What a Performance

I haven’t posted in a long time, and for that, I apologize. Many people ask me when I’m going to write again and have even made topic requests. One question that is asked of me time and again is, what is/are my favorite active wear line(s)?

As a lot of you might know, I’m an avid gym rat and fitness enthusiast. Also, I sweat. A lot. So it’s very important to me that my sportswear’s performance is top notch. There are myriad brands to choose from, and the prices range from super affordable to do-I-need-to-sell-an-organ expensive. Other fitness/gym enthusiasts can identify with me when I say that buying gym wear is a sickness–you can never have enough!  That being said, I’ve spent a not-so-small fortune on my gym wardrobe and can now discuss the performance of a couple of lines for you today.

(If, after reading this post, you are interested in knowing about more high end, boutique lines as well, please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to oblige.)

Forever 21

On the more affordable end of the spectrum, Forever 21 has a stylish, colorful and well-planned line. They have bottoms ranging from sensible yoga pants to bright and somewhat sexy tights, to skimpy and cute shorts for the more daring (hi!); they have tops that go from crop to tank to short sleeved mesh tees and long-sleeved message tees.  All pieces are made in a variety of materials from basic cotton to dri-fit fabrics. They even carry sports bras that vary from low to high support. I always get compliments when I wear their items to the gym, and women are always shocked when I tell them that my outfits are from Forever 21; it never fails.

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Unfortunately, the clothing line’s lack of performance in the dri-fit area only allows me to wear its items when I’m not doing intense or long-term cardio; I only wear them during my weight training days or light cardio days because their materials can’t withstand the amount of sweat my body produces. For the price point however, I’m not too upset–like I said, they still serve a purpose in my wardrobe and so they stay in the rotation. At least they don’t have me slipping in my own sweat…another brand is responsible for my bruised knees…stay tuned.

Rating: 3.5 sweat drops out of 5

Calvin Klein Performance Wear

The next line under scrutiny is from Calvin Klein. Their active wear is medium-high in pricing and is a bit more modest in style than Forever 21, most likely due to their target demographic, and that suits me just fine. (I’m no spring chicken and sometimes I have to remind myself of that.) They have tops and tights of all lengths, colors and patterns, yet they have a wider and more forgiving size range (much more forgiving than teeny bopper Forever 21). Whenever I wear this line, I receive compliments on the colors and fit–before my workouts. Post-workout, I look like a walking puddle. Every. Single. Time. The tops and bottoms (more so the tops) completely lose their shape and make me feel disgusting. The material Calvin Klein uses doesn’t have any moisture-wicking capability whatsoever and they totally missed the definition of “dri-fit.” Oh the embarrassment of walking around, looking like you had a bladder malfunction!

Once my workout is complete, whether it’s cardio or weight training, I’m always standing in a pool of my own sweat; my treadmill has sweat splashed all over it; my weights are slipping in my hands–and this is with sleeved shirts;  the gym machines are soaking wet and I have to wipe everything down with multiple towels. When I walk through the gym to get to the locker room, freezing cold from the air conditioned atmosphere (due to my soaking wet clothes), while creating a trail of sweat  behind me, I literally have to peel my clothes off and wring them out like wet rags before packing them in plastic bags.

I’m highly disappointed in this active wear line. Calvin Klein needs to take “Performance ” out of its name. It doesn’t perform in any way except aesthetics–and again, that’s only pre-workout. For the price range, the reputation and the claims the line makes regarding its performance, it should far exceed the quality of Forever 21, Champion (which I like very much), and a slew of other brands, yet it misses the mark completely. The makers of Calvin Klein need to reconsider their presence in this category altogether if they don’t get the right consultants and testers on their team. I honestly can’t recommend this line to anyone in good conscience. The only high note for this brand is the sports bras–good compression and support.

Rating: 2 out of 5 sweat drops (because I like the sports bras, and I like the pre-workout compliments)

Nike (Pro)

If you follow my Instagram and/or Snapchat accounts (both TheVickylicious), you’ll see that I mostly wear Nike, specifically the Nike Pro line. Moisture-wicking technology is on point, their tops and bottoms fit like a second skin, allowing for full range of motion with no constraints. They’re always on trend and coming out with new and exciting colors and patterns; they continue to create new performance technology for weather conditions, compression, fluidity and support. Nike has gotten sportswear down to a science: aesthetics, fit, price range (from medium to high, but you can always find items on sale, and Nike outlets have great selections), need requirements for each activity, durability and performance technology–you name it, Nike has it figured out for us all.This is one brand that knows what it’s doing, proving why they have achieved world domination. There really isn’t much I can say about them, unless you’d like me to attempt a love poem…

Rating: 4 out of 5 sweat drops (shave a point for margin of error and some of the items that are insanely priced, just because Nike can get away with it)

There are a few brands I patronize more than others, and I’m always on the hunt for what’s different and new. If you’d like me to review more, just say so and I will document all my findings for you. This is an ongoing hunt for me because, as much as I continue to exercise, the need for gym wear will continue as well.

That’s the sweat life for ya!

 

***This post is not sponsored by any of the brands listed above. This post is not to offend any readers’ beliefs in business practices or politics.

Avo Maria

No, I didn’t make any spelling errors. I’m referring to one of my favorite produce items on the planet, the avocado. I can avocado any way it’s given to me–plain, in a smoothie, as guacamole, on myriad savory dishes, and now…in pudding.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I have a serious ice cream problem and am on a quest to find as many healthy substitutions to assuage my cravings. Since my chia seed pudding post (click here to read), I’ve made several different variations and make batches on a weekly basis. It hasn’t gotten boring at all and the versatility of the recipe is impressive–I’ve even made a pumpkin version and fell deeper in love with the recipe as a result. However, while in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of how much I missed drinking avocado smoothies from one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, T.A.N.K. I don’t know what voodoo they do, but no one makes an avo smoothie quite like them. Trust and know, I’ve done my research and have the healthy hair, skin and nails to prove it! Sipping the green goodness triggered me to think of other ways to incorporate avocado into my diet, namely as an ice cream substitute. Once again, the internet and diet gods chose to bless me, for I came across a great recipe for a chocolate pudding that uses avocado as its base. Experimentation was calling my name! For those of you that are interested in giving this pudding a try, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients (2 servings):
– 1 large, ripe avocado
– 2 tbsp. of cocoa powder
– 1 tbsp. Stevia (or sweetener of choice)
– 4 squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
– Almond milk (or milk of choice)

Directions:
– Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and scoop the flesh into a dish.
– Add the cocoa powder, Stevia (or preferred sweetener), and mix well.
-In the meantime, melt the dark chocolate in a microwave, then pour it into the avocado mixture.
– Give it another good mix.

The texture should resemble a traditional pudding. If not, add almond milk a little at a time, until the pudding reaches your desired consistency.

Not only is this pudding delicious, it’s also loaded with healthy fats and fiber. Good times all around!

I’ve made this pudding a few times since my initial trial and am in love with the recipe. It’s simple, quick to make, and quite versatile. For second attempt, I added some coconut flakes and was very happy with the turnout. The third time, I sprinkled a small amount of pink Himalayan sea salt on top for added health benefits and because I’m a sucker for sweet/savory combinations. It. Was. DIVINE. A couple of nights ago, I was feeling ambitious and decided to combine my chia seed pudding recipe with this one and was blown away–it worked awesomely well.
20150422_223240I simply had to add more almond milk and use less seeds. I will definitely be adding avocado pudding to the dessert rotation as I continue on my quest for more easy healthy sweet treats.

If you decide to use this recipe, let me know what you think!

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

Many people don’t know that I had have a serious addiction; I fight urges on a daily basis and think about it all the time, day and night, sometimes it makes appearances in my dreams. Ice cream. It makes me happy, keeps me company, can be savory, sweet, or both. Ice ream comforts me and punishes me; it can be a happy ending and yet a sad one when the spoon hits the bottom of the carton. It can be smooth, or chunky and rough; soft or hard, cheap or expensive, good in small doses, but bad in large quantities. Ice cream is a metaphor for life. Ice cream is life. Ice cream gives me life.

In order to keep from relapsing, I need healthy substitutes and activities to suppress my urges. Enter the chia seed.

Although I’m not into food trends, and chia seeds are gaining in popularity by the day, I’m a believer in these little suckers. They’re smaller than flax seeds, but even though many people compare them to each other, chia seeds are filled with twice the protein of most grains and contain five times more calcium than milk. On top of that, they are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble fiber, potassium and several antioxidants, nutrients and minerals. Incorporating chia seeds into you diet will provide many benefits, such as:

Increasing Protein Intake
Most people—especially women and vegans/vegetarians—don’t consume enough protein. Chia seeds make a great source of protein for vegetarians and don’t have any cholesterol. One one-ounce serving of these amazing little power seeds has 4.4 grams of protein.

Upping Fiber Consumptions
A one-ounce serving of chia seeds has 11 grams of dietary fiber, which is about a third of the recommended daily intake. Adding some seeds to your diet is a super easy way to make sure you’re getting a proper amount of fiber, which aids in digestive health.

Providing Phosphorus (Something that’s not on anyone’s radar, let’s be honest)
Chia seeds also help you maintain healthy bones and teeth (the calcium benefits bolster this effect). Phosphorus is also used by the body to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.

Improving Heart Health
Chia seeds have been shown to improve blood pressure in diabetics, and may also increase healthy cholesterol while lowering total, LDL, and triglyceride cholesterol. Don’t we all want to keep our hearts pumping like well-oiled machines? Yes. Yes we do.

Combatting Diabetes
Chia seeds slow down digestion. The gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids-can also prevent blood sugar spikes.

Fighting Belly Fat
Chia’s stabilizing effect on blood sugar also fights insulin resistance, which has been tied to an increase in belly fat (source: Live Strong). Enough said. No one wants belly fat.

Filling You Up Faster
Tryptophan, the same famous amino acid found in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. Even though tryptophan is notorious its “Itis-inducing” property that makes you want to take a major nap, it also helps to regulate your appetite, sleep and improve your mood. Added benefit to getting full faster: making less room in your belly for bad things.

So after doing the knowledge on this super seed, of course I had to find ways to add this to my diet. Since getting rid of all the ice cream in my apartment, I had to replace it with something. Why not chia seed pudding? I had my first taste of some at a “lunch and learn” session with the office nutritionist and fell in love. It reminded me of many Chinese desserts I’ve eaten from my childhood up till now. One of my co-workers told me she’s been making chia seed pudding at home recently for health reasons and also because she loves how it tastes, (she’s also Chinese). We bonded and she gave me her simple recipe. I tried it right away and made my own little tweaks to tailor it to my taste buds.

I was surprised at all of the positive responses and requests I received from my last post, in which I referred to making the pudding for the first time (click here to read it), all of them calling for the benefits and for the recipe. So, I’ve already detailed several of the awesome ways chia seeds will improve your life, now here’s to make a healthy, quick, easy, and tasty chia seed pudding:

2 cups of coconut milk or other milk (I just tried hemp milk and it’s fantastic!)
3 tablespoons of agave nectar, or sweetener of choice (adjust according to your personal taste)
1/2 cup of chia seeds
1 teaspoon of vanilla (or to taste)
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (optional)

Directions:
In a quart-sized container with a lid, add all ingredients. Place lid on top and shake to mix them all together. Put container in the refrigerator for at least four hours, stirring occasionally. (I left mine in the fridge overnight and it was fine.)

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Since my first attempt, I’ve made a chocolate version as well. All you have to do is add about 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Last night I was feeling adventurous and was in need of a filling, protein-packed dessert, so I did something a little different. I heated the pudding, then added whey protein-infused almond butter and two squares of intense dark (80% cacao) chocolate. I mixed the concoction together so everything could melt and blend, then let it cool slightly. I ate it warm with some hot tea and was in absolute heaven with my chocolate nut butter pudding! There are probably endless variations that can be concocted, like adding a cup of strawberries for a strawberry version, or you can add more spices to the cinnamon and nutmeg for a Chai Chia Pudding.

Even though the gel coating the seeds make when soaked in liquid soften the seeds, if you’re not a fan of the texture, you can put the pudding in a blender and blend until smooth. It will thicken in about 10 minutes in the fridge and will be ready for consumption even sooner.

Next up in chia seed experimentation: savory recipes! Stay tuned…

In the meantime, let me know if you tried the recipe and/or any variations. I’d love to know if you like this as much as I do, or if you’ve come up with your own versions.

Lift. Dead.

I love doing dead lifts in the gym whenever I do weights. I worked my way from 40lbs to start, doing 5 sets of 10 reps; now I’m at 80lbs, 90 on a good day. For the first time ever I was challenged to dead lift a much heavier weight. Challenge accepted! I put 70lbs on each side of the bar–mind you, the bar is 45lbs by itself–meaning I lifted 180lbs! I had to document this feat, win or fail.

You have no idea how proud and accomplished I felt after I finished. Will I do this all of the time? No. However, it’s good to test myself every now and then.

Next up, 200lbs!

*Music credit: “Black Card,” by Pusha T

I Am a Spartan

By no means am I wuss, a princess, or a diva; I have no problems getting my hands dirty and sweating. However, I’m not a tomboy and I’m not into the outdoors. I’ve never camped, hiked or whatever it is people think is fun to do in the woods—I dropped out of the Girl Scouts after one week and I avoid sitting outside for brunch in the summer when it’s too hot. I abhor humidity and can’t sleep if I know there’s a mosquito flying around in my apartment.

All that being said, I also like pushing my body to its limits, getting stronger and working out in any way that will get me my desired results; I want to be a physical beast (while still looking feminine). I want to know that if I have to run for my life, that if I have to scale walls or do whatever it takes to stay alive in a dire situation, my chances of survival are as high as possible. So when a fellow worker-outer started mentioning the Reebok Spartan Race I initially balked, but as everyone else signed up and grew increasingly excited, my boyfriend and I seriously began to consider it as well. And being the impulsive person that I am, I signed us both up two days before the event…then inwardly cringed. Not only did I feel physically unprepared and incapable, I didn’t even know how I could be mentally prepared for something as daunting as 4.5 miles of rocky hills and 15 grueling obstacles interspersed along the trail. Let’s just say I felt numb for those two days leading up to the race.

What exactly is the Spartan Race, you ask? Here’s the website’s description:  “Simply, Spartan Race is the world’s leading obstacle race series. It’s an event of pure primitive craziness that you’ll never forget! Spartan Race has:
· Races all over the globe
· Different distances for different levels and styles or racing.
· A unique culture and community of athletes striving together to overcome any and everything.”

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Our team ran the Spartan Sprint. After my initial shock of pressing “JOIN” wore off, I immediately started my own recon to find out everything I could about the course and how to prepare. The race is different every year, however I needed to see what kind of obstacles were probable so as not to go into this completely blind. The videos of races past, accounts from those who’ve participated in years prior, and pictures of men and women scratched up, tired and battered, had me at a total loss. Yet even all of that couldn’t prepare me for the actual experience of hurdles like scaling walls, rope climbs, barbed wire crawls over rocks, log, boulder and sandbag carries, monkey bars and nets, rock climbing, and jumping over fire. Hell, we had to scale a wall just to get to the starting line! I was ready to turn around and go back home as soon as I saw that craziness. Conversely, my mind completely changed when I saw one of the morbidly obese, out of shape contestants from NBC’s television show, The Biggest Loser, heave herself up and over that first wall: NO EXCUSES, BEAST MODE, FINISH THIS. There was no going back and I knew I had to test myself, body and mind. No more mental blocks were allowed to reside in my brain. If the man with one arm that was smiling a few feet away from me could do it, if the TV contestant could do it, then I could do it, too. I used to be that woman.

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Thank the gods on Mount Olympus that I stuck with it! While it felt like hell on earth at certain points (the barbed wire crawl was a big one), it was insanely awesome at the same time! Reebok has some smart people in their company; they design and engineer these races flawlessly. The courses truly show you what you’re made of in every aspect of human nature: fear, competitiveness, determination, strategy and ambition; physical and mental prowess, strength, capability and overall confidence. I regret nothing about joining this race. Self-doubt, fear of failure, and thoughts of defeat are now out of the proverbial window.

Right now as I type this post, the feeling of accomplishment is almost overwhelming. From being morbidly obese at 230 lbs with no muscle strength; from not being about to run one city block without losing my breath; from having joint pain because I couldn’t carry my own weight; I made it to the Tri-State Spartan Race in Tuxedo, NY on Saturday, June 7th, 2014. Every ache, scratch and bruise makes me smile and my eyes well with tears unshed. I went into this experience thinking this would be a bucket list item, but I already know this has now become an annual test for me—I’m hooked. Even my workouts will be geared toward preparation for future races. I am determined, I am focused, I am a finisher. I am a Spartan.

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PS: Yes, I sure did give myself a fresh manicure when I got home. You bet I did!

Cycle for Survival: Join the Battle!

I am taking action against rare cancers by participating in Cycle for Survival for the 2nd year in a row. My family and I have been greatly affected by cancer, so I will be riding to honor their memory, and to fight the battle for us all.

This national indoor team cycling event raises money to fund critical research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Participants and donors make progress and hope possible for patients and their loved ones worldwide. Here are two important facts you should know:

v 100% of the funds donated for my ride will go directly to MSKCC to help patients around the world.

v Since its inception, Cycle for Survival has helped fund 85 clinical trials and research studies.

Why do I ride?

I can’t say it enough: I ride to honor brave family and friends touched by cancer, including my own. Cycle for Survival is my way of fighting back and making a difference.

I ride because I want to contribute to lifesaving research.

I ride because there aren’t enough treatment options for people with rare cancers—I know we can change that. All pediatric cancers, leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma, and thyroid, ovarian and pancreatic cancers are among the many types considered to be rare.

How can you help?

Give a gift to my Cycle for Survival ride! Every dollar goes directly to promising cancer research. Together, we can truly make an impact! I believe that from the bottom of my heart.

It’s time. JOIN THE BATTLE WITH ME.
 

I humbly and greatly appreciate your support,

Vicky
http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/vickytdavis
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Happy New Year!

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Always strive to be a better you. Yes, I constantly say that you don’t need a new year to make a resolution, but I do agree that New Year’s Day does feel like a fresh start and a good day to remind yourself of your goals; New Year’s Day is an apt time to focus and recommit. So, here’s a reminder photo to stay focused on your dreams, goals, aspirations, etc. Cheers!