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?!  😉

Crease Lightning

Forever on the search for the perfect under-eye concealer, I have spent a not-so-small fortune and have endured a lot of slipping, sliding, and creasing. There has been one too many false alarms when I think I’ve found the perfect formula, only to find that the concealer has sunken into the folds under my eyes, making it look as if I’ve tried to caulk them like bathroom tiles. Not a good look. From cream formulas to liquid; from waterproof to mineral; from powder to mousse; all have creased on me (even with face primer and/or eyes shadow base), except for MAC Pro Longwear Concealer.

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Although this is my Holy Grail fixer, I go through this tiny vial very quickly and as a result, I end up spending a lot of money–US$18.00 every time really adds up. And honestly, sometimes my dark circles need more coverage than the Pro Longwear provides them (I’m all about the vampire life—I’ll sleep when I’m dead or I’ve achieved world domination, whichever comes first). So on the days when I need a stronger war paint, I’ve been at a loss as to how to combat creasing…until now, that is! After much experimentation, I have amended my application procedure. Let me introduce you to a trusty standby and a new friend, and I’ll show you how I use them both.

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The first step in my new regimen is to layer my eye cream; the more moisture you infuse into your skin, the less lines and creases it will have (common sense). I apply one layer of rich eye cream, put on my face moisturizer, and wait a couple of minutes to let everything sink in. In the meantime, I line up all of my cosmetics onto my sink to cut down on time. Then I apply second layer of eye cream and wait another minute (put my headband on and blow my nose)—this is the new part of my routine, using my trusty standby (I use eye cream every day and night). Next, I use eye shadow primer under my eyes—this is my new friend. Side note: I bought a cheapie for this experiment, just in case, figuring I can invest in a more expensive and/or better primer in the future if this trial actually works. However, if the Ruby Kisses is effective, I might not change at all! From this point on, everything else in my morning regimen is the same. For this experiment, I’m using Kat Von D’s Lock-It Tattoo Concealer because this has creased on me a lot in the past and will therefore be the perfect test product.

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Face primers and eye shadow bases haven’t worked, but eye shadow primer has some kind of magical power that hasn’t allowed this concealer to crease ALL DAY. 10 hours later and the above pic is the end result. I couldn’t be happier, and neither can my dark circles!

*Coincidentally, the makeup artist/guru Wayne Goss just posted about this exact same solution on YouTube not long ago. The saying is true: Great minds definitely think alike. 😉

**UPDATE: Since writing this post, I’ve switched from the Ruby Kisses primer to the Sephora brand and it works even better!

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Taming the Beast…the BEAST?!

Women of every ethnicity under the sun ask me how I straighten my hair and how long it takes to get the job done. “All of those curls! It must take forEVER to straighten them.” “Can you even COMB your hair?” “You must have some strong arms to deal with all of THAT hair…” (Don’t you just LOVE all of the emphatics?) I have strong arms because I lift weights, not because my hair is tumbleweed (my hair isn’t even close to being such a thing). Trust and know there’s a lot less to straightening my hair than meets the eye, as I will describe herein.

Since I don’t have video capabilities set up yet, the following pics and my deft use of the English language will have to suffice for the time being.

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Firstly, I always straighten my hair a day after I wash it; for some reason, flatirons are more effective on [at least] day-old hair, in my experience. The process starts by gently using a wide-tooth comb to address any tangles. Next, I mist heat protectant all over my hair and run the comb through it one more time to make sure the spray has been evenly distributed and not one strand has been missed. I have very fine hair that is quite damage-prone without proper care.
After separating my hair into four quarters, I begin the straightening process on a small section of the first quarter with my pre-heated flatiron, placing my comb underneath it as a guide and to keep my strands in place; the smaller the section of hair, the easier and quicker the task becomes because the heat penetrates the hair shaft more effectively and thoroughly.  I repeat this step until one half of my head is completed, usually about 10-12 minutes, then mist the straightened hair with shine spray while the strands are still warm. I repeat these steps with the other half, making the entire process clock in at less than 25 minutes. To finish it all off, I slap on a headband to tame any fly-aways; I don’t want to look like I stuck my finger into an electric socket, I mean c’mon. I might be crazy, but I don’t have to look crazy!

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…And then I make myself look crazy anyway.