So You Wanna Snowshoe? 5 Must-Haves for Your First Trek

Source: SnowshoeMag.co

Source: SnowshoeMag.co

Looking to venture off the beaten path and explore uncharted territory this winter? Snowshoeing can offer maximum benefits for minimal investment — not only is the sport easy to learn and inexpensive, but it’s also a great activity for staying in shape during the cold months.

According to a study from the University of Vermont, runners who traded their sneakers for snowshoes actually gained fitness and escaped impact-related foot injuries in the off-season. The fluffy white stuff provides excellent resistance when training, plus it absorbs heel strike for a lower-impact workout that’s beginner-friendly for all ages.

But even though the sport is an accessible one, it’s smart to prepare in advance when planning on tramping through the woods for a day. Here are my five must-haves to make the trip fun, safe and memorable:

Sustenance

When you’re burning up to 600 calories an hour, it’s important to fuel your body well. Pack nutrient-dense, portable snacks that can be eaten intermittently throughout the day to keep your energy up and blood sugar levels steady.

Need ideas? Check out 15 of my favorites here (and, nope, they’re not just for preggos!).

Survival

Occasionally there’s an element of surprise when it comes to outdoor activities, whether it’s broken gear, an injury or just Mother Nature messing around with you. And the last thing you want to do is tempt fate as the temperature drops, so take the proper precautions and you’ll be ready to address any issues that may arise.

If your trek includes mountainous terrain, for example, consider toting some avalanche-preparedness gear (portable shovel, collapsible probe, avalanche beacons), along with snowshoe repair tools (duct tape, spare grommets, wire, zip ties) and a basic first aid kit.

Spares

No, not tires – we’re talking clothing here. Remember that as you work out, more than 70 percent of the energy that powers your muscles is converted to heat, causing core body temperature to rise. In an effort to keep from overheating, warm blood gets diverted from organs to skin, causing you to sweat, which evaporates to cool things off.

It’s a fine line to walk between being sweat-soaked or shivering, though, so pack lots of layers and plan on adjusting based on your level of exertion and the ambient air temperature. The American College of Sports Medicine outlines some general guidelines here if you’re interested in more info.

Snowshoes

I did a spring snowshoe review a few years back with tips on selecting the proper pair based on your desired type of activity (packed trails, deep powder, etc.). One of my personal favorites is still the Atlas Elektra 10 Series because it’s a smaller, more efficient female-friendly model that provides a great mix of comfort and stability on winter trails.

But the best way, by far, to get started is to “try before you buy” in order to A) see if you like the sport before investing in it and B) get a feel for the types of snowshoes available for the terrain you prefer. Many ski resorts, Nordic centers and retailers (such as REI) now offer rentals, so do a little research and try a few options before you commit.

Snapshots

Finally, what’s the fun in reaching the summit if you can’t document the view, for social media’s posterity’s sake? Invest in a good waterproof digital camera, waterproof phone case or a GoPro, and you won’t have to worry about dropping it while fumbling around with frozen fingers.

Know that it can get a little lonely out there on the trails, too, so if you’re flying solo or want a group picture but don’t have access to a cameraman, consider bringing along a selfie stick for your phone or camera to document the day. Two of my favorites are the Mpow iSnap Y for my phone, which I got as a Christmas gift, and the Xshot Pro Camera Extender, which I’m currently testing with my GoPro (stay tuned for a review, coming soon…).

Have you added snowshoeing to your repertoire of winter sports? 
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15 Healthy Snacks for the Pregnancy Homestretch

SmartSnacks

Combine shrinking stomach space and a temperamental tummy with the mounting nutritional needs of growing a baby, and you’ve got a potential recipe for pregnancy disaster.

Case in point: When an earlier ultrasound revealed that Baby H might be measuring behind, my doctor had me double down on healthy fats, cut back on exercise and increase meal frequency. Now we know it was just a wonky measurement due to breech positioning, but nothing like another dip on the emotional roller-coaster that comes with being a first-time mom! 

Normal-sized meals may be out the window, and lack of time and energy can make it tempting to grab whatever’s nearby (or cave in to cravings) so I’ve been relying heavily on snacking. Having the following 15 mini-meals in my arsenal have been key to putting my mind at ease — and keeping my blood sugar levels from dropping.

1. Protein Shakes. Convenient grab-and-go-option for a quick shot of protein and calcium; my go-to is banana, ice, protein powder, peanut butter and milk in my trusty immersion blender.

2. Cheese Sticks & Crackers. Protein, calcium and just the right amount of carbs when you’re craving something salty and starchy.

3. Fruit with Nut Butter. Think of your usual apples, bananas and pears as a blank canvas for all the great butter flavors and blends out there.

4. Guacamole. Avocados are a wonderful source of good fats, and they’re especially delicious as a zesty dip (for chips) or spread (for sandwiches).

5. Cereal & Milk. Although my current favorite is shredded wheat with fruit in the middle (fiber!), I’ve eaten my fair share of fortified kids’ cereals without guilt these past nine-plus months.

6. Yogurt, Granola & Berries. One of my very favorite breakfasts, this parfait delivers good protein, nutrients and fiber without being too filling.

7. Oatmeal & Mix-ins. Pick a theme — sweet or savory — and there’s no limit to the amount of good stuff that can be packed into one bowl!

8. Fresh Fruit. Delicious, portable, bursting with nutrients and full of flavor, I aim for a few servings a day to add variety to my diet.

9. Hard-Boiled Eggs. Incredible and edible, these protein-packed bites are a great way to stay satiated between meals and keep energy levels steady.

10. Dried Fruit & Nuts. Mix and match for a sweet and salty treat that’s great for taking with you for anywhere, anytime snacking.

11. Ants on a Log. Don’t discount the old childhood throwback! Spread your favorite peanut butter on celery sticks, and top with raisins.

12. Cottage Cheese & Sunflower Seeds. I know, I know…it’s a weird combo. But don’t knock it ’til you try it — the creamy, crunchy, savory flavors hit the spot.

13. Dates With Cream Cheese & Walnuts. Halve dates, fill with a smear of cream cheese and top with a walnut. Also makes an elegant appetizer!

14. Baby Carrots & Hummus. When you’ve got a craving for crunch, nothing does the trick quite like this sweet, tangy combination.

15. Healthy Bars. Make your own or pick up a few favorites (mine are KIND, LUNA and Larabar) to pack in your purse for when hanger strikes.

What are your favorite pregnancy (and non-pregnancy!) snacks? 

3 Tricks for Warding Off a Workout Slump

ProgressNotPerfection

Usually my top tip for getting fired up for workouts is to sign up for a race and commit to a training plan. Because even if you don’t end up following it to a T — let’s face it, life happens — I figure that a compliance rate of, say, 80 percent will still net you good results.

But what happens when there’s NO race on the horizon or NO looming goals to keep you in line? Whether you’re on a temporary hiatus (like me) or your motivation is flagging for another reason, I promise there’s still hope for getting (or staying) in shape.

Here are the three tricks I’ve been using to keep myself going during pregnancy in the absence of training plans and racing adrenaline; the great part is that they apply universally when it comes to avoiding any kind of fitness slump:

1. Define your “why”

Maybe you want to play with your kids without feeling winded. Or you want your wardrobe to fit like it did before the holidays. Whatever the reason, figuring out what lights a fire in your belly will help you stay strong when you’re at a crossroads and in danger of making poor decisions (i.e. the couch is calling).

For example, running goals usually keep me inspired — either challenging myself by time or distance — and workouts are geared accordingly. Instead, I made it my mission to stay active during pregnancy in the hopes of having a smoother labor and healthier baby, which tugs at my heartstrings and gets my butt to the gym on days where I’m feeling more ‘meh’ than motivated.

2. Take a week at a time

While a great idea in theory, sometimes a goal like, “I’m going to work out five days per week this year,” is just too daunting. Especially if you have an ‘off’ few days and end up scrapping the whole thing in frustration. Instead, biting off a smaller chunk — like planning just a week’s worth of workouts at a time — will allow you to celebrate frequent victories instead of agonizing over intermittent defeats.

While I happen to be the opposite (I thrive on making a plan and sticking to a schedule), I was concerned about not having any kind of big-picture structure during my pregnancy. But having ClassPass has come in handy; you can only reserve four classes at once and are limited to scheduling one week out, which means I plan workouts just a few days advance and they end up fitting better into my ever-changing schedule.

3. Piggyback your workout

Take a page from Katy Milkman’s book and try bundling your temptations, as described in this study. The idea is that by pairing “instantly gratifying but guilt-inducing ‘want’ experiences (enjoying page-turner audiobooks) with valuable ‘should’ behaviors providing delayed rewards (exercising)” you’ll be more successful in the long run.

It was only after I’d read about this concept that I realized I’ve been applying it to my own workouts for the past few months. You see, I’ve gotten hooked on a few podcasts (Serial, anyone?), but will only allow myself to listen to each week’s episode if I’m at the gym on a piece of cardio equipment. And you know what? All of the sudden walking on the treadmill got a whole lot more appealing!

How do you trick yourself into making workouts stick in your schedule?

Baby H: 36-Week Update

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We’ve reached the point of what I’ve dubbed the “ninth-month conundrum” where you’re so ready to NOT be pregnant anymore…yet you’re so NOT ready to not be pregnant. Meaning, it’s starting to hit both Ben and me that — wow — this kiddo is imminent.

And although I feel like we got a lot accomplished this past month — baby shower, childbirth class, car-seat installation, car tune-up, clothes washing and hospital bag packing, just to name a few — the to-do list is still very much in progress. As in, my priorities are tying up loose ends at work for my maternity break and getting the apartment really organized (read: obsessively cleaned) and ready for Baby H’s homecoming.

So here’s where things stand at our 36-week “bumpdate.”

Month Nine: In the last month alone, baby is estimated to have almost doubled in weight (~5-6 pounds) and measures somewhere around 19 inches long. It amazes me that with all this technology we have now there’s not a more accurate way to gauge his/her size, but I guess the exact stats are part of the fun of delivery day!

Weight Gained: Right around 25 pounds. I’m still loading up on good fats and doing lots of snacking to help Baby H pack on those final few layers of adorable chub. I’m trying to up my water intake, too, to keep well-hydrated and to maintain good fluid levels.

Workouts: While they’re nothing like my old intensity, I’m thankful to still be moving at least 5-6 days per week. I’m listening to my body carefully, steering clear of high-impact activities (they’re neither appealing nor comfortable) and limiting myself to a maximum of 30 minutes of “easy” cardio per session, whether it’s the recumbent bike, elliptical, stair stepper or walking. I’ll toss in some yoga, barre or strength training a few days a week, as well, just to keep my muscles awake and engaged.

Symptoms: Normal-sized meals are now totally off-limits, unfortunately. Even my strategy of hardcore, well-paced snacking is pushing it; despite aiming for healthier Superbowl fare this year, I still ended up propped up on the couch for hours afterward, in misery, with my digestive system struggling to process the remnants of our Mexican fiesta. Bending over is non-existent, although I’ve come up with a number of ways to contort my body to accommodate the belly, much to Ben’s amusement. And I get out of breath with even the smallest effort — like going up a flight of stairs, getting out of the car or even putting on socks — so I’ve learned to allow for extra time to keep myself from having to deal with the cascade of Braxton Hicks contractions that will inevitably result.

Food Aversions: Nada, thankfully. Well, aside from the lactose-free milk that Ben accidentally grabbed last week instead of our usual 2% — gross!

Food Cravings: Oranges. So much so that I plowed through a 10-pound box last month. And now that those are gone, I’ve moved on to clementines, apples and raspberries. But cheese sticks, milk and cereal are all in heavy rotation — along with pints of ice cream that keep finding their way into our freezer (thanks, Ben). So it’s safe to say that dairy’s still up there on the cravings list, too. Oh, and sweets…although I *try* to limit my candy consumption to a few pieces per day or chocolate or chewy fruity things.

Sleep: Not sleeping well is now the norm, so there’s not much to add here. I’m guessing that this means we’ve truly begun our transition to parenthood?!

Looking Forward To: As small as it seems, setting up the crib. Because then it’ll really feel “real”…and hopefully we’ll feel somewhat prepared. Big picture, though? Meeting him or her soon! Both Ben and I are excited to find out who this little person is that’s about to rock our worlds.

Boy/Girl Suspicions: None. And I hope to keep them that way until delivery day because we’ve made it this far! We’re still getting feedback that’s pretty evenly split, so your guess is as good as mine. Wanna weigh in? 

Any Fun Stories? Baby H is what I affectionately call my “breech ball baby” because s/he is still settled butt-down, curled into a comfy little ball. While I wouldn’t necessarily call it “fun,” we do have some decisions to make over the next few weeks that will potentially affect our labor and delivery options. In the meantime, I’ve been doubling down on acupuncture, chiropractic, moxibustion and inversions in an attempt to get him or her to bust a move and head south. More on that soon!

Stay tuned for what could be our ten-month update (yikes!) in just a few weeks…

Valentine’s Day Partner Workout

Partner Workout

Instead of (or, let’s be honest, before) hitting the couch and starting that next Netflix marathon this Valentine’s Day, grab a partner and get your hearts pumping with this bodyweight circuit workout.

How it works: Assign one move in each circuit to yourself and the other to your partner. Repeat as many repetitions of that exercise as you can in 30 seconds before swapping exercises. Once you’ve completed four rounds of alternating moves per circuit (4 minutes), take a minute to rest before moving on to the next circuit.

Flying solo? Don’t sweat it. You can still do this workout on your own, utilizing the same format, before you hit the town!

Valentine's Partner Workout

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day or are you planning on boycotting this year?

10 Third Trimester Life-Savers

ThirdTrimester

After sharing my first trimester and second trimester essentials, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty with a few items that are helping to get me through the home stretch of pregnancy — aka the third trimester.

As always, everyone’s experience varies, but I thought it’d be fun to share a few of my favorite items for making life just a little bit easier during these final few weeks…

1. Maternity Swimsuit

One thing I’ve discovered this trimester is that the amount of time you’ll want to spend in the pool is directly proportional to how far along you are in your pregnancy, which is why a good maternity swimsuit is essential.

MatSwimsuit

I sized up and purchased this one from Coeur Sports for days I want to let the belly breathe, but also received an unused hand-me-down Liz Lange maternity swimsuit (mine pictured above) from a friend that’s been my go-to on cold mornings or days when I want a little more modesty at the pool.

2. Chiropractic Work

As your body preps itself to be able to push your baby out, hormones help loosen related ligaments; the upside is that this helps make room, but the downside is that it’s super easy to throw your spine and pelvis out of proper alignment.

PreggoChiro

Based on a recommendation from my prenatal movement coach, I’ve recently started regular sessions with a local practitioner who specializes in prenatal care — not only has it worked wonders on my tweaky SI joint, but I’m also hoping it’ll encourage Baby H to move into a head-down position.

3. Acupuncture

Even before pregnancy, I was all about exploring alternative medicines, but it’s especially important now if it could help me achieve optimal health while Baby H is developing at his or her different stages of growth and differentiation.

Acupuncture_needles

I’ve been going about once a month for the past year, but now that I’m in the third trimester I made the switch to another local resource who specializes in women’s health in the hopes that I can bake this little bun well and, maybe just maybe, persuade Baby H to flip.

4. TUMS

Almost every pregnant woman’s best friend, you’ll be popping these puppies like candy come the last few months — or as soon as your expanding uterus starts to encroach upon precious stomach space.

TUMS

Of course, you don’t want to overdo it so be sure to discuss any supplementation with your doctor first; but assuming you get the go ahead, take as directed to help soothe your poor esophagus from the retaliation of your squashed stomach.

5. Hypnobirth App

Created by an experienced practicing Midwife and hypnotherapist, this app was recommended by a friend who has been using it to help keep herself calm, relaxed and confident as delivery day draws nearer.

hypnobirth

And because these last few weeks seem to be flying by, I’m making more of an effort to be mindful and enjoy the moment — to take time to sit down, do nothing and just be with my growing baby without distractions — so we’ll see if this helps!

6. All. The. Butters.

This was a second trimester must-have, but it’s well worth mentioning again now that the belly is swelling to epic proportions and starting to itch and pull in odd places.

nourishing_herbal_cream-800x980

I’ve been alternating Farmaesthetics Nourishing Herbal CreamBooda Butter and The Spoiled Mama’s Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks in heavy rotation after each shower in the hopes that they’ll help keep my skin elastic enough to accommodate Baby H as s/he packs on the pounds.

7. All. The. Fiber.

As regular as I was before and during the majority of my pregnancy, there are days now when my digestive system comes to a grinding halt — yep, there’s no such thing as TMI when we’re talking pregnancy — so the best defense is a good offense when it comes to preventing constipation.

belvita

When I’m not popping probiotics, prunes or other high-fiber whole foods, I’ll occasionally sneak a pack of my new favorite treat when I’m craving sweets but want to try to steer clear of the super unhealthy stuff.

8. Support Gear

Like we need another piece of clothing to struggle into while pregnant, right?! But hear me out here…support gear is highly underrated when it comes to keeping yourself comfortable while dragging around an extra 25-35 pounds in your midsection.

matsupportbelt

I’m still using my Blanqi BODYSTYLER® Maternity Underbust Belly Support Tanks daily (use my referral link to get a code for 20% off!), and even though I’m not running, I’ve started using my heavy-duty maternity support belt to help keep things reinforced during walks and other activities.

9. Mama-to-Be Teas

When it comes time to kick up those (now-swollen) feet at the end of the day, I can’t think of a better way to relax than with a good book and a hot cup of tea.

Teas

Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Mama-To-Be Sampler just so happens to be one of my favorites — not only is is a local Oregon company, but it’s also got a box of its four best-selling varieties geared specifically for us queasy, heartburn-prone, anxiety-ridden and/or waiting-for-the-big-day preggos.

10. Maternity Activewear

You may have already seen my post on Mumberry, which makes super-legit maternity activewear, thanks to the brand’s signature Mumband™, which is built into all of their apparel and provides crucial belly and back support.

IngridIsabel

But another staple in my gym-going attire has been Ingrid & Isabel’s Active Legging with Crossover Panel, which was recommended by another pregnant friend; these pants are beyond comfy with thick material, a good fit and a stomach panel that stays put — definitely worth checking out!

What are your must-haves for the third trimester of pregnancy? Any other tips to share?

Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

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When your doctor suggests that you double down on healthy fats to help your baby pack on the pounds in its last few weeks in utero, you happily oblige. Especially when you know you’ve got friends with something delicious up their sleeves to help perk up plain old nuts.

Typically, candied nuts are coated in butter and refined white sugar. But Megan and Anna, the brilliant minds behind Zest Nutrition, created a recipe that uses egg white instead of butter and maple syrup and coconut sugar for natural sweetness.

These tasty tidbits are their creation, which totally hit when spot when you’re looking for a quick sweet-n-savory snack. In fact, they’re downright addictive. You’ve been warned!

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

(via Zest Nutrition)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups walnut halves
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Coat walnuts in egg white and maple syrup.
  3. Stir together remaining ingredients and toss with walnut mixture.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, option to stir halfway through.
  5. Allow to cool completely before storing. Flavors enhance once nuts have cooled and the crunch has set in.
How do you incorporate healthy fats into your diet?