Fitness Reads: Jog On by Bella Mackie

I picked up this book on Sunday, the day of my flight back to South Africa after spending a glorious two weeks with my very yummy husband, look at him, he’s gorgeous.

No matter how many sleeping tablets I take (don’t take more than the recommended dosage), I never seem to fall asleep on the plane. My last journey, I read ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo.’ A book so beautifully written and in many ways descriptive of the journey many immigrants face when they move to Europe/North Americas. One of my goals this year is to read at the very minimum two non-academic books each month. My partner and I were in WH Smith when my attention was captured by the bright blue cover and title of the book. There are a lot of things I love about my husband, one of them being his accent and classic British slang that I try to implement in my South African/Congolese life. One of those phrases is ‘jog on’ If we’re picking favourite slang phrases, this is mine.

jog on

1. Literally, to run along at a slow and deliberate place.
2. By extension, to make progress slowly, deliberately, or patiently.
3. Go away; get lost; beat it. Primarily heard in UK.

I initially picked this book up as I was looking for motivation to spur me on in my running routine. New year, new me, am I right? And aside from CrossFit, there is no other sport I love more than running. Mackie writes with ease in a comforting and, relatable way. If you think this is a book purely about running, you’re wrong. The book makes me think of one of my favourite phrases by Nike head coach, Chris Bennett ‘this is about running, this isn’t about running.’ Mackie doesn’t claim to be an expert in running or mental health. The fact that she writes from her own experience is what makes this all the more beautiful and is what drew me in as a reader. She gives enough detail on the different mental health illnesses for the reader to have a better understanding of what it means to have a mental illness, as well as tools on how to be more supportive and understanding if you do have a partner that suffers with mental health. As a budding researcher, I appreciated that where she presented findings related to running and mental health, she cites those papers. Minor thing that most won’t care about but definitely did not go unnoticed for me.

I still don’t know why running was the tool I opted for in the midst of misery. I’d never done strenuous exercise before. But I had spent a lifetime holding at bay the need to run away – from my mind, from my negative thoughts; from the worries that built up and calcified, layer upon layer, until they were too strong to chip away at. Maybe the sudden urge to run was a physical manifestation of this desire to escape my own brain. I guess I just wanted to do it for real.

Bella Mackie

At 289 pages, it’s a very light and easy read! Overall I found the book inspiring and it’s reminded me of why I initially fell in love with running. It has also reminded me that this year, whatever levels of toxicity that I don’t want present in my life can ‘jog on’.

Bella Mackie is a freelance journalist and author of ‘Jog On’, a book about running and mental health

In Review: Pattern Beauty Heavy Conditioner

Details: With a texture like butta, our Heavy Conditioner is perfect for coily & tight textures. Creamy, luscious & invigorating, our formula has coils singing in celebration as it wraps them in serious hydration & the signature “PATTERN slip” for easy detangling & great curl clumping . We boosted with ingredients like Avocado Oil, Shea Butter & Safflower Oil to keep our conditioner extra rich & nourishing. Time to coat the strands in a sliver of heaven.

Fragrance: Tracee picked this to be clean & not over-powering. Notes are a sweet floral essence of Neroli, Rose & Patchouli.

Suggested use: Apply to wet hair from roots to ends. For extra dense curls or long hair, section with PATTERN Hair Clip while conditioning to ensure every strand gets the love it deserves. Use PATTERN Shower Brush or fingers to help detangle & bring curls together. Rinse thoroughly. Pro tip: For dry or brittle hair, leave conditioner on for 10 minutes as a repair treatment mask to help restore & revitalize your curls.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water, Eau), Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-8 Beeswax, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Jojoba Esters, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Acacia Decurrens Flower Wax, Polyquaternium-10, Polyquaternium-37, Propylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Parfum (Fragrance), Tocopherol, Polyglycerin-3, PPG-1 Trideceth-6, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Acetate, Isopropyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate

Pattern heavy conditioner is Paraben-Free, Free of SLS/SLES, Color-Safe, Free of cyclic silicones, Phthalate-Free and Formaldehyde-Free.

We all know Aunty Tracee Ellis-Ross has for a long time been a natural hair crush for every natural haired girl. Daughter of the legendary Diana Ross, Miss Tracee carved out a name for herself when she starred as Joan Carol Clayton on Girlfriends. When she announced that she was releasing her own haircare brand, I was excited. With hair as gorgeous as hers, there was little doubt in my head that she wouldn’t deliver. At that time, there weren’t too many reviews on type 4 hair like mine so it was a HIGE risk that I was taking in not only ordering something I didn’t know would work on my hair but also going for the biggest size, a whopping 29 fluid ounces which is just over 800ml. Because I don’t trust the South African postal service who will steal literally anything, I ordered these to my husband’s house in the UK and he brought it along with him to South Africa.

Listen Aunty Tracee wasn’t kidding when they wrote down the description of this conditioner, ‘texture like butta’ is right! That pump never knew what was coming and I am sure after a few months of using this conditioner, my arms will look even more toned. The consistency of the conditioner is so thicc, that I found the pump to be a deterrent. I know some people need pumps to ration out conditioner servings but I am not that people okay! I shampooed my hair and sectioned it into four. The benefit of having just received my conditioner is that I have picked up from most people that the best way to use this conditioner is on fully saturated hair. My hair was already detangled however, I found that I could finger detangle with ease, and without losing any strands. The smell of the conditioner is fresh and floral, I found it pleasant but once the bathroom got really steamy, I found the smell a touch overwhelming. Thankfully once you have rinsed it off, it doesn’t linger. Afterwards my hair was so soft and springy. I was able to apply my leave in conditioner with ease and style my hair without the usual knots that have been wrecking my hair over the last couple of weeks, the seasonal shedding I’m experiencing in summer of all seasons, is wrecking all my hair goals at the moment. I have zero regrets having bought this conditioner and once I have finished my massive bottle, I will evaluate my hair condition and make a decision on whether I will be purchasing again.

I give this conditioner a 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. I docked that point five because of the price which in my opinion is not fully warranted. While the ingredients in the conditioner are great, my hair lovesss shea butter!!! They also aren’t anything to write home about. At this point I am pretty happy with the products I have in my arsenal but if Aunty decides to release a style butter, I might just have to part with my money!

You can shop the full Pattern Beauty range over here.

In Review: Lulu & Marula

I have been so excited about this brand for a VERY long time!!! I can’t remember how I discovered the brand, probably through a random Google search, but boy am I glad I did! This year has been ALL about my skin. The old me would spend her hard earned cash on yet another pair of leggings, the 2019 me, researches skincare products that will enhance and improve what she already has…why am I speaking to myself in third person? Back to Lulu & Marula. One of the things that I connected with was the brand story. Lulu & Marula or L&M for short, source all their ingredients ethically using pure botanical and plant-derived ingredients. None of their products contain artificial colours, fragrances, parabens, petrochemicals, synthetics or other harmful ingredients. They don’t test on animals, and all of their products are endorsed by Beauty Without Cruelty.

L&M was founded in 2013 by Jesslynn Shepherd, Monique Spaltman, a professional skincare scientist joined the team later on. Monique heads up all product research, development and testing. This was what sold me on the brand, the fact that they aren’t just a natural brand (everyone is these days,) but the fact that they research the why behind a product formulation. It’s very much on trend to slap ‘all natural’ on beauty products these days but they’re often the least natural of ingredients and created by people who perhaps don’t have the science know-how behind why they’ve put a certain ingredient in a product.

L&M are based in Cape Town, there is free delivery if you spend over 600. Side note: isn’t it funny how we baulk at a R50 delivery fee regardless of how much we’re spending on what we’re buying? I ordered on Friday and my delivery arrived on Tuesday. I was notified via SMS while at work and I’m not kidding when I say it was all I was thinking about!

I ordered three items from L&M: the purifying treatment oil, the purifying mask & polish and the calming body balm. I’ve listed below the ingredients for each product, as you can see, it is PROPER CLEAN BEAUTY!

Purifying Treatment Oil: Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Crambe Abyssinica (Abyssinian) Oil, Squalane, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Seed Oil, Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Salicylic Acid, Jojoba Esters , Tocopherol Acetate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Cera, Carum Petroselinum (Parsley) Seed Oil, Malaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil, Lavandula Augustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Oil, Salvia Sclarea (Clary) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil, Acacia Decurrens Flower Cera, Polyglycerin-3.

Purifying Mask & Polish: Bentonite, Kaolinite, Moroccan Lava Clay (Rhassoul), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea), Montmorillonite (French Green Clay), Nettle Leaf, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root, Salix Alba (White Willow) Bark, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Oil, Bromelain, Papain, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Oil, Carum Petroselinum (Parsley) Seed Oil, Malaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil.

Calming Body Balm: Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Crambe Abyssinica (Abyssinian) Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Tocopherol Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Lavandula Augustifolia (Lavender) Oil.

My experience: If anyone ever tries to sell you on the idea of how glamorous an MSc. is, don’t believe them. Last night I had a moment of panic while assembling my testing kits and thought it as the perfect opportunity to unwind with a face mask…maybe I just needed an excuse to use the mask & polish, we’ll never know. I started off by cleansing my face with the Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus facial bar and then used a face cloth to get rid of the excess water. The instructions say to take a teaspoon of the mask and mix with an equal amount of water (I used rosewater). I found that a teaspoon made more than enough mask than I needed, maybe I just have a smaller face than most haha. As you apply the mask you get a gentle exfoliation and a divine smell that jumps out of your skin! I left it on for 10 minutes and then rinsed with lukewarm water. My skin was baby bottom soft, radiant and clean without that stripped bare feeling. I followed up with the purifying treatment oil which gave my skin a glow without it looking or feeling oily. This morning I’ve already received 3 compliments on how good my skin looks and for a girl with acne scars here and there, I can hardly believe these people are talking to me. In regards to the body balm, again like the treatment oil and the mask & polish, the ingredients are stellar however (perhaps it was due to having a headache last night,) I am not yet on board with the smell. It’s has all my favorite oils, the calm of lavender, the warmth of ylang ylang, but my ongoing headaches won’t yet let me enjoy it! I promise to update once I’ve used it a bit longer.

The products that I selected are best suited for blemish prone skin that needs a bit…a lot of TLC. All of the ingredients used have a benefit to the skin and aren’t just being used for the sake of use…remember when argan oil was a buzz? I have been using rosehip oil on my face for a couple of months now and I have seen a huge difference in tone and texture of my skin. I am 110% confident that the addition of L&M to my skincare routine will only improve it. I can see it already! L&M definitely have me on board as a customer for life. Their service has been nothing short of amazing and I love the personal touch and beautiful attention to detail. I wish I had a better camera to show you all the gold lettering on the packaging but if you want to see that then I guess you just have to buy it 😉

Shop for Lulu & Marula over here —> www.luluandmarula.co.za

Don’t believe my review? Check my face out!

In Review: Pixi Glow Tonic

Last night I was speaking to the love of my life when he said something that made me chuckle, as I think of it this morning, I’m happy my efforts are starting to pay off and show off as well. It’s been just under 2 months since I started using the Pixi Glow Tonic religiously! The reviews that I trust the most are the ones where said reviewer has used the product more than once, in fact the longer the length of time, the better and more trustworthy the review…in most cases at least.

I am on an endless quest to have healthy skin. As a teen I picked at every spot and the reminders are still there however instead of letting it get me down, I focus my skincare on using products that exfoliate, brighten and repair. On their website, the Pixi glow tonic is described as a highly concentrated and invigorating facial toner. I used my skincare mule aka the boy to bring some over for me from the UK (purchased on Cult Beauty) as it was cheaper. A mere £18.00 for a very generous 250ml. This toner contains 5% glycolic acid which is the exfoliating part of the toner. It also helps in wiping away impurities and brightening your skin. The directions say that you can use it in the morning & evening to balance, soothe and brighten your skin.

Full ingredient list: Water/Aqua/Eau, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Hexylene Glycol, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Dextrin, Alanine, Glutamic Acid, Aspartic Acid, Hexyl Nicotinate, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Biotin, Panthenol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum), Caramel, Red 4 (CI 14700).

My experience: Prior to purchasing this I read the reviews and amongst all the brilliant things that people had to say about it, there were a few reviewers that said they didn’t notice a remarkable difference. However, based on probabilities of great reviews over not so great, I had everything to gain and nothing to lose. I washed my face using African black soap and followed with the toner. I then applied my facial oil along with Vichy’s dark spot corrector and went to bed. I followed the same routine in the morning with the addition of an SPF 50 sunscreen. After 2 months I have noticed that my skin is a lot more radiant however I have a sneaky suspicion that the radiance is due to other products in my arsenal (and being madly in love because apparently you glow differently when you’re in love,) and not the glow tonic.

On days where I forgot to use it, I did not notice a difference in my skin texture or appearance. In fact my worst skin days occurred when I hadn’t exfoliated with a physical exfoliator or done a face mask. My skin isn’t particularly sensitive so I did not feel any tingly or burning sensation when using it. Overall I would not purchase the Glow Tonic again, it was good but just not good enough.

In Review: Mini LUSH Haul

Recently LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics launched a couple of new products. These included five new hair conditioners, which have since gone off the grid, and a host of other bath & body goodies! The LUSH junkie that I am, of course I wanted it ALL of them but it would have been ridiculous for my bank balance to suffer so much damage in one big swoop. I settled for a few items, some of which my dear boy surprised me with for my birthday last month.

J’s Mom Okra is the conditioner that was described as being best suited for afro textured hair. The minute you open the bottle you’re hit with a peppery fresh smell that lingers in your hair long after you’ve rinsed it off.  J’s Mom’s Okra contains castor oil which is great for promoting hair growth and sealing moisture, something that afro textured hair needs loads of, okra gel for slippage when detangling (with this conditioner, I’d recommended very light finger detangling), lavender and rosemary oil amongst a host of other great ingredients. The first time I used it was as a light leave-in, which was recommended on the LUSH UK website, I discovered that the product contained little green bits, which I’m assuming is the okra gel. These pieces flake off easily but this was a factor that ultimately led to it being struck off the leave-in conditioner list. I desperately wanted to love it but ultimately it came down to the fact that there are much cheaper conditioners that do the same thing for less. Overall rating 6/10

Yog Nog Perfume was the purchase I was most looking forward to. In my almost 2 years of working at LUSH South Africa, Yog Nog remains an iconic smell that I wanted in every form possible. I went on about it for days when I missed out on the Yog Nog body lotion, but lucky girl that I am, my boy ended up surprising me with this for my birthday. The smell is sweet yet not in an overwhelming way. There’s a spicy undertone that warms your nose as you spray it. Once it settles on your skin, the smell transforms to warm butterscotch scent that reminds me of my boy each time I miss him. The perfume has great staying power, I could still smell it on my clothes hours later, as well as on the areas on my body that I had sprayed with Yog Nog. Overall rating 10/10

The high hopes that I had for Yog Nog perfume, trickled into the shower jelly. Sadly I was bitterly disappointed. I have used LUSH shower jellies in the past and most of them lather and clean pretty well while leaving your skin subtly perfumed. This one took quite a lot of rubbing to get a lather on it. I tried a washcloth, a shower loofah, a body brush and while each of this helped in getting a smidgen more lather out of the jelly, it was a rather disappointing purchase. The smell is true to the Yog Nog scent, however it does not last. Overall rating 4/10

I wasn’t ready for this jelly and how disappointing it was 😦

Hard-core LUSHIES will be familiar with the HIWTK and It’s Raining Men scent. Caramel undertones boosted by freshness from the citrus essential oils used. I was hoping that Noni I Washed the Kids would smell similar, if not completely identical to HIWTK shampoo bar. When I opened the tub I was underwhelmed. While the smell was similar to HIWTK solid soap, the citrusy elements of this lotion were overpowering and produced a smell not entirely reminiscent of the toffee and sweet undertones present in other products from this range. As a body lotion, it is moisturising, my skin felt supple to the touch and lightly scented for hours. This along with Yog Nog shower jelly are purchases that I wouldn’t repeat. Overall rating 5/10

American Shower Cream is  only a tiny bit edged out by Yog Nog perfume when it comes to my favourite items. To me this is one that they got spot on. If you’ve used American Cream conditioner before, the smell is exactly what you get in the shower cream. A small quantity lathers up beautifully and cleanses your skin without stripping it of its natural oils. The strawberries lend a fruity undertone that is balanced by the clary sage. My only regret is not having more of these babies on hand, which I may or may not remedy… Overall rating 8.10

In review: Superlatte Golden Cup Latte Blend

I know they say money makes the world go round but without coffee, I doubt the world would keep spinning. I used it to survive long days of lectures after even longer nights of partying studying when I was at uni.  I lived for that caffeine buzz and it quickly spiralled into an addiction. One night, my heart racing I called my poor mum in South Africa (I was in London,) and told her I was dying. Examinations by my GP revealed that the excessive consumption of caffeine was the culprit,moderation is key he expressed.  

Fast forward to now being a more health conscious 20-something year old, I was delighted to try out Superlatte’s turmeric,cinnamon and ginger golden latte blend. I am a big fan of golden lattes. The very first one I ever made was a simple paste of 1 tablespoon of turmeric, a pinch of black pepper and organic virgin coconut oil to which I added soy milk and brought to a simmer. I loved the earthy taste from the turmeric and anyone who knows me, knows that I’m addicted to coconut oil.
Superlatte makes the process just as easy for you. All you have to do is add a tablespoon or 2 of organic virgin coconut oil to 3 teaspoons of the golden latte blend,make a paste and add 1 cup of steamed milk or your favourite non-dairy milk alternative, whisk it up, serve and enjoy. I even had some edible gold glitter that made this the most fun latte I have ever had!

Why should you be drinking golden lattes?

The secret ingredient to golden lattes is turmeric. Turmeric has been used for thousands of centuries in India because they’re well aware of the immune boosting properties that this spice possesses. It boosts the antioxidant capacity of your body and contains a compound known as curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties and aids in boosting brain function. Coupled with two of my other favourite anti-inflammatory & immune boosting spices;ginger and cinnamon, this is definitely a super-latte blend! There’s a pleasant tickle in your throat that you get from the ginger and black pepper, then there’s the warmth from the cinnamon that made this a very comforting drink. I’m a recovering sugar fiend and I need sweetness in everything, so I appreciated the addition of the unrefined organic coconut blossom sugar which gave it a pleasant but not overwhelming sweetness. I had my latte before bed and because it’s caffeine free, you don’t have to worry about any caffeine related jitteriness or caffeine induced insomnia. Coupled with the scent of one of my favourite LUSH perfumes, I’m Home it honestly felt as though the person who feels like home to me (my boyfriend) was hugging me. I really do find any way possible to gush about my boy don’t I? shrugs

You can find Superlatte at Wellness Warehouse , Yuppiechef  or you can buy directly online from Superlatte. (superlatte.com)

They have five other variants which I’m hoping to try soon… can you say Christmas? First up on my list is Purple Poet (sweet potato,cardamom & cinnamon) followed by Green Dream (matcha & mint), Red Velvet(beetroot & cocoa), Cosmic Choco (chaga cocoa & maca root), and Ruby Chai (rooibos, honeybush & masala spice) The brand is 100% plant-based, preservative free and GMO free.

You can also keep up with their beautiful creations on Instagram.

In Review: USN vs. NPL

One thing that grates on my titties is when I want to buy a supplement, my first instinct is to go on google to read reviews. Sadly 9 times out of 10, there aren’t any reviews. I like having facts in front of me BUT I also like to know how a product has or hasn’t worked for someone. When I bought these two products at Dis-Chem roughly two months ago, I had in my head the intention that I would review these to help someone else like me that loves facts combined with experience. The products that I’ll be reviewing are USN Energizing Amino Ener-G and NPL’s Amino Burn. At face value (with such similar names,) you’d expect identical results however there are a few key differences that would make one product more suitable for you in regards to training goals.

I am a very simple girl when it comes to supplements, I don’t like to use too many. My staples throughout the 3 years that I’ve been doing CrossFit, have been creatine HCL (unflavoured, mixed with nothing else,) and glutamine. In addition to that I take a multivitamin (when I remember.) I am at a place where I love what I’m currently doing, hard work but rewarding work and I find that my energy needs a little kick up the bootay before wodding. I’ve experimented with a lot of different pre-workouts and currently these are the two in rotation. I’ve rated each product on taste and energy delivery. Those (aside from ingredients of course,) are for me the most important things when choosing a pre-workout. I don’t want something that I have to force myself to drink. Many a time I have felt myself irritating a sales consultant when he recommends me the most expensive but also most useless supplement in relation to MY fitness goals. I would recommend always doing your research before buying anything. Go armed with facts because you cannot always trust what you’re being sold. These products were bought with my money, however should you feel inclined to send me vegan friendly products to review, I will gladly oblige 🙂

TASTE: NPL trumps USN in this round. The strawberry kiwi flavour that I bought actually tasted like strawberries, the kiwi taste I couldn’t pick up. As much of a sugar fiend as I am, these supplements are sugar free and are void of that sickly taste that some supplements can have. There’s a They do however contain a blend of non-nutritive sweeteners to enhance the flavour profile. The USN flavour that I tried is supposed to taste like raspberry flavoured rascals…it didn’t. It tastes like a watered down version of that horrid red version of cream soda. The one reason why I’ve been going on long runs is so that I can use up the 30 servings that I still have left. The blueberry rascals flavour from USN which I have also tried, is leaps and bounds better than the raspberry soda and I loved the way it turned the water a lovely blue colour…it’s the little things.

Overall score: NPL 5/5 USN 3/5

ENERGY: NPL recommends using either half a scoop (5g,) or a full scoop (10g) to 150ml-200ml of water. USN recommends one scoop (10g) to 200ml of water. They both contain caffeine and green tea extract as stimulants and are therefore not recommended after 16h (which I did once and suffered with insomnia.) Each 10g serving of NPL delivers 140.0 kilojoules of energy, while each 10g serving of USN delivers 26kJ of energy. I had to read the label twice as I couldn’t believe that there that there was such a discrepancy between the two. Per 100g, NPL delivers 1398kJ of energy, compared to USN’s 262kJ. You know how this round ends don’t you, NPL 2, USN 0. I have noticed that when I use NPL’s amino burn, my energy levels pick up gradually, stabilise and stay there. When I have used USN’s Amino Ener-G, it feels as though I have an energy spike that isn’t sustained. The inclusion of grape seed extract in NPL’s amino burn aids in focus and clarity which I have definitely felt on days when I have consumed it before work. Both products contain an amino acid blend, aka branched chain amino acids (BCAA, more on that in a future post) to aid in recovery, the most well-known (and one that I supplement on its own,) being glutamine.

Overall score: NPL 5/5 USN 2/5

OVERALL RESULT: Not a surprise, NPL. At the start of this review, I already had my (biased) opinion ready. It would have been a win for USN based on the fact that I’ve used (and loved) their products before and it seems to be quite a fan favourite in the fitness world. However, after analysing the labels and doing further reading on the ingredients contained in each product, NPL came out tops. One added benefit is that their amino acid blend has thermogenic properties which when combined with high intensity training is beneficial for your training regime/goals. It also aids in supporting lean muscle mass and hello, who doesn’t want to look leaner and meaner?

The Black CrossFitter & Her Hair (Mishaps)

I am a black girl.

Oh you noticed.

Yay! We can proceed.

Black girls unfortunately have a reputation for choosing to preserve their hairstyle over working out. I have never really been that girl, except for when I got my eyebrows microbladed. Those two weeks of very minimal sweating was SO worth it because I have eyebrows that anyone would be (and rightly so,) should be, jealous of.

Microblading incident aside, I am a huge proponent of health over everything. When my hair was longer, I would rock up to the box with the dodgiest looking cornrows, twists, looking crusty as anything, and I must be honest I didn’t really care. It’s easy now, to stand on this pedestal, preaching to all who will read this blog that health should be a priority over everything, however (remember how I wrote in this post, that there is ALWAYS a ‘however’ in life!) when I first started CrossFit, I foolishly believed that I could look cute while working out.

The year was 2013, I had just moved back to South Africa from the UK and after watching a RIDICULOUS amount of CrossFit videos on YouTube, I bit the bullet and joined a box that was a stone’s throw away from home. I had no idea what a black female CrossFitter was supposed to look like, (do you see why representation is important?) I hadn’t yet discovered Elisabeth Akinwale, Quiana Welch or Deborah Cordner-Carson.

The funny thing about being the only black person anywhere is that sometimes you feel as though you’re there as a delegate to represent all black people and naturally you have to be good at everything AND look the part.

On that day I decided that I would wear the new silky black and stupidly long wig that my sister had bought for me. I had just chopped off all my hair for the umpteenth time so while there was nothing to secure that wig to, I had tied a headband around the perimeter to sort of secure the wig. I’ve never been one to cherry pick my wods, so on that day I rocked up to the box ready (or so I thought,) for whatever would be thrown at me. I’ve been active my whole life, not as much as I am now, so I foolishly believed that I had encountered every move possible in the world of what my narrow definition of fitness was. On that fateful day, in the elements class, we would be learning how to do handstands. I was excited until the coach began to demonstrate the warm up. It involved forward rolls. I only really started to panic when I crouched down, attempted to roll forward and as I did, felt my wig start to shift. That wig shifted all the way off my big ol’ head. I had just revealed a black girl secret. After that day, I would love to say that I learnt my lesson but I didn’t…I haven’t! When my hair grew long enough, I dipped in the box braid trend, (thanks Solange,) only to get the worst neck ache from the weight of the braids whipping back and forth whenever I did pull ups, and I’ll never forget 16.4, where I hoped to never get to the HSPU. How would I be able to do those with the weight of these insanely long braids?

I’ve had wods where my braids have flipped in front of me, blocking my vision and effectively ruining my life. Wods where all I could think about was the pain of those fresh braids. I’ve even suffered from slight chafing on my back from the friction caused by having the bar on my weave. You’d think all these things would cause me to call it quits on looking cute while working out, but they haven’t deterred me. I am on an eternal quest to work hard without looking like I’m working hard and I have learnt a few things from these hair mishaps and luckily (unless you want to,) you don’t have to go through what I did, to find out what works best for a black female CrossFitter.

Tip #1: Box braids will never be your friend! The sooner you accept this, the better. In last years Open, I (still being ever so brave, foolish perhaps, and not willing to accept this,) had box braids. They made everything that much harder, annoying, and hotter. The amount of times my rope got caught in my braids during 17.5, wasn’t that high but in a wod where you’re racing against the clock, that second spent on re-adjusting a stray braid was one second too long. At least I looked cute right?

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Tip #2: Go natural. I’ve worried the least about how my hair is going to surprise me, or what it’ll do during a wod, when I’ve worn it in its natural state. There are no movement restrictions and I know for a fact that I don’t have to worry about whether my hair will get caught on my rope, chafe my back, or block my vision. Afros are a beautiful thing, they defy gravity, it’s part of that black girl magic.

my face of disbelief during 17.1

Tip #3: Remember to cleanse and moisturize. If you’re anything like me and you sweat when you work out, this is an important (and obvious,) one to remember. Natural hair  gets dry quickly and because sweat contains salt, it can cause further dryness. You’ll want to use products that inject moisture every step of the way. I wash my hair once a week, and will use shampoo every second wash. My choice of shampoo is the Aussie Moisture Frizz Miracle shampoo, and more recently Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow & Restore Shampoo. On the days that I don’t wash my hair, I make sure to rinse it with lukewarm water and apply a leave in conditioner like my absolute favorite again by Shea Moisture, the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow and Restore leave in conditioner. Firstly, it smells like vanilla cookies (SO IMPORTANT!) and with water as its first ingredient, it provides maximum hydration and softness to your hair because of the shea butter & coconut oil in it. A great bonus to this product is the addition of the Jamaican black castor oil and peppermint oil which are helpful in stimulating blood circulation and in turn boosts your hair growth. I should really do a review on this…

Tip #4: If you’re gonna fake it out with hair that’s not your own, make sure that your cornrows aren’t so tight that they give you a facelift. You’re black. You’re not gonna crack, so your cornrows don’t have to feature in your anti-ageing regimen. You’re just gonna end up bald 😂 #realtalk. Cornrows done in a circular pattern help in alleviating the strain on those precious edges, and if done neatly, you can even rock that as your protective style. If you decide to go the wig route, PLEASE for the love of preserving all black girl hair secrets, secure that bad boy correctly!

Tip #5: Accept that it’s a losing battle. If you’re going to choose your health over your workout, you will have days where your hair is going to look like a hot mess, you will have days where because your hair looks like a hot mess, you’ll look like a hot mess, BUT that’s okay because at least you’ve got a bangin’ body!