Vacation and back to school

Zain is back in preschool so that means I have a tiny bit more time to actually blog.  This summer really flew by.  We wrapped up our summer with a trip to St. Thomas.  We weren’t planning on going on vacation this summer because it was hard to squeeze one in with my husband’s grad school schedule.  We ended up booking our trip 8 days before we left! It was a wonderful and relaxing trip.  We spent lots of time on the beach.  We even brought along the BOB Duallie so we could run together.

My heart rate training was a huge challenge on vacation because of the heat and humidity.  I ended up cheating for the first time because I could not keep my heart rate down on one of our runs so I stopped trying.  I was okay on my other runs though.  I think my sleep deprivation early in the trip from waking up so early for our flight plus a baby who didn’t want to sleep really affected my heart rate.  It was nice coming home to cooler temperatures here in MD.  I’m due for my third MAF test but I haven’t had a chance to do it yet.  Hopefully I’ll see some progress!

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I haven’t mentioned yet that I am going back to school in January.  I am currently studying to become a health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  I knew going into the program that I was doing it more to gain knowledge for myself than because I want to be a health coach.  What I really want to do is become a nutritionist.  I’m interested in a holistic approach to studying nutrition which is why I applied to (and was accepted, yay!) the Maryland University for Integrative Health.

I will be studying to get my MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health.  I am beyond excited about the program.  Not only will I be taking the typical nutrition classes like chemistry, macronutrients, and micronutrients, I will also be taking classes about therapeutic diets and cooking labs.  I’ll be taking my classes primarily online so I have more flexibility, but I will also take some courses in person.

Nutrition is something I’ve become more interested in over the past few years and it is something I am really passionate about.  More than anything, I want to help people.  I want to show people that what they put into their bodies is making a difference in their health – and let me tell you, I have already found that is not an easy thing to convey.  There are so many things about nutrition that I want to be a part of –  global health and nutrition (I do already have a master’s degree in international relations to help with the global part), educating consumers about GMOs (and getting rid of them {wishful thinking}), ending the obesity epidemic, teaching people how dietary changes can treat different conditions, and so much more.

I don’t know yet what I’ll ultimately do with my nutrition degree (because I obviously cannot single-handedly end the obesity epidemic), but I know I’m excited to learn more and see where this path takes me.  In the meantime, my dear hubby thinks that nutritionist = chef so he’s thrilled with this new direction I’m taking.  I am very thankful for his support in this endeavor.

Happy running!

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More heart rate training and a new chapter

My heart rate training is continuing to go well and I’m finding that I really love this method.  Before I started the Maffetone Method, I felt pretty disappointed in my running shape.  I struggled to maintain a pace that was once easy for me.  When I attempted speed work, it felt like it was too hard on my body to try to run any faster and it left me mentally defeated.

I delayed my second MAF test a bit because of a bit of a heat wave we had when I was due for the test. We also happened to be in NYC for my husband’s cousin’s wedding that weekend.  Our hotel was right next to Central Park so it was nice to revisit some of those fun hills I experienced during the More Fitness Half.

I picked up a new Nathan handheld water bottle on our trip at the New York Running Company. I’m still getting used to carrying it, but I like it a lot.  I like the special phone pocket.  It’s much nicer than wearing the gigantic armband for my iPhone.  My only complaint is that if I put too much ice in my water, the bottle is so cold in my hand that I have to keep switching hands.

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The weather lately has been a little better.  Last Thursday, it was 62 degrees with low humidity.  I was practically skipping during my run because I was enjoying it so much.  Every time I passed a fellow runner, I said “Good morning!” and had to restrain myself from adding “Gorgeous day, isn’t it?!” It was a welcome change from the heat and humidity.  I was able to do my second MAF test this morning with the temperature being only 59 degrees.  I can see about a 30 second drop in my pace per mile from my first test which is encouraging.

One problem I’m noticing is my sleep, or lack thereof, is really affecting my heart rate.  The nights where I get too bed too late and the baby is up once or twice – which means a short night of broken sleep – make it hard for me to keep my heart rate down in during my morning run.  It is what it is though.  I still plan to stick with the Maffetone Method for a few months.  I think that once fall hits and the temps start cooling off (and maaaaaybe the baby decides to sleep a little more), I will hopefully see more of an improvement.  Fingers crossed!

In other news, I recently started a year long program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach.  I don’t talk much about nutrition on my blog, but if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll see nutrition is something in which I’ve become increasingly interested.  I love the IIN program because it covers over 100 dietary theories and focuses on how an individual can uncover the best diet for their body.  I love the holistic approach to studying nutrition because it’s not just what we put into our bodies that matters – what we do in our day to day lives, our careers, our relationships, etc all play a role in our overall health.  I plan to do more with studying nutrition, but I’ll discuss that in a later post :) .

Happy running!

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Heart rate training update

It’s been about 3 weeks since I took the plunge into heart rate training with the Maffetone Method.  The beginning really sucked.  It was hard for me to figure out how to run slower than I was already running to keep my heart rate where it needed to be (147bpm is my max).  I had to work on running slower, not running at my usual pace then being forced to take a walking break to bring my HR back down.  I still have to take walking breaks, especially on hills, but I have a better handle on keeping my pace slow now.

It is frustrating to have to run so slow and to have to plan for more time to complete each run since it takes me longer.  I’ve had to adjust my attitude a little bit.  I approach every run, even short ones, as if it’s a long run mentally – I know it’s going to take a while so I just try to settle into a very comfortable pace and keep moving forward.

The heat and humidity have certainly made for some even more difficult runs.  Your pace naturally slows in the summertime due to the heat and humidity so I know that those factors are playing a role in some of my slowest runs.

My splits on my runs are extremely slow. I trying to console myself with the fact that they generally include at least one or two walking breaks per mile so my actual pace when I’m running is probably a tiny bit faster than each mile split.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself to I don’t get too down about my slowness.  I have my Garmin set up so I only see my HR and distance when I run.  That helps me from getting depressed over seeing my average pace.

This morning I actually had one of my best runs since I started HR training.  It was cooler, less humid and raining.  Cooler temps plus less humidity equals the perfect recipe for a better run, HR training or not.  The rain was just a bonus since I love running in the rain.

Rain yesterday and today

I will do my second MAF test in a week and I am anxious to see the results.  I know I will see improvement and that makes it all worth it

 

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Heart Rate Training

Just when I thought I couldn’t get any slower…

Up until recently, I’ve been totally oblivious as to how to do any sort of heart rate training. I read things about zones and percentages of heart rate max and my eyes start to glaze over. My Garmin 610 has a heart rate monitor strap that I’ve worn from time to time. I don’t really know what to make of the numbers it shows me though.

When Miss Zippy posted about doing MAF (maximum aerobic function) training, I was intrigued. Can you tell I look up to her since she also inspired my transition to minimalist running? She is pretty awesome :) .

Seeing the success she’s already had and researching other athletes’ Maffetone training results has led me to believe this might actually be a good thing for me to try.  My return to running since I had Ezra hasn’t been anything to write home about, let alone anything worthwhile blogging about.  My training for the More Fitness Half went fine, then pleurisy knocked me down a peg.  Since I got back into running consistently, I don’t really feel like my running is really improving.  On a lot of my runs, I feel pretty worn down and sluggish.  Whenever I attempt speed work, my body doesn’t seem physically capable of moving any faster and finish my run feeling defeated, not stronger.  I don’t know how much of it to chalk up to the fact I never get a full night of sleep, my body still recovering from pleurisy, or that I’m just not in the shape I need to be in to see improvement in my running.

The purpose of the Maffetone Method is to build a strong aerobic base.  It was developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone and is widely used among triathletes and ultramarathoners.  Mark Allen, a six-time Ironman World Championship winner, very successfully trained with Dr. Maffetone.

Having a strong aerobic base not only makes a runner stronger, but it also teaches the body to burn fat for fuel.  I’ve got a little extra of that I’d be happy to burn.  To find my magic heart rate number, I followed the guideline on the Sock Doc’s site: 180-28-5=147.  I debated whether to take an additional 5 or 10 off of the 180 minus age number because of having recently dealt the pleurisy, but ultimately stuck to 5 since I am recovered and not taking any medication now.

The first time I completed the MAF test happened to be the first time I ever had any technical problems when transferring the data from my Garmin to my computer.  I lost the data somehow and I couldn’t remember all of my exact splits so I had to redo the test.  Awesome, huh?

I redid my first MAF test on Saturday.  I set up my Garmin to beep at me if my heart rate hit 148 to signal me that it was too high.  For the first mile, I needed to warm up keeping my heart rate in the 127-137 range, then I ran 3 miles keeping it in the 137-147 range.  For the final mile, I needed to try to get my heart rate back in the warm up range with decreasing intensity.  It’s impossible to run a completely flat route where I live so there was plenty of walking involved on hills.  The little beep on my Garmin to tell me that my heart rate was too high was probably making my heart rate go up even more because it was making me so angry.  It’s incredibly frustrating to run so slow and to have to take walking breaks when I know I can cover a distance without them.

I was already a slow runner, but attempting this training put me on a new level of slow.  My splits were embarrassing.  I’m going to keep them to myself until my next MAF test in a month…they were that bad.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some improvement over the next month.  Until then, every single run I do will be at or below a heart rate of 147 in hopes of building a strong aerobic base.  I don’t have any races coming up so I’m going to try to stick to this method for a few months in hopes that it will be worthwhile in the long run.  Cross your fingers for me.

Check out the links below for more information on the Maffetone Method.  There’s so much more to it that I haven’t even touched on.

Have you ever done any heart rate training? Did you follow a specific method? I’d love to hear more success stories.

I know all this heart rate stuff is boring so here’s a cute baby picture of Ezra who just turned 6 months!

First food - avocado!

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Racking up the double stroller miles

I just posted last week about my introduction to double stroller running and how it hasn’t been easy. Since I know it’s not easy, you’d think I would plan better than to do a silly thing like go for a 10 mile run with that beast. Not so much.

My husband and I planned to run together with the kids Saturday morning at a local park for a change of scenery.  The park (Lake Elkhorn for my local readers) has a path that connects to the Patuxent Branch Trail.  I’ve been running at this park for years and I didn’t know that.  I had seen the part where the path splits off, but I didn’t know where it went so I never explored it.

It’s a really nice mostly paved path that runs along the Little Patuxent River.  It’s not what would be considered real “trail running” because the path is paved, but it was such a nice change to run through the woods instead of on a neighborhood sidewalk.  The paved path turned into a crushed gravel path at one point; luckily it was pretty smooth so it was fine with the stroller.  We did slow it down a bit to be on the safe side.

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I pushed the stroller for the first 4 miles, then hubby took a turn.  He said, “Wow, this is really hard!” Um, obviously. I took the stroller back from him at mile 6 and I pushed the kids the rest of the way.  It’s obvious who is the stronger one in this family :) .

At mile 8, we were still 2 miles from the car when Zain said he needed to use the potty……so my kid got a chance to poop in the woods for the first time.  That was fun.

The last 2 miles of the run were pretty tough because I wasn’t exactly prepared for a 10 mile run.  My longest run recently had been 5 miles so yeah, 10 miles was a bit of a jump, especially with the double stroller.

It was a tough run but it felt like a great accomplishment to hit double digits again – for the first time since the More Fitness Half – and to go on a long run as a family.  That was Ezra’s first long run and he did great – it helps to start them young!

Sunday, we started hubby’s Father’s Day celebration off with another family run.  I didn’t feel like much of a recovery run pushing the stroller, but the miles do go by quicker running together.  We also hit the gym for some strength training.  I am TERRIBLE about sticking with a strength training routine, but I know I need to do it, especially being injury prone.

Monday was a much needed rest day.  Today, I only ran 3 solo miles, but it was tough.  The heat and humidity really slowed me down.  I need to work on running earlier in the morning when it’s cooler, but it’s so hard to drag myself out of bed early after a night of broken sleep.  My kids will let me sleep at night again at some point, right?

Happy running!

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Double Stroller Running

You may remember from my previous stroller running posts that I am quite a stickler for the rule of waiting until baby is 6 months old to take them out on a run in the jogging stroller.  I had planned to wait until Ezra was 6 months old to run with him, but one day (at 5.5 months old), I was out for a walk with the boys in the BOB Duallie and I decided to try a little running.  My pace was so ridiculously slow pushing that boat stroller that I’m sure it was safe.  My running pace could pretty much be a walking pace for most normal people and I am super cautious when going over bumps and up and down curbs.

We’ve gone on a couple double stroller runs so far.  It’s not getting any easier, but I don’t really expect it to.  That stroller is massive and these kids sure aren’t light! It takes me a while to warm up when I run alone as it is.  With the stroller, my legs feel pretty angry when I get started.  I still remember my first runs with Zain in the single stroller when he was a baby and how hard it was.  I actually regretted getting a jogging stroller because I didn’t think I’d ever get used to running with it!

We take up the whole sidewalk

The BEST part about taking the kids running in the Duallie is getting to run with my husband again.  The last time we ran together was for our neighborhood Turkey Trot 5K and before that it was back in August in Hawaii.  I love that my husband is a runner too and I really enjoy it when we get to run together.

Having hubby to chat with is a good distraction from the pain the stroller is causing :)

Zain’s favorite part of our runs is finishing at the playground.

I love the look of joy on his face on the swing

I can’t say I love running with the double jogger, but I do love having all my boys with me on my runs.  I’m sure that running with the stroller will make me stronger in the long run.

Happy running

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Race Recap: Musical Madness 5K

Last Thursday, my husband asked me if I wanted to run in a 5K in our neighborhood on Saturday.  My immediate answer was “Hell no, I’m too slow for a 5K.”  I’ve been wanting to hold off on running a 5K until I can improve my pace a little.  I haven’t run an official 5K race in 2 years.  The last one I ran was the Baltimore Women’s Classic in 2011 and I was pushing the stroller.  I’ve run unofficial 5Ks the past 2 years on Thanksgiving.  Other than those races, the last time I ran a 5K was back in 2007 and I don’t even remember my time! I know it was above 30 minutes though.

I decided to run the 5K even though I knew it probably wouldn’t go as well as I was hoping.  Not only am I slower since my return to running after having the baby, but I’ve only been back to running for a week and half after taking a break for a few weeks after the More Fitness Half because of my pleurisy.  The pain in my chest/back has gotten much better, but I still don’t feel 100% when I breathe.  Even though, I’m not having the sharp pain when I breathe, I still have a hard time sometimes taking in a full breath of air.

My sweet husband not only encouraged me to run the race, but he even went and registered me at packet pickup Friday afternoon.  I’m so lucky :) .  On Saturday morning, I planned to run a mile to warm up before heading to the starting line.  Baby duties made it a little tough to get out of the house as early as I planned so instead, I just ran about half a mile to the starting line.  It was a small race – just under 200 runners.

I made a typical stupid mistake in the first mile – I started way too fast.  Remember, I’ve been back to running for a week and a half and my typical pace these days is about a 10:30 mile.  My first mile of the 5K was 8:58.  Sure, it was exciting to see that I could get my pace under 9 minutes, BUT that wasn’t sustainable by any stretch for me.  I felt alright in the second mile, but there was a good bit of uphill so my pace slowed to 9:24.  The last mile was pretty ugly.  I knew I had a huge hill to climb and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it up that beast.  I even considered walking, but I was not going to let myself walk in a 5K.  Plus, I was wearing my Badass Mother Runner tank – I couldn’t walk wearing that shirt!

Mommy, I am not impressed with your time

I managed to drag myself across the finish line with my last mile being 9:30.  There was no chip timing, but my clock time was 28:51.  I know that’s not a terrible finish time.  I should just be happy to have been able to finish with how out of shape I felt, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for something a little better.  Because I haven’t run many 5Ks, my time is still a PR so there’s that! Now I have something to work toward improving.  One major perk of this being such a small race is that I even managed to place 3rd in my age group! I’ve never placed before so that’s pretty exciting for me :) .

Official time: 28:51

Sex place: 38/91

Age place: 3/15

Overall: 110/198

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What’s Beautiful

Do you have a goal you want to accomplish this year? I do. I’m working on a campaign with FitFluential and Under Armour to help redefine What’s Beautiful.

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My goal is to get my body back into better running shape.  After having Ezra in December, I worked my butt off to get back into shape for my first post-baby half marathon, only to have a health setback that wiped away most of my endurance again.  I’m not ready to push my body into PR setting mode, but I am ready to rebuild my speed, endurance and overall strength in running.  I’m ready to work toward my goal with Under Armour and FitFluential so that I can feel like myself again when I run.

I love this campaign because while there are some sweet prizes up for grabs, it’s not about competing with one another.  It’s about inspiring, encouraging and empowering each other to reach our goals.  I love that.  I love that Under Armour is helping to encourage women to work toward their goals and redefine What’s Beautiful with this campaign.  If you’re a running mom, join my team where we can help each other balance working toward our running goals with being busy mamas: Running Moms.

What goal do you want to accomplish? It can be anything from nailing a PR to finding more balance in your life. I WILL.  Join me and Under Armour and together, we’ll achieve our goals!

What are you waiting for? Go sign up!

Join What’s Beautiful!

Join the Running Moms team!

Happy running and goal setting!

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Quinoa and Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

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I don’t often post recipes on my blog, except that one time I posted a play dough recipe, but that doesn’t really count :) . My husband and I became vegetarians nearly a year and a half ago.  That has meant that we’ve become more creative with the kind of stuff we eat when we go out and when we cook at home. One of our favorite quick semi-healthy meals to eat is a Chipotle black bean burrito bowl.  While it is one of the healthier options on-the-go, there are a lot of added ingredients and sodium that aren’t so good for you.

First time making quinoa and black bean burrito bowls a few months ago

I decided to try to make my own version with quinoa instead of brown rice.  We all know that quinoa is super healthy, but I happen to also like it because it cooks so quickly.  It was delicious the first time we made it and now it’s a regular dinner option around here.  This week, I decided to change things up and make my burrito bowls into stuffed peppers.  They were a huge hit!

And it's pretty too!

Quinoa and Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Serving Size: 1 stuffed pepper

It’s like having a black bean burrito bowl stuffed into a pepper! A fresh, healthy vegetarian recipe for any night of the week.

Ingredients

    • 4 bell peppers, tops cut out
For the quinoa:
    • 1 cup quinoa
    • 1/2 lime
    • 1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
For the black beans:
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 medium size onion, diced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
    • 2 cups cooked black beans (or one 16oz can, drained and rinsed)
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • Cayenne pepper to taste
    • Sea salt to taste
    • 1/2 lime
    • 1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
For the Pico de Gallo:
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in quarters
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow or white onion
  • 2/3 cup corn (Trader Joe’s Organic Super Sweet Corn is my favorite)
  • 1 avocado cubed
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. For the pico de gallo – combine the tomatoes, onion, corn (thawed but not heated), and avocado with the juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of water to the 1 cup of quinoa. Allow to boil for 2 minutes then cover and reduce to a low simmer for 20 minutes. Once the quinoa is cooked, remove from heat and add the juice of half a lime and about a tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro.
  3. In a separate large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent. Add chopped garlic and cook about 2 more minutes. Add the black beans plus 1/4 cup water, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the juice of half a lime and a tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro.
  4. Add the quinoa to the black beans and stir. Spoon mixture into peppers and place them upright in a baking dish. Arrange any extra filling around the peppers. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.
  5. Top with pico de gallo and cilantro and serve!

Notes

Make a thin slice on the bottom of your peppers to make them stand up easier.

You can totally customize your stuffed pepper burrito bowl with sour cream, cheese, hot sauce, shredded lettuce, guacamole, or whatever else you like.

Always use organic corn. Roughly 88% of corn in the US is genetically modified. Organic corn is your safest bet to avoid GMOs.

The pico de gallo can be made ahead of time and refridgerated to save some time.

Pico de gallo doesn’t generally have corn and avocado in it, but since we like to put those on our stuffed peppers too, it’s yummy to combine them into the pico.

We prefer using grape or cherry tomatoes for the pico de gallo since they add a little sweetness, but you can use any kind of tomato you like.

I prefer to cook my own beans rather than using canned beans. Cans are lined with BPA, a hormone disrupting chemical. I like to make big batches of dry beans and store them in the freezer in 2 cup portions so I have them on hand when I cook. If you do use canned beans, buy a brand like Eden Organics that does not use BPA.

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Health update and a Kona Kase review

I had an appointment yesterday with a pulmonary specialist.  He couldn’t really give me a reason why I have pleurisy.  Usually, people have pleurisy because of a serious illness like pneumonia or tuberculosis or because of trauma to that region of the body.  I have not been sick and definitely haven’t had any trauma that would have caused this.  It’s pretty frustrating to not know why this happened, especially since I have never had any lung issues in the past.  I can tell you that if one more person suggests that running in the cold or running in general caused this, I may lose my mind.  Running and running in the cold does NOT cause a pleural effusion to develop in a person’s lung.

I was scheduled for a breathing test in this fancy machine, but they decided to skip it since breathing makes my pain worse

The pulmonologist put me on an anti-inflammatory until my follow up appointment next week.  In the meantime, I had another chest X-ray to check to see if the pleural effusion has gotten bigger since my last X-ray 2 weeks ago (if it has, it may need to be drained :( ).  Since I’m breastfeeding, I obviously have to be careful about the medications I take. When the doctor prescribed Naproxen, I requested to switch to Ibuprofen.  Naproxen is safe while breastfeeding for occasional use, but not recommended for continued use; whereas, Ibuprofen is one of the safest that can be taken (this is a really useful chart for other nursing moms).  I’m crossing my fingers that the Ibuprofen will help.  That’s what the hospital originally prescribed and I did start to feel better after I took it for a few days.  I’m hoping that being on a longer course of it will be what I need.

It's like getting a present because what's inside is a surprise!

In more exciting news, Kona Kase kindly sent me a box to review.  If you haven’t heard of Kona Kase yet, it’s a really cool monthly box delivered straight to your door with different nutritional products.  I was really impressed with the products in the box they sent me.  I’m currently not eating dairy (my little nursling doesn’t tolerate it well) so I sadly couldn’t try everything in my box.  That’s what husband’s are for though.  Hubby really liked the Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt bar (not pictured below because he ate it before I took the pic :) ).  I really want those caramel cups so I may or may not have put them in a safe place for when I re-introduce dairy into my diet.

So many yummy things to try!

My favorite thing in my Kona Kase was the Zing Chocolate Coconut bar.  It was dairy-free and tasted kind of like a Mounds or Almond Joy.  The Journey Savory bar was interesting.  Most energy bars are really sweet which bothers me sometimes because I don’t always want something sweet.  The savory bar was a nice change.

Chunky baby tried to steal it

This Zing bar seriously tastes like candy

Pros:

  • Great variety
  • A lot of stuff in one box
  • Opportunity to try new energy bars and snacks that you may not otherwise buy
  • Free shipping on your box
  • Can cancel anytime
  • Discount for multi-month memberships
  • If you consider how much these kind of nutritional products cost on their own, $15 is an amazing deal for this many products to try each month.
  • A hand written note in my box.  May not sound like a big deal, but it sure was a nice personal touch that immediately made me appreciate the box that they sent even more.

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Cons:

  • If you have dietary restrictions, you may get stuck with things you can’t eat

I was really impressed with my Kona Kase box.  There were a lot of things to try in it so I think that certainly makes the $15 per month fee worthwhile.  If you want to try Kona Kase, use code FF2 and your first month will be only $10!

Happy running!

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Disclaimer: Kona Kase sent me a box free of charge to review as a Fitfluential Ambassador. I was not obligated to give them a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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