Archives for May 2012

Children don’t get enough exercise: monkey see, monkey do

Today, the Canadian annual report on child and youth activity was published. The verdict? Kids don’t get enough exercise.

Why am I not surprised? Adults don’t get enough exercise either and children mimic the actions of their elders.

Best advice for getting kids off the couch and moving? Get adults off the couch and moving!

I’ve written a number of posts about family time, exercise and modelling healthy habits for our children. If you have five minutes in your day, go and read one of them and commit to getting yourself and your children moving today!

And check out my interview with reporter Lauren La Rose, published online today!

Too much screen time, too little play time for Canadian kids

Do your children engage in unstructured, non-electronic play time?

How do you ‘motivate’ your children to go out and play?

 

 

The carbohydrate roller coaster: I want off!

I know that I need carbohydrates in my diet. Carbs are the primary source of fuel for our muscles and brains. Too few, we’re tired and perform poorly. Too many, we’re tired, perform poorly and gain weight.

Like most things in life, moderation in carbohydrate intake is best. And sticking to high quality, complex carbohydrates, even better still.

Sometimes, however, our brains tell us to eat the less-than-healthy variety, urging us on to what I call ‘the carbohydrate roller coaster’. Eat a cookie, feel good, blood sugars rise, insulin kicks in, blood sugars fall, feel bad, eat another cookie repeat, repeat, repeat.

Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a carbohydrate roller coaster, and I want off.

Watch the video below to see how I’m planning on dealing with my unhealthy cravings.

Part of my plan is to read the following three books and try and understand the reasons behind the cravings;

All three books are available through my Amazon store; I receive a commission when books I recommend are purchased this way.

Have you ever been on a carbohydrate roller coaster?

How did you get off?

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Dessert night recap: chocolate, protein and avocado pudding

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow personal trainer at the gym where I work, brought in a sample of a dessert she had made for her husband. She offered us ‘Friday Foodies’ (myself and two other trainers who always end up talking favourite foodie finds on Fridays, the only days we’re all in the gym at the same time) a taste of chocolate, protein and avocado pudding.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

So rich and creamy and intensely chocolate. She gave me the recipe (I have no idea where she found it; if it’s yours, please let me know in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to credit you) and I stopped to purchase avocados on my way home, determined to make it for dessert that night. It was, after all, Dessert Night Friday!

My chocolate-loving children thought it was TOO chocolatey. Next time I’ll cut back a bit on the cocoa powder. Hubby and I thought it was just right. I hope you and your family enjoy it too!

Chocolate, protein and avocado pudding

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 2 Tbsp raw cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate protein powder
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c water or unsweetened almond milk
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Mix until smooth. Refrigerate 30 min. Enjoy!
Note: this recipe should make at LEAST 4 servings.
Healthy fat chocolate dessert
While the avocado is a healthy fat, it is high in calories! I find that even a spoonful or two satisfies the need for an after-dinner sweet. (Note, the whipped cream on top has no sugar in it; you could also top with Greek Yogurt).
I love to try cleaned up versions of your favourite desserts; have one you’d like to share?
Comments below please!

Exercises for knitters and sitters: stretch and strengthen to avoid injuries

When I’m not at the gym, I can often be found curled up on the couch with a pot of tea and my knitting.

exercises for knitters

Yes. I knit. A lot. (fitKNITchick; get it?)

If you have to ask how much ‘a lot’ is, you aren’t a knitter (or sewer or quilter or handicrafter of any type). However, even if  you don’t spend your time ‘crafting’, this post may still be relevant to you. In particular, if you spend a significant amount of time on the computer or with your handheld device (blogging, texting, surfing, YouTubing…).

Knitters and other types of ‘sitters’ share many of the same seated postural patterns;

  • anterior pelvic tilt
  • round shoulders
  • forward jutting chin
  • hands elevated above elbows
  • perpetually flexed fingers
  • overstretched lower backs

Over time, these less-than-ideal postures can result in back pain, joint stiffness, headache, tendonitis and other repetitive strain injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome; all conditions which will eventually limit how often you can engage in your favourite crafting (or on-line) activity.

Now I’ve been knitting since I was 8 and I plan on being that little old lady sitting on the park bench knitting her grandchild a baby blanket when I’m 80. Knitting-related injuries are not part of my game plan. Here’s are some exercises for knitters (and sitters) to help prevent repetitive strain injuries:

  • take frequent breaks. Every 10-15 minutes, I put my knitting aside, get up and walk around the room.
  • change sitting locations. I rotate between my favourite armchair, the couch, a straight back chair and the lawn chair in my ‘knitting’ garden. Stability balls also make great chairs, although perhaps not when one is wielding a sharp instrument.
  • practice mindful posture. Remind yourself to pull your tummy in, retract your chin and rotate your shoulders back and down. If you have a hard time remembering these cues, write them down on a sticky note and leave it where you can see it (I used to leave one on my steering wheel after I caught a glimpse of my ghastly driving posture).
  • exercise and stretch your entire body regularly. Keeping your body in good working condition will help prevent all sorts of injuries, including postural ones.

Prevention too late for you? Already suffering from one of the injuries or strains described above? Here are some stretching and strengthening exercises for knitters that can help get you back to doing what you love quickly.

  • improve your upper and mid back strength with bent over rows and reverse flys. Practice scapular retraction by ‘sitting’ against a wall with shoulder blades held back and down (great for strengthening your legs at the same time!).
  • strengthen the back of your shoulders. Perform long arm lateral raises and upright rows using light dumbbells (or no dumbbells at all if the muscles are really weak).
  • build a stronger core. Weak abs and lower back muscles will prevent you from comfortably maintaining an upright posture. Try planks, side planks, back extensions and anti-rotation holds to improve your core’s ability to stabilize your spine.
  • improve wrist and forearm strength. Try reverse bicep curls and wrist curls using light weights.
  • build a stronger butt. Your glutes help to hold your pelvis in a neutral position. Stronger glutes can help to counteract the anterior pelvic tilt caused by tight hip flexors.
  • stretch out tight chest and front shoulder muscles. My favourite chest opener is the door jamb stretch. Downward facing dog or half dog are also great options.
  • stretch fingers and wrist joints every time you take a break. Fully extend and flex each finger. Using the opposite hand, carefully press fingers back towards wrist (hyper-extension). Rotate wrists both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Find more stretch and strengthening exercises for knitters and specific repetitive strain injuries in Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Self-Care Program. Written by a massage therapist, this book organizes repetitive strain injuries according to profession (different types of injuries are more common amongst certain professions) and provides rehabilitative suggestions for many common RSI’s.

Have you ever experienced an injury due to repetitive strain or poor posture?

What did you do to treat the injury? And did the treatment work? 

Bosu balance trainer workout and a new Tuesday Trainer video

One of my favourite fitness tools is the Bosu balance trainer.

Essentially, it’s a stability ball, cut in half and mounted on a hard, flat piece of rubber. It can be used dome side up (for beginners) and platform side up (for more advanced and stable exercisers). I like to use it both ways (BOth Sides Up)!

 Bosu group fitness class

Great for challenging your balance and adding a bit of instability to your workouts, I often use it with my clients to improve

  1. knee and ankle strength; just standing on the dome side forces all the little stabilizer muscles surrounding the knee and ankle joints to wake up and turn on (you’ll also feel it in your inner thighs). Try closing your eyes!
  2. balance and kinesthetic sense; knowing where your body is in space (“proprioception”) is helpful for avoiding slips and slides and falls
  3. knee tracking; often knees ‘drop’ inwards or ‘splay’ outwards during lunges due to weak quadriceps. Stationary lunges or squats on the Bosu can help strengthen the vastus medialis and reduce or eliminate the knee tracking problem. Just make sure that knees are staying above the ankles during movement

Balance training is an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. It improves your posture, functionally strengthens your core and adds an interesting challenge to exercises you may already have mastered on a stable surface.

Here’s a sample workout that I’ve done with my weekly Bosu Blast class.

Bosu balance trainer

You’ll need a Bosu balance trainer, some light to moderately heavy dumbbells and a mat. Make sure your running shoes are tightly laced; after a few minutes of marching on the dome, your feet may feel like they’re sliding around in your shoes. And avoid wearing short shorts; during seated Bosu work, they tend to ‘migrate’ upwards (think ‘wedgie’). Enough said.

The workout has 6 parts; I’ll describe the first five (with examples of increasing difficulty) and leave you to stretch on your own!

  1. Balance and proprioception
  2. Dynamic warmup
  3. Speed and agility (cardio)
  4. Strength and conditioning
  5. Core specific exercises
  6. Stretch

Balance and Proprioception

  • standing on dome side; arms at sides or extended out from body or overhead, eyes open or closed
  • 1/4 squat and hold; arms extended at sides, eyes open or closed
  • single leg balance; non-supporting foot touching side of dome, pressed against calf of supporting leg, extended straight out to the side (‘tree pose’)
Dynamic Warmup
  • marching on and off the dome; increasing speed
  • marching or jogging on top of the dome; high knees
  • mini-squat jumps
  • lateral squat (one foot on top, one on the floor beside); up to balance knee
Speed and Agility (perform 30 s of each at high intensity with 15 s rest between)
  • fast feet; marching on an off as quickly as you can with pumping arms; switch lead leg 2nd time through
  • squat or tuck jumps; arms out front or hands behind head
  • tire runs; one foot on dome, one on floor; switch sides 2nd time through
  • Bosu burpees
  • Bosu straddle jacks or straddle squat jacks
Strength and Conditioning (perform 10-12 repetitions of each movement, no breaks between; rest and repeat)
  • dome (or platform) squat with bicep curl to shoulder press
  • platform power pushups (from knees or toes); drop, hold at bottom, slowly push up
  • split lunge with lateral raise (back toe on dome or platform); lift arms as you push up out of the lunge
  • bent over reverse flys (on dome or platform); both arms together or alternate arms with torso rotation
Core (hold static positions for 30 s, perform 10-12 repetitions of movements; rest and repeat)
  • V sit on dome (hands behind for support/knees bent/legs extended/arms across chest/arms extended)
  • Bosu sit to stand crunches; sit low on dome, weight in hands, lean back, curl up and push through feet to stand
  • platform plank tilts; holding handles, plank from knees/toes; alternately press hands down towards floor, pausing to regain balance in the centre before pressing to other side
  • belly on Bosu back extension; hands on floor/feet on floor/hands behind head/feet lifting

Whew! That’s a lot of words to describe a workout. Maybe I should have shot a video? (Do you want me to???)

A big thank you to Lindsay for giving me the idea for today’s post. This week, Tuesday Trainer is all about balance training. Here’s my video contribution:

For more great balance exercise videos head on over to Lindsay’s List!

Do you incorporate balance training in your fitness routine?

Have you ever tried an extreme balance board? Makes the Bosu balance trainer look like a piece of cake!

 

 

Will adding soy protein to your post-workout shake lead to improved strength gains? Findings from a recent study

For most women, adding resistance training to their fitness regime is the easiest way to reduce body fat and sculpt shapely muscles. Building muscle, however, requires protein, a dietary component that many simply aren’t getting enough of.

Not only does protein help to develop and strengthen muscle fibers, it also increases satiation, making it less likely that you’ll experience and give in to cravings for simple carbohydrates after your workout, thereby undermining your health and fitness goals.

I often recommend that my personal training clients consume protein shakes within an hour of their strength workouts; a simple way to get an extra serving of protein into their day. While many choose to supplement with whey or casein isolate powders, some have trouble digesting the milk-based proteins or, for other reasons, prefer to minimize the animal products in their diet.

Enter soy protein.

Like proteins derived from dairy and meat, soy protein contains the full complement of amino acids required by your body for all of its day-to-day functions. It’s low in fat and widely available. It contains more glutamine (a free radical-reducing antioxidant) and arginine (which speeds muscle recovery via improved blood flow) than either whey or casein. It has an intermediate digestion time (slower than whey and faster than casein), suggesting that when used in concert with one or both of the milk-based proteins, it may increase the length of the post-exercise recovery period during which muscle growth occurs. I’m all for getting the most out of my workouts!

At a recent academic conference, Dr. B. Rasmussen and colleagues (University of Texas, Medical Branch), presented the results of a preliminary study they conducted comparing the post-strength training benefits of consuming a soy/whey/casein protein mix relative to supplementing with whey alone.

Nineteen young adults (all male) were randomly assigned to one of the two treatments (whey and a combination of whey, casein and Solae™ SUPRO® isolated soy protein). Each participant was subjected to a high intensity leg-strengthening exercise and given their assigned protein supplement (20 g of protein) one hour after the workout was complete. Muscle protein synthesis was measured (by biopsy of a leg muscle) both before (as a baseline) and after the exercise bout (once 1-3 hours post exercise and a second time 3-5 hours post-exercise).

Despite the small number of participants in the study, results suggest an increase in post-exercise muscle protein synthesis by the soy/whey/casein combination group relative to the whey only participants. The authors concluded that the combination of slow, medium and long-digestion time proteins may lengthen the post-exercise recovery window, thereby allowing for potentially bigger strength gains than might be expected by using any one of the proteins by itself.

I want to know more; don’t you? I’d love to see this study extended over time to see if a longer post-exercise recovery window really results in improved strength in the gym. For example, assigning athletes to different protein supplementation regimes and measuring their 1RM on a standard strength exercise weekly for several months.

I’d also like to know whether the results are applicable to women; I work hard in the gym and if changing the type of protein I consume post-workout can give me better and faster results, I’m all for making a change.

Join me at a Twitter chat with Solae and FitFluential on Wednesday, May the 23rd, 8:00 pm CST (that’s 6 pm if you’re on the west coast). Follow my Tweets (fitknitchick_1) and the hashtag #SoyProtein for more information about soy and the benefits of including it in your post-exercise regime.

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this campaign. All opinions are my own.

Guest post mania; here and there and everywhere!

Sometimes I write guest posts for other bloggers and websites.

Sometimes I do interviews for other bloggers and websites.

Both are great opportunities for me to stretch my creative abilities and reach out to a whole new audience. If you’ve found my blog via a guest post or interview, welcome and thanks for stopping by! Please consider subscribing to my blog (and to my about-to-be launched monthly newsletter), by entering your email address in the box to the right (and again in the box to the left).

Earlier this week, I had an interview up on Happy Mums at Home; part of Kirri White’s “Rockin’ Mammas” series (I love being referred to as a “Rockin’ Mamma”; who wouldn’t?). You can read the entire interview here (as well as the very kind words Kirri had to say about me; I love her just as much!).

Kirri White

I’ve also got a guest post up at Mom Inc. Movement, a web-based business designed by a couple of local mom-friends whose mission is to help working moms connect with each other and promote their businesses. Give them some love! I’m writing about Klout (don’t know what Klout is? Better hop on over there quickly!) and how not to lose it over the busy summer holidays.

moms in business

Thanks Kirri and Julie for sharing your respective corners of the web with me!

And a quick note regarding Kirri’s ‘30 Day Self Care Blueprint‘ online course. I did not hear back from Becca, my giveaway winner, despite posting her win here, on Facebook and sending her an email. I waited until last evening at 10 and decided to draw another winner’s name. Kirri and Deb need some information to finalize course registration and get materials off to participants. 

The NEW winner of the giveaway is (by random generator again), commenter #17, Lulu!

Her comment was number 16,

 

but she tweeted so got the 17th entry as well!

I’m off to email her and post to Facebook and Twitter. Hoping to hear back from you soon, Lulu! I really want to give this prize away!

 

Women’s Health Week: share your help-a-friend ideas

It’s National Women’s Health Week!

Now I know that all of my readers try and make healthy lifestyle choices, right?

We exercise regularly, eat healthily, get enough sleep and manage the stress in our day-to-day lives by meditating, practicing yoga or knitting.

But what about our friends and family? We all know at least one woman who could benefit from a bit of ‘healthifying’, don’t we?

This week, I challenge you to help another woman improve one aspect of her health; nutrition, fitness, sleep or stress.

Need some ideas?

  • invite her to take a walk with you; moderate exercise, vitamin D and positive social interactions all have health benefits
  • bake her a ‘clean eating’ treat (recipe ideas here)
  • babysit her children for an evening; best stress reduction gift I know of!
  • give her a copy of ‘Clean Eating’ magazine
  • invite her to come to yoga with you (that’s how I got started)
  • sign her up for my Monthly Newsletter (top left corner of this page; shameless plug, I know)
  • give her a hug (it needs to be at least 7 seconds long to promote the release of oxytocin, a feel good hormone)
  • make her laugh

I’m sure you have lots more ideas about helping a friend improve their health.

Please share! And have a happy National Women’s Health Week yourself!

Jock itch and athlete’s foot: not just for men and the hygiene-challenged

Just a quick announcement; come June 1st, I’ll be offering my readers a free monthly newsletter with fitness tips, seasonally-relevant menu ideas and an exercise of the month. Sign up by entering your e-mail in the box to the left (I never pass your email addresses on to third parties) and please, feel free to forward to friends and family who might benefit from some healthy lifestyle advice!

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There’s a fungus amongus.

Lame, I know. But no better way to start a conversation about jock itch and athlete’s foot than with a joke!

Jock itch and athlete’s foot (also known as ‘ringworm’ of the foot) are both fungal infections of the skin that cause scaling, flaking and itching. They are caused by fungi (don’t you love that word? fun-ji? like there’s anything fun about it?) in the genus Trichophyton. Most commonly seen on the foot (it’s typically transmitted in moist areas where people walk barefoot), it can also spread to other areas of the body, including the groin (now called ‘jock itch’).

Now I’ve always thought that jock itch was something only men experienced. After all, they tend not to be as hygience-conscious as us women (although my husband is a 3-showers-a-day kind of guy; go figure) and they have those dangly bits that brush against each other keeping folds of skin moist; the perfect breeding ground for Trichophyton.

But just yesterday, a friend and class participant of mine told me that she had recently been diagnosed with it. The most likely mode of infection? Stepping into clean panties after a shower at the gym. Fungus on the floor may have come into contact with the fabric of her panties via her feet, and presto, a nasty fungal infection of the lady parts. Yikes! Yet another reason to go home for a shower after a workout!

I myself have had athlete’s foot on and off for years. Some weeks it’s worse than others. When it’s really bad, my entire foot (just my left foot, weirdly enough) is scaly and red, with small patches of blisters that itch like the dickens. Especially at night. For some reason, the itching is worse when I’m feeling stressed and during the week before my period arrives. Hmm.

I’ve visited my doctor, repeatedly. He always dishes out the same advice; apply anti-fungal cream twice daily, change your socks and shoes frequently, avoid greasy foot lotions (which may exacerbate the problem) and line your shoes with a fine layer of sweat-absorbing foot powder.

I’ve done it all. Diligently. Repeatedly.

I’ve changed products (there are lots of different products on the market, some just different brands with the same active ingredients, others with different ingredients that might be expected to be better at combatting different species of fungus). I’ve discovered that if you put too much powder in your running shoes before you teach a step class, grape vine will leave you slipping and sliding and landing on your keister (excess powder has a way of whooshing itself through the tiny vents in your shoes!).

jock itch and athlete's foot

Just last week, I switched products again and realized, today, that I haven’t been itchy all week. No fungally-induced insomnia. No weeping blisters. No scaly patches. Is it really gone? (I realize, that just by writing this, I’m daring the fungus gods to inflict on me the worst bout of night scratchies I’ve ever experienced; call me reckless). Only time will tell. (For the record, the active ingredient in the product I’m currently using is tolnaftate 1% USP).

I’ve always been embarrassed to talk about my ‘foot problem’. I don’t do pedicures with the girls, because I don’t want an aesthetician touching my feet. I usually wear shoes that cover my toes and have only recently gotten comfortable going bare foot in yoga (“there is no judgement on the mat”). Perhaps this is the year I wear flip flops with pride!

jock itch and athlete's foot

The best my foot has looked in 8 years!

Have you ever had a bad case of athlete’s foot? (You don’t have to tell me about your experiences with ‘jock itch’!)

What product or products did you use to cure it?

Tell me about your other embarrassing bodily afflictions; education leads to acceptance!

P.S. Thanks B. for suggesting that I write a post about fungus. Hope your itch is gone soon! xoxo