Category: Fitness

Extremely Effective Leg Workout: Glutes/Hamstrings (WARNING I’M STILL IN PAIN TWO DAYS LATER)

december 20, 2015 | by: mercedes | filed under: fitness


It’s oddly satisfying to kick your own ass at the gym. Some days everything just clicks and you’re in the ZONE, and feel worked to your core. And the days after are further proof of how effective your work was.

By way of minor backstory until I get my vlogging game on in the gym, I’ve been lifting regularly for almost two years now, and through a combination of working out with gym bros and watching a TON of fitness videos on YouTube, I have a pretty decent idea of what I’m doing now. Always learning, but happy with my progress. I’m not into lifting heavy (like crossfit/power lifting style) but rather am more focused on sculpting and shaping. Think Nikki Blackketter.

I lift 2-3 days a week, and will do yoga and/or HIIT on a few other days of the week. Or I’ll just walk a lot and call it a day #urbanliving. I focus almost exclusively on working legs, but I’ll throw in upper body exercises sometimes too, though I rarely do an entire gym session devoted entirely to upper body.

So had a KILLER session last Friday and felt the urge to share – I’m in PAIN still, two days later – really sore glutes, and calves especially. But in the best possible way. Here’s what I did (NOTE: I did google image searches for the exercises for a visual reference point, but eventually I intend to record footage of myself and upload it to YouTube):

1. Warm up: I usually do ~10 minutes on the treadmill or stairmaster – nothing crazy, just to get the blood pumping.

2. Stretch: I go through a pretty thorough stretch routine before I get into lifting, especially focused on loosening up my hamstrings and hips – my tightest areas.


3. Walking Weighted Lunges with 10kg kettle bells in each hand (about 22lbs. each): I’ve warmed up with this exercise since I started really getting into lifting and the habit has stuck. I don’t even count them, I just do the perimeter of an empty work out room, or a long aisle somewhere in the gym, back and forth.


4. Walking overhead weighted lunges with one 15lb. dumbbell: I’m working up to a 25lb. plate with these, but I’ve been using a 15lb weight for the last few months. Before that I was using a 10lb or 12lb medicine ball. Baby steps! Holding the weight overhead engages your core more, and obviously your arms. I do the same distance that I did the previous lunges.



5. Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squats: HOLY HELL BE PREPARED TO HATE LIFE WHILE DOING THESE. They’re really, REALLY challenging but work your hamstrings like whoaaaaa. I hold one 22-25 dumbbell at my chest and do 8 reps on one leg, immediately knock out 8 reps on the other leg without rest, THEN rest after both legs – and repeat three times.


6. Donkey kickbacks on cable machine: These are a relatively new addition to my arsenal of leg exercises and they’re AMAZING. I’m obsessed, actually. Cable machine work is great because it keeps tension on the muscle both directions. I usually start around 35lbs with 10 reps on each leg no rest, knock the weight up to 40 and do 8 reps each leg no rest, then 45 lbs. 8 reps each leg no rest, then I did a 4th “heavy” set – 50 lbs. but only 4 reps a leg. Here are two examples of the different placements you can use – either around the entire ankle, or with just the front part of your foot hooked in – I opt for the latter (the second photo) because I find it engages my calves really intensely.
7. Weighted glute raises with barbell SUPERSET with dumbbell deadlifts (a superset just means you combine two exercises into one “set” – so you would do one of each back to back, and that would be set 1, of 3 or 4 sets of the two exercises…why does this sound confusing typing it all out?): I’m new to the glute raises but they seemed effective. I also REALLY felt them in my quads, so I’ll keep that in mind when I’m doing more quad focused days. I used a 35lb. dumbbell across my pelvis (I lay a cushion underneath the weight though, just for comfort), and did 3 sets of 10-12 reps, which I superset with dumbbell deadlifts. I don’t really enjoy traditional deadlifts with the long bar because I find a) I continue to feel them too much in my back, and b) my arms burn out before my legs. I’ve been enjoying doing a sort of modified deadlift with either dumbbells or a kettle bell.  On this day I used 22.5 dumbbells in each hand and did 10 reps in each set as part of the superset.
8. I usually try and end with some kind of ab-focused circuit, or at the very least one ab/core exercise. Today I did a superset of TRX band pikes and weighted plank shoulder rows. So this looked like 10 pikes on the bands, followed immediately by 6 reps on each side of the plank shoulder rows with 12.5 lbs (so that’s a total of 12 reps per set), repeated 3 times.
9. DEAD. I was pretty much at failure after the end of the pikes and plank shoulder rows.
10. I always end with 10 minutes or so of foam rolling. It’s like the reward at the end.
Here’s the routine condensed:

1. Walking weighted lunges with 10kg kettle bells in each hand

2. Walking overhead lunges with one 15 lb. dumbbell

3. Rear-foot-elevated split squats, 22.5 lbs, 8 reps per leg x 3

4. Donkey kickbacks on cable machine, 35-40-45 lbs, 10-8-8 reps each leg, 50 lbs for 4 reps each leg

5. Glute raises, 35 lb. barbell 10-12 reps x 3

Superset with dumbbell deadlifts, 22.5 each hand, 10 reps x 3

6. TRX band pikes, 10 reps x 3

Superset with weighted plank shoulder rows, 12.5 lbs 6 reps each side (12 per set) x 3


What did I do before Vitacost?

december 2, 2015 | by: mercedes | filed under: alternative health + lifestyle, nourish, fitness

If you aren’t already initiated, Vitacost is an AMAZING warehouse-y kind of site that has insane inventory across tons of different categories (beauty products, household products, food, et cetera) and carries tons of great brands at very low prices. I’ve been shopping regularly on the site for at least a couple of years now, and I make 1-2 orders a month (free shipping after $49 and your order comes within like two days). They often run amazing deals on top of their already low prices, and there are often coupons floating for 10-20% off, yadda yadda yadda. Basically it’s like the online equivalent of couponing for me. Oh, AND you can add Ebates onto your order too, which is another 4% – 8% cash back! [shameless plug, if you’d like to sign up for Ebates or Vitacost through my “affiliate links”, you can here and here ! :) ]

So I just got a smallish order in the mail last week, and no other online shopping orders in sight so not enough to do a Mercedes Shops on YouTube – so I thought I’d just give you a quick peek on here:IMG_1140

I stocked up on the Vega Sport Recovery Accelerators because they were on sale ($17.99 a box, they’re usually $27.99!). I mix one of these packets into a blender bottle of water after I lift and it feels replenishing and hydrating. I’ve been forgoing the Vega Pre-Workout supplement in lieu of just having a single espresso shot prior to working out – cheaper, and just as effective.


I just finished up burning the Aloha Bay Money (red/root chakra) energy candle and needed another around so I went back to the Aloha Bay Love (orange/sacral chakra) energy candle. It’s burning right now as I type this, and j’adore.


I avoid regular gum because of the artificial flavors and fake sweeteners but I do like having Spry around for when I need a refresh. It’s sweetened with Xylitol, and while it’s probably not perfect, I think it’s a hell of a lot better than Trident.


Then I needed some Ceylon cinnamon (apparently if you frequently consume cinnamon, ceylon is better than what many of us would consider “regular” cinnamon which is another variety and can apparently be somewhat toxic? I read this somewhere years ago and it stuck. Ceylon also reminds me more of Mexican cinnamon so it makes me feel nostalgic and I enjoy) and maple syrup. The organic versions on Vitacost were significantly cheaper than at my Whole Foods, so when that’s the case I’ll buy things like this on Vitacost. I have the Vitacost app on my phone, so yes I often compare prices while at the grocery store…like a suburban stay-at-home mom.


And then I just stocked up on my favorite Macrobar flavor (Sesame + Date) and the two flavors of the Nothin’ But snack bars I hadn’t yet tried (Peanut Butter Banana Chunk and Lemon Ginger).

Already getting my cart ready for my next order!

Lusting Leggings

november 20, 2015 | by mercedes | filed under: fitness, style

I’m lusting new leggings for the gym in the most major way. I’ve been going more frequently (inner gym bro-ette UNLEASHED), and also watching an obscene amount of Nikki Blackketter on YouTube – so inspiration abounds! I have a couple of good pairs, but I really need 1-2 additional pairs that are *super* thick, not see-through when squatting, and provide nice compression on the muscles. Here’s a list of brands I’m perusing, with some pros/cons:

  1. Lululemon [Wunder Under Crops]

Pros: thick material, provide compression, durable, thick waistband, fun prints, know my size

Cons: less-than-ideal business ethics, tendency to pill, $$


2. Beyond Yoga [Walk and Talk Capri Legging, Salt and Pepper Take Me Higher Legging]

Pros: super high-waisted, durable, mesh detailing, made in the US

Cons: $$$, small selection, unsure of my size and potentially between sizes

beyond yoga 1

beyond yoga 2

3. Carbon 38 [I want like EVERYTHING but the B Fit Color Blocked Leggings immediately caught my eye]

Pros: multitude of styles and options, fun prints (many scream soul cycle…)

Cons: some pairs are like EXORBITANTLY expensive (for leggings) (WHY AM I IMMEDIATELY DRAWN TO THE PAIR THAT IS $420???)

carbon 38 1

carbon 38 2

*This is the $420 pair [above]

4. Fabletics [Salar Leggings, Fjord Legging]

Pros: extremely affordable, fun prints, high waistbands

Cons: unsure of quality/durability at price point, dislike celebrity brands/marketing

fabletics 1

fabletics 2

5. Gymshark [Form Compression Leggings, Flex Leggings]

Pros: affordable, leggings specifically for compression

Cons: small waistband (tends to be less flattering), unsure of quality/durability at price point

gymshark 2gymshark 1

6. Nike [Legendary Jacquard Training Tights, Epic Lux Running Crops]

Pros: variety in style and price point, high + thick waistbands

Cons: can be see-through, have heard negative reviews…so not the best word-of-mouth

nike 2

nike 1

What are your favorite leggings? Any brands I absolutely must put on my radar, given my needs and aesthetic preferences?