Ask Amanda: Aw, She Got the Velcro

Let’s be real: you can get a great workout in whatever junky outfit you have lying around the house.  I’ve had clients come to me in baggy, oversized college T-shirts, flannel pyjama pants, and all manner of odd gear from reflective soccer shorts to collared polo shirts to an actual full-length unitard.

uni.jpg

Actually I’d love it if my client rolled up in this

But let’s be real.  Even though you don’t have to dress like you’re straight off the lululemon runway to work up a sweat, there is something about dropping down into a burpee with perfectly-in-place high-waisted capri or taking a jog in a strappy-but-secure stylish sports bra that makes the whole exercise experience a bit…nicer.

And why wouldn’t you want your sports gear to be damn cute as well?

Already I can hear the snores from the less-interested male clients and hey, you’re right – the selection of red/black/blue shirts and black/grey shorts at your local Big 5 might not be super inspiring, so if you’re looking for more stylish stuff, check out these brands.

men.jpg

Listen, these men can basically work out in ANYTHING and no one is mad….except maybe put on some shoes, middle guy, sheesh.

But for my ladies, we are in a veritable wonderland of gorgeous, stylish, and somehow still functional fitness clothing at every price point – so let’s embrace it, dammit.  I’ll be the first to admit that I have some fairly wild taste when it comes to gym clothes, but for the sake of this post, I’ll stick to the basics: key pieces I wear every day, and general stuff I think the average fit female would like to wear herself.

Let’s start from the bottom up: shoes and socks.  I am a die-hard, can’t-be-swayed, own-the-same-pair-in-six-colours Nike Flyknit Free fan.  I didn’t always wear minimalist shoes; in fact, for the first eight years of my running career, I couldn’t be swayed from Asics Gel Nimbus (though now if I put them on they’d feel like cement blocks).

rainbow free

An accurate representation of my current shoe wardrobe

However, my point is this: find a shoe that you absolutely ADORE (you get excited to actually put on, doesn’t cause you pain while working out, and is comfy) and buy it in at least three colors – no, not (just) for vanity, but so you can rotate between the pairs and prevent injury.  So many of my clients wear a single pair of way-too-old shoes to the grave and then wonder why they have shin splints or knee pain all of a sudden.

As for the socks, some simple guidelines: skip the cotton (tend to get soggy and stretch out); go for compression and arch support if you’re running in them; and make sure they’re cut higher in the back to avoid slippage in shoes.  From there, the world is your oyster.  My fave sock picks?

Feetures High Performance Cushion No-Show Tab Socks

Nike Elite Lightweight No-Show Tab Socks

Balega Enduro No Show Arch Support Socks

compression

For even MORE support, go whole hog with the NEWZILL knee-highs.

Now that we’ve got our feet sorted, how about we talk lower half?  I live in probably one of the most inhospitable running climates on Earth in that it is always hot, always humid, and more often than not, either blazing sun or pouring rain.  For this reason, I favour a nice compression short for lifting and an easy breezy lightweight split short for running. The best of both?  See below:

Affordable compression shorts that you can buy in a thousand colours: either the Nike Pro 3″ Training Shorts or the Cotton On Gym Short.  The high waist, thick band, and tight fit of the shorts makes them stay put on your upper thigh and stay comfortable throughout even a longer workout.  In terms of the running shorts, there is one INCREDIBLE product by Salomon that takes the take – they are literally like you’re wearing nothing at all.  Behold, the S-Lab Light 3 Short (not cheap; worth it):

salomon

Please understand how light, flippy and comfortable these second-skin shorts are.

Onward and upward to the top half of the bod – again, my apologies to those of you with “seasons” as you probably need things like “sleeves” and “jackets” in your life, and I wont’ cover any of that business here.  But again – in terms of dealing with heat, Nike does it again with their collection of well-fitted and ultra-lightweight singlets.  Some top choices?

Nike Breathe Elastika – love the choice to tie up or leave down depending on the day

Nike Breeze Cool – my current count is four; in teal, nean yellow, cobalt, and black

Nike Breathe Tank – like you’re wearing nothing at all…nothing at all…

Should you not be as unilaterally obsessed with the Nike brand as I am, I’d be remiss to not mention lululemon’s amazing line of built-in bra tops (the only brand I trust to actually hold ’em in, if you catch my drift), the standout of which is the Fresh in Mesh Tank that I will eventually own in every colour possible:

mesh.png

Cutest ever, am I right?

One last note on accessories, despite the fact that I am actually a pretty simple gal when it comes to things like gym bags (whatever I toss my stuff in becomes my “bag”), watches (don’t wear one), and gadgets (I’m definitely not the one to ask about things like copper balance bracelets or knee straps or anything like that) – but I love a good, sporty hat or visor, and my absolute fave are the ones from Headsweats.  Comfortable, performance-oriented, and unbeatable for hot weather whether you’re running, golfing, or heck, just standing outdoors for 4 minutes in Singapore heat:

visor.jpg

This one’s even reflective – great for night runs!

That’s it for my list of raves and faves when it comes to performance gear (special thanks to Nike, Cotton On BODY, lululemon and Amazon for making it even easier to get my fave picks ordered online) – but I’d love to hear what YOUR favourite choices are when it comes to all things exercise.

Tell me, readers – who are YOU wearing (in the gym)?

Advertisements

Ask Amanda: Wellness WHUT?

After reading a particularly harsh NY Times account of the navel-gazing self-indulgence carnival that was Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Summit, it made me think – what does the public think that wellness professionals actually do all day?

coach.jpg

Are we a bunch of wheatgrass-shooting, collagen-chugging hippies that have completely lost touch with the mundanities and responsibilities of the real world?  Muscle-bound meatheads that only talk about food as “macros” and eschew any workout that doesn’t revolve around a plate-stacked bar?  Even worse, are we jargon-spewing, unlicensed, fancy-rhetoric fanatics armed with a bunch of lazily Googled anecdotes to support whatever pill/product/program we’re pushing at the time?

God, I hope not.

The health/fitness/wellness industry as we know it is a multibillion-dollar one, including all manner of things from gym memberships to supplement sales to sleep analysts to meditation apps.  We’re a diverse group of people and organizations dedicated to (hopefully!) bettering people and the planet by providing healthy and holistic solutions to common human problems.

wellness

Not everyone defines wellness as I do, but for my line of work, I like to use the simple idea that wellness is an active and self-aware pursuit of better health.  This situates wellness both as a process and an activity, not a passive “state of being” that somehow just arrives onto your doorstep.  You must work toward it, strive for it, and be realistic in the acceptance that wellness is a journey toward “better” – not “perfect.”

To refine my role in the wellness sphere more specifically, I am a personal trainer (first and foremost, I stand for the transformative and empowering experience of building strength and fitness), a nutritionist (not a clinically registered dietitian – rather, someone who advises individual food choices based on stringent data collection, iterative testing, and program revision), and a wellness coach (above and beyond the goals of weight loss and proper nutrition, I also help clients find balance with their sleep patterns, stress and time management, coping strategies, and goal setting).

Whew.  It’s a lot.

But know this: it should be a lot because I’ve been doing this a long time.  Looking back on my now 11-year career in wellness, I’ve been certified as a personal trainer by the American Council on Exercise, a group exercise instructor by the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America, a pre and postnatal corrective exercise specialist by FitForBirth, a nutritionist by both Precision Nutrition and the American Sports and Fitness Association, and a myriad of smaller sport-specific agencies (SPINNING, TRX, BOSU, SilverSneakers, THUMP Boxing, IndoRow, Aquaspin, and Stages Cycling, to name a few).

My point with listing all this here is this: it is crucial that you look at the qualifications of your wellness professional before you commit to an intimate, expensive, and time-consuming process with her or him.  Ask questions about their experience, their success stories, and their methods.  Ask for data.  Ask for photos.  Do not hesitate to tell them what you expect from working with them, and ask for progress reports and indicators toward those goals.  And above all, make sure you “click” with them; you trust them, and you think they might inspire you to find a better version of yourself.

One of my fave quotes about working with a wellness coach in particular is this: “it’s like hiring a tour guide to a place you already live.”  My day-to-day job involves a lot of “behind the scenes” wellness work with clients – for every hour I spend with them in the gym or consult room, there’s at least a half hour of workout planning, another half hour of text and email communication to ensure they’re feeling well and check in, potentially another hour of reviewing and commenting on food photos, and so on.  I try to be entirely present with my clients, taking each of them for the individuals that they are, and giving full credence to their place in their personal journey.

inspired

Ok, now I’m the one sounding like Gwyneth.  But it’s true: my most successful clients are those who use me as a guide, sounding board, facilitator, and second opinion – rather than co-depend on me as a guru, “yes” man, decision maker, magician, or savior. Finding a wellness pro to partner with you and help you create and stay accountable to action steps (a coach!) is much more valuable than finding someone that forces their way of wellness on you, pats you on the back for anything and everything you do, or worse, uses criticism and shaming to reprogram your habits and beliefs.

My message for this week’s #AskAmanda is this: we should all strive toward wellness, and we could probably all use some help doing it.  Finding a trainer, nutritionist, wellness coach, or other professional to help you set and reach goals is a worthwhile investment, and one I (obviously) recommend as a top priority.  Whether it’s coaching in-person, online (using a service like Trainerize) or simply exchanging a few well-thought-out emails with someone in the industry, investing in your own health is never a waste of time – as long as you do it with your best interests (and realistic expectations) in mind.

Have you ever sought professional help to reach a health, fitness, or wellness goal?  What lessons did you learn?

Ask Amanda: Weighty Issues

I was going to hijack my own post this week to talk about my fury over the post-Superbowl Lady Gaga body shaming, but you know what?  It’s still too soon.  I’m going to let that one simmer in the pot for a while before I just let the vicious a*sholes that broke her down have a piece of my (rational, inclusive, empowered) mind.

But I digress.

Today’s post is about something near and dear to me: the idea that you can get fit anywhere, anytime, and at any price point.  I recently opened two private fitness studios in Singapore – a small boutique gym called Fit N’ Fresh and a one-on-one transformation and weight loss institute called DISCREET – both of which are premium (read: not inexpensive) facilities.  That being said, I am a huge believer in bodyweight (equipment-free) workouts, and it is in fact on those workouts that I built my business back in 2009.

At that time, outdoor bootcamps were still very up-and-coming, and my business partner and I were determined to offer safe, effective, creative outdoor workouts – using absolutely nothing but our clients’ own bodies.  We wanted to redefine the concept of “exercise” not as something you do for a half an hour within four walls, but as something you practice in the pursuit of making your body a functional machine – no small feat, to be sure.

My personal training clients’ top excuses for not working almost undoubtedly fall into one of the following categories: no time, no space, no gym access (this includes the recurrent excuse of “travel,” which never ceases to frustrate me since I’m pretty sure you didn’t forget to pack your own human body on your trip), and/or not sure what to do when they’re on their own.

I’m gonna give you an early Christmas present and solve all of these at once.  BEHOLD:

AMANDA’S BODYWEIGHT EXERCISE BUFFET

Buffet, you say?  Yep, I’m talkin’ about a full feast of fitness, ripe for the picking – so pack up your plate if you wish (i.e. try all ten exercises) or pick & choose the faves that are right for you and your ability level (i.e. choose five and repeat them) and get ready to sweat it out in ONLY TWENTY MINUTES – no matter where you are in the world.  Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, resting for 15 seconds before moving onto the next exercise. Repeat the set (two total rounds) for the full 20-minute challenge.  

Easy, right?  Talk to me after it’s over. 😉

BURPEES.  My absolute favorite full-body bodyweight move and silver bullet of trainers everywhere, this one attacks all your major muscle groups while building cardiovascular endurance and warming you up (and um…don’t forget the push-up at the bottom, ok?).

burpee.jpg

A REAL burpee includes a push-up (4).  Otherwise, it’s just a squat-thrust.

PUSH-UPS.  The best part of a burpee is the push-up, amirite?  Ok, maybe you hate me now.  But given that there’s literally hundreds of push-up styles, they’re one of the most versatile bodyweight exercises available.

SQUATS.  Like push-ups, there are about a thousand varieties of squats in the world, and lots of them don’t involve a lick of equipment – so push that booty back, get those quads ready, and work all the big muscle groups of your lower body in one swoop.

serious.jpeg

LUNGES.  Speaking of…um…swooping?…lunges are another fantastic way to work the legs without any weights or equipment.  Step ’em forward, move ’em back, go sideways, or even jump it out – you’ve got so many ways to get lean, toned legs from this single move.

PLANK-UPS.  Perhaps the distant cousin of the push-up, plank-ups are often an easier movement for beginners and a great twofer when it comes to working arms and core at the same time.  Caveat: you gotta keep your hands under your shoulders and your butt out of the sky to make this one work (see form below):

plankups.jpg

Butt down, hands under the shoulders.  Check yo’ self.

KNEES-TO-ELBOWS (three ways).  Traditional knees-to-elbows means connecting the knee to the elbow while holding a plank position (shown below).  I also count bicycle crunches as a variation on knees-to-elbows since the twisting and core engagement is similar, and it’s an easier modification for folks that need to build core strength.  And if you want to amp it up a bit – try mountain climbers, the plyometric version of this move.

kte.png

Try to actually contact the elbow with your knee if you can.

BACK EXTENSIONS.  We all get so caught up in training the front side of the body (think six-pack abs, a nice rounded chest, bulging biceps) that we forget that the back side is actually what takes the brunt of our poor posture, constant sitting, and core instability.  Whether it’s Superman holds, swimmers, or prone rows, integrating spinal strengthening movements into your bodyweight program is a necessity.

JUMPING JACKS.  Laugh all you want (but not at its extensive history), but this cardio move gets the heart rate up, shakes out the lactic acid from the limbs, and tones up your calves by hopping lightly and continuously on the toes.

REVERSE CRUNCHES.  Another one with lots of variations (leg drops, hip lifts, toe touches, and decline bench drops are a few of my faves), the reverse crunch works the rectus abdominus (lower abs) while allowing the neck to rest comfortably.

ISOMETRIC HOLDS.  Isometric exercises mean you hold a contraction for a specified period of time (rather than the contract-release pattern of traditional exercises).  Planks are perhaps the most diverse of this group for their many variations, but glute bridges (below) and chair sits are just as effective – as are the more advanced hollow holds (if you’re seeking six-pack status, this one is a must).  If you choose this type of exercise, try and hold it for 45 seconds straight – no cheating!

glute.jpg

Booty booty booty booty poppin’ everywhere.

So there you have it, folks – ten exercises, twenty minutes, zero equipment, and one hundred percent effective.

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t mention pull-ups, triceps dips, step-ups, box jumps, or a host of other very functional exercises that I also use on a daily basis – the answer is because they all use equipment (even simple stuff, like benches or chairs) and I wanted this piece to be LITERALLY about what you can do with your own body – and not a thing more.

All it takes to get – and stay! – in shape are consistency, determination, and focus.  There are no excuses – only priorities.  Make yours getting in a workout today.

Did I miss one of your favorite at-home exercises?  Share with me in the comments!

Ask Amanda: Oiled Up & Ready

Every now and then, ThisFitBlonde takes a break from yakkin’ about fitness (my first love) to talk about nutrition (my…life partner?).

A quick disclaimer, for the sake of my clinical (and wayyyyyy more well-qualified) friends: I am a certified sports nutritionist, which means that I have the necessary background and examinations to advise clients on what types of foods to eat to better their athletic and fitness performance.

I am not a registered dietitian (R.D.), which is a health professional that has completed a relevant bachelor’s degree, done countless hours in a supervised and accredited practice program, and passed a (very challenging) national examination.  Whew.

That said, I do feel qualified to offer an informed opinion on certain nutritional topics – and which oils are best to use while cooking is one of them.  A lot of clients of mine “default” to olive oil because they’ve heard it’s healthy; some use coconut oil on everything because they’ve heard it’s even better; even others spend a fortune on avocado or hempseed oil because it sounds a bit fancier, or maybe because they think it boasts a higher smoke point.

oils

Sound familiar?

I want to clear up some of the pros and cons on different oils and offer my professional opinion – both in terms of health and performance – on which ones you should be using.  For those of you who are already bored of this post, print out this easy-to-read guide – it’ll give you the down low in one quick visual you can post on your fridge.

tin.jpg

OLIVE.  This is basically your #1 best all-around oil – it’s high in the good fats, low in the dangerous ones, tastes delicious, delivers on the flavonoids, tastes good in dressings and is pretty useful for cooking.  Higher quality olive oils are bought in tins or dark glass bottles, not clear ones, and extra virgin (versus regular olive oil) has a stronger flavor.

coconut.jpg

COCONUT.  I’m talking unrefined (the type that’s solid at room temp) and virgin, as the other types (read: cheap) are definitely not healthy to ingest.  High in the good saturated fat (lauric acid), low in the bad ones, superb as a butter substitute in baking and fabulous for cooking Asian cuisine (for flavor) and cooking in general (for its high smoke point).

ghee.jpeg

GRASS FED BUTTER.  Please don’t ignore those two words in front of the yummy word “butter” because they do matter – and ghee, or clarified butter, also counts here.  Real, honest butter has a ton of Vitamin A, E, and K2, and if you’re using the clarified sort, it doesn’t burn when cooking (since clarifying removes the lactose and proteins).  Plus, um, did you realize that BUTTER IS OF COURSE THE MOST DELICIOUS?!?!?

hemp.jpeg

HEMPSEED.  It’s basically the same as olive oil in its health properties, but with the added benefit of having the type of Omega-6 fatty acid that acts as an anti-inflammatory, which we can all use.  Hempseed oil has also been shown to have an anti-clotting effect on the blood – but this one is best used for dressings and cold foods, as heating hempseed oil changes its nutritional composition somewhat significantly.

bad.jpg

OILS TO AVOID.  I’ve just highlighted the ones I’d recommend to clients, but in general, you’re going to want to avoid this (shockingly) long list for any sort of long-term use (as in, fine for the occasional dose of Grandma’s Christmas cookies but not ideal for everyday cooking): soybean, palm, corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, pumpkin seed, margarine, lard.  These contain way too much Omega-6 (bad) fat and not enough Omega-3 (good) fatty acids to make ’em worth your while, and some are also high in saturated and trans fats to boot.

All this talk about oil is making me hungry – and making me think I’ll need to add a follow up post about one my favorite nutrition myths to debunk – that FAT doesn’t actually make you fat, and OILS are actually a wonderful part of a healthy diet!  But until next time, readers…

What’s your favorite oil to use for cooking, baking, or just a good old-fashioned bread dip?

Ask Amanda: Stretching, The Truth

I talk a lot about fitness on this blog, and truth be told, I talk a lot about the “hardcore” type of fitness.  I tell you to lift (heavy) weights, do HIIT, check out a killer interval class, try some circuit training, and attempt all sorts of other sporty stuff – some of which, admittedly, I know may be intimidating for a lot of you lovely readers out there.

So today, let’s shift gears.  Downshift, more specifically.

I want to talk about one of the most ignored components of a holistically fit lifestyle – flexibility.  So many of us (*pointing finger directly at self*) eschew stretching almost entirely in favor of strength, speed, power, agility, endurance – basically any other type of training besides the kind that actually does the most long-term good (d’oh).

Flexibility training is like boiled brussels sprouts for serious fitness freaks.  We all acknowledge that we need to keep it in the regular rotation, and we’ll even tell other people they should include it, but truth be told, we rarely commit to it ourselves.  Do as I say, not as I do – and I am one of the guiltiest of all when it comes to this fitness sin.

There was a time – granted, it seems like a lifetime ago – when I was doing yoga religiously, 2-3 times per week.  I had a Bikram phase (ended abruptly by the fact that Bikram himself is a giant a*shole who deserves zero dollars from any thinking person), a Kundalini phase (summary: lots of chanting), a restorative phase (aka “assisted sleep”), a basic bitch power yoga phase, and even a wonderful (if far too short-lived) running-plus-yoga phase called Detox/Retox wherein you ran two miles, did 90 minutes of Vinyasa flow, and got a free beer afterwards.

hot.jpg

Long story short, I am no stranger to the concept of stretching.  I simply don’t do it anymore.  And at age 33, I am quickly losing the luxury of being able to do such a thing.

A loyal reader asked me what the most “important” types of stretches are, and I figured I’d use our little space this week to not only answer that question, but also give you an insight into what types of stretches I utilize with my own personal training clients and why I really do believe – despite my own shortcomings – that stretching matters.

Stretching can relieve stress, decrease the risk of injury, improve energy flow, increase range of motion and athletic performance, encourage better circulation, reduce chronic pain, and even help to manage cholesterol levels.  Stretching after workouts reduces inflammation and soreness and makes it easier to continue being active the next day – important stuff for those of us who don’t like to take a “DOMS day” off.

But let’s be real – all of that is well and good, but when you only have 5 minutes to soak in all those amazing benefits, how should you spend your sacred stretch time?

First of all, attack them hammies.  If you sit a lot, your hamstrings are probably tight.  If you run a lot, your hamstrings are probably tight.  If you lift a lot, your hamstrings are probably tight.  Sense a theme?  I like to get my clients into a supine position, have them hold a towel or band, and lift one leg, knee straight, through their reasonable range of motion, as shown below:

hams.jpg

This is a reasonable range of motion for her – but like, not me.

Next, loosen those glutes.  Your backside is the biggest muscle group in the body, which means it holds the key to a lot of lower body tightness and imbalance.  When I’m with a client, I’ll assist their supine stretch (pic below), but if you’re on your own, why not take the glorious opportunity to drop into a pigeon pose and completely bliss out for a minute?  Yasssss.

assist

Third on the docket is a nice juicy hip stretch.  Women especially hold a lot of stress and pain in our hips, and the mere structure of men’s narrow hips means they are typically tight – good reasons both to ease yourself into the aggressive-but-effective lizard lunge:

lizard.jpg

Fourth, if you’ve been squatting, kicking, or just doing a lot of anterior-chain work, it’s worth a quick run through the quads.  Side lying stretches can be really effective here (right pic below), as can assisted prone stretching with a trainer (left pic below), and both types give a little extra bonus length to your lower back, which no one is mad at.

Speaking of that lower back, if you’re already down on the ground, you may as well roll your spine into some gentle twists.  Twisting in yoga is considered detoxifying in and of itself (think of the concept of wringing out a rag in relation to getting rid of pain and waste) and damn it, it feels amazing:

twist

 

Finally, don’t forget that upper bod – the back and shoulders are the two areas most likely to be carrying most of your tension up there, and they’re easily and effectively stretched with an arm-linked forward fold (just hold opposite elbows if you can’t link your hands):

fold

Knees slightly bent, please.

 

 

There are, of course, a million more muscle groups to stretch and even more ways to stretch them – but the point of this little piece was to highlight the most important ones, give you some guidelines for stretching alone or with your trainer, and remind you that yes, flexibility is just as vital and important a marker of fitness as all that other fancy jazz I talk about here on the ol’ blog – so stay well, TFB-ers, and let’s get bendy in 2017!

What are your favorite feel-good stretches?  Do you make time for flexibility in your routine?

On the Red Carpet: Oscars 2016

You guys, it kills me that I am too far away and too time-zoned out to watch the Oscars live.  Some of my fave memories of this time of year contain scrambling to get through all the screeners from Nick’s work, powering through some short films and documentaries online, and then heading over to my friend Andy’s house to fill out our predictions ballot and watch it all play out in real time.

That said, due to the amazing Snapchat skills of a few good friends (cough…Lilly!), I was able to get some of the red carpet highlights as they happened – and it got me really excited to sit down and write this post.

So excited, in fact, that I totally blanked on doing it until being kicked in the butt by a loyal reader this morning (thanks, Terri).  Without further ado, let’s get to the nitty gritty:

rachel

Rachael McAdams, you sexy beast.  Are you aware of your perfection?  Do you know that I have a deep-down longing for women who choose dark jewel tones over black?  Can you teach me how to wear a long tassel without looking like a stripper?  And can you kiss your stylist on the lips for pairing the look with those simple metallic strappies?  I love you.  And I love your August Getty creation, despite not knowing who that designer actually is.

jlaw

And while I’m on a love high, let’s talk about the always-impeccable J.Law (here in Dior).  Girlfriend, you took the peroxide plunge without looking trashy and paired that masterpiece of a lob with peekaboo lace and a beautiful V-cut bodice.  WERK, girl.  Just werk.

char

Charlize.  CHAR.  LIZE.  Like, can you not?  Can you not defeat the sands of time that weather the rest of our faces into wrinkled, filthy messes and look better than you ever have before?  The plunge.  The Dior.  The color.  The diamonds.  Just go on with your bad self.  Ain’t no one gonna touch you.

cate

The internet told me that Cate Blanchett was getting some negative feedback for her g*ddamn amazing Armani Prive dress, and I honestly can’t imagine what the haters are seeing in her utter divinity.  The cut is so flatting, styled so well, and complements both her body and her general way of being so amazingly that I want Mr. Armani to cease production of any further couture should Cate not be the one to wear it.  So let it be written, so let it be done.

margot

I am usually a huge fan of people dressing like gold statues to go to the Oscars (see Stacy Keibler on the Oscar Red Carpet 2012, still one of my all-time faves), and Margot Robbie‘s choice of Tom Ford this year is no exception.  Sure, it’s not the most interesting dress out there, but the cut is impeccable, the color is eye-catching, and she paired it with a dramatic minaudière like a BAWS.  Well done you.

roons

Rooney Mara, I am so sick and tired of you being 1990s heroin-chic that I’m tempted to delete this entire paragraph.  But I won’t, because yet again you nailed it in Givenchy, and yet again I am forced to eat my words about how I hate that “emo chick” look with the slicked-back black hair and emaciated poor posture.  But know I’m not happy about it.

olivia

I go back and forth on the issue of boobs.  I tend to like them on the smaller side if you’re gonna hang ’em out to dry, and on the bigger side if you’re trying to rock a form-fitting but more modest style.  Olivia Wilde’s Valentino look kind of teeters between the two, but the pleats save it from looking totally whorish, and the choker anchors it down to the cool zone rather than sending it off to slutville, so I applaud her careful choice.

maria

My final shout-out for the night goes to the always-lovely Maria Menounos who did the right thing and went with my all-time favorite designer, Christian Siriano, to make her an all-time memorable look.  The cut, the beading, the wavy hair, the shimmer and shine, it was all on point, and all came together beautifully to make her look like a living goddess.  Much applause.

And now for the not-so-much looks of the evening…

Amy Poehler, I can’t with all this – those wizard sleeves, the red hair, the weird appliques – like girl, I can’t.  Kate Winslet, is it because you’re so beautiful (or because your boy Leo FINALLY got his statue) that you’ve decided to stop trying and just wear Hefty garbage bags to the show now?  Pregnant Emily Blunt, I was gonna  call you out big time for wearing both spaghetti straps AND a dress that is nearly your exact skin color, but because you’re preggo and typically knocking it out of the park, I’m gonna let you off with a warning.  Kerry Washington, you are basically the naturally prettiest person on Earth and you show up to the OSCARS looking ratchet?  But why?

And we are not even starting on Heidi Klum.  Not.  Starting.  Because I have to think she had a severe head injury just before the show, causing her to temporarily believe that she was Honey Boo Boo all grownsed up and headed off to prom night with her hillbilly boyfriend.  Because that is the one and only excuse for showing up looking like this.

What were your picks and pans, friends?  Any that you LOVED that I missed?

Beachin’ in Boracay: A Memoir

Folks, it’s been over two months since I had one of the most epic vacays of my life – and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you got to see up close and personal some of the absolutely incredible moments I was able to spend (along with my wonderful travel companion and fellow blogger Justin Walter from Around the World with Justin – check out his post on our trip here) in Boracay, Philippines.

Let’s be real: I think we could all use a little beachside throwback in the depth of winter.

DCIM104GOPRO

Our first day in paradise

Here’s the thing about Boracay – location is everything.  Like, all the things.  You need to be centrally located (Station 2 is my personal reco), and you sure as heck want to be directly on that long stretch of beautiful white beach (aptly named, White Beach).  We were lucky enough to enjoy a sponsored stay on one of the only resorts in the area that spills out directly from the lobby onto the sand – The District.

IMG_3809

Unedited gorgeousness that is The District

IMG_2749

Not even kidding that this is #nofilter on White Beach

You guys, The District is The Sh*t.  From the moment we checked in, we were greeted with the utmost in friendly service and professionalism – every staff member made sure to say hello, ask how we were doing, and make sure we we comfortable throughout our stay.  Nothing felt forced, and every interaction was pleasant and easy.

Oh, and did I mention our actual room?  Take a look around this baller suite:

The bed was so comfy it was damn near impossible to get up each day (but hey, those beach chairs don’t fill themselves) except for the siren call of the delicious (included!) breakfast.  Mangoes do not get fresher than this, my friends – and again, the service at breakfast (including the action omelette and noodle stations) was impeccable.

But let’s not get hung up on staying inside the hotel.  The amazing beach chairs were our favorite places on property, and also where we spent most of our lazy, luxurious days – drinks in hand, sunscreen on, in and out of the bath-warm water all day long.  There are kayaks, jetskis and stand-up paddleboards to rent (beach staff will arrange it for you at a very reasonable cost) – that is, again, if you can get up out of your lounger.

IMG_3916.jpg

In the epic words of 311, “I’ll be here awhile…ain’t goin’ nowhere…”

At some point you start to feel guilty from all the luxury, but The District has you covered on that, too – they’ve got a full service gym that is cool, clean, and wonderfully equipped – a little bit of heaven for a trainer like myself, who actually likes working out on vacay.

The daytime in Boracay can only be beat by one thing: the nightlife.  As soon as the sun starts to set (which it does, early, in the winter), the island starts to liven up.  We watched the sunset each night from our perch atop the Star Lounge restaurant, over freshly grilled seafood (or, like my friend Justin, some less ocean-y options), delicious wine and cocktails, and chilled-out music – absolute paradise.

The District is right in the middle of all the nighttime action – steps from D’Mall (tourist trap but must-see scene nonetheless), amazing clubs like our fave Epic, and all the cool local beachfront action (I bought these delicious garlic peanuts from a beach seller for about 50 cents and it was the perfect boozy snack before bed).

IMG_3020

I’m not drunk, you’re drunk

Our stay was only a weekend, but it will last in my memory forever – it is far too easy to fall in love with the slow-paced beach lifestyle, amazing scenery, and warm service that characterize both Boracay and The District.  We cannot wait to come back and walk into this lobby again soon…

IMG_2748

For more information: The District Boracay
T: (63 2) 234.9058  |  T/F: (63 2) 234.5917  |  M: (63 917) 7737572
Email address: reservations@thedistrictboracay.com

My Top 10 Life Quotes

I was recently asked to share my “top 10 quotes” with a media outlet and to be honest, the first few were really easy – and then I had to dig deep.

Who are my favorite authors?  Who are my heroes?  What are they saying about life, love, and everything in between?

I was finally able to compile a list of my favorites, which taken together really do say a lot about my personality, my values, and what I hold to be true.

Read on and hopefully they’ll inspire you a bit, too – and I’d love to see your favorite quote down in the comments!

inspiration.jpeg

He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg. [Chinese proverb]

  • ​I am a decisive person and indecisiveness in the name of “deliberation” drives me crazy.  Action is more valuable than inaction, and it is always better to redirect the ship than never to leave port.​
The cure for pain is in the pain. [Rumi]
  • ​As a marathon runner, if you stop when it hurts, you’ll never get to the finish line. Learning how to live with discomfort is a skill lost among many these days.
If things go wrong, don’t go with them. [Roger Babson]
  • ​Never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, even at the risk of being unpopular.  This is especially important for women – use your voice and go with your gut.
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. [Henry David Thoreau]
  • ​I’m a “glass half full” type of person.  We can all see the worst in every situation, but it takes practice to filter our negativity and focus on the best.​
Always do what you are afraid to do. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]
  • ​My next tattoo is going to read “fearless,” but only after I make it through my biggest fear – childbirth!  I have jumped out of planes, off cliffs, and off bridges (with a bungee cord!) and I was terrified each time – which is why I knew I had to overcome it.​
You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot stop spring from coming. [Pablo Neruda]
  • ​Again, so many people live with sadness and negativity – doing their best to ​keep themselves in a place of darkness.  Remembering that no matter what we do within our lives, time does pass, and spring does come – it gets better.
​ Whatever you are, be a good one. [Abraham Lincoln]
  • ​My parents used to say some version of this to me growing up – they weren’t concerned with me being a doctor or a lawyer or some bigshot – they simply wanted me to strive for excellence in what made my heart sing, and I always have been happy because I do.​
You show people what you’re willing to fight for when you fight your friends. [Hillary Clinton]
  • ​Everyone loves a “yes man,” that is, until they say no.  If you are willing to fight for what you believe in, even against someone you love, that shows character – and hopefully you’ll remain friends because of it.
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction. [Antoine de Saint-Exupery]
  • ​My officiant read this quote at our wedding because I think it summarizes true love quite perfectly – you can be two different people, you can lead your own life with your own interests, but at the end of the day, your future is tied to your partner – and you are both working toward the same goals.  I love thinking of it this way.​
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. [Henry Ford]
  • ​One more tally for the power of positive thinking – ​​if you believe it, you achieve it.  There is no goal unattainable except the ones you tell yourself you can’t reach – and I have learned that less time and again in my own life.

Weekend Roundup

Yeah yeah yeah…it’s not technically the weekend anymore.  But when your family is in town, you’ve got shows and brunches and movies to watch, and you just want to kick back for a minute…you forget to write your weekend blog.

So here’s my “make-up” links for the weekend past:

These “entertaining essentials” go far beyond your typical wine and cheese recos – and I love them all!

Sometimes you want to go shopping, but you really can’t afford to spend money.  These perfect spring items under $50 can scratch that itch.

The number one excuse I get for people not exercising is, “I don’t have time.”  Now you do.

Celebrities know about K-Mart?  There are still K-Marts in the world??!? Both of these facts absolutely shock me.

I will never forget the epic comedy stylings of fellow Chicagoan Chris Farley (RIP), and obviously neither will David Spade.

My friend’s mom’s blog doesn’t update very often.  But when it does, it’s profound.

Her style is hit or miss for me, but this fluttery romper is a huge giant hit.  I need it IN MY CLOSET!

Relatively healthy gluten-free double chocolate cookies for relatively lazy gluten-free (or nut-free, or dairy-free) people.

Nothing I love more than desert weddings, and this one is total desert-hipster bliss.

And finally – don’t forget to check out the March Monthly Link Up post from our SoCal Blogger Society.  This month’s focus is on street style – so fun!

What are you guys looking into in and around the web this week?  Check in!

TFB’s Ultimate LA Marathon Playlist

ultimateI am always nervous to put up a race-day playlist because to some extent, it is deeply personal.  The music that drives one person is complete rubbish to another; I know people that run to podcasts (!) whereas that would make me crumble and die of boredom.  I know others that never run to music and find listening to tunes while running abhorrent; still others that run to classical or wordless music or trance-like mixes that last 13 minutes.

I, on the other hand, need music that is inspirational (I actually listen to the lyrics), motivational (I actually move to the beats), site-appropriate (I will always try to sneak in songs that speak to the location, season, or other descriptor of the race), and familiar (I rarely go for brand-new, un-listened-to tunes unless they’re by a familiar artist).

But I respect whatever gets – and keeps – you running.

That said, in my last post about the LA Marathon, I mentioned a few of the songs that got me through the hard miles – so I wanted to post my (extensive) playlist from the race to give you an idea of what’s going through my earbuds when I tackle a long-distance run.

I have a superstition of sorts where I make my playlist and then commit to setting it on “shuffle” – meaning I don’t allow myself to get caught up in the specific order nor do I allow myself to skip any songs, so they all have to be winners (again, winners in my book – I know my eclectic taste is not for everyone).

So without further ado – my marathon playlist, in four parts with short commentary:

playlist1Highlights from this segment?  For sure “Work B*tch” by Britney Spears (possibly my most-used workout song if you consider both running and teaching group exercise), but “Far Alone” by G-Eazy always makes me feel like a pimp, and “Booty” by J-Lo & Iggy Azalea makes tackling hills feel like no big.

playlist2

My standouts here are the kickass “L.A. Woman” remix by The Doors & Paul Oakenfold, “Cinderella Man” by Eminem (works great during a tough, broken-down mile for pacing), and “Blessed” by Tom Hangs feat. Avicii – tell me you can’t stay positive with that gospel-inspired song caressing your eardrums.  Moving on:

playlist3Ah, another embarrassment of hip-hop and dance riches brings us to “You Be Killin ‘Em” by Xavier (brush your shoulders off and KICK IT to this one), “I Don’t Get Tired” by Kevin Gates (the name alone hearkens to its endurance-themed powers), and “Not Butter” by Dillion Francis, which is the only song to make me laugh out loud while actually running.  And for the finish line:

playlist4Don’t hate on “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder; that song is an oldie but goodie.  And “City of Dreams” by Dirty South & Alesso has come with me through three marathons; it always brings tears to my eyes when I’m running somewhere with which I feel a deep connection.  Finally, gotta hand it to “Turn Down for What” by Lil’ Jon for the ultimate mid-mile boost – I am almost positive I PR’d the mile that song accompanied.

What do you listen to when you’re workout out?  What are your must-have tunes for long races?