Archives for 2010

Favourite fitness tools

Did your grandmother write you yet another cheque for Christmas? Got a better deal than you expected on those Boxing Day electronics? Didn’t spend as much on the kids’ presents as you planned? Why not treat yourself to a new fitness tool?

Now while a lot can be accomplished with a few basic exercise tools (think dumbbells, bands, stability balls), there’s nothing like a new gadget to jump-start your exercise program.

Three of my current favourites?

1) BOSU balance trainer; a BOSU is essentially half a stability ball with a soft, compressible ‘dome’ side and a flat, rigid ‘platform’ side.

It can be used BOth Sides Up (that’s where it got it’s name) and is great for balance and core training as well as more traditional strength workouts and plyometric intervals. BOSU can be purchased at all major fitness equipment stores as well as on-line. Expect to pay between $120 and $150. Some suppliers include DVD instructional videos and foot pumps.

I use this tool in personal training sessions as well as during an hour long BOSU class. See my teaching schedule for details.

2) TRX suspension training system; a portable, lightweight, versatile, ‘take anywhere’ tool. Made of strong nylon webbing, the TRX uses your own body weight to functionally train all your major muscle groups. The TRX can be used either alone, for an intense full body workout, or together with more traditional fitness tools in circuit style. Purchase the TRX on-line and expect to pay $150 to $175. Make use of the thousands of You Tube videos of TRX workouts to design your own TRX program!

3) Ugi balls; new on the fitness scene. A small, portable, squishable ball, 15 inches in diameter and weighing 6, 8, 10 or 12 pounds.Great for circuit style functional

workouts that incorporate balance work, core and strength training and cardio intervals. Can only be purchased through from $129 for a single ball to $189 for a kit including ball, workout video and instructional poster. Expect to see these soon at your gym and perhaps even in small group fitness class!

Any one of these tools would be a great addition to your home gym. Need help getting started? Hire a personal trainer to guide you in the proper form and execution of some great new exercises.

Head spinning with thoughts of Christmas?

It’s the eve of the eve of Christmas (or so my children keep telling me). The baking is done (and well-sampled), the gifts are wrapped and ready to pop under the tree, the final grocery list has been made and I’m worn out from all the planning, planning, planning. Despite it all, I’ve managed to carve out an hour tomorrow morning for my last pre-Christmas cardio workout. Spinning at 10:30.

I have been teaching spinning (aka ‘indoor cycling’) for about six months now. That’s incredible to me, given how resistant I was to even participating in a class this time last year. For the last three years I have been thoroughly committed to my weight room workouts. Nothing beats the feeling of a good muscle pump, or so I thought. What changed my mind? A comment made by an extremely fit co-worker when I asked her how she trained her (shapely and well-muscled) legs. She told me that she never trained legs in the weight room. Instead, she taught spin class. I was stunned. No squats? No lunges? No leg press? Nope. Just spinning, 2-4 times a week.

I decided to give it a try. Much to my surprise, it was a much more challenging leg workout than I was accustomed to. Instead of 20-30 minutes of squats, lunges and presses, I had to push against significant resistance on the bike for nearly an hour! While my legs were strong, they had no endurance. Combine the new challenge (I love a challenge!) with great music, an entertaining instructor and the energy of exercising with a group and I was hooked!

Currently, I spin twice a week; I teach a 45 min Spin and Abs class on Mondays and take an additional class either Wednesday or Friday. I still like to work legs in the gym, but love the shape my legs have taken on since starting to spin.

Tomorrow, spinning will elevate my heart rate, my metabolism and my mood. It will calm me and enable me to enjoy Christmas evening and the wonderful chaos of the following morning with my family. Have a happy and peaceful Christmas.

A random Monday

Lots going on right now. Wrapping to finish. Xmas dinner plans to finalize. New clients to see (even before January 1st, hooray!). My mind is flying off in too many directions to count. Here’s a peak;

1. Next year, make sure that present piles for the kids are the same size before December 20th. Christmas always falls on December 25th. It’s one of the few dates that stays constant from one year to the next.

2. Please, please, please, spray down your cardio machine when you’ve finished your sweatfest er, workout, Mr. Universe.

3.  Still have to do the final grocery shop. Debating whether to go to the fancy grocery store (closer to home, nicer to shop in, cashiers who bag your groceries for you, $$$) or Superstore (farther drive, very crowded, have to bag for myself, potential ‘gift with purchase’ and less expensive). Fancy is winning right now.

4. I’m sorry that you’re favourite fitness class has been cancelled for the holidays. Not my decision. Please leave your comments with the front desk.

5. Sister just called and Xmas days plans finalized. It will be strange not to be the one cooking the turkey this year. I wonder if it will taste better?

6. Thanks to all my fabulous clients and group fitness participants for another rewarding year. I have the best job in the whole world!

Get out of the gym!

Huh? Get out of the gym? Am I actually telling you to skip your workout today? Well, maybe not today, depending on whether you exercised yesterday and/or are planning to exercise tomorrow, but at least one day each week and preferably two. Strength training gains and muscle definition happen more quickly if you give your body time to recover after you hit the weights.

As a rule, Wednesdays are my mid-week day off. I try and make a point of not teaching anything, not seeing any clients and not working out (okay, I sometimes make an exception and jump on the spin bike, particularly if my week has been busy and I’ve missed a workout…).

Today, I spend my day off finishing up the Christmas baking (homemade gingerbread is so much better than store bought), wrapping presents (now where to hide them?) and playing with yarn. 2010 has been a banner knitting year for me. My goal was to learn to knit lace (that means ‘planned’ holes for my non-knitting readers) and I joined the ’10 shawls in 2010′ group on Ravelry (think Facebook for fiber-lovers) to make sure I had lots of on-line help.

Now you have to understand that for many years I have knit with fairly heavy-weight yarn on rather large needles. I can crank out a basic sweater in a week or two. Lace yarns, on the other hand, are very, very thin and knit on teeny, tiny needles. There are lots of different types of stitches in each pattern and the instructions are frequently presented in charts (rather than written out line by line). Furthermore, when you mess up (which happens all too frequently), it is difficult to see where the boo-boo occurred and even more difficult to fix it.

I’m making lace knitting sound really appealing, aren’t I?

To make a long story short, I fell in love with lace! You can make an entire project out of a single skein of yarn. No finishing work! It always fits!

Today, I spent several hours working on Celeano (Rav users can find the details on my projects page); a long, shallow shawl, that I intend to wear as a scarf. It has beautiful, sparkly blue beads throughout the lace border. I’m knitting it in Mini-Mica, a silk-merino blend from DeAnna at Saffron Dyeworks. The silk makes it oh-so-soft and shiny.

I also turned the heel on the first of a new pair of socks that I’m knitting with another Saffron Dyeworks yarn; Tush, a luscious combination of merino, cashmere and nylon. I can tell already that these will be my new favourites! What did you do today?

Fail to plan = Plan to fail

It’s official; there are only 21 days left in the year. And those 21 days probably represent more opportunities to stray from your fitness and nutrition plans than all of the other 345 put together. You need a plan and you need one fast!

Willpower? Forget it. Never works. What you need is a strategy. Don’t know the difference? Let me illustrate with a personal example. I have a profound weakness for chocolate, in particular, good, dark chocolate (although I have been known to eat a handful of chocolate chips in desperation…).

If I buy my favorite chocolate and put it in the kitchen cupboard I have to rely on ‘willpower’ to avoid eating a piece every time I walk past that cupboard and hear it calling my name. What about a little tiny piece? No such thing! One piece becomes two, then three, then half the bar, then I better finish it all and hide the wrapper so nobody knows how much of it I ate. That’s ‘willpower’ for you. All his fault!

‘Strategy’, on the other hand, knows what a slacker ‘willpower’ is and avoids leaving the decision making up to him. My very simple strategy is to avoid bringing my favorite chocolate home. If it’s not in my cupboard I’m not likely to eat it. ‘Strategy’ number two? Buy a single serving and eat it immediately. Satisfaction plus future opportunity for ‘willpower’ to fail averted.

What’s your vice? Think through your strategy before you’re faced with the temptation. Remember, failing to plan equals planning to fail!

P.S. I made all my workouts last week! Had to be a bit flexible though and switched my Thursday strength and Friday metabolic workouts around. Mom and Baby Bootcamp needed an emergency substitute instructor so I gave up my weight room training session to help out. I remember how hard it is for new moms to get out of the house with a baby in tow and wanted to make sure the two women showed up were rewarded for their efforts! Plus, I love the wee ones, especially when they belong to someone else!

Yummy, yummy in my tummy!

Just got the latest issues of Oxygen Magazine in the mail. Now while I love my monthly dose of Oxygen, I am sometimes annoyed at the frequency with which they recycle things; a treadmill interval program, a photograph of a model doing a particular exercise etc. Now I know that only long-time and faithful readers will pick up on these duplications, but still, I can’t help but feel that there are lots of ways to make each issue fresh and new.

For once, however, I was ecstatic to find that they had repeated a favourite recipe of mine. A recipe that I have been trying desperately to find in my four-year stack of back issues after promising it to a client. (Note to self, mark everything of interest with sticky notes during the first read-through; relying on memory is not a useful strategy here!).

It’s a recipe for home-made protein bars. A great alternative to those pre-made bars that are often full of sugar and a bunch of ingredients that you can’t pronounce (hint, if you can’t pronounce it, odds are it’s not natural!). And talk about easy; no bake, no mess, no cleanup. I like to make a batch of these, wrap them individually in plastic and freeze them for a quick breakfast on the go or a protein-rich after-workout snack (even I get tired of shakes!). Why don’t you go make some right now?

  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (no salt, no sugar added)
  • 4 scoops whey protein powder (I prefer vanilla, but chocolate might be good too)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seeds (these are your healthy Omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Spread into a 9 inch square baking dish. Freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer, cut into 8 bars, re-wrap individually and freeze until ready to use.

Nutrients per serving: Calories; 230, Total Fats; 10 g, Carbohydrates; 21 g, Sugar; 3g, Protein; 15g.

I have also modified this recipe by adding either 1/2 cup dried cranberries or 1/4 cup cocoa powder. The cranberry version has a slightly higher calorie count (due to the carbohydrates and sugars in the fruit), but is oh-so-yummy!

Just checking in…

So far, so good! Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s workouts completed as planned.

However, I am questioning the wisdom of training legs the day before a spin class! Not to mention the fact that I incorporate a lot of squats and lunges into my Tuesday night Body Sculpt class… Needless to say, my butt is killing me tonight! Happily, tomorrow is an upper body/core day!

How’s your week going?

Back on track (finally!)

Just back from a wintry weekend getaway in Ottawa.Not exactly the warm, sunny, winter destination of my choice, but DH received a big career award and it was important that he go there to receive it in person.

We were treated to a wonderful dinner at the National Gallery (Quebec goat cheese salad, rack of lamb with spaghetti squash and yam puree, vanilla panne cotta with wild blueberries and blueberry coulis; yum!) and were lucky enough to hear our new Governor General, David Johnston speak about the many important roles educators play in our lives. As a personal trainer, a big part of my job is education, so many of his comments I found particularly relevant.

And did I mention that it was the first weekend in 11 years and 8 months (more specifically, since the birth of the first of three children….) that my husband and I were able to get away together! What a fabulous way to start the holiday season! We visited the Parliament Buildings and the Byward Market. We shopped along the Sparks Street Mall (I’m guessing that this is more pleasant when the temperature is above 0) and had leisurely meals at restaurants without children’s menus!

Now that my bags are unpacked, the laundry done, and the children cuddled, I’m sitting down to plan out my workout schedule for the next two weeks (you did read my November 23rd post, right?). By committing these plans to print I’m making myself accountable to all of you (and we know that accountability is a huge part of the battle, don’t we) and ensuring that nothing else ‘jumps the queue’!

Here’s what I’ll be doing for the next seven days (I have the following week planned too, but in the interest of keeping this post to a reasonable length, will only include one week’s schedule):

Tuesday, November 30; strength training, legs and core; teach Body Sculpt

Wednesday, December 1; strength training, chest and back; 45 min spin class

Thursday, December 2; strength training, shoulders, arms and core

Friday, December 3; metabolic circuit (strength and cardio intervals)

Sunday, December 5; Teach 20/20/20 AND Bosu Blast

Monday, December 6; Teach Total Body Conditioning AND Spin and Abs

What does your week look like? Remember, “Do or do not… there is no try”!

Despite the best of intentions…

Have you ever had one of those months where your health and fitness plans were derailed at every turn? Where despite the best of intentions, life just seemed to keep getting in the way of getting to the gym?

That was November for me. A friend who had cancer was moved to palliative care where she passed away. My sister, diagnosed with a pre-cancerous breast tumour underwent a partial mastectomy. The school district, in its infinite wisdom, decided that we needed another long weekend over Remembrance Day and that parents should entertain their children on those days rather than work or workout. Despite having had his flu shot, my oldest son brought the virus home and required an attentive mother to stay home and care for him. Of course, he thanked me by passing it on. My poor immune system, crushed beyond belief, fell prey to the flu and then, adding insult to injury, a secondary infection that required antibiotics to get under control.

With a full teaching and personal training schedule there were very few hours left in the month for me to get my strength training workouts in (fortunately, I teach fitness classes, so I did manage to get some exercise!).

While the details of your challenging month likely differ from mine, we can use the same strategies to get back on track.

First of all, don’t dwell on what you didn’t accomplish. Life happens. People get sick. Other responsibilities sometimes take priority. Stop the negative self-talk and figure out what you can do RIGHT NOW to get back on track.

Get out your calendar. Schedule in your workouts for the next two weeks. I usually find that two weeks is about all I need to get back in the groove again. Don’t let anything get in the way of those workouts. They will feel difficult. Don’t use that as an excuse to give up. Cardio de-conditioning can happen in as little as a week. Loss of muscle mass takes considerably longer. You may not feel as strong as before your horrible month began, but your strength will return quickly if you just get through the next two weeks.

Go grocery shopping. Fill your cart with healthy, easy to prepare foods. Clean out the junk that crept into your cupboards during your time away from the gym (we both know it’s there; it happens in my house too!). Make nutrition a priority during this period of re-commitment.

As the end of the two weeks approaches, schedule in your workouts for the next two weeks! Increase your intensity in the gym. Add more challenging exercises to your workout. Up the weights. Cardiovascular function should be better, so let your heart rate climb a little higher than last week. Come visit me in the spinning studio for a great interval workout!

Reward yourself for successfully getting back on track. Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure. A new pair of shoes. A cute exercise outfit. Did someone say Lululemon?