Archives for November 2012

#Fatblaster Friday | Why we all need to do cardio interval workouts

I love me some weights. (Yes, sometimes I work out in the bathroom…)

cardio interval workouts

Given a choice between lifting heavy and cardio and I’ll always choose strength. But as important as strengthening your muscles is, you gotta strengthen your heart too. And not just with endurance work, we all need to do some cardio interval workouts as well!

Why? Unlike long slow distance training, adding cardio intervals to your workouts can;

  • stimulate fast twitch muscle growth and hence, speed and agility
  • improve cardiac stroke volume and thus, overall heart health
  • decrease post-exercise cardiovascular recovery time
  • elevate your calorie burn, both during and after the workout via ‘afterburn’ effects
  • increase your lactic acid threshold or how long you can go before you ‘feel the burn’
  • speed up your workout, getting you out of the gym faster
  • be done anywhere, anytime and without equipment

Today’s #FatblasterFriday workout is a Killer Cardio Circuit. Only four moves, no equipment required. You’ll perform each move for 30 s then take a 15 s, active recovery rest (that means, “keep your feet moving”).

But don’t be fooled, performed at the highest intensity you can manage, each move should elevate your heart rate and leave you breathless by the end of the interval.

Go through the circuit twice, for a short, but intense, 6 minute, killer cardio interval workout.

Join me?

You can perform this workout on it’s own, or add it to the end of your regular strength or cardio endurance workout. Might I suggest a selection from my #FatblasterFriday playlist?

cardio intervals workout


Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter


Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Health benefits of mushrooms | Hungarian mushroom soup recipe

Ever since reading Alice in Wonderland as a small child, I’ve been fascinated with mushrooms. So many varieties, so many different tastes and textures, so dangerous to pick and consume without the advice of a trained mycologist…

health benefits of mushrooms

Trying to lose or maintain weight?

Up your mushroom intake! They’re low in calories (only 100 calories per ounce), high in fibre and contain very little sodium or fat.

Other health benefits of mushrooms?

  • mushrooms are a great source of potassium. Potassium is important for reducing high blood pressure. It also reduces the risk of stroke. Tired of bananas? Have a mushroom instead!
  • a single serving of mushrooms contains 20-40% of your daily recommended intake of copper, a mineral with cardio-protective properties.
  • mushrooms contain riboflavin, niacin and selenium, an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from free radical damage. Selenium has been shown to be especially important in the reduction of prostate cancer risk in older men.
  • fresh button mushrooms possess substances that inhibit the activity of aromatase (an enzyme involved in estrogen production), and as such, can reduce the risk of breast cancer by decreasing the rate of cancer cell proliferation

Still not convinced that the health benefits of mushrooms alone are reason to eat them? My Hungarian Mushroom Soup Recipe is bound to make a mushroom-lover out of you (just ask my sister…)

health benefits of mushrooms

Hungarian Mushroom Soup (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 4 cups sliced mushrooms (I used white button here, but have also substituted brown and Portebello in this recipe)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3-4 Tbsp paprika
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken or veggie stock
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt to taste
  • 300 g diced, cooked chicken breast (optional)

health benefits of mushrooms


  1.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.
  2. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently.
  3. Add paprika and toss vegetables to coat.
  4. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from burner and coarsely puree contents of pot. (I like my soup a bit chunky)
  6. Return pot to burner, add chicken, pepper and sea salt. Heat until warmed through.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Nutritional content (per serving, with optional chicken breast added): Calories, 229; Total Fat, 10 g; Saturated Fat, 1.7 g; Sodium, 200 mg; Carbohydrates, 8.1 g; Fiber, 1.4 g; Sugars, 4 g; Protein, 27 g.

Have you ever tried any really strange types of mushrooms?

What’s your favourite way to prepare mushrooms? I LOVE new recipes!

Holiday stress and weight gain

I love the holidays, don’t get me wrong.

holiday stress and weight gain

But with all the (1) additions to my to-do list (buy presents, wrap presents, mail presents, plan menus, buy groceries, bake expected holiday treats, clean house) and (2) extra social outings (class and work parties, Cubs and soccer get-togethers, concerts at two schools, community tree trimming, Carol ships viewing and family celebrations) December always ends up being the most stressful month of the year.

While I’m fairly good at limiting my intake of high sugar-high fat foods (which make me feel crappy) and maintaining my usual workout schedule (which makes me feel good), it’s the holiday stress and weight gain piece of the equation that I struggle with.

Did you know that chronic stress can actually make you gain weight?

It’s true and you have your hormones to blame for it!

Hormones are chemicals secreted by glands in the body. They circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of target cells or organs. When everything is working as it’s supposed to, hormones are your friends. Start making too much or too little of them? That’s when the trouble begins.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland. It’s primary function is energy provisioning. It stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism when you need a quick burst of energy and alerts your body to release insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.

During times of physical or psychological stress, cortisol secretion increases (think ‘fight or flight’), hence it’s nickname the “stress hormone”. While our bodies are equipped to handle short, intermittent bouts of stress, chronic stress and and prolonged periods of cortisol secretion can contribute to weight gain in a number of ways:

  • metabolic disruption; elevated cortisol levels can slow down the rate at which your body metabolizes food. Slower metabolic rates lead to increased weight gain, even without changes in the amount of food you’re consuming
  • cravings; chronic stress tends to result in increased cravings for sweet, salty and high fat foods. Often these foods are ‘triggers’ for overconsumption and binge eating
  • elevated blood sugars; remain under stress for too long and blood sugar levels may be altered, causing mood swings, hyperglycemia and even metabolic syndrome
  • fat storage; not only do elevated cortisol levels lead to weight gain, they also affect where we store fat. High levels of cortisol are linked to abdominal fat deposition; the very fat that’s associated with higher risk of heart disease and stroke

My holiday stress busting activities?

  • knit a lot. Knitting forces me to sit down, relax and focus on something totally unrelated to the holidays (if you’re expecting to receive a knitted gift for Christmas this year, you’re bound to be disappointed; knitting on a deadline is anything but relaxing)
  • add an extra 30 minutes of physical activity each day to my regular routine. Exercise not only burns calories, it also reduces stress, moderates blood sugar levels and makes me feel happy. Plus, when I do indulge in a holiday treat or two, I’ll rest easily knowing that movement will keep them from settling on my hips!
  • sleep more. Getting too little sleep also contributes to cortisol production. I aim for 8-9 hours every night and ensure that it’s restful by avoiding alcohol in the evenings and turning off electronic devices at least 2 hours before bedtime (sorry Tweeps!)
  • play with my children. Their noise and constant whirlwind of activity causes me much less stress when I’m part of the fun (rather than sitting at the computer trying to write amidst the chaos, which interestingly, may cause weight gain in and of itself!).
  • pay more ‘attention’ to my husband. ‘Grown up’ time is a great stress releasor 😉

holiday stress and weight gain

Do you suffer from holiday stress and weight gain?

Tell me your favourite way to relax and enjoy the holidays!

#FatblasterFriday | 8 Resistance Band Exercises for Home or Travel

Well, the turkey and mashed potatoes are finished. The last of the pumpkin pie cheesecake was eaten for breakfast. The wine bottles have been carried to the curb. Another Thanksgiving dinner is over and done.

resistance band exercises

Now’s the perfect time to haul yourself off the couch and squeeze in a quick workout!

I know, you’re not at home and you don’t have any equipment other than that resistance band I suggested you pack 😉

resistance band exercises

This week’s #FatblasterFriday workout is a short and sweet, whole body strength workout, perfect for regular exercisers and newcomers to fitness alike. Just twelve reps of each of 8 resistance band exercises and you’re done (unless you had seconds on dessert; then you need to do the circuit two more times…).

Tips for working with a resistance band?

  • always check your band for tears and holes before you begin your workout; a band that snaps during exercise will leave a nasty bruise on your arm, leg or face
  • bands with padded handles are easier to use than bands without
  • bands generally come in 4′ and 6′ lengths. The longer the band, the more versatile (you can always shorten it when more resistance is needed; see below)
  • make sure there’s tension on the band at the beginning of each exercise; no tension, no added resistance
  • increase the resistance on the band by shortening the distance between the handles, either by wrapping the excess band around your wrists (as demonstrated in the video) or by stepping on the band with both feet (again, see the video for more details)

Ready to go? The “Resistance is NOT futile” Band Workout!

 resistance band exercises

Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • PIN the above WORKOUT PHOTO
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter


Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Yoga inversions and arm balances class | not quite what I expected

Last weekend I participated in my first yoga inversions and arm balances workshop. [Notice the use of the word ‘first’ here. It implies that there will be a ‘second’, despite the tenor of this post…]. Although I’ve been practicing yoga for over a year now, I have yet to become comfortable with inversions and am downright terrified of arm balances.

I had NO IDEA what to expect. Knowing myself well enough to recognize that I might back out at the last minute, I publicly announced my intentions on Facebook.

yoga inversions and arm balances

No getting out of it now 😉

Thinking of trying a yoga inversions and arm balances class? Here are 5 things you should know before you go!

1. Expect to feel many different (and possibly intense) emotions. Although yoga inversions and arm balances are energizing, many people are surprised by the range of emotions they experience when first attempting these types of poses. Everything from fear to anxiety to annoyance to frustration to elation to sadness to anger.

I left the workshop feeling particularly fragile and vulnerable and couldn’t even sit down to write this post until yesterday. Five days later, I’ve gained some perspective on why I was feeling that way and plan to repeat this workshop the next time it’s offered, not only to improve my physical practice, but to help me work through some ‘life issues’ that my navel gazing revealed.

2. Expect to spend a significant amount of time warming up. My workshop was two hours in length and I anticipated that we would spend most of that time learning the subtleties of headstand, handstand and crow. Wrong!

Because yoga inversions and arm balances require significant hip, shoulder and back flexibility, we spent the first 40 minutes of the evening performing ‘centering’ poses and sun salutations. In addition to warming up the body, the familiar practice helped to ease anxiety and nervousness about the new experience to come.

3. Expect to work with a partner. Many inversions and arm balance poses are difficult to get into for the first time. While a wall can be a useful target (and back stop) when attempting handstand, it cannot help you lift your hips up and over the midline of your body.

I found ‘partnering up’ to be the most anxiety-provoking part of the workshop; if I’m going to fail at something, I’d prefer to do it quietly, in the corner, on my own, thank you very much. I plan on remembering this feeling next time I ask my group fitness participants to ‘find a partner’ and promise to have an option for those who prefer to go it alone.

4. Expect to have sore wrists the next day. Even though you won’t spend the entire class on your hands, your wrists and forearms will get a serious workout. My wrists continued to be stiff and sore for about 4 days after the workshop, significantly affecting my ability to do pushups and make progress on my Christmas knitting.

That being said, yoga inversions and arm balances will help to strengthen your hands and wrists if you regularly include them in your yoga practice. Try the wrist stretches and strengthening exercises in this post.

5 . Expect to fall. A lot. It’s unlikely that your first attempt at headstand, handstand, crow or side crow will be successful. My instructor had us strategically place bolsters (aka ‘crash pads’) to ensure that we didn’t hurt ourselves falling out of a pose. Don’t underestimate the psychological power of having something soft nearby to land on. I was much more willing to try challenging poses with the bolster in place.

My instructor both started and finished the workshop with the following quote:

yoga inversions and arm balances

During the workshop, I interpreted the saying quite literally. I lost count of the number of times I fell somewhere around 12.

Upon later reflection, I came to see it’s universal applicability, reinforcing my belief that yoga is a metaphor for life.

P.S. Having a hard time visualizing the poses I’m describing? Check out this YouTube video I made a few months back of me, attempting crow!

Have you ever experienced powerful emotions while attempting a yoga inversion?

What’s your favourite yoga pose? Why?

Need motivation to exercise? Look within!

Every Monday my Facebook and Twitter streams are full of motivational quotes and images.

motivation to exercise

Seems like everybody needs a little extra motivation to exercise and eat well at the beginning of the week 😉  .

I used to post a Monday Motivation series myself and wrote about the things that motivate me personally to get to the gym and make healthy choices in the kitchen (familyhealthaging well, and aesthetics, to name a few).

But the thing is, I don’t really believe that extrinsic motivators work for that long or for that many people.

If simply looking at a photograph of a ripped chick doing bicep curls was really enough motivation to start, AND STICK WITH, an exercise program and healthy diet, obesity wouldn’t be the nationwide epidemic that it currently is. And nobody would be searching for (and finding my blog) via the terms ‘motivation to exercise’!

Need motivation to exercise? Start by looking within.

If I were to ask you why you go to work every day, I bet most of you would come up with reasons other than just ‘paying the bills’.

You enjoy your job (at least I hope you enjoy your job) because it challenges youfulfills you, and makes you feel good about yourself. (Hmm, sounds like the reasons I blog as well; certainly NOT because of the abundance of cash it’s earning me 😉 )

Of course, the pay cheque is appreciated, but most of us would agree that if the money were the only thing driving us to get up and go to work in the morning, we’d probably start looking for another line of employment.

I think of motivation to exercise in the same way.

Sure, the idea of being leaner, healthier, more muscular and more attractive might initially get us off the couch and into the gym, but in order to make exercise and healthy living a habit, we need to identify and focus on the internal motivators.

My motivation to exercise? The way it makes me feel about myself. Strong, capable, coordinated, beautiful and at peace with my inner critic.

How does exercise make YOU feel?

What’s YOUR intrinsic motivation to exercise?

Healthy holiday gifts for the fit and the fit-to-be

Christmas is less than 6 weeks away. This fact stresses me out. So much to do, so little time to do it all in. Are you feeling it too?

I am here to help.

Head on over to Wish and Whimsy and check out my list of 10 healthy holiday gifts to give (and receive!) this holiday season.

healthy holiday gift ideas

You’re welcome!

P.S. I still have a lot of shopping to do, myself. Any healthy holiday gifts you can think of to add to my list?

#FatblasterFriday | Clock lunges and sexy shoulders workout

I remember way back when I was taking my personal training certification course. Our instructor was having us analyze the action at the joint during various exercises. Biceps curls (elbow flexion), shoulder press (shoulder extension), standing calf raises (dorsiflexion and plantar flexion).

It was a lot of fun until she asked us to analyze clock lunges.

Now to be fair, the clock lunge is not a single exercise. Neither is it a single joint exercise. It’s a whole lot of  lunging and shifting weight from one leg to the other, such that you work your quads, glutes (medius and maximum), abductors and adductors, hip flexors, and calves. You can even get a little hamstring work in if you concentrate on using your back leg in the right places.

What’s are clock lunges you ask?

Simple. You start with feet about hip width apart (maybe a bit closer, if that’s comfortable for you). Imagine that your feet are at the centre of a clock.

Holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands (arms long, shoulder back and down, tummy tight), take a step forward with your right foot and drop into a lunge. You’ve just lunged to 12 o’clock. Now pull back to the start position. Again, step forward with the right foot. This time, take it to the 1 o’clock position. Keep the toes of the left foot pointing forwards. Pull back to the start position. As you move clockwise, around the clock, with your right foot leading, you’ll perform the all of the following movements:

  • forward lunges
  • backward lunges
  • diagonal forward and backwards lunges
  • side lunges
  • curtsey lunges and
  • cross-over lunges

That’s a lot of lunges!

Today’s #FatblasterFriday workout features clock lunges. There’s a brief demo lesson, followed by the workout itself. And just so your upper body doesn’t feel left out, we’ll also be doing a giant set for sexy shoulders. Joining me? All you need is a pair of dumbbells and a ‘can do’ attitude! 

For more fat blasting, body toning workouts, don’t forget to check out my free workout library!

clock lunges

Did you like this workout? Then PLEASE

  • WATCH and DO the workouts with me
  • SUBSCRIBE to fitknitchick on YouTube 
  • CHECK OUT the #FatblasterFriday Playlist for more, real time workouts
  • GIVE me your FEEDBACK on YouTube or in the COMMENTS section below
  • LIKE and SHARE my videos with your friends via email, Facebook and Twitter


Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

November Recipe Roundup | Healthy Recipes from around the web

I own a lot of cookbooks. Fifty or sixty at last count.

healthy recipes

1 of my 3 shelves of cookbooks

Most of them don’t get opened very often. Why not?

  • many are from my pre-clean eating days (I prefer healthy recipes these days)
  • my children don’t appreciate ‘interesting’ food (where ‘interesting’ is their word for healthy)
  • ‘Pinning’ is more fun than scrap-booking
  • my Facebook and Twitter streams are filled with new healthy recipes daily

I often Instragram and Tweet my meals and snacks and of course, somebody always wants to know what the recipe I used was.

healthy recipes

Rather than try and respond in 140 characters or less, I thought I’d share some recent culinary successes with you here. The first three are healthy recipes from other bloggers. I’ve included links to their original posts, the substitutions I made (I’m all about the substitutions…), and some photos showing you what my version looked like.

The fourth is a healthy recipe of my own (you can find more of my culinary inventions on my Clean Eating Recipes page). Something warm and healthy to come home to, after a busy day out and about. Slow cookers are the best invention for busy moms!

1. Paleo pumpkin walnut muffins from Carrots and Cake (what a great blog name, don’t you think?) 

healthy recipes

I substituted real maple syrup for the honey (my cupboard was bare) and pumpkin seeds for the walnuts (I personally, am not that fond of walnuts and thought that roasted pumpkin seeds would be the perfect complement to the canned pumpkin)

These were fabulous! Moist and almost cup-cake like. Great with a little almond butter on top. The recipe made eleven muffins. Great for the freezer!

healthy recipes

2. Paleo pumpkin cookies from The Humble Foodie 

healthy recipes

I substituted unsweetened almond milk for the coconut milk (none in my pantry), pumpkin seeds for the walnuts (again; see above) and cranberries for the raisins (I love how festive-looking cranberries are). I am not opposed to adding chocolate chips to this recipe either… I also added 1/3 cup quinoa flakes (to up the protein content) and increased the almond milk to 1/3 cup to compensate for the extra dry ingredients.

To die for! I happily turned down my hubby’s home-made chocolate chip cookies (so sweet, they made my teeth hurt!) to munch on these. The recipe made 20 cookies and I froze most of them immediately upon cooling; it was a bad willpower day, what can I say.

3. Almond butter pancakes from Peanut Butter Fingers (another totally creative blog name!) 

healthy recipes

Shockingly, I made absolutely no substitutions to this recipe! There’s a first time for everything!

I love pancakes for breakfast and have been experimenting with a lot of different grain-free recipes. This one was perfect. They rose, were light and fluffy, cooked through without burning and had a wonderful mouth-feel. Great with a little greek yogurt or banana and Canadian 😉 maple syrup.

The recipe made 6, good size pancakes. I could only eat 2 in a sitting. The remainder froze well and still tasted great when reheated in the microwave.

4. Spicy chicken and veggie slow cooker stew  

healthy recipes


  •  4 organic, chicken/turkey Italian sausage
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 Tbsp dried Italian seasonings
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups of carrots, baby or chopped
  • 2 red, yellow, orange or green peppers
  • 12 white mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 28 oz can low sodium tomatoes
  • 1 cup water


  1. Cut chicken breasts in large, bite size pieces. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, turning to coat. Let sit for 1 hour.
  2. Remove casings from sausage and slice into 1 inch pieces.
  3. Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  4. Add chicken and sausage pieces, stirring to brown. Approximately 5 minutes.
  5. Place poultry in the bottom of slow cooker.
  6. Return saucepan to burner and add all veggies, except for garlic. Saute for 6-8 minutes, until onions are soft and mushrooms are brown. Add garlic and stir for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add veggies to crock pot.
  8. Cover poultry and veggies with undrained, diced tomatoes and water.
  9. Replace cover on slow cooker and leave for 6-8 hours.
  10. Serve with a warm, crusty bread and a small green salad!

Have you tried any healthy recipes that you’ve recently found via blogs or Pinterest?

Please share! I love filling my Pinterest boards up with culinary projects!