October 8, 2012

The staggering statistics of the health crisis in the United States can be overwhelming. Most Americans need to get more exercise, which can make one of the biggest differences in your health. Even 30 minutes a few times a week can do wonders not only for your body but your self-esteem as well. I know that we all lead such busy lives and sometimes getting to the gym isn't always possible, so a little resourcefulness can go a long way to keep your fitness habit alive.

For example, there are a wide variety of exercises you can do in the park. You get a chance to go outdoors, breathe real air, and see new things. And the best part about it? There’s no equipment to bring. Here are some ways to turn your local park into a gym:

First off, the warm up! Take a few laps around the park before you begin as well as in between your exercises. This adds a cardio element to your workout. Then try some:  

Park Bench Dips
Sit on a park bench and then lift your body weight up and out, palms on the edge of the bench and facing out and your elbows straight. Your knees will be bent and your feet flat on the ground. Bend your elbows and then straighten to dip down and up. Be sure not to rock back and forth. Instead, keep your back very close to the bench during the entire movement and limit the movement to up and down.

Monkey Bar Pull Ups
Hang from the low monkey bars with your legs outstretched in front of you and heels on the ground. Pull yourself up as high as you can and then lower back down to the starting position. Your back will be a bit rounded in the starting position. As you pull yourself up, you'll notice that your back straightens considerably. Make an effort to consciously squeeze your shoulder blades together during the movement for maximum toning.

Park Bench Step Ups
Stand in front of a park bench and step up one foot at a time. Step down the same way, making sure your heel isn’t hanging off the edge of the bench. Park benches are pretty high, which makes this exercise quite a challenge and one you'll want to perform fairly slowly to maintain good form. If you're a beginner, you can easily choose a lower step to use instead of the bench. Be sure to keep your back erect and get your entire foot planted on the bench with each step.

Tip: You'll want to switch the starting leg at some point. Beginners can switch halfway through their 30-60 second time frame. More advanced exercisers will want to start a brand new 30-60 seconds for their second starting leg!

Slide Lunges
Stand in a lunge position with your back foot up on the bottom of the slide. Lower down, bending your front knee to about 90 degrees, being careful not to let your front knee jut out beyond your toes. Push back up to your starting position, focusing most of your weight through your front heel (rather than your back foot). Be sure to keep your body erect and to keep the movement going up and down rather than forward and back, which would place undue strain on the knee. After your first 30 to 60-second set, you'll need to switch legs and repeat on the other side.

V-Sit Ab Toner
Sit on the end of a park bench, facing sideways (so that the back of the bench won't be in your way). Place your hands on the bench on either side of you, and lean forward while drawing your knees in toward your chest. Next, lean back while extending your legs out in front of you. Stay balanced on your rear end and repeat the movement back and forth as smoothly as possible, while holding in your abdominals as tightly as possible during the motion.

Hanging Ab Toner
This one is tough! Hang from the high monkey bars. (Your feet should not be able to touch the ground.) Pull your knees up as high as you can and then lower them back to your starting position. Be sure to keep the movement slow and controlled and avoid using momentum (i.e. swinging your legs up there!). Beginners may want to work this one into the routine gradually!

Toe Tap
Sit on the edge of a bench and place palms behind you on the seat, fingers forward. Maintaining a neutral spine, lean back slightly and lift legs, knees bent 90 degrees, off ground. Keeping chest lifted, shoulders back and right knee still, touch ground with left toe, then raise left knee back to start position. Switch sides and repeat to complete one rep. Do 10 reps.

Not every exercise is right for everybody. If any of the exercises causes pain in your joints or otherwise causes discomfort beyond tired muscles, it may not be right for you. It is normal to experience muscle soreness after trying a new exercise routine, but that should subside quickly. Good luck, and have fun!

Published in Health
Monday, 24 September 2012 00:01

Style | Transitioning from Relaxed to Natural

September 24, 2012 

Going from relaxed hair to natural hair isn’t a decision a girl takes lightly. When you’re doing a long-term transition to natural hair, there are may be days when you feel completely lost. \You  may find yourself missing the familiarity of your relaxed hair routine and the new au natural texture you discover as you go through the process may have you reaching for the creamy crack once again. I urge you to stick it out; all you need is a little guidance and support. I get questions from women all the time about how I got through my transition process, what products I used and what styles I wore. I’m more than willing to share my experience, but the truth of the matter is that people have different hair textures and the process is different for each person. A lot of it has to do with the condition the person’s hair was in before they began the transition. To pull this off successfully, you really have to get out there, try new products and learn for yourself. All that being said, there are some basic things that a brave transitioner like you can do to work towards healthy hair.

 1. Protein is your friend – Weak, chemically processed hair benefits dramatically from protein treatments. They keep your hair strong, and also help restore elasticity. Remember, you want to minimize breakage and shedding during your transition, so regular protein treatments are key [once monthly is good for starters]. Be sure to deep condition AFTER each protein treatment.

2. Keep your scalp clean. While you may shampoo your hair less, it is still important to keep your scalp clean. Keeping those pores open and clear will allow stronger hair to grow from them,

3. Be protective. When it comes to hair health and length retention, you must protect your hair. We live in an impatient world where we want quick fixes and a beauty regime that requires minimal discipline. But for a Made Woman who wants to stay fly, this is not realistic -- particularly when it comes to caring for highly textured hair. Your delicate strands need to be handled with care, wrapped up at night and detangled gently. Take your time and do it right.

4. Low Manipulation Hair Styles - Too much manipulation is like death to your tresses. Now is the time to handle your hair with extreme care. Low manipulation styles are your friend! Don braids, twists, roller sets, flexi rod sets, braid outs, low tension buns, bantu knot outs, and twist outs. Check out the popular site K is for Kinky's Pinterest page for some ideas on natural hair styles!

5. Silk Pillowcase, Satin Bonnets, Satin Scarves - Are indispensable  “tools!” - My favorite is the silk pillow, perfect for those who can’t keep a silk scarf on at night. Try to avoid sleeping on regular cotton pillowcases, as they can cause breakage as well.

6. Try to go sans heat for the first 8-10 months - Thermal straightening can have the same effects as a relaxer, in the sense that it can break down the protein bonds in your hair. When the protein bonds are weak, your hair will break. This is why you normally get breakage on or near the line of demarcation [aka where the weaker hair and new growth meet].  Heat can permanently damage the natural curl of your hair. If you use a lot of heat while transitioning in an attempt  to merge the relaxed hair with the natural hair, you may end up burning or damaging your natural hair.

7. Watch the line of Demarcation.  This tip is crucial if you are planning a long transition. The point where natural hair meets relaxed hair should be your top priority. Ensure that it is well conditioned and be careful when detangling or combing this particular section. Breakage will normally start at this point, which is something  you need to avoid until you are ready to do the big chop. If your natural hair has a lot of shrinkage ( meaning it kinks up when wet), try to minimize it as much as possible by gently stretching out the hair for styling. This will help reduce the force required for the comb to pass through the demarcation line.

8. Detangling: Take Your Time. Ahhh yes, detangling natural hair. This is a skill that is learned over time. It is very easy to comb hair that is relaxed or where the curls have been loosened. Natural hair however, is a whole new ball game. Let us break it down for you.

 I suggest that you allocate a lot of time for detangling. If you think it will take an hour, then allocate two.  Another key tip is to add some oil (coconut oil and olive oil are very popular ) to your hair or conditioner if the comb does not slip through the strands easily. Of course, tools are very important and you should. Invest in a GOOD detangling comb. Detangling can wreak havoc on your hair, but you can overcome that with the purchase of a good detangling comb. Preferably a seamless comb [as hair tends to snag on the seams of combs]

 Most people will start out detangling hair when it is soaked in conditioner, as this is generally accepted as the easiest method. Some will detangle hair when dry, prior to washing (Note: There are varying interpretations of the word dry. Some use a leave in conditioner, a small amount of water  and/or oil – the general principle is not to have hair soaking wet when detangling) . Start with the easiest method for you and see what works best.  Detangling should be a breeze if you are careful, and have the right amount of conditioner and water in your hair. Another trick is to detangle under a stream of low pressure water in a shower, bath tub or sink

9. Moisturize. This is a big one. One of the most challenging aspects of transitioning is learning how to keep your hair from drying out. Experiment with sulfate-free shampoos and learn which ingredients promote moisture retention and which do not. Avoid mineral oil unless you fully understand the downside of using it. Occasionally, you should use some type of protein conditioner or treatment as this will help fill in your hair cuticles and retain more moisture. On a daily basis, spray the hair with water and seal the moisture in with a good moisturizer.


10. Deep Condition Regularly - Keeping hair conditioned is a regular part of most, if not all, healthy hair care regimens, and it’s especially important for people who use protein treatments. I recommend deep conditioning once weekly WITH heat.

11. Shampoo hair in sections - This is a good piece of advice for naturals and transitioners alike. Relaxed hair is very prone to matting and tangles, so shampooing hair [and conditioning hair] in sections will cut down excess detangling time, as well as unnecessary tangles and shedding.

12. Trim your ends. Naturally, if you are transitioning you will want to cut off the relaxed ends frequently to move closer to your goal of 100% natural hair. Plus, the healthier your ends are, the easier your hair will be to style.

I hope that you find these tips useful and good luck on your natural hair journey.

Published in Hair
Monday, 13 August 2012 04:57

Style | Do-It-Yourself Pedicure

August 13, 2012

Summer is here, the weather is getting warmer, and guess what that means? It’s time to break out your favorite pair of sandals and show off that great pedicure! I don’t know about you, but I just love a cute pair of sandals and perfectly polished toes. But before you think about slipping on those sandals, you should do a self-check of your feet to make sure they are up to par. I encourage you to please, please, take care of your feet. Nothing ruins a pretty pair of sandals more than crusty feet! 

Now I know that everyone can't afford an expensive pedicure at a salon, but don’t worry--you can do your own pedicure at home for a small fraction of the cost. You can find very inexpensive mani/pedi sets at Target or your local beauty supply store. You can even order online; Amazon has a kit for $15.44 and Ulta.com has one for $17.99. Now you're ready! Follow these step-by-step instructions for an at home pedicure.

What you’ll need:

  • A big bath towel
  • A large bowl or pot (big enough to fit your feet)
  • Aromatic candles (I love anything with lavender)
  • Nail clippers & file
  • Cotton balls
  • Nail polish remover
  • Pumice stone
  • Essential oils


1) Set the Vibe
Gather all your pedicure tools and organize them on a coffee table next to a comfortable chair. Fill the large bowl with hot water (not too hot; you don’t want to burn your feet) and place the bowl in front of your chair. Dim the lights or turn them off completely and get ready to work by candlelight. There's something so soothing about candlelight--it'll help give you the feeling that you are in a spa. Be sure to take a moment to relax before you get down to business!

2) Soak and Soothe
Remove old nail polish using the cotton balls and then clip and file your nails. Pour a sweet smelling oil into the water, which should be warm by now. I love eucalyptus or lavender oils personally, but anything soothing and relaxing will work. Soak your feet in the bowl of water for 10-15 minutes. Make sure to take them out before they prune up!  Use the pumice stone periodically to help shed your dry “winter” skin.

 

** Depending on the degree of roughness, you might need to repeat these steps to get your feet in flip flop shape.

3) Treat Your Feet
Pat your feet dry and, using the nail file, smooth any rough edges that you missed before soaking. Apply essential oils. Use tissue paper to separate your toes. Be sure to push the cuticles of your nails back and treat with the oil of choice before you begin to treat your nails. Just make sure the nail surface is oil-free before polishing. Apply nail hardener, base coat, a nail polish of your choice and your top coat, then let dry. Now you can relax!

If you need come cool nail ideas check out Made Woman’s Pinterest Board for ideas. And click here to see the hottest nail colors for spring. Now, you have all you need to handle your at home pedicure!

Published in Beauty
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:21

Style | Bedtime Beauty Tips

July 2, 2012

You get up in the morning and proceed to have an hour long prep session before you even start your day. You use enhancers, creams, and miracles on yourself before you feel ready to face the world. But what about when the day is over and you come home? Do you just crash? If your answer is yes then sister, we have a problem. We are all guilty of it; even me, I confess. But we can’t neglect ourselves at night and then look for a quick fix to combat our laziness (yes, I said laziness). I have learned that if I spend a little extra time simply practicing some self-love with my pre-bed beauty regimen, then I really have little need for extra products. Here are a few beauty tips for right before bed; I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 1: Always wash up.

I’m guilty of skipping this step -- and I’ve got to stop! Sweat, dirt, makeup, the day’s grime … all of that sits on our face at night, clogging our pores and aging our skin. So use a gentle facial cleanser and lukewarm water before going to bed, and follow up with a mild toner. And the last and most important step, don’t forget to moisturize your body and skin before bed. (I will too. Pinky promise.)

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 2: Never sleep with your hair in a ponytail.

No matter how exhausted you are, it’s important not to leave your hair elastics in, because they can cause breakage. If you want to avoid morning tangles, try sleeping on a satin pillowcase. It’s easier on both your hair and your face.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 3: Brush and floss every night.

If you skip the dental care at night, you’re not just in for a huge lecture at your next dental cleaning; you might actually be making yourself look older too. Brushing removes stains between and around your teeth, and for healthy gums you’ve got to floss too. Poor gum care can cause your gums to recede, making your teeth look longer -- and you older!

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 4: Let your feet breathe.

Keeping your feet in socks may keep them feeling toasty, but it also creates a moist environment where foot fungus can breed. Yikes!

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 5: Keep a glass of water by your bedside. Not only will this help if you wake up in the middle of the night dying of thirst, but also you are supposed to have a glass of water pre-breakfast to dull hunger and rehydrate. Remember, glowing skin comes from water.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 6: Don’t eat right before bed.

It is so important to eat within a reasonable time of your bedtime. When you eat right before bed, you don’t have a chance to burn off the calories. Certain foods and eating too much right before bed can lead to a restless night of sleep.

Bedtime Beauty Tip No. 7: Get your beauty sleep. 

I know you really want to stay up late to watch your favorite show, talk on the phone, or peruse the internet, but beauty sleep is no myth. Your skin needs time to heal and restore. Plus, who wants under eye bags? 

I hope you use these tips to re-energize your bedtime regimen. Instead of just crashing and waking up looking like a wreck, put in a little extra effort at the end of the day and stay looking young and healthy. Sweet dreams! 





Published in Beauty

June 4, 2012

Now that summer is here, women everywhere are looking for the newest, cutest hairstyles. We have done the legwork for you and gathered a few of our favorites here for inspiration. We know our readers have all sorts of different lengths, textures and styles, but at least one of these should work for you.  Go ahead and give one a try....and be sure to send us before and after pics!

Ombre Colored Hair
Ombre colored hair is popping up everywhere. And for good reason -- it’s a fun way to add a pop of color to your hair. Ombre is a French word that literally means shaded; it’s a graduation of color from light to dark, or vice versa, starting from the roots. It basically looks like your hair color has grown out…but in a good way. I like it because it is low maintenance, it’s a good way to grow out your roots, and did I mention how fun it was?



Box Braids
This next style is a blast from the past: Box braids! They have become wildly popular within in the last year, largely due to Solange  (a style maven in her own right) rocking them. Box braids were really popular with young black women in the 1990s. I know had some when I was younger. They are basically single plaits, sometimes done with extensions-- but the beauty lies in the simplicity! Some wear them super thick (think Janet Jackson in the 90’s), and others add colors.  My favorite look is the one with all types of bright colors. I like them because you can do so many different styles with them and -- major bonus! -- you can get up and go without having to do much to your hair. This is definitely a trend I am going to be trying…



Fishtail Braid
It’s  safe to say that the fishtail braid or plait is the "it" style of the season. Whether perfectly neat or purposely messy, the texture and seemingly complicated pattern of this sea-inspired style provide a refreshing visual twist on your typical 3-strand weave. But before you go braid-crazy on your locks, you've got to learn the basics.  Do your research; there are tons of tutorials on YouTube and blogs. I like this style because it’s simple and it instantly turns your hair into high-fashion form.



Bohemian Crown
The bohemian crown may have started off as a wreath of flowers, but now the look has evolved into a 360-degree braided headband.  I knew that this hairstyle would take off because of the character that it adds to every look. We loved the braided crown on celebrities like Sienna Miller and Emma Watson, though some of us were intimidated by the level of difficulty. But don’t worry! Once again, YouTube will teach you all that you need to know to pull off this style correctly. 



Messy Bun
The messy bun is the perfect answer to the summer heat. The last thing you want is matted hair stuck to you face and neck…Not cute. Don’t fall victim to this. I like the messy bun because it’s low maintenance, chic, stylish, and suitable for many occasions. And the best part is you don’t have to worry about fixing your hair throughout the day because it’s supposed to be messy!


Asymmetrical Bob
Asymmetrical bob haircuts were huge in the 1980s, and they're making a comeback among women who live on the (jagged) edge.  Asymmetrical cuts and layers are in high demand and women are running to their local beauty salons to put in their request. If you are thinking about making a major style change, this is a trend you might consider if you want to add a touch of edginess and attitude to your style. I like it because it is fierce, fun, and flirty. Serve it up. *two snaps*


Hope this provided some inspiration for your next hairstyle! Don’t be afraid to try something different…fabulous hair is awaiting you.

Published in Hair
Sunday, 20 May 2012 22:33

Health | Best Workout Clothes

May 20, 2012 

Comfort, dryness, durability and style are important characteristics for women’s workout clothes. The best workout clothes are designed to work with the natural curves of a woman’s body for ease of movement during all styles of exercise. Bright colors and different fabrics can make workout clothes more appealing than the traditional T-shirt and shorts. Ladies, it’s OK to be cute while working out. In fact, I suggest it. Here are 10 of the best workout clothing items.

  • Brooks Viva Jacket- One of the latest fitness trends is the short-sleeved performance jacket. They're perfect for covering up when going to and from the gym and they're also great for layering when it's chilly outside, but you don't want to get too hot from your workout. This cute, sporty version is made of soft moisture-wicking nylon and it has a ribbed waist and cuffs.  It's comfortable and --get this--even has an interior MP3 chest pocket.


  • Nike Seamless Half-Zip Top for Women- This long-sleeved pullover is a must if you're exercising in cold weather. Made of Dri-FIT fabric, it keeps sweat away from your skin, which makes cold weather exercise more comfortable. Are you ready for an “I love it moment”? Besides the fact that it's comfortable and flattering, it even includes thumb holes to keep your hands warm. It's almost like having built-in mittens, but you can easily fold them over if you don't want to use them. This could easily become a favorite for chilly workouts.


  • Brooks Pacer Support Tank-This lightweight, flattering tank is perfect for warm-weather workouts or a low-impact class at the gym. The T-shaped back offers great support, along with the built-in support bra, and the light, breathable fabric keeps the sweat away from your body. There's an invisible pocket in back for your ID or keys. This bra is perfect for smaller-chested ladies involved in moderate-impact workouts.


  • Yoga Capri Pants - These comfy, drapey capri pants are perfect for yoga class or for almost any light exercise.  They're flattering and they stay in place during almost any yoga pose.
  • Adidas Supernova Running Skort- Running skorts are one of the best inventions for women's exercise in my opinion.  They're comfortable, flattering and you get to exercise while feeling stylish. They're light and the inner shorts don't ride up, which can be a problem with some skorts.  The moisture-wicking fabric keeps you cool and dry and there's no uncomfortable chafing.


  • Smarty Pants- We've all had moments in the gym or during outdoor workouts when we wished we had a little more coverage. Enter Smarty Pants, underwear made specifically for exercisers to provide comfort and coverage.  Their lightweight, and can fit under just about anything and help keep sweat away from your body.

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  • Merrell Savannah Sandals- These lightweight, sporty sandals will make you fall in love. They're comfortable and can handle just about any activity you can think of - walking, post-workout dinner or even light hiking. In fact, any Merrell shoe is a good choice because they last a long time. And they are super cute!
  • Avia Women’s Running Shoes- Avia running shoes are consistently rated number one when it comes to supportive running shoes for women. Avia makes these shoes specifically for a woman's foot, so you won't have as many problems with slipping heels or gigantic toe boxes. If you've had trouble finding comfortable running shoes, try a pair of Avias - it will change your workouts. I promise!


  • Thorlo Socks- Aside from your shoes, socks are the second most important thing you'll wear during your workout. Thorlo makes some of the best, high-quality socks out there for any activity. These socks are pricey, but that last for years and through thousands of washings.
  • Brooks Viva Capris- If you like form-fitting workout pants, these capris are both flattering and comfortable. Made of moisture-wicking nylon, these capris are light enough to wear during almost any outdoor workout. The fabric holds its shape, so these pants won't sag no matter how active you get. I love the comfortable, flat waistband and find they're great for running or walking on cooler days.

The saying is true: no pain, no gain. But nobody ever said you have to look dumpy while working out. Try some of these stylish yet functional workout looks and you’ll turn heads while you tone up!


Published in Health