Archives for April 2013

Hate to exercise? Like it or not, it’s all the same to your health

There are an alarming number of people out there who hate to exercise.

They know they ought to exercise to lose weight, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, prevent osteoporosis, regulate blood sugars, maintain healthy range of motion in their joints, sleep better and generally, live a healthier life. Yet they choose not to because they hate to exercise.

If you follow me on social media (click on the links in the right side bar >>>), you’ll know that even though I teach group fitness classes and work as a personal trainer, I don’t always want to exercise either.

Cardio days are the worst (try as I might to make cardio more fun, it just isn’t ūüôĀ )

Some days I’d be just as content to skip the gym and head to the mall.

Sit on my couch and knit while getting caught up on missed episodes of True Blood.

Head out for lunch and coffee with ‘the girls’.

Spend the morning hanging out on Facebook.

Go back to bed with a second cup of coffee.

But I don’t. I force myself to do something. Just a little bit and 9 times out of 10 it works.

On the days it doesn’t, I remind myself that whether I enjoyed my workout or not, it’s all the same to my health.

  • My biceps and glutes don’t care that my heart wasn’t into curls and squats.
  • My blood sugar levels aren’t the least bit concerned by the scowl on my face.
  • My ‘happy hormones’ are triggered irrespective of my initial inertia.
  • My sleep is more restful even if I was too tired to give it my all.

The thing is, regardless of whether you love or hate to exercise, it’s all the same to your health.

Does exercise come easy to you?

How do you motivate yourself to exercise on days that you just don’t want to?


#FatblasterFriday | A Bosu Circuit Workout that won’t embarrass you at the gym

Last week I asked my Facebook group¬†(not a member yet? Click on the link and ‘like’ the page) for some suggestions for my next #FatblasterFriday real time workout video (subscribe to my YouTube channel so as never to miss a workout).

My favourite response?

“bosu balance trainer stuff that I could use in the gym (nothing I’d be¬†embarrassed having people see me do if you know what I mean lol)”

Yes, my friend, I know EXACTLY what you mean ūüėČ

We’ve talked before about why I love the Bosu. All of the wonderful things it can add to your workout. How it can be used for strength and cardio as well as core. How it challenges muscles that you didn’t even know you had…

Today’s #FatblasterFriday workout is a whole body, 5-move Bosu circuit workout that will strengthen your muscles, elevate your heart rate and challenge your core, all without EMBARRASSING you in the gym ūüėČ

Set your timer for 10 rounds of 45 s work and 15 s rest. All you need is a Bosu (and perhaps a mat, if you need to come to your knees for pushups).

Bosu circuit workout

CLICK on the video below and DO the workout WITH ME!

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.

10 Earth Day activities that are good for your health

Every year, in honour of Earth Day, my youngest two children and I participate in their school’s annual ‘Spring Spruce Up’. Tasks include digging rocks, weeding gardens, planting shrubs and seedlings and sometimes, contributing to outdoor artwork to make their hidden-in-the-forest school even more beautiful.

Earth Day Activities

Last week, as we talked about the tasks each of their classes had been assigned, we realized that many of the Earth Day activities that they would be doing were not only healthy for the planet, but healthy for them as well.

When asked to list other Earth Day activities that might benefit both planet and people, here’s what they came up with:

 10 Earth Day activities to improve your health

  1. Leave your car at home and walk to work, school or public transit. (Cliche, I know, but adding a little more movement to your day is never a bad thing; it helped our ancestors to live healthier lives)
  2. Wash and dry the day’s dishes by hand. (A great arms and core workout while simultaneously saving electricity. Also a great skill to teach your kids…)
  3. Hang your laundry on the line. (Squat, press, repeat with no lint trap to be cleaned afterwards)
  4. Weed, hoe and water the garden. (Not only will you be getting in a whole body workout, you’ll also be reducing the future ecological footprint of your food consumption by growing your own greens)
  5. Prepare a raw meal. (Turn off the oven and microwave for the evening; fresh, raw foods are full of vitamins and nutrients and simple to prepare)
  6. ‘Free-cycle’ no-longer-used household items. (Just carrying those couches and televisions down to the curb is a strength workout in and of itself and it’s fun to watch and see who picks them up!)
  7. Enjoy an out-of-doors walk, run or stair workout rather than hopping on the treadmill. (Power your own movement; no electricity required)
  8. Trade computer games and social media for ‘kick the can’ or ‘patio hockey’. (Interval training at it’s best AND you’ll be modelling active behaviour to your kids)
  9. Pass on that trip to the mall and knit yourself something instead. (Great for stress reduction and local yarns like the one below have tiny ecological footprints)
  10. Go to bed when the sun sets. (Save electricity, reduce stress and perhaps spend a little ‘quality time’ with a loved one)

Earth Day activities

Okay, I admit it. My children didn’t think of the last two of my 10 Earth Day activities. And they certainly won’t be thrilled when I tell them that it’s bedtime when the sun goes down. But we all have to do our part, right ūüėČ


Do you have any healthy-earth-healthy-you activities planned for Earth Day?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Are you an urban gardener? 8 reasons to grow your own greens

Of all the delights that spring brings with it (goodbye snow shovels, winter boots, hats and mitts; hello tank tops, sunglasses and flip flops!), my favourite is being able to return to urban gardening.

grow your own greens

Although coastal British Columbia’s growing season is not long or hot enough for tomatoes (or cucumbers or peppers or melons) :(, there’s plenty of time to grow your own greens.

Every spring, once the danger of frost has passed, my family and I make the trip to our favourite garden centre in the valley to purchase the seedlings that will keep us in salads until mid-October. Kale, swiss chard, spinach, arugula, romaine. Multiple varieties of each along with parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme and basil; herbs for dressing our greens and marinading the fish fillets and steaks we’ll soon be grilling on the barbecue. Yum!

(Of course, I don’t need to remind you that salad greens are chock full of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and fibre and they’ll help you meet your daily quote of 7-8 servings of fruits and veggies…)

Don’t think you have enough space to grow your own greens? Think again! We grow our vegetables in 4 x 8 wooden boxes and large ceramic pots, filled with organic soil and set upon cement blocks to allow for proper drainage. A sunny, sheltered spot works best.

grow your own greens

Not convinced yet? Here are 8 reasons to grow your own greens

  1. They’re fresher (5 minutes from garden to table) and tastier than store bought greens.
  2. Because you’ve grown them yourself (either from seeds or pesticide-free seedlings) you can be confident that they won’t be covered with pesticide residue
  3. You can easily source non-GMO seeds and seedling varieties
  4. They are far cheaper than store bought greens (last week I paid $7 for a large package of organic spinach; a packet of seeds can be purchased for $1 and will last you all season)
  5. Home grown greens don’t need to be driven to market and easily fall within the guidelines of the ‘100-mile diet’
  6. There’s no packaging to throw out or recycle
  7. Tending to plants is a relaxing, almost meditative activity
  8. Your children can help. Think of it as ‘cultivating’ the next generation of urban gardeners! (I’ve also found that my children are much more willing to eat vegetables that they’ve helped to grow)

grow your own greens

Are you an urban gardener?

What are your favourite crops to grow?

Stress keeping you up at night? Tips to calm an anxious mind

I’ve always been very good at managing stress.

ease an anxious mind

I exercise regularly and eat well. I make lists and cross things off when they’re completed. I knit. I spend time playing with my children. I get lots of sleep.

All activities known to reduce stress and calm an anxious mind.

Yet just last week, I found myself wide awake at 2:30 in the morning, unable to slow my racing thoughts and becoming increasingly distraught over everything I needed to do the next day, the following week and even the months ahead (sound familiar?).

After tossing and turning for over an hour (and not wanting to wake my sleeping husband), I headed into the bathroom, and perched on the edge of the bathtub, experienced my first full blown panic attack.

For a good 15 minutes my heart felt like it was going to explode. I started to hyperventilate and my fingers and toes went numb. It was absolutely terrifying.

Thankfully, the episode passed quickly (although at the time it felt like it would never end),and I stumbled back to bed, curling up close to hubby to soothe myself and slow my breathing down. I slept poorly for the rest of the night (and was a bit of a zombie the following day; big apologies to my clients).

Apparently all that daytime stress management doesn’t necessarily cut it in the middle of the night. The hours when my subconscious ‘monkey mind’ likes to wake up and play.

To be fair to myself, this winter has been more stressful than most (2 family members underwent cancer-related surgeries, 2 children with never-ending head lice infestations, lost passports and a cancelled holiday, an anxious and fitfully-sleeping hubby, a super exciting, secret project that’s going to eat up a lot of my time over the next four ¬†months). Perhaps I needed some additional tools for dealing with the stress-that-broke-the-camel’s-back…

I immediately did what any sane person would do ūüôā ; ask my Facebook friends for advice. Inquire as to who else has experienced middle-of-the-night panic attacks and if they had any tips to calm an anxious mind.

ease an anxious mind

Smart bunch that they are, I very quickly had lots of great ideas:

  • Milk with a little extra sugar in it. Or chocolate milk. Sip it very slowly. It slows the breathing and evens out any low blood sugars that may have preceded the attack ~ Deb
  • Long deep breaths through my nose and exhale slowly. Working out regularly helps! ~ Diane
  • Limiting coffee to no more than two cups in the morning ~ Diane
  • Sometimes the thought of having a panic attack can make you have a panic attack. Do you have a plan if you feel your anxiety going up again? ~ Kristi
  • Walk around the house and practice breathing techniques ~ Melissa
  • Breathing as if you’re singing “Ave Maria” (long, long notes = long, long breaths) ~ Kristen
  • Get ahold of a small paper sack and breathe into it slowly and deliberately ~ Jill
  • Focus on my breathing, something relaxing and to remember it will be better in the morning ~ Jennifer
  • Do you ever meditate? ~ Leslie

Breathing and relaxation techniques are great for in the moment; I’ve successfully used them twice already. I’ve also cut out my mid-day coffee. But I’d also like to work on preventing future attacks.

I think Leslie’s meditation suggestion is worth a try. And to that end, I’ve already found a wonderful book of guided meditations that I’m slowly working through;

ease an anxious mind

With titles like “befriend your panic”, “roadway to serenity” and “soundtrack of life”, there’s something in here for just about any anxiety-provoking situation. My favourite so far? “stop the spin cycle”.

Have you ever experienced a panic attack?

Have you tried any of the tips listed above to calm an anxious mind?

Do you meditate? If so, how has it helped you?



Common misconceptions about fitness professionals debunked

The other day IDEA posted the results of a recent survey they conducted on Facebook to identify the 10 most common misconceptions about fitness professionals.

They neglected, however, to explain just WHY the statements they presented weren’t true. Of course, most of their readers are fellow fitness professionals who shouldn’t require further explanation (you would hope!), but I thought I’d debunk them for the rest of you, just for fun!

Common misconceptions about fitness professionals debunked

1. Fitness professionals all look like magazine models.

Although many of us have lean, muscular bodies, shiny hair and clear skin (that’s what exercise and healthy eating do to a body…), we do not ALL look like magazine models. The bodies you see on the covers of fitness magazines are prepped for weeks before their shoot. They’re pumped up, tanned and often air-brushed to achieve the near-impossible physique that magazines need to sell issues.

The rest of us look like this if we’re lucky enough to grace the cover of our local recreation centre’s spring circular;

misconceptions about fitness professionals

2. They do it for the money.

While a handful of fitness professionals do find fortune, most of us are working for $30, $40 or perhaps $50 per hour, without benefits or paid vacations and no financial recourse if clients cancel on us at the last minute. Hours are sporadic and fitness professionals often work split shifts just to earn enough to pay the rent. Some of us blog to earn secondary income (or in the hopes of earning secondary income ūüėČ ).

3. They are not highly educated.

Fitness professionals are required by their local certification body to attend training courses, log practicum hours and sit and pass very challenging examinations. As a group fitness instructor, weight training supervisor and personal trainer, I have easily amassed several hundred hours of classroom and online education, including my initial certification courses and the annual continuing education courses I will need to keep taking as long as I continue to work as a fitness professional.

Most of the personal trainers I work with also have post secondary degrees; Bachelor’s degrees in science, Master’s degrees in kinesiology or education or even business, even PhD’s in biology.

4. They are superficial jocks.

Seriously? I’m not sure where to even begin with this one.

5. They work out all day, every day.

A well-educated fitness professional understands the importance of rest. Most struggle to fit in their workouts between training clients and teaching classes. While it’s true that our jobs are physical (we demonstrate exercises to our clients, hand them their dumbbells, load their plates on the bar), we spend more time coaching and listening and correcting than working out ourselves.

Note, if your personal trainer is working out with you, you need to find a new trainer; how can they be paying attention to your workout if they’re doing their own?

6. They are judgemental.

Show me a judgemental fitness professional and I’ll show you someone who’ll soon be out of a job. Personal training clients and group fitness participants don’t like to work with trainers who make them feel judged. Do you? A fitness professional’s attitude towards other’s lifestyle choices is directly related to how full their classes and personal training practice are. Clients and class participants will vote with their feet if they feel judged or disrespected in general.

7. They have a job full of glitz and glamour.

Really? Since when does wearing workout clothes 6 days a week and spending the day working with people who are sweaty and smelly by the end of their time with you constitute glamour? (Sorry guys, some of you really are smelly by the end of our session…)

misconceptions about fitness professionals

Me, living the glamourous life!

8. They have all the answers.

Impossible! The fitness industry is rapidly evolving. New research about exercise, nutrition and weight loss is published daily and there’s no way that any one individual can be completely on top of current knowledge in the field. A good trainer will answer your questions to the best of their ability and seek out more information when their own knowledge is lacking.

More and more we’re learning that there is no ONE TRUE WAY to be healthy and fit.

9. They act like drill sergeants.

Perhaps (and especially on reality television ūüėČ ). But only when the client or class type calls for it. They’re just as likely to be your cheerleader, your confidant, your clergy, your psychologist and your mom. Fitness professionals need to be able to adjust their approach and technique according to the needs of the situation. I might act like a bit of a drill sergeant in boot camp class, but not in a 1-on-1 setting (unless you tell me that’s what you need me to be, Sir!)

10. They are paid to work out.

Certainly, group fitness instructors are getting a workout while they teach. You can’t ‘coach’ step aerobics or cardio kick boxing or spinning effectively by walking around the classroom giving verbal directions. However, a good group fitness instructor knows that your workout is not her workout and tries to find a balance between keeping you motivated by participating in the class and keeping your safe and injury-free by coaching and correcting.

Can you think of any misconceptions about fitness professionals that the survey missed?


New to step aerobics class? 8 tips for making your first class great

Of all the group fitness classes that I teach, step aerobics class is my favourite. There’s something about the combination of movement, music and mental focus that always makes for a great workout and a super fast hour!

step aerobics class

But not everyone agrees.

Every couple of weeks, a newcomer to my class leaves when they realize that ‘Cardio Crunch’ and ‘Total Body Conditioning’ are step aerobics classes.

The usual responses when asked ‘why not stay and give it a try?’

“I can’t do step aerobics”

“I’m too uncoordinated”

“I don’t get enough of a workout”

Like with all new spatial-motor tasks, there’s a learning curve to step aerobics. Nobody was born knowing how to ‘L-step’ or do a ‘3-knee repeater’. Just like when learning how to ride a bicycle, drive a stick shift, knit lace or street-stride, the first few attempts are almost always awkward. That’s because your mind and muscles need to figure out how to work together to accomplish the new task.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes about 10 000 iterations of a task to become an expert. Thankfully, in step aerobics class, expert status is not the goal; you only need to become moderately competent to have fun. Give it 3 or 4 tries, with the same instructor (see below) and you’ll soon be proficient enough to both enjoy the hour and get a great, whole body workout (according to my heart rate monitor, I typically burn between 500 and 600 calories in an hour long, metabolic step class; bonus!)

8 tips for making your first step aerobics class great

  • ditch the ‘I can’t do step’ attitude; being optimistic about your abilities will greatly improve your performance. And if it doesn’t, so what? Come back next week and try again. If you can drive a stick shift while simultaneously singing along with the radio, you CAN certainly learn some basic step aerobics patterns!
  • let the instructor know that you’re new; most instructors will ask, prior to starting their class, if there are any newcomers in the room. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand! Your instructor wants you to have a positive experience and will likely share some tips for getting the most out of her class.
  • start with a single set of risers under your step, regardless of what everyone else in the room is doing; mastering the side to side patterns in a step aerobics class is much easier if you’re not worried about tripping over the step! About half of my class participants never move beyond a single riser, and that’s okay! There are other ways to amp up your workout than adding extra height to your step (we do a lot of plyometric movements in my classes…).
  • don’t hide in the corner;¬†the best place for newbies is the middle of the room, slightly to the left or right of centre. Not only will you be able to see and hear the instructor, you’ll also be right behind one of the class’s two ‘wanna-be-instructors’; the participants that know all the moves and won’t screw you up by going left when the rest of the class is going right.
  • wear proper footwear; runners or cross-trainers are best. There’s a lot of lateral movement in a step aerobics class. Not only do your shoes need to be good at absorbing impact, they also needs to provide support and stability at the ankle. Minimist shoes are to be avoided, as are bare feet and Uggs (yes, people have actually arrived in my class dressed this way!)
  • when you get lost, keep moving;¬†the first movement your instructor will teach you is ‘basic step’ (up, up, down, down; right, left, right, left). Return to it whenever you get lost. Not only will it keep you on the beat (and the correct foot) until the part of the pattern than you know comes around again, it will also keep you from feeling dizzy and lightheaded if you’re heart rate is significantly elevated. Lower body movement helps to keep the blood flowing from your extremities back to your heart.
  • don’t expect to be perfect the first time out; it takes a few classes with the same instructor to understand the ‘lingo’ and a particular instructor’s way of cueing. For example, my regular step aerobics participants know exactly what I want them to do when I say ‘hamstrings around the world’. They also know not to start the movement until the next ‘down’ beat; that’s just how I cue. When you goof up and end up on the wrong foot, laugh; that’s what I do, at least 3 times each class (my participants would be hard pressed to recall the last class in which I didn’t make a single mistake…).
  • watch before you try; when your instructor introduces a new move (particularly movements that require you to put your back to the front of the room), don’t be afraid to watch (while continuing to hold the basic step) a few rounds before joining in. Trying to perform a complicated movement while looking over your shoulder is a recipe for disaster and an injury in the making.

Step aerobics classes have been around for awhile and are often thought of as ‘old school’ in comparison to many of the newer options available in group fitness. However, most group step instructors happily incorporate more ‘modern’ fitness components in their classes, including high intensity intervals, weight training and even Tabata!

I’d love to see YOU in my Sunday and Monday morning step classes! But get there early, they’re almost always full!

Have you ever tried a step aerobics class?

If not, have I convinced you that you should?

Kale salad starter | food prep makes healthy eating easier

Last Sunday we were invited to two Easter celebrations; brunch at my sister’s and dinner at the home of one my husband’s colleagues. Both hostesses asked if I would bring a green salad. No problem; salads are my thing :).

kale salad

Since I knew I’d be short of time on Sunday morning (only 15 minutes between teaching group step and having to leave the house for brunch), I decided to prep both dishes the night before and, to make it even easier on myself, make the same recipe to take both places (eat once, dine twice (or even thrice) is my kitchen mantra).

Given that I didn’t want to show up with a soggy salad, my green of choice was kale.

kale salad

Kale is unique among salad greens in it’s ability to happily sit in a bath of lemon juice and olive oil for days at a time without wilting and loosing it’s structural integrity. Can’t say that about spinach or romaine…

As I washed and chopped and massaged a rather large mound of kale leaves, I was reminded of the sourdough bread ‘starter’ my mom used to keep in the fridge (did your mom have one too?). Rather than starting each batch of bread from scratch, she’d remove a portion of the batter to bake with, returning the unused batter (after ‘freshening it up’ with extra flour and milk) to the fridge for another day.

Why not a kale salad starter? Prep your kale on Sunday and enjoy a variety of fresh kale salads all week long! Not sure what to add to your starter? Check out my kale salad Pinterest board. Just a few of the recipes that have made my mouth water recently!

kale salad

Steps for making your own kale salad starter

  1. Wash and ‘de-spine’ 3 or 4 bunches of kale. Don’t be afraid to combine varieties! Curly green and large leaf purple are my favourites!
  2. Remove excess water and chop leaves into bite size pieces.
  3. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and crushed garlic together in a large glass or stainless steel bowl (my preferred ratio of olive oil to lemon juice is 3:1; feel free to alter these amounts and add as much, or as little garlic as you can stand)
  4. Add kale leaves to bowl.
  5. Using hands, ‘massage’ marinade into leaves, squeezing and crushing kale for 2-3 minutes, or until it starts to soften and darken slightly, in colour. (This is my favourite part; it reminds me of making mud cakes in my sandbox as a child…)
  6. Cover greens with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. Use kale salad starter in your favourite kale salad recipe!

My over-zealous Sunday kale prep kept us in kale salad for five days! Good to the last bite!

Have you ever made a kale salad?

What are your favourite kale salad toppings?

Healthy living motivation and inspiration | I’ll take mine without the judgement please

A couple of weeks ago I ran into a friend and fellow fitness professional at the grocery store. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes about teaching schedules and the gym and our children. Just as I was about to end the conversation and continue with my shop it happened.

Her eyes briefly left mine to skim over the contents of my grocery cart. When her gaze returned upward I knew immediately that I’d been JUDGED; judged and found lacking by the food that I’d chosen to feed my family.

motivation and inspiration

My gut reaction was to defend myself.

We’re having company over for brunch. I don’t usually buy bakery cinnamon buns. That whipping cream was for a special dessert. Those are turkey hot dogs, made without nitrites and preservatives. Why don’t I have more produce in my cart? I never buy produce at this store; it’s fresher and less expensive at the green grocer’s down the street. This isn’t what a ‘normal’ shop looks like.

But I held back, not wanting to¬†acknowledge and validate my friend’s judgemental behaviour or¬†create a scene by telling her what I really think of fitness professionals who look down their nose¬†at people whose choices aren’t one hundred percent perfect, one hundred percent of the time.

Do they really think that judgment serves to motivate and inspire?

As a healthy living blogger and personal trainer I frequently dispense information about fitness, nutrition and making better choices when it comes to eating and exercise.

But what my readers and clients DO with that information is entirely up to them. I’m here to help, not judge.

Remember that the next time you see me in the grocery store and have the urge to run the other way lest I see the Doritos/ice cream/Oreo cookies/Twinkies in your cart. Your body. Your choice. Your health. End of conversation.

While we could all use a little healthy living motivation and inspiration, I’ll take mine without the judgement please!

Have you ever felt that your food choices were being judged by friends or relatives? What did you do?

Fitness professionals, have you ever run into clients at the grocery store and had them ‘rationalize’ the contents of their cart to you?