3 Things I Learned from Summer Camp

This past weekend, I had the chance to go to a wellness summer camp in Michigan with my friend Sammy (@shapedupsam). When Sammy invited me to go, I was nervous. Nervous to be around other people who I didn’t know, nervous to eat food that I didn’t make for myself, nervous that no one would like me and that I wouldn’t fit in, but also nervous about the experience as a whole. If you follow me on Instagram then you’ve probably seen me post about being an introvert and someone who recharges alone—and this is so true. I don’t do well being on my A-game all the time, and I certainly don’t thrive talking to people all day long…my energy just dwindles. While the summer camp in itself sounded right up my alley—trail runs, smoothie bowls, and HIIT workouts—it was still something that I was unsure of attending.

After talking it over with a few people, I decided I would branch out of my comfort zone and go to Fit Approach’s EMPOWER Summer Camp. The camp was held at Ronora Lodge and Retreat Center in Watervliet, Michigan. The grounds were nestled between a small forest with a lake hidden in the back. Several cabins lined the perimeter and there was a large dining hall with a bonfire in the center.

Sammy and I were cabin-mates…along with 12 other ladies. Major YIKES. I love my space, and sharing a bedroom with nine other girls and only two bathrooms amongst 12 women was nerve-racking. You may be thinking, “Amanda, you are overreacting,” but I can assure you I’m not. I’m so used to sleeping in an environment that is private, dark, and quiet. I’m also someone who can’t fall asleep with any noise…okay, this post is starting to sound like one big complaining fest, but I’m trying to set the scene here OKAY?

After getting settled into our cabin, Sammy and I ventured outside where we were greeted by friendly faces of women who were dressed in workout gear. Our first activity was a trail run to shakeout after a day of traveling (lucky for us, the campgrounds were only three hours from where we live!). I ended up leading the pack with the camp founder/leader, Jamie, and we chatted while running up and down hills and through trees. It was a great way to start off camp, to say the very least. Afterwards, we were served a delicious dinner made from ingredients from the camp’s garden—think homemade guac, freshly picked lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes, and vegan date dessert balls.

thing I learned no.1: if you don’t just “go for it,” you’ll really miss out on new experiences

Even though this was only the first few hours, I already knew I had made the right decision going to this camp, and I knew I probably would never have an opportunity like this again. We were already doing things (like trail running) and eating things (fresh vegetables and fruits) that aligned with my values, that I knew I made the right decision by pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

We finished off the night with sunset yoga and a campfire circle, where myself along with the other ladies created silly dances and cheers to ring in the first night of camp. And after the festivities were over, I realized my second thing I learned from summer camp:

thing I learned No. 2. you can make friends with anyone if you push yourself out of your comfort zone

I had always thought that most bloggers/influencers weren’t their true selves on social media. But these ladies were all welcoming and friendly and made me feel right at home! We talked about running, yoga, and veganism and while I’m not someone who likes talking a lot, I found that pushing myself to start conversations really allowed me to feel more comfortable with everyone else who attended camp.

While I didn’t sleep very well the first night, I woke up the next morning excited for what we had planned for the day: another trail run, a HIIT workout, a smoothie bowl bar, power yoga/pilates, and then sunset yoga later in the evening. The morning trail run was so much fun and was sponsored by Aftershokz. I have never heard of these wireless headphones before but now I’m OBSESSED. Instead of putting the headphones in your ear, you actually wear them above your ear. This style is perfect for running outside because you’re still able to listen to music, podcasts, and take phone calls while still being able to hear what’s happening in your surroundings—they’re truly a game changer (get $50 off a pair for yourself by using the code EMPOWER).

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After our morning run, we braved the heat and did a HITT workout taught by Kasey Brown (AKA @powercakes on Instagram) that was sponsored by Now Foods. I was already a bit tired from our morning run, but I was excited to sweat it out and do a HIIT workout. The workout consisted of partner and individual exercises like jump squats, burpees, and a variety of planks. Even though some of the women were pushing it to the limit, I listened to my body and only did the workouts that felt good—I didn’t do burpees, instead, I did squats.

thing I learned no.3. just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean that I have to. listening to my body is so much more important!

Normally, I max out when doing group workouts because I feel as though I have something to prove. But this time around, I was able to listen to my body and do the exercises that felt GOOD. After our HIIT workout, we went inside to the dining hall to decorate our own smoothie bowls that were created by Annmarie (AKA @fitfoodiemama on Instagram) and powered by Now Foods’ protein and supplement powders. The bowl that I chose was a vegan smoothie made with frozen berries and Now Foods’ beet root powder and pea protein powder. In my opinion, the best part of smoothie bowls are the toppings. I loaded the top of my smoothie bowl with cacao nibs, strawberries, blueberries, and shredded coconut—it was the perfect post-workout snack.

After our two workouts we had time to relax by the lake before our, yes it’s true, third and fourth workouts of the day. The lake was gorgeous and I sat and enjoyed the company of Sammy and some of the other girls. A few hours later, we departed back to the dining hall to do an indoor “HIIT and Flow” workout created by the @flexandflow team. Think of “HIIT and Flow” as a power yoga workout that includes sliders to really engage your core and arm muscles.

As someone who has been doing yoga and working out for a long time, this third workout of the day really made me sore—I was walking funny and had to roll out the following few days. Afterwards, we were treated to a happy hour sponsored by Jade Leaf Matcha where we had the chance to try their new vegan matcha fruit bites. They were super tasty and helped me feel energized after a long day of workouts.

As the day came to an end, I realized that this weekend had been full of learning experiences: I went out of my comfort zone to a place where I only knew one person, I tried new foods and ventured out of my “safe” meals, I challenged myself to talk with the other ladies there (because I normally would have only talked to the person I came with), and I managed my emotions especially when I was in no control of the weekend. Fit Approach’s EMPOWER Summer Camp taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to, and just because I might be nervous about doing something, does not mean that I shouldn’t just go for it and try it.

Thank you Fit Approach for such a fantastic weekend!

Photographs courtesy of James Pancoast, @jamespancoastphotos

3 Ways to Balance a 9-5 Job

Let me start off this post by saying that I 100 percent do not have it all figured out. To be quite honest, I don’t really have anything figured out and that’s totally fine. But, when I graduated from college, I knew that the transition from college life to “real life” would be a tough one. All of a sudden, I went from having classes 2-3 times a week to working 5 days a week plus a commute—not fun. Not to mention, summer is no longer something to necessarily look forward to because you don’t get 3 months off. While I’m thankful that I have a job, saying that the transition was easy would be lie. My mom can vouch for me that I cried a lot my first month of working a 9-5 job because I was tired, overwhelmed, and I’m not someone who likes change (but then again, I literally cry about everything). However, I have found a few things that have made the transition easier and a few things that make working all day a bit easier to manage.

 

1) things to look forward to

This point is so important. In college, chances are you had things to look forward to: having a long weekend, spending time with your friends, college parties (if you were into that sort of thing), and all of the school breaks. Once you start working, a lot of the time your college friends move away and the school breaks disappear. I have found it helpful to have things each week to look forward to that aren’t related to work. Whether that’s a trip to see my boyfriend in Texas, a “date” night with my mom or dad, a shopping spree with my grandma, or simply just knowing that the weather will be nice and I will be able to talk a stroll around town, these are all activities that I look forward to. Regardless of what you’re doing, it’s super important to have things to look forward to to get you through the long work week.

As someone who is an introvert and finds it difficult to make friends, I can completely understand if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, “Okay, but I don’t have anyone to do anything with.” And that’s totally fine and normal. For me, I decided to sign up for a paint class one day (of course, my mom went with me) and I also just recently purchased a yoga membership package for CorePower. Even though I don’t know any of the people who are in the yoga class(es) with me, it still helps me get out of the house, interact with others, and have something to look forward to during the week.

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2) meal prepping

Unless you work in boujee corporate America (and congrats to you if you do!), then chances are you don’t have a fabulous cafeteria like the one in The Devil Wears Prada and have to either buy your lunch daily or pack a lunch. Personally, I don’t buy lunch because not only is it a waste of money, but you can make much healthier options when you pack it yourself!

Since I’m vegan (and these options can be great even if you’re not vegan or are just trying to eat more plant-based), I like to prep veggies and a protein at the beginning of the week. Since I live at home, I like to roast a big sheet of veggies—like brussel sprouts, broccoli, onion, Japanese sweet potatoes, etc.—to be shared with my family and also pre-wash and put into Tupperware canned beans or lentils/quinoa for the week. Some of my favorite things to bring with me to work are a salad topped with the roasted vegetables and protein, a date stuffed with nut butter for a snack, a yogurt parfait made with dairy-free yogurt, berries, and coconut, and occasionally a soup or a pre-packed vegan meal like these cauliflower rice meals from Kitchen & Love.

My favorite part of meal prepping is how easy it is to great ready for the next work day. The night before going to work, I pack my lunch with all of the goodies that I pre-made. This helps me relax more because I can sleep in an extra half hour in the morning, and I’m not worrying about not having something healthy to eat at work.

Need some vegan meal inspiration? Follow my board on Pinterest! Don’t know what to use to pack? Here are some of my sustainable favorite!

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3) planning your day

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an organizational freak—yes a freak. When I was in school, I got so excited about buying a new planner at the beginning of the school year. I’m also someone who prefers writing down my to-do lists with pen and paper over typing them out. But I find that planning my day—even week—allows me to be more organized and relaxed. At the beginning of each week, I’ll write out a to-do list of everything that I want/need to accomplish that week at work. In the past, I have been found to stress and get everything that I need to get done for the week in one day. Yes, you read that right, I would try to get everything done for the week in one day, completely forgetting that I had four more days ahead of me to get stuff done. Writing down my to-do list allows me to see exactly what I need to do. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing something off your to-do list once you complete it!

In addition to planning out my work week, I also like planning out my days/weeks for personal activities. Similarly to how important it is to have something to look forward to—like I mentioned above—planning your personal schedule can help keep you accountable to doing fun things and taking some time for yourself. For example, I always plan to have a Brunette with a Blog post go live on Saturday’s. This keeps me accountable to use some of my free time during the week to write a blog post. Another thing that I plan during the week is my workouts. Since joining CorePower, I have been planning out my yoga classes for the week. Personally, I like doing yoga on Monday’s to start my week off right and I know that my studio location offers Hot Power Flow (my class of choice) Monday nights at a time that’s convenient to my schedule. I personally don’t have trouble making sure that I workout during the week, but I am someone that struggles with feeling rushed for no apparent reason. Therefore, I love planning out what my day is going to look like in terms of times (ex: from 6:45am-7:45am I have my commute to work, from 8am-3pm I am at work, from 3pm-4pm I commute home from work, from 4pm-5pm I finish working from home, from 5pm-6:30pm I go to the gym, and so on). I find this very helpful in calming myself down, especially when I feel like I have no time in the day to do the things I enjoy doing.

Here, here, and here are a few of my favorite planners at the moment.

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Do you work full-time? If so, what are some of your tips and tricks for managing your days? Let me know in the comments below!

Favorite Trends for Spring

It’s been raining in Chicago for the past week. And by raining, I mean down-pouring for the entire day. I’m not kidding when I say that there was a 2-foot-deep moat around my office making it quite difficult to get into the building. It’s safe to say that the last thing I wanted to do given the horrendous weather was put on anything remotely spring-inspired—dresses, skirts, etc. Basically, I wanted to live in my baggy leggings and oversized tee shirts. But nonetheless, I had to #adult and put on real clothes. But The Weather Channel has put me in good spirits as it has forecasted warm weather in the very near future, which means that I will be breaking out my favorite pieces for this new season!

When people think of a new season, they often assume they have to buy new clothes in order to keep up with the trends—I definitely used to be one of those people. But recently, I’ve been trying to revisit some of my “older pieces” in an effort to not only save some money, but also reduce my clothing consumption (did you know how harmful it is to continuously throw out old clothes and buy new clothes? If not, check out this super informative articles here). I have found that a lot of the pieces I bought the past few years, are also trendy for this upcoming season—MAJOR win in my opinion. From ruffled dresses to stylish athleisure, spring is right around the corner and here are the trends you need to get in on.


mini dresses

I am such a fan of mini dresses. And my mini, I don’t mean “so-short-that-you-have-to-kneel-instead-of-bending-over,” but more like, “right-above-the-knee-so-you’re-showing-an-appropriate-amount-of-skin-without-having-to-wear-spanx” (sorry not sorry if you’re offended by that). A mini dress is the perfect piece to wear when you don’t know what to wear. A lot of people hate wearing dresses, but honestly, they’re a one-and-done look—you don’t have to figure out what top to match with what bottom, it’s already done for you!

I have found that dresses hardly go out of style. Sure, the lengths of dresses fluctuate depending on trends, but to be quite honest, a maxi, mini, or midi dress will never go out of style. While I do love buying a new dress every now and then, I continue to fall in love with the ones that I already own. My favorites? A neutral-colored printed mini dress with a keyhole detail on the neckline, ruffles on the shoulders and waist, and relaxed, oversized sleeves from Chelsea28 that I received for Christmas 2-years-ago; A mauve pink off-the-shoulder mini dress with lace detailing and ruching at the neckline from Anthropologie that I bought 3-years-ago; A baby blue floral printed mini dress with a peasant style v-neckline and tapered sleeves from Anthropologie that I also purchased 3-years-ago.

Regardless of the style of dress, one that hits right above the knee is always a good idea. If you’re running low on mini dresses in your closet, here are a few of my favorites:


athleisure

I have a confession to make: I’m obsessed with Outdoor Voices. Did I jump on the bandwagon when OV became popular? Sure. But have I fallen in love with their pieces on my own, regardless of what any influencer says? Definitely. I knew as soon as I saw Outdoor Voices being worn by all of my favorite wellness Instagrammers, that I would have to check out the brand for myself. And since visiting their flagship boutique in Austin, TX earlier this year and purchasing a pair of their seasonal Springs Leggings, I have invested in a few other staples from the #DoingThings brand. Along with their pieces being stylish and having the ability to be worn in many occasions, they’re also sustainably and ethically made (which makes me feel better about dropping a hundred bucks on one piece).

Recently, I have been (over)wearing my Outdoor Voices Court Skort and Exercise Dress. Let me tell you, when OV released their Exercise Dress, I knew it was meant to be. The Exercise Dress is a mini dress with a full, fitted, biker short bodysuit underneath and crafted with a pocket big enough to fit your phone and a few important cards—there’s nothing I love more than not having to bring a purse with me! Since I love being active and love wearing dresses, the OV Exercise Dress was truly a dream come true. Now, I’m able to wear a dress when I go on walks, hikes, and bike rides without feeling dumb or like I’m going to flash everyone in sight. On the other hand, the Exercise Dress is perfect for wearing on more casual days. I love tossing a cropped sweater overtop with sneakers, or pairing it with an oversized cardigan. Either way, I’m always comfortable and worry-free of a breeze that may or may not cause my dress to fly up in the air.

The same goes for Outdoor Voices’ Court Skort. This piece is a mini skirt with fitted biker shorts underneath. The piece is made from a thick sweat-resistant material that is comfortable and practical for all of the athletic activities (and more!) listed above. Plus, you can easily dress this skirt up by throwing on a sweater or tucking in a blouse. Similarly to the Exercise Dress, the Court Skort also has a hidden pocket that’s great for when you don’t want to carry your phone or any other important items.

For actually fitness—like weight lifting, running, stair master, etc.—I’ve been living in my Outdoor Voices’ TechSweat biker shorts. This section of the post is probably sounding like a sponsored ad, and I can assure you that it’s not, but OV’s products are truthfully the best…but I digress. The TechSweat biker shorts are some of the most comfortable bottoms I’ve worn to the gym. Honestly, they feel like you’re wearing nothing which, in my opinion, is a heck of a lot better than suffocating in too tight leggings. There’s nothing worse than being on a run and having to keep pulling up your pants because they’re slipping down, and with the TechSweat shorts this problem never happens. While I have personally never dabbled in the biker shorts + a noodie trend, I know that’s something the kids are wearing nowadays. If this is a look that you’re into, then I would suggest investing in Outdoor Voices’ biker shorts: they’ll last long, they’re trendy (but won’t go out of style), and they’re made with sustainable materials.


scrunchies

Okay, okay, this isn’t a clothing trend. But I learned in school (and I’m a fashion major, so I’m credible!) that beauty and hair is also included in the fashion realm. And lately, I’ve been obsessed with wearing scrunchies. Not only are they better for your hair (less pulling which equals less breakage), but they’re an easy way to add a little something-something to a typically boring high ponytail or simple low bun/top knot.

Last summer, I purchased metallic scrunchies from Anthropologie. They are my go-to when I’m wearing a simple outfit and want a bit of color and texture to spice up my look. Just recently, however, I was getting sick of only having a metallic blue and metallic lavender scrunchie to wear, so I stopped at Target to purchase big, fluffy, black scrunchies. If you’re feeling a little more “extra,” they also sell scrunchies with bows and long ribbons at the end. While I’ve personally never worn one of these types of scrunchies, they’re a huge trend that makes for a more dressed-up pony.

Ever since buying and wearing them, I’ve felt like my ponytails have looked better and have been more voluminous than they usually are. Plus, by the end of the day I no longer have a headache—such a win-win.


What’s your favorite trend for the spring and summer? Let me know in the comments below so I can decide whether or not to hop on the trend, too!