of the highlights of my day (actually, it was a great day altogether, I cannot lie), the main reason I was in Philly was to work on my thesis.

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This picture was taken this past summer. Right now this is all covered in snow.

 

I am writing my thesis on the Hasanlu people, a group of Iranians who lived during the late Bronze and Iron ages and whose skeletons are stored at the Penn museum.

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Can you see the resemblance?

 

After about 2 hours of looking through skeletons, I called it a day and broke for lunch with some colleagues. The museum’s cafe was surprisingly good and reasonably priced, and I opted for a mediterranean salad with shrimp, which was only $6! Granted, there were only about 3 shrimp on the salad, but still- it tasted good!

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shrimpy salad

 

I also bought a small packet of Nourish’s Mocha-mazing. These snacks have been popping up everywhere and I love ’em! They’re perfectly portioned, and tell you how much fiber and protein is in each little bag. Oh, and they taste pretty good too!

IMG_6264I had no trouble finishing this little packet off!

After I had finished checking out the Hasanlu skeletons at Penn, I headed back to Nabilla’s to drop the car off, and then bus into Center City to the Franklin Institute. Parking is difficult to find as well as expensive in the city, so I opted for a $2.50, 10 minute bus ride instead.

Franklin Institute: Body World’s Exhibit

The Franklin Institute is currently showing the Body Worlds exhibit, which showcases the inner workings of animals and humans. My Comparative Physiology class offered this trip (on your own time with your own money) as a way to get extra credit, and since I was already in Philly, I figured why not!

IMG_6265The exhibit itself was pretty short, but was still very interesting. In fact, it was probably a good thing that it was so short, because I was starting to tire around 3:30 pm, desperately in need of sustenance- or sleep!

I wandered around the rest of the museum for a little while, noticing towards the end that I was the only person my age there. The rest of the museum-goers were either ages 6-10, or 40+. In other words, kids with their parents. I was just that strange young adult female who seemed to have nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon.

On my way out, I couldn’t help but take some time to marvel over the amazing architecture of the building, inside and out. I especially liked how the Franklin Institute displayed some famous quotes on the walls, by none other than of course, Ben Franklin himself.

IMG_6267I found the following quote pretty motivating and worth remembering.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise. 

IMG_6283Well said, Ben Franklin!

Squash

After the Franklin Institute, my museum-ing was finished for the day! Following a quick trip to Trader Joe’s, Nabilla and I headed to Penn to play some squash! We hit for a couple hours before calling it quits, and grabbing some dinner at Whole Foods.

Dinner: Whole Foods

Have you ever seen the hot bar specials at Whole Foods? They’re actually pretty great, and really well priced! I got a chicken breast with two fantastic sides for only $6! Pretty hard to beat that!

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Chicken, kale salad, butternut squash panzanella

 

After dropping Nabilla off back at her apartment, I said goodbye and drove back to Princeton, arriving around 10:30 pm. I had considered staying another night and coming back the next day, but I’m sure glad I didn’t, because it snowed like the North Pole Saturday morning! It was hard enough walking around campus, let alone driving places. In fact, one of my teammates was driving back from Philly on Saturday, and she said that it took her 2.5 hours to get back, rather than the usual 50 minutes. Yikes.

The rest of the weekend

The rest of the weekend was good. We had an Oscar’s themed party Saturday night, where I was assigned the costume of Katniss Everdeen. I didn’t take many pictures, but I did manage to find one or two on my camera!

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Now it’s Monday morning, and I’ve got some work to get done before class. Have a great Monday!

Questions:

Did you watch the Oscars?

What did you get up to this weekend? 

 

My Philly Workout Obsession: Unite Fitness

If you’ve read any of my posts from my summer in Philadelphia, there’s a pretty high chance that you readabout my killer workouts at Unite Fitness.heartmusclemindfitness

Killer, in the best way possible, of course 🙂

Following my incredible fitness and foodie weekend visiting friends in NYC, I decided I wanted to find a place to cross train in Philly. My friend, Kat, had heard about this place, Unite Fitness, which was supposedly the place to go for intense cardio and strength workouts. (ALSO- Be Well Philly just rated Unite as the #1 workout spot in Philadelphia!)

I signed up online for my free trial, and then popped in to check it out in person later on when I happened to be in the area. The staff I met were super friendly and welcoming, and had no trouble convincing me to come back later that day for my free trial.

What goes down at Unite Fitness?

Unite has 3 main focuses:

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Yoga and Stretching

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Here’s a little breakdown on each component, and what I like about them:

Cardio (30 minutes)

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  • All high intensity interval training. Ever get bored on cardio machines? Thanks to great music and intervals, you don’t ever have to worry about biking endlessly and getting tired of staring at the clock.
  • Only 30 minutes, including warm up. Sounds like nothing, right? Well, it’s not. After 15 minutes I’m already starting to wonder how much time is left in the cardio portion, and thankfully, thanks to the intervals, the second half of the workout flies by.
  • Time countdowns. No more guessing exactly how long is left in that sprint interval! I really appreciated that the trainers will give you a reliable countdown, so that you can push all the way to the end. Some instructors (I’ve experienced this at spin, mostly), don’t give countdowns, and you’re left wondering how hard you should push, because you don’t know how long to keep it up for!
  • They’re watching. Okay, that sounds creepy. But actually, I pushed myself harder because I knew that the coach could see my mph/RMP/gear/speed when he/she would walk around, and I didn’t want to be a slacker!
  • Specific incline and gear levels. If you’re on the treadmill, the trainer will give you an incline range to aim for, but will leave the speed up to you. If you’re biking, you will be given a range of gears, as well as an RMP to hit. For the longer intervals, the trainers at Unite will work on an exertion scale, which goes by percentages. For example, your warmup may start at 70% for 2 minutes, and then you will bring it up to 80% for 3 minutes before recovering. The combination of specific gears/inclines and the exertion scale is what helped me push my hardest every single time.

Strength (30 minutes)

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  • Fast paced and engaging. Do you ever get bored at the gym because a) you’re waiting for machines to become available, b) you’re waiting for your muscles to recover, or c) you only ever do 3 sets and 15 reps of a long list of exercises? Instead of this standard, time consuming method, Unite cuts out a lot of the rest, and focuses on 3-4 timed sets that last anywhere from 3-8 minutes, followed by short recoveries.
  • The heart stays pumpin’! Just because you’re out of the cardio room, doesn’t mean that you won’t still be breaking a sweat during the strength portion! Since the exercises are fast paced, and often incorporate multi-joint movements, your heart rate stays up, which personally, I found quite motivating!
  • New and familiar exercises. I was pleased to learn new exercises for certain muscle groups, as well as work on some old standbys (squats, lunges, bench press). This allowed me to challenge myself mentally and physically by attempting these movements, while also being able to push myself physically with familiar exercises. As much as I love doing new crazy things (still waiting for the day when I can actually do new, crazy things), it’s nice feeling competent, and good about yourself. And while I can’t always do perfect pistol squats (OWW!!!!), it’s good to know that at least I can fall back on the standard dumbbell squat.
  • Individual attention. Worried about your form? Weights aren’t heavy enough? No fear, your trainer is constantly walking around the room, both to motivate you and check your form to make sure that you are performing the exercises safely and to the best of your ability. If you want to go heavier on the bench press, your trainer will come over and spot you to make sure that you get the most out of your reps.

Yoga + Stretch (15 minutes)

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  • Short, yet effective. Let me fill you in on something quickly: I am not a good stretcher. Why? I’m not flexible. I don’t find it engaging. It’s hard for me. I get bored, and then I get hungry. Therefore for me, knowing that this yoga stretch sequence is only roughly 10 minutes long is pretty comforting.
  • One word: Massage. Need incentive to stay to the end and do all the stretches? A quick, relaxing massage might do the trick! Each class finishes with the trainer coming around to each participant and performing a quick massage/adjustment to your shoulders, neck, and back. At first, I was a little skeptical of this, because I was just so, so sweaty (like uncomfortably sweaty), but by my second class, I had gotten used to the idea, and looked forward to my quick readjustment at the end of each class.

What else makes Unite unique?

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  • Perfect group fitness setting. Since there’s a max limit of 20 people per class, you won’t feel as though you’re lost in the crowd, while still being able to benefit from the energy of the other participants. Plus, it’s nice having others to commiserate with when you’re being taught the toughest part of the workout 😉
  • Unite offers fitness and nutrition. I personally didn’t sign up for it, but Unite has a meal program where you can order pre made healthy meals each week. It’s super convenient, since you can pick it up from the fridge at Unite after your workout, and from what I’ve heard, the food is delicious!
  • They also offer personal training. Want some one-on-one training? All of the coaches are certified personal trainers, and a few of them also train clients on the side. I never actually had time to complete one of these sessions, but based on my experience at the group fitness sessions, I am positive that I would have loved it as well.
  • You’ll never do the same workout twice. I went 4x a week for 5 weeks. That’s a lot of classes. Not once did I ever do the same exact workout. Sure there were some repeated exercises, but never was a workout the exactly the same. This was hands-down, one of my favourite parts about my Unite experience.
  • I loved every.single.trainer. If you go to a gym or studio that offers group fitness classes, it’s likely that you have a “favourite” instructor. At Unite, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single coach’s class equally, and loved that each one of them has their own kick-ass style.
  • Can’t make it to the gym? Do it at home! No, you won’t get the same experience as you would in the real Unite setting, but if you’re pressed for time and looking for workout motivation, Unite offers free sample workouts on their YouTube channel. Woo! Fitness anywhere, anytime!
  • Welcomes all levels. Are you a pro athlete? A workout enthusiast? Someone who’s looking to shed 10, 20 or even 60 pounds? Then you can do Unite’s workouts. If an exercise is too challenging, you can always ask the trainer for a modification, and most times, they will offer ways to make movements both more and less challenging.
  • It’s a community. This was my favourite part about being at Unite: I instantly felt included in the Unite community. This feeling grew as I spent more and more time working out at the studio, and I was so sad to leave after my last session. Furthermore, I noticed that the trainers would pay special attention to newcomers in order to make them feel welcome, and make sure that they had a successful experience. It can be intimidating going to a new gym or workout class if you don’t know the ropes, but all of the coaches put in extra effort to make your experience as positive as possible.

Changes I noticed in my body

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I religiously used Unite as my mode of strength conditioning for 5 weeks, and I (think) that I noticed the following changes in my body:

  • Stronger upper body. As someone who is naturally stronger in her legs, and weaker in the arms, I really had nowhere to go but up. After 5 weeks of consistent upper body training, I’ve found that I can now perform exercises with heavier weights, and I can do real pushups! I’m not a pushup person, but I’ve been able to increase my strength and range of motion in my shoulders, which has helped me be able to get my chest to the floor, and push back up. I feel pretty legit  now;)
  • Less ab work, but stronger abs. During June and most of July, I was doing long ab sessions 2-3x a week. Previously, I had been frustrated because my go-to ab workouts no longer seemed to be challenging, and I definitely needed to change it up. At Unite, we did some ab work, but a lot of the exercises also forced you to brace your core to perform the movement effectively. I think that this extra focus really helped engage my core in different ways, and ultimately made it stronger, or kept it just as strong.
  • (My mom told me) I look stronger and leaner. I didn’t take any before/after pictures, so I can’t really compare, but I do know that my arms have become more muscular (like I said, they couldn’t have gotten any worse), and I think that my abs are a little more defined as well. I know that a lot of “muscular definition” has to do with diet and body fat percentage, but since I kept my diet relatively the same as before, I think that I can attribute most of the changes in my body to my dedication to Unite’s program.

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And last but not least….

  • I feel strong and healthy. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that I feel happy inside and out (does that even make sense?!), but I don’t always feel “strong”. As a self-proclaimed “cardio queen”, in the past I’ve found it more difficult to push myself physically when it comes to strength training. I’m good at cardio, so why not keep getting better at what you’re already good at? Well, every so often I will hit a plateau, and know that I need to change something up. Unite did this in the best possible way for me, because I was still able to get my cardio fix, and then strength train.

Bottom Line:

If you’re in Philadelphia and looking to get worked, sign up for a free trial at Unite, and I can almost 100% guarantee that you will love it. I brought a few friends to the studio to work out this summer (yes, that is my idea of a “fun” hangout 😉 ), and they became obsessed with it too. The trainers are cool, the workouts are fun, and you’ll feel amazing at the end. What do you have to lose?

Now What???

I gotta say, I’m going through serious Unite withdrawals. I’m hoping to go complete their Decathlon on October 11th if I can find someone to do it with me, which would be great incentive to keep training so that I can actually survive it. Although I’d love to keep up my Unite workouts, squash season is about to start up and my efforts and workouts are going to be much more directed towards that. I’m hoping (and expecting) that the work I put in at Unite this summer will pay off on the squash court, and I’m excited to see if I’m any faster/stronger/better when it comes down to serious matches!

Summer 2014: Philadelphia Favourites

Hello!!

I have been in a computer detox for the past two days, thanks to lots of running around, and most importantly, a visit from my mom! She arrived on Wednesday night, and we’ve been walking everywhere to see tourist attractions, eating, and even playing squash!

In honour of my last day in Philly (I’m moving back to school tomorrow, I can’t believe it!), I’ve collected some of my favourite things from my summer in the city. I started off with an endless list, but I’ve managed to narrow it down… a little.

Summer 2014: Philadelphia Favourites

Unite Fitness

I feel obliged to make Unite first on my list, because quite honestly, I think it made my summer. I’ve got a proper post/review/tribute(?) coming up on it soon, but I couldn’t summarize my Philly experience without including my favourite pain cave.

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Speaking of pain, I ran like a sloth jogged to the 6:30 am class this morning, for an intense and rewarding final cross training session. The only thing putting a damper on my post-workout high was the fact that I had to say goodbye to the motivating trainers, the cardio room, and of course, the beloved dumbbells.

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Treadmills and bikes for the cardio queens (and kings!)

Whenever I’m back in Philly, I’ll most definitely be dropping into Unite to get my butt kicked! 🙂

Fuel

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Let me summarize all of the things I love about this restaurant in a short list format:

1. The food is ready in about 5 minutes, which is great for me, because I am an impatient person when I’m hungry!

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Artichoke Brie dip with veggies and pita

2. Everything on the menu is fresh, delicious, and health conscious.

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Avocado, Mozzarella, Sweet Potato and Sauteed Kale sandwich on whole wheat bread.

3. All menu items are under 500 calories, and list the protein content for each dish. No more guessing games!

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4. They have a Groupon: $20 worth of food for $10. I ate that one up fast (<- Ha! Oh the puns…)

Image 7As you can see, Courtney and I dominated the sandwich portion of the menu pretty well.

Tourist Attractions

I’ve done a ton of walking around Philly this summer, so I’ve had the chance to check out a lot of the beautiful parks and museums, but hadn’t really spent much time enjoying them from a tourist’s perspective. That all changed when I got to show my mom around the city, since she was really interested in the historical significance behind all of the monuments and buildings.

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Fountains at Logan square

Liberty Bell

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Art Museum

I have to admit, the only time I made it inside the Philadelphia Art Museum was about a month ago when I had my run of death and was in desperate need of a water fountain.

IMG_2987Nevertheless, I still made pretty good use of the tourist attraction, by running up its steps like Rocky. The inside of the museum will have to wait 🙂

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View of Center City from Rocky steps

Penn Museum

If you’re into archaeology or anthropology, I definitely recommend visiting the Penn museum. It has incredible collections from all around the world, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work there this summer doing research! (Okay, I was actually holed up in a window-less room for most of the time, but I did get a chance to check out the exhibits too!)

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LOVE Park

In reality, not much to see here, except the iconic LOVE sign, and the fountain which spews out lime green water. It’s very central and easy to get to, so you really can’t miss it.

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Motherly-daughterly love

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse square was the first park I saw in Philadelphia, and was immediately drawn to it. I am a big fan of green spaces in cities, and love how it’s walking distance from University City, South street area, and all of the shops on Walnut street in Center City.

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The Schuylkill River

Right now you’re probably looking at that word thinking: “The Skoo-what?”. Pronounced: “skoo-kill”, or something close to that.

Image 5The weird spelling can be attributed to its Dutch origins, meaning “hidden river”, and it separates University City/West Philly from Center City. One of the river’s best features is a running and biking trail that runs along it on the Center City side, which brings you right past the Art Museum, Boathouse row and Fairmount park.

Alright well that’s all from my end for the moment. I haven’t even left Philadelphia yet and I’m already contemplating “excuses” to come back and visit soon.

Next time you hear from me, I’ll be back in the Orange bubble! Later peoples!

Chobani Experimentation

It’s Monday Monday Monday! Hope you had a good weekend and had the chance to do something fun.

Doesn’t this look like the definition of fun?

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Squished

 

I had to move apartments yesterday, and since I have about 6 bags (which aren’t even all full!), I figured it would be a good decision to cab to my new place instead of walk.

Thankfully it wasn’t too long of a ride, because I barely fit in the backseat with all my stuff!

Dinner

Last night I went out to Mix for dinner with Nabilla, and her friends Chris and Andres. I had already eaten dinner, so I wasn’t too hungry, but they were famished and ordered a large BBQ chicken pizza and a pasta dish.

We knew the pizza was a size “large”, but we really didn’t realize quite what that meant according to Mix’s standards.

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And just in case you can’t quite get a sense of how large this pizza actually is…

PicMonkey CollageEach slice was roughly the size of Nabilla’s head.

And magically, there were no leftovers! Hungry people can devour pizza like it’s their full-time job.

Post-Workout Meal(s)

I think it’s safe to say that my stint of egg-cellent meals has come to and end…for now. Although I love eggs and I’m pretty good at eating the same thing over and over again, I am honestly a bit egg-ed out. When you’re impatient and hungry with limited options in the fridge, there’s only so many things you can do with eggs. (Or maybe only so many things I was willing to do with eggs…)

In any case, after my session at Unite this morning, I knew eggs were not in the cards. So, I stopped in at a local market to gather inspiration, and what did I find….?

Not just Chobani yogurt, but new, limited-batch flavours!

Watermelon yogurt? Who woulda thunk it?

IMG_3917And you know what? It was surprisingly good!

IMG_3918I also picked up a few more snazzy flavours which will be making some appearances in the near future. And by near future, I mean…right now!

Another flavour I tried was Apple Cinnamon Chobani Oats.

IMG_3920This “Oats” line that Chobani started intrigued me, so I decided to give it a go. It’s normal flavoured Greek yogurt, but has gluten-free steel-cut oats mixed in to give it a little extra texture.

The texture and consistency was great, but I found it a little too sweet, so I decided to modify it a little bit to make the yogurt more substantial and dilute the sweetness.

I combined the cup of Apple Cinnamon Oats with plain 2% Greek yogurt, 1/2 a Pink Lady apple, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some chia and hemp seeds.

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IMG_3926This post-workout meal was delicious and filling, and I have already started thinking about how I can recreate it from scratch!

(P.S. When I actually end up eating it, it looks like this)

IMG_3928And it tastes d.e.l.icious.

Have a great rest of your Monday!

Questions:

Do you ever “modify” your Greek yogurt? 

Do you like Chobani? Have you tried any of their new flavours?

 

 

 

PB&J All Different Ways

Ahh, Sunday.

I almost always take Sundays as a rest-day, and if I don’t have a million things to do, I love sleeping in and catching up on life events I may have missed on Saturday. In bed. Listening to Sam Smith 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I love Saturday’s too! Especially when they look something like yesterday…

Workout

Yesterday, Unite Fitness had a training session for their upcoming October Decathlon. Going into the session, I didn’t know exactly what it would be like, but did know that there would be a lot of strength events, interspersed with cardio intervals.

I was right about that, but what I didn’t expect was how intense the strength intervals would be!

The main theme of the workout? 50 reps! That meant: 50 burpees, 50 sit-ups, 50 chest presses, 50 box jumps… you get the picture. With some cardio thrown in there too, it was a hard one!

Lunch 

I was in major recovery mode after a hard workout that morning, and a hard workout week in general. What does that mean? Post-workout food!

I started off with a Pumpkin Spice Americano Misto (or something like that), from Caffeination.

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Pumpkin spice really shouldn’t be limited to the fall season. I love it too much!

I then stopped by Kat’s to chat, eat, and have a recovery hot tub. Sadly, the hot tub at her apartment was cold, so I improvised, and turned her bathtub into a hot tub. I felt remarkably good afterwards, and my muscles felt super relaxed! I just wish I had had some epsom salts to throw in the mix.

For lunch, I had a smoothie courtesy of her Vitamix! In the blender went:

  • 1.5 frozen bananas
  • a handful of spinach
  • milk
  • 0% Greek yogurt
  • Rice protein powder
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
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Greeeeeeeeeen

I also used up the other half of the frozen banana by combining it with a little more Greek yogurt, and some peanut butter and jam, to make a PB&J yogurt parfait!

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Breakfast

The PB&J train continued this morning with my oatmeal.

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I combined rolled oats, egg whites, flax seed meal, and PB2, and microwaved it until it was all cooked. I then topped it with some more peanut butter and raspberry jam.

I love PB&J, but rarely make it in standard sandwich form, mainly because I don’t eat a lot of bread. Thankfully, despite my slight dislike for bread, I can still enjoy the tasty combo in other forms 🙂

Questions:

Do you like PB&J? 

Are there any other combinations you’ll adapt from their “standard” form?