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.

Part One: “All is Full of Love…”

…to quote one of my favorite Bjork songs ever. This weekend was definitely a special one for me, emotionally and physically. Completely banged up and tired as I am while writing this entry, all I can do is smile. Yes, I might look crazy and creepy for smiling in an empty apartment. All alone. In the dark. While all is quiet. But, hey. No one’s around to judge me, and even if there were, would I care? Of course not.
Moving on.
Yesterday, I participated in the 2015 Citi Field Spartan Race with a new team comprised of friends, old and new. Although a member of New York Health and Racquet Club for several years, this was the first time I was in an event representing them, more specifically one of their best group fitness instructors, Cedric Dujon, as one of his Fit Warriors. Some of you may remember that I participated in my first Spartan Race last year–that was with a team of over 70 people. The Fit Warriors was a team of 14 feisty and fun-loving individuals who made this event even better than I could have imagined.

PhotoGrid_1431316969604_wmNot once was there an “every man for himself” mentality; it just felt natural that we should help each other through ever obstacle and finish as a team, rather than to be competitive against one another and leave teammates behind. The comradely spirit that flowed between us gave everyone hope, strength and confidence that we could all get across the finish line, no matter how daunting the obstacles were. In all my years, this was the first time I understood what it felt like to be on a real team. Even more impressive was the fact that Cedric was the last team member to cross the finish line — our team leader made sure no one was left behind, that we were all accounted for and in good condition and spirit. Not only is this man a physical specimen, he has a heart of gold. Even now as I type, my heart swells with respect and appreciation for Cedric’s good nature and ethic. The people he attracts are all genuinely good people: caring, generous, helpful and kind. If this isn’t a testament to his good soul, I don’t know what is.
My membership at New York Health and Racquet will end soon and I’ll be at another gym through corporate subsidy, however I will support Cedric Dujon, Cedric Dujon Fitness, and will remain one of his Fit Warriors, ready for action whenever duty calls. CYMERA_20150509_172646Stay tuned for part two of my “Love Fest” Weekend…!
The Vickylicious

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.

…Till the Wheels Fall Off!

Today was my Cycle for Survival ride at Equinox, a fundraising event for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose mission is to treat and find cures for rare cancers. This was my third ride of however many it takes until a cure is found. Although our group, “A Team 56,” didn’t reach our goal of US$15,000.00, we did raise US$12,900.00 which is still a large amount.
2015-03-07 23.43.40For four hours straight, we rode, shouted, and danced our hearts out for all of those fighting, for the survivors, and for those who have lost their battles with this terrible disease. Some of you have read my previous posts about this event and know how important it is to me, so I won’t be repetitive–trust and know you will be seeing similar posts exactly one year from now. However I cannot shake the feeling I’ve had all day from hearing the experiences of those who are fighting, of those that have won, and of those that have loved ones they are sending to MSKCC currently; the mother and father that personally thanked all of us for our fundraising efforts because they have a 7 year-old daughter with a brain tumor being treated at Memorial now. The woman whose mother had a better quality of life due to the clinical trial our donations paid for last year. For Lisa Adams who passed away last night, losing her battle at the hospital the day of the first ride.
Knowing that every dollar my team and I raise, along with all of the other riders nationwide, goes directly to research and trials, compels to do everything I can for the millions of people worldwide affected by cancer in all its forms. I will urge each and everyone of you as I do every year, to join the battle with me, either by starting your own team wherever you are, by donating your time, by donating your money. Just as one of the doctors said today, “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes a village to find a cure for cancer.” We all live in the same village.

150307_094940This is why I rode. This was, and is, my battle cry until a cure is found.

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

Why I Ride

A few people have asked me to stop fundraising on my Facebook page because it’s annoying. Some have also said it’s “beneath me to ask for money.” They have since been excommunicated, not only from my Facebook page, but from my life. It’s my page and I will do as I please with it, especially if it means bringing awareness and raising money for a cause that is extremely close to my heart. Never have I ever asked for money for myself, and I don’t even actively raise funds for multiple events/causes, except this one, Cycle for Survival. Since others have asked me why this is such a heartfelt issue for me, I figured now is as good a time as any to share one of the several reasons.

When I was 4 years old and in my kindergarten’s summer program, a beautiful girl named Chase joined and we became fast friends. Her skin was tanned like butterscotch and her wild sandy brown hair sat on her head like a halo. Her eyes were hazel and framed by the longest lashes I’d ever seen at that point in my short life. Chase had two missing front teeth, just like I did, and we couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. We played everyday she came to school and were inseparable, even during nap time. I hated when she wasn’t around–she’d be absent for days in a row. I asked her why she was gone so much and she explained to me that she was sick and had to go the doctor for special medicine and care. I told her I got sick all the time, especially in the winter. She told me it wasn’t that kind of sick, that she had something called Leukemia and that it never really went away. I didn’t know what Leukemia was, but I told her I hoped she got better soon so we could play more. She said she’d be fine one day and we went to play on the swings, never to talk about her sickness again.

I remember Chase missed a whole week and I was really sad. Then another week went by, so I asked the teacher where Chase was. Ms. Sandy looked at me and said that God didn’t want Chase to hurt anymore, so he took her to heaven to live with him. Not truly grasping the concept she was trying to convey to me, I said, “That’s nice of him. I’m really gonna miss her though.” She cried silently and rushed me off to go play.

Chase has stayed with me all these years: her smile, her eyes, the feel of our hands joined together as we skipped around the playground. She was the first friend I lost to cancer, my first friend in life. I raise money in her memory; I ride for her. Cycle for Survival is my battle cry, my part of the fight against all forms of cancer.

Please understand. Please help me fight. If you’d like to donate, please click here and know that you are appreciated. My team and I will ride hard and strong for you, your loved ones, and everyone affected by cancer in all its forms.
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