Archives for January 2011

Skip to it!

Tried something this morning in my Bosu class that I was sure I couldn’t possibly do.

Nope. Not in a million years. Not me. Way too much coordination required. What if I fall off? What if I trip and hurt myself? What if I die of embarrassment failing in public?!?!?

Just try, said a little voice in my head. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

So, I tried. Skipping on the Bosu. In front of my class (all three of them; yeah, I know, a really big audience to risk embarrassing myself in front of). Of course, I got them to try too (pro-active face-saving, I call it).

Guess what? I did it! First time, 3 jumps before I had to step off. Second time, 6 jumps. Third time 17 jumps in a row! Skipping on the Bosu!

Fantastic balance and co-ordination test that also gets your heart racing! Give it a try; skip to it!


Pro-D Day.

Three little words that many moms of school-age children dread. I know, some of you really relish the extra time to spend doing something meaningful with your children. It’s not that I don’t, but rather, feel that I make a better mom when I have balance between being with them (i.e., cooking and cleaning and entertaining and refereeing and social directing etc.) and being on my own.

So instead of trotting off to the gym this morning for my 7th of 12 Phase 1 NROL workouts, I stayed home in my PJ’ and made peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies with my 8-year old daughter. She’s at the age where she no longer gets disgusted by the raw eggs. Ingredients stay on the counter, not the floor. She can use the beaters without spraying cookie dough on the kitchen ceiling. She remembers not to stick her fingers in the batter, lick them and stick them back in. She even offers to clean up! All in all, she’s the perfect age for mother-daughter baking dates.

Our cookie recipe? An old family favorite, that I’ve ‘cleaned up’ so that I can rationalize eating a few myself. White flour replaced by a combination of whole wheat flour, bran flakes and flax seed. Natural, no-sugar, no-salt peanut butter to replace the Skippy. Dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. A really fabulous treat; nutty, not too sweet and fewer calories than the original recipe (although still probably somewhere around 125 calories per cookie).

All in all, not a bad cheat snack, unless you eat three four FIVE of them. My brain is buzzing from the sugar. I’m wearing black to camouflage the tummy bulge. All my carbs for the day gone in 10 minutes. And the worst thing of all is that I’ve blown my Friday-night-glass-of-wine-with-my-hubby splurge.

At least I’m heading out to teach a Bosu class tonight. Maybe I’ll sneak in 20 minutes on the ARC trainer while I’m there…

Let them eat kale: kale recipes to try at home

I’m always encouraging my clients to eat their vegetables. But beyond adding a salad to dinner, most are uncertain as to how to go about filling half their plate with veggies. Not only are they unfamiliar with many of the vegetables they see at the grocery store, they have no idea how to prepare them.

kale recipesOne of my current favorites is kale. In addition to its tremendous versatility, kale is tasty and full of health benefits. According to Wikipedia (bold emphasis is mine);

Kale or borecole is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. The cultivar group Acephala also includes spring greens and collard greens, which are extremely similar genetically.

Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties; kale is considered to be anti-inflammatory.

Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.

Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of the cancer compounds; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale is also a good source of carotenoids.

Not bad for a bunch of greens, eh?

So now that we know that kale is good for us (and we should eat it several times a week), how about some kale recipes highlighting its versatility?

Kale pesto (courtesy of

  • 3 tightly packed cups fresh kale rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted or raw sunflower seeds
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 1/4 fresh oregano or basil
  • sea salt to taste

Place all ingredients in food processor. Pulse until combined. If necessary, add a bit of water to thin the mixture out.

Serve as a dip, a spread, a salad dressing or toss with whole grain pasta.

Sauteed kale (recipe by me!)kale recipes

  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh kale per person
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 chopped onion (red or white, your choice)
  • 1 cup assorted veggies, sliced or julienned (I like zucchini and red peppers with kale)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and zucchini. Cook until onions are translucent and zucchini tender crisp; about 5 min. Add crushed garlic and red peppers, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 min. Add balsamic vinegar, cranberries and kale, continuing to stir for another 5-7 min. Toss with pine nuts (if adding). Serve hot as an accompaniment to fish or poultry.

kale recipesKale chips (a Clean Eating recipe)

  • 3 cups tightly packed, washed and dried kale
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or melted coconut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt

In a large bowl, toss kale with oil and salt to lightly coat. Spread mixture on a cookie sheet with leaves in a single layer. Bake, in an oven pre-heated to 375 F, for 10-15 minutes, or until crispy and edges of leaves are slightly brown. Enjoy hot, as a side dish or cooled, as a snack. You can also substitute parmesan or asiago cheese for the salt; be careful when cooking not to let the chips burn.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

What are your favourite kale recipes?

Sleep-deprived; curse you paperboy!

4:45 am; Wham! Newspaper thuds against front door. I sit up in bed, wide awake two hours before the alarm is scheduled to go off silently cursing our newspaper delivery boy. Kiss your Xmas tip goodbye, buddy!

5:15 am; Up I get. Can’t get back to sleep so I might as well knit something. Coffee in hand, I make my way wearily to the couch. Nothing too challenging; just simple back and forth knitting.

7:00 am; The rest of the household awakens and the morning bustle begins.

9:00 am; I hit the gym, hoping that a good workout will energize me for the day ahead. It’s Phase 1, Workout B, 3rd time through. Upped the time on my planks, increased the weight on my dead lift, had to sub in real pull-up for the inverted row (all the squat racks were taken). Not bad! Felt pretty good, all things considered.

2:00 pm; Crash. A quick nap on the couch followed by a good strong cup of espresso and I’m ready for the afternoon crunch.

5:30 pm; Off to teach my Bosu class. Feeling a bit wobbly; could be either the poor night’s sleep or the dead lifts I did earlier in the day. Stretching at the end felt great!

Early to bed tonight! Looking forward to rest day tomorrow…

Snow day; almost

Much to my surprise (and annoyance), we awoke to snow this morning. Our first of the season. Beautiful, white, un-forecasted snow. Not enough to close the schools (phew!), but enough to endanger my exercise plans. Since yesterday was ‘knitting Wednesday’ and my rest day from the gym, today was to have been my second go at Phase 1, Workout B of the NROL for Abs.

Something you need to know about me; although I was born and raised in Ontario (think cold, snowy winters) and taught to drive in the snow (on a manual transmission, no less!), I am very nervous about leaving the house on snowy days. The combination of Vancouver drivers (if you’ve visited Vancouver, you’ll know what I mean), lots of hills, poor plowing and salting practices and a lack of snow tires stresses me out. What if I get stuck on the hill? What if the car slides into a ditch? What if I can’t get to school in time to pick up the kids? What if, what if, what if?

So, on snowy days, my hubby does the morning school run and I stay in with my coffee and my knitting, anxiously hoping that the roads will be better in time to pick them up later in the day. But, that Lululemon hoodie is sitting in my closet taunting me (yes, I bought it in advance of achieving my goal, but only because they were running out; I promise not to take the tags off until I get to the end of Phase 1).

What’s a girl to do?

Taking a quick look at my planned workout, I realized that I really didn’t need to go to the gym to get it done. I had all the necessary equipment at home.

Planks and side planks, with toes on the Bosu? Check.

Cable and pulley anti-rotation static holds? No cable machine, but I should be able to rig up an exercise band to do the job. Check.

Single leg dumbbell deadlifts? Check (although my heaviest weight at home is 15 lbs and I had hoped to progress to 25 lbs today).

Kneeling cable pulldowns? Hmm. This one could be a challenge. Might have to sub in some bent over rows or reverse flys. Check.

Overhead squats? No body bar, but a broomstick should suffice in a pinch. Check.

Alternating single arm overhead presses? Fifteen pounds is a bit heavier than I would use at the gym, but I can always cut back on my reps. Check.

Okay! I can do this! One workout closer to my favorite new hoodie! Reminder to self; look past the obstacles and find a way through. Off to workout before the kids get home…

WIP Wednesday

WIP; an acronym used by knitters to designate a work in progress. Typically I have several of these on the go; when I get bored of one project I can put it aside and move forward on another, always dreaming of the day when the current WIP will become an FO (finished object).

Also, I find that I need projects requiring different amounts of concentration to be sure not to waste a single moment of knitting time during the day! Lace is left for when I’m alone, socks are for knitting while watching kids at skating or Tae kwon do, long stretches of stocking stitch keep me company while watching television (although my husband says that I really only ‘listen’ to TV).

Right now I have 4 things on the needles (or OTN); a vest (for me!), a scarf (getting a jump on next year’s Xmas knitting), a pair of socks (birthday present for my niece), and a super secret project for my ‘swap’ partner on Ravelry (can’t divulge details, she might read this post!).

First up, Redhook Vest by Jared Flood. This year I’m using up ‘stash’ (yarn purchased, often without a pattern in mind, and stashed away for future use) to make room in my storage containers for more high-end fibre (yes, I’m a yarn snob!), so I cast on for this simple, yet stylish vest with a bag of Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool purchased several years ago online. Nice color (“Ink”) but very scratchy and ‘tough’. Hope it softens up in the wash. Out of the 6 balls I’ve already knit up, there were 5 knots (very unimpressive). Tackling the short row ‘wrap-and-turns’ today, a new skill for me!

Next up, Crusoe socks, a free pattern from Knitty that’s been sitting in my ‘to knit’ file for some time. It’s a really fun pattern and a great way to use up a very bright and variegated or self-striping skein of sock yarn. I’m using Fleece Artist Trail sock in ‘Flirt’.

I ended up casting on 60 stitches (way more than the pattern required for an adult’s large; and yes, I checked my gauge), and still, the sock is unlikely to fit an adult foot. Good thing my niece wants a pair of socks, likes pink and has a birthday coming up!

The third project I have to show you is a Heart to Heart beaded scarf, by Sivia Harding. Sivia’s patterns are beautiful, wonderfully written and enjoyable to knit. What makes this rendition even more fabulous is the yarn; Enya, by indie dyer Saffron Dyeworks. To be honest, SD yarns are the main reason I’m trying to create more storage space!

Adding beads to my knitting is a fairly new passion (as is buying beads and stashing them for some unspecified project; good thing they don’t take up much space!); expect to see more beaded projects in the future!

And here’s a quick peek at my super-secret-single-skein-mystery-swap project; just enough to see the color and not give anything away! Shh, don’t tell!

Time: how much is enough?

The other day I was having lunch with some girlfriends and the topic of time came up.

As in, ‘I never seem to have enough time to get everything done’ and ‘How do you find the time for _____ ?’*** and ‘I have no time to myself’. Sound familiar? As a self-employed fitness professional and mom of three young children I totally get the ‘too little time’ lament. I experience it frequently at home (in particular, between the hours of 3 and 6 pm), and almost daily at work; most of my clients have used lack of time as an excuse for not exercising and eating correctly at least once. It’s a very convenient excuse.

But let’s stop for a minute (a very small unit of time), and think about what we really mean when we complain about not having enough time.

Do we mean that we wish we had more? That there were more than 24 hours in a day? That we could get by on fewer than eight hours of sleep? Probably not. Longer days would just get filled up with more time-gobbling activities.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Cyril Parkinson

Do we wish that we had less to do? That fewer of our waking hours were taken up with the tasks of everyday life? That we had more time to sit and do nothing? While for some of us, this might true, I believe that most people want their days to be full of meaningful activity. And that idleness breeds boredom, stifles creativity and ultimately, makes time pass very slowly.

I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.”             Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

I think that what we’re really saying when we complain about not having enough time, is that we wish we knew how to prioritize the activities that we spend time doing so that we felt balanced and rested, instead of fragmented and worn out. Our contemporary, western life-style makes many demands on our time, and it may seem that many of those demands are beyond our control. In reality, however, we have more freedom to choose exactly how we will spend our time than humans have ever had before. (Think about dishwashers, computers, cell-phones, cars; all devices invented by humans to free up time for other activities.)

I think that the secret to feeling like you have “just enough” time (not too much or too little) is to decide what’s really important to you (and your family) and devote your time primarily to those activities. Make a list, if that helps. Place the activities that you value the most at the top; this will obviously include work (if it doesn’t, you need to find another way to make a living, but that topic is a separate post entirely!) and general life maintenance (cooking, eating, showering, driving kids to school etc.), but should also include physical activity, getting together with family and friends as well as pursuing solitary hobbies. These are the activities that you will fill your time with.



*** I frequently get asked how I find time in my busy schedule for knitting. Because I find knitting to be both a productive and a deeply relaxing activity, I make time for it every afternoon. And always with a pot of strong tea. I don’t find time for knitting, I make time.
What will you make time for this week?


New Rules; Phase 1, Day 1

After re-reading The New Rules of Lifting for Abs (see my previous post for a review), I decided to start the program today, with the goal of completing Phase 1 before we go on holiday to Florida next month. That means that I need to squeeze in three weight room workouts a week, on top of the 4-6 classes I’m already teaching. Scheduling will be a challenge, but I’m holding the reward of a new Lululemon hoody up as motivation!

Today I completed the first session of Phase 1, Workout A. I challenged myself on every single exercise, and although there were only six (and I was familiar with them all), every major muscle group in my body was worked to fatigue. I attempted 3 sets of 12 reps per exercise, but had to cut the inverted row reps short in the third set.

The entire workout, including a (slightly too short; running late to pick up children at school) stretch, took just under an hour. And I was not even tempted to throw in a few ‘body part’ exercises (I usually train two body parts per workout, performing 3-5 different exercise per body part).

I. Was. Completely. Finished. In fact, I needed an after dinner nap; something I haven’t done since my kids were little and woke me up several times a night!

I’m planning on tackling Workout B tomorrow and taking a much-needed rest day on Saturday.

P.S. If you decide to join me, you can find free workout training templates like the one above here. You still need to buy the book to get the workout, but Schuler and Cosgrove provide the down-loadable templates free of charge.

The New Rules of Lifting for Abs… a book review

Yesterday, in the mail, I received my copy of a brand new strength training book; The New Rules of Lifting for Abs, co-written by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove (husband of Rachel, see Fitness links to the right). This book is the third in a series (The New Rules of Lifting, The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Train Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess; don’t you love that title?!), and like the two previous, focuses on whole body strength training and the nutrition required to fuel their physique-transforming programs. What’s different and new, is the focus on core strength.

Core conditioning, in and of itself, is not new. Most, if not all, strength and conditioning coaches, personal trainers and group fitness instructors know how vitally important a strong core is. Not only will building a strong core reduce your risk of lower back injury, it will also allow you to lift heavier, train longer, jump higher, throw harder, skate faster and improve your performance in sport and everyday life. Wow! Sounds like something we should all be doing, doesn’t it?

What’s new about Schuler and Cosgrove’s approach to core conditioning is the style of exercises they promote and their placement (and thus, importance) in your overall exercise program. Rather than pounding out some crunches at the end of your workout, the authors advocate doing your core work before your strength training work, that is, while you still have lots of energy to do their more difficult exercises properly and effectively. And don’t kid yourself, the core exercises they describe are much more taxing than a traditional sit up or crunch.

In this book you will find a progressive resistance program that can be followed by the independent exerciser for several months. There are three phases to the program. Each phase consists of two alternating workouts, each of which includes a dynamic warmup, a core component, a strength component and in the second and third phases, a metabolic or cardio component.

All of the described exercises are illustrated, with extensive progressions to keep you challenged. The strength exercises will be familiar to most gym-goers, with the emphasis on compound, multi-joint exercises (e.g., squats, dead lifts, pushups) rather than simple bicep curls or tricep extensions. While the workouts look short, when done properly (i.e., with enough weight to fatigue the muscles by the end of the set) they are incredibly challenging. Pay special attention to the prescribed rest periods between exercises and sets!

The only downside to the workouts is the amount of equipment required. Most home gym exercisers won’t have access to a TRX or a pull up bar and although Schuler and Cosgrove give alternate exercises, let’s face it, a pull up is a lot more demanding (and effective!) than a lat pulldown.

The book is hardbound, while I would prefer a softcover with spiral binding; much easier to use at the gym if the cover can be folded back or at least laid open and flat on the floor while you learn the exercises (for example, the Turkish get up; I saw somebody doing this one last week at the gym and couldn’t stop watching him for fear that he would drop the weight on his head! Google it. You’ll see what I mean).

All in all, a great resource I will use for myself and with my clients. $22 at Amazon.