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Your Stretches Are About to Get Better

Your Stretches Are About to Get Better


What It Is: A sturdy set of straps (two to a package) that help you maximize the stretching exercises you’re doing as part of your fitness routine – or you know you should be doing but aren’t. The straps are approximately 18 inches long with a large loop on one end and a padded foam handle on the other. You use one or both straps at a time, depending on the stretch.

What You Might Not Know: Canadian company Lebert Fitness is also the creator of the unique-to-the-fitness-industry Lebert Equalizers (which I review here).

Feelin’ the Love: Lebert Stretch Straps, which come in black or pink, are designed to help you get yourself into a lot of highly beneficial stretching positions that you might not be able to experience without the straps.  

This product is ideal for anyone who doesn’t have a ton of flexibility but needs more of it for pain relief, better posture, performance enhancement and injury prevention.

My flexibility is OK, so I was surprised at just how much more I got out of using the straps for stretches that I’m used to doing anyway. Each stretch felt deeper and less of a strain to achieve because the straps allow good leverage while you’re standing or resting on the floor.

Plus, I discovered some new stretches! The Hip Knot alone (shown below) made this product worthwhile for me. With the straps, I was able to feel such a deep, targeted – but still comfortable – hip stretch, which made my whole body feel more relaxed.

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Hip Knot with Lebert Stretch Straps

If I Could Change One Thing: The Lebert Stretch Strap kit comes with both a 45-minute instructional DVD and a poster of 12 stretches with photos and how-to descriptions. But I’d love to see more iPad-friendly YouTube videos demonstrating brief stretching routines in under 5 or 10 minutes. Screen shot 2014-07-11 at 11.32.03 AM

Should You Buy It? It’s completely possible to stretch well without this gear. But for $31.99 $19.95 USD, you will get more out of almost every familiar stretch and open the door to enjoyable new ones, as well (Hip Knot, here I come).

Available at *Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links from Lebert Fitness. If you click on them and end up buying a product, I may make a small commission through that purchase.  

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Manage Muscle Aches with a Foam Roller (There Are Fitness Benefits, Too!)



What It Is: Sturdy, foam-wrapped hollow rollers that come in bright colours – or even a bootcampy camouflage pattern – with three “density zones” designed to simulate a massaging hand. The tubular rows feel like fingers and thumbs. Those small, high squares act like fingertips of firm foam. And the low, flat areas maneuver along your body like a palm or forearm.

What You Might Not Know: Foam rolling is about kneading away muscle aches with self-massage. You lie on the roller and, you know, roll around on it. And research shows the fitness benefits of foam rolling extend beyond just getting the kinks out.

For example, foam rolling after activity may help improve range of motion and lessen muscle soreness beyond what stretching can do for you (that’s from a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise). Other research shows participants who used a foam roller before exercise reported less fatigue afterwards.

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Instagram: @amandavogelfitness

Feelin’ the Love: Working in the fitness industry, I’ve had occasion to use foam rollers now and again. My general reaction has always been: Meh. You see, I wasn’t all that into foam rollers until Trigger Point. When I received this lovely pink Grid in the mail, however, everything changed.

Trigger Point rollers feel sturdy and hold their shape over time, unlike traditional all-foam ones that can get squished and tend to look damaged and chewed up after a while. I use mine after every workout I do at home and sometimes just to roll away muscle stiffness – such as when I need a break from writing an article or blog post.

GRID Mini - Multiple LargeThis product is especially good for loosening up calves, hips and thighs. I like it best for my back, though. The muscles in my mid/upper back can get to feeling like a brick wall. Five minutes of rolling over this product helps break up some of that tension. Apart from rolling, I also like to gently arch backwards over The Grid to counteract my slouchy in-front-of-the-computer posture. It makes a difference!

I’ve heard that you can use The Grid as a device for muscle conditioning and core training, as well. I’ll give that a try next.

If I Could Change One Thing: I might have asked for a heavy-duty version of The Grid that can stand up to the nastiest of bunched-up muscle. But Trigger Point has taken care of that with their recent unveiling of the 13-inch Grid X. Designed to bust through uber-stubborn tight spots, it’s twice as firm as the original Grid foam roller that I have.

Should You Buy It? Yes. Now you need to choose which one. The Grid foam rollers come in three lengths: five inches (adorable and good for stuffing in a gym bag or suitcase), 13 inches (this is the one I got) and 26 inches; $24-$64 USD.

Available at (USA) or (Canada). *Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links from Trigger Point. If you click on them and end up buying a product, I may make a small commission through that purchase. 

For more on foam rollers, see my “Try a Foam Roller” article in Best Health magazineIMG_3024

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Minimalist Fitness Shoes from New Balance – Barefoot-Wear

Minimalist Fitness Shoes from New Balance – Barefoot-Wear


What It Is: A minimalist cross training shoe for women (Minimus 20v3 Cross Trainer), designed for a variety of activities, such as lifting stuff in the weight room or middle-distance road running. Described on the New Balance website as an “all-purpose shoe for the serious fitness fan.”

This season’s colours: black with pink (bad-ass with a girly edge); grey with blue (subtle and tasteful); yellow with purple (hello, bright!).

What You Might Not Know: These minimalist fitness shoes have a special Vibram® sole, which looks like a honey-comb pattern. The benefit? According to New Balance, the Vibram® soles provide “maximum surface contact” and “multi-directional traction.” I think that means they’re nice and sturdy while protecting you from slipping.

New Balance Vibram

Feelin’ the Love: I’m a sucker for a good minimalist shoe; I think I’ve owned about 5 or 6 pairs so far. There are no in-soles or cushioning in these Minimus models, so if your current shoes have pillowy in-soles, you might feel a little too, er, barefooted at first. (You might acclimatize quickly but New Balance recommends a slow transition to cut down the risk of injury; that’s because they say minimalist footwear could change your running technique and foot strike.) If you’re already used to close-to-barefoot workouts, you should feel right at home in these minimalist fitness kicks.

There’s a four millimetre drop from heel to toe designed to mimic the natural shape of the foot, which I noticed and appreciated. Comfy. The shoes are quite narrow in the heel and much wider in the toe box – a good match for my foot type. Shoes often feel roomy enough around my toes but slide off at the heels, or they’re just right in the heel but crowding my toes. Not so with these shoes. More love: Super lightweight and tons of ventilation.

New Balance Web

If I Could Change One Thing: I’m not sure how true to size these are. I’m usually a size 7-8 in various brands of women’s shoes. I got Size 8B (“B” is New Balance’s standard medium width), which appears to be at least a full size too long and perhaps a wee bit too wide at the front. My toes actually have too much room, causing my forefeet to slide around inside the shoes during exercises with lots of lateral and back-and-forth movement (i.e., most HIIT drills I tried).

Also, the toe box looks a bit bulbous. With my over-sized yellow pair, I couldn’t help feeling like I was wearing lightbulbs on my feet.

Should You Buy These? With the Minimus 20v3 Cross Trainer, New Balance has captured the appeal of a minimalist, lightweight shoe with an overall cute design worthy of a test run. To get the right size, though, try them on if possible before buying in-store or online; $119.


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Leak-Resistant Workout Underwear for Women

Leak-Resistant Workout Underwear for Women


What It Is: More than a workout panty, a pair of NYC-made Dear Kates provides protection against light leaks – like if you pee your pants a little doing jumping jacks or when you want the added comfort of “period underwear” at the gym. Dear Kate is underwear for women with a built-in breathable liner that protects like a panty liner (but without that icky feeling of wearing one that shifts around and doesn’t breathe); athletic styles come in thong and hipster cuts. There’s also the “I Am Strong” Running Bikini.

What You Might Not Know: Dear Kate makes athletic underwear, but they’ve got a lovely line of leak-resistant lingerie, as well. Hazel_Thong_Set_1ae8c612-54eb-42cc-9a87-f6fe05a55d9d_1024x1024

Feelin’ the Love: I own a drawerful of (mostly cotton) workout thongs, but my Hazel Sport Thong with Full Lining feels the most luxurious (body: 76% nylon, 24% lycra; lining: 100% micropolyester). The liner is soft and cushy like there’s something extra in there, but it’s not at all bulky.

I’m blogging here about intimates, so there’s no escaping getting personal. I could jump around all day without leaking urine in my Lulus. But, wouldn’t you know it, my heaviest period days have a knack for falling on vital gym days. Nothing says “added assurance” against small spills like three breathable layers of wicking, stain-releasing and leak-resistant fabric.

Created by a woman with a degree in chemical engineering, this clever undie technology holds its own. As a test, I dribbled a teaspoon of water into the gusset (crotch area) of my Dear Kates. The effect was a slightly damp inner lining, but the moisture didn’t permeate the outer layer. Even if you don’t deal with urinary incontinence, and period overflow isn’t on your mind, you might want to wear light-colored leggings without the worry of crotch-sweat conspicuously seeping through. More points for Dear Kate.

If I Could Change One Thing: I love the sporty look of these silky, black Hazel underwear with colorful trim in either green, yellow or blue (I got blue). But the trim also adds seams around the edges, especially with its detail at the sides (see photos). This takes away from a seamless look when you’re wearing form-fitting workout tights. I’d love to see a seamless workout style from Dear Kate.

As for sizing, they seem true to size. I’m a 0-2 in skirts and pants and size small in other underwear brands. The Dear Kate XS I got is perhaps too snug. These workout underwear are stretchy, so they still feel comfortable, but they do dig into my hips a little; a size up would probably eliminate this problem. Check their sizing chart before you buy.


Should You Buy a Pair? If Dear Kate makes you feel comfortable and confident enough to swing a kettlebell in your undies (as per photo), then go for it! If you’d prefer to cover them up with tights or shorts, I think you’ll still enjoy these added-protection, machine-washable workout underwear for women; $32-36 USD per pair.

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