My First SoulCycle Experience {Review}

On Sunday my team and I went to an 11 am SoulCycle class as part of our off-campus fall break training trip. About half of the girls had been to SoulCycle before, and funnily enough, for all of the spinning and cycling I’ve done in my life, I was one of the newbies!

IMG_5331I went into my first SoulCycle class intrigued and excited, but also skeptical for a number of reasons:

  • I’m not usually a fan of high-profile, commercialized workouts
  • I am very pretty opposed to pushups and arm weights on the bike
  • Spinning for 45 minutes with very low resistance and extremely high cadence doesn’t seem all that productive to me
  • The whole “SoulCycle” stereotype kind of troubles me
  • I don’t need or like the fact that I’m working out or working hard to be disguised by bells and whistles

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What Went Down: My Experience

10:30 am-10:45 am- arrived at the studio to fill out waivers, get shoes, put my stuff in a locker. Waited for the employees to open the doors to the studio

10:45 am-11:00 am- set up my bike in the studio and started to warm up on my own. Made sure to get weights for my bike (I used 3 pound weights) and put them underneath my seat.

11:00 am- class starts with a high energy song: Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. So far, SoulCycle is off to a great start!

11:15 am- the energy in the class is super high, and I’m loving it! We’ve done a few pushups on the bike, but nothing I can’t handle. The class more or less resembles spinning.

11:15 am-11:30 am- Wow, we are spinning way more with these pushup things than without them. I cut out at least 3/4 of the pushups, turn up the resistance, and focus on my legs. Music is still great, as is the energy of the class. These might be the two reasons I was convinced to keep going.

11:30 am (?)- Arm weights time! It only lasted about 5 minutes (I think), but it burned! This portion reminded me an awful lot of Barre, the way my muscles burned and shook intensely.

11:40 am- Cool down starts. I didn’t even know that it was the end of the class, because we didn’t finish with a final sprint or anything. I kind of felt like I was cruising to the finish line, rather than trying to beat the rider beside me!

11:50 am- All stretched and cooled down, I thanked the instructor as I left the studio super super sweaty. That’s got to be a sign of a good workout, right?

What I Liked

  • Awesome Music

I’ve got to say, the combination of the continuous music and it’s sheer volume really makes for an energetic class. There was a good combination of some throwback songs, pop, as well as lyric-less techno that kept things interesting, as well as appealed to most tastes. I’d sure love to figure out how to mash up my music to give it that kind of flow!

  • Energetic Instructor (Becca)

The reason we went to this particular class was today was because Alex has a serious non-romantic girl crush on Becca. Alex went to Becca’s class 2 or 3 times a week this past summer and became obsessed with her infectious enthusiasm and music- something which can be hard to do at 6am!

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Sure enough, today, Becca didn’t disappoint. She literally danced into the studio, and I admit, was super overwhelming, but hey, she had personality. Becca’s cheesy but oh-so-motivating lines such as, “sometimes it’s not about how much you add, but how much you can release”, really stuck with me during those hard minute-plus sprints. She also made it very clear that it was “your ride”, meaning if you didn’t want to do all of the pushup things, that you could sit down and “sprint your face off”. Not going to lie, as unappealing as that option may sound, I definitely did it a few times. Arm thingies = not for me.

  • Good Equipment

There’s nothing worse than having a bike that sticks, squeaks, or is just plain bad. I am happy to say that the SoulCycle bikes were none of these things. They pedal smoothly, allowing you to focus on the ride, and not whatever malfunction your equipment may have.

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My bike

The studio also had a ton of the little arm weights, so you didn’t have to worry about getting stuck with too heavy or too light of weights.

  • Impeccable Studio

When you walk into the Soul Cycle studio, you can count on it being clean and professional looking. The reception area is all white and bright, which, along with the peppy employees, gives off a fun, energetic vibe.

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However, once you step into the bike room, you are immediately transported into a workout vortex with booming music, intense lighting, and about 50 bikes. It gives off a serious “no messing around” attitude! (But in the best possible way).

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Thanks to the great setting, the class had an infectious energy, which pumped me up a lot for the first 10 minutes! After that I started to settle into the hard work, and the novelty of the vibes wore off a little, but nevertheless persisted throughout the class.

What I Didn’t Love

  • So. Many. Bike. Pushups

Going into my Soul Cycle experience, I knew that pushups on the bike were going to be part of the class. However, I was not aware that they would be such a prominent feature! There was more spinning with the arm movements than without, which really shocked me. As someone who prefers to concentrate solely on biking movements while cycling, I found this hard to get used to.

  • Lack of Climbs, Intervals and Breaks

I prefer to integrate variety into spin classes with intervals, climbs, and breaks. SoulCycle seems to aim to achieve this goal by adding arm movements, “tap backs”, “up downs”, and light weights. While I’m sure that many people like this format, it’s not what I’m used to, and I therefore had difficulty adjusting accordingly.

  • No Exertion Level or Time Countdown

Since the class didn’t revolve around timed intervals, I often found myself guessing my level of perceived exertion. Not being told how hard to push, or how long to push for left me a little uneasy, since I was weary of not leaving enough gas in the tank.

  • Spinning Out of Control

On the drive back to school, Alex and I were talking about the class, and I mentioned how the class would have been impossible to complete without clip-in shoes. First off, there are no straps on the pedals, which forces participants to either rent shoes, or bring their own. As someone who always spins with cleats, this didn’t really surprise or phase me. However, once we were about 15 minutes into the class, I realized why the clip in shoes were so essential to SoulCycle. The majority of the class was spent running at a very high cadence (I’d say probably >120 RPM), which would have been very unsafe without cycle shoes. While I do enjoy “spin-tervals” (spinning at a very high cadence) once in a while, I would have liked there to have been at least a couple songs of higher resistance and lower cadence.

Bottom Line

Given all of these pros and cons, would I go back? I have to say, I do prefer actual “spinning” to SoulCycle, mostly because I am used to it. I’m a creature of habit, and really like working super hard with well deserved breaks, and loading on resistance for climbs. I also tend to visualize myself riding an actual bike, and for that reason, don’t find the pushups and arm weights particularly useful, since they don’t translate to better biking skills.

Despite all of this, I can’t deny that the energy of the class was unparalleled, and unlike any other fitness class I’ve ever been to. It really made me want to be a part of the community (okay, minus the skull-printed gear). I was reminded just how powerful group exercise is, especially when every participant is stoked out of their mind to be there.

It’s really amazing how SoulCycle has been able to market a painful, stationary activity, where you are literally 1 foot away from another sweaty individual as a life-changing, best-selling activity. Way to go, SoulCycle!

Questions:

Have you ever been to SoulCycle? Did you like it? 

Do you go to SoulCycle or another type of indoor cycling class regularly? 

Late Night Chocolate {WIAW}

Hellooooo!! It’s Wednesday, which means it’s technically my Friday! I only have class Monday through Wednesday this year because I’m only taking 3 official classes (my thesis counts as 2 classes), which means I get a 4 day weekend! I know it sounds cool, but between practice, blogging, and actual homework, time gets filled up prettttty fast, I tell ya.

Workout

I feel like I haven’t actually talked about my own workouts for ages! (Except for this weekend’s 5K and soccer, I guess). I assure you, however that I have been keeping active, but I just haven’t been blogging about it. So! Why not share my activities from yesterday? In a nutshell, I. was. pooped. at the end.

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Solo hit before lunch. Not exactly a workout, just  skill session by myself. It’s been a while since I’ve done a solo hit, and I was excited to break up my day of school work and class.

4:50 pm- 5:25 pm: Spin with the team. Lots of sprints, and it was hard! I also made the mistake of not bringing a water bottle down to the courts with me, so thanks to all of my yelling encouraging, my throat became quite dry.

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Squash drills and games.

6:45 pm – 7:30 pm: Coaching with the Princeton Junior Squash program. Basically, me just feeding shots to little kids for 45 minutes.

7:30 pm – 8:30 pm: Hitting with the older PJS kids. I actually really enjoyed hitting with these guys, but I was starting to fade mentally by this point. Thanks to my 3pm pre-workout snack of an apple, oatmeal, and peanut butter, I didn’t feel like my energy levels had bonked, but I was so thirsty.

Oof, it was exhausting just writing all that out! How about some food to balance out all that exercise? In honour of Wednesday, I’m linking up with Peas and Crayons for another What I Ate Wednesday- thanks Jenn!

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Dinner

I finally got around to eating dinner around 10 pm, which consisted of half a turkey sandwich, some carrot ginger soup, and some black eyed pea and ham soup. I was too hungry and out of it to snap a picture, but I did manage to take a picture of my dessert! :)

I stopped by the C-store (convenience store on campus) to pick up some of my “special” trail mix before heading home.

IMG_0023What makes my trail mix so special? I awkwardly sit and pick out (with the tongs) the almonds, cashews, peanuts, and chocolate covered peanut M&M’s, and carefully avoid the raisins and random seeds. I used to be self conscious about this weird habit, but I’ve finally reached the point where I no longer care at all. Do watcha gotta do!

To say I was having a chocolate craving last night would be an understatement.

IMG_0022On my way out, this glossy bag of organic dark chocolate banana bites called to me. I somehow failed to read the word “chewy” on the front of the package, and was expecting chocolate covered banana chips, and was happily surprised to see that they weren’t like that at all!

IMG_0024I’m not a huge fan of dried banana chips, and I was stoked when I opened the package to find these Raisinette-type bites inside. It gets even better: each little pebble is packed with flavour, and reminded me a whole lot of chocolate chip banana bread! These little bites are going to be my new pick me up, they’re absolutely delicious.

This morning’s breakfast was a little weird, and consisted of some cashews, a banana with peanut butter, half a bagel with peanut butter, and a cup of strawberry Chobani Greek yogurt.

IMG_0025It was a fairly substantial breakfast, but I was still famished by the time 12:30 rolled around, and I was able to sit down to lunch.

IMG_0026On the menu today was grilled eggplant lasagna, chicken salad, steamed veggies (squash, zucchini and carrots), and warm hummus and pita! The chicken salad was delicious and not mayo-y at all (I hate mayo), and I went back for seconds.

I finished lunch off with a cup of 2% pineapple Chobani Greek yogurt and a little granola.

IMG_0027Don’t be fooled by the minuscule amount of granola in the picture above. There was a lot more, I assure you!

Well, I was planning on talking about Matt Fitzgerald’s talk on the 80/20 rule of endurance training, but 1) this post is long enough, and 2) I should really get back to listening to this lecture. (No, I’m not kidding).

Have a great rest of your day!

Questions:

Have you ever had dark chocolate banana bites? 

Do you like chocolate covered dried fruit? 

Usually I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate covered dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, bananas, etc), but apparently I am a banana bite lover!

 

 

 

 

 

Upper Body + Cardio Partner Workout

Hey friends! How’s your Thursday goin’ so far?

Dinner

Last night we went for a team dinner to….Olives! I ordered a mishmash of things: Lemon and oregano grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and a kale/nectarine salad.

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Bright colours!

It was all delicious, but the chicken was the highlight of the meal. It was perfectly seasoned and not dry at all! (Dry chicken is blah).

Breakfast 

This morning started off with a Greek yogurt bowl, composed with 2% Fage Plain Greek yogurt (my fave for yogurt parfaits), a BIG scoop of almond butter, cocoa coconut chia and flax blend, and a banana.

 

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Upper Body +Cardio Partner Workout

In other news, today I’ve got a workout lined up for you that I created the other day during Monday’s spin class.

What? During?

Yes, the instructor gave us a couple of long breaks (like 2+ minutes), and some pretty long intervals, so in order to distract myself, I made up a little “extra shot” workout for Hadley and me to complete after spin.

Well, my idea of an “extra” 15 minute shot ended up being more like a 30 minute workout, which was challenging, yet manageable.

UpperBodyCardioPartnerWorkoutSome notes on the exercises:

Treadmill: Depending on your running ability, you should aim to sprint anywhere from 9+ mph. I did my first one at 11 mph, and then brought it down to 10.7 for the next two.

Pushups: Depending on your level, feel free to modify these to either a) pushups on the knees, or b) if you’re a beast at pushups, clapping pushups! (HA in my dreams)

pushupPartner Med ball sit-ups (optional: w/Russian twist): Sit opposite your partner holding the medicine ball. Perform a sit-up, holding the medicine ball above your head when you lie back, and then chest pass it to your partner. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor! To engage the obliques, after performing the sit-up, perform a Russian twist by tapping the medicine ball on either side before passing it to your partner.

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No, I don’t usually smile while working out, but apparently if I don’t smile I look super mad. Cheesy smile it is!

Plank High Fives: Position yourself opposite your partner in a high plank (so that you mirror each other). Alternating hands, high-five each other while holding this high plank position. Hadley and I had some fun doing this exercise, by doing “low” and “high” high fives!

Resistance Band Bicep curls: Grab a resistance band with handles and step on it, holding a handle in each hand. Lift up handles simultaneously, exactly as you would with dumbbell bicep curls.

Swiss Ball Exchanges: Start by holding a swiss ball between your feet. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them up to create a 90 degree angle with the floor,  while lifting your upper body to meet your lower body. Transfer the swiss ball from your feet to your hands, and lie back, returning your legs to the floor as well. Try to keep your arms and legs as straight as possible while performing this exercise.

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And that concludes my embarrassing photo shoot! Thanks to Hadley for snapping 1101000000 pictures.

I found that this workout really flew by, partly because of the quick exercises, and also because I had a partner to do it with! If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

Disclaimer: I’m not a certified personal trainer, so please consult with your trainer or doctor if you have any concerns regarding these exercises.

 

Factors That Influence My Morning Pre-Workout Meals

Hey everyone! No recipe to share today thanks to some prolonged grocery shopping last night, but I still had a fairly good tasting dinner of stir fried vegetables and chicken. Because I didn’t get around to eating until 9:30 pm, my photography skills (which are already sooo good ;) ) did not feel like making an appearance. Anyway, moving on to today’s topic:

Pre-Workout Meal Factors: Morning 

A couple weeks ago, Emma, Clara and I went to spin class at Clara’s gym. Afterwards, they asked me what and when I like to eat before a workout. I had to take a few seconds and think about how to answer the question, since there are so many variables that come into play- there’s no “one” answer! Eventually, I came up with a list of factors that I consider when planning my pre-workout meal:

  • What time is my workout?

    • Early morning: The term “early” changes depending on my schedule, mainly how late I’m going to bed. I roughly consider anything before 8am an “early” morning workout, and will often have something small to eat, or nothing at all. This is typically a “get up and go” workout, where I’m usually not quite awake until I’m about 10 minutes into my workout.
      • Examples: 1/2 banana, 1/2 granola/protein bar, small Greek yogurt, a few bites of oatmeal.
    • 8:30 am: Assuming this workout is longer than 30 minutes, I will try and wake up at 7:30 to allow myself time to eat a small, yet complete breakfast that is still easily digested.
      • Examplessmall Greek yogurt + protein powder + 1/2 banana, 3/4 cup cooked oatmeal + protein powder + 1/2 banana, 1-2Tbsp almond butter + banana, 1/2 bagel + almond butter + 1/2 banana. 
    • Image 16 9:30-11:00 am: Again, assuming this workout is longer than 30 minutes, I will try and wake up 1-1.5 hours before exercising. I usually eat a normal sized breakfast, consisting of some whole grains, protein, and a little fat (usually in the form of nut butter).
      •  Examples: Everything I would eat for my 8:30 workout time, but double. 
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Oatmeal, protein powder, and peanut butter- a normal sized breakfast
  • How long is my workout going to be?

    • 30 minutes or less: I will eat something very small, or often nothing at all.
    • 30 minutes – 60 minutes: This meal will usually be similar to my “8:30″ meal, with enough carbs and protein to give me energy for that extra 15-30 minutes.
    • 60 minutes +: If I eat a small breakfast, I will usually bring a banana or a bar of some sort to eat after the first hour of exercise. If I eat a normal sized breakfast, I’m usually good to go, but will definitely need an immediate post-workout snack, or lunch.
  • What kind of workout am I going to be doing?

    Squash 

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Playing squash on an empty stomach is not fun , however feeling too heavy and sluggish to move around the court is no good either. I make sure to eat something substantial, yet easily digestible (banana, oatmeal, Greek yogurt). If I am playing squash in the morning, I try not to eat too much, because I hate feeling like I have a rock sitting in my stomach. I’d rather eat less beforehand, and bring something to eat during water breaks to top up my energy levels.

Cycling

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 I can eat a normal sized breakfast before cycling for two main reasons. 1) I am mainly sitting, and therefore my stomach feels a little more settled, as there is not as much whole-body movement. 2) I will usually cycle for longer than 90 minutes, and not always at a super high intensity, meaning my body needs the slow release of energy from my substantial breakfast. When I am endurance training on depleted energy stores, I can feel myself losing motivation, and no longer enjoying the ride.

Spinning

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 Since spin classes are high intensity and only 45 minutes, I need something small to eat, but not heavy. Since I am going to be sitting, I can sometimes get away with overeating by mistake, however I will pay for this if my heart rate gets up too high. If I am doing high intensity sprints on a full stomach, I’ll start to feel nauseous and will have to back off.

Running

 If there’s one activity where I perform best on an empty stomach, it’s running. Since this is a weight-bearing, whole-body activitymy stomach is sensitive, and I can physically feel the food if it is too heavy, and hasn’t digested enough. My general rule: keep it on the lighter side for running.

Weights

Unless it’s cardio mixed in with weights, I’ll eat a normal sized breakfast since my heart rate doesn’t get up too high. If I don’t eat enough I’ll be much less motivated to push harder and finish the workout. Feeling hungry during a workout changes my mindset from “working to accomplish” to “working to finish”. I know “accomplish” and “finish” are basically synonyms, but in this context I consider them quite different. To me, “accomplish” in the workout sense means “to reach or exceed your goal with pride and positivity”, whereas “finish” means “try and hit the goal, but it won’t be pretty”.

  • How active have I been lately?

    • If I have been exercising a lot lately (lots of endurance/cardio or 2x/day training), I am ready to eat right when I wake up, and I am able to digest food more quickly. If I haven’t been quite as active, my body doesn’t feel like it needs food right away, or at least not as much.
Most creative plank award? :D
Most creative plank award? :D

Note: This is what works for me, and it might not work for you. Everyone is different. I have friends that can’t eat anything at all if they are exercising before noon, whereas I have a couple friends who can eat an entire meal one hour before a squash match. Therefore, what is best for me may not be best for your body, so please keep that in mind.

Questions:

  • Do you have “factors” that you take into account when planning your pre-workout meals?
  • If so, what are they?
  • What are your favourite pre-workout meals/foods?

 

Satisfying Soreness

Let’s have a little chat about being sore. If we’re being technical here, specifically I’m talking about delayed onset muscle sorenessIn other words, the pain and/or tightness you feel in your muscles anywhere from 24-48 hours after completing a workout.

We’ve all been there. For my fellow squash players, it’s that agonizing, infamous “squash butt” that makes even the most ordinary tasks (ie. sitting on the toilet) excruciatingly painful.

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Literally- squash butt!

(Sorry, I just had to post that picture. Please don’t judge me for my tween-level humour)

For all those runners out there, if you pushed harder or longer than usual, you could be feeling discomfort in your abs, calves, quads or hamstrings. (That makes running sounds really appealing, eh?). And of course, let’s not leave out our beloved upper body. Maybe you haven’t done any sort of arm exercises in a while, or perhaps you just got worked and pushed outside of your comfort zone.

In any case, this painful feeling means that your muscles have suffered from micro-tears. But no fear, this is a good thing! Provided you allow your muscles to rest adequately, they will repair themselves and become stronger for next time.

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Soon enough you’ll look like our good friend, Popeye!

For this reason, I now find muscle soreness satisfying and rewarding. If I’m feeling fit, it’s body’s way of telling me “good job, you worked harder than usual!“, or if I’m getting back into training, “okay, you’ve got some work to do“. In any case, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of muscle soreness, so much so that I have ranked them in order from most to least satisfying. (Yes, along with what I want to make for breakfast the next morning, this is what I think about when I can’t sleep at night ;) )

Muscle Soreness Satisfaction Ranking

1. Abs. Hands down, no questions asked, end of story- you get the picture. Come on, I know it’s not just me that gets excited that my hidden 6-pack must be in there somewhere!

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Sad, but true.

2. Quads. I find soreness in the quads tolerable, because I’ve learned that if I warm up enough, most of the initial pain will subside.

3. Hamstrings. Same goes for hamstrings as the quads in terms of the “warm up” principle. However, since my hamstrings don’t get worked as much as my quads (hamstrings don’t get worked as much in squash as they do in running-heavy sports), they’re not as used to soreness, so this is a bit of a shock to my system.

4. Gluteus Maximus (aka my butt). When my butt gets sore, it means that I haven’t been playing as much or enough squash, and that I need to ramp it up. This is annoying because it makes lunging on the court significantly harder, and my form crumbles a bit. Furthermore, what I said earlier about ordinary movements becoming almost insurmountable tasks is no joke. When my butt hurts, any form of sitting or climbing makes me feel like I’m hobbling around like Mad-eye Moody from Harry Potter.

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All I’m missing is the eye-patch, really.

5. Arms (triceps, biceps, shoulders). If my arms are sore, I automatically become convinced that I can’t do any sort of arm exercise until all pain subsides. I am naturally a “noodle-arms” person (in high school I couldn’t flex my biceps- true story), and somewhat recently developed shoulder muscles, thanks to my swimming, hence why arm soreness seems to debilitate me.

6. Back. If my back is sore, it’s usually because I did a lot of ghosting on court (squash movement without the ball- soooo much fun), and used poor form. Instead of lunging to get low, when tired and under pressure I will sometimes compensate by bending over at the waist, and therefore putting pressure on my back. Now when my back is sore, even if it’s because of a legit back-specific exercise, it reminds me of poor squash form, which doesn’t make me feel too good about myself.

Finally, last  but not least: Calves. I don’t actually know where to rank calves, because I have a love-hate relationship with them. They often get quite sore and tight from running, which reassures me that they are getting stronger. However, at the same time this causes me to suffer from calf cramps during the middle of the night, especially if I haven’t stretched or hydrated enough.

Well there you have it. Everything you ever needed or wanted to know about how Nicole feels about muscle soreness. The next post on this topic will most likely cover how to prevent or help muscle soreness, which, to be honest, will be a little more useful (but maybe not as entertaining) as this one.

Lunch

If you made it to the end of that, well done! And to finish off here’s a couple pictures of my lunch from today.

In addition to a Wawa French Vanilla flavoured coffee, I continued the sweet trend with some vanilla protein pudding.

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Eating right out of the container = less dish washing!

I combined a cup of plain 2% Greek yogurt with a scoop of Vega vanilla protein powder, a few shakes of cinnamon, and thinned it out with coconut milk. I then added a scoop of peanut butter on top, because I really don’t get enough of that in my diet ;)

A little while later I was ready for round two, so I made myself an omelette (1 egg + egg whites) with fresh basil and a little pesto. I combined my eggs with some smoked salmon and mozzarella cheese.

Image 1Let’s hope that veggies make an appearance at dinner, since as of now, basil is the only green thing I’ve eaten today.