New Hair Product:
John Frieda 7-Day Volume: Amazon
I have rather thin, fine hair and I'm always looking for products that help it look thicker and fuller than it is! Gretchen recommended this and said that any time she used it, she felt like it made her have a good hair day. I've been using it since September and will re-purchase it when mine runs out, but my experience with it varied a lot. First, the directions say to apply a generous amount to your entire head of hair in the shower and leave it in for three minutes. When I tried that, it was really bad news for styling my bangs and made my hair feel a bit sticky over all. So when I gave it a second chance, I only applied it to the lower half of my hair and the results were much better. I find that I have an okay hair day the same day I use the treatment (I still feel a bit of sticky product residue on there), but the next time I wash it (usually the next day), I have a great hair day. Normally I use it about once a week (on Mondays), but if I have a specific event where I want extra volume I plan to use it one or two days prior.
New Makeup Product:
Maybelline Age Rewind via Amazon
Kristen recommended this under eye concealer (with an excellent, easy-to-follow tutorial) and prior to this, I wasn't using any under eye concealer, even though I needed one! They all just seemed too expensive or required some kind of complicated application/contouring technique. But Kristen made this look easy enough to use and it's very affordable, so I decided to give it a try. Once again, it's a hit for me and I plan to re-purchase when mine runs out.
I posted some of my President's Day Sale purchases from Express and Nordstrom last month and wanted to follow up with what I kept (i.e. new clothes!) vs. returned.
I originally posted my order for these items here:
And here's how it all looked in real life:
I broke down the outfit details below along with the reasons why I kept or returned each new item:
Jacket: Express / Cami: Express / Necklace: Kendra Scott / Jeans: Express / Shoes: Sole Society
New Jacket: Keep! This fits great and feels amazing. The only reason I haven't worn it an outfit yet is that it's a thicker, warmer jacket (similar warmth to a Minus the Leather Jacket from Express) and we've been having temps 10-15 degrees warmer than usual here, so I would be sweating in this all day.
Top: Express (Fluro Guava) / Jeans: Express / Shoes: Sole Society
New Shirt: Return. This is even more neon in person and although I think the color is gorgeous, it was just too bright for me. I know if I wore it I would get several, "Whoa!! I need sunglasses for that shirt!" comments and that would annoy me to the point that I wouldn't enjoy wearing this.
Top: Express / Jeans: Express / Necklace: Kendra Scott / Shoes: Target (Similar)
New Supersoft Jeans: Return. These jeans fit and feel great and really are so soft as the name implies, but after getting them in person they just weren't different enough from my other (four) pairs of black jeans to justify them. That said, I would definitely recommend them if you need your first or second pair of black jeans! (For all my detailed notes on the differences in jeans at Express and where I sized up or down see this post.)
Top: Express / Jeans: Express / Shoes: Steve Madden / Necklace: Stella & Dot
New Cropped Jeans: Keep! I love these! I wanted a pair of slightly lighter jeans with some distressing (but not too much) for Spring and these were perfect! Even though they are cropped, for my height (5'4") they still seemed normal length and I even opted to cuff them for the shoes I was wearing.
I originally posted my order for these items here:
Shirt (Sold Out) / Shoes
Shirt: Return. The sleeves were too tight on this, and sadly it's already sold out so I can't even size up. It's also odd because I've owned this in two other colors and didn't need to size up, so go figure.
Shoes: Return. The sizing didn't work out for me on these. The toe bed was just too narrow and my toes were almost hanging off the side (and most certainly would be if I tried to walk ten steps in them). Sizing up wouldn't help because then I'd just get extra space at the front of the shoe where I didn't really need it.
New Fitness Achievement:
New Fitness Achievement:
If you follow me on Snapchat then you got a preview pic of this achievement, but Hallelujah, I can finally do the splits! I have been working on this goal since October (posted here) and didn't expect it to take this long because I thought I was already pretty close to my goal. It turns out training to get yourself down those last few inches into the splits is like losing those last five pounds. You have to take your commitment to a new level and work harder than ever!
From October through January, I was working toward my goal by adding 2-3 extended stretch sessions into my schedule each week. For reference, my daily stretch routine is almost identical to what Autumn Calabrese does in this video. (Thanks Megan for the recommendation!) Then I ended with more splits stretching as outlined in this article. In the first month, I noticed an increase in flexibility. Then despite keeping those 2-3 extra stretch sessions I plateaued for the next few months and didn't increase flexibility.
Last month that finally sent me back to the drawing board because I was frustrated by my lack of progress. I also had kind of a lightbulb moment where I realized that even though I was able to get into the splits after a very long stretch session, I wasn't doing enough to keep my hamstrings open. Going with a diet/weight loss analogy again, I think it's similar to crash dieting for a day and losing two pounds, but then you gain it back the next day when you go back to eating the way you did before. To lose weight and keep it off you have to change your habits consistently, not just once in awhile, so I decided to apply that approach to splits training to see if I could get my hamstrings to stay in that new level of openness. It worked! After about three weeks of consistent training I am able to do the splits at the end of my normal workout and stretch routine.
If for some reason you are crazy like me and want to make this a goal for yourself, here's a break down of the key elements in my training success. (DISCLAIMER. Do this at your own risk. You probably shouldn't do this at all because there's a good chance you'll pull something and hurt yourself. If you choose to ignore my recommendation against my own methods, don't say I didn't warn you and don't come after me for the damages.)
1. All Day, Every Day. I kicked off my new plan on a rainy Saturday where we didn't have a lot of plans and we were mostly indoors. I did my morning workout and a full stretch. I wore leggings that day and decided that I would do the splits every hour on the hour as long as we were home. Not a full stretch, just the splits for at least one minute on each side. I repeated that again on Sunday. Then on Monday, I planned to do them three times a day. In the morning after my workout, in the evening when I changed into yoga pants/PJs, and right before bed. Again, I wasn't doing long stretch sessions, just a minimum of holding the splits on one minute per side.
2. Hands Up. One of the key points I implemented from this article was stretching in the splits with hands OFF the ground. Sometimes I would position myself between two chairs and hold onto them, other times I'd sit next to a bed or sofa or even a stability ball and put both hands up on that off to the side. This really seemed to help let gravity do the work of dropping my body further into the stretch instead of putting the weight on my hands. My hands were holding me up (literally and figuratively) and preventing a deeper stretch. Once I started doing this I found I would sink more and it was actually less stressful on my body overall since my arms weren't working so hard to hold on. All of my energy went into opening my hamstrings and hip flexors, mentally and physically.
3. Welcome to the Discomfort Zone. This process is very, very uncomfortable. Not painful, but also not enjoyable in any way. I typically enjoy yoga and stretching, but to do this I had to go to the point of the stretch where it stops feeling good and starts feeling not good at all. Not painful, but not good. I did a lot of deep breathing and just thinking to myself, "It's only one minute. I can do this for one minute." I honestly can't think of anything I've done in the recent past that required so much physical discomfort!
4. Accountability. If I had not blogged about this goal, I most likely would have dropped it once I saw how difficult it was to make progress. But since I had to go and blab to the whole interwebs about it, I didn't want to quite or fail! Coincidentally, my husband also started a nightly stretching routine. (Not for the splits, just for the sake of his fitness.) When one of us didn't feel like stretching, we'd see the other one doing it and suddenly feel lazy for not stretching. If you really want to do this, I think teaming up with a friend (in real life or online) to stay accountable is a key component to success.
* * *Well, this ended up being a much longer update than I anticipated! Despite being a short month, February was rather full of "new" stuff! I'll be back tomorrow with a short and sweet weekly recap since I feel like I've already "talked" your ear off this week!