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October 1, 2019

Live Well 2019: October

Welcome to the renewed guest post series of Live Well 2019, thanks to my dear friend/client/Bible study buddy, Sarah! The previous stint of fabulous Live Well guest posting was done by my sister, Lindsay Wampler, from 2016-2017.

This time around, we will post once a month for the year of 2019, in tandem with The Pro Player Timeline posts.

Sarah Blomgren is another California-Christian-Volleyball-Crazy who has played in England, Finland, Serbia, and is now in Spain. Sarah adds a deeper dimension to being a professional athlete abroad with her commitment to maintaining a plant-based diet based on vegan guidelines, developing her professional profile, and growing as an athlete and person.

Sarah and I met through Elite Volley, and we have been a part of Athletes in Action online Bible study groups for professional athletes overseas. It only seemed fitting for us to also share our idea space for 2019 to better equip and encourage our fellow athletes and expats abroad!


Found an awesome church here in Barcelona called International Church of Barcelona! They are an English speaking church but offer audio messages in Spanish and we sing some worship songs in Spanish. I've met some cool people there already and I'm super encouraged to see the friendships that will develop this year. Anyways, one of the pastors started off a sermon series in the Gospel of Mark this past Sunday, and it was so good, I have to share some thoughts.

First, the book of Mark was written to Roman people. People who were used to kings taking their authority by force, by actions, by doing. So Mark, in his writing style, doesn't dance around topics, he doesn't frolic through the teachings of Jesus; but more so, he shows the actions of Jesus. The Romans were not a "tell me" type of culture, they were a "show me" type of culture, and that's exactly what Mark does in his gospel account of Jesus.

Second, the first thing Mark does in Mark 1:1 is introduce Jesus and "the Messiah" and the "Son of God." Two attributes that would have been a crazy accusation for the Jewish people at that time. But Mark chose those descriptions because he knew who Jesus was. The questions posed by the pastor on Sunday was this: "Who do YOU say Jesus is?" That stuck with me. Is He just some great teacher? Some moral example? The Savior of the world and the Redeemer of your soul? Let's ponder that this week as we reflect on our perception of Jesus compared to who He actually was and is!!

Smoothie Mixmaster

Have you ever made a Black Smoothie?? Well, if you use activated charcoal, you can! Activated charcoal is typically made from burning peat, coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, or a few other things at a high temperature thus "activating" it. Meaning it is more porous than regular charcoal. (I use the ones made from coconut shells insuring it is vegan and from a natural source.)
*more about Activated Charcoal*
Some benefits of consuming activated charcoal are: emergency poison treatment, possible reduction in cholesterol, teeth whitening, gas bloating, hangover prevention, and more.

Recipe: Dr. OZ Show
1 tsp chia seeds
2 cups chilled almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup kale
1 ripe banana
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp agave syrup
¼ tsp activated charcoal powder

*blend and enjoy the detoxing effects of charcoal!!
**Heads Up: do not take medication 90 minutes before or after drinking! It is really good at absorbing from the GI tract, so it will minimize medical effects/purposes.

Dig Deeper Recommendation

I recently came across a documentary called The American Gospel: Christ Alone. I highly recommend checking it out, Christian or non-Christian. Going along with my Inspiration topic above, this film explains the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and why it is vitally important to understand the truth about who He is!

Stay on-task and motivated throughout the month for FREE!

Plant-Based Meal

Butternut Squash Fries by Eating Bird Food

Just in time for Fall, this recipe is easy and perfect for all things pumpkin/squash/comfort/Fall!
All you need is 2 ingredients: Butternut Squash & sea salt (or any other fall spices that spark your fancy)!

Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
Peel the squash. (optional)
Cut the butternut squash in half and de-seed it like you would a cantaloupe.
Cut it up into French fry shapes.
Try to make the pieces similar in size so that they finish cooking at the same time.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Place tray in your pre-heated oven and bake for 40 minutes or so, flipping halfway through baking process.
Fries are done when they are starting to brown on the edges and get crispy.
Serve with ketchup or your favorite French fry dipping sauce.

Yoga Move

Glute Bridge
This month's goal is to strengthen more so than stretch. Gluteal strength is key for alignment in the hips and spine. Glute bridges are simple but amazing; we don't always need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to exercise selection!

Tips: Rather than feet flat on the floor, I like to flex my feet so only my heels are on the floor because this actives my extensors in my shins; it's an easy way to engage more of your muscles. Also, slide your shoulder blades down, away from your ears, and together to open up your chest and allow more hip extension and, therefore, gluteal activation.

You can chose to do isometric hold for a period of time (30-40 seconds) and a few sets (3-4). Or do 10-14 repetitions, rest, and repeat for 3-4 sets. A more advanced variation is to do single-leg glute bridges! I love single-leg exercises because studies show that more unilateral work translates well to bilateral power! Cool! You can also add a Theraband around your lower thighs (right above the knees) and work to not allow your knees to collapse inward, this challenges your glute medius, a smaller but equally important muscle in the gluteal region.

Vegan Treat

This month I'm switching it up for a little more savory of a treat! Being vegan doesn't have to mean sacrificing cheesy spreads, especially when you can make them from scratch using whole foods and avoid processed crap. I have made mac n' cheese sauce before, I've also attempted to make actual vegan cheese (and failed), but this recipe is fool-proof!

From FIVESEC HEALTH: (she even has a plant-based meal plan app)
2 cups raw cashews (soak for a few hours and drain)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp salt
Handful chopped chives (or other herbs to your liking)
*Everything goes in blender or food processor (except chives; mix those in after).
*Refrigerate for a while before spreading so it can thicken a bit.


Hey, friends. I'm Sarah. In addition to what Christy mentioned above, I played indoor and beach volleyball in college at The University of South Carolina where I earned my bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. I then went on to get my master's degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology and continued my volleyball career at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England. My first pro season was in Finland, then in Serbia, and now I'm playing this season in Spain.

Since then I've become 100% plant-based (vegan) and I absolutely love this world of plant-based nutrition. One fun fact about me would be that I have an obsession with doughnuts! No, not like Krispy Kreme; like actual artisan, small-batch, crazy flavor doughnuts! I try to use all my traveling as an excuse to visit doughnut shops around the world. Besides that, I love Jesus and I'm just here to figure this thing called life out the best I can through His eyes.
Ćao from Serbia!

Connect with Sarah on FacebookInstagram, and her website.
You can contact her directly via email for more information on Juice Plus+® sarahblomgren[dot]provolleyball[at]gmail[dot]com.

Let us know in the comments below if you try any variations of these delicious recipes, yoga moves, or have the chance to check out Sarah's recommendations!
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The Pro Player Timeline: October

Working from The Pro Player Timeline: Overview, this individual month post focuses on what a professional player overseas - or an aspiring pro player - should be outlining each specific month of the year like.


Navigating Sports Abroad blog post.

Play Abroad 101 for the most accurate preparation in print.

The Pro Player Timeline: Daily 

The Pro Player Timeline: Weekly.

Most players looking to play professionally overseas don't really have any idea how to do it! This is not your fault; unless you know someone who has done it or have incredible connections already in the pro world of your sport - you try searching Google and barely anything comes up. A few agencies, some club team pages, maybe an incomplete Wikipedia page about a league or two.

Pro sports are cyclical. What might be a frenzy of hiring in August right before the season starts can occur again in January at mid-season transfer periods. Players coming out of university eligibility are ready to go pro at different times, depending on graduating in December or May.

How you handle the months of your year will vary depending on if you are already signed and with your team or not signed with anyone yet. The first section of this post will deal with "When you are signed," and the second section of this post will give advice for what to do "When you are not signed yet."


By now you may have noticed you are "no longer in Kansas anymore." The players are different, the coaches are different, and the practices and games are for sure not what you are used to. Your level of adaptability as a pro player is the true measure of how long you will last overseas. Some players who refuse to adapt and only seek what they experienced in college play will never be happy and usually fizzle out after one or two seasons. The players who stay flexible with new ideas and situations are the ones that continue to thrive in new clubs and countries each season.

Something important to note about adaptability: this is not a trait that everyone has or can learn. If it's really difficult for you to stretch outside of your comfort zone and be able to adjust to new things, it is probably a good idea to at least try to learn to adapt. However, if you try to adapt and it just gives you anxiety and makes you unhappy, then it's okay to accept that playing professional sports overseas is probably not the right path for you to take. This industry is NOT for everyone, and certain personalities definitely manage the challenges of living and playing abroad better than others.

The confidence you need as a professional must be...professional. It's great to play with a chip on your shoulder and be the leader and savior of your team. But you also need to have an honest humility about your skills and goals, and stay open to improving and the feedback you receive from your coaches and teammates. You have the contract you have for a reason: you are good enough! Now it's time to learn how to be even better so you can continue to climb the ladder in the pro circuit.

For those of you who are still waiting for a contract, October can be extremely tough to get through. It's important for you mentally to have plans for if a contract does not come up, be it in the forms of a temporary job, creative projects, or extending your education. Adapt to the situation at hand, all the while keeping up with your workouts and confidence that the right team will find you through the connections you have made.

More inspiration here >>> Live Well 2019: October

Every month of your year can be outlined with a theme, enhanced with motivational reminders, and structured in a way that your day-to-day activities promote your short and long term growth and well-being.

When you have already signed...

First impressions are everything right now. First home games, first away games; absolutely be in your best mental, physical, and emotional state to perform at the level you know you are capable of.
Spend time with your teammates outside of your sport.
Bump up social media presence with match schedule invitations, highlights, and photos with fans.
Ask about any local traditions or holidays coming up and plan to spend those with teammates.

When you are not signed yet...

Check professional player transfer lists for your sport from your country and add whatever new players you find to your social media network.
Practice with the closest university or competitive high school team and get permission to film.
Get in touch with your representation again to find out what’s possible at this point from their perspective.

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September 23, 2019

Road Trip to Ribeira + Padrón

While I was stationed in Santiago de Compostela in the Galician region in the northwest of Spain for a week, I embarked on my own version of a pilgrimage. My pilgrimage just involved food and roots, instead of footpaths and relics.

Marc's Spanish side of his family heritage hails from the bustling fishing port town of Ribeira (also written as "Riveira"), which is only a one hour drive from Santiago. Over the years, we have all worked on making various connections with the authentic Vilas familia, meeting cousins in New Jersey and London. The actual family tree is a bit crazy to try to figure out, but everyone can be happy with being cousins.

Fortune would have it that as a I researched the route to drive from Santiago to Ribeira that the city of Padrón popped up right along the way. The popular tapas menu item of pimientos de Padrón has been a favorite of Marc's and mine for a while now. Of course, I made a snack stop! The little green peppers were delicious, but the only convenient difference I really noticed was that they clipped all the stems so you could just eat the whole pepper. Still glad I made the stop, though!

Ribeira itself sits in a harbor of beach and port, smelling like salt and fish with the sounds of seagulls and sailors. It unfolds itself from the green hills that tumble into sandy coastline in Galicia. I had a lovely time with Ana and Maria, who patiently dealt with my weak Spanish, took me to an unbelievably delicious restaurant, a tour of the ocean viewpoints, and graciously hosted me for the evening! ¡Muchas gracias!

I am so happy I was able to make this little day trip and hope to bring more of the actual Vilas family with me next time!

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September 17, 2019

5 More Unbelievable Days in Paris

I don't know WHY every time I go to Paris, there is this unbelievable amount of magic - luck - serendipity - awesomeness!!! I just know there IS. So, I keep going back, and the craziest and best things keep happening. I wouldn't have it any other way. I still love Paris like I did before I ever went, and I only fall more deeply in love every time I go back. Favorite place on earth, and here are just a few more reasons why. (I have resisted from expanding these five incredible days into five separate posts!!!)

DAY 1  All Mine for Walking

I lose track of everything except my sense of direction when I'm walking Paris.

I wandered from Montmartre, down to the Opéra district, through Rue de Rivoli to Place de la Concorde, all the way to the Eiffel Tower, where I took a nap before it started raining.

I took cover in the Petit Palais museum, where I lost my umbrella in the men's bathroom (because the women's one was closed!), only to miraculously have it be turned in to the coat check an hour later when I finally realized it was missing.

I ended the "Day of Paris My Way" by heading through the Tuileries, paying homage to the injured Notre Dame, and finished in the Latin Quarter with a delicious dinner with music at Chez Papa Jazz. Yes. This was one day.

DAY 2  Unbelievable Reunion in Melun

Monique and I had are usual meet-up at the best crêperie in the world. I also met with Francis, a dear friend who is now in charge of managing the team at my former club, La Rochette. These meetings would have been plenty of happy reuniting, but there was a huge surprise that happened purely by accident.

The BEST fondant au chocolat chef in the world -- who I legitimately believed I would never see again after he left Melun in 2012, let alone have that incredible dessert -- was back in Melun. I saw him walking out of the door to his old restaurant and my jaw fell on the floor. I confirmed Fred's resurrection with Monique, and after we had crêpes, we had THAT fondant au chocolat and I actually cried. I'm not sorry if that makes me ridiculous, because if you think that, then you've just never eaten anything Fred has made before.

DAY 3  Canal, Cats, and Characters

I think the canals in Paris don't get nearly the attention they deserve. I spent the morning having my breakfast at the Bassin de la Villette and just enjoying doing nothing.

It was an important rest before I walked more of Paris to meet my first cat of the day, the bakery cat. I think the owner actually brings their cat to work everyday and it hangs out, playing with the glass door and the customers. I wandered around the Square du Temple and realized that this was the home neighborhood of my book character. May not seem very interesting at the moment, but it breathed so much life into my heroine and I am so excited to write about this quartier in my book!

Finally, I reached the Ateliers des Lumières, where I met up with Kathleen to watch the incredible art presentation on Van Gogh and Japanese paintings. I think we watched it three times!

Later, I took the train out to Saint-Maur-des-Fossés to see Amy and the second cat of the day. We had sushi, I scared the cat to death, and I got to see a few other French friends as well before heading back into Paris for the night.

DAY 4  Spontaneous Wedding

As if this trip wasn't full enough, earlier in the week I had contacted my friend Ciera to see if she would be in Paris at the same time. She said, "Yes, I'm here! And will you come to my wedding on Saturday?" OUI x MILLE. 

This was one of the most fun days EVER. It was the perfect mix of French and English, the perfect party size of about fifteen guests, and the perfect French appetizers, food, wine, champagne, desserts, you name it! Also, thanks to Kathleen for being nearly the same size as me and letting me borrow this entire outfit.

I had felt a little bit like I was crashing the party (as her former roommate's/best friend's (Alex) brother's (Marc) wife), but we came to realize that, aside from Ciera's parents, I had actually known Ciera the longest out of everyone else there!

Somehow, all of the bride's friends had also coincidentally worn navy, so we declared BRIDESMAIDS and had a smashing good time the entire day.

DAY 5  Volleyball, Soccer, and Dance

To complete this wild batch of days, I was able to join two of my French friends, Sana and Juliette, for a volleyball tournament in Saint-Cloud. The Saint-Cloud area of Paris that also happened to include the stadium Parc des Princes where the Women's World Cup just also happened to be going on the same week.

And, of course, the night before the USA/Chile match, my friend, Kathleen, was guiding one of her bike tours when a couple offered her an extra free ticket to the game that they couldn't use. Kathleen had already been gifted a free ticket from another friend who was visiting, so, lo and behold, this new free ticket ended up in my possession!

Going to see the USA Women's Soccer team play was an experience like no other. The stadium was electric, there was thousands of Americans everywhere, chanting, "U-S-A!" and we scored three goals to take the win, to boot! To top this trip off with the most hilarious evening, Kathleen and I had a delicious dinner before attempting to meet her friends along the Seine.

Instead of finding her friends, we were accosted by probably the funniest French guy ever, who proceeded to fall in love with Kathleen. His jokes were hysterical, his friends were nice, and he decided to dance with Kathleen along the river. I talked with an interesting Spanish girl while Gregoire gregariously romanced Kathleen, and it was nothing short of a miracle that we made it back to Kathleen's apartment unaccompanied. However, if they end up married someday, I was there when it all happened!

Do you have a place like this in your life?!
Where all the great things just fall into place?!

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