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.

Cycle for Survival 2K15

Greetings, everyone!

It’s that time of year again when my team and I ride in Cycle for Survival to raise money to fund lifesaving rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Together we can ensure tangible progress and give real hope to patients and their loved ones worldwide.

Why do I ride?

BECAUSE I WANT TO HONOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS TOUCHED BY CANCER. My family and loved ones have been hit hard by different forms of cancer, as have I personally. I will be riding for them and for everyone else affected by all forms of cancer. Cycle for Survival is my way of fighting back and making a difference.

BECAUSE RARE CANCERS ARE MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK. When you add all of the rare cancers together, approximately 50% of all cancer patients are fighting a rare cancer. And these are familiar diseases: pediatric cancers, leukemia, lymphoma, and thyroid, ovarian and pancreatic cancers are all classified as rare.

BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ENOUGH TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR PATIENTS. There is a critical funding gap in rare cancer research, but we can change that. In the first eight years of events, Cycle for Survival already had raised more than $51 million, arming doctors and researchers with funding to discover new and better treatment options.

What can you do today? Please donate to my ride to support lifesaving research!
Click here to donate

100% of every dollar you give will go directly to pioneering research within six months of the events.

Cycle for Survival has contributed to more than 100 clinical trials and research studies, and also to major research initiatives that will change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated.

Together, we can truly make an impact.

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Thank you for your consideration and continued support.
–Vicky T.

Ring My Bell

For those that have been following my blog and/or my workout journey, you’ll know that I’m quite fond of kettlebells. I get a fantastic total body workout that encompasses everything I need to strength train each muscle group and to provide intense cardio without having to spend too much time in the gym. Saturday was my first day getting back into my routine since I broke my ankle in August and it hurt so good! I worked my arms, legs, back, chest, trunk/core and heart in 30 minutes and didn’t stop sweating till long afterward. Knowing that my body kept burning calories like a furnace throughout the day as a result was an added bonus.

A few months ago, I recorded my entire kettlebell routine, but never posted it. I’ve been asked by several people to do so and I promise I will in the very near future. In the meantime, here’s a small clip of two ab exercises I did on Saturday, using an 8kg kettlebell to engage my arms and back in order to make each move a compound exercise.

By keeping my legs flat on the ground as dead weight the entire time, my abs stay engaged for each exercise and makes my abs work harder. The first part of the video clip, you see that I’m starting with the weight above my body, bringing it overhead to navel-level, then raising the weight over my head again before I repeat the compound movement on the  way back to my starting position. In the approximate two seconds it took for me to lift my upper body up and go back down to resting position, I engaged my arm/shoulder, back, and ab muscles together. In the second part, I keep the weight over my head the entire time and only use one arm, keeping my entire upper body engaged in the movement the entire time; I repeated this move with the other arm as well by doing 20 reps on each side. Since it was my first day back, I completed 3 sets of 20 reps of both exercises (among others) after finishing my total body routine. These are two efficient core exercises that are very effective yet simple and I highly recommend that you give them a try, using a weight that is suitable for your strength/fitness level.

Let me know how you like them and share your exercise tips and workouts with me! It’s always nice to have company on a journey.

Another Year, Another Chapter

It’s been one week since my birthday and one year since I started this blog, and every year I reflect on what’s happened since the last one. Have I achieved any of my career goals? Am I any closer to reaching my fitness targets? Is there any marked improvement in my character? Have the heels I’ve been wearing gotten me any closer to God? This past birthday week and the month leading up to my actual day were quite different from previous years, causing me to look within even more than usual. I know this post is a severe departure from my norm, however I was compelled to share some of my thoughts–not all, because then you’d find out my exact level of insanity and that would be unacceptable. Also, these “bare all” kind of diary-like entries give me the creeps when I read them back to myself, so have no fear, this won’t be happening very often and they won’t be Shakespearean monologues either. No, I won’t go to the deep end of the pool; I’ll stay on the shallow end as I’m know to do.

At the end of August I broke my ankle. That might not seem like a big deal to most people, but it struck a nerve with me: I take my strength and my body for granted; I need to slow down and have more patience. I need to appreciate life, my life, and my capabilities more than I realize, especially now that I’m acquiring more tree rings. These were all statements I thought I applied–heaven knows I’ve said them to myself many times. Yet, nothing will slow you down and make you think long and hard about your life like a physical blow, a tangible reminder that you’re not immortal. And even as I write this, I’m shaking my head and “tsk tsk-ing” myself because I’ve been rushing my recovery! The doctor told me me it would take 6-8 weeks until I could walk without crutches–I ditched them in under 3 due to lack of patience. Go figure. He also said I should be able to exercise normally by mid to late October as long as I did some physical therapy on my own. What did I do? I went to the gym with the plan to strengthen my ankle on the recumbent bike for 10-15 minutes and ended up taking a spin class instead! That was almost 4 weeks ago. So in a little over one month, I’m at 85-90% capability, which is mind-blowing to some of my friends and family, who all think I’m crazy of course, and I’m seriously pushing myself to dangerous limits. And I know it sounds like I haven’t learned my lesson. However, I also know that I mentally cringe now whenever I think of stairs, high heels, and possible future injuries; I am more careful and aware with/of my body and better understand its limitation. This injury has forever changed me, trust and know, dear reader. I’ve also come away from this obstacle armed with this little tidbit: It’s one thing to say you’re strong and tough; it’s quite another to know you’re strong and tough, and to prove it to others and to yourself. I did, and I am so fortunate to have gained that knowledge of self.

Another noteworthy event leading up to my personal holiday: a new job! I gave my employers 2-weeks notice of my resignation because I accepted a new position at an amazing global company. I start next week and am really excited about my career again. My new role is a big step in my professional life, one that will propel me toward greater success personally (peace of mind and a positive outlook), professionally (not a dead-end job, but a significant stepping stone on my career path), and financially (no parentheses needed). I’m a little nervous though, hoping that I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I won’t miss my previous job, but I will miss some of the people. Working at that company was exactly what I needed at the right time in my life. I have matured, foraged an unexpected yet remarkable friendship; I have learned a lot about people, human nature, different personalities and how to navigate them. All of my experiences there are what afforded me the ability to maneuver myself into this new role and I will be forever grateful. Knowing that I have the drive to achieve success has helped clear my vision on how I see myself. It’s one thing to say you have inner drive, it’s quite another to get behind the wheel and step on the gas. I might be moving fast, but I’m proud to be driving my own car and upgrading it along the way.

Older, wiser, stronger, tougher. Not bad for a year’s work. Here’s to making the most of this one…carefully, of course… (Here’s my “careful face”, taken on my actual birthday, f.y.i.)

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A Broken Ankle, Writer’s Block, Beauty and Ice Cream

Exactly two weeks ago I broke my ankle while leaving for my long-anticipated vacation in London. Instead of going to the UK, I ended up at an urgent care facility for x-rays, a cast and crutches. My long weekend was spent in my mother’s apartment watching endless hours of House Hunters International, Property Brothers, BBC America for our anglophile fix since we didn’t get to set foot on British soil, and PBS for the overdose. Thinking my immobility would be a great opportunity to write for the blog, study, and catch up on magazine and book reading,  the only things I’ve accomplished are the book reading, more TV-watching, and discovering Turkey Hill’s Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream (the bits of pie crust totally do it for me and take away some of the cloying sweetness)—I’ve been totally at a loss for words to type that would serve any purpose whatsoever! So here I sit during my lunch break, leg propped up on a cushion, mulling over the last two weeks, hoping they haven’t been completely wasted…blog-wise, that is.

Ahhhh! Sifting through my mental files (read: playing with my curls and touching my chin to check for makeup transfer), I am reminded of two, yes two, new beauty finds that are currently changing my life. The first discovery is the Living Proof line of haircare products. I put a sample of their Perfect Hair Day™ 5-in-1 Styling Treatment in my travel bag so I could try it out in London, but I ended up using it at my mom’s place instead.  According to the Sephora website, “Living Proof was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts by world-class biomedical scientists and leading hair stylists, with the purpose of applying advanced technology to solve beauty’s toughest challenges.” Perfect Hair Day™ 5-in-1 Styling Treatment is “an oil- and silicone-free styling treatment that provides volume, smoothness, conditioning, strength, and polish in one easy step.” Living Proof’s claim to fame is how it eliminates frizz and flyaways without weighing hair down, while nourishing and improving your hair’s condition and texture. So many companies make these claims, however I have yet to find one that lives up to all of them. Thus far, my curls have refused to bow down to any label, so my skepticism was at an all-time high before trying it, especially with Jennifer Anniston as their spokesperson (saying I’m not a fan of hers would be a gross understatement). I was surprised with the results: my hair was completely frizz-free until I washed my hair two days later. My only issue was that my curls weren’t as shiny as I’d hoped they would be; however, the lack of poof in my hair trumped the shine. So impressed with Living Proof was I that I immediately went online (since it’s quite difficult to shop around on crutches) to buy the No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream because it got an even higher rating the 5-in-1. It “…derives performance from Living Proof’s ‘miracle molecule,’ PolyfluoroEster, to create a weightless shield on hair that blocks humidity absorption, smooths the cuticle, and repels dirt. The PolyfluoroEster shield is established over the first five uses of the No Frizz regimen, so it becomes stronger, the longer you use it—and can be maintained with consistent use of No Frizz products.” On top of that, I also bought Satin Hair Serum to assure the victory of manageability and shine. “Satin Hair Serum is powered by a Sera-Smooth Complex, which offers superior smoothness, eliminates frizz, provides natural movement, leaves hair manageable, and is faster and easier to achieve a desired smooth style. It smooths without the tradeoffs of silicones and oils, doesn’t weigh hair down, and doesn’t create product build-up. Easy to use, lightweight, and long-lasting, it leaves hair grease-free and produces a beautiful, sleek look.” Even though I didn’t buy the entire line of No Frizz products as suggested, I figured the two I purchased should work well enough since the 5-in-1 had already made me a believer.

It’s been quite humid in New York City as of late, and I am shocked at how well my hair has been holding up to the heat and moisture after only a couple of uses of these two wonders. I washed my hair last night and applied the styling cream, my usual coconut oil because my hair is very dry, and lastly the serum. My curls have been staying poof-free and have less shrinkage (my curly girls will know what I’m talking about, so get your mind out of the gutter!). After sleeping on my hair last night (I don’t wrap my hair before I go to sleep, I leave it completely free), walking around on crutches in the humidity this morning, and sweating profusely as a result, here’s a real time pic of me/my hair (please forgive the bad office lighting):

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My hair usually only looks like this after I have just washed it and then fluffs up a couple of hours afterward. It never stays like this overnight and after sweating in humid weather. Almost one whole day later, my hair is still shiny, frizz free, and the curls are keeping their shape. This has never happened to me, and I am not exaggerating. I will take another picture when the day is over to see if the results last after another bout in this heat with my crutches.

8 hours and a switch from a side part to a middle part later:

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Lo and behold, still frizz-free! I am living proof that Living Proof’s No Frizz line works. Corny, I know.

Stay tuned for my next post when I will talk about my second life-changing product!

Until then,
The Vickylicious

Ancient Aztec Secret

On rainy nights, I either turn my little apartment into a spa or a private theater. Last night after an amazing workout that made me sweat like crazy and had my pores open like sinkholes, I chose the former. Not only have I been excited about the addition of my new Clarisonic Mia 2 face brush to my skincare routine, I’ve been loving the new products I bought a while back for my weekly facials. Incorporating these lovely machines and concoctions to my daily and weekly regimens has done wonders to my skin and I’m eager to share them with you.

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After cleansing with the Clarisonic Mia 2 and face wash, I towel-blot my skin and apply a thin layer of Reviva Labs’ Non-Chemical Light Skin Peel (bought from ulta.com). Following the directions, I wait 3-5 minutes before rubbing my face so that the peel starts rolling off under my fingers—much like dried glue (I know I can’t be the only one who played with glue as a child, peeling and rubbing it off like dead skin…c’mon!). After all of it has rolled off, I rinse and towel-blot my skin again. The dead skin has been sloughed off to reveal the clearer, brighter layer of skin underneath. Now my face is prepped and primed for my clay mask.

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I’ve been loving Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay lately (bought from amazon.com), religiously using it every week with great results. In a non-metal mixing bowl, I scoop the bentonite clay powder and the same amount of organic apple cider vinegar (as the directions state: equal parts of each). After mixing them together, I immediately spread it over my face like thick cake batter while my skin is still moist and receptive. As the mask dries, it starts to tingle when it tightens on the skin, so much so that you might be alarmed your first time trying this. Have no fear; that just means the clay is detoxing your skin while drying. I leave it on as long as I can stand it—roughly 20 minutes—then rinse it off with a wet cloth and warm water. After I’m finished, my skin is always blotchy and red for a few minutes, which is common among must users of this powerful clay, but again, have no fear: it will go away and your skin will be clearer and brighter, with tighter and cleaner pores. Please remember the final step: moisturize diligently!

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Over time, my complexion has become more even; I have less breakouts, and my pores are less noticeable. When I do get an occasional breakout, it heals faster and the scarring diminishes at a quicker rate. If you would like more information on the benefits of bentonite clay, let me know in the comments section and I’ll be more than happy to write about all of its benefits and uses.

Not only are these products effective, they’re also quite affordable and natural. They’re winners in every aspect—you can’t beat that!

MM Goes to CO-OP Food & Drink: Can I Be on This Board?

After the major letdown of Hotel Chantelle the previous week, Marissa and I were hoping upon hope that CO-OP Food & Drink (located in the Hotel on Rivington on Manhattan’s Lower East Side) wouldn’t be another Maverick Monday disappointment. The menu, once again, seemed very promising; we’d wanted to go for a very long time because of their unique offerings and restaurant.com provided us with the opportunity. For US$4.00, I bought a gift card worth US$25.00 to put toward our meal—what a steal! Here’s what the website has to say about the dining experience they try to provide:

Located on the ground floor of Hotel on Rivington in NYC’s Lower East Side, CO-OP Food & Drink is based on the co-operative principle of bringing together different services and products under one space for everyone’s benefit. Under the leadership of Executive Chef Victor Startek, they bring… together different ingredients, flavors and cultures that reflect the diversity that is the Lower East Side.

This philosophy allows guests to enjoy a variety of plates such as the Tuna Tuna Yuzu Sushi Roll (w/ spicy tuna, tuna, avocado & yuzu dynamite sauce), Shredded Pork Belly Tacos (w/ Ancho BBQ, Smoked Creama, Beets), Fried Chicken Biscuits (w/ ranch & pickled jalapeno aioli) and Miso Cured Salmon (w/ peanut sauce, watermelon radish & pickled celery root). In the spirit of a co-operative, most of the dishes are designed to be shared family-style through multiple courses.

Even so, we didn’t get our expectations up too high…until we entered the dining room, that is. (The bar is nice too, by the way.)

The artwork! The wooden table running the length of the dining room! The plush black leather booths and black chandeliers! Everything in the room was noteworthy—decadent and rustic at the same time. What a great juxtaposition and balance the designer created with the ambience and décor—Marissa was so impressed that after our meal, she booked the long table for her annual holiday dinner. While simultaneously perusing the faces in the portraits covering the wall and picking the dishes we wanted to try, our excitement quickly grew. Here’s what we ordered from their eclectic menu:

To Share
Co-Op Roll – spicy tuna, rock shrimp tempura, serrano peppers
Taco Flight – spicy shrimp (with bacon and blue cheese cole slaw), market fish tacos (grilled fish with avocado and red cabbage)

Marissa
Fish Curry – tile fish, red curry, brown rice, tofu
Kiwi Caipirinha – Leblon cachaça, kiwi, lime juice

Me
Miso Cured Salmon – peanuts, celery root, watermelon radish
Kiwi Caipirinha – Leblon cachaça, kiwi, lime juice

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To start, the drinks (Kiwi Caipirinhas) were lovely—just sweet, tart, and strong enough to whet our palettes for the sushi roll, which was good, but not good enough for me to be effusive. The fish tacos on the other hand, were phenomenal, and I’ve had my fair share of fish tacos. Light and refreshing, they were simply cooked and seasoned; each ingredient stood out yet didn’t compete with their counterparts. We loved these and gobbled them up seemingly without breathing! Too bad the spicy shrimp taco gave us the opposite effect. The blue cheese was so pungent that it overpowered the bacon, which in turn, overpowered the spicy shrimp; there was just too much going on at the same time that it completely missed the mark. We wished we had ordered more fish tacos to erase the memory and taste of this misfortune.

We needn’t have worried though, because our main courses were divine! Marissa’s fish curry was neither too rich in consistency nor was it too heavy in coconut flavor or spiciness. Although served steaming hot, the fish wasn’t overcooked sitting in the curry sauce and the curry itself was silky. My miso-cured salmon—which I was afraid would be too salty—was amazing as well. The salmon skin was wonderfully crispy and not chewy in the slightest. The meat was perfectly marbled and cooked just right; moist, fork tender and flaky, the salmon melted in my mouth like a savory candy. The Mavericks were in fish heaven and the accompaniments were like harp strings playing celestial music. I could wax poetic about my salmon alone, however I think I’d be banned from the blogosphere so I’ll spare you all the adjectives.

The only thing missing to round out our experience and meal at CO-OP was dessert, but alas, the pastry chef had embarked on another career path and was no longer making her unique concoctions that I was so dying to try. That’s ok though; because we were so happy with the meal overall, I believe we will return for more, and by then dessert will be back on the menu.

Cheers, CO-OP! You have restored my faith in trendy food.