Archives for January 2012

Monday Motivation: Rockin’ your favorite jeans

I love Mondays! The start of a new week always inspires me to keep reaching for my goals.

Need a little Monday Motivation?

Let’s talk about jeans. Your favorite jeans.

You know the ones. When you wear them you feel like anything’s possible. You stand taller and prouder. They make you feel like a million bucks. They highlight all the work you’ve been doing in the kitchen and the gym. They make you look fitter, sexier and more confident.

You’d give anything not to, ahem, ‘outgrow’ them.

Think of them next time you’re tempted to skip a workout or reach for a calorie-laden dessert. Remember how great you feel wearing your favorite jeans and use them as motivation to stick with your exercise and nutrition plans.

I asked some of my fellow FitFluential Ambassadors to send me photos of themselves wearing their ‘motivation jeans’. (Thanks so much guys, for your willingness to pose for me and providing brand info, ’cause you know somebody is going to ask what you’re wearing!) Check out their awesome responses below.

Rebekah Borucki & Baby Summer (from BexLife) wearing Banana Republic grey skinny jeans (I love these ones; grey is so flattering!);

Caitlin Croswell (from Cait plus Ate) wearing her favorite American Eagles (rolled up or down, as you please!);

Madeline Glasser (from Food,  Fitness and Family) in her J. Crew Matchstick jeans (and a very sassy scarf; and I know scarves);

Alexandra from Fun and Fit, wearing Nautica and sad because they are tearing below the back pocket, and she has been unable to find a new pair (anybody know where to buy them?);

And Katie Heddleston (Healthy Heddleston), wearing her very first pair of maternity jeans (congratulations Katie!) from Motherhood Maternity (doesn’t she just glow?);

Theodora Blanchfield from Losing Weight in the City wearing Citizens for Humanity (I’ve been lusting after a pair of these…) and loving how they make her look and feel!

And me, Tamara (fitknitchick), wearing my favorite Miss Me’s (I have 4 pair, but these are by far the best fitting of them all);

How about you? Do you have a favorite pair of jeans that make you feel fabulous? Does fitting into them keep you motivated to get your workouts in and eat well?

Please share the details! Brand names and pictures too!

Fitness (and food and family) before social media!

I’m still relatively new to the whole social media thing.

Yes, I’ve been blogging for just over a year now. And Tweeting (@fitknitchick_1). And Pinning (fitknitchick). And updating my Facebook status (fitknitchick).

All of the things that allow me to reach more people with my message about exercise and healthy living.

But lately, I’ve been spending far too much time with my keyboard and computer monitor. Time that I could be spending with my family or in the kitchen or at the gym.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the conversations I’ve been having with readers and followers and other bloggers. There are so many interesting and talented people that the Internet has introduced me to. I have more in common with many of my online friends than the ones I’ve known personally for years 😉 .

But here’s the rub. All the time spent interacting and promoting and engaging on social media is time unavailable for creating the blog content that contains the message you come here to read!

I know that I’m not alone when it comes to putting the brakes on internet time. E-mails and tweets and DM’s seem like they need to be answered right now. But let’s be honest, very few digital communications are urgent; if there’s an emergency, they’ll call you on the phone!

In an attempt to regain some balance in my life, I’m imposing some social media rules on myself.

  1. E-mail, Twitter, FB and blog comment responses will be limited to 15 minutes each morning, after breakfast is finished and children’s lunches are packed for the day. No more running out the door in a panic (and without my own lunch) because I ‘needed’ to respond to ‘one more tweet’.
  2. Blog reading, writing and maintenance will not occur until after my morning workout (and I will not ‘skip out on the last set’ to make more time for the above).
  3. Mid-day and pre-dinner Twitter and Facebook time will be limited to 15 minutes each.
  4. After dinner internet time will be limited to evenings with planned Twitter chats (and when children aren’t interested in spending time with me!).
  5. All electronics will be unplugged at least 2 hours prior to bedtime (otherwise I find my mind racing when it should be winding down)

So, if I don’t answer your e-mail or DM or tweet within a few hours, don’t despair. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like you or want to hear from you or am (gasp!) ignoring you. It just means that I’m unplugged, doing some of the other things I love to do and I’ll be back online in a little while!

Do my rules sound overly harsh to you?

How do you balance social media time with ‘real life’?

Got 15 minutes? Try my ‘Done in a Flash’ workout

To busy to exercise? No time to get a little sweat on? Too many commitments vying for your attention?


Got 15 minutes? (Of course you do!) Try my ‘Done in a Flash’ workout.

All you need is a quarter of an hour. Fifteen measly minutes of your day. You know, the 15 minutes it takes for the rice to cook? The dishes in the dishwasher to air dry? Your kids to brush their teeth for bed?

You can do it while you watch TV. While you wait for your turn in the bathroom. During your kid’s soccer practice.

All you need is a water bottle, a pair of hand weights (I’m not picky, substitute soup cans if you must), comfortable clothes and supportive shoes and a device that measures time (a timer or a clock with a second hand). Go get them now!

The ‘Done in a Flash’ workout consists of a circuit of 5 exercises. Five exercises, that’s it!

You will perform each exercise for (up to) 1 minute, moving from one exercise to the next with minimal rest between. Complete the circuit three times and you’re done. In a flash.

This workout is appropriate for beginners and can be made challenging enough for even the 5-day-a-week gym goer (see below).

Beginners: use only body weight. If unable to complete the full 60 seconds, go as long as you can, and rest until the end of the minute. Immediately start the next exercise.

Intermediate and Advanced exercisers: see relevant modifications. Complete the circuit 6 times for a longer workout. Add plyometric squat jumps and switch jumps at the end!

Did you try it? What did you think? Were you ‘done in a flash’?

Disclaimer: While I am a certified Personal Trainer, this workout was not written with your specific needs in mind and as such, may not lead to the attainment of your personal fitness goals. Please consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.



WIP Wednesday; lots of irons in the fire

Ever have one of those days (or weeks or months, who am I kidding?), where things just seem to pile up no matter how much time you spend trying to clear the decks? Where every task you complete is met by two or three more that needed to be finished yesterday? Where you never get to feel a sense of accomplishment because there’s so darned much left to accomplish?

Today, I’m taking time to breathe and celebrate my works in progress (or WIP’s, as we knitters like to call them). Please click on the box below to hear me ramble for a few minutes (about 5). For those of you short on time, the highlights are listed below!

Happy WIP Wednesday!

  • I’ve started a new daily vitamin regime, GNC’s Ultra Mega Active Vitapak for Women (Canadian website here), to help boost my immune system and give my mid-winter energy a boost (I’ll let you know how it’s working in a few weeks).
  • I’m reading a great book, Working Out Sucks (which is a bit of a mis-leading title), written by Chuck Runyon, CEO and Founder of Anytime Fitness. Book review coming soon.
  • My quest for the unassisted pull up is progressing well; 10, 8 and 8 on my last attempt.
  • I’ve stalled a bit on my burpees challenge, due to a ‘twingy’ rear deltoid. I’m up to 33 (only 7 more days to go, thank goodness), and although I haven’t been doing them everyday, I keep adding one for every day that passes so I’ll be finishing off with 40 on January 31st.
  • The 30 Day No Sugar challenge is still going well. The first two weeks were ‘better’ than the last, but only because I decided that I wanted wine and dessert at a weekend dinner party (and then again, the following night out with family for dinner). Not really craving it the way I used to, so all in all, it’s been a good thing
  • I’m about a third of the way done knitting a sweater for myself; it’s knit top-down, so I can customize the fit as I go. The pattern is Irish Coffee and I’m knitting it in a luscious pink merino. Yum!
  • I’ve been busy writing fitness content for a couple other websites.
  • A few secret projects have been taking up any time I have left (I’ll tell you just as soon as I can).
  • And this Friday is yet ANOTHER Pro-D Day!

P.S. Did you see my pull up band picture on Shape’s website? Check out all the trainers and their favorite pieces of exercise equipment!

When you’re super busy with work, family and life, how do you de-stress?

Monday Motivation: exercise and eat healthy to reduce your breast cancer risk

Welcome to the second installment of Monday Motivation! Once a week, I’ll be posting something to help keep you motivated to eat well and exercise daily.

Today, my motivational tip is health-related. I’m not trying to scare you into living a healthier lifestyle, but the choices you make today can have important consequences on your future. In particular, on your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

In 2002, just two months after my daughter was born, my mom (59 at the time) called me on an a-typical night of the week. While her voice was calm and gave no hint about the information she was about to relay, my radar kicked in, I knew it was bad news.

During a routine self-examination of her breasts, she had found a lump. Immediately, she called her GP and was sent for a mammogram (her annual mammogram had been just months early and was uneventful) which showed that she had a large mass in her breast.

Two months later she underwent a radical mastectomy. Analysis of both the breast tissue and the nearby lymph nodes confirmed that the mass was indeed cancer and that it had already metastasized.

She completed several months of chemotherapy and happily, has been cancer-free for just over 9 years now.

Fast forward to 2010. Another phone call with the air of something-not-quite-right. This time it was my youngest sister (38 at the time). Her annual mammogram was showing a suspicious mass and she was being referred to a breast cancer specialist for further investigation.

Her diagnosis was pre-cancerous ductal carcinoma; not cancer yet, but quite likely to turn into cancer at some unspecified time in the future.

Being a single mother of two young girls, she elected for a radical bilateral mastectomy. Her doctors were overly cautious and recommended radiation as well.

While there is no genetic predisposition to breast cancer in my family (my mom and sister’s cancers were different in nature and my sister underwent genetic screening to rule out having a genetic mutation that her daughters and our other sister and I might also be carriers of), I am religious about scheduling my annual mammogram and worry the entire time I’m waiting to hear the results.

We all know someone who has been touched by breast cancer. And the odds are quite high (according to the Canadian Cancer Society, 1 in 9 women) that we ourselves will be diagnosed with it at some point in our lifetime too.

But the good news is that there are important steps we all can take to reduce our risk and improve our odds of surviving a breast cancer diagnosis. These include (but are not limited to):

  • maintaining a healthy weight; overweight and obese women (defined as having BMI’s over 25) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer than women who maintain a healthy weight, in particular, after menopause. Why? Fat cells make estrogen and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers grow and develop
  • regularly exercising at a moderate to intense level for 4-7 hours per week (40-60 minutes per day); exercise consumes and controls blood sugar and limits blood levels of insulin growth factor, a hormone that may affect how breast cancer cells grow
  • following a healthy diet, particularly one low in fat and high in vegetables and fiber; studies with which women got only about 25% of their daily calories from fat found a lower risk of recurrence in women with a prior estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer

My family’s experiences with breast cancer (as well as my husband’s recent bowel tumor scare) contribute to my motivation to exercise and eat well. While there are no guarantees in life, stacking the deck in your favor seems a smart thing to do!

Big hugs to my amazing mom and sis today! I love them so much and am so happy that they’re both recovered and cancer-free!

Have you or a friend or family member been diagnosed with breast cancer?

Do you exercise and eat well to reduce your risk of illness and disease?

Why, when it comes to food, I’m a creature of habit

Last night my husband and I joined three other couples for a dinner party. We try and get together every second or third month, but it’s been at least a year since we all sat down to eat together. It’s always a lot of fun (and a long time at the diner table), since the cardinal rule is ‘no children allowed’.

Each couple is responsible for providing a course with wine pairing. The host and hostess set the theme by their choice of main and the rest of us try and come up with complementary dishes.

Last night we were on appetizers. Since a 4-5 course meal means a lot of food, I decided to start light. After asking some friends in the ‘FitFluential Food’ group on Facebook for ideas, I decided upon these super easy Caprese Spears (I made mine with spinach, rather than basil);

  • 1 cup whole spinach leaves
  • 30 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 30 boccincini pearls

I drizzled the assembled spears with sundried tomato and pesto dressing (combine olive oil, basil pesto, sundried tomatoes and fresh garlic in food processor; puree until desired consistency), but didn’t manage to get a picture of the finished product before they had disappeared. Very yummy!

I served them with a home made oat and quinoa cracker (recipe here) topped with red pepper jelly.

A fairly light start to the evening and paired with a wonderful, British Columbia Pinot Noir (don’t ask me for the name, I’m terrible with wines).

Now my girlfriends are all wonderful cooks. We were treated to a barley and wild mushroom risotto (so creamy and comforting), a spinach a fruit salad (topped with a mayonnaise and orange dressing), sockeye salmon with papaya and mango salsa (I didn’t try the salsa; I have an oral sensitivity to mango and didn’t want to wake up with ‘mango mouth’ this morning), lime and sweet potato puree and asparagus spears, and angel food cake with berries and cream.

A different wine was served with each course; I only sampled the Pinot that we brought. After three weeks without wine and very limited sugar, I didn’t have the desire to drink (thereby allowing hubby to try each and every offering, knowing that I would be driving home!).

Does this sound like a lot of food to you?

It WAS. I was full by the end of the risotto, but continue to sample each and every course right on through to dessert. We finally rolled ourselves away from the table around 11 (pm!) and headed home to sleep it off.

Today, I feel sluggish and puffy. Not only did I eat too much (and too much rich food), I ate too close to bedtime for a happy tummy. I spent most of the first hour of my day running to the bathroom (I know, too much information).

There’s a reason that I’m a creature of habit when it comes to food. And my insides are reminding me of it right now.

Got to run!

If you enjoy the recipes I post on my blog, please ‘Pin’ them for easy sharing with your friends!

Lessons from a success coach: follow your passion and just say ‘no’

On Wednesday morning, I attended a breakfast meeting for local business moms and ‘mompreneurs’. It was hosted by momcafe Tri-Cities and the theme was ‘Putting the Heart and Soul in Your Business’.

Now, I don’t consider myself a business woman, although technically, I do run my own (fairly casual) personal training business. Neither am I an entrepreneur; there’s nothing original about the job I do (except of course, that it’s me that does it and I have my own fabulous style!). But I joined momcafe Tri-Cities for the opportunity to broaden my social circle and perhaps learn a few things.

And learn I did!

After 30 minutes of networking and perusing the Stella and Dot table, we settled down with our coffee and pastries (no non-sugar options available ;( ) to listen to the morning’s three speakers. Two moms with lots of experience launching online businesses (one of them had 4!) and the success coach that helped them find their way.

The success coach blew me away. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Everything she said seemed to be directed at me. She was passionate and engaging and life changing.

She talked about the importance of letting your inner passions guide you. Turning the thing you love most into the thing you get to do for a living. Realizing that delaying moving forward says more about self-doubt than time availability. Learning to say ‘no’ to the things that don’t bring you joy.

“Every time you say ‘yes’ to something that you really don’t want to do, you’re saying ‘no’ to yourself”

Her words were powerful and motivating and have ignited a fire inside me to move forward with some projects that I’ve been stalling on for awhile. Projects that I’ve been blaming ‘lack of time’ on, rather than prioritizing my time and dropping a few ‘energy suckers’ from my weekly agenda.

In life, as in fitness, not having time is an excuse. We all have the same amount of time, it’s what we do with it that counts!

Have you ever been to see a success or life coach?

Tell me about your experience!

Bite Size Wellness and ‘Shape’ly legs workout

After yesterday’s WordPress blackout and this morning’s power outage in my neighborhood, I wasn’t sure if I’d manage to blog again before the weekend! But here I am, hot coffee in hand and the furnace slowly warming up a house that’s been cold for nearly nine hours, sitting down to tell you about a wonderful new health and wellness website and my Thursday legs-from-hell workout!

You may have noticed the badges I’ve recently started (proudly) displaying in my sidebar. One of them is for a new website dedicated to all things health and wellness-related.

What sets Bite Size Wellness apart from other healthy living sites is it’s emphasis on short, ‘bites’ of information about fitness, nutrition, mind and body, pampering and work. ‘Bites’ that are quickly and easily read and readily remembered when you need them.

I think it’s a fantastic site, not just because I’ll be regularly contributing content to it ;), but because it’s visually appealing, motivating and comprehensive. The articles are well researched and written and address topics that are timely and relevant to most purveyors of online health and wellness information.

Give it a read and tell me what you think!

And on a completely different note (nice segue, huh?); today was leg day for me.

One of my goals for the next 6 to 8 weeks is to improve the strength and muscle tone in my legs. In general, I tend to spend way more time on upper body exercises (the muscles you see in the mirror) and not nearly enough time working my legs and tush. Although it’s -8 and snowy here today, shorts-season is only a few months away. Time to bring those ‘legging’ (get it? my legs are lagging behind the rest of my body?) body parts up to snuff!

I did a program that one of my colleagues saw in an old issue of Shape magazine. Now, I don’t usually buy Shape, because I like to see women with more muscle and muscle definition on the cover of fitness magazines than their models usually exhibit, but their ‘Legs, butt and abs’ workout looked incredible. Since today was not a ‘core’ day for me, I did only the legs part of the program (which was absolutely enough for me!).

  1. Leg extension machine: 50 lbs x 15 reps x 4 sets (resting 30 s between sets)
  2. Hamstring curl machine: 45 lbs x 15 reps x 4 sets (resting 30 s between sets)
  3. Leg press: 90 lbs x 20 reps superset three times with Smith machine alternating back lunges: 50 lbs x 15 reps per leg
  4. Assisted pistol (or single leg) squats: body weight only x 15 each leg superset three times with straight leg deadlifts 50 lbs x 20 reps
  5. Goblet squats: 25 lbs x 20 superset three times with Air squats x 20

This is what my legs felt like by the end (actually, by the end of the 2nd set of pistol squats);


Looking forward to thumbing through some more issues of Shape at the gym and seeing what other types of torture their trainers have come up with!

Do you have a specified ‘leg’ day?

What are your favorite leg exercises?

Monday Motivation: What motivates you to exercise and eat well?

Perhaps one of the most common questions that I get asked by group fitness participants and personal training clients is about motivation.

Where do you find the motivation to get up every morning, pack your cooler and head to the gym?

When you didn’t sleep well the night before? When your husband is away for work? When your children are sick? When your legs are sore from yesterday’s workout? When your girlfriends invite you for coffee? When you’d rather go shoe shopping? When your workout clothes are all in the laundry?

When you just don’t feel like it?

Given the prevalence of challenges with motivation, I thought I’d start a weekly feature on the blog to help you all stay motivated with your exercise and healthy eating goals.

Welcome to the first instalment of Monday Motivation!

Each week, I’ll offer you a motivational tip. A photo, a quote, perhaps just a question for you to think about. A success story or a the results of a new study. There may be a recipe or a workout involved. And of course, I’d love to hear what motivates you! If you’d like to contribute a guest post, please contact me via Twitter (@fitknitchick_1) and we can set something up!

Now I know it may sound trite, but my primary motivation comes from my children.

My children motivate me to keep fit and fuel my body with healthy food. Why?

  • So I can keep up with them! I waited until I was in my 30’s to start a family. While that decision afforded me lots of time to travel and pursue my career, it meant that I would never be the youngest mom at the playground. My kids are active and I need to be active with them. Exercising gives me the energy to be a mom who moves!
  • To show them that exercise is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. I don’t want my children to start exercising as adults. I don’t want them to think of it as a chore. I want them to revel in movement.
  • To ensure that they get the nourishment their growing muscles and brains need. Preparing healthy meals and snacks made primarily from whole foods teaches them that good nutrition doesn’t come out of a box. I want them to go off to university knowing how to feed themselves well and avoid the ‘freshman fifteen’.

Of course, my kids like treats too. But I avoid buying pre-packaged cookies and instead, make my own, from regular cookbooks, but subbing in healthier ingredients where possible.

Try these yummy sunflower seed butter and chocolate chip cookies. We did! (Recipe adapted from an old Canadian Living Desserts cookbook my grandmother gave me before I started to eat clean).

Sunbutter and chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sunflower butter (any unsweetened nut butter can be substituted; I use sunflower seed butter because we have a ‘no nuts’ policy at our school)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (the darker the better!)
  1. Cream butters, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Beat in dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoon onto lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes (or just underdone looking) at 375 degrees.
  6. Allow to cool for 5-10 min on cookie sheet before removing to wire cooling rack.

Although it slows down the process 😉 I invite my kids to bake with me as often as possible. It gives me the opportunity to talk to them about the ingredients we’re using and how those ingredients benefit their growing bodies!

Tell me what motivates you to maintain a healthy lifestyle?