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

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.

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!

Getting Creative with Squats

Traditional squats, Sumo squats, weighted squats, jump squats, gorilla squats, one-legged squats… There are so many variations on this dynamic, body-altering, life-changing exercise, and all of them have great cardiovascular and muscular benefits. It’s an essential compound exercise. Call me a jerk when I tell you this, I don’t care: I love leg day and incorporating cardio at the same time, especially when it comes to the almighty squat. Before I get into the meat of my post, I’d like to iterate some of the benefits of doing squats.

1. Squats build muscle all over, including core muscles
Squats build muscle and strength in the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves and entire posterior chain. They also contract the abdominal area. Studies have shown that contractions while squatting are more intense than a traditional crunch. Another factotum most people don’t know is that squats provide a highly anabolic environment for all other areas to grow when trained, due to the release of testosterone and growth hormone. This increases muscle mass and strength in all areas of your body.

2. Squats burn more fat
Another bit of information many people don’t know is that muscle burns fat. Because of #1 above, squats are a highly effective way to burn more fat. The more muscle you have on your frame, the more calories you will burn during training and post-workout. If you want to get lean, this is the move for you.

3. Squats are functional, help maintain mobility and balance
Squats are one of the most applicable exercises of all in the real world. They translate across myriad daily activities, help to avoid injury, and increases efficiency in everyday life.

4. Squats boost performance and increase power
Squats increase performance by helping you jump higher and run faster. So along with balance and mobility, add agility to the list of benefits. It takes a lot of effort to rise from the bottom of a squat. Having various points of load along the range of motion, the rise generates power and strength which translates to other movements in the gym, in sports, and in daily life. Squats are truly a universal exercise.

So why do jump squats? We do them to build strength-speed, increase power, improve rate of force development, and of course build up plyometric capacities (plyometrics: a.k.a. “plyos” in gym speak, are exercises based around having muscles exert maximum force in as short a time as possible, with the goal of increasing both speed and power). Standard squats help you build static strength while jump squats develop explosive power. Explosive power is the ability to generate force quickly (as previously stated at the beginning of this paragraph). Also, squat jumps rev up your heart rate. If you do a set of squat jumps between each strength move, you’ll burn more calories and build strength and power at the same time. Incorporating squat jumps will add a dynamic cardio component to any training session.

Now let’s jump into the fun!

The other night after a killer full body kettlebell workout that had me sweating buckets (I’ll post something about it in the near future), Shawn and I had a little fun in the gym’s empty studio before going home. People have been asking me to post workout videos again, so I felt it was only right to acquiesce to those demands. Below is a clip of forward and backward squat jumps on a punching bag.

Not only does this move do everything listed above, it further improves, balance/stability, agility, enhanced motor skill function, and gives that extra boost to the hamstrings, core and glutes; it’s an overall more explosive variation. My heart was pumping hard after doing only a few repetitions for this video clip, proving the intensity of the cardio benefits is strong. Add this to your strength training routine and you’ve got a great interval session in your repertoire. Always remember to practice proper form. With great form comes an even greater result. The better you get, the more variations you can incorporate.

Who said workouts couldn’t be fun?!  😉

One Brand Face: Kat Von D

Sold exclusively at Sephora, Kat Von D’s eponymous makeup line is chock full of bestsellers. From primer to mascara, her products are long-lasting and heavy duty on coverage and color. The website states:

“Created by Kat Von D, tattoo artist, TV star, and owner of High Voltage Tattoo, this inspiring makeup collection exemplifies the fusion of glamorous, old Hollywood and edgy rock ‘n’ roll. Kat’s distinct style and flawlessly crafted face reveals that she is as masterful with a makeup brush as she is with a tattoo machine. Her passion for makeup and self-expression is inked into every product she creates, from the romantic, soulful designs to the rich, highly pigmented and long-lasting formulations. Exclusively at Sephora, Kat Von D’s one-of-a-kind beauty collection allows you to indulge your creativity and unleash your
inner artist.”

After so many claims of how full coverage her foundations and concealers are—enough to cover a tattoo—and how long-lasting all of her other products are as well, I decided to buy everything needed to “flawlessly craft” my own face and see if all of the declarations are true. Below is everything I bought (photos courtesy of sephora.com), in the order in which I applied them.

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First impression: I love that the Lock-It Tattoo Foundation is in a clear pump dispenser (I’m shade M62); you can see how much you have left and the pump is easier and more sanitary than pouring liquid onto your hand and placing your fingers all over the opening. Contact with skin=bacteria. No pump = easy to spill + unsanitary + lack of control. The formula is thick, highly pigmented and full coverage; a little goes a long way, so this is actually a good value at US$34.00 because I only had to use one pump. The same is true for the Lock-It Tattoo Concealer ($US25.00–I’m shade M26) when it comes to texture and coverage. Using these two products in conjunction definitely make for a flawless face in seconds. I used my Real Techniques Buffing Brush and Expert Face Brush, respectively, to apply them. If you need to sheer the products out for less coverage, a damp beauty blender will do the trick wonderfully (I have since tried this method and loved the more natural-looking results). I didn’t use a setting powder this go-round to see how the products last throughout the day. Next, using my Real Techniques Multipurpose Brush, I applied the Everlasting Blush in Essex, a matte cool rose that’s deep enough to show on my complexion. Just in time for this review, I was able to purchase the early release of the Immortal Lash 24-hour Mascara. I wasn’t crazy about the spiral wand at first, but the formula of the mascara and the spoolie really separated and lengthened my lashes. To finish everything, I applied Everlasting Love Liquid Lipstick in Mau5, a.k.a. BauHau5, a deep yet bright raspberry (US$19.00; The Painted Love Lipsticks come in the same colors and are the same price). Let’s see how it looked from the start of my day till the very end, no makeup touchups, photo filters or editing.

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Sitting under the infamously unflattering fluorescent office lighting at 8:00AM (left pic), I loved the way this makeup looked; this speaks volumes! Possibly a little heavy for everyday daytime wear (if a damp sponge/beauty blender isn’t used to sheer it out) the foundation looked amazing, covered all imperfections, was a perfect match for my complexion—and I’m sure many others, due to the large shade range—made me look more awake/brighter than I felt so early in the morning, and didn’t reflect a white cast from flash photography. My skin looked flawless and matte. The blush was just enough color (when applied with a light hand) to provide me with a healthy flush, and the mascara gave my lashes natural yet impactful definition. This liquid lipstick got more compliments than any other colored gloss/lipstick/lip stain I have ever worn in my life—no exaggeration (besides one of my reds)! By midday, my skin was starting to look dewy, borderline shiny, but everything was still in place; even my lips were still vibrant 3 cups of tea, a bowl of cereal, 4 glasses of water and a sandwich later. So far, the results were quite impressive, given that I didn’t use primer, set my foundation with powder or use setting spray. After a long day, all of the products endured humid conditions, my oily skin, long hours and a lot of sweating. There was a bit of foundation transfer, which was to be expected without setting it and being in steam room-like weather, and there was still a flush on my cheeks from the blush. The mascara didn’t flake, smudge or budge from my lashes and there was still a hint of color on my lips after breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee and dinner!

Although the day started with visible makeup, it became more natural as the day progressed, and that made me happy since I was at work. Kat Von D definitely has a winning line of products for women that desire a fuller coverage (I was recovering from a breakout and no one could tell), a face that’s beat to the gods all day long (yes, please), trustworthy makeup for a special event, or a night on the town with a show-stopping face (again, yes), then this is the line for you. I have since created the same face with setting powder and the results were amazing, so I know I’ll be returning to these babies again and again. As of right now, this is my favorite high end product line with all hits and no misses. Taking it all off with the makeup removing wipes was a breeze and nothing made me break out anew. Thank you, Kat, for being your wonderfully tattooed self and for loving old Hollywood glam with edge, and needing to cover up your ink once in a while, and most of all, for finding the right people to make your vision come true and put it into such pretty packaging. I applaud you all.

Now we can forever give good face.