Reaching My Peak at an Ohio Castle

MPC Week 2 Pinnable Image

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to go away for Valentine’s Weekend to Ravenwood Castle in New Plymouth, Ohio, which is right in the Hocking Hills mecca of hiking, backpacking, camping and rustic relaxation. Ravenwood is a bed and breakfast and while I was excited to get away from the city and clear my mind, I was also worried about getting my Peak Challenge Prep workouts in. I was just getting over a bad head cold which took me out of the program for the first half of last week, and I didn’t want to miss any more workouts than I already had. I found myself in Hocking Hills and worried. I was unprepared for workouts and had no idea what nutrition would look like for the next three days.

Sometimes the universe gives you exactly what you ask for – even before you know to ask for it. So, I wasn’t entirely surprised when on our first night there while driving from our cabin to the castle for dinner, we felt our car slide backwards on the icy road, narrowly missing a deep ravine and semi-lodging itself in a sizeable ditch. My heart was pounding and I was secretly relieved beyond belief to get out of the car when it finally slid to a stop.

The snow kept falling as darkness descended around us in an area that is quite unlike the city – for one, it is heavily forested with what creatures I do not know (I think I saw about twelve Sasquatches and nine wolves), and I am terrified of the dark. No internet, no cell phone reception and no light except my car’s flashing hazard lights had me a little nervous. My other problems were solved, though. I wouldn’t be eating anytime soon (except for two Cadbury Crème eggs my Dad gave me for Valentine’s Day) and I would be walking – both up and down hills – a lot.

My husband decided to walk up to the castle to ask for help while I waited – unsuccessfully – by the car as the temperature dipped below zero. Shortly after my husband’s dark form disappeared into an even darker woods, I fell on the ice and was lying flat on my back in a snowbank when a thought besides, “Am I bleeding to death being on a blood thinner?” crossed my mind. It was, “Oh, for goodness sakes, what would Claire do right now?” Witty, intelligent and practical, Claire Fraser – the Outlander heroine who is unknowingly transported back through time to Scotland 1743 where she finds adventure, war and romance with the Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser – would not lay down in the snow without a plan, that’s for sure. It was while I was collecting my thoughts – and the strength to open a Crème Egg– that a truck drove by and its participants got out to help me to my feet.

Eventually and with the help of several other people who got stuck on the same hill, we were able to get my car out of the ditch and back it down the road to the cabin – where it remained parked for the rest of the weekend. It was then that I realized, I was having the time of my life, and I couldn’t be happier. I also realized my sudden opportunity to live my weekend as if I too were one of Diana Gabaldon’s characters without technology, vehicles or modern day luxuries at my disposal. There I was with the love of my life on my own private “Fraser’s Ridge,” with the rugged outdoors at my fingertips to complete my Peak Challenge workouts.

I made four total hikes up to the Castle – three on the road and one through the woods. It took about 25 minutes to walk up and about 15 minutes to walk back down. Walking up steep hills on snow and ice is not easy. I had to stop to catch my breath several times along the way. It is a little easier, though, when you have your own “Jamie” with you.


I met a horse-mule (I think) along the way who I lovingly called “Clarence.”


And you could not convince me that this is not “Castle Leoch.”



Saturday afternoon – before the Castle feast – I spent the afternoon by the fire in the pub reading and drinking Scotch Ale. I have never had Scotch Ale before and this was really good.


Now back from Ravenwood – we eventually got the car out – I stepped on the scale this morning and I was disappointed that not only had I not lost any weight, I gained weight since my last weigh-in a week ago. However, as the day has gone on, I realized maybe it isn’t always about losing weight.

I had a great weekend in a place that I have never been before where I could live, just for a little bit, in a fantasy world without the stress and worry of the real world (okay, I was slightly worried about getting my car out again). Staying in a bed and breakfast, I met and talked with a lot of fantastic people that I may not have met otherwise. I played board games, spent time reading and found my mind stimulated in new and exciting ways, being in a different environment. I was able to get some exercise in and eat sensibly through attention to portion size while still trying all the amazing food and drink a bed and breakfast has to offer.

Reflecting on my weekend, it was then that I realize this is exactly what Outlander star Sam Heughan’s My Peak Challenge is about – doing something new and different and stretching yourself out of your comfort zone – to reach your peak.

Tell me about you. What have you done lately that excites, scares or stimulates you? How do you make the most of your fitness and/or nutrition program when you’re away from your routine?

Until the next mile marker,

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Reaching New Heights with My Peak Challenge

MPC Cover

The past three years have pretty much been about surviving for me. I haven’t been running and I haven’t been working out. More than a few times, I thought of just shutting this blog down and moving on with my life – without running and fitness. In a lot of ways, running is who I was, not who I am. Ever since I did survive a blood clot in my leg (DVT) that went to my lung (PE) just over three years ago, I have been unable to run. At first it was physically difficult for me to do so and after that, it became an emotional struggle to even think about putting on running shoes. I began running way back when to lose weight, take care of myself and get my life together. It worked. I was happy, healthy and in better shape than I had ever been in my life.

Then, my mom passed away while running one day and then I almost did after running one weekend. I hated running – I still do sometimes. I had given it everything and in return, I faced more heartache then I ever envisioned at just 29 years old. None of my happy memories of running mattered to me anymore. I locked running up and threw away the key. I refused to care – about running, about my health, about my happiness. I felt betrayed by my body and my emotions. How was I out of breath just walking into the kitchen and how could I hate something that had once brought me so much joy?

For the past three years, I tried my absolute hardest to forget about running and the good times. I had no choice. I had to focus on making it through what proved to be a long and difficult recovery and managing a lifelong illness. Here and there, I tried to walk or jog, but it always ended (or started) in tears and I once again found myself on an emotional roller coaster of sadness, fear, blame, anger and betrayal.

I shifted my focus to other things – my relationships, my writing and my pursuit of new passions. I immersed myself in blogging about my recovery from blood clots and eventually, a new career. It felt good to be driven by something other than my feet on the pavement and eventually, I stopped missing running. I stopped wishing I could run again, I stopped wondering if I could and this time, I didn’t feel guilty. I gained weight again (I wasn’t moving at all) and I stopped paying careful attention to what I put in my mouth. I couldn’t afford to care about anything else so I didn’t. I developed an “It is, what it is” attitude. Managing a chronic illness is time-intensive and exhausting – I didn’t have the time, energy or resources to manage my situation and pursue good health. I was operating in survival mode, my only capability.

Through it all – even my success in online advocacy and my profound happiness in my new career – I began to notice an old feeling again. Just like all those years ago, I started to feel like I needed to take the steps to get healthy again – even if that meant lacing up my shoes and jogging down the street. I joined a gym, not unlike all those years ago, and had a few good treadmill runs, but I couldn’t get back into it. I didn’t feel anger or sadness, just defeated and disheartened. Who was I kidding? I’m not a runner. And there I was, back at ground zero with no way out and no motivation to even look for one.

Then one day, I was scrolling through Facebook when a post on Sam Heughan’s – the Scottish actor best known for his roles as Jamie Fraser in the Starz series Outlander – Wall caught my eye. The post was simple. It said, “Let’s get ready for MPC” and featured a small video clip of Sam running. I clicked on the link which directed me to the My Peak Challenge website where it said, “It all started on a mountain.” And I was hooked.

pin sam quote

In it’s second year, #MyPeakChallenge is the brainchild of Sam, who believes that there is significant power in sharing the feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration that comes with completing a physical challenge. He also holds a firm belief in the power of exercise to unite people across many different ability levels. Something hit home – I used to hold those beliefs too – and I felt something stir inside of me. I clicked “Add to cart” and signed up for the 60 day Prep Program which includes a customizable and scalable nutrition and fitness plan to prepare me to succeed in a challenge I later choose to complete. I was also very excited about the private Facebook forum, where I would receive direct support from Sam himself and his personal trainer John Valbonesi of Fight Camp Glasgow. And, no less than half of the the proceeds of the program (just $89) go to Bloodwise to support blood-cancer research. There really wasn’t a single reason I could think of to say no.

This week I completed my first week of the My Peak Challenge Prep Program, which included several days of strength training, cardio and rest too. I completed every single workout – and I ran too, my own choice for cardio activity. I’m logging my food choices, macro nutrients and calories on My Fitness Pal while slowly incorporating Sam’s shopping list into my diet. Although weight loss is not my only goal nor the primary goal of the program, I am happy to say I have lost 4.8 pounds so far.

I’m taking it a day at a time and taking care of myself. Excessive weight is a risk factor for blood clots and so is sitting for long periods – both things I can work to control, in light of the risk factors I cannot control like an incurable clotting disorder. I am tired of feeling sluggish and sick and I am tired of feeling embarrassed about my size, even though I know I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I was just about done feeling the way I do when My Peak Challenge just happened to give me the last bit of motivation I needed to make a change. Finding and holding on to motivation can be hard, even when all of the motivation is right there in front of you. Here and now in my present life, the My Peak Challenge is exactly what I needed to inspire me to change. I can’t wait to see what mountain I will climb next.

Tell me about you. What motivates you to make a change? What goal are you working towards right now? Are you a member of any fitness or nutrition programs or groups to help you achieve your goal?

Until the next mile marker,

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Make Your Health A Priority

Over the course of my adult life, healthy eating habits, weight loss, exercise and wellness in general have not come naturally – or even easy at times – to me. I’ve had to work hard to run, to lift, to eat fruits and vegetables, hydrate my body and even take care of my health. Running is not easy for me, nor will it ever be, however, the challenge of running and physical activity is also what makes it appealing to me. In 2009, my health reached an all-time record of poorer than it had ever been, and my weight reached an all-time record of higher than it had ever been. I was miserable, I was unhealthy and I didn’t like myself very much. For me, whether or not I like myself, has always been tied to my physical appearance so when I gained weight, my opinion of myself plummeted. Nothing really significant changed in my eyes other than I stopped walking around campus after I graduated and landed a high-stress job soon after that was more conducive to hitting the drive-through than packing a healthier option.  I committed to running a half marathon after hearing I was at high-risk for diabetes. Go big or go home, right? I trained for five months, crossed the finish line and entered a world of racing that took me on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I raced, made friends that have lasted a lifetime, overcame obstacles I never thought I could (like loving myself again), reduced my health risks and even lost nearly 70 pounds in the process.

Everything abruptly stopped for me after I unexpectedly lost my mother just two years later. Mom was my biggest cheerleader – in running and in life. She inspired me and many others to get healthy and fit and to stay that way. At 61 years old, she was for the first time in her life training to run a quarter marathon, right up to the day she died, in fact. When I lost her, my grief consumed me.  I stopped running as much and started eating a few more things that I didn’t eat before. I didn’t lose all control, though, and tried to keep up with my training through coaching other runners. When I had an equally unexpected blood clot in my calf travel to my lung a year after Mom’s death, it was game over for me in terms of fitness and health. I lost all control – although unwillingly this time. I physically, emotionally and mentally could not do anything to take care of myself. Just surviving the injuries my body sustained was all I could do – and I was barely doing that.

Now, over two years into my recovery period, I am ready to begin again. While I still carry the emotional wounds of what happened to me, physically I am ready to start taking care of myself again. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun – and I face a whole new set of challenges this time because of my health – but, I know it is time to put this body back in motion.

I don’t yet know if running will be my activity of choice. I have a lot of painful memories associated with it that I’m not able to process, yet, but I know it has to be something. Maybe walking or cycling or more hiking. I won’t be going big this time – but I will be going.

Getting into a regular health and fitness routine is difficult – whether you are just starting out or starting over. Whether you’re making your health a priority for the first time or 18th time, fitness, health and wellness require hard work, determination, change and even discomfort. More often than not, it’s hard to get healthy!

Going into 2015, it is my goal to put my health first – again. I believe anyone can do it too. Because I did it and if I did it, so can you. And, guess what? You can take small steps to get there. Small steps add up to something when it comes to your health. If there is one thing I have learned over the past several years it is if you lose your health, you have lost everything. If you have your health, then you have everything.

Here are some simple steps to make your health a priority this year:


Be heard and get screened. Make regular doctor’s appointments and go to them. A lot of health problems can not only be found, but solved early on. As questions, be the one in control of your own health. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, take the initiative to take care of you.

Listen to your body. I didn’t listen to mine and I almost wasn’t there to talk about it. One day I went for a two mile run, and the next day I was in Intensive Care without any knowledge of if I would ever come out. I had a pain in my calf that I thought was a pulled muscle, which was actually a blood clot that traveled from my leg, through my heart and lodged in my left lung, becoming life-threatening. I was having trouble breathing and I could barely walk, but I ignored what was swiftly becoming a problem.

Love your heart. This is where even small changes yield big results. Eat right (you know how – fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, less sugar and less processed foods, drink plenty of water and move more everyday.

Educate yourself and be safe. Facing a chronic and lifelong illness, I have become very conscious about my health. If you’re facing any challenged whether it be recovering from foot surgery or fighting cancer, know your risks and know what medications you are putting in your body. Again, ask questions. You are your best advocate!

Tell me about you. How are you going to make your health a priority in 2015?

Until the next mile marker,

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Thank you to the American Recall Center for providing this Infographic and the opportunity to include my own insight. Connect with ARC on Facebook today.

Why I Love Juicing with the Fusion Juicer

Juicing has always been something I have wanted to try, but never have because the thought of finding, comparing and selecting juicers, truthfully, overwhelms me beyond belief. I don’t know where to start and was always hesitant to invest in one (since most cost a decent amount of money) that I might not like later. It looks complicated, and I previously did not know where to start. I have wanted to try juicing, especially vegetable juicing, for the health benefits such as consuming a significant amount of greens in a single glass, because it looks like fun and because I always thought it would be enjoyable to create my own juices with the flavors, fruits and vegetables I want and not all the extra sugars, preservatives and unknown ingredients often found in store-bought juices. Just look at what recently surfaced about Coca-Cola’s Simply Orange Juice. Not so simple (the article even says, “if you want that freshly squeezed orange juice experience, buy a juicer,” right? If I can make my own juice, I would know exactly what was in it because I was the one who put it there! Making my own ingredient list is just one reason why I love juicing with the Fusion Juicer.

At first look, the Fusion Juicer and Fusion Booster (blender) were very intimidating to me (remember, I am already afraid of juicing). It’s a large machine and has about four or five parts to it that must be assembled/disassembled. Fortunately for me, it also came with a detailed (but not overwhelming) and easy to read instruction book that was very helpful. The Fusion Juicer was actually very easy to put together once I did it. It also came with a 200 page Raw Remedies and Juice Recipes book (juices, soups, dressings, baked goods, etc.) and the 6-Week Turn Around (healthy cleanse) Program.

Once I realized how easy it was to use, I couldn’t wait to get started. I made two recipes from scratch to finish in about a half hour. This included a cleaning of the machine (by hand) in between the two juices. The fact that this machine was incredibly easy to clean is by far my favorite feature! I took literally minutes to take it apart, wash out with warm, soapy water, rinse well and re-assemble.

I was worried about knowing what to make and was unaware that a recipe book came with the juicer so I tried my first recipes out from ones I found online, but I am thrilled with the recipe book and plan to use it with the Fusion Juicer from now on.

First I made Berry-A-Peeling Juice (strawberries, apples and lime) for the ingredients’ detoxification, anti-inflammation, and antioxidant properties (clink the link for more info) – plus it just sounded delicious and it was!

Next I tried a vegetable juice called Celery Cool Down (cucumber, celery, tomato and cilantro) because – let me just admit – the name went with the very negative temperatures around here right now (and I love cilantro, which, by the way, was really fun to juice).  After the sweetness of the strawberries, it did not taste as good as I was hoping it would. It was good though and might have gone well with a dash of hot sauce, which I didn’t think of until after I finished my glass.

For the small ingredients list, the Fusion made about four cups of juice with the fruit juice and about three cups from the vegetables. I was very surprised by the quantity of juices it produced!

Why I love juicing with the Fusion Juicer:
  • A huge variety of recipes come right with the juicer (and a cleanse plan).
  • It was easier to clean than any other kitchen appliance I have ever owned.
  • Super easy to use from assembly to juicing to storage.
  • It is very quiet when it is juicing.
  • It came with a mini-blender that converts right into a bottle for smoothies or drinks on the go.
  • It’s fun to use!
Things I don’t love quite as as much about juicing with the Fusion Juicer:
  • It is a little expensive at about $120 (but, really worth it if you want to make your own juice and recipes).
  • It is a very large machine and kind of inconvenient to store on the counter-top.
  • (My husband would like me to include “it made vegetable juice” here, but I don’t see how that’s the fault of the juicer)

If you are committed to trying juicing and don’t know where to start, I suggest the Fusion Juicer. I am really happy I have it and plan to continue making my own juice.

Tell me about you. Have you tried juicing? If so, please share your favorite recipe below (the spicier, the better, of course)! Do you want to juice? Are you afraid of juicing like I was? Do you have  a juicer that you love (or don’t love)? Would you try the Fusion Juicer?

Until the next mile marker,

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Please note, I was provided with the Fusion Juicer for review in exchange for my honest opinions. I was not compensated for this review or asked to write a positive one. Thank you to Fusion Juicer for the opportunity to try this juicer and subsequently overcome my fear of juicing! 

Swanson 30-Day Healthier Holiday Giveaway!


I am very exited to be a part of the Swanson 30-Day Healthier Holiday Giveaway going on right now! For 30 days, 30 bloggers will bring 30 winners a $100 gift certificate to shop for the health products they love. How awesome of a giveaway is that?! I, for one, having reviewed Swanson Health Products in the past, jumped at the chance to be a part of this opportunity because let’s be honest here, I heart Swanson Health Products.

That’s great, Sara, but what is Swanson?

Swanson Vitamins is a family-owned and operated health products company that treats their customers like family and offers the widest selection of health and beauty products in one place for reasonable costs. You can find anything there!

Why not just go to my local store where I always buy my health products?

Swanson offers a huge variety of products, for a low cost and it is one-stop shopping that you can do from anywhere. I love the variety of organic, fair trade and Made in the U.S.A. products.

What can I really get for a $100?

For $100 I got all of this:

all products edited.jpg

My favorites are the makeup, including lip gloss from Burt’s Bees (what’s not to love) and Alba (it’s like putting Coconut right on your lips) and eye shadow from Honeybee Gardens, which is shimmery and purple:

makeup edited

Pet Naturals Hip and Joint Chews with glucosamine so these little pups can have healthy joints (they’re major fans of Swanson themselves now that treats came in the box):

dogs and treats edited

And, Swanson’s own Red Clover Tea, which is deliciously comforting and all organic):

tea edited

Also, since I am Vitamin D deficient and love the health benefits of Coconut oil, I can’t wait to try these D-3 vitamins with Coconut oil (they were only $3.69 for 60 soft gels):

vitamin d coconut edited

I also got some shave cream for my husband, hand and face lotion, cilantro and propolis. You can fill every stocking with this giveaway.

Is it really worth my time to enter?

A hundred times, yes! All you have to do is click below and it will take you to the entry page. It’s easy, it’s fast and you have several chances to win.

How do I enter the giveaway?

Enter the Swanson 30-Day Healthier Holiday Giveaway right here:

Can I bookmark it and come back later?

Don’t wait! My entries are only open until Midnight Tonight (12/23/2013) and the last blogger posts tomorrow. That’s not much time to win!

Okay, easiest giveaway ever, but now I’m on this extra page instead of your blog so how do I know if I won?

Go back here to see the winners posted next to the giveaway(s) you entered.

Thank you to Swanson for the $100 credit to shop for my awesome stocking suffers and the opportunity to participate in the #Swanson30DayGiveaway. Good luck in the Swanson 30-Day Healthier Holiday Giveaway!

Until the next mile marker,

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