A Circuit Workout from Team SCA’s Trainer

Workout with Team SCA's TrainerIf you follow me on the ‘gram, you already saw little snippets from my trip to Newport for the Volvo Ocean Race with Team SCA—it was so much fun! On Thursday, Sarah and I actually got to compete in the Pro Am race with the team, and it gave me a whole new respect for sailing. That sh*t is tough.

Also tough was the workout we did with Team SCA’s trainer, Santi Casanova, the day before. I would compare it to a CrossFit-esque circuit and thought it’d be fun to share the routine with you all so you could get a sneak peek into what the training for this round-the-world race looks like.

I found it particularly challenging because I rarely workout using weights this heavy. Dead lifting 90lbs and rope climbing my entire bodyweight?! Woof. But I loved it. It’s always good to shake up your usual workout routine and challenge your body, which is exactly what this circuit did.

Circuit Workout with Team SCA’s Trainer

You’ll go through this circuit as fast as possible four times. When you finish the last exercise, rest for 60 seconds before starting again from the top. It took us about 16 minutes to complete. Enjoy my facial expressions in these photos… :)

5 Deadlifts @ 90-lbs Workout with Team SCA's Trainer

4 Rope Climb Lifts (switch top hand each rep)

Engage your core to keep your body in an L shape with legs outstretched. To modify, keep your heels on the ground and lift up from there (I had to do this the last two rounds). Don’t be fooled by my laughter in the picture…these are brutal. Workout with Team SCA's Trainer

10 Barbell  Oblique Lifts @10 lbs + bar 

Make an arch motion with the barbell. Start holding it at hip height on one side and then lift it up and over to the other side.

Workout with Team SCA's Trainer

5 Toes to Bar

To modify, do hanging knee raises. I would do one sloppy toes to bar each round and then just switch to the knee raises (haha). Workout with Team SCA's Trainer

10 Push Ups push-ups-sca

Up and back: Tire Hops (in and out), Stair Climb (up and down) Workout with Team SCA's Trainer

6 Med Ball Wall Slams (3 each side) @ 30lbs
Workout with Team SCA's Trainer
 wearing Fabletics


The Volvo Ocean Race: Newport Pro Am

I’ll leave you with a photo dump from the trip. Best of luck to the badass girls of Team SCA in their final legs of the race!! team-sca-gear team-sca-boat-newport hyatt-regency-goat-island-newport-view

The view from the Hyatt Regency in Newport is really ugly… 


A little hotel room yoga to start the day


My ultimate bro get-up screams “I’ve never sailed before!” haha

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Taking selfies mid race…securing the LVP award. 😉

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Sarah & I post-race


Blueberry cheesecake post-race. Obsessed!


Perfect Newport sunset to end the trip–man I love calling New England home!!

You can follow the final legs of the race at TeamSCA.com or on social media @team_sca.signature

A Look at What Goes into “Natural” Products & Supplements with NOW Foods (+Blogger Event Recap)

fitfluential-nowPicture from the @fitfluential Instagram

First and foremost, don’t you worry—I did not forget about the fourth and final weekly giveaway. I’m going to post it on Friday because I actually have an INCREDIBLE package from NOW Foods to include in the prize, and first wanted to share all about my trip to see the company.

On Thursday, I got the fun opportunity to travel out to the suburbs of Chicago with a group of FitFluential bloggers to attend a two-day immersion event at NOW Foods. Up until then, I associated NOW with their bright orange vitamin and supplement bottles I’d seen at health food stores, but wasn’t too familiar with the company beyond that. And as I learned, NOW doesn’t just produce supplements. They have personal care products (including essential oils—my favorite!), sports nutrition products and a wide array of foods.

hilton-indian-lakesWe stayed at the Hilton Indian Lakes in Bloomingdale and had enough downtime for me to get a little blogging work done…and practice headstands. :)

Honestly, my first reaction was skepticism. Would I really want to buy foods from the same company from which I was buying shampoo? But—not to sound like an infomercial—I was beyond impressed by NOW’s transparency throughout the trip and by an obvious commitment to quality they have as the foundation of everything they do. I left feeling genuinely excited to use their products.

I think part of my skepticism going into the trip is something a lot of people can relate to—a sort of subliminal association of supplements with drugs (steroids, diet pills, bad chemicals, etc.), and therefore a hesitation to accept them as “natural.” And what I really appreciated was NOW’s candidness in addressing this. I’m going to focus this post on the “natural” discussion (what does it even mean these days??) because I found it fascinating, but if you’re just interested in hearing about the blogging trip, scroll through and read the captions I’ve included underneath all the pictures. :)

fish-dinnerWe had a welcome dinner the first night at Glen Prairie where we got to chat with some of the NOW team. I had a delicious spinach salad and then this phenomenal salmon dish. 

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that “natural” in its perhaps purest definition (for example, an apple grown in organic soil on your family’s farm, plucked straight from the tree and eaten on the spot) isn’t always possible and realistic in today’s world. Supply can be limited, and not everyone lives close to a farm. Developments in science have provided solutions to this. And I’m in no way suggesting you eat an apple made in a laboratory (please don’t)—I am very passionate about eating organic, non-GMO products when possible. I am saying that not all food science is bad. Vitamin supplements can be a great example of this.

workout-post-smoothieFriday morning we got up bright and early for a spin class at Life Time Fitness and a quick yoga session with Amy, their Group Fitness Director. After our workout, we enjoyed some delicious cinnamon chocolate protein shakes.

I got to chat with NOW Foods CEO Jim Emme, and my first question was simply where do pill-form vitamins come from? Are they extracted from foods and plants? Are they made in laboratories? And he explained that it totally depends on the nutrient. Some can be extracted from vegetable oils, soy, fish liver oils and other mineral sources. In other cases, a nature-identical nutrient can be made in the lab. These nature-identical nutrients have the exact molecular structure to the nutrient occurring in nature—your body doesn’t know the difference. When NOW can’t use from-nature “natural” ingredients, they use these nature-identical ones in their products.

The example Jim used was vitamin C. Upwards of 95% (maybe more—I forget the exact number) of vitamin C found in supplements is manufactured in labs in China. It was weird to wrap my brain around the concept. On the one hand, swallowing a pill made in a lab in China doesn’t seem very natural. But think about eating a genetically modified orange to get a dose of vitamin C. That orange’s molecular makeup might be slightly different from an orange grown organically in nature because it’s been genetically modified. The vitamin C pill from a lab, however, is identical to the molecular make up of the vitamin C found in that organic orange. Weird to think about, right? :)

touring-NOW-foodsWe got a private tour of the NOW Operations Facility led by Neil E. Levin, CCD, DANLA, Nutrition Education Manager…all while dressed to impress.

Nature-identical ingredients are clearly great from a manufacturer’s standpoint (as well as a consumer’s since they help keep supply on par with our demand), but they come with a whole new set of quality assurance concerns. If I’m buying a banana at the grocery store, I know what I’m getting. Looks like a banana, smells like a banana, tastes like a banana—I’m good. But when I buy supplements, it’s not always as clear. I can’t look at a multivitamin capsule and know what’s inside based on my own personal knowledge—I have to trust that the company I’m buying from has listed exactly what’s in it on the label.

And it’s not necessarily that the company is trying to deceive you—they might have been deceived by their suppliers. Brand X, for example, doesn’t make every single ingredient in their protein powder. They might source one ingredient from a manufacturer in China, another from a supplier in California, etc., etc. Not only does NOW audit their suppliers, but their testing process is rigorous to say the least. And I was shocked to learn that detecting adulterants, synthetic hormones and steroids, and other unnatural ingredients was actually a fairly regular occurrence. It makes you appreciate the effort put into their quality assurance testing!

lunch-dr-wendy After our tour, we heading to NOW Corporate Offices to do a testing of the Ellyndale Foods oils (NOW’s high quality food label). Dr. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD then gave us a great presentation on wellness!

I thought this whole “natural” topic was super relevant given the battle between Food Babe and Science Babe that went viral recently (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read more here and the rebuttal here). I’m not siding with either—I think we absolutely do have a right to know what’s in our food and skincare products, but that we also shouldn’t live in fear of every ingredient or process we don’t fully understand (something I’m definitely guilty of at times!).

I saw visiting NOW as a huge opportunity for me to learn about supplements and the manufacturing of “natural” products—two areas I didn’t fully understand, and admittedly was wary of as a result. It was an excellent trip for me. Yes, I now found a brand I feel confident in, but more importantly, I just feel more knowledgeable about the business of “natural” products as a whole and better able to make informed purchasing decisions in the future. You can read more about NOW’s definition of “natural” HERE.

NOW-foods-blogger-event NOW-baking-final We ended the trip with a cooking session with Chef Suzy Singh in NOW’s Culinary Innovation Center. Everything was delicious, but the gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies especially blew my mind (and taste buds).

Since I spent this whole post yapping about “natural,” I’ll wrap up with some important points about NOW Foods. On Friday, I am giving away a MASSIVE package of their products along with some other prizes so get excited!

  • NOW was founded in 1968 by Elwood Richard and is still family-owned today by the Richards. This has been a huge factor in allowing them to stick to their core mission of providing value in products that empower people to lead healthier lives, even as the company continues to grow.
  • As part of their commitment to being “natural,” NOW does not feel GMOs belong in their products. Their foods are 100% non-GMO and so far 75% of their supplements are non-GMO Assured.
  • NOW has four major categories of products: nutritional supplements, sports nutrition, foods and personal care. I know I focused on supplements for most of this post, but guys. Their coconut infusions. So good!
  • You can connect with NOW on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. They’re also hosting a #NOWGetFit Twitter party on Tuesday, May 12 @9PM.


Big thanks to FitFluential & NOW Foods–I had a great time!

What are your thoughts on the word “natural”? How would you define it? signature

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of NOW Foods.

Traveling to Australia: The Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Daintree Rainforest & Cairns

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-39Port Douglas

As I mentioned in the first part of this trip recap, my boyfriend and I had no plans or reservations when we arrived in Australia. February is the south of Australia’s summer (perfect weather—warm/hot, not humid), but in the north (think Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands), it’s the rainy season. We felt like we couldn’t leave Australia without doing the GBR, so when I checked the weather forecast Tuesday morning in Sydney and saw that there were a stretch of sunny days coming up around Cairns, we booked a flight up north for that very afternoon. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-21

Travel tip: As recommended by our Aussie friend, we used WebJet to search for flights while there. Typically, either JetStar, Qantas or Virgin Australia would end up offering the cheapest flight options within Australia.

One thing we noticed about flying within Australia was that they board the front the back of the plane at the same time, through two different entrances. WHY DON’T YOU DO THIS, AMERICA?! I know in the US the thought is to board window seats before aisle seats, but it’s always boggled my mind that the back of the plane isn’t boarded first to avoid aisle jams. Am I right or amiright??

Port Douglas

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-37Every person we talked to had the same thoughts on Cairns: mehhh (their words–not mine!). Put off by that, we decided to stay in Port Douglas instead of using Cairns as our home base for the Great Barrier Reef. From the airport, we took a shuttle van (in retrospect, we should have rented a car—would have been cheaper) to Port Douglas, a small vacation town about an hour’s drive north. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-23 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-40

After some quick searching on Trip Advisor for affordable—but quality—hotels, we decided on Martinique on Macrossan, a boutique hotel that we loved! The owners were so sweet and helpful with guiding our plans, and our room had a kitchen, living room and balcony, making for a comfortable two-night stay. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-45

Because it’s the off-season up north, Port Douglas was very quiet, and a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season. There were a few options serving up your basic bar food menu, but my boyfriend and I are both picky about healthy food, so we ended up going grocery shopping and making most of our meals in our hotel room’s kitchen while there. I’d imagine it’s a totally different scene in Port Douglas during tourist season!

The Daintree Rainforest

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-35On our first full day, we rented a car and drove north to check out the Daintree Rainforest. From Port Douglas, you can make a nice little day out of the rainforest, slowly driving your way north along the coast, stopping at beautiful secluded beaches along the way, getting in a little hiking, checking out a crocodile tour and even zip-lining through the rainforest (we didn’t do those last two things, but they came recommended). traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-46

Our first stop was Mossman Gorge. We did about an hour’s worth of hiking (in flip-flops…oops), taking a few stops to jump in the water on our own, and ending at the largest opening for swimming with the rest of the tourists. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-25 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-26 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-27 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-28 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-29

When we made it back to our car, we continued north, and whenever we saw a sign for a beach, would pull off the road to check it out. The beaches were all down little dirt roads and a short walk through the woods. I don’t know if it was because we were there in the rainy season, but they were all completely empty—it was amazing! We’d have an entire jaw-droppingly beautiful beach to ourselves. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-30 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-31 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-32 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-33

We ended up exploring the coast like this until late into the afternoon when we figured we should turn around and start making our way back to Port Douglas. If we hadn’t stopped at so many beaches along the way, we could have gone a little deeper into Daintree and done guided tours of the rainforest, but oh well—we had fun doing our own thing and felt we got enough hiking in around the gorge.

The Great Barrier Reef

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-44Our last day in Port Douglas, we set out for a tour of the Great Barrier Reef—by far the most touristy thing we did while traveling. As recommended by the owners of our hotel, we signed up for an all-day boat cruise with Quicksilver Cruises that would drop us off at three different reef locations for snorkeling and diving.

We were on the fence about paying the extra money to scuba dive, but I’m glad we didn’t. The three locations we stopped at were definitely chosen with snorkelers in mind—shallow with tons of fish towards the top of the reef.

The boat took off around 9AM and took us about an hour out to sea to our first location. There honestly wasn’t much difference between the three spots, but it was nice having the diving broken up into three excursions so that we could have snack breaks and some relaxing sun bathing on the boat. The tour company also served us up a hearty buffet-style lunch. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-41 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-43

The Great Barrier Reef is gorgeous, and I was blown away at just how many fish there were—it’s like the Manhattan of sea life! Now don’t get me wrong, we loved it; but to be honest, I felt a little underwhelmed considering this is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I’ve done some equally beautiful snorkeling right in Mexico! To be fair though, the GBR is massive—I’m sure we didn’t go to the most beautiful part of it. Had we chartered a seaplane to take us out to the most remote reef with trained scuba divers, I’m sure we would have been stunned. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-42

Beautiful nonetheless, and we even saw a couple baby reef sharks!

Cairns … But Really Just Gilligan’s

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-47This part of the trip was hilarious. The night we got back from our GBR boat tour, we decided to take the shuttle van back to Cairns and spend the night so we could catch an early fight back to Sydney the next day. We didn’t know where to stay, but I remembered my friend saying she’d stayed at a hostel called Gilligan’s when she was traveling through Cairns. Now when she was in Australia, she had just graduated college—a very, um, different time in one’s life than where I am now. But that didn’t really cross my mind when I booked us a room…

We roll up to Gilligan’s, and at first I think we’ve just accidently been dropped off at a strip club. The outside is plastered with pictures of half naked girls funneling beers and wrestling in petroleum jelly (I’m not exaggerating even a little bit), and there was the loud thudding sound of bass spilling out into the street at like 7PM. What in the…

Turns out Gilligan’s isn’t just a hostel—it’s one of the biggest nightclubs in Cairns. In fact, it’s really just a nightclub that happens to have communal bedrooms attached to it. LOLLOLLOL

We were definitely two of the oldest people staying there (womp womp), but it didn’t take long for us to embrace it. Up until that point in our trip, we had been so nonstop go-go-go during the day that we went to bed early every night, totally pooped. So when we realized we had accidently booked a room at Australia’s number one party hostel, we just kinda looked at each other and went, “OK, let’s get weird.”

And we definitely did. Surrounded by 18 year olds, I decided to drink like an 18 year old, and heavily paid the price the next day haha. I hate being hungover on vacations because you waste the whole day, but luckily it was down pouring all morning so I didn’t feel too guilty about sleeping in.

We didn’t get to do much exploring of Cairns before heading back to Sydney, but we heard there’s great white water rafting in the area and I wish we’d looked into doing that. Oh well, next time! traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-34Welp, there you have it! It was an amazing two weeks, and so nice to be able to take a break from reality and just enjoy ourselves. I didn’t realize how much I needed a vacation until we went! And the icing on the cake was that the trip was perfectly timed so that we missed all the snow storms Boston got slammed with–well, except for the last one. That one occurred just as we were trying to fly back, which resulted in all our flights getting cancelled and re-routed. We ended up having to fly from Sydney to San Francisco to Detroit (spent the night in Detroit) to Minneapolis to Newark (spent another night in Newark) and FINALLY to Boston. Meanwhile our bags went to Atlanta. It was such a disaster that it was funny. Look at how many boarding passes it took us to get home: traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-59Good. Times. signature