Paleo Protein Bar Review & Giveaway: Exo

To prep for my upcoming trip to Europe, I’ve been stashing up on snacks and protein bars to bring with me. For the days that I will be walking around a lot, working out, unable to find food right away, I need snacks on hand to tide me over. Insert: Exo Protein Bars! For those of you who are a little more adventurous, these bars are made out of cricket protein powder. Yep, you read that right. Crickets.

Now before you stop reading and swear on your dead body that you would NEVER eat a bug, let me drop a little knowledge on you about the greatness of these bars:

  • the percentage of protein used in these bars is almost 2-6 times more than any other protein source
  • crickets are a complete protein source
  • crickets produce 100x less greenhouse gases than cows
  • raising crickets is dramatically less harmful than raising traditional livestock – see the info chart below!

exo info

So are you sold on trying them yet? If not, below is my own personal review – and let me tell you, I was a bit freaked out at first to eat bugs 😉

Exo sent me 4 bars to try:
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Blueberry
Apple cinnamon
Cocao nut

Exo protein bars

I originally thought blueberry would be my favorite – however, the Peanut Butter & Jelly and the Cocoa nut ended up being my favorite! The blueberry & Apple cinnamon bars tasted a little earthy – I liked that the other 2 bars had a more prominent flavor. When I first tried these bars, I was definitely thinking a few things: OMG. I am eating crickets. Are these going to be crunchy? OMG this is gross.

After taking a few bites, I realized that it wasn’t so bad. The crickets are washed, dried to remove the moisture, then milled into fine flour. The result is slightly nutty-tasting flour that is high in protein and micronutrients (source). I think the only issue with these bars is the mental hurdle – the fact that you are eating bugs. If someone handed me this bar without telling me it was made with crickets, I would have thought it was just a tasty protein bar. And – if you need any more convincing – a few of my girlfriends tried these bars with me, and they gave a thumbs up!

So – after reading my reviews, I know you all are just itching to try these bars… especially you adventurous, paleo, backpacking, planet-saving people of the earth! Exo has 1 box of PB&J bars to give away to one lucky winner. All you have to do is 1) 1) Follow my blog and 2) tell me why you want to try these bars! Enter at the link below, and leave your response in the comments below. Rafflecop will randomly choose a winner by the end of Monday, 9/7 @ 11:59 pm ET. I can’t wait to read everyone’s response!

**This contest is now closed… The winner is Linda R! Congrats!

Click here to be entered into the EXO Protein Bar Giveaway!

**The product provided for the review was free of charge from the company. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. My opinions are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. 

Yoga Workhop with Kino: Twists, Handstands & Ashtanga Yoga!

A few weeks ago, I spent an entire weekend attending a workshop with Kino Macgregor. And it.was.amazing! I learned so much in such a small amount of time, and I am still trying to absorb it all. It was my first time ever taking an Ashtanga class, and I ended up loving it! It was tough, not just physically but also mentally, which is right up my alley. I think one of the things I felt that was missing from my Yoga teacher training, and even just taking yoga classes in general, is the correct alignment and anatomy of the body while doing poses. I am ALL about details, and Ashtanga is amazing for learning them. I felt like such a newb, as my original thought on this type of practice was that it is too rigid and boring. Fortunately, perceptions and beliefs are always subject to change 🙂

Note: for those who don’t know what Ashtanga yoga is, below is a description found on the Ashtanga Yoga Columbus website:

The Ashtanga system is designed to purify the body, promote proper functioning of the digestive system, build strength, and restore range of motion to the body. The method of practice taught in Ashtanga Yoga relies on linking postures with deep, even breathing and steady gazing with the eyes. The system of linking the breath with movement is known as vinyasa and encourages the blood to circulate properly allowing the removal of unwanted toxins. The gazing point helps to facilitate a state of meditation, having a profound effect on the steadiness of the mind.

Yoga on High hosted Kino MacGregor, which they do every year. There was a series of classes: 1 on Friday, 2 on Saturday, and 2 on Sunday.

Friday night, we learned all about Sun Salutation A… I could not believe how much detail went into the movement and positioning of the arms, shoulders, hips, stomach, etc. I felt like I needed to take an entire course on how to do this beginning yoga sequence!

Saturday morning, I took my first Primary Series Class… and it kicked.my.butt. By the time I came back from the afternoon break, I didn’t think I could even lift my arms!

Saturday afternoon was all about handstands. I always love taking handstand workshops, as I eventually want to put on my own (hopefully by the end of the year.. stay tuned ;)). With barely any arm strength left, I was able to make it through this workshop with a lot more understanding of body positioning while upside down. And, I even got to snap a pic with Kino herself – she really is awesome!

Kino MacGregor & Nina Elise Handstand

Kino MacGregor & Nina Elise Handstand

Sunday morning I had to teach MY yoga class, so I unfortunately missed the Mysore class. But, also a relief, because I could barely move my body after Saturday’s classes.

The Sunday afternoon class was all about twists – how to move your body to actually get into a twisted pose, and how to go deeper. So. Much. Information. It was AMAZING. I even designed my yoga class the week after around twists – that’s how much I learned! I didn’t realize it, but I don’t really do much twisting poses in my own practice… So learning new poses and being able to actually do them after being walked through the steps to do it – awesome.

After taking the weekend workshop, I have been dying to take another Ashtanga class. Not because I want to teach it – I love my power vinyasa flow classes! – but because I want to learn how to properly move my body and do the poses correctly. I would sit through a 2 hour class every day just to learn more about the anatomy of the body & detailed descriptions of how to get into poses!

Anyways -since my schedule has been so busy at work, I have been trying to take a Mysore Ashtanga class for beginners – and I finally got the chance to go the other day. I went to Ashtanga Yoga Columbus – a studio fully dedicated to the traditional Ashtanga practice. The studio is small – only 1 room, tucked away on the second floor with a few other businesses. It is perfect for a Mysore practice, where students come in for their self-practice and can be helped as needed. There were 2 instructors that walked around, helping the new students as well as veterans. I felt very comfortable, and the instructors were great at explaining the poses. I never felt judged, or like I was doing anything incorrect – it was a big, open space, and everyone was just doing their own thing.

The first half of the sequence was broken down in parts, so whenever I finished, an instructor would come over and show me the next set of poses I needed to do. I spent an hour practicing, and it was the perfect amount of time. Unfortunately, My work schedule has been a bit crazy (60-70 hours a week, can I get a nap??), so it’s almost impossible to get there when you work at 7 am until 9 pm at night… buuuut, I am trying to learn more of the the Ashtanga primary series before my next class so I don’t have to rely on the instructors.

So for those who have never done Ashtanga Yoga before, I recommend heading out to Ashtanga Yoga Columbus and taking a beginner Mysore class – it is a great workout, and very meditative since you are focusing on your breath the entire time (5 breaths per pose!). Very different from the heated power flows that I normally do – no heat, its just holding a series of poses, and it can take 1-2 hours to complete the practice. A little more rigid, but definitely worth a try! Has anyone else tried Ashtanga yoga? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear!

ACL Post-Surgery: 1.5 Years

It has been 1.5 years since my knee surgery last February, and I wanted to give an update on how my knee is feeling!

Running:
I have taken a mini hiatus from running due to picking up teaching yoga, working 50-70 hours/week at my full time job, as well as trying to fit in my own personal yoga practice… so when I do run now, it is 1-2 times a week, running 3-6 miles at a time. Also – because of the runners knee I developed earlier this year, I decided to take it easy on running to give my knee a rest after running the quarter marathon back in May.

I’ve started going to a different chiropractor, who has been doing some soft tissue work on my scar tissue, which I think has been helping. It’s painful, but great. I feel a little instability/clicking behind my knee, but I am thinking it is just scar tissue. I also still have issues with my IT band from time to time, but I need to be more conscious of rolling on my foam roller after I go for a run. Oh – and I’ve also been using a lacrosse ball to work out knots – in my hips, my back, shoulders, ankles, chest, calves, etc. It HURTS… but the tightness and knots are making things worse, so getting in there and working them out end up helping in the long run.

I had a full-on evaluation of my gait (while running) the other day, and this is what they found:

my hips are tight (way tighter than I realized)
I am kicking my legs back too much (bending my knees) and not engaging my glutes when I run. Like, at all. This means I overcompensate and use my quad/hamstring muscles, which tire out.
**The woman evaluating me looked at my butt, then told me that with the amount of running I do, my butt should be way bigger. I literally laughed out loud, because I thought my butt had gotten bigger… I used to have such a pancake butt, its kind of what I was known for. Hey, baby steps.
Because of the above, it is causing stress on my IT band, which it why it tightens up so badly after my runs increase past 5 miles
My right hip is way outa line. I can’t even do a pistol squat properly on that leg.
My right hip is out because my knee is out of line (on my good knee! dangit.). So, looking at my legs, my right knee splays in, while my left knee (new ACL knee) is in one straight line up and down from my ankle up to my quad.

What does this mean? Retraining the alignment of my knee, strengthening my hips, improving my hip flexibility and learning to use my butt when I run! So physical therapy every. day.

Because of all of this, I’m an going to focus solely on fixing these small details before really getting back into running. I’d rather give my body a break and start from the bottom so I am not continuing to get burnt out from running so much, as well as getting these recurring injuries.

Yoga:
Continuing to do yoga, because 1) I like it and 2) it is low impact on my knee. Between teaching and taking heated classes, my knee flexibility has improved immensely. I can do full on lotus (see below!), which is part in due to hip flexibility improving… And there are days where my knee does feel stiff and swollen, but it only happens maybe 1-2 times a month. I’ll ice to help, or even stretch to loosen up the muscles a bit.

Lotus pose in handstand

Lotus pose in handstand

Overall, I am still seeing changes in how my knee feels, even 1.5 years post op. Taking off running & incorporating cross training has helped my runners knee (more time at the gym + tennis), so it is not an issue for me anymore. When I do cross training, I don’t even think about the cutting and moving around – before, I used to be so conscious and babying my knee because I was scared of re-tearing the ACL. So even playing tennis is a lot easier, and I can move freely without having to think about my knee.

I will say, the biggest issues are just the IT band, which I can fix just by strengthening my hip and glute muscles…. and the numbness on the outside of my shin. It still doesn’t feel right, like I never regained full feeling back where the nerve was hit. I can feel that part of my leg, it’s just a weird tingly feeling when I press on that small area. I feel like I am still getting feeling back, but I think it is just taking foreverrrr.

I think that’s all I have to report! For those who have gone through an ACL surgery – how are you feeling 1.5 years post-op? 2 years? 3 years? I would love to hear how you are doing!

Nina Elise Yoga

1.5 years post-op ACL surgery in left knee

This e-book was created as a guide to help everyone – Adults, Kids, Athletes, and Non-Athletes – recovering from ACL surgery. After reading this guide, you will have a better understanding of what to expect, surgery options, costs & insurance, and a detailed timeline for recovery.

Improve your range of motion, increase your strength, and feel more confident post-surgery with a 2 month yoga progression plan.

Yoga Photo Shoot + 1st time teaching Yoga!

This past week, I teamed up with G10 Photography, a local photographer in Columbus, to do a mini yoga photo shoot. I really love being able to try new things, and the whole experience was very cool!

One thing you should know about me is that I am a total nerd – I prepare and organize everything in my life, down to typing up notes and writing out my entire weeks agenda 1-2 weeks ahead of time. Since I am still fairly new to this whole yoga photography thing, I planned everything beforehand: picking out poses I wanted to do/try, different outfits to wear, etc. I even had my friend come with me to help out/direct me, because sometimes it’s hard knowing what I actually look like in the poses I’m doing!

After I arrived, I changed and stretched a LOT, so I was ready to go after about a half hour. I honestly don’t know how fit models do it – I was exhausted near the end from holding all of the poses, and am so glad I brought water and a snack to eat! We spent a total of about 2 hours in his studio – below are a few of my favorite shots!

Pincha Mayurasana  Hollowback Forearm Stand

Bakasana - Crow with reverse hands

This entire past week has been crazy – between running the quarter marathon on Saturday, I’ve also been packing for my trip and cramming in last minute study sessions with my required yoga reading list. Lot’s of late nights – up until 12:30 am studying, only to get up at 5:30 am for 7 mile runs + yoga classes 1-3 nights a week. Working 50 hours a week, fitting in guitar lessons, book club and seeing friends & family, I feel like I haven’t slept in years. But i LOVE it. I wouldn’t trade this craziness for anything in the world!

Anyways – back to yoga.. You know how I said I was total nerd and prepared for everything? Well, I take notes when reading my yoga books, and have even typed up the entire Baptiste Power Yoga flow so I can clearly see everything laid out in front of me. I learn best when engaged in all types of learning styles – visual, hearing, hands on.. Reading notes & asking my yoga teachers a lot of questions after class are 2 ways I’ve been learning the past few months, but I haven’t been able to actually TEACH. And teaching a yoga class – with me as the only student – isn’t exactly the same as teaching someone else how to do yoga ?

I wanted to start practicing teaching a little bit in order to become more familiar with the Baptiste Power flow sequence, and fortunately for me, I have a lot of willing friends to volunteer as students! This past Thursday, I taught my first Yoga “class” – and by class, I mean my friend came over and I led her through a 50 minute power yoga flow. I was a little nervous and had to look at my notes a few times, but I did it… and loved it! (I found a Playlist made by Yoga Girl on Spotify and it was perfect!)

Actually teaching someone is very different than doing it alone – trying to find the right words to say, how to say it, knowing the correct pose names, the different sequences… it was nerve-wracking, and almost a little uncomfortable. I think about how awesome all of my yoga teachers are, and how they always have the most profound or touching things to say during their class. Having an impact on someone, even if it is just for 50 minutes, can change their thinking, their mood, their day… It’s such a beautiful thing. Every teacher is different, and I think with practice, it will get easier and easier to become more comfortable in teaching and finding my own voice.

For all you Yoga teachers (or any teacher!) out there – how did you learn to teach? What were the most challenging things when getting your YTT certification? The most fun or satisfying? I would love to hear from you!

Protein Bar Review & Giveaway!

Hi Loves! A few weeks ago, RX Bar sent me a box of their protein bars to try – and they did not disappoint! For those of you who follow a Paleo lifestyle or have completed a whole30 before – these are apparently lifesavers. Since they only contain a minimal amount of ingredients (nuts, egg white protein, figs, dates), they are great for those with a food allergy or a limited diet. With my upcoming trip, I was looking for a good protein bar to take with me, and I think I have found The One. I have been eating these pre & post-workout, and they give me a ton of energy… with NO stomach issues! It’s incredibly hard to find a good quality protein bar that doesn’t upset my stomach, and RX Bar has nailed it.

RX Bar

I was able to try all of their flavors – I tried them all out in the order that I thought I would like the best. Surprisingly, blueberry was my favorite! It wasn’t too sweet, and the texture wasn’t as sticky as the other flavors. RX Bar Blueberry Peanut butter was my next favorite flavor – the texture was a little sticky, but the little bits of peanuts & flavor were spot-on. Apple Cinnamon – it wasn’t bad by any means, I am just not really a fan of apples. However, if you are into the apple-cinnamon taste with a little bit of cider flavoring, you would love this! Coffee Cacao – I actually ate this first, thinking it would be the best tasting. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a flavor to it at all, and it got stuck to my teeth a lot. It had a sticky/gummy-like consistency to it, and it got a little messy when eating it (think sticky fingers & nothing nearby to wash my hands). It wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t my favorite. Last but not least: Coconut Cacao. I don’t really eat anything coconut, so this really surprised me. There was only a hint of coconut, and there was a nice crunch from the almond pieces. Also – there are chocolate chips in this bar, so it’s kind of hard not to like 😉 Coffee Cacao Sooooo after trying all of these DELICIOUS bars, I contacted RX Bar to see if they would like to share some of their amazing goodness with a giveaway… and they have a sample 10 pack of all 5 flavors for one lucky winner! All YOU need to do is 1) Follow my blog and 2) Comment on this post telling me what you think your favorite flavor might be and why you want these protein bars in your belly! A winner will be randomly chosen 1 week from today… so enter at the link below and comment away! 🙂 Click here to be entered into the RX Bar giveaway! **The product provided for the review was free of charge from the company. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. My opinions are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. 

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