15 Finds for 2015by Jen Sinkler
Sometimes small things make a big difference: A word of encouragement at a low moment. A great meal. A meaningful glance.The perfect pair of workout tights. A healthy snack. A product that somehow elevates an otherwise average experience.
Because I can’t give you meaningful glances over the internet, I decided to make you a list of a bunch of the little things that made a big difference to me last year instead. Here’s to hoping they do the same for you in 2015!
Onzie high-waisted leggings. These…these are the workout pants I’ve been waiting for. Or the closest I’ve found so far, anyway. The waistband is wide and satisfyingly high. (Like I always say, #bellybuttonorbust.) If you, too, like to pull your pants up — I mean way up — then these are for you, too. Sizing tip: I’m normally pretty solidly in the medium camp, and sometimes a shade to the large size (because butt and legs), so I started out ordering their M/L size, but they were a little slippy, so I’ve since switched to S/M.
Also noteworthy: Daub & Design tie-dyed tights. Designer Lexi Soukoreff hand-dyes every single pair of tights she sells. The fabric is buttery soft and the waistband is more narrow, but still generously high.
Thank you, designers who understand we don’t wanna be thinking about our cracks when we squat. I invite more of you to join the party. Speaking of crack, though….
2. Nut butters with added whey protein.
Cracked Nut Butter’s line of pecan and almond butters absolutely leads the charge here. With added whey protein, nut butter becomes a macro-friendlier version prospect. And a goddamn delicious one, at that — it’s no accident their tagline is “Get Your Own Jar!” Plus, their ingredients are as pure as the driven snow.
I’ve somehow landed myself on the Cracked “taste-tester team,” which I can only assume means I was very, very good in a previous life. My favorite flavors: cookie dough (the plain, not the chocolate chip), cinnamon roll and cafe mocha, as well as a few flavors I’m not at liberty to talk about yet. (Sorry, secrets!)
I will tell you that if you spread the cinnamon roll flavor on apple slices, it’s ‘zactly like eating apple pie.
Also noteworthy: Buff Bake peanut and almond butters, which throw a little flax and chia into their mix, along with whey protein powder. Pro tip: Add their cinnamon raisin peanut butter to celery sticks and you automatically have the lazy (wo)man’s version of ants on a log.
3. The Ring Cozy.
This tiny neoprene sleeve protects any valuable rings from scritchety scratches caused by barbells and kettlebells. I remove all rings for my heavy deadlifts (because frankly, the pressure makes me feel like I’m going to chop my finger off), but my Ring Cozy comes in handy for light circuits done in places I don’t want to leave my valuables laying around.
Bonus: They make a version for rings with a protruding stone and one for plain bands.
Oh. Mai. God, these are good. No junk, just olive oil, vinegar, spices. Zesty Ranch? Yes, please. Between these dressings and my OXO Salad Chopper (recommended by the lovely Jill Coleman), I am p. much the salad master. And the Matty’s BBQ sauce in their line has made me the sandwich master, too…I am unstoppable.
Related: PaleoChef has a fully delightful line of dressings and marinades, but is it their ketchup that truly takes home “best in class” accolades. I mean, tomato paste, orange blossom honey and vinegar? Give it to me.
5. Epic Bars.
Welcome to the next level of protein bars, where the star is just real food: minced meat, nuts and berries. Their Bison and Turkey flaves are my faves. (Hot tip: They’re out right now, but invite-only shopping site The Clymb will occasionally carry Epic Bars for a deep discount. Worth signing up with them — here’s a special invitation link from me.)
Also noteworthy: Lou’s Naturals Turkey Snack Sticks. Same idea as Epic Bar: real-food protein, tasty chow. What I like about these are that they aren’t as super-salty as most stick snacks. Annoyingly difficult to find online, I get these IRL (what is this, the ’90s?) from The Wedge Co-Op across the street from The Movement Minneapolis.
6. Zoya Nail Polish and its cleaner compatriots.
Nail polish is (normally) some toxic shit, but Zoya is not only free of “the big 3” — formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and toluene — but it qualifies as “big 5 free” because it also doesn’t include formaldehyde resin and camphor, either.
Listen, I like purty nails, so I’ve test-driven a bunch of the cleaner brands. Zoya stays on the longest of the ones I’ve tried — on average, five or six days, even when/though I’m lifting often. (Don’t tell me to try gel. It makes me feel claustrophobic, it’s super dirty and I hate it.)
Have you heard of nootropics? If not, check out this “Primer on Nootropics” from Art of Manliness. The short version is, nootropics are “compounds that can improve your general cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, focus, and motivation.” In other words, it makes you a concentration machine.
Onnit’s Alpha Brain is one such compound, and I’ve found it to be crazy-effective for improving my concentration when I’m writing. Ingredients include Vitamin B-6, L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine, L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine and L-Leucine.
My other favorite: Onnit New Mood. The happy promise is that this concoction prompts your bod to “become a serotonin-boosting powerhouse.” Ingredients include L-tryptophan (the nap-inducing stuff found in turkey), 5-HTP and Vitamin B6. All I know is that when I take it during times of super-high stress, I do not turn into the witch I would expect to. It’s a nice-maker.
8. The Live Well 360 gym tote.
Fashion-wise, it has been the year of the tote, no doubt about it, but I resisted the trend, at least for the gym. For one thing, I love my Luxx, and…well, that was my only resistance, really. (I wrote a review of both the Luxx and another of their bags, the Core, here.)
I didn’t think I could love another as much. But I do. Their tote includes all the toughness — and the many pockets! — that Live Well 360 bags are known for.
I’m always rooting around for something or other, and the always-open top makes this oh-so-possible. The tote construct also worked with my tendency to overstuff — after all, you’re not supposed to be able to close the thing. Plus, it’s very roomy, which is good, because I pretty much always roll with my laptop, knee sleeves, weightlifting shoes and a full change of clothing.
9. The darkest chocolate of them all.
My 2013 trip to Toronto led to a discovery of Lindt 99 percent cocoa bars. I think they are fantastic, but please note that this is not a popularly held opinion, at least among my friends.
My November excursion to Ecuador led to that extra one percent, and I like overachieving. I found Hoja Verde’s 100 percent bar, and trekked home with some of this treasure. The only problem? I haven’t found a U.S. supplier yet.
10. Strength-themed coffee mugs…about women.
YOU GUYS, THEY’RE STARTING TO GET IT. The word is spreading about women liking to lift, and now we get the coffee mugs to prove it.
I’m half hoping Serena Williams comes out with her own line of espresso cups (did you hear about her recent experience with coffee during a tennis match, which can best be synopsized by saying “Serena Drinks Coffee For the Literal Win”?), but until then, one of my faves is “Vanquish Thing Enemies,” which features a woman snapping a barbell in half. Fantastic for setting the tone before powerlifting, in my experience.
One of the sponsors of a tech-free camp I went to last summer was Poo~Pourri, so I came home with a few free sample bottles. It’s a spritz consisting of essential oils that you spray on the water in your toilet before you do your business, and the promise is that lovely scents will fill the air. The commercials for this product are absolutely dreadful.
It wasn’t until November that I tried it (because OK, it wasn’t until November that I unpacked all the way from that trip), but since then, I’ve added a bottle to every bathroom in the house. (Between those and the Squatty Potty in front of every toilet, coming over is an interesting experience for new guests.) In short, don’t watch the commercials, do get the spray.
This heavy-duty facial moisturizer comes with me on all my travels, mainly because it fends off the desert-dry atmosphere of plane cabins. It’s a really clean product consisting of shea butter, coconut oil, honey, beeswax, neem oil and so on, but it smells enough like peanuts to me that I refer to it as my peanut paste. (Please note: There are no actual peanuts in it, for those who are allergic.)
Also Noteworthy: Alaffia’s Everyday Coconut Water Face Toner. This shit is refreshing, and brightens up blah skin instantly.
When I’m on the road, I tend to be on my phone more — usually because I’m live-tweeting fitness events. Rather than be tethered to the wall, charging up at every opportunity, I decided to start carrying extra juice with me.
First, I tried two different battery cases for my iPhone — the kind you snap around your phone and simply switch on when you want to charge — and killed them both. I killed the Mophie nearly instantly, and then, after a scant few months’ of use, I killed the supposedly tougher OtterBox version, too. (I mean, are you not supposed to be able to hurl your phone to the ground once or twice [on accident] and have it live on?!)
So, I switched to an external charger called the IntoCircuit Power Castle (the first on the list of the best battery packs in this article), and it has been an absolute delight. It rides along in my workout tote (see above) along with a spare USB cord, and is perfect for surreptitious, in-bag charging.
14. Good Hyouman Tanks (and in general, a return to more natural fibers and a slightly looser fit).
I was recently interviewed for a Yahoo! Health article on the topic of the latest in fitness fashion: “Loose Workout Clothes Are In (Yess!)” My take on the matter: We want to wear pajamas everywhere now, and we want them to look good. Good Hyouman gear fits the bill. Plus, any opportunity to wear an item that says “The Best Things In Life Make You Sweaty” is a good one, because that shit is accurate.
Since I got into powerlifting last summer, I’ve upped the frequency and volume of my training, which means I’ve gotten more serious about recovery. (Namely, this means good sleep and food — for more on this topic, check out “Everything You Need to Know About Recovering” from Juggernaut Training System’s.) Additionally, I like how I feel when I use tart cherry products — plus, there is research to support the practice — and Michelle’s Miracle is thick, syrupy, tangy goodness on a spoon.
If you’d like to share your own little things that make a big difference, please do so in the comments section below!