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

Easy Ways to be Sustainable | Earth Week 2019

Woohoo! Happy Earth Week, friends! I can honestly say that I’ve never been as excited for an Earth Week as I am this year. In the past year or so, I’ve tried to make all aspects of my life more Earth-friendly. Since doing so, I feel like I’ve nailed down a few (super simple) ways to be sustainable along with a few inexpensive products that I’ve been using on a daily basis.


grocery store plastic bags

Nothing—and I mean nothing—irritates me more at a grocery store than when the baggers put one item per plastic bag. What a waste! When I was living downtown Chicago, I was super good about bringing my own reusable bags from home with me whenever I went shopping—they’re easier to carry than plastic bags, the City of Chicago charges a “bag tax”, and it’s more sustainable. However, once I moved back home where “bag tax” is no longer a thing and I have a car to take me to-and-from the store, I suddenly stopped using my reusable bags.

Was I proud of myself. Definitely not. So, I decided that I would put a few reusable canvas bags into my car so that I wouldn’t have an excuse of why I wasn’t using one! Since then, I’ve been bringing my bags with me whenever I go to the store. I can honestly say that I’ve probably saved around 30 bags in that timeframe.

Fun fact: Almost every grocery store nowadays sells reusable bags for purchase for no more than 99 cents a bag—what a steal! Plus, if you ever go to any sort of event chances are you have a few reusable bags laying around your house (my family has TONS!).


grocery store produce bags

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that we can blame grocery stores for all of our plastic problems. Just kidding, but like, not really. Another grocery store pet peeve of mine are those ridiculous produce bags. If you’re like most people in the world, then you probably wash the produce before you eat it. Which is why using plastic produce bags makes absolutely no sense to me. If you’re someone who washes your fruits/vegetables before you use them, then there should be no fear of the items being dirty by just tossing them into your shopping cart/basket if you’re going to wash them anyways.

I know that there are companies out there that sell reusable produce bags like Ever Eco, Flip & Tumble, and Purifyou. While I personally have not used these before, they’re a great option if you’re someone who is still fearful of just putting your produce (naked) in the cart.

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STASHER BAGS

Yes, I jumped on the Stasher Bag bandwagon. Ever since @shutthekaleup on Instagram featured Stasher’s on her feed, I had been wanting to purchase some. However, at $12/bag I couldn’t justify spending that much as someone who, in college, rarely packed a lunch (since I had time to fix meals at my apartment). But since graduating and now working a full-time job, I pack my lunch and snacks everyday. I knew that I would be wanting to bring fruit, chopped veggies, trail mix, etc. with me to work and I didn’t want to have to use plastic baggies. So instead of being unsustainable, I decided to take out my wallet and invest in a Stasher Bag. I have to say, it was one of the best sustainable decisions I have ever made! I use my Stasher Bag daily to hold my snacks and other food items. Not only do they minimize my use of plastic, but they’re super easy to clean as they’re machine washable and easy to get inside of with a washcloth or a bottle brush.

Stasher Bag Hack: Stand your bag up inside of your car’s cupholder, stick a fork in it, and you’ve got yourself a super clever—if I do say so myself—snacking opportunity!

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you can buy stasher bag here, here, and here


bee’s wrap

When my sister gifted me with Bee’s Wrap for Christmas 2-years-ago, I truthfully didn’t know when I was going to use it. But a day later, I had used all 4 sheets! Bee’s Wrap is another great way to decrease your plastic usage—cling wrap, cellophane wrap, I’m looking at you! Bee’s Wrap is a waste-free alternative to food storage. I’ve used it to cover half-eaten apples, yogurt containers, leftovers, and even to hold celery sticks for snacks on-the-go.

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you can buy bee’s wrap here, here, and here


What ways do you try to live more sustainably? Any product recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!

Three Ways to Stay Happy

Remember when I said I was going to post every Saturday? So much for that! This post is all about finding ways to stay happy, and let me tell you, not following through on my commitments—personal or otherwise—doesn’t make me happy. But nonetheless, everyone deserves a second chance. And seeing as this is my personal blog, I decided to give myself another chance at redemption.

The main cause to my lack of posting wasn’t because I’ve gotten over the whole blogging thing. But rather, I have nothing going on in my life besides working full-time, going to the gym, and going to bed (truthfully). Because of that, it gives me little to no material to write about. However, after talking to several people, I have decided to get a few hobbies other than working out. Don’t get me wrong, I love a killer sweat sesh but working out doesn’t always make me happy. Working out can be stressful, especially if you’re someone like me who likes improving every single time whether it’s by beating my mile time, tacking on another mile or two to my distance runs, or increasing the amount of weight that I lift. Therefore, I wanted to find a hobby that was relaxing and didn’t cause me to feel stressed. Now, this may be easy for some people but I find it a bit more challenging. In the past, I’ve tried coloring books but wasn’t a fan because I not only found it overly tedious to color so precisely between the lines, but I felt the need to color perfectly (seeing as though I’m somewhat of a perfectionist). Another hobby that I took up during my high school years was playing guitar and songwriting. I truthfully thought that I was going to be the next Taylor Swift, and while I love jamming every now-and-then, I’m content with the songs that I know and the chords that I can play and don’t feel the need (or the want) to become a professional guitar player.

You’re probably wondering what I have chosen to take up as a hobby considering the activities mentioned above I don’t want to pursue further. Well, I am happy to say that I have found 3 things that I do on somewhat of a daily basis that help me stay happy.


painting

How “art school” of me is it that I’ve taken up painting? Pretty dang art school-y if you ask me. But there’s just something so relaxing about mixing paint colors together and stroking the paintbrush along the paper. Since I have no professional painting training (but don’t you fret—I’m signed up for a modern paint training course through Joann Fabrics at the end of April), my mom suggested that I get coloring book pages and paint them. At first, I thought this was silly because when am I ever going to hang up a picture of an Easter bunny with some eggs? Probably never. But as my mom expressed to me, it doesn’t really matter if I ever plan on hanging it up or not. What matters is that I enjoyed my time painting the picture.


52 lists for happiness book

Maybe you’re like me and find it really hard to find things in your life to be happy about. Keep in mind, there’s a big difference between finding things to be HAPPY about and finding things to be THANKFUL for. There are so many things that I’m thankful for in my life, but being thankful doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness. Someone recommended to me the book 52 Lists for Happiness, which I have been filling out daily. Every week, you’re presented with a new prompt that makes you think about the things in your life that you’re good at, the things in your life that make you happy, and the things in your life that you appreciate, among others. This book has really challenged me to think outside of the box and really take a look at my life and find the things that truly make me smile each and every day.


podcasts

Okay, okay. I totally get that listening to podcasts isn’t a hobby. But, it is something that makes me happy. I commute a little over 2 hours to work (back and forth) each day. For the first week or so of my new full-time job, I was listening to music. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing to Kacey Musgraves in the car and blasting Drake whenever I can. But, I found myself so uninspired and almost drained after spending 2 hours in the car mindlessly listening to music. One of my co-workers told me about the podcast The Morning Toast, and one of the Instagram bloggers that I follow started her own podcast called What We Said.

I love The Morning Toast because it gives me the perfect dose of news, while still being entertaining. The two hosts, Jackie and Claudia Oshry are two of the funniest personalities I’ve ever encountered online. They’re both in their twenties and completely aware of millennial trends and pop culture. Because of their personalities, it makes listening to the news a lot more enjoyable.

What We Said is my second favorite podcast because the two hosts, Jacie Marie Smith and Chelsey Curtis are best friends who complement each other so well. These two ladies talk about everything from embarrassing stories and dating, to interviewing social media influencers and entrepreneurs like Aspyn Ovard and @hairby_chrissy (two of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow). A lot of their episodes also talk about being a #girlboss and how to be successful on social media or whatever your side passions are. I highly recommend both of these podcasts for anyone who wants to listen to something entertaining, informative, and inspiring!


What are your favorite things to do to fuel your happiness? Do you have any favorite podcasts? Let me know in the comments below!