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.

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.***

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.

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?!  😉

Sledding for Summer

As anyone that knows me knows, I am always trying to push my body with different workout routines, classes and exercises. This is necessary if I’m to reach my health and fitness goals sooner rather than later in life, and as summer quickly approaches, it’s time to step up my game once again.

Last week I revisited an old friend, the push sled (a.k.a. prowler). I haven’t visited him in a while because too many people warned against it because of my faulty knee, saying it would do more harm than good. Can I say that how wrong they were was an understatement? Not only did it feel great, it strengthened my knee and will continue to do so over time. Before I show you my test run, I’ll explain the workout and its benefits.

Besides providing an intense way to blast the legs—which I love—a weight sled puts your whole body under [good] stress and drives your heart rate through the roof, making it a fantastic way to rev up your metabolism. It increases your work capacity, helps in developing anaerobic power, and is great recovery after heavy training sessions. Sled training delivers overall strength, body composition improvement, and if used with the appropriate training protocols, can also make you faster (think sprinter) àall of my goals. Push sled workouts are one of the best ways to decrease body fat, especially *visceral fat, is with high-intensity work using a relatively larger volume. So how do you perform this incredible, do-all exercise, you ask? Keep reading.

Push sleds allow you to push either from a low position (making you more parallel to the ground) or from a high position. The lower position focuses more on your quads and makes for a more difficult workout. Most people tend to load up their sleds, too, but you shouldn’t start with a lot of weight, explains. Try loading the sled with one, 45-pound plate in the beginning, or even nothing until you get the gist of the movement and achieve proper form. Once you have the form correct, only then should you use a 45-pound plate and then add-load weight in increments according to your strength.

“Guys try to move the sled as fast as possible, and in the process they round their back and push through their arms,” says Mack from Men’s Health Magazine. “Instead, you should move deliberately and treat the exercise as if it’s a walking plank. As you move forward, you should maintain a straight line from your head to your ankles the entire time. Your power comes from your legs and hips, so drive your feet diagonally into the ground with each step.”

Since I’ve done this exercise before and I know I can add weight to the sled, I performed my test run with one 45-pound plate. I figured that if this was successful, I can stay at this weight until I become faster without sacrificing form, then add weight in 25-pound increments. Having a video of this is not for vanity’s sake, mind you, but to critique myself and to document my progress. Additionally, I’d like to help others in their journeys as much as I possibly can through any avenue with which I create or am provided. Let’s take a look:

Not half bad, right? I’ll definitely be doing this more and work on improving each time.

*Visceral fat, or abdominal fat, is a type of body fat that exists in the abdomen and surrounds the internal organs. Everyone has some, especially those who are sedentary, chronically stressed, or maintain unhealthy diets. Excessive deposits of visceral fat are associated with many serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and increased blood pressure. Though it is possible to lose, it requires a larger commitment than spot exercises, like sit ups or crunches; a combination of cardiovascular activity and a lean diet is typically required. Hellooo push sled!

Motivated Monday

Several years ago when I first started getting into fitness, I had no idea what I was doing or should be doing in order to lose weight and get in shape. I threw myself into a bunch of cardio classes and got a personal trainer that didn’t properly create a plan that suited my body type or goals. Yes, I lost weight, but I also bulked up like a man because I wasn’t doing the right workouts for my body and my diet was neither practical nor conducive to my goals. After suffering from an injury due to over-training, bulking up (which everyone says is impossible for women to do—au contraire) and having to undo that damage while still on a weight-loss/fat-loss mission, I was forced to understand the science of everything: diet, fitness, nutrition and health. Basically, I have and am still learning how the body works as a whole.

After much research, trial and error, I now know what works for me. My body composition has changed due my mix of cardio and strength training paired with cleaner, more practical eating habits. Even though I’m back to lifting weights, my execution is different now; my body and muscles are not getting bigger, they’re getting leaner. I truly understand what bodybuilding means now and I’m applying it literally by building my body piece by piece.

Also, my mentality has completely changed. No matter how many times I tried to convince myself that it was ok that the numbers on the scale weren’t budging because of the muscle/fat equation, I didn’t believe my own thoughts or the science behind it; I was stuck on societal charts/graphs/”standards”/”norms.” I’ve finally broken away from my weight on the scale, understanding and truly embracing the fact that I am sculpting my body to fit my “norm,” my standards. This keeps me motivated and makes me want to help others understand their bodies more fully.

Am I completely satisfied with where I am right now? No, however I’m not finished; my journey will never end. Yet, please understand that I’m happier with myself and my body than I have ever been, even when I was at my skinniest, because now I’m at my healthiest. When I post pictures or videos of myself or my workouts, it’s not for vanity purposes. They are to keep pushing myself further and whoever else is on a similar mission or is thinking about starting. The more I learn and change, the more I will share my message to those who want to hear it. I’m here to inspire and motivate, while I reap inspiration and motivation from your journeys in turn.
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From Ab to Fab: Part Deux

So, on to the second portion of our workout.

I didn’t do legs this time around because they were already given a good going-over during JAB. So we finished the evening with abs. WordPress won’t let me upload my abs video, so here I am after my first set on the incline bench:

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After two more grueling sets, we were finished and famished.

It’s great having a workout partner; you motivate each other, challenge and push one another and make the time pass quicker. Your partner’s energy feeds you and vice versa. Not only that, it creates an even stronger bond than the one you may already share; it gives you something else in common and you are able to help each other reach your health and fitness goals.

Stay inspired and keep inspiring!