Plant-Based Protein for the Win: Vega Sport’s Performance Protein Review

During my days as an NPC Fitness and Figure Competitor, I consumed every kind of protein powder imaginable – whey, whey isolate, egg white, casein, soy, and rice. At the time, I wasn’t as concerned about the ingredients as much as I was the supposable benefits. I wanted to build, maintain and repair muscle. Simple as that.

Since adopting a  Paleo lifestyle, it’s been pretty challenging to give up all convenience foods, including protein powder. In fact, I’ve been resistant to letting go of my post-workout shakes. I try to eat real food, always consisting of lean protein and sweet potato/yam, but like most, I have a busy schedule and that type of planning can be pretty challenging at times. Eating Paleo takes a lot of planning!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always consumed 25-30 grams of whey protein powder within 30 minutes of physical activity. This is the time when you need to restore muscle protein and refuel glycogen storage. If your a fellow Paleo devotee, you know the controversy surrounding whey protein. Is whey protein Paleo? In short, no. Whey protein is not considered Paleo because it is derived through cow milk, and technically a processed food. So, what am I supposed to feed my muscles post workout if I don’t have a perfectly prepared meal on hand? I need to find a protein powder that is Paleo or at the very least Paleo-friendly; one that is dairy free, gluten free, soy free, and with no added sugar or sugar substitutes. That’s a tall order!

Luckily, Vega Sport provided me with a worthwhile solution to this common (or maybe not so common) debacle; a complete multi-source, alkaline-forming, plant-based protein powder blend. With 134 calories , 6.2 grams of carbohydrates and an impressive 25 grams of protein per serving, I was immediately interested in trying their  Vega Sport Recovery Protein.

After a ridiculously hard wod, I stumbled into my kitchen, with shaky arms and noodley legs, and only minutes to spare before having to go and pick up my kiddos. I grabbed a packet of vanilla Vega Sport Recovery Protein, dumped it into a shaker with water, gave it a couple violent shakes and out the door I went, protein in hand. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t mix well without being blended, but I am happy to report that I didn’t come across any chunks. I hate chunks. In all honesty, it’s not the best tasting protein I’ve ever had in my life, but I can overlook that considering the benefits.

www.vegasport.com

www.vegasport.com

Unlike most performance proteins, it is derived from SaviSeed protein, a plant-based source of amino acid tryptophan. What is tryptophan? It is the key component of serotonin. Yes, the feel good hormone, which helps the mental aspects of recharging and repairing muscles, faster. It also has 5,000mg of BCAAs and 5,000mg of glutamine, the building blocks of full muscle recovery, growth and repair. It’s the complete package to fuel your body in a convenient and guiltless way.

FuelYourBetter-MuscleSoreness

FuelYourBetter-MuscleSoreness

I am thrilled to have been introduced to a product that I feel good about ingesting. With Vega Sport, I know that I am getting clean, plant-based nutrition and not a “supplement” that is not regulated nor checked for purity or content. Now, I can improve my strength and performance knowing that my muscles will be replenished and renewed so that I can continue to PR, RX and master new CrossFit skills. Plant-based protein for the win! 

#VegaSportProtein

#VegaSport

#FuelYourBetter

What does your post-workout meal consist of?

Do you use protein powder as part of your supplementation?

*I was provided with product by Vega Sport in exchange for my review. All opinions in this post are 100% my own, and always will be.

 

Wod Love Wednesdays

I’ve decided to start a new segment, Wod Love Wednesdays, so that I can share with all of you my weekly CrossFit experiences, wods, PR’s and near death experiences (most likely induced from running).

Wod Love Wednesday

 wednesday
On Wednesday, I completed an Invictus workout as opposed to the prescribed wod. Going forward, I hope to incorporate this programming into my week in order to make some gains and focus on technique. My snatch technique needs some work, for example.

A) Every two minutes for 12 minutes (Complete 2 cleans with ten seconds rest in between)
Squat Clean @ 90 pounds

B) EMOM for 10 minutes
5 Deadlifts @ 115 pounds
5 Over the bar burpees

C) 3 Rounds for time
Row 500m
5 Jerks
*I can’t recall my exact time for part C, but it was approximately 6 minutes.

I was dead tired after all of this and that’s all I have to say about that!

thursday
Thursday was another one off as I trained one on one with my coach to work mainly on my snatch technique and muscle up progressions.

A) EMOM for 10 minutes @ 55 pounds
1 Hang power snatch
1 Overhead squat
1 Snatch

B) 5 Rounds for time
5 Muscle up progressions on rings
10 GHD sit ups (1-1 tempo)

C) 6 Rounds for time
10 Wall balls (14)
8 Push ups
6 Toes to bars on rings

Snatches. UGH. I still believe the snatch is the most intimidating and highly complex Olympic lift in CrossFit. Hopefully someday this movement will feel fluid to me. Doing toes to bar (T2B) on the rings was a whole new experience for me. Seeing that I can’t link regular T2B, I wasn’t quite sure how this would pan out, but they were surprisingly easier and I was able to link all six.

friday
A) Front squat (5-4-3-2-1-1-1)
X WOD box jumps (2-1-2-1-2-1-2)

I was expecting to PR my front squat, but it just wasn’t in the cards. My knees were starting to dip inwards and my back was curving, so I stayed at 119 pounds.

The X WOD box jumps were intermixed with the front squats. Ryan Moody, six time World record holder in Box Jumping, has an Explosive Training Seminar that increases sprinting speed and how quickly you can move a heavy object or load efficiently and safely. We do a lot of X WOD jumps in between Oly lifting to improve our explosiveness.

B) Diane
21-15-9
Deadlifts (225/155)
Hand stand push ups (HSPU)

The deadlifts were supposed to be 65% of our 1 RM (rep max). My deadlift 1 RM is around 145 pounds and so I used 93 pounds for this wod. I completed all the HSPU with two stacked abmats, but I was able to complete all three rounds in succession. I think it’s officially time to go down to just 1 abmat. YAY, finally! I completed Diane in 3:50. I also think I should’ve gone heavier on deadlifts, which means a deadlift PR may be in my near future as well. All good things!

saturday
I love Saturdays at my box! I like partner wods and being able to do things like flip tires. It’s just fun!
Partner WOD

My partner and I divided everything in half and finished in 21:30. We added 35 pounds to the sled, used a 150 pound tire and a 14 pound wall ball.

sunday
We hiked Boulder’s Chautauqua Trailhead.

monday 2
A) OHS 3-3-3-3-3
X-WOD: Calorie Row 2-1-2-1-2 (2’s=10cal, 1’s=5cal)

B) 15 Min AMRAP:
5 OHS (@ 70% of above)
10 T2B
15 Burpees

When I first started CrossFit back in January I was convinced that overhead squats (OHS) were utterly terrifying and ridiculously difficult. My feelings have not changed, but I have come to appreciate them in a sense that they are a true test of mobility and the ultimate core exercise. My first attempt, a mere six months ago, was pretty pitiful. Holding the 35 pounds bar above my head was challenging in itself, much less squatting. On Monday, I completed 3 sets of five OHS at 80.5 pounds. In case you can’t convert that to a percentage in your head (lord knows I can’t) that’s a 130% increase in weight! Can you say PR?

tuesday
Rest. We are going to a concert tonight at Red Rocks Amphitheater for Soundgarden. Red Rocks is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. While I’ve climbed it’s hellish stairs on many occasions, I’ve never actually been there for anything other than to work out. Naturally, I am excited to experience it in a whole new and amusing way. 

What was your favorite workout this week?

Did you PR, RX or master a new skill?

Hiking in Colorado: Boulder’s Chautauqua Trailhead

There are so many great reasons to live in Colorado. In addition to 300 days of sunshine, we also have craft beer, some of the best Mexican food in the nation, Petyon Manning, the REI flagship store, and Aspen. Need I say more? Yes? Okay. We also have easy access to gambling, a city wide bicycle sharing system, and Red Rocks Amphitheater.

I could go on and on about how grand this great state is, but perhaps one of the top reasons to live here in Colorado is the natural beauty and mountainous landscape. It is indeed most beauteous to the eyes, but it also provides endless opportunities for an active and adventurous lifestyle. Snowboarding, mountain biking, rock climbing, fly fishing, white water rafting, backpacking, and hiking are just some of the wildly popular outdoor activities. I’d like to say that as a native I lovingly embrace all the outdoorsy pastimes that colorful Colorado has to offer, but I tend to take advantage of the hiking trails the most.

Yesterday, my hubby and I ventured down to Boulder, CO to hike Chautauqua Trailhead. The city of Boulder itself is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It is a community of outdoor enthusiasts, health nuts, and is home to some major health inspired corporations such as Celestial Seasonings, Horizon’s Organic Yogurt, Wild Oats (now owned by Whole Foods), White Wave Food (soy food manufacturer), Izze Beverage Company, and Boulder Brands (manufacturer of Earth Balance, Gluntino’s and Udi’s Gluten Free). Boulderites pride themselves on promoting a Healthy Community Lifestyle. Their eco-friendly culture is well deserving of the 300 miles of serene hiking and biking trails, and magnificent Flatiron backdrop.

Boulder Chautauqua Trail

We were a little slow to rise Sunday morning, so we didn’t have quite enough time to hike the Mesa Trail, which is the longest trail at 13.4 miles roundtrip. Instead, we headed into the meadow and up the hilly forest until we reached the Third Flatiron after 2.9 miles. We weren’t quite satisfied so we backtracked through the pine glade mesa another 2.1 miles to the First and Second Flatiron. After weaving back and forth along the switchbacks, through the deciduous trees and across a lot of rock, we reached the final peak. We stopped to take in the impressive landscape, snapped a couple photos and agreed that it was time for some grub.
Chautauqua Trail
I had my heart set on going to Blooming Beets, Boulder’s premiere Paleo restaurant. I had already properly stalked their website, read their Yelp reviews and was super excited to be able  to share with all of you my first experience at a real Paleo eatery. In all of my due diligence, I did not however think to look at their hours of operation. I regret to inform you that they closed an hour prior to my arrival. Luckily, I had a back up plan! Boulder has not one, but two Paleo restaurants. Unfortunately, I learned that Fresh Thymes Eatery is not open on Sundays. I was striking out left and right! We ended up stumbling upon a quaint little place that was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dines, called Foolish Craig’s. I had their BLT and turkey guacamole sandwich on gluten free bread and a side salad. It wasn’t paleo, but it was quite delicious and well deserved.
Foolish Craigs Boulder CO

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

How did you spend your weekend?

Former Gymnast Kacy Catanzaro Makes History on American Ninja Warrior

In case you missed it, a former Division 1 gymnast took NBC’s American Ninja Warrior by storm Monday night. Kacy Catanzaro gracefully maneuvered her way throughout the hazardous obstacle course, making her the first woman in history to qualify for the American Ninja Warrior finals.

This course has been known to crush Navy SEALS and professional athletes alike, but Kacy flew through it with ease. She hurdled across the quintuple step like a gazelle, surmounted the rope wall, dominated the vertical ring toss, defied physics on the warped wall, scaled up the salmon ladder, finagled her way across the bars, dashed up the spider climb and finished by propelling herself through the pole grasper. She displayed amazing upper body strength, an unfaltering grip, and fancy footwork; she made history with every obstacle she completed.

It gets better….

Kacy stands all of 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, but that didn’t stop her from dominating every aspect of the course. She said that she would finish and that she did. Watching this riveting performance reminded me that there’s no such thing as overnight success. Sure, we see tech gurus from Silicon Valley on Forbes, YouTube sensations going platinum and sports figures’ becoming millionaires, but what we don’t see is the years of struggles, hours of hard work and countless failures that accompanied them on their path to success. And sure, Kacy has been featured in news articles and revered on all forms of media since her epic performance, but she did not decide to sign up for American Ninja Warrior on a whim. In an interview with Vulture, she confirmed that she has been training specifically for this course for nearly two years, coupled with body weight and circuit training four to six times a week. She also maintains a healthy diet, eating mainly anything from the earth-greens, fruits, nuts, things like that. No gluten or grains. Sound familiar?

In awe of her strength, agility and endurance, America has been taken by this petite powerhouse. Why is America enamored by her performance? Because she has a serious disadvantage in comparison to her fellow Ninja Warriors; she is a girl and a petite one at that. In a world where the New York Times prints articles entitled, Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups, it’s no wonder why everyone is amazed at how strong a woman’s upper body can truly be. The truth is, we women are inherently strong and we are without a doubt capable of completing a course built for a man’s upper body and wingspan. Not only did Kacy utilize her years of competitive gymnastics experience to fervently conquer the course, but she adequately prepared herself physically and mentally. She is a true testament of confidence, perseverance, and brute strength.

 

Whether you’re training for a 5k or a marathon, looking to lose 5 pounds or 100, working towards double-unders or a 250 pound deadlift, remember that one of the most marvelous and most frightening qualities of the human mind is its ability to exert observable influence over physical reality. Kacy did not approach the obstacles with pessimism and self-doubt; she was confident in her abilities. She completed the course with precision and grace because she was focused on the goal at hand and not concerned with the fact that droves of men and women fall victim to the same obstacles.

The mind is one of the most dynamic human attributes because it has distinct power to control the body’s physiology. It is the mind that determines what the body can and cannot do. Do not let negative thoughts define you.

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Kacy’s athleticism is not a byproduct of luck. It takes a lot of hard word, dedication and sacrifice to master a skillset. It is easy to conclude that success is a direct result of unusual talent, good timing or the stars being perfectly aligned, but the truth of the matter is that achieving a desirable outcome is a direct result of continuous effort and the ability to overcome past failures. Do not become frustrated with the process; be patient, consistent and dedicated to your goals. The road to victory is long, but it is worth it in the end.

When was the last time you accomplished something great? What it easy? Probably not. No matter the endeavor, you have to pave your own path to success. The risk may be high and you may experience painful moments, but it is in those moments that you become stronger, more resilient and closer to victory.

“If you fail to try, you fail.”

Do not let the fear of failing turn into permanent procrastination. Trust yourself. Trust in your abilities to perform new skills, to finish faster, to overcome fears, and to accomplish great things. Give yourself permission to fail; fail fast and fail often!

#MIGHTYKACY

Comfort Food 101: Paleo Fried Chicken

In my opinion, comfort food is an oxymoron because it’s not real food. Comfort food stimulates both your physical senses and your memory, producing a variety of emotions including euphoria, happiness and pleasure. The inviting aroma, savory taste and palatable textures all combine into a cataclysm of deliciousness. But, we mustn’t forget about the refined sugar, white flour and saturated fat that fuse together like a high-speed freight train headed straight for your gut. Get out the way!

When I think of comfort food, I think of Southern food. But, being that I am a Denver native, the cuisine of the South is not something I treat myself to often. The extent of my experience is limited to the hush puppies I once made for a holiday party and the fact that my husband is a self-proclaimed gumbo expert, despite his reliance on the pre-packaged Zatarain’s Gumbo Mix with Rice. Still, there is something to be said for these nostalgia producing dishes.

Not so long ago, I found myself with a hankering for something delectable and hearty, without the accompanying complex biological process. Yes, I realize that it is the dead of summer and heart-warming food is best suited for the fall, but I couldn’t kick my cravings so I remedied it with this recipe. Plus, adding “Distinguished Paleo Fried Chicken Extraordinaire” to my culinary resume sounded like a good enough reason to me. I was also a fan of this recipe because it calls for arrowroot, which I felt would mimic its wicked nemesis, grain, quite well. Note: Almond flour is another popular and equally reputable option for Paleo fried chicken.

arrowroot powder

While I’m not convinced that Louisiana style grits, buttermilk biscuits, pecan pie and craw-fish etouffee will make my list of signature dishes anytime soon, I was quite pleased to indulge my senses without increasing the serotonin activity in my intestines. My kids, the picky little eater that they are, were convinced that I had lost my mind when I told them we were having fried chicken for dinner. They loved it and had no idea that it wasn’t coated in insulin rising flour and GMO ridden oil.

The following was adapted from Not So Desperate Housewife’s Fried Chicken recipe.

Paleo Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

4 to 5 pounds skin-on chicken legs (thighs, drums, breasts)
1 ½ cup arrowroot powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup unsweetened plain almond milk (or similar)
Coconut oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in frying pan to medium to high heat and preheat oven to 4ooF
  2. Whisk eggs in medium-sized shallow bowl
  3. In another bowl, combine the arrowroot powder and seasonings, mix well
  4. Dip chicken in beaten eggs and then dredge in dry mixture
  5. Place chicken in hot oil and fry until golden brown (approx. 2 minutes on each side)
  6. Place drying rack on top of sheet pan and situate chicken on rack.
  7. Put chicken in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through

Viola!

Paleo Fried Chicken

Next up, waffles (Paleo style, of course).

What is your favorite comfort food?

Have you cooked with Arrowroot before?

 

 

The Lifestyle Epidemic: Obesity and GMO Foods in America

It’s no secret that the United States is writhing with obesity. Our children, mothers, brothers, aunts and friends are dangerously overweight and therefore susceptible to health related issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

America is fat.

Obesity rates have more than doubled in children and adults since the 1970s. But, who is to blame? Is America’s infatuation with oversized proportions, fast food and pre-packaged meals the culprit? Is our dependency on electronics resulting in lazy, apathetic behavior? Did you know that you will consume 40% more calories when you eat in front of the TV? This is a serious epidemic with serious consequences.

America is getting fatter.

Obesity in America

http://thedinfographics.com/2011/11/16/obesity-in-america-facts-statistics-and-lies/

More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese and this lifestyle epidemic continues to grow – no pun intended – to epic proportions. Our insatiable appetites lust for soda, self-stable condiments, donuts, gravy, refined-white flour and basically anything that is devoid of nutritional value, even our “healthy” food is not healthy.

America is not eating real food.

Our produce and meat, for example, is chock-full of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), refined sugar and glucose producing carbohydrates. If you’re not overly concerned about ingesting DNA altering bacteria, lectins, carcinogenic mold and monosodium glutamate  (MSG), then do yourself a favor and check one or all of these food related documentaries:

  • Food, Inc.
  • Fresh
  • War on Health
  • Jimmy’s GM Food Fight
  • Genetically Modified Food – Panacea or Poison
  • King Corn
  • Food That Kills
  • Fast Food baby
  • Forks Over Knives

Genetically engineering food is a process of crossbreeding, crosspollination and gene altering; it is science and science has no business in my food. I do not want to eat potatoes that have been cross-bread with mice genes, soy that carries the DNA of a cow or corn and rice that has remnants of human chromosomes. I do not want to eat food that alters the DNA of my own digestive system. I want to eat real food as nature prescribed.

GMOs

http://imgarcade.com/1/for-gmo/

The verdict is still out on whether or not there is a connection between health risks, including obesity and GMO foods, in the United States that is. As of 2013, twenty six countries had total or partial bans on GMOs, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, Indian, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Mexican and Russia. Obesity, infertility, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, changes in major organs, immune problems, nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut syndrome, and food allergies are just some of the side effects on humans as a result of eating foods that contain GMOs.

Crops are now engineered with built in insecticides and herbicides. Monsanto’s Roundup, for instance, is widely used on hundreds of thousands of crops and is in fact toxic and nutritionally deficient. So, why are we voluntarily poisoning our bodies by ingesting food that is bathed in this stuff? Why do we support the production of food that has been engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals? Why doesn’t the good ‘ole US of A ban or at the very least implement restrictions on the production and sale of GMOs?

Why? Because we continue to shop blindly and endorse the very companies that contaminate our food. Because we sneer at those that faithfully buy over-priced Organic produce and grass fed meat. Because we are dependent on Cinnabon, Funyuns, footlongs and Mountain Dew. Because we roll our eyes at those that are Paleo, Grain Free, Vegan, Gluten Free and Vegetarian. Because…

America is ignorant.

As consumers, it is our responsibility to take a stand, to voice our opinions and to use our purchasing power as a means to advocate for sustainable, healthy food. You do not have to abandon all your beloved treats, become 100% Paleo 100% of the time, but you do need to be able to make an educated decision about the food you and your family consume. I am a firm believer in moderation and so I, for one, am unwilling to rid my life of certain foods, mainly ice cream. However, I maintain a healthy, GMO free lifestyle to the best of my ability. I continually try to educate myself and others about the truth and harmful effects of the food we know and love. Why? Because a body is a terrible thing to waste.

There is power in numbers. Spread the word, buy local, buy organic and #SayNoToGMOs.

GMO Free

Sources: National Center for Health Statistics, RealityofHealthy.tumblr.com, Say No To GMOsThe Nation

Guiltless Grub: Paleo Snacks On The Go

Snacking can be a dirty little word, especially when you’re trying to maintain a healthy balanced diet or have your sights set on dropping those few unwanted pounds. Personally, it’s always been a struggle of mine and boy are bad habits are hard to break. I’ve had my fair share of snacking debacles, mostly ending in temporary self-loathing and guilt. Like most, I find it more difficult to curb my cravings in the evenings or if I’m in arms reach of any grab and go snacks. The best way to prevent unwanted snacking is to pack your kitchen with nutrient dense foods. Keeping fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts on hand will help to keep any unexpected ravenous cravings at bay.

When I first started eating mainly Paleo I was concerned that finding healthy snack options would be even more difficult, but it’s actually been much easier. For starters, I have far fewer cravings. Still, every once in a while I have to answer to my rumbling tummy that’s hell bent on something sweet and salty. Thanks to the hordes of Paleo bloggers, friends and CrossFit fanatics, I’ve been introduced to an absorbent amount of real food recipes and pre-packaged Paleo treats that I can indulge in without the accompanying remorse.

Here are a few guiltless Paleo snacks on the go that are sure to satisfy your appetite without wreaking havoc on your health and fitness goals.

Paleo Snacks On The Go

    1. Plantain chips – I can’t get enough of this nutrient packed super food. My local natural grocer has a picante flavor that is to die for. These are also simple to make at home. Try Stupid Easy Paleo’s Fried Plantains with Cinnamon or Fed & Fit’s Paleo Plantain Chips.
    2. Steve’s Paleo Good’s Paleo Kits - As described by Steve, “A perfectly portable and healthy mix of nitrate-free, free-range beef jerky, raw nuts and dried fruits.” And if that wasn’t enough, 15% of your purchase goes to helping at-risk youth.
    3. Beet and Sweet Potato Chips – Delish. We all know how awesome sweet potatoes are, but did you know that beets lower your blood pressure, boost your stamina, fight inflammation, have anti-cancer properties, are rich in valuable nutrients and fiber, and provide detoxification support? When I’m on the go I like the brand Terra, but you can just as easily make these yourself. Civilized Caveman Cooking has a great recipe as does Relish.
    4. Nikki’s Coconut Butter – If you haven’t tried this, you are missing out! She has a whole slew of flavors like Vanilla Cake Batter, Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie, and Honey Pecan Pie – I’m drooling, are you? And yes, I eat this by the spoonful.

Whether you’re bored at work or on your sofa, sitting in traffic or at a baseball game, try reaching for a nutrient packed, healthful treat. It’s not about setting impractical limitations; it’s about eating right and making healthy choices. Snacking does not have to be unwelcomed and unforgivable vice.

What is your favorite healthy snack, Paleo or otherwise?

 

Honeymoon Recap Part II: The Gems of Croatia-Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik

After experiencing Prague, we were hesitant that any place would compare in beauty and splendor, but the unique blend of Mediterranean culture and rugged landscape makes Croatia a Utopian paradise.  The picturesque coastline and crystal clear turquoise water is superbly divine.

We first arrived in Split, a city off the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and were met by beautifully preserved Romanesque architecture, hidden culinary treasures and a lively and exuberant cultural scene. This seaside delight is rife with historic Roman ruins that have been in existence for thousands of years, with 220 buildings within the Diocletian’s Palace, it is a labyrinth of lustrous white stone, ancient marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and sphinxes from Egypt. It is a fortress seething with narrow pathways and courtyards that house quaint cafes, lively bars, restaurants galore, shops, and museums. Our first adventure ensued promptly when the cab driver abandoned us with no hotel in sight. Unbeknownst to us, we had to trek, luggage in tow, through the Palace walls and beneath the dry scorching sun to find our hotel. We weaved in and out of passageways, looped through expansive terraces, passed beneath archways, and made multiple queries for assistance only to continue to encircle our steps once more. After multiple detours, dead ends and missed alleyways, we finally found our hotel nestled behind the Jupiter Temple, which was constructed in the 3rd Century to honor Diocletian’s father, the highest Roman god, the god of the sky and the god of thunder. Its baroque motif was met with the perfect amount of modernity, which spoke volumes to my grandeur taste. The arduous journey was well worth it.

Beauty and the Box in Split Croatia

We made it no more than 100 yards before stopping at No Stress Café, an outdoor bistro that is nestled in a bustling town hall lined by the towering Palace walls. We immediately fell in love with the authentic cuisine of fresh fish, octopus salad, black squid risotto and lobster. We strolled along the narrow alleyways exploring the limits of our new confines and lo and behold I stumbled upon the most unexpected, but most delightful surprise – ZARA. If you ask my husband he will attest to my abiding love for this clothing and accessory line bore out of Spain. There was nothing that could stop me from immediately venturing into this three story dwelling of refined fashion. I was elated and I spared no expense.

Beauty and the Box in Split Croatia II

At nightfall we ventured just beyond the Palace walls to the Riva – a lively boulevard along the coastline lined with palm trees, cocktail lounges and boutiques. We sipped Prosecco listening to the idyllic sapphire water. The following day was solely dedicated to basking in the sun, beach side. Just a few minutes’ walk landed us at one of Splits most popular beaches, Bacvice. Against the backdrop of a dense pine forest lay a shallow shoreline perfect for our leisurely intentions. That evening we stumbled upon a culinary gem, Mazzgoon (translation: mule) that was nestled in an enchanted courtyard of ancient stone walls and adorned with flowering plants of every variety. We dined on fresh baked breads, sardines, beef Carpaccio, lamb, fresh-caught fish, and dark chocolate cake on a bed of olive oil and served with lavender infused ice cream, all prepared to perfection. The wait staff was impeccable as was the resident guitarist that serenaded us throughout this delectable meal. There’s no question that it upped the ante for all culinary experiences to come.

Beauty and the Box in Split Croatia III

We boarded the ferry from Split to one of the world’s most beautiful islands, Hvar. It did not disappoint. Hvar is filled with vibrant colors and fragrances of lavender and rosemary. Age-old pine trees line the rocky hillside to engulf the quaint harbor town while luxurious yachts bob carelessly among the tranquil beauty of this blissful habitat. Foolishly, we opted to walk to our hotel as a means to engage in some sort of physical fitness. Our luggage was merciless in the hot sodden air and the curvaceous gradient did us no favors. We tend to steer clear of resort style accommodations, but much to our liking Hotel Amfora was a sight for sore eyes. With breath-taking views, expansive pools, swim-up bars and outrageous buffets, this was by definition: paradise.

Time passed idly as we lounged poolside, cocktails in hand. At sunset we returned to Old Town to feast on an assortment of seafood (and even some pasta). Yes, I threw my Paleo ways to the wind throughout the duration of our trip as I wanted to experience the culture and cuisine in its entirety. Mussels, monk-fish, clams, octopus, risotto, prosciutto, Prosecco, and gelato were consumed en masse. Luckily, our lavish resort came equipped with a fitness facility that overlooked the pool and surrounding Pakleni islands. Unfortunately, it was a feeble excuse for a gym, but served its purpose nonetheless. I took advantage of the sea level and ran for miles with ease. Double-unders, sit-ups and air squats were performed in plenty, but it was difficult to commit any real time indoors when the warm sun rays were calling to me.

Beauty and the Box in Hvar Croatia

The majority of our time was spent meandering about the harbor and getting lost along the hillside of Old Town. We did, however, plan to devote an entire day to sailing the boundless Adriatic Sea. From the central harbor we boarded a sailboat along with six other tourists and one Skipper. The gentle waves and warm breeze provided a serene ambiance as we set sail for the Green Cave, a grotto off the small island of Ravnik. En route to our destination, we passed a slew of Pakleni islands that offer nudist beaches, hidden coves and remote lighthouses.

The hidden Green Cave produced an ethereal green hue, a byproduct of the sun’s reflection off the sandy sea floor. We promptly submerged ourselves into the emerald waters, exploring the depths of the cove, and reveling in the tranquility. We anchored in a nearby sandy bay to feast on authentic Croatian cuisine provided by our Skipper and to sip white wine from a local vineyard. As the Skipper began to prepare for our return he became increasingly concerned about the shallow waters. We soon realized that the centerboard of the boat was wedged in the rocky seabed. We were stuck, shipwrecked, stranded! The Skipper worked quickly to try and free us from the bedrock, but with no avail. He graciously instructed everyone to move to the left side of the bow (the front section of the boat) to distribute the weight in a favorable way. We didn’t budge. After several more attempts, we were asked to off board the boat to alleviate weight altogether. While thrusting my hands and feet rhythmically to stay afloat, I envisioned having to swim to shore – a 600 meter jaunt. In a sea of bobbing heads, we watched patiently as the Skipper worked relentlessly to break free. A mere 45 minutes later the sailboat slowly but surely began to pull out of the depthless bay. We swam frantically to catch the now mobile vessel. Soon after climbing aboard we mused over our priceless adventure, finding comic relief in our near shipwrecked excursion. We set sail for Hvar, letting the weather and wind guide us. Beauty and the Box in Hvar Croatia II

We traveled to our final destination, Dubrovnik, by way of a four hour bus ride. It wasn’t the most memorable experience of our trip, but it did allow us to witness the expansive countryside, complete with vineyards, olive groves and charming villages. Dubrovnik is an awe-inspiring city that is rich with cultural heritage and a tumultuous past. We stayed in a charming apartment in the heart of Old Town among an array of cafes, bars and boutiques. We strolled the along the ancient city walls that once protected the citizens from hostile forces. Despite much restoration, ruins still remain from the shelling of 1991-2. The fresh Ston oysters, rich gelato and creamy cappuccinos were delectable. Be that as it may, my most revered memory of Dubrovnik was Buza (translation: hole in the wall), a secluded bar set in the side of a cliff. Locating this worldly treasure was no easy task, but we left the beaten path in search for a promising sign of “cold drinks” that lead us to the modest entrance. We emerged at the very point in which the open air of the sea met the steep rock terrace. Under a vast white umbrella, we drank champagne observing the mellow crowd and soulful tunes.

Beauty and the Box in Dubrovnik Croatia

On the eve of our departure we took one last walk through the marble lined courtyard, consumed pizza and not just one gelato, but two. Our return flight from Croatia left in the wee hours of the morning and so we set our alarm for an absurd 1:30am. We arrived at the airport well in advance only to learn that the airport would not open for an hour and so we sat beneath an overhang to hide from the drizzling sky. The Croatian airline attendant presented us with disheartening news – although we had reserved seats on the flight, she could not issue us our tickets as they had been cancelled. CANCELLED? In hopes of returning to that states as planned, we had no other option than to purchase new tickets for our first leg to Germany. We had exactly four hours during our layover there to mend our travel arrangements. Unfortunately, we spent nearly two of them frantically searching for the one United customer service desk in the entire place. For some ungodly reason, they were unable to find any sort of evidence in their system that we did in fact purchase return tickets, despite providing proof. Several agents, airlines and arguments later, we had no other option than to buy new tickets. In case you are wondering, purchasing same day international tickets is quite costly. Of course our direct flight to Denver was booked, so we had to stop in NY and then continue on home. Our luggage, however, did not make it safely home for an additional five days. All in all, this little misadventure cost us an additional $4,000, which we have yet to be refunded. Oh the woes of traveling abroad!

Beauty and the Box in Dubrovnik Croatia II

Luckily, the cataclysm of misplaced flights and unforeseen delays does not hold a candle to the memories of mildly sweet Prosecco, plush landscapes, sophisticated cuisine, palm fringed harbors, and the robust aroma of absinthe, a green alcoholic beverage surrounded by myth, mystery and misconception. I am most definitely content with my participation in these sanctuaries.

 What is your most memorable travel experience?

How do you incorporate physical fitness into your travel, if at all?

 

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon Recap Part I: Mayhem, Millennium Park & The Majesty of Prague

Despite much deliberation, I returned from my honeymoon. It was a tough call, but I ultimately had to come to the harsh reality that I couldn’t very well live in a place where white bread runs rampant and coca cola is consumed en masse. On second thought…there’s no difference. I knew I should have stayed!

Overall, the trip was amazing and far exceeded our expectations. I could write a dozen blogs detailing the Romanesque architecture, Gothic spires, all of our daily outings, meals and misadventures. I will, however, try to sum up our extravagant honeymoon in just two posts (key word: try).

I wish I could report that the trip went off seamlessly and without any major problems. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. My husband and I seem to be cursed when traveling outside the United States. Flights are cancelled, airlines are on strike, hotels are overbooked – you name it, it’s happened. On the day of our departure, we were elated, anxious and counting the minutes until our much anticipated whirlwind adventure to Prague and Croatia. We arrived at the airport only to learn that our flight was delayed an hour, so we sit in our disappointment and we wait….

and we wait…

and we wait some more…

Five delays and four hours later we finally board our plane, but have already missed our connecting flight to Brussels. When we land in Chicago we receive the bad news that we will not be able to depart to our final destination, Prague, until the next day. To add insult to injury, we have no bags as they are checked and en route to Brussels. They set us up in a hotel, hand us overnight hygiene kits and give us food vouchers, a whopping $28. Neither of us has been to Chicago, so we decide to make the best of it. We wake up early to adventure out to Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park and the Bean. Visually, Chicago is quite impressive, but it was damped by the cigarette smoke that blanketed the city and our inability to find a worthwhile place to eat, despite Chicago being known as a foodie’s paradise. Needless to say, I was eager to continue onto Prague, as planned.

Beauty and the Box in Chicago

After thirty-five and half hours we finally landed in Brussels at 9:30 in the morning. It was 1:30am (Denver time). We had a six hour layover that we wanted to make the most of so we ignored our internal clocks and hopped on a train, a surprisingly smooth and pristine experience, into the heart of the city. The egress of the train station inserted just below a spectacular center covered in a sea of flowers – an incredible tapestry of symmetrical patterns and intensely hued colors. We wandered the streets aimlessly admiring the ornate and Gothic guild chattels and stopped at an outside terrace cafe for some smoked salmon & toast and beef Carpaccio. Finally, we made our way to The Grand Place, which has to be one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe. Engrossed by the small town charm, smell of authentic chocolate and beer, we wistfully returned to the airport to continue onto our final destination. While our stop in Brussels was brief, it was most definitely unforgettable.

Beauty and the Box in Brussels
Despite the universe’s best efforts to keep us at bay, we finally arrived in Prague. There’s no question as to why Prague is considered one of the most romantic cities in all of Europe. The soaring towers, awe-inspiring symmetry and lavish baroque interiors were beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The quaint cafes and winding cobblestone streets are reminiscent of a storybook fairy-tale. We dined, we shopped and we loitered in Old Town Center admiring The Prague Astronomical Clock or Orloj. Its medieval motif and hourly mechanical ‘show’ was most fascinating. The energetic crowd coupled with beauty of the 14th century history is something everyone deserves to experience.

Beauty and the Box in Prague

In typical tourist fashion, we walked across the famous Charles Bridge. While it was overflowing with travelers, it was still charming with its local artists, trinkets and sporadic baroque style statuaries. Once across the bridge, we made the vertical ascent to St. Georges Basilica and the Prague Castle. As the largest ancient castle in the world it stands at 570 meters in length and 130 meters wide, it is truly a mesmerizing sight. With steeples that carry the eyes far into the skies and illuminated stained glass windows, there’s no wonder why tourists gather here. Despite all of the captivating beauty, we found ourselves equally fascinated by the John Lennon Wall. Since the 1980s it has been filled with graffiti, song lyrics and art inspired by the Beatles and John Lennon. We relished in the moment, grateful to be in distant faraway land that is antithetical to our status quo.

Beauty and the Box in Prague II

In Prague, we walked. We walked so much that my shins ached. To combat the malicious intent of my new camo loafers, I prescribed copious amounts of rich and hearty Czech cuisine. We feasted on duck confit, lamb, pizza, escargot and gelato. Everything was divine. The meals were laborious and long-winded as if the server hadn’t a care in the world if we were the last people to be served, ever. It was quite different than the rapid fire approach of American eateries. We had to consciously pace ourselves and learn to embrace their leisurely ways.

Because of the start to our trip was delayed, we essentially lost an entire day in Prague. Despite my every intention to visit the local CrossFit box, sightseeing took precedence. Our swanky hotel, however, did have a superb gym so I managed to get a couple travel wods in. In case you’re wondering, there are no photos of me working out because it was hotter than Hades in this iron clad dungeon, and I resembled something of a drowned rat. True story.

Beauty and the Box in Prague III

On the last night in Prague we strolled through Old Town, reminiscent of our infant memories; everything tastes better here, the coffee is more aromatic, the perennials are lovelier. I will miss this place, but I am satisfied knowing that the world shelters such beauty.

Up next: Honeymoon Recap Part II…

What is your most memorable vacation?

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

FIVE MUST HAVE ITEMS FOR THE ACTIVE TRAVELER

Yes, I am the kind of girl that packs an entire suitcase for a 2 day weekend getaway. Now that I’m about to take a two week European vacation, I’ve had some difficulty in the packing department. Last night, I laid out everything I wanted to bring and then proceeded to put about half of it away as I had eight pairs of jeans, seven dresses, shorts and skirts of every variety, and five swimsuits. Not to mention all the belts, scarves, leggings and jewelry.

Let me assure you, packing for a two week trip to Prague and Croatia is no easy task. After tight rolling all of my clothes into a 65 liter backpack I quickly learned that I would be downsizing, again. I really had to limit myself from wanting to pack all of my belongings and then some. Plus, I promised my husband that I would not go crazy (as I typically do) and pack 3x as many outfits as needed. With that said, I decided that packing my abmat is unnecessary as is eight pairs of shoes. In terms of fitness related items, there are some things that I just refuse to go without. Thus, I give you my five must have items for the active traveler. These are my I can’t live without items. No exceptions.

#1 What is the number one accessory for traveling abroad? The Fitbit. If you haven’t heard of a Fitbit, get out from underneath that rock. This slim, stylish device tracks your every step, distance and calories burned in addition to tracking your sleep quality. It also has a built in silent alarm. Not only will I be able to track my every step while exploring the grandeur of bridges, cathedrals and courtyards, I will also be more motivated to not just sit and sip on vino all day. Although I will make no promises.

#2 It is imperative that you have a pair of good walking shoes. I’m going to take my new Reebok CrossFit Nanos because they are lightweight, provide stability and are uber comfortable.

#3 I plan to do a variety of CrossFit travel wods while abroad. I created a list of ten travel wods I can complete with nothing more than my body weight and a jump rope. Speed ropes are a CrossFitter favorite as they are lightweight and super easy to pack.

#4 Paleo-friendly snacks. Yep, that’s right. I will be on a plane for a collective twelve hours (8.5 of which will be consecutive). I can’t imagine that the flight attendant is going to surprise me with their new and improved Paleo friendly diet, so I’m taking matters into my own hands. First on the list, Quest Bars. Simply because I love them. Also on the list, almonds, Power Pucks and beef jerky. These healthy snack options are all high in protein and will be great when we’re out and about being typical annoying tourists.

#5 Last, but not least. Compression Sock. Compression socks increases oxygen delivery, decreases lactic acid, prevents cramps and minimizes muscle fatigue. These are a must. No one wants poor circulation.

There you have it, my top five must have items for the active traveler. Now, I must get back to trying to cram as much as humanely possible into my backpack and figuring out just how big of a carry-on I’m allowed.

If I get the chance to blog from abroad I will absolutely do so. If not, I assure you I will be taking tons of photos to share upon my return. BON VOYAGE!