Recipes

Healthy Taco Lettuce Wraps

Welcome back to Living Purposefully and Happy Monday!

How was everyone’s weekend?  We had such gorgeous weather in Missouri last week and even though this weekend has been like a regression back into winter (*insert eye roll*), I’m actually still riding that good weather-high of last week. There were lots of long walks with my dog, windows rolled down, reading outside on my porch . . . the works.  My preschoolers also reaped the majority of the sunny weather last week and were behaving 10x less nutty than before so I left the week pretty darn content.  I am a sunshine girl through and through.

On Wednesday night after my easy peasy workout (it was deload week for me aka I’m craving a good sweat) and a walk with my dog, I cooked up some healthy taco lettuce wraps!  I have honestly never made lettuce wraps on my own before because I normally prefer a tortilla or shell, but summer is quickly approaching and I know that small food swaps here and there will get me closer to what I want my summer body to look like!  And before you think I’m one of those crazy people that doesn’t eat any carbs ever, I am a carb-loving girl and am practically a carb myself, but I found that I didn’t even miss a traditional shell/tortilla thanks to the strong flavor of the meat and the crunchiness of the lettuce.

I will preface this recipe saying that I do enjoy a spicier taste so if you are sensitive to spice at all, I would reduce each spice measurement just a bit and taste as you go to be safe.  I also am extremely bad at measuring recipes and tend to just eyeball it and taste as I go (years of watching Rachel Ray on the Food Network primed me for this), so if you add each spice and notice that you’re still wanting more flavor, add some more in!  This is actually my first time measuring out my own dinner recipe in awhile, so  you’re welcome 😉

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tbs of minced garlic
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef (I use 93/7)
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic  salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons of cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning (I like the extra punch of spice from adding this so feel free to omit if you don’t have!)
  • 1 head of lettuce (I just used plain iceberg but Blake suggested that butter lettuce would have been even better!)
  • Toppings (I used hot sauce and garlic hummus but think that plain greek yogurt and cheese would have been super yummy too)

Directions

Heat up your olive oil and minced garlic in a pan over medium heat just until warm.  Add your bell peppers and all of  your seasonings to the pan and sautee until close to being done to your liking (I like mine a bit softer than others).  I chose this blend of seasonings just because to me, it creates the flavor that I personally want in tacos but you can use just about any kind of combination of seasonings that you enjoy!

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Tony Chachere’s is my favorite brand of Creole seasoning (thanks, Dad) and always seems to add just the perfect amount of saltiness, spiciness, and flare to any dish I add it to.  (Side note: how adorable is that tablespoon from the Pioneer Woman line?! I want to be her.)

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Make sure to stir frequently so your peppers don’t get too charred on one side.  Add your ground beef just before the peppers are done because the beef should cook up quickly in your already-hot pan.  Cook the beef thoroughly (until all pink is gone) and set aside.

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Now pull a FULL leaf off of your head of lettuce and make sure it’s big enough for however much filling you’re wanting to use.

Now you get to assemble  your “tacos!”  I put a tablespoon of garlic hummus on the bottom of my lettuce leaf and then added my meat and pepper mixture on top and then finished with Frank’s Hot Sauce.  YUM.

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I seriously was skeptical how much I would miss a traditional shell, but I honestly didn’t notice it was gone at all.  This will become a staple in my diet for sure now and I only wish I had tried this sooner!  As a point of reference, a typical soft tortilla will run you about 140-200 calories and a hard shell has about 50 calories, so replacing the occasional home-cooked taco nights with lettuce leaves will help save me enough calories that I can even squeeze in a dessert if I want to 😉

I hope you guys love this recipe as much as I did and I’d love to know if you try it!

As always, thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a wonderful, successful week ❤

xoxo Jordan

Recipes

The End-All Be-All Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Hello, friends, and welcome back!

I hope everyone had a great weekend, whether it was packed full of fun activities or entirely restful.  My weekend started Friday at 5:30 pm and I was beyond ready to relax a little bit and let loose!  Something in the air had my preschoolers actin’ a fool allllll week.

I met up with Blake at the gym right after work on Friday and after we completed our respective workouts, I headed home to shower and get ready for a friend’s retirement party!  It was such a fun night with great company, great food, and great drinks.  Saturday was much more relaxed and it was spent with lots of reading, baking, and time with my nephew before heading to get a low-key barbecue dinner with Blake.

I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my nephew while my sister was at work and I just cannot get over how much I adore these cookies.  They are everything that a chocolate chip cookie should be.  Chewy on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside, choc(k) full of chocolate (pun intended 😉 ), and super thick.

If you’re a chocolate chip cookie aficionado like I am, then you too have probably tried a million and one different recipes for them.  I have been baking since high school and each time I tried a new recipe, I was left disappointed.  Either they were too thin, too flat, too flour-y, too sweet, not sweet enough, too cake-y . . . I could go on for hours.  Basically, they sucked compared to Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies and it griiiiiinded my gears.  Every time I found a new recipe, I would try it in hopes that I had finally found the holy grail, but to no avail.

And then, it happened.

I stumbled across a recipe from Modern Honey and I followed this phenomenal recipe, except for a few tweaks here and there to fit my personal tastes better.  I almost cried tears of joy after I taste-tested them and realized that this was it.  This was the chocolate chip cookie recipe to end all other chocolate chip cookie recipes.  I make these probably once a month because I seriously cannot be trusted having them just sitting in my kitchen, unless I’m making them for someone else.

You guys have to try these cookies out and when you do, immediately give them to someone else or you’ll end up like me, eating 3 massive cookies for dinner and feeling sick the rest of the night.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat your oven to 410 degrees.  This is a bit higher than other recipes because it’s going to create that irresistible chewy outside and gooey inside.  Cream together your cold butter, brown sugar, and white sugar for about 6-7 (or even more) minutes until it’s a uniform mixture.  This takes a bit of time because you’re starting with cold butter instead of room temperature or melted butter as some recipes call for, but I promise it’ll be worth it.  The picture below is what it will look like before it finally starts to break up all of that butter.

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Patience, my friends 😉

Add in your eggs and mix together again.  Slowly incorporate the flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing well each time you add more flour.  Now, this is the only slight caveat about the recipe; you’re going to notice that once you add in all of the flour, your dough is going to be pretty dry.  The first time I made this recipe, I was scared that I had somehow messed it up!

It will look like coarse crumbs and you’ll probably be wondering what the heck happened, but that just means it’s time to get your hands dirty.  I put the mixer away and then I mix everything up with my hands and after a couple of minutes of kneading, the dough finally gets wetter and looks/feels like normal cookie dough.  This is what it will look like after some kneadin’.

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After your dough gets to this stage, add in your chocolate chips!  I used a mixture of milk chocolate chips (I’m a Nestle Tollhouse girl to the core) and chopped up Hershey Kisses.  This is my favorite combination because you get plenty of big chocolate chips and then the chopped up Hershey Kisses evenly disperse throughout the cookie, leaving you with flecks of chocolate in every single bite.

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Now, it’s time to shape your cookie dough onto cookie sheets!  (Or eat it off a spoon watching reruns of The Office, I won’t judge.)  The bigger the better with your cookie dough balls because then they will stay taller and thicker.

Bake your cookies for 8-10 minutes (just depending on how big you made them) and WATCH CAREFULLY.  The higher oven temperature makes these brown quicker than normal and a little bit of brown on the edges is what you want, but if you let it brown too much it’ll ruin the gooeyness that we want on the inside.

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Once you take them out of the oven, let cool slightly and then admire the beauties that you have just baked up.

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These pictures make me absolutely elated after knowing how many botched batches of cookies I have tested over the years!

Clearly, these cookies are not a healthy recipe nor do they offer any nutritional value (besides a happy stomach), but I am a firm believer that a delicious chocolate chip cookie can always be squeezed into almost everyone’s diet 🙂

Try these cookies out and I promise you will never want to try another recipe again!

 

xoxo Jordan

 

 

 

Fitness

My Top 5 Favorite Benefits From Weightlifting

Welcome back to Living Purposefully, friends!

How is everyone’s week going?  I always find that I feel 1 of 2 ways when going back to work after a weekend (and especially after a holiday weekend): either refreshed and ready to get back to my schedule or wishing for more time to relax and take a breather.  Luckily, I’ve been feeling pretty optimistic this week and happy to be back with my kiddos and on top of my gym routine.  And it doesn’t hurt that it’s Thursday and almost the weekend 😉  As always, feel free to let me know in the comments how your week has been!

If you have followed me for longer than 2 seconds, you’ve probably noticed me post or talk about something weightlifting-related.  It’s no longer a habit and has become pretty second-nature to me, which I am so grateful for.  My love goes out to all those people just beginning to set healthy habits because it can be seriously hard sometimes to get in the habit of things!

Weightlifting has my heart and is something I see myself doing for as long as my body allows me to.  It has the ability to completely transform a person, not only physically, but mentally as well.  Today I want to share my personal fitness account and how it’s changed from when I was 16 and just beginning to work out on my own until now, at the ripe ‘ol age of 23 😉

I began exercising on my own after one volleyball season in high school had ended, admittedly because I was afraid of gaining weight (16 year old melodrama, clearly), and I just started slowly with cardio on the treadmill.  I worked my way up from running 10 minutes straight to 20 minutes up to 30 minutes straight.  After reaching the point to where I could run for 30 minutes (or around 3 miles) straight, I began to feel a bit restless and wanted the challenge of adding muscle finally.  Cardio is great for sooo many things, but if it’s muscle definition or strength you’re looking for, you have to look elsewhere to create the stimulation that growing muscles require.

I veered off from the treadmill and into more circuit-style and HITT (high intensity interval training) workouts and this entertained me for awhile and I definitely enjoyed the addition of anaerobic exercise into my life.

After I began finally adding some muscle with bodyweight exercises, I started seeing more and more about the benefits of weightlifting on social media, magazaines, tv shows, and basically any platform designed to reach people.  It was super intimidating to get started and I could talk for hours on why it took me so long to begin, but I talk a bit about that in a previous post.

Today I just want to share some of the greatest benefits that can be reaped through weightlifting and hopefully encourage some of y’all to get started and fall in love with it like I did.

Disclaimer: While I do have my Bachelor’s degree in Corporate Fitness, I am not certified in personal training, so please don’t feel like you have to take any of my advice to heart.

Benefit #1= Muscle Definition (Duh)

  • I know this seems like a common sense thing, but so many people mistake hours and hours of cardio as a way to gain definition.
  • Muscles need stimulation to grow, and you can only add so much stimulation through cardio (i.e. treadmills, bikes, bodyweight exercises, etc).  Adding extra weight through barbells, dumbbells, and machines is going to create the “damage” and stimulus needed to grow your muscles.
  • While I am preaching about the benefit of muscle definition, let me be clear when I say that you w i l l  n o t  b e c o m e  b u l k y  f r o m  l i f t i ng  w e i g h t s.  I wish I could drill this into everyone’s head because I know it is such a common misconception!  I was the same way until I actually did some research through scientific articles and personal experiences and found that this couldn’t be more false.
    • The average adult male’s testosterone’s levels have a range of 270-1070 ng/dl and an average adult woman’s testosterone’s levels will only hit a range of 15-70 ng/dl.  This means that without outside influences (aka taking steroids), a woman’s body is unable to reach anywhere near the levels of testosterone needed to get “bulky.” 
    • Unless you are consuming more calories than you burn daily (being in a caloric surplus), lifting weights is only going to burn fat and add muscle without adding muscle and fat, inhibiting the “bulky” look most women fear.

Benefit #2= Better Body Composition

  • When looking to begin a weight loss regimen, it’s important to remember what kind of weight you’re looking to lose.
  • Adding cardiovascular exercise is going to be beneficial for burning calories, especially if you have more than just a couple of pounds to lose, but cardiovascular exercise also burns quite a bit of muscle if gaining muscle/definition is your goal.
  • Weightlifting not only helps reduce the amount of fat you have, but it also adds on the muscle that people are looking for and helps prevent the “skinny fat” look.
    • When I was solely doing cardio for exercise, I was thin and didn’t look out of shape in clothes, but underneath my clothes I could tell that there wasn’t much muscle.  That’s what spurred my longing for a different form of exercise that would “shape” my body.  I feel like this is something a lot of people can relate to!
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      Left was summer of 2012 when I was solely doing cardio as my exercise.  Right was in February 2018 after lifting for around 5 years.
  • If you’ve ever done a body fat measurement, the best way to reduce this number is obviously going to be to decrease the amount of fat mass you have on you.  Instead of doing tons of cardiovascular exercise to try and lose this fat and risking the loss of precious muscle, your best bet is going to be to increase your muscle mass through weight training (and of course a good diet, which I’ll cover in another post!)

Benefit #3= Greater Daily Caloric Burn

  • If you’ve ever taken an exercise science-y class, you’ve probably heard of your BMR, or basal metabolic rate.  This is basically just how many calories your body burns by existing.  So metabolic processes, respiration, temperature regulation, and other vital functions all burn calories without you even expending any effort.  Here’s where the cool part is: muscle burns more calories than fat does, just by simply being there.  So when you increase the amount of muscle you put on through weightlifting, you are really burning more calories throughout the day, just by being alive! 
  • There are a few components to total daily energy expenditure (or TDEE): basal metabolic rate, the thermic effect of food, and physical activity.  Your basal metabolic rate makes up for the largest effect on TDEE (about 70%) and so your best bet at burning the most amount of calories without spending hours in the gym every day is going to be adding more muscle mass through weightlifting.  1ec7fe9c79b85469e92bfa603e6a06b1.png
  • When I was only doing cardio for my exercise and was “skinny fat,” I was only consuming around 1200 calories and still feeling like I needed to diet more.  Around 6 months after I began weightlifting in 2013, I began to notice that I could eat around 200-300 more calories each day without feeling bloated or like I was gaining weight.  Now I eat around 2000 calories to maintain my weight and around 1800 calories for when I am cutting weight.  This is an increase in 800 calories simply becauase my body needs more fuel (specifically more carbs and protein) to lift weights and build the muscle I want to build.

Benefit #4= Stress Reliever 

  • If you’re anything like me, sometimes the only thing you want to do after a rough day is grab a bottle of wine and go to town.  While I definitely do this every once in awhile after a rough day, my favorite way to de-stress nowadays is to hit the gym.
  • We’ve all seen the iconic Legally Blonde scene when Elle Woods says “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people don’t kill their husbands.”  download                I’m sure you all can personally attest to this statement!  Whether it be cardio, weightlifting, or simply walking, endorphins are going to be released.
    • Endorphins aren’t the only feel-good chemical released during exercise; dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are all released as well during any sort of physical activity.  
  • While I love and encourage any kind of exercise for endorphins and mood-enhancing, I personally find that lifting weights leaves me more relaxed and positive than any other kind of exercise.  Nothing feels more stress-relieving than lifting heavier than you did the last time or doing more reps than before and feeling the oh-so-good buuuurn in your muscles.
  • Another thing I love about weightlifting is that it leaves me more energized than before.  I still do cardio and enjoy reaping hearth-health benefits, but cardio always leaves me sleepier than I was before.  This is especially annoying if I’m working out in the morning because I don’t know about you guys, but dragging my feet at my job surrounded by kids is not fun.  When I lift in the mornings before work, I feel like I have the extra spring in my step that makes my days much better!
  • The next time you’re feeling extra stressed out about something, head to the gym and lift some heavy weights and I bet you will feel 100x better than you did before.

Benefit #5= Anti-Aging Benefits

  • While I am only 23 and clearly don’t have many, if any, signs of aging yet, I know that prevention is the best medicine.  There are numerous benefits on your body from weightlifting and science is only proving more and more each day!
  • Women lose bone mass each year after they reach a certain age and while there is no way to completely deter all bone mass losses, weightlifting is a certain way to continually strengthen bone mass.
    • Weightlifting is actually proven to increase bone density and there’s no better way to prevent weak bones and decrease chances for injury than strengthening our bones through the impact of weightlifting.
  • A common misconception is that weightlifting can damage our joints as we age.  This is actually completely false and the opposite is, in fact, true.
    • Strengthening our ligaments, joints, and the surrounding muscles helps decrease our chances for injuries during exercise and just activities of daily living.
    • The only way that weightlifting injures our joints is through incorrect form or too heavy of weight.
    • I honestly can say that my body has never felt like it moves better than when I started weightlifting.  Of course, soreness is a side effect of weightlifting, but after the soreness subsides and you begin to gain more muscle, I think you’ll too begin to notice that your body moves a bit more fluidly and feels less achy.
  • Any girl knows that the telltale sign of age is going to be wrinkly, paper-y skin.  Exercise has been proven to be beneficial to skin in the long haul for a plethora of reasons.
    • When we exercise, our blood flow is increased and this helps our skin get the oxygen it craves.   Oxygen is so vital to our skin cells and helps keep our skin fresher, younger, and bouncier than if we were to go without exercise.  
    • This increased blood flow also removes waste products from our skin cells. 
    • Studies have been done on women who exercise frequently compared to women who don’t and have found that those who do exercise frequently have thicker dermis layers in the skin.  Thicker dermis layers=plumper, more youthful skin! 
  • There are numerous examples of women (and men) bodybuilders over the age of 60 who look half their age that you could google for hours.  While not everyone is going to be (or wants to be) a bodybuilder, everyone can garner the anti-aging benefits through lifting just a couple (2-4x) per week.

 

Alllllright.  So obviously I could talk about this for hours and while it clearly pains me to be concise (hello, 2000 words), I think those benefits mentioned are probably my top reasons why I love to weightlift!  I seriously think that once you make weightlifting a habit, it’ll eventually become a hobby and you’ll begin to see yourself transform into a way happier, healthier person.

If you ever have any questions about getting started or just questions in general about weightlifting, feel free to text me, message me, or leave a comment and I would love to chat with you!  Everyone deserves to feel at their most confident at every age and I can personally attest to the great changes my body has felt since delving into weightlifting.

I also want to add that any exercise is going to incredibly beneficial for you in the long haul and I always encourage any sort of movement, even just walking!  Weightlifting just happens to be the exercise that keeps me wanting to go back for more.

xoxo Jordan

 

In the comments, let me know what your favorite kind of exercise is and why!  I would love to hear from you 🙂

Travel

Texas and New Mexico Trip Recap- & Why Speed Bumps Are Always Worth It

Welcome back to Living Purposefully!  Once again, thank you a million times over for reading what little ‘ol me has to say 🙂

Today on the blog I want to share a recap about my trip to Texas and New Mexico that left me feeling incredibly relaxed, refreshed, and renewed before heading back to work.  I also want to talk a bit about allllll of the little speed bumps that happened during our trip, but instead of dwelling on them negatively, I want to talk about why speed bumps and how we respond to them are actually incredibly beneficial.

So let’s get started on the trip!

Blake and I had initially planned to leave Friday night for Texas but I woke up feeling pretty sick on Friday, which I blame on not getting enough sleep this week (I am an infant with how much sleep I require).  I had initially wanted to tough it out but quickly realized I was going to be miserable on a 10-hour drive, so we decided to push it back a night just to be safe.  This was a bit of a bummer considering how excited we both were!

I went to the doctor on Friday evening after work and got some antibiotics for basically a cold and I ended up feeling 10x better after my first round of medicine already.  So when I woke up Saturday morning feeling completely like myself, I was so so thankful we waited an extra night.

Check off why speed bump #1 ended up being a good thing!

Fast forward to Saturday night around 9:30 when I said goodbye to my baby girl, Bella, and we were off!  We arrived in Quitaque, Texas at Caprock Canyons State Park around 7:30 in the morning and we.were.tired.  Now, Blake is a rockstar and drove through the entire night so he was undoubtedly more tired than I was, but I actually stayed up pretty much the entire night with him so we were both a litttttle on the cranky side.

When we got to the state park, we spotted free-range bison!  I had never seen them in the wild before and apparently Quitaque is the bison capital of Texas (if you ever get asked that question in jeopardy.)

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We also found a camping spot relatively quickly among the most beautiful canyons and our moods lifted a bit . . . and then the rain hit.  According to the park ranger, it was the first rain in 5 months and so, naturally, we were a bit frustrated when we couldn’t get our tent set up without it collecting water and wind blowing everything around.  So while we sat there under a pavillion (luckily our campsite had some shelter) waiting for the rain to die down, we decided to go into town and get some things we forgot and hope that it’ll stop once we get back.

Now, I share all of that not because I want to seem whine-y, but because after we got back and I was begging Mother Nature for some sunshine since we only had one day there, the most beautiful weather emerged almost immediately.  I’m talking, “clouds-were-moving-quickly-and-the-sun-was-beaming-down” almost immediately.

Within minutes, the weather jumped from mid-40s to 70 and sunny and we were in awe.  I sat there praying my apologies to God and Mother Nature for being so instantly frustrated when it started raining instead of simply waiting for it to pass.  It was one of those moments where you think “we really do need the rain to appreciate the sunshine” and are reminded how much patience is something that needs to be practiced daily.

Speed bump #2=out of the way!

After we set up camp and rested for a little bit, we were off to explore!  We seriously lucked out with the location of our campsite because beautiful trails were literally within steps of our tent.

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These canyon views were a 5-meter walk from our tent and could not have been more gorgeous.  We decided to trek on down to the creek bed and walked along for about an hour.  The weather was so beautiful after being so rainy all morning and temperatures reached close to 80 degrees and so us Missourians were sweating!  It felt so incredibly refreshing to move and sweat in the sunshine (anyone else love a good sweat?!) after being in the car for 10ish hours.

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The canyon bed was super dry in every part we were in except for the very beginning that you can see in the picture above.  I am a big nerd and love looking at all of the different kinds of rock and there were the most beautiful gypsum chunks in the sides of the canyon walls and on the creek beds themselves.  I think geology and the formations of canyons are so interesting!  (Please tell me I’m not the only one).  According to the Texas Park & Wildlife Department, the Little Red River has been downcutting through the canyons for millions of years, creating exposed geologic layers throughout the park.

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Beautiful, right?!

We headed back to our campsite with plans to just lay around and rest a little bit more.  I started a book on Saturday right before we left and ended up covering a big chunk during Sunday afternoon and the book was so good!

—-If you are in the market for a touching and historically-based book, it was called The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

After resting for about 2 more hours, we went to another part of the park to explore an established trail.  This trail explored the lower rim of the canyons and was such a pretty hike to do at sunset.  It had amazing views all around, it was an out-and-back so we could easily turn around when we wanted to, and it wasn’t incredibly strenuous.

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Sweaty and windblown

After that hike, we were ready for some eatin’!  I had prepped a super easy foil-pack salmon recipe (will be up on the blog soon!) and when Blake ran back to town to grab stuff, he picked up some packs of Ramen noodles for us to make and share because he knew I had been craving it lately!  Such a sweetheart.

After a good night’s sleep on Sunday night (under a sky full of beautiful stars), we woke up ready to head to New Mexico!  We made a quick detour at a restaurant in Lubbock, Texas since we knew big cities would be far and few in between during the 4 hours it took us to get to Carlsbad, NM.

We stopped at a restaurant called Taqueria Jalisco and it was goooooooood.  Real, legitimate Mexican/Southwestern food and packed full at 11 am on a Monday so we knew it was the real deal.  I ordered a dish full of fajita vegetables, shrimp, steak, and chicken on top of a bed of rice and all topped off with cheese.  It was seriously the best melted cheese I’ve ever had!  Highly recommend this restaurant if you’re ever in the area.

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Once we hit Carlsbad, it was about 3:30 pm and we were heading towards Sitting Bull Falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the state.  We were pretty excited about this until we were only about 10 miles from the entrance and we realized we needed to turn back around into town for gas.  Not exactly what we wanted to do, but completely necessary, so we hightailed it back into town.

Now as I’m scrolling through the TripAdvisor website for the falls (I seriously stalk all of our activities on TripAdvisor), I notice that it says that their gates close at 4 pm and that it’s basically 4 pm already.  There was no way we were going to make it in time and that we were pretty much SOL because we had just planned on going to camp somewhere after that.  So Blake and I are both disappointed, but he calls the Park Ranger number in hopes that he can at least ask about nearby campsites.  As he’s talking to the guy, he tells us about campsites people have made right outside the entrance of the waterfalls and that there’s a campfire ring, but it’s pretty primitive.

So we drive to just before the gates and see that there is, indeed, 2 or 3 camping spots dispersed at the base of this mountain and in pretty much complete wilderness.  We decide to bite the bullet and add “primitive camping” to our traveling bucket list!  I was a bit apprehensive at first (because hello, wolves, bears, mountain lions, snakes, etc…), but it ended up being the coolest experience I could have imagined in that scenario.  Once we parked and set up camp, I felt so incredibly grateful we actually hadn’t gone anywhere else and things worked out how they did.

Speed bump #3= so worth it!

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If you could see 360 degrees around the view, it would all basically look like that.  We were almost totally isolated (luckily there were 2 cars sleeping over about 1/4 mile from us) and in the middle of a complete desert habitat.  It was incredibly cool to see the sheer height of each mountain and feel like we were in a different world in the valley of these mountains!  I highly recommend primitive camping if you ever want to get away from the norm of everyday life and get disconnected.

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Blake is an absolute champ at making fires and we enjoyed some crackers, jalapeño sausage, and the most incredble apple cinnamon cheese.  If you are on the market for a new specialty cheese, this was amazing.  Soft, cinnamon-y (but not overpoweringly so), and full of flavor.

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Fun fact: when we were sleeping, the entire night was so weirdly silent that I couldn’t sleep more much more than an hour at a time.  The only time I heard anything was about 4 am when we heard a bunch of wolves howl in the distance (yes, I mildly freaked out) and I considered sleeping in the truck for about 2 seconds before I decided I was being a baby and that was that!

We woke up and headed to the falls at about 9 am and they were everything I could have imagined and more.  We hiked to the top of the falls first (which was an insane incline) and it was really cool to see all of the little pools that collected at the top.  The water comes from the springs system in the surrounding canyons.  No one knows where the actual name “Sitting Bull Falls” came from, but some people think it originated from a Sioux medicine man named Sitting Bull that used to frequent there.

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The bottom of the falls was even more stunning than the top and I left feeling like I’d been in an oasis of some sort.  It’s crazy seeing it pop up in the middle of this desert landscape and I can see why its Apache name actually means “hidden gulch.”  The water at the bottom was a turquoise color that is the water color of my dreams basically!  The reflection of the sun on the water also kept creating the illusion of a rainbow and it was a picture-perfect scene.

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As you can see, it was an amazing couple of days and I could not have been more thankful for how it all turned out.  I left feeling so refreshed and happy to be back home and back to a normal routine until my next trip.

It also served as a great reminder for me to be more patient with circumstances and mishaps.  I recently gave up quick anger for Lent (I’m trying to be more patient overall but it’s a major work in progress) but I still find myself getting frustrated when things don’t work out immediately or something pops up in every day life.  I always have to remind myself to take a few breaths before I get upset because almost every single time, I end up grateful for how things worked out! Our little speedbumps turned out to be for a good reason.  It’s almost like God knows what He’s doing when He places these happenings in our lives 😉

I hope everyone enjoyed my long-winded post about this trip and I can’t wait until I can write about my next one!

xoxo Jordan

Travel

Traveling on a Budget- Some of My Favorite Places I’ve Been & How to Reduce Costs

Hello, friends!

I wrote this blog post sitting in my bed on Monday instead of at work per usual because strep throat apparently doesn’t discriminate against adults!  (Seriously, who the heck gets strep throat despite having their tonsils taken out 15 years ago?!)  So while I was fairly immobilized and contagious, I wanted to type up this blog post JUST in time for Spring Break.

It’s no secret that I love to travel, but I’m also a fairly thrifty person who definitely tries to get the most bang for my buck.  Traveling has a way of refreshing us and revitalizing our souls, but it can also be pretty draining for our wallets, so I wanted to talk about some of my go-to tips and tricks for saving money while traveling.

Now, if you are the type of person that enjoys going all out for traveling and sparing no expense on the experience and have the means to do so, then do it!  I like to give myself a ballpark number for my budget because 1) I am on a preschool teacher’s paycheck and 2) I almost enjoy seeing how much I can save by cutting a few corners when prepping for/actually traveling.

So below I have gone through and compiled some of my absolute favorite tricks for saving enough money while on vacations, which makes it possible for me to take multiple trips per year!

Look Locally

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Behind a creek opening at the Steel Creek Campground.

How gorgeous is that turquoise water?!  This was on the Buffalo River in Arkansas and one of my favorite trips ever.  It was actually the first trip my boyfriend, Blake, and I took together!  I have incredibly fond memories of our first campfire-side conversations and trekking through winding roads together, unsure of what our next step was.  This was only about a 5 hour drive from where I live and it flew by!  The drive took us through the gorgeous scenery of southern Missouri and I still can’t believe how close this gem of a place was to us.

  • Cutting down on travel distance is going to help cut costs for obvious reasons.
    • Gas isn’t free and minimizing how far you have to drive (and eliminating the need for airfare) is going to save you a big chunk of money.
  • Go to OnlyInYourState.com to look for the best experiences locally.
    • This website is awesome because it can give you everything from festivals, food experiences, and attractions that you may be totally in the dark about.
  • TripAdvisor is the lifeblood of finding cheap, nearby activities for you.
    • You can search for activities within a certain radius of you and before you know it, you have a ton of options to research and reviews at your fingertips.

Prep the Bulk of Your Own Food

I seriously adore cooking and planning meals for those I love, so it is always a fun adventure for me to figure out what kind of meals I can prep/bring on my trips!  I tend to make sandwiches on whole wheat subs paired with some sort of fruit for lunches and I prep foil pack meals for our dinners, while Blake enjoys taking on breakfast.  When it’s just him and I on a trip, we both enjoy saving money by only eating at a restaurant once or twice the whole time and prepping the rest of it.

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Foil Pack Dinners for the Win!  This was in the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas en route to New Orleans and Florida for a family trip.

If you are a big camper or will have access to a grill or campfire on your trip, foil pack dinners are going to be your new best friends.  Foil pack dinners are essentially the easiest thing anyone can ever cook, but they used to intimidate the heck out of me.  I always assumed they wouldn’t cook correctly, they would be messy, they wouldn’t be filling, etc.  But boyyy was I wrong.

  • Pinterest search “foil pack dinners” and you will be amazed.
    • Pinterest will completely inundate you with a million options for foil pack dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and even desserts if you go looking for one.  I haven’t found one recipe from there that let me down!
  • Customize your meals to your tastes.
    • On the above picture, I was cooking Italian Sausage and Potatoes for dinner.  I had marinated turkey sausage, shrimp, green beans, and red potatoes in Italian spices and olive oil and then just threw it in a square of foil, wrapped tightly, added another layer of foil, and then they kept in a Ziploc bag in the fridge until our actual trip.  This was a perfect meal that kept me full for hours!  I took the original recipe and switched it around a bit to suit my tastes more.  All you need is a protein, some veggies, and spices and you are set.
  • Prepping cold-cut sandwiches for lunch make the days so much easier when we’re in the middle of a big hike or prepping for some fun excursion.
    • To bulk up the sandwiches and increase their staying power, I make them on whole wheat 6-inch subs, add tons of deli meats for satiating protein, and save lettuce/tomato to add last so the bread doesn’t get soggy.
  • Stock up before. 
    • Buying protein-rich and portion-controlled road trip snacks before actually getting on the road helps me feel much more in control of my cravings and makes me less inclined to want to pull over for some drive-thru food.
    • Some of my favorite road trip snacks include: beef jerkey, protein bars (FitCrunch is my favorite brand), cutie oranges, grapes, protein chips, skinny kettle corn, cheese sticks, protein shakes, etc. 

Save for the Excursions You Actually Want to Do

It’s easy to save money when the only thing you do on your trip is hike, right?  And while some people would be completely content doing that, not everyone is going to want to.  Excursions can be pricey, but prioritizing the things you truly want to do and eliminating the activities you are so-so on will help you save tons of money.

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Kayaking in the Buffalo River.
  • Do your research when it comes to which company you want to go through.  Every company is going to promise you the best deal, the best package, the best experience, etc.  Going online and finding out which company will actually be the best deal and fit for you can save you hundreds on trips.
    • When Blake and I wanted to go kayaking in Arkansas, we knew that we were going to look for which company had kayak launches closest to our campsite, which company had the time slots we wanted, and which one was reasonably priced.
  • Put first the things you for sure want to accomplish on your trip and put last the things you could live without doing.
    • My dad and I recently went on a trip to the Rocky Mountains and when we talked about possibly going skiing, I thought about a couple things first.  I knew that I have been skiing before and I could live without doing it on this trip, there were sights that I have never seen before closer by, and skiing is uber expensive.  So instead of spending hundreds on something that I have done before and would only last a half day, my dad and I decided to drive almost the entire southern range of the Rocky Mountains and make new memories for us to share.
  • Cut corners where you need to.
    • If you know that there is something you absolutely have to do on your trip, cut corners with food and lodging and go all out with an experience that will leave you truly satisfied.

Find Cheaper Lodging

This may seem like a difficult thing to do, but hear me out.  How many people actually end up spending more on lodging during their trips than anything else?  When I’m staying with family or friends, sometimes I don’t have a choice where we stay but if it’s a more laid back trip and I have choices, I almost always choose the cheaper lodging options.

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Jurassic Park-esque Campground below enormous bluffs in Arkansas
  • If you can tolerate it, camping is going to be your cheapest option available.
    • The only cost that camping requires is normally a pay-per-night rate that can range from $10ish-$30ish per night, just depending what state park you are in.  Some state parks allow you to camp wherever you want along trails, you just may have to pay a flat fee once you get there.  The only other basic cost for camping that I can think of would be buying firewood if you don’t have access to fresh, dry wood.
  • Split the cost with friends, family, or a significant other.
    • If you don’t have a huge say in where you are staying, suggest splitting the cost among your group to reduce individual costs.
  • Airbnb.com
    • Airbnb is a relatively new-ish website that has the most amazing places available for stay at a relatively cheap price.  You just simply have to comply with the owner’s rules, but there are endless ways to customize your stay and look for exactly the perfect place.  You can even choose to just rent a room instead of an entire place to reduce costs even more!
  • Consider your resources.
    • If you know someone that lives close by where you are going and you are close enough to ask, you could essentially stay somewhere for free.
    • When I went to New Orleans this past summer, I reached out to a family friend who owns a bar on Decatur Street and has apartments to rent above his property and he let us stay there for free!  We had prime access to one of the most popular bars in New Orleans, some of the best restaurants in New Orleans, and everything was within walking distance.
    • As I mentioned, my dad and I recently went on a trip to Colorado and he has a close friend who owns a property in downtown Fort Collins, so we ended up staying there for free as well!
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      We went snowshoeing on a frozen lake, which was only about an hour from where we were staying.  The lack of lodging costs easily outweighed the driving.

Utilize *Free* Activities

This is my favorite way to save money on trips.   There’s almost always some sort of free activities near you and there will almost always be an activity to satisfy every person on the trip!

  • Hiking
    • Bet you guys didn’t see this one coming 😉  Hiking is one of my favorite activities in the world.  It’s good for you physically, mentally, and it doesn’t cost anything at all.  You can look up hikes on Google near you and find ones that fit your level of physical fitness, the sights you will see, weather warnings, trail closings, and duration.  Hikes can easily fill a day if you want them to or be a quick warm up before moving on to another activity.
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      Mina Sauk Falls Trail at Taum Sauk State Park, MO
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      Lost Valley Trail in Ponca, Arkansas

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      Exploring the sand dunes at Grayton Beach State Park in Florida
  • Zoos
    • There are a number of  free (or incredibly close to free) zoos in each state and zoos are great for those with children or in the company of children.
  • Walking around downtown areas
    •  This is an incredibly underrated form of immersing yourself in a new area!  Touristy sights are great, but I personally enjoy traveling the most when I feel like I’m a part of the town I am in.  You get the sights, smells, and sounds all in one area for fairly low costs.
  • Museums
    •  History museums are one of my favorite pastimes and a great way to learn about local or global history, but there are other kinds of museums available based on your tastes.
  • Historical Sights
    •  Many historical sights and landmarks are pretty darn cheap, or even free!  Google historical landmarks around where you are or where you’re going to be and you can find anything of interest to you.

I think that about sums up today’s blog post!  Traveling on a budget is not for everyone, but it can most definitely be done by everyone.  I am not an expert on budgeting by any means but I’m always looking to learn more through my and other people’s experiences.  I hope you all got something out of this post and use some of these tips the next time you embark on a trip to save some $$$!

Be on the lookout for a recap of my next adventure next week: state parks in Texas and New Mexico!

 

xoxo Jordan

Recipes

Saturday Scenes-Cinnamon Crumble Coffee Cake & Introducing Bella to the Blog

Hello, friends!

It is now Sunday and in order to delay the inevitable Sunday Scaries before going back to work tomorrow, I wanted to share a new recipe that will now become a weekend favorite!  It is an incredibly easy coffee cake recipe that will be perfect for entertaining your friends at brunch on Sunday after a fun night out orrrrr it can be eaten all by yourself with a cup of coffee while relishing in a slow morning.

I truly do enjoy the process of baking but having a full pan of dessert in a mostly empty household=trouble. So when I woke up Saturday and wanted something quick and fresh before a hike with my dog, I knew I was going to have to take most of it to my family.  I tend to put off baking until the weekends so I can really appreciate it and Saturday mornings are the perfect day for a slow morning with a cup of coffee and a little somethin’ sweet!

Enter: Cinnamon Crumble Coffee Cake!

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I halved this recipe and made them more into bars, but it was kind of annoying halving certain ingredients so I am going to give you the full recipe.  I found the bulk of this recipe from Allrecipes.com and made a few tweaks.

Cake Ingredients

-2 cups of flour

-3/4 cup of sugar (brown or white)

-2 tsp of baking powder

-1/2 tsp of salt

-1/2 cup of butter (I used Kerry Gold butter)

-1 egg

-3/4 cup of milk

-1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Crumble Topping Ingredients

-1/4 cup of flour

-2/3 cup sugar (brown or white)

-2 tsp of cinnamon

-1/4 cup of butter (I used Kerry Gold brand as well)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl for your cake, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in your butter (I slightly softened mine in the microwave) until the mixture looks like coarse, dry crumbs.  Add in your egg, milk, and vanilla and mix just until combined (may be slightly lumpy) and pour into your pan.

Now it’s time to prepare your topping!  In a small bowl, combine your flour, sugar, and cinnamon until combined.  Cut in your butter until the mixture is crumbly and can be easily sprinkled.  Sprinkle over the top of your cake mixture and press down slightly so it stays put and then place pan in the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick put in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Enjoy!

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The crumbly topping on any dessert is ALWAYS the best part

I loved this recipe and I honestly think the Kerry Gold brand made it just slightly more butterier than normal, but any brand of stick butter will work just fine!  After letting my carb-y breakfast settle, I put on my hiking shoes, leashed up my dog, and headed out to Knob Noster State Park!

If you live in the Warrensburg/Knob Noster/Whiteman area, I cannot recommend this state park enough.  Easily navigable, campsites abound, and clean trails all make this park perfect for anyone who wants to spend some time outdoors.

The weather on Saturday was perrrrrfect (sunny and 60) and made our time hiking fly by!  My dog, Bella, is probably the member of my family (yes, I consider her a member) that I spend the most time with and she has a serious love for basically anything outside that lets her sniff where other dogs may have walked.  She practically pulls me on our walks & never runs out of energy.  (As you may be able to tell from her crazy eyes in the pictures.)  Here are a few pictures I took from our hike & the hike summary that I get from my RunKeeper App.  <— This app is wonderful and free on any iPhone if you’re looking for a high quality tracking app 🙂

 

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Isn’t she just the cutest?!  I swear, dogs are one of God’s greatest gifts to this world.

 

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I clearly enjoy my hikes to be a bit more of a leisurely pace 😉

 

Aaaand that about wraps up this blog post!  I hope everyone had a great weekend & if you end up trying the recipe, let me know how you like it!

xoxo Jordan

 

 

Fitness

A Woman’s Guide to Beginning Weightlifting

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Left is 4 years ago and about 6 months into “seriously” lifting. The right is 1 month ago and now I can’t imagine NOT lifting.

We all know the saying “Getting started is the hardest part.”

For most of us, I think we have been proved of this multiple times in our lives, whether it be with schoolwork, work tasks, housework, or other menial things.  (Menial, at least, in the grand scheme of life.)   But how many of you have actually put off something you know is healthy and you know could be life-changing because of some excuse: fear, laziness, lack of knowledge, etc.?

I was definitely in that group aforementioned before I began to lift weights.  I had seen it all over the Internet, magazines, TV, and social media about just how beneficial it was for your body and mind, but the thought of starting scared me.  I have always been blessed with a relatively fast metabolism, so I sort of figured, “Why fix what isn’t broken?”  I had these thoughts DESPITE knowing that I had very limited amounts of muscle, my body got tired constantly, and cardio was just plain getting old.

So I was at a standstill with my stubbornness about starting a new habit or staying stuck where I was, which I think a lot of people struggle with.  Luckily, I have a streak of competitiveness that doesn’t enjoy doing things half-way, so I began to research.  And research.  And research some more about what was the best way to do things, how to get started, should my diet change, how often should I lift, etc.  The same things I noticed recurring in every article I read are some of the same principles that I use to this day.

Soooooo all of that being said, I have compiled some of my biggest tips to those of you women (or men) who want to get started with weightlifting but have zero clue where to start!

Biggest Takeaways for Beginning Weightlifting

  • Simple is ALWAYS best.
    • The hardest movements that many people still struggle with are actually the basics.  Movements like squats and deadlifts are probably the most stimulus-producing movements there are and two of the hardest to get form down.  I personally believe that you should dive head first into the hardest part of a challenge so that the rest can be smooth sailing and you can focus on the more minor aspects of things.  Once you start to understand these movements mechanically, you can continue to progress with them instead of ignoring them or, even worse, doing them haphazardly and risking injury.
    • Don’t try to overload yourself with 20 different exercises the first time you get in the gym because, most likely, you’re going to feel entirely overwhelmed, your body is going to be stressing out from going 0-100 (real quick), and you’re going to be sore for a week.
    • Do pick out 1 or 2 compound movements to try and get a feeling for the movement and then move on to something slightly less fatiguing, like dumbbell movements or the machines.  (The more you progress and add muscle, the less you should be using machines as the bulk of your workouts, but for beginners, machines are completely fine to get assimilated.)
  • No one is actually looking at you in the gym.
    • This was probably my BIGGEST concern before weightlifting and was the absolute reason it took me so long to step foot in the weight room.  The male-dominated, hot, cramped weight room made me want to run the other way for fear of judgement.  I used to lift dumbbells and machines for about 6 months in the upstairs part of our gym before I actually ventured down to the weight room.  (Silly, I know.)
    • I always had this misconception that everyone in the weight room would know what they were doing with perfect form and heavy weights and boyyy was I wrong.  After I began to take classes in the actual science of lifting and talk to more experienced lifters, I quickly realized that most of the people in the weight room probably didn’t understand the foundations of weightlifting and were most likely not going to judge me for figuring my way out in there.
    • Now that I’ve been lifting for 4+ years, I have noticed how few people actually look around or worry about other people in the gym.  If someone is checking you out, it may actually be for something other than checking out your form. 😉 (This is actually how I snagged my loving boyfriend!)
  • Figure out what motivates YOU.
    • I’m sure every single person has seen an article that’s called “The Perfect Time to Work Out.”  Or “The Best Way to Get Used to Morning Work Outs.” Or “This is Why You Should Exercise at Night.” THEY’RE ALL USELESS.  Every single person in this world wants to work out in a way, most likely, different than the person next to them.  It’s just how we are programmed.
    • I am a huuuge morning person and I adore getting my post-workout endorphins going before heading to work for the day, so I favor early morning workouts (unless I choose to favor sleeping in instead.)  I also like knowing that I have at least one thing checked off on my to-do list before 7 am!  That being said, I used to lift in the evenings when I first started college because that was the time I had more free space and energy.  Everyone has a different preference for time and for what works for them.
    • If you are the type of person who needs external motivation, find it!  Some people want the motivation of an event coming up on their calendar, a certain size of clothing they want to fit into, or something as simple as working out with a partner.  I think most women that begin to navigate the weight room in college tend to urge a pal to go along with them- and it works!  If you enjoy going alone because you like the “Me Time,” create a new workout playlist that you are excited to listen to while lifting- this will work too!  Just figure out the “when” and block that time off so you have zero reasons to not go.
  • Use your resources.
    • YouTube and Instagram are probably going to become your best friends when you are first discovering how to lift properly.  YouTube is one of my favorites for checking form because there are SO many videos showing from each how angle how a movement is performed.  Instagram is fabulous for figuring out the type of physical goals you may be looking to attain, how to get a gist for basic programming, basic information, etc.
    • So many companies and people post information for free (my favorite no-sugar-coating page is RP Strength page on Instagram)-so use them!  We are in a time and age of having so much information accessible at our fingertips that it is crazy.
    • Have a friend or know of someone who knows more than you about how to get started?  Ask them!  I can guarantee they will not only be flattered, but will also be more than happy to help you.
  • Feel confident in what you are doing for your body.
    • My last and most important tip is to just BE CONFIDENT.  So many people have no idea the innumerable benefits you will get from weightlifting, but the biggest takeaway I have gotten is confidence.  I believe most people will eventually gain confidence as they begin to lift, but I’m encouraging you all to START with confidence. Know that what you are doing is one of the absolute best things anyone can do for their body physically and mentally.
    • Remember that results WILL come eventually.  We live in such a fast-paced, instant-gratification world that most people have trouble waiting for the results to come and begin to feel discouraged.  Go through your workouts and daily routines with the confidence that you will see results and enjoy the process while doing it.  Relish in the soreness, the pushing through your reps, and the changing up of your routine and you’ll find that more likely than not, weightlifting is going to start feeling less like a chore and more like a habit.

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      S/o to the greatest show on Planet Earth, The Office, for having a plethora of wonderful memes

Thank you SO much for reading & I really hope you feel at least slightly more encouraged to step foot in a weight room soon.

Have a great weekend, everyone!