Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Collagen Peptides and Teaching Vacations,
MCT Oil and Bye Bye Foundation,
Windscreens and Gym Bags and Socks and Undies,
These are a Few of my Favorite Things...
Heads up! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn't cost you a penny more, but I earn a small commission if you purchase through my links, which helps support my peanut butter addiction.
"What kind of shoes do you recommend for cardio classes? My feet are killing me."
"How do you get your mascara to stay on when you're this sweaty? I always look like a raccoon after class!"
"Okay, you're glowing, tell me about your makeup."
"Do you take any supplements to keep you energized through teaching two classes in a row? I would die."
Honey, I got you covered. After much trial-and-error on my part, I have found the best athletic wear, supplements, makeup, and supplies for what I do in the gym. These are my current favorite fitness instructor things!
The Asics FuzeX Lyte 2 are ridiculously comfortable, with awesome gel padding that feels oh-so-nice on my tired, little heels. I love them for low-impact cardio, strength-training, and running. They are durable and pretty light, which makes them great for traveling, too.
The Nike Free TR8 is my current go-to for high-impact cardio. I suggest sizing up a half-size with these shoes, because they fit snugly, like a sock (there is no tongue). Though they are crazy light, (which I find helpful for jumping around), they still offer some support.
I have also had great luck with the Asics Gel Noosa Tri 10, in the past, for high-impact cardio. Asics, in general, have great gel soles, that really help absorb the shock of jumping around and don't leave your heels, toes, or arches feeling achy the day after a high-impact workout. If you're looking for more cushion, these will be your besties.
Because I have two go-to shoe options, it probably comes as no surprise that I also have two different types of go-to socks, that I use for different purposes and am admittedly pretty snobby about.
Balega Hidden Comfort socks are THE BEST for a sweaty cardio sesh. They are super comfy, are moisture-wicking, and have a little "tab" on the ankle part that keeps them in place, so I don't have to worry about blisters. I will not do any sweaty cardio without them. I refuse! I've had too many mishaps with other types of socks and ended up bloody, blistered, or chafed, and I'm done messing around.
If I'm strength-training or just hanging out in my Chucks or other slip-on shoes, my go-to socks are these Ultra Low Cut Liner Socks. These get the job done in the general sock department, but they are truly "no-show" socks that DON'T FALL OFF OF THE HEEL, because they have little grippers on the insides. *Praise the Lord Emoji* I wouldn't wear these to run in or do any sort of intense cardio, but they are perfect for low-impact workouts or for street wear, if you like the no-show look.
Confession: In my life-long hunt for "the one" I have probably spent thousands of dollars in total on sports bras that end up in a drawer somewhere. My quest goes something like this: I read countless reviews and recommendations and give the bra du jour a whirl, only to find that it just doesn't cut it for me and my, uh, ... ladies. I love high-impact cardio, so I need a sports bra that will really give me some control, and after MUCH trial and error, I have found one that I truly love: The Brooks Moving Comfort Maia Bra. I have one in almost every color ever made. These sports bras have gotten me through half-marathons, all sorts of cardio, HIIT workouts, and more. They are durable, comfortable, and worth every penny, in my opinion. I literally do not work out in any other sports bra.
While we're getting personal, I might as well add that I love these undies, not just for workouts, but for everyday wear, too. In a nutshell, they are crazy-comfy, have just enough stretch, show no lines, and stay in place. I also have these in every color ever made and they have never betrayed me.
Tanks and Leggings
I have a fitness "uniform" that I wear to teach almost all of my classes, and that uniform is a black Xersion Performance Tank Top (I seriously have about 20 of these!), paired with some type of Old Navy Compression Legging. The reason for the uniform is three-fold:
1) There are no surprises. I don't have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions while I'm teaching, because the uniform is tried-and-true. I don't need to hesitate while popping into a Single Leg Downdog pose for fear that my tank top will end up around my neck like a scarf, exposing my whole torso to the class. I don't need to worry that my new leggings from a pop-up boutique will unexpectedly rip in the crotch area when I hitch-kick in the middle of kickboxing class, causing me to run to the supply closet in shame. These particular products work well with my body, and most importantly, they stay put. The color black hides a lot of embarrassing sweat marks, and any print on the leggings does, as well. Boom.
2) It eliminates decision fatigue.
Psychology Today estimates that we make up to 35,000 decisions each day. Let's be real... it's quite exhausting. Not having to make one more decision seems small, but I assure you, it helps tremendously. Getting dressed for the gym is something I can do on auto-pilot, so I can focus my mind on other things, like my playlist, my routine, and "getting in the zone."
3) It helps newcomers to identify me as the instructor.
If new participants come to my class and return again the next week, it helps them to remember who I am. "That girl with the big, blonde ponytail, black tank, and cute leggings? That's the instructor."
I found these products to work well for me, again, after much trial and error. I miiiiiight have a slight legging addiction, and the Old Navy Compression leggings help me feed my addiction without going broke. They compress nicely, hold up well over several washes, and come in so many adorable patterns. Win-win-win.
I love, love, love this Lululemon Define Jacket and wear it ALL of the time. The fit is slimming, the arm lengths are perfect (with thumbholes!), and the back has a breathable mesh panel that is nicely hidden under the top layer. It's so comfy and cute!
But if Lulu is not in your price range, check out the Queenie Ke Define Jacket. It's a perfect dupe for the Lululemon Define Jacket, for less than half of the price. Amazing!
Nutrition and Supplements
I used to have knee issues from over-training and joint inflammation (due to certain foods that I have now removed from my diet). Taking Collagen Peptides has become a vital part of my morning routine, because I noticed almost immediately after I started incorporating them that my knee pain went to a zero. Hark the Herald Angels sing! I was able to squat and lunge deeper, enjoy running without suffering in the knee joints, and my hair and nails also grew like crazy. In one serving (2 scoops) of tasteless, odorless powder that immediately dissolves into any coffee, smoothie, or other foods, there is 18 grams of protein and only 70 calories. One serving a day is all I take to keep my squats low and my ponytail high and shiny!
Speaking of odorless and tasteless, I also love MCT Oil in my morning smoothies or coffees. MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) Oil is great for fat burn, energy, and brain function, so I also take one serving a day.
I love Quest Nutrition's products, and most recently I have fallen in love with their Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies. This is not a supplement, of course, it's a treat. As fitness instructors, we are constantly watching our nutrition, trying to improve performance in the gym, and trying to stay lean, but sometimes you just need a frickin' cookie, amirite? These cookies don't totally derail you, after you've put in hard work in the gym and in the kitchen, so I highly recommend them!
You guys, I am not exaggerating when I say that I have been looking for years for the perfect mascara that actually gives me lengthy lashes without smearing and smudging to cause raccoon eyes at the first sign of sweat. YEARS. I feel like I have found the Holy Grail of mascaras, and the company that makes it is actually AMAZING as well! Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara is THE ONE. Lashes become huge, it stays on all day, it doesn't smudge, it's vegan and cruelty-free, and for every product sold, the company donates to help a woman battling cancer or domestic violence. How great is that!?
Recently, I've had a couple of friends and class participants make remarks about my foundation, telling me I was "glowing" and "gorgeous" and ask about my makeup regimen. While my "glow" is most likely a full-blown sweat, of course I appreciate the compliments and am happy to share my love for IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Foundation. I'm a person who wears make-up every day, regardless of the activity (I know some of you are shaking your head and think I'm nuts, but that's just who I am!), but even if I wasn't, I would wear this every day, because this Bye Bye Foundation is actually a sunscreen that goes on like foundation. It goes on like butterrrrrr, covers any imperfections, and gives you a nice glow that is apparently pretty noticeable, according to my friends and class participants. Also, I am by no means a make-up guru who knows how to do cool things with contour, but IT Cosmetics Vitality Brightening Disk is basically magic and makes you feel like you can actually contour with the best of 'em. I use the foundation and the brightening disk every day. It has great staying power, even through the sweatiest workouts and gives you protection from the sun. Woo!
I just discovered theBalm Meet Matt(e) Hughes Lip Colors and I looooove. Here's why: It has incredible staying power (seriously all day!), but you don't need to use paint thinner to get it off, like some other long-lasting lip colors. It's 100% matte, which is just so pretty. And it's not sticky at all, which is so important when you have a giant ponytail that whips around in class. Check out my post-workout selfie (no filter - please don't judge me - we were in the midst of the polar vortex!) with "Adoring" on my lips. I recommend this Meet Matt(e) Hughes Kit, which has six mini shades in the pack, so you can try out a bunch of colors to see what works with your skin tone. I ordered "Volume 3" and love all of the colors it had!
I've had three awesome gym bags over the years that really worked well for me and my needs that I will recommend to anyone. The first one is Under Armour's Premier Tote. I loved the heck out of this bag because it has an insulated pouch that keeps your water cold while you teach! Amazing! It also has a ton of pockets and plenty of space for everything you need. The one "con" for this bag is that it does not have yoga mat straps. If that's important to you (like it is to me), then consider this Gaiam Gym Bag with Yoga Straps. There are pockets a-plenty (though none of them are insulated for beverages), and it has straps that pop out and hold your yoga mat. The fabric is durable and the black color hides any dirt that you might catch from the gym floor.
The other gym bag that has been awesome is the Lululemon Live Free Tote. Lulu has discontinued this bag, but Amazon still sells it, if you want it! Lululemon is beloved by many, and it's easy to see why. They thought of everything with this bag: padded pockets that fit all of your essentials perfectly, yoga mat straps that tuck away when you don't need them, and plenty of room for your teaching materials.
As a master instructor, I have had the honor and privilege of teaching fitness classes and workshops in a variety of facilities, and therefore have had the opportunity to teach with many different types of microphones (and sometimes without). First of all, if you do not teach with a microphone, I highly recommend that you start teaching with one. Your vocal chords are too precious, your cueing is too important, and your members are too distracted without one. Second of all, I highly recommend using a microphone that is wireless. Wires cause problems - they get caught in your movements, they become detached, and in my experience, the microphone just isn't as strong as wireless ones. Therefore, I highly recommend the Samson Wireless Headset for group exercise. It happens to be the microphone I use multiple times per week at my home gym, and I love it. It's a little bit of an investment, of course, but your voice and your participants will thank you, I promise!
When you teach with a microphone, you definitely need to use a windscreen, otherwise you will sound like Darth Vader throughout your entire class. The windscreen does exactly what it sounds like: it blocks most of the air passing through the microphone so that even when you're breathing hard through your cardio workout, you sound like a semi-normal human being and not like SNL's Principal Frye. Having your own windscreens that you keep in your gym bag also protects you from the germs that other fitness instructors are breathing onto the mic during their classes. These are my faves. They fit nicely over the microphone and give you the most bang for your buck.
I have been through my fair share of yoga mats - cheap, expensive, name brands, off-brands, big ones, small ones, round ones - I've done them all. Here's what I recommend if you teach anything on the mat, including Pilates, Yoga, PiYo, and everything in between.
If you're on a budget, I highly recommend the Gaiam Premium 6mm Print Yoga Mat. There are 35 different, gorgeous prints to choose from and these mats hold up very nicely. Have you ever had a yoga mat that, after a few uses, starts to pill up and shoot little rubber pieces off onto the floor like confetti? These Gaiam mats keep you from making a huge mess in the yoga studio.
If you're in the mood to splurge a little, The Manduka PRO Yoga Mat is the industry standard for "the best." Talk about durable! If you're ready to make the commitment, this mat will probably end up being your soul-mat (ha!). However, let me warn you! There is a "breaking in" period with Manduka mats, and you have to persevere. The issue is that they are, at first, very slick. You do not want to use the mat right out of the box before scrubbing it down with coarse sea salt (maybe even a few times) first. I recommend doing this outside, as it gets a little messy, and letting the mat air-dry in direct sunlight. The mat will hold up through the scrubbing and the sunlight, don't worry. The "breaking in" period is important - too many people hate the mat at first because they say it is too slippery. Once it is broken in, though, it's gold!
Going on a vacation for a week to an all-inclusive resort is amazing. Going on vacation for a week to an all-inclusive resort for suuuuuper cheap and teaching fitness classes is even better. As a fitness instructor, it's highly possible you will work out on your vacation anyway, so you might as well teach a class or two each day and get your vacation deeply discounted! Fit Bodies Inc. is a really cool company that allows instructors to do just that - you pay a small fee for you and a companion to go to an all-inclusive resort in a tropical destination for a fraction of the price and an hour or two a day of your teaching skills. It's a dream! My hubby and I recently went to Puerto Vallarta on a teaching vacation and had an amazing time. I highly recommend it!