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These popular, chic ankle weights got me excited to work out again

I tried the wearables seen on "Shark Tank" and spiced up my fitness routine with style and function.
Illustration of Bala weights, and TODAY editor wearing Bala weights on her ankles while posing
Courtesy Alicia Tan / Bala

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Because of all that 2020 has thrown at us, I, like many of you, have had to rethink how I do my workouts. To be honest, the "before" time is really a blur, and I don't remember what my exercise routine was even like (if it existed at all).

But this year, I feel like I downloaded every app and PDF guide, watched too many Instagram Live and YouTube videos and opted into more than one online workout subscription seven-day free trial only to forget to cancel auto-renewal and end up paying for a whole year.

By the time fall rolled around, I was tired of working out in the small nook between my dresser and my bed or on my rooftop trying to softly land my jump squats so I didn't bother my neighbors. I started to feel exercise-from-home fatigue, but then I went home to my parents' in the suburbs and made an unexpected discovery: the Bala Bangles.

How I fell in love with the Bala Bangles

Stuck inside and bored out of my mind, scared to leave the house (I thought I'd forgotten how to drive after only taking public transportation for the past couple of years), reeling from a break-up and restless for any sort of distraction, I found Melissa Wood Health. Sure, I was lured in by her low-impact yoga-pilates-style videos and the fact that she had workouts as quick as 10 minutes that still burned my muscles.

But I was completely seduced by the the minimal, geometric weights she had strapped to her palms. What were these? They were so chic, so attractive — so not at all like the clunky, hypermasculine, workout equipment I was used to seeing. And she sometimes strapped them to her ankles, too? Versatile and cute? Magic?

So I did what all journalists do, and I investigated. I Googled "chic ankle weights," and there they were, in all of its glorious colors.

The story behind the company

Bala was founded in 2018 by wife-husband duo Natalie Holloway and Max Kislevitz who wanted to offer wearables that upped any fitness routine with not just function but style, too. It wasn't until they turned heads on "Shark Tank" in February (on the cusp of a pandemic no less) that the brand really took off, with Maria Sharapova and Mark Cuban partnering as investors.

Since then, they've continually sold out and been reviewed and featured in various round-ups and gift guides. They also offer the Bala Power Ring — a hoop that mixes the functions of a kettle bell and dumbbell — and the Bala Bars — a sleek ergonomic dumbbell that looks more like an eclair than weights. Bala has even expanded into apparel and accessories, for those who want to embrace being a total Bala babe.

The sets of two are available in three weight levels and more than 10 colors, including deep blue, blush and lilac. I spent more than a week debating which color to snag. By the time I was ready to commit, my favorite was sold out everywhere. A sucker for any good neutral, I settled for sand.

Its texture is smooth and soft to the touch.Courtesy Alicia Tan

When it arrived, it had a more pink, flesh-like tone than the dark beige in the photos online, which didn't bother me. But I suggest looking for customer photos so you can be confident in your color choice.

The brand says the Bala Bangles are made from recycled stainless steel wrapped in silicone. It has a texture that's soft, smooth and soothing to the touch. The elastic Velcro band allows you to strap it to your wrists, palms or ankles as loose or as tight as you'd like. It even comes in a rectangular mesh bag with a zipper so that you can always have them on the go.

How I incorporate them into my workouts

While the brand boasts the product's versatility and that "they can be worn on wrists or ankles for training and recreational activities alike," be sure to talk to your doctor first, especially if you have back, joint or balance problems. According to Harvard Health Publishing, they're a good supplement to targeted workouts but can cause muscle imbalance or injury if used while walking or during aerobics exercises.

I love to add these to my ankles for a more intense burn during lower body workouts.Courtesy Alicia Tan

I switch off using only body weight or adding my one-pound weights to my wrists or ankles during my yoga and pilates flows, and I find it adds just enough resistance to feel like my arms or booty are burning just a bit more intensely. Because my legs are a little stronger, I wouldn't mind going up in weight and trying the two-pound Bangles, too.

In short, they're fashionable and they're functional. I don't even have to worry about holding dumbbells like I normally would during a pilates class. I can focus less on grip and more on form and getting that sweat in. I've never been more excited to light a candle, roll out my mat and get some physical activity in.

I fell in love with these wearables — hard. And I don't use the L-word lightly when it comes to fitness.

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