Archives for September 2011

Thursday guest post

Today I’m posting on a fellow health and fitness blogger’s website! How exciting!

Clare, at Fitting It All In, has been running a series of guest posts entitled ‘My Best Life Series’ and today, it’s all about me!

If you’ve ever wondered how I got started in the fitness industry, hop on over and find out! And be sure to check out the other women featured in the series, as well as Clare’s fabulous vegetarian menus (she likes to post pictures of food too!), stylish outfits (i.e., NOT workout clothes) and journey towards becoming a certified health coach (she’s just started taking clients!).

Thanks so much, Clare!

Stillness and movement can be friends; lessons from the yoga mat

As my regular readers will know, I’ve recently committed to attending one yoga class a week for the fall. In three weeks, I’ve made it to the studio five times (and had intended to go a sixth time, but slept in and missed the 8 am class, then got distracting knitting on a lace shawl until 10:00, fully intending to go to the 10:30, arrived at 10:20 to see a ‘back at 10:45’ sign on the door, right beside the schedule, which showed the morning classes to be at 8 and 9:30… apparently, my mind confused the schedules of the yoga studio and the aerobics studio where I work).

Although I’m loving the stretching and quiet meditation, I must admit that I find many of the poses very challenging. In part, because the muscles in my legs and butt are tight (I have had several training injuries arising directly from these ‘tightnesses’), but also because some of the poses are held for an eternity a long time.

Holding downward dog (adho mukha svanasana; I’m working on learning the proper names, mainly so I don’t have to crane my neck trying to figure out what the instructor is doing when she/he asks us to assume a pose) for longer than 20 s is excruciating for me. And pigeon pose (kapotasana)? I spend every second of the pose convincing myself not to flee from the room.

Those two poses in particular make me feel fidgety, rather than calm. Make my heart race, rather than quiet. My breathing becomes shallow and erratic (although I tend to forget about breathing as I try to keep my thoughts from pinging around the room). Not exactly the relaxation that I anticipated yoga would bring. But of course there are poses to relax in and poses to work towards 😉

Yesterday, during savasana (corpse pose; I love this name!), I was struck by a thought. An insight into my own personality. An ‘aha’, if you will.

The reason I struggle so much with the ‘holding’ of poses is because stillness is not my natural way of being.

I thrive on movement. I’m a group fitness instructor, personal trainer and mother of three very active kids, for goodness sake. Most of my days are spent surrounded by people, music and physical activity in an aerobics studio, on a spinning bike, in the noisy gym or the company of chattering children.

I mentioned my challenge to the instructor, who gave me another way to think about stillness. “Even in stillness, there is movement. The movement of your breath.”

Yes, it is a small movement, but focusing on that small movement of my lungs and ribcage, rather than the difficulty of the pose, carried  me through the remainder of the class and indeed, through the rest of my movement-filled day.

The lesson could also be turned on it’s head, don’t you think? Even in movement, one can find (or create) stillness. It’s harder, no doubt, but I think it’s exactly what I need right now.

Have you ever had an ‘aha’ moment while exercising?

How do you create stillness in your day?

To splurge or not to splurge? Benefits of a ‘treat’ meal to fat loss seekers

When I first counsel a new client about the changes they need to make to their diet in order to lose fat, the usual response is ‘you mean I have to give up chocolate/ice cream/coffee creamer/apple pie/French fries/alcohol/insert your own gastronomic addiction here?’

Yes‘, I say, ‘and no‘.

Yes‘, because you cannot continue to consume your favourite high sugar or high fat food frequently and in whatever quantity you like and expect to lose body fat.

And ‘no‘, because denying yourself the occasional indulgence makes it psychologically difficult to stick to a healthier way of eating for more than a week or two.

The trick is to quickly satisfy the desire and immediately get back on track without feeling guilty or angry or ashamed with yourself.

Enter the ‘cheat’ or ‘treat’ meal. (I prefer the term ‘treat’ because it doesn’t have the negative implications that ‘cheat’ does).

Once per week, have a meal where you give yourself permission to eat your favourite ‘forbidden’ foods. Have bread and dessert with dinner. Enjoy a glass of wine. Eat until you feel satisfied, but not full. Leave the table with no regrets and return to your healthy, fat-loss nutrition plan at your very next meal.

‘Treat’ meals are best enjoyed in the company of others. Eating is a social event. Plus, you’re likely to consume less of your ‘treat’ foods with friends and family present than when alone on the couch, watching TV.

Don’t let poor planning or laziness rob you of an enjoyable ‘treat’ meal. Continue to plan your menus for the week, taking into consideration social outings and busy work days. Arriving home late from work, with no dinner plans and an empty fridge will undoubtably result in a ‘cheat’ meal (takeout food, frozen pizza, half a bag of Oreos), taking the place of the ‘treat’ meal you had planned for later in the week.

‘Treat’ meals only work when you’re on track with your fat-loss nutrition plan the rest of the week. In fact, they may even increase fat loss by resetting your body’s hormonal hunger signals. Why?

“Your body is designed to efficiently seek out high-calorie foods, including fat and sugar, whenever you begin to regulate food intake….eating [foods other than high-fibre, high-protein], specifically carbohydrates, one meal a week works to circumvent the body’s natural food-regulating behaviors” (from The New ME Diet by Jade and Keoni Teta)

My ‘treat’ meal for the week? Saturday night dinner with my family at The Boathouse Restaurant. Forgot the camera (shocking!) so descriptions will have to suffice!

Dinner started with a glass of white wine (Mission Hill Pinot Grigio) and a slice of the house sourdough bread (still warm from the oven). I chose two starters (only because I wanted a bit of everything) for my main course; crab cakes with lemon aoli (on the side) and a small wild greens salad (with carmelized almonds, cranberries and asiago). I shared a slice of berry cheesecake with hubby and son #1 (who ordered off the children’s menu, but quickly ate his small portion and begged everyone else to share some of their dinner!).

I left the table feeling satisfied and a bit full but not stuffed. A great ‘treat’ meal made even better by the fact that somebody else cooked it! (I did, however, have to pick up the tab…). Tomorrow morning it’s back to my regular eating plan; lots of veggies and fruit, lean protein with every meal, limited starchy carbohydrates and a modest amount of healthy fat.

Do you use ‘treat’ meals to help keep you on track with your eating plan?

What’s your favourite ‘treat’ meal?

Friday means dessert night!

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that if it’s Friday, it’s dessert night!

While my kids would prefer some sticky, sweet store-bought cake, I try as often as I can, to tempt them with a healthier version of one of their favourite desserts.

With only 45 min before dinner needed to be on the table, it had to be something quick and easy. I flipped open one of my standard go-to cookbooks (The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook) and once again, found something that (1) looked great, (2) only took 25 minutes to cook and (3) I actually had all of the ingredients for on hand! (Well, not quite all of them, but I am an experimentalist, at heart; I replaced the blackberries the recipe called for with blueberries and strawberries).

Clean Eating Apple Blackberry Crumble

  • 1 apple, cored and diced with peel on
  • 1 cup blueberries (I used fresh, but you could substitute frozen)
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raw oats (not instant)
  • 1/4 whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins

1. Combine fruit, lemon juice and cinnamon in a small saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 min.

3. Pour fruit mixture into a lightly greased baking dish (I used canola oil for this)

4. Combine oats, flour, oil and raisins, stirring until dry ingredients are moist.

5. Spoon dry mixture over fruit.

6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes (or until bubbly and crisp)

I served it warm, with a dollop of 0% fat Greek yogurt on top. Very, very yummy! This recipe made 4 servings and could be counted as your starchy carbohydrate and fruit servings for the meal.

Once again, it’s time for the Friday Fitness Blog Hop! Click on the link below to connect with even more fitness bloggers!

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

I should have taken my own advice; the worst reason for a rest day

Do you ever have a feeling that your body is trying to tell you something? That your subconscious self knows more than your conscious brain is willing to admit?

Yesterday I wrote a post about the benefits of including rest days in your workout schedule. I’m not sure where the idea for the post came from, but during my short-lived life as a blogger, I’ve learned not to think too hard about where the motivation is coming from, but just to be thankful that my brain has offered up something to write about!

September has been a busy month. Kids returning to school. Lots of afternoon activities and play dates. New classes to teach and subbing for colleagues vacationing in warm, sunny climates. Add to that a new strength training program of my own, yoga on my rest days and a still-unresolved issue with my husband’s health that’s been affecting my sleep for over a month now.

If anybody needed a rest day, it was me!

Well, today I’m getting one, but not because I planned it. Not even because I didn’t feel like exercising today. All because I injured myself while teaching this morning.

I wasn’t doing anything I haven’t done a thousand times before. The step pattern was simple. The tempo of the music moderate. Only light weights were lifted. And, I was ‘coaching’ more than ‘doing’. All of a sudden, I felt a spasm in my upper back. Like something was stuck. I couldn’t raise my arms over my head without pain and taking a deep breath was excruciating.

I told my class that I’d just pulled a muscle and that I’d keep demonstrating the step patterns, but with arms held low. ‘Follow Dina (a participant that’s been coming to my class for ages). She’ll show you the arm movements’.

A couple of minutes later I realized that I wasn’t even capable of that much exertion. It hurt to twist my torso and lift my knees. I told my class to ‘hold the basic’ and left the room to find my supervisor. She finished the class for me (thanks Lori!) and I went immediately to physio (good thing my physiotherapist is in the same building I teach in!).

The verdict? The transverse process on one of my thoracic vertebrae seems to be ‘stuck’ (for lack of a better word) on the rib with which it articulates. The surrounding muscles are in spasm. Hard to say which came first; mis-alignment of the vertebra may have led to the muscular spasm or muscle spasm may have pulled the vertebra out of alignment. Doesn’t really matter to the therapy and prognosis.

Kristin did deep tissue massage, electrical stimulation, traction and passive extension, all of which gave me more range of motion without pain. I came home and had a hot bath, stretched with my foam roller and had my hubby apply the Voltaren. However, it still hurts to breathe deeply and I’ll be needing help getting out of bed for the next day or two. If it doesn’t resolve itself in a few days, I’ve been told to see a chiropractor (this would be a first for me and the idea is a bit scary).

So here I am, doing exactly what I told you not to do on your rest days; watching day time television (I PVR’d the season premiere of Battle of The Blades last night; it’s a Canadian thing) and knitting (okay, I’d never tell anyone not to knit on their rest day).

All because I didn’t listen to my body or take my own advice.

Do you listen to your body?

Ever seen a chiropractor? Please share your experiences with chiropractic medicine with me.

What does ‘rest day’ mean to you?

Whether your training involves running, swimming, biking or weight lifting, chances are the program you’re following specifies one or more ‘rest’ days each week.

Rest days are important to your fitness and training goals. They reduce your risk of injury. They help prevent over-training syndrome. They keep you from getting bored with your program. They can get you through plateaus. But the most important reason to include a day or two of rest in your weekly training schedule is because it is those days between grueling workouts when muscle repair and growth occur.

Rest days make you faster, stronger and better the next time you hit the trail, pool, road or gym.

But what does rest mean? Getting more sleep? Maybe, if you’re workouts are fatiguing you. Less activity than on a training day? Possibly. Sitting on the couch watching daytime television? Certainly not (as if any of you have time for that)!

I like to think of the days I purposely don’t go to the gym as ‘active rest‘ days. While I’m ‘resting‘ from my formal exercise routine, I still find some way to be ‘active‘. A walk with my kids. A trip to the wave pool. Kayaking in the inlet. Hiking at a regional park. Family skate night at the local arena. Berry picking. Housework (not my personal favorite, but it does need to be done occasionally…).

You’re still burning calories on the days between your workouts (especially if your program includes metabolic intervals), but you’re not taxing your body in the same way you do when you train.

The trick to successfully incorporating rest days into your training schedule is to plan them. You might choose a ‘two day on-one day off’ schedule or a’ three day on-two day off’ schedule. The key here is that the rest day was planned (as opposed to those days when you get up and skip a workout because you just don’t feel like working out).

My preference is to take a rest day after a heavy leg workout; for some reason, ‘leg day’ exhausts me and makes me less energetic in the gym the following morning. However, my teaching schedule often dictates which day of the week I’ll stay away from the gym. And now that I have to fit yoga into the week, my active rest day will most likely include a trip to the yoga studio.

Work hard, rest harder!

Do you plan your rest days, or do they ‘just happen’?

When do you need a rest day most?

Welcome to the ‘other side’; when nutrition and exercise become second nature

On every successful journey towards health and fitness, there seems to be a ‘switch point‘; that morning when you wake up and realize that you’ve been eating well and exercising regularly not because you have to but because you want to. You know longer equate eating with dieting. Exercise is like brushing your teeth; you just do it!

How can you tell when you’ve reached the other side? It’s simple;

  • You own more pairs of black spandex pants/capris/shorts than you do jeans

  • Shopping for new running shoes excites you more than shopping for dress shoes (Fluevogs being the exception)

  • You bypass all the cute clothing stores in the mall and head directly for Lulu
  • Your kids’ activities are planned around your favourite spin class time
  • You get together with your girlfriends over skinny lattes rather than cosmopolitans
  • When there’s not enough time in the day to workout, shower, wash and style your hair and get dressed to go on the field trip you choose the workout and once again show up at school (yet again) in damp exercise clothes, a dirty pony tail and a baseball cap

  • The seasonal return of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte sends you searching through Clean Eating magazine for a recipe for pumpkin pie oats (rather than ordering the high fat, high sugar coffee)
  • Your back-to-school shopping results in another Power Y tank (my absolute favourite workout top in a great new colour) rather than a cute top or cuddly sweater (‘you can’t wear those to the gym’, says the common sense voice in my head)

Happy ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day’ Friday Fitness Blog Hop (you scurvy dog, you!)

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Just breathe, she said; reflections of a yoga newbie

I live a fast paced life. Mornings in my house are a whirlwind. I can usually be found grabbing bites of my breakfast (overnight oats) while simultaneously unloading the dishwasher, feeding the cat, cooking my children’s morning meals (waffles for one, eggs and toast for the other two), packing their lunches (none of them like the same thing), organizing dinner (crockpots are lifesaving) and prepping for a group fitness class or a client.

Within less than two hours of waking up, I’m out the door, dropping a child or two at school before zipping off to work to teach a class (or two), train a client (or three), workout myself and make a quick dash to the grocery store before retracing my footsteps and reversing the morning drill (lunch boxes unpacked, planners scrutinized, forms signed, dinner served, homework supervised and children driven to evening activities and lessons). If I’m lucky, there’s time for knitting and reading (and blogging; feeling a bit guilty here…) before bedtime. (Sound familiar to any of you?!!)

I’m not complaining. I thrive when I’m busy and activity and variety energize me. But, although my body is always tired and ready for sleep, my mind frequently races late into the night. I need a way to quiet my mind so I’m rested and refreshed for the next day’s busy-ness.

Enter yoga.

As I mentioned last week, one of my September intentions is to begin a yoga practice. In addition to helping me find clarity, focus and a quiet(er) mind, I’m hoping it will also help with my self-admitted lack of flexibility. Killing two birds, as it were (although that’s probably not a very yoga-y way to put it…).

Rather than attend a class at the facility where I work (there are lots of yoga classes and great instructors there), I decided to join a studio where (almost) no one knows me as an instructor or personal trainer. Kula Yoga is close to work and home and came highly recommended by several friends. Plus, the first visit is (was) free!

My first class was a 75-minute Hatha practice. I arrived about 20 minutes early to fill out ‘new client’ forms and have a quick peek at the studio. It was bright and airy and had a wonderful view of the mountains.

I panicked every so slightly when shown where to leave my shoes (recall my insecurity about the state of my feet), but a quick look at all of the other less-than-beautiful feet made me feel a tad less self-conscious.

Heather, the instructor, introduced herself and checked in with me throughout the session to offer encouragement and correction (which I needed A LOT of). Her teaching style was welcoming and friendly and she even remembered my name (as an instructor I know how important and difficult it is to do this with each newcomer to your class…).

The focus of the class was breathing. Sounds simple enough. We do it thousands of times a day without giving it any thought. Why is it then, that when someone asks you to pay attention to your breath, if becomes awkward? First slowing down, then speeding up as, in a panic, you feel like you’re running out of air? I can honestly say that my thoughts did not stray from my breath for a single second of that class! No to-do lists. No class planning. No mental knitting (yes, I knit in my head; don’t ask).

Click for source

I rocked the balance poses (at last, some concrete evidence of all the functional strength training I’ve done over the years!). I sucked at downward dog and butterfly pose (tight hip flexors and hamstrings; no surprises there). I particularly enjoyed the quiet meditation at the end and think that I may have found a pose I can use to help me defeat my periodic middle-of-the-night insomnia. (Don’t know what it’s called, but learning any new language takes time…)

My second class was taught by Alissa (who recognized me from the days when she worked at our local pharmacy; so much for anonymity!). Hatha again, but very different in focus and feeling than the first class. Both soothing and energizing at the same time.

Click on photo for souce

Alissa spoke less about breathing (which I still tried to focus on, but found difficult to do without constant reminders :)) and more about the heart. Lifting the heart to the sky during lengthening poses (what a wonderful visual cue!). Feeling our energy moving from heart to fingertips as we inhaled and exhaled. (I didn’t see the blue light, but maybe next time?). I found the poses easier to move into with her clear explanations of where to place hands and feet (mine were often far from where they should have been…) and was amazed at what a challenging workout Hatha yoga could be. I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to try another of Alissa’s classes (which she tells me are different every time).

Very different from the fast-paced spinning classes and high energy weight room that I so love, but, I think, exactly what I need to balance out the rapid pace of the rest of my week. Yin and yang. Order and chaos. Yada, yada.

I’ve committed to (and paid for!) one class per week for the next 12 weeks. That’s one intention I don’t think I’ll have trouble fulfilling. As for my goal of spending 30 minutes a day cleaning house? A heck of a lot harder than bow pose! (slinking off to wash the floors now…).

Do you practice yoga?

What’s your favorite discipline?

Dig deep (in your psyche) and give me one more rep

Earlier this week I wrote a post about goal setting (or intention setting, as I’m preferring to call it). We all know how important it is to set goals for ourselves; it gives us something to strive for and helps to keep us heading in the right direction when life throws us a curve ball.


While most people have no difficult telling you what their fitness goals are when you ask them (lose weight and run a half or full marathon are the two I’m hearing most frequently right now), very few can provide more than a superficial response when asked why they’ve chosen those specific goals over all other options.

“To improve my fitness level”

“To fit into my skinny jeans”

“Because all my friends are doing it” (as a parent of three school age children, I particularly love this last one!)

Valid responses, all three, but superficial, none-the-less.

Why do you want to improve your fitness? Are there health concerns associated with your current level of fitness? Is it you who wants to become fitter or have your friends/significant other/medical practitioner created this goal for you? (In addition to being superficial, this goal is non-specific; what aspects of fitness are you wanting to improve upon?)

Why do you want to fit into your skinny jeans? What does being thinner mean to you? Do you like yourself more (and assume that others will too) when you’re 10, 15, or 20 pounds lighter? If this is an issue for you, I suggest you check out ‘Appetites‘ by Geneen Roth; it’s a fantastic book about the relationship between body size and self-image. (I might just do a book review next week ’cause I loved it so much!)

What does running a half or full marathon signify to you? Are you doing it because you genuinely like to run or because it seems like the thing to do (particularly for women in their 40’s…) to demonstrate that you’re still young and vital?


I frequently ask my personal training clients to look inside themselves and really question why they’re working towards a particular goal (some call this ‘navel-gazing’. Dig deep, into the inner workings of their own psyches and understand what really motivates their health and fitness goals.

Only once you’ve done the inside work, will the outside work get you closer to those goals.

I’d love to hear the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your current fitness and health goals! Please add your comments below.

Check out the Friday Fitness Blog Hop by clicking on the link below! Happy Fitness Friday to all!

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]