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

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

Ringing the Bells

Ever since I discovered the life-changing awesomeness of kettlebells, I’ve incorporated them into my workouts when I’m not taking a class, or when I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the gym but want a total body workout (legs, arms, core, cardio). I neglected them for a while and picked them back up again last summer and haven’t looked back. A lot of people have asked what kinds of exercises I do with them and why, so I figured I’d post my initial kettlebell routine (adapted from Onnit Academy), and the descriptions of each exercise.

Full Body Kettlebell Circuit Workout
Perform as many reps as possible in 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. Move through each movement as quickly as possible without rest. Once one round is completed, rest as needed and repeat for a total of 5 rounds. Again: one round=exercises 1 through 5 just like the name dictates —> it’s a circuit.
1: Kettlebell Goblet Squat to Curl

2: Around The Body To Hold
3: 2-Hand Lunge To Press
4: Around The Body – 30 sec each direction
5: Tactical Lunge

Due to the fact that you must repeat the Around the Body exercise to make sure you train both sides, it feels like you’re doing 6 exercises.

Below is a video of my first time trying this workout last year; you’ll be able to tell because my squats and lunges aren’t as deep as they should be. (They’re a LOT better now, especially after seeing how I looked while doing them—plus, I’m stronger! Videos are a great way to critique your form and to see where you need improvement. I’m a stickler for form and technique, so I make sure I change quickly. Besides, injuries from improper form suck!)

The first time I tried this workout, I used an 8 kg kettlebell and rested 30 seconds to one full minute between exercises. It took me about 40 minutes to complete. Over the course of one month, I gradually increased my weight and decreased my rest periods. By the time I was ready to change my workout routine (every 4-6 weeks to keep the body on its toes), I was using a 14kg kettlebell and resting only 10 seconds between exercises and rounds. That means I was in and out of the gym in 30 minutes with an insane HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout complete! Heart pounding, muscles pumped, sweat dripping = mission accomplished. By the way, I did this routine about 2 to 3 times per week, doing different workouts on other days.

I’ve gone through several adaptations of this workout since I filmed this video, but since so many people asked for it, I felt it only right to post this one first so you could see where and how I started. I’ll post my most recent variation soon, because I’ve already been asked for that as well. You all are proving to be real task masters when it comes to workout videos and pictures! I love it!

What I would love even more is for you to share your journey with me, and to ask me any questions you might have regarding any of my posts or their content. Also, please feel free to propose ideas in my virtual “Suggestion Box,” a.k.a. my email: thevickylicious@gmail.com. I really enjoy hearing from you, whether it’s via email, comments on this site, Twitter, Instagram (both @TheVickylicious in case you didn’t know), and even in person.

***I didn’t want to bore you with the full-length video of me completing one entire round, but if you’re interested in seeing it, please let me know and I’ll be sure to post it for you.***

I Want a Slice!

I rarely write rants, BUUUUT… Never have I ever walked out of a gym class, or any class for that matter, out of respect for the instructor. Today however, it could not be helped. I took the worst spin class I’ve ever taken in my life, and I’ve been spinning for over 10 years (I’m also certified, so I have experience on both sides of this coin). I understand everyone has their own teaching style, Yet and still: one’s inability to stop talking, horrendous music selection (by anyone’s standards), constantly cutting off the volume in order to hear one’ s voice, therefore not allowing anyone to get into any kind of “zone” whatsoever, makes for a horrible experience and denies the class of any potential energy. I tried to stay and ended up angry and annoyed. Unable to hide my irritation, I unclipped and hopped off the bike in mid-stride, apologizing to my friend–not the instructor–for not being able to stay. On top of that, I wasn’t the only one who left, so I know it wasn’t just me that was feeling this way. Re-certification is definitely in order. Too many people get a piece of the pie that don’t deserve it. And I’m a hungry mofo.CFS 2014

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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