Hold the foam roller – why Myofascial Release should be a part of your wellness routine // MR + KJ

What’s up, y’all? You know that we love our recovery days as much as we love our workouts, and if you follow us on the ‘gram, you’ve probably seen us post our fave techniques for rolling out and stretching. Even with our knowledge of recovery techniques, we were #educated when some dance friends introduced us to Margot J. Leviton, a highly skilled Myofascial Release Specialist of over 14 years visiting LA from Vancouver. Seeing how out of alignment we both are (oops!) Margot gave us each a complimentary release session, and schooled us on how and why we should put down our foam rollers for a second and pay attention to our fascia.

Read on to learn more about what “myofascial release” actually encompasses, our experiences from Margot’s sessions with us, and why this type of recovery work is definitely a wellness thing we should all add to our routines.

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First things first, what is fascia?

Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds all of your your organs, bones, and muscles head to toe. It looks a little like Spider-Man’s web.

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So, what is myofascial release?

Spoiler alert: it’s not foam rolling. We’ll let Margot, or as she goes by on Insta – Vancouver Healer (VH) – answer this one:

VH: Myofascial release is an oil-less technique where a very specific force is placed downward on your skin, sinking into the fascial layer of tissue, which is not muscle. (Pssst check out our video on Insta to sneak a peek at our sessions!)

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What happens during a myofasical release session, and what does it feel like?

KJ: First, Margot had me stand in front of the wall to take ‘before’ pictures, analyzing my posture and alignment from the front, side, and back. She immediately told me my right hip was up, which made sense to me, because I’ve had some pain in my low back on the right side. She also asked what else had been bothering me and I told her about my tight hip flexors and my right big toe, which felt jammed ever since breaking in dance shoes the week before.

She had me lay down on her table and put a cozy blanket over me, saged the space, put on some rainforest sounds, and sat down next to me to start on my right leg. Even though I was bracing for pain like from a deep tissue massage, Margot basically just… held me! As I relaxed my leg into her hands, she moved it gently around and placed her hands on different spots on my leg and hips, explaining that she uses her hands to “listen” to the fascia. There was hardly any pressure and absolutely no pain, but as the hour went on I started to feel little shifts under the skin of my leg, and even though I thought Margot was moving her hands around – it was just my fascia moving on its own!

MR: It’s a pretty intimate experience, tbh. The movements are so gentle and incremental that you have no option but to connect with your breath, your body, and Margot, of course!

I came into this session with a lot of tension in my lower back, which I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. As soon as Margot got her hands on me she identified the culprit(s)… my quads and IT bands were insanely tight. This did not come as a shock to me at all since I only live in two modes: standing on concrete floor for hours or exercising like a maniac. I stretch often, but ever since I started working for Barry’s and kicked my workouts into overdrive, I can’t seem to break even (#aworkinprogress). The session went similarly to KJ’s – no pain, light pressure, crazy results.

How did you feel after?

KJ: Standing up, walking, and lifting my leg felt soooo light, easy, and airy. After she worked on my big toe, I had so much more mobility without any more pain!  It was also amazing to see in my ‘after’ pictures how the alignment of my body changed! I’m so glad to say a few days later I still have that same range of motion in my hips and toe.

I was also extremely zen on my drive home and throughout the rest of the day. The next day I felt a little achy in my right hip flexors, which Margot explained is because I’d been stuck in a weird position for a long time, so now everything around my hip flexors was having to adjust to the new, correctly aligned position – you might feel similar after a good massage.

MR: So weightless, which is a new feeling for me after getting body work done. We have all been brainwashed by the “no pain, no gain” school of thought, but this is the exact opposite. I felt relaxed, grounded, and like my body, Margot, and I were all working together to make progress instead of me paying someone to force my body into uncomfortable positions in the name of “recovery”. This technique is truly unmatched.

What makes this recovery method different from others and how does it compare to other methods, like foam rolling?

VH: It all depends on your intent. I’m all for foam rolling, but it’s not fascial release – I call it “cookie doughing” – you’re really just focusing on your muscles. If you’re going to stretch like normal people usually stretch, you’re going to be stretching muscle. I would much more prefer people do fascial stretching instead (see tips on how to do this below!). We’re very flexed beings, so all of our problems with our back, low back, hips, and posture are going to come from our front – so focus on your hip flexors and chest.

IWT: Nothing else really, truly addresses our fascia, and Margot suggests we stretch our fascia three times a day (!!!). So here’s how we would structure our recovery methods throughout a day (if we were perfect lol):

  1. In the morning, before we start our day: foam roll, fascial stretching
  2. Before a workout: active stretch and/or foam roll
  3. After workout: static stretch and fascial stretch, plus if you have access to a vibration plate or tool that will help combat next-day soreness!
  4. Before bed: fascial stretch, foam roll

Why do we need it?

VH: It’s my personal belief that, after your skin, the first tissue to absorb trauma is your fascia – so all of your emotions, experiences, and traumatic events are stuck in that tissue. I believe that’s true because when I release it, people will cry or become emotional about a memory. From more of a wellness perspective than simply physical, I believe this release is so important because I see how everyone carries around the stresses and strains of the day, and if you don’t release that it becomes physical illness, injury, or disease.

KJ: In LA specifically, the amount that we’re driving each day means that we are constantly in a sitting position. If you’re an office worker, or even an instructor like me who is bending over all day, your upper back is probably already rounding forward a la RBG (love the woman, but not her posture). Exercise definitely helps combat these postural problems by working muscles in different directions, but it doesn’t address the fascia.

MR: Because the rushed stretching section at the end of a workout (if at all) could never offset what we ask our bodies to achieve daily. Even the simplest tasks and movements can accumulate stress over time, and myofascial release is the key to letting that shit go. *mic drop*

How can you do myofascial release on your own?

VH: If I go to stretch, I want to feel that pull of a stretch and then back off slightly into “nothing”. That’s when you’ll be at the fascial level and that tissue will start to release and you can go further.

*Side note: You can follow Margot on Insta @vancouverhealer for more stretching tips, fascia knowledge, and client testimonials! You can also hear Margot talk all things fascia on the JAM Podcast.

Rate it, baby!

Myofascial release isn’t rateable because it’s more than an experience, it’s a necessity! Training yourself to add this type of stretching (described by Margot above) into your daily routine is so important, and if you can find a practitioner in your area to give you a one-on-one session, please take advantage of it. Maybe we’ll do a #fascialreleasechallenge soon, so we can see how much of a difference we all see in our bodies in a month… #staytuned!

How to score luxury beauty products on a budget // Birchbox Review // MR

The Essentials

Product(s): Various Birchbox samples

Where to buy: Sign up and customize your box here!

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How did you hear about Birchbox?

I believe a friend told me about it back in the Spring of 2017! There are so many different ways you can customize your box depending on your wants and needs – mine is focused on skincare and haircare with a teeny bit of makeup/fragrance sprinkled in.

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What made you want to try it out?

I was just starting to get curious about developing a skincare routine because the products prescribed by my dermatologist were full of ingredients I couldn’t read (Western medicine… ugh) so I asked around and heard about Birchbox.

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Initial thoughts/feelings?

So nervous. Just the thought of applying something to my skin that I didn’t have to pick up from a pharmacy gave me the anxiety, but that shit wasn’t working either so what did I have to lose #amiright? (Umm, the answer is the cost of Benadryl because I misused my very first Birchbox sample and ended up giving myself a flare up… read more about that here).

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Got Faves?

Duh! Let’s do this… My favorites (out of 100+ samples) are as follows:

10. R + Co // Badlands Dry Shampoo Paste, $29

Shot by Melanie Lozoya (@mell_lo)

I have to be honest, when I got this sample I was pretty skeptical about applying paste to my hair. I use R + Co salt spray, though, so I trusted the brand enough to go for it. This product comes in handy in the early days of dirty hair (I’m talking day 2, maaaybe day 3) for spot touch ups, but only if it’s still holding up the illusion of clean hair. If slightly greasy/flat locks is what you’re workin’ with, tune back in on #3.

9. Daily Concepts // Your Facial Micro Scrubber, $8

My skin isn’t a huge fan of friction, but when I’m coming to the end of a flare up, or my skin is looking dull, I bring this little guy in for the kill. It slides on your hand like a little mitten, and is coarse enough to remove dead skin, but still gentle enough that even the most sensitive faces can handle! I use this product about twice a month.

8. Beauty Protector // Protect & Oil, $28

This sample was my first encounter with Beauty Protector, and I’m so happy it was. Though other products I’ve tried of theirs haven’t been my favorite, or made a noticeable impact, even, this oil is amazing. It’s super light, non-greasy, and smells amazing. I use it when I shower in the evening so it can really soak in overnight without hands being run through it all day.

7. OUAI // Rose Hair & Body Oil, $32

Another product that introduced me to its brand. Before receiving this sample, I was a little intimidated by OUAI because of the sheer number of products they have to offer. For a seasoned pro, it’s a dream, but for a haircare / skincare newbie it was overwhelming (plus it’s on the pricey side!). I’m so glad I was able to try this hair and body oil, though. My skin doesn’t love floral oils, but the way it makes my hair shine is so worth it that I endure. I use this product about once a month just to play it safe eczema-wise.

6. Amika // Phantom Hydrating Dry Shampoo Foam, $25

I went through this sample in two weeks flat. I loved the idea of a dry shampoo in a foam format because, up until I met this product and the illustrious product #3, I only knew dry shampoo to leave gross clouds of white dust in my dark brown hair. I was super impressed with this product, especially because it didn’t leave my hair wet, which I was sure it would do. I was happy to be proven wrong!

5. Vasanti // Makeup Magnet Wipes, $12

This is another surprise product for me. Again, because I try my best not to “rub” my skin, I was shocked when I tried these makeup wipes and suffered zero reaction. They were really thin, hydrating but not greasy, and only took a couple of swipes to remove a full face of makeup (Miranda wears makeup? Yeah, like twice a year). I don’t use these wipes often because I almost always go natural, but they have become my go-to for when I do.

4. Avene // Hydrance RICH Hydrating Cream, $32

Shot by Melanie Lozoya (@mell_lo)

Using this cream was a huge leap of faith for me. It was during the heatwave this past Summer, I had forgotten my eczema cream at home (where I would not return for hours) and my skin was thirsty AF. I remembered that I had my most recent Birchbox in my car, so I grabbed and prayed there was any sort of skincare in it. I applied this product, and got through an 8 hour workday and a dinner with friends without even noticing my skin. I recommend this product to anyone with even the slightest dry skin – it is amazing and has been a huge help in weaning me off of topical steroids.

3. Oribe // Gold Lust Dry Shampoo, $44

WE’VE ARRIVED AT #3. This is by far, hands down, no questions asked, my favorite product to apply to my locks. My hair isn’t picky, but definitely behaves for the good stuff. I embarked on training my hair (and by that I mean the dreaded process of transitioning from washing your hair everyday to, you know, not) about a year ago, and this dry shampoo was a Godsend. It’s light, invisible, and smells like actual heaven on Earth. Not joking, I was my hair once every 5-6 days, and this product never leaves my side.

2. Benefit Cosmetics // Roller Lash Super-Curling & Lifting Mascara, $25

This mascara changed my life. Like, forreal forreal. I thought that Covergirl Lashblast (the orange tube, of course) was the only mascara that could truly understand the nature of my long, disobedient lashes… but then I met Roller Lash. The wand and the velvety texture of the actual product is exactly what I need to avoid looking like my favorite villain. Big, big, big fan of this stuff, y’all. Purchase it right meow.

1. Dr. Lipp // Miracle Balm, $17

Okay… okay… okay. This is the most bittersweet countdown of my whole life (I’m not dramatic at all) because this is my most favorite Birchbox product that I have ever had the pleasure of using, but it has been discontinued! Well, not discontinued, but the formula has been redone and it isn’t nearly as magical. This stuff was by far the most hydrating balm I have ever used in my entire life! It was thick but not gummy, fragrance free, and so versatile. I used it everywhere, and I truly do mean everywhere. I got so desperate when my last bottle of it was coming to an end that I cut it open with a Swiss army knife and carefully scraped the remaining goo out. Yeah, it’s that good. Though I wish I could go back in time and let y’all try the real stuff, the new-new will have to do.

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Bang for your buck?

Hell. To. The. Yeah. $10 for 4-7 bougie samples a month? Try to find that deal literally anywhere else, I dare ya! Birchbox has helped me transition into an all natural skincare, haircare, and makeup routine, and I could not be more thankful. Everyone needs to hop on this train!

Rate it, baby!

🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋 🍋  / 5

This 5 step evening routine makes early mornings a breeze // KJ

I’ve watched a million and one Instastory-takeovers from successful women sharing their morning routines, but as much as I think this next one will inspire me to change my “roll out of bed and take a bagel to-go” habit, it has definitely never happened. To be fair, I have a really early workday, teaching at 6 am six days a week (I know). I actually just don’t have the time – or the bladder – for hot lemon water, a matcha latte, AND a superfood smoothie all before 5:30 am. But I’m a Capricorn sun who loves #structure, so I’ve finally found something else that works better with my early schedule – the evening routine. 

Let me tell you, the evening routine is a game changer for me. I’ve never been a morning person and have always worked better at night, so it’s been super natural to be more productive before bed than right when I wake up. I have to be really strict with my bedtime in order to teach so early, so I can’t always do allllll the things I want to in this routine, but these are the tried and true steps that keep me from being a monster in the morning:

  1. Shower and skin care: I save so much time in the morning by getting all the gunk off from the day at night, plus I like to air dry my hair, so I always try to shower (or a bubble bath if I have extra time!) as early as possible in the evening. I keep my nighttime skin care routine really simple: wash off any dirt/make-up and apply my moisturizer and eye cream.
  2. Roll out and stretch: Once I’m all warm from the shower, it feels great to roll out any tight places from the day and do a lil stretch. On a good day, this’ll go for 15-20 min., if there’s less time I do about ten, and if I’m really late this is the first thing I skip (unfortunately).
  3. Check my planner: I always look at my to-do list for the day to cross off things I got to (best feeling ever). I have a varied schedule, so to reduce anxiety about being unprepared or missing something, I triple check what I’ve got on the next day or two.
  4. Set out my clothes and pack my bag/lunch: This is the one you hear about in every article about how to help yourself get to work on time – because it really does work. Not having to worry about what to wear/eat each morning means I make healthier choices and don’t have to stress to start my day. This step takes the longest, but is my No.1 priority always.
  5. Send my goodnight texts and read: Ok, so the reading only happens on a really great night. But still – I check out e-books from the public library on my Kindle (gamechanger) and this year am trying to read a little bit every night after I wrap up any text or social media convos I’ve been having. Reading makes me instantly sleepy, and most days I don’t even get that far before my eyes are heavy. But of course, putting my phone away earlier in the night is so. flipping. hard. – so this is a new step in the routine I’m trying to implement. On days I stick to it, I feel the most relaxed and the constant chatter in my brain subsides, so I’m really striving to get to it before my strict “bedtime”. Sometimes I even have a cup of my fave non-caffeinated tea to feel extra warm and fuzzy as I read.

*BONUS: Once a week before bed (usually Sundays), I journal about the previous week and the week ahead. It’s a nice way to relieve any anxiety from the day, but more than anything I love looking back on journal entries to see my growth (and any goals I accomplished!) from then to now. 

So it’s not a very fancy evening, and I can’t link to any #sponsored superdrinks, but it really works for me and makes my early mornings a little easier. If you have any evening rituals/routines you want to share I’d love to hear them! xxx KJ

How to trick your brain into drinking more water // Szent Water Review // KJ + MR

Product: Szent water

Where to get it: Amazon

Price: $24 for a 12 pack*

*The company s(z)ent us (LOL couldn’t resist) some free cases to try each flavor and hear our honest feedback without expectation of a positive review – our views are totally honest!

Tell us about the brand.

Szent (the z is silent) is literally just purified water – but with a twist. The ring around the mouth of the bottle is infused with all-natural essential oils (right now they have tangerine, passionfruit, pineapple, and mint), which tricks your brain into thinking you’re drinking water with that flavor in it as you sip. But really – we swear – you’re totally not.

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How’d you hear about it?

M: I went to an awesome Kong Fit Club event at Prevail Boxing, and they had Pineapple Szent for us to grab after the workout! I started drinking it before I read the bottle or anything, and fully thought I was enjoying flavored water for about 10 minutes. Sneeeaky. I followed them on Instagram after, and they were so sweet to send us all the flavors to try! #sharingiscaring

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So how was it?

K: Disclaimer: I have a terrible sense of smell. Still, the passionfruit and tangerine “flavors” were the most strong to me and definitely tripped me out – sipping and inhaling I could feel my brain going back and forth between believing it was flavored and knowing it wasn’t! The pineapple and mint didn’t have as much intensity to me – thinking it depends on your individual sense of smell? All in all, it’s just water, but the feeling that you’re drinking something flavored made it more enticing for me to pick up the bottle – I went through two a day, but also found I could refill the bottle throughout the same day and still taste the “flavor”. #reducereuserecycle

M: Disclaimer: I also have a terrible sense of smell. I definitely enjoyed the “flavor” but I could have used way more of it. I do appreciate the subtlety, especially when a brand is just starting out and maybe isn’t sure how it will be received, but now that the world knows they love Szent, let’s kick it up a notch! That being said, though, I have found that I really gravitate toward different scents depending on what I’m up to. For example, I have found myself drinking passionfruit while at work, pineapple or tangerine during my workouts, and mint during yoga and/or at night before bed. I’m very into the versatility!

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Anything you’d change?

We think it’d be awesome to be able to adjust the intensity of the scents in the ring, sort of like a pepper grinder situation – the more you want, the more you twist the ring (IDK, we aren’t product developers, okurr?). Also, we would love to see Szent take a more sustainable route by selling the rings separately to fit on reusable bottles, or packaging in glass and having a “send back for recycling” option.

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Bang for your buck?

K: For people who neeeeed flavor in their drinks, this is such a fun option to replace a sugary drink! I had a really bad soda habit for way too long, and flavored sparkling water has been a huge part of kicking it, but plain ol’ water is still hard for me to decide to drink over something like juice. $2 a bottle is pricey, but for people like me who just want flavor in a drink without the sugar, it’s a worthy investment.

M: Yes! I think anything that can keep drinking water exciting for me is a win. I don’t reach for H20 by nature so I’m always a big fan of something clean, natural, and refreshing!

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Rate it, baby!

4.5 / 5

How jade rolling helped my eczema // Rose Quartz Tool Kit Review // MR

THE ESSENTIALS

Product: Rose Quartz Roller and Gua Sha

Where to buy: Many places, but I got mine from Herbivore

Price: $46 for the Rose Quartz Tool Kit (get 20% off using my code here!)

THE REVIEW

How did you hear about this product?

I can’t quite pinpoint it since they’ve been popping up everywhere – could’ve been a podcast, could’ve been an Instagram ad (#millennial). The use of these tools originated as an ancient Chinese healing technique, and they’ve officially caused a craze among all aesthetic-enthusiasts far and wide… so naturally, I bought them.

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What made you want to try it out?

I’ve read that using a roller and gua sha can help reduce puffiness and redness in the skin, and I deal with those two things daily thanks to my eczema! It’s also nice to engage in an activity that requires my full attention – multitasking is great but I’m also trying to learn to slow down, and these tools have really helped.

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What was the application process like?

It’s simple! When I wake up, I wash my face, moisturize, and roll for 5-8 minutes (if I’m really in a rush, I’ll do it on my commute!).

Then, before bed, I cleanse and moisturize again, and use the gua sha. It’s more intense than the roller, but it’s so calming and helps me clear my head before bed. Pro tip: Store both tools in the refrigerator between uses so they’re nice and cool for ya!

Initial thoughts/feelings?

It was love at first sight. The tools are so beautiful, and very easy to use, which is a recipe for a habit I’m likely to stick to.

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…and then?

And then these little guys became an official part of my routine! It’s so nice to focus on how great my skin feels instead of the opposite. This practice is just one more step in the right direction for the health of my skin and my increased focus on wellness.

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Would you recommend this product? If so, to who?

Absolutely! If nothing else, the routine provides a minute to yourself, for yourself, and that is worth far more than $46 to me.

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Rate it, baby!

🍋🍋🍋🍋🍋 / 5

Keep red hair color looking fresh longer with this shampoo and conditioner // Redken Color Extend Magnetics Review // KJ

The Essentials:

Product: Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo & Conditioner*
Price:
usually around $20 for 10 oz. or $36 for 33 oz.
Where to buy: Your local drugstore including Walgreens & CVS – though I’ve found the most economical way for me to buy is in the salon-size bottles from ULTA during one of their killer sales!

My hair type:  Originally blonde, but colored with permanent red hair color; fine, straight, and prone to split ends. I use heat tools once or twice per week.

*BTW this review is NOT a sponsored or gifted ad 🙂

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What is it?

A sulfate-free, gentle shampoo and conditioner that uses a “three-protein complex of soy protein, arginine and sepicap” to try to keep hair color vibrant and healthy. A shampoo without sulfates won’t strip hair of natural oils or dry it out, so it’s generally recommended to use sulfate-free shampoo/conditioners if you dye your hair.

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How did you hear about this product?

One of my previous hair colorists uses Redken color, and she suggested using both the shampoo and conditioner when I asked about how to keep my color bright and hair healthy as long as possible.

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What made you want to try it out?

Red color is notoriously hard to keep fresh-looking, and being blonde underneath as well, it tends to lighten very quickly. I dance/exercise so much that I can’t go more than two days without washing my hair – so I need help from my shampoo & conditioner!
K

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What was the application process like?

The shampoo actually lathers a bit better compared to most sulfate-free shampoos I’ve tried; to get it to lather well I use a little bit more than what I would with a normal shampoo. You don’t need more than a dime-sized amount of conditioner to apply to your ends – my conditioner bottle can last me 6+ months!

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Initial thoughts/feelings?

My hair feels very clean and soft after each shower – although if I know if I used too much conditioner because it can feel greasy.

…and then?

I’ve been using this combo for the past couple years! I can go 3-4 months with natural looking color that naturally gets lighter (as I have to wash it every 2-3 days), but doesn’t get brassy. I don’t use any other products in my hair, so I know it really works.

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Would you recommend this product? If so, to who?

Completely! I’d give it a try for anyone who dyes their hair – plus, Redken has some specific options for blondes and grey’s. If you have generally healthy hair, this shampoo/conditioner combo should be all you need to keep your hair in top shape and color fresh. Pro tip: ULTA also sells mini travel size!!!

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Bang for your buck?

$20/bottle isn’t cheap, but neither is dyeing your hair every 6 weeks…. If you’re trying to extend your hair color life a few months or more like me, spring for these and you’ll eventually save yourself money. Also, as I mentioned above, the most economical way I’ve found to buy is getting ULTA’s 33 oz bottles in a sale!

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Rate it, baby!

🍋🍋🍋🍋🍋 / 5

How compression tights really feel in a workout // 2XU Tights Review // MR + KJ

Brand: 2XU
Style: Bonded MidRise Compression Tights in black/gold

The Essentials:

Price: $99.95 (gifted to us by 2XU)*
Sizing:
Both of us wear a medium, but MR’s felt too long
Stores: In LA, you can find their main shop at the Westfield Century City, and they’re also stocked at other athletic apparel stores around town

*2XU gave us these tights to hear our honest feedback without expectation of a positive review – our views are totally honest!

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What is the brand?

2XU (which stands for “two times you”) is an athletic clothing brand that boasts its use of “the world’s most advanced compression technology.” Their website claims that this technology will help reduce injury, speed up recovery, and improve your athletic performance.

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How’d you hear about these?

2XU at the Westfield Century City

K: I’ve passed their store in the Westfield Century City multiple times and been so curious about the technology. I also see lots of members around the Equinox I work at wearing their tights – especially the men.

M: I met Charis Anton, 2XU’s North American Marketing Manager, when the 2XU team came in to Barry’s Bootcamp Venice for a group class last year. Then Barry’s South Bay, the studio I manage, opened around the time their headquarters moved to El Segundo, and a new friendship was born. The team was taking a ton of classes, and always in their compression tights, which piqued my interest. Charis was so awesome and offered to let me and Khayla try on a pair!

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How did they feel during your workout?

K: As soon as you pull the tights on you feel like your legs are suctioned in (in a good way), and that feeling definitely holds up during a workout. I did a Pilates reformer class and walked home from work in them, without it feeling like they stretched out or lost their compression. With my long legs I sometimes have to pull up my tights when I’m working out (you know that feeling when the crotch starts sliding down?) but didn’t have to at ALL with these! I also tried Miranda’s other pair of 2XU tights, which were a little thicker-feeling, and loved the high-waisted fit and comfy feel.

M: I loved the compression around my legs, especially my calves because I’m prone to shin splints. The waistband did roll down during my Barry’s workout, but I think it was a sizing issue. I’m definitely going to pop into the store soon to get fitted for the perfect pair because the compression was to die for. I also have this pair of tights, which are “high-rise” and have a more flattering fit on mine and K’s waists.

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How versatile are they?

K: Even though these feel very lightweight, they aren’t see-through, so you can walk around in them athleisure-style after your workout. (Also I recently wore them on a long plane ride and they felt great!) I didn’t have any problems with them in my Pilates session, but if I had been only wearing a bra, rather than a t-shirt, I would have felt self-conscious with the mid-rise waist #highwaisted4life.

M: Style-wise, very versatile. They’re chic with hints of gold or silver, and look good with an oversized sweater thrown on over them. For exercising, though, not as much. Because the waistband rolls down I wouldn’t wear them for something like yoga where I’m bending at the waist a lot. Definitely great for any cardio-related workouts, though!

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How’d it hold up in the wash?

M: Great so far! I’ve washed them twice already (and air-dryed) and haven’t noticed a difference in the material or the fit.

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What’s special about this brand?

K: The brand isn’t focused on aesthetics, rather their products are created around their compression technology. Their designs don’t have to be over the top because their functionality speaks for itself.

M: They’re the first team that I see wears their brand to every single workout – they totally care what you buy, how it fits, and how it works for you.

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Bang for your buck?

K: They run around the same as many other leggings/tights, but are also backed by studies on their unique compression technology. I think these are a great deal, especially if you’re a runner or other athlete looking for something that will look great while helping your body during and after a workout.   

M: Honestly for $100 you can get tights that are aesthetically pleasing and do absolutely nothing for your workout. For something to be both cute and functional is definitely worth the money.

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Rate it, baby!

⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️/ 5 – mainly because the waistband is mid-rise!

It’s A Wellness Thing: Year in Review // MR + KJ

I think we can all agree, 2018 was a year… and for us, it was not because of things that happened to us, but things that we made happen.

In this weird time in our lives without major milestones like graduations or “settling down” (quarter life crisis anyone?), it’s so common to feel complacent or even lost. With no one around to grade us anymore, we’ve had space to create our own opportunities, and find what works for us without expectation or comparison. We’ve become more internally motivated, more thoughtful in the moment, and hella reflective (journal count between us: more than 20!). Looking back on this year, we realize that our major wins of 2018 were directly correlated to the self-work we did when no one was looking, and man is that gratifying.

One of those wins was coming together to start this blog with the understanding that “wellness” and “self-care” is not just about foam rolling or sitting in a bubble bath, it’s about positive self-talk, radiating joy, and working to be a better human every day, among many other things. That intention has guided how we approached every class we taught, conversation we had, and what we aim to share with others through IWT.

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Our stand-out moments:

M: Yoga teacher training remains the highlight of my year, but becoming a studio manager and strengthening my personal relationships follow close behind. Oh, and co-creating IWT, of course!

K: Starting the year off without a job was pretty terrifying, so finally finishing my Pilates certification was pretty major. The freelance lifestyle has been challenging financially, but exactly what I needed to focus more on my dancing. Making that switch, and more importantly, really believing that I deserve a dance career led me to my two other big moments: getting an agent and creative directing my own concept video. Also, HULLO IWT!

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Our fave IWT moments:

M: Hosting our Mats & Margs event on Cinco de Mayo! I was so thankful for the opportunity to flow to beautiful Latin music played by my beautiful Latin boyfriend, share some historical facts about my culture, and feature a fellow entrepreneur and LMU alum, Carlos Soto, creator of Nosotros Tequila. I’d also like to point out that this event was the most diverse and inclusive wellness gathering I’ve ever been to… (#sipsteabutinspanish).

K: Our New Moon Flow was pretty wild for us! It was the first time we led a meditation and flow all inspired by the moon – thanks to Spirit Daughter and Almost 30 Podcast for making astrology both accessible and understandable to some of us non-witches. Also, creating the format of our IWT flows was really exciting, and I’m stoked to see where we take our Yoga/Pilates fusion classes next year!

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So what’s next?

Our goals this year are to achieve consistency, make wellness accessible, and stay true to self… You know, easy things.

Consistency

Though we’re not able to sell everything we own and travel the world yet, we’re doing our best to #staywell in our daily lives. That means fitting our wellness goals into our full-time and freelance schedules (and paychecks lolz), then sharing it with y’all as consistently as possible. In 2019 you can expect a daily dose of reviews, self-care, fitness, fashion, and healthy-eating ideas. Hopefully some of what works for us works for you, too!

Making Wellness Accessible

…AKA the reason we started this blog. Our 2019 events will be affordable AF, because accessibility and diversity in the wellness space are issues that we want to continue to address – and hopefully improve upon. We’re keeping it our mission to share reviews, advice, and host events that are real, relatable, and accessible – both culturally and economically.

Staying True to Self

This is our definition of wellness. As long as we continue to let our introspection, motivation, and intentions guide us, we can’t go wrong. Yeah, we’re not your average insta-bloggers, and that’s okay. It’s not a popularity thing, It’s a Wellness Thing.

Pilates Demystified // What is Pilates and why do you need to do it?

So what is Pilates even?

Why it’s named that: The fitness method of Pilates is named after the man who developed it – Joseph Pilates. His last name is Greek, and he lived in Germany before moving to England during WWI. He had asthma, and became interested in studying exercise to help with that and other issues. He was also fascinated with the Greek ideal of a balanced mind, body, and spirit. Originally, he called his method “Contrology”.

Is it only for dancers? NAH Y’ALL. When Joe eventually moved to NYC, he opened up his studio right under New York City Ballet, so many dancers trained there. It’s great for them, because it’s great for everyone!

But what does it do? Basically change your life and your body (I’m not kidding). Pilates is a resistance-based workout that simultaneously strengthens and stretches. It’s a low-impact method of exercise that has six main principles: centering, flow, breath, concentration, precision, and control. These principles help you discover how to access, strengthen, and control the smaller stabilizing muscles in your body as well as your larger muscle groups, leading you to have greater body awareness, flexibility/mobility, and core strength.

So what’s the difference between a class that is “classical”, “contemporary”, “power”, etc.? Alright ladies and gents, let’s get down to it. “Pilates” was never copyrighted, so you’ll see the name thrown around everywhere, and you’ll probably find that a Pilates class can seem totally different from studio to studio. Here’s the most succinct way I can differentiate the forms of the method you may come across:

  • Classical: This is the method that most closely follows what good ol’ Joe used to do. There is a lineage of “Pilates Elders” (I know it sounds like something out of Harry Potter, but that’s legit what they’re called) who directly passed down what Joe taught. You can expect to do a specific order of movements in the session, on a mat or with equipment that is similar to what Joe used in his work way back when.
  • Contemporary: Alrighty, so a big umbrella term I’m using for the sake of clarity here, but basically everything else that doesn’t claim to be classical is contemporary. There are sooooo many styles of this, but you can expect to be in a mat class or on equipment like these. I like to explain it as based on Joe’s work, but updated as influenced by modern research on the body. Instructors and studios have endless creative ways they’ve expanded on Joe’s work to be the most effective for all different body types and special populations (pregnant, injuries, etc.). This is the style I was trained in and teach, and the most common you’ll find. Some examples of contemporary LA studios on the West Side of LA are The Moving Joint, Playa Pilates, Mighty Pilates, Club Pilates, and Speir Pilates. 

LOOK OUT FOR: Things that aren’t Pilates but may have “Pilates” in the name of the studio

 If you see equipment like this, called a “megaformer”, you are not in a Pilates class. This equipment literally looks like it’s taken steroids, and that’s how the classes usually feel; they tend to be very athletic, focus on burning out muscle groups, and move quickly. Workouts on the megaformer are based on a method called Lagree Fitness, and I don’t categorize these classes as Pilates because they don’t follow the same sort of ethos that Joe had for his method. This does not mean that they aren’t good classes – they just aren’t Pilates. For my LA peeps, studios like Pilates Plus, Platinum Pilates, and Studio MDR are all examples of places that will give you a resistance-based workout that may have been inspired by, but is not technically Pilates. 

So, should I do it? Short answer, yes definitely. Longer answer: Strengthening and stretching your smaller, stabilizing muscles are important for life, literally. Your spine and joints are protected by these muscles, and I can’t tell you how many people I see with disc issues in their spine, or hip/knee/shoulder/ankle injuries that could have been avoided with better strength and mobility. Pilates WILL help you prevent injury by increasing your strength, flexibility, and body awareness, and will make you more efficient in everything else you do (like all those other fitness classes we review).

But what do I wear, though?? Leggings and a form-fitting top is really helpful for instructors to better cue you (so they can see all the little muscles working!), but any normal workout gear you’d wear to the gym is good. Grip socks (the ones with little rubber bumps on the bottom) are mandatory at some studios for safety reasons (you’re less likely to slip off the equipment) so call the studio before you go to check! Otherwise, bare feet are the way to go.

Questions, fam? Comment below or slide into our DM’s at @itsawellnessthing. 

Want more junk in the trunk? There are now HIIT classes for your butt // Bunda Review // MR + KJ

Studio: Bunda
Class: Butt & Legs

The Essentials:

Price: $30 // 2 for 1 New Client Special
Parking: Free with validation, or free and metered parking in the neighborhood
Facilities: Bathrooms only, no showers or lockers
Amenities: Free sweat towels to use for the workout

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What is it?

Interval training using a StairMaster and an individual station with a bench, weights, and resistance bands/bungees. They have classes for your butt + legs, arms + abs, and full body.

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Walk us through the walk in…

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K: I checked in at the front desk and was given a towel, ankle cuffs, and introduced to the instructor, who showed me my individual station since I was new. She showed me how all the props at the station worked, then the StairMaster. There were cubbies for my things, and room for my water bottle at the station and at the StairMaster. I told them Miranda was running late and they were totally cool with it.

M: I arrived a couple minutes late (oops!) so my welcome was a little rushed, but thorough nonetheless. Since I came in during the first round, I was asked to wait until the class transitioned to the next station to start, which I thought was considerate of me, the latecomer, and the rest of the class, the normally functioning human beings.

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How did you feel about the instructor and their music choices?

K: The instructor gave some good cues on the floor intervals, but I really could have used them on the StairMaster. I’ve not used one outside a gym (and that was maybe four years ago?) so I wasn’t sure what my form should have been – do I try to keep my knees bent and not bob my head up and down? Or fully extend the leg that’s stepping? (The latter is the answer btw, which Miranda explained to me after!). She wasn’t very vocal while we were up there, and the music was a whole lot of Maroon 5, so I found my mind drifting to other things.

M: Honestly, not my taste. The instructor seemed a little checked out, and when you’re just walking up stairs, you need a little pizzazz to keep it interesting. As far as the music goes, I would have loved some sassy tunes that I could strut/squat to instead of radio remixes. Workout playlists that don’t help drive the workout are my nemeses.

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Was the intensity of the class as advertised?

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K: We definitely focused on our booties and legs the entire time! They have full body classes, but the class we took was “Butt & Legs”, so our weight intervals utilized a bungee cord that strapped to our ankle cuffs, some hand weights, a circular resistance band, and a bench at different points. These were all good for the booty burn, but each time we went back to our station the exercises felt repetitive and I found myself getting a little bored. The StairMaster intervals got me sweating, but they had fans built in which felt so good! I wish we had spent more time being led through a stretch at the end – it was less than two minutes, even though there was no class after us.

M: Not entirely. We did focus on the lower body, and cardio on the StairMaster is no joke, but I think the floor exercises could have been a lot more active. They were programmed in rep counts instead of timed intervals, and in my opinion, reps take you out of the group sweat experience because you’re busy counting/comparing yourself to everyone else’s pace, whereas being told to do an exercise for 30 seconds or a minute creates a sense of urgency to push yourself. I did appreciate the option for heavier weights, though – they had dumbbells up to 15lbs (which is a rare find in fitness studios like this one.)

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How was your experience in the studio?

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K: The studio was peachy (haha) – both in color and in cuteness. I liked the front area, where they sold clothing and have a sitting area with a customary neon sign. I only wish the individual stations were a little cleaner; the surface that we put our hands on was hard and felt a little dirty so I wish I had a mat on top of it.

M: Overall, it was fine. The owner and instructor were nice, the space was cute, and anytime that I get to work out is a win for me. However, it was very much an in-and-out experience. There doesn’t seem to be much encouragement from the instructor/desk to stay and chat about the workout, how they’re feeling, when they’re taking class next, etc. I participate in group fitness because working out alone just isn’t as fun, and I could have used a little more hype surrounding that. Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of strangers breathing hard in a room together. Awkward.

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What makes this workout different from others?

K: Using the StairMaster as your cardio interval is really different and great for people like me, who literally have to be offered free classes to ever get on a treadmill. It’s much lower impact on your joints than running, but really works up a sweat. The individual stations are also organized efficiently and it’s nice to have so much space to yourself on the strength intervals.

M: Ditto – I definitely liked the fact that everything I needed was already right there at my station. Like Khay said, they were organized efficiently and spaced out nicely, which was great because space is such a hot commodity in group settings.

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Bang for your buck?

K: In comparison to other interval training classes around LA, this one actually runs a couple dollars more (!!!). I couldn’t really see why they priced themselves higher than the competition, and so don’t see this as being something I’d do other than on Classpass (8 points) when I want to change it up.

M: It’s a “not quite” for me, dawg. We all know that everything we do in group fitness classes we could do on our own for free, but that isn’t why we do it, so if I’m going to pay $30 a class I’m looking for an engaging instructor, a squeaky clean workout station, a fresh locker room/bathroom set up, and a few thoughtful amenities. I think that something as simple as an organized tray of two or three items (q-tips, tampons, hair ties) in the bathroom would have taken the experience up a notch.

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Rate it, baby!

🍑🍑🍑 / 5