Challenge Yourself to Be Better Today

When I began my fitness journey years ago, my main goal was to lose weight. Nothing groundbreaking about that one. How many of us are motivated by the idea of hitting a magic number on the scale? I definitely was.

When I took on weight lifting over a year ago, I had no idea how much I would grow to love it and embrace true physical strength. I moved past weight loss to hitting bigger numbers with a barbell. All I thought was, MORE.

But things changed, and more importantly, I changed.

I found myself on a plateau a few months ago. I made excuses to avoid working out and I didn’t get the same buzz from lifting. My diet changed too. There were fewer rainbows on my plate and it was more likely that I’d go for second helpings on french fries than spinach salad.

This needed to stop. I’d been exactly here before and I know what a slippery slope this can be. The upside is that the hard work I’d put in the last four years meant I was more in tune with my body.

Even though it was getting harder for me to stick to my healthier habits, I felt a strong desire to get past this hump and I had the tools and experience to get there.

My solution? Create new fitness goals.

Hitting a new RM at the gym not cutting it for me this week? That’s okay. Do something else. Find something that keeps you motivated and challenges you to tear down those limits. The trick is to keep experimenting until you figure out what works for you right now.

And so I did.

Vega Sport collage

I’m not going to be a champion swimmer or break national records at a powerlifting meet. I might never get to balance in crow position or properly do a headstand. That’s not what’s important.

What’s become essential for me on this journey is this: my only goal is to be better than I was yesterday. My only competition is with my inner critic that fights hard to keep me saying, “no, I can’t.”

Between yoga, lifting, high intensity interval training, and now swimming, keeping my nutrition in check has become vital.

So, I’ve dusted off the shaker bottles (and gave them a good soak because yuck) and jumped at the chance to try Vega Sport’s Performance Protein.

It’s fair to say that I’ve tried a broad range of products in an effort to find something that I felt good about putting in my body. I’m a research-aholic which means I’ll spend a long time looking at things from every angle before I give it a green light.

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A lot of the whey-based proteins I’ve tried were decent, but it drove me nuts how many of those products had tons of artificial sweeteners and additives.

Vega Sport Performance Protein is completely plant-based and is gluten & soy-free, which is a great alternative for vegans and those suffering from food allergies. It’s sweetened by Stevia, a healthier alternative to aspartame or other artificial sugars.

What really sold me was the added BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) to help boost muscle repair and recovery between workouts. This is usually a separate supplement, but Vega Sport saves time by adding this to their protein mix. Love it!

I’m more of a protein smoothie kind of gal, but I wouldn’t mind trying a mug cake or these strawberry protein waffles. Post-workout though, it’s straight to the blender for me.

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It was after a swim plus HIIT workout that I got to give this a shot, and it was so worth it.

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One word: YUMMO!

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No need to add any sweeteners here as the banana and protein does that for you. I highly recommend kale for the added health benefits, but if you’re not the biggest fan of this hearty green, then go with spinach.

Kale Blueberry #FuelYourBetter Smoothie

  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup of frozen blueberries
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1 cup of fresh kale, stems removed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 packet of VegaSport Protein

Throw all ingredients into a blender and puree into smoothie perfection. Note: If you’re using fresh fruit, then be sure to add 4-5 ice cubes. That’ll make it nice and frothy.

You’ve made the choice to start leading a healthier life? Awesome! Keep in mind that this is all a work in progress and success won’t happen overnight. You have to put in the effort every single day.

Ask yourself what feels right to you and align your goals with that vision. Do this often.

What feels right to you today, may not work in a few months or a few years, and that’s alright. Just be honest with yourself.

No matter how I choose to move, it feels amazing to know that I’m getting better every day.

How do you stay motivated to stick to your fitness goals? 

Do you take any sports supplements?

How do you #fuelyourbetter?

Disclaimer: Please note that I was not financially compensated for this review by Vega Sport or any affiliate companies or organizations. My opinions are my own and do not represent an official endorsement of Vega Sport.

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Golden Beet and Radish Arugula Salad with Pan-Seared Asparagus + BONUS EARTH DAY SMOOTHIE RECIPE!

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

10 minutes. That’s what it took to put this beautiful salad together. 10. Minutes.

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

Pan-seared asparagus. Doesn’t that sound so yummy? I can feel my stomach rumbling already.

And then you’ve got these beautiful golden beets. I’ve only ever had beets that were boiled or roasted. It was a little scary to go for them completely raw here, but I realized how silly that was.

For this week’s special Earth Day edition of my Meatless Monday series, I wanted to feature a quick, simple, nutritious, and most importantly, TASTY, salad that wouldn’t leave any sort of waste.

Beets and radishes pack a nutritious punch:

  • Beets are high in folate, manganese, potassium and fiber that help promote cardiovascular health, lowers your risk of cancer, and proper functioning of the brain.
  • Radishes are a relative of arugula and both are members of the cruciferous family which boasts cancer-fighting benefits, digestive health, and heart health.

When bought fresh, radishes and beets come with the greens attached. People typically hack off those leafy green tops and trash them. Note to the world:

DON’T THROW THE GREENS AWAY!

Not only are those greens edible, they’re filled with more nutritional benefits than the roots themselves. Radish greens contain much more protein, vitamin C and calcium than the small red bulbs.

Consider using them interchangeably with greens you’re more familiar with, like spinach or kale.

Beet & Radish Salad with AsparagusSomething important to keep in mind though is that you MUST soak these greens at least two or three times before using them. They’re covered in dirt in almost every nook and cranny. We don’t want to eat that.

Beet & Radish Salad with AsparagusIn an effort to go green by eating my greens, I’m sharing TWO recipes here using both the roots and leaves in different ways. I saved the beet greens for a saute later this week. Maybe I’ll make some tacos out of them? Now…there’s an idea.

Golden Beet & Radish Salad with Pan-Seared Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

Servings: 2

  • 4 cups of fresh arugula, rinsed
  • 1 large (or 2 small) fresh golden beets, greens trimmed (make sure to soak and remove dirt), peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 radishes, greens trimmed (make sure to soak and remove dirt), sliced thinly
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus spears, cut into thirds
  • ½ cup of garbanzo beans, (if using canned beans, make sure to rinse and drain first)
  • 2 tbsps goat cheese
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic glaze or vinegar (try to go for the glaze if available)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Prep all veggies, by soaking beets and radishes (greens too!), and slicing thinly with either a mandoline or very sharp knife.

2. In a small bowl, mix asparagus with the oil, salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high flame. Once hot, add the asparagus and spread evenly across the pan. Allow it to cook on one side for 3-4 minutes or until they start to brown. Flip over and cook on the other side. You want to make sure they sear but don’t burn.

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

3. Prepare salad in a large serving bowl. Add arugula, sliced beets and radishes, beans, crumbled goat cheese, and seared asparagus. Toss together and presto- you’re done!

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BONUS RECIPE!

MANGO PINEAPPLE RADISH GREENS SMOOTHIE

  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ cup of frozen mango
  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple
  • 2 tbsps hemp protein powder (you can sub in your favorite protein or flax seeds, chia seeds, etc)
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 2 cups radish greens, soaked 3 times (so much dirt trapped in there!) and drained

Blend well together and you’ve got yourself a powerful nutrient-packed smoothie. And pat yourself on the back for not wasting any part of that produce by throwing it away.

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Looking for more radish or beet greens recipes? Check out these yummy ideas:

What do you do with your greens?

How are you going green for Earth Day?

Take part in the Meatless Monday Thunderclap by pledging here!

By taking the Meatless Monday pledge this Earth Day, you’ll:

  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
  • HELP REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

(Shared from Meatless Monday Earth Day initiative)

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Introducing…Me: The Liebster Award

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I owe Annie of Strong Brees a HUGE hug for nominating me for the Liebster Award! Here it comes Annie:

<HUG>

Thank you times a million!

What I love most about these awards is the opportunity to get to know new bloggers who are doing some pretty awesome things on their sites and to spread the love. This also gives us a chance to pull back the curtain and share a bit of our origin story for those of you just tuning in.

It’s a great time all-around. So without further ado, let the share-fest begin!

First, let’s go over some of the rules:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
  • You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award.
  • You must create 10 questions for your nominees.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees.

Got it? Good.

Here’s my Q&A courtesy of Annie:

1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
There’s no one simple answer here, but the tipping point for me was back in 2009. I’d reached a point where I was really frustrated with my weight and overall appearance. I started to change my eating and exercise habits, researching (I’m obsessed with research!) nutrition and different workout routines, experimenting and ultimately found a pattern that worked. By 2012, I’d hit a lot of my goals but I still felt like I had so many questions about health and nutrition that I wanted to figure out. Why do some diets work for some people but don’t for others? How can we change our environment to be more accepting of different body types instead of emulating an unrealistic beauty standard? What can I do to help people overcome issues with ED and unhappiness?  At the suggestion of several of my friends I decided to start writing. I spent a week in London during the Olympics in 2012, and was so inspired that I spent the entire flight home writing out what would become Food4ThoughtNYC. I never looked back after that.
2.  What is your favorite piece of workout apparel?
me and Underarmour gearI’m obsessed with anything by UnderArmour, especially their leggings. They offer the perfect amount of flexibility and compression without feeling bulky or too tight. Plus, they look awesome! I’ve also learned over time that nothing beats a cotton top. I used to love all of those high-tech sweat-wicking materials but quickly realized that they smell pretty awful mid-workout. Invest your money in the shorts or pants and stick to inexpensive and comfortable tops- just a tip!
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
There’s two- Zumba and Crossfit. Talk about polar opposites! I’m a powerlifter and usually prefer workouts that are a bit more slow-paced with heavy weights. This year I’ve created some new goals around increasing my endurance which means I need to start embracing workouts that are fast-paced with a cardio component. One of my best friends is obsessed with Crossfit and I can’t go a day without coming across a blog post talking about whatever WOD they crushed. I want to drink the Koolaid too! And Zumba just looks like crazy fun. I can shimmy with the best of them, so why not make it a workout?
4.  What did you eat for breakfast (be honest, no judgement here!)?
Ah, you caught me! I just had a giant cup of coffee, but I’m working hard to minimize the extras I throw in. So, only a few teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon, a few drops of half-and-half, and a bit of coconut oil. That’s right, I put coconut oil in my coffee! I’ve read that it’s great for your digestive health and while the science behind the benefits of all things coconut is still a bit murky, I personally find this little addition pretty great for me. I like experimenting! And I also had a slice of whole wheat toast. I’ve got a green smoothie on tap once I finish writing this post.
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence?
Great question. I’m gonna go with writing. It’s a funny answer for me because writing also gives me a lot of anxiety. I worry if what I’m sharing will resonate or fall flat or if my grammar is completely screwed up. Sometimes I run away from it altogether, and I’ve taken some long breaks from my blog as a result. But I find the ebb and flow of my writing journey the past two years to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There are times when I’m literally bursting at the seams to sit down and get my thoughts down either on paper or on my site. It’s been cathartic, especially when I wrote about my issues with disordered eating or racial identity. And as much as it terrifies to put that out there for the world to read and potentially criticize, I always feel like I’ve triumphed in some way. It’s a roundabout way towards feeling confident, but nevertheless it’s been the most effective.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Impossible to answer! I’m a travel nut and my bucket list is way too long. I was in Moab last summer and while there I experienced some of the most serene moments in my life. Sitting there and staring out at these massive rock formations and the valleys between just made me feel so small and so huge at the same time. me and moabThose are the emotions I like to go for whenever I visit somewhere new. I suppose the next place I’d like to feel that would probably be the antithesis of Moab, so a forest comes to mind. I’d love to see the Sequoias in California or some of the old-world forests in Europe. My second choice would be somewhere mountainous. Clearly, nature wins for me!
7.  If time and money were no issue what would you do for a day?
Only one day?? Take a long walk in the early morning to a new neighborhood in NYC. Have breakfast (calories don’t count in this dream right?) and coffee at a slow pace. Visit a museum or go to the park for a few hours to read. Go home and experiment with a new recipe. Watch a movie. Call up a friend and go to a beer garden or outdoor restaurant to enjoy a meal, a few drinks, and a conversation, again at an unhurried pace. Eat dessert. Go home and play with my dog. Then go to bed. Nothing fancy or crazy. And completely unplugged from the digital world. I spend nearly every waking hour online for myself or for work and as much as I enjoy it, there are days when you just need to detox. This would be one of those days.
8.  Cardio or weights?  Why?
WEIGHTS. All the way. I’m a powerlifter, so yeah, weights.
Maribel- 195x2 Deadlift 5-17-13
Every time I tried losing weight in the past I’d go the cardio route only to quit pretty soon after. I don’t blame the exercise so much as a lack of understanding on my part of what really worked for me. When I started lifting with my personal trainer a year ago, something clicked. It’s a difficult challenge, but it was something I actually enjoyed doing, which was very different from every time I’ve hit the pavement attempting to run a couple of miles. This is why I make it my mission to tell everyone to ignore whatever workout trend is currently making the rounds and to quit believing that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. Some of my friends are avid runners who get the high and love the feeling they get from hitting the pavement each day. Others swim, hike, dance, do yoga, spin, kickbox- or lift like I do. And even still, I’m not locked into one thing. This afternoon I’m going swimming and I’ve got a yoga session in store for tomorrow. I choose weights, but that’s not my only choice.
9.  Do you drink coffee? If so, how do you like it?
Ah, scroll up to read my answer to #4, lol. Yes. Coffee and I are old old friends. I even wrote about it here.
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In no specific order: hitting my 230lb deadlift before my 30th birthday last December when I originally aimed for 225lbs; being featured in Latina magazine this year as a top blogger; conquering my fear of bikes by learning to ride last year; getting healthy and fit for me and not for anyone else which was a MAJOR life lesson; traveling through 4 continents and living abroad more than once; nailing an internship with a startup whose mission I actually believe in that inspires me everyday; letting go of some of the pain from my past by embracing gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation as part of my daily practice; starting this crazy blog that led me to meet some truly incredible people out there who are proudly sharing their stories and constantly inspiring me with their honesty, passion, strength, and creativity. Thank you for all that you do!
I’m honestly gobsmacked by the amount of support and encouragement I’ve been lucky to receive from people I’ll probably never meet in real life, but who come here and find something that strikes a chord with them. I do this for me, to leave my mark in the universe in my own way. But really, I do this for you too.
I’ve said it from the beginning: my intention here is to start a conversation. I want to connect and learn from you to see how even the smallest exchange can create waves of change in our corners of the world. A million thank yous to each and every single one of you who’ve laid eyes on my page and the sites of all the bloggers out there that are working just as hard to create something truly unique.
The world needs more unique. 🙂
Alright, now the fun doesn’t stop here. It’s time to nominate what I consider to be truly incredible blogs that I’ve recently discovered and to continue paying it forward (my motto!).
And here are my questions (keeping some of Annie’s because they were great!)
1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
2.  How do you feel about social media and being “connected”?
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
4.  What is your favorite healthy recipe?
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
7.  What song, movie or book inspires you?
8.  Do you practice meditation or have an interest in trying it out?
9.  Why do you write?
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Congrats to all of the nominees. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Happy Easter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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