I'm the kind of person who goes to the gym once a year. It's not because I don't like to exercise—quite the opposite, actually—but when given the choice, I'd much rather go for an outdoor run or a yoga class with my best friend.
The thing about the gym is that, well, I hate it. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable—I'm tiny (at 5'1") and there's something unbearable I find about going to a bro-y weight room and feeling like all eyes are on me as I reach for the lightest dumbbells possible. I'd sooner run in a blizzard or extreme heat (trust me, I've done both) than sign up for another gym membership. The feeling that I'm being watched is probably all in my head, but I'd venture to guess that I'm not the only one struck by impostor syndrome anytime they step into a weight room.
So when I came across the weighted ankle and wrist bands from Bala Bangles they changed everything for me. To be honest, I was first interested in them because of how cute they are. As someone who owns a matchy-matchy workout set for every day of the week, I'm in way too deep in the athleisure life to buy old school wrist and ankle weights from the 80s. If I was going to start incorporating weighted ankle or wrist bands into my workouts they'd have to vibe with my * lewk *.
Bala Bangles look like accessories—they come in muted hues (blush, bone, sand, emerald, heather, and charcoal) and have a clean, matte finish. The whole thing is very Instagram-friendly. But there's more to them than that—there are the health benefits, of course.
The upside to adding ankle and wrist weights to your workout is pretty simple: When you add resistance to a workout, you have to exert more energy. When you use more energy, you increase your heart rate, burn fat, and build muscle. So, seeing that me and my chicken-wing arms could use some extra muscle (I want to hold arm balances for longer!), I immediately incorporated Bala Bands into my routine. They come as 1 pound or 2 pound weights. I went for the 1 pounders, and I like how easily I can move them from my wrists to my ankles depending on the exercise (like planks or bicycle kicks). Plus, I can adjust the size so they don't slide up down my arm or ankle.
I didn't know this when I first discovered them, but Bala Bangles have been around for some time now. The idea to modernize the weighted ankle and wrist bands first came to owners Natalie Holloway, a certified yoga instructor, and Max Kislevitz, her now-husband, while they were on sabbatical in Southeast Asia a few years ago. Both passionate about movement and exercise, Holloway says their aha-moment came after a yoga class in Indonesia.
"After an hour of light stretching, we both felt unsatisfied. We decided there had to be a way to intensify workouts, whether you're a first-timer or a pro." They began sketching out designs for a more fashionable, more functional wrist and ankle weight on a napkin. That napkin became a 3D rendering, and, three prototypes later, they had Bala Bangles. "Because the idea was conceived just after a yoga class, we decided to name the company 'Bala', which means 'strength' in Sanskrit," she says.
I can vouch for that because I've already incorporated the bracelets into my yoga practice. The exercises I do usually take an hour and they combine flexibility with strength training movements. I didn’t expect a single pound per arm to make a difference, but the added weight really does make my muscles work harder—not to mention it's a nice little mental challenge since I'm not used to adding resistance to my workouts. I can already see myself doing yoga poses and other bodyweight exercises like jackknifes, lunges, and donkey kicks while wearing them.
So far, I think the bands are great for targeted, relatively slow exercises and movements. After only a few uses, I already feel like my arms have gotten stronger. I probably wouldn't run with them (even though you technically can) but overall I'm not worried about hurting myself like I would be when working out with heavier weights or dumbbells. They're also not awkward or ugly to wear—and whether you're into yoga, boxing, running, or dancing, you'll find that these bangles add just the right amount of resistance to make a difference.
If this were any other year, I'd close with a well-intentioned resolution for 2020 about working out and exercising more. But as much as I love these bangles, and plan to keep using them for the next few years, I'm happiest knowing that I have yet another reason not to go to the gym again.
Originally Appeared on Glamour